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Sunday Skate Live Chat: ‘The Bruins could actually miss the playoffs’ edition

03.21.15 at 10:48 pm ET
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Are the Bruins really going to miss the playoffs? What happens if they do? Is Dougie Hamilton alright? Where is David Krejci going to play?

Discuss these burning issues and whatever else you want in the Sunday Skate Live Chat with Pete Blackburn, DJ Bean and Joe McDonald from 7-9 a.m. Click here to listen to the show online.

Live Blog Sunday Skate Live Chat
 

5 things we learned as Bruins lose Dougie Hamilton and (for now) control of playoff destiny

03.21.15 at 9:56 pm ET
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Dougie Hamilton

Dougie Hamilton

On Saturday night, the Bruins lost Dougie Hamilton to an undisclosed injury, a shootout to the Panthers and, although they still sit eighth in the Eastern Conference, ultimate control of the final playoff spot.

After the B’€™s and Panthers skated to a 1-1 tie through 65 minutes, Brandon Pirri scored the only goal of the shootout as Florida took a 2-1 win and improved to 80 points on the season through 72 games.

The loser point gave the B’€™s 84 points through 72 games, but a Senators victory over the Maple Leafs Saturday improved Ottawa to 83 points through 71 games, as they hold a game in hand on Boston. Should both teams win all their remaining games, the Senators would get in over the Bruins.

Dougie Hamilton left with an undisclosed injury that appeared to be suffered on a second-period play in which he was hit by both Nick Bjugstad and Scottie Upshall.

Hamilton left the game early in the second period, but returned to take four more shifts in the second. He was not on the bench to begin the third period, with the team announcing shortly after that he was done for the night.

The Bruins will play the second game of their current back-to-back Sunday in Tampa.

Here are four more things we learned Saturday:

SMITH SITS

Reilly Smith missed the first game of his Bruins career Saturday night, and it wasn’€™t for a particularly flattering reason.

Smith was made a healthy scratch for the Panthers game after committing a pair of turnovers that led to goals Thursday night against the Senators. Smith had also been benched for all but one shift of the final 28:03 of the Senators game.

With Smith benched, Brian Ferlin was inserted into the lineup on the fourth line and Daniel Paille moved up to play with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand.

The lines were as follows:

Marchand-Bergeron-Paille
Kelly-Soderberg-Eriksson
Lucic-Spooner-Pastrnak
Ferlin-Campbell-Talbot

Claude Julien moved David Pastrnak up to play with Bergeron and Marchand in the third period, though that could have been due to a possible injury for Paille, who was back on the ice for overtime.

KELLY PUSHES RIGHT BUTTONS

Ryan Spooner and Dougie Hamilton picked up the assists on Bergeron’€™s second-period goal, but Chris Kelly played just as big a part.

Kelly, who is sneaky good at pestering opponents to draw penalties, took a shot at Dave Bolland in the neutral zone, knocking his helmet off and getting Bolland to high-stick him. Only Bolland’€™s infraction was called, and it led to the power play on which Bergeron tied the game.

This wasn’€™t the first time Kelly has irked an opponent to successfully draw a retaliatory penalty. He did it before a faceoff to Jakub Voracek back on Jan. 10, getting Voracek to take an interference penalty off a faceoff to set up a Boston power play on which David Pastrnak scored.

SEIDENBERG HAS ANOTHER ROUGH NIGHT

This obviously hasn’€™t been a good season for Dennis Seidenberg, but you could imagine the veteran defenseman was especially looking to bounce back from a horrid showing in which he and partner Matt Bartkowski for the Senators’€™ first three goals Thursday. It didn’€™t happen.

Seidenberg took a penalty in each of the first two periods Saturday, but it was a lapse in coverage that was particularly costly Saturday. Jimmy Hayes slipped behind the 33-year-old defenseman in front of the net, leaving him space to take a feed that Bolland backhanded toward the net from the corner and jam it past Rask.

Rask bailed out Seidenberg and every other Bruin on the ice late in the game when he reached back to rob Bolland with a brilliant stick save on what looked like a sure goal for the Panthers with about seven minutes left in regulation.

THORNTON HITS 600

Former Bruin Shawn Thornton skated in his 600th NHL game. The vast majority came with the Bruins, as Thornton played in 450 regular-season contests for the B’€™s.

An interesting note from the great Jack Edwards: Thornton became the first player to play 600 AHL games before playing 600 NHL games.

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.

BURGER KINGS

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.

SPOONER REPEATS HISTORY

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:

Marchand-Bergeron-Smith
Lucic-Spooner-Krejci
Kelly-Soderberg-Eriksson
Paille-Campbell-Talbot-Ferlin

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 STAYS HOT

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.

… AND SODERBERG GETS A LITTLE WARMER?

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.

BERGERON CLOSING IN ON CAREER-HIGH IN PENALTY MINUTES

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.

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