|11.19.15 at 9:40 pm ET|
In a season that’s featured plenty of bad, no Bruins player has been as good as Loui Eriksson. The 30-year-old provided another reminder on Thursday night.
Eriksson picked up his first hat trick as a Bruin as he scored Boston’s second, third and fourth goals in a 4-2 win over the Wild. It took Eriksson only 16:37 to score his three goals.
While it was Eriksson’s first three-goal showing with the B’s, it was also his third multi-goal performance in 18 games this season. Eriksson now leads the Bruins with nine goals on the season, one ahead of linemate David Krejci‘s eight.
With Thursday’s performance, it’s probably worth noting again that Eriksson is in the final year of a contract that carries a $4.25 million cap hit. Teams don’t get better by losing their best players, so the Bruins would be wise to do their best to try and retain the player.
Here are four more things we learned Thursday night:
HIT ENDS VATRANO’S NIGHT
Rookie callup Frank Vatrano went hard into the endboards on his first shift of the second period and did not return to the game. Vatrano went turned at the last second as he was set to absorb a hit from Nate Prosser, resulting in him appearing to hit the boards with his right shoulder taking the brunt of the impact. Claude Julien told reporters following the game that Vatrano had an upper-body injury.
Vatrano had taken warmups with David Krejci and Loui Eriksson, but he also saw time with Ryan Spooner and Brett Connolly in the first period, taking only four shifts in the first 20 minutes.
If Vatrano is to miss any time, the Bruins would likely have to recall Max Talbot from Providence, as they currently have only 12 forwards on their roster and Providence forwards Alexander Khokhlachev, Seth Griffith and Brian Ferlin are injured.
PK STEPS UP
The Bruins did a very un-Bruins thing Thursday by killing penalties successfully.
After entering the night with the worst penalty kill in the league, the B’s managed to kill off all three of Minnesota’s power plays, including a Brad Marchand hooking penalty at 15:53 of the third period that saw the Wild pull Devan Dubnyk and go 6-on-4.
By going 3-for-3 on the PK, the Bruins killed off all their penalties in a game for just the third time this season, not counting the season-opener in which the Jets never went on the power play.
BELESKEY DROPS THE GLOVES
Matt Beleskey hasn’t been a standout player to this point with the B’s, but it’s certainly not for lack of effort. Beleskey works hard and he plays as physical a game he can, as is evidenced by the fact that he leads the team in hits (which, to remind everyone, is the worst and dumbest stat in sports because it’s an anti-possession stat, but I digress).
On Thursday, Beleskey’s toughness was tested in his first fight with the Bruins. The former Duck passed with flying colors, pounding Brett Bulmer to the ice in short order 5:34 into the game. Beleskey had drawn a tripping penalty on Bulmer earlier in the period.
BRUINS SWITCH MILLERS
Kevan Miller sat out with an upper-body injury Thursday, allowing Colin Miller to re-enter the lineup after a two game stint in the press box.
Miller had an up-and-down night, as he started the rush that resulted in Eriksson’s third goal but also played a part in a goal against. He didn’t catch a pass from Zdeno Chara at the Bruins’ blue line in the second period, resulting in a turnover. That led to Nino Niederreiter feeding Mikko Koivu, whose shot yielded a rebound that Jason Zucker buried past Jonas Gustavsson just over five minutes into the second period for Minnesota’s first goal.
|11.18.15 at 2:52 pm ET|
The Bruins have long said that this season is about potential. Yet it seems that they feel their best chance of realistically winning games is to bank on more sure things than embracing that potential. They’re not necessarily wrong in thinking that; they just might need to cool it on that P-word for a while.
When Claude Julien benched Ryan Spooner in the third period of Tuesday’s loss to the Sharks, the worst part of it was that the change didn’t allow the Bruins to complete their comeback. The second-worst part of it is that it loaned more evidence to the historically incorrect Claude Hates The Kids argument.
If the Bruins had their act together on the back end and could kill penalties, do you really think Julien would have benched Spooner for his bad second period Tuesday? Of course not. Yet this season has seen him limit players like Spooner and David Pastrnak when they’ve struggled because the Bruins, for all the gushy stuff they’ve said about their young players, can’t actually give them the keys because the Bruins aren’t good enough to absorb their mistakes.
Asked after the game why he gave Spooner no even-strength time in the final period, Julien snapped back at the reporter, asking if he had noticed that Joonas Kemppainen had earned the ice time inherited by Spooner’s benching. On Wednesday, Julien was more willing to elaborate on his decision to limit Spooner’s third-period shifts to just the power play and the final minute with an extra attacker.
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|11.18.15 at 11:15 am ET|
WILMINGTON — Kevan Miller was missing from Wednesday’s practice as the Bruins looked to regroup from a disappointing 5-4 loss to the Sharks on Tuesday.
Miller, who has played in every game this season, went to the trainers’ room during the third period of Tuesday’s game and did not play the final 10:44.
“Right now, all I can tell you is he’s got an upper-body injury,” Claude Julien said after the practice. “I don’t know the details of what’s come up with the assessment. We’ll try and give you guys some more when we do. Right now I don’t have more than to tell you it’s upper-body.”
With the exception of David Pastrnak, who remains out with a foot injury and is still on crutches, all other players were on the ice for Wednesday’s practice. Julien stuck with the line of Patrice Bergeron between Brad Marchand and Jimmy Hayes, shuffled the third line and left the other two the same as they’ve been in recent games. The lines and defensive pairings Wednesday were as follows:
The 8-8-1 Bruins will host the Wild Wednesday at TD Garden.
|11.17.15 at 9:39 pm ET|
The Bruins are not good at killing penalties. In fact, numbers (take penalty kill percentage, for example) would suggest they’re the worst in the league at killing penalties.
Given that, games in which the Bruins often find themselves shorthanded figure to be games they’ll lose. Tuesday’s was one of them, as Boston took four second-period penalties that resulted in a pair of Sharks power-play goals in a 5-4 Sharks win at TD Garden.
The B’s took all four penalties of the second period. An Adam McQuaid interference set up San Jose’s first power play of the game, with the B’s being called for a too-many-men penalty during the kill to give San Jose a 10-second 5-on-3. Though the Bruins were able to kill off the two-man advantage, Patrick Marleau scored shortly after to give the Sharks their first power play goal of the night. A Ryan Spooner tripping penalty led to a power play goal from Joe Thornton that made it 5-3. The Bruins were able to survive Tyler Randell’s roughing penalty, but they were minutes wasted shorthanded that could have been put toward chipping away at San Jose’s lead.
The Bruins were able to eventually get within one with a third-period power-play goal from Patrice Bergeron (one of two power-play goals the Bruins scored on the night), but the Bruins failed to tie the game when Thornton put them on the power play at 12:40 for high-sticking Adam McQuaid. Then, with the Bruins making their final push to tie the game, a high-sticking minor from Brad Marchand with 2:40 remaining ate up valuable time the B’s would have likely spent with an extra attacker trying to net the game’s equalizer.
The loss dropped the Bruins to 8-8-1 on the season.
Here are four more things we learned Tuesday:
Tuesday could have been a matchup of two ace goaltenders at the top of their games. It was not.
After getting off to an insane start this season, five-day Bruins property Martin Jones has proven to be human in recent weeks. His first game against the team that traded for and flipped him to San Jose this summer shouldn’t make Bruins fans lose sleep over what could have been.
Jones didn’t have to make too many great saves, and he often didn’t. Loui Eriksson’s second-period goal on a one-timer from the left circle was one Jones was in position to stop but didn’t. As all goalies do with every goal they allow, he’d like to have that one back.
|11.17.15 at 11:34 am ET|
Colin Miller will be one of eight defensemen available to the Bruins when they face the Sharks on Tuesday night, according to Claude Julien. With the B’s holding an optional skate, however, it’s unclear whether he will play.
Miller sat out Saturday night’s win over the Red Wings due to a minor lower-body injury. He said after Monday’s practice that he felt healthy and ready to play.
With Miller absent against the Red Wings, the Bruins went a defensive group of Zdeno Chara, Kevan Miller, Torey Krug, Adam McQuaid, Dennis Seidenberg and Zach Trotman on Saturday. Joe Morrow is also healthy, but has been scratched for the Bruins’ last four games.
Prior to sitting on Saturday, Miller had played in 14 straight games since being a health scratch in the Bruins’ season-opener against the Jets. Miller has one goal and seven assists for eight points on the season, including a six-game point streak that ended earlier this month.
|11.16.15 at 12:48 pm ET|
Colin Miller feels ready to return to the Bruins’ lineup, but it’s unclear whether that will be the case on Tuesday when the B’s host the Sharks.
Miller was kept out of Saturday’s lineup with a lower-body injury, though Claude Julien intimated the injury was minor. Miller took part in Monday’s practice and said that he
“I feel good,” Miller said. “I feel fine, so we’ll see come tomorrow what happens.”
Prior to sitting on Saturday, Miller had played in 14 straight games for the Bruins. Now that Dennis Seidenberg is healthy, however, Miller is one of eight options the Bruins have on defense, with both Joe Morrow and Zach Trotman seeing ample time in the press box.
The Bruins clearly do not have their six defensemen set in stone, so as Claude Julien continues to rotate guys in and out of the lineup on defense, it wouldn’t be outside the realm of possibility for Julien to sit Miller an extra game even if he’s healthy enough to play.
“I think it depends on circumstances,” Julien said. “It depends on if guys are playing well, it’s fine [to play them], if there’s guys that aren’t playing as well and you think a guy can come in and help, you’re going to make those decisions. I don’t think it’s necessarily a clear decision on my part.”
Miller has played well enough to stay in the lineup, however, just as Morrow had been mostly good before being taken out of the lineup recently. With Trotman having sat for 11 straight games before getting back into game action earlier this month, the numbers game on a not-so-good blue line figures to put some of Boston’s young defensemen in the press box more often than they might deserve it.
|11.14.15 at 11:41 pm ET|
On his 44th shot on goal of the season, Torey Krug finally scored his first goal. Dating back to last season, it was his first goal in 27 games, ending the longest drought of his young career.
If Krug were a forward, this would all be a pretty big deal. Given that he’s an offensive defensemen who has scored 26 goals over the last two season, it’s still at least noteworthy. Krug insists he wasn’t giving the drought much thought, though.
“I wasn’t really too worried about it, especially with a few more minutes being played,” Krug said. “My number one job is always defense and that’s been good so far. I can always improve, but it’s nice to get the first one.”
Krug is right, of course. Even if he is an offensive defenseman, he is still, first and foremost, a defenseman. In the past, it was easy to overlook that fact. Krug was often used in situations that catered to his strengths and shielded his question marks (he got a lot of offensive zone starts and faced mostly third and fourth lines), so his defensive game wasn’t exactly facing tough tests.
This season has been different, though. Krug hasn’t been nearly as sheltered as he has been in the past. Given the lack of true top-four defensemen on the Boston blue line, Krug has had to play a bigger role. According to war-on-ice.com, Krug has an offensive zone start percentage of 53.25 percent this year vs. 59.97 percent last year, and only Zdeno Chara has faced tougher quality of competition among Bruins defensemen. Oh, and Krug is second on the B’s in average time on ice (again behind only Chara).
Krug said he has embraced the challenge and pointed out that playing against first and second lines might actually suit his game in a way people wouldn’t necessarily notice.
“You go out there and play hockey that is more suitable to my type of game,” Krug said. “Playing against top-two line guys, they think the same way that I think. How hockey should be played — it’s more fun to play that.”