|11.24.16 at 2:04 pm ET|
Over three years since he was fired by the Tampa Bay Lightning, and after three seasons in the Swiss League as the coach of Bern SC, Guy Boucher is back in the NHL and behind the bench of the Ottawa Senators. And Boucher, of course, is no stranger to the Bruins.
Behind the Lightning bench for an unforgettable seven-game war of an Eastern Conference Final against the Bruins in 2011, the Black and Gold were the ones that finally found the hole in Boucher’s then-famous 1-3-1 system that without question flustered every team they went up against and dazzled media members from high above.
“Everybody talks about how he used to have that neutral zone sit back, everybody talks about,” B’s coach Claude Julien said Wednesday. “But like anybody else he’s adapted to a game that’s evolved, too.”
With the Sens off an 11-7-1 start that’s put them in third place in the Atlantic Division, one point above the Bruins, Boucher has found success with an offense that’s averaging the seventh-most shots on goal per contest, and has spread the club’s best offensive talents in Mike Hoffman, Mark Stone, and Kyle Turris on different lines throughout his top nine forward groupings.
“I would have to think he’s a better coach today because he’s had some experience in this league,” continued Julien. “But he’s a guy that loves to prepare well and loves to have his hands on everything, and that’s just the way he is.”
And while there’s familiarity within the room from behind the B’s bench, there’s direct experience with Boucher from somebody on it in Dominic Moore, someone that played for Boucher for two years with the Bolts from 2010 to 2012.
“I have a ton of respect for Guy,” Moore, who tallied 51 points in 133 games with the Lightning, said of his former coach. “First and foremost he’s a good person. and he’s having success again. He’s a very passionate guy, he brings a lot of that love to the game and instills it in his team and I think you’re seeing that with the way they’re playing.”
The Bruins went 7-3-0 against Boucher’s Lightning from 2010 to 2013.
|11.24.16 at 1:35 pm ET|
It’s never good timing to lose your team captain.
But for the Bruins, without captain No. 1 defenseman Zdeno Chara for a one-game road trip Thursday night in Ottawa, good timing may come in the potential season debut for defenseman Kevan Miller.
Absent for the first 19 games of the season with a fractured left hand sustained in the preseason finale against the Flyers (and just days after Miller dodged a serious knee injury in a preseason tilt against the Canadiens), Miller was a full participant in B’s practice Wednesday at Warrior Ice Arena, and has been dubbed a game-time decision by head coach Claude Julien for their Thanksgiving game with the Senators.
“Obviously it’s tough that Z got injured right now,” Miller, Chara’s partner for an extended stretch of play last season, said of him being the next man up with Chara down. “He’s a big hole to fill, but nobody can really fill that hole like Z does, so it’s a collective group effort.”
Paired with Joe Morrow on the right side of the Bruins’ third pairing, Miller feels ready to rejoin the team if given the green light.
“Hand feels great. I put in a good amount of work to get back now,” Miller said.
“I’m looking forward to getting back in the lineup whenever that is, and I’m excited to play.”
In the first season of a four-year, $10 million extension signed in May, the 29-year-old Miller established career-highs across the board in 71 games last year, including five goals and 18 points.
If No. 86 is unable to go, expect Colin Miller to suit up in his place on the B’s blue line.
This will be the first of four meetings between the Bruins and Sens this season.
|11.23.16 at 2:20 pm ET|
David Pastrnak has already missed more time than he’d like.
Limited to just 14 games this season — out for two because of a suspension for his illegal check to the head of the Rangers’ Dan Girardi late last month and absent from the last three games with an upper-body injury — the 20-year-old returned as a full participant in a Wednesday practice at Warrior Ice Arena and downplayed any frustration with the roadblocks in an incredibly successful season so far, with 10 goals and 14 points in 14 games played.
“It’s part of hockey and you have to get through it,” Pastrnak said of the missed time lodged in between hot streaks. “Every player’s going to be get suspended, every player’s going to be injured, but hopefully now I can keep playing well and keep playing now.”
Back in his usual spot on the Bruins’ first line with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand, Pastrnak will travel to Ottawa with the team for Thursday’s game against the Senators, though no there’s no official status put on No. 88 for that game like in the case of Zdeno Chara (who is out).
“He was cleared to have full practice today,” Bruins coach Claude Julien confirmed. “Unless there’s a setback tomorrow, I would anticipate him to hopefully play. Again, there might be a setback, this was his first day of full practice here, so we’ll see.”
“I’m ready,” Pastrnak said. “And [we’ll] see if I’ll be in the lineup tomorrow.”
In five games without Pastrnak this season, the Bruins have scored just nine goals on 166 shots, including two on 41 shots on Jake Allen in last night’s defeat at the hands of the Blues, but the team’s leading goal scorer doesn’t feel any added pressure in his potential return to the lineup.
“Literally no pressure,” Pastrnak, who became the first Bruin to score 10 goals in the first 13 games of the season since Cam Neely accomplished the feat in 1994-95, said with a chuckle. “Every game you’re not gonna score five goals like as a team. Some games you’re going to win 1-0 and some games you’re gonna win 5-4, so we have to keep playing in our system.
“No matter if we win 1-0 or 6-4, and I’d rather win 1-0 anyways.”
Tomorrow will be the first of four head-to-heads between the Bruins and Senators this season.
|11.23.16 at 1:25 pm ET|
For the third straight season, a preview of Life Without Zdeno Chara has hit the Bruins.
Injured in the second period of last night’s 4-2 loss to the Blues and absent from Wednesday’s practice at Warrior Ice Arena, Bruins general manager Don Sweeney confirmed via press release that Chara has suffered a lower-body injury that will keep him out of a Thanksgiving night tilt against the Senators.
It’s unclear how or where Chara sustained the injury (the best guess was a collision with the Blues’ Jaden Schwartz in the corner on his one, 52-second shift in the second period), but the Bruins will have to make do without their best defender for at least the Ottawa game, but perhaps the club’s signature Black Friday home game against Dougie Hamilton and the Flames also.
“He’s not coming on the road trip, obviously” B’s coach Claude Julien confirmed after practice. “From what I’ve been told, he’s day to day. Day to day to me I think it’s pretty doubtful for these next two games.
After that, we’ll see. So that’s where we are with him.”
The 39-year-old captain has been a rock on a top-pairing with 19-year-old rookie Brandon Carlo, with a team-leading 22:41 of time on ice per contest this season, and has chipped in with one goal and six points to go with his plus-12 rating. Chara also ranks 12th among defenseman with at least 300 minutes of five-on-five time on ice in Corsi-For%, at 53.0%, for a B’s club that’s currently leading the league in possession at five-on-five play. So his loss, even for a game, is noticeable.
“I think I’m going to answer it the same way the same way I answered it at the beginning of the year when you guys asked me about our d-corps,” Julien, whose team is allowing just 27.3 shots per game (the third-best mark in the league in that category), said of somebody else shouldering the load in Chara’s absence. “We’re going to have to do it by committee.”
Without Chara, the Bruins’ defensive committee reunited their training camp pairing with John-Michael Liles and Carlo, while the second pairing of Torey Krug and Adam McQuaid has become a de facto first pairing for the club. Joe Morrow remained on the left side of the team’s third pairing, and Kevan Miller, out for the first 19 games of the season with a fractured left hand that finished his preseason slate, has been cleared for action and skated to Morrow’s right.
This is not the first time the Bruins have to skate without their captain — Chara missed 19 games in 2014-15 and then the first two games of last season — but with a personnel group that’s changed drastically from 2014 to 2015, and even 2015 to now, Julien knows that there’s no quick-fix, plug-and-play option that’ll mask the loss of the club’s go-to shutdown talent.
“We just lost our best defender,” Julien admitted.
“There’s no individual that’s going to step up and do his job more than we’re going to have to do it as a group.”
The Bruins have gone 11-9-1 without Chara over the last two seasons, including an 0-2-0 mark last season.
|11.22.16 at 10:46 pm ET|
The Bruins were riding high, with a 1-0 lead and feverish pace of play, early in the second period when the 6-foot-9 Zdeno Chara made his way to the bench, down the runway, and did not return. And by the time the rest of Chara’s team followed their captain’s lead and returned to the locker room following the third period and 41-shot barrage on the Blues’ Jake Allen, the Bruins had dropped a 4-2 final.
In one, 52-second shift in the middle frame, Chara’s probable and likely only cause of a potential injury came on a big collision the corner with Blues forward Jaden Schwartz.
“No,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said, as expected, after the game when asked for an update on the team’s No. 1 defenseman. “I’ve got nothing on him yet.”
With Chara gone, the Bruins rotated five defensemen, including makeshift top pairings with Torey Krug and John-Michael Liles in Chara’s spot opposite the 19-year-old Brandon Carlo.
The Blues exposed that, too, with two goals in 2:12 late in the second period, both with Carlo on the ice.
“It’s the first time he’s played without his partner,” Julien admitted of Carlo’s struggles with No. 33 off the ice.
“It just goes to show how important Z is to our hockey club and to Brandon.”
An extended Chara absence would likely thrust Colin Miller, a healthy scratch for the last four games, back into the lineup, as Kevan Miller (fractured left hand) is inching closer to a return, but is still not fully set to go.
The 39-year-old Chara has scored one goal and added five assists in 19 games this year, and is averaging a team-high 22:41 of time on ice per contest this season. Chara has missed 21 games — 19 of which because a knee injury sustained in a collision with the Islanders’ John Tavares in Oct. 2014 — since the start of the 2014-15 season.
The Bruins are back in game action Thursday night against the Ottawa Senators.
|11.22.16 at 9:42 pm ET|
At 39, 6-foot-9 captain Zdeno Chara is still every bit as important to the Bruins as he was when he first came to the team 10 years ago. Something the team learned — or better yet, were painfully reminded of — the hard way in a 4-2 Tuesday loss to the Blues at TD Garden.
Up by one through the opening frame behind David Backes’ fourth goal of the season — and his first in as many appearances against his former team — scored on the power play 7:44 into the first period, the Bruins jumped on the Blues in a 20-minute stretch that left the Blues frustrated and with just seven shots on goal.
But when Chara returned to the B’s locker room after just one shift in the second period, a 52-second shift in the opening minute plus, and did not return, the Blues simply exposed the Black and Gold’s massive loss on the backend.
Forward Jori Lehtera was the first to find the back of the net for St. Louis with a brilliant tip-in through Tuukka Rask, and although the Bruins countered with an equally pretty Dominic Moore shorthanded tally midway through the period, the loss of Big Z was exposed in just 2:12.
Robert Bortuzzo’s first goal of the season scored under a sprawling Brandon Carlo brought the Blues and Bruins even at 2-2, and just two shifts later, with Carlo paired with Torey Krug instead of his partner on the Bortuzzo goal (John-Michael Liles), the Blues once again attacked the 19-year-old’s side, with Paul Stastny keeping the puck out of his reach for his fifth goal of the year.
Without Chara, Carlo looked every bit the rookie, and struggled to find his footing — at least in the calming manner B’s fans had become accustomed to during his time with the perennial Norris candidate — and a veteran Blues team made the Bruins pay.
The Bruins found chances, but struggled to get another close to a real quality chance with the exception of a last-minute rebound blast from Ryan Spooner stopped by the Blues’ Jake Allen, and a Lehtera empty-net goal gave this one a 4-2 final.
Here are four other things we learned in the loss
|11.22.16 at 2:55 pm ET|
A decade into his NHL career, Bruins forward David Backes will do a first tonight at TD Garden, and that’s play against the St. Louis Blues.
That’s because this is his first meeting against the city and team he called his own for 10 seasons — including seven with a letter on his jersey and five as the team’s captain — since coming to the Black and Gold on a five-year, $30 million contract on July 1.
“I have a lot of mixed emotions,” Backes admitted ahead of his first head-to-head with his former team following the team’s morning skate at Warrior Ice Arena. “You’re going to see a lot of familiar faces. [I] just want to stay in the moment and do what I can to help our team.
“Lot of good people over there, lot of good friends, but we’re wearing different jerseys tonight.”
In a B’s jersey and on a second line with David Krejci (and now Matt Beleskey on the left instead of Ryan Spooner), the 32-year-old Backes has been as advertised for the Bruins group that really wanted — and needed — another voice in their locker room.
“I think there’s a lot in his personality that makes him a natural leader,” B’s coach Claude Julien said of Backes’ impact. “His demeanor has been a great addition to our room. We’ve lost some guys like Chris Kelly, who was really good in the room, Shawn Thornton was another guy. You always look for people that are going to be able to do both. Off the ice he’s been a great addition to our group, and at the same time, he’s a leader on the ice as far as making his linemates and others accountable.”
What’s made Backes such a key addition to the Bruins beyond the numbers (he’s recorded three goals and seven points in 13 games this year) has been his wealth of experience and knowledge in almost every possible situation. But this situation is new.
“You relish the opportunity playing your old team, but at the same time it’s unfamiliar territory,” Backes said of tonight’s tilt. “There’s not a ton of stuff I haven’t experienced in this league, but this is one of them.”
But No. 42 is not going to let him shy away from playing his brand of hockey.
“I think they’re well aware and I’m well aware that we’re going after two points tonight,” Backes continued.
“And as long as I’m shooting on the right net, I think we’ll be just fine.”