|03.07.11 at 6:53 pm ET|
As has been well-documented, the Bruins have had plenty of success lately, earning at least one point in each of their last eight games (7-0-1). The stretch has brought them within two points of the top spot in the Eastern Conference and has made believers out of whatever non-believers still existed.
There may be no one factor that has helped the team more over their last eight than the fact that the top line is really clicking, and has been producing to their potential for the last few weeks.
Since the beginning of the season, the line of Milan Lucic, David Krejci and Nathan Horton has had its ups and downs. Individual players have gone on tears, while others have remained a few degrees away from heating up. Horton had a stretch of 20 games in which he scored just one goal. Lucic went 12 games straight without burying one. Krejci saw a stretch in which he had one point over seven games. There was a boom-or-bust nature to the line, but it’s been booming of late.
Both Krejci and Lucic, the latter of whom leads the Bruins with a career-high 28 goals, have 11 points over their last eight games. Horton has averaged a point per game over the last eight, scoring four goals in the process. Plus, the line has been producing tallies that count. Horton provided the only goal of the game in last Tuesday’s 1-0 win over the Senators. Lucic scored the game-winner Thursday against the Lightning in the third period, while Krejci tied Saturday’s game against the Penguins with 32.5 seconds remaining in regulation. Things haven’t always gone right for the top line, but they are now.
‘I think the main thing is that we’re having fun again,’ Lucic said Monday. ‘It seemed like there was a time there where things weren’t really going our way and we were kind of fighting the puck, but since after the All-Star break, it seems like we’ve found that chemistry once again. We’re having fun and playing with confidence too.
‘Every time we get the puck on our stick, we know where the other guy is and you know that if the guy sees you, he’s going to make that play and put the puck on your stick. I think that’s why we’re having success thus far.’
Whether or not the top line can sustain their output may prove to be critical to the team’s postseason success. Their offense has produced consistently this season, but no line has the ability to wear down the opposition like the highly skilled Krejci line. The Bruins saw what happened when Krejci went down in the Philadelphia series last year, and Claude Julien has intimated throughout the season that he holds the 24-year-old pivot to a very high standard. He hopes that their recent success can remind them of how big an impact they can have.
‘I think right now they’re feeling pretty good about their game,’ Julien said Monday. ‘The fact that every one of them is competing is extremely hard had certainly been a key to their success. Right now, they’re reaping the benefits.
‘Once you see what you can get out of those kind of efforts, you want to keep doing it. They like what they see, they like what’s happening to them, and hopefully they’ll want to keep it going.’
|03.07.11 at 4:49 pm ET|
Bruins fans have had plenty to be encouraged by over the last few weeks, and Monday saw more good news. Their recent play has propelled them to the top of TSN’s power rankings, flip-flopping them with the Red Wings a week after the B’s held the second spot.
Writes TSN’s Scott Cullen:
“7-0-1 in their last eight games, the Bruins could be really dangerous once they start reaping the expected rewards of D Tomas Kaberle‘s presence on the power play. As it is, they’re 0-for-12 with the man advantage in the last six games.”
For a feel of where the B’s Eastern Conference competitions stands, the Flyers are fifth, while the Canadiens are 10th.
|03.07.11 at 12:44 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — Despite not practicing, Bruins rookie defenseman Steven Kampfer held court in the dressing room Monday, discussing his recent concussion and how his recovery is going.
Kampfer was hit hard in the corner Thursday night by Lightning forward Mattias Ritola. After trying to play another shift, Kampfer stayed on the bench for the rest of the period before leaving the game.
“He was going for a highlight hit and I gave it to him,” the rookie said.
Kampfer noted Monday that he has had concussions before, but given how long ago they were, they are “nothing in that time frame of where it could ever be reoccurring.”
“I’ve had a couple of years since the last one,” he said, “so I guess it’s more of you get it and it rattles you a little bit, but it is what it is.”
The concussions of which he speaks relate to a delicate subject. While in school at the University of Michigan, Kampfer found himself on the wrong end of a couple of dangerous incidents. A late night altercation in October of 2008 with a running back from Michigan’s football team resulted in Kampfer getting his head smashed into a sidewalk, fracturing his skull.
Just over three months later, two Michigan State players attacked Kampfer on the ice, with Andrew Conboy sucker-punching him from behind and Corey Tropp hitting him in the neck area with his stick.
“Those [concussions] were two separate things,” Kampfer said Monday. “That was the only time where I had two concussions in a short period of time.”
Now, the 22-year-old blueliner hopes to begin riding the stationary bike within the next couple of days before eventually making a return to the ice. He was initially ruled out for a week since his diagnosis on Friday, but on Monday was unsure of when he may return. Noting that “you can’t replace a head,” he understands that waiting it out is necessary, despite how badly he wants to return to the ice.
“I think any time you get hurt it frustrates you. It’s not more the timing than anything, it’s that you’re frustrated because you want to play,” he said Monday. “The main goal now is to get healthy and start feeling better, and then get back out on the ice when I get the opportunity.”
|03.07.11 at 12:13 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — Bruins coach Claude Julien said that Mark Recchi missed Monday’s practice with personal reasons, but that the veteran forward will travel with the team to Montreal for Tuesday’s game against the Canadiens. Defensemen Steven Kampfer and Andrew Ference will not travel with the B’s. Kampfer, out with a concussion, is still dealing with headaches as he looks to get back on the ice.
“It’s the occasional headache that still bothers you, and that’s about it,” Kampfer said Monday. “It’s frustrating. They’ll go away for a couple of hours and then they’ll come back. It’s getting better as time goes on.”
Ference has been dealing with a lower body injury and was expected to begin skating by Monday, but he remained absent from practice.
“We had predicted [that he would begin skating] yesterday or maybe today, but [he’s] not quite there yet, but it really is a day-to-day situation,” Julien said. “Depending on how things go today, it could be tomorrow or the day after, but he’s getting closer.”
|03.07.11 at 10:43 am ET|
WILMINGTON — The Bruins took the ice at Ristuccia Arena Monday morning as they gear up for a stretch this week that features three games in four nights. They’ll kick things off Tuesday in Montreal before hosting the Sabres Thursday and heading to Long Island on Friday.
Everyone was accounted for at Bruins practice but Mark Recchi, Steve Kampfer and Andrew Ference. Patrice Bergeron returned to the B’s for Monday’s skate after missing Saturday’s game due to personal reasons. With Recchi not on the ice, Tyler Seguin took his spot on Bergeron and Brad Marchand‘s line.
|03.07.11 at 10:11 am ET|
One loss following a very impressive seven-game winning streak is hardly cause for alarm. And that’s especially true since the Bruins managed a point Saturday night when they didn’t play their best game and found a way to tie it with 32.5 seconds left in regulation.
But there was a lesson to be learned. Just asked Zdeno Chara. If you don’t skate hard against a hungry team, you’ll likely wind up on the losing end.
The captain gave the Bruins the lead, 1-0, just under eight minutes into the second period. But from then on, the B’s seem to take a collective breath and relax as the Pens picked up their intensity and took it to them in every way.
They took more shots, delivered more hits and until the final 33 seconds, scored more goals.
“We didn’t have our best game, that’s for sure,” Chara said. “We were just, we had heavy legs, we didn’t skate well, we didn’t move the puck well. On the other side Pittsburgh played extremely well. They put a lot of pressure on us. They took away space and time and we couldn’t create much.”
All of this from a Penguins team that came in losing 6-of-7 and had lost in overtime 24 hours earlier in New Jersey.
“I think it was mostly us, we weren’t moving our feet at all,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said. “We were second to the puck. At the same time, you couldn’t establish a physical game because you never got there on time. So they were on the puck and we were doing a lot of watching, I thought in the second period and they just took the game away from us at that point.”
“They even they had back to back games,” Chara added. “They had pretty good jump and energy. It almost felt like we were the team who played last night. But it’s going to happen. You’re going to have games like this where we were just slow and not moving the puck as well as we used to. But we worked extremely hard in the third and earned that point. That’s the positive. Obviously we’d like to get two but it happens.”
But now, following the end of the winning streak, the Bruins know they have to pick it back up with a big division game Tuesday night in Montreal. The Canadiens have won four straight and 5-of-6. They trail the Bruins by just five points in the Northeast.
No reason for the Bruins not to have their legs under them for this one.
|03.05.11 at 11:10 pm ET|
Without superstars Sidney Crosby [concussion] and Evgeni Malkin [right knee], the Penguins got two goals from HBO “24/7″ star Dustin Jeffrey, including the game winner less than two minutes into overtime to come away with a 3-2 win over the Bruins, snapping Boston’s seven-game winning streak.
Crosby or no Crosby, Malkin or no Malkin, the Penguins played exactly the kind of hockey that wins in the playoffs. It’s not superstar hockey, it’s team hockey. What exactly is that?
“They’re a lot more hard-working,” Bruins defenseman Johnny Boychuk said. “Their hard work takes over [for] their skill. When they have those other guys in, there’s a lot of skill in there and they still work hard, but they try to make different plays than they would if they had those guys in the lineup. They just got the [puck] in deep and just tried to keep as much time in our zone as possible.”
B’s coach Claude Julien had his own take.
“Obviously, they’re missing some star players,” Julien noted. “We thought one of our best forwards tonight was missing, too. You have to adjust to those kinds of things and what it boils down to is the team play. And that’s what they did tonight, they played a good team game.
“They were forechecking hard, they were on top of us. Even when we got the puck in the neutral zone, they didn’t give us much time. They really skated hard and took away our time and space and they did a good job of that. I think that’s where their success came from tonight. When you work hard enough, eventually you get rewarded, and they got a break there at the end and were able to score in OT.”