|03.15.11 at 12:27 am ET|
With the stretch run upon the Bruins, Claude Julien‘s club obviously has an undesirable streak to snap. Winless over their last four, the B’s need to show that their 0-2-2 slump won’t continue at a part of the season in which each point is placed under a microscope.
There are multiple issues facing the team as they return to the road, like the sudden tendency to blow multi-goal leads, as was the case when they saw both the Sabres and Islanders come back in games in which the Bruins led by two. It will be focused on heavily, but it isn’t the only thing to keep an eye on.
Despite having just 14 games remaining in the regular season, this week will also be all about making a good first impression. Both Tuesday and Thursday’s games will come against opponents the B’s have yet to face this season in the Blue Jackets and Thrashers, respectively.
To this point of the season, the Bruins have fared decently against teams when facing them for the first time. Per the good ol’ WEEI.com stat truck, they have a 14-10-2 records in such games. For the sake of comparison, the results have been worse than the Flyers’ 16-6-6 mark and better than the Canadiens’ 12-9-2.
Looking at things more recently, the B’s have fared well of late in their first meetings with teams. Since Jan. 22, the B’s have played seven opponents for the first time this season (all of whom, unsurprisingly, were Western Conference teams). The Bruins went 5-2-0 against those clubs, losing to only the Red Wings and Sharks, who are currently second and third in the Western Conference, respectively. They beat the Flames, Presidents’ Trophy-favorite Canucks and Oilers, three teams they hadn’t seen previously this season, in succession Feb. 22-27.
To both snap their winless streak and continue their successful stretch against unfamiliar faces, the B’s will have to bounce back against a Columbus team that has been nothing short of bad lately. The Blue Jackets are just 1-4-3 over their last eight games, with the win coming Saturday against the Hurricanes. While the Blue Jackets have had their fair share of struggles of late, looking at how they’ve fared in their first meetings with clubs might suggest they shouldn’t be taken lightly. In facing 26 teams for the first time this season (as many as the Bruins have entering Tuesday), Columbus has gone 15-8-3.
To round things out, the Predators are 13-8-5 when seeing a team for the first time this season, losing their last two such contests. Of course, those losses came against the top two teams in the NHL in the Canucks and Flyers, and the Predators have gotten points in six of their last seven games (4-1-2).
These stats aren’t everything, and when it comes down to it, execution, consistency and holding onto leads will likely be the biggest factors this week for the Bruins. Still, it will be interesting to see if the Bruins’ recent string of success when seeing a team for the first time continues, or whether the funk they’ve been in over their last four games will persist.
After Thursday’s game in Nashville, the Bruins will have faced 28 of the other 29 teams in the league thus far this season, missing only the Blackhawks, whom they’ll see March 29 at the Garden.
|03.14.11 at 1:54 pm ET|
Bruins coach Claude Julien told reporters after Monday’s practice at Ristuccia Arena that injured defensemen Andrew Ference, Steven Kampfer and Shane Hnidy will travel with the team to Columbus for Tuesday night’s tilt with the Blue Jackets. While Julien noted that Hnidy is still unavailable, either Kampfer (concussion) or Ference (lower body) could suit up on Tuesday.
“We feel that one of them, at least, will be ready, and hopefully two,” Julien said of Kampfer and Ference. The coach added that, “there isn’t any definite decision that’s been made on either of those two players.”
Both Kampfer and Ference have skated with the Bruins the last two days. Kampfer has been out since suffering a concussion on a hit from Mattias Ritola on March 3. Ference has not played since Feb. 26.
|03.11.11 at 9:32 pm ET|
It took exactly six minutes for the Bruins to see a 2-0 lead turn into a 3-2 deficit against the Islanders Friday night at Nassau Coliseum, and an awarded empty-netter made it a 4-2 Islanders victory. The Bruins remain winless in their last four games (0-2-2).
With the B’s leading 2-0 on goals from Nathan Horton and Zdeno Chara, Islanders forward Matt Moulsen scored a timely power-play goal in the final seconds of the second period. Michael Grabner and Jack Hillen would add goals early in the third period to wipe away the Bruins’ lead. P.A. Parenteau was awarded an empty net goal with 10 seconds remaining when he was taken down by Milan Lucic.
Friday’s regulation loss marked the first of the season in which the B’s led after the second period, as they entered the game 25-0-1 in such games. The Bruins have not won since March 3, when they beat the Lightning at TD Garden for what at the time was their seventh consecutive victory. Since then, they have fallen in overtime to both the Penguins and Sabres, while losing in regulation to the Canadiens and Islanders.
Tim Thomas saw his record fall to 29-9-8 on the season. He made 38 saves on 41 shots, allowing at least three goals for the third straight games (0-1-2).
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE BRUINS
– While the Sabres’ ability to come back against the Bruins twice on Thursday probably had as much to do with officiating as it did with Boston’s play, this is now two straight days in which the B’s have let their opponent capitalize on big opportunities to find their way back into the game. The B’s couldn’t finish off an important penalty kill with a 2-0 lead and Brad Marchand in the box, and Moulson made it 2-1 with two seconds remaining in the period. Grabner tied it up 1:28 into the third, and Hillen blasted one from the point to give the Islanders their first lead of the season series at 5:58.
– It’s safe to say Marchand is slumping. The rookie winger has been stuck on 19 goals for the last eight games, and he has just one assist in that span. His production this season has been a pleasant surprise, but not lately. He received minimal ice time in the third period.
– Adam McQuaid entered Friday’s game third in the league in plus-minus with a plus-27 rating, and despite being on the ice for Horton’s tally, posted a minus-2 on the night.
– Horton took a bad interference call at the wrong time when he hit Hillen high with 6:48 remaining in the game and the B’s trailing by one. A comeback is that much harder to make when you’re playing shorthanded in the final minutes of the game.
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE BRUINS
– Chara’s used to being booed in opposing arenas, but the Islanders fans certainly ramped it up in wake of all that’s happened this week. The B’s captain responded the best way he could, scoring his second goal in the last four games with a one-timer from David Krejci from the top of the left circle. Chara also drew both penalties to create the 5-on-3 on which he scored.
– It took a while, but Boston’s power play finally scored. Much has been made of the unit’s inability to finish since adding Tomas Kaberle, but the blueliner got an assist on Chara’s goal, which was the B’s first strike in their last 22 power plays.
– Make it two more assists for David Krejci, and 15 points in his last 11 games. Milan Lucic also picked up an assist on Horton’s tally, and now has 14 points over his last 11. The Bruins might have some issues of late, but the top line isn’t one of them. Horton, who began the night top-five in plus-minus with a plus-26, scored his 20th goal of the season and posted a plus-1 rating.
|03.11.11 at 8:37 pm ET|
The power play drought is over, Zdeno Chara is making noise on the scoring sheet, and the Bruins lead the Islanders 2-1 after the second period.
The Bruins captain scored his 12th goal of the season when sound passing by Tomas Kaberle and David Krejci led to a blast from the top of the left circle on a 5-on-3. It was the Bruins’ first goal in their last 22 power plays.
Chara drew both penalties, as he was held by Milan Jurcina and saw the Islanders turned a shorthanded bid into a Bruins 5-on-3 when Frans Nielson cross-checked him in the Bruins’ zone.
|03.11.11 at 7:41 pm ET|
The Bruins lead the Islanders, 1-0, after a period thanks to Nathan Horton’s 20th goal of the season.
Horton beat Al Montoya by kicking a rebound off a Milan Lucic shot back to himself and firing it in. He now has goals in two straight games and six goals in his last 10.
The Bruins went 0-for-2 on the power play, failing to take advantage of penalties to Justin DiBenedetto and Kyle Okposo. Matt Bartkowski was the only Bruin sent to the sin bin, and a sprawling Tim Thomas came up big for the B’s by stopping an onslaught with Boston shorthanded.
The Islanders outshot the Bruins, 11-8, in the period.
|03.11.11 at 11:59 am ET|
One look at the face of Johnny Boychuk tells you all you need to know about what kind ending is in store for the Bruins in the last month of the regular season.
A fight to the finish to be sure.
While all the focus was on Zdeno Chara and the firestorm of controversy over his hit on Max Pacioretty, Boychuk was playing his first game since suffering quite the shiner below his left eye in a fight with Montreal’s Ryan White a period earlier. Boychuk echoed the sentiment of the Bruins when he said he was happy to see Chara drill Jason Pominville with a clean hit early in the first period.
“He’s not going to change the way he’s going to play,” Boychuk said. “He’s a big man and he’s our team leader. You wouldn’t want him to change his game because I like seeing the physicalness in his game.”
On Thursday, Boychuk and the Bruins found themselves in a different sort of battle – one with the officials.
The Bruins killed off the first four penalties against them but Buffalo capitalized on two of the next three to help erase a 2-0 Bruins lead early.
“It’s kind of tough to give a 60-minute effort when we’re always killing penalties like that,” Boychuk said. “I don’t know if they’re good calls or bad calls but it definitely takes a toll on some guys in the dressing room when you’ve got guys killing penalties all the time. And some of those guys are also play power play so they’re going to be out there more than others and by the end of the game, they’re going to be tired.”
The other concern of late – during the three-game losing streak – is the lack of discipline and focus over 60 minutes.
“I think that we had that when we were on that winning streak,” fellow B’s blueliner Adam McQuaid said. “For the most part we had sixty-minute effort. The last few games there have been very highs and very lows, so I think the biggest thing is to get back to that sixty- minute effort.”
Seven different minor penalties were called on the B’s, including two with the Bruins already a man down that created 5-on-3 chances for the Sabres. The Bruins killed off the first but weren’t so lucky the second time in the third period as the Sabres tied the game and won it in overtime.
Boychuk knew going into the game with the Sabres Thursday night that they would be facing a desperate team.
“We did play them in the playoffs last year and they’re fighting for their playoff spot so we didn’t expect them to roll over and die on us,” Boychuk said.
That will be the same approach the Bruins can expect from just about every team they play from here on out.
Even the Islanders, who are out of the playoff picture in the East, could play spoiler when they take on the Bruins tonight in Nassau County on Long Island.
Before dropping their third straight Thursday, the Bruins started their seven-game win streak against the Islanders on Feb. 17 on Long Island.
“Might as well start another one,” Boychuk said. “Why not?”
|03.10.11 at 11:27 pm ET|
On Wednesday night, Pacioretty said he was ‘disgusted’ that Chara wasn’t fined or suspended for the hit on Tuesday night that gave him a severe concussion and broke a vertebrae in his back.
Then Thursday, Pacioretty showed his support of a fellow NHL combatant by publicly denouncing any effort by Montreal authorities to criminally prosecute Chara for a hit that happened in the course of a game.
Following Thursday’s 4-3 overtime loss to the Sabres, Chara said he was relieved to be back playing and appreciated the words earlier in the day from Pacioretty.
“It’s obviously a nice gesture,” Chara said. “It’s something that, for sure, shouldn’t go that far. It’s something, like I said, very unfortuante. I keep repeating that. You feel bad about it. You don’t want to see anybody get hurt and especially, in that case, upper body, and most likely, neck and head.”
Word came on Thursday that Montreal authorities plan an investigation to determine whether criminal charges should be brought against Chara, whose hit into the turnbuckle at center ice gave Pacioretty a severe concussion and fractured a vertabrae in his back.
“We all feel bad about it,” Chara said. “It doesn’t matter, rivalry or no rivalry, we all want to see the guy recover and obviously, I’m going to try and reach out to him and talk to him either over the phone or try to see him in person. But I totally understand and respect that now he probably needs time and space and to be around his closest family. I’m sure when the time is right, I’ll probably reach out and talk and somehow connect.”
For Chara, he was just glad to be back on the ice, focusing on hockey, not hearings.
“That’s obviously one of those things I’d love to do,” Chara said. “Playing hockey is obviously my most important thing. To be on the ice that’s for sure the most important.”
It was a home crowd that chanted his name during his first shift in the opening minute.
“For sure, it’s something I very much appreciated and I’m very thankful for that. It feels for sure great to be home and to get that support from the fans,” he added.
He even showed in the first period that he’s not going to change his physical play because of Tuesday when he drilled Jason Pominville into the corner boards on a very clean but hard hit.
“I don’t see any reason to change my game or my style of play,” Chara said. “I’m going to continue to play physical and play hard. That’s my game and I don’t see any reason to change.”