|01.14.17 at 5:18 pm ET|
When Bruins winger Brad Marchand is feeling it offensively, the whole league feels it. Today’s victim: Michal Neuvirth and the rest of the Flyers in a 6-3 victory for the Black and Gold, due in large part to a five-point night from the 5-foot-9 agitator-turned-sniper.
“That’s the word I use when I talk about Brad [Marchand], is that when he’s feeling it, he makes a lot of good things happen, and it hasn’t always been like that this year,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said after the win. “But now he’s starting to heat up, and that’s a good sign. That’s one of the key traits that he has, is anticipation and knowing when to make those moves that he’s been making, and in less high-risk situations. So, it’s nice to see him coming around that way.”
Marchand’s night began with a brilliant shorthanded goal in which he outraced Sean Couturier and Ivan Provorov for the 21st shorthanded tally of his career. The goal moved Marchand out of a tie with Phil Esposito and Don Marcotte and into sole possession of third place on the club’s all-time shorthanded goals list, with Derek Sanderson (24) and Rick Middleton (25) up next on the list.
His night wasn’t done there. Not even close to done, actually. It was Marchand that hit a streaking Torey Krug with a perfect saucer pass on Krug’s net-front drive to put the Black and Gold up by two, he assisted on the Patrice Bergeron power-play goal, and then picked up a secondary helper on the B’s fourth goal of the second period, when Zdeno Chara bombed one on Neuvirth.
Such a night continued the hot streak for the Bruins’ top goal scorer from a year ago, with seven goals and 14 points in his last nine games played, and a team-leading 43 points, 10 more than David Pastrnak’s second-most 33 points this season.
“That’s how hockey goes sometimes – pucks bounce your way and other times they don’t, you know, it is nice when things are going your way,” Marchand said, “you feel a little more confident, you’re able to do things that you’re a little nervous to try at different times. But again, I think our team’s playing really good hockey right now and everyone’s just playing good.”
“He’s obviously been our leader offensively this year and he’s got to keep playing the same way,” Krug said of Marchand. “He tries to do that on a nightly basis so it’s good for us. We do need secondary scoring in order for us to get on a roll here and keep going.”
With a five-point night, his second of the year, Marchand has become the first Bruins player to put up multiple five-night efforts in the same season since Jason Allison accomplished the feat for the B’s in 1997-98.
And it could not have come at a better time for a Bruins team that’s grabbed seven of their last possible 10 points.
“I think we all realized that we have to be a desperate team and we’re starting to come together and learn each other and finally get some chemistry on the lines,” Marchand added. “I think we’re just starting to connect.”
|01.14.17 at 3:41 pm ET|
A head-to-head with a Flyers team that entered play with the sixth-most goals scored in the league this year would have been a death sentence for the Bruins a month ago. Or even a couple of weeks ago.
But back in Boston after a four-game road trip in which the Bruins scored 13 goals and seized five of a possible eight points, the Bruins carried that confidence into Saturday and proved more than capable of hanging, with goals from five different scores in a back-and-forth game of yesteryear and 6-3 win over their rival of half a century.
In a situation where they simply need points, the victory showed a sign of progress and growth as a team given the obstacles that the Flyers and this game presented the club with, and early.
Down in a one-goal hole 2:05 into the first period, and forced to work from behind in a TD Garden that’s been unkind to them for two seasons in a row now, the Bruins found life with a shorthanded breakaway from Brad Marchand that had a familiar ending.
In his 500th NHL game and what was Marchand’s 21st career shorthanded goal, moving him into sole possession of third on the club’s all-time shorthanded goals list, Marchand capitalized on a flubbed keep-in from the Flyers’ Sean Couturier and then outraced Ivan Provorov to beat Michal Neuvirth for the first Bruins goal of the night and 1-1 draw through 20.
…And then the floodgates opened. But in a good way for the Bruins.
David Krejci scored on the power play two minutes into the second, Torey Krug put the Bruins on the board with an insurance marker for his third goal in as many games. And even when the Flyers cut the deficit back to one, the Bruins came at them with two more goals in a 2:14 span, and continued to pound the Flyers into submission, even if the middle period ended with the Flyers drawing back within two behind Wayne Simmonds’ power-play goal with just 3.2 seconds left in the second period.
When the Flyers put the screws to the B’s, the Bruins not only matched it, but doubled it.
A team that’s typically had to work twice as hard for the same amount of goals, the B’s flipped the script and kept the pressure cranked on the Flyers for the full 60 minutes of play, and refused to give up any ice even in the third period with the Flyers pressing down by two goals, limiting them to just five shots on goal against Tuukka Rask.
This was something that the club did well against both the Panthers and Blues during their road trip, but that’s something that’s been seldom seen at the Garden this year. And the importance of that cannot be stated enough.
With a schedule that’s seemingly worked against the B’s all year long in terms of games played versus games played by those around them, the Bruins will play 21 of their remaining 36 games at TD Garden, and establishing some sort of home-ice consistency is of the utmost importance to this team in regards to maximizing their point totals. And doing it with a stronger counterpunch to everything the Flyers showed the resolve that this team can battle with to make that happen.
The win improved the Bruins to an even 10-10-0 at home this season.
|01.14.17 at 2:05 pm ET|
Look on the ice for today’s game between the Bruins and Flyers and you’ll see just one Tim Schaller head. Look into the TD Garden crowd, however, and you’ll see more than a few. You’ll see several, actually.
OK, what the hell am I talking about?
It is a simple as it sounds. It’s just oversized cutouts, about 40-by-30 in size, of Schaller’s headshot from his first season with the Sabres organization and with the Merrimack, N.H. native donning a mustache straight out of the ’80s.
It’s all part of an event orchestrated by Tim’s older brother, Dave, and it’s called Timmyhead Takeover at the Garden.
“We have a bunch of crazy friends that I work with. I work for the printing department at my office and I said, ‘How big can I make a Timmyhead?’ So we tried it. And here we are,” Dave, a regular at B’s games this year (with or without the cutouts), said. “The second we did it, even with like two-foot tall heads, people were like ‘Whoa, this is cool!’ and now they’re almost five feet tall.”
There’s been different versions of the Timmyhead this year, too.
Around Christmas they put a Santa hat on him. Today there are heads with LED lights around them.
“I never expected this many people. I thought it’d be fun to do at work with my friends because all of them know Timmy,” continued Dave, “but the second I put this on social media and all my friends from home started seeing it, it blew up.”
A roleplayer that’s done his job in all situations for the Black and Gold this year, the phenomenon has helped Schaller get comfortable and have some fun with the extra motivation of knowing his friends are in the crowd.
“He loves it. He absolutely loves it,” Dave said when asked what Tim thinks. “Well, I don’t know if he loves it, but he’s accepted it.”
“It’s unbelievable,” Tim said with a laugh. “I think it’s the funniest thing ever.”
|01.14.17 at 9:04 am ET|
The Bruins have played more than half of their schedule so far this season and, despite currently sitting in second-place in the Atlantic, they still give off a pretty severe Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde vibe that makes one wonder if they’ll make the playoffs.
The Bruins have accrued 49 points in 45 yin-yang games while putting together a Tuukka Rask-aided 22-18-5 record. They have a losing record at home at 9-10 but are 13-8-5 on the road.
All too frequently, they turn in subpar efforts when they play subpar opponents and have squandered too many points in the process. Yet they’ll go up to their personal House of Horrors in Montreal to snag a win from the division leader. They’ve also handed the NHL-leading Columbus Blue Jackets a quarter of their eight losses.
So who, exactly, are the 2016-17 Boston Bruins?
They’re a decent, flawed team whose biggest current issue its inability to score timely goals. But thanks to their stellar netminder, they’re in the thick of the postseason hunt. Of the 16 teams currently in the playoffs, the Bruins have scored the third least (though only seven current playoff teams have given up fewer goals). Simply, it’s a real issue for the team.
Claude’s charges have only three double-digit goal scorers thus far; David Pastrnak’s 19 goals lead the team followed by Brad Marchand with 15 and David Backes with 11. The Bruins have not gotten nearly enough of the secondary scoring that NHL teams need if they plan on making some noise come springtime. But more alarmingly, they’re also lacking the primary scoring.
Patrice Bergeron, who has been better lately than earlier in the season, has only tallied eight goals (the same as free agent fourth liner signing Dominic Moore). David Krejci has nine. Ryan Spooner, who has ridden on Krejci’s left side quite a bit, has seven goals. Those guys need to produce more and quickly or the Bruins will find themselves falling out of the conference’s top eight.
But they’re hardly the only ones to blame. Jimmy Hayes, whose return home has been nothing short of a nightmare, has just two goals in 36 games and has been a healthy scratch lately. Riley Nash, though certainly not considered a sniper, has just two tallies in 45 games. Matt Beleskey was hardly lighting the world on fire before his injury and is also a member of the Two Goal Club (in 24 games).
With the trade deadline a month and a half away, you can be sure that you’ll hear the Bruins mentioned as being in on several players (with Colorado’s Gabriel Landeskog the first prominent name to surface so far). Of course, you should believe almost nothing you read leading up March 1st but that’s another column for another day.
Regardless, if the Bruins plan to not only make the playoffs but actually make some noise for the first time in quite awhile, the front office needs to go out and get another top-six guy who can put the puck in the net. Because as currently constituted, the Bs look earmarked for a one and done if they do manage to get into the postseason dance.
And lack of playoff success is a story that’s getting old around here real quick.
|01.13.17 at 2:25 pm ET|
Tuukka Rask, who left Thursday’s head-to-head with the Predators in the first period after he caught a Roman Josi slapshot in the collarbone/throat area at the 12:49 mark of the game, was back on the ice for the normal routine of a Friday practice at Warrior Ice Arena.
On the ice with Zane McIntyre, who stopped 14-of-16 last night in relief of Rask en route to his third NHL loss in as many decisions, the practice remained that way. And as of right now, the Bruins have not called a goaltender up from the P-Bruins, which seems to indicates that Rask should be well enough to play — or at the very least spectate as the backup — when the B’s play host to the Flyers tomorrow afternoon.
The undisputed MVP of the first half of the season for the Bruins, Rask has 21 wins and a .926 save percentage in 34 games this season, and the Bruins have just one win in 12 games not decided by the 29-year-old Rask this season.
|01.13.17 at 9:25 am ET|
The Bruins knew what they were bringing to their big league roster when they called Anton Blidh up from Providence.
An energy player with an agitating style through and through, Blidh has been just that for the Black and Gold while rarely crossing the line. In fact, the 21-year-old Blidh has been a model citizen as far as agitators go, with more penalties drawn than egregious penalties taken.
But late in the first period of Thursday’s loss to the Predators, Blidh finally did cross that line, and was hit with a five-minute major for an interference penalty in which he clocked the Predators’ Roman Josi right in the jaw with a late and unnecessary hit upstairs.
It’s unsure what Blidh’s intentions were on the hit (keep in mind that this hit came after Josi’s slapshot had taken Tuukka Rask out of the game, though that was surely unintentional), but there’s no denying the fight that the hit came in late — at least one-plus second after Josi had ditched the puck with a pass up ice — and that he caught Josi in a vulnerable position.
What’s interesting about the hit (and you’ll notice this on replay) is that Blidh seems to make solid body contact and that it’s Josi’s stick that comes back and clips him in his own face and backwards. In other words, it’s not Blidh’s shoulder that drives into Josi’s chin and helps dump him onto his backside in the corner, but rather his own hands and stick. Is this hit as bad as it looks without that being the case? I don’t know, but it’s something that could and should be weighed into any decision made by the NHL Department of Player Safety, as Blidh could very well make the case that he’s making his effort to have this be body-on-body.
It’s also be worth noting that Josi did leave the game and did not return.
The Bruins have had one player suspended already this year, as David Pastrnak was hit with a two-game ban for his illegal check to the head of Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi in a head-to-head between the B’s and Rangers back on Oct. 26.
|01.13.17 at 1:45 am ET|
Maybe the National Hockey League and their referees were onto something with their decision to not let Adam McQuaid fight.
In a game that quickly took on the feel of a playoff game — complete with injuries and questionable hits along with a fervent pace from end to end — McQuaid drew the ire of Predators forward Derek Grant after McQuaid’s hit on Harry Zolnierczyk. And it was Grant, in his first game with the Preds since being claimed off waivers from the Sabres, that decided to engage with the 6-foot-4 defender at center ice.
In the 30-year-old McQuaid’s first fight since Nov. 1 against the Panthers’ Shane Harper — I know it was called a fight and McQuaid was assessed a fighting major, but there’s no way to classify the refs holding McQuaid’s arms behind his back while the Sabres’ William Carrier pounded away back on Dec. 29 as a ‘fight’ — McQuaid dropped Grant with an uppercut straight out of Mike Tyson’s Punch Out.
Credit to Grant, who gave up an inch on McQuaid and is not nearly as experienced in the fighting department (Grant’s lone prior NHL fight came against Matt Beleskey earlier this season), but this was a massive matchup that was exposed as such the longer the fight seemed to go.
This demolition comes less than 48 hours after McQuaid’s night was cut short by an upper-body injury sustained in the first period of the B’s win over the Blues at the Scottrade Center. (McQuaid didn’t even travel to Nashville ’til the next day.)
“He came in and played the game the way we know he plays it,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said of McQuaid’s game. “Stood tall for our team when he was being challenged and I thought that, for our team anyways, was a good boost as well.”
McQuaid has a team-leading three fights this year, and has twice been denied of a fight by the on-ice officials.