|02.26.15 at 9:30 pm ET|
When asked Thursday what he learned from last postseason, Matt Bartkowski brought up an expression that Providence coach Bruce Cassidy tells his players.
“If you don’t bring your A game,” Bartkowski said, “you’ve got to bring your B game.”
That might not fit any player better than it does Bartkowski. Ups and downs and ins and outs are pretty much all he knows at the NHL level. Getting into the Bruins’ lineup has been tough, and when he’s played he’s been the ultimate trick-or-treat player. Now the Bruins might need him again.
Defense has arguably been the Bruins’ biggest need all season, and that was before the B’s lost Kevan Miller to season-ending shoulder surgery. After serving as a healthy scratch for a month and a half (17 straight games), Bartkowski was given a game against Calgary during the Bruins’ recent road trip and stuck in the lineup after Miller went down.
A trade (or a callup of Joe Morrow) could change things, but for now Bartkowski finds himself in a similar situation as last season. He could be in line to play a top-four role down the stretch, as he did last season when Dennis Seidenberg went down in late December and the Bruins couldn’t adequately replace him via trade. Perhaps because the Bruins would rather Torey Krug stay on the third pairing, Bartkowski is almost always used as a top-four player when he is in the lineup.
While an upgrade to Boston’s second pairing (Bartkowski-Seidenberg) is needed for the Bruins to make a deep run, Bartkowski’s last few games have suggested he’ll fare better in the spot than he did earlier in the season, when he and Seidenberg turned in some especially ugly games, including one in which Bartkowski’s positioning cost the B’s a game against the Avalanche in the final second on a Daniel Briere goal.
It’s odd that Bartkowski has looked fine after not playing for a month given that he was a disaster at the beginning of the season, when one would thing he would be physically sharper. Bartkowski himself finds it puzzling, but his priority is keeping his play where it is.b
“To start the year, I wasn’t playing well at all, and then when I got in right before the California swing, I started to play well, and then out again,” he said. “I don’t know. It just came around. I’m playing like myself again.”
Claude Julien said that while Bartkowski was out of the lineup, the team had him fine-tune things that have left him better equipped now than he was before. Asked what specifically, Julien replied ‘a lot of everything.’
“A lot in all different areas. Sometimes you know you’re a natural skater, which I think he is, and you think you can get away with that,” Julien said.”But it takes a little bit more than that. You’ve got to be prepared as a player. Are you mentally prepared to make plays? Are you ready to put the time in? To be in good shape is one thing; to be in great shape is another.”
Bartkowski’s experience in this role ended the wrong way last year. After Andrej Meszaros was brought in to challenge him, Bartkowski got sick and missed the beginning of the playoffs. When he came back, he was off his game. Meszaros wasn’t any better, and the Bruins were forced into a rotation of struggling defensemen playing important games.
“It was just more inconsistent in the playoffs,” he recalled. “There was like a good [game], a really bad one, a good one, a really bad one. That just can’t happen again.”
The next few days will say a lot about what Bartkowski’s role with the Bruins will be going forward, assuming he isn’t traded. Forcing their seventh defenseman to play big minutes hurt the team last season, but if it happens again, Bartkowski thinks that with health and improved play, he can handle the job.
“This year, I’m gonna hold my spot,” Bartkowski said. “I want to stay consistent. I don’t want to have any dips at all.”
That’s the right attitude to have, but it’s always been easier said than done with Bartkowski and the Bruins.
|02.26.15 at 7:48 pm ET|
David Krejci is on long-term injured reserve, a team source confirmed Thursday. The news was first reported by ESPN’s Joe McDonald.
Krejci is expected to miss four-to-six weeks with a partially torn MCL that was suffered last Friday against the Blues. The team presumably put him on LTIR Monday, as that is when he was first listed as being on injured reserve.
While Krejci is on LTIR, the Bruins can exceed the salary cap by his $5.25 million cap hit (as they also can with Kevan Miller’s $800,000 hit). The Bruins can use Krejci’s cap money else where for as long as he’s out, but the team must be cap compliant by the team he returns should he come back in the regular season.
There is no salary cap in the playoffs, so if the team uses Krejci’s cap hit elsewhere and Krejci doesn’t return until the postseason, the Bruins wouldn’t need to worry about being cap compliant.
|02.26.15 at 1:48 pm ET|
NBC Sports NHL analyst Pierre McGuire made his weekly appearance Thursday on Middays with MFB to talk about the Bruins and what moves he expects them to make at the trade deadline next week. To hear the interview, go to the MFB audio on demand page.
With the Bruins still slumping and needing a boost, many expect them to make a move prior to the trade deadline on March 2. McGuire said the team is playing better, starting with their 6-2 win in Chicago on Sunday and played well despite losing to the Canucks on Tuesday.
With that being said, McGuire thinks general manager Peter Chiarelli needs to be aggressive at the deadline.
“I see some things that are starting to happen for them that are positive,” McGuire said. “I still think Peter Chiarelli is going to have to get aggressive here at the trade deadline, I think they will on the Boston side of things depending the price points for certain players. I think they are in a pretty good spot, I really do. I liked their compete on Sunday and I liked their compete in their last game against Vancouver.”
Even though overall the Bruins have lost seven of their last eight games, McGuire said it isn’t always about wins and losses.
“What I see is not just the results, but seeing what they are doing in games,” he said. “Not every game is going to be perfect. I think with this team they are competing, they’re not mailing it in. They deserved a better fate against Vancouver on Tuesday. That is a very difficult game to play against coming back after a very long road trip that didn’t go particularly well. If you watched their game against St. Louis, I know they got blown out, but Malcolm Subban didn’t play very well in that game. St. Louis took 15 shots on goals and [scored three goals in] 5-on-5 chances out of 15 shots. That’s pretty impressive hockey playing in St. Louis and playing that kind of hockey.
“I think being in the playoffs is like the lottery — you have to have a ticket to be in it to win it. If you get into the playoffs and you’re the Boston Bruins, you have a legitimate chance to do some serious damage, especially if they are aggressive at the trade deadline.”
|02.26.15 at 1:14 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — The Bruins skated the same lineup Thursday at Ristuccia Arena as the team prepared for a back-to-back that will see them play in New Jersey Friday and host the Coyotes Saturday.
The lines and defensive pairings were as follows:
Tuukka Rask who has played in 18 straight games, should finally get a night off this weekend, but stranger things have happened. The last time Rask did not play in a game was on Jan. 8 against the very Devils the B’s will face Friday.
|02.24.15 at 10:45 pm ET|
In an interview that will air on this week’s episode of Sunday Skate, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman shed some light on the possibility of teams sitting players for the rest of the regular season in order to go over the salary cap come playoff time.
This situation applies to the Bruins and how they could handle things with David Krejci, who they recently announced will miss four-to-six weeks with a partially torn MCL. Because there is no salary cap in the playoffs, the Bruins could, in theory, sit Krejci for the rest of the regular season, put him on long-term injured reserve and exceed the salary cap by his $5.25 million cap hit (as well as Kevan Miller’s $800,000 hit).
Such action, whether done by the Bruins or another team, could mean teams sitting healthy players for longer than they are injured and using LTI space by dishonest means. Asked whether the league would take issue with such maneuvers, Bettman said that while the NHL “frowns upon the use of loopholes,” the league would have a tough time proving teams were doing it.
“You can only ice a certain number of skaters,” Bettman said, “and the fact of the matter is, who’s to say how severely the injury will impact his play longer term, what kind of shape he’s been in? These are all speculative kinds of questions, and I’m not trying to duck them. It’s just simply, let’s wait to see what happens before we try to draw any conclusions.”
Added Bettman: “We frown upon the use of loopholes, but I don’t think an injury was sustained in order to create a loophole,” he said. “The rules are the rules. They’re competitive. The collective bargaining agreement tends to be fairly clear and we try to enforce it pretty consistently across the board.”
For the rest of the interview, tune in to this week’s episode of Sunday Skate at 8 a.m.
|02.24.15 at 9:39 pm ET|
The Bruins’ playoff hopes looked a little better Tuesday night as the Panthers, their top competition for the last wild card spot in the Eastern Conference, traded forward Sean Bergenheim to Minnesota. The Bruins still have to win games, however.
While the effort was light years better than they displayed for most of their recent road trip, the B’s returned to Boston Tuesday night with a 2-1 loss to the Canucks.
The game saw the Bruins get ample scoring chances but fail to get more than one goal past Eddie Lack. Ironically enough, the Bruins’ only goal was scored by Daniel Paille, who had been as snakebitten as any Bruin of late and had been taken out of the lineup for the two games prior to Tuesday.
Lack made 40 saves in the win for Vancouver, as the B’s outshot Vancouver, 41-28.
The loss dropped the Bruins to 29-22-9 on the season. The Panthers lost to the Blackhawks in a shootout Tuesday and now trail the B’s by two points.
Here are four more things we learned Tuesday:
PAILLE RETURNS (AND SCORES)
The news that Gregory Campbell will be out for at least a week with an upper-body injury meant that Paille returned to the lineup after serving the previous two as a healthy scratch.
Paille skated in Chris Kelly‘s place, as Kelly moved to the fourth line to center Jordan Caron and Brian Ferlin. The lineup was as follows:
Paille scored his first goal since Nov. 21 when he buried a Loui Eriksson rebound in front of the net early in the first period. It was just his second goal of the season, both of which have come skating with Eriksson and Soderberg.
CANUCKS CATCH A BREAK
Rule 67.4 reads, “If a defending player, except a goalkeeper, while play is in progress, falls on the puck, holds the puck, picks up the puck, or gathers the puck into his body or hands from the ice in the goal crease area, the play shall be stopped immediately and a penalty shot shall be awarded to the non-offending team.”
Somehow, the officials didn’t feel that applied here. No penalty shot (or infraction at all) was called.
After Paille sent rebound of an Eriksson shot on net with crowd in front, puck went off Eddie Lack and was then covered up two different times by Ryan Stanton. As the Vine above shows, Stanton literally pulled the puck off the goal line the second time.
RASK MAKES IT 18 STRAIGHT, 27 OF 28
By starting Tuesday night, Tuukka Rask took to the pipes for the 18th consecutive game and 27th time in the Bruins’ last 28 games.
The Bruins won’t play next until Friday, when the team faces the Devils in New Jersey. The Devils were the Bruins’ opponent the last time Rask had a night off, as Niklas Svedberg had a 14-save shutout on Jan. 8.
KASSIAN KEEPS SCORING
Zack Kassian, who once upon a time looked like he could become one of the league’s premier power forwards but has had a disappointing career with the Canucks, has been mentioned in trade speculation at points this season.
With the Canucks in line for a playoff spot in either the Pacific or as a Wild Card, they should be happy they haven’t moved the 24-year-old winger.
With a blast past Rask in the third period, Kassian has now scored seven goals in his last nine games. He had a pair of assists against the Bruins when the teams met in Vancouver earlier this month.
|02.24.15 at 1:35 pm ET|
David Krejci wasn’t the only casualty of the Bruins’ disastrous five-game road trip.
In a stretch that saw the Bruins lose more players than win games, Kevan Miller’s season was ended after his shoulder popped out for the second time this season. He will undergo surgery on Thursday.
The injury ended what began as a promising season for the second-year NHLer but ultimately proved to be more frustrating than anything else.
When the Bruins traded Johnny Boychuk prior to the season, an opportunity was provided for Miller, a right-shot defenseman like Boychuk, to grow into a bigger role. Yet Miller dislocated his shoulder on Oct. 18 and missed the next 13 games. His play on the Bruins’ third pairing with Torey Krug was strong given the role that he was in, but Miller’s shoulder limited him. He was advised against fighting and admitted Tuesday that he never totally got over the injury when he was playing.
“You always had it in the back of your head; to be honest with you, it was always there,” Miller said. “So I never felt 100 percent, if that’s what you’re asking. There were times I felt like it was pretty good or I was pretty comfortable with how things were going, and that changes obviously through the season.”
Miller was sixth among Bruins defensemen with 18:02 of ice time per night, but he led the team with a plus-20 rating.
“After I came back from recovery and I started to play, I thought I started to play better, and as the season went on I established myself again,” he said. “For it to happen right now is kind of frustrating. It’s more frustrating that I’m not able to help the team out. You feel like you almost let the guys down a bit. That’s probably my biggest worry.”
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