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With stars struggling or injured, Bruins need secondary scorers to come through with some production

04.19.17 at 7:33 pm ET
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The Bruins could use some more production from the Spooner line. (Charles Leclaire/USA Today Sports)

The Bruins could use some more production from the Spooner line. (Charles Leclaire/USA Today Sports)

Bruins center David Krejci, who finished the year third among B’s skaters in both goals and points, is not playing at anything close to 100 percent. Top-line winger Brad Marchand, who scored a team-high 39 goals this season and produced above a point-per-game pace for the first time in his career, has been bottled up as much as one can given his skill, with one goal through three games of round one.

And to state the obvious, with those players either frustrated or hobbled, the Bruins need to find production elsewhere.

It’s pretty easy to find those players for the Bruins, too. They’re all on the same line, too; Ryan Spooner has just two helpers through three postseason games (both secondary helpers on the power play), while Frank Vatrano and Drew Stafford enter play with just one goal each.

“Well, secondary scoring — I mean, the first game Frankie got us going, he got us a big goal. Then, [Brad Marchand] got the winner. I think every coach would tell you that’s important. And even getting our backend a little more involved,” Bruins interim head coach Bruce Cassidy said before Wednesday’s Game 4 at TD Garden. “[Dion] Phaneuf got a big goal for them, [Chris] Wideman — so, you need offense from all sources because the other guys are more targeted.”

“In the playoffs it’s huge,” Vatrano said of the team’s secondary scoring. “Obviously they’re going to pay extra attention to our top guys and when they’re taking time, space, and scoring away from them, it’s up to the secondary scorers to get the job done.”

Vatrano did not get the job done on Monday, with just one shot on goal in 18 shifts. Stafford was not much better, with zero shots and a minus-1 rating in 12:15 of time on ice, and Spooner was a non-factor in his seven-plus minutes of five-on-five play.

But they’ll get another chance to step up tonight, with Stafford dropped back to his natural right-side on a line with Spooner and Vatrano, as Cassidy knows it’s a need for the club to make any sort of run deeper into the spring.

“Clearly, your best players need to be your best players,” Cassidy said. But, every year in the playoffs, there’s always those guys that step up. [Tim] Schaller got one, game two, big shorty. So we’ve had some of that and we’ll continue to look for it.”

As expected, Tuukka Rask gets the call in the B’s net. Rask surrendered four goals on 32 shots in a Game 3 overtime loss, and has allowed nine goals on 88 shots this series. And, again, as expected, Ottawa counters with Craig Anderson. The veteran Anderson has had similar struggles in this series despite the series lead for his club, with eight goals on 74 shots against.

Bruins defenseman Colin Miller (lower-body) draws back into action for the first time since Game 1. Tommy Cross, who was on the ice for three of Ottawa’s four goals in his season debut on Monday night, will sit as a healthy scratch in his place.

Here are the expected lines and pairings for the Bruins…

Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – David Backes

Tim Schaller – David Krejci – David Pastrnak

Frank Vatrano – Ryan Spooner – Drew Stafford

Dominic Moore – Riley Nash – Noel Acciari

 

Zdeno Chara – Charlie McAvoy

Joe Morrow – Kevan Miller

John-Michael Liles – Colin Miller

Tuukka Rask

This is becoming the Erik Karlsson Series, and that’s not good for the Bruins

04.19.17 at 4:42 pm ET
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Erik Karlsson has four assists in three games this series. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

Erik Karlsson has four assists in three games this series. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

If there’s a big goal scored by the Senators in this series, there’s a good chance that it’s been created by the wizardry of Erik Karlsson.

Karlsson danced through the attacking zone before he fed Derick Brassard for the game-tying goal in what finished an Ottawa overtime win in Game 2. Karlsson helped the Sens jump out to a lead in the first period of Game 3 when he hit Mike Hoffman with a Hail Mary pass. He danced around three B’s forwards to keep the puck in the attacking zone for the second Sens goal of that game, and helped create the overtime winner when Dominic Moore gave chase to him behind the net and created all the space in the world for Karlsson to operate.

A minute-eater that’s led the Sens in time on ice in both of their wins this series and has four helpers in three games thus far, it’s been just as hard for the Bruins to avoid Karlsson as it’s been to contain him.

“He’s an elite player, he plays half the game, so he’s going to do damage,” Bruins interim head coach Bruce Cassidy said of Karlsson. “You gotta limit the damage. He’s a dynamic player. Coming from the backend, everything is front of him and he can beat you up ice. So there’s a lot of ways he can beat you and we need to do a better job neutralizing him.”

Neutralizing him would be a start, but as the Bruins can attest, it’s also much easier said than done.

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Bruins defenseman Colin Miller expected to play in Game 4

04.19.17 at 1:07 pm ET
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Colin Miller is expected to play in Game 4. (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

Colin Miller is expected to play in Game 4. (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

Down 2-1 in a series for the 31st time in franchise history, the Bruins will hope to find a series-evening boost with the return of one of their injured defensemen for tonight’s Game 4 with the Senators.

In a series that’s become defined by the B’s health woes on the point (the Bruins skated in Game 3 without four of their regular NHL defensemen), it’s expected that Colin Miller will be the one that steps back onto the ice and makes his return to the club’s blue line.

Injured in the second period of Game 1 on a knee-on-knee collision with the Senators’ Mark Borowiecki, Miller has missed both Games 2 and 3, but has found a way to consistently ramp up his on-ice participation over that span. Miller first gave it a go on a Friday practice that ended earlier than expected, and was also a participant in Game 3’s morning skate and pregame warmup before he was ruled out in favor of Tommy Cross.

And after being on the ice for this morning’s optional skate, Miller has declared himself ready to go, and so has his coach.

“That’s the plan — that he’ll go in tonight,” Bruins interim head coach Bruce Cassidy said. “Obviously we’ll make that at gametime, but he looks like he’s ready to go, so he’ll go in with John-Michael Liles, and Tommy [Cross] will come out.”

It’s not the major return — the Bruins are still without Brandon Carlo (upper-body), Torey Krug (lower-body), and Adam McQuaid (upper-body) on their point — that the club was hoping for, especially when it comes to helping the club return to their roots of blocking shots and boxing out bodies in front of Tuukka Rask with strong physical play, but it’s one that will certainly help a Boston defense that’s simply running on empty and running out of options.

 

The 24-year-old Miller had one shot and one hit in just 7:08 back in Game 1, and skated in 61 games for the Black and Gold during the regular season, with six goals and 13 points along with 85 shots on goal.

Of those six goals and 13 points, three goals and five points came in 22 games following the switch from Claude Julien to Cassidy.

Including playoff games, the Bruins are 37-22-3 with Miller in the lineup this year, and 8-11-4 without him in action.

Here’s your daily update on the Bruins’ injury woes

04.18.17 at 3:02 pm ET
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Torey Krug and Adam McQuaid were among three Bruins defensemen that missed Tuesday's practice. (Timothy T. Ludwig/USA Today Sports)

Torey Krug and Adam McQuaid were among three Bruins defensemen that missed Tuesday’s practice. (Timothy T. Ludwig/USA Today Sports)

The Bruins got two of their six injured skaters back in Monday night’s Game 3 against the Senators with the return (and immediate impact) of fourth-liner Noel Acciari and top-six center David Krejci.

Defenseman Colin Miller, who participated in the morning skate and pregame warmup after having missed the second half of Game 1 and all of Game 2 because of a lower-body injury, almost made it three, but was ultimately ruled out in favor of Tommy Cross at puck drop.

But their returns were not enough for the B’s to regain the series lead against the Sens, as they fell by a 4-3 overtime final at TD Garden.

So, with the club in danger of falling behind 3-1 with a loss on Wednesday, how about adding some more healing bodies to the mix? Preferably one of Brandon Carlo (upper-body) and Torey Krug (lower-body), who have yet to play in this series, or Adam McQuaid, who missed Monday’s Game 3 after leaving in the first period of Game 2.

“He’s doing OK, he’s day-to-day, doubtful for tomorrow,” Bruins interim head coach Bruce Cassidy said of Carlo, who did skate on his own prior to the start of B’s practice. “Colin Miller is better. We’ll have an update in the morning, but he’s ahead of Carlo and Krug for sure.”

With the pairings at practice the same as they were last night — Zdeno Chara and Charlie McAvoy were the top pair, Joe Morrow and Kevan Miller made up the middle pairing, and John-Michael Liles and Cross were the third pairing — Miller skated on a fourth pairing with Matt Grzelcyk, which could stick out as a sign that he is still a little bit away from a return. If Miller does indeed return for tomorrow’s Game 4, however, it’s expected that Cross would take a seat as a healthy scratch after making his season debut last night, with one assist and two blocked shots in 13:08 of ice time.

But the big loss for the Bruins in this series has been Krug.

After a career-high 51 points in 81 games during the regular season, and the quarterback of a Boston power play that simply thrived under Cassidy, Krug’s absence has become glaring by way of the club’s 2-for-10 mark against an Ottawa penalty kill that they just straight-up torched in the regular season, where they went 5-for-8 against Craig Anderson. The moment Krug becomes available is the moment that series could truly shift back towards the Black and Gold’s favor, you’d think.

But it’s one step at a time, and Krug is not there just yet.

“Krug, we’ll list him as day-to-day, but he wasn’t on the ice,” said Cassidy.

The good news, though, is that Krug, who did not travel to Ottawa last week, was seen at TD Garden last night without crutches he reportedly left the arena on when the injury happened two weeks ago, and was once again at Warrior Ice Arena on Tuesday.

Bruins fan tries to steal stick from Ottawa bench, gets slashed by Erik Karlsson

04.18.17 at 1:25 pm ET
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A sellout TD Garden crowd felt robbed of a meaningful overtime when referee Tim Peel’s horrendous call against Riley Nash put Bobby Ryan and the Senators on the power play, where they scored the game-winning goal to take a 2-1 series lead.

So, naturally and in the true essence of the eye for an eye mentality of playoff hockey, one Bruins fan tried to return the favor with some larceny of his own as the Senators made their way back to the locker room to celebrate.

As bottles rained down on the ice in disgust of the game’s finish, this fan sitting to the right of the tunnel that leads the Sens back to the cramp visitors’ locker room tried to grab one of Ottawa’s sticks from off their stick rack. But he was thwarted by Sens captain Erik Karlsson, who caught him in the act and delivered a slash right to that fan’s hand.

Ouch.

In line with how this series has gone, Karlsson was not assessed a penalty for the slash.

And strangely enough, this is actually not the first time that this has happened in a playoff game in Boston.

It was back in 2009 that a fan stole then-Canadien sniper Alex Kovalev’s stick right from out of his hands.

(If you’re looking for the original thief, watch the glass-banger in the white shirt as the scrum ensues following the goal.)

“Passionate hockey fans in Boston,” Senators forward Mark Stone said. “It’s just the nature of the game.”

Riley Nash takes fall for overtime penalty: ‘It was pretty selfish of me, you can’t make that play’

04.18.17 at 4:07 am ET
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Riley Nash took the blame for the penalty that led to Ottawa's game-winning goal. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

Bruins forward Riley Nash took the blame for the penalty that led to Ottawa’s game-winning goal in Game 3. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

Bruins forward Riley Nash would have had every right to step into his media availability and simply rip the piss-poor officiating that put him in the box for Bobby Ryan’s game-winning overtime goal on Monday.

Instead, the 27-year-old Nash took the fall for the B’s Game 3 loss.

“I think it was pretty selfish of me,” a visibly emotional Nash said following Monday’s game. “You can’t make that play, can’t put the refs in that position regardless of what happened before that, you’ve just got to do it, and it’s pretty tough for the boys.”

Knocked down to the ice and then blatantly elbowed in the head by Ryan, Nash got to his knees and responded with a quick jab to Ryan’s face, complete with a hard sell from the theatrical Ottawa winger.

“I felt like I was down on my knee, and he came and hit me, or elbow or fist, whatever it was. I tried to just push him or punch him off me and caught his face,” Nash continued. “He kind of embellished it, but I don’t know. Still, it just can’t happen.

“You’ve got to take that. It’s playoffs, you’ve got to take it.”

The penalty was universally slammed for being a garbage call (not that you expect anything less from Tim Peel, who is among the worst of the worst at his job), especially for an overtime frame that came with almost everything else let go, and Bruins interim head coach Bruce Cassidy called the penalty a “terrible call” on NESN’s postgame show.

“I think [Peel] looked over and just saw my reaction,” said Nash. “At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter. They see what they see, and there’s only two of them out there, and there’s 10 guys, so you just can’t really put them in that position to make that call.”

The Bruins, who finished the year with the league’s best penalty kill, have the second-worst penalty kill in the playoffs through the first three games of action, with three power-play goals against on 10 times shorthanded.

Bruins need Brad Marchand to battle through scoring frustrations

04.18.17 at 3:03 am ET
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Bruins winger Brad Marchand had just one shot in Game 3's loss. (Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports)

Bruins winger Brad Marchand had just one shot in Game 3’s loss. (Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports)

Bruins winger Brad Marchand’s emergence in the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs took just about everybody by surprise. But that was six years and 171 goals ago, and now, Marchand is a marked man.

Teams target him in more ways than one, too.

Not only do they try to keep the 5-foot-9 winger off the scoresheet, but they also attempt to get under his skin, and goad him into the bad penalties he’s wont to take at times. The Senators accomplished both in Monday’s Game 3, as they held No. 63 to just one shot on goal, and frustrated him into a needless penalty

The agitator became the agitated, and that’s something that’s just not going to work for the now-trailing Black and Gold.

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