|03.10.16 at 4:58 pm ET|
The Bruins have 14 games remaining. Nine of them are against teams currently in playoff position.
A season ago, that might have meant 14 games for Tuukka Rask. After all, Rask started 16 of the Bruins’ final 17 games of the season in what, despite a strong performance from the starter, proved to be a fruitless push to reach the playoffs.
Everyone knows why Rask played so much down the stretch last season: The Bruins needed to win the games and they didn’t have any confidence in Niklas Svedberg, their backup goaltender. As such, Rask was a busy man.
This season, the Bruins might not need the points as much to get into the playoffs, but they certainly have something for which to play. Securing the top seed in the Atlantic Division would mean setting up one or two potentially winnable playoff series against teams like Pittsburgh, Detroit or Florida.
So while there’s plenty of motivation to keep going to Rask, the Bruins like this season’s backup goaltender a lot better. Coming off his best game as a Bruin, Jonas Gustavsson is eager to provide the Bruins with big points the way he did in a 42-save shutout against the Lightning Tuesday.
Claude Julien downplayed the number of shots against the Bruins have allowed of late, saying that the 42 that Gustavsson faced Tuesday were not as difficult as the 51 Rask faced Monday. Gustavsson agreed that keeping shots to the outside limited Tampa’s prime chances, but he still needed to come up with critical stops against the likes of Alex Killorn and Nikita Kucherov.
“There’s always going to be those chances when you need to step up,” Gustavsson said. “I was able to do that, but all in all I think we’ve played a really solid defensive game.”
Gustavsson has good numbers this season (his .916 save percentage is three points behind Rask), but he has not always passed the eye test. Rebound control is his biggest issue, but at the very least he has provided the B’s with a backup they trust. That’s huge when considering that Malcolm Subban is not currently an option due to the larynx surgery he had to receive last month.
The Bruins have two back-to-backs remaining, so there’s a good chance Gustavsson will play again next weekend in California and later this month when the B’s play in New York and then host the Panthers the next night. Those are good teams the Bruins will be playing; they won’t be able to play Rask the rest of the way like they did a season ago.
“I saw that he played a lot, but it’s tough when you’re not part of the team to really know what’s going on,” Gustavsson said. “Maybe they were in a different position points-wise as well. Right now we’re in pretty good position, but the most important thing is we keep getting better as a group and keep getting those points. If that includes me playing more games than the backup goalie played last year, we’ll see. I’ll just take it day-by-day.”
|03.10.16 at 11:53 am ET|
Kevan Miller participated in Thursday’s morning skate, but he will miss his third straight game when the Bruins host the Hurricanes at TD Garden.
The veteran defenseman has been out with an upper-body injury since leaving last Saturday’s game against the Capitals following a second-period hit from behind from Alexander Ovechkin.
Speaking after the skate, Claude Julien said that Miller remains day-to-day and is “obviously doing well.” He noted that Miller could be a possibility for Saturday’s game against the Islanders.
Miller, who appeared to injure his right shoulder on the hit, went to the hospital after the play. His season was ended by right shoulder surgery last year, so it would have been understandable if he feared a worse outcome than he experienced when he left the game.
“It wasn’t a very pleasant couple of minutes there,” Miller admitted. “It happens.”
With Miller out, Joe Morrow is expected to play his second straight game. Zach Trotman played Monday in Boston’s first game without Miller before the B’s brought Morrow into the lineup.
After a phone hearing with the league, John-Michael Liles was not given supplemental discipline for his hit to the head of Lightning forward Nikita Kucherov. Liles was not penalized on the play, which saw him extend his arm and hit Kucherov at the Bruins’ blueline during Boston’s 1-0 win over the Bolts.
Assuming the Bruins play Morrow, they will have five left-shot defensemen and only one righty (Adam McQuaid) in the lineup. Liles played the right side with Zdeno Chara Tuesday against the Lightning, while Dennis Seidenberg played the right side with Morrow.
“Both those guys can play their off-sides,” Julien said. “We’ve seen it with Seids and John-Michael has been in the same situation before. He’s played both sides, so that’s been helpful, there’s no doubt. I thought they did a great job last game of handling that and giving us that stability here of being able to have certain players in the lineup and playing with different partners.”
|03.08.16 at 10:15 pm ET|
They needed overtime once again, but the Bruins completed a perfect Florida back-to-back with a 1-0 overtime win over the Lightning Tuesday at Amalie Arena.
After the teams played a frenetic 60 minutes of scoreless regulation, Brad Marchand took a feed from Patrice Bergeron off the rush 10 seconds into overtime and beat Ben Bishop to give Boston the win. The goal was Marchand’s 34th of the season.
In assisting the goal, Bergeron continued his recent hot streak, as he now has seven points (five goals, two assists) over his last five games. Furthermore, the Bruins are now 4-0-1 in five games since the trade trade deadline, a stretch that has seen them defeat three of the four playoff teams they faced.
The victory pulled the Bruins even with the Atlantic-leading Lightning with 83 points, though Tampa remains ahead of Boston in the division due to a game in hand. Tampa has 15 games remaining to Boston’s 14.
The Bruins will return to Boston to host the Hurricanes on Thursday. Because Tampa does not play until Friday, the Bruins can overtake first place for the first time all season if they are to secure a victory against Carolina.
Here are four more things we learned Tuesday:
Because we haven’t watched every game of Jonas Gustavsson’s career, we can’t say that Tuesday’s performance was the best of the veteran netminder’s NHL tenure. At the very least, it’s safe to say he played his best game as a Bruin.
Gustavsson made a career-high 42 saves, surpassing his previous best of 40. While Tampa pretty much threw the puck on net every time they got it, Gustsavsson also had to rob the likes of Alex Killorn and Nikita Kucherov at various points to keep the game scoreless.
The move to not start Rask in back-to-backs proved to be the wise one for the Bruins, as Rask had played in seven straight games for Boston. No rust showed for Gustavsson, however, and his shutout performance allowed the Bruins to get two huge points while being able to play Rask against the Hurricanes and Islanders in the coming days before the B’s head out west for a three-game road trip.
Of course, the Bruins probably shouldn’t get into the habit of giving up shots like they have of late. Tuukka Rask had to face 51 shots Monday against the Panthers before the Lightning put 42 pucks on Gustavsson. Read the rest of this entry »
|03.07.16 at 10:46 pm ET|
Lee Stempniak’s first goal as a Bruin was a biggie, and Claude Julien’s record-breaking was exhausting.
After the Bruins blew a three-goal lead, Stempniak scored in overtime to give the Bruins a 5-4 victory over the Panthers. The win was Claude Julien’s 388th with the Bruins, the most for a coach in Bruins history.
After taking a 4-1 lead in the first period and chasing Roberto Luongo in the process, the Bruins allowed a pair of goals in the second period as the Panthers dominated the middle 20. Though the B’s killed off a David Krejci high-sticking double-minor that spanned across the final minute of the second and first three of three of the third period, they eventually surrendered the equalizer when Jiri Hudler scored his second of the game with 4:43 left in regulation.
With the victory, the Bruins now have as many points (81) as Florida, though Boston has played 67 games to Florida’s 66. Because the Atlantic-leading Lightning lost to the Flyers Monday, the Bruins now sit one point behind them and can overtake first place with a win over the Bolts on Tuesday.
Here are four more things we learned Monday:
BERGERON STAYS HOT
Patrice Bergreon scored twice in the first period, including a tally 34 seconds into the game that marked the third time in as many games that Bergeron scored the game’s first goal.
With Bergeron’s goals, his 27th and 28th of the season, Bergeron now has six goals in his last five games.
|03.07.16 at 1:59 pm ET|
Kevan Miller did not travel with the Bruins for the team’s two-game road trip to Florida, with coach Claude Julien telling reporters in Sunrise Monday morning that the defenseman was day-to-day with an uper-body injury.
Miller suffered the injury in the second period of Saturday’s overtime loss to the Capitals on a hit from Alexander Ovechkin. The 28-year-old defenseman did not return to the game after seeming to favor his right shoulder as he left the ice. Following the game, Julien noted that Miller had been taken to the hospital.
With Miller out on Monday, Zach Trotman is expected to re-enter the lineup against the Panthers.
|03.07.16 at 1:24 am ET|
If and when Zac Rinaldo makes it back up to the NHL, he will begin by serving his five games due to his hit on Cedric Paquette. In the meantime, he’s still in the AHL.
And also suspended.
Playing in his first game for Providence on Friday, Rinaldo was given a match penalty for intent to injure on a hit on Bridgeport defenseman Kane Lafranchise in a P-Bruins’ 4-3 loss. That carries with it an automatic indefinite suspension pending league review, and the league announced Monday that Rinaldo would be given a five-game ban. Joe McDonald of ESPN was the first to report Rinaldo’s AHL suspension.
It has not been a good week-plus for Rinaldo, who was placed on waivers last Sunday, committed his suspendable hit against the Lightning later that night and was sent to Providence Monday, the same day that his five-game ban was given by the league.
It is unclear whether Rinaldo will regain his spot on Boston’s roster this season. For the time being, it appears the Bruins are set on a fourth line of Noel Acciari between Landon Ferraro and Brett Connolly. Tyler Randell is the team’s extra forward.
The Bruins sent a 2017 third-round pick to Philadelphia this summer in what was considered a head-scratcher of a deal at the time. In 52 games for Boston this season, Rinaldo has one goal and two assists for three points and 83 penalty minutes.
Here is video of the hit on Lafranchise, per Weekend at Bergy’s:
|03.06.16 at 6:04 am ET|
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