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5 things we learned as Bruins inch themselves closer to an early offseason

04.09.15 at 10:22 pm ET
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SUNRISE, Fla. — The Bruins had 20 minutes to stay in control of their season’s destiny. They didn’t do it.

Within the same hour, the Bruins allowed a late second-period power-play goal to the Panthers to tie the game, and the Senators defeated the Rangers. The third period was going to be critical for the B’s in what was a 1-1 game, but rather than making a statement, they allowed the Panthers to score twice against Patrice Bergeron‘s line, putting the Senators a win away from reaching the playoffs in the process.

Brad Marchand got the Bruins within one with a well-placed wrist shot over Roberto Luongo‘s shoulder to end a 15-game scoreless streak with five minutes to play, but the Panthers answered promptly with a Jimmy Hayes goal to make it a 4-2 Panthers win.

Claude Julien was aggressive in pulling Tuukka Rask with 3:35 remaining in regulation, but the team was called for a too-many-men minor with 2:37 left.

The Bruins (95 points) are not yet eliminated, but they must win Saturday in Tampa and receive help from other teams. If Boston beats Tampa Saturday and Ottawa loses to the Flyers in regulation, Boston would make the playoffs over Ottawa. If Boston wins Saturday and Pittsburgh loses both of its remaining games, the B’s also would get in. Detroit going to overtime against the Canadiens Friday meant the B’s can no longer catch the Red Wings.

Here are four more things we learned Thursday:

STRONG START, NO GOALS AND A PREDICTABLE LETUP

A terrible start to Wednesday’s game against the Capitals cost the B’s two much-needed points. They realized their errors and dominated in the early going against Florida.

Boston had 10 of the first 12 shots on goal, while a power play that Marchand drew resulted in two full minutes without the Panthers clearing. One thing was missing, however: goals.

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Read More: Boston Bruins, Patrice Bergeron,

Bruins prepare for critical meeting with Panthers

04.09.15 at 6:40 pm ET
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SUNRISE, Fla. — The Bruins say they understand the threat that exists of them missing the playoffs. Thursday night’€™s game against the Panthers, their 81st game of the season, needs to be their biggest push.

That means the B’€™s can’€™t have the start they did Wednesday, when two poor play with the puck and coverage lapses put them in an early deficit from which they never recovered.

“I think [we need to] come out a lot more focused,” Dennis Seidenberg said. “Playing the way we’€™re supposed to, which is getting pucks deep and managing the puck a lot better than we did.”

Claude Julien said their could be lineup changes Thursday, though he did not specify which players could be in or out. Zdeno Chara will play.

The Bruins enter Thursday’€™s game tied with the Senators with 95 points through 80 games on the season. A playoff berth could be secured either by Boston winning both its final games or by the B’€™s finishing with more points in the next two games than the Senators.

“To this point, I think if we win the next two games I don’€™t think anyone will even be talking about this anymore,”€ Brad Marchand said. “€œThat’€™s [easier] said [than] done. We’€™ve got a lot of really good leadership in there that we can follow going into games like tonight.”

Both the B’€™s and Senators are in action Thursday, as the Senators will face a Rangers team that has already clinched the Presidents’€™ Trophy and is resting Rick Nash, Marc Staal and Mats Zuccarello.

Perhaps the Rangers would prefer the Senators to the Bruins as a first-round opponent. Letting their players rest while improving Ottawa’€™s playoff chances could kill two birds with one stone.

“I’€™m not following what other teams do around the league,” Chara said. “Usually that’€™s the case for many teams, but we have to focus on what we have to do.”

Read More: Claude Julien, Zdeno Chara,

Zdeno Chara mum on possible foot injury

04.09.15 at 5:42 pm ET
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SUNRISE, Fla. — Zdeno Chara has been hit in the left foot area in each of the last two games by pucks, resulting in a pair of occurrences in which the Boston captain was in noticeable pain.

After the team arrived at BB&T Center for what should be considered a must-win against the Panthers, Chara deflected a question about how he was feeling.

“Good, you?” Chara responded.

“You know the deal,” he added. “Can’€™t talk about it, so that’€™s the way it is.”

Chara was slow to leave the ice after a David Booth shot hit him in what looked to be the outside of the foot Saturday, while a Joel Ward shot Wednesday slowed him after hitting the Boston captain on the inside of the foot. Chara took two very short shifts after Wednesday’€™s scare and went on to take regular shifts.

He has not looked to be particularly comfortable following the injuries, however. Chara had a bit of a limp after Saturday’€™s game and missed Monday’€™s practice. His strides also seemed hindered as he walked in on Thursday.

Read More: Zdeno Chara,

Pierre McGuire on MFB: Wednesday vs. Capitals ‘was not the most intense Bruins environment I’ve seen in a long time’

04.09.15 at 1:52 pm ET
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Pierre McGuire

Pierre McGuire

NBC Sports NHL analyst Pierre McGuire made his weekly appearance Thursday on Middays with MFB to look at the Bruins’ loss to the Capitals Wednesday night and ahead to the playoffs and the Bruins’ chances. To hear the interview, go to the MFB audio on demand page.

McGuire worked the game Wednesday night, a 3-0 Bruins loss in Washington, and said the Bruins didn’t look like some of the Bruins’ teams he knows from the past.

“I thought they were kind of passive last night, I really did,” said McGuire. “I also know that there were some guys under the weather. They are not going to use that as an excuse, but I know there were guys not feeling very well last night — Brad Marchand was one of them. I mean, the fact that he dressed and played as well as he did was pretty nice indication of his character and how much he cares. Again, you don’t want to get everything wrapped up in one game. If they turn around and win tonight then everybody is going to be happy again. It was not the most intense Bruins environment I’ve seen in a long time.”

Claude Julien mixed up his lines, to the disliking of some, but McGuire brought up Julien was likely thinking ahead to Thursday night’s game in Florida too, and not just Wednesday’s game in Washington.

“I was really surprised at some of the maneuvers, but I also know that Washington is one of the most balanced teams in the league,” said McGuire. “They have really a four-line attack. You could see it, they had that kid line last night that was really working for them that didn’t score, but it generated chances for them. They are still missing Jay Beagle, they are still missing Eric Fehr, they will get those guys back at some point. Washington is a balanced team.

“I think what Claude was trying to do is get more of a balanced attack so he could compete with a four line game knowing the schedule that he has. That is a quick back-to-back with Washington and Florida. It is one of the most difficult ones you have in the league just because of travel, humidity and the time that you arrive. This will be a very difficult game for the Bruins. I think he was trying to look at the whole schedule rather than one game.”

With the Eastern Conference so tightly bunched, and only two games left, anything can happen. Currently the Bruins are tied with the Senators for eighth place, and a point behind seventh place, and two points behind sixth place. So one of those four teams will miss out on the postseason. McGuire thinks the Bruins will be able to make the playoffs, as they take on Florida Thursday night and Tampa Bay on Sunday.

Tuukka [Rask] is going to be large early on tonight, I think that is really important,” he said. “If he can be and stabilize the game early then the Bruins I think will have a chance to get going. You’re going to be looking at a showdown obviously on Sunday against Tampa. I think Tampa will probably rest some people. The game won’t have as much meaning for them. I still believe Boston is a playoff team. I do. I believed it from the start of the year and I still believe it.”

Read More: Boston Bruins, Brad Marchand, Claude Julien, Pierre McGuire

Claude Julien should go back to what works in must-win games

04.09.15 at 11:15 am ET
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Though he's better off at center long-term, David Krejci should stick at right wing for now. (Elsa/Getty Images)

Though he’s better off at center long-term, David Krejci should stick at right wing for now. (Elsa/Getty Images)

SUNRISE, Fla. — By the end of Thursday night, the Bruins could either be in the playoffs, a win away from them, or in big trouble.

Two points against the Panthers is the team’€™s surest path of avoiding that last scenario. With the B’€™s tied with the Senators with 95 points and holding the regulation and overtime wins tiebreaker for the time being, the Bruins must assume that Ottawa will win both its remaining games. The Rangers have incentive to let Ottawa win on Thursday as a means of making sure they don’t have to see Tuukka Rask in the postseason. Winning Thursday and Saturday could very well be the only way in for Boston.

After Wednesday’€™s loss to the Capitals, Claude Julien should go back to some of the lines that helped the Bruins beat the Panthers and four other teams during Boston’€™s recent five-game win streak.

A confusing lack of commitment was a bigger reason for Wednesday’s result, but the lines also played a part. Julien broke up the trio of Ryan Spooner between Milan Lucic and David Pastrnak Wednesday in his second attempt to return David Krejci to center. The Lucic-Krejci-Pastrnak line opened with two bad shifts, the second of which saw them give Washington a goal, and they were broken up. In the third period, Julien went back to Lucic-Spooner-Pastrnak and returned Krejci to Patrice Bergeron‘s right wing.

He shouldn’€™t wait that long Thursday. The Spooner line scored the game-tying and game-winning goals against the Panthers on March 31 at the Garden, making up for the fact that they allowed a Brad Boyes goal.

It’€™s understandable why Julien wants to move Krejci back to center, but at this point the B’€™s could actually better afford to experiment in Game 1 or 2 of the playoffs than in Game 81 of the regular season. Julien should go back to Brad Marchand-Bergeron-Krejci and Lucic-Spooner-Pastrnak against the Panthers.

Where things go from there is unknown. The Bruins did not have a morning skate on Thursday, so Julien’€™s plan with his lines is once again anyone’€™s guess.

He should use the lines he used against the Maple Leafs last Saturday. Even if they scored only one goal during 65 minutes of play against a bad team, they took 81 shots. Such performances should pay off on the scoreboard, even if one didn’€™t overwhelm on Saturday.

The lines in that game were as follows:

Marchand-Bergeron-Krejci
Eriksson-Soderberg-Smith
Lucic-Spooner-Pastrnak
Talbot-Kelly-Connolly

That game saw the Marchand-Bergeron-Krejci line score its first goal in its six games together. Moving Krejci to center meant breaking up a line when it was just starting to produce.

After a couple of costly mistakes from Reilly Smith, Brett Connolly moved up to play with Carl Soderberg and Louis Eriksson. Julien should start the game with Connolly playing in that spot.

This is suboptimal for the Bruins. In a perfect world, they could take their time and get to a point where Lucic and Krejci can be reunited. Lucic-Spooner-Pastrnak playing against weaker competition is too proven to go away from now, however. Julien’€™s best bet at winning these games is sticking with what works.

Read More: David Krejci,

Live Chat: Talk all things Bruins with DJ Bean at noon

04.09.15 at 10:03 am ET
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What did you think of the Bruins’ performance last night? Will they still make the playoffs? Who needs to step up?

Discuss all things Bruins with DJ Bean right here at noon.

Live Blog DJ Bean Live Chat
 

5 things we learned as Bruins get shutout by Braden Holtby once again

04.08.15 at 10:38 pm ET
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WASHINGTON, D.C. — When the Senators fell behind by three goals Tuesday night, it seemed the Bruins were a win away from a playoff spot. When the Bruins fell behind by three goals a night later, Boston’€™s playoff chances became slightly better than a coin flip.

While Ottawa was able to erase its deficit and win on Tuesday, the Bruins’€™ worrisome outing against the Capitals meant that their game in hand is now gone and they enter a two-game fight for their playoff lives.

For the third time this season, the Bruins failed to beat Braden Holtby as the Washington netminder picked up his third shutout against the Bruins this season, stopping all 27 Boston shots Wednesday. The B’€™s played sloppily with the puck and didn’t enjoy potent stays in the offensive zone, leading to the 3-0 blanking.

He becomes the first goalie to blank the Bruins in all three games in one season, stopping all 88 shots he faced.

Not helping the Bruins was the fact that they did not have a power play on the night. The only three penalties of the game came against Boston.

With the loss, the Bruins remain at 95 points, tied with the Senators for the second wild card spot in the Eastern Conference through 80 games. If the Bruins win Thursday in Florida and Saturday in Tampa with at least one of the wins coming in regulation or overtime, they’€™ll be in.

The B’€™s could still also surpass the Penguins (96 points), Red Wings (97) or Islanders (98), but Wednesday presented a much easier option for the team to control its destiny. Now their playoff hopes could very well come down to the final game of the season.

Here are four more things we learned Wednesday:

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Read More: Boston Bruins, David Krejci, David Pastrnak, Washington Capitals
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