Archive for October, 2011

Bruins have surprisingly stiff competition in streaking Senators

Monday, October 31st, 2011

As surprising as it seems, even a good start might not have prevented the Bruins from trailing the Senators in the standings… seriously.

While there’s been plenty of attention paid to the last-place Bruins’ 3-7-0 start to the season, folks in Boston might not know that the Senators — the same Senators who picked sixth overall in June’s draft — are 7-5-0 and are currently on a six-game winning streak. That’s bad news for fans who saw Ottawa on the schedule for Tuesday and thought the Bruins would finally have an easy one.

Leading the Senators in points is former second overall pick Jason Spezza, who scored two goals in Saturday’s win over the Rangers and has 15 points (seven goals, eight assists). Milan Michalek is on pace for a career season with 13 points (seven goals, six assists).

While the Senators have averaged three goals per game, it’s rather surprising that they have the record they do when considering they have allowed a league-worst 3.75 goals per game. Craig Anderson (6-2-0) has a 3.66 goals against average in 10 games, while Alex Auld (0-3-0) has a 4.88 GAA. Robin Lehner has won his only start, allowing two goals.

If the Bruins want to snap their three-game losing streak, they’ll have to take advantage of the fact that they have the goaltending to stop Ottawa’s offense and take advantage of an opportunity to bust out of their offensive funk.

Re-examining Nov. 1 and the uphill climb the Bruins face

Monday, October 31st, 2011

Last week, we noted the Bruins should want to be either in or very close to the top eight teams in the Eastern Conference by the time the first of November rolls around. Now, the day isn’t over yet, but chances are there will be no Halloween miracle that takes the Bruins out of dead last before the second month of the season, and based on history, that means they’re in deep trouble.

The Bruins can't afford to have this slump continue, or to have another slump. (AP)

Without totally recycling last week’s story, each of the last two seasons has seen only one Eastern Conference team not in the top eight on Nov. 1 go on to make the playoffs. That means, for the most part at least, that the playoff picture is largely made up after a month, and it barely changes.

So, with the Bruins 3-7-0 and in last place at the end of October, they are going to have a heck of a climb back into the playoff picture if they don’t want the season that follows June’s Stanley Cup victory to be a colossal failure. It means they’re going to need to turn things around quickly to avoid suffering the fate so many teams who start slow, finish strong and still miss the playoffs, see every season. Last year, it was the Devils and the Hurricanes whose stellar play late couldn’t save them, but those teams didn’t have nearly the expectations of the depending champs.

“You look back at things like this [later in the season],” Milan Lucic said Monday. “Obviously, there’s adversity that you have to face throughout the season. For us, it’s right now. We’ve got to figure it out quick, because I know it’s only 10 games, but you know how many teams that have had starts like this that haven’t been able to recover.

“You look at New Jersey last year, who finished as probably the best team since January, and they weren’t able to recover. You can reflect on this. Obviously we’ll see what happens down the road, but we’ve got to do everything we can to get out of this as quick as possible. We’re going to have to do it as a team and as a group effort. The only way we’re going todo this is if we help each other.”

There seems to be an understanding throughout the Bruins’ dressing room that as far as time for struggles go, this is it. They won’t be able to slump at later points in the season, because with overtime losses in place, it will be hard enough as it is for them to gain ground.

“Basically, every team in the league is going to go through a rough patch at some point this year. Our’s is right now, unfortunately. We understand that this is our rough patch, and we won’t be able to have another one, or we’re going to sink ourselves,” Claude Julien said. “There’s a lot of things that you just keep trying to figure our they those things happen, and there are no answers. … Right now if we had the answer, it would have been fixed. That’s why you try to find those answers.”

Whatever the answers are, the Bruins need to find them quick. The last defending champion to miss the playoffs was the 2006-07 Hurricanes.

Brad Marchand knows he’s not scoring or pestering enough

Monday, October 31st, 2011

WILMINGTON — Count Brad Marchand among the large group of Bruins players who have gotten off to poor starts this season, as the second-year pest, who scored 21 goals as a rookie, has been awfully quiet of late.

Brad Marchand (right) has been quiet -- both offensively and literally -- this season. (AP)

Marchand scored the Bruins’ first goal of the season and had two assists in the team’s second game against the Lightning, but much like his team, his production has gone downhill since. The 23-year-old had a third-period goal in the Bruins’ 3-2 loss to the Hurricanes on Oct. 12, but since then has been kept off the scoring sheet in the last six games.

After such a strong rookie campaign, Marchand said that the one area in which he was focused on improving was getting pucks to the net. He did a pretty good job of that in the early going (two or more shots on goal in the first eight games), but has put just one puck on net over the last two games.

Despite his lack of production and lack of effectively bugging the opponent, Marchand isn’t expressing much frustration with his own game yet.

“Sometimes you get more opportunities [in some games] than you do in different games, but I just want to keep working hard and continue to build confidence,” Marchand said. “Hopefully the goals will come.”

As for the lack of getting under opponents’ skin, Marchand admitted there hasn’t been as much jawing and egging on, but that it’s been by design.

“I’ve been trying to stay away from that stuff doing too much of that stuff this year and just worry about playing, but I think I’m going to have to get back to it so I can play the same way I did last year,” Marchand said.

That he’s cut back on being a nuisance at all is surprising. Much like Milan Lucic with fighting, it seems players abandoning one aspect of their game can hurt their overall impact. Marchand rose to stardom a season ago not just for his scoring, but his complete package of grit, penalty-killing and his ability to drive opponents crazy.

Marchand has remained with Patrice Bergeron on the second line throughout the season, the there’s been a revolving door for the line’s right wing. The line started with Rich Peverley in Mark Recchi‘s old spot, and had Nathan Horton for a bit before Claude Julien put Tyler Seguin on the line.

Marchand and Bergeron work well together, as they did last season following his promotion from the team’s first line, but the success hasn’t been there yet. The Nova Scotia native said Monday he hasn’t observed any real differences in how teams and referees approach him this year.

“Not really,” Marchand said. “Every time you play a team, they play you hard and play you strong. Usually, Bergie’s line’s playing against the top line on the other team and trying to shut them down. Playing against top guys, it’s a little tougher.”

There’s no denying Marchand doesn’t have the easiest job in the world, but he faced top lines last season as well. Whether this is some sort of sophomore slump or not, the B’s are obviously hoping for bigger and better things after giving him a two-year deal with $2.5 million per year.

Milan Lucic says Bruins need to change their play, not their roster

Monday, October 31st, 2011

WILMINGTON — When a team is in dead last one month into the season, it’s generally obvious that change is needed, but what about when that team is just a few months removed from winning the Stanley Cup?

With the Bruins currently sitting in last place in all of the Eastern Conference and coming off three straight losses, there has been speculation regarding what moves can be made to improve the club. General manager Peter Chiarelli has reportedly been working the phones, and the possibility exists that the team could call up a player from Providence.

Bruins forward Milan Lucic, who led the team with 30 goals last season, said after Monday’s practice that he doesn’t feel change to the roster is needed.

“I think we’ve proven that this group works. If you look into it too much, you can almost go [crazy] if you read into it or look into it too much,” he said. “This group works, and the only way we’re going to start working again is if we start playing like a group again. I think that’s our biggest challenge right now.

“We need everyone going at the same time and everyone being on the same page and trusting the system, because when we’re going as a group and playing that system that we know how to play, we’ve obviously shown that we can be one of, if not the best, team in the league.”

The 3-7-0 Bruins will host the Senators Tuesday at TD Garden.

Ice-cold Bruins return to practice

Monday, October 31st, 2011

WILMINGTON — Benoit Pouliot was the first to take the ice Monday as the Bruins, coming off three straight losses and a rough home-and-home with the Habs, returned to practice at Ristuccia Arena. Pouliot was sick over the weekend and did not travel with the team to Montreal for Saturday’s game.

The lines appear to be the same as they were to begin Saturday’s game:

Milan Lucic – David Krejci – Nathan Horton
Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – Tyler Seguin
Benoit Pouliot/Jordan Caron – Chris Kelly – Rich Peverley
Daniel Paille – Gregory Campbell – Shawn Thornton

All seven defensemen were present.

Bruins remain in last place after latest loss to Habs

Saturday, October 29th, 2011

The Bruins didn’t do much to move out of last palce Saturday at Bell Centre, as they fell to the Canadiens, 4-2, and dropped their conference-worst record to 3-7-0.

The Bruins fell behind late in the first period when Brian Gionta and Lars Eller scored within 26 seconds of one another. They took a 3-0 lead on a David Desharnais power-play goal in the second period before Milan Lucic got the Bruins on the board. Tyler Seguin made it 3-2 with less than a minute remaining, but Tomas Plekanec put the game away with an empty-netter. Tuukka Rask took the loss for the B’s, dropping his record to 0-3-0 on the season. The Bruins have scored just three goals for Rask in his three starts his season.

The B’s will host the Senators on Tuesday at TD Garden.

WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE BRUINS

- The B’s failed to take advantage of 56 seconds of 5-on-3 play in the third period. Penalties to Eller and Gionta put the B’s in good position to get back in the game while trailing by two, but a it post by David Krejci and a foolish penalty (see below) prevented them from doing any damage.

- Horton once again took an astonishingly ill-timed penalty with the Bruins trying to grasp momentum for their comeback. After Eller’s penalty expired in the third period, the B’s still had a man-advantage to try to make it a one-goal game, but Horton cross-checked Hal Gill in a fit of frustration. This is the same Horton who killed the Bruins’ momentum in the third period against the Hurricanes earlier this month by socking Tim Gleason and taking a roughing double-minor.

- The Bruins were sucked in P.K Subban’s game, making their bid for a comeback that much harder to complete. With the B’s down a man, Andrew Ference gave the Habs defenseman a little shove to the head at 10:25 of the second period, which landed Ference in the box for roughing. Late in the period, Lucic slashed Subban, and the second-year player milked it enough to get a power play out of it. Say what you want about the way he embellishes, but Subban gives his opponents the option to react to his antics. On a night in which the B’s needed to be focused, they chose wrong.

- The Bruins hit a pair of posts in the first period, with both Rich Peverley and Brad Marchand striking iron when trying to beat price stick-side. Krejci hit the same post during the Bruins’ 5-on-3 in the third period.

- Speaking of Marchand, the silence continues from the second-year winger. Marchand has no points over the last six games, and the opportunities haven’t been as plentiful. The 23-year-old said entering the season that his intention was to get more pucks on net this season, but he had no shots on goal Saturday to follow Thursday’s one-shot effort. Julien took him off the second line late in the game in favor of Daniel Paille.

- Lars Eller continues to be a thorn in Rask’s side. The young Habs winger has two goals in the first period on March 8 last season against Rask, and added another in the first period Saturday to make it 2-0. It was ultimately an up-and-down night for Eller, who by this scribe’s count could have easily had four goals, and in addition to causing the turnover that led to the Bruins’ goal, also took the Habs’ first penalty of the night in the third period.

WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE BRUINS

- At least the Bruins got a goal out of Claude Julien’s decision to reunite the Lucic – Krejci – Horton line. Krejci made a nice play by poking at Eller’s stick enough to make a giveaway to Horton possible. Horton then dished it to Lucic, who beat Price for his third goal of the year. For a team that desperately needs its offense to get going, having a first line that actually looks like a first line would be big.

Report: Tyler Seguin has hip condition

Friday, October 28th, 2011

Bruins forward Tyler Seguin has a congenital hip condition that makes him more suspect to a injury, according to a report from ESPNBoston’s Joe McDonald.

McDonald writes that the team is not currently concerned over what the condition may mean for Seguin in the near future, though Seguin could suffer a hip injury if he does not maintain strength in the area.

Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli told McDonald that the condition is “nothing to be alarmed about” and that approximately 70 percent of the Bruins have some sort of hip issue.

“I’m not going to comment whether it’s congenital or not,” Chiarelli said. “I don’t want to get into details what we think it is or isn’t and I don’t want any alarm bells going off. Like I said, you can go through our roster and there are probably 12 or 13 guys with something similar or the same thing.”