|01.13.14 at 9:33 pm ET|
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.”
|01.13.14 at 2:06 pm ET|
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.”
|01.13.14 at 1:10 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — Bruins defenseman Dougie Hamilton was absent from Monday’s practice, but Claude Julien was in no rush to reveal why.
“He’s being looked at right now,” Julien said after the practice. “We’ll leave it at that. We’ll give you more tomorrow.”
Hamilton did not play the final six minutes of the Bruins’ 1-0 win over the Sharks Saturday night and finished last among defensemen with a season-low (excluding the Dec. 8 game he left with a lower-body injury) 15:20 of ice time.
The second-year blueliner missed 10 games with the aforementioned lower-body and returned to the lineup on Jan. 2 against the Predators. Asked whether Hamilton’s absence from Monday’s practice was in any way related to that same injury, Julien replied, “I’ll talk to you guys tomorrow.”
If Hamilton is unable to play Tuesday against the Maple Leafs, Kevan Miller could remain in the lineup after playing Saturday’s game in place of Johnny Boychuk, who was back in Boston as he and his wife awaited the arrival of twins. Boychuk was back at practice Monday after the twin girls were born early Monday morning.
For more on the Bruins, visit weei.com/bruins.
|01.13.14 at 10:11 am ET|
WILMINGTON — Bruins centerÂ Chris Kelly skated on his own and worked with strength and conditioning coach John Whitesides prior to Monday’s practice at Ristuccia Arena. Claude Julien said after the practice that Kelly has been skating since last week but is not close to a return.
Johnny Boychuk was also back on the ice after leaving the team’s California road trip to return home for personal reasons. Those reasons were born 2:27 am and 2:57 am Monday, as Boychuk and his wife welcomed twins to their family. The only player missing from practice was defenseman Dougie Hamilton, who was being evaluated by team doctors following practice.
Kelly, who skated for roughly 20 minutes, has been out since Dec. 7 with a broken fibula suffered on a slash from Penguins forward Pascal Dupuis. It is the second significant injury of Kelly’s career, as he missed a little less than a month with a broken tibia last season.
The Bruins said at the time of Kelly’s injury that he was expected to miss four to six weeks, so his return to the ice a little over five weeks in would seem to put him on pace to return within that timetable. Kelly had returned from last season’s injury sooner than the team expected, but he said that he learned in his recovery this season that he couldn’t push it as much.
With Kelly out, the Bruins have relied on rookie Ryan Spooner to center the team’s third line.
For more Bruins coverage, visit weei.com/bruins.
|01.12.14 at 9:12 pm ET|
The Bruins announced Sunday night that they have sent forward Matt Fraser back to Providence. Fraser was recalled last month after the Bruins lost two forwards to injury and Shawn Thornton to a suspension in the team’s Dec. 7 meeting with the Penguins.
Fraser, 23, had two goals and no assists to go with an even rating. Playing mostly on the team’s third line, Fraser also had a pair of fights, but had just one shot on goal over his last six games. He was made a healthy scratch Saturday with the return Loui Eriksson and Thornton.
In 23 games for Providence this season, Fraser has 16 goals and five assists for 21 points.
For more Bruins news, visit weei.com/bruins.
|01.12.14 at 2:58 am ET|
Claude Julien‘s lineup is getting closer and closer to back to normal.
The loss of Dennis Seidenberg will be felt for the rest of the season, but the Bruins saw some familiar faces Saturday night as Loui Eriksson returned from a concussion and Shawn Thornton came off his 15-game suspension. Eriksson made an immediate impact, firing a shot from the high slot that bounced off Scott Hannan’s skate to Carl Soderberg in the third period of a scoreless game against the Sharks. Soderberg put it in for the game’s only goal, with Eriksson receiving the primary helper.
It’s obviously been a trying season for the Bruins, who have had seven different players miss at least seven of the team’s 45 games thus far due to injury in addition to Thornton’s suspension. Yet their roster is slowly taking shape again, as Chris Kelly (broken right fibula) is now the last available piece the team is waiting on. He’s expected back sometime this month, but it’s been a tougher recovery for Kelly than he expected.
[Johnny Boychuk also missed Saturday's game, but it was due to a personal matter, so he can be expected to be back in the lineup in short order.]
It’s Kelly’s line that figures to provide the most intrigue once he is ready. With Reilly Smith remaining stable as a table on Patrice Bergeron‘s line, the Bruins elected to play Eriksson on the third line Saturday after Eriksson had played exclusively on Bergeron’s line when healthy this season.
Saturday’s third line consisted of Ryan Spooner between Eriksson and Soderberg. The Soderberg-Kelly-Smith line was very good for the Bruins when it played together, so the B’s can take the coming games to determine just what kind of look they want to get from their third line as they await Kelly’s return. Perhaps surprisingly, the amount of good options leaves them with far better third line prospects than they had a season ago.
The silver lining in this injury-plagued season for the Bruins is that Eriksson is the only top-six player to miss time with an injury this season. Milan Lucic missed Tuesday’s game in Anaheim due to food poisoning, but the top line of David Krejci between Lucic and Jarome Iginla has played together for every other game. Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and Reilly Smith have yet to miss a game.
With Thornton back, the Bruins sent Justin Florek to Providence after three strong performances in his first taste of the NHL. Florek factored into Bruins goals in all three games he played, providing a screen for a Torey Krug goal against the Jets last Saturday, assisting Daniel Paille‘s second-period goal on Tuesday and scoring his first career NHL goal Thursday against the Kings. The big 23-year-old likely won’t have a job in Boston without injuries, but he definitely used the tail end of Thornton’s suspension (as well as a Jordan Caron back injury) to show that he can be an NHL fourth-liner.
As for why the Bruins elected to send Florek down rather than Caron, there’s no use in losing a player when you don’t have to. That’s the risk the B’s would have taken had they attempted to assign Caron to Providence, as he would have needed to clear waivers first. Considering the player that stays will be a healthy scratch anyway, it wouldn’t make much sense to lose Caron just so Florek could not play up in Boston.
Despite him surviving the cut this time, keep an eye on Caron going forward, as Spooner might have cemented a spot on the NHL roster by the time Kelly returns, and depending on how many defensemen the B’s have up, the Bruins might be forced to expose Caron to waivers once Kelly’s ready or perhaps sooner. The B’s invested a first-round pick in Caron in 2010, and though he his a strong defensive player who is a valuable penalty killer, his lack of an offensive game could eventually make him expendable.
From offense to defense to backup goaltender, there have been plenty of moving parts with this Bruins roster this season. Through it all they stand second in the Eastern Conference with 60 points, so despite it not always being pretty, they’ve been able to manage.
|01.12.14 at 1:07 am ET|
Loui Eriksson returned to the Bruins lineup Saturday and helped deliver the team’s only win of a three-game California road trip as the B’s beat the Sharks, 1-0. The win was just the second regulation win of the season for an opponent at the SAP Center.
With the game scoreless late, Eriksson fired a shot from the high slot that deflected off Scott Hannan’s skate and down low to new linemate Carl Soderberg, who buried it to finally get the Bruins on the board.
Eriksson, who had been playing on Patrice Bergeron‘s line when in the lineup this season, returned from his second concussion of the season Saturday and played on the third line with Soderberg and Ryan Spooner.
Tuukka Rask, meanwhile, stood tall after rocky outings against the Ducks and Kings to outduel fellow Finnish Olympian Antti Niemi. The shutout was Rask’s league-leading fifth of the season.
The game saw the return of Eriksson and Shawn Thornton to the lineup after both players missed the last 15 games due to a concussion and a suspension, respectively. The Bruins were without Johnny Boychuk, who was back in Boston to tend to a personal matter.
The Bruins will return to Boston to face the Maple Leafs on Tuesday before heading back out on the road to face the Stars and Blackhawks next week.
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE BRUINS
- This was a big bounce-back game from Rask, who had either allowed five goals or been pulled in four of his last five starts entering Saturday night. Perhaps the fact that he was facing his competition for the starting gig in Sochi next month got him to raise his game. Either that or it was the fact that good goalies can’t stay cold forever.
- Milan Lucic drew a pair of penalties Saturday night, getting held by Scott Hannan in the second period and drawing the same infraction on Jason Demers in the third. Unfortunately for the B’s, they didn’t end up with anything to show for those power plays.
- The second period has been a problem child for the Bruins this season, but they held the Sharks without a shot on goal for the second half of the period.
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE BRUINS
- The B’s managed zero shots on goal in their first two power plays and, in going 0-for-3 on the night, have now gone five games without a power play goal. The Bruins were getting strong production out of both power play units in December, but that seems like a distant memory now.
Ryan Spooner remained on the second power play unit despite the return of Eriksson, which is probably a good move on Claude Julien‘s part given how well that unit’s been able to move the puck with Spooner at times.
- You don’t see Patrice Bergeron have a rough go of it too often in the faceoff dot, but Bergeron went 11-for-27 Saturday.
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