|04.04.14 at 1:39 am ET|
The Bruins haven’t won either of their last two games and it doesn’t matter. What a hilarious stretch run.
They care, of course, but the team has reached a point in its schedule that most other teams don’t get to have: the time for not only rest, but mixing and matching in preparation for anything the B’s might encounter when the injuries inevitably come in the postseason.
The most obvious case of this has been Loui Eriksson. The last two games have seen Eriksson used on both David Krejci‘s line (in place of a resting – er, lower-body injury suffering – Jarome Iginla Wednesday) and Patrice Bergeron‘s line (Claude Julien flipped Eriksson and Reilly Smith starting in the second period Thursday).
Giving Eriksson some time on both of the top two lines is a wise move for the B’s late in the season. Should a top-six winger suffer an injury in the postseason, Eriksson would be the most likely option to move up in the lineup, so getting him some level of comfort with those players provides a good insurance policy. When he gets back in the lineup, the Bruins would be wise to use Carl Soderberg at center on one of the top two lines with that line’s center resting.
Rich Peverley used to serve in that role for the B’s, as he got used to playing with pretty much every other forward despite usually serving as a winger on the third line when everyone was healthy. The most notable case of this came in the 2011 Stanley Cup finals, when Peverley played on the right wing of Krejci’s line after Nathan Horton suffered a series-ending concussion.
Of course, Eriksson already has experience playing with Brad Marchand and Bergeron from earlier in the season, but he hadn’t played on that line since Dec. 7, as Reilly Smith seized the second-line right wing job while Eriksson was recovering from his second concussion of the season. Eriksson had not played with the Krejci line this season, as the only other game prior to Wednesday that did not feature the Milan Lucic - Krejci – Iginla trio was when Soderberg and Daniel Paille filled in for a sick Lucic in Anaheim.
Eriksson playing on the Bergeron line Wednesday could also be a case of Julien weighing options given that Smith has just one goal in his last 25 games. However, Julien said earlier this week that he’s reluctant to change his lines prior to the postseason.
“Right now, there’s no doubt that you could always move guys around, but when you look at our third line, it’s been so productive,” Julien said. “You look at all our lines. Even if [Smith]‘s not producing, Bergy’s been producing really well, so our lines are producing right now.”
Meanwhile, the different looks on the back end have continued. Julien has yet to make clear his intentions for his six postseason defensemen, though the assumption is that the biggest spot up for grabs is the second-pairing left side job currently held down by Matt Bartkowski. He and Andrej Meszaros are both battling for that job, and the last two games have seen one of them play on the second pairing with Johnny Boychuk while the other was scratched.
Neither one has dazzled thus far this week. Meszaros, who scored Sunday against the Flyers, was a minus-2 Wednesday against the Red Wings, and was part of an odd Red Wings goal that came after the puck was caught in his pants. Bartkowski was also the victim of some bad luck, as the puck was lost in his skates on a first period play before Paul Ranger got the puck and sent it past Chad Johnson.
Though Bartkowski has over 500 games less of NHL experience than Meszaros, he is more experienced in the Bruins system and has already served as a top-4 defenseman for the B’s in the playoffs, which he did in the second round last season against the Rangers.
Julien has five games left to see different looks and weigh his options.
|04.03.14 at 10:26 pm ET|
Paul Ranger opened the game’s scoring six minutes into the first period by picking up a puck that was lost in Matt Bartkowski’s skates and sending it past Chad Johnson. Brad Marchand tied the game 56 seconds later, but a Tyler Bozak goal with 12 seconds left in the period and a James van Riemsdyk tally 52 seconds into the second made it 3-1.
Toronto starter Jonathan Bernier was injured in the third period and left the game, giving way to James Reimer at 8:22 of the third. Bergeron tied the game at 12:51 with a goal against Reimer, and the score remained tied until Torey Krug was called for an iffy hold in overtime, leading to Kadri’s game-winner.
Chad Johnson was in net, losing for the first time in his last seven games. Carl Soderberg and Andrej Meszaros sat for the B’s, with Meszaros serving as a healthy scratch and Soderberg going back to Boston to be with his wife as they await the birth of a child. Jarome Iginla and Matt Bartkowski were both back in the lineup.
The B’s have five games remaining and will host the Flyers Saturday at TD Garden.
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE BRUINS
- Bozak’s goal marked the fifth time in the last four games that the B’s have allowed a goal in the final minute of a period. That certainly isn’t a habit the B’s want to develop heading into the postseason.
- Johnson allowed more than two goals for the first time since Feb. 26, which was the first game back from the Olympic break. Johnson had allowed two or less in the six games leading up to Wednesday, a stretch that saw him allow one goal on two occasions and pick up a shutout on another.
- Bartkowski caught some bad luck with the puck getting caught in his skates prior to Toronto’s first goal and was also out there for Bozak’s goal. That came a night after a puck got caught in Meszaros’ pants to lead to a Red Wings goal. Those two could very well be battling one another for a spot in Boston’s postseason lineup, so this isn’t a good time for either of them to have rough nights.
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE BRUINS
- Bergeron now has nine goals in his last nine games and is sniffing his first 30-goal season since 2005-06. Again, he isn’t going to win the Hart, but this is one of the finest seasons of his career.
- With Soderberg out, the Bruins played Chris Kelly at center with Jordan Caron and Loui Eriksson for the first period, but Eriksson was promoted to the second line from the second period on. That’s a wise move for Claude Julien, as the biggest thing keeping him from putting Eriksson on Patrice Bergeron‘s line is the fact that the third line is so good. On a night in which he didn’t have his normal third line anyway, he was able to try out Eriksson with Bergeron for the first time in a while.
It makes sense for the B’s to do that, as they have to prepare for any situation that might arise in the postseason, which is why it was good to see them try Eriksson on David Krejci‘s line Tuesday in Detroit.
- Lucic’s goal was his first in 10 games. He had only two points — both assists — in his previous nine contests.
|04.02.14 at 10:39 pm ET|
The Bruins saw their nine-game road win streak snapped with a 3-2 loss to the Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena Wednesday night.
Gustav Nyquist caught the Bruins during a line change in the third period and gave the Red Wings the lead 1:42 after Tomas Jurco had tied the game. Jimmy Howard held on from there as the B’s lost their first game in regulation since March 1.
The B’s played without Jarome Iginla, who missed his first game of the season with what the team called a lower-body injury. Given that the team said he wasn’t a healthy scratch, it was Iginla’s first game missed due to injury since January of 2007. Matt Bartkowski was a healthy scratch.
Boston jumped out to a 1-0 lead late in the first period on Johnny Boychuk‘s fourth goal of the season, but Tomas Tatar tied it for the Red Wings with a goal that went through Andrej Meszaros and Riley Sheahan on its way past Tuukka Rask at 4:45 of the second.
The game remained knotted at one goal apiece until Carl Soderberg scored a power-play goal 1:10 into the third period. Jurco would end up tying the game after a puck in front got caught in Meszaros’ pants and fell to Tatar, who kicked the puck to Jurco to set up the goal.
The Bruins have six games remaining and will play Thursday in Toronto.
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE BRUINS
– The B’s had an injury scare in the third period when Drew Miller crashed into Patrice Bergeron on a third-period shot from Bergeron. Miller’s right leg took out Bergeron’s left leg, with Bergeron awkwardly falling to the ice and holding what looked like his left knee.
Bergeron’s seven-game goal-scoring streak came to an end, though he had the primary assist on Soderberg’s goal. Bergeron was stopped by Howard on a first-period breakaway.
– Nyquist’s goal was the third 5-on-5 goal the Red Wings have scored against the Bruins with both Bergeron and Zdeno Chara on the ice this season. That’s pretty remarkable when you consider that Chara and Bergeron allowed just one 5-on-5 goal together all of last season.
– Iginla not playing means he will not post the 10th 82-game season of his career — not this season, at least. With Iginla out, Loui Eriksson played on the right wing of David Krejci‘s line with Milan Lucic.
– The Red Wings didn’t have many second-chance opportunities through the first two periods, but they came in the third and eventually cost the B’s. Rask came up big with a save on Jurco off the rebound of a shot from Tatar just about midway through the third. Shortly after, Jurco scored on a second-chance bid.
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE BRUINS
– One positive of the loss is that the Red Wings got two points and therefore gave themselves some more separation from the eighth-seeded Blue Jackets (83 points in 75 games). The Red Wings (86 points in 76 games) are currently in line for the seventh seed, which would mean they wouldn’t face the Bruins in the first round.
– Though he didn’t score, Bergeron now has points in nine straight games. Bergeron has eight goals and four helpers over that stretch.
|04.02.14 at 12:32 pm ET|
NESN Bruins analyst Andy Brickley made his weekly appearance with Mut & Merloni on Wednesday to talk about the Bruins’ final stretch of games in April before the playoffs begin. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.
With the season winding down, Claude Julien may change some of the lineups to see how different players play together and give rest to others.
“I have no problem with tinkering with lines right now,” Brickley said. “If I expect a few guys, like [Patrice] Bergeron or even a David Krejci, get a night off between now and the final game against Jersey, the regular season, then you’re going to be forced to have different combinations. And if you choose to break up some lines in order to see what something look likes, now is the time to do it.”
The Bruins went 15-0-2 in the month of March, playing in multiple back-to-backs on their way to securing a division title. According to Brickley, the third and fourth lines were a big reason they were able to do that.
“That third line along with the fourth line and their ability to play and handle significant minutes during that month when you’re playing 17 games really sets this Bruins team apart from the rank and file,” Brickley said.
Brickley sees two distinct views when it comes to projecting the first opponent of a team during the playoffs.
“Do you want to start out with a team that you know you can pretty much handle, and then you want to gradually increase that emotion and adrenaline to keep you getting in the postseason?” Brickley said. “Or do you want someone really meaningful right off the bat, get that emotion where it needs to be in the postseason? I’m of the school of thought that it doesn’t matter. You’ve got to beat three really good teams to get to the final. You’ve got to beat four unbelievable teams to win a Stanley Cup.”
|04.02.14 at 12:27 pm ET|
Bruins forward Shawn Thornton talked with Dennis & Callahan on Wednesday about the end of the regular season, the physical nature of the playoffs and more. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.
The Bruins have been on a hot streak lately, going 15-0-2 in the month of March. The run has secured a division title for the Bruins with seven games to go. It has come at a cost, however, as the players are a little sleep-deprived after all the traveling and back-to-backs.
“You get sore, you get tired,” Thornton said. “I think the change in time zones — last week or the week before we were in four different time zones in five days. It just screws up your sleep pattern.”
With Zdeno Chara now 37 years old, there has been speculation that the defenseman will be rested over the next few games.
“He’s one of the hardest-working guys I’ve ever met,” Thornton said. “He wants to win at the end of the day, though, and I think that’s the most important thing. I’m not sure what’s going to happen, whether he’s going to get some games off or some road trips off or what they’re going to do, but I’m sure it’ll be a civil conversation.’
Thornton enjoyed the extra playing time in March due to all the back-to-backs. It was not only helpful for him, but for his line as well.
“I always want to play,” Thornton said. “The month of March, actually, with so many games is pretty good, too. Our line got a fair amount of ice time through the whole thing as well with all the back-to-back stuff. The more I can play, the happier I am. I always want to be out there.”
|04.01.14 at 1:37 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — Bruins forward Jarome Iginla has been named the NHL‘s First Star of the Month for the month of March.
Iginla led the NHL with 13 goals in 17 games during the month, scoring on an absurd 31 percent of the 42 shots he took. He also had four assists to total 17 points in March. He was named the league’s third star of the week two weeks ago.
Detroit’s Gustav Nyquist and Philadelphia’s Claude Giroux were the second and third stars, respectively.
For more Bruins coverage, visit weei.com/bruins.
|04.01.14 at 11:40 am ET|
WILMINGTON – Claude Julien said he’s going to start resting players leading into the playoffs, and that started with Tuesday’s practice.
After the practice, Julien said that all healthy players will travel to Detroit and Toronto for the team’s upcoming two-game road trip. Carl Soderberg may have to leave at some point, as he and his wife are expecting a child within the coming days.
Ryan Spooner, who was recalled on an emergency basis earlier in the day, was on the ice. He wore a gold second-line sweater with normal second-liners Brad Marchand and Reilly Smith. Milan Lucic, who was the only first-liner practicing Tuesday, wore gold as well.
With Eriksson out, Jordan Caron wore a grey sweater with third-liners Soderberg and Chris Kelly. The Merlot Line was the only trio with all three members present.
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