|10.31.15 at 9:39 pm ET|
The Bruins have a good record.
That sounds simple, yes, but it’s the biggest possible takeaway after the B’s swept their back-to-back in Florida by taking a 3-1 victory over the Lightning Saturday at Amalie Arena. With the win, the Bruins are now 6-3-1 and sit second in the Atlantic Division. Though they’re just 10 games into the season, their turnaround after an 0-3-0 start is nothing short of impressive. Though Tampa is slumping, the Bruins’ ability to beat the defending conference champs on the road in a low-scoring game with their backup goaltender in net is just as encouraging.
Prior to Friday’s game, the Bruins had not won a game without scoring five goals, a sign that the team was dependent upon its highly productive offense to cover up for its shortcomings. The B’s took 3-1 victories on back-to-back games, however, keeping the struggling Lightning quiet to leapfrog them in the standings. Jonas Gustavsson stopped 21 of the 22 shots he saw on the night, with a Brad Marchand empty netter sealing the win in a close game.
David Krejci‘s points streak came to an end at nine games, but the Bruins are now 6-0-1 in their last seven games and sit behind only the Canadiens in the Atlantic.
Here are four more things we learned Saturday:
CONNOLLY GETS REVENGE AS PP STRIKES AGAIN
After Brad Marchand drew a penalty during a third-period penalty kill, the Bruins were on the tail of a power play when Erik Condra was whistled for a very weak trip against Torey Krug. That gave the Bruins a 13-second two-man advantage, which proved to be enough time for Marchand to win a faceoff and set up a Brett Connolly goal to break a 1-1 tie. The goal came with four seconds left on the first penalty, meaning the Bruins remained on the power play for 1:51. Claude Julien deployed Connolly, Marchand, Jimmy Hayes, Zdeno Chara and Colin Miller for the 5-on-3 on which Connolly scored.
With his goal in Saturday’s game, Connolly now has points in six straight games (four goals, two assists). It also provided the former Lightning draft pick (sixth overall in 2010) a big moment against the team that traded him last season after deciding he was the odd man out in a deep group of wings.
It’s worth noting that the penalty Marchand drew was the second of the game and the third he’s drawn over the last two nights. The assist on Connolly’s goal means that Marchand has eight points (four goals and four assists) in six games since returning from a concussion on Oct. 17.
KEMPPAINEN RETURNS, RANDELL SITS
Joonas Kemppainen returned to the lineup Saturday after missing Friday’s game with an undisclosed injury that had also forced him to miss a pair of shifts Tuesday against the Coyotes.
With Kemppainen returning, Tyler Randell was made a healthy scratch. Randell joined Zach Trotman, who has now been scratched for nine consecutive games.
The lineup to begin the game was as follows, but it didn’t last:
PASTRNAK SITS AS JULIEN SHUFFLES LINES
Claude Julien began tinkering with the lines in the first period, playing Chris Kelly in Ryan Spooner’s place on the shift on which Matt Beleskey scored. Midway through the second period, the lines were almost completely changed.
The most notable change Julien made was to essentially bench David Pastrnak, playing Kelly in his place on David Krejci‘s line with Loui Eriksson. Joonas Kemppainen jumped up to replace Kelly with Hayes and Beleskey, with Spooner being dropped to a rarely used fourth line with Pastrnak and Zac Rinaldo. Pastrnak ended up taking just two shifts in the second period and one shift in the third, with Boston’s top line of Patrice Bergeron between Brad Marchand and Brett Connolly the only trio not changed.
BELESKEY NOTCHES SECOND WITH BRUINS
Beleskey didn’t get off to the hottest start with the Bruins, but with three points in his last three games (one goal, two assists), perhaps he’s starting to find his way. The shift on which Beleskey scored his second goal as a Bruin was far from graceful, but it showed the benefit of having wingers like him and Jimmy Hayes on the same line.
With Hayes battling Victor Hedman in the corner, the Dorchester native managed to get the puck to Colin Miller at the point as he was losing his balance. Miller fired a shot from the point that yielded a big rebound, with Beleskey battling his way to it and managing to score off-balance from the high slot.
|10.30.15 at 10:18 pm ET|
A penalty-heavy affair Friday night allowed the Bruins’ power play to keep up its strong start and Tuukka Rask to turn in his best performance of the young season. Those factors combined to deliver the Bruins a 3-1 victory over the Panthers at BB&T Center.
The B’s took five penalties over the final two periods, with Rask and Boston’s penalty killers silencing the Panthers with the exception of a Nick Bjugstad goal that came on a two-man advantage with Adam McQuaid playing with a broken stick in the second period. Shortly after, the Bruins killed off a 5-on-3 of 1:27 to protect Boston’s lead.
Rask, who stopped 31 of the 32 shots he saw on the night, has now allowed one goal over his last two games (2-0-0).
The win gave the Bruins five wins in their last six games and a six-game points streak (5-0-1). Boston’s longest points streak last season lasted eight games, with the B’s having two such streaks. Boston’s overall record through nine games is 5-3-1.
Here are four more things we learned Friday:
MARCHAND MONEY, BUT TOSSED
Marchand had a pair of goals Friday, the first of which came on a first-period power play and the second of which saw him take a hard pass from Torey Krug and backhand it past Roberto Luongo. The third period saw Marchand draw a hooking penalty from Brandon Pirri in the opening minute of the third following a self-pass in the neutral zone.
It wasn’t all good news for Marchand, however, as he was given a five-minute major and a game misconduct for boarding Dmitry Kulikov. Marchand and Claude Julien were both irate with the call, but it seemed a pretty open-and-shut case given that Marchand’s cross-check caused Kulikov’s face to hit the dasher pretty abruptly.
A good observation from The Patriot Ledger: Marchand now has points in each of his five games since returning from a concussion suffered in the second game of the season. Marchand has four goals and three assists for seven points since returning on the 17th against Arizona.
SECOND UNIT STRIKES AGAIN
Boston’s second power play unit doesn’t often see the light of day because, well, Claude Julien really likes the top unit because it scores a whole lot of goals. With Julien trying to devote as much time as possible in a given two-minute man advantage to David Krejci, Patrice Bergeron, Ryan Spooner, Loui Eriksson and Torey Krug (usually the first minute and a half or so), the power play is frequently over by the time Zdeno Chara‘s unit can even take the ice.
Friday marked the second straight game in which Chara’s unit has scored. Marchand redirected a point shot from Chara for his first goal of the game, which followed Marchand’s power play goal in the third period of Tuesday’s game against the Coyotes.
Chara added a power play goal of his own in the third period, burying the rebound of Krejci shot, though it came late in a power play with the rest of the first unit still on the ice.
MILLER PLAYS, KEMPPAINEN CAN’T GO
Kevan Miller was able to play Friday after missing the third period of Tuesday’s game and not practicing the last two days. Joonas Kemppainen, on the other hand, was kept out of the lineup after being called questionable for the game by Claude Julien. Kemppainen’s injury is not currently known, but it caused him to miss a couple of shifts in the third period of Tuesday’s contest.
With Kemppainen out, Zac Rinaldo returned to the lineup after being a healthy scratch Tuesday. Miller’s availability meant that Zach Trotman was scratched for the eighth straight game. The lineup was as follows:
KREJCI STAYS HOT
With his shot that yielded the rebound on which Chara scored in the second period, Krejci extended his season-opening points streak to nine games. He now has seven goals and eight assists for 15 points in nine games this season.
Also extending his point streak was Brett Connolly, who now has points in all four games since being scratched and his last five games total. Connolly had the secondary assist on Marchand’s second goal.
|10.29.15 at 10:23 am ET|
WILMINGTON — The Bruins saw one defenseman return and another one miss practice at Ristuccia Arena. Dennis Seidenberg participated in his first practice of the season, while Kevan Miller was absent after suffering an injury Tuesday against the Coyotes.
Also absent from practice was Joonas Kemppainen, who missed a couple of shifts Tuesday as well. David Pastrnak, who missed the last 8:48 of the game after taking a shot off the foot, participated fully in Thursday’s practice. According to Steve Conroy of the Boston Herald, Miller skated briefly before practice.
Claude Julien said after practice that Miller and Kemppainen will make the trip to Florida for this weekend’s games. Both are game-time decisions for Friday’s game, though Julien said he expects both to play.
“Today was probably more maintenance and allowing him to be better for tomorrow,” Julien said of Miller, adding that such was also the case for Kemppainen.
The forward lines in practice were as follows:
Should Miller and Kemppainen both play, the Bruins’ lineup would figure to be unchanged from Tuesday’s win over the Coyotes, which saw Zach Trotman and Zac Rinaldo as the healthy scratches. Trotman, who has been a healthy scratch for the last seven games, would play should Miller not be able to go.
Seidenberg has been out since training camp after getting back surgery on Sept. 24. He has been skating since last Monday, but Thursday marked his first time on the ice with teammates since the surgery.
“For him, it was more to get him a little bit more encouraged by being with other players out there,” Julien said. “He just did the line drills and the puck-moving part of it. He still has a ways to go; he definitely can’t take any contact, but just the fact that he’s able to be out there with us is definitely encouraging for him.”
|10.28.15 at 8:15 pm ET|
Panthers games aren’t just Shawn Thornton reunion nights anymore for the Bruins. In addition to former B’s Thornton, Steven Kampfer and Jaromir Jagr, the B’s will see Reilly Smith Friday in the first meeting between the teams since Smith was traded to Florida in the offseason.
Smith’s two-year tenure with the Bruins had highs and lows that were exacerbated by a number of things. In addition to being part of the return for Tyler Seguin, Smith was extremely streaky. Because the Bruins were low on cap space last season, the B’s had to stick him with an underpayment of a $1.4 million one-year contract. Peter Chiarelli made it up to Smith by giving him a two-year extension worth $3.42 million a year, a contract that, despite not being much of an overpayment for Smith’s previous work, it was given during a 13-goal season. When the offseason came, new general manager Don Sweeney traded Smith to Florida for Jimmy Hayes and devoted the money saved towards Matt Beleskey’s contract in free agency.
The Bruins gave up a good player. At 24, Smith could very well end up having a better career than Hayes or Beleskey. With Smith off to a strong start (seven points in nine games), he’s been able to adjust well to a new team, just as he did when he began the 2013-14 season in impressive fashion with the Bruins. If there’s a silver lining for him with his departure, however, it’s that the pressure that was often on the self-effacing winger in Boston won’t be there in Florida.
“Yeah, he seems to stick to himself and be a little quiet,” former linemate Brad Marchand said of Smith. “Sometimes guys can thrive in those environments where there’s not as much pressure. Maybe that’s why he fits well down there right now. You don’t really have the choice of where you’re going to be a lot of the time, so you’ve got to be able to adapt and play in that situation.”
Marchand said he is not surprised that Smith is performing well. He noted that last season’s low output from Smith was a product of him missing a large portion of training camp because he hadn’t yet been given a contract.
“He’s a really good player. He’s very skilled,” Marchand said. “He’s going to get his points and goals in this league. He’s going to do well.”
When the points didn’t come for Smith in Boston, things seemed to snowball. When Smith got sick and lost weight during his first season with the Bruins, he had a hard time finding his game again before finally reigning it in the playoffs. Last season, with the Bruins fighting for a playoff spot down the stretch, Smith scored just one goal over his last 22 games and was made a healthy scratch on March 21 in Florida. His struggles while all eyes were on the B’s made him an easy target for fans and observers.
“It’s a town where you’re expected to do well and you’re expected to play to your ability. I think in Florida, in lesser hockey markets, it’s a little different. You can get away with that kind of stuff and hide in the weeds, but there’s a lot of media attention here and the fans are very into the stats and the games and they keep an eye on that stuff,” Marchand said. “So you can’t get away with it, you can’t hide. Same thing in the room. Guys expect a lot and expect you to carry your weight.”
Added Marchand: “I think you’ve got to be able to understand each guy on the team and find a way to work with him. I don’t know exactly what his [outlook is] and how he wants to deal with situations, but regardless, when we do have that pressure on us and we’re in a tough situation, we need everyone to step up. Regardless of if you like it or not, you’ve still got to be able to play your game.”
|10.28.15 at 1:06 pm ET|
That Brett Connolly has scored goals in all three games since being a healthy scratch is a great sign. Here’s another one: He’s drawing penalties instead of taking them.
Connolly, whose most memorable plays from his five games with the B’s last season were the five minor penalties he took in two games, has drawn two penalties in the last three games. He also hasn’t taken a single penalty over his seven games this season. The Bruins want Connolly to perform and stay disciplined. So far, he’s done both.
“I think it kind of comes with the territory of playing hard and finishing your checks,” Connolly said Wednesday. “When you’re finishing your checks and you’re being hard to play against, it’s usually the time when guys will take penalties on you and do things that they maybe they wouldn’t do if you’re not playing hard against them. I think just playing hard, that’s when guys will take penalties on you.”
A good example of that came Tuesday night, when Connolly finished a hit on Oliver Ekman-Larsson and got the Coyotes defenseman to take an undisciplined interference penalty in retaliation. The Bruins didn’t score on the ensuing power play, but they did two games earlier when Connolly drew a high-sticking double-minor. Forty-six seconds after Claude Giroux went to the box for the infraction, Patrice Bergeron scored to tie a game the Bruins would eventually lose.
Playing with Bergeron and Brad Marchand has undoubtedly led to his increased production, as the first-line duo has set up each of his three goals since he returned to the lineup. That he’s staying disciplined could prolong his stay in the top six.
“It’s better to be drawing them than taking them,” Connolly said. “I’ve been on a little bit of a streak here of not taking penalties. I knew that it was going to fade away and go away. I haven’t really been the guy to take a lot of penalties in the past. It’s been good. I think that I’ve just got to continue playing hard and being hard to play against. Hopefully they’ll keep taking penalties.”
The “that” to which Connolly refers is the ugly two-game stretch late last season. Full of energy after missing about a month with a broken finger suffered in his second practice, Connolly’s penalties put the B’s in a bad spot as they tried to secure a playoff spot. The B’s lost both of those games, with Connolly’s high-sticking penalty against the Panthers leading to a power play goal.
“Maybe I came in, you’re so excited to play and you’re maybe trying to do a little bit too much,” Connolly said. “It was frustrating for sure, when you’re always in the box and then the coach isn’t happy with you. It was something I had to adjust to, and I thought I’ve been better at it as of late.”
Said Claude Julien: “He comes in, he wants to make an impression going hard. Sometimes you try so hard, you’re not always doing the right things. I think now he’s more — I keep using the word — he’s more comfortable in what we’re doing here. He’s just going out there and playing his game. I think whenever he skates the way he skates, and with his big body and his strength, he has to have guys drag him down or hold him. That’s the reason I think he’s drawing penalties.”
It was just a week ago that things weren’t looking great for the scratched Connolly. His return has seen plenty of reasons as to why he shouldn’t expect to be a healthy scratch again soon.
|10.28.15 at 11:55 am ET|
WILMINGTON — The Bruins had an optional practice Wednesday, with 11 players taking the ice at Ristuccia Arena.
Not surprisingly, Kevan Miller, David Pastrnak and Joonas Kemppainen were not part of that group. All three left Tuesday’s 6-0 win over the Coyotes for various lengths. Claude Julien said after the game that the players left for precautionary reasons, but his words Wednesday weren’t as optimistic.
“They’re still being evaluated,” Julien said. “I don’t have an update on them right now. They’re still being evaluated. I think it’s probably still too early to give a diagnosis as far as how serious it is or how non-serious it is. [We’ll] probably [have] a better idea tomorrow.”
Miller left the game midway through the second period after going into the boards due to a hook from Tobias Rieder. He came back for two more shifts to end the period but did not play the third. Pastrnak missed the final 8:48 due to a shot off the foot he took early in the third period. Kemppainen missed a pair of shifts in the third period but returned to the game.
|10.27.15 at 11:57 pm ET|
If they’d lost on Tuesday, the Bruins would have been in Original Six territory.
As in the 1951-52 Original Six Bruins, the last version of the B’s to start a season winless on home ice for more than four games; that season Milt Schmidt’s boys went 0-5-4 out of the gate en route to a fourth-place finish.
Instead of Original Six, the 2015-16 Bruins went Additional Six on Tuesday night with a 6-0 shutout of the Coyotes to snap their 0-3-1 homely open to the year.
“It was nice to finally get a home win and get that out of the way,” Bruins winger Loui Eriksson said with a satisfied sigh.
Instead of the Bronx cheers that were heard sprinkled in at TD Garden during losses to Winnipeg, Montreal, Tampa Bay and Philadelphia, Tuesday night’s win ended with a standing ovation of approval raining down from the local faithful who stayed to the final horn.
“We felt like we kind of owed them a little bit. We owed them the win,” David Krejci said on a night when he added two more goals to his growing personal collection of seven markers on the year. “Big for the standings and our fans as well. Obviously, you like to get the first one at home. We were close the last couple times, but it was big to get the first one finally. The way we played today, we got the fans on our side.”
Bruins coach Claude Julien didn’t want to go so far as saying the poor home start was weighing on his team, but he certainly acknowledged that home success is important. After all, just two years ago Boston’s 31-7-3 mark on home ice buoyed the team to a 117-point season and the top seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
“I think the fact that we were playing better the last four games [overall] — we had the one overtime loss — I think our guys felt if they kept playing the way they could it was just a matter of time,” Julien said. “I think it’s more about a pride thing. Our home building has to be something that doesn’t bode well for teams coming in here. And right now we’ve made too many teams feel comfortable. That’s what we’re trying to change.”