|12.22.14 at 4:05 pm ET|
David Krejci might want to know who his right wing is as much as anyone else.
Claude Julien‘s hands are tied. Partially because of Krejci’s injuries, he waited too long to try Loui Eriksson with Krejci and Milan Lucic. Eriksson has undeniable chemistry with Carl Soderberg and Chris Kelly, but the Bruins haven’t given him a chance to develop chemistry with Lucic and Krejci. Given where they currently fall in the standings, the B’s might not think they can afford a games-long getting-to-know-you period if the B’s don’t win games in the process.
So that leaves Krejci, who thought he knew who he’d have for linemates after Jarome Iginla left, with four different right wings (Seth Griffith, Simon Gagne, Craig Cunningham and, ever so briefly, Eriksson) in 14 games this season.
“Everything was – it looked like we were going to play with Loui from the beginning. If not, then someone else, so it was kind of a tough situation,” Krejci told WEEI.com Monday. “I was preparing myself the whole summer [as though] I would be playing with Loui. That was on my mind. Then some injuries and those guys play pretty well together right now with Carl and Kells as a line, so yeah.”
Added Krejci: “I’m happy that we’re winning, but I’d like to be putting some points up as well. That’s why I’m here. That’s why they re-signed me. It gets a little frustrating at times. You always play with somebody else, but I’m sure we’re going to find the right guy. If not, who knows what happens? There’s always trades, you know.”
On Sunday, Julien finally started Eriksson on Krejci’s right wing to open the game. The line had a so-so first period, but allowed a second-period goal and followed it up with a shift that saw Krejci give the puck away and Lucic mishandle the puck at the blue line. Krejci’s misplay led to a Sabres scoring chance; Lucic’s forced Dougie Hamilton to trip Tyler Ennis in the neutral zone and put the Bruins on the penalty kill.
Julien returned Eriksson to Soderberg’s line, with Kelly scoring on the trio’s first shift back together. Eriksson scored the game-winner in overtime on a feed from Lucic, but it was during a line change.
While Eriksson with Kelly and Soderberg has been Boston’s most consistent line this season, it isn’t like any of Boston’s forwards are having particularly good seasons. The Bruins are the only team in the league without a nine-goal scorer. They’re one of three teams (with the Sabres and Coyotes the other two) who haven’t seen a player reach 10 goals.
Part of the Bruins’ offensive problem has been that they’ve only had Krejci for 14 games, leading Julien to mix and match different lines and play Soderberg’s line against other team’s top forwards and defensemen. Krejci’s return allows the Soderberg line to go back to playing against bottom-six players and third-pairing defensemen, which makes their job easier.
In a perfect world, the Bruins shouldn’t need Eriksson to win those shifts, as Soderberg is probably a little better than a third-line player, while Kelly has been a solid third-liner for years.
The Bruins value secondary scoring, but having a good first line is more important. The Bruins are better off when Krejci is at his best, and Krejci’s at his best when he’s comfortable with his linemates rather than taking turns training potential candidates.
So maybe it’s Eriksson and maybe it’s somebody else, but teams don’t miss the playoffs because they don’t have great third lines; they do because they don’t have first lines. Krejci is eager for Boston’s to take shape.
|12.22.14 at 1:05 pm ET|
Matt Bartkowski was not given any supplemental discipline for a hit to Sabres captain Brian Gionta that earned him a game misconduct Sunday night.
After Monday’s practice, Bartkowski said that he didn’t feel the hit was worthy of a suspension.
“It’s just a play in the game. You don’t like to see players leave the game,” he said. “It’s not like it was my intent to injure anybody. It was just a hit, so that’s about it.”
Bartkowski had to answer for the hit immediately, dropping the gloves with Marcus Foligno for his first career NHL fight. He said that after leaving the game due to the misconduct, he was more focused on the call than concerned with being suspended.
“I was just pissed that I had to leave the game,” Bartkowski said. “I don’t know. I didn’t think it was worthy of [a misconduct]. I was just more pissed about that for quite a while.”
For more Bruins news, visit weei.com/bruins.
|12.22.14 at 12:28 am ET|
Courtesy of Pete Blackburn of Days of Y’Orr, here’s a GIF of Matt Bartkowski’s first-period hit on Sabres captain Brian Gionta.
Bartkowski was given a five-minute interference major and game misconduct for the hit. It also led to Bartkowski’s first NHL fight, as he dropped the gloves with Marcus Foligno following the hit.
Gionta did not return to the game, with Sabres coach Ted Nolan saying the veteran forward was “still a little shaken up” after the game. Bartkowski has never been disciplined by the league before. Sunday was his 100th career regular-season game in the NHL.
Bruins coach Claude Julien declined comment on the hit.
|12.21.14 at 11:06 pm ET|
Chris Stewart is a big, strong right wing on a bad team and he will probably get traded. The Bruins have reportedly discussed him with the Sabres.
In fact, it’s been reported so many times (first by ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun), that Stewart is well aware of his link to the Bruins.
“I’d be lying if I [said I] haven’t heard it. You see it on Twitter every day,” Stewart told WEEI.com after Sunday’s game. “People [message] you and stuff like that, but that’s stuff that’s out of my control. I’m just going to take it game-by-game here and worry about playing well for the Sabres.”
Playing well for the Sabres until he gets traded. The Sabres are in all likelihood more interested in having Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel on their roster next year than having Stewart, who is in the last year of his contract. Selling off parts helps to achieve that, and, with Stewart not possessing any no-trade rights, it’s a safe bet that Stewart, part of last year’s Ryan Miller trade with the Blues, will be moved again.
There are two issues preventing him from becoming a Bruin, however. For one, he has a $4.15 million cap hit that would require the cap-space-strapped B’s to move salary in order to fit him on the roster.
The other issue might be the biggest one: Stewart might not be worth it. Now 27, the former first-round pick has struggled for most of the season and was even made a healthy scratch earlier in the month. He played well against the Bruins Sunday in assisting an Andrej Meszaros goal, but that helper made for just his seventh point of the season (three goals, four assists).
So, is Stewart an unmotivated player in a bad situation or is he no longer the guy who scored 28 goals back in the 2009-10 season with the Avalanche? LeBrun wrote back on Dec. 10 that the Bruins weren’t offering much for Stewart because of those questions.
“I think when I am firing on all cylinders, I’m definitely a difference-maker on the team,” Stewart said. “I think that’s what I’ve got to bring every night. I hold myself to high expectations and I want to contribute.”
An acquisition of Stewart might be underwhelming for Bruins fans hoping that if the B’s shed cap space from their roster, they do it for more of a sure thing. Boston has prospects on defense, goalie Malcolm Subban and former high picks on forward who are collecting dust in Providence. They also have their first-round pick and two second-rounders in each of the next two seasons, so if they can make room, they have the pieces to get an impact player if one were to become available.
Still, Stewart’s build and style of play when he’s going might be familiar to the Bruins. The 6-foot-2, 228-pounder is pretty much the exact same size as former B’s right wing Nathan Horton. He’s also a right-shot right wing, which the Bruins don’t have outside of Craig Cunningham (up and down between Boston and Providence this season), Seth Griffith (scratched Sunday) and David Pastrnak (currently playing in World Juniors).
Given his size and preferred style of play, Stewart said he feels the Bruins would suit his style of play well.
“I like to consider myself a hard-nosed player who can stick up for his teammates,” Stewart said. “If I do get open, I can put the puck in the net. So yeah, I think that could be a good fit.”
|12.21.14 at 9:41 pm ET|
With all due respect to the Sabres, the Bruins were lucky they were playing the Sabres.
It took a come-from-behind effort after a sloppy showing for the Bruins to eke past the Atlantic Division’s worst team in overtime. Loui Eriksson, who was moved up to the first line and then back to the third, scored his second overtime winner in less than a week to save the Bruins the embarrassment in a 4-3 overtime win (box).
Dougie Hamilton scored a pair of goals, taking a feed from Carl Soderberg on a backdoor goal during a first-period power play and beating Jhonas Enroth with 91 seconds remaining in regulation to tie the game with an extra attacker on.
Here are four more things we learned Sunday night:
BARTKOWSKI TOSSED FOR BAD HIT
Matt Bartkowski still doesn’t have a goal in 100 career regular-season NHL games. His first suspension may come before his first goal.
Bartkowski caught Brian Gionta with a hit to the head at the Sabres blue line in the first period that sent the Sabres captain flying as he flipped 180 degrees on his side before landing on his head/shoulder area. A bloodied Gionta remained on the ice before leaving the game.
Marcus Foligno immediately went after Bartkowski for the hit, leading to Bartkowski’s first career fight. After the lengthy bout, Bartkowski was assessed a major for fighting, an interference major for the hit and a game misconduct.
Bartkowski is Boston’s best skater on the back end. The circumstances of the play were best put by Mick Colageo of the The Standard-Times.
Bart is not a dirty player, just a kid with explosive speed, brute strength and less-than-average hockey sense for a pro. #Bruins
‘ Mick Colageo (@MickColageo) December 22, 2014
JULIEN TRIES ERIKSSON WITH LUCIC AND KREJCI… BRIEFLY
Then, after some struggles in the second period (allowing a goal followed by a later shift in which a Krejci turnover led to a Buffalo scoring chance and a Lucic flub at the blue line led to Dougie Hamilton taking a penalty), Julien put Eriksson back with Carl Soderberg and Chris Kelly.
Maybe it’s because they were playing the Sabres and maybe it’s because they really like playing with each other, but their reunion after being apart for an hour was like the end of ‘Slumdog Millionaire.’ Kelly scored on the first shift they played together, marking his first goal in 23 games.
With Eriksson back with Kelly and Soderberg, Craig Cunningham moved up to Krejci’s line. Cunningham began the game with Kelly and Soderberg.
One name that’s been attached to the Bruins all season has been Chris Stewart, Buffalo’s struggling right wing who could be a decent forward in the right situation.
Stewart played on a line with Mikhail Grigorenko and Cody Hodgson. He made some nice plays, forcing a Dennis Seidenberg turnover and feeding a nice pass up to Andrej Meszaros (!) off the rush for a Sabres goal in the second period.
Still, the assist made for just the seventh point this season for the former first-round pick, as he now has three goals and four assists this season.
Stewart is in the last season of his contract and will be a restricted free agent. The 27-year-old’s contract carries a $4.15 million cap hit.
RASK GIVES UP A SOFTIE
Tuukka Rask has had to keep the Bruins in games during their struggles (though at this point we should just call it ‘this season’), so the last person at whom the finger should be pointed is the goaltender.
That said, Rask was uncharacteristically weak in sealing off the post as he allowed an inexplicable goal to Tim Schaller on a wraparound in the third period to give Buffalo a 3-2 lead.
Equally responsible on the play was Dennis Seidenberg, who watched as Schaller took two whacks at the puck to put it in the net.
The goal was the first of Schaller’s NHL career. Add in that Meszaros’ goal was his first of the season, and the Bruins allowed a pair of goals to players who, entering Sunday night, had not scored this season.
|12.21.14 at 2:51 pm ET|
Claude Julien does not want to separate Loui Eriksson and Carl Soderberg. That much we definitely, definitely know.
On Sunday, Julien reiterated that stance with a quote that got us thinking.
“Right now, the Soderberg line is the only one that’s scoring for us,” Julien said, “so do you guys want me to break that up and we get no more scoring? So you pick your poison.”
Krejci has been in the lineup for 13 games and has had Seth Griffith as his right wing for 12 of them, with Simon Gagne also getting some shifts and Eriksson getting a small taste late in Friday’s game. The Bruins might not be 100 percent on Griffith being their first-line right wing, but they won’t try Eriksson to see if they have any other internal fits for the job before potentially trading for one.
So, given Julien’s quote, we looked at every goal the Bruins have scored when Krejci has been in the lineup. In each game, Soderberg and Eriksson have been together, so it’s actually rather easy to tell whether Julien has a point. Keeping in mind that different lines (Krejci’s and Patrice Bergeron‘s) have tougher matchups, here were our findings:
Total goals (13 games): 35
Soderberg line: 9
Krejci line: 8
Bergeron line: 7
Campbell line: 1
Krejci during change with Kelly, Eriksson: 1
The findings aren’t overwhelming, but they do illustrate that when the Bruins have their full offensive lineup, the Soderberg line does pretty much all of Boston’s secondary scoring (nine of 10 goals). That might be reason enough for Julien to not want to tinker with Kelly – Soderberg – Eriksson.
That said, the Bruins are 22nd in the league with 2.42 goals per game (2.69 with Krejci in the lineup). They need goals, and Eriksson had a four-point game against the Flyers last season when skating with Krejci and Lucic.
Following is a goal-by-goal breakdown, which also takes into consideration that Julien changed half of his lines on Oct. 30 against the Sabres but kept Griffith with Krejci while also keeping Eriksson with Soderberg. Read the rest of this entry »
|12.21.14 at 1:41 pm ET|
After Sunday’s morning skate, Julien answered a question about not trying players other than Griffith on Krejci’s line by saying it was tough to do with Krejci out of the lineup. When it was pointed out that he has still only really used Griffith (and Simon Gagne at points) as Krejci’s right wing, Julien again pointed to his reluctancy to split up Eriksson and Carl Soderberg on the third line.
“When we don’t win, we get second-guessed. I understand that. But right now, Soderberg line is the only one that’s scoring for us,” Julien said. “So do you guys want me to break that up and we get no more scoring? So you pick your poison. As much as we’d like to do that and we want to do that, and we did the last game a few times, it’s hard to really see when it’s only in spurts. But at the same time, I’m trying to win a hockey game here, so that’s the bottom line.”
Griffith has been Krejci’s right wing in each of Krejci’s 13 games this season, with Simon Gagne spending parts of games on the line as well. Eriksson has not spent a game with Krejci and Lucic this season, though he played with them late last season and at points during training camp.
Zach Trotman and Matt Fraser appear to be the healthy scratches Sunday against the Sabres. The lineup in morning skate was as follows:
Lucic – Krejci – Griffith
Marchand – Bergeron – Smith
Kelly – Soderberg – Eriksson
Paille – Campbell – Cunningham
Chara – Hamilton
Bartkowski – Seidenberg
Krug – Miller
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