|01.13.11 at 3:59 pm ET|
Here’s an interesting one. Patrice Bergeron‘s strong statistical output of late (17 points over the last 13 games) has made him a popular candidate for this season’s Frank J. Selke Trophy, which is given to the league’s best defensive forward. One’s candidacy for the award, which is supposed to be focused on the defensive aspect of the game, is generally aided by good offensive numbers, making Bergeron, who is among the top two-way forwards in the game, a good fit.
Yet this piece from James Mirtle in today’s Globe and Mail (and feel free to form your own opinion of it) throws a bit of a monkey wrench at the system. Taking the quality of players faced and how many goals they are on the ice for in both even strength and shorthanded situations into, a bit of research from Behind the Net statistician Gabriel Desjardins suggests that Bergeron isn’t even the best defensive forward on his own team.
Desjardin’s research suggests that Gregory Campbell was the first half’s second-best defensive forward, ranking behind only Washington’s Brooks Laich. Bergeron ranks No. 24 on the list. Here’s a look:
|01.13.11 at 1:19 pm ET|
The Bruins made it through the first half of the season with some of everything. From other-worldly goaltending, to injuries, to special teams highs and lows, there wasn’t much the first 41 games of the season didn’t feature.
One of the things that has made the 2010-11 Bruins a tough squad to figure it out is their inconsistent play. Winning streaks quickly turned to droughts, while it seems they had a knack for following up “worst loss of the season” candidates with statement-making wins. Take the Anaheim loss at home on Dec. 21, for example. The B’s put on a lineup-wide clinic on the art of disappearance in a 3-0 Ducks win that had fans booing at their loudest. The next game, they beat up on the Thrashers, both figuratively and literally.
Then there was the blown 2-0 lead against the Canadiens in the third period on Saturday. The Habs came back to sink the B’s in overtime, and the Bruins followed it by scoring four goals in the final 3:23 against the Penguins two days later for a 4-2 win. It’s tough to find patterns with this team, and with the Bruins having won two in a row, it’s tricky to assume whether things are trending upward for the Northeast Division-leading B’s.
“Most of us have been around long enough to know that it’s a long season with a lot of ups and downs,” Shawn Thornton said Thursday. “‘¦ Obviously there’s going to be a couple of blips there, but you can’t let it bother you too much.”
“It’s a long season. Every team goes through their highs and their lows, but the big thing, if you look around at teams that are at the top of the league, they’re consistent,” Adam McQuaid said. “Every team has their off night every once and a while, but I think the big thing is this league is consistency.
This season’s edition of the B’s is a confident bunch, and while they look to make strides in the second half, they aren’t going to take anything as a given or assume there won’t be more lows.
“You learn from your mistakes,” Thornton said. “There’s going to be downs, too. It’s not the end of the world when we lose, and don’t order the rings when you win a game.”
|01.13.11 at 12:23 pm ET|
Tim Thomas was first off the ice in Thursday’s morning skate, so it looks like he’ll be rewarded with the start vs. the Flyers after shutting out the Senators on Tuesday. He faces a tougher challenge against Philadelphia, as the Flyers are third in the league with their 3.4 goals per game, while the Senators’ 2.2 goals per game rank 29th.
Forward Milan Lucic will be out for the second straight game, as the undisclosed injury (which seems to be going around these days) hasn’t healed to the point at which Claude Julien is comfortable putting the slumping winger back in the lineup.
“[He’s feeling] better,” coach Claude Julien said following the skate. “Obviously he won’t be i tonight, but he’s getting better.”
Julien likened Lucic’s situation to that of Nathan Horton, who missed a pair of games with an undisclosed injury prior to returning in Tuesday’s 6-0 victory over the Senators.
“[He’s] day-to-day,” Julien said. “It’s a lot like Horton. He’s dealing with the same kind of situation as far as day-to-day is concerned.”
When Lucic does return, he’ll be looking to both shake of rust and bust out of an 11-game goal drought. Lucic leads the Bruins with 16 goals this season.
While Lucic wasn’t on the ice for the morning skate, defenseman Mark Stuart was. Stuart has been out since suffering a fractured hand and dislocated finger on Dec. 7 and hopes to return to the lineup sometime next week.
Given the impressive play of Steven Kampfer, who was called up following Stuart’s injury, as well as Adam McQuaid‘s safe and solid play on the blueline, the B’s will have a decision to make when it comes to making room for Stuart. To Stuart, the fact that both have played so well tells him that the team is in good shape, and that he shouldn’t assume anything will be handed to him.
“This is the best position to be in, and it’s going to make me work even harder to get back and to play well,” Stuart said.
“It’s definitely the case,” he added regarding the competition he anticipates for his spot. “You have to earn your way back. I don’t care who you are. … Guys are playing well. It would probably be different if the team was on a downswing and they were looking to change things up.
“It’s good to see, though. That’s what you need. That’s what all good teams have. You look around the league at the good teams. They all have guys coming up, guys coming in and out. Everybody can play, everybody comes in and does the job. I think that’s what you’ve seen with us the last month or so.”
Julien noted that with Stuart still a week to 10 days away, he isn’t in any rush to make a quick decision on how things will unfold.
“It’s probably a little early to answer that question,” Julien said. “… [We have] lots of games and so sometimes you have to make those decisions, sometimes you don’t so I’ll give myself a little break on that one.”
Here are some other notes from the skate:
– The lines looked the same for the Bruins as they were on Tuesday against Ottawa.
– McQuaid probably likes getting attention more from his play and his fighting rather than from perhaps the scariest moment of his career. With the Flyers in town, though, so too is Jody Shelley, who sent him head-first into the end boards on Dec. 11 when the two were chasing an iced puck.
The B’s blueliner wanted to move on from the play, which got Shelley suspended for two games, at the time, and as the spotlight returns with Flyers, he would rather not dwell on it.
“You never want to kind of see yourself going head-first into the boards at any point in time, but it’s not really something I’m thinking too much about,” McQuaid said. “I’ve moved on, moved past it, and just want to be focused for tonight.”
– Horton wasn’t around following Tuesday’s game or during Thursday morning’s media availability, so it’s tough to gauge exactly how comfortable the winger feels since returning from his undisclosed injury. Julien liked what he saw from the winger on Tuesday, but on Thursday didn’t know if Horton’s feeling completely better.
“Let’s put it this way: he’s well enough to play,” Julien said. “I don’t know that I’d say he’s 100 percent, because you don’t come back from missing games and all of a sudden you’re 100 percent.
“[He was] close enough that the risk factor was kind of pushed aside, and they’re minimal, and that he was able to give us what we wanted and well enough to play.”
|01.12.11 at 11:19 pm ET|
Fresh off a 6-0 trouncing of the Senators on Tuesday, the Bruins (23-12-7) will will play their second of four consecutive home games when they host the Flyers (27-10-5) on Thursday. The two teams have split the season series thus far, with the Bruins grabbing a 3-0 win in Philadelphia on Dec. 1 and the Flyers returning the favor with a 2-1 overtime victory at TD Garden on Dec. 11.
The Flyers sit atop the Eastern Conference with 59 points in 42 games and are currently riding a four-game winning streak. With the Canadiens falling to the Penguins, 5-2, on Wednesday, the Bruins have an opportunity to expand their lead in the Northeast Division to four points. Tim Thomas will get the nod for the B’s.
WHERE IT’S AT
– The Bruins are 10-7-3 in home games this season. They’ve gone 3-2-0 over their last five contests at the Garden dating back to their 3-2 win over the Capitals on Dec. 18.
– The Flyers are 14-4-3 outside of Wells Fargo Center, and their 31 road points on the road put them in a tie with the Rangers for the most in the NHL. They’ve gone 3-2-0 in their last five road contests, most recently beating Buffalo, 5-2.
– The Flyers are one of only two teams in the Eastern Conference to have a better goal differential than the Bruins. The B’s are a plus-30 on the season, while both the Flyers and Penguins are a plus-33. The Canucks lead the league with a plus-42 differential.
– Patrice Bergeron has two things going for him entering the game, as he’s scored one of the Bruins’ four goals against the Flyers this season and is riding hot streak consisting of 17 points in his last 13 games. Bergeron recorded his first career hat trick on Tuesday night.
Tyler Seguin, who also scored in that Dec. 1 game, is coming off a two-point night Tuesday.
– Since scoring the Bruins’ only goal against Philadelphia on Dec. 1, Nathan Horton has just one tally, a second-period strike against the Maple Leafs on Jan. 3. That’s a span of 12 games with just one goal. Horton has 12 on the season.
– The Bruins have scored 10 goals without allowing one dating back to the third period of their 4-2 win over the Penguins on Monday night. Those numbers are of course helped a bit by the fact that the majority of them came against the lowly Senators.
STORLYINES GOING IN
– It seems there have been a lot of instances of wondering whether a player hindered by an undisclosed injury will be able to go. This time, it’s Milan Lucic. The Bruins’ leading goal-scorer was kept out of Tuesday night’s game, with Claude Julien saying that the injury is “hopefully a day-to-day situation.” [UPDATE: Lucic will not play.]
– The last time the Flyers were in town, Jody Shelley became a villain to Boston when he shoved B’s defenseman Adam McQuaid into the end boards while the two were racing for an iced puck. McQuaid was shaken up a bit, while Shelley was suspended for two games.
In 19 games this season, Savard has six points (2 G, 2 A) and a team-worst minus-8 rating.
|01.12.11 at 2:55 pm ET|
As much talk as there was following Tuesday’s 6-0 win over the Senators about Patrice Bergeron and his first career hat trick, there was just as much about the impressive way the Bruins followed up their dramatic win in Pittsburgh 24 hours earlier.
“It’s huge,” said captain Zdeno Chara. “You want to follow up with a good performance. You don’t want to have obviously a nice comeback game and then come back and just ruin it. I mean that’s totally something you don’t want to do.”
The Bruins showed what they call in hockey “good jump” in getting up 2-0 after one and 5-0 after two periods. But for Chara to consider the night a truly good one, the B’s would have to finish the job.
“Even after the first 20 or 40 minutes of tonight’s game, you don’t want to, at the end of the night, count regrets that you played well for 40 and bad for 20,” he added. “You just want to have a good feeling after the game that you really played a solid 60 minutes.”
Bruins coach Claude Julien agreed. It was a good night from what he could see from behind the bench.
“I like the way we skated. I thought we had some good jump right off the start and we had some good clean breakouts and it allowed us to have some good speed through the neutral zone,” Julien said. “We got pucks behind their D and took advantage of it. I thought our guys were well-focused tonight. It was important to build on last night and not sit on it.”
It’s rare for a team to show such good energy on the back-end of a back-to-back in mid-January like the Bruins did but Tim Thomas wasn’t complaining, as he posted his career-best sixth shutout of the season.
“We looked like we had really good legs tonight on a back-to-back with the heavy schedule that we’ve had and that’s a good sign too,” Thomas said. “A lot of things went our way tonight.”
And, of course, leading the way was Bergeron with his first career hat trick.
“We’ve talked about it, after the game in Pittsburgh, to just carry what happened in the last three minutes, you know, and carry that over to tonight, and I think we did that, you know, all game, the 60 minutes that’s what we needed.”
What the Bruins needed and got on Wednesday was the day off to stay inside and avoid the blizzard outside. They’ll need their rest with the Flyers and Penguins coming to town on Thursday and Saturday, respectively. Just another two games to test how far these Bruins have come in turning around their season.
|01.12.11 at 2:05 pm ET|
Mike Milbury of NESN, NBC Sports, and Hockey Night in Canada made his weekly appearance on Dale & Holley on Wednesday, discussing all things Bruins and his feelings on the NHL All-Star game.
Milbury was quite direct in speaking about Patrice Bergeron‘s first career hat trick, which he scored in Tuesday’s 6-0 win over the Senators. Blake Wheeler appeared to have scored what was ruled Bergeron’s second goal, and Milbury wasn’t happy with how it was credited.
“The guys that do the scoring have the responsibility to get it right. They have to do everything to get it right. Do they fudge a little on [an assist] once in a while? I bet they do, and I think that’s OK, but they’ve got to be honest and true to it,” Milbury said. “Somebody’s got to tell me there’s a different angle that showed Bergeron scoring the goal, because I watched it several times, and pretty clearly, Blake Wheeler with a backhand [scored]. ‘¦ I didn’t think there was any question whose goal that was.”
Milbury said that given the fans throwing their hats twice — Brad Marchand‘s second-period goal was initially credited to Bergeron, which at the time would have been his third goal of the game — the Bruins and Bergeron are better off leaving the matter alone rather than giving Wheeler his due credit.
“It would be tough to do that after the three or four times they showered him with hats,” Milbury said, adding that Bergeron should just “take the damn hat trick.”
As for the state of the Bruins, who have been a Jekyll and Hyde team all season with their ups and downs, Milbury said it’s difficult to gauge what type of team the Bruins are given their inconsistent nature. The Bruins have won their last two games after blowing a 2-0 lead in a 3-2 overtime loss to the rival Canadiens on Saturday.
“This is a hard team to pin down right now. I’m trying to figure out, what are they? ‘¦ I’d just like to see this team hit on all cylinders so I can figure out how good they are,” Milbury said. “Now, they’re a good team, not a great team. They’re going to have to rely on some great goaltending and solid defense. ‘¦ I’m still not sure just how good this group is.”
Since returning from post-concussion syndrome, center Marc Savard, who is in the first year of a seven-year deal, has struggled to regain the form that made him one of the league’s elite playmakers. He has made costly mistakes and has been benched by Claude Julien in multiple situations. Milbury said the Bruins will need him to get back to where he was for the team to be competitive late in the season and in the playoffs.
“It’s going to be critical to their success to have Savard finding the way back to his game,” Milbury said. “Most guys who have injuries of big magnitude, of some sort of significance, take a long time. ‘¦ Hopefully by the end of the year, Savard will have found his rhythm and they find the right match for him with linemates.”
Milbury has been one of Nathan Horton‘s biggest critics since the Bruins acquired the forward from the Panthers over the summer. He said that Horton’s play “troubles” him, and that he’s unsure of why the talented winger is so prone to disappearing in games.
“I don’t know if it’s focus, or if it’s his level of competitiveness, but this guy form a tools standpoint has a hell of a lot more to offer on a regular basis,” Milbury said.
“You have got to be involved. You’ve got to be involved on the forecheck, and hopefully you’re involved in the physical side. He’s not afraid, but it doesn’t come naturally to him.”
“Think of the players. They don’t want to be there,” Milbury said. “Except for the guys that just got named to their first or second All-Star team and want to be in the elite group — I can understand what an honor that’s got to be — but once you’re through that thrill, if it’s not in your city, it’s got to be [tiring].
“They’re going to be escorted around all these nonsensical events ‘¦ and then play a half-assed game, and then they’ll go home tired,” he added. “Good idea.”
“I know it’s a celebration of the sport, but for me it’s not celebrating the sport. It’s denigrating the sport.”
|01.12.11 at 11:04 am ET|
It was only fitting that Patrice Bergeron had to record his first career hat trick twice.
After all, when you’ve waited seven years and 418 games, what’s another 10 minutes and 57 seconds? When the puck deflected off Sergei Gonchar‘s skate and past Brian Elliot at 14:07 of the second period, everyone assumed it was Bergeron who tipped it home. It was actually Brad Marchand who took the centering shot and it hit off Gonchar’s skate, never reaching Bergeron before it slid past Elliot.
“To be honest, I know we were both battling in front and it hit something, for sure, a skate, and Marchy told me it hit my skate so I thought I had it, but to be honest I didn’t know. I wasn’t sure.”
Still, it was announced in the building as Bergeron and the hats came raining down. Then, as fans were making their way out of their seats at the end of the second period, it was announced that the goal was changed to Marchand, meaning Bergy stood at two goals on the evening.
“It was funny, because, after the second, everyone was congratulating me about the hat trick, then it came back and, you know, ‘Hey it’s not yours, it’s Marchy’s’, and everyone was saying that ‘It’s only your first one?’, since I’ve played, so, I guess I wanted to get the last goal,” Bergeron said with a smile.
So, as the Bruins were cruising to a 6-0 romp over the Senators, Marchand made good on a promise to find him in the third period to make good and finally get Bergeron his first three-goal game in the NHL and his first since Juniors.
“It was disappointing that they took that goal away from him,” Marchand said. “I think there was a 2-on-1 there I tried to get it to him also. It is great he finally got there with a beautiful shot.”
Marchand came down the left wing and found Bergeron in the corner. Bergeron came out to the bottom of the circle and fired a shot that beat back-up goalie Mike Brodeur – in his second NHL appearance – and Bergeron finally had his hat trick.
“Everyone’s leaving the building with no hats on, so yeah, I guess I wanted to get it, because I guess everyone threw their hats on the ice. To be honest, I never really thought about it. You know, I don’t really stop and think about those kind of individual goals, but it’s always nice to have it out of the way.
Bergeron is one of the hottest players in the NHL, with five goals in his last three games and 17 points in his last 13 games.
“Our forecheck has been a lot better, we’re in sync as a line a little but more,” Bergeron said. “You know, I thought we were doing good things, also, before, but it’s just I think the puck wasn’t going in and now it is, so you know, obviously, you’ve got to take it, and go with it.
“But obviously, I’m trying to bring as much as I can for our team to win, you know, and if we get some success as a team, so, now we have a stretch here before the All-Star break, you know, and we obviously want to get some points.”