|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.
|01.12.17 at 10:51 pm ET|
It may have been a scoreless affair, but everything was going swimmingly for the Bruins. Just over 12 minutes into the first period, the Bruins controlled the pace of play and were outshooting the Predators 7-to-3. Their defensive game was stout and three-zone support from the center — and wingers, too — was there.
Then came a heavy slapshot from Predators defenseman Roman Josi that changed the fortune for each bench in a 2-1 Preds win.
Rifled between the circles and blue line, the shot rocked Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask right where the padding stopped or gave ever so slightly, and off came Rask’s glove and the mask shortly followed. B’s trainer Donny Del Negro came out to attend to the 29-year-old, and exited Rask in favor of rookie backup Zane McIntyre.
And it was then that you could feel the air leave the Bruins, not in one fell swoop, but in a little-by-little trickle reminiscent of everything that came before what was a successful road trip for the Black and Gold. The story of the year came back to the Bruins, and their little mistakes became big, glaring mistakes.
The Bruins survived a five-minute penalty kill and allowed the Preds to put just one shot on goal, but allowed a goal just 31 seconds after the penalty ended when Austin Watson capitalized on a muffed clear attempt by Torey Krug.
Krug atoned for the error near the midway point of the period, but it was at the 17:36 mark of the period that Filip Forsberg outmuscled Brandon Carlo in a one-on-one battle to score on McIntyre and put the Predators up 2-1 through 40 minutes of play when they were just 2:24 away from escaping the middle frame with a 1-1 draw on each bench.
It was a fitting go-ahead goal given everything the Bruins did and did well in this game.
The shots were there, but the finish was not. The effort was there, but the clock worked against the Bruins.
Even more of that happened in the third period, too, when the Bruins put 13 shots on goal and allowed just four at the other end but failed to get anything by Predators netminder Juuse Saros, who made a career-high 35 stops in the win.
Is this much different with Rask in net? It’s hard to say when the Bruins gave their netminders just one goal of support. But you get the sense that their mentality would have been just a little bit different and there wouldn’t be such a fatalistic approach that came with each goal against tonight — and on the year for that matter when you look at how the B’s have fared without Rask.
Without Rask in their crease and at their disposal as the club’s last line of defense, the Bruins just look like the embodiment of a team that feels like they have to work two times harder than the other club to get the same result — and they were close to it tonight, with 36 shots compared to just 19 from the Predators — and even then, it might not be enough.
Call it what you want; Frustration, a mental blockade, or just bad luck.
But also call it what it is: the team’s 11th loss in 12 games not finished by their ace netminder.
|01.12.17 at 8:55 pm ET|
An injury to Tuukka Rask is the last thing that the Bruins need right now.
But it’s exactly what they got in the first period of tonight’s head-to-head with the Predators.
With the Bruins leading in shots over the Preds, 7-to-3, and with the teams trading chance for chance, it was a heavy shot by Predators defenseman Roman Josi that appeared to smack Rask in a vulnerable area — between his mask and collarbone — that dropped the 29-year-old Rask, who lost his glove and mask in the process, down to the ice in a heap.
Shot that took Tuukka Rask out of the game. Might've hit a soft spot under the mask? pic.twitter.com/WYGQ39xUZ5
— SB Nation NHL (@SBNationNHL) January 13, 2017
— Marina Molnar (@mkmolnar) January 13, 2017
Attended to B’s trainer Donny Del Negro, Rask eventually got to his feet and made his way down the tunnel, and was replaced in the B’s crease by NHL rookie Zane McIntyre, who finished the period in net for the Black and Gold.
Rask has 21 wins and a .926 save percentage in 33 games this year.
The Bruins have one win in 11 games without Rask this season.
|01.12.17 at 7:28 pm ET|
The deck just seemed incredibly stacked against Adam McQuaid.
Injured in the first period of Tuesday’s win over the Blues on a massive-yet-totally clean collision with Blues forward Patrik Berglund, the 30-year-old could hardly get to his feet before he limped down the tunnel and back to the B’s locker room for the rest of the night.
In fact, McQuaid, who missed the first five games of the year with an upper-body injury, didn’t even travel with his teammates on their initial flight from St. Louis to Nashville. But McQuaid joined the team Wednesday, practiced this morning, and even led the post-skate stretch, indicating that he’s willing and able to skate tonight when the Bruins visit Bridgestone Arena for a head-to-head with the Predators.
“He says he is,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said when asked if McQuaid, who logged just 6:00 of time on ice before the injury, was ready to play tonight. “As long as everything is OK by game-time, he’ll be in.”
Already down Colin Miller (lower-body), the Bruins will dress seven defensemen for their pregame warm-up, which means Joe Morrow, who has not played since Dec. 12, will at least skate with a chance of playing for the Bruins if McQuaid is unable to go.
In what’s a plus-.500 road trip regardless of what happens tonight, the Bruins enter play with five of a possible six points through the first three games of this road trip, and will get their first look at a Predators club that’s struggled to find their footing of late, with just four wins in their last 10 games and currently just one point out of the Western Conference playoff picture.
“To be honest with you there’s nothing that’s much different than any other team that they do,” Julien said of the Preds, who are currently without P.K. Subban (back injury). “Right now my focus is what are we gonna do to beat this team. There’s nothing that you have to tell your team that’s different than any other team, so we have approach this game the same way we did last game.”
The biggest difference for the B’s on this trip has come from their offense, which has scored 12 goals over their last three games and has at least three goals in four straight games for the first this year, and with contributions from all four lines in the process.
Tuukka Rask will get the start for the Black and Gold for this game. Rask made 14 stops in a 5-3 win Tuesday, and comes into action with 21 wins and a .926 save percentage in 33 games this season. Rask has two wins in five career games against the Preds.
The Predators counter with Juuse Saros. At just 5-foot-11, Saros has been a monster for the Preds as a backup to Pekka Rinne this year, with three wins and a .955 save percentage in seven games this season. Saros took a loss in his last start though he did his job, with stops on 32-of-34 shots against in a 2-1 final against the Panthers on Jan. 6.
The Predators swept last year’s season series with the B’s two games to none, and outscored the Bruins 5-to-2.
Here are the projected lines and pairings for the Bruins…
Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – David Pastrnak
Frank Vatrano – David Krejci – David Backes
Tim Schaller – Ryan Spooner – Riley Nash
Austin Czarnik – Dominic Moore – Anton Blidh
Zdeno Chara – Brandon Carlo
Torey Krug – Adam McQuaid
John-Michael Liles – Kevan Miller
|01.12.17 at 5:00 pm ET|
It’s been three games since Bruins general manager Don Sweeney not only talked about Claude Julien’s uncertain future but also called his team out for some straight-up woeful shooting. And it’s been three games in which the Bruins have shot the lights out — be it picking corners upstairs or finding the perfect angles for rebounds, deflections, and everything in between — against the opposition and seized five of a possible six points on a season-defining road trip.
Of course, this could be the luck of shooting percentages finally turning for the Black and Gold (as everybody said they eventually would — or have to), but even so, this has been a staggering uptick for the Bruins.
Over the last three games, the B’s have scored on 12 of their last 111 shots — a 10.8 shooting percentage, which has bumped their all-situation shooting percentage up to 7.19%, still the third-worst in the NHL but a noticeable improvement from where they were a week ago — and even chased Blues netminder Jake Allen in their last game, a 5-3 victory. Include the game before they embarked on this road trip which ends tonight against the Predators, a 4-3 loss to the Oilers where the frustration of the front office was apparent, and the Bruins have 15 goals on their last 147 shots.
It’s also been their first stretch of at least three goals in four straight games this season — something they accomplished seven times a year ago en route to the fifth-most goals scored — and served as hope that a corner has finally been turned by this group.
|01.12.17 at 8:18 am ET|
Here’s this week’s mailbag …
There was some chatter that the Bruins are interested in Colorado’s Gabriel Landeskog. What would the Avs be looking for? Should the Bs do it? Anthony, Framingham, MA
The Bleacher Report’s Adrian Dater, who is as wired into the Avalanche as anyone, first reported that the Bs were kicking the tires on the Colorado captain. The highly-skilled left-winger is a 25-35–60 man on a good team. But he’s not on a good team at all right now as the Avalanche are in the league basement. In addition to his skill, Landeskog is also attractive due to the $5.5 million he is due for the four seasons after this one. He’s still only 24 and would be a huge add to any team’s top six, including the Bs. But GM Joe Sakic will be asking for a boatload, as he should.
The Bs have allegedly already told them that Brandon Carlo is off the table. I figure it would take take at least two top prospects and a current roster player to pry the Swede away. Lost in everything is whether the Avs really want to trade their captain. The team is a mess right now and changes are definitely afoot. But is Gabriel Landeskog a reason for the problems in Colorado today? Hardly. Trading him would make an awful team even worse, at least in the short term. As for the Bs, he sure would look nice on David Krejci’s left-side but is a 25-goal 2nd-line LW worth kids you’ve been grooming for years to carry this team back to the top? It would be a “sexy” trade for sure but the guess here is that it never gets consummated.
Even though they’re in second in the Atlantic, the Bs don’t completely control their own fate right now. Do they still get in the playoffs? Richie, Medford, MA
I say they do get in. Despite their frequent playing down to their competition, the Bruins also do the opposite as we saw Tuesday night in St. Louis. They beat up on the Blues in David Backes’ first game back in the place where he made his bones, leading to a nice tribute scene during a stoppage in play. But I do think the Bruins are a good, if flawed team. I think they have too much heart and talent to not get in and I’ve seen them answer the bell enough. Tuukka Rask it playing unreal and I don’t expect a drop-off. As long as he stays healthy, they’re in. Matt Beleskey will be returning to the line-up soon enough and his addition have a quality-increasing ripple effect down the line-up.
Will the Detroit Red Wings continue their playoff streak this year? Don, Adams, MAs
The Bruins North American pro sports record of 29 straight playoff appearances will be safe by April. The Wings are already six points back of Ottawa for the third Atlantic seed with two more games played. In addition to an insane run, they’ll also need to leapfrog several teams to do so. It’s not happening. After many competitive, Hall of Famer-laden years, the Wings are finally dropping into the mid-tier teams of the NHL where they’re hardly contenders but not anywhere near the dregs of the league. It’s not unlike the rebuild-on-the-fly-but-stay-competitive thing the Bruins are doing. Once Henrik Zetterberg hangs them up, the old Red Wings mystique will be completely gone.
Any Netflix shows you can recommend? Lisa, Boston, MA
Though I haven’t seen much of anything lately due to internet issues and being busy, Netflix still has plenty of shows worth bingeing. “Stranger Things”, a blend of Spielberg, King, Carpenter, and the ‘80s, is a fun, creepy sci-fi ride that stars kids but isn’t necessarily for kids. Probably my favorite that Netflix has come up with and it’s really a great ride. If you want a slow, sweaty, Florida noir-ish series, give “Bloodline” a whirl. The top notch cast does stellar work in this Keys-set tale about an ostensibly “nice local family” that has dark secrets of its own that they’d prefer stay hidden. It takes a few eps to get rolling but it’s well worth the wait. “Orange Is The New Black” is not new but it’s excellent. The series, based on a book about an annoying yuppie who does a low-security bid, is hilarious, heartbreaking, infuriating, poignant, humane, crazy, and maybe the best show Netflix has produced. The diverse cast does incredible work in a screwed-up environment. After a dip in Season 3, the series returned with a force in Season 4.
|01.11.17 at 5:10 pm ET|
It was a win that came with two losses for the Bruins.
First came an upper-body injury sustained by Adam McQuaid in the first period, and by the end of their 5-3 win over the Blues, the Bruins were down to just four defensemen thanks to a Colin Miller lower-body injury. Helped off the ice in the third period after Ryan Reaves, who is listed at 6-foot-1 and 224 pounds, fell onto his left knee, Miller’s night was finished after 15:01 of time on ice and one shot on goal.
Miller was examined by team doctors after the loss and did travel with the team leaving St. Louis, but it’s an injury that’s tagged Miller with a doubtful tag for Thursday’s head-to-head with the Predators.
If that belief holds and Miller is unable to suit up tomorrow, John-Michael Liles is the expected replacement in the lineup.
Liles, who missed the previous 20 games with a concussion before returning to action last Sunday (a game ended by his disastrous own-zone turnover in overtime), has five assists and 20 shots on goal in 23 games played and is capable of playing both the left and right side for the Black and Gold.
Miller has three goals and six points in 34 games this season.