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5 things we learned as Senators close in on Bruins’ playoff spot

03.19.15 at 10:09 pm ET
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The Bruins couldn’t come back for a fourth time Thursday night, and as a result they saw the Senators gain two massive points on them.

With a 6-4 win over the B’s, the Senators now have 81 points on the season, trailing the Bruins (83) by two points for the second wild card spot in the Eastern Conference, though the Senators have a game in hand.

The game was frantic from the first shift on, as both Kyle Turris and Carl Soderberg scored in the opening minute. Back-and-forth scoring and shaky play on both sides led Claude Julien to bench Reilly Smith and shake up his lines. Smith was given just one shift over the final 28:03, while Matt Bartkowski had five third-period shifts.

Dennis Seidenberg hurt Boston’s chance at a comeback bid late, as he was knocked off the puck in the defensive zone and put his hand over the puck for a delay of game penalty with 4:02 remaining.

The Bruins have now lost three straight (0-2-1) heading into a back-to-back Saturday and Sunday against the Panthers and Lightning, respectively.


The Bruins did something that no NHL had ever done before Thursday night: They scored three goals against Andrew Hammond, better known as The Hamburglar. Then, with the B’s trailing in the second, Torey Krug added a much-needed fourth to tie the game.

Hammond had entered the game 11-0-1 in 12 career NHL starts. With the win he remains undefeated in regulation.


Ryan Spooner had a pair of goals (one power-play, one even-strength) when the teams played earlier this month. He did the same Thursday in a performance that showed the Kanata, Ontario native clearly likes playing near his hometown.

Spooner redirected a Milan Lucic shot that sailed past Hammond just over four minutes into the game, giving Boston a 2-1 lead. Furthermore, it kept up his line’€™s pace as his trio with Lucic and David Pastrnak continue to score at a decent pace while not allowing many goals.

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Pierre McGuire on MFB: Milan Lucic has ‘elevated his game’ playing with Ryan Spooner, David Pastrnak

03.19.15 at 1:40 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 discuss the Bruins and their push for the playoffs, as well as other NHL matters. To hear the interview, go to the MFB audio on demand page.

With David Krejci being out, the Bruins have shuffled their lines up front and currently have Milan Lucic playing with Ryan Spooner and David Pastrnak. McGuire feels this has improved Lucic’s game, as he’s been playing more like a leader being paired with two of the youngest players on the team. He does feel once Krecji returns, Lucic will be reunited with him, but doesn’t know when that will happen.

“The thing that really stood out to me is he’s really relishing this role as a leader with those two young players in Spooner and Pastrnak,” said McGuire. “I think he’s elevated his game because of the leadership potion that has been put on his plate. I don’t know what Claude [Julien] is going to do, it’s a real debatable issue. I have to think at some point Krejci will be back with Lucic, I really do. I don’t know when or for how long, but I have to think at some point they will put them back together.”

The Bruins are in Ottawa Thursday night to take on the Senators. As it stands now the Senators are four points behind the Bruins for eighth place in the Eastern Conference. McGuire feels the Bruins are in a good spot to make the playoffs.

“I think Boston has a very good chance to be a playoff team,” he said. “In fact, I would be shocked if they didn’t make it. They deserved a better fate the other night (in a shootout loss to Buffalo). The biggest thing to be was Anders Lindback, he never played a game that good in his life. I give Buffalo a lot of credit. They showed a lot of heart and a lot of desire, but the Boston Bruins were [playing hard], they just couldn’t beat Lindback. I don’t expect goaltending like that every night against Boston.”

It seems the NHL getting rid of the shootout and going to 4-on-4, and 3-on-3 overtime is getting some steam to be put in place next season. McGuire thinks this change is needed, and will be a welcomed change with members of the league — both with the coaches and players.

“I think most people that really care about the sport want to see the best players play in the game and having the game decided by the players playing the sport rather than just having a skills competition,” said McGuire. “I am all for it and I think most of the players are for it. I can tell you 99 percent of the coaches are for it in terms of the people that I have spoken with, so I would be absolutely shocked if it was not put into place for next season.”

Read More: David Pastrnak, Milan Lucic, Pierre McGuire, Ryan Spooner

Bruins must find way to steal game from The Hamburglar

03.18.15 at 5:30 pm ET
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Andrew Hammond has a .956 save percentage. (Harry How/Getty Images)

Andrew Hammond and his .956 save percentage are providing a threat to the Bruins’ playoff chances. (Harry How/Getty Images)

In the Bruins’€™ biggest game of the season, they’€™ll have to go against someone they have, for the most part, never seen.

As the legend of Senators goaltender Andrew Hammond a.k.a. “The Hamburglar” continues to grow, the 27-year-old netminder, who has earned points in all 12 of his starts (11-0-1) is just that to most Bruins: a legend — someone of whom they’€™ve heard, but actually haven’€™t actually witnessed in person.

When the teams last met on March 10, Ottawa started Craig Anderson in Boston’€™s 3-1 win.

By this writer’€™s count, only Torey Krug, Reilly Smith and Matt Bartkowski have played against Hammond (all in college against Hammond’€™s Bowling Green squad). Smith scored six goals against the Hamburglar in seven games over a three-season stretch, while Krug racked up four assists over seven games. The icing on the cake? Bartkowski, who has zero goals in 119 career regular-season games in the NHL, scored on Hammond back on Jan. 8, 2010 and added an assist against the Hamburglar the next night.

With the way Hammond’€™s playing now, however, one shouldn’€™t expect a multi-goal performance from Smith or, unfortunately, a single-goal performance from Bartkowski. The undrafted Hammond, who began the season in the AHL but whose contributions since his callup earned him a card that gets him free McDonald’€™s for life, has allowed just 15 goals in his 12 starts. He’€™s given up just one goal in each of his last three starts and has never given up more than two in an NHL start.

“We’€™ve got an opportunity to hand this guy his first loss,” Claude Julien said Wednesday. “It’€™s up to us to make that happen.”

Making that challenge harder is the fact that the Bruins aren’€™t exactly the goal-scoring type these days. They’€™ve put just two pucks past goaltenders over the last three games, with Zdeno Chara adding an empty-netter Saturday in Pittsburgh. Overall, the B’€™s rank 19th in the NHL with 2.60 goals per game.

Assuming Ottawa, who continues to nip at Boston’€™s heels for the second wild card spot, does start Hammond, the Bruins will need to find a way to beat him — either with a balanced scoring effort or, more realistically, a lights-out performance from Tuukka Rask — to avoid a scary stretch run. The Senators trail the B’€™s by just four points for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, but they also have a game in hand. The Bruins do have more regulation and overtime wins (33 to Ottawa’€™s 29), so if Ottawa does match the Bruins’€™ point total, Boston would likely hold the tie-breaker.

Still, it shouldn’€™t have to get to that for the Bruins. Their roster, as we’€™ve documented perhaps too many times, is better than it’€™s performed. Despite the injuries with which they’€™ve dealt, the Bruins should easily be a playoff team, but Ottawa’€™s recent run presents a very realistic threat.

Mostly because of Hammond’€™s play, the Senators have are 12-1-1 over their last 14 games. Their only regulation loss in that span is the aforementioned contest earlier in the month in which the B’€™s faced Anderson.

Fortunately for the B’€™s, despite the fact that they’€™re facing a hot team and goaltender at a time in which they’€™re struggling to score, they have a goaltender of their own who can steal a game.

“€œIt’€™s always slim,” Rask said Wednesday of his margin for error. “It doesn’€™t matter if it’€™s the hottest or coolest goalie in the league. I know that I try to keep the goals against as low as possible, but lately, a few games, we haven’€™t scored as many goals. Obviously you know that most likely you can’€™t let in too many.”

Hammond’s play has inspired a fan to throw a McDonald’s burger on the ice after a win. Rask quipped Wednesday that the strangest thing he’s seen thrown on the ice was a milk crate. The Bruins can only hope there’s no reason for either to be thrown on Thursday.

Read More: Andrew Hammond, Tuukka Rask,

David Krejci skates at right wing as David Pastrnak misses Bruins practice

03.18.15 at 12:05 pm ET
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David Pastrnak

David Pastrnak

WILMINGTON — The Bruins swapped out one David for another in Wednesday’€™s practice, as David Krejci took part in the skate while David Pastrnak was the only absence.

Krejci also participated in Tuesday’€™s non-contact morning skate, but Wednesday marked his first full practice with the team since suffering a partially torn MCL on Feb. 20. He is not expected to return to game action until this weekend at the earliest, with Claude Julien saying Krejci will travel with the team for their upcoming three-game road trip.

Julien said that Pastrnak was given a maintenance day. The 18-year-old played through overtime of Tuesday’€™s 2-1 shootout loss to the Sabres and did not appear to suffer any injuries.

With Pastrnak’€™s absent, Krejci skated in his place in line rushes. The lines in practice were as follows:


All six defensemen practiced, while Jeremy Smith joined goaltenders Tuukka Rask and Niklas Svedberg after being recalled and dressing as the team’s backup Tuesday. Rask missed the game with what the team called “general soreness.” Julien said all three goalies will travel.

Read More: David Krejci, David Pastrnak,

5 things we learned as Bruins slip up vs. Sabres, let Senators gain ground

03.17.15 at 10:14 pm ET
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The good news is that the Sabres won’€™t be a problem for the Bruins in the playoffs. The bad news is that the Sabres are a reason the Bruins’€™ road to the playoffs may be a little trickier.

For the third time this season, the Sabres — who entered Tuesday dead last in the NHL with just 45 points — took the Bruins to overtime. For the first time, the Sabres wound up on the winning side as the B’€™s took just one point away in a 2-1 shootout loss on a night in which the Senators continued to close in on Boston’s playoff spot.

Though the Bruins outshot the Sabres, 26-7, over the first two periods (and 38-21 in regulation), they had only Loui Eriksson’€™s first-period goal to show for their offensive efforts in regulation. The Sabres finally took advantage of the opportunity they were provided when Rasmus Ristolainen scored a power play goal 1:23 into the third period as Carl Soderberg sat in the penalty box for hooking Matt Moulson in the final periods of the second period.

With the shootout loss, the Bruins improved to 83 points this season. They sit three points behind the Capitals for the first wild card spot in the Eastern Conference, though the Bruins do have one game in hand on Washington.

More importantly, the Senators’€™ win over the Hurricanes Tuesday means they have 79 points on the season through 69 games and trail the Bruins by four points for the second wild-card spot with one game in hand. The teams will meet Thursday night in a contest that could play a huge role in determining which team ultimately sees the postseason.

Here are four more things we learned Tuesday:

2 Us, 2 Ks, 2 sore

… Or that’€™s how the Bruins explained it, anyway. The team recalled Jeremy Smith on an emergency basis Tuesday and did not dress Tuukka Rask for the game at all.

The Bruins shared no information on Rask’€™s status during the day (though he did partake in morning skate), but they announced early in the game that their usual starter had missed the game with “€œgeneral soreness.”€

If that simply means that Rask’€™s tired, that’€™s fair enough. Sunday’€™s start against the Capitals brought Rask to 58 games played on the season, tying the career-high he set last season. There’€™s still 12 games remaining in the season, so he’€™ll eclipse that mark easily.

That said, it was wise for the B’€™s to choose Tuesday as a day to rest Rask and give Niklas Svedberg a rare start. The team has another three-in-four coming up, as they’€™ll face the Senators Thursday, the Panthers Saturday and the Lightning Sunday.


Eriksson scored the Bruins’€™ only goal of regulation, as he took a puck off an Adam McQuaid shot that bounced off Andre Benoit’€™s skate and then the end boards and jammed it past Anders Lindback.

The goal was Eriksson’€™s fourth goal in the last eight games. It also gave him 18 goals on the season. His 30-goal days may be over, but Eriksson should easily hit the 20-goal mark in his first fully healthy season with the B’€™s.


Carl Soderberg’€™s goal-less streak reached 24 games Tuesday, but he did pick up the secondary assist on Eriksson’€™s goal by winning an offensive-zone faceoff and getting the puck to McQuaid.

That assist made for just his sixth point during his current slump.

Soderberg finished the game with four shots on goal, and though he took the penalty that led to Buffalo’s third-period goal, his line with Chris Kelly and Eriksson had a dominant shift late in overtime in which the B’s had chance after chance.


With a third-period hooking penalty against Johan Larsson, Patrice Bergeron picked up his 39th and 40th penalty minutes of the season. That brings him within three of the career-high he set last season.

Bergeron’€™s penalty came at a critical time, as the B’€™s had squandered their lead minutes earlier. Furthermore, Bergeron is Boston’€™s best penalty killer not named Tuukka Rask (who was not playing) or Zdeno Chara.

Fortunately for Bergeron and the B’€™s, no damage was done on the ensuing power play. Chris Kelly hit the post on a shorthanded bid, while Svedberg made a timely save on Brian Gionta on the doorstep.

Bruins recall Jeremy Smith from Providence

03.17.15 at 4:22 pm ET
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The Bruins have called up goaltender Jeremy Smith from Providence, according to the AHL transactions page.

Niklas Svedberg was in the home net in Tuesday’s morning skate, suggesting he would be the starting goaltender Tuesday night against the Sabres. Mark Divver reported later Tuesday morning that Smith was on his way to Boston, and that the team may not dress Rask at all against Buffalo.

This marks Smith’s second callup of the season. He has yet to play an NHL game for the B’s. In 30 games for Providence this season, Smith has a .936 save percentage and a 1.96 goals-against average.

General managers propose 3-on-3 overtime

03.17.15 at 2:45 pm ET
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General managers have approved three-on-three regular-season overtime for next season, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman announced Tuesday. Such a change is still pending the approval of the NHL Players’€™ Association, which could take place when the Competition Committee and Board of Governors meet in June.

It is unknown how three-on-three overtime would be used, though the current AHL format would seem to be logical. Starting this season, the AHL has done four minutes of four-on-four play followed by three minutes of three-on-three. Games not settled by then go to a shootout, though the new format has settled games in overtime more often, with only 5.7 percent of games going to a shootout as of Sunday. That number is down quite a bit from 15.6 percent last season.

Such a rule change would be welcome to the Bruins, who are just 3-7 in shootouts this season. Earlier this month, Claude Julien bluntly said shootouts ‘€œsuck.’€ He followed that up last week by saying he hoped that general managers would approve three-on-three at this week’€™s GM meetings in Florida.

Also proposed by general managers is limited replay challenge, which would apply to goaltender inference and delay of game penalties.

Read More: Gary Bettman,
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