|03.05.16 at 11:48 am ET|
The Eastern Conference picture has been clear pretty much all season: There’s the Capitals and there’s everyone else.
In ranking first in the NHL in goals per game and third in goals against per game, the Capitals are the clear favorite to represent the East in the Stanley Cup Final this season, but at the very least, they will run away with the Presidents’ Trophy. Their 98 points through 64 games puts them on pace for 126 points; since the return from the 2004-05 lockout, only twice has a team had a 120-point season (Detroit with 124 in 2005-06 and Washington with 121 in 2009-10). The Capitals have beaten the B’s in both of the teams’ meetings entering Saturday’s contest at TD Garden.
The Bruins are among the teams trying to establish themselves as a potential “other Eastern Conference powerhouse.” As the last Eastern Conference to win the Cup and a common favorite in seasons leading up to this one, the Bruins know well that being considered the favorite in the East doesn’t always pan out. Boston dominated the 2011-12 regular season before being knocked off by the No. 7 ranked Capitals in seven games.
“Let me put it this way: Every playoffs, there’s been surprises,” Claude Julien said Saturday morning. “I don’t put a ton of stock into who’s in and who’s out. We all know Washington’s one of the favorites in our conference; rightfully so. They have a great team and their record shows it, but in this game anything can happen.
“We go about our business and go day-by-day. To overthink that situation to me is not healthy. To just go out there and do your job and look forward to what you have to do is probably the best way to look at that situation.”
Dennis Seidenberg said that if the Bruins are no longer considered in the class they once were, it alleviates the pressure that their stronger clubs of seasons past had.
“We like being in the underdog role,” Seidenberg said. “It means we can perform without pressure, but that team is really good over there. They’re very, very deep, very balanced scoring, very deep on defense. They’re the favorite for a reason, but with that comes a lot of pressure, a lot of certainty. Once we get into the playoffs, anything can happen. That’s what happened to us when we lost against them in seven games. If there’s a team that plays well at the right time and has a goalie that plays very well, anything can happen. We’ll see.”
The Bruins will try to pull off their second consecutive upset against a Cup favorite Saturday when they host the Capitals. Much like the Blackhawks team that Boston defeated on Thursday, the Capitals will be playing the second night of a back-to-back and will have their backup goaltender in net.
Still, defeating the Blackhawks and Capitals in succession would not only be a feather in this post-deadline Bruins team’s cap, but it would secure much-needed points that many figured would be unattainable this week. The Bruins enter Saturday’s game in third place in the Atlantic Division, though current wild card Detroit sits three points behind them with one game in hand. Including Saturday, the B’s have 17 games remaining in their regular-season schedule.
“Before you know it, the season will be over,” Julien said. “There’s not that many games left, so we need to assert ourselves every game. It’s not so much what it means more than what we need to do here. We need to bring our A game and understand that we have to play a lot like we did the other night, be strong in all areas in order to beat good teams like Washington.”
|03.04.16 at 9:36 am ET|
Pierre McGuire of NBC Sports joined Ordway, Merloni & Fauria on Thursday to discuss the state of the Bruins after the trade deadline. To hear the interview, visit the Ordway, Merloni & Fauria audio on demand page.
After rumors were swirling that Bruins general manager Don Sweeney was in the market for a bigger deal, the team only ended up with two relatively minor acquisitions when all was said and done. While the moves did not blow anyone away, some feel they will make a positive impact.
“I thought Boston had to do something, and they did. I like the additions that they made, subtle little additions. Lee Stempniak and John-Michael Liles I think will address some of the needs of the Bruins,” McGuire said. “It changes a little bit of the batting order, it will be interesting to see how they play it when Stempniak’s there and comfortable with the group. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him replace Brett Connolly on the line with [Brad] Marchand and [Patrice] Bergeron, bump Connolly a little deeper in the lineup. John-Michael Liles will help their transition game. So I’m really encouraged by what Boston did.”
Bruins fans are hoping these moves will be enough to make the team a legitimate contender. The next few games will be very telling as to where the B’s fit in the NHL.
“Here’s how I look at the whole league: I think there’s Los Angeles, there’s Anaheim, there’s Chicago, there’s Washington,” McGuire said. “There’s that group that’s ahead of everybody else, and then there’s the next tier. That’s where we’ll see whether Boston fits in the next tier or not.”
|03.03.16 at 9:32 pm ET|
Whether he cared about personal accomplishments or just wanted a measuring-stick win, Claude Julien had to like what he saw Thursday against the Blackhawks.
The Bruins defeated the defending Stanley Cup champions, 4-2, at TD Garden behind a strong effort that gave Julien his 387th regular-season win as Bruins coach, tying him with Art Ross for the most in team history.
By turning in a clean defensive performance and got balanced scoring in the victory, the Bruins improved to 37-23-6 on the season (78 points) to remain third in the Atlantic Division. Tuukka Rask stopped 25 of the 27 shots he saw, though improved play in front of the net made his night easier than it’s been for much of the season.
Here are four more things we learned Thursday:
ERIKSSON BACK TO SCORING AFTER LINE SWITCH
Claude Julien kept the lines that he used in the third period of Tuesday’s game against the Flames, which saw Loui Eriksson and Matt Beleskey switch spots. Beleskey played on the left of David Krejci and David Pastrnak, while Eriksson moved to the third line with Ryan Spooner and Jimmy Hayes as the B’s used the following lineup:
After going four straight games without a point, Eriksson got back on the scoresheet with a second-period goal to bring his season total to 24.
|03.03.16 at 11:56 am ET|
When the preliminary roster of Team Canada was chosen for the World Cup of Hockey, general manager Doug Armstrong called the members of the 2014 Olympic team that had not yet been named to the roster. It was a classy thing to do, not only to soften the blow but to remind the players that they could still be in the mix for the June 1 final roster.
The question then becomes whether a similar call was placed to non-Olympians who just missed the cut. Did Armstrong call the other fringe-players not yet named to Team Canada?
“Nope,” Brad Marchand said with a laugh Thursday. “Not me, anyways.”
“You’d have to talk to Bergy about that,” Marchand added when asked about having contact with the Hockey Canada folks. “He would know a lot more than me.”
Marchand was one of many capable players not included on the preliminary roster of 16, which was revealed Wednesday. While teammates past and present such as Tyler Seguin and Patrice Bergeron were named to the squad, Marchand will now join Canadians such as P.K. Subban, Mark Giordano and Claude Giroux as those hopeful to eventually make the team.
Perhaps a longshot to make the team at the beginning of the season, Marchand’s career-high 32 goals and counting have entered him into the discussion. After twice winning the gold in representing Canada in the 2007 and 2008 World Juniors, Marchand would like to once again compete internationally. With that said, he hid any disappointment in not making the initial 16 well.
“I think when you look at the team, there’s a lot o phenomenal players on that roster,” Marchand said. “I was very happy for all the guys, [having] played with Segs and Bergy, it was great to see them on that list. I’m very happy for both of them.”
Claude Julien will be an assistant coach under head coach Mike Babcock for the team. Though Marchand joked that he thought he was on Julien’s good side, Julien was diplomatic in not showing his bias.
“We’ll see with time,” Julien said. “There’s obviously a lot of names out there. As you often hear, Canada could probably make a couple of teams and still be pretty competitive. He’s definitely a guy that’s on the radar, but the top 16 have been named and there’s a lot of guys that could have been named too on those top 16s. We’ll see how the rest of the season goes here. A lot of players are still on the radar.”
Bergeron was less guarded, giving Marchand his full endorsement.
“It would be great,” Bergeron said. “I think he’s proven himself over the years, and especially this year, how good he is and competitive he is every game. He always makes something happen every time he steps on the ice. Right now, he’s on pace for getting to close to 40. He’s been very impressive this year and has been a huge part of helping me be a good player every game.”
One glaring difference between Marchand and the 16 players who did make the team: supplemental discipline. Though there are players on Team Canada who have been suspended by the NHL in the past (Duncan Keith twice, as well as that badass Jonathan Toews who was likely out doing badass things when he committed the suspendable act of declining to play in the All-Star Game this year), none have the reputation of Marchand, who has been suspended four times for a total of 12 games over the course of his NHL career.
“I don’t think that how you play against other players on the ice is going to affect how a team or your chemistry’s going to be,” Marchand said. “Guys in this league know that every day you go on the ice, you’re doing a job. We all go out there to do the same thing. That’s to help our team win, however you do that. Guys play harder than I do or dirtier than I do. I don’t think that has any affect on it. I think it’s more about who they think is going to help the team win.”
|03.02.16 at 6:21 pm ET|
Plenty of Bruins will be absent for next season’s training camp.
With teams naming the first 16 players of their World Cup of Hockey rosters Wednesday, the Bruins figure to be well-represented. Seven current Bruins were named on Wednesday, with Tuukka Rask (Finland) David Krejci and David Pastrnak (Czech Republic), Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg (Team Europe), Loui Eriksson (Sweden) and Patrice Bergeron (Canada) selected by various squads to play in the tournament.
The biggest omission regarding the B’s is Brad Marchand, who has not yet been selected to Team Canada but still could be when the final 23-man squad is picked. Also absent from Team Canada’s preliminary roster was Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban.
The deadline for final rosters is June 1. The tournament, which was last played in 2004 but will now be played every four years, will take place from Sept. 17 to Oct. 1 in Toronto.
|03.02.16 at 1:30 am ET|
Energy. Momentum. Presence. Toughness.
These were some of the qualities associated with the famous “Merlot Line” of Boston’s 2011 Stanley Cup championship team.
But in 2016 — with neither Shawn Thornton, Gregory Campbell nor Daniel Paille walking through that door to don that unit’s burgundy-colored practice jerseys — the Bruins’ fourth line would settle for bringing a steady dose of just one of the aforementioned qualities. Not to mention it would settle for just being settled.
On Tuesday night at TD Garden against Calgary, with two new forwards in the B’s dressing room thanks to changes made at the NHL trade deadline, a brand new Bruins fourth line took the ice in the form of Landon Ferraro, Noel Acciari and Brett Connolly.
First there was the demoted Connolly, 23, playing in his 61st game of the season but jettisoned from Patrice Bergeron’s right wing on Tuesday as 33-year-old newcomer Lee Stempniak took his place.
“Well, they made a decision, and I’m not going to sit here and cry about it,” Connolly said after Boston’s 2-1 victory. “The [trades] were good, and you know our team got better, and that’s a GM’s job is to make the team better. And you know, we’ll see what happens, things can change.”
|03.01.16 at 9:39 pm ET|
One-game overreactions are silly, but here’s one: The post-deadline Bruins are good enough to barely muster a win against one of the worst teams in the NHL.
After Calgary was called for too many men on the ice with 4:07 remaining in regulation, Patrice Bergeron scored on the power play to break a third-period tie and give the Bruins a much-needed 2-1 victory over the hapless Flames. The win allowed the Bruins to surpass the idle Red Wings for third place in the Atlantic Division.
The game saw trade acquisitions Lee Stempniak, John-Michael Liles and recent Providence recall Noel Acciari make their Bruins debuts. While none of the three newcomers wound up on the scoresheet, the Bruins managed the close win in a similar fashion to how they’d won many prior to their acquisitions: by Tuukka Rask keeping them in a low-scoring game that probably shouldn’t have been so low-scoring.
Rask, whose lone goal allowed came in the third period on Jakub Nakladal’s first career goal, made 24 saves in the victory.
The Bruins’ schedule will get considerably more difficult from here on out, beginning with games Thursday and Saturday against the Blackhawks and Capitals, respectively.
Here are four more things we learned Tuesday:
STEMPNIAK SLOTS WITH BERGERON LINE
As expected, Stempniak skated on the right wing of Bergeron’s line with Brad Marchand. He also served as a penalty-killer for Boston. The journeyman right wing had shot shots on goal in his Bruins debut. He attempted an empty-net goal in the final minute of the game, but missed the net for an icing call.
Liles skated alongside Adam McQuaid. Acciari centered the fourth-line with Landon Ferraro and Brett Connolly as the B’s used the following lineup:
SILENCE IS (BLACK AND) GOLDEN
Despite the Flames entering Tuesday night with the third-fewest points in the standings in the NHL, they found a way to keep the Bruins very quiet.
Though the B’s picked it up in the third, they had just 14 shots on goal through the first two periods of Tuesday’s game.
Tuesday marked Dougie Hamilton’s first game back in Boston, a fact of which the crowd was seemingly well aware.
Hamilton, who was traded in the offseason after not wanting to re-sign with the B’s as a restricted free agent, received loud boos each time he touched the puck Tuesday night. The young defenseman had a relatively quiet night otherwise, though he was on the ice for Landon Ferraro’s first-period goal.
NEW-LOOK FOURTH LINE FINDS RESULTS
The Bruins have favored grit over skill with their fourth lines over the years, but Tuesday saw the debut of a line of Acciari between Ferraro and Connolly. The line came to be after Acciari was recalled and Stempniak’s acquisition bumped Connolly down in the lineup.
Having more skilled players than the type they’d had on the line at points this season (Zac Rinaldo, Tyler Randell) proved to work. After Connolly kept the puck in the zone during a first-period shift, Torey Krug fed Ferraro from the wall for the game’s first goal.