|10.07.13 at 1:35 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — Two U’s, two K’s, two games, two goals against. The Bruins will take that.
As the top six forwards get used to one another, young defensemen get comfortable with more responsibility and the new power play takes shape, the B’s have seen one area of their roster remain its reliable self: goaltending.
“Tuukka’s been Tuukka. That means he’s just been solid,” Claude Julien said of Tuukka Rask. “He’s played well, made the big saves when we need him. That first game, I thought he did a good job of holding us in there when we didn’t have a good start. Last game I thought we had a much better overall game, but against that type of team you need good goaltending, and he gave us that.”
The $56 million man has made 59 saves through two games for the B’s, with his best work coming in Thursday’s season-opener against the Lightning. With the Bruins killing off one of two 5-on-3s on the night, Rask stopped Steven Stamkos from the right circle and seconds later robbed Teddy Purcell to end the first period. The only goal he allowed in that game was on a 2-on-1 that came as a result of a bad Torey Krug pinch and uncharacteristic work from Daniel Paille and Adam McQuaid.
The Red Wings’ lone goal on Saturday was off a rebound, with Henrik Zetterberg making good on a second chance off a Justin Abdelkader shot. It’s been a limited sample size, but Rask has been a cool customer so far.
“The first one, we killed those 5-on-3s and I think [the Lightning] had more chances than Detroit did, but I think as a team, we got better from the first game,” Rask said of the team allowing one goal in each of the first two games. “The last game against Detroit is a really good example of how we need to play.”
Oftentimes, a goaltender can only be as good as the guys that play in front of him, and the Bruins’ combination of elite goaltending and stingy defense has been mutually beneficial for years. That took something of a hit when the B’s elected not to retain Andrew Ference, but Rask said the younger blue line seems to be getting better by the day as Torey Krug and Dougie Hamilton get more comfortable.
“Absolutely. Every day,” Rask said. “They work hard out there, and they try to get more physical out there. I think it’s just something that comes from experience, and you’ve got to play the amount of games to feel fully comfortable, but I think the young Ds who have needed to step up for us have been really good.”
Given the schedule, Rask shouldn’t count on sitting out anytime soon. The first few weeks of Boston’s schedule breathes quite a bit, with the first back-to-back not coming until Oct. 23 (at Buffalo) and 24 (home against the Sharks). As such, expect the B’s to go to Rask often before Chad Johnson eventually sees game action.
“Tuukka only played a few games in the preseason, so it’s an opportunity for him to get some rhythm going, but at the same time, you’re going to want to use your other goaltender,” Julien said. “We’ve just got to keep him sharp in practice and work that part of the equation in as we see fit.”
|10.07.13 at 12:43 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — Bruins forward Carl Soderberg returned to the ice Monday, skating before the team’s practice at Ristuccia Arena as he works his way back from an ankle injury. Soderberg did not participate in practice, with Jordan Caron remaining on the third line left wing.
“He skated this morning, so he’s getting closer,” Claude Julien said of Soderberg.
After Soderberg finished up and the ice was cleaned, the Bruins acted silly by doing drills with the opposite-shot sticks. After doing offensive zone drills for about 10 minutes, they had a shootout, with a left-handed Shawn Thornton actually scoring on Tuukka Rask.
The Bruins last skate with opposite-shot sticks in a laugh-a-minute practice last season, so with four days between games (they took Sunday off and play the Avalanche Thursday), Julien took the opportunity to keep things light.
“For me, the [hardest] drill in practice is finding a warmup drill where you allow guys to get guys to get their legs and goaltenders feeling pucks,” Julien said. “It was one of the things we’ve done before, give them a chance to loosen up and have fun with it. We’re three days away from the next game, so I don’t think we have to be too hard on them in a Monday morning practice.”
|10.05.13 at 11:21 pm ET|
Torey Krug gets the puck at the point. Zdeno Chara sets the screen in front. Goalie never sees the shot coming.
That’s exactly what the Bruins coaches had in mind when they decided to reconfigure the power play heading into this season, and the new look was executed perfectly on Boston’s first goal Saturday night.
Once Krug emerged as such a dangerous offensive weapon in last year’s playoffs, it was an easy decision to have him quarterback the top power-play unit — especially when you consider how much the Bruins’ power play struggled for most of last season. He has great hands and a great shot, and he’s able to create open lanes with his footwork.
The tougher decision — at least looking at it from the outside — was what to do with Chara. As great as Chara is in pretty much every other area, he never seemed totally comfortable as a power-play quarterback.
When he got an open look, he could take advantage with his rocket of a shot, but getting those looks — and being able to move the puck quickly when he didn’t — could sometimes be a struggle. The problem for the Bruins was that they didn’t have anyone else who was a great fit for the quarterback role, either. Read the rest of this entry »
|10.05.13 at 9:32 pm ET|
The Bruins gave the Red Wings quite the welcome to the Eastern Conference Saturday, beating them 4-1 behind a strong showing on the power play by Torey Krug and Zdeno Chara.
Krug got the B’s on the board in the first period when he sent a slapshot past Jimmy Howard with Chara screening. Henrik Zetterberg tied it on a rebound from a Justin Abdelkader shot, while the Bruins got goals from Brad Marchand and Jordan Caron in the second period. Chara then scored his first goal of the year, taking a pass from Krug on the power play and beating Howard with a deke.
The B’s will be off until Thursday, when they host the Avalanche.
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE BRUINS
- Mark down another very good game for Jordan Caron and the third line. Caron, battling in the high slot, tipped an Adam McQuaid slapshot over to Reilly Smith, who gave it back to Caron to set up Caron’s first goal of the season in the second period. Caron, who played very well in place of the injured Carl Soderberg (ankle) had a goal wrongfully waved off in the season-opener, so count two goals, one goal that counted and two very strong performances from Caron.
At this rate, that line has played so well that the B’s shouldn’t rush Soderberg back. Even if Soderberg’s good to go, the B’s shouldn’t disrupt the line by taking Caron off it.
- Want a good laugh? That first-period power-play blast was Torey Krug’s first career regular-season NHL goal, as all four of his goals at the NHL came during the playoffs, specifically against the Rangers in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
- Krug’s goal was exactly why Zdeno Chara is put up front on the power play. Howard had no chance at Krug’s missilee from the point, as the only body in front was Chara, but that was plenty enough to screen Howard and let Krug’s shot sail past the Detroit netminder.
- Though it allowed a goal, you can see chemistry with Patrice Bergeron’s line growing over times. For example, a first-period opportunity was blown when Loui Eriksson went through the neutral zone with the puck on the left side, and with Marchand on the right and waiting for him to catch up, the two seemed to get their wires crossed as they tried to get back on their respective sides. On Marchand’s second-period goal, however, he flew down the right wing and, with Bergeron driving the net, rifled it past Howard with no problem.
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE BRUINS
- There was quite the injury scare when Abdelkader hit an unsuspecting Marchand in the Bruins’ zone. Abdelkader left his feet and hit Marchand from the side, with Marchand falling to the ice and staying down for about a minute before being helped off by Patrice Bergeron. Reilly Smith skated in Marchand’s place for the one shift he missed, as Marchand returned in short order and stayed in the game.
- Note that Zetterberg’s goal came with the Pavel Datsyuk line out against Patrice Bergeron’s line and Chara’s pairing. Bergeron’s line returned the favor on Marchand’s goal, but that will be a tough matchup throughout the season series.
|10.04.13 at 2:01 pm ET|
No matter how you slice it, it should be tougher for the Bruins to win their division this season. The Red Wings are a big part of that.
With realignment bringing Detroit over to the Eastern Conference and Atlantic Division, the B’s now have four meetings with a team that has made the playoffs in 22 consecutive seasons, and they’ll have to worry about them (as well as the Canadiens and Maple Leafs) if they want to be atop the standings when all is said and done.
The first of the regular-season meetings will come Saturday night, when Mike Babcock‘s 1-0-0 squad comes to TD Garden.
“I think they’re an elite team,” Claude Julien said Friday. “They always have been, and you have to look at, for example, their third line. When you’ve got a guy like [Daniel] Cleary and [Todd] Bertuzzi on a third line, you know you’ve got some pretty good depth. They’re a good, experienced team.
“They’re a smart team, they play a good, smart game. That will certainly bring an even bigger challenge for all the teams in our conference right now to add them in them. It’s not like it’s a new franchise coming in and breaking the bottom, but it’s a team that’s at the top of the league almost every year. I think it’s good for our game. I think it’s good for our fans to see those teams a little bit more, and an Original Six team is always welcome in the cities that have seen those teams for years.”
While the Red Wings’ presence in the division certainly doesn’t make things easier for the Bruins, the best part about it from a hockey standpoint might be the fact that it also brings two members of the Selke fraternity against one another in Pavel Datsyuk and Patrice Bergeron in what should be some fascinating hockey to watch.
“Obviously he’s a very smart player and tough to play against,” Bergeron said of Datsyuk. “I think it’s going to be a good challenge to play Detroit and a good challenge to play him and his line.”
Datsyuk is a three-time winner of the award, which is given to the best two-way forward in the league annually. Bergeron won it in 2011-12 and just narrowly lost out on winning it again last season.
When Zdeno Chara had the first pick in the All-Star Game fantasy draft two seasons ago, he chose Datsyuk, saying, “I just really admire, personally, the way he plays.”
Datsyuk scored this goal against the B’s earlier that season, and he played a big part in the Red Wings’ 8-2 preseason drubbing of the B’s a couple weeks ago with Bergeron still out of the lineup.
“Two great two-way players,” Julien said of Datsyuk and Bergeron. “You saw Datsyuk in action here the one night when we didn’t have Patrice in the lineup, and you could see the type of damage that he could do. There’s no doubt that he’s an elite player, but we’re fortunate to have Patrice, who we feel is an elite player as well.”
|10.04.13 at 12:53 pm ET|
Carl Soderberg was once again absent as the Bruins practiced Friday in anticipation of the Red Wings. Soderberg has been out since last week with a left ankle injury.
Claude Julien said following the practice that the team isn’t sure when he’ll be back on the ice, but that it will be “soon.”
“It’s a hard injury to come in and say ‘Listen, he’s going to be in on Sunday or Monday,’” Julien said. “It’s really hard to really pinpoint with that type of injury, but he is definitely getting better every day, and I really think he is getting closer. Hopefully if there’s no setbacks, he should be on the ice soon.”
With Soderberg likely out Saturday against Detroit, the Bruins will be able to get another look at the Jordan Caron – Chris Kelly – Reilly Smith line that was so good in Thursday’s season-opener.
For more on the Bruins, visit weei.com/bruins.
|10.03.13 at 11:39 pm ET|
Jordan Caron wouldn’t have played Thursday were it not for Carl Soderberg being hurt, but the 22-year-old gave the B’s a lot to think about even if Soderberg’s ankle is feeling better for Saturday’s game.
Caron, who for the past three seasons has had more stops and starts than something that stops and starts a lot, was excellent in the Bruins’ season-opening 3-1 win over Lightning. The player known for being wise beyond his years defensively but offensively sheepish was the most aggressive he’s ever been at the NHL level, using his thick frame to battle along the wall and taking pucks to the net throughout the night. At one point, it even looked like he might’ve dropped the gloves.
Caron was skating in Soderberg’s place on the third line with Chris Kelly and Reilly Smith. Kelly turned in a standout performance of his own, winning 12 of 17 faceoffs, scoring on a shorthanded penalty shot and playing a big role on the penalty kill on a night in which the Bruins kept Steven Stamkos and friends 0-for-5 on the man advantage.
Caron’s highlight of the night came in the second period, when he hustled down the left wing entering the zone to beat a Lightning player to the puck and stormed the net, putting the puck on Anders Lindback and persistently jabbing at the rebounds until it went in. It was everything the Bruins had been wanting to see from their 2009 first-round pick for years, and it was a good moment for Caron as evidenced by his celebration. After seeing his hustle rewarded, the mild-mannered Caron authoritatively pointed at the puck in the back of the net.
“Yeah, I got pretty jacked up when I saw it go in,” Caron admitted after the game.
Then he heard the whistle. Then he saw the ref.
The goal had been waved off, as an official with a bad angle thought Lindback had stopped and covered up the puck. Caron was cost what should have been a hard-earned goal, but the good thing was that it wasn’t his only chance of the night. In the first period he blocked a clearing attempt by the Lightning and drove to the net (his shot was blocked), and he and his line had multiple other scoring chances that included a nice 3-on-2 with Kelly and Smith.
The line at the end of the night read zero goals and zero assists and a modest two-shots on goal, but Caron’s two takeaways on the night better illustrated his game. He was aggressive and he was engaged. Never the best skater, he was moving well. Late in the first period, Caron got into a bit of a shoving match with Pierre-Cedric Labrie, who has about 30 pounds on him and would fight Shawn Thornton the following shift. It was as well-rounded a game as he’d played in the NHL, and in a career that’s been littered with bright spots followed by relative darkness, Caron started off his fourth professional campaign on a very encouraging note with the net-drive the B’s had longed to see.
“I think that’s my game, bringing the puck to the net,” Caron said. “I think that’s what I did tonight.”
It remains to be seen what will happen with Soderberg, who is on injured reserve at the moment but is eligible to come off it in time for Saturday’s game against the Red Wings should he be healthy. If he’s good to go for Saturday, the B’s will have an interesting decision to make due to the performance they got out of Caron in the season-opener.
“I think right now he's grasping the opportunity here and I thought he had a good game,” Claude Julien said. “That line was pretty good for us tonight. Kelly was arguably our best player tonight. Jordan and Smith, they really worked hard in the forecheck and made things happen so they were a good line for us tonight. Jordan, I was extremely happy with his game.”
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