|12.12.15 at 4:17 pm ET|
Early in the season, it was about how Ryan Spooner wasn’t getting points on the power play. Despite manning the half-wall well on the league’s best power play unit, just one of Spooner’s six points came on the man advantage.
More recently, Spooner’s issue was finding points in even-strength play, as the skilled center endured a 15-game stretch without an even-strength point before registering three (two goals, one assist) in the last two games. In looking at differences between this season and Spooner’s highly productive stretch run last season, perhaps none is bigger than the fact that Spooner has seen a revolving door of linemates after playing with the same two players night in, night out late last season.
Thirteen of Spooner’s 18 points in 22 games after his late-February callup last season came in even-strength play, which saw him skating on a cleverly used line with Milan Lucic and David Pastrnak. Claude Julien formed the line by replacing the injured center (David Krejci) of his team’s second line with Spooner and using it as a third line while Carl Soderberg’s line took on the tougher assignments. Between his comfort level with his linemates over time and his usage, Spooner found 5-on-5 success that he hasn’t been able to consistently obtain this season.
This season, Spooner has had a number of different linemates, with Jimmy Hayes, Brett Connolly, Matt Beleksey, Brad Marchand, Joonas Kemppainen and Landon Ferraro. Some of those players are very good, but Spooner admitted that he feels it takes him eight to 10 games before he feels fully comfortable with a linemate, something he didn’t have to worry about by the middle of March last season.
“It’s definitely a change,” Spooner admitted. “You get used to playing with the same guys. Even last year, there were some games where we got hemmed in our own end a lot, but I feel like as a line we were, most of the games, at least creating chances. There’s been some games this year where we haven’t really created enough. That’s something that we need to work on and I feel like it’s getting a lot better, but it definitely helps to stay with the same guys and get used to what they like to do and where they like to go and stuff.”
Claude Julien doesn’t feel that Spooner’s changing linemates have hindered him in even-strength play, but he likes what he’s seen from the young forward of late.
“To be honest with you, he’s had some good players,” Julien said. “Even Connolly was on that line. Hayes was on that line. Beleskey played with him at one point, so he’s had good players. I think it’s always been about when Ryan is on his game and he’s skating and he gets involved, he can be a guy on that line that really drives that line more or less and can be the leader on that line because he’s got all kinds of skill and qualities in his game, so when you see him play like he did [Saturday], that’s the impact that he can have.”
Spooner agrees with Julien on leading the third line. Last season, his line was great because Milan Lucic was playing against scrubs. Lucic is long gone and Spooner is still coming into his own as a player. There’s no better way for the 23-year-old to do that than by providing the B’s with the third-line center they envisioned when they showed Soderberg the door in the offseason.
“Last year, we were against third and fourth lines and Looch was used to playing against first and second lines, so he was great to play with,” Spooner said. “He was great in front of the net. It definitely helped having him out there with us. This year, it’s definitely something that I need to take it upon myself to be I guess more of a leader on that line and skate and use my speed and just help out.”
|12.12.15 at 3:39 pm ET|
Yawkey Way had Christmas at Fenway on Saturday, but the Panthers brought some holiday spirit with them to the Garden as they gave the Bruins one of the easiest games of the season. As the Panthers snoozed for stretches at a time, the Bruins took an easier-than-the-score-would-suggest 3-1 win.
While the Bruins weren’t particularly dominant, the Panthers played a remarkably passive game, evidenced by multiple drowsy segments. Florida went a stretch of 14:33 in the first period with just one shot of goal, a low point that they pretty much matched by not even attempting a shot in the second period until 8:26 in, when Shawn Thornton mercifully flung a puck from the neutral zone on net.
With the Bruins only leading by two thanks to big saves from Roberto Luongo, the Panthers managed to push back in the third period and get within one when former Bruin Reilly Smith broke up Tuukka Rask‘s shutout bid with just over six minutes to play. Brad Marchand put the game away with 1:23 to play, however, darting out of the defensive zone as Luongo left for the bench and firing the puck in for a heads-up empty-netter.
The win provided some distance in the standings between the Bruins, who sat third in the Atlantic Division entering Saturday night, and the Panthers, who entered the game one point behind the B’s having played two more games. The Bruins are now at 35 points through 28 games, while the Panthers have 32 points through 30 games.
Here are four more things we learned Saturday:
SPOONER HEATING UP
Ryan Spooner followed his sensational behind-the-back assist on the game-winning goal in Wednesday’s game, Ryan Spooner scored a pair of goals on Saturday for the third multi-goal game of his career. It also provided the makings of a point streak, as Spooner has now gotten on the score sheet in each of the last three games (two goals, two assists).
The increased production has come at a good time for Spooner, who went 15 games without an even-strength point before Wednesday’s assist against the Habs. His second goal of Saturday’s game, a power play tally, brought him to eight power play points on the season, good for third on the Bruins.
Rask’s season numbers will be brought down by his terrible start, but he’s had good numbers for quite some time now. Using a small sample, Rask has allowed just two goals over his last three games, and one of them came off an unlucky bounce.
In his seven appearances (six starts, one in-game replacement) entering Saturday, Rask had a .946 save percentage, a number that’s only climbed with Saturday’s performance. Rask has also gotten points out of his last eight appearances (6-0-2).
BRUINS MOSTLY DISCIPLINED (EXCEPT FOR PATRICE BERGERON, OBVIOUSLY)
With Patrice Bergeron’s penalty minutes going ups every season and this one no different, perhaps it wasn’t a shock that the Panthers’ only power play of the game came off a Bergeron trip.
Bergeron’s minor penalty was his second in the last three games and moved him into a tie with Zdeno Chara for third on the team in minor penalties. Only Brad Marchand (16) and Adam McQuaid (12) have more minors than Bergeron’s nine.
The two-time Selke winner and likely zero-time Lady Byng winner is now on pace for 53 penalty minutes on the season. He has set career highs in penalty minutes in each of the last two seasons, registering 43 in 2013-14 and 44 last season.
The Bruins’ other penalties came from Zac Rinaldo, but both of his were matching with Panthers players.
COLIN MILLER RETURNS, TROTMAN SCRATCHED
Zach Trotman moved to the press box in favor of Colin Miller, the latter of whom returned to game action for the first time since Dec. 4.
The changes to the lineup saw Friday’s practice defensive pairings stick, as the B’s iced the following lineup:
|12.11.15 at 6:54 pm ET|
Adam McQuaid doesn’t know Pascal Dupuis. All he’s heard from mutual friends is what a great guy he is. He does, however, know Dupuis’ current situation better than most hockey players.
A longtime Penguins winger and Sidney Crosby linemate, Dupuis announced this week that he was retiring from hockey because of issues with blood clots that date back to January of 2014. McQuaid had his own scare with a blood clot during the 2012 lockout, when his right arm suffered massive swelling in the fall. The blood clot, which was under his collarbone, required surgery that involved removing a rib and part of his neck neck muscle.
For the grounded yet oft-injured McQuaid, his experience with the blood clot made him feel more grateful for his health. Asked about Dupuis Friday, McQuaid expressed both disappointment in the player’s on-ice fate but optimism for his off-ice future.
“I think he said it himself, that his priority is his family and his health and [his longterm] health,” McQuaid said. “Any time anyone’s health gives out on them, you feel for them. I’m sure that they’ll miss not having him in the lineup.”
Dupuis returned at the start of last season from both a knee injury and blood clot issues, but was diagnosed with another blood clot in his lung of November of 2014, ending his season. The 36-year-old returned again to play in 18 games this season before shutting it down for good.
Dupuis’ condition was both more serious and more recurring than McQuaid’s. The Boston defenseman was assured at the time of his blood clot and subsequent surgical work that aside from months spent on blood thinners, it “wouldn’t be an issue going forward,” as it hasn’t. As such, McQuaid was quick to note that though “a blood clot’s still a blood clot,” he wasn’t comparing his misfortune to Dupuis’.
“It’s not quite the same thing, but I can relate,” he said. “Mine was a little more short-term, but I know what it’s like to go through the whole process. It definitely makes you reevaluate things and appreciate things and realize how lucky we are to do what we do, and to have your health ‘ mainly, having your health.
“I’m sure that as disappointed as he is, staying on the protocol [means] he’ll have a long and happy life, so you take the positives and look at all the great things that he still has to look forward to.”
At the time of McQuaid’s blood clot, its silver lining was that it came during the lockout and didn’t require him to miss games. Looking at how much worse things could have been, McQuaid said he considers himself blessed that it proved to be a speed bump rather than the major roadblock blood clots can be for athletes.
“It’s one of those things where you can think of it as, like, ‘Why is this going on? Why am I having to do this?” McQuaid said. “Then you look at it like, ‘Well, I’m lucky that it’s just a short-term thing, too.'”
|12.11.15 at 10:55 am ET|
WILMINGTON — The Bruins sported some tweaks to their lineup in Friday’s practice, most notably returning Matt Beleskey to David Krejci‘s line and moving Colin Miller into the top three pairs after the rookie defensemen sat the last three games.
Beleskey was moved to Patrice Bergeron for the third period of the Bruins’ 3-1 win over the Canadiens Wednesday, but Brett Connolly was back on Bergeron’s line on Friday. The lines in practice were as follows:
|12.09.15 at 10:19 pm ET|
The last time the Bruins played the Canadiens, they blew a third-period lead and took a frustrating loss. They found themselves on the other side of that equation Wednesday night in Montreal. Now, perhaps their 3-1 victory can give the B’s a little more confidence when the teams next meet in the Winter Classic at Gillette Stadium.
With the Bruins down a goal and shorthanded with just over 12 minutes to play, Zdeno Chara batted a P.K. Subban shot out of mid-air up to Loui Eriksson in the neutral zone. Eriksson outraced Jeff Petry and beat Mike Condon for a breakaway goal to tie the game. Less than a minute later, Ryan Spooner sent a brilliant pass behind his back to Landon Ferraro, who scored in the slot to make it 2-1.
The third period saw Claude Julien shuffle his lines with success. Moving Matt Beleskey up to Patrice Bergeron‘s line with Brad Marchand led to a Bergeron goal with 6:18 to play. That goal put the game out of reach and proved to be an important one given that the Habs wound up on the power play shortly after due to a Kevan Miller interference penalty.
Here are four more things we learned:
RASK CAN BEAT THE HABS
Tuukka Rask‘s head might have exploded if the 1-0 score through two periods held up for the rest of the game. It would have added to the idea that the 2013-14 Vezina Winner simply can’t beat the Habs.
While Rask and the Bruins trailed for much of the game, Rask was excellent. In fact, the only goal he allowed was the result of some terrible luck.
|12.08.15 at 12:24 pm ET|
The Bruins have placed forward Joonas Kemppainen on injured reserve and recalled Max Talbot from Providence. Kemppainen played just five shifts and missed the entire third period of Monday’s loss to the Predators due to an upper-body injury.
Julien noted that without Kemppainen and Chris Kelly, who is out of the regular season, the Bruins will need to avoid penalties against Montreal. Kemppainen is both a regular penalty killer and a capable faceoff man for the B’s when shorthanded. Talbot has experience killing penalties.
Regardless of who they have out there, the B’s would be wise to avoid taking eight minor penalties like they did Monday. The Canadiens boast the NHL‘s fifth-best power play with a 22.2 percent success rate.
“When you lose guys like Kemppainen and you lose guys like Kelly, those are top-notch penalty killers,” Claude Julien said. “There’s no doubt it has an impact on our penalty kill units.”
Dennis Seidenberg and Colin Miller, both of whom have missed the last two games due to undisclosed injuries, will travel and are possibilities to play Wednesday. Miller said he is healthy enough to play.
“Yeah, definitely,” Miller said when asked if he could play. “Just a little banged up or whatever the last couple of days, but I’m definitely ready to go now.”
Miller had just 13:51 of ice time in last Friday’s overtime loss to the Flames, marking his lowest time on ice total since Oct. 30. His pairing with Seidenberg had struggled in recent games, most notably the Bruins’ win over the Rangers on Nov. 27.
Despite a dip in his defensive game, the rookie blueliner was enjoying occasional offensive success. In the Bruins’ 3-2 overtime win over the Red Wings, Miller tied the game late in the third and then assisted Frank Vatrano’s game-winner.
“I felt all right,” Miller said of his game leading up to his time out of the lineup. “I mean, throughout the season there’s going to be ups and downs with the team and with everybody’s game and stuff like that, but I felt fine. It’s been going well. I’ve just got to keep going.”
It is unclear whether Julien will put Miller back in the lineup over Kevan Miller now that he’s healthy. Kevan Miller scored in the first period Monday but whiffed on taking out Viktor Arvidsson on what ended up being the game-deciding goal for the Predators.
|12.07.15 at 9:44 pm ET|
To say the Bruins’ offense fell stagnant in the second half of their 3-2 loss to the Predators Monday would be an understatement.
After getting a power play goal from Loui Eriksson to take a 2-1 lead at 10:53 of the second period, the Bruins went 17:16 without a shot on goal. The Predators scored to tie the game early in that stretch and took control of the game while the B’s remained either shorthanded or dormant. Though the Bruins eventually managed to put some pucks on Carter Hutton in the third period, the Predators finally took the lead with 4:56 to play.
Partially because of how much time they spent shorthanded, the Bruins managed just seven shots on goal in the first period, four in the second and six in the third for a total of 17, a season low. Jonas Gustavsson stopped 30 of the 33 shots he faced.
The 14-9-3 Bruins will next head to Montreal, where they will face the Carey Price-less Canadiens Wednesday at Bell Centre.
Here are four more things we learned Monday:
BUSY PENALTY KILL TAKES STEP BACK
The Bruins had allowed one power play goal in their last seven games leading up to Monday night. They weren’t so successful when shorthanded against the Predators.
Roman Josi scored a pair of power-play goals for the Predators, marking the first time since the Bruins’ Nov. 17 game against the Sharks that Boston’s penalty kill allowed multiple goals.
Then again, the Bruins’ penalty-killers were extremely busy on Monday. The Bruins took eight minor penalties and found themselves shorthanded seven times.
“It definitely takes up some time there, killing it,” Eriksson said of spending much of the game shorthanded. “We took too many penalties today, and it’s tough to be on the ice four against five. You’re skating a lot, you’re wasting a lot of energy.”
There were also a pair of fights in the penalty-filled affair, as Brad Marchand fought Josi at 4:04 of the second period and Tyler Randell absolutely pummeled Eric Nystrom a couple minutes later.
Josi’s second power play goal came after a second-period hooking penalty called on Patrice Bergeron. The penalty gave Bergeron 16 penalty minutes through 26 games this season, which puts him on pace for 50 on the season.
Should Bergeron hit close to that mark, he’ll set a new career-high in penalty minutes for the third consecutive season. The now 30-year-old center had 43 penalty minutes in 2013-14, which he followed up with 44 last season.