|12.10.16 at 1:36 pm ET|
Stuck in a two-game losing streak, and hindered by disastrous 0-3 deficits less than 26 minutes into each loss, the Bruins have made two calls to I-95 in search of a jolt of life to their forward corps, with Noel Acciari and Danton Heinen summoned from the P-Bruins.
For Acciari, the return to the B’s comes after just a one-game AHL stint that he felt was needed after missing the previous 16 NHL games with a lower-body injury sustained in a Nov. 7 win over the Sabres.
Credited with an assist in a 5-3 win over the Marlies last night, Acciari’s AHL gamer wasn’t about production, but rather getting his legs back.
“I felt good, first period was just trying to get my legs back under me, but after that, I felt better” Acciari admitted of his Friday night with the P-Bruins. “I definitely needed that game just to get back into some sort of game-shape, game focus, some mentality.”
The 25-year-old Acciari will be reunited to his once familiar fourth line spot on a line with Dominic Moore and Tim Schaller.
In the case of Heinen, however, a return to the big club was earned through what’s been an impressive run with the P-Bruins.
Credited with seven goals and 13 points in 13 AHL games since his demotion, the 21-year-old has shot the puck noticeably more in the minors than he did in during his first taste of NHL hockey (31 shots in 13 AHL contests compared to six shots in seven NHL games this season), and has obviously found production in 13 points versus the goose egg he posted to begin his year in Boston.
Set to begin his night on the left side of a line with David Krejci and David Backes, and despite his recent AHL success, Bruins head coach Claude Julien wasn’t quick to put the weight of the world on Heinen’s shoulders.
“My hope is that [Heinen] can come in and play and give us some good hockey,” Julien said following the morning skate at Warrior Ice Arena. “He’s a skill player. It’s about getting some confidence in his game when he went down there, and the pace of his game has to be a little bit better. And the battles — and coming out with the puck more often on the walls.”
With Acciari and Heinen in action, Anton Blidh has been assigned to Providence after one assist, seven shots, and 13 hits in a four-game NHL sample, while Jimmy Hayes will return to the press box as a scratch for the second time in the last five games.
|12.10.16 at 9:43 am ET|
Before the Bruins were shoe-horned into their current locale, they played in one of the most intimidating arenas for opposing teams on the planet. Ask any Ranger or Red Wing or Nordique from the ‘80s the last barn they wanted to go into for a big game was and most would say without thinking, “Boston Garden”.
With its smaller-than-average ice surface, boisterous crowds, and balconies that jutted out practically to the center ice logo, the Garden was like visiting a bar in a rival neighborhood where you’d just hope to escape in one piece.
Those were the days.
Today’s iteration is about as scary as a Disney movie and opposing teams essentially help themselves to the recliner and remote. It’s particularly galling when the dregs of the league are leaving town with two points and no bruises. It’s quite a turnaround from just a couple of years ago when teams knew they were in for a battle and snagging even a point was a grind.
Though the Bruins do have a 7-6 home record so far this season, opponents haven’t exactly had their hands full while visiting Boston. Part of the reason is the team lacking sandpaper in their game all too often; they’re just not hard enough to play against. Some nights, the crowd is sitting on its hands and isn’t exactly doing the team any favors (“is the team reacting to the crowd or is the crowd reacting to the team?” is the “which came first, the chicken or the egg?” of sports).
But the audience isn’t paid to perform, the team is. So it’s on them when they lose. The team went 17-18-6 on Causeway St. last season with too many subpar efforts and that malaise has seeped into this year.
To put it simply, the Bruins need to be much tougher to play against in their home barn than they have been for the last couple years. They need to re-establish dominance and make it uncomfortable for visitors once again. Home arenas are where you’re supposed to win but the B’s are only doing it about half the time.
There’s no magic pill to fix everything but effort and concentration on the task at hand are two things that players can control. If the Bruins can find their successful recipe from just a couple seasons ago (they went 31-7-3 in their 2013-14 Presidents’ Trophy-winning season), then they can not only stop leaving points on the board against inferior teams but also serve notice to the rest of the league that any success on their ice will come with a price. But until that happens, teams won’t be afraid coming into Boston like they used to.
|12.09.16 at 1:48 am ET|
On the second leg of a traveling back-to-back, perhaps Thursday’s head-to-head with the Avalanche was your classic scheduled loss.
But that doesn’t mean that Bruins head coach Claude Julien would be OK with an effort of a schedule loss, which is exactly what the B’s put forth in a 4-2 loss to the Avs in which the Bruins didn’t skate well, didn’t defend all that well when they needed to, and didn’t get much of anything from starting goaltender Anton Khudobin.
“There was a lot of problematic things,” Julien said after the loss. “No doubt that the power play could have helped us in the first period and failed to do that. They got to be better. We needed some saves tonight, we didn’t get them, [Khudobin]’s got to be better. A lot of things here that we can be better at and take responsibility but at the same time, you got to move on here and to me it’s one of those nights that had we been smarter from the get go, we would have had a chance.”
It began in net, where Khudobin surrendered four goals on just 22 shots against, including the first three in just 24:09, to once again put the Bruins in an 0-3 hole for the second time in as many nights and even quicker than the night before.
“Yes, I agree with that,” the 30-year-old Khudobin, whose record dropped to 1-4-0 and save percentage dipped from .902 down to .888, said when told about Julien’s criticism of his game. “It’s just four goals is too much. That’s it.”
Beat cleanly on the first three goals of the night, all unassisted markers for the Avs, Khudobin was not given much to work with from a B’s offense that was silent with the exception of David Pastrnak, who scored his 17th and 18th goals of the year in defeat.
It was Pastrnak that allowed the Bruins to claw within one of the Avalanche, but it didn’t last, as Carl Soderberg put the final nail in the Bruins’ coffin with a goal scored with under three minutes left in the second period, and a rather tame third period that saw the Bruins simply run on fumes en route to the end of their six-game point streak in which they seized 10-of-12 points overall.
Still, the Bruins weren’t going to blame their seventh game in 12 days for their struggles.
“Everybody has a tough schedule. Everybody is facing, at some point of the season, some tough road trips time-wise and travel-wise,” Bruins captain Zdeno Chara said of any fatigue that the Black and Gold battled in the loss. “They were ready to play us and they were the better team, especially in the first 20. I think, in the second, we created a lot more chances and we cut down on their lead. We took some penalties that cost us the game and from that point, we were always chasing.”
Things should get a little easier for the B’s with a Saturday night visit from the conference-worst Maple Leafs. Then again, that’s what you could have said about Thursday’s game with the Avs, who entered play with the fewest points in the entire league.
|12.08.16 at 9:29 pm ET|
Despite the positives that came with their ability to come back from an 0-3 the night before in Washington, Thursday’s defeat at the hands of the Avalanche served as a reminder to the Bruins that they can’t spot the opposition three goals any given night and expect to draw back even.
On the second leg of a back-to-back with travel, the Bruins and netminder Anton Khudobin were torched by Avalanche forward Matt Duchene just 5:30 into the first period when Duchene weaved his way through three Bruins — including a shoddy defensive effort from B’s forward Ryan Spooner — to find the perfect shooting seam for his 10th goal of the season (all of which have come on the road).
With a chance to counter on the power play, a botched keep-in from defenseman Torey Krug was snagged up by Nathan MacKinnon and marched the other way for a brilliant breakaway tally that beat Khudobin up over his glove just 7:27 after the Duchene goal to make it 2-0 in favor of the Avalanche.
The two-goal edge held through 20 minutes of play, and John Mitchell wasted no time in making it three just 4:09 into the third period when he came down with speed and beat Khudobin cleanly blocker side for his first goal of the season.
Just like they did in the Nation’s Capital the night before, the Bruins had spotted their opponent a three-goal edge, this time doing it in just 24:09 of hockey compared to the 25:51 they did against the Caps the night before.
And just like they did at the Verizon Center last night, the Bruins fought back with a response, the first off a David Pastrnak rush right out of the box (with the help of a great bounce pass off the opposite boards from Tim Schaller), to beat Calvin Pickard and bring the B’s back within two with 7:57 left in the middle period. It would be Pastrnak that countered his own goal just 1:20 after that, too, with a brilliant execution of a faceoff win from Patrice Bergeron and stellar passing sequence from Brad Marchand and Torey Krug that left Pastrnak alone in the high slot for his second goal of the game and 18th of the season.
In the blink of an eye, the Bruins were back in it.
They were controlling pace, the Garden crowd was finally alive, and then Kevan Miller was whistled for a penalty. The Bruins survived that penalty, though, and it appeared that they were set to resume their frantic attack the other way.
But just as Miller exited the box from his late-period penalty, it was Carl Soderberg that caught Austin Czarnik and Brandon Carlo in no man’s land and punched back with his fourth goal of the season and the Avs’ fourth goal of the night.
A backbreaking goal if there ever was one, the Soderberg goal reestablished the Avalanche’s two-goal edge with just 2:55 left in the second period, and set the tone for a third period that saw the Black and Gold simply run out of gas.
Khudobin made just 17 saves in the losing effort, while the B’s six-game point streak (4-0-2) came to an end in the process.
Here are four other things we learned in the loss.
|12.08.16 at 6:25 pm ET|
Less than 24 hours after the Bruins overcame a three-goal deficit against Braden Holtby and the Capitals en route to a point via an overtime loss, the Bruins have returned to TD Garden for a quick turnaround in a Thursday night head-to-head with the Avalanche.
But this compacted schedule is nothing new to the Bruins.
In fact, the case could be made that this schedule has helped the Bruins develop some consistency within their game (the biggest thing they lacked a year ago), as they club gets set for their seventh game in 12 days with points in their previous six by way of a 4-0-2 record.
But the second overtime loss, last night’s aforementioned defeat at the hands of Nicklas Backstrom and the Capitals, does stick out as perhaps the club’s most impressive given what they went up against.
“They’ve had a no quit attitude as of late,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said of his team’s confidence. “No matter what — we get scored on or anything — they buckle down and really want to get themselves back in the game.”
Against their form of Mt. Everest in the Caps’ Holtby, a goaltender that entered that 3-0 lead having given up just three goals to the Bruins in his last two seasons of action against the club, the Bruins responded with goals across the board, the first from their fourth line, the second from budding superstar David Pastrnak, and the third coming on the power-play from Colin Miller.
“It’s too bad we weren’t able to finish a great comeback like that with a win, but against a Washington team, the way we played, you have to be happy with that and hopefully follow that up with a great performance here tonight,” Julien said.
But in an effort to extend their point streak to seven games and win their fourth home game in a row, the Bruins will have to overcome a bizarre and borderline unexplainable 18-year struggle against the Avalanche at home.
The Bruins have not beaten the Avalanche in Boston since Mar. 1998. It’s been so long since the Avalanche have lost a road game to the B’s (how long has it been?!) that the last time it happened Donald Trump was just appearing in episodes of Spin City and Sabrina: The Teenage Witch and not anything close to the President-elect of the United States, the Garden was still called the FleetCenter, and Anson Carter scored two goals on Avalanche netminder Patrick Roy in the win.
Overall, it’s a 10-game stretch in which the Bruins have gone 0-8-1-1 against their Ray-Bourque-retired-jersey rival to the West.
And on the second leg of a back-to-back with travel, Anton Khudobin will get the nod in net for the Bruins tonight. Khudobin has been great in a two-game sample for the B’s since returning from his upper-body injury, with stops on all but three of 59 shots against (a .949 save percentage), and enters play with one win and a .921 save percentage in three home games this season.
The Avs counter with backup netminder Calvin Pickard. A loser in three of his last four contests, including a 28-of-33 showing in his last start, a 5-3 loss to the Predators on Nov. 29, Pickard comes into action with four wins and a .920 save percentage in seven starts this season. A former second-round draft choice (49th overall in 2010), this will be Pickard’s first game against the Bruins.
The Bruins won the only prior head-to-head between the two this season by a 2-0 final in Denver on Nov. 13.
Here are the expected lines and pairings for the Bruins
Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – David Pastrnak
Tim Schaller – David Krejci – David Backes
Ryan Spooner – Riley Nash – Austin Czarnik
Anton Blidh – Dominic Moore – Jimmy Hayes
Zdeno Chara – Brandon Carlo
Torey Krug – Adam McQuaid
Kevan Miller – Colin Miller
|12.08.16 at 11:19 am ET|
Send questions for next week’s mailbag to firstname.lastname@example.org or @RearAdBsBlog on Twitter. In addition to hockey questions, feel free to send along any movie/TV questions as well.
With his contract expiring at season’s end, what kind of a raise is David Pastrnak looking at? — Sammy, Revere, MA
A pretty significant one from $925,000 he’s getting paid this year, to say the least. I’d say at least five times more. It’s pretty clear the Bruins have a special talent on their hands here. Pastrnak has been the catalyst for the B’s offense lately, and 16 goals has him third in the NHL behind Sid Crosby and Patrik Laine. He’s currently on pace for about 60 goals and his price will only go up. So yeah, they should try to lock him up for as many years as they can (assuming they don’t ridiculously overpay). He will be a restricted free agent, but the team shouldn’t let that matter. If the B’s could lock him up at five years at $30 million, they’d be psyched. It’ll all depend on what the player wants (and how much sway his agent holds).
Why don’t we get the Ryan Spooner from Monday night more often? — Dave, Billerica, MA
Spooner was flying Monday against the Panthers and had his best game of the year. If he could play like that more often, the Bruins would have two viable scoring lines and a little more lineup stability. He has been bounced up and down the lineup a little bit, so that affects a guy’s consistency. But a game like Monday should only help his confidence. His name has been tossed out in trade rumors, but that’s all they are right now — rumors. I don’t put much stock in them. He’s also an RFA at year’s end, so he’s playing for a raise, too.
Do you think Taylor Hall will face any discipline for his hit on Philip Larsen? — Jack, Rutland, VT
I do not believe he will. It was more of a unfortunately timed collision than a hit, as Larsen had his head down when Hall came around the net on the forecheck. Plus, Hall is one of the cleaner guys in the league, a former teammate of Larsen, and was distraught about what happened. It’s one of those scenes you hate to see, and I think don’t the league will see deem discipline necessary.
|12.07.16 at 11:01 pm ET|
A year ago, and two years ago for that matter, an 0-3 deficit against Braden Holtby and the Capitals is a death sentence. But Wednesday night in Washington proved that this year’s Bruins team is an entirely different squad than the two disappointments that came before.
In an 0-1 hole just 23 seconds into the first period on an odd bounce from Capitals forward Justin Williams, the Capitals extended their lead to 2-0 just seven minutes later on another bizarre bounce that worked against Tuukka Rask and for Williams for the second time in the period. In what was an insane shooting gallery of a first period against the 29-year-old Rask, the Bruins escaped the opening frame down by just two, though it rightfully felt like seven given their competition in the opposite crease, known as the B’s boogeyman.
Daniel Winnik seemingly closed the book on the Bruins, too, behind the third Caps goal of the contest, scored just 5:51 into the middle frame to put D.C. up by three goals and with the Bruins having to score the same amount of goals they scored in their previous 330-plus minutes of hockey against Holtby just to escape with at least one point.
And guess what? Somehow, someway, the Bruins did just that.
Led by a stretch that saw the Bruins hold the Capitals without a shot on goal for 23 full minutes and fired about 18 shots on their own in a row on Holtby in the process, the Bruins found a way back into this contest.
It began with a Dominic Moore goal scored at the 16:35 mark of the second period, and then a beautiful David Pastrnak breakaway goal followed that just 2:25 later, and the Black and Gold were down by just one after two periods. And after two fruitless power-play opportunities, the Bruins broke through on their third power play of the night, as a Colin Miller blast fired with just two seconds left in the man advantage beat Holtby at the 8:19 mark off a sweet dish from Austin Czarnik.
But the B’s bid for their first three-goal comeback since Oct. 2009 was put to bed in the three-on-three overtime frame, as Nicklas Backstrom beat Rask through the wickets just 1:36 into the overtime for the Caps’ seventh straight victory over the B’s.
Here are four other things we learned in the comeback loss for the Bruins