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5 Things We Learned as Anton Khudobin’s struggles continue in loss to Ducks

12.15.16 at 9:43 pm ET
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The Bruins dropped their fifth game in the last six contests with a 4-3 loss to the Ducks. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)

The Bruins dropped their fifth game in the last six contests with a 4-3 loss to the Ducks. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)

One week to the day after he was publicly called out by head coach Claude Julien for not making enough saves when the Bruins needed them, Anton Khudobin was back in net with a shot at redemption.

It was a familiar situation for Khudobin, too, as the Bruins were back in town after a road game the night before (an overtime loss, no less) while their opponent sat comfortably in Boston.

But the story remained the same for the struggling 30-year-old, as Khudobin once again let the Bruins down by way of a mediocre 23-of-27 night en route to a 4-3 loss to the Ducks at TD Garden.

Although this one featured a new one for Khudobin, as he surrendered a two-goal lead almost as quickly as it was given to him.

After a sleepy start in which the Bruins didn’t really do much of anything, the Bruins broke the game open with two goals in 13 seconds. The first was off a bullet from Zdeno Chara, good for Chara’s first goal in 22 games, and with Patrice Bergeron providing a great screen on Ducks netminder Jonathan Bernier. The Z party rolled on into the next shift when Austin Czarnik followed Chara’s goal immediately off Ryan Spooner’s great feed to No. 27 that saw Czarnik find a sliver of space above Bernier to bury home his second goal in the last three games.

But the Ducks, well rested and apparently awake from the sound of the B’s goal horn, countered 14 seconds later, as David Krejci tucked home a loose rebound into his own net, a goal that was credited to Andrew Cogliano after a ferocious crash around Khudobin’s crease. The Ducks drew even just 5:06 after the Cogliano goal when Kevin Bieksa came out of the penalty box, with possession over the blue line all alone, and beat Khudobin for his second goal of the season.

Even on the scoreboard at 2-2 and in shots at 11-11 through 20 minutes of play, the Ducks finally grabbed a hold of the lead just 55 seconds into the second period when Josh Manson barreled around the net and banged a loose puck through Khudobin for his first goal of the season, which pushed Khudobin’s struggles to seven goals on just 35 shots against in his last 80:55 of hockey.

The Bruins bailed Khudobin out with a power-play goal just minutes later on a putaway shot from David Krejci, but again, the Ducks countered with a goal of their own, a Rickard Rakell all alone shot 2:56 later, to give Anaheim a 4-3 lead.

At numerous points throughout the night — and on a few of Anaheim’s goals for that matter — Khudobin was let down by the B’s team defense. The Bruins should have had better awareness on the time left in Bieksa’s penalty. The Bruins should have picked up their men in front of the net on the Cogliano goal, or the Manson goal, or the Rakell goal, but at a certain point, the Bruins need Khudobin to bail them out like the way Tuukka Rask bails them out. And that might not be necessarily fair to Khudobin, who is obviously the team’s backup and not in Rask’s caliber as a goaltender in this league, but he’s not the only backup in such a case.

Khudobin has now dropped five of his six starts this season.

Here are four other things we learned in the club’s fifth loss in their last six games…

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Bruins netminder Anton Khudobin gets start vs. Ducks

12.15.16 at 6:58 pm ET
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Anton Khudobin will start against the Ducks. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

Anton Khudobin will start against the Ducks. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

Back in Boston after two straight overtime road games against top notch Eastern Conference foes in the Canadiens and Penguins, including one last night at PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh, Bruins coach Claude Julien isn’t taking any chances with his star netminder.

“Tough choice,” Julien said with a grin when asked if it was Anton Khudobin in net for tonight’s head-to-head with the visiting Ducks.

Read as: There was no way B’s netminder Tuukka Rask was finding his way back in net for his third start in four nights.

The 30-year-old Khudobin was criticized by the B’s bench boss after his last start, a 4-2 loss to the Avalanche last Thursday in which Khudobin allowed four goals on just 22 shots against, and comes into this start with just one win and an .888 save percentage in five games this year.

But if there’s a positive to take when it comes to Khudobin’s start, it comes from the fact that this is a Ducks group he’s familiar with from his 2015-16 season with the organization, which featured three wins and a .909 save percentage in seven starts. And if this year has taught us anything, it’s that Khudobin gets up for games against his former clubs, evident by his stellar 29-of-30 showing against the Hurricanes (the team that traded him to the Ducks two summers ago) on Dec. 1.

The Ducks will counter with Jonathan Bernier. The 28-year-old Bernier has five wins and a .907 save percentage in 12 games this season, and comes into action with three wins and a .901 save percentage in nine career games against the Bruins.

On a lineup note for the Bruins, Jimmy Hayes will return to the press box as a healthy scratch, while Anton Blidh, recalled from the P-Bruins early this morning, is set for the fifth NHL game of his career. Blidh has one assist and seven shots in four NHL games this season, and scored one goal on six shots during his brief demotion back down to the AHL.

This is the first of two meetings between the Bruins and Ducks this season.

Bruins recall Anton Blidh, assign Danton Heinen to Providence

12.15.16 at 5:11 pm ET
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Anton Blidh

Anton Blidh

Back in Boston for the second leg of a back-to-back that started in Pittsburgh last night and with the Ducks rested and waiting for the Black and Gold, the forward shuffle from Boston to Providence continued Thursday morning with the recall of forward Anton Blidh from the P-Bruins and corresponding reassignment of forward Danton Heinen back down to the AHL.

Returned to the AHL five days ago, Blidh scored a goal and added six shots in his two-game return to the minors, and comes back to the B’s with one assist, seven shots, and 13 hits in four NHL games this year.

Heinen, a healthy scratch in the last two contests, had one shot on goal, one hit, and was credited with one takeaway in 14:00 of time on ice in his only game during the recall, a 4-1 loss to the Maple Leafs last Saturday. Heinen has seven goals and 13 points in 13 games for the P-Bruins this season.

Blidh will be eligible to suit up for the Bruins-Ducks game tonight.

Bruins prospect Jeremy Lauzon survives Canada’s final cuts, Zach Senyshyn does not

12.15.16 at 1:10 am ET
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Jeremy Lauzon

Jeremy Lauzon

It turns out that the Bruins will have Team Canada representation in the 2017 World Junior Championships, as defenseman Jeremy Lauzon is among the final 22 players (and seven defensemen) chosen for the upcoming tournament, which will kick off in Toronto and Montreal in the coming weeks.

Lauzon, a second-round pick (52nd overall) by the Bruins in 2015, has tallied two goals and 11 points in 13 games for Rouyn-Noranda Huskies this season, and has totaled 32 goals and 113 points in 174 QMJHL games since the start of the 2013-14 season. The 6-foot-1 defender was sensational for the Huskies a year ago, too, with a career-high 50 points in just 46 games.

Part of a Canadian defense led by four first round draft picks, Lauzon is one of two second-round picks (Kale Clague, the 51st overall pick by the Kings in 2016) to represent their defense, while Lauzon’s QMJHL teammate, Philippe Myers (undrafted and signed by the Flyers in 2015), rounds out the group.

But Lauzon’s teammate in the B’s organization, forward Zach Senyshyn, a first round pick by the club in 2015, was not so lucky, as he was part of the final group of forwards cut from Team Canada’s camp and returned to his junior team.

In the midst of a monster year in the Ontario Hockey League with 16 goals and 26 points in just 23 games to date, the 19-year-old Senyshyn will return to the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. The No. 15 overall pick from the 2015 NHL Draft, Senyshyn has recorded 61 goals and 91 points in 89 games for the Greyhounds.

Team Canada disappointed their way to a sixth-place finish in last year’s tournament.

Bruins lose Kevan Miller to upper-body injury in loss to Penguins

12.15.16 at 12:39 am ET
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Kevan Miller

Kevan Miller

As if their hands weren’t already full in a head-to-head with a Penguins team that came into action with 35 goals scored in their last six games (all wins for the defending Stanley Cup winners), a departure to the locker room by Kevan Miller dropped the Bruins down to five defensemen in the second period of an overtime loss Wednesday at PPG Paints Arena

On the ice for the Nick Bonino power-play goal, the second of four Penguins goals on the night, Miller would appear on the ice for one more shift, a 1:14 shift (his second-longest of the night), before he departed to the B’s locker room for the rest of the night for an unspecified reason.

After the game, B’s head coach Claude Julien confirmed that Miller sustained an upper-body injury.

With Miller gone for the night after just 10:33 of time on ice, Julien mixed and match his defensive pairings for the rest of the night, something that became especially difficult on the road and in an attempt to limit the potential matchups against 2012 third-round pick Matt Grzelcyk, who made his NHL debut in the losing effort.

It meant heavy deployment for the Bruins’ other big-bodied righties on the point, as Brandon Carlo and Adam McQuaid each logged 12-shift third periods, while Zdeno Chara finished the final frame with 11 shifts.

Without a solidified update on Miller’s status moving forward, and with the Bruins still down John-Michael Liles (concussion), one of Joe Morrow or Colin Miller could draw back into action for Thursday’s home game against the Ducks. Potentially both, too, depending on what the Black and Gold do with the 22-year-old Grzelcyk after his NHL debut.

The 29-year-old Miller, who signed a four-year, $10 million contract extension last May, missed the first 19 games of the season because of a left hand injury, and has zero points with 31 hits in 12 games since returning from injury.

5 Things We Learned from a Bruins overtime loss to the Penguins

12.14.16 at 10:34 pm ET
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The Bruins forced overtime but fell to the Penguins, 4-3, Wednesday night. (Charles LeClaire/USA TODAY Sports)

The Bruins forced overtime but fell to the Penguins, 4-3, Wednesday night. (Charles LeClaire/USA TODAY Sports)

After finishing last week with back-to-back home losses against two of the worst teams in the entire league in the Avalanche and Maple Leafs, the Bruins have started their week with three of a possible road four points against two of the best teams in the league in the Canadiens and Penguins thanks to a 4-3 overtime loss to the Penguins Wednesday.

Just as we all predicted, of course.

The Bruins opened the game’s scoring at the 10:48 mark of the first period behind a Brad Marchand shot that squeaked through Penguins netminder Matt Murray for Marchand’s ninth goal of the season.

The Penguins answered back just 2:01 later though behind a straight-up fantastic Justin Schultz shot that beat Tuukka Rask upstairs for the fifth goal of the year for Schultz, and a 1-1 tie through 20 minutes.

But not before the B’s finished the period with a minute-plus of a 5-on-3 — and with the deck loaded with Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, David Pastrnak, and Zdeno Chara on the ice — and found nothing behind shaky passes and one real shot, which came off the stick of No. 63 but was easily gloved by the 6-foot-4 Murray.

At the 6:40 mark of the middle period, and after a great sequence from Tim Schaller to dump the puck in and Pastrnak to get it back to him, it was David Krejci that worked some magic around the front of the net and banked home his fifth goal of the year to put the Bruins back up by a goal. But again, the Penguins answered, 3:07 later, on a Nick Bonino power-play goal good for Bonino’s fifth goal of the year (and his second goal in as many games).

In a back and forth head-to-head between the league’s black and gold brethren, the Penguins bucked the trend of these teams trading goals when Conor Sheary, who won a positioning battle with Torey Krug at the front of the B’s net, finished off a great pass from Brian Dumoulin for a 3-2 Penguins lead at the 9:02 mark of the third period.

But when Murray went for a confused stroll behind his own net 13:20 into the period and Dumoulin failed to pick the puck up, it was Pastrnak that swung in, stole the puck, spun and tucked the puck into an empty cage for his 19th of the year and 3-3 tie.

It was onto an overtime for the second time in three nights for the Bruins, and after Rask made a gigantic breakaway stop on Sheary after the ex-UMass standout treated Adam McQuaid like a pylon en route to the net.

A team with seemingly unlimited offensive weapons at their disposal, the Penguins exposed a crack in the B’s line changes in the overtime, as Schultz fed Evgeni Malkin along the wall, and Malkin then fed Bryan Rust, who was entirely too quiet all night long, for a beautiful strike on Rask and 4-3 victory for the home Penguins, their 13th in 16 games at PPG Paints Arena this year.

Here are four other things we learned in the overtime loss…

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Bruins recall Matt Grzelcyk, place Matt Beleskey on IR ahead of Bruins-Penguins tilt

12.14.16 at 7:02 pm ET
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Defenseman Matt Grzelcyk may make his NHL debut tonight as the Bruins visit the Penguins. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

Defenseman Matt Grzelcyk may make his NHL debut tonight as the Bruins visit the Penguins. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

In one Matt comes, out goes another.

Ahead of tonight’s Wednesday Night Rivalry contest with the surging Penguins, the Bruins have recalled defenseman Matt Grzelcyk from the AHL while also officially placing forward Matt Beleskey on the injured reserve as he recovers from a knee injury.

Grzelcyk, a third-round choice by the club in 2012 (85th overall), is in his first professional season after four years with Boston University, and arrives to the Big B’s with one goal and 12 points in 25 games for the P-Bruins this season. The 22-year-old Grzelcyk has also put 48 shots on net, and has totaled a plus-12 rating on the farm.

His first NHL recall comes on the heels of an optional morning skate that lacked both Torey Krug and Adam McQuaid, and it’s uncertain where Grzelcyk would slot into the defensive mix if he does indeed get the go ahead from Bruins coach Claude Julien tonight.

If Grzelcyk does make his NHL debut tonight, too, it will be against a Penguins team that is straight-up rolling the competition in the month of December, with a perfect 6-0-0 record and 35 goals scored (compared to just 14 against) in their first six games this month, and with victories in all but three of their 15 home games to date.

The Penguins put a beatdown on their Coyotes in their last game by way of a 7-0 final.

Two nights after stopping 30-of-31 shots against the rival Canadiens, goaltender Tuukka Rask is expected back in net for the Bruins in this contest. The 29-year-old Rask enters play with 15 wins and a .932 save percentage in 22 games this season, and has eight wins and a .934 save percentage in 14 career head-to-heads with the Pens.

The Pens counter with Matt Murray. The 6-foot-4 Murray stopped all 32 shots thrown his way in that win over the Coyotes, and has 11 wins in 12 starts this season. Although Murray has yet to play the Black and Gold in his career, he does have some staggering numbers on home ice this year, with five wins and a .944 save percentage in five games in the Steel City.

This will be the first of three meetings between the B’s and Pens this year. The Bruins swept last year’s series.

Without a morning skate to note any full changes before Grzelcyk’s arrival, here are the expected lines and pairings

Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – David Backes

Tim Schaller – David Krejci – David Pastrnak

Ryan Spooner – Austin Czarnik – Jimmy Hayes

Dominic Moore – Riley Nash – Noel Acciari

Zdeno Chara – Brandon Carlo

Torey Krug – Adam McQuaid

Joe Morrow – Kevan Miller


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