Archive for November, 2013

Bruins defense bounces back from Detroit disaster with pair of excellent games

Saturday, November 30th, 2013

The NHL was a different place in 2002. Goals and shots were as low as they’d been since the 1950s, and it wasn’t rare at all to see teams held under 20 shots on goal in a game. In fact, the 2001-02 Bruins — one of the better defensive teams in the league — held opponents under that mark 13 times.

But things have changed since then. The rule changes following the lockout in 2004-05 helped open the game back up, and although we’ll probably never get back to the eight-goals-per-game days of the 1980s, we’re at least seeing more shots and chances than the pre-lockout days. And we’re certainly not seeing teams hold opponents under 20 shots on goal as frequently as we used to — the 2011-12 Bruins, a top defensive team just like the B’€™s squad 10 years before, did it just four times.

All of that information sets up this: over the last two days, the Bruins have held their opponents under 20 shots on goal in back-to-back games for the first time since that 2001-02 season (April 11 and 13 of that season, to be exact).

It’s a feat that in today’s NHL would be impressive at any time. But for the Bruins, it’s even more significant considering it followed Wednesday’s debacle in Detroit, when they surrendered six goals on one defensive breakdown after another.

“We want to put that game behind us,” Zdeno Chara said. “You’re going to have a game like that where everything is off. Hopefully there’s not too many of them. But after that game, we really wanted to focus on how we were going to play defensively, and more focused on us than the teams we play. Don’t get me wrong — we want to respect their strength and whatever they do well, but mainly we want to focus on how we’re going to implement our game plan.” (more…)

Milan Lucic scores twice as Bruins beat Blue Jackets

Saturday, November 30th, 2013

Milan Lucic had a pair of goals and his first fight of the season as the Bruins skated to a 3-1 win over the Blue Jackets Saturday.

Picking up the win for the Bruins was Chad Johnson, who faced only 14 shots and improved to 4-1-0 on the season.

Patrice Bergeron scored the Bruins’ first goal, firing a puck past a screening Loui Eriksson and Columbus netminder Curtis McElhinney for Bergeron’s second goal in as many games. After Carl Soderberg got hooked by Ryan Johansen, Lucic tipped a Torey Krug shot in front for a power-play goal to give the Bruins a 2-0 lead in the first period.

Lucic added his second of the game and 11th of the season with a shot that beat McElhinney high in the third period, and though the Blue Jackets got one back on a power-play goal from Johansen, the B’s were able to limit their chances throughout the night and prevent them getting back into a game in which the B’s probably could have led bigger.

The Bruins will have four days off before they play next, as their schedule will resume Thursday in Montreal for their first meeting of the season against the Canadiens.

WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE BRUINS

Chad Johnson could have stayed on the bench and the teams would have been tied in the first period, as Columbus put only two shots on goal in the first 20 minutes. That followed a showing for the Bruins Friday in which they surrendered just 11 shots over the final two periods to the Rangers, so the B’s went three periods while only allowing 13 shots on goal with no goals against.

– Speaking of shots on goal, this weekend the Bruins allowed less than 20 shots on gaol in back-to-back games for the first time since April of 2002.

– Eriksson continues to reward the Bruins with his play in front. A day after his work in front led to a rebound going off Dan Girardi and in, Eriksson screened McElhinney on Bergeron’s first-period goal.

Eriksson had the pass to Dougie Hamilton before Hamilton fed it to Bergeron, so he picked up the secondary helper and now has two goals and an assist for three points against the Blue Jackets in three meetings this season.

WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE BRUINS

– Lucic fought Dalton Prout in the second period, and though it was a good fight between a couple of big kids, it was questionable timing on Lucic’s part. The Bruins had the puck in the offensive zone when he got tangled up with Prout in front, and though the B’s lost possession and the puck was coming out of the zone by the time the two were well into the fight, they were going at it for a few seconds beforehand.

Jarome Iginla can’t seem to buy a goal, as he was stopped on a bid off a McElhinney rebound in the second period and, after appearing in real-time to tip Lucic’s second goal in, saw credit rightfully given to his linemate. Iginla still has just five goals through 26 games this season, but he’s turned in strong play despite not being able to find the back of the net often.

Brad Marchand could have had his second goal in as many games were it not for a hit post in the third period. Things continue to look up for Marchand, however, and it was pretty comical seeing him take two laps around the offensive zone with the puck on a third period shift.

Scott McLaughlin contributed to this report.

Chad Johnson likely in net for Bruins vs. Blue Jackets

Saturday, November 30th, 2013

It would appear that Chad Johnson will be between the pipes for Saturday night’s game between the Bruins and the Blue Jackets. Both Johnson and Tuukka Rask participated in an optional morning skate for the Bruins, but Rask stayed out much longer than Johnson.

Johnson has started just four of the Bruins’ 26 games this season. He is 3-1-0 with a .917 save percentage and a 2.21 goals-against average. His last start came last Saturday against the Hurricanes, with each of his last two starts resulting in overtime wins for the Bruins.

Saturday’s game is the second of a back-to-back for the Bruins, as it follows Friday’s 3-2 win over the Rangers. It’s the fifth time the Bruins have had back-to-backs this season, but the first in which the B’s haven’t had to travel. Rask has started both games of two of the Bruins’ back-to-backs thus far, with the two goalies splitting the other two to this point.

The Bruins will have four days between games following Saturday, as they won’t play again until they face the Canadiens in Montreal on Thursday.

Nathan Horton did not travel to Boston and remains on long-term injury reserve for the Blue Jackets. He has yet to play for them since getting offseason shoulder surgery, though he has been skating with them since last week.

For more Bruins coverage, visit weei.com/bruins.

Brad Marchand’s improved play pays off with goal, assist vs. Rangers

Friday, November 29th, 2013

It’s still too early to say Brad Marchand has completely turned things around, but he has certainly been making more good things happen over the last few weeks. At times, it hasn’t translated to points, but in Friday’s 3-2 win over the Rangers, it did.

Midway through the first period, Marchand one-timed a Zdeno Chara pass under the crossbar to give the Bruins a 1-0 lead. Then early in the third, he weaved through the Rangers defense before setting up Patrice Bergeron for the game-tying goal. It marked Marchand’s first multi-point game of the season, in his and the team’€™s 26th game played. By comparison, Marchand had five multi-point games in the first 26 games last season and four the year before.

A quick look at Marchand’s game log shows that he had two goals and three assists in his 12 games prior to Friday. Big deal, right? True, that in and of itself is not a big deal. But what could be a big deal is that Marchand has been getting chances.

He had two or more shots on goal in 10 of those 12 games. To put that in perspective, his career average is just under two per game. (Oddly enough, his goal Friday was actually his only shot on goal for the game.) And to add even more context, in the eight games prior to that stretch, he had three shots on goal total.

So Marchand had been getting looks and taking shots; they just weren’t going in. And this is where we point out that Marchand’s shooting percentage going into Friday was 7.5 percent, less than half of his 16.8 and 19.8 marks the last two seasons.

“I really think that he’s picked up his game a lot,” Bergeron said. “Obviously everyone in the last game [a 6-1 loss to Detroit], that was something that we just can’t really talk about. But for six, seven games before that, I thought he was playing really well and improving, moving his feet. Every time he does that, he creates a lot of chances for himself, but also for us as his linemates. I think he’s been playing pretty well actually.”

To illustrate Bergeron’s point about Marchand’s importance to the whole line: in shifts with Marchand on the ice, the Bruins have out-attempted their opponent in 12 of the last 13 games. In the eight games before that — the same eight in which Marchand wasn’t getting shots on goal — the Bruins out-attempted the opposition during Marchand’s shifts just once.

Marchand hasn’t forgotten how to shoot the puck. His goal Friday afternoon — a blast from the lower right circle that Henrik Lundqvist had virtually no chance of stopping — is evidence of that. So if Marchand continues to shoot, chances are more pucks will start to go in.

The biggest concern during Marchand’s early-season struggles was that he wasn’t even getting the chances. According to him, that was because he wasn’t doing a lot of the little things he needed to do to be successful. He admitted on Friday that it started to get to his head, that he started worrying about the lack of points.

“I was frustrated and worried about points and putting up numbers and stuff like that,” Marchand said. “I think I had the wrong mindset there. It was more about the things you’ve got to do to get there and different areas of the game that I had to improve.”

But now he’s in a better place. He knows he’s doing those little things, he knows he’s getting his chances, and he knows the points will follow.

“I think once I just kind of calmed down and worried about playing my game and letting everything else go, I felt a lot better.”

Zdeno Chara leads Bruins past Rangers

Friday, November 29th, 2013

Zdeno Chara capped a Gordie Howe hat-trick with a slap shot from the point to break a 2-2 tie Friday as the Bruins outlasted the Rangers with a 3-2 win at TD Garden.

Brad Marchand got the Bruins on the board first when Chara sent a cross-ice pass to him in the first period that he one-timed past Henrik Lundqvist for his fourth goal of the season. The Rangers answered back with goals from Rick Nash and Ryan McDonagh, but the Bruins were able to tie it on a Patrice Bergeron shot that went off Lundvist, then Dan Girardi in front and into the net.

Chara fought BC product Brian Boyle in the second period, winning decidedly after landing a number of rights.

Tuukka Rask made 17 saves for the Bruins as he kept the Rangers off the board over the final two periods.

Dennis Seidenberg returned to the Bruins’ lineup after missing the previous three games with a lower-body injury. Seidenberg skated on a pairing with Dougie Hamilton, while Matt Bartkowski was a healthy scratch after playing the previous nine games for the B’s.

The Bruins will play the second game of a back-to-back Saturday when they host the Blue Jackets at TD Garden.

WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE BRUINS

– It’s nice to see Patrice Bergeron’s line get a couple of goals. Eriksson continues to put up points, as he now has 11 points (three goals, eight assists) in his last 12 games despite having no points in four of those contests.

Meanwhile, Marchand had his first multi-point game of the season with a goal and an assist.

– The Bruins picked up their play in the second period, particularly in the case of David Krejci‘s line. The trio was silent in the first but had multiple scoring opportunities in the second, with Lundqvist leaving a rebound off a Milan Lucic shot in front for the taking, but Jarome Iginla couldn’t get to it. Iginla also missed the net on a slapshot glove-side from the high slot.

– Further proof that when Zdeno Chara asks you to fight, you politely decline. Chara stomped Rangers giant Brian Boyle after a scrum in front of Henrik Lundqvist’s net in the second period. The two were in one another’s faces with Chara repeatedly saying “Wanna go?” Even though he’s 6-foot-7, Boyle probably should have said no.

WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE BRUINS

– The Rangers’ two-goal first period meant the Bruins allowed nine five-on-five goals against over a six-period span dating back to James Neal’s goals in Monday’s win over the Penguins. That’s a bit of a departure from how things normally operate with Claude Julien‘s club. For the sake of comparison, the Bruins allowed just two five-on-five goals in the six periods prior.

– Speaking of five-on-five goals, Nash’s goal marked at least the fourth five-on-five goal scored against Patrice Bergeron and Zdeno Chara this season. They were on the ice together for just one five-on-five goal over last season’s 48-game schedule, but this season they have been on the ice for a pair of Henrik Zetterberg goals, a Tuomo Ruutu goal earlier this month and Nash’s first-period goal Friday.

– Lundqvist got some help from the iron surrounding him, as a couple of Bruins chances hit the post. First, a Chara bid in front off a pass from Bergeron beat Lundqvist high glove side but clanked off the post. In the second period, a Torey Krug shot from the point with Kelly in front appeared to grab some iron as well.

– Not a banner day for Reilly Smith, as he whiffed on a puck in the crease in the first period and was a bit out of position on McDonagh’s goal. Smith left the slot to chase the puck down low, but once he took a step the puck was fed high to McDonagh, who had space and a lane to fire a shot past Rask.

Bruins return Kevan Miller to Providence

Thursday, November 28th, 2013

The Bruins announced Thursday that they have sent defenseman Kevan Miller to Providence after he spent the last four games with the team. Miller made his NHL debut and played three games during his time up in Boston.

The B’s had to recall Miller last week due to injuries to Dennis Seidenberg and Adam McQuaid, but McQuaid’s return meant he was a healthy scratch Wednesday against the Red Wings.

Skating often with former Providence partner Matt Bartkowski, Miller was solid in his three-game stint in the Bruins’ lineup and held an even rating. He played 20:13 in Monday’s win over the Penguins but was on the ice for Sidney Crosby’s game-tying goal.

For more on the Bruins, visit weei.com/bruins.

Bruins routed by Red Wings in Detroit

Wednesday, November 27th, 2013

There isn’t a turkey, Thanksgiving or Hanukkah quip that would accurately represent how bad the Bruins were Wednesday night in Detroit.

The Red Wings, who were playing without Pavel Datsyuk and Todd Bertuzzi, routed the B’s to the tune of a 6-1 win on a night in which the Bruins rarely had scoring chances and tied their season low with 17 shots on goal. Jarome Iginla had the Bruins’ lone goal, breaking up Jonas Gustavsson‘s shutout bid with 2:25 to play.

The first period yielded just a Justin Abdeklader goal, but it was the second period where the damage was done. Detroit scored on three of its first shots on Tuukka Rask in the period, getting tallies from Tomas Tatar, Henrik Zetterberg and Niklas Kronwall. The Bruins, meanwhile, managed just three shots on Gustavsson in the second period.

Drew Miller made it 5-0 in the third period, and a Gustav Nyquist pass went off a diving Torey Krug and in to cap the Detroit’s scoring.

Adam McQuaid returned after missing the previous eight games with a lower-body injury. He finished the game with a minus-1 rating and a pair of penalties, the first of which was an elbow on Tatar that gave the Red Wings the power play on which Kronwall scored.

Jordan Caron played in place of Shawn Thornton, with Thornton being made a healthy scratch for the second time this season in an effort to play Caron in a game that likely wouldn’t see many gloves being dropped. Caron skated on the right wing of Gregory Campbell‘s line.

The Bruins will return to action Friday at TD Garden when they host the Rangers in their annual Black Friday matinee.

WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE BRUINS

– They were slow and they were sloppy. That’s that long and the short of it. The Red Wings skated circles around them and had long stays in the Boston zone. Especially on Zetterberg’s goal, which came shortly after Nyquist missed an empty net, the B’s had their top line chasing the puck around in their own zone.

Claude Julien was none too happy with his team’s performance, as he called a timeout following Detroit’s fourth goal and screamed at his team on the bench.

He also made some adjustments with his lines, shaking up his top three trios and going with the following lines in the third period (Campbell’s line remained the same)”

Soderberg – Krejci – Eriksson
Smith – Bergeron – Iginla
Lucic – Kelly – Marchand

– Rask wasn’t particularly bad, but he did allow a bad goal on the Red Wings’ second tally. The Bruins’ netminder obviously saw Tatar as he took a pass from Brian Lashoff in the neutral zone, skated into the offensive zone, fell down, got back up with the puck and skated behind the net before beating Rask on a wraparound.

Interestingly enough, Julien did not elect to yank Rask following the Red Wings’ fourth goal (which was scored halfway through the second) or for the third period.

WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE BRUINS

– They stayed healthy. That’s pretty much it, as it was easily their worst showing of the season. At least they didn’t suffer any injuries in the loss, meaning they can wash the stink off and go into Friday’s game with Wednesday’s debacle in the rearview mirror.