|01.27.16 at 2:15 am ET|
The Bruins’ final game before the All-Star break didn’t go their way, a 6-2 loss to Anaheim that dropped the B’s home record to a lousy 11-13-2.
However, the players in the Boston dressing room seemed content with their lot in life as they packed up for a week’s furlough, a 26-18-5 season mark in tow that was holding them third place in the Atlantic Division with 33 games remaining on the season.
“We’ve surprised a lot of people,” said defenseman Torey Krug. “We’re not surprised in here where we [are]. We had a goal to be in the top three [of our division] before the All-Star break and we’re sitting right there.”
“At the beginning of the year there were a lot of people that probably thought that we wouldn’t be in the playoffs,” echoed forward Ryan Spooner. “You kind of heard that stuff, and that we would be a younger team. But we’ve shown that we can play with the top teams. We’ve proved a lot of people wrong and we just have to keep that up.”
The Bruins have indeed exceeded many preseason prognostications to this point. The team’s 21-10-2 record against the Eastern Conference shines bright, as does its 12-6-1 mark within the division. The latter includes a 4-0 performance against the two teams ahead of Boston in the Atlantic (Florida and Detroit).
That said, despite winning five of their last seven games, players also are willing to admit that their current playoff perch is a tenuous one.
|01.26.16 at 11:40 pm ET|
The Bruins offered no update on the status of goalie Jonas Gustavsson, who left Tuesday’s loss to the Ducks after the first period and was taken to the hospital.
The only word that the Bruins offered was during the game, when they shared that Gustavsson was ill and taken to Mass General. Gustavsson has a history of heart procedures, which led to speculation that the goaltender could have had another such issue.
Asked specifically whether Gustavsson’s situation was heart-related, Claude Julien said he had ‘no idea.’ The Bruins said afterwards that they would not have any update for at least the rest of the day.
Tuukka Rask replaced Gustavsson for the final two periods. He too said he was unaware of Gustavsson’s status.
“He just went to the trainer’s room after the period and that was it,” Rask said. “That’s all I know.”
|01.26.16 at 11:18 pm ET|
The Bruins lost Tuesday’s game because they were terrible for most of the opening 40 minutes, not because Torey Krug lost a fight.
During the 6-2 loss Krug took on the much bigger Chris Stewart (the former future Bruin has 5 inches and 45 pounds on Krug) and predictably lost. While fans during the game wanted Krug’s defeat avenged — and for all we know maybe Stewart was challenged at another point during the game — Krug and Claude Julien both took no issue with the fight after the game.
“I started it,” Krug said. “He didn’t want to fight me. It was a mismatch, but at the end of the day, I don’t know, I didn’t like what happened there and it got a little crazy.”
Said Julien: “Torey dropped the gloves against him. It’s disappointing to see that kind of fight, but when your player drops his gloves against you, what is he supposed to do? He defended himself, and some people might have done it a little differently, but it doesn’t matter. To me, Torey dropped the gloves like he wanted to fight, and I don’t think that took any juice out of our team. I think if anything it kind of gave a little bit more animosity to the rest of the game.”
|01.26.16 at 9:49 pm ET|
Third periods have been a problem for the Bruins this season, so they implemented an interesting strategy Tuesday night. They only played the third period.
After a generally listless 40 minutes that saw the Ducks take a 4-1 lead, the Bruins pushed back in the third by cutting into Anaheim’s lead with a Zdeno Chara goal 2:20 into the third. That would prove to be the extent of Boston’s offense despite some solid chances late, however, and the B’s hit the All-Star break as losers of a 6-2 contest.
The game featured plenty of the unexpected, from Zach Trotman scoring on the game’s first shift to Torey Krug fighting Chris Stewart (as in the Chris Stewart who is five inches and 45 pounds bigger than Krug), but the Bruins’ sleepy play throughout much of the night was not enough to yield significant production against an Anaheim team desperate for points.
The Bruins will be off until next Tuesday, when they host the Leafs at TD Garden.
Here are four more things we learned Tuesday:
GUSTAVSSON TAKEN TO MASS GENERAL
At this point, Bruins goaltenders should be ready for anything on their off-days. After Jonas Gustavsson was given a last-minute start on Saturday due to a Tuukka Rask ailment, Rask was forced to enter Tuesday’s game in the second period as a result of Gustavsson being taken to the hospital.
Gustavsson, who was given the start Tuesday, left the game due to an illness and was taken to Mass General. That left the Bruins without a backup goalie on the bench for the entire second period.
|01.26.16 at 1:00 pm ET|
Chris Stewart’s job seemed simple enough last season: Play and try to put up points until you get traded to the Bruins.
With Boston missing a big, tough right wing following the departure of Jarome Iginla, it became common knowledge that then-Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli was keen on Stewart, a young former first-round pick of the Avalanche who was playing on a Sabres team that was sure to sell. Stewart expressed an interest in such a scenario unfolding, telling WEEI.com in December of last season that he felt he would be a good fit on the Bruins.
“You try not to buy into stuff, but usually when there’s smoke there’s fire,” the now-Ducks forward said Tuesday of being linked to the Bruins. “That was probably the most predominant team that I was hearing about all year. I’m not too sure what happened [that I didn’t get traded to Boston].”
Here’s what happened: Despite the Bruins and Sabres discussing Stewart throughout the season, no deal was ever struck and the Bruins eventually moved on to then-Lightning forward Brett Connolly.
The Bruins not acquiring Stewart was certainly not for lack of trying, however. According to ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun, Chiarelli offered the Sabres a second-round pick and center Ryan Spooner for Stewart in October of last season, only to have the offer rejected.
In hindsight, that would have gone down as one of the worst deals of Chiarelli’s tenure as Bruins general manager. Stewart had a modest campaign (11 goals, 14 assists) with the Sabres and was made a healthy scratch at points of a 61-game stretch, diminishing his value and eventually leading the Sabres to send him to the Wild for a 2017 second-round pick at the trade deadline. Buffalo had to retain half of Stewart’s $4.15 million cap hit in order to secure a future second-rounder, far less than what Chiarelli had offered months earlier.
While the Bruins used the second-rounder towards acquiring Connolly, who has struggled with goal-scoring but has as many goals as Stewart (seven) this season at a smaller price tag, the most obvious reason why that trade would have been a disaster is Spooner.
Both last season and this season, Spooner has been far more of an impact player than Stewart, who is five years older than Spooner and had unrestricted free agent status awaiting last season. In 24 games following his Feb. 22 midseason debut, Spooner had eight goals and 10 assists for 18 points. Stewart performed well between Buffalo and Minnesota during that stretch, though his five goals and nine assists for 14 points in 24 games fell short of Spooner’s totals.
This season, Spooner’s taken a major leap forward, as he has 10 goals and a team-leading 26 assists for 36 points. Even better for the Bruins is the fact that because he’s on just his second contract and didn’t have enough of an NHL track record to warrant bigger money at the time of signing, he carries a cap hit of $950,000 for the next two seasons, after which the Bruins will still hold his rights as a restricted free agent.
After playing 20 regular-season games and eight playoff games for the Wild, Stewart took a one-year, $1.7 million deal with the Ducks. Playing mostly as a third-liner, Stewart has seven goals and six assists for 13 points in 40 games for Anaheim. Given that the Ducks are his fourth team in as many seasons, he hopes that he can stay with the team for a long time.
At the very least, he has better job security on a team pushing for a playoff spot than he did last season with the Sabres. Because Buffalo was in full-tank mode for Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel, the latter of whom they eventually got, Stewart knew all along that he had a better chance of finishing the season in Boston — or anywhere else — than in Buffalo.
“The biggest part of it was they were so open about the rebuild, that everyone who was on the last year of their contract knew they were getting traded,” Stewart said. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like that before. There were probably about a good seven or eight guys who were all in the same boat.”
In the end, the Spooner-and-a-second-for-Stewart deal not happening has been a win for everyone but the Sabres. Stewart has been able to move on with his career, while the Bruins avoided giving away a big piece of their future for a rental.
|01.26.16 at 11:57 am ET|
The Bruins can enter the All-Star break in second place in the Atlantic Division with a win over the Ducks Tuesday night at TD Garden. After jumping past the Lightning for the third place on Monday, the B’s now sit a point behind the Red Wings, who are idle on Tuesday.
Detroit has 58 points in 49 games, while the Bruins have 57 in 48. Both teams will sit at 49 games at the break, with Tuesday determining the order.
“It’s very important for us; we want to move up in the standings,” David Pastrnak said Tuesday morning. “This is a big opportunity for us tonight. We’re going to have to finish strong and be ready for tonight.”
The Ducks currently sit outside of the playoff picture in the Western Conference, though they have multiple games in hand on the two teams directly in front of them in the Pacific Division. In 46 games, Anaheim has 49 points to Vancouver’s 51 in 49 and Arizona’s 53 in 48. The Ducks currently sit fifth in the Pacific and trail the Wild (55 points in 49 games), Avalanche (55 points in 50 games) and Canucks in the Wild Card race.
The Bruins did not have a morning skate on Tuesday, leaving their potential lineup for the game ambiguous.
In injury news, Claude Julien offered no update on Adam McQuaid, who has yet to begin skating since suffering an upper-body injury on Jan. 5.
|01.25.16 at 9:46 pm ET|
Brett Connolly’s luck finally came back when the Bruins needed it most.
After blowing a third-period lead to the Flyers for the second time in less than two weeks, the Bruins found themselves tied with minutes to play. Connolly changed that by redirecting a Zdeno Chara point shot past Michal Neuvirth with just under two minutes remaining in regulation to give the Bruins a 3-2 win. The goal marked the first time Connolly had scored on a goaltender in 35 games, as he had just one empty-net goal dating back to the start of December.
Chara had a pair of assists for the Bruins. He also drew a high stick from Simmonds with 1:38 remaining in the game, which appeared to sew up the victory until Torey Krug was called for a trip 35 seconds later to set up 4-on-4 play for the remainder of regulation.
Prior to Connolly’s game-winner, the Flyers tied the game on something of a controversial play that led to Wayne Simmonds’ second goal of the night. Claude Julien challenged the play to see if Michael Del Zotto was offsides as the Flyers entered the offensive zone. Though the play sure looked to be offsides, the officials confirmed the on-ice goal call.
The B’s will host the Ducks Tuesday at TD Garden in their final game before the All-Star break. With a win, they will leapfrog the Red Wings and head to the break sitting second in the Atlantic Division.
Here are four more things we learned Monday:
ALL IS WELL WITH RASK, SCRATCHED YOUNGSTERS RETURN
Monday’s lineup featured quite a few changes from Saturday’s, the most encouraging of which was that Tuukka Rask played after being held out of Saturday’s game with an undisclosed ailment.
Rask had a strong showing for the B’s, making 34 saves on 36 shots and weathering a barrage of opportunities from the Flyers over the final two periods.
In addition to Rask returning, Brett Connolly and Colin Miller returned to the lineup after healthy scratch stints of one and four games, respectively. Connolly’s return came at the expense of Landon Ferraro, who has been battling an upper-body injury, while Joe Morrow was made a healthy scratch to accommodate Miller’s return.
With Monday’s changes, the lineup looked as such:
The Bruins gave the Flyers every opportunity to tie the game in the second period, as Boston took four penalties in the first 10:57 of the second.
Rask and the Bruins’ surging penalty kill ‘ which had not allowed a power play goal in nine games entering Monday ‘ limited the damage by allowing only a Wayne Simmonds power play tally.
As for Boston’s power play, the B’s returned to producing on the man advantage after entering Monday’s game with no goals over 11 power plays in five games. Power play goals from Bergeron and Marchand gave the Bruins a 2-0 lead, albeit one they would ultimately relinquish.
MARCHAND HITS 20
With his first-period goal, Brad Marchand now has a five-game goal streak. Monday’s tally also brought him to a team-leading 20 goals.
With another strong season, Marchand has reached the 20-goal mark in all five non-shortened seasons since becoming an NHL regular in the 2010-11 season. He nearly reached that total in the lockout-shortened season, when he led the B’s with 18 goals in 45 games.
The 27-year-old has never reached the 30-goal plateau, though that seems likely as long as he stays healthy and in the Department of Player Safety’s good graces. He’s currently on pace for 36 goals, which would make him the Bruins’ highest-scoring player since Phil Kessel scored 36 in 70 games back in the 2008-09 season.
SPOONER TAKES ASSISTS LEAD
File this under Things Nobody Saw Coming: Thanks his recent torrid stretch of production, Ryan Spooner overtook Patrice Bergeron for the Bruins’ lead in assist with 26 when he picked up the primary helper on Bergeron’s first-period power play goal.
Spooner has registered 12 assists over his last 13 games dating back to Dec. 29, which was the Bruins’ first game after David Krejci‘s injury. With 36 points on the season, Spooner is on pace for 62 points this season. Should he reach that mark, it would be the most points by a Bruin in their first full NHL season since Krejci put up 73 in 2008-09.