|01.06.16 at 11:16 pm ET|
If and when Claude Julien writes a book on how to make still-developing defensemen good, Zdeno Chara will write the foreword, which will consist of “Play them with me,” and then the book will be over.
Chara has had some great partners over the years with the Bruins — Johnny Boychuk and Dougie Hamilton come to mind — but it’s no secret that Julien can take any player who is otherwise OK and make him very good by skating him with Chara. The reason, quite simply, is because Chara is such a dominant player that skating with him more than makes up for the difficult competition that comes with playing on a top pairing.
This has been the case for a number of players over the years. Among them: Zach Trotman, Torey Krug and Steven Kampfer.
Not Kevan Miller.
Miller, mysteriously, is the exception to this rule.
“But Deej!” you say. “That just means that Kevan Miller stinks!”
Not necessarily, and that’s rude. The 28-year-old Miller, who is still just 119 games into his NHL career, is an OK third-pairing defenseman, as some of the aforementioned names were when they were put on pairings with Chara. Yet instead of getting better when playing with Chara, this season has suggested that Miller gets worse when paired with the (somehow only) one-time Norris winner.
Miller’s most common partner this season has been Torey Krug, with whom he’s played 160:24 in 5-on-5. His next most-common partner has been Chara, with whom he’s played 120:22 of 5-on-5 time. Playing with Krug often draws so-so competition — Krug has had the fifth-toughest quality of competition among Bruins defensemen this season, using time on ice of competition as a barometer — whereas playing with Chara draws the other team’s best players, as evidenced by Chara having the hardest quality of competition.
Miller has been fine with Krug. The Bruins have outscored opponents when the two have played together — 2.62 goals for per 60; 1.12 goals against per 60 for a goals for percentage of 70. When Chara and Miller are together, the Bruins are outscored — 2.49 goals for per 60 and 4.49 goals against per 60, making for a rather horrifying 35.7 goals for percentage.
That’s the comparison of Miller with Chara versus Miller with Krug. The numbers of Miller simply with and without Chara are even more telling:
“But Deej!” you say. “Maybe Miller’s worse with Chara than players in seasons past because Chara has gotten worse! Chara just looks slower out there!”
No. Chara is still having the Chara effect on his partners. Including Kevan Miller, five defensemen have played at least 20 minutes of 5-on-5 with Chara this season. The four not named Kevan Miller all have better numbers with Chara than without him. All four — Adam McQuaid, Dennis Seidenberg, Colin Miller and Zach Trotman — have better goals for percentages with Chara, while Trotman’s minor bump in Corsi For percentage without Chara (48.8 with him, 49.0 without him) is the only trace of a player’s possession numbers not dipping when not with Chara.
Whether it’s the quality of competition that comes with skating as Chara’s partner or the fact that the duo lacks mobility, the Chara-Kevan Miller pairing has not been good. While that’s not reason enough to write off Miller altogether, it’s reason enough for Julien to separate the pairing, which he used to begin Tuesday night’s game against the Capitals.
If McQuaid is to miss any stretch of time, the numbers indicate that Julien would be wise to not play Miller to Chara’s right, where McQuaid has often played this season. The Bruins have other options — Trotman, Colin Miller — and Kevan Miller figures to be better off with Krug.
|01.06.16 at 7:22 pm ET|
The NHL has suspended Capitals forward Zach Sill two games for his hit on Adam McQuaid in Tuesday’s game against the Bruins.
The hit took place in the second period of the Capitals’ 3-2 victory, with Sill hitting McQuaid from behind in a play that saw McQuaid’s head hit the glass. McQuaid left the game and did not practice Wednesday. The Bruins have not shared any details regarding the defenseman’s status.
|01.06.16 at 12:51 pm ET|
This is the second consecutive and second overall All-Star nod for Patrice Bergeron. The silly event will take place Jan. 30-31 at Bridgestone Arena.
Bergeron leads the Bruins with 37 points. With 15 goals, he’s on pace for a career-high 32 goals. Bergeron has hit the 30-goal mark twice in his career, reaching the plateau in 2005-06 (31 goals) and 2014-15 (30).
Bergeron is the Bruins’ only representative in the tournament, meaning Zdeno Chara will not be able to participate in the Hardest Shot competition for the second-straight All-Star game. Chara holds the record for hardest recorded shot at 108.8 miles per hour, set in 2012.
|01.06.16 at 12:43 pm ET|
McQuaid suffered an apparent head injury in the second period of Tuesday’s loss to the Capitals. Wednesday marked the second time in three practices dating back to Sunday that Bergeron has not been on the ice.
Claude Julien did not offer an update on the status of McQuaid and termed Chara’s and Bergeron’s absences maintenance days. The lines in practice were as follows:
|01.05.16 at 11:58 pm ET|
Washington took a 1-0 lead in the first period and never trailed en route to a 3-2 victory at TD Garden.
Now, compared to the B’s poor effort in a 5-1 loss to Montreal on New Year’s Day, Tuesday’s one-goal defeat might even qualify for “moral victory” status to some.
However, when the B’s big picture now paints a season-worst funk, with the team having lost five of its last six games, it was hard to find great optimism in the Boston locker room after Tuesday’s game.
“I don’t know, a little bit up and down,” winger Loui Eriksson said of his team’s effort. “We’re playing a good team and they took advantage of us in the first [period]. We came back a couple of times, but in the end they won a game. It’s a tough one, we need to start winning here again.”
Coach Claude Julien approved of the will, but not quite the way.
“Yes, for me, disappointed in the loss,” Julien said. “Not disappointed in the effort. There’s no moral victory, but I can’t criticize the effort our team gave tonight. In the situation we’re in we almost had to play a perfect game to beat those guys. Our guys worked hard, they had chances, and this is a good [Washington] hockey club.
“We gave ourselves a chance there, I don’t think we ever quit. We were down a goal, then down two and came back into it. They made a big save on [Zdeno Chara] at the end to keep that game from being tied. I think our guys tried, really tried, but at the same time in this league you’ve got to win hockey games. We’ve got to be disappointed, hungrier for the next game so we can turn things around here. Hopefully the bitterness in our mouth from losing tonight is going to carry into Friday in New Jersey.”
|01.05.16 at 9:35 pm ET|
If the Bruins wanted to use a game against perhaps the best team in the league as a measuring stick, Tuesday could have been a lot worse.
Despite the B’s suffering their fifth loss in their last six games, Tuesday did not prove to be the rear-kicking that many expected when the Eastern Conference-leading Caps came to town. Down a defenseman for most of the night (Adam McQuaid left in the second period — see below), the slumping Bruins managed to keep the game close before ultimately suffering a 3-2 loss at TD Garden.
Boston pushed back hard in the third period and came within a goal thanks to a two-point night from Patrice Bergeron (one goal, one assist), but the B’s were unable to put a third puck past Washington netminder Braden Holtby. That’s a common tale given Holtby’s dominance over the Bruins, but Tuesday was one of the more encouraging performances in what’s been a bad stretch for the Bruins.
“For me disappointed at the loss, not disappointed in the effort and you know I think that’s the biggest thing,” Claude Julien said. “Our guys worked hard, they tried, we had chances and this is a good hockey club. I said it this morning: This is probably in my mind one of the best — if not the best — teams in the league.”
The Bruins will play their next five games on the road, beginning Friday in New Jersey.
Here are four more things we learned Tuesday:
MCQUAID LEAVES WITH APPARENT HEAD INJURY
The Bruins had to play most of the game with five defensemen because of a dirty hit that Adam McQuaid from Zach Sill on his second shift of the second period. Sill slammed McQuaid into the glass along the half wall head-first, forcing McQuaid to fall to the ice, where he remained for multiple minutes. Surprisingly, no penalty was called on the play. McQuaid did not return to the game.
Adam McQuaid injured on this hit from behind by Zach Sill. No penalty. pic.twitter.com/YG7Hyo51KM
— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) January 6, 2016
If McQuaid is to miss any stretch of time, Zach Trotman could return to the lineup.
Speaking of returning to the lineup, Joonas Kemppainen played Tuesday night after missing the previous 11 games with an upper-body injury. Kemppainen centered a third line with Frank Vatrano and Jimmy Hayes.
Kemppainen also took a second-period penalty for hooking Marcus Johansson, but the ensuing Washington power play didn’t last too long given that T.J. Oshie took an interference minor 48 seconds later.
BELESKEY LOSES A GOAL
Prior to the game, the NHL announced a scoring change from the Winter Classic. The change, which came four days after the game, credited McQuaid with Boston’s only goal of the game. It had appeared live that Matt Beleskey had redirected McQuaid’s shot from the point past Canadiens goalie Mike Condon, but the change indicated that the puck had touched a Montreal player and not Beleskey.
With the scoring change, Beleskey is now back down to seven goals on the season.
AND ERIKSSON GETS ONE
Wearing the ‘A’ on his sweater for the second straight game, Loui Eriksson broke out of a mini goal-scoring slump when he took a second-period pass from Brett Connolly on an odd-man rush and beat Holtby short side. Prior to the game, Eriksson had gone five straight games without a goal, though he was a point-a-game player in that stretch thanks to five assists.
Beleskey’s current goal-scoring pace has him in line to score 30 goals this season. In case you forgot, he’s a free agent at season’s end.
|01.05.16 at 3:12 pm ET|
Over the years, the Bruins’ forward group has been overflowing with centers. The B’s place such an emphasis on strength down the middle that they’ve never shied away from carrying so many centers that pivots end up playing wing (i.e. Rich Peverley, Tyler Seguin, Chris Kelly).
The Bruins have had to deal with many changes this season, one of which has been playing without as many centers. Kelly was injured early in the season, while Joonas Kemppainen was hurt last month and David Krejci is week-to-week with an upper-body injury.
Claude Julien loves having options at center, but those options haven’t really been there of late. With Kemppainen likely to return Tuesday from an upper-body injury (he was activated off injured reserve Tuesday afternoon), Julien hopes he’ll be able to better balance his lines and control possession.
“It hurts,” Julien said of not having as many centers as usual. “I think it’s been obvious in the faceoffs and how we’ve lost faceoffs in our own end especially, losing them clean and other teams getting possession of the puck a lot more than we’re used to. When you don’t win them, you’ve got to chase that puck. When you win them, you get to start with it.”
Kemppainen, a strong defensive center, is one of three Bruins who have won most of their faceoffs. His 52.3 success rate at the dot puts him behind Patrice Bergeron (56.6 percent) and Max Talbot (52.8 percent).
“People sometimes don’t realize how important (winning faceoffs) is,” Julien said. “For our team not to have those centermen winning draws closer to 55 percent or more a game is huge. We miss that. And it’s been a huge part of our game; it’s been a strong suit for a long, long time. So there’s no doubt that hurts our game.”