|10.27.15 at 11:57 pm ET|
If they’d lost on Tuesday, the Bruins would have been in Original Six territory.
As in the 1951-52 Original Six Bruins, the last version of the B’s to start a season winless on home ice for more than four games; that season Milt Schmidt’s boys went 0-5-4 out of the gate en route to a fourth-place finish.
Instead of Original Six, the 2015-16 Bruins went Additional Six on Tuesday night with a 6-0 shutout of the Coyotes to snap their 0-3-1 homely open to the year.
“It was nice to finally get a home win and get that out of the way,” Bruins winger Loui Eriksson said with a satisfied sigh.
Instead of the Bronx cheers that were heard sprinkled in at TD Garden during losses to Winnipeg, Montreal, Tampa Bay and Philadelphia, Tuesday night’s win ended with a standing ovation of approval raining down from the local faithful who stayed to the final horn.
“We felt like we kind of owed them a little bit. We owed them the win,” David Krejci said on a night when he added two more goals to his growing personal collection of seven markers on the year. “Big for the standings and our fans as well. Obviously, you like to get the first one at home. We were close the last couple times, but it was big to get the first one finally. The way we played today, we got the fans on our side.”
Bruins coach Claude Julien didn’t want to go so far as saying the poor home start was weighing on his team, but he certainly acknowledged that home success is important. After all, just two years ago Boston’s 31-7-3 mark on home ice buoyed the team to a 117-point season and the top seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
“I think the fact that we were playing better the last four games [overall] — we had the one overtime loss — I think our guys felt if they kept playing the way they could it was just a matter of time,” Julien said. “I think it’s more about a pride thing. Our home building has to be something that doesn’t bode well for teams coming in here. And right now we’ve made too many teams feel comfortable. That’s what we’re trying to change.”
|10.27.15 at 10:44 pm ET|
Miller went into the boards awkwardly on a hook from Tobias Rieder in the second period. He left the game for about 10 minutes, returned for two more shifts and then did not play the third period. Pastrnak continued to play after taking a shot off the foot early in the third period but missed the final 8:48 of the game.
Julien said that Miller, Pastrnak and Joonas Kemppainen — who missed a couple of shifts in the third period — were kept out because the game was out of hand and the team wanted to play it safe.
“We took [Miller] out more as precaution because of the score,” Julien said. “Same thing with Kemppainen; [he] left the bench for a while came back and Pastrnak got hit with a shot. At that stage, we didn’t want to risk anything more that we needed to so we sent those guys to the room.”
|10.27.15 at 9:43 pm ET|
An optimistic Bruins fan probably thought entering the season that, among other things, the Bruins would still manage to quiet opposing offenses, that Tuukka Rask would play well and that Matt Beleskey would be in the lineup producing.
This has been the season of hell for anyone with those expectations, but the Bruins finally delivered such an outing Tuesday to push their record over .500 for the first time this season. It was the team’s first win at TD Garden in five home games (1-3-1).
Rask made 24 saves and Beleskey had two points in his return to the lineup as the B’s took a 6-0 victory over the Coyotes. The performance was not only Rask’s first shutout of the season, but first time allowing fewer than three goals.
As for Hayes, the former Duck was unremarkable in his first five games before going down with an upper-body injury, but he brought some offense with him when returning from a two-game absence.
Beleskey, who played with David Krejci to begin the season, was put on the third line with Ryan Spooner and Jimmy Hayes in addition to taking occasional shifts with Joonas Kemppainen and Chris Kelly. Both groups worked. Beleskey got his first point of the night by doing a good job controlling a pass behind him from Spooner and putting the puck on net. Hayes banged the rebound past Mike Smith to make it 2-0. Beleskey later fed Joe Morrow on what turned out to be a sensational goal.
With the victory, the Bruins are now 4-3-1 on the season. Here are four more things we learned Tuesday:
MILLER LEAVES AFTER TWO, PASTRNAK LEAVES IN THIRD
Kevan Miller suffered an injury midway through the second period during an Arizona power play. After Boston won a defensive zone faceoff into the corner, Miller raced toward the puck and wound up to rim it around the boards. Tobias Rieder hooked him, causing him to miss on the puck and go into the boards awkwardly.
Miller was slow to get up and missed about 10 minutes before returning for two more shifts late in the period. He did not return to the game for the third.
If Miller is to miss any time, the Bruins will put Zach Trotman back in the lineup. A righty like Miller, Trotman has been a healthy scratch the last seven games.
Miller wasn’t the Bruins’ only injury scare, as David Pastrnak left the game in the final 10 minutes, likely due to a shot he blocked earlier in the third.
KREJCI STILL STREAKING, ERIKSSON NOT FAR BEHIND
Another game, another productive showing for Krejci. The center, who entered Tuesday tied for the league lead in points, had a pair of goals. His first of the night came when he took a pass from Loui Eriksson in the neutral zone late in what was a scoreless first period and raced into the offensive zone. With Brett Connolly to his right, Krejci sold a backhand pass remarkably before pulling the puck back ad firing a shot on the forehand past Smith to make it 1-0.
With the goal and another in the final minute of the game (not an empty-netter), Krejci now has at least one point in every game this season and a total of seven goals and seven assists for 14 points. Krejci’s career high in points is 73, which he achieved in the 2008-09 season. His career-best 23 goals were scored in 2011-12.
Eriksson, meanwhile, should be mentioned right alongside Krejci as Boston’s best players this season. He has seven assists over the last four games.
MORROW SCHOOLS COYOTES
Joe Morrow scored his first goal of the season in impressive fashion.
The young defenseman embarrassed all six Coyotes on the ice, taking a pass from Beleskey at center ice and rushing past three Arizona forwards in the neutral zone. Nicklas Grossman and Zbynek Michalek left him enough space to fire a wrist shot top corner glove side from the high slot.
Morrow had just four goals in 48 games between the AHL and NHL last season, but Tuesday showed the mobility and skill that made him a first-round pick back in 2011.
CONNOLLY KEEPS SCORING
Brett Connolly continued his fight against returning to the press box with another goal Tuesday night. Connolly, who was scratched last Saturday against the Coyotes, has now scored in three straight games since returning to the lineup.
Another thing worth keeping an eye on: Connolly draws quite a bit of penalties. He drew another one Tuesday, getting Oliver Ekman-Larsson to take an interference penalty away from the play in the second period.
|10.27.15 at 12:12 pm ET|
The Bruins announced Tuesday that they have assigned forward Max Talbot to Providence.
The 31-year-old forward was waived prior to the season and cleared, allowing the team to send him down. The B’s kept him on the roster for the first seven games, however, with Talbot playing twice.
Talbot is in his second season with the Bruins after being acquired at last season’s trade deadline from Colorado. After being waived, Talbot discussed the possibility of being sent to the AHL back on Oct. 6.
“It’s something I guess that’s part of the game, part of the business, part of the job,” Talbot said. “I’m just going to come back here to work every day. I came here to camp with the idea of helping my teammates.”
An eighth round pick of the Penguins in the 2002 draft, Talbot has played 668 regular-season games and 84 playoff contests between the Penguins, Flyers, Avalanche and Bruins. He is best known for scoring both goals of the Penguins’ 2-1 win in Game 7 of the 2009 Stanley Cup Final over the Red Wings.
|10.27.15 at 12:07 pm ET|
In discussing his new-look lines for Tuesday night’s game, Claude Julien stated the obvious on Tuesday: He’s probably going to be tinkering with his lines a lot this season.
Though the Bruins enter Tuesday’s action third in the NHL with 3.9 goals per game, they’ve only kept the same forward lines in consecutive games one. Injuries aside, Boston’s new group of wings and the ongoing search for an ideal fit for Ryan Spooner has made Julien more active than he was in Boston’s recent heyday, when filling out his lineup was a set-it-and-forget-it affair.
“In order to coach, you’ve got to make the right moves at the right time,” Julien said Tuesday. “For me, [Tuesday’s lineup] is a start. We’ll see how that goes, and if it doesn’t go I’ve got to make some adjustments here. That could be happening all year round. I know people are used to seeing me with certain lines and sticking with them, but I think that stage of that consistency is gone right now. It’s not there yet, or it’s gone. Like any coach, you adapt to what you have, and that’s what I’m doing right now.”
By the looks of morning skate, both the third and fourth lines will be different from last game. Matt Beleskey, returning from injury, will skate with Spooner’s line for the first time after skating with David Krejci‘s line in the first five games. Loui Eriksson will remain with Krejci, while Boston’s fourth line looks to be Joonas Kemppainen between Chris Kelly and Tyler Randell, a line that has not been iced this season.
Krejci has had David Pastrnak on his right wing for all seven games this season, though there’s no guarantee that they’ll stick together. Pastrnak has had more growing pains this season than he did as a rookie, so Julien could eventually tinker with Krejci’s trio again.
The veteran center, who is tied for the NHL with 12 points (he’s played seven games; the other three players with 12 points have played at least eight), had a good four year stretch in which his linemates rarely changed and barely ever changed in-season. Milan Lucic was his left wing and Nathan Horton was his right wing (Rich Peverley would sub in when Horton was concussed), until Horton departed in free agency and Jarome Iginla replaced him.
Last season, in addition to being in and out of the lineup, Krejci had numerous different right wings and expressed unhappiness that he didn’t have Eriksson as his full-time right wing. He said Tuesday that playing with different linemates has been a learning experience.
“It’s always nice to play with the same guys, that’s for sure, but what I’ve learned from [these] last couple years when I’ve had different linemates is don’t worry about who’s on your line,” Krejci said. “The chemistry will come, but just try to be the best you will be. Then your wings will try to be the best they can be and the chemistry will develop. Sometimes it will develops early, sometimes later, but don’t try to change your game for the guy next to you. Just keep playing your game.”
As for his left wing of the last two games, Eriksson has been bounced around Boston’s lineup enough over the years — with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand, without Bergeron and Marchand, with Carl Soderberg, with Krejci, etc. — that he’s used to different linemates. Arguably Boston’s best player this season, it would be hard for Eriksson to complain about his current spot.
“I’m kind of used to it,” Eriksson said. “I played with different lines in Dallas, too. … It’s been the same thing here in Boston. It’s always a challenge, but when you get used to it and find some chemistry with some guys, it’s always easier.”
|10.27.15 at 10:43 am ET|
Matt Beleskey will return to the Bruins’ lineup when they host the Coyotes Tuesday night at TD Garden. Beleskey missed the last two games with an upper-body injury.
Max Talbot was not on the ice for morning skate, and by the looks of line rushes he’ll be joined in the press box by Zac Rinaldo. [UPDATE: Talbot has been assigned to Providence.]
Ryan Spooner, who practiced on the wing of the fourth line Monday, was back centering the third line in morning skate. It appears he’ll be joined by Beleskey on his line, though Claude Julien said lineup adjustments could take place.
Rinaldo switched off on the fourth line left wing with Chris Kelly. The lineup based on morning skate is as follows.
|10.26.15 at 3:13 pm ET|
Five points in seven games is a statistical start that Ryan Spooner probably would have taken happily entering the season. Yet Spooner’s output to this point has been rather perplexing.
The eye test says that Spooner has been terrific on the power play and not-so-terrific in five-on-five play. The stat sheet hasn’t been kind to the young forward, however, as he has only one point on the man advantage despite turning in superb work on the half wall of the Bruins’ top-ranked power play (8-for-24). Spooner’s other four points (two goals and two assists) have come over two games in 5-on-5 play, where he’s experienced more peaks and valleys.
On one hand, Spooner is looking for more consistency as the Bruins try him with different players in even strength. On the other, it’s hard to say Spooner has really had a bad game this season because he’s been so good on the power play (and that’s even considering some poor possession numbers; Spooner is dead last on the team in Corsi Relative this season).
“The power play’s always been something that I’ve been not bad at. My first year in Prov, I played on a unit that was extremely good,” Spooner said. “I think with the unit here, I just try to get the puck up top and let those guys do what they do. I think for me right now, it’s trying to find a good balance on the power play and the 5-on-5 and being more consistent.”
Despite just the one assist last Saturday against the Coyotes, his work on the power play has never been in question. With a couple of flashes in even strength over the last four games (a pair of points against the Avalanche and another two Friday against the Islanders), Spooner should feel good about where his game is headed. In two of the three games that the Bruins didn’t score on the power play, Spooner scored in even strength.
After starting the season centering Jimmy Hayes and Brett Connolly, Spooner had Chris Kelly on his left wing for parts of five games before being dropped to the fourth line to play wing. Though not particularly experienced on the wing (he tried it in training camp last season and briefly in Providence), he had success with Joonas Kemppainen and was teamed with the Finnish forward again in Monday’s practice.
When Kelly was Spooner’s left wing, the 34-year-old took some of the defensive responsibilities from the still-developing Spooner. With the move to wing, Spooner feels that he’ll be able to play to his strengths more as an offensive player.
“I haven’t been the best in my own end,” Spooner admitted, “so I think to get moved to the wing, it takes a lot of stress off of me.”
It might also lessen Spooner’s workload. Though Spooner and Kemppainen connected for a couple of goals over the final two periods of Friday’s win, they did so as fourth-liners. That meant that Spooner, who figures to be Carl Soderberg’s replacement, played just 10:24 on Friday, his second-lowest time on ice of the season.
That’s not a knock on Claude Julien. The coach has shown through seven games that he’ll keep trying different looks with his bottom six until he finds something that works. By the looks of Monday’s skate, the B’s could go with Kelly between Matt Beleskey and Hayes on the third line and Kemppainen with Spooner and Tyler Randell on the fourth.
Spooner’s obvious role is in the top nine, but it can’t hurt to try him with Kemppainen again to see if Friday’s spark can ignite.
“I think he excelled where he was last game and managed to score and get an assist, so we’re looking at what’s best for the team, and right now, what [the] best line combinations [are],” Julien said. “We’re trying things in practice. It doesn’t mean it’s going to be like that [in the game]. It could or it may not be. We’re just doing our jobs here.”