|01.05.16 at 9:35 pm ET|
If the Bruins wanted to use a game against perhaps the best team in the league as a measuring stick, Tuesday could have been a lot worse.
Despite the B’s suffering their fifth loss in their last six games, Tuesday did not prove to be the rear-kicking that many expected when the Eastern Conference-leading Caps came to town. Down a defenseman for most of the night (Adam McQuaid left in the second period — see below), the slumping Bruins managed to keep the game close before ultimately suffering a 3-2 loss at TD Garden.
Boston pushed back hard in the third period and came within a goal thanks to a two-point night from Patrice Bergeron (one goal, one assist), but the B’s were unable to put a third puck past Washington netminder Braden Holtby. That’s a common tale given Holtby’s dominance over the Bruins, but Tuesday was one of the more encouraging performances in what’s been a bad stretch for the Bruins.
“For me disappointed at the loss, not disappointed in the effort and you know I think that’s the biggest thing,” Claude Julien said. “Our guys worked hard, they tried, we had chances and this is a good hockey club. I said it this morning: This is probably in my mind one of the best — if not the best — teams in the league.”
The Bruins will play their next five games on the road, beginning Friday in New Jersey.
Here are four more things we learned Tuesday:
MCQUAID LEAVES WITH APPARENT HEAD INJURY
The Bruins had to play most of the game with five defensemen because of a dirty hit that Adam McQuaid from Zach Sill on his second shift of the second period. Sill slammed McQuaid into the glass along the half wall head-first, forcing McQuaid to fall to the ice, where he remained for multiple minutes. Surprisingly, no penalty was called on the play. McQuaid did not return to the game.
Adam McQuaid injured on this hit from behind by Zach Sill. No penalty. pic.twitter.com/YG7Hyo51KM
— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) January 6, 2016
If McQuaid is to miss any stretch of time, Zach Trotman could return to the lineup.
Speaking of returning to the lineup, Joonas Kemppainen played Tuesday night after missing the previous 11 games with an upper-body injury. Kemppainen centered a third line with Frank Vatrano and Jimmy Hayes.
Kemppainen also took a second-period penalty for hooking Marcus Johansson, but the ensuing Washington power play didn’t last too long given that T.J. Oshie took an interference minor 48 seconds later.
BELESKEY LOSES A GOAL
Prior to the game, the NHL announced a scoring change from the Winter Classic. The change, which came four days after the game, credited McQuaid with Boston’s only goal of the game. It had appeared live that Matt Beleskey had redirected McQuaid’s shot from the point past Canadiens goalie Mike Condon, but the change indicated that the puck had touched a Montreal player and not Beleskey.
With the scoring change, Beleskey is now back down to seven goals on the season.
AND ERIKSSON GETS ONE
Wearing the ‘A’ on his sweater for the second straight game, Loui Eriksson broke out of a mini goal-scoring slump when he took a second-period pass from Brett Connolly on an odd-man rush and beat Holtby short side. Prior to the game, Eriksson had gone five straight games without a goal, though he was a point-a-game player in that stretch thanks to five assists.
Beleskey’s current goal-scoring pace has him in line to score 30 goals this season. In case you forgot, he’s a free agent at season’s end.
|01.05.16 at 3:12 pm ET|
Over the years, the Bruins’ forward group has been overflowing with centers. The B’s place such an emphasis on strength down the middle that they’ve never shied away from carrying so many centers that pivots end up playing wing (i.e. Rich Peverley, Tyler Seguin, Chris Kelly).
The Bruins have had to deal with many changes this season, one of which has been playing without as many centers. Kelly was injured early in the season, while Joonas Kemppainen was hurt last month and David Krejci is week-to-week with an upper-body injury.
Claude Julien loves having options at center, but those options haven’t really been there of late. With Kemppainen likely to return Tuesday from an upper-body injury (he was activated off injured reserve Tuesday afternoon), Julien hopes he’ll be able to better balance his lines and control possession.
“It hurts,” Julien said of not having as many centers as usual. “I think it’s been obvious in the faceoffs and how we’ve lost faceoffs in our own end especially, losing them clean and other teams getting possession of the puck a lot more than we’re used to. When you don’t win them, you’ve got to chase that puck. When you win them, you get to start with it.”
Kemppainen, a strong defensive center, is one of three Bruins who have won most of their faceoffs. His 52.3 success rate at the dot puts him behind Patrice Bergeron (56.6 percent) and Max Talbot (52.8 percent).
“People sometimes don’t realize how important (winning faceoffs) is,” Julien said. “For our team not to have those centermen winning draws closer to 55 percent or more a game is huge. We miss that. And it’s been a huge part of our game; it’s been a strong suit for a long, long time. So there’s no doubt that hurts our game.”
|01.05.16 at 11:30 am ET|
Bruins general manager Don Sweeney confirmed Tuesday that the Bruins’ demotion of David Pastrnak to Providence came as a result of a roster crunch and the fact that the player would not be in Tuesday’s lineup anyway.
Pastrnak, who was in Finland for the World Junior Championships, got to Boston on Monday afternoon. He did not practice on Monday, making it very unlikely that he would play Tuesday vs. the Capitals. With the Bruins only having 11 forwards at their disposal (12 on their roster due to the suspended Brad Marchand taking up a spot) and 22 total roster players, the B’s needed to activate Joonas Kemppainen from injured reserve in order to have a full group of forwards against the Capitals. Adding Pastrnak would have left the B’s over the 23-man roster limit.
“Really the only [thing] was he didn’t arrive until yesterday afternoon,” Sweeney said. “We had him checked out, and he’ll skate today and we’ll re-evaluate. Really, it’s a matter of we play tonight, Joonas in all likelihood will come off IR, so our roster is what it is at this point in time. We’ll make a decision going forward, and David will be a part of that process.”
Sweeney added that the Bruins are not concerned with a finger injury through which Pastrnak played WJC games. Sweeney was noncommittal when asked whether Pastrnak would play any games in Providence before returning to the NHL roster.
In 10 games this season, Pastrnak has two goals and two assists for four points.
|01.04.16 at 7:05 pm ET|
The story sounds familiar enough — a top pick of the Lightning has not become a star and figures to eventually be traded — but Brett Connolly can’t put himself in Jonathan Drouin’s shoes completely.
On Sunday, the Lightning sent Drouin, whom they drafted third overall in the 2013 draft, to Syracuse of the AHL. That led to agent Allan Walsh revealing that his client had requested a trade from Tampa in November, news that was still somewhat shocking despite ongoing murmurs that the 20-year-old left wing was not happy with how the team and coach Jon Cooper were using him.
Based on his own experience, Connolly — the Lightning’s first pick (sixth overall) in 2010 — hopes that Drouin doesn’t expect anything in the league to just come to him. He calls Drouin a “good kid” whom he feels can be a star wherever he ends up.
“He’s a good player. He’s got a lot of talent,” Connolly said of his former teammate. “Young guys come in the league and you realize really fast that it’s a tough league. You’ve got to find your game and you’ve got to work at it. It’s not going to be given to you no matter how high a draft pick you are.”
Connolly knows what it’s like to be drafted early by the Lightning and not ascend to stardom as quickly as planned. Like Drouin, Connolly returned to his junior team for another season after being drafted and then turned pro a season later. Both players spent their first pro season playing for Tampa given that the CHL/NHL transfer agreement required players under 20 to either stay with their junior teams or play for their NHL club. Most notably, neither one put up mesmerizing numbers in the NHL in the early going; Connolly had four goals in 68 games in his first NHL season, while Drouin had four goals in 70 games as a rookie.
Yet Connolly’s situation is different from Drouin’s in that he wouldn’t have had a problem staying in Tampa. The team traded him last season because they had a crowded forward group and couldn’t send him down without waivers. At least from the outside, a lack of patience from a still-developing player appears to be a big factor in Drouin’s case. Drouin has two goals in 19 games this season, giving him a total of six goals in 89 career NHL games.
|01.04.16 at 12:54 pm ET|
Twelve is an interesting number for Brad Marchand.
It’s the number of games he’s been suspended over four different punishments since becoming an NHL regular in 2010-11. It’s also the total number of games he’s missed otherwise.
So Marchand is used to playing, and half the time that he isn’t he’s still healthy. Marchand’s lack of injury history is significant enough to make any stretch out of the lineup uncommon. This is nearly the longest such stretch of his career.
Although Marchand was once suspended for five games back in January of 2012 for low-bridging Sami Salo, the timing of the Winter Classic has made it so his current three-game suspension is only one day shorter than the aforementioned five-gamer. Marchand’s 2012 ban kept him out of action for 11 days, while this one is 10 days long.
“I’m not going to lose anything. It’s been a long season and I’ve been playing a lot of minutes this year. I feel like my stamina’s up,” a sweaty Marchand said after putting in extra skating in Monday’s practice. “You work harder when you’re out than when you’re in anyway, so I’m going to work harder the next eight or nine days than I will if I’m playing.
“The main thing that I always find is that when you miss a few games, you come back hungrier and ready to go. Hopefully that’s the case and I come back and play well right away.”
Marchand should hope so. He is currently enjoying the best season of his career (15 goals, on pace for a career-high 34) and the Bruins have been hard-pressed for offense of late.
His suspension, handed out last week after a hit on Senators defenseman Mark Borowiecki, has rubbed Marchand the wrong way for a couple reasons. Among them was that he had to sit in the press box during the Winter Classic rather than playing.
“It was definitely tough. Just frustrating,” Marchand said. “There’s nothing I could really do about it.”
Marchand has copped to foul play in the past, but he remains adamant that he wasn’t trying to hit Borowiecki, let alone low-bridge him. The Department of Player Safety factored in Marchand’s tendency for hitting players low when making their ruling.
“There’s a lot of difference between that hit and previous ones,” Marchand said. “I wasn’t even trying to make a hit there. It is what it is. It’s a hockey play and those things happen.”
Marchand will be available to return to the Bruins on Jan. 9 against the Senators. He’ll have to be on his best behavior.
|01.04.16 at 12:23 pm ET|
[UPDATE: 2:43 p.m.] The Bruins announced Monday afternoon that they have sent David Pastrnak to Providence. Pastrnak is returning from Finland, where he represented the Czech Republic in the World Junior Championships.
Pastrnak was not at Monday’s Bruins practice, but the team planned to have him examined after he suffered a minor finger injury in Finland. The Bruins did not believe the injury would affect his availability, so the demotion could be due to a numbers game.
Joonas Kemppainen could return from an upper-body injury Tuesday against the Capitals. Kemppainen has not played since suffering an upper-body injury on Dec. 7.
“He’s day-to-day, meaning that he could be a possibility for tomorrow,” Julien said of Kemppainen.
If Kemppainen cannot play, the Bruins would need to either recall a forward from Providence or play seven defensemen. Kemppainen is currently on injured reserve, giving the Bruins 22 players including the suspended Brad Marchand. They will be able to activate Kemppainen without any corresponding moves, but Pastrnak’s eventual return would force the Bruins to demote a player in order to stay at the 23-man limit.
Patrice Bergeron returned to practice, giving the Bruins the following lines:
|01.03.16 at 1:08 pm ET|
The Bruins are not overly concerned about an injury for David Pastrnak that became apparent during the World Junior Championships.
While playing for the Czech Republic, Pastrnak was spotted with tape on his right index finger. The team referred to it as a “small injury that he was able to play through” at World Juniors. The Bruins do not expect the injury to affect Pastrnak’s availability, though he will be evaluated by Bruins doctors.
Pastrnak is expected to be available to the Bruins in the coming days and could be a possibility to play Tuesday against the Capitals. Same goes for Joonas Kemppainen, who has not played since Dec. 7 due to an upper-body injury.
“He’s close to being available,” Claude Julien said. “I haven’t been told that he’s in for sure, but pretty close.”
Patrice Bergeron did not practice Sunday, with Julien calling it a maintenance day. That led to some interesting lines in practice, with the suspended Brad Marchand centering Loui Eriksson and Brett Connolly.
On defense, Colin Miller is back after Saturday’s recall and was skating on Boston’s second pairing with Dennis Seidenberg. Zach Trotman, who has played in just one of the Bruins’ last 10 games, was skating on the top pair with Zdeno Chara while the Joe Morrow-Kevan Miller pairing that got torched in the Winter Classic appeared to be the extra pairing. lines and pairings in Sunday’s practice were as follows: