|11.28.11 at 1:40 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — The Bruins should know better than anyone that an opponent can improve from one meeting to the next. Any team that has faced them in both October and November have learned that the hard way.
That’s why when the B’s face the Leafs in a home-and-home Wednesday and Saturday, the Bruins won’t be overconfident just because they’ve picked up two lopsided wins and have outscored the Leads, 13-1, in their two meetings this season.
“It’s like teams that played us earlier in the year,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said after Monday’s practice. “We’re not the same team anymore, so that’s how you make sure you don’t get too overconfident by understanding there’s some highs and lows during the season with teams. Right now they’re playing extremely well.”
As has been made obvious in the two meetings with Toronto, the way to beat the Leafs is to take advantage of the many scoring opportunities they allow. In addition to the Bruins having scored a combined 13 goals in two games against Toronto this year, the Leafs have allowed 3.1 goals per game this season, which is 24th in the league.
Julien cautions against reading too much into that. More recently, the Leafs have allowed 10 goals over their last five games, a span in which they’ve gone 4-1-0. The goaltending they’ve received from Jonas Gustavsson and Ben Scrivens has been stronger, with Gustavsson getting the start in four of those games. The B’s saw both goalies in their 7-0 win over the Leafs on Nov. 5, but since then the team has played better defensively and the goalies have seen better results.
“The last time we played them, I think they were struggling a little bit defensively, not just against us, but they’d been giving up a lot of goals,” Julien said. “That’s not the case right now.”
What Julien hopes is that the Bruins, much like they have during their current hot streak (11-0-1) is not think about what’s happened, but what is about to happen. With the two teams neck and neck in the standings (the Leafs, who have played two more games than the B’s, lead Boston by one point for the Northeast division lead), the next win is more important than any of the previous ones.
“I don’t think we have much of a choice, because of the fact that right now we’re playing yo-yo with these guys,” Julien said. “One day we’re ahead of them, the next day we’re behind them, and this is an opportunity here in these next two games, if we want to spread that gap a bit, it’s up to us to do the job. They’re a good team. We’ve seen them play some real good hockey.”
|11.28.11 at 11:02 am ET|
WILMINGTON — Everyone with the exception of Andrew Ference was on the ice Monday as the Bruins returned to practice at Ristuccia Arena.
[UPDATE: 12:55 p.m.] Coach Claude Julien said after the team’s practice that it was a maintenance day for Ference and that “he’ll be back on the ice tomorrow.”
The defenseman missed two games this month with a lower body injury, but it’s unknown at the moment whether it’s the same issue that kept Ference out Monday.
All of the Bruins’ lines were unchanged.
|11.26.11 at 9:37 pm ET|
The Bruins overcame a two-goal deficit for the second time in three games and defeated the Jets, 4-2, at TD Garden Saturday.
The Jets jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead in the game’s first 10 minutes when they got goals 39 seconds apart from Evander Kane and Dustin Byfuglien. Zdeno Chara got the B’s on the board with a slapshot on the power play later in the period, with Kelly scoring two goals to tie the game and give Boston the lead. Brad Marchand picked up an empty-netter with 1:09 remaining in regulation.
Tim Thomas picked up his 11th win of the season, and the Bruins now have points in 12 straight games (10-0-1). The B’s will next play Wednesday in Toronto.
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE BRUINS
– Chara has been a statistical monster of late. He has four goals and 12 assists for 16 points over his last 16 games. He started the season without a point in the Bruins’ first six games, but in addition to remaining one of the toughest defensemen in the league to play against, he’s certainly producing of late.
– The Bruins came back from a two-goal deficit for the second time in three games. The B’s came back from a 3-1 hole against the Sabres on Wednesday and went on to win in a shootout against Buffalo, but they were able to take care of the Jets in regulation after trailing, 2-0.
– Benoit Pouliot keeps doing enough to stay in the Bruins’ lineup. Two games after being the hero in the shootout Wednesday, Pouliot made a nice pass to set up Kelly’s one-time in the second period, which broke the 2-2 tie and gave the B’s the lead. The line of Kelly with Peverley and Pouliot is obviously playing well and producing, so it would appear — barring injury — that Jordan Caron may remain a healthy scratch for the time being.
– Kelly brings a lot to the table, but did anyone expect the veteran center to be this productive? He now has nine goals through 22 games and is on pace for a whopping 34 goals this season. Now, Kelly obviously isn’t going to be a 30-goal scorer this season, but he’s come up with some big goals while centering a very productive third line. The Bruins haven’t lost this season in games in which Kelly’s scored, and he has the Bruins’ only two shorthanded goals this season.
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE BRUINS
– Dustin Byfuglien continues to be a thorn in the Bruins’ side. The 6-foot-5 defenseman had a hand in both of the Jets’ first-period goals, setting up Kane on a 2-on-1 to get the Jets’ first goal and beating Thomas with a slapshot 39 seconds later. Putting up big numbers against the B’s is nothing new for Byfuglien, as he had three goals and four assists for seven points in four games against Boston last season.
While Byfuglien hurt the Bruins on the scoreboard, he also helped them when his interference penalty in the first period gave the Bruins the power play on which Chara scored.
– It’s clearly both a good and bad thing, but the Bruins continue to allow the first goal and not always see it making a difference by the time the game is over. As Michael Berger pointed out Saturday night, the B’s have allowed the first goal in 14 of their 22 games thus far. With the win Saturday, the B’s are now 8-5-1 in such games. The Bruins are 6-2-0 when scoring the first goal.
– He still looks as dangerous as ever, as was evident when he nearly split two defenders at the Jets’ blue line in the first period and hit the post in the third period, but the scoring has slowed a bit from Tyler Seguin. After scoring 11 goals in his 15 games this season, Seguin has one goal over his last sec on contests. He continues to create plays and get chances, so the lack of production should be no more than a statistical observation.
|11.26.11 at 6:52 pm ET|
|11.26.11 at 12:53 pm ET|
“It was a weird feeling,” Stuart, who was traded along with Wheeler to Atlanta last February in the Rich Peverley deal, said of watching the playoffs. “Happy for those guys, happy when they won, and it’s also tough. It’s really tough to watch, because you want to be there and you want to be part of it.”
Said Wheeler: “It was gratifying, but it was hard at the same time. You want to be a part of it, but you certainly take something out of it, just watching the guys that you played with for a few years. That was the hardest part of getting traded. Stewie and I both knew it was a very real possibility that that was going to happen. To see it come true was certainly a mixed bag of emotions for sure. Definitely happy for all the guys. They certainly work harder than anyone, and they deserved it.”
The two have now settled in with the Jets, as the Thrashers relocated to Winnipeg over the summer. All that moving kept the players busy, but they didn’t mind having to move twice.
“I think it’s been easier for me than some of these guys,” Stuart said. “I wasn’t in Atlanta for too long, so it wasn’t really like I got settled in there. I stayed in a hotel there, so when we moved to Winnipeg, it was almost like Boston to Winnipeg in a sense because I didn’t really have enough time to get settled in Atlanta.”
Winnipeg has 22 points on the season, good for fourth in the Southeast conference, but they’re just three points out of being in the top eight. Stuart has two goals and four assists for six points this season, while Wheeler has just one goal and 10 assists for 11 points.
“Mark Stuart is a guy that plays with a lot of bite for us, and his aggressive nature,” Winnipeg coach Claude Noel said Saturday morning. “He’s a guy that plays with his heart more than on his sleeve, he plays with his heart, period. It shows on our team. He’s part of our leadership group, a big part of it. He exemplifies a lot of what our team needs to be, and that’s just a hard-working group that plays hard and plays for the team. He’s been really good for us. He’s been really excellent for us.
“Blake got off to a little frustrating start. He didn’t score a whole lot, so he’s been trying to find his game to a degree. He’s been way better over the last four or five games. He’s got really good speed. He can really take pucks to the net. He’s a guy that can create offense, and he’s been good as well, especially lately he’s been really good. He’s found a little bit more of a niche in our lineup. For us he’s an offensive guy that we can rely on.”
The Jets certainly don’t have the star power of the Bruins, but the players hope they’re trending upwards. They both have experience playing on a rising team, as Stuart, the team’s first-round pick in the 2003 draft, played with the team in the dark, non-playoff days of 2005-06 and 2006-07. Wheeler came in following the team’s first playoff appearance in three years and saw the B’s become a more serious contender in each of his three seasons in Boston. He hopes the same can happen in Winnipeg.
“Just being in that organization, you know what it takes,” Wheeler said of Boston. “They do everything right, and when you go to a new organization, you kind of try to bring some of that with you, kind of knowing what it takes to go all the way. Just making the playoffs is a huge first step for us. Just a few years ago, [Boston] was kind of in the same boat, trying to bring itself up, make the playoffs. They did it a few years in a row, and look at them now.”
|11.26.11 at 12:20 pm ET|
To the surprised of no one, Tim Thomas was the first goaltender off the ice in Saturday’s morning skate, indicating he will get the start against the Jets a day after Tuukka Rask manned the pipes against the Red Wings.
Saturday marks the Jets’ first trip to Boston since they were the Thrashers. Blake Wheeler and Mark Stuart, both of whom were traded to Atlanta last February in the Rich Peverley deal, will be in the lineup for Winnipeg. The Jets are fourth in the Southeast division with 22 points, but have picked up points in seven of their last 10 games (4-3-3).
|11.25.11 at 3:57 pm ET|
The Bruins’ winning streak was halted by the Red Wings Friday, as the B’s fell to Detroit, 3-2, in a matinee decided by a shootout. The Bruins had won their previous 10 games.
Though the Bruins dominated early, Valtteri Filppula gave the Red Wings a 1-0 lead on a give-and-go with Henrik Zetterberg. Daniel Paille tied it in the second period, but Pavel Datsyuk answered back when he beat Tuukka Rask 35 seconds later to give Detroit the lead back.
Patrice Bergeron tied the game once again for the Bruins in the third period when he picked Zetterberg’s pocket in front and beat Jimmy Howard with a powerful wrist shot to knot the game at two.
The Bruins will return to action Saturday, when they host the Jets for the first time since the Thrashers’ relocation.
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE BRUINS
– Remember during the playoffs when Pierre McGuire compared David Krejci to Datsyuk? Just as it seemed at the time when Krejci was leading the Bruins in scoring, that’s proven to be a bit of an exaggeration. Datsyuk showed off his other-worldly skill set when he kicked the puck to himself in front of Rask to set up his goal, his sixth of the season.
It was an off-day for Krejci, meanwhile. Though he had a pair of takeaways, he did not have a shot on goal the entire day was was won just two of 12 face-offs. He also took a hooking penalty to negate what would have been an abbreviated power play for the Bruins in the second period. Krejci’s been hot of late (two goals and six assists for eight points over the previous nine games), Friday wasn’t his day.
– Johnny Boychuk was a minus-2, as he was the only Bruin on the ice for both of Detroit’s goals. The Dennis Seidenberg-Joe Corvo pairing was out there for both Bruins goals.
– He’s still far and away the Bruins’ best option on the power play, but Tyler Seguin is now 1-for-4 in shootouts this season.
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE BRUINS
– Another strong showing from Rask. The 24-year-old net minder, who was coming off three straight victories, didn’t have much of a chance on either of the Red Wings’ goals. Detroit’s first goal was a work of art, a beautiful give-and-go that saw Zetterberg feed Filppula to get the Wings on the board, while few goalies could be counted on to stop Datsyuk’s wizardry on his goal (see below). Rask lucked out when Danny Cleary hit the post with around seven minutes remaining in a tie game.
– No first goal? No problem. As Michael Berger pointed out on Twitter, the Bruins had allowed the first goal in five of the previous 10 games despite winning them all. This time around, it took a second consecutive third-period comeback, though Friday’s matchup provided far more of a challenge than Wednesday’s bout in Buffalo.
In general the Bruins came out with more pep in their step than had been seen in recent matinee games, and their 13-6 shots on goal advantage through 20 minutes. Though the Red Wings seemed to have seized control of the game in the second period, the Garden was an absolute mad house in the final 20 minutes.
– It was clear right off the bat that Chris Kelly was once again sharp as a tack Friday. The third-line center had two takeaways and won a face-off on his first shift, and later drew an interference call on Jonathan Ericsson to give the B’s their first power play of the day. Though Kelly did not register a point Friday, he has five goals and four assists
for nine points this month.
– Paille had his first point since he was hit in the face with a Steve Staios slap shot on Nov. 7. Nathan Horton picked off a puck from Howard behind the net, feeding it to Paille, who beat the scrambling Howard with a back-hander. It was Paille’s first point since donning the cage he is wearing to protect his healing face.