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Bruins successfully limit Sharks’ Brent Burns on way to 4th straight win

02.19.17 at 11:37 pm ET
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Brent Burns was stymied by the Bruins for much of the night. (Stan Szeto/USA Today Sports)

Brent Burns was stymied by the Bruins for much of the night. (Stan Szeto/USA Today Sports)

The sample size is entirely too small to make any definitive statements one way or the other. But it’s obvious that the Bruins — despite the positive results of three wins in as many games — have been a little ‘too open’ in the defensive zone under interim head coach Bruce Cassidy.

You could very well at times see a week’s worth of running around under Claude Julien in just one period from Cassidy’s group.

But the theme of the Cassidy Era, again as small of a sample as it has been, and in addition to the results, has been progress from one game to the next and actually applying the adjustments.

So when Cassidy’s Bruins returned from their bye for their second head-to-head with the Sharks in just over a week, the Bruins knew who they had to watch out for, and did just that in a 60-minute plus smother of Norris Trophy favorite (or perhaps inevitable is a better word, to be honest) Brent Burns.

It added up to another win for Cassidy’s improving Bruins, this one by a 2-1 overtime final over the Sharks at the SAP Center.

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Bruins begin California tour with head-to-head vs. Sharks

02.19.17 at 8:24 pm ET
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The Bruins take on the Sharks tonight at the SAP Center. (John Hefti/USA Today Sports)

The Bruins take on the Sharks tonight at the SAP Center. (John Hefti/USA Today Sports)

Like Robert Plant sang back in the day, Bruins GM Don Sweeney made up his mind to make a new start with a new voice behind the bench, and after a seven-day bye week, the Bruins are going to California with three wins in as many games under interim head coach Bruce Cassidy. OK, maybe it’s not exactly like Plant, but you get the reference.

There’s no much to harp on when it comes to the first three games of the Cassidy Era. The Bruins have scored goals at will — they have 14 goals in this three-game segment, including four from their defensive corps that have been encouraged to create more offense — and now it’s time for the Black and Gold to prove that the streak was not just the high of a coaching change and that this team has legitimately improved with a new voice behind the bench and some needed system tweaks.

But that’ll be awfully hard to do here, at least if recent history tells us anything about what the Bruins are in for against the Sharks, Ducks, and Kings.

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Bruins have to hope break didn’t crush power play momentum

02.19.17 at 7:42 pm ET
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The Bruins have power-play goals in eight straight games. (Christopher Hanewinckel/USA TODAY Sports)

The Bruins have power-play goals in eight straight games. (Christopher Hanewinckel/USA TODAY Sports)

After a stretch that included 50 games in just over 100 days, a week-long break was more than deserved for the Bruins.

But, as timing as a whole has often worked out for this group this season, it could not have come at a worse time. Not only did the B’s rattle off three wins in a row under interim head coach Bruce Cassidy to head into their bye week, but the Bruins rolled into the break with power-play goals in eight straight games.

Over that span, the Bruins have collected 11 power-play goals on 30 opportunities, or a 36.6 power play percentage.

It’s a hot streak that the Black and Gold have to be desperate to extend to nine games in spite of a seven-day layoff when they skate against the Sharks in San Jose as the kickoff to their California tour (and with a stop in Dallas before they return back to Boston) on Sunday night.

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Forward Peter Cehlarik recalled by Bruins ahead of California trip

02.18.17 at 5:11 pm ET
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Peter Cehlarik has been recalled. (Rick Osentoski/USA Today Sports)

Peter Cehlarik has been recalled. (Rick Osentoski/USA Today Sports)

The Bruins got some much needed rest and relaxation with their bye week, which ends today with a practice in San Jose. With the exception of one player: Forward Peter Cehlarik, who was assigned to the P-Bruins after last Sunday’s win over the Canadiens, but was recalled early this morning to join the team for their California road swing.

This was expected, of course, especially after Cehlarik’s two-point night against the Habs in what finished as a 4-0 win for the Bruins. His vision on the Adam McQuaid goal, which came with a beautiful cross-ice pass that hit McQuaid right on the stick-tape, was something to behold as far as first NHL points go, and his movement to David Backes that led to the David Krejci power-play goal was even prettier.

“He’s been playing really well, not just [Sunday] but also [Saturday] and you know he makes lots of good plays out there, it’s fun to play with him,” Cehlarik’s linemate, David Krejci, said. “So it’s been good but we have to keep working hard, keep getting better every day and keep it rolling.”

On the second line with Krejci and David Pastrnak on the right, the 21-year-old Slovak, who is a more seasoned pro than most first-year N. American pros thanks to multiple years in the Swedish Hockey League, has appeared to find a groove on what everyone should call the ‘Czech Mix’ line (please send all royalty money to this blog).

“He has the hockey IQ and the hands, big enough body guy. You just don’t know when they come up – if they can handle the pace, the pressure, time and space issues and so far, so good,” B’s interim coach Bruce Cassidy said of Cehlarik. “I like his situation where we put him, I think he will complement a [David] Krejci-type player with some give-and-go hockey. He’s not a guy who needs a puck through the neutral-zone – that’s where Krejci excels – makes the little plays down low. He’s been a nice fit so far.”

“I’m really grateful to have the opportunity to play with those kind of players that I play with,” admitted Cehlarik. “I want to make it count and I want to fit there. So I think we’re playing pretty well, hopefully we are going to keep going.”

With two assists in two career games, the obvious question for Cehlarik became when do you plan on scoring your first NHL goal?

Said Cehlarik: “Once I have my first shot.”

The Bruins skate against the Sharks at 8:30 p.m. on Sunday night.

Canadiens lose to Jets in Claude Julien’s coaching debut

02.18.17 at 4:53 pm ET
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The Canadiens lost to the Jets in Claude Julien's coaching debut. (Jean-Yves Ahern/USA Today Sports)

The Canadiens lost to the Jets in Claude Julien’s coaching debut. (Jean-Yves Ahern/USA Today Sports)

Given a new start with the Canadiens a week after being fired by the Bruins, it was more of the same in what’s become the theme of Claude Julien’s season in his first game with the Habs, a 3-1 loss to the Jets.

The Canadiens carried a 1-0 lead through 20 minutes of play behind Andrei Markov’s fourth goal of the season, and in spite of a 15-to-6 shot advantage that favored the visiting Jets.

But the escapist Canadiens could not avoid trouble in the second period, as the Jets’ Joel Armia scored an unassisted shorthanded goal (Julien’s Bruins gave up six shorthanded goals this season, the sixth-most in the NHL) to bring the teams even through two periods.

The Jets wasted no time in the third period, however, with a Mathieu Perreault goal scored just 1:16 into the third period.

Patrik Laine added an empty-net goal late to seal the deal on a loss in Julien’s (second) debut with the Canadiens.

The goals against certainly had an element of Julien’s Bruins, too, with both their timing and the bad luck of missed assignments and bad plays with the puck that came with them.

But there were also more than a few things that served as a reminder that Julien does not have the weapons he did in Boston with this current Canadiens group. For one, the Habs could not win faceoffs to save their lives in this game. Only Torrey Mitchell, who won one of his two battles at the dot, had a faceoff percentage of 50% or higher, and as a team the Canadiens were a brutal 7-for-22 (32%) in attacking zone draws. (Where’s Patrice Bergeron when you need him?) And while the Bruins had plenty of close losses under Julien this year (15 of their 23 losses were either by one or two goals), this loss was unlike those in the sense that it didn’t come with the Canadiens dominating the puck, as they were out-attempted by the Jets 59-to-49, including an ugly 33-to-20 shot advantage that favored Winnipeg.

Canadiens netminder Carey Price made 30 saves in the losing effort.

With the loss, Julien’s 2016-17 record dropped to 26-24-6 between the Bruins and Canadiens.

Zac Rinaldo chimes in on Gustav Nyquist suspension: ‘I would be in jail’

02.16.17 at 3:35 pm ET
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Zac Rinaldo disagrees with the NHL's suspension of Gustav Nyquist. (Jerome Miron/USA Today Sports)

Zac Rinaldo disagrees with the NHL’s suspension of Gustav Nyquist. (Jerome Miron/USA Today Sports)

The NHL’s Department of Player Safety has a polarizing job.

It’s almost impossible to find a suspension that everyone has agreed with, and there are many in the league that feel that there are different sets of rules for different players based on their status as a top-six forward or defenseman versus a depth piece.

And the fallout of Red Wings forward Gustav Nyquist’s straight-up vicious spear to the face of Wild defenseman Jared Spurgeon last Sunday won’t help dispel that theory any time soon.

In one of the more heinous slashes you’ll see this season, Nyquist tried to explain to the media that the incident was accidental, but later fessed up to the DoPS that he was going for a retaliatory slash/crosscheck, and was handed a six-game ban and fined over $158,000 (one that he will not appeal) for the incident.

“While we accept Nyquist’s explanation that he did not intend to spear an opponent in the face, there are two factors that elevate this incident to a level more serious than merely accidental or reckless,” the league’s disciplinary system explained. “First as Nyquist conceded he is attempting to use his stick in a retaliatory fashion. Second, no matter how he specifically intended to retaliate with his stick, Nyquist is completely responsible for using his stick to deliver a blow that was extremely dangerous and easily could have resulted in a major if not career-threatening injury.”

A malicious, potentially ‘career-threatening injury’ from the stick of somebody that’s twice scored at least 27 goals at this level is worth just six games. That obviously doesn’t sit well with those that feel they’ve overly punished given their role.

Insert Zac Rinaldo.

The agitating energy winger, who has five goals and two assists and just 20 minutes in penalties in 29 games for the P-Bruins this season, took to Twitter on Thursday to voice his displeasure with some of the perceived double standards with the league.

On the surface, Rinaldo, who was placed on waivers and by all means banished to the AHL after another run-in that came with a five-game suspension for this hit on Lightning forward Cedric Paquette last season, is not wrong. The biggest difference though, is that this was Nyquist’s first incident, while Rinaldo has been suspended four times in his career.

Rinaldo, an unrestricted free agent this summer, still has to serve that five-game suspension upon any NHL recall.

Report: Canadiens gave Claude Julien $25 million contract to coach their team

02.15.17 at 7:31 pm ET
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The Canadiens signed Claude Julien to a five-year contract. (Jerome Miron/USA Today Sports)

The Canadiens signed Claude Julien to a five-year contract. (Jerome Miron/USA Today Sports)

The Atlantic-leading Canadiens not only hired Claude Julien to coach their team, but they backed up the Brinks truck to make it happen.

Granted permission to talk with the recently fired Bruins coach of 10 years on Sunday, Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin quickly fired Michel Therrien and replaced him with Julien on Tuesday, and awarded the 56-year-old an additional five-year contract worth a reported $25 million (which begins next year) to make it happen.

“I’m convinced that in hiring Claude, we are getting one of the best coaches in the NHL,” Bergevin said. “In my estimation, he’s the best man to reach our goal. Claude has proven his worth.”

Not only does that contract take the Bruins off the hook for Julien’s reported $3 million contract next season, but actually gives the 2009 Jack Adams winner a raise from his salary with the Bruins and moves him closer to the top of the league’s highest-paid coaches behind Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock (over $6 million per season) and Blackhawks boss Joel Quenneville.

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