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Milan Lucic, Bruins show what happens when you stick with game plan, don’t panic

10.22.14 at 6:32 am ET
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There may have been frustration among those in the sellout crowd at TD Garden when the Bruins allowed two goals in the span of 37 seconds of the second period Tuesday night, leading to a 3-2 deficit after 40 minutes of play. But that was not the mood in the dressing room as the Bruins prepared to take the ice in the third.

As a matter of fact, it was the determination to stick to the game plan of throwing pucks to the net and generating traffic in front of San Jose goalie Antti Niemi that Claude Julien, Milan Lucic and others credited for scoring three in the third, en route to a 5-3 win for Boston’s first winning streak of the season.

“It was exactly what we talked about after the second,” Julien said. “I really liked our game, even the second period was probably our best second period of the season. We just had that little lapse again that allowed them to score a couple goals. Coming out for the third, I thought we were playing well enough that we could give ourselves a chance if we just stayed with it. And our guys did exactly that. We found a way to get some goals. Same old, same old, getting your nose dirty around the net, jumping on those loose pucks. [It] made a big difference.”

Lucic had his most productive and active games of the season in front of the net. The effort didn’t produce any goals off his stick but he did assist on three goals, including the game-tying goal five minutes into the third period that sent the Bruins on their way.

“I think that’€™s the most important thing, especially when your down, is to stick with the game plan and play desperate to get yourself back in the game,” Lucic said. “Talking in the second intermission here, going out for the third, we just talked about being positive and sticking to the game plan and giving ourselves opportunities where we can get ourselves back in the game. We did that and were able to come out with a big win.”

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Read More: Boston Bruins, Claude Julien, Milan Lucic, San Jose Sharks

How Bruins overcame uncharacteristically bad nights from Patrice Bergeron, Zdeno Chara

10.21.14 at 11:51 pm ET
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Gregory Campbell was one of many Bruins who came up big Tuesday night. (Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

Gregory Campbell was one of many Bruins who came up big Tuesday night. (Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

Usually the Patrice Bergeron line and Zdeno Chara-Dougie Hamilton pairing are the Bruins’€™ constants. They’€™re the guys who are going to create offensive-zone possessions and not make mistakes.

That wasn’€™t the case on Tuesday. Bergeron was on the ice for all three of the Sharks’€™ goals, linemates Brad Marchand and Reilly Smith joined him for two of them (it is worth noting that Marchand had a nice power-play goal), and Chara was on the ice for two of them as well. Those four and Hamilton were the only Bruins who finished with Corsi-for percentages under 50 percent, meaning they were the only Bruins who were on the ice for more 5-on-5 shot attempts against than shot attempts for.

That would seemingly be a recipe for disaster for the Bruins, especially when you consider that outside of the Carl Soderberg line, the rest of the team had been one giant question mark to this point in the season. David Krejci had looked good since his return, but linemate Milan Lucic was off to a slow start and he still didn’€™t have a set-in-stone right wing. The fourth line had featured several different combinations, and none of them had really done much. And the second and third defense pairings had been inconsistent at best, with Kevan Miller’€™s injury raising even more questions on the back end.

At least for one night, those questions turned into answers. Lucic, Krejci and rookie right wing Seth Griffith factored into four of the Bruins’€™ five goals, with Lucic notching three assists and Griffith scoring his first NHL goal. Two of the goals they were on the ice for — Griffith’€™s and Torey Krug’€™s — came as the direct result of getting bodies to the net. Krejci set a great screen on Krug’€™s, and then Lucic created some net-front havoc that freed up Griffith on his goal.

“I think it definitely was the best game that we’€™ve played so far this season,” Lucic said. “You saw we were hungry in the O-zone and hungry getting pucks to the net. We made some smart decisions in some important areas and it just seems like things are starting to head in the right direction.”

The fourth line of Daniel Paille, Gregory Campbell and Simon Gagne was a positive possession line that even created some chances against the Sharks’€™ top two lines. They scored what proved to be the game-winner midway through the third when Paille won the puck along the boards and threw a shot on net that Campbell tipped in for his first goal of the season.

Campbell and Paille were also big on the penalty kill, especially late in the game when Bergeron went to the box for a four-minute double minor. Until Krejci’€™s empty-netter to seal the win, Campbell had the biggest play on that kill when he blocked a Joe Thornton shot that came off a Chara turnover.

“We’€™ve got to be a responsible, reliable line, and Claude [Julien] has to trust us to put us in those situations,” Campbell said. “With hard work comes trust, and if we’€™re playing our game and we’€™re in on the forecheck and creating chances and bringing energy to the lineup, then he usually has confidence in us.”

As for the bottom two defense pairings, the only glaring error was a bad miscommunication between Krug and Dennis Seidenberg that led to a goal, but as Julien pointed out after the game, Bergeron’€™s line was just as much at fault, as Smith had failed to clear the zone and Bergeron and Marchand had gotten caught up ice.

Outside of that, the Seidenberg-Krug and Matt Bartkowski-Adam McQuaid pairings played well. Krug’€™s goal and two assists obviously stand out, but let’€™s not overlook the fact that Seidenberg had seven shots on goal and 12 shot attempts, and that he and Krug had Corsi-for percentages of 63 and 62 percent, respectively. McQuaid and Bartkowski weren’€™t far behind at 61 and 57 percent, respectively, and McQuaid was also big on that final penalty kill.

Obviously this is just one game. No one should think that all of the Bruins’€™ question marks are gone and that everyone’€™s going to be great from here on. But on a night when the Bruins’€™ best players were uncharacteristically unreliable, it was encouraging to see everyone else step up and show that they can lead the way, too.

Read More: David Krejci, Dennis Seidenberg, Gregory Campbell, Milan Lucic

Claude Julien’s faith in Seth Griffith pays off

10.21.14 at 11:24 pm ET
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The “Claude Never Plays the Kids” club will have to ignore Seth Griffith’€™s existence for the next little while.

With the right wing job on David Krejci‘€™s line remaining up for grabs early in the season, on Tuesday Julien gave Griffith, a 21-year-old second year pro, the biggest vote of confidence the youngster has received so far: he kept him on the line in the third period. Griffith then rewarded the decision by tying the game at three with his first career NHL goal.

After the first game of Griffith’€™s three-game stint in the lineup last week, the Bruins signed Simon Gagne and played him in Griffith’€™s place in the third periods of the team’€™s games against Detroit and Montreal. Those games saw Griffith get some chances (he rang iron in Montreal), but the B’€™s stuck with Gagne late in the one-goal games.

Griffith was scratched Saturday sent down Sunday to play in Providence and recalled Monday. After skating the first two periods on the Krejci line and Boston’€™s top power play unit, Griffith was kept with Krejci and Lucic to play key minutes in a one-goal game.

It paid off when Thomas Hertl accidentally knocked a loose puck into the high slot while trying to wrest the puck from Lucic. Griffith leaned into it and fired a wrist shot past defenseman Jason Demers and goaltender Antti Niemi at 4:50 of the third. It may have only been his fourth career NHL game, but by the way Griffith jumped against the glass in celebration, the goal was a big relief.

“Obviously every player when they get their first couple games they want to score right away,” Griffith said. “I’€™m happy it came sooner rather than later.”

Julien’€™s faith in the youngster appears to be growing as the team searches to find a full-time replacement for Jarome Iginla. That replacement may not yet be on the roster, but for now Julien thinks Griffith is giving him enough reasons to keep him with Krejci.

“Because he played well,” Julien said when asked what made him stick with Griffith Tuesday. “When he was playing well I thought he made some great plays. This isn’€™t because he scored; I think he scored because he played well. I just thought he was pretty good. [The Sharks are] a big team and I thought he handled himself well along the walls and making good plays.”

Added Julien: “If those guys are going to get better, sometimes you’€™ve got to put them in those positions when you feel they’€™re doing well enough to warrant that.”

Considering he was a relatively early cut from camp, Griffith has to be more than happy with where the season has taken him. Part of it is the fact that he’€™s the best right-shooting wing option the B’€™s have, but if the Bruins give him a prolonged look, perhaps he can make his case for a full-time job.

“We’€™re starting to get a little chemistry going,” Griffith said. “It’€™s good to see but it’€™s not too hard playing with two great players like that.”

Read More: Claude Julien, Seth Griffith,

Late Gregory Campbell tiebreaker leads Bruins past Sharks

10.21.14 at 9:46 pm ET
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Gregory Campbell‘€™s first goal of the season was a big one, as he redirected a pass from Daniel Paille past Antti Niemi to break a third-period tie and help the Bruins to a 5-3 win over the Sharks.

Milan Lucic (three assists) and Torey Krug (a goal and two assists) each had three points in the victory, which gave the Bruins three wins in their last four games and evened their record at 4-4-0 on the season through eight games.

Campbell wasn’€™t the only Bruin to find the back of the net for the first time tis season, as Brad Marchand took advantage of power play time given to him on a first-period man advantage and beat Niemi from the right circle to make it 1-0 13:57 into the game. Logan Couture would answer back with a Sharks power play goal minutes later with Marchand in the box for cross-checking.

The B’€™s tok a 2-1 lead on a power play goal from Krug, but fell behind when the Sharks got goals from Couture and Joe Thornton in a span of 39 seconds against Patrice Bergeron‘€™s line. Seth Griffith scored his first career NHL goal in the third to tie it.

Tuukka Rask made 31 saves  in the victory, coming up big in the final minutes as the Bruins had to kill off four-minute Bergeron minor for high-sticking. With Niemi pulled, David Krejci scored a shorthanded empty-netter to seal the win.

The B’€™s will next play Thursday, when they host the Islanders for the first time since trading Johnny Boychuk to New York just before the season.

Here are some observations from the game:

– Bergeron was on the ice for all three of San Jose’€™s goals over the first two periods, one of which was a power-play goal. If that isn’€™t unusual enough, Thornton’€™s second-period goal marked the third time in eight games this season that the Bruins have allowed a 5-on-5 goal with both Zdeno Chara and Bergeron on the ice. This season is off to a very un-Bruins start. Remember, the B’€™s only allowed one 5-on-5 goal with the duo on the ice in the lockout-shortened 2013 season.

Chara doesn’€™t have bad games, but Tuesday was definitely one of them. The Bruins’€™ captain had lots of trouble with the puck, even committing a turnover by the net on a late penalty kill that very well could have cost the Bruins. Chara slammed his stick in frustration against the bench after a shift in the third period.

– Bergeron finished the night a minus-2 and took a high-sticking double-minor in the last four and a half minutes to leave the Bruins killing a penalty in a one-goal game without their best penalty-killing forward. An odd night for Bergeron indeed, who now has 10 penalty minutes through eight games.

David Krejci‘€™s line had a nice turnaround as the game went on after being turnover city in the first period. Lucic turned two pucks over on one shift in the game’€™s fifth minute and Krejci had a giveaway on an ensuing shift. Krejci’€™s line still dominated possession on the night.

– Krejci turned in a nice play on Krug’€™s power-play goal. After the faceoff, Krejci appeared to take a stick to the facial area, dropping his own stick as he grabbed his face. He quickly recovered and picked up his stick in time to get to the front of the net and provide a screen on Krug’€™s goal.

– Marchand has been on and off the Bruins’€™ power play units this season. Tuesday’€™s goal should help his case to get more consistent minutes on the man advantage. Boston’€™s top unit worked well on his goal, with Torey Krug averting defenders in the right circle before sending the puck low to Milan Lucic. Marchand, who was back at the point with Krug pinching, took the pass from Lucic, walked up and fired a shot from the circle for his first goal of the season.

 

Milan Lucic hopes he’s getting back to normal

10.21.14 at 1:48 pm ET
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Inappropriate gestures aside, it’€™s been a weird start to the season for Milan Lucic.

The Bruins’€™ top left wing has had two different centers and three different right wings over seven games. In three of the first seven games, he’€™s played on a line that was different from the previous game. He’€™s also returning from offseason wrist surgery, which looks to be limiting him less and less as the games go on.

Still, numbers don’€™t lie. Lucic, traditionally a fast starter, has gone without a point in all but one game this season. He has no goals, with his two-point performance last week against the Canadiens remaining the only time he’€™s shown up on the scoresheet.

It appears that Seth Griffith will serve as Lucic and David Krejci‘€™s right wing Tuesday against the Sharks. The line had some good looks for three games before Griffith was replaced with Simon Gagne Saturday. Lucic feels that he can still find his way and the back of the net despite the revolving door on the right side of his line.

“I think the guys who have come in have played well,” Lucic said. “You look at the last three games, we were able to create a bunch of chances, but it seems like they’€™re just not going in for us right now. I don’€™t think overthinking anything or getting frustrated is going to get us anywhere. I think we’€™ve just got to keep playing in the O zone and creating chances and eventually they’€™ll start going in.”

As for the wrist, Lucic says it’€™s become less of a mental obstacle than it was earlier in the season, when he was a borderline invisible player on a borderline invisible line with Ryan Spooner and Matt Fraser.

Now, with more games under his belt, Lucic doesn’€™t see the wrist as being an issue. All that’€™s left for him is to start finding the back of the net.

“[The wrist is] definitely getting a lot better, thinking about it a lot less, as far as re-injuring it again,” he said. “From a mental standpoint, it’€™s definitely becoming more positive.”

When asked Tuesday morning if Lucic was close to being the player he is when he’€™s at the top of his game, Claude Julien hinted at the obvious by saying people have seen him play long enough to know “how good he can be.” He doesn’€™t seem ready to use the roster uncertainty as an excuse for Lucic’€™s start.

“It’€™s up to each individual to play to their level. I’€™ve always said that,” Julien said. “It doesn’€™t matter who you play with, we rate players on their play — their sole play –€” and it doesn’€™t matter who you’€™re with; we still expect certain things.

“He’€™s come off an injury, he’€™s missed a little bit of the conditioning before camp started. He wasn’€™t able to play for a little while. What I like right now is he’€™s starting to come around and that’€™s the most important thing. I’€™m not going to dwell on the past more than’€”I like what I see he’€™s getting better all the time so he’€™s got to continue to improve.”

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Seth Griffith, Matt Bartkowski appear set to return to Bruins lineup vs. Sharks

10.21.14 at 12:20 pm ET
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Seth Griffith

Seth Griffith

Tuukka Rask was first goaltender off the ice at Tuesday’€™s morning skate, suggesting he’€™ll be between the pipes against the Sharks.

With Kevan Miller out, Matt Bartkowski is set to enter the lineup. The Bruins will play Torey Krug on the right side of the second pairing with Dennis Seidenberg.

Krug is a left shot, but he has experience playing the right side dating back to college. Seidenberg is also a lefty who can play both sides.

Matt Fraser appears to be the team’€™s healthy scratch on offense, as he rotated in on the fourth line but stayed on the ice later than his teammates.

The lines and pairings in morning skate were as follows:

Marchand – Bergeron – Smith
Lucic – Krejci – Griffith
Kelly – Soderberg – Eriksson
Paille – Campbell – Gagne

Chara – Hamilton
Seidenberg – Krug
Bartkowski – McQuaid

Rask

Read More: Matt Bartkowski, Seth Griffith,

Claude Julien feels his Bruins have been ‘a lot more consistent’ of late

10.21.14 at 9:03 am ET
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WILMINGTON — As his team prepares to take on San Jose, the Islanders and Toronto this week, Claude Julien can finally sense things coming together after a sluggish start.

The Bruins started 1-2-0, including an ugly 4-0 loss to the Capitals on home ice and a brutal 2-1 loss to Colorado in the final second. After beating the Red Wings in a shootout, the Bruins were embarrassed again in Montreal, featuring the emotional meltdown of Milan Lucic.

But things finally seemed to click in Buffalo, where Niklas Svedberg earned his first career shutout in just his third NHL start. The 4-0 win seemed to give the Julien and the team something to build on. Two wins in three games doesn’t classify as red-hot, but it’s certainly a step in the right direction the way Julien sees it.

“I don’t know if it’s how far we’ve come or how far we have to go,” Julien said. “I think it’s just a matter of us continuing to get better as a team. I think it’s still early in the season and I think there are a lot of teams that are probably saying the same thing. It takes certain guys a while to get going. It takes others even longer. Some guys get off to a good start and then they slow down.

“We’re just looking at our team as a whole. I think what we’re looking for is consistency and we’re looking for an identity. And that’s what we’re starting to get right now, more of an identity. I think we’ve been a lot more consistent in the last three games.”

What is that identity?

“Same as it’s always been,” Julien said, referring to his team’s tough, rugged style that relies on good defense, a good forecheck, stellar goaltending and opportunistic play around the net.

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Read More: Boston Bruins, Chris Kelly, Claude Julien, Dennis Seidenberg
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