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Andy Brickley on M&M: Bruins ‘should have put two points in their pockets’ vs. Maple Leafs

01.15.14 at 1:54 pm ET
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Andy Brickley

Andy Brickley

NESN Bruins analyst Andy Brickley made his weekly appearance with Mut & Merloni on Wednesday, following the Bruins’€™ 4-3 loss to the Maple Leafs on Tuesday night. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.

“€œI’€™m a little disappointed that the Bruins didn’t get the two points that they should have gotten last night,”€ Brickley said. “€œIt’€™s the only game at home that separates five games on the road against some tough teams. A game that should have put two points in their pockets.”

The penalty kill — or lack thereof — was blamed as a big reason for the loss.

“€œYou can’€™t just single out one aspect of your penalty killing that’€™s letting the Bruins down right now,” Brickley said. “€œI think it all starts with decision making, when you’€™re not making the right decision there’€™s a drag in your decision making, in other words you’€™re making it too late, a stride, a stride and a half too late.

“You’€™re playing against the top players on the other team, guys that make up the power plays, and your decision making is not there or there’€™s a drag, you’€™re going to give up quality scoring chances, and if you don’€™t get the saves you’€™re going to give up goals, and that’€™s where they’€™re at right now. This is not ebb and flow, this is a bad bad stretch of allowing far too many goals. You can win with a power play in the lower third of the National Hockey League, but you can’€™t win consistently when you’€™re only killing from the same place.”

One factor that appears to be hurting the penalty kill is the absence of Dennis Seidenberg, who tore his ACL and MCL on Dec. 27.

“€œThe loss of Seidenberg definitely affects your penalty killing, but a little more importantly it affects the makeup of your entire team,”€ Brickley said. “€œThat is the single most important issue that the Bruins are going to have to address right now. If you talk about, ‘How do the Bruins win more consistently?’ you say, well, you need more production from the [David] Krejci line. They carried the offense for the first 2 1/2, three months, but they’ve been quiet lately. They had unbelievable opportunities last night, didn’t finish. It was only the Bergeron line that was scoring goals, basically.

“They need to settle or figure out how they’€™re going to answer the loss of Seidenberg. When [Johnny] Boychuk is your number three, [Dougie] Hamilton, [Torey] Krug, [Adam] McQuaid make up your four, five six, [Matt] Bartkowski, [Kevan] Miller are your depth guys, now you’ve got a real good group. But you’ve lost a guy who’€™s playing 24-25 minutes who is an absolute horse back there, he’€™s physical, smart, experience, versatile, strong, well conditioned, understands his role, relishes his role. When you lose a guy like that, in the system that the Bruins play, as good as the other guys are, your team takes a big hit unless you can bring in a guy that’€™s not exactly like a Seidenberg, but someone that allows you to do some of the things he can do.”

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Claude Julien: Bruins ‘not great at playing catch-up hockey’

01.14.14 at 11:24 pm ET
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While Claude Julien acknowledged that the Bruins’ special teams have been struggling, and that Tuukka Rask has been fighting the puck recently, the one thing he kept coming back to in his postgame press conference on Tuesday was that his team can’t keep falling behind.

“I think it’s hard to win in this league when you have to play from behind all the time,” Julien said. “I think that’s the biggest thing for me right now. We’re not great at playing catch-up hockey.”

It’s true that the Bruins have been falling behind quite a bit recently. On their recent West Coast swing, they went down 3-0 to both the Ducks and Kings, and unsurprisingly lost both games. A week before that, they fell behind 3-1 to the Senators and wound up losing 4-3.

Tuesday’s 4-3 loss to the Maple Leafs was actually a little different, though. The Bruins didn’t fall behind by multiple goals early on like they did in those other three losses. In fact, they had two different leads in the first period, and didn’t trail until the middle of the second.

They went into the third trailing by just a goal, and while Julien says his team isn’t good at playing catch-up, the numbers indicate the Bruins are actually better at it than most. Entering Tuesday, the B’s were 5-10-0 when trailing after two periods, good for the third-best winning percentage in the NHL in such situations. So this wasn’t quite the same as falling behind by three goals, a situation in which no team is good.

The biggest issues Tuesday were defensive lapses, a poor penalty kill and another shaky performance from Rask. Those problems eventually led to the Bruins falling behind, and Julien eventually touched on some of them in his postgame press conference.

“I thought the first 10 minutes, we came out pretty hard,” Julien said. “Then it just kind of leveled off. We gave them a couple goals. You let a guy go to the front of the net for a rebound. The other one, you take a penalty because you don’t dump it in when you’re trying to get a line change. Those are all things that are self-inflicted. Until we clean up that part of our game, we’re going to be coming from behind, like we did again tonight.”

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Bruins’ comeback bid falls short in loss to Maple Leafs

01.14.14 at 9:48 pm ET
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Any momentum the Bruins may have generated from Saturday’s hard-fought 1-0 victory over the Sharks disappeared Tuesday night with a 4-3 loss to the Maple Leafs.

The Bruins opened the scoring 3:38 in when Brad Marchand buried a rebound created by Reilly Smith‘s nice drive to the net. The Leafs answered 2:14 later with a goal that went against the grain of play when Tyler Bozak collected a rebound off a Carl Gunnarsson point shot and slid it past Tuukka Rask.

The Bruins retook the lead on Patrice Bergeron‘s 11th goal of the season, but then a pair of power-play goals from Bozak and Jake Gardiner put the Leafs up 3-2. James van Riemsdyk made it 4-2 a minute into the third with a wrister from the top of the right circle. Gregory Campbell cut the lead to one with 10:25 to go, but that was as close as the Bruins would get despite applying some heavy pressure for the remainder of the game.

With the loss, the Bruins dropped to 3-5-0 in their last eight. Their next game is Thursday night in Dallas.

WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE BRUINS

- The Bruins dominated the first period in terms of possession and scoring chances, but ended up tied at 2-2 heading into the intermission thanks to a pair of defensive breakdowns. On the Leafs’€™ first goal, Torey Krug missed a block attempt on Gunnarsson’€™s shot attempt from the point, inadvertently screening Tuukka Rask in the process. Kevan Miller couldn’€™t clear the rebound or muscle Bozak off the puck, and the Leafs center knocked the puck home. On the second goal, Johnny Boychuk got caught puck-watching and let Bozak slip right behind him for an easy finish.

- The Bruins struggled on special teams. Their penalty kill, in particular, was dreadful. Bozak’€™s second goal (and Boychuck’€™s defensive lapse) came on a Leafs power play, as did Gardiner’€™s tally that gave the Leafs a 3-2 lead. While Rask should’€™ve made the save on Gardiner’€™s wrister, the Leafs had been able to move the puck with ease leading up to that chance. The Leafs also came dangerously close to scoring on their third power play of the game, with van Riemsdyk getting three whacks at the puck from right in front after Campbell failed to clear the zone. As for the power play, the Bruins’€™ first one generated some good looks, but they barely even got set up on their second, which featured Zdeno Chara at the point instead of in front, where he’€™s been most of the season.

- Rask had another rough game. There wasn’t much he could’ve done on Toronto’s first two goals, but he definitely should’ve had the third and fourth. Rask now has an .876 save percentage over his last seven games.

WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE BRUINS

- The Bruins benefited from a combination of impressive work from Smith and some not-so-impressive work by Toronto’s defense pairing leading up to Marchand’s goal. Smith was able to skate right through Gunnarsson and Dion Phaneuf (van Riemsdyk was also with him) as the three Maple Leafs passively allowed Smith to get to the slot and fire off the backhander that yielded the rebound on which Marchand scored. Teams often pride themselves on being strong around the net, and the Maple Leafs were just the opposite.

- The fourth line continued to score. With Campbell’s third-period goal — which included a nice setup by Daniel Paille and a better finish by Campbell — that line has now scored in four of the last five games, and Campbell and Paille have four points apiece during that stretch.

DJ Bean contributed to this story.

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Chris Kelly doesn’t want to rush comeback

01.14.14 at 1:01 pm ET
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Bruins forward Chris Kelly skated again Tuesday as he continues his recovery from a broken right fibula. He has been skating since last week, and though he is unsure whether he’ll travel with the team to Dallas and Chicago and Claude Julien has said he isn’t close to returning, Kelly remains encouraged by the progress he’s been able to make.

“Every day it gets a little better,” Kelly said. “You want to come the next day and it feels 100 percent, but that’s not the case. It’s not realistic. As long it’s feeling a little bit better every day then that’s a positive.”

Added Kelly: “I hope I’m on the second half of this stretch and not the first half, so you can see light at the end of the tunnel. That’s what they keep telling me, so I’m going to go by what they’re saying.”

Kelly has been out since suffering the injury on a second period slash from Penguins forward Pascal Dupuis. He remained in the game and played the third period before the team learned of his injury. He was expected to miss 4-6 weeks, and despite beating his recovery time on last season’s broken tibia (he returned in a little less than a month when the team thought he’d miss 4-6 weeks), he reiterated Tuesday that this injury has been tougher to recover from.

“Certain injuries you’ve got to take time with, and certain ones you can rush back,” Kelly said. “For whatever reason, this one you need to take time and make sure it’s fully healed. The last thing I want to do is reaggrevate it and be out even longer.”

In the meantime, Kelly will continue to skate and try to remain patient, as tough as it may be.

“You try to do what you can, and it’s just one of those things where you can only do so much,” Kelly said. “I can only drink so much milk. ‘€¦ It’s just time, and obviously I don’t have a ton of time.”

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Dougie Hamilton out with concussion

01.14.14 at 11:43 am ET
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Dougie Hamilton

Dougie Hamilton

Dougie Hamilton is out with a concussion, Bruins coach Claude Julien revealed after Tuesday’s morning skate.

Julien termed the concussion “mild” and said that the team doesn’t expect Hamilton to miss too many games. Hamilton had returned earleir this month from a lower-body injury that had kept him out 10 games. He skated in five games before missing Monday’s practice.

“He’ll be out for a little bit,” Julien said, “but we don’t anticipate it being too, too long.”

Hamilton did not play the final six minutes of the team’s 1-0 win over the Sharks on Saturday, but Julien said it had “nothing to do” with the concussion. Given that Hamilton showed up Monday, didn’t go on the ice and was examined by team doctors, it’s likely that he was dealing with headaches (like Daniel Paille was last month) rather than being diagnosed right at the time of the concussion.

With Hamilton out, Kevan Miller will play in his place. The Bruins now have only six healthy defensemen on their roster. Given that they’ll leave for a two-game road trip Wednesday, the team might recall a blueliner from Providence.

For more Bruins coverage, visit weei.com/bruins.

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Putting Tuukka Rask’s slump in perspective

01.13.14 at 9:33 pm ET
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Tuukka Rask's Vezina campaign took a hit recently. (AP)

Tuukka Rask‘s Vezina campaign took a hit recently. (AP)

Tuukka Rask had never had a stretch in the NHL like the one he had prior to Saturday’s shutout. He’s sure he’ll one day have another, but for the Bruins and his Vezina campaign’s sake, he’s hoping it won’t be for a while.

Rask, who leads the league with five shutouts and is fourth with a .930 save percentage, had a woeful go of it from Dec. 28 to Jan. 9, getting pulled after allowing three goals in a little over one period losses to the Senators and Kings and allowing five goals apiece to the Islanders and Ducks. He picked up just win over the five game stretch, allowing one goal in a 4-1 win over the Jets.

As alarming as those numbers were, it’s worth noting that great goaltending performances — even Vezina ones — see dark times. Here are a few:

- In 2011, Vezina winner Tim Thomas gave up 14 goals over three starts from Feb. 11-15 while also allowing a goal in a period of relief in that stretch.

- The following season, Vezina winner Henrik Lundqvist allowed at least three goals in five straight games from March 3 to March 11.

- 2007-08 Vezina winner Martin Brodeur had a shaky stretch very early on the season, allowing at least three goals in five straight from Oct. 10 to Oct. 18 and giving up at least four in three of those starts. He also gave up 23 goals over a six-game stretch the previous season, which also saw him win the Vezina.

“It happens,” Rask said of such stretches Monday. “It’s hockey and the more you play, the odds are that it’s going to happen. You just have to work through it, and it’s tough but it’s reality. It’s going to happen again — hopefully not this year, but in the coming years and you just have to work through it and hope for the best.”

It wouldn’t be a leap to point to the fact that Rask’s rough patch began in the Bruins’ first game following Dennis Seidenberg‘s season-ending ACL/MCL tear. That wasn’t the only reason for the slump, but the B’s clearly looked to be a work in progress as they grid to acclimate to life without Seidenberg.

“We’re adjusting. I think it’s new for everybody when you miss a guy like that,” Rask said. “He’s a regular guy that plays a lot of minutes, so getting new pairings and stuff like that. As long as we put our minds into it defensively, it will be good. We’ve got some younger guys who are growing into their roles and it’s a learning curve, but we’re working [in] the right way.”

This will be another busy year for Rask, as he will follow last season’s 75-game workload with a full NHL season, the Olympics in the middle and hopefully a long playoff run in the spring.

Though he joked that he “always feels like [droppings]” when asked about how his body is holding up, Rask says that fatigue hasn’t been a major factor for him this season and doesn’t see it becoming one.

“Not too much,” he said. “I think everybody’s feeling somewhat of the schedule being so heavy, but I haven’t felt too tired. It’s draining mentally when you travel a lot and play every other day for weeks, so it can be draining, but I think we can keep things light when necessary.”

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More uncertainty awaits Jordan Caron with Bruins forwards now healthy

01.13.14 at 2:06 pm ET
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Jordan Caron

Jordan Caron

WILMINGTON — A former first-round pick with just one goal through 23 games this season is an easy target for criticism, but Jordan Caron — given his role — hasn’t been as disappointing as it might seem.

Caron hasn’t done anything offensively this season and that is undoubtedly his Achilles’ heel. Four partial seasons into his NHL career, he seems to be a bottom-six player rather than a top-six guy for that reason.

Yet for as offensively invisible as he’s been, the defensively responsible Caron has been sound in his own zone and has been a useful penalty killer when called upon. Often times, young players see offensive results — a goal here, an assist there — quicker than they can be trusted on the PK, but Caron is the opposite. The Bruins don’t need to worry about him on the ice — something that’s been the case for young players over the years — but they shouldn’t expect him to light up the score sheet.

As such, it’s been a very unglamorous season for Caron (one goal and no assists) but he hasn’t been a liability or the awful player impatient fans might make him out to be.

“Obviously I’d like to produce more offensively, but [I've been] doing a good job on the PK and stuff like that,” Caron said Monday. “I’m just trying to be good defensively and working hard. The offensive part’s going to come.”

When or where the offensive part comes remains to be seen. The healthier Bruins lineup means that he’s back to 13th forward duties, and if the Bruins reach the point at which they would want to send Caron down, he would need to be placed on waivers first. In such a scenario, Caron could be claimed by another team and the Bruins would lose their 2010 first-rounder.

“I mean, if it happens, it happens,” Caron said with a shrug Monday. “I’m not too worried about it.”

Caron has been dealing with a bad back for about a month, and it forced him to miss at least three games recently, with him also missing Saturday’s game with the returns of Loui Eriksson and Shawn Thornton. Caron still isn’t 100 percent, but the team is unlikely to need to need him unless another forward gets injured.

“Of course you never want to be the one sitting out, so it’s always the same story,” Caron said. “We have a lot of depth on our team, and it’s always a tough lineup to crack, and with my little injury, it didn’t really help. I’ve just got to stay positive and make sure I’m ready.”

Always the same story is right. Over the past four seasons, Caron has had little consistency regarding his role. He began the 2010-11 season as a healthy scratch, but soon became a second-line player for the Bruins. From there, he’s been up and down between Boston and Providence numerous times and has moved around the lineup filling in for different players.

You can call that a chicken-egg situation and say that Caron would have more of a defined role if he played better, but it’s hard to define a role when in as uncertain situations as the ones Caron has faced. Despite playing in only 23 of the Bruins’ 45 games, Jordan Caron has had eight linemates, which is second only to Carl Soderberg for most on the Bruins this season.

“I’ve said it before: This is a guy who’s been bounced around from line to line, from right to left, from left to right,” Claude Julien said. “At [some] point you have compassion for a guy like that who never gets to be on a steady line and build chemistry with his teammates. It’s pretty easy from the outside to want to criticize him, but I think you need guys like that on your roster to go wherever you tell him to go.

“He hasn’t a guy who has generated a ton offensively, but he’s done his job along the walls, he’s been pretty reliable and he’s done exactly what needs to be done as far as that’s concerned. If you look at his stats, not impressive, but at the same time you have to understand what he has to go through.”

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