|02.28.15 at 8:05 pm ET|
In the Bruins’ final game before Monday’s trade deadline, they delivered a message that they haven’t delivered enough this season: This group can be dominant.
The team needs reinforcements to go far, with a top-four defenseman rivaling consistency for the biggest thing standing between this Bruins team and a deep run. Still, Boston turned in a thorough performance Saturday and took an easy 4-1 victory against a bad Coyotes team (box) in an effort that was more promising than
Patrice Bergeron‘s line scored a pair of goals against potential trade targets, while Ryan Spooner’s line continued to show it has the offensive chops to make up for its defensive shortcomings. The team chased Arizona starting goalie Mike Smith after putting four of their first 20 shots past him.
Tuukka Rask, after finally getting a night off Friday, came 9:39 away from his third shutout of the season, with Martin Erat breaking it up late in the game.
The Bruins’ play of late – wins in three of four games – and their current standing in the final Eastern Conference wild card spot leaves management with a difficult decision regarding whether the Bruins should be big buyers in a season that’s seen injuries and subpar play prevent the team from getting any traction.
Here are four more things we learned Saturday:
VERMETTE LOOKS ROUGH IN LIKELY FINALE
Antoine Vermette may be the biggest name remaining of the players expected to be dealt, which probably says more about this trade market than it does about Vermette.
Nevertheless, Vermette being in town Saturday meant the Bruins, who are believed to be interested in Vermette’s services, got a chance to watch him on Garden ice. The takeaway: He isn’t going to dominate top lines, and he’s now gone six straight games without a point.
Matched up against Bergeron’s line early, Vermette was exposed Saturday night for a first-period Brad Marchand goal. Vermette was passive in the offensive zone, as Marchand broke the puck out cleanly with a pass through Vermette to Bergeron. The Bruins took the puck the length of the ice before Marchand took a feed from Reilly Smith and fired it in from the left circle.
Patrice Bergeron is as difficult an opponent as there is in the NHL and Saturday was in all likelihood Vermette’s final game with the Coyotes, so the environment and circumstances may have factored into the veteran center’s performance. Either way, the guy isn’t worth a first-round pick.
BRUINS BEAT YANDLE, TOO
The thought here has been that the Bruins shouldn’t give up much for Vermette unless defenseman Keith Yandle comes with him. Well, just in case the Bruins are interested in that, the Bergeron line did its best to lower his value, too.
Bergeron scored his 18th goal of the season thanks to Smith outbattling Yandle in front of the net. With the players fighting for position in front and Yandle’s stick elevated, Bergeron’s pass in front went off the Milton native’s skate and past Smith to make it 3-0.
Yandle has one more year remaining on his contract after this season at $5.25 million. He’s a terrific offensive player, but plays like Saturday’s will happen with him.
SPOONER LINE SCORING
As we’ve written before Ryan Spooner’s line with Milan Lucic and David Pastrnak is going to make defensive mistakes, and the Bruins can live with that as long as the line scores.
Four games into the experiment, the Bruins (relatively, given what this season has been) are alive and well. Members of the Spooner line have totaled three goals over the last two games and four in the four games they’ve been together, as Spooner netted the game-winner Friday night in overtime and Pastrnak scored on the shift following a power play in the second period.
Lucic scored his 13th goal of the season Saturday after Pastrnak chipped the puck into the zone, with the bouncing puck causing Mike Smith to leave his net and quickly retreat. This allowed Lucic to throw the puck off the goalie’s skate from behind the net for the game’s first goal.
The line had to be bailed out a couple times ‘ Dennis Seidenberg bailed out Pastrnak in the second and Rask bailed out Spooner after missing the puck in the neutral zzone on a third-period chance, but that’s to be expected. As long as the goals for outweigh the goals against, the Bruins can get away with playing the three together.
CHARA ON POINT LIKE A DECIMAL IS
Part of the Bruins’ recent revamp of their power play included a position change for Zdeno Chara. It worked out for the Bruins Saturday night.
After playing forward as the net-front man on the first power play unit since the beginning of last season, Chara was moved to the point on the second unit. Boston’s second group had a very rough go of it during Boston’s first power play, struggling with a pair of entries, the first of which resulted in a clear and the second of which saw Pastrnak go offsides.
The group made up for it in the second period, as Chara took a pass from Reilly Smith and stepped into a one-time from the top of the right circle that went flying past a screening Carl Soderberg and Mike Smith.
|02.27.15 at 9:47 pm ET|
Despite blowing a 2-0 lead to the Devils, the Bruins were able to come away with a victory in overtime, thanks to center Ryan Spooner’s first NHL goal.
The Bruins found the back of the net 8 1/2 minutes into the first period when Daniel Paille slapped home a Loui Eriksson pass for the first goal of the game.
In the third period, just moments after their own power play expired, the Bruins struck again. With Chris Kelly situated in front of the Devils net, rookie forward David Pastrnak fired the puck past Cory Schneider for his seventh goal of the season.
The Devils answered with two goals in two minutes to tie the game, and the teams went to overtime before Spooner ended the contest with his marker.
With the win, the Bruins improve to 30-22-9 and pull four points ahead of Florida in the Eastern Conference.
Here are four more things we learned Friday:
SVEDBERG STOPS 29
In his last three starts, the most recent of which was Feb. 10, Niklas Svedberg had only played the full 60 minutes for one of them. With Tuukka Rask out of the lineup due to illness, Svedberg was given a chance to start in net.
In just one period of play during his last start, Svedberg surrendered three goals to the Stars on 10 shots and was pulled for Rask. Prior to that, he shut out the Devils, 2-0, on Jan. 8, making 14 saves in the process, but was chased in the start before that after giving up three goals to the Blue Jackets on 15 shots.
Svedberg made 29 saves on Friday night and held New Jersey scoreless until the third period when the Devils scored twice in two minutes, tying the game.
Though the Bruins outshot the Devils, New Jersey’s two quick goals lit a fire and pushed Boston back into its own zone for a lot of the third, forcing Svedberg to make saves.
|02.27.15 at 1:33 pm ET|
The Bruins recalled goaltender Jeremy Smith from Providence on an emergency basis Friday.
Rask has not had a night off since Jan. 8. With Smith up, the Bruins have the options of sitting Rask and dressing Svedberg and Smith.
|02.26.15 at 9:30 pm ET|
When asked Thursday what he learned from last postseason, Matt Bartkowski brought up an expression that Providence coach Bruce Cassidy tells his players.
“If you don’t bring your A game,” Bartkowski said, “you’ve got to bring your B game.”
That might not fit any player better than it does Bartkowski. Ups and downs and ins and outs are pretty much all he knows at the NHL level. Getting into the Bruins’ lineup has been tough, and when he’s played he’s been the ultimate trick-or-treat player. Now the Bruins might need him again.
Defense has arguably been the Bruins’ biggest need all season, and that was before the B’s lost Kevan Miller to season-ending shoulder surgery. After serving as a healthy scratch for a month and a half (17 straight games), Bartkowski was given a game against Calgary during the Bruins’ recent road trip and stuck in the lineup after Miller went down.
A trade (or a callup of Joe Morrow) could change things, but for now Bartkowski finds himself in a similar situation as last season. He could be in line to play a top-four role down the stretch, as he did last season when Dennis Seidenberg went down in late December and the Bruins couldn’t adequately replace him via trade. Perhaps because the Bruins would rather Torey Krug stay on the third pairing, Bartkowski is almost always used as a top-four player when he is in the lineup.
While an upgrade to Boston’s second pairing (Bartkowski-Seidenberg) is needed for the Bruins to make a deep run, Bartkowski’s last few games have suggested he’ll fare better in the spot than he did earlier in the season, when he and Seidenberg turned in some especially ugly games, including one in which Bartkowski’s positioning cost the B’s a game against the Avalanche in the final second on a Daniel Briere goal.
It’s odd that Bartkowski has looked fine after not playing for a month given that he was a disaster at the beginning of the season, when one would thing he would be physically sharper. Bartkowski himself finds it puzzling, but his priority is keeping his play where it is.b
“To start the year, I wasn’t playing well at all, and then when I got in right before the California swing, I started to play well, and then out again,” he said. “I don’t know. It just came around. I’m playing like myself again.”
Claude Julien said that while Bartkowski was out of the lineup, the team had him fine-tune things that have left him better equipped now than he was before. Asked what specifically, Julien replied ‘a lot of everything.’
“A lot in all different areas. Sometimes you know you’re a natural skater, which I think he is, and you think you can get away with that,” Julien said.”But it takes a little bit more than that. You’ve got to be prepared as a player. Are you mentally prepared to make plays? Are you ready to put the time in? To be in good shape is one thing; to be in great shape is another.”
Bartkowski’s experience in this role ended the wrong way last year. After Andrej Meszaros was brought in to challenge him, Bartkowski got sick and missed the beginning of the playoffs. When he came back, he was off his game. Meszaros wasn’t any better, and the Bruins were forced into a rotation of struggling defensemen playing important games.
“It was just more inconsistent in the playoffs,” he recalled. “There was like a good [game], a really bad one, a good one, a really bad one. That just can’t happen again.”
The next few days will say a lot about what Bartkowski’s role with the Bruins will be going forward, assuming he isn’t traded. Forcing their seventh defenseman to play big minutes hurt the team last season, but if it happens again, Bartkowski thinks that with health and improved play, he can handle the job.
“This year, I’m gonna hold my spot,” Bartkowski said. “I want to stay consistent. I don’t want to have any dips at all.”
That’s the right attitude to have, but it’s always been easier said than done with Bartkowski and the Bruins.
|02.26.15 at 7:48 pm ET|
David Krejci is on long-term injured reserve, a team source confirmed Thursday. The news was first reported by ESPN’s Joe McDonald.
Krejci is expected to miss four-to-six weeks with a partially torn MCL that was suffered last Friday against the Blues. The team presumably put him on LTIR Monday, as that is when he was first listed as being on injured reserve.
While Krejci is on LTIR, the Bruins can exceed the salary cap by his $5.25 million cap hit (as they also can with Kevan Miller’s $800,000 hit). The Bruins can use Krejci’s cap money else where for as long as he’s out, but the team must be cap compliant by the team he returns should he come back in the regular season.
There is no salary cap in the playoffs, so if the team uses Krejci’s cap hit elsewhere and Krejci doesn’t return until the postseason, the Bruins wouldn’t need to worry about being cap compliant.
|02.26.15 at 1:48 pm ET|
NBC Sports NHL analyst Pierre McGuire made his weekly appearance Thursday on Middays with MFB to talk about the Bruins and what moves he expects them to make at the trade deadline next week. To hear the interview, go to the MFB audio on demand page.
With the Bruins still slumping and needing a boost, many expect them to make a move prior to the trade deadline on March 2. McGuire said the team is playing better, starting with their 6-2 win in Chicago on Sunday and played well despite losing to the Canucks on Tuesday.
With that being said, McGuire thinks general manager Peter Chiarelli needs to be aggressive at the deadline.
“I see some things that are starting to happen for them that are positive,” McGuire said. “I still think Peter Chiarelli is going to have to get aggressive here at the trade deadline, I think they will on the Boston side of things depending the price points for certain players. I think they are in a pretty good spot, I really do. I liked their compete on Sunday and I liked their compete in their last game against Vancouver.”
Even though overall the Bruins have lost seven of their last eight games, McGuire said it isn’t always about wins and losses.
“What I see is not just the results, but seeing what they are doing in games,” he said. “Not every game is going to be perfect. I think with this team they are competing, they’re not mailing it in. They deserved a better fate against Vancouver on Tuesday. That is a very difficult game to play against coming back after a very long road trip that didn’t go particularly well. If you watched their game against St. Louis, I know they got blown out, but Malcolm Subban didn’t play very well in that game. St. Louis took 15 shots on goals and [scored three goals in] 5-on-5 chances out of 15 shots. That’s pretty impressive hockey playing in St. Louis and playing that kind of hockey.
“I think being in the playoffs is like the lottery — you have to have a ticket to be in it to win it. If you get into the playoffs and you’re the Boston Bruins, you have a legitimate chance to do some serious damage, especially if they are aggressive at the trade deadline.”
|02.26.15 at 1:14 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — The Bruins skated the same lineup Thursday at Ristuccia Arena as the team prepared for a back-to-back that will see them play in New Jersey Friday and host the Coyotes Saturday.
The lines and defensive pairings were as follows:
Tuukka Rask who has played in 18 straight games, should finally get a night off this weekend, but stranger things have happened. The last time Rask did not play in a game was on Jan. 8 against the very Devils the B’s will face Friday.