|12.17.14 at 10:47 pm ET|
On Wednesday, the Bruins got three things Bruins fans thought they might never see again: three goals, a win and David Krejci.
After an up-and-down showing from the B’s in Minnesota, Loui Eriksson took a feed from Carl Soderberg and tucked it behind Wild goaltender Niklas Backstrom to give the Bruins a 3-2 overtime win over the Wild (click here for the boxscore). The win was Boston’s first in four games.
Krejci returned to the lineup after missing the last 11 games. He had one shot on goal and had a minus-13, even-strength Corsi, which was worst among Bruins forwards.
Krejci played a part in Minnesota’s game-tying goal in the third period. A turnover from Krejci in the defensive zone led to a Ryan Suter point shot that Niklas Svedberg stopped with his blocker. Zach Trotman picked up the rebound, but Jason Pominville whacked it away from Trotman and into the net to tie the game at two goals apiece.
That said, Krejci’s return is mammoth for the Bruins, who have had their first-line center for just 12 games this season and fell out of a playoff spot without him.
Here are four more things we learned Thursday:
BRUINS STILL LIKE GRIFFITH WITH KREJCI
With Krejci returning to the top line, so too did Seth Griffith. The Bruins have played Griffith as their first-line right wing in every game Krejci has played this season, but they have generally used Griffith as a bottom-six player without Krejci.
It’s an odd choice on the Bruins’ part to not try other players with Krejci and Milan Lucic to determine how many potential in-house candidates the B’s have to fill their seemingly up-for-grabs first-line right wing job. The Bruins have still not tried Loui Eriksson with Krejci and Lucic this season.
The lines were as follows:
Lucic – Krejci – Griffith
Marchand – Bergeron – Smith
Kelly – Soderberg – Eriksson
Paille – Campbell – Cunningham
|12.17.14 at 4:21 pm ET|
The Bruins aren’t great and they aren’t going to be unless they make some sort of move. Here are some thoughts and some speculation, which I hate doing:
— As you’ve probably heard by now, the Oilers might not love Taylor Hall so much. He’s one of the best wings in the world and makes $6 million a year through 2019-20.
Sean Gentille of The Sporting News did a post on Hall and floated an idea of what it would cost to get Hall, with Dougie Hamilton, Malcolm Subban, Chris Kelly and a first-rounder making up his speculated package.
I wouldn’t trade Hamilton and the internet more or less agreed, but Gentille wasn’t wrong in suggesting that’s what it would take. Assuming the Oilers come close to knowing what they’re doing, Hamilton is the guy they should want if they were ever to talk trade with the B’s. Again, I wouldn’t do it.
Another thought on Hall: If the Bruins were to get him – which, no – you’d have to get rid of Milan Lucic or Brad Marchand, as Hall is a top-six left wing and so are they. Both Lucic and Marchand have modified no-trade clauses. There’s also that thing about the Bruins needing right wings, not left wings.
— My media buddy who thinks trading Tuukka Rask should be in play at any point ever is a nice person and also an incorrect person.
— It’s whizz or get off the pot time with Loui Eriksson. Either play him on a top line with David Krejci or trade him.
Eriksson’s a great third-line player who hasn’t gotten a long look with Krejci and Milan Lucic since he got to Boston. He doesn’t score, but the Bruins can either learn that he can with Krejci or they can see if there’s a team out there that believes he’s being underutilized with the B’s.
Once Krejci is back, the Bruins’ concern shouldn’t be breaking up their third line. It should be finding out whether they have the makings of a good first line.
|12.16.14 at 11:00 pm ET|
Tuukka Rask had to bail out the Bruins throughout the night, but Pekka Rinne stood every bit as tall on the other end before stopping Brad Marchand, Reilly Smith and Patrice Bergeron in the shootout. Derek Roy scored the only goal of the shootout for the Predators.
Rask had 38 saves on the night, with Rinne stopping 33 of the 35 he faced from the B’s.
With the shootout loss, the Bruins fell to 15-13-3 and have just one win over their last seven games (1-4-2). They are 8-9-3 on the season without David Krejci, who sat again Tuesday.
Here are four more things we learned Tuesday night:
REILLY SMITH IS A STREAKY GOAL-SCORER
Smith scored an absolute beauty of a goal in the third period, going past James Neal to the net and stickhandling backhand to forehand and sliding it across, off the post and in. The goal gave him eight on the season to tie Brad Marchand for the team lead.
The goal was Smith’s fourth tally in the last five games after going 10 straight games without a point. He scored in two straight games prior to that point-less stretch.
This isn’t the first example of streakiness from Smith with the Bruins, of course. He raced out to 18 goals in the first 52 games of last season before scoring just twice more over the next 30 games.
Lucic scored his sixth goal of the season when he got the Bruins on the board following the expiration of a power play in the second period. He was relentless in front of the net, jumping on a rebound of a Chris Kelly shot and then getting his own rebound to eventually bury a third-chance effort past Rinne.
That was the good Lucic. The bad came late in the period when he took a painfully obvious hooking penalty against Seth Jones in the offensive zone to give Nashville a power play with 1:01 remaining in the period. The penalty led to a Mike Fisher goal that game off a Shea Weber wrist shot with Fisher in front of Rask.
The penalty was unnecessary and easily avoidable, as Lucic also cross-checked Jones when he got to him before providing ample stick-work.
|12.15.14 at 4:29 pm ET|
When players get called up to the NHL, it’s typical for them to play in lesser roles before working their way up to higher lines. It’s been the opposite for Seth Griffith.
With only three goals through their first three games of the season, the Bruins recalled Griffith from Providence to play on their first line with David Krejci and Milan Lucic. Griffith, a second-year pro, has been Krejci’s right wing in all 11 of Krejci’s games this season.
Yet Krejci, who may be nearing a return to the lineup, has missed a lot of time due to injury and the Bruins haven’t been as confident in Griffith as a first-line player when No. 46 hasn’t been centering him.
The last two games, Griffith has been on Boston’s fourth line in place of the absent Simon Gagne. Griffith, who scored as many as 45 goals in a season in his junior days, is not a prototypical fourth-line grinder. Prototypical or not, however, he’s a fourth-liner.
“For now,” Claude Julien said Monday. “We don’t have any extra forwards and we’d still like to be able to see our fourth line be able to bring some offense, so that’s why we put him there. That line was actually pretty good with Simon Gagne, and Simon Gagne’s been a top-line player his whole career.”
With all due respect to Julien, that line was not pretty good. The trio of Gregory Campbell between Daniel Paille and Gagne struggled in much of its time together, though it turned a corner on this month’s California trip.
Going from a top-line to a bottom line can be quite the adjustment. For one, you have to deal with playing fewer minutes. In most cases, you’re also working with less skilled players around you and opposing different types of players. Elite scorers who skate on top lines can be easier to oppose when you have the puck, as many top-liners are there mostly on offensive merit. The bottom-six is a working man’s game.
Guys like Brad Marchand in 2010-11 had to hone their craft in such roles before graduating to higher lines.
“I think it’s just going to help me,” Griffith said. “It’s my first year in the league. You look at this whole lineup; everybody plays hard. It’s not like it’s really a fourth-line role. You’re playing the same.
“You’re just trying to play hard every shift. If you want to be in this league a long time, you’ve got to learn to do little things like that. It’s just something that can help improve my game, if anything.”
The Bruins’ attempts at changing their fourth line from the Merlot Line days have been unsuccessful so far, and Griffith has been unsuccessful without Krejci so far. The 21-year-old has five points (three goals, two assists) when Krejci’s been in the lineup and two points (both goals) in 11 games without Krejci.
The Bruins have used Krejci on a couple different lines in practice over the last week, but Griffith hasn’t been a part of them. His return could either return Griffith to the first line or move him out of the lineup altogether (Craig Cunningham is more of a prototypical fourth-liner), but for now, Griffith will take whatever minutes he can get.
“Griff is a pretty smart player,” Julien said. “It’s not the same definition as what we had before – bang and crash and that kind of stuff – but that’s where he fits right now.”
|12.15.14 at 1:23 pm ET|
David Krejci will travel with the Bruins for their three-game road trip this week, Claude Julien said after Monday’s practice.
Julien did not indicate whether Krejci would play. The B’s have three games in the next four days beginning with Tuesday’s contest against the Predators.
“I hope so. I can’t guarantee that, though,” Julien said of Krejci playing. “I hope so.”
Krejci has missed the last 10 games and has been limited to just 11 games this season due to lower-body injuries. He skated on a four-man line with Milan Lucic, Chris Kelly and Craig Cunningham Monday.
The lines were as follows:
Marchand – Bergeron – Smith
Fraser – Soderberg – Eriksson
Lucic – Kelly – Krejci – Cunningham
Paille – Campbell – Griffith
When Krejci has been in the lineup, he has been productive and the Bruins have been successful. Krejci has three goals and seven assists for 10 points in 11 games, with the B’s going 7-4-0. The Bruins have gone 8-9-2 when Krejci has not been in the lineup.
For more Bruins news, visit weei.com/bruins.
|12.13.14 at 6:10 pm ET|
The Bruins have had plenty of built-in excuses this season if they wanted to use them. They lost two of their best players from last season (Jarome Iginla in free agency and Johnny Boychuk via trade) and didn’t do anything to replace them. And they’ve had injuries pile up both at forward and on defense, with the prolonged absences of Zdeno Chara and David Krejci the most notable.
The Bruins aren’t using any of those as excuses, though. Despite all of that, they still expect to be a good team. For the first month or so of Chara’s absence, they were at least good enough to beat some bad teams and maintain control of a playoff spot.
Over the last few weeks, however, they’ve faced better teams, lost seven of nine and lost control of a playoff spot — while they are still eighth in the Eastern Conference in terms of point, they’re actually 10th in points percentage thanks to the fact they’ve played more games than the other bubble teams.
“We can look at all the excuses we want, but we haven’t been that type of a team and I don’t want it to be that type of a team,” Claude Julien said. “So instead of feeling sorry for ourselves, let’s get mad and let’s do something about it.”
Chara returned to the lineup Thursday night against the Blackhawks, but the Bruins have lost both games since then, erasing any dreams anyone had that his return would be some magical elixir.
Chara has looked OK at times — especially in the third period Thursday night — but it’s been obvious that he’s still not up to speed. He’s taken four penalties in two games, with his second penalty Saturday leading to an Ottawa power-play goal that tied the game at 2-2. Julien didn’t even use Chara in overtime Saturday, something that would be unheard of if Chara was playing like Chara.
With the rest of the team struggling as much as it is, the Bruins need Chara in top form as soon as possible. He knows that, and like the rest of the team, he’s not making excuses for why he isn’t there yet.
“The first guy, I’m looking at myself,” Chara said. “I’ve got to be better and I have to work to be at the top of my game. … I can be here and talking about how difficult it is, but that’s the way it is. My job is to get to that performance where I need to be as soon as I can, as quick as I can.”
|12.13.14 at 5:20 pm ET|
With one point on Saturday, the Bruins technically moved back ahead of the Panthers for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. In reality, they remained 10th in the conference in terms of points percentage, as all the other bubble teams — the Panthers, Maple Leafs, Rangers and Capitals — have games in hand on the Bruins.
Throughout the Bruins’ early-season struggles and rash of injuries, there was always the sense that as long as the B’s remained in playoff position, there was no need to be too worried.
Well, it’s time to be worried. The Bruins have lost seven of their last nine, and they’re not in playoff position anymore.
Zdeno Chara is back, but he’s still getting up to speed. David Krejci is still out, meaning three of the four forward lines are still in flux. A month ago, it might have been OK to say “Just wait until Chara is back to being himself” or “Just wait until Krejci returns.”
But the Bruins don’t have the luxury of waiting now, and they know it.
“We can’t wait too much longer to turn this thing around,” said Milan Lucic. ” We have to do it now. We can’t wait much longer. We have five games before Christmas break. We should be hungry on wanting to get as many points as we can get.”
It’s not going to be easy for the Bruins to turn it around in the next week, as they hit the road for games in Nashville, Minnesota and Winnipeg against three pretty solid teams. But somehow, they’re going to have to find a way to do it.
It can be tempting to look at those other bubble teams and say, “Well none of them are all that good. Maybe they’ll start losing more.” And maybe they will. But the Bruins aren’t all that good right now either, and having to rely on others to lose in order to make the playoffs is a dangerous way to go.
It’s still a little early for full-blown panic mode, but it’s definitely time for concern. And for the Bruins players, it needs to be time for a lot more urgency.
“No one is going to do it for us,” Lucic said. “We can’t bank on other teams to lose and other teams to do us favors. We have to start bringing it on the ice and start getting wins.”
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