|01.21.17 at 5:19 pm ET|
Stuck in the mud of a three-game losing skid and with losses in seven of their last 10 games, the Bruins have made a move. But it’s far from the blockbuster trade or coaching change that’s lit up sports talk radio, though, as the Bruins have assigned forward Anton Blidh down to the P-Bruins.
A healthy scratch in Friday’s loss to the Blackhawks, the move to return Blidh to the AHL, where he’ll get playing time and further his development as an effective energy player/agitator makes sense in the now.
It’s worth noting that Blidh did help provide some life to the Black and Gold on a nightly basis, especially in the absence of Matt Beleskey, with 41 hits and 26 shots on goal in just 19 games, but with the numbers game working against him this move was simply an inevitability for the energetic Swede.
But it will be interesting to see how Blidh handles this demotion, as he basically forced his way back to the NHL on his first assignment back down to the farm, with one goal and six shots on goal upon his return to Providence.
A sixth-round draft choice of the Bruins back in 2013 (180th overall), Blidh returns to the AHL where he’s tallied six goals and 10 points in 21 games this year, has one goal and two points, along with seven minutes in penalties, in 19 career NHL games.
|01.21.17 at 2:52 pm ET|
There’s bad luck. And then there’s Kevan Miller luck.
Plastered into the boards on a dangerous hit from Jakub Voracek in a Jan. 14 win over the Flyers, the 29-year-old Miller has missed the last three games with a concussion. Overall, Friday against the Blackhawks was the 23rd contest that the Bruins have played with the physical third-pairing defender this year, as Miller missed the first 19 games of the season with a hand injury and another one due to an illness.
It’s the return of an illness, too, that’s put Miller back in bed.
“Kevan was actually feeling really well, then he got hit by a virus,” Bruins coach Claude Julien confirmed following another Miller-free practice in Brighton. “That’s kept him in bed for the last two days.”
Julien went on to add that the virus has nothing to do with the original injury and that Miller was nearing a return from that concussion, but that this virus has put those plans on hold for the time being.
Miller, in the first year of a four-year, $10 million extension signed last May, has three assists in 26 games this season.
|01.21.17 at 2:06 pm ET|
Not even 12 hours after Bruins head coach Claude Julien opted not to comment on his job security or future, noting that he’s not a fan of ‘shock-journalism’, the embattled man behind the B’s bench for the last 10 years decided to entertain the question when it was asked Saturday.
“My job is coach a hockey club. Am I worried about my job? No I’m not, because it’s not my job to worry about it,” Julien commented. “My job is to fix things like I mentioned. I think my job is to coach this team and try to do everything I can. And if I become one of the reasons that we’re not doing well, well then I think management has to make that decision. It’s not my decision to make.”
Even if it was his decision to make, Julien would not bail on this situation for the potential greener pastures of a new start elsewhere.
“I’m not quitting on this team,” the former Jack Adams winner affirmed, “I’m not quitting on management.”
With a cooler head than the one he came into the TD Garden press room with last night, and the raw emotion of the club’s third straight loss (a 1-0 final to the Blackhawks decided with just 1:26 left in the third period) behind him, Julien in detail his willingness to work through the struggles experienced by this growing club on a night-to-night basis and his belief in the process.
“I’m willing to go through the hard times, and I said that at the end of last year. If it’s deemed my fault, then I shouldn’t be here,” Julien, the franchise’s all-time winningest coach, admitted. “That’s all I can say. But that’s not my decision to make. And if we’re going with what we said we’d go with and saying there’s going to be some growing pains along the way, so be it.”
A team with losses in seven of their last 10 games, the pressure on the Bruins to make a change is obvious. But it’s not going to change the way that Julien, who admitted that he’s tried to find new ways to come to the rink with new energy and mindsets amid the struggles, coaches or prepares for the mission he had at the start of the year.
“We put ourselves in a position early in the season to maybe be one of those teams that all of a sudden we believe we’re a playoff team, absolutely. I still think we’re a playoff team,” Julien continued, “whether we can do it or not, we’ll know at the end of the year, but my job is still to do everything I can to get us into the playoffs and that’s what I’m gonna do.”
As for the rumors, Julien knows that they are out there, and that they will continue be there.
“But I don’t worry about [rumors], because worrying is wasting a lot of my time. My time is about trying to fix things here.”
|01.20.17 at 11:26 pm ET|
The Bruins played a near perfect game against the Blackhawks.
A visibly frustrated Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews was held to zero points. Same for superstar Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith, and Brent Seabrook. Artemi Panarin, held to just one shot and two attempts in 22:49 of time on ice, was practically smothered to death by the Bruins.
For 58 minutes — no, strike that, a full 60 minutes — the Bruins did everything they had to do and more to shut the Hawks’ top talents down. But sneakily buried on the Blackhawks’ third line, it was Marian Hossa that made something out of nothing with a game-winning goal scored with just 1:26 left in the third period of a 1-0 final.
“I think we competed hard but then again you’re dealing with some growing pains and we had an icing late in the game so that’s not necessary, but the winning goal that goes through three of our guys and it’s in our net with a minute-and-a-half left,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said after the loss. “We have to stand there again, take the responsibility for our own actions. It’s unfortunate because that minute-and-a-half that was left in the game kind of tarnished everything we had done for the first whatever – 58 minutes. I thought we played pretty well against a good team.
“We had contained the guys that we needed to contain.”
It just so happened that Hossa’s goal was the worst possible break for the Bruins in that it was a three-on-four effort that sees a puck goes through three Bruins players en route to the back of Tuukka Rask’s net. It’s a script so bad it could only fit this year’s Bruins team as a team that’s become the embodiment of the anything that can go wrong will go wrong philosophy.
“They were playing faster, and a play at the end ends up in the back of our net with a minute left and a disappointing finish to, you know, what we thought we played a pretty solid game all around,” Torey Krug, one of the players on the ice for the goal, said. “But time and time again — we’re not in it for moral victories. We’ve got to start plucking points if we want to stay in this thing.”
And that’s what this really comes back down to for the Bruins.
This team is beyond the point of moral victories. They exited when 2016 became 2017. This is a Bruins team that’s in a straight-up dogfight for a playoff spot, and things are not looking good, especially with losses in seven of their last 10 games.
“These are the kind of games you kind of have to learn to win,” Rask, who made 21 saves in the loss, said. “When it’s a low-scoring game in the third period, and it’s just one of those things. They made a nice play at the end and got rewarded, and we didn’t.
“But we just have to stick the course, and keep plugging away.”
|01.20.17 at 10:48 pm ET|
Bruins head coach Claude Julien probably doesn’t make TMZ appointment viewing.
In what was the club’s third straight loss, a 1-0 final against the Blackhawks in which Chicago veteran Marian Hossa scored the game-winning goal with just 1:26 left in the third period in a three-on-four, Julien was once again forced to lament what could have been for a Bruins group that’s now dropped 14 one-goal games this season.
But when the topic shifted away from the efforts of a hard luck loss and about his job security, the B’s coach of 10 seasons opted not to answer.
“Well I’m not into shock-journalism so I’ll stay away from that question if you don’t mind,” Julien said before ending his media availability and exiting stage right and making his way back to the B’s dressing room.
With the loss tonight, the Bruins have losses in six of their last 10 games, while their playoff chances took a 6.4% hit, according to SportsClubStats.com, and the vultures have started circled Julien like never before in his decade-long run in town.
For now, however, Julien remains the man behind the Bruins bench, and his team isn’t going to get caught up in the frenzy.
“It’s the question people ask every year, and we’re just players,” Bruins netminder Tuukka Rask said when asked if he’s concerned about management making any changes — be it coaching or personnel — given the club’s slide. “I think we’re just focused on doing our job as good as we can, and trying to get those wins. Obviously, losing three games is not great, but I think as players, the only thing we can focus on is playing the game the way we want to play it, and trying to get the win.”
It doesn’t get much easier for Julien and the Bruins, though, as they’ll travel to Pittsburgh to take on the defending Stanley Cup winners for a Sunday head-to-head with a Penguins group that’s lost just four of 23 home games this season.
|01.20.17 at 9:29 pm ET|
Supposedly, the Bruins are a desperate team.
In what was their league-high 49th game of the season, the Bruins had the tall task of squaring up with the Blackhawks. The Bruins, of course, came into this game following back-to-back losses against two of the worst teams in the Eastern Conference for four more easy points left on the table, and clinging to the third place in the Atlantic Division by a mere two points, and have played at least two more games than all of the teams chasing them. This game also marked the start of a weekend slate that concludes with a Sunday road game against the Penguins, a team that’s lost in their building just four times in 23 tries this year.
Oh, and the Bruins are probably, most definitely, without question playing for Claude Julien’s future behind the bench, too.
But that desperation could not be found Friday night at TD Garden, as the Bruins to the ‘Hawks fell by a 1-0 final.
In a 17-shot first period (the Bruins doubled the Blackhawks up in attempts, too, 30-to-15), the Bruins rarely (if at all), found high-quality scoring chances against Blackhawks netminder Scott Darling. Everything came from the outside, and there was nothing to be had in the middle of the ice. In the second period, the Bruins mixed it up, sacrificing shot volume for shot quality, but still could not find a single tally on their 25 shots through the first two periods of play as a 0-0 game rolled on in Boston.
Then came a third period in which the Bruins did not even put a shot on the goal for the opening seven minutes plus, and waited until they were on the penalty kill to rifle their first two shots of the frame on Darling. They put another two on by the 18:34 mark of the third period, but not before the Blackhawks finally put one on the board with Marian Hossa’s 17th goal of the season.
After another moribund effort with the Bruins calling themselves a desperate group, you just have to wonder when such a mindset and effort is going to actually show up for a full 60 minutes, and when it’s going to impact the standings. The Bruins have hemorrhaged points at an alarming rate this season, and they are quickly digging themselves into a hole that will be too large to work out of by the time April rolls back around, and it’s all come under the guise of this team calling themselves desperate.
The Bruins can say what they want, but Friday night showed that they look like anything but a desperate hockey team.
And if not now, when?
|01.20.17 at 5:21 pm ET|
Bruins head coach Claude Julien was at a loss for words Wednesday night. The wound was still fresh. The Bruins, who had jumped out to a 3-0 lead and then a 4-1 lead, had somehow blown it, falling to the Red Wings by a 6-5 shootout final for their sixth loss in their last nine tries.
And two days later, with the Bruins set for a weekend slate from hell against the Blackhawks and Penguins that begins tonight at TD Garden, Julien didn’t feel like revisiting that discouraging night.
“I’m thinking about Chicago,” Julien, channeling his inner Bill Belichick, said. “That’s where the focus is. Chicago.
“We got a game to play here tonight. That’s what we got to do.”
It feels as if the vultures have been circling Julien, who is in his 10th season behind the B’s bench, since Bruins general manager Don Sweeney subtly hinted at the idea of a coaching change to the Boston Globe before the start of the team’s four-game road trip almost two weeks ago. (The Bruins are 3-6-1 since then.)
Wednesday night had the feel of a death knell from Julien, too, especially with the way that the Bruins lost. But after another canceled practice Thursday, and without a coaching change made by a desperate front office, Julien feels his team is centered for what’s ahead, and has made some changes in an effort to counteract some of what the Blackhawks will bring to the table.
One of the biggest changes that Julien has made ahead of tonight’s game includes moving David Backes back to the wing after one game at his natural center position, with Riley Nash as his center (and Ryan Spooner to the left) of the B’s third line. The Bruins will also get winger Matt Beleskey, who has been on the shelf with a knee injury for the last 23 contests, back in action for the first time since Dec. 3 and on a fourth line with Dominic Moore and Austin Czarnik.
“We need better balance as far as offensive and defensive balance,” Julien admitted after the morning skate at Warrior Ice Arena. “We’re just trying to move players around here and Backes has been playing the wing quite a bit this year and has done a good job there, so we moved Nash to the middle there and we’ll see how that goes.”
“We have to take it one game at a time and get that focus back on what’s ahead of us,” Backes, a minus-3 Wednesday night against the Red Wings and with just one point in his last five games, said. “We can’t sit in the past or we’re bound to duplicate it.”
“You fix things and move forward,” Julien said.