|03.24.15 at 10:23 pm ET|
If Brett Connolly hadn’t broken his finger, rendering him a non-factor down the stretch before he ever played a game for the Bruins, maybe the Reilly Smith problem wouldn’t matter as much as it does.
If Connolly were healthy and in the lineup, he would provide the B’s with a viable option to take Smith’s minutes and, with any hope, do more with them than Smith has.
Connolly isn’t there, however, and the Bruins’ playoff chances are slipping away while Smith’s confidence is seemingly nowhere to be found. On a team loaded with players who can run hot and cold, Smith has been at his coldest at the worst time imaginable.
The Bruins need the Smith of early last season and last postseason. The current Smith — the one who has no goals in his last 13 games and only 12 this season despite playing most of the year with one of the best centers in the world in Patrice Bergeron — needs to access the smarts and mindset that have previously made him a good top-sixer. It’s anyone’s guess as to whether that happens down the stretch, including him.
“I think you try to build it every day,” Smith said when asked if his confidence is where it needs to be. “Obviously when the team’s struggling and things aren’t working out, your confidence isn’t going to be as high as it usually is, but it’s something you’ve got to kind of work around.”
Smith missed the first game of his two-year Bruins career on Saturday when he was made a healthy scratch against the Panthers. Uninspired play — most notably a dreadful showing against the Senators last Thursday in which he had two turnovers that led to goals and was given just one shift over the final 28:03 — led to the benching, but he was back in the lineup the next day. Smith picked up an assist on Zdeno Chara‘s third-period power play goal against the Lightning, good for just his first point in seven games.
Tuesday’s practice saw Smith skate with Carl Soderberg and Loui Eriksson, while David Krejci held Smith’s usual spot to the right of Patrice Bergeron. Krejci playing with Marchand and Bergeron makes for a loaded first line, but the Bruins have historically had success with balance throughout their top three lines, if not all four.
That means that Smith needs to start producing regardless of where he plays. Even when Connolly returns, the prospects of him contributing are worse than they were prior to the injury, as finger injuries can still keep players off their games for a while after they return to action.
Four goals in 12 games. That’s what Smith brought to the table last postseason. It wasn’t anything remarkable, but it was consistent with his role. He’s been too quiet for too long this season, and he needs to find the aforementioned production to avoid being an easy scapegoat in a lost season.
“I think I can, and that’s obviously the goal, I think for everyone on this team,” Smith said. “These are a very important nine games coming up here at the end and we’re going to need our best effort coming from everyone. Anything you can do and anything extra is definitely going to go a long way in this stretch here.”
|03.24.15 at 4:08 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — As has been documented many a time, Tuukka Rask has been given much more work this season than he’s ever experienced. His 61 games played are already three more than he’d ever played in a regular season, and there are still nine games to go.
Rest be damned, the Bruins might need to start Rask in each and every one of those games, or until a playoff spot is secured if that happens at all. Without saying those exact words, Rask seemingly admitted as much Tuesday.
“Nobody cares about that now,” he said of potential fatigue. “We’re playing the most important games of the year. Obviously rest is important, but when it’s game time, it’s game time, and then you rest when you have a chance to rest.”
This season, Rask has for the most part been asked about two things: whether he’s tired and whether he’s had it with the product in front of him. At worst, Rask has been average this season, and at best he’s been brilliant. That’s better than most Bruins can say for themselves this season.
After Tampa scored their fourth goal in Sunday’s 5-3 win over the B’s, Rask gestured in frustration, as he has frequently this season. He said that while he’s frustrated that the team is losing, he’s trying to not let the team’s struggles get to him.
“I’ve been pretty even all season,” Rask said. “Obviously, it’s frustrating when you have these ups and downs. We play good and then we play really bad and we never seem to settle, so obviously it’s frustrating for everybody, but if I get too frustrated, then I’m just going to slip away from my game.”
The Bruins are in the midst of a three-day break between Sunday’s game and their next contest on Thursday against the Ducks. They have two more back-to-backs on their schedule and three three-in-fours. The team should be able to start their backup in a game like Sunday’s against the Hurricanes and be confident in winning, but maybe that’s too big a risk to take with a playoff spot on the line.
Rask said he’d be willing to play all nine games, even if he didn’t sound too enthusiastic about the idea.
“I don’t know. We’ll see how it goes,” he said. “I’ll play as many as I need to.”
As for what needs to get better in front of him to make his nights easier and the Bruins’ chances of securing a playoff spot greater, Rask said he couldn’t point to one specific issue.
“It’s just team defense,” Rask said. “There’s not one thing. When we defend as a unit and everybody does their job, I think that’s when we’re at our best. There’s not really one thing that we need to figure out more than everybody just playing together as a unit and defending in front of the net.”
|03.24.15 at 12:47 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — The Bruins need David Krejci back as soon as possible, but neither he nor the team is committing to his availability for Thursday’s game against the Ducks.
Krejci has been out since Feb. 20 with a partially torn MCL. Claude Julien had said last week that he was a possibility to return as early as last weekend’s games against the Panthers in Lightning, but Krejci remained out of the lineup. On Tuesday, Krejci skated as the right wing of Patrice Bergeron‘s line with Brad Marchand.
After the practice, Krejci was noncommittal regarding whether he could return for Thursday.
“It was a possibility last game, but I wasn’t able to,” Krejci said. “It’s a possibility for next game again.”
Krejci then went into Marshawn Lynch mode, repeating some variation of “it felt pretty good today” when asked whether the delay in returning to the lineup is due to him not being cleared or because he doesn’t feel ready.
Asked if the Bruins were still in “wait-and-see” mode with Krejci for Thursday, Claude Julien responded, “yes we are.”
Krejci has been limited to 38 games this season due to multiple lower-body injuries. He is third on the Bruins with 1.87 points per 60 minutes.
|03.24.15 at 11:09 am ET|
WILMINGTON — Following Tuesday’s practice, Claude Julien said that Dougie Hamilton is “out indefinitely” and that the team will reevaluate his status later in the week.
A source told WEEI.com that Hamilton’s injury is a weeks thing, and not a months thing. If the Bruins make the playoffs and string together something of a run, Hamilton could return in the postseason.
That said, the source revealed that Hamilton’s injury will take “more than a few weeks to heal.”
The nature of Hamilton’s injury has yet to be revealed, but one should take caution with the guessing game of which area Hamilton injured Saturday against the Panthers.
With Hamilton out and the team struggling (0-3-2 over the last five games), Boston’s lineup was notably different in practice:
The B’s will next play Thursday when they host the Ducks at TD Garden.
For more Bruins news, visit weei.com/bruins.
|03.23.15 at 1:18 pm ET|
The Bruins currently sit in the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, but are just one point ahead of the Senators, who hold two games in hand.
“I don’t like the way Ottawa’s playing so well, and I don’t like the way the Bruins are playing. … I’m very concerned because if you look at the schedule, the Bruins have a very difficult schedule,” Roenick said. “I think Ottawa’s schedule is a little bit more lenient, and they have two games in hand.”
Added Roenick: “Sometimes you have to find things to rally around, and the Bruins have to find something. Because if not, their schedule does not bode well for them in terms of the schedule compared to Ottawa’s schedule.”
The most recent setback for the Bruins came on Sunday, when they lost 5-3 to the Lightning. It was their fifth straight loss when every point matters to keep their playoff hopes alive.
“They’ve had trouble scoring goals and they have to start scoring some goals,” Roenick said. “And to give up as many goals as they did yesterday is just unheard of.”
The Hall of Fame center believes that in order to turn their losing streak around, the Bruins will have to rely on the veterans in the locker room.
“I would get my leaders in the room, you know, they guys that have been there, the guys that are supposed to lead this team,” Roenick said. “And I would get them to inspire the boys, whether it’s verbally, whether it’s lifting their game up. You know, I was always a yeller and screamer, and I always responded to yelling and screaming. And I did respond better to it when it came from my teammates. And desperate times deserve desperate measures. I think a lot of guys would accept getting yelled at, screamed at to work harder if it meant they were going to make the playoffs and they were going to play better.”
If the B’s fail to make the playoffs, Roenick believes there will be consequences for the people in charge of the team.
“Missing playoffs always costs somebody their job,” Roenick said. “I hope that’s not the case, I think [Claude Julien and Peter Chiarelli] have been very good. But I would worry about Chiarelli’s job if they miss, because if you look at the trade deadline, not enough was done at the trade deadline to bring in the type of players that are needed for that last push, and that’s going to be brought down on Chiarelli.”
For more Bruins news, visit the team page at weei.com/bruins.
|03.22.15 at 7:32 pm ET|
The Bruins made their hole even deeper hole Sunday, suffering a 5-3 loss to the Lightning that extended their losing streak to five games (0-3-2).
The loss leaves the Bruins at 84 points on the season through 73 games, with the Senators (83 points in 71 games) in leap-frog the B’s for the second wild card spot in the Eastern Conference as soon as Monday.
While Sunday’s game became disastrous for the Bruins midway through the first period, it actually began on a positive note. Patrice Bergeron scored during a delayed penalty call just 33 seconds into the game, but the Lightning would answer back with three unanswered goals in the first, two of which were scored in a 15-second span. Tampa’s mid-period scoring run to break what was then a 1-1 tie came moments after a fight between Steven Stamkos and Brad Marchand.
A Jason Garrison point shot made the game 4-1 and chased Tuukka Rask 7:54 into the second period. Rask, who was playing in his 61st game of the season, stopped only eight of the 12 shots he faced before he was replaced by Niklas Svedberg.
Zdeno Chara cut the lead to 4-2 with a power-play goal at 10:22 of the third, but Tampa increased their lead back to three with an Ondrej Palat tally on the man advantage. Daniel Paille made it 5-3 with 47.7 seconds remaining.
The Bruins played Sunday’s game without both Dougie Hamilton and David Krejci. Hamilton will undergo further testing on an undisclosed injury back in Boston on Monday, while Krejci’s return — initially believed to come as soon as this weekend — will have to wait. Reilly Smith returned to the lineup after being made a healthy scratch Saturday. Smith picked up an assist on Chara’s goal.
For the Lightning, Sunday marked the first time they have defeated the Bruins in their last 11 meetings, as Tampa entered Sunday having not beaten the Bruins since March 15, 2012.
The B’s will return home to Boston after an 0-2-1 road trip, but an extremely difficult two-game homestand awaits. The B’s will first face the Ducks at TD Garden before hosting the Rangers on Saturday.
|03.22.15 at 11:57 am ET|
Dougie Hamilton will not play Sunday against the Lightning due to injury, according to a source. With Hamilton out, the Bruins recalled defenseman Zach Trotman from Providence on an emergency basis Sunday.
Hamilton will undergo further testing back in Boston on Monday. He did not play at all in the third period or overtime of Saturday night’s shootout loss to the Panthers, seemingly due to a second-period play in which he was hit by both Nick Bjugstad and Scottie Upshall.
The Bruins had only been carrying six defensemen. Trotman was recalled last weekend for Saturday’s game against the Penguins, but was returned to Providence without playing any games during the callup.
Trotman has played 17 games for the Bruins this season, registering four assists.
Sunday will mark the first game Hamilton has missed this season. He has played in every game this season, making him one of just three Bruins to play in each of the first 72 games for the Bruins.
For more Bruins news, visit weei.com/bruins.