|01.04.17 at 1:31 am ET|
Injuries are an inevitability in hockey on a game-to-game basis, never mind the 82-game marathon-esque grind of an NHL schedule. That’s especially true given the almost impossibly condensed schedule most teams have been dealt this season thanks to the World Cup of Hockey and NHL/NHLPA mandated bye-week later this season.
That’s not an excuse, but a statement of fact.
The Bruins are a team that’s already had their share of battered bodies watching from the press box (0r not watching at all depending on the injury), too, especially to their top six forward group.
The latest injury to the group? 32-year-old David Backes, who is out for the second stretch this season, this time by way of a concussion sustained on a late hit from the Sabres’ William Carrier last week. And though the pieces have shuffled in and out at different points this season (I’m looking at you, left side of the David Krejci line), the most common top six dressed by the Bruins has featured a first line with Patrice Bergeron between Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak, and a second unit with center-turned-winger Ryan Spooner and Backes on either side of Krejci.
The Bruins handled Backes’ absence in Saturday’s 3-1 victory over the Sabres, but felt it with a 3-0 loss to the Devils the other night. And in total, the Black and Gold have now skated in at least 16 games down at least one of their top six forwards. They’re still above .500 in those games by way of their 9-7-0 record, but the results have varied depending on the player out of action.
But the grind of an in-again, out-again might finally be catching up to the Bruins. So, about that 9-7 record…
|01.02.17 at 9:45 pm ET|
Every single time you’ve thought you had a solid read on this Bruins team, they’ve laid an egg against a mediocre-at-best team. Without fail.
The hot-and-cold nature of this team has undoubtedly plagued the first half of the B’s season, and that tradition has now carried on into the 2017 calendar year, as their two-game winning streak came to a halt with Monday’s 3-0 no-show of a loss against the Devils.
The B’s were by now accustomed to the desperate nature that the Devils would come into this game with (the Devils were 10 points out of the last wild card spot and 18 points away from third place in the Metropolitan Division entering play), but Monday’s display was proof that this team just can’t get out of its own way.
Instead of imposing their will against a back-against-the-wall Devils group, the Bruins let the opposition control the tempo (the Devils slowed this game to a crawl) and rarely pushed back with anything of substance, and were in an 0-1 deficit 4:12 into the first period. The one-goal deficit between two early in the third period, and three by the end of the game. They didn’t even have an answer for what the Devils were doing, either, as the Bruins very rarely made Cory Schneider sweat en route to a 22-save effort for his second shutout of the season and first win over the B’s since coming to New Jersey from the Canucks in 2013.
The Bruins appeared to be on a team running on fumes. And it’s a ‘eye test’ critique, I know, but was there any moment in this game where you looked at what the Bruins were doing and said wow they really know they can bury this team? Probably not.
You understand the overall grind of the NHL schedule. It’s an obvious one. and some bad losses to bad teams are going to happen. But after back-to-back wins against the Sabres last week, a road head-to-head with the Devils — a team with just two wins in their last 10 games overall and four of their last five games at the Prudential Center — and with Tuukka Rask in net against the struggling Schneider, this was a game that the Black and Gold should have won. At this time in the year, it’s as simple as that.
The Bruins have already dropped their share of stinkers to bad teams, too.
They’ve lost twice to the Maple Leafs (who, while improving, are still not a team that should blow you out of the water two times in as many games this season), they fallen apart against the Avalanche, Islanders, and most recently (before tonight) the ‘Canes. Factor tonight’s loss to the Devils into these struggles and the Bruins have nabbed just seven of a possible 18 points against that group of middling opponents.
Their ability to leave points on the table has been incredible in the worst possible way. And it’s not good enough now, as the playoff race truly seems to begin around the new year, and it won’t be good enough come April.
|01.02.17 at 4:24 pm ET|
As the league kicked off their 100-year birthday party with yesterday’s Centennial Classic meeting between the Red Wings and Maple Leafs at Toronto’s BMO Field, three Bruins legends found themselves in the spotlight of an Original Six showdown with an inclusion in the first batch of names in the league’s new 100 Greatest Players list.
Dubbed ‘the First 33′, the list (which for the record does not have a true numbering format of any sort) focused on the stars of the league’s first 50 years of existence, and included old time hockey legend Eddie Shore, Johnny Bucyk, and the ultimate Bruin, Milt Schmidt.
The iconic Shore’s resume was as long as it was straight-up terrifying.
A four-time Hart Trophy winner, two-time Stanley Cup winner, and perennial all-star during his NHL career, Shore was the league’s first elite defenseman, and had an undeniable aura to his name. Whether it was because of his toughness (there’s a legendary story about Shore having to find a doctor on his own to sew his ear back together because no other doctor was willing to do it — they wanted to amputate it) or his perseverance (there’s another story about Shore trekking up to Montreal on his own after missing the team’s train to Canada).
Shore finished his career with 103 goals and 279 points in 540 NHL games and was named to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1947.
Schmidt, who turned 98 earlier this season, has an equally impressive resume from his 16-year career in Boston. The leader of the Kraut Line with Bobby Bauer and Woody Dumart, Schmidt ranks 12th on the franchise’s all-time scoring list with 575 points in 776 games with the Bruins, and would have tallied even more had he (along with his linemates) not lost three years of his career to his enlistment of the armed services during World War II. A two-time Cup winner with the Bruins, Schmidt would continue to win with the Bruins even after his retirement, as both a coach and general manager, and won another two Cups as the team’s GM, in 1970 and ’72. Schmidt, a Hockey Hall of Famer since 1961, is currently the oldest living former NHL player.
Then there’s The Chief. A staple of Bruins hockey since 1957, Bucyk ranks second on the club’s all-time games played list (his 1,436 games in Boston are second only to Ray Bourque’s 1,518) and points (Bucyk has 1,339 compared to Bourque’s 1,506), and retired as the league’s top scoring left-winger, although that record has since been broken. Bucyk recorded 16 seasons of 20 goals or more during his career, twice won the Lady Byng, was a seven-time all-star, and won Stanley Cups in 1970 and ’72.
Bucyk currently ranks 24th on the NHL’s all-time scoring list.
The 67 other players on the list will be revealed during the league’s All-Star weekend in Los Angeles at the end of the month.
|01.02.17 at 3:23 pm ET|
The Bruins will happily take the positives of their 2016 calendar year finish into 2017. But they’re not going to simply forgot some of the lessons that could have been learned through the struggles.
Something they’ll look to carry into their first game of 2017, a Monday night road meeting with the slumping Devils.
Through the first 39 games of this season, with the club sitting in third place in the Atlantic Division by way of their 20-15-4 record, the Bruins are a great team when they defend a lead (they’re 15-o-1 when leading after two periods of play), but have often struggled to score first and successful chase their way back into a successful comeback.
And after having to work like hell to break even in two games earlier last week in which the Bruins dealt themselves multi-goal deficits — the Bruins fell behind 0-3 to the Blue Jackets last Tuesday in a 4-3 loss, and 0-2 to the Sabres on Thursday in a 4-2 win — the Bruins found the start they needed behind three unanswered goals (from forwards on three different lines no less) to begin Saturday’s win over the Sabres.
It’s the starts that have proven pivotal for the club.
“When you start the game the right way, you don’t put yourself in a bad spot,” Bruins center Patrice Bergeron, who scored for the third time in five games, said. “We showed some character lately getting back in games, but it’s not good enough when you play for 40 minutes. When you start the right way, it makes a huge difference.”
Squared up with a Devils team that’s won just two of their last 10 games and without a morning skate, the assumption would be that Tuukka Rask gets the start in net for the Bruins. The 29-year-old Rask has 19 wins and a .929 save percentage in 29 games this season, stopped 26-of-27 in his last start, has five wins and a .946 save percentage in nine starts against New Jersey. If it’s not Rask, it’ll be Anton Khudobin in the crease. Khudobin has one win and an .885 save percentage in eight games this year.
The Devils counter Rask with Cory Schneider.
It’s been a down year and a half for the Marblehead, Mass., native, with 10 wins and a .904 save percentage in 27 games this year, and at least four goals allowed in six of his last eight games played. The 30-year-old Schneider has not beat the Bruins since coming to the Devils from Vancouver in 2013, with an 0-4-2 record against Boston in spite of a .922 save percentage.
This is the second of three head-to-heads between the B’s and Devils this year.
The Bruins winning the first meeting behind a 2-1 final on Oct. 20 at TD Garden.
Here are the expected lines and pairings for the Bruins
Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – David Pastrnak
Ryan Spooner – David Krejci – Frank Vatrano
Tim Schaller – Austin Czarnik – Riley Nash
Anton Blidh – Dominic Moore – Jimmy Hayes
Zdeno Chara – Brandon Carlo
Torey Krug – Adam McQuaid
Kevan Miller – Zdeno Chara
|01.01.17 at 1:36 pm ET|
The season series finale between the Bruins and Sabres had familiar themes. The Bruins beat the Sabres for the fourth time in as many tries for their first season swept against their rival of 40-plus seasons, and it was the third game in which Sabres winger Evander Kane and Bruins defenseman Kevan Miller appeared to take issue with one another.
But for the third game in as many contests, the duo were unable — or perhaps unwilling — to drop the gloves in a second period spat.
Instead, both were assessed minors while Kane was given an additional 10-minute misconduct in Saturday’s 3-1 win for the Black and Gold.
It’s worth noting that the two were both on the ice against one another late in the third period, with the Sabres in pursuit of a game-tying goal, but nothing came of it, as the Sabres were (understandably) more focused on their comeback attempt given their dire need for points, while Miller was playing on the other side of the rink as Kane.
Still, after the game, Miller sprinkled in a thought on Kane’s false bravado.
“I think he was excited to fight when the referees came in and not before,” Miller said.
Sunday morning, Kane took to Twitter to send a jab back towards Miller.
— Evander Kane (@evanderkane_9) January 1, 2017
After a Sunday practice at Warrior Ice Arena, Miller responded.
“I’ve been informed about [the tweet],” Miller, who does not have a Twitter account of his own and doesn’t sound like somebody that plans on making one, confirmed. “You guys can kinda pick and choose for that. You saw the game, right? I said my piece after the game. He wanted to fight when the refs and came in, and now he’s using Twitter, which is whatever you wanna call it — seems he has to say that when we don’t play them again.”
“He knew I wanted to [fight], there’s no ifs ands or buts about it,” Miller said of yesterday’s game and incident with Kane. “Everybody on his team knew I wanted to, and I’m pretty sure everybody on his team knows how I feel about him.”
And even though the bout between Kane-Miller will likely have to wait 10 months at the earliest, the 29-year-old Miller doesn’t sound like somebody that will forgive and forget when it comes down to the next head-to-head between the two.
“I have a long memory.”
|12.31.16 at 7:26 pm ET|
For the third game in a row, this one a 3-1 win over the rival Sabres in a New Year’s Eve matinee, the Bruins were denied a fight.
This time it did not involve Adam McQuaid getting his arms pinned down for some punches to the face. Instead it was Bruins defenseman Kevan Miller and Sabres winger Evander Kane who were not allowed at one another before the referees got involved, and put any hope of a fight to rest with a 10-minute misconduct handed down to Kane.
The TD Garden crowd, a 17,565-person mob that’s never come across a hockey fight they didn’t want to watch, voiced their displeasure.
But the obvious question: Why is this happening again and again?
“I don’t [know why],” Julien said. “We haven’t had a memo saying, ‘We’re doing this,’ or, ‘We’re doing that,’ and that’s probably something for someone else to answer. Maybe they’re trying to avoid scuffles.”
Saturday was not at bad as Thursday, no, but it still didn’t leave any member of the Bruins with a particularly great taste in their mouth given what’s happened in their recent bids to drop the gloves.
|12.31.16 at 4:55 pm ET|
The Bruins’ fears regarding David Backes’ health after a headshot from Sabres forward William Carrier in Thursday’s win were confirmed Saturday afternoon.
Taken out of the game on the hit, absent from Friday’s practice for further evaluation, and out for today’s game against the Sabres, Bruins general manager Don Sweeney has announced that the 32-year-old Backes will be sidelined indefinitely with a concussion.
With Backes away from the team because of the concussion, Bruins coach Claude Julien said that he last talked to the veteran leader on the plane ride back from Buffalo late Thursday, but also provided a brief look into Backes’ current recovery situation when asked about him.
“He’s been told to stay home,” said Julien. “He’s been told to stay away from TVs and even texting him — he shouldn’t be receiving or texting — all I know is that he’s seen the doctors and I’m not quite sure whether he’s getting on the right track now or whether he’s still the same as he was two days ago.”
Surprisingly enough given his rough-and-tough style, this concussion goes down as just the second documented concussion of Backes’ decade-long NHL career and his first since with Boston since signing a five-year, $30 million contract last summer.
Including today’s game, Backes has missed six games this season (though the first five were due to an elbow procedure) and the Bruins have stepped up to the challenge in his absence, with wins in four of those six contests.
Backes has recorded nine goals and 19 points in 33 games this season, and leads the team with 98 hits.