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5 things we learned as Bruins inch themselves closer to an early offseason 04.09.15 at 10:22 pm ET
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SUNRISE, Fla. — The Bruins had 20 minutes to stay in control of their season’s destiny. They didn’t do it.

Within the same hour, the Bruins allowed a late second-period power-play goal to the Panthers to tie the game, and the Senators defeated the Rangers. The third period was going to be critical for the B’s in what was a 1-1 game, but rather than making a statement, they allowed the Panthers to score twice against Patrice Bergeron‘s line, putting the Senators a win away from reaching the playoffs in the process.

Brad Marchand got the Bruins within one with a well-placed wrist shot over Roberto Luongo‘s shoulder to end a 15-game scoreless streak with five minutes to play, but the Panthers answered promptly with a Jimmy Hayes goal to make it a 4-2 Panthers win.

Claude Julien was aggressive in pulling Tuukka Rask with 3:35 remaining in regulation, but the team was called for a too-many-men minor with 2:37 left.

The Bruins (95 points) are not yet eliminated, but they must win Saturday in Tampa and receive help from other teams. If Boston beats Tampa Saturday and Ottawa loses to the Flyers in regulation, Boston would make the playoffs over Ottawa. If Boston wins Saturday and Pittsburgh loses both of its remaining games, the B’s also would get in. Detroit going to overtime against the Canadiens Friday meant the B’s can no longer catch the Red Wings.

Here are four more things we learned Thursday:

STRONG START, NO GOALS AND A PREDICTABLE LETUP

A terrible start to Wednesday’s game against the Capitals cost the B’s two much-needed points. They realized their errors and dominated in the early going against Florida.

Boston had 10 of the first 12 shots on goal, while a power play that Marchand drew resulted in two full minutes without the Panthers clearing. One thing was missing, however: goals.

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Read More: Boston Bruins, Patrice Bergeron,
Bruins prepare for critical meeting with Panthers 04.09.15 at 6:40 pm ET
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SUNRISE, Fla. — The Bruins say they understand the threat that exists of them missing the playoffs. Thursday night’€™s game against the Panthers, their 81st game of the season, needs to be their biggest push.

That means the B’€™s can’€™t have the start they did Wednesday, when two poor play with the puck and coverage lapses put them in an early deficit from which they never recovered.

“I think [we need to] come out a lot more focused,” Dennis Seidenberg said. “Playing the way we’€™re supposed to, which is getting pucks deep and managing the puck a lot better than we did.”

Claude Julien said their could be lineup changes Thursday, though he did not specify which players could be in or out. Zdeno Chara will play.

The Bruins enter Thursday’€™s game tied with the Senators with 95 points through 80 games on the season. A playoff berth could be secured either by Boston winning both its final games or by the B’€™s finishing with more points in the next two games than the Senators.

“To this point, I think if we win the next two games I don’€™t think anyone will even be talking about this anymore,”€ Brad Marchand said. “€œThat’€™s [easier] said [than] done. We’€™ve got a lot of really good leadership in there that we can follow going into games like tonight.”

Both the B’€™s and Senators are in action Thursday, as the Senators will face a Rangers team that has already clinched the Presidents’€™ Trophy and is resting Rick Nash, Marc Staal and Mats Zuccarello.

Perhaps the Rangers would prefer the Senators to the Bruins as a first-round opponent. Letting their players rest while improving Ottawa’€™s playoff chances could kill two birds with one stone.

“I’€™m not following what other teams do around the league,” Chara said. “Usually that’€™s the case for many teams, but we have to focus on what we have to do.”

Read More: Claude Julien, Zdeno Chara,
Zdeno Chara mum on possible foot injury 04.09.15 at 5:42 pm ET
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SUNRISE, Fla. — Zdeno Chara has been hit in the left foot area in each of the last two games by pucks, resulting in a pair of occurrences in which the Boston captain was in noticeable pain.

After the team arrived at BB&T Center for what should be considered a must-win against the Panthers, Chara deflected a question about how he was feeling.

“Good, you?” Chara responded.

“You know the deal,” he added. “Can’€™t talk about it, so that’€™s the way it is.”

Chara was slow to leave the ice after a David Booth shot hit him in what looked to be the outside of the foot Saturday, while a Joel Ward shot Wednesday slowed him after hitting the Boston captain on the inside of the foot. Chara took two very short shifts after Wednesday’€™s scare and went on to take regular shifts.

He has not looked to be particularly comfortable following the injuries, however. Chara had a bit of a limp after Saturday’€™s game and missed Monday’€™s practice. His strides also seemed hindered as he walked in on Thursday.

Read More: Zdeno Chara,
Claude Julien should go back to what works in must-win games 04.09.15 at 11:15 am ET
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Though he's better off at center long-term, David Krejci should stick at right wing for now. (Elsa/Getty Images)

Though he’s better off at center long-term, David Krejci should stick at right wing for now. (Elsa/Getty Images)

SUNRISE, Fla. — By the end of Thursday night, the Bruins could either be in the playoffs, a win away from them, or in big trouble.

Two points against the Panthers is the team’€™s surest path of avoiding that last scenario. With the B’€™s tied with the Senators with 95 points and holding the regulation and overtime wins tiebreaker for the time being, the Bruins must assume that Ottawa will win both its remaining games. The Rangers have incentive to let Ottawa win on Thursday as a means of making sure they don’t have to see Tuukka Rask in the postseason. Winning Thursday and Saturday could very well be the only way in for Boston.

After Wednesday’€™s loss to the Capitals, Claude Julien should go back to some of the lines that helped the Bruins beat the Panthers and four other teams during Boston’€™s recent five-game win streak.

A confusing lack of commitment was a bigger reason for Wednesday’s result, but the lines also played a part. Julien broke up the trio of Ryan Spooner between Milan Lucic and David Pastrnak Wednesday in his second attempt to return David Krejci to center. The Lucic-Krejci-Pastrnak line opened with two bad shifts, the second of which saw them give Washington a goal, and they were broken up. In the third period, Julien went back to Lucic-Spooner-Pastrnak and returned Krejci to Patrice Bergeron‘s right wing.

He shouldn’€™t wait that long Thursday. The Spooner line scored the game-tying and game-winning goals against the Panthers on March 31 at the Garden, making up for the fact that they allowed a Brad Boyes goal.

It’€™s understandable why Julien wants to move Krejci back to center, but at this point the B’€™s could actually better afford to experiment in Game 1 or 2 of the playoffs than in Game 81 of the regular season. Julien should go back to Brad Marchand-Bergeron-Krejci and Lucic-Spooner-Pastrnak against the Panthers.

Where things go from there is unknown. The Bruins did not have a morning skate on Thursday, so Julien’€™s plan with his lines is once again anyone’€™s guess.

He should use the lines he used against the Maple Leafs last Saturday. Even if they scored only one goal during 65 minutes of play against a bad team, they took 81 shots. Such performances should pay off on the scoreboard, even if one didn’€™t overwhelm on Saturday.

The lines in that game were as follows:

Marchand-Bergeron-Krejci
Eriksson-Soderberg-Smith
Lucic-Spooner-Pastrnak
Talbot-Kelly-Connolly

That game saw the Marchand-Bergeron-Krejci line score its first goal in its six games together. Moving Krejci to center meant breaking up a line when it was just starting to produce.

After a couple of costly mistakes from Reilly Smith, Brett Connolly moved up to play with Carl Soderberg and Louis Eriksson. Julien should start the game with Connolly playing in that spot.

This is suboptimal for the Bruins. In a perfect world, they could take their time and get to a point where Lucic and Krejci can be reunited. Lucic-Spooner-Pastrnak playing against weaker competition is too proven to go away from now, however. Julien’€™s best bet at winning these games is sticking with what works.

Read More: David Krejci,
5 things we learned as Bruins get shutout by Braden Holtby once again 04.08.15 at 10:38 pm ET
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WASHINGTON, D.C. — When the Senators fell behind by three goals Tuesday night, it seemed the Bruins were a win away from a playoff spot. When the Bruins fell behind by three goals a night later, Boston’€™s playoff chances became slightly better than a coin flip.

While Ottawa was able to erase its deficit and win on Tuesday, the Bruins’€™ worrisome outing against the Capitals meant that their game in hand is now gone and they enter a two-game fight for their playoff lives.

For the third time this season, the Bruins failed to beat Braden Holtby as the Washington netminder picked up his third shutout against the Bruins this season, stopping all 27 Boston shots Wednesday. The B’€™s played sloppily with the puck and didn’t enjoy potent stays in the offensive zone, leading to the 3-0 blanking.

He becomes the first goalie to blank the Bruins in all three games in one season, stopping all 88 shots he faced.

Not helping the Bruins was the fact that they did not have a power play on the night. The only three penalties of the game came against Boston.

With the loss, the Bruins remain at 95 points, tied with the Senators for the second wild card spot in the Eastern Conference through 80 games. If the Bruins win Thursday in Florida and Saturday in Tampa with at least one of the wins coming in regulation or overtime, they’€™ll be in.

The B’€™s could still also surpass the Penguins (96 points), Red Wings (97) or Islanders (98), but Wednesday presented a much easier option for the team to control its destiny. Now their playoff hopes could very well come down to the final game of the season.

Here are four more things we learned Wednesday:

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Read More: Boston Bruins, David Krejci, David Pastrnak, Washington Capitals
Pressure still on Bruins in difficult matchup with Capitals 04.08.15 at 1:04 pm ET
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Braden Holtby has shut out the Bruins twice this season. (Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images)

Braden Holtby has shut out the Bruins twice this season. (Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Claude Julien said he watched “a couple periods” of Tuesday night’€™s Penguins-Senators game. Interestingly enough, so did the Penguins.

“That third period wasn’€™t what I expected,” he added after Wednesday’€™s morning skate.

By now, he probably should have expected it. The Senators came back from from a 3-0 deficit with a goal in the second period and two more in the third to force overtime, where Mark Stone scored his second goal of the night to give Ottawa two huge points and keep the pressure on the Bruins. The fact that Pittsburgh picked up a point in the process on a night in which Detroit jumped back into the third playoff spot in the Atlantic Division didn’€™t help either.

Had the Senators lost in regulation to the Penguins, the Bruins could have wrapped up a playoff spot with a win over the Capitals Wednesday. Now, the Bruins need as many or more points in their final three games than the Senators get in their final two.

The Bruins and Senators are currently tied with 95 points. If the Senators are to win out, the Bruins would need to earn four points, with at least one of those victories coming in regulation or overtime. That’€™s what’€™s required to finish ahead of the Senators.

Of course, both teams could still get in and another could slip out. The Penguins are at 96 points on the season through 80 games, while the Red Wings (97 points in 80 games) and Islanders (98 points in 80 games) remain at risk to miss the playoffs.

All of the teams with whom the Bruins are competing for a spot in the postseason have played 80 games. Wednesday night’€™s tilt against the Capitals, who have already secured a playoff spot but would still benefit from two points for the sake of positioning, is Boston’€™s 80th game. Winning in regulation or overtime would allow the B’€™s to breathe far easier heading into their final two games.

“We’€™ve been playing kind of playoff hockey in the last 10, 15 games, so nothing’€™s going to change in these last three games,” David Krejci said.

“The good thing is that we control our own destiny, and if we win all three games then we don’€™t have to look at other teams,” he added. “It’€™s a pretty big game tonight, so we’€™ll try to get two points and move on to Florida tomorrow.”

Getting two points won’€™t be easy. Braden Holtby is expected to start for the Capitals Wednesday, and the Bruins have yet to get a puck past him in two meetings this season. The last time the teams met, a first-period Brad Marchand penalty led to a goal for Washington’€™s NHL-best power play that decided the March 15 contest.

“We’€™ve got to be a little bit better than we were last time,” Julien said. “It took us a while; they had a good start and it took us a while to get ourselves in the game. They got an early power play goal and then it stayed like that for a while.”

That is, until a Nate Schmidt shot went off Gregory Campbell‘€™s hand and past Tuukka Rask. From there, Braden Holtby completed his second shutout of the season against the Bruins with a 32-save blanking.

“We have to have a better start and manage the puck well against these guys. I think we can spend some time in the o-zone if we manage the puck better than we did in here last time and keep our feet moving, and at the same time, respect their offense. To me it’€™s going to be a man’€™s game tonight and if you want to play this kind of game, you’€™ve got to be ready to put everything on the line.”

Read More: Braden Holtby, Claude Julien, David Krejci,
Claude Julien sends mixed signals with lines as Bruins prepare for Capitals 04.08.15 at 12:31 pm ET
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WASHINGTON, D.C. — As the Bruins prepare for the first of what could be three must-wins to end the regular season, Claude Julien is in secret-keeping mode.

Both Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg participated in Wednesday’€™s morning skate, but Julien’€™s forward lines were borderline indecipherable. The two lines that stayed consistent throughout were Marchand-Bergeron-Eriksson and Lucic-Krejci-Pastrnak. The bottom six varied.

Early in the skate, the third line was Carl Soderberg between Chris Kelly and Reilly Smith, with Julien not putting a fourth line out in rushes. Later in the practice, the bottom six was Kelly/Paille-Spooner-Connolly and Campbell-Soderberg-Smith. How the lines look when the Capitals and Bruins square off at 8 p.m. is anyone’€™s guess.

“I know it’€™s a big story right now, but it is what it is,” Julien said after the morning skate. “We’€™re moving guys around and we’€™ve got Plan A, Plan B, Plan C, if you want. We can move different guys around, so to me it’€™s a normal thing for coaches. I look at the teams that are winning, and from game to game they change lines anyway.

“I guess you guys have gotten accustomed to seeing the same lines from me for years and being a little more patient. This year’€™s been different. That’€™s basically what it is.”

Krejci has played mostly right wing in his six games back from a knee injury. Asked whether he felt healthy enough to return full-time to center (such an attempt did not last in last Thursday’s game against the Red Wings), Krejci declined comment.

“I don’€™t like to answer these questions,” Krejci said. “I’€™m playing, so I feel good.”

Read More: Claude Julien,
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