|01.15.15 at 12:00 pm ET|
After missing Wenesday’s practice, Brad Marchand took part in Thursday’s morning skate as the Bruins prepared to host the Rangers.
Thursday will be Pastrnak’s ninth NHL game, meaning it could be his last if the Bruins opt against burning the first year of his entry level contract. That would be silly, of course, but the Bruins have yet to announce their intentions to keep the offensively gifted 18-year-old.
Based on morning skate, Boston’s lineup for Thursday night is as follows:
The Bruins, riding a season-best four-game winning streak, will face a red-hot Rangers team. Though the Rangers coming off a 3-0 loss to the Eastern Conference-leading Islanders, they have won 13 of their last 15 games and, with 52 points on the season, have as many points as the Bruins do with four games in hand. The B’s and Rangers both possess wild card spots in the Eastern Conference entering Thursday night’s game.
The Rangers will start backup goaltender Cam Talbot. The 27-year-old made 12 saves Tuesday night against the Islanders in a scoreless third period after entering in relief of Henrik Lundqvist.
|01.14.15 at 6:11 pm ET|
With David Pastrnak, the Bruins’ first line will be able to score goals. The question is how many it will give up.
Given that Pastrnak, though clearly offensively gifted, is the youngest player in the NHL, it’s only fair to question how Krejci and Milan Lucic‘s line will do in the plus-minus department when playing against other teams’ top players. The line did not allow a goal in its first game together on Tuesday (really half a game, as they were united midway through the second), but it did score three. Claude Julien will take that any day of the week.
Yet the cautionary tale of the Tyler Seguin Experiment exists, as Pastrnak isn’t the first highly talented youngster to see time in the spot that has typically reserved for veteran power forwards (Nathan Horton, Jarome Iginla) over the years.
When Horton was out for the season with a concussion in March of 2012, Julien went for broke offensively by sticking the then-20-year-old Seguin with Lucic and Krejci. They produced at over a goal-per-game clip, but gave up 10 goals before Julien separated them. When the B’s were desperate for offense in Game 7 of the first round in 2013, Julien again put Seguin with Krejci and Lucic, only to see them allow goals on their first two shifts.
In case you haven’t noticed by now, Julien isn’t comfortable with lines that give up more goals than they score (insert then-why-does-he-ever-play-the-fourth-line quip here), so if he plays a trio together, he does so because he thinks it can do more good on the scoreboard than damage.
As such, it was interesting to see that, after the Lightning scored to make it a one-goal game Tuesday night, Julien kept Pastrnak with Krejci and Lucic for the top line’s next shift.
Or, put it this way: With the Bruins defending a one-goal lead in a game they had to win against the division leaders, Julien put the youngest player in the league — one whose defense seemed to be one of the things he’d need to improve in order to make the NHL — on the ice against Steven Stamkos and the Bruins lived to tell about it.
“This is not a time to test guys,” Julien said Wednesday of his decision to play Pastrnak in such an important spot. “If he was out there, it was because I felt comfortable with him.”
Julien said that he considers such decisions with young players to be ‘calculated chances.’ He noted Pastrnak’s improvement getting pucks out along the wall in his defensive zone (Julien makes a good point; Pastrnak had some struggles there in his first five game stint with the B’s) and sound decision-making he’d seen from the rookie all night that made him confident that Pastrnak would not be defensive liability in the game’s most crucial minutes.
“I think for a player to develop, when you see the right things on certain nights, you’ve got to allow that player to have an opportunity,” he said. “That’s how you gain that kind of experience in those situations. Throughout the game, if you’ve seen situations where he’s kind of struggled and had some tough situations come up, you try to keep him away from that. It’s up to me to stay on top of the player and the game itself and see whether he’s earned it.”
Both Krejci and Lucic have given their endorsements to Pastrnak; it would be rather difficult to do given that he’s scored four goals over his last two games. Yet while Lucic acknowledged that the trio must stick to the team’s system to avoid suffering the same score-a-goal, allow-two-goals fate that they did in the Seguin days, Krejci said that Pastrnak, who hopes to become a strong two-way player like Krejci, will become better and better at applying his defensive learnings as he gains experience.
“It’s going to happen that we’re going to get scored on, that’s for sure, but we have to try to minimize the mistakes,” Krejci said. “On the other hand, he knows what to do defensively, but he has just been here a small amount of games and sometimes in a situation, he has to think twice of what do, and in that split second, something can go wrong. It will come with games played and I’m sure he’ll be fine.”
|01.14.15 at 2:53 pm ET|
NESN Bruins analyst Andy Brickley made his weekly appearance on Middays with MFB on Wednesday to talk about Bruins rookie forward David Pastrnak’s performance as well as the team’s recent success overall. To hear the interview, go to the MFB audio on demand page.
As the story goes with most first-year players in the NHL, a team has to make a decision about an entry-level player’s future before he’s played his 10th game of the season or a year will be burned off of his entry level contract. With Pastrnak due to make his ninth start on Thursday night after recording four goals in his last two games, it’s not hard to understand why most everyone is waiting with bated breath for the front office’s verdict.
“It’s pretty obvious from where we sit I think, no question about it,” Brickley said. “The question was, ‘Can this kid help us make the playoffs?’ Because when your team’s in a playoff spot, sure there’s still plenty of games left, but it’s so difficult to climb over teams and amass points in this league when you have so many three-point games. It’s tough to make up ground once you fall too far behind. But that being said, because the Bruins are amassing points, and they are getting some traction in the standings, it’s just about getting into the playoffs.
“The question becomes, Bruins management, can they go out and make a deal to fill whatever holes they see that they have?” he continued, adding, “Or, can Pastrnak come in and not only give you energy, but be productive as an 18-year-old on a fairly consistent basis so that you don’t have to go out and make that deal.
“You’re hoping that this injection of energy is really contagious,” Brickley said of the rookie.
Brickley also stressed that the experience Pastrnak has gotten over the last month in terms of his brief stint with the Bruins in addition to his success in the American Hockey League and at the IIHF World Junior Championship has done “a world of good for him.” He has 27 points in 24 games in the AHL and tallied a goal and six assists in five contests at World Juniors.
“The confidence becomes more accelerated, you get an opportunity to come back, you get a better understanding of the game,” Brickley said. “You paid attention when you were here the first time, and then you’re encouraged to play your game by the coaching staff and by the players in the room to be as creative as you want from the blue line in, and … pay attention to the Patrice Bergerons of the world and know what you’re supposed to do when you don’t have the puck, and when you do, do what you do best.”
It also helps that his breakout play has “coincided with the return and the better play of some of the core players,” Brickley added, citing Zdeno Chara and Adam McQuaid’s return to form spreading the load on defense.
“Now guys are playing the minutes that they’re supposed to play,” he said.
He also mentioned that Krejci coming back has an affect on the offense as well, noting that the center playing well makes his winger Milan Lucic a better player. After adding Pastrnak to that line then, Brickley said, “It’s no wonder the Bruins have won four in a row.”
|01.14.15 at 1:59 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — David Pastrnak is just one of the reasons the Bruins are starting to win again. His center being healthy enough to stick in the lineup and perform is among the biggest.
After going in and out of the lineup with lower-body injuries and missing a total of 20 games, Krejci has been back in Boston’s lineup for nearly a month. Though he has since hit his stride (nine points in his last eight games) and has established quick chemistry with Pastrnak, Krejci told WEEI.com Wednesday that his injury concerns aren’t fully in the rear-view mirror.
“I feel better and better every day,” he said. “It is what it is, but yesterday I felt pretty good. As long as there’s no setbacks, that’s great news.”
Asked Wednesday if he’s had to do anything to manage the injury since re-entering the lineup on Dec. 17, Krejci said that he’s been cautious to make sure what’s been his longest healthy stretch of the season doesn’t get derailed.
“Yeah, just because this is the [fourth] time coming back,” he said. “If it was only the only the first time and I would be fine, I would be like, ‘Oh, whatever,’ but now I know that I have to stay on top of it. Yeah, it’s just because this is the [fourth] time and I don’t want to be sidelined again with that. I’m trying to take care of it every day and it’s been working.”
|01.14.15 at 11:51 am ET|
WILMINGTON — Brad Marchand did not participate in Wednesday’s practice as the Bruins prepared for Thursday’s contest against the Rangers. Claude Julien said following the skate that the veteran left wing had taken a maintenance day.
Marchand played his regular shifts in Tuesday’s win over the Lightning and spoke to the media following the game, an indication that there were no serious injury concerns. Daniel Paille practiced Wednesday in his place on Patrice Bergeron‘s lines.
Boston’s lines in Wednesday’s practice were as follows:
|01.13.15 at 9:37 pm ET|
That didn’t take long.
A day after Claude Julien downplayed whether he wanted to see how David Pastrnak would look with Milan Lucic as his and David Krejci‘s left wing, the Bruins finally gave their anticipated eventual first-line a look and it exploded in a 4-3 win over the division-leading Lightning (box).
Julien united the trio midway through the second period with Tampa holding a 2-1 lead and the payoff, in addition to being nearly immediate, was big. The line scored on its second and third shifts to give the Bruins a 3-2 lead going into the second intermission. In the line’s first shift of the third period, Pastrnak scored on a wraparound for his second goal of the game and fourth of the season.
Pastrnak has now scored a pair of goals in each of the last two games. He got his first Tuesday by taking a pass from Lucic, flying down the right wing and fending off Matthew Carle as he cut to the front of the net and tucked the puck past Ben Bishop. Lucic scored on the next shift when the rebound of his shot went off Anton Stralman and in.
Tuesday marked Pastrnak’s eighth NHL game. The Bruins can play him for one more game without burning the first year of his NHL contract. At this point, it’s hard to imagine the decision hasn’t already been made.
Here are four more things we learned Tuesday:
LINES BACK TO NORMAL
With Julien putting Lucic with Krejci and Pastrnak, the rest of Boston’s lines reverted to normal. Daniel Paille, who had been playing with Lucic and Bergeron, went back to the fourth line, with Chris Kelly going back to Carl Soderberg’s line and Reilly Smith reuniting with Marchand and Bergeron.
As such, the lines became:
Lucic – Krejci – Pastrnak
Marchand – Bergeron – Smith
Kelly – Soderberg – Eriksson
Paille – Campbell – Cunningham
NEXT CENTER UP COMES THROUGH
Claude Julien revealed recently that during delayed penalties, the Bruins’ extra attacker is always the center of the next line expected to take the ice. That worked splendidly for the Bruins on a delayed penalty late in the first period.
With Krejci’s line on the ice, Soderberg took the ice as the extra attacker. He nearly got in Torey Krug’s way at the blue line initially, but moved toward the wall, took a pass from Krug and fired a sharp cross-ice pass to Brad Marchand, who blasted a one-timer past Ben Bishop to tie the game.
Additionally, good eye by the MetroWest Daily News’ Dan Cagen, who noted that the Bruins have gotten a ton of first-period power plays of late. The B’s have had seven first-period power plays (plus the delayed penalty on which they scored) over their last three games. The Bruins have scored in the first period on either power plays or during a delayed penalty in all three.
PK BAILS OUT BRUINS
You probably don’t want to give a team with Stamkos too many power plays, but Boston took three penalties in the first 30 minutes of the game. Marchand was called for a first-period goaltender interference infraction and a second-period high-stick, while Carl Soderberg was whistled for hooking in the second.
The Bruins killed off all three penalties, with Tuukka Rask stopping Tampa’s best chance of the three, a Jonathan Drouin bid during Tampa’s first man advantage.
The Bruins killed off two more penalties on the night to hold Tampa 0-for-5 on the power play.
THINGS GET CHIPPY IN THE THIRD
Zdeno Chara racked up six penalty minutes and left the Lightning plenty bruised when a hit on Carle prompted Cedric Paquette to stand up to Boston’s captain. The two took jabs at one another, with Chara hitting Paquette in the jaw/neck area to drop the Tampa forward. Chara was given a boarding minor for the hit on Carle and a double minor for roughing. Paquette received a roughing minor.
Minutes later, Krejci and J.T. Brown got tangled up behind the play, with Krejci keeping his gloves on during the scuffle. Lucic skated back to Krejci’s aid and had to be held back from Brown. Brown was given a double-minor for roughing, with Krejci getting just a roughing minor.
With 1.7 seconds remaining in the game, Chara and Paquette met again, with each player receiving a double-minor for roughing. Brad Marchand was given a 10-minute misconduct.
|01.13.15 at 12:39 pm ET|
The Bruins, injuries and a suspension aside, pretty much had one fourth line since midway through the 2010-11 season: Gregory Campbell between Daniel Paille and Shawn Thornton. Just over halfway through this season, they’ve had 15 different fourth lines by our count (see below).
As Scott McLaughlin recently pointed out, these fourth lines have mostly been ineffective. Yet with Simon Gagne recently informing the Bruins he will not be returning this season, the team can at least have a better idea of who will make up their bottom trio. Specifically, you can count on Craig Cunningham to stick on Gregory Campbell’s right wing.
In a season that has seen the Bruins struggle to get any traction with their bottom trio(s), playing Cunningham has looked to be the right idea all along. He moves relatively well, brings an element of grit, and, when given the minutes, isn’t to throw the puck on net even if it isn’t the prettiest chance.
“Any time the goalie kicks out a rebound, no one really knows where it’s going and it’s a 50-50 puck,” Cunningham said Tuesday.
Claude Julien acknowledged Tuesday that the Bruins are giving Cunningham a real shot to become a permanent member of the line, but he doesn’t feel he’s won anything yet.
“No. I don’t think so,’ Cunningham said. “For me, I’m still trying to make an impact and show that I can play at this level every night. You live day-to-day up here. For me, you never want to get comfortable. I think every day is kind of like a tryout. They’re watching you and you’ve got to bring something every single day.”
Daniel Paille moved up from the line last week as he was promoted to a new-look top-six trio with Patrice Bergeron and Milan Lucic. Chris Kelly and Jordan Caron have manned his left wing spot since, but that could continue to change.
As long as Campbell is in Boston, he figures to be on that fourth line, and it seems Cunningham stands a better chance than any of Boston’s youngsters of sticking on the right side. The other wing may continue to be a revolving door, but in the meantime, Campbell and Cunningham, linemates for eight games entering Tuesday night, should seize the opportunity to prove they’re the men for the job as the Bruins look to re-establish the puck-possessing, energy-providing fourth line the Bruins once had.
“I guess I was lucky — we were lucky, in a sense — to have that stability for the last four years,” Campbell said. “You kind of take it for granted, because if you look around, it doesn’t happen often where a line’s together that long where you can create that chemistry and whatever. The thing is, our role doesn’t change. We just have to take pride in that. The guys that have been on the line are more than capable of doing the job and they’re good players. We’ll make it work. Sometimes it takes a little bit longer.”
THE MANY DIFFERENT FOURTH LINES
These aren’t groups that were just used for shifts at a time. From tracking the team’s lineups throughout the season, these are the lines that the B’s have used for a game or games at a time. Some have changed from mid-game line shakeups, but that has rarely been the case.
Paille-Cunningham-Robins: Games 1, 2, 3
Paille-Spooner-Caron: Game 4
Paille-Spooner-Gagne: Game 5
Paille-Campbell-Gagne: Games 6, 8, 9, 10, 11, 13, 14, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 25, 26, 27, 28
Paille-Campbell-Fraser: Game 7, 34, 35, 36
Paille-Campbell-Smith: Game 12
Kelly-Campbell-Paille: Game 15
Lindblad-Khokhlachev-Fraser: Game 22
Caron-Khokhlachev-Pastrnak: Game 23
Smith-Kelly-Griffith: Game 24
Paille-Campbell-Griffith: Games 29, 30, 31
Paille-Campbell-Cunningham: Game 32, 33, 38, 39, 40, 41
Lindblad-Cunningham-Griffith: Game 37
Caron-Campbell-Cunningham: Game 42
Kelly-Campbell-Cunningham: Game 43