|11.17.16 at 10:55 pm ET|
A meeting between the goaltenders with the league’s best and second-best mark in both save percentage and goals against average came with the performances — and lack of goals — you would expect in Thursday’s meeting between the Bruins and Wild at Xcel Energy Center.
At one end, though particularly unchallenged on the night, the Wild’s Devan Dubnyk continued to be his normal dynamite self, with zeros on the board through 40 minutes of play. At the other end, Tuukka Rask, in the best season-opening groove of his professional career, was just as strong with a slightly larger workload thrown his way.
Pestered by a Wild group that dominated the puck for much of the night, the Bruins leaned heavily on Rask (as they have all trip and all season for that matter), and Rask stood tall, with his biggest stops coming with two momentum-stopping saves on Minnesota winger Jason Pominville in the second period.
With Rask doing his job in the B’s crease, the Bruins appeared to finally get their goaltender a lead to work with on a net-front putaway from Minnesota native David Backes with 5:24 left in the second period, but a challenge and subsequent review determined that it was Ryan Spooner that was offside on the zone entry half a minute prior. (Krejci, Backes, and Spooner were actually offside on the play as the puck danced laterally across the blue line while they all skated over the blue.)
Worked over on a review for the umphteenth time since its introduction last season, the B’s best chance of the scoreless draw came with an early third period breakaway chance for Matt Beleskey off a Mathew Dumba turnover, but Beleskey’s bid was slammed shut by a diving poke and cover from the 6-foot-6 Dubnyk.
But in a night of heavy Wild pressure, it was their final push on Rask that finally broke the dam.
In the B’s end for over 40 seconds, the Wild struck for the game’s first goal with 44.5 seconds to go, as a puck banked off a groggy Adam McQuaid and into the B’s net for Mikael Granlund’s fourth goal of the season.
It was a goal that seemed completely avoidable, too, as the Bruins whiffed on chances to clear the puck out of their zone long before McQuaid’s legs were taken out and then used by the Wild as the tip-in for the game-winning tally.
The Bruins gave it one final push with a Torey Krug slapshot at the buzzer, but it was blocked, and Dubnyk rolled to his second shutout in as many head-to-heads with the Bruins this season, this one behind a 25-save performance.
Krejci takes blocked shot to knee, returns
Bruins fans everywhere held their breath for a moment when center David Krejci took a Christian Folin bomb off his knee and collapsed down to the ice. As Krejci struggled to get back to his feet, you thought about all of Krejci’s injury struggles over the last two years, and how important Krejci has been historically, and how No. 46 was just starting to look like himself out there on a second line with Ryan Spooner and David Backes. Your fears were reinforced by the sight of Krejci heading back to the B’s room after he slowly made his way to the bench, and you immediately started armchair coaching up some new lines. But as soon as you found the perfect winger for your sans Krejci second line, the crafty Czech pivot was back on the ice. Huge. Bullet. Dodged.
Although Krejci feels the wrath of B’s fans at times, he’s still without a doubt the club’s most offensively gifted playmaker, and eases the overall workload on guys like top-line center Patrice Bergeron, and even David Backes, to a lesser extent.
Morrow gets in game for second straight night
It’s official: the Bruins are holding tryouts on their blue line. With the return of Kevan Miller (fractured left hand) looming, B’s coach Claude Julien is clearly trying to figure out what he has from every one of the seven bodies on his point before the club has to actually make a move on one of them. So for the second game in a row, and for the first time since Oct. 20-22, defenseman Joe Morrow found himself in the lineup for consecutive nights while Colin Miller sat as a scratch once again.
When No. 86 returns to the ice, somebody is going to have to go and likely hit the waiver wire. And of that group, either Morrow or Colin Miller seem like the likeliest candidates (unless the Bruins ditch having a 13th forward, which seems unlikely), so giving them both an equal shot at earning their keep in the B’s lineup and on the roster for that matter, is only fair.
Usage of slumping Jimmy Hayes still seems odd
Down David Pastrnak (undisclosed), the Bruins had just one natural right winger (unless you want to count Backes, who has played both center and wing throughout his career depending on the situation/line/etc.) dressed for tonight’s game: Jimmy Hayes. And where did Hayes skate for this game? On the fourth line, of course. See, this is weird. While we go on and on about Hayes’ struggles in Boston (and we have), Pastrnak’s spot on the first line was seemingly wide open. So why not Hayes? Is it viewed as ‘wrong’ to potentially reward Hayes — who has not scored in 31 games dating back to last season — with such a spot? Maybe. But it’s also worth noting that that line is perhaps the best way to get a ‘passenger’ going and/or masked. When the Bruins acquired Hayes from the Panthers in 2015, it was with the hope that he could chip in 20 goals a season (something he nearly did with the Panthers during his final year in town), and while that seems incredibly unlikely at this point, why not give him an opportunity typically reserved for a 20-goal scorer? Bogging him down on the fourth line does little for anybody.
Late collapse brings back shades of last year
It was nine days ago in Montreal that the Bruins allowed a goal with just 1:03 to go in the third period to drop a 3-2 final to the Canadiens. Tonight, they allow the game-winning goal with just 44.5 seconds. In a combined 1:48 between two games, the Bruins have now left at least two points on the table. For a team that’s likely going to battle for one of the Eastern Conference wild card spots this season, that’s huge, and especially so when you realize that the Bruins have missed out on the postseason by just three points last season, and two the year before. So while you’ve liked the team’s ability to protect a lead on most nights (and something they did very well in the first two games of this road trip), breakdowns like the one that cost the Bruins at least one point tonight are absolute no-nos as the club settles into the grind of the season.
The Bruins are back in action on Saturday night at TD Garden against the Winnipeg Jets.
|11.17.16 at 7:09 pm ET|
Nobody in the NHL has been better away from home than the Bruins.
The start to the team’s latest stint away from the Garden, a three-game road swing that began last Friday, was no exception, either. With a dominant puck-possession game, the Bruins rattled off impressive back-to-back performances against the Coyotes and Avalanche last weekend, and now go for the sweep with a Thursday night visit to the Xcel Energy Center for a head-to-head with the Wild.
But in their first game back from a four-day layoff (their second-longest gap between games this season), the Bruins will have to find a way to score goals against a Wild team that’s allowed a league-low 29 goals through 15 games without one of their best, as top-line winger David Pastrnak will miss tonight’s tilt with an undisclosed injury.
Pastrnak’s 10 goals are the second-most in the NHL this season, and though the Bruins are 2-0-0 with Pastrnak out of action this year (No. 88 missed two games to suspension late last month), the Bruins will have to continue to pour shots on goal in an attempt to mask his absence. Shots have not been the problem for the Bruins of late, especially after a season-high 46 shots hammered on the Avalanche net on Sunday, but there’s no doubt that the Bruins need to find more than just shots, as the team enters tonight’s game with just four goals (one of which was an empty-net goal in the closing seconds of Sunday’s win) on their last 85 shots on goal dating back to the third period of last Thursday’s win over the Blue Jackets.
“We’d like to have some more goals scored with the number of chances we have, but at the end of the days we’re winning hockey games,” B’s head coach Claude Julien, whose team has won three games in a row, said after an optional morning skate on Thursday. “So you build on that stuff and you hope that the goals will come. I think we’ve been through that before many times, and when you stick with it eventually goals start going in.”
The Bruins are expected to turn to Tuukka Rask in net for his fourth straight start. Rask has been lights out on this road trip, with two wins and 51 stops on 52 shots against, and enters play with seven wins and a .956 save percentage in seven road games this season. The 29-year-old has two wins and a .932 save percentage in five career games against the Wild.
Minnesota will counter with Devan Dubnyk. The towering Dubnyk stopped all 27 shots against in his last appearance against the Bruins, a 5-0 beatdown of the B’s back at TD Garden on Oct. 25, and stopped 26-of-27 in his last appearance, a loss to the Flames.
In addition to the injured Pastrnak, forwards Noel Acciari (lower-body), Frank Vatrano (foot), and defenseman Kevan Miller (hand) remain out of action for the Bruins. Defenseman Colin Miller is the expected healthy scratch.
This will be the season series finale between the B’s and Wild this season.
Here are the expected lines and pairings for the Bruins
Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – Riley Nash
Ryan Spooner – David Krejci – David Backes
Matt Beleskey – Dominic Moore – Austin Czarnik
Jimmy Hayes – Tim Schaller – Sean Kuraly
Zdeno Chara – Brandon Carlo
Torey Krug – Adam McQuaid
Joe Morrow – John-Michael Liles
|11.17.16 at 6:30 pm ET|
These days, Marc Savard collects paychecks from the New Jersey Devils. Last year, it was the Florida Panthers, and before that, the Boston Bruins, the team Savard called his own since coming to the Black and Gold in the summer of 2006. But the now 39-year-old Savard’s skates have not touched NHL ice since he suffered a concussion in his last game, which came all the way back on Jan. 23, 2011.
And they won’t again.
Profiled in a tremendous Boston Globe story, Savard touched on the final months of his playing career, which began with a cheapshot at the hands of then-Penguin Matt Cooke (Savard noted that he’s still yet to hear from Cooke), had its up upon a return with an overtime goal against the Flyers in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals in 2010. And the moment it all ended, with a seemingly inconsequential hit from ex-teammate Matt Hunwick in that aforementioned Jan. 2011 contest.
“I said, ‘Donny, I don’t know what’s wrong here, but I’m dying. I can’t see anything,'” Savard recalled to the Globe. “And my eyes were open, so I was quite scared there.”
The Ottawa, Ont., native spent five years with the Bruins, and recorded an impressive 74 goals and 305 points in 304 games with the organization, including a stellar eight goals and 22 points in 25 Stanley Cup Playoff games (all with the Bruins). Savard was such an impactful presence for the Bruins that even though he skated in less than 30 games for the Bruins in 2010-11, that the Black and Gold successfully petitioned to get his name on the Stanley Cup, and No. 91 himself was at the team’s Cup parade.
Now a coach in Ontario (which is profiled heavily in the story), Savard’s contract — one signed with the B’s and then-GM Peter Chiarelli back in 2009 — will run out at the end of this upcoming season, when Savard is expected to formally retire.
|11.17.16 at 3:13 pm ET|
The Bruins began their three-game road with back-to-back wins — in impressive fashion, too — in Arizona and Colorado, but will have to go for the clean sweep of the trip without their top goal-scorer, as David Pastrnak will miss tonight’s head-to-head with the Wild at Xcel Energy Center with an undisclosed injury.
Given a maintenance day on Tuesday, absent from Wednesday’s practice, and then confirmed out for tonight’s game following an optional skate early this morning, coach Claude Julien quipped “not sure” when asked if Pastrnak’s injury was an upper or lower-body injury.
The loss of Pastrnak — who is tied for the second-most goals in the NHL, with 10 — is a big one for a Bruins club that while winning, have scored just four goals (one empty-netter) on 75 shots on this road trip.
“I like the way we’re playing,” Julien said. “I like the fact that we’re winning some hockey games here and playing well. You build on the positives here and let the other stuff hopefully come.”
This is not the first time the Bruins have been without No. 88 in their lineup, as the team was forced to skate without him during his two-game ban for an illegal check to the head of the Rangers’ Dan Girardi, and went 2-0-0 in his absence.
With Pastrnak out, the B’s are expected to skate Riley Nash in his spot on the top line with Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron, while Dominic Moore will move up to the middle of the third line with Matt Beleskey and Austin Czarnik. Tim Schaller will move to the middle of a fourth line with Jimmy Hayes flipped to the left side and recent AHL recall Sean Kuraly on the right side.
|11.17.16 at 10:29 am ET|
Today’s column is a mailbag comprised of questions received via Twitter and/or email. For future pieces, questions can be sent to:email@example.com or @RearAdBsBlog. Please include name and city/town:
Has David Backes been worth the $6M (cap hit) so far this season? —- Todd, Quincy
Absolutely. The physical, grinding forward has 3-4—7 totals in 11 games and has brought the intensity and effort that are the trademarks of his game. His .64 points per game is third on the team behind David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand. Additionally, his leadership during the game and in the room has carried with it a dose of accountability that had perhaps been lacking. Money well spent thus far.
Can Tuukka Rask continue playing at this pace? —- Jimmy, Winchester
If there’s one position in hockey where a guy can keep up a seemingly torrid pace all season, it’s goalie. Rask has come flying out of the gate with Vezina-like numbers (10-1 record, 1.54 GAA, .945 SP, and three shutouts) and might be playing the best hockey off his career right now. Though he might have a hiccup at some point, expect Rask to challenge Montreal netminder Carey Price for year-end hardware.
Who has been the biggest surprise this season? —- Ronnie, West Roxbury
This is an easy one: defenseman Brandon Carlo. Though he came into camp as one of the team’s better prospects, it’s still a very pleasant surprise just how seamlessly the teenager has fit in. Playing alongside captain Zdeno Chara, Carlo’s mistakes have been rare and he’s more resembled a steady vet than a 19-year-old kid just 16 games into what should be a nice long career. Like most rookies, it’s expected he’ll hit the proverbial wall at some point. But given what we’ve seen so far, I’m expecting Carlo to simply scale the wall and keep doing what he’s doing.
Who or what has been the biggest reason for the Bruins success so far this season? —- Dave, Arlington
Rask’s goaltending is the obvious answer given his play (though Brad Marchand essentially carried the team early on). But one guy who should get more credit for the results thus far is Claude Julien. Claude’s steadying hand has kept the team on an even keel and, after some early bumps, has been seemingly been pushing every right button. There’s been no talk about ‘short leashes’ since before the season started and it’s clear the team is playing for their coach. Some day, he’ll get the respect he warrants in this town.
Patrice Bergeron has just two goals and two assists so far in 13 games. Should we be worried? —- Patti, Plymouth
Nah, nothing to worry about here despite the five straight games without a point. Bergy’s numbers will come around. He started the year hobbled due to his injured foot acting up and needed a few games to get up to speed. Though he has points in just three of 13 games, Bergeron is back to playing his standard high-end game and his offense will soon follow.
|11.16.16 at 4:54 pm ET|
By now, you’ve seen the new Foot Locker commercial featuring Tom Brady and some subtle jabs at Deflategate. And if you haven’t… well, I refuse to believe that, because you live in New England and therefore are incapable of not thinking about or Googling either Tom Brady, the Patriots, and/or Deflategate at least six times a day.
Seriously, you’re not fooling anybody.
The Week of Greatness ad is just the latest spot featuring the best quarterback of all time, but far from the first. Everybody remembers when he lost his damn mind when he just went looking for some Under Armour, and when he worked as a telemarketer.
But what about the city’s hockey team?
Surely there’s been some commercials featuring members of the Black and Gold — and no, those godawful World Cup of Hockey commercials do not count — over the years, no? Right you are.
With the help of YouTube, here’s a look at some of the best commercials featuring members of the Bruins.
|11.16.16 at 12:50 pm ET|
On a long three-day layoff between games ahead of their road trip finale against the Wild on Thursday, the Bruins welcomed another body back to the ice on Tuesday with the return of defenseman Kevan Miller.
Injured with a minor knee ailment in the preseason, and then shelved with a fractured left hand suffered in the preseason finale — one that was expected to come with a six-week recovery time — Miller’s participation in practice is just the first step of many in an eventual return back to the lineup.
“He’s back skating with us, so he’s coming around,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said after Tuesday’s practice. “Still not fully cleared for anything, for full contact and all that stuff, but he’s good enough to practice with us.”
The Bruins began a rotation of sorts with their defense before Miller even joined the team for practice, as Sunday’s win over the Avalanche came with a healthy scratch for Colin Miller, who has just one goal and an assist in 15 games this season, while Joe Morrow moved into the lineup for the first time since Oct. 22 and John-Michael Liles shifted over to the right side on the club’s third-pairing.
Signed to a four-year, $10 million extension last spring, who Miller bumps out of the mix remains to be determined.
The 29-year-old Miller, a frequent partner for B’s captain Zdeno Chara, established career-highs across the board in 2015-16, with five goals, 13 assists, 18 points, 64 shots, 164 hits, and 123 blocked shots.
An undrafted talent out of Los Angeles, Calif., Miller played his college hockey with the University of Vermont, and has totaled eight goals and 31 points in 159 games for the Bruins since the 2013-14 season.