|12.17.15 at 2:01 am ET|
The six players assembled to play on Boston’s top-two forward lines Wednesday night had produced 53 goals on the season entering the night’s action. The Bruins’ bottom-six forwards had managed just 16 markers.
When the night was complete, and a 3-0 shutout victory over Pittsburgh was earned, the Bruins had three more tallies logged in the depth department.
“Well, that’s what you want to see,” said Bruins coach Claude Julien after watching goals from Max Talbot and Jimmy Hayes, plus an empty-netter from Ryan Spooner to salt the game away. “You don’t expect them to score at the pace that the top two lines are, but you certainly like to see them chip in once in a while. Tonight, it allowed us to win this game [as] those first two goals came from the third and fourth line. You don’t want guys playing in other guys’ shadows, you want them to be able to be confident enough to play in this league and contribute.”
For Talbot and Hayes, the goals were an oasis in a desert of scoring drought. Hayes had been mired in a 15-game goal funk, and Talbot hadn’t scored in any of his 28 games with the Bruins dating back his acquisition via trade last year.
“I think you saw my celebration,” Talbot said of his displayed emotion upon giving Boston a 1-0 lead in the first period. “Obviously happiness but also relief. I got a chance to have a two-on-one, just put it in the upper right corner. Felt pretty good when it hit the twine.”
Then, four minutes into the second period, a Spooner centering pass for a hard-driving Hayes somehow found the scoring zone, with the goal awarded to Hayes and giving Boston a 2-0 edge.
“It’s been a while, struggling to find the back of the net,” Hayes said. “Just keep plugging. It’s happened to me before but you want to find a way out of it. You have to go to the net. Just find a way out of it. You don’t want to lose sleep, you’ve got to be a professional. That’s how I’m going to be effective, get big, move my feet. Just being hard to play against.”
Boston’s record of late proves that they have been hard to play against as a squad, as they improved to 9-1-3 in their last 13 games played. Their growing cohesion, and attention to detail, is making the difference.
“I think as a team we’re playing better,” said Spooner. “In our own end we’re keeping teams to the outside a little bit more. And before, we were getting in some trouble at [the opponent’s] blue line, making some turnovers which doesn’t work well in this league. For the most part, we’re getting some pucks in deep, playing smart.”
It was the fourth straight game in the lineup for Talbot, the longest stretch of the season for an 11-year NHL veteran who has had to check his pride at the door while accepting a few stints in the AHL.
“I can say it was challenging at some points but I’m the type of guy to take the glass always half-full,” said Talbot. “I kept a good attitude working with the younger guys in Providence. I worked on my offensive game. When I got the call back up I’m doing what I can to help the team. That’s been my role here and I’ll keep on doing that as best I can.”
It’s a mindset that is appreciated by Julien.
“Max, from the first day he went down to Providence, all I heard is what a great attitude he had, smiling, having fun with the guys, playing hard, and was one of the best players there,” said Julien. “That just shows his character and what he’s all about. What’s happening to him now, that’s what he deserves because of just the way he’s handled himself through the situation that started at the beginning of the year.”
Julien continued: “I don’t think he had much of a chance there from training camp, being put on waivers, up and down for a game or two. But he’s been with us now for a bit of a stretch, and obviously playing well. He’s a gritty player. Probably tonight he struggled a little bit in the faceoff circle but other than that, he’s competing hard and it’s nice to see some guys like that score some goals. They work so hard and you like to see different guys score on your team once in a while and give your team a boost. That’s what he did, led us with that first goal and I thought played a pretty strong game start to finish, on penalty kill, five-on-five, really reliable.”
“It’s been a rough start in a way, but at the same time it’s just good to do something to contribute,” said Talbot. “I think Claude gave me a little confidence putting me out there and it feels good. I’m trying to do what I can. For the team it’s nice when the third and the fourth line gets some goals, gets a little relief for the first and second line which usually score most of the goals.”
|12.16.15 at 10:43 pm ET|
The Penguins are so bad right now that the B’s came out of a mediocre performance with a 3-0 win.
The struggling Penguins managed to outshoot the Bruins, 34-29, but Pittsburgh’s preference to dump pucks in rather than go to the net meant that they didn’t generate nearly as much as their offensive talent should. With the Bruins managing defensively and Tuukka Rask stopping everything he saw, Max Talbot’s first-period goal (his first as a Bruin) proved to be the game-winner.
Rask now has four shutouts on the season, surpassing last season’s total of three. Having entered Wednesday’s game with a .948 save percentage over his previous eight games, the 2013-14 Vezina winner is easily playing his best hockey of the season.
The Bruins and Penguins will wrap up their home-and-home series when they play Friday night at CONSOL Energy Center.
Here are four more things we learned Wednesday:
KOKO PLAYS, TALBOT SCORES FISRT AS A BRUIN
Alexander Khokhlachev was inserted into the lineup after the Bruins called him up Wednesday morning. Khokhlachev skated on Boston’s fourth line with Talbot and Landon Ferraro.
While Khokhlachev is the best offensive player of that trio, it was Talbot who provided the offensive firepower for the line, scoring off the rush in the first period on a rough one for Penguins goalie Jeff Zatkoff to allow. The goal was Talbot’s first goal as a Bruin in 29 games dating back to last season.
Max Talbot’s first goal of the season. Snipe. pic.twitter.com/FkQTQaZBM3
‘ Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) December 17, 2015
SPOONER STAYS HOT
The first two shifts for Ryan Spooner’s line with Frank Vatrano and Jimmy Hayes suggested it might be a long night for the trio. The first shift saw bad passing from Hayes in the neutral zone force Adam McQuaid to hook Kevin Porter. The second shift saw Eric Fehr’s line hem Spooner’s line in the Boston zone.
As it turned out, the Spooner line had plenty to give. Hayes forced a Brian Dumoulin turnover that eventually led to Talbot’s goal in the first period, while a pass in front from Spooner went off Ian Coles’s skate and in to make it 2-0. Spooner’s goal gave him his fifth point (three goals, two assists) over his last five games.
|12.16.15 at 7:22 pm ET|
David Warsofsky and Torey Krug are not particularly large people, but there wasn’t enough room in Boston for both of them.
Warsofsky, a Marshfield native who played at Cushing Academy and Boston University, was acquired by the Bruins in a 2010 trade that sent Vladimir Sobotka to the Blues. His first full pro season was 2011-12, one that saw the Bruins win the Krug sweepstakes by inking the Michigan State defenseman to an entry level deal and then immediately burning the first year off by letting him play NHL games.
Having both Warsofsky and Krug created an organizational redundancy. Both players are undersized left-shot defensemen with good mobility and an ability to quarterback a power play. When Krug established himself as an NHL player in the 2013 playoffs, Warsofsky was put in the unfortunate position of being blocked. Though he played well in the 10 games he did play for Boston over the 2013-14 and 2015-15 seasons, Warsofsky was not going to be a full-time Boston Bruin as long as Krug was around.
Upon reaching free agency this summer, the 25-year-old left to sign with the Penguins. The parting was amicable, as it was plain to see that there would be more of an opportunity for him to make the NHL elsewhere.
“Obviously growing up, you want to play for your hometown team, but I think the change has been good for me,” Warsofsky said Wednesday. “It’s maybe a little bit less pressure. I don’t have family and friends at every game. Just with the organization they have here and the players and the system, I think Pittsburgh was a better opportunity for me.”
Choosing the Penguins (Warsofsky said he was in talks with four or five teams), has paid off. Though he didn’t make the team out of camp, Warsofsky was called up to Pittsburgh on Nov. 19 due to an injuries on the Penguins‘ blue line. Now he’s on Pittsburgh’s top power play unit with the likes of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, David Perron and Chris Kunitz. He has no points through six games, but he’s received some high praise.
“He’s been really good, coming in and having to play a pretty big role for somebody stepping right in there,” Crosby said. “Top power play unit, getting some good minutes, so he’s done a really good job. With the puck, he’s able to make a really good first pass. He’s able to skate his way out of trouble. He’s not the biggest guy, but he’s smart and that allows him to make a lot of good plays out there.”
Warsofsky has had enough cups of coffee in the NHL to want to make this one stick. It might not be a sure thing, but his chances are better in Pittsburgh than they were in Boston.
“I think it was just time for a change for me,” Warsofsky said. “I just needed a change of scenery for me to clear my head about some things. Yeah, the new management was I think maybe in my favor a little bit, but I think the change was good for me.”
|12.16.15 at 1:23 pm ET|
Bergeron, who came to the NHL at 18 years old, credited Sullivan with many things, including helping him eventually become an Olympian by showing the league that he could also play right wing. Sullivan returned Bergeron’s praise Wednesday, saying that he could tell that Bergeron had a great career of him when their paths first crossed in 2003.
“Yes, I did,” he said proudly. “When I had him, he was an 18-year-old kid and he surprised everybody coming out of training camp. He’s done nothing but get better and improve from there. Patrice is a quality person; he’s great player. It doesn’t surprise me one bit what he’s able to accomplish.”
Added Sullivan: “None of us expected him to make the team back then. It’s a hard league. It’s a man’s league and it’s a hard league to break into as an 18-year-old, but he certainly raised eyebrows and he earned his way. It wasn’t like we handed it to him; he earned his way. He’s a quality person. It doesn’t surprise me one bit.”
|12.16.15 at 12:47 pm ET|
Zac Rinaldo’s upper-body injury prompted the Bruins to recall forward Alexander Khokhlachev, marking the 2011 second-round pick’s latest callup to Boston.
Khokhlachev, who led the Providence Bruins in points the last two seasons and expressed frustration during training camp with the B’s not giving him a full-time job in the NHL, played two games for Boston in early November. He suffered a hand injury that required surgery shortly after being returned to Providence, however, making him unavailable to the B’s when they might have otherwise used him.
“Any guy that gets injured I think is not happy with that,” Khokhlachev said Wednesday. “It’s just part of the game. I [wasn’t] out for a long time. I healed and I’m ready to play right now.”
A natural center, Khokhlachev has played mostly wing for Providence this season. He has six goals and 14 assists for 20 points in 17 games in the AHL.
At 22, Khokhlachev feels he is overdue to stay in the NHL for good. He’s done the up-and-down routine that Ryan Spooner did last season before ultimately getting a permanent job, and he hopes to have the same fate as his former Providence teammate.
“I’m pretty sure if I play really good, they will keep me,” he said. “It’s all about me, how I will play.”
|12.15.15 at 6:20 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — Back in the spring of 2004, Claude Julien and his seventh-seeded Canadiens upset the second-seeded Bruins, a team that surged in the regular season behind a first-year NHL coach in Mike Sullivan.
Asked what he remembered from that series, Julien offered nothing.
“I don’t remember anything; that’s too [long ago], to be honest with you,” Julien said with a grin. “That’s 12 years, right? My memory’s not that good.”
Patrice Bergeron‘s is, but then again Sullivan’s first season should mean much more to Bergeron than it should to Julien. That was also Bergeron’s first season in the NHL, one that he felt might not have even happened without Sullivan. When Sullivan, recently named the Penguins‘ head coach, comes to the Garden, he’ll be leading a team in Boston for the first time since he was fired by the Bruins in 2006.
While Sullivan’s second season as Bruins’ head coach (2005-06, the first season back from the lockout) got him fired by then-incoming general manager Peter Chiarelli, Sullivan was not a bad coach for Boston. A bad start to that season prompted general manager Mike O’Connell to trade Joe Thornton, and other players such as Sergei Samsonov followed.
Despite losing to the Canadiens, B’s fans should look back on Sullivan’s first season more fondly. Bergeron certainly does, as he is extremely grateful for what the former Boston University forward did for his career.
‘He’s the one that gave me my chance,’ Bergeron said. ‘As a rookie coming in, a second-round pick, a lot of coaches could have just sent me back to junior and not even given me a shot, [but] he did and gave me some exemption games to prove myself. I’ll always be thankful for that. He’s a great coach and it’s well-deserved, I think. It’s taken a long time for him, but he’s gotten experience over the years and that probably makes him a better coach now.’
Drafted months prior to that season in the second round, Bergeron was moved by Sullivan from center to right wing as a rookie after surprising in camp and making the team. In addition to that move allowing him to make the NHL so young, Bergeron credits it with eventually making him an Olympian years later in Vancouver.
“If you look at it, in the long run, I was able to make the Olympic team because of it because I was able to play as a wing,’ he said. ‘It’s definitely something that helped me in my career, for sure.”
Though Bergeron’s time playing for Sullivan didn’t last particularly long, one of the biggest moments of the 30-year-old’s career came in that first season, when he scored in overtime of Game 2 of the first round to give the Bruins a 2-0 series lead, albeit one they would eventually relinquish in a seven-game series defeat.
Asked if there was anything Sullivan said to the teenager before that playoff series, Bergeron said it was just more of what he had come to know from the coach, something he figures Sullivan will take to the Penguins.
“For me, as a young kid, he was always really positive,” Bergeron said. “I think that was the main thing with him. I’d had a few stretches during that year as a rookie that I was going dry a bit and not playing as well, and he would meet with me, but always in a positive way where I could learn from it and grow from it. It’s really the one thing that always stood out to me, was the confident that he had in his players and how much he believed in us as his players. You want to play for a guy like that.”
|12.15.15 at 12:40 pm ET|
The Bruins placed forward Zac Rinaldo on injured reserve with an upper-body injury. The exact nature of Rinaldo’s injury is unknown, though the fourth-liner did fight Matt Hendricks in Monday’s game.
Tuesday’s practice saw the Bruins kept the same defensive pairings that they used in the majority of Monday’s game, with the lineup in practice looking as follows: