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Injuries or no, Bruins need to start fixing this thing fast

10.27.16 at 6:33 am ET
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Claude Julien isn't to blame for this slow start. (Aaron Doster/USA Today Sports)

Claude Julien isn’t to blame for this slow start. (Aaron Doster/USA Today Sports)

It was apparent going into the 2016-17 season that the Bruins would not have much margin for error. Perched between the well-rounded contenders atop the NHL standings and the recent lottery winners fattening up on young studs (AKA Flyersland), the Bruins know they need to play solid, consistent hockey just to make the postseason.

Add in the fact that more than 20 percent of the opening night roster was making its NHL debut, and their position felt even more precarious.

But less than two weeks into the new campaign, the Bs have already been bitten by the injury bug with a JAWS-sized chomp.

In addition to injured defensemen Kevan Miller and Adam McQuaid, the team started the year without its heart-and-soul as Patrice Bergeron missed the first three games with what was believed to be a nagging ankle issue. All-world goalie Tuukka Rask, seeking a bit of a bounce-back year, gave way to back-up Anton Khudobin just two games into the season with some sort of lower limb ailment before being placed on injured reserve (though he is said to be day-to-day). Burly free agent acquisition David Backes missed the last two games and will miss the next few due to a surgical procedure on his elbow. And Khudobin was lost earlier in week when he injured his hand in practice and will miss three weeks.

It’s gotten to the point where I’m half expecting to hear Radar O’Reilly working the public address system at the next home game.

The situation has required the B’s to carry their two AHL goalies from Providence and hope one emerges as a reasonable band-aid until Rask is ready to return. But in two tries, that hasn’t happened yet. Malcolm Subban, in just his second NHL start since being drafted five years ago, looked anything but ready against the Wild Tuesday (though the loss was a team effort). When former GM Peter Chiarelli picked Subban in the first round, it felt like a weird reach from a guy thinking his team would be a perennial contender. But right now, it just feels like another Chiarelli draft debacle. I wish the kid the best but he needs to get his game in order.

Zane McIntyre, who has been significantly outplaying Subban down Providence so far this year, looked more like the NHL-ready goalie Tuesday. But after a solid first period down Manhattan Wednesday night, he looked very much like a guy making his first NHL start for what is a very mediocre team right now. Quintessential rookie mistakes that can be corrected over time but they do the Bruins no favors today.

Rask is no doubt feeling pressure to return after his team got shellacked by a combined 10-2 score in their last two games. But rushing him back if he’s still hurt doesn’t help anybody.

Injuries are part of every NHL season but teams typically don’t have this kind of carnage before Halloween. So in addition to the built-in adversity they carried with them, the B’s skaters also need to rally around their green netminders to compensate, with renewed effort, for their missing top-flight goalie. They have not done that very well this week so the goalies are hardly the only ones to blame here. Injuries you can swallow, but not piss-poor efforts. And they’re getting way too many of those right now. (Any time the second and third lines want to chip in would be nice.)

If there’s one thing Claude Julien-coached Bruins teams have dealt with, to varying degrees of success, it’s in-season difficulties. Claude won’t panic because Claude seldom panics. He’s going to wring what he can from the current subpar roster and is the last guy to blame right now (though maybe he should give Matt Beleskey a whirl on the top line to maybe get him going). But the bleeding needs to stop and stop soon or the Bruins will once again be swimming upstream in search of a playoff spot before we have our second plate of Thanksgiving turkey.

5 Things We Learned as Bruins have another second period collapse in loss to Rangers

10.26.16 at 10:45 pm ET
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Bruins winger David Pastrnak scored 10 seconds into the team's win , but the Bruins stlll lost, 5-2 to the Rangers.  (Adam Hunger/USA Today Sports)

Bruins winger David Pastrnak scored 10 seconds into the team’s win , but the Bruins still lost, 5-2 to the Rangers. (Adam Hunger/USA Today Sports)

On their fourth goaltender in as many games, the Boston Bruins needed a quick start against Henrik Lundqvist and the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden. They got one, too, as David Pastrnak scored just 10 seconds into the game. The Bruins even carried a 2-0 lead into the first intermission behind Austin Czarnik’s first NHL goal, scored 14:44 into the first.

The strong start marked the first time that the Black and Gold scored first in any of their seven games this season, and put them in a position of strength through a solid first period against a strong Rangers club.

But like it has throughout this losing streak, a trainwreck of a second period proved to be the B’s downfall, as their misery was extended to three straight losses in a 5-2 final against the Rangers.

In a second period in which the Rangers outshot the B’s 14-to-10, the Blueshirts took over this game with a dominant, 10-minute stretch that featured three goals against rookie netminder Zane McIntyre. Veteran Rick Nash opened New York’s scoring after a Torey Krug turnover left No. 61 all alone in front of the B’s net for not one but two chances on the 24-year-old McIntyre. Kevin Hayes then banked a puck off McIntyre and in at the 16:35 mark of the period, while Brandon Pirri finally put the Rangers on top with a goal scored with just 36 seconds left in the period.

The Bruins have been outscored 9-0 in the middle period of their last three games.

With the air taken out of the Bruins long before the second intermission even came, the Rangers found putaway goals just three minutes into the third period, the first on Pirri’s second of the night, while Jimmy Vesey beat every Bruin to the front of the net for an easy goal at 3:06.

McIntyre, in his first NHL start, gave the Bruins a chance to win this game for more than half of this game and that’s really all you could ask of the team’s fourth goaltender.

But the Bruins were still the team they were the night before and could not play well without the puck, and even when they did have the puck, it didn’t take long for the Rangers to take it away.

The loss dropped the Bruins to 3-4-0 on the year.

Here are four other things we learned in yet another ugly loss.

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Zane McIntyre gets call for first career start against Rangers

10.26.16 at 4:22 pm ET
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Bruins goaltender Zane McIntyre will make his first career NHL start tonight.

Bruins goaltender Zane McIntyre will make his first career NHL start tonight.

Against Henrik Lundqvist and the New York Rangers, the Boston Bruins will counter the five-time Vezina Trophy nominee (Lundqvist took home the award in 2012) with Zane McIntyre, the No. 4 goaltender on the club’s depth chart at the start of the season, for his first career NHL start in tonight’s rivalry showdown at Madison Square Garden.

The start for McIntyre comes with the Bruins riding a two-game losing streak after last night’s 5-0 beatdown from the Minnesota Wild, with the team having scored just four goals in their last three games, and with top six forward David Backes (elbow procedure performed on Monday) out for at least the next two games. One hell of a first start.

But the 24-year-old knows that roles as a goalie can come without warning.

Like it did last night when McIntyre was summoned into the crease in relief of Malcolm Subban in the second period of the club’s aforementioned loss to the Wild.

“As a goaltender, you learn to be prepared at any point,” McIntyre, who has come off the bench in relief of Subban three times this year between the Providence Bruins and Big B’s, said last night. “I think the biggest thing was just going through my normal pregame routine, doing the things that I’ve done for countless years and trying to have the mental capacity with mental cues, things like that of that nature, to stay focused and just do my job when called upon.”

McIntyre finished his NHL debut with 15 stops on 17 shots against, and though it was far from the end result McIntyre or the Bruins wanted, the nerves of that first game are gone.

“I got a little taste of it and I think it’s good to get that experience,” McIntyre, who appeared in one preseason game last month and stopped all eight shots against but took the shootout loss in the process, said of his dip into the waters of an NHL crease. “It’s good to see that and to settle in. I think now from my standpoint, I’ve seen it, and it’s not too crazy. It’s nothing overwhelming. It’s something I think I can handle and just got to go out there and play my game – stick to what I know, and just play my game and try and do my job.”

A sixth-round (165th overall) draft choice of the club in 2010, McIntyre turned pro after a three-year standout career with the University of North Dakota, and has won 15 of 34 games with the P-Bruins, with a .903 save percentage over that stretch. McIntyre was recalled to Boston with an AHL-best .977 save percentage in three games for the P-Bruins this season.

The Bruins won one of their three head-to-heads with the Rangers last year.

Bruins recall Austin Czarnik, issue update on David Backes

10.26.16 at 11:45 am ET
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Austin Czarnik has been recalled by the Boston Bruins.

Austin Czarnik has been recalled by the Boston Bruins.

In need of an offensive spark and battered with injuries and just hours away tonight’s pivotal road game against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden, the Boston Bruins have recalled center Austin Czarnik from the Providence Bruins.

A standout in training camp at center on the B’s third line, Czarnik recorded two goals and an assist before a cheapshot from Flyers defenseman Radko Gudas in the preseason finale left him with a concussion. The 23-year-old was cleared by the start of the though and skated in the first two games of the regular season without a point before he was returned to the P-Bruins, where he’s tallied one goal and three points in just games for the club’s AHL affiliate.

Czarnik will be available for tonight’s game against the Rangers.

General manager Don Sweeney also provided an update on the status of forward David Backes, who missed last night’s 5-0 loss to the Minnesota Wild at TD Garden with an undisclosed injury.

“David Backes underwent the removal of the olecranon bursa from his elbow on Monday, October 24,” Sweeney said on Wednesday. “His condition will be updated after the weekend.”

Often referred to as ‘liquid elbow’ and known to cause uncomfortable inflammation, the 32-year-old Backes will miss at least two games with the Bruins.

Backes has recorded two goals and four points in five games for the Bruins.

Claude Julien doesn’t blame goaltending combo for ugly loss to Wild

10.26.16 at 1:35 am ET
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The Bruins struggled to keep pace in their 5-0 loss to the Wild on Tuesday night. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

The Bruins struggled to keep pace in their 5-0 loss to the Wild on Tuesday night. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

BOSTON – Bruins head coach Claude Julien did not want to assess the play of his goaltenders following a 5-0 trouncing at the hands of the visiting Minnesota Wild on Tuesday night. In fact, he would not.

The near decade-long coach of the Bruins understands the unfortunate hand the team has been dealt.

“I’m just going to deal with the issue internally,” Julien said of their shaky goaltending situation. “We know that we’ve got two young goalies from the American League, so we’ve got to deal with that.”

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5 Things We Learned as Wild beat B’s goalies up in 5-0 blowout

10.25.16 at 9:43 pm ET
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Malcolm Subban received an early hook in a 5-0 loss to the Minnesota Wild. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

Malcolm Subban received an early hook in a 5-0 loss to the Minnesota Wild. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

BOSTON – Malcolm Subban’s second NHL game went better than this first. But not by much.

Back in an NHL net for the first time since he allowed three goals on six shots against in a Feb. 20, 2015 loss to the St. Louis Blues, the 22-year-old Subban helped keep the Bruins and visiting Minnesota Wild scoreless through the first period of play. But just like it did on that St. Louis night in 2015, the second period came and the wheels simply fell off for the former first-round draft pick.

It began with a Charlie Coyle goal, his third of the season, that took a bad hop before it bounced through Subban’s legs. The Wild capitalized on poor defensive play behind the B’s net just 12 seconds later to make it a two-goal edge behind Chris Stewart’s second goal of the season. The Wild then extended their lead to 3-0 behind a power-play strike from defenseman Ryan Suter.

With three goals allowed in a 5:29 stretch, an improvement from his aforementioned first NHL game which came with three goals against in a 4:21 stretch in the second (but again, not by much), Subban’s night ended after just 13 saves in 30:36 of time on ice.

“It sucks,” Subban said of his second early pull in as many NHL games. “Obviously, I’m just trying to finish the game, let alone win one. Obviously it sucks, but what can you do now, right?

“The third goal was bad. Whether I should have been pulled or not, it’s the coach’s opinion, but obviously we needed something to change, so I was going out.”

With Subban out, backup Zane McIntyre came on in relief for his first NHL appearance.

But it didn’t get better for the B’s organization’s fourth goaltender, as Jason Zucker scored six minutes into McIntyre’s night to put the Wild up by a 4-0 score through two periods of play.

The Wild would add another goal in the third period on a net-front putaway scored on McIntyre by Jason Pominville to make it 5-0 in favor of the visitors.

“There are some goals – I’m not going to lie – there are some goals that we thought our goaltenders should have had,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said after the loss. “But, I’m not here to talk about a goaltender who’s in one of his first few games because he let in a couple of bad goals. We were terrible in front of him and we weren’t any better and that’s the big picture.

“That’s more important.”

The five-goal edge would hold for Minnesota, too, as they cruised to a 5-0 finish at TD Garden behind a 27-save shutout from goaltender Devan Dubnyk.

It was the first shutout against the Black and Gold this season.

Here are four other things we learned in the loss.

Adam McQuaid returns to lineup

Bruins defenseman Adam McQuaid returned to the lineup in the loss and made his season debut after missing the first five games of the year with an upper-body injury.

Paired with familiar partner Torey Krug, the 30-year-old McQuaid very much looked like a defenseman doing his best to return to game-speed against one of the quicker teams in the NHL.

In front of the net on Minnesota’s first goal, and in the box for the Suter power-play goal that officially ended Subban’s night, McQuaid was also credited with the giveaway that led to the Wild’s fourth goal of the night. 

Bruins survive injury scare with David Krejci

Just when you thought things could not get any worse for an injury-plagued Bruins club, center David Krejci exited the game after an awkward collision and fall with Wild forward Nino Niederreiter in the second period. In a collision led by McQuaid’s crosscheck of Niederreiter from behind, No. 22 in white appeared to clip Krejci’s upper body with brute force, and Krejci, who had offseason hip surgery just six months ago, fell backwards in an awkward angle and was very slow to get up before he made his way to the Bruins dressing room.

The good news for the Bruins is that Krejci, who appeared to suffer a cut and nothing more on the play, did return for the third period and logged regular shifts without much of an issue.

Down David Backes, and with Ryan Spooner readjusting to life at center after a full training camp and start of the season at left wing, the Bruins undoubtedly need a healthy Krejci in their lineup.

A healthy, productive Krejci would be even better, and he knows it.

“Everything on this team starts with the defensive zone. If you can’t get out of there clean, then it’s hard to do something,” Krejci, who finished the night with a minus-1 and one shot on goal in 15:46 of time on ice, said. “So, it’s up to us, especially forwards, to take care of the D and the slot. Our D’s do the best they can, but they need help from the other three forwards. When we play well, that’s what we do. But, if we don’t like today, then that’s what happens.”

Julien shuffles lines up in third period

Starved for offense, and in the midst of getting their doors blown off, head coach Claude Julien tinkered with the lines in the third period of the game. He moved David Pastrnak to a line with Matt Beleskey and Krejci, while Danton Heinen skated on the right side of the first line with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand. It’s a move that could come as an effort to spread some of the offensive game around, as Pastrnak and Marchand have been the only two consistent wingers making things happen for the Black and Gold through the first six games of the season.

“Once you start falling behind then guys start cheating and then they start trying to cheat on the offensive side and that only gets worse,” Julien said. “They’re trying to make up for it with scoring goals, but we’ve got to get better without the puck. When we get better without the puck, we turn it over quickly, we’ve got it back on our stick and we’re back on the attack. And every time we’ve played well without the puck and done the job, we’ve scored some goals.”

It doesn’t help that the Bruins have scored just four goals over their last three games.

“Any good team will tell you that – that the game without the puck, recovering the puck quickly, is the key to success and getting some offense,” Julien continued. “We can’t – if we’re going to cheat offensively and not do our job defensively, it ends up in the back of our net and we just lose momentum, we lose confidence, we lose everything that comes with it.”

Offensive zone turnovers become glaring issue in loss

The Bruins were credited with seven giveaways in the first period of this loss. By the end of the second period, they had 10 to their name. By the end of the night, they had 16. Against a team and system that pressures the puck-carrier to lead their charge the other way, the Bruins fumbled and stumbled with the puck on a consistent basis, especially in the attacking zone. It may have been the only consistency in their game. Everyone was a suspect in the turnover game. Even members of Boston’s top six — Krejci finished the night with a team-high three while Marchand was credited with two — were guilty. And it almost always came back to cost the Bruins, too, as the Wild’s fourth goal simply doesn’t happen without an ugly d-zone turnover from the blue line.

“Guys have to stay focused for the whole 60-minute game and really pay attention to what’s going on on the ice,” said Bruins captain Zdeno Chara. “Not looking for shortcuts, just honoring the game, honoring the game plan, and really being accountable. We’re out there to do the right thing and, like I said, do the things that we practice every day.”

The Bruins are back in action tomorrow night in a road game against the New York Rangers.

Bruins defenseman Adam McQuaid to make season debut tonight vs. Wild

10.25.16 at 4:41 pm ET
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Adam McQuaid will make his season debut tonight.

Adam McQuaid will make his season debut tonight.

BOSTON – It’s already all hands on deck for the Boston Bruins.

Just five games into the new year, the Bruins will enter tonight’s game against the Minnesota Wild down top-six forward David Backes, and without both of their NHL goaltenders, Tuukka Rask and Anton Khudobin. But the Bruins will get an experienced lift on their back-end, as Adam McQuaid will make his season debut after missing the first five games of the season with an upper-body injury.

“He’s ready to go,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said of McQuaid.

Cleared to play days ago and a full participant in practice, McQuaid will finally draw back into the B’s defensive mix on their second pairing with puck-mover Torey Krug.

“Regardless of who’s on the left side, I’ve played with everybody, so I’m fortunate in that way to have experience with those guys,” McQuaid said after the morning skate. “All solid partners, so I’ll probably lean on them a little bit and have lots of communications and just try to keep it a simple game.”

The 30-year-old McQuaid recorded one goal, nine points, and racked up 142 hits and 121 blocked shots in 64 games in just about every possible defensive pairing option for the Bruins last season.

To make room for McQuaid, defenseman Robbie O’Gara was assigned to the Providence Bruins.

In net, the Bruins will go with Malcolm Subban for just the second time in his NHL career, and first since Feb. 2015. The 22-year-old Subban has an 0-3-1 record and .846 save percentage in four games for the Providence Bruins this season, and allowed three goals on six shots in his only prior NHL start before he received the hook in what was a 31-minute nightmare against the St. Louis Blues.

But the plan doesn’t change with Subban in net instead of a Rask or Khudobin, according to Julien.  

“Our gameplan is about playing good defense, with or without Tuukka,” Julien said following the club’s morning skate at Warrior Ice Arena. “You put a system together, you believe in it, and you go out and play your game together. Adjusting to injuries is not quite what we’re looking for. What we’re looking for is a solid performance from our team and I think that will trump any injury that we have.”

Minnesota counters with Devan Dubnyk. The 6-foot-6 Dubnyk has two wins and a .912 save percentage in four games this season, and stopped 30-of-32 shots against in a loss on Oct. 22, but is winless with an .865 save percentage in five career head-to-heads with the Bruins.

Defenseman Joe Morrow is the expected healthy scratch for the Bruins.

Here are the projected lines and pairings for the Bruins

Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – David Pastrnak

Matt Beleskey – David Krejci – Danton Heinen

Dominic Moore – Ryan Spooner – Jimmy Hayes

Tim Schaller – Riley Nash – Noel Acciari

Zdeno Chara – Brandon Carlo

Torey Krug – Adam McQuaid

John-Michael Liles – Colin Miller


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