|10.23.16 at 12:06 am ET|
When there was talk before the season about the possibility of Chris Kelly’s old alternate captain’s letter being moved to a new jersey, one of the players consistently mentioned was Torey Krug, thanks in large part to his honesty and the way he holds himself accountable.
Krug hasn’t worn a letter yet and may not at any point this season, but it’s clear he’s going to set an example for his teammates regardless.
After Saturday night’s 4-2 loss to the Canadiens, a game in which Krug was a minus-3 and had a bad misplay lead to a shorthanded breakaway goal, the 25-year-old defenseman came down hard on himself in one of those interviews that makes you realize no one’s going to be more critical of his play than he is. But at the same time, he also sounded confident that he’ll figure things out.
“I have no consistency to my game at all,” Krug said. “I make a good play, then next shift a poor play. It’s something I’m not proud of at the moment. I’ll work through it. I always have. There’s always times throughout the season when you play poorly. You have to work through it. Unfortunately for me, it’s the start of the season. I’ll get back to a place where my teammates can count on me, where every time I jump over the boards they know what they’re going to get. It’s not there right now, but it will be.”
Reporters mentioned two possible mitigating factors to Krug — the fact that he’s been paired with young defense partners in Rob O’Gara and Joe Morrow, and the fact that he had offseason shoulder surgery and may not be 100 percent just yet — but he refused to take the bait.
“I was injured, but I had time to work and make sure I was ready for the season,” Krug said. “I’m not going to use that as an excuse. The doctors cleared me to play, so I’m ready to play. For whatever reason, I’m not there right now.” Read the rest of this entry »
|10.22.16 at 9:54 pm ET|
BOSTON – Another night, another game in which the Bruins surrendered the first goal.
It’s been the theme of the B’s season just nine days into it, and it was a second period goal by Montreal forward Brendan Gallagher that ensured that it happened to the Bruins for a fifth straight contest. It’s something the club survived on nights against goaltenders like Columbus starter Sergei Bobrovsky and Winnipeg’s Connor Hellebuyck, but it’s awfully difficult to put yourself in a hole when you’re going up against the best goaltender in the world, Montreal’s Carey Price.
“I hope it’s not a habit,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said of the group’s inability to score first. “It’s certainly not what we’re looking for. In five games played, we haven’t scored first, and we talked about that this morning, trying to get that first goal, but it hasn’t happened yet.”
In a two-goal deficit through 40 minutes with goals from Brendan Gallagher and Phillip Danault, the Bruins clawed back with goals from Dominic Moore and Ryan Spooner in the third period, but each time the Bruins came back with a goal to bring themselves within one, the Canadiens re-established their two-goal edge.
First came a Paul Byron shorthanded breakaway for Montreal’s third goal of the game, which made it a 3-1 affair, and then a Torrey Mitchell unassisted dagger, on a delayed penalty with Mitchell’s face clipped by a high stick, put the B’s down 4-2 with 7:13 to go.
The Bruins had chances with a late-game power play, but were unable to find any further holes in Price’s game, as the Montreal netminder won his 23rd head-to-head meeting against the Bruins (35 games), and his 11th win in 18 career games at TD Garden behind a 19-of-21 effort in net.
Bruins netminder Anton Khudobin made 25 stops on 29 shots against in defeat.
“It’s just a tough loss, to be honest,” a dejected Khudobin, who has been in net for both of Boston’s losses on the year, said after the game. “I felt pretty good all game. It’s just … four goals against. I’m not really happy about them.
“I don’t like to lose. It’s the worst feeling.”
With the loss, the Bruins failed to move into first place in the Atlantic Division, and have not beat the Canadiens at home since Jan. 12, 2012, a seven-game losing skid to their archrivals.
Here are four other things we learned from Boston’s 4-2 loss to the Habs.
Spooner responds to healthy scratch in positive way
If you’re looking for positives from the Black and Gold, the play from Ryan Spooner after he was scratched for the home opener has to be high on the list. Reunited on a Bruins second line with David Krejci at center and David Backes on the right wing, the 24-year-old Spooner opened the first period as one of Boston’s best skaters and created countless opportunities for his line.
Spooner found paydirt in the third period, too, as he received a gorgeous cross-slot from Backes on the power play, and struck with his first goal of the season.
Although Spooner’s goal came on the man advantage, it’s clear that this is a player that’s developed some on-ice chemistry with Backes, especially at five-on-five, and it may explain some, but not all, of Spooner’s struggles in the first three games of the season. It was then that Backes was centering the top line in place of Patrice Bergeron while first-year pro Danton Heinen skated as opposite winger on the Krejci line.
“He was better,” Julien said of Spooner after the loss. “He was better.”
Gallagher still supreme pest, Bruin killer
Defenseman P.K. Subban, a player who drew the ire of the entire Garden crowd every single time he touched the puck during his tenure with the Canadiens, calls Nashville home these days. Dale Weise, after a quick stop in Chicago last trade deadline with the Blackhawks, now skates for the Flyers. But the Habs still have a thorn very much pricked into the B’s side, and his name is Brendan Gallagher.
In his 17th career game against the Bruins, the 5-foot-9 winger scored his third goal of the season, and his fifth goal and 18th career point overall against the Bruins. But Gallagher’s impact went beyond a goal that proved pivotal for the Habs in their seventh straight victory on Garden ice.
From the onset of the game, Gallagher was in the Bruins’ heads.
Even when he took a four-minute penalty for a high-stick on B’s rookie d-man Brandon Carlo, Gallagher went right over to a down Carlo, had some choice words, and was greeted by an irate Zdeno Chara. Gallagher received slashes from Colin Miller and the rest of the Boston defense at every stop and any time he even went near Khudobin, and defenseman Torey Krug, sans helmet, did everything he could to try and get Gallagher to drop the gloves with him in the second period.
Second period struggles doom Bruins
The Bruins really lost this game with a nightmarish second period.
On the heels of a strong first period that while scoreless, came with six shots on goal and 22 attempts overall for the Bruins, the Black and Gold fell flat on their face in a middle frame that came with two Montreal goals, bad giveaways, poor coverage, and three penalties against.
“Terrible,” Julien said of the team’s second period. “The second period came back to haunt us.
“We were flat coming out, we didn’t make good outlet passes, and we spent way too much time in our end.”
Habs remain opportunistic bunch
Down by a goal late in the second period, defenseman John-Michael Liles went in on a well-time pinch into the offensive zone. The only problem? He totally, completely missed the puck.
That gave the Canadiens a two-on-one rush the other way, with Miller the lone B’s defenseman between Alexander Radulov and Phillip Danault, and it was Danault that struck as Matt Beleskey did everything but get the puck on his furious backcheck into the defensive zone.
When teams talk about playing the Canadiens, they always mention how the Habs are a team that loves to take advantage of the opposition with their odd-man opportunities. (Who doesn’t?) And though the Habs typically do this by blowing the zone with a blocked shot, their second goal was an example of just how dangerous the Montreal wingers can be if you blow a single assignment.
It was far from the only blown coverage by the Bruins in the losing effort, either, as Julien noted that Montreal’s first goal, scored by Gallagher, was scored on missed coverage by the Bruins.
The Bruins return to the ice for a Tuesday night game with the Minnesota Wild.
|10.22.16 at 6:07 pm ET|
There’s no two ways about it: the Bruins power play is not off to a dazzling start.
After starting the season 1-for-10 on the power play through three games, there was hope the return of Patrice Bergeron would help jolt it in the right direction. But even after failing to execute in four chances Thursday night, there’s optimism that it will turn around.
“Well you know there is no doubt that he is one of the best, what I call bumper guys in the league and we ended up putting him there at the Worlds, also because he’s so good when guys are under pressure they get into position to take away that pressure and he does a good job of that,” said head coach Claude Julien.
The Bruins sit in a rough 28th in the NHL in power play percentage, after finishing seventh in the league last season, executing on 20.5 percent of their chances.
And while they didn’t cash in on any chances Thursday night, there was noticeable improvement compared to the previous three games. Scoring chances were much more prevalent, and the synergy amongst the first power play unit was palpable.
“Bergy was a little bit better. We got some more scoring chances. The puck’s not finding the back of the net. But, like I said, stay positive and keep creating chances and eventually, it will go in,” said David Krejci.
Though it’s impractical to believe Bergeron’s return will miraculously fix the power play, it certainly will help it take huge strides. His versatility and ability to take shots from the slot or make plays in small areas will take the load off of others and help establish roles on the unit.
“He’s got a good shot there from the slot when it comes to him on his stick. So he’s to me one of the better ones in that position and we didn’t have him for the first three games and it did make a difference. As much as other guys tried to do the job, nobody could do it as good as Patrice does.”
|10.22.16 at 5:25 pm ET|
Back in town for the first time since their decimation of the Boston Bruins in the 2016 Winter Classic at Gillette Stadium, and with first place in the Atlantic Division on the line, the division-best Montreal Canadiens return to TD Garden a far different team than they were on New Year’s Day.
But so are the Bruins.
For all of Boston’s offseason subtractions off the roster, the biggest change to the club’s offensive game has come with the addition of David Backes. A do-it-all forward capable of playing center and the wing, the 32-year-old Backes, a five-year captain during his tenure with the St. Louis Blues, has tallied two goals and three points in four games for the Bruins. Meanwhile, the Canadiens improved by default with the return of the all-world Carey Price in net after a 2015-16 campaign that ended just 12 games in,and have already seen a significant boost from their point with the addition of Shea Weber, an offseason import acquired from the Nashville Predators in exchange for P.K. Subban, who is tied for the team lead in points with four.
“Well, you got a different player,” B’s coach Claude Julien said of the dynamic of Montreal’s defense changing with Weber instead of Subban. “They don’t play the same way and that’s probably why they made that deal. No doubt he’s got one of the hardest shots in the league. Very similar on the power play to an [Alex] Ovechkin-type player. You got to respect that part of it. He’s big, he’s strong, he’s a good battler, but I know he’s a good team leader, and I’ve seen that firsthand.”
Familiarity breeds contempt, and Backes and Weber undoubtedly have that, whether it’s from their days of captains in the Central Division, or their numerous battles between Team Canada and Team USA. Their additions, and especially the addition of Chicago’s Andrew Shaw for Montreal, no stranger to Backes from the Blues-Hawks rivalry or the B’s from the 2013 Stanley Cup Final, to this rivalry can only help reignite the feud after what’s been a tame few years in its 90-plus year history.
“It’s been a little bit more civilized the last few years and less of a sideshow,” Julien, who has coached both the B’s and Habs, said of the rivalry’s latest chapter. “There’s still a lot of hatred between two organizations when they meet, but I think right now and the way the game is trending with penalties and how much they can be costly to a game, I think both teams are a little cautious.
“But I still think there’s great chemistry, and I think both teams get up for these games.” Read the rest of this entry »
|10.22.16 at 1:15 pm ET|
BRIGHTON – Before the puck has even dropped in the first of four head-to-head meetings with the Montreal Canadiens this year, the Boston Bruins are already down one against their archrivals.
Tuukka Rask, who was absent from Friday’s practice with what the team termed a “maintenance day” and not on the ice for the club’s morning skate at Warrior Ice Arena on Saturday, will be out for Saturday night’s tilt at TD Garden, Bruins coach Claude Julien confirmed.
“He’s doing better, but obviously you didn’t see him on the ice today, so we’re going to keep him off there for a bit and give him another day’s rest at least,” Julien said. “We’ll continue to go day by day.”
Rask, the starter in all three of Boston’s wins this season, has been dealing with “general soreness” since his opening night win against the Columbus Blue Jackets according to Julien, though you would not know it with his 3-0-0 record, .947 save percentage, and 1.67 goals against average on the year.
“There’s always something,” Rask, who stopped 28-of-29 shots thrown his way in the home opener on Thursday, said after the game about the discomfort he’s playing through. “Always something.”
The 29-year-old Rask has not missed more than two games to injury in a single regular season since a groin injury put him on the shelf for the final 19 games of the regular season in 2012.
Rask’s absence will put Anton Khudobin in the B’s cage for his second start of the season.
The Kazakh-born Khudobin stopped 20-of-24 in his first appearance of the year, a 4-1 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Air Canada Centre last Saturday, and is 0-3-0 with 10 goals against and an .867 save percentage in three career games against the Canadiens.
“We just need a strong performance from him,” Julien said of Khudobin. “I think when you look at putting your goaltender in, you want him to give you a chance to win, and that’s all you can ask.”
With Rask out of action and Khudobin in net, the Bruins have recalled goaltender Zane McIntyre, a sixth-round draft choice by the club in 2010, from the Providence Bruins on an emergency basis.
McIntyre has an AHL-best 0.44 goals against average and the AHL’s second-best save percentage (.977) through three games for the P-Bruins this season. This is the first recall of his pro career.
The Bruins won two of their five meetings with the Canadiens last season, but excluding postseason play, have not beat the Habs at home since Jan. 12, 2012, a 2-1 final in favor of the Black and Gold.
|10.20.16 at 9:52 pm ET|
The lines may have shaken up, but the source of offense didn’t. With the return of Patrice Bergeron, forwards found themselves in new roles, but in a 2-1 rout of the Devils, the Bruins proved their top six forwards can be relied upon no matter which line they’re skating on.
Bergeron provided the dagger with just 1:15 left to claim the win for the Bruins, one-timing a shot off a pass from Brad Marchand to put the Bruins up by the decisive margin.
“I saw an opening,” Bergeron said. “I thought there was a little miscommunication on the D zone and I knew that Brad was going to come around the net and see me there, so I was just waiting and I was ready for the one-timer and obviously I was just trying to put it on net. I wasn’t necessarily trying to look at an area; I was just trying to put it on net and I was lucky to get that goal.”
Faced with a one-goal deficit and less than 10 minutes to play, Marchand danced his way from center ice into the offensive zone at 9:47 and wristed the puck through the five-hole of Devils captain Andy Greene and over the right shoulder of Cory Schneider.
“Well obviously we got the result that wanted. I thought for the most part it was an exciting game. New Jersey is an improved hockey club,” head coach Claude Julien said. “I thought their transition game was good and we knew that before the game started but we told our guys that we needed to be patient and play our game and it wasn’t going to be a high scoring game but we had to really stay with it and I thought our guys did a really good job. Unfortunately they got that first goal again but I liked our response after that.”
With the return of Bergeron, David Backes slid from centering the first line to the right wing of the second, and was still a seamless fit — as was Bergeron in Backes’ vacated role.
The Devils’ lone goal came a little over five and a half minutes before Marchand’s. On the power play, Kyle Palmieri snuck a shot underneath Brandon Carlo before gliding between the legs of an unassuming Tuukka Rask.
The Bruins will take the ice again on Saturday in their first matchup this season against the Canadiens.
Here are four more things we learned in Thursday’s win.
David Backes will only help improve David Krejci
Backes skating to Krejci’s right has already started turning into a potent combination, even if it didn’t result in any points on Thursday. Even with Danton Heinen being virtually absent on the second line, both Backes and Krejci did a good job of opening up the ice and creating chances for one another.
I thought we had some good stuff,” Krejci said. “Good forecheck, good rushes, a couple good scoring chances, so just kind of stay positive and it will come.”
Torey Krug can be serviceable on the right side, but should not totally relied upon
It has not been a frequent choice of Claude Julien’s, and it should probably remain that way. Krug was moved to the right side so he could pair with Joe Morrow, who was getting his first game action this season. While he certainly wasn’t awful, he looked visibly more comfortable offensively when he was playing left while on the power play.
“Yeah I think Torey had some hiccups tonight with the puck but I thought as the game went on, he definitely got better and took charge and that’s what we want from Torey.”
He spent time playing on the right when he was coming up through Providence, and per Julien when he made the decision, “He’s very comfortable on the right.”
The reality appears after this small sample size, however, that given Morrow’s streakiness — especially with the lack of routine playing time — it’s not worthy to take offense out of Krug in order to get Morrow in the lineup.
The power play still needs work
At times, the power play was painfully underwhelming.
Giveaways in the offensive zone led to the Bruins falling to 1-for-14 on the power play this season after failing to execute on all four of their opportunities Thursday night.
“Yeah. [Bergeron] was a little bit better. We got some more scoring chances. The puck’s not finding the back of the net. But, like I said, stay positive and keep creating chances and eventually, it will go in.”
Passing is going to create problems
While an excuse can be made that the situation will fix itself with time, the Bruins’ inability to pass effectively came close to detrimental at multiple points.
Nearing the end of the first period, Brad Marchand had a brutal giveaway at center ice that nearly allowed the Devils into the attacking zone without any pressure.
Colin Miller didn’t help the cause much on the power play, either, allowing an errant pass as he tripped to fall to a Devils stick and be cleared out of the zone.
|10.20.16 at 5:33 pm ET|
Ahead of Wednesday’s home opener, Bruins head coach Claude Julien announced 23-year-old center Austin Czarnik had been sent to the AHL.
Czarnik started the season off centering the third line, but after the first two games was scratched in favor of veteran Riley Nash. Even with the demotion, however, he made a mark in his time with the Bruins.
“He had a tremendous camp. We just want him to go down there and play, and we’ll see what goes on from there,” said Julien. “I was extremely impressed with his training camp. He’s a smart player. When we get to this type of situation, I think he’s playing to find his game again and we’re going to allow him to do that. With the way that he’s played, there’s a good chance we’re going to see him again.”
Julien also added that there is a “good chance” Czarnik gets called back up to the Bruins at some point.
Patrice Bergeron will play his first game of the season Wednesday, after missing the first three games with a lower body injury. On top of his offensive and defensive contributions, the mere presence of the 31-year-old is expected to give the Bruins a lift.
“It doesn’t matter what night it is. I think anytime Patrice comes back into the room, it’s a big lift. He’s regarded as one of the best players in the league,” Julien said.
“So, when you coach some games without him and you see him coming back, it’s a lift to everybody — players, teammates, organization, coaching staff, and hopefully the fans as well.”
Defenseman Joe Morrow, who has yet to play in a game this season, will likely start on Wednesday. He was paired with Torey Krug during morning skate, while Rob O’Gara stayed on the ice late, an indication that he will likely be scratched in favor of Morrow.
“When [Morrow] plays well, he’s a good addition to our team,” Julien said. “He skates well, he gets the puck out of our own end, with [Kevin Miller] out, the same thing. You’re looking for consistency from game to game. The sharpness and compete level are important aspects of playing in the NHL and right now, he needs both of those to get there.”
Also skating late at practice was winger Ryan Spooner, who has struggled to kickstart his season, with one assist in the first three games. Should he be scratched, Tim Schaller would replace him, having skated in Spooner’s spot on the fourth line left wing Wednesday morning.
“He’s just a smart player that plays hard, I think, in all aspects,” Julien said of Schaller. “He’s a centerman that can play the wing, he’s got good size, I think his hockey sense is great. Last time we put him in there, I thought he did a good job with that line which turned out to be one of one better lines against Winnipeg.”
Here are the Bruins projected lines for their tilt against the Devils.