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Bruins begin crucial week with matinee against Islanders

01.16.17 at 12:58 pm ET
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Patrice Bergeron knows this week is a big one for the Bruins. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)

Patrice Bergeron knows this week is a big one for the Bruins. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)

Last Saturday was a sign of progress from the Bruins.

Not only did the Bruins pummel six into the net for a big win over the Flyers, but it came just two nights after the Bruins were stymied on all but one of their 36 shots on net in yet another one-goal loss, this time to the Preds by a 2-1 final. That loss really brought about the same old-same old vibes that the Black and Gold have struggled with this season in the sense that their shots were there, but the finish was not. That loss in the Music City turned what would could have been a six or seven point road trip into a five out of eight possible points trip.

The frustration was as understandable as it was obvious when the Bruins arrived back in Boston the next day, and came at the expense of the Flyers the following day. In other words, the Bruins did not let return to the struggles of old fester into a multi-game slide. In fact, the six-goal outburst against the Flyers gave the B’s their first six-game segment with at least 20 goals scored this season.

“I think we have to sustain it if we want to have success,” Bruins center Patrice Bergeron said of the team’s offensive surge over the last two weeks. “We have to find the consistency where we’re close to have to having that every night.”

Now comes a week where the Bruins can and should keep it rolling if they’re to be taken seriously this season.

Up first, a hapless Islanders club that’s racked up the third-fewest points in the NHL and have just five wins in 18 road games this season. Then a Red Wings club that sits nine points behind the Bruins in the Atlantic and are already on death’s doorstep. Then comes a Friday night head-to-head with the Blackhawks which has always served as a where-are-you-really kind of game.

“You have to take it one game at a time, but at the same time the first two teams are teams we’re trying to either push down or they’re in our division,” Bergeron said. “It’s about making sure these are points you can’t let slip by, and we’re aware of that.”

But the Bruins will be without one of their go-to defenders for today’s Monday matinee head-to-head with the Islanders, as Kevan Miller will sit with a concussion sustained on a board from Jakub Voracek in Saturday’s win. Puck-moving defenseman Colin Miller (lower-body) will also miss his third straight game for the B’s, too. That will draw Joe Morrow, a healthy scratch for the last 16 games in total, back into action for his first game since Dec. 12 against the Canadiens.

This isn’t the first time that the Bruins have been down a defenseman or two and they know it probably won’t be the last. And it won’t change what a defense that’s allowed the second-fewest shots per game does or expects out of one another.

“More than ever we’re a unit that way that we’re all working together,” B’s defenseman Adam McQuaid said.

“It doesn’t really matter a whole lot who’s in and out, we just try to stick to the same focus.”

Tuukka Rask gets the call in net for the Bruins. Rask made stops on 21-of-24 shots against in Saturday’s win over the Flyers, and has a 22-9-3 record and .925 save percentage on the year. The Islanders counter with Thomas Greiss. Greiss made a career-high 48 saves in his last game against the Bruins and has 10 wins and a .921 save percentage in 19 starts this season

This is the second of three meetings between the B’s and Isles this season.

The Islanders took the last one by a 4-2 final at TD Garden back on Dec. 20.

Here are the expected lines and pairings for the Bruins…

Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – David Pastrnak

Frank Vatrano – David Krejci – David Backes

Tim Schaller – Ryan Spooner – Riley Nash

Austin Czarnik – Dominic Moore – Anton Blidh

Zdeno Chara – Brandon Carlo

Torey Krug – Adam McQuaid

Joe Morrow – John-Michael Liles

Tuukka Rask

Bruins defenseman Kevan Miller out with concussion

01.15.17 at 1:13 pm ET
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Kevan Miller suffered a concussion in Saturday's win over the Flyers. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

Kevan Miller suffered a concussion in Saturday’s win over the Flyers. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

Down in a heap and knocked out of the game on a boarding major from Flyers forward Jakub Voracek in the second period, Bruins defenseman Kevan Miller was labeled with a vague ‘upper-body syndrome’ ailment from head coach Claude Julien on Saturday.

A day later, and without Miller on the ice for a Sunday practice at Warrior Ice Arena, Julien specified the nature of that upper-body injury and confirmed that Miller has suffered a concussion and will be out indefinitely as part of the NHL’s concussion protocol.

With Miller out and Colin Miller still out with a lower-body injury (Miller has missed the last two games but was on the ice long before practice began and did some skating by himself), Joe Morrow will draw back into action for the B’s matinee head-to-head with the Islanders at TD Garden on Monday. It’s depth that the B’s are thankful for given what’s become a year-long bout with injuries and sometimes inconsistencies.

“We’re fortunate we have eight guys and all are capable,” B’s defenseman Adam McQuaid said of the club’s defensive depth. “All are capable and have experience have a little bit of experiencing playing with one another, and we’re fortunate that way.”

And though Morrow has sat as a healthy scratch for the last 16 games, McQuaid knows that Morrow’s experience and familiarity will help a Bruins defense that’s allowed just 26.7 shots against per game (the second-lowest mark in the NHL) stay afloat.

“I think more than ever we’re a unit that way in that we’re working together,” said McQuaid.

Out for 20 games this season (19 because of hand surgery and one for an illness), the B’s are 11-9-0 without Miller.

The 6-foot-2 Miller has three assists to go with 51 hits and 36 blocked shots in 26 games this season.

David Krejci hits Bruins milestone in win over Flyers

01.15.17 at 9:53 am ET
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David Krejci recorded his 500th point Saturday against the Flyers. (James Guillory/USA Today Sports)

David Krejci recorded his 500th point Saturday against the Flyers. (James Guillory/USA Today Sports)

It hasn’t always been easy (especially not this season), but Bruins forward David Krejci has finally tallied career point No. 500.

In his 46th game of the season, a 6-3 trouncing of the Flyers at TD Garden Saturday, and with the opportunity to bust the game open, it was the crafty Czech pivot that torched Michal Neuvirth up top for a power-play goal that helped pace the Bruins’ torrid second period that featured four goals from the Black and Gold.

Not only did the tally finally bump Krejci into the 500 Club for his NHL career (a feat that’s been accomplished by just 12 other forwards in team history), but also move out of a tie with Adam Oates and into sole possession of the 14th-most points in franchise history.

“Well you need your best players to be your best players and the rest will follow up,” Krejci said after the win. “I thought we played a really strong game, other than the first 10 minutes, we are still trying to work on it but we are getting better at it and we got a big two points [Saturday].”

With 10 goals and 28 points on the year, Krejci’s shot the puck noticeably more on the power play, which has resulted in five power-play goals to date, just one away from matching his single-season high, set in 2009-10.

“I’m always trying to shoot,” said Krejci. “Sometimes at the last second something comes into my head and then I’m looking for a pass but my first instinct is always to shoot, especially on the power play and I’m happy that one went in.”

Barring a white-hot run to finish the season, Krejci will likely have to wait until next season to bump Bill Cowley, who had 536 points in 508 games from 1935 to 1947, from the No. 13 spot on the club’s all-time scoring list.

Brad Marchand records 5-point night in win over Flyers

01.14.17 at 5:18 pm ET
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Bruins winger Brad Marchand had his second five-point night of the season. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

Bruins winger Brad Marchand had his second five-point night of the season. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

When Bruins winger Brad Marchand is feeling it offensively, the whole league feels it. Today’s victim: Michal Neuvirth and the rest of the Flyers in a 6-3 victory for the Black and Gold, due in large part to a five-point night from the 5-foot-9 agitator-turned-sniper.

“That’s the word I use when I talk about Brad [Marchand], is that when he’s feeling it, he makes a lot of good things happen, and it hasn’t always been like that this year,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said after the win. “But now he’s starting to heat up, and that’s a good sign. That’s one of the key traits that he has, is anticipation and knowing when to make those moves that he’s been making, and in less high-risk situations. So, it’s nice to see him coming around that way.”

Marchand’s night began with a brilliant shorthanded goal in which he outraced Sean Couturier and Ivan Provorov for the 21st shorthanded tally of his career. The goal moved Marchand out of a tie with Phil Esposito and Don Marcotte and into sole possession of third place on the club’s all-time shorthanded goals list, with Derek Sanderson (24) and Rick Middleton (25) up next on the list.

His night wasn’t done there. Not even close to done, actually. It was Marchand that hit a streaking Torey Krug with a perfect saucer pass on Krug’s net-front drive to put the Black and Gold up by two, he assisted on the Patrice Bergeron power-play goal, and then picked up a secondary helper on the B’s fourth goal of the second period, when Zdeno Chara bombed one on Neuvirth.

Such a night continued the hot streak for the Bruins’ top goal scorer from a year ago, with seven goals and 14 points in his last nine games played, and a team-leading 43 points, 10 more than David Pastrnak’s second-most 33 points this season.

“That’s how hockey goes sometimes – pucks bounce your way and other times they don’t, you know, it is nice when things are going your way,” Marchand said, “you feel a little more confident, you’re able to do things that you’re a little nervous to try at different times. But again, I think our team’s playing really good hockey right now and everyone’s just playing good.”

“He’s obviously been our leader offensively this year and he’s got to keep playing the same way,” Krug said of Marchand. “He tries to do that on a nightly basis so it’s good for us. We do need secondary scoring in order for us to get on a roll here and keep going.”

With a five-point night, his second of the year, Marchand has become the first Bruins player to put up multiple five-night efforts in the same season since Jason Allison accomplished the feat for the B’s in 1997-98.

And it could not have come at a better time for a Bruins team that’s grabbed seven of their last possible 10 points.

“I think we all realized that we have to be a desperate team and we’re starting to come together and learn each other and finally get some chemistry on the lines,” Marchand added. “I think we’re just starting to connect.”

Bruins match Flyers in pressure, beat ’em in goals

01.14.17 at 3:41 pm ET
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The Bruins had five goals from five different scorers in Saturday's win over the Flyers. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

The Bruins had goals from five different scorers in Saturday’s win over the Flyers. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

A head-to-head with a Flyers team that entered play with the sixth-most goals scored in the league this year would have been a death sentence for the Bruins a month ago. Or even a couple of weeks ago.

But back in Boston after a four-game road trip in which the Bruins scored 13 goals and seized five of a possible eight points, the Bruins carried that confidence into Saturday and proved more than capable of hanging, with goals from five different scores in a back-and-forth game of yesteryear and 6-3 win over their rival of half a century.

In a situation where they simply need points, the victory showed a sign of progress and growth as a team given the obstacles that the Flyers and this game presented the club with, and early.

Down in a one-goal hole 2:05 into the first period, and forced to work from behind in a TD Garden that’s been unkind to them for two seasons in a row now, the Bruins found life with a shorthanded breakaway from Brad Marchand that had a familiar ending.

In his 500th NHL game and what was Marchand’s 21st career shorthanded goal, moving him into sole possession of third on the club’s all-time shorthanded goals list, Marchand capitalized on a flubbed keep-in from the Flyers’ Sean Couturier and then outraced Ivan Provorov to beat Michal Neuvirth for the first Bruins goal of the night and 1-1 draw through 20.

…And then the floodgates opened. But in a good way for the Bruins.

David Krejci scored on the power play two minutes into the second, Torey Krug put the Bruins on the board with an insurance marker for his third goal in as many games. And even when the Flyers cut the deficit back to one, the Bruins came at them with two more goals in a 2:14 span, and continued to pound the Flyers into submission, even if the middle period ended with the Flyers drawing back within two behind Wayne Simmonds’ power-play goal with just 3.2 seconds left in the second period.

When the Flyers put the screws to the B’s, the Bruins not only matched it, but doubled it.

A team that’s typically had to work twice as hard for the same amount of goals, the B’s flipped the script and kept the pressure cranked on the Flyers for the full 60 minutes of play, and refused to give up any ice even in the third period with the Flyers pressing down by two goals, limiting them to just five shots on goal against Tuukka Rask.

This was something that the club did well against both the Panthers and Blues during their road trip, but that’s something that’s been seldom seen at the Garden this year. And the importance of that cannot be stated enough.

With a schedule that’s seemingly worked against the B’s all year long in terms of games played versus games played by those around them, the Bruins will play 21 of their remaining 36 games at TD Garden, and establishing some sort of home-ice consistency is of the utmost importance to this team in regards to maximizing their point totals. And doing it with a stronger counterpunch to everything the Flyers showed the resolve that this team can battle with to make that happen.

The win improved the Bruins to an even 10-10-0 at home this season.

Tim Schaller’s head takes TD Garden over for Bruins-Flyers

01.14.17 at 2:05 pm ET
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Tim Schaller's brother Dave has organized a 'Timmyhead Takeover' for today's Bruins-Flyers game. (James Guillory/USA TODAY Sports)

Tim Schaller’s brother Dave has organized a ‘Timmyhead Takeover’ for today’s Bruins-Flyers game. (James Guillory/USA TODAY Sports)

Look on the ice for today’s game between the Bruins and Flyers and you’ll see just one Tim Schaller head. Look into the TD Garden crowd, however, and you’ll see more than a few. You’ll see several, actually.

OK, what the hell am I talking about?

It is a simple as it sounds. It’s just oversized cutouts, about 40-by-30 in size, of Schaller’s headshot from his first season with the Sabres organization and with the Merrimack, N.H. native donning a mustache straight out of the ’80s.

It’s all part of an event orchestrated by Tim’s older brother, Dave, and it’s called Timmyhead Takeover at the Garden.

“We have a bunch of crazy friends that I work with. I work for the printing department at my office and I said, ‘How big can I make a Timmyhead?’ So we tried it. And here we are,” Dave, a regular at B’s games this year (with or without the cutouts), said. “The second we did it, even with like two-foot tall heads, people were like ‘Whoa, this is cool!’ and now they’re almost five feet tall.”

There’s been different versions of the Timmyhead this year, too.

Around Christmas they put a Santa hat on him. Today there are heads with LED lights around them.

“I never expected this many people. I thought it’d be fun to do at work with my friends because all of them know Timmy,” continued Dave, “but the second I put this on social media and all my friends from home started seeing it, it blew up.”

A roleplayer that’s done his job in all situations for the Black and Gold this year, the phenomenon has helped Schaller get comfortable and have some fun with the extra motivation of knowing his friends are in the crowd.

“He loves it. He absolutely loves it,” Dave said when asked what Tim thinks. “Well, I don’t know if he loves it, but he’s accepted it.”

“It’s unbelievable,” Tim said with a laugh. “I think it’s the funniest thing ever.”

Rear Admiral: Bruins better start identifying themselves, or else

01.14.17 at 9:04 am ET
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Tuukka Rask has been keeping the Bruins in the playoffs hunt. (Christopher Hanewinckel/USA TODAY Sports)The Bruins have played more than half of their schedule so far this season and, despite currently sitting in second-place in the Atlantic, they still give off a pretty severe Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde vibe that makes one wonder if they’ll make the playoffs.

The Bruins have accrued 49 points in 45 yin-yang games while putting together a Tuukka Rask-aided 22-18-5 record. They have a losing record at home at 9-10 but are 13-8-5 on the road.

All too frequently, they turn in subpar efforts when they play subpar opponents and have squandered too many points in the process. Yet they’ll go up to their personal House of Horrors in Montreal to snag a win from the division leader. They’ve also handed the NHL-leading Columbus Blue Jackets a quarter of their eight losses.

So who, exactly, are the 2016-17 Boston Bruins?

They’re a decent, flawed team whose biggest current issue its inability to score timely goals. But thanks to their stellar netminder, they’re in the thick of the postseason hunt. Of the 16 teams currently in the playoffs, the Bruins have scored the third least (though only seven current playoff teams have given up fewer goals). Simply, it’s a real issue for the team.

Claude’s charges have only three double-digit goal scorers thus far; David Pastrnak’s 19 goals lead the team followed by Brad Marchand with 15 and David Backes with 11. The Bruins have not gotten nearly enough of the secondary scoring that NHL teams need if they plan on making some noise come springtime. But more alarmingly, they’re also lacking the primary scoring.

Patrice Bergeron, who has been better lately than earlier in the season, has only tallied eight goals (the same as free agent fourth liner signing Dominic Moore). David Krejci has nine. Ryan Spooner, who has ridden on Krejci’s left side quite a bit, has seven goals. Those guys need to produce more and quickly or the Bruins will find themselves falling out of the conference’s top eight.

But they’re hardly the only ones to blame. Jimmy Hayes, whose return home has been nothing short of a nightmare, has just two goals in 36 games and has been a healthy scratch lately. Riley Nash, though certainly not considered a sniper, has just two tallies in 45 games. Matt Beleskey was hardly lighting the world on fire before his injury and is also a member of the Two Goal Club (in 24 games).

With the trade deadline a month and a half away, you can be sure that you’ll hear the Bruins mentioned as being in on several players (with Colorado’s Gabriel Landeskog the first prominent name to surface so far). Of course, you should believe almost nothing you read leading up March 1st but that’s another column for another day.

Regardless, if the Bruins plan to not only make the playoffs but actually make some noise for the first time in quite awhile, the front office needs to go out and get another top-six guy who can put the puck in the net. Because as currently constituted, the Bs look earmarked for a one and done if they do manage to get into the postseason dance.

And lack of playoff success is a story that’s getting old around here real quick.

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