|12.26.15 at 9:34 pm ET|
It had been so long since the Bruins were in first place that neither the players nor the fans at TD Garden knew how to behave when such a scenario appeared possible.
After a third-period David Krejci goal gave the Bruins a 3-1 and positioned the B’s to leapfrog Montreal atop the Atlantic Division, fans began doing the wave. What would come next would make the fans’ actions redundant, as a wave of Buffalo goals spoiled what could have been an easy win.
First, Ryan O’Reilly scored to cut Boston’s lead to one. Then Jack Eichel scored to tie the game. Then Jamie McGinn gave Buffalo scored to cap a run of three goals in 4:03. Minutes later, an empty-netter from Eichel and another from O’Reilly sealed the victory for the Sabres, who left with a 6-3 win as Boston let two points slip away.
With an assist on a first-period Evander Kane goal and O’Reilly’s empty-netter, Eichel finished the game with a career-best four points.
The Bruins will have Tuukka Rask in net on Sunday in Ottawa as they try to stop their two-game losing streak.
Here are four more things we learned:
KRUG HAS SHORT NIGHT
The Bruins had to play most of the night with five defensemen, as Torey Krug came up lame after a first-period foot-race and did not take another shift. Krug left the ice after his fifth shift, which ended at 12:04 of the first period. The Bruins did not specify his injury as they announced in the second period that the defenseman would not return to the game. The Bruins did not provide an update on his status following the game.
Courtesy of Stanley Cup of Chowder, here is video of Krug’s last shift:
If Krug is to miss any time, Joe Morrow would likely jump back into the lineup.
POWER PLAY RESURFACES, BUT DOESN’T SCORE
The Bruins actually got some power play time on Saturday, something they learned recently is not guaranteed on a nightly basis. The B’s went without a power play in Tuesday’s game and did not have a 5-on-4 man advantage in their last two games entering Saturday.
That streak was mercifully broken up in the first period when a Josh Gorges penalty for boarding Brett Connolly gave the B’s a first-period power play. That man advantage yielded some strong chances for the Bruins’ second unit, with Zdeno Chara hitting a post, but the two minutes proved ultimately fruitless. The B’s also failed to score on a second-period power play that followed a Gorges interference penalty.
With Krug out, David Krejci played the point for the entire power play, holding down his usual spot on the first unit and replacing Zdeno Chara on the second unit, as Chara took Krug’s spot with the top group.
In going without a power play goal Saturday, the Bruins have now gone three straight games without scoring on the man advantage, something they also experienced earlier in the month. Of course, the Bruins have had just four power plays the last three games, so it would be quite the stretch to sat their power play is actually struggling.
BELESKEY’S LUCK CHANGES
Matt Beleskey is shooting pretty much just as much as he was last season, when he scored 22 goals in 65 games. Yet he had just four goals entering Saturday, two of which came off passes that inadvertently hit players and went in.
With Beleskey having extremely bad luck with shooting (his 6.2 shooting percentage at the break ranked 237th among 309 NHL forwards with at least 25 games played this season), he was able to find the back of the net by redirecting a Kevan Miller shot past Chad Johnson in the second period for his fifth goal of the season.
Beleskey now has two goals off passes, two off redirects and one from actually shooting the puck into the net. He should have better number than he does, but he’s still on pace for a career-high 40 points.
KREJCI GETS BACK TO SCORING
David Krejci had gone 11 games without a goal entering Saturday, but an impressive display of hand-eye coordination changed that.
Krejci got to 10 goals on the season by batting the rebound of his own shot past Johnson to give the Bruins a 3-1 lead.
Krejci goal, knocks it out of the air juuuust under crossbar height pic.twitter.com/cy5k22WUba
‘ Stephanie (@myregularface) December 27, 2015
Given that he continued to put up points during his goal-less stretch (seven assists), Krejci is now on pace for 77 points, which would surpass the career-high 73 he put up in the 2008-09 season.
|12.26.15 at 8:10 pm ET|
Bruins general manager Don Sweeney announced Saturday night that David Pastrnak will be made available to the Czech Republic for the World Junior Championship when the NHL‘s roster freeze ends on Monday, unless the Bruins suffer an injury that forces them to call up Pastrnak.
Pastrnak has played two games for Providence in the AHL since returning from a foot injury. The Bruins were faced with the option of calling Pastrnak up to Boston or making him available for World Juniors. He could not have been kept in Providence while World Juniors were taking place.
“He is fully healthy,” Sweeney said. “Now we need to get him back to where he’s back in our lineup. … We think that based on last year and his experience there and coming out of that tournament with the confidence that he had, that he’ll be able to come back to the full level that he had gotten to last year.”
Pastrnak registered a goal and six assists in five games at last year’s World Junior Championship as one of the Czech Republic’s top forwards, and he will be expected to be one of their top players again.
While a heavy tournament schedule and big minutes could be seen as less than ideal for a player just returning from injury, Sweeney said Pastrnak is 100 percent and that he sees the increased ice time as a good thing.
“Being off for seven weeks, that’s a long time for any player, let alone a 19-year-old player, to jump back to the extreme of the National Hockey League level,” Sweeney said. “I think this will give him a real shot in the arm from a confidence standpoint.”
|12.26.15 at 3:13 pm ET|
When Jack Eichel was 14 years old, he bought his father tickets to a Bruins game as a birthday gift. They sat at TD Garden and watched as the teams combined for 187 penalty minutes in a game that saw every type of scrap imaginable and then some.
As Eichel recalls, it seemed there were ‘like 10 guys left on each bench’ by the end of the night. The result was an 8-6 win in a season that would see the teams meet again in the playoffs as Montreal provided what proved to be the biggest obstacle in the Bruins’ eventual Stanley Cup run.
“I remember being here for that game,” Eichel said. “That was crazy.”
Speaking to the media Saturday, Eichel didn’t need to provide that anecdote to illustrate the fact that his recently concluded morning skate was not his first time at TD Garden. The North Chelmsford native’s been there plenty of times over the years, most notably winning the Beanpot and Hockey East championship in his Hobey Baker-winning freshman season at Boston University last season.
“This building’s been pretty good to me,” Eichel quipped.
After turning pro upon his selection as the No. 2 overall pick in June’s draft, Eichel will face the Bruins on Garden ice for the first time as his father watches from a suite with the rest of his family.
The 19-year-old center is a top-six forward for the up-and-coming Sabres, a star in the making if he isn’t one already.
“To be 19 — sometimes I think to myself, like, ‘Am I playing junior hockey right now?’ Because this guy is so good at 19,” quipped former Bruin and current Sabres goaltender Chad Johnson.
“I’m thinking of where I was at 19 years old, playing college hockey, and he’s in the NHL just going through guys and veteran D men. It’s impressive. He’s only going to get better with experience and learning the routine of a professional hockey player and travel and getting used to that. It’s crazy how good he is.”
So far, Eichel’s production has not been as overwhelming as his skill. He has a respectable 16 points through 16 games, which is enough to place him third in points (second among forwards) for the somewhat surprisingly offensively challenged Sabres. Eichel ranks sixth among rookies in both points and goals (nine).
“Obviously you want to produce points,’ Eichel said. “You want something to show on the scoresheet after games. You think you played well, but a lot of times there’s things that you build off in a game that didn’t show up on the scoresheet — if it was a good back check or you broke up a big play or you won a faceoff for your team. The way I look at it is if you’re getting your chances and you’re around the net and you feel good about your game, then you’re probably playing pretty well. There’s been a stretch of games where I didn’t feel good about my game, and I think I’m starting to get it back where I’m happy.”
Seeing a Bruins win used to be all it took for Eichel to leave the Garden satisfied. Times have certainly changed for one of Massachusetts’ biggest hockey stars.
|12.23.15 at 4:56 pm ET|
The NHL announced its musical schedule for the Winter Classic. As usual, it includes some not-so-relevant pop acts of yesteryear, but this year’s batch of performers does have one standout act.
That person is not Rene Rancourt, as he
is not a standout act will not be singing the National Anthem. Naturally, that has riled up Bruins fans, which is silly. Although the commendable 76-year-old still sings at Bruins games, he did not sing at the 2010 Winter Classic and the league and NBC are within their rights to opt against an anthem singer whose best performing days are decades behind him. “The Voice” winner Jordan Smith will be joined by musicians from the Boston Pops for the Star Spangled Banner.
As for the aforementioned good performer, that would be former The Format frontman, (possibly former) fun. frontman and current solo artist Nate Ruess, who will perform after the first intermission. Best-known for his stuff with fun. and many Jeff Bhasker-blessed projects (fun.’s Some Nights album, Pink’s “Just Give Me a Reason,” among them), Ruess is not new to being the token musical guy at sporting events.
Other performers at the 2016 Winter Classic (which takes place in 2016) include 2002 pop punk sensations Simple Plan and former Berklee students American Authors.
|12.22.15 at 11:11 pm ET|
The Bruins didn’t play a bad game Tuesday night. But playing a merely OK game against a very good team usually won’t be good enough, and it wasn’t against the Blues.
Through two periods, the B’s were outshooting St. Louis 26-21. They had created some good scoring chances and they had given the Blues only a few good looks. The game was still 0-0, but the Bruins had probably been the better team.
But then a bit of an offensive letup to start the third combined with a couple key defensive mistakes allowed the Blues to take a 2-0 lead they wouldn’t relinquish. The Bruins managed just two shots on goal in the first 13 minutes of the third, during which time the Blues registered seven and scored twice.
The Blues’ first goal came when Dennis Seidenberg and Colin Miller got caught too far apart, allowing the always-dangerous Vladimir Tarasenko to streak up the middle and score on a breakaway. The second came on a bad defensive change that resulted in Robby Fabbri having a free path down the left wing, which he took advantage of before sniping high glove.
The Bruins didn’t make many defensive mistakes Tuesday, and they haven’t been making as many over the last month or so as they were earlier in the season, but they got a reminder that even a couple can cost you a game.
“It was two bad plays. You know, it was two breakaways,” Patrice Bergeron said. “Obviously you can’t do that, especially in the third against a team like that. I mean, it’s breakdowns. Other than that I thought it was an even game.”
Obviously the other thing that didn’t go right Tuesday night was that the Bruins didn’t score. They did put up 32 shots on goal, and more than a couple of them were quality scoring chances, but the Bruins weren’t willing to just call the shutout (their first of the season) bad luck. They felt like they didn’t do enough to make their shots count.
“I didn’t think we worked hard enough to get on the inside,” Claude Julien said. “They did a good job of keeping us on the outside. There were a lot of times we were shooting and we had no net-front presence. They were boxing us out and we weren’t working hard enough to get on the inside.”
The Bruins should still feel good about where they are heading into Christmas. They’re still 11-2-3 in their last 16 games, and they’re still just one point behind the Canadiens for the division lead with three games in hand. Tuesday night’s loss is not a cause for alarm, but rather a gentle reminder that despite being a good team themselves (probably a better team than most people expected), the Bruins aren’t quite good enough to beat other top teams if they bring their ‘B’ or ‘C’ game.
“We’ve taken a lot of strides forward and we definitely have to build on that and realize what we’ve done,” Bergeron said. “But at the same time I think we can’t be satisfied and we have to, you know, it’s games like tonight that we have to keep getting better and finding ways to win those types of games because that’s the type of hockey you play in the playoffs.”
|12.22.15 at 9:34 pm ET|
The best offense in the Eastern Conference was shut out for the first time this season as Jake Allen blanked the Bruins in a 2-0 St. Louis win at TD Garden. The game was Boston’s last game before the holiday break.
The Bruins mustered plenty of chances throughout the night, with Allen stopping all 32 shots he saw on the night. The St. Louis goalie’s biggest stops came on a first-period 2-on-1 bid from Matt Beleskey and a rebound chance in the second period from Brad Marchand.
Allen save on Marchand pic.twitter.com/0Ti5yYtZmR
‘ Stephanie (@myregularface) December 23, 2015
The game remained scoreless until 7:35 the third period, when Vladimir Tarasenko beat Tuukka Rask on a breakaway for his 22nd goal of the season. Robby Fabbri followed with his seventh goal of the season just over five minutes later.
“It was a good game. It was more like a playoff game tonight,” Marchand said following the game. “They’re a really good team. I think we did have a few good opportunities early on and even later in the game, but their goalie made some big saves and they were able to capitalize on the breakdowns that we had tonight. That’s how it goes.”
The Bruins will now have Wednesday, Thursday and Friday off before returning to action Saturday against the Sabres at TD Garden. They hit the holiday break with a 19-10-4 record for 42 points. Here are four more things we learned Friday night:
POINT STREAK ENDS AT SIX
The regulation loss ended the Bruins’ point streak at six games, as they entered Tuesday’s game on a 5-0-1 run.
In not securing a point, the Bruins were unable to leapfrog the Canadiens for first place in the Atlantic Division, a possibility that existed given that Boston trailed Montreal by one point entering a night in which both teams had games scheduled.
NO POWER PLAYS FOR BRUINS
For the first time this season, the Bruins went an entire game without a power play. The Bruins, entered Tuesday with the second-lowest average of power plays per game in the NHL.
Prior to Tuesday, the lowest number of power plays the Bruins had been given in a game was one, a frustrating fate that occurred six times. Still, the Bruins were 5-0-1 in those contests.
BUT B’S MAKE BIG KILL
The only power play of the game came when Brett Connolly kicked Scottie Upshall’s feet out in the second period for a tripping minor. The game was scoreless at the time, something Boston’s penalty kill preserved by allowing two shots on goal during St. Louis’ power play.
In going 1-for-1 on the penalty kill, the Bruins have now gone seven games without allowing a power play goal, killing off all 18 of their opponents’ power plays.
Zac Rinaldo re-entered the lineup after missing the Bruins last three games due to an upper-body injury. Rinaldo skated on Boston’s fourth line with Landon Ferraro and Tyler Randell. The first-year Bruin, who has played a relatively clean game this season, threw this monster hit on Scottie Upshall in the second period.
Zac Rinaldo absolutely levels Upshall pic.twitter.com/DNlOjuqdmR
‘ Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) December 23, 2015
|12.22.15 at 11:24 am ET|
The Bruins will activate Zac Rinaldo on Tuesday, allowing him to play in the Bruins’ final game before the holiday break when they host the Blues at TD Garden. With a Bruins win and a Canadiens loss, the Bruins will overtake the Habs for first place in the Atlantic Division.
Rinaldo, who has not played since last Monday due to an upper-body injury suffered because of contact from a referee, will enter Boston’s lineup in place of the suspended Max Talbot. The NHL gave Talbot a two-game ban on Monday for his hit on Devils forward Jiri Tlusty in Sunday’s game.
Speaking to the media on Tuesday, Talbot repeatedly said that he that thoughts on the Department of Player Safety’s decision, but that he would respectfully keep them to himself. He did say that he’s glad Tlusty is healthy and that he is upset to receive the first supplementary discipline of his career.
“It’s not something that you want to do,” Talbot said. “I take pride in playing the game the right way. You never want to be in that situation.”