|10.24.14 at 1:41 am ET|
The toughest part of Thursday night’s return to Boston for Johnny Boychuk came during the national anthem.
“Just feeling the atmosphere and being back on the ice,” Boychuk said. “I tried not to look anywhere but just concentrate, and be prepared for the game. That was the most difficult part, but after the first couple shifts, then it’s time to get going.”
Boychuk was a plus-1 in 23 minutes and 25 shifts in the Islanders’ 3-2 win over the his former team at TD Garden. Only one of his “Johnny Rockets” found its way on net and it was stopped. He had two blocked shots and two giveaways. Boychuk did not figure in the scoring but was just happy to be apart of a night of appreciation from the Bruins fans who had watched him grow up in Boston.
“It was an interesting night,” Boychuk said. “You’re playing against that team, and you grew up with them, playing, for the last six years, you see them and you’re the opposition now. Looch [Milan Lucic] steamrolled me, so I’ll get a nice chuckle out of that when I see him. They’re a good team. We came in here, we were determined, and we held them off in the last five minutes. They had some good chances, but the other ex-Bruin [Chad Johnson] made some great saves for us, and kept us in the game when we needed it.”
|10.24.14 at 12:32 am ET|
If there’s any silver lining to losing your captain and best defenseman for an indefinite period, the Bruins can take some comfort in the fact they’ve been down this road before.
The Bruins lost Dennis Seidenberg to a torn ACL last season. They lost Chris Kelly to a broken leg last December and a back injury just before the playoffs. The 2013 team made the Stanley Cup final despite the loss of Gregory Campbell to a broken leg in the Eastern Conference finals. Just last week, Kevan Miller dislocated his shoulder in a fight in Buffalo and has been lost indefinitely.
But when the Islanders John Tavares’ right knee collided with Chara’s left knee Thursday night in a 3-2 loss, there was the sense that Boston’s captain could be out a while early on in a season where the Bruins are struggling to find their identity.
That sense was apparent when talking to Bruins players in the dressing room afterward.
“He’s an irreplaceable player so obviously him not being out there, everyone notices, us and them,” Kelly said.
But Kelly insisted that Boston’s flat second period Thursday had nothing to do with Boston getting outscored 2-0 and looking listless on the ice.
“I don’t think so. They were ready right from the opening faceoff and we weren’t,” Kelly said. “Like I said, he’s an irreplaceable player. He plays every situation for us and he’s our leader. We’re gonna need to fill that void collectively as a group not just one guy is going to be able to do that.
“I though we played desperate but they were up three to one. They may have set back a little bit and we pushed the pace. Yeah, the third period was better but like I said, 20 minutes isn’t good enough to win hockey games.”
|10.23.14 at 11:25 pm ET|
Zdeno Chara left Thursday’s game between the Bruins and Islanders in the first period did not return. Following the game, Claude Julien gave no update on Chara’s status, but former Bruin and current TSN analyst Aaron Ward reported that Chara will be out for at least four to six weeks with a left knee injury.
Chara played only five shifts, the last of which lasted 1:06. Chara did not appear to be hurt at any point during the shift, though he did land a big open-ice hit on Islanders captain John Tavares. After a TV timeout, Chara stayed on the ice to finish his shift.
Earlier in the game, Chara saw a Josh Bailey pass to Frans Nielsen beat both himself and Dougie Hamilton on its way to Nielsen, who backhanded the puck into the net. The goal marked the fourth time this season that Chara and Patrice Bergeron have been on the ice for a five-on-five goal against.
More on Chara’s status as it becomes available.
|10.23.14 at 9:30 pm ET|
The Bruins’ latest lost hurt more than usual, as Zdeno Chara left Thursday’s 3-2 loss to the Islanders after just five shifts in the first period.
The team announced at the start of the second period that Chara would not be retuning to the game, though they did not specify why. With Chara out, the B’s were forced to play with five defensemen the rest of the way.
Chara and Dougie Hamilton were both beaten in front early on in the night as Frans Nielsen took a pass from Josh Bailey and put it behind Niklas Svedberg at 6:21 of the first. Milan Lucic answered back with his first goal of the season, which came off a nice play from linemate Seth Griffith.
The Bruins struggled mightily in the second period, with Kyle Okposo scoring on a particularly rough shift from Matt Bartkowski and Cal Clutterbuck later capitalizing on poor coverage from Boston’s third line to make it 3-1.
The third line would make it up, however, as Chris Kelly won an offensive zone faceoff and jumped on a loose puck after a Carl Soderberg shot bounced off Brian Strait and into the slot. Kelly fired it into the net for his second goal of the season, bringing the B’s within a goal.
The Bruins proceeded to put forth a feverish comeback bid, spending long stretches in the offensive zone with good looks, but they were unable to out a game-tying goal past former B’s netminder Chad Johnson.
The game marked the return of former Bruin Johnny Boychuk to the Garden. Boychuk received a standing ovation during a first-period video tribute.
With the loss, the Bruins are now 4-5-0 on the season.
Here are some notes from the game:
- Chara played only five shifts, the last of which lasted 1:06. He didn’t appear to be hurt at any point during the shift, though he did land a big open-ice hit on Islanders captain John Tavares. After a TV timeout, Chara stayed on the ice to finish his shift.
- Chara was actually having his second consecutive rough game before exiting the game. He was on the ice for a 5-on-5 goal against (Bailey’s goal) with Bergeron on the ice for the second straight game and had a minus-10 even strength Corsi in his five shifts on the night.
- It was also another bad night for Patrice Bergeron, who was a minus-2 and could have been a minus-3 if Okposo made more of the opportunity that arose when Bergeron whiffed on a puck high in the offensive zone to send the play the other way.
- Matt Bartkowski had just a woeful shift on Okposo’s goal. After Tavares lost him deep in the zone, Bartkowski went to the net, leaving Bergeron to take Tavares. As has become a recurring theme, Bartkowski lost track of the guy going to the net, and Okposo was unencumbered as he stood feet from Bartkowski and batted the rebound from Tavares’ shot past Svedberg.
- Having to play with five defensemen when Chara isn’t one of them isn’t something Boston’s struggling defense is at all suited for. Bartkowski was also on the ice for Cal Clutterbuck’s goal, as the B’s got burned with a pair of Bartkowski and Torey Krug in their own end. The blown coverage on the play, however, fell on a forward in Loui Eriksson.
- Seth Griffith is fitting in more and more with each game. He made a nice play on Lucic’s goal, taking a pass from Krejci as the line entered the zone and throwing a pass towards the net from the high in the zone. With Lucic driving to the net with Cal Clutterbuck, the puck went off either Lucic’s skate or stick and beat Johnson. The play gave Griffith a two-game point-streak (one goal, one assist) since re-entering the lineup Tuesday.
- The Bruins obviously had to mix and match on defense once Chara left the game, but here was the lineup to begin the game:
Marchand – Bergeron – Smith
Lucic – Krejci – Griffith
Kelly – Soderberg – Eriksson
Paille – Campbell – Gagne
Chara – Hamilton
Seidenberg – Krug
Bartkowski – McQuaid
|10.23.14 at 2:12 pm ET|
NBC Sports NHL analyst Pierre McGuire made his weekly appearance Thursday on Middays with MFB in advance of Thursday night’s Bruins matchup against the Islanders. To hear the interview, go to the MFB audio on demand page.
The Bruins got off to a slow start to the season — going 1-3 in their first four games, but McGuire said some of that was because of the way their schedule was constructed — playing those four games in a six-day span.
“I hated the way their season started, not the way they were playing, but the way the schedule was set up for them,” he said. “I think I talked to you guys about it, they almost had eight days where they had three games in four nights. That’s crazy stuff. Then, when you compound that with a [Monday] afternoon game at home after a Saturday night loss, that’s really hard. I’m not making excuses for them, but they are starting to settle into what team they want to be.”
He also noted the team was coming off of trading veteran defenseman Johnny Boychuk to the Islanders, just prior to the regular season.
“I think they were all a little stunned about Johnny Boychuk being traded to the Islanders because he was an extremely popular guy on their team,” said McGuire. “They started the season without Gregory Campbell, he’s a very important guy on that team. I think they are feeling their way through, but they are starting heat up. I liked their game the other night against San Jose, especially the last parts of that game.”
The Bruins and Boychuk will be reunited Thursday night as the Islanders will be at TD Garden. Boychuk has had a strong start to the season, posting two goals and four assists over the first six games.
|10.23.14 at 1:54 pm ET|
Chad Johnson probably had as good a one-and-done with the Bruins as a backup goalie can have in the NHL. He put up great numbers and, with the B’s not having much money to spend on a backup, he left and got a good contract.
Now, after taking a two-year, $2.6 million deal with the Islanders in free agency, Johnson has a lot of things he didn’t have when he came to the B’s last year on a one-year, $600,000 pact: experience in a very good goaltending tandem thanks to his work with Tuukka Rask as well as job security and strong compensation at the NHL level. Johnson said he had eight offers, three of which he felt were serious, before signing with the Islanders.
As Johnson makes his return to TD Garden as a visiting player, he has nothing but good things to say about the Bruins. It’s not like things didn’t work out and he left; things actually worked out perfectly for everybody.
“I think when you move on, probably a lot of times in this business it’s for bad reasons. For my situation, there wasn’t room to be back with the Bruins, so it’s a different feeling to be coming back when there’s really no animosity between both sides,” Johnson said.
“It’s always nice leaving on a good note with a team, because I guess you always want to leave a good mark wherever you are, a positive mark in the locker room or in the community with the fans, however you can.”
Johnson will oppose the man who replaced him in Boston when he faces Niklas Svedberg Thursday. Even when Johnson was the backup last season, the plan was for Svedberg, who was the AHL’s top goaltender the year before, to play in Boston this season.
Johnson, who often speaks of how tough it is for NHL-ready goalies to get the opportunity to play (and stay) in the NHL, is happy to see that Svedberg is getting his shot.
“I think it’s a good situation for him, a guy who’s been in the minors for a couple of years,” Johnson said. “It’s sort of very [similar to] me. He probably could have been in the NHL last year or the year before, but just didn’t have the right situation. In the business of hockey, you just have to have the right situation. You always want to see guys have opportunity at this level, just because in my experience too, you have to sometimes just wait it out a long time in the minors to get a chance.
“He’s in a good situation. I know first-hand what kind of a team is over there, how goalie-friendly the team really is. It’s nice for him to be able to be in a good situation there.”
The 28-year-old also had glowing things to say about Rask, who won the Vezina Trophy as the NHL‘s top netminder last season. Johnson said that Rask was different from many other goaltending partners he’s had in the past, calling him “so relaxed and friendly.”
Last season marked Johnson’s first full season at the NHL level. He said going into the year that he found playing in the NHL easier than playing in the AHL because the groups in front of him were more defensively sound. He found that to be a big plus in Boston.
“The strategy of the team and the identity of that team is to play defense first and commit defensively and help the goalies out,” Johnson said. “That makes it easy on a guy like Tuukka and Svedy and myself last year. It’s always a good situation to be in when there’s that kind of identity for a team.
“It was just a good group of guys, the organization was awesome to me and there’s no secret to why they have success. They have the right people there from the very top. It makes a lot of sense why they win and do well every year.”
Johnson finished sixth last season in both save percentage (.925) and goals-against average (2.10). In two games this year (one start), he has allowed three goals over 80 minutes. He won his lone start, a victory over the Hurricanes.
|10.23.14 at 1:28 pm ET|
After seeing the way the NHL rallied around Boston in wake of the 2013 Boston Marathon, Bruins with ties to Ottawa are glad to see the same is being done for Canada’s capital city after Wednesday’s shooting on Parliament Hill.
A night after “O Canada” was sung prior to a Penguins/Flyers game in Pittsburgh, the Bruins are expected to have Rene Rancourt sing the Canadian anthem prior to Thursday’s game between the Bruins and Islanders.
“Ottawa is home for me so I spent a good portion of the afternoon looking up at the CNN station and trying to find out as much as I could,” Julien said Thursday morning. “It’s unfortunate. It just goes to show that these tragedies don’t just happen in the U.S. of A but also in other countries and there’s other countries in Europe that have been faced with that.”
Chris Kelly said he spent parts of Wednesday working the phones to make sure his friends in Ottawa were alright. He added that he hoped the Senators could provide some sort of positive distraction for the city as it goes through this difficult time, much like the Bruins did in 2013.
Julien said he thinks the impact of such tragedies go beyond the city in which they occur, and that he imagines that each NHL team and their respective fanbases will show support wherever they can.
“Every city rallies around its own city and I’ve talked to a few people including my family that’s still back,” Julien said. “My parents and brothers and sisters, it’s affected them even if they weren’t around that area it affected them. It affects the whole city like the bombing affected us here.
“They’ll have to get used to it in a way where that’s reality, unfortunately, and it’s happening. Canada is a pretty laid back country that tries to continue to be laid back. But it’s also a country that supported the U.S. in some of its decisions and more than likely those are the consequences that it faces because of that.”
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