|5 things we learned as Bruins handle Coyotes in last game before trade deadline||02.28.15 at 8:05 pm ET|
In the Bruins’ final game before Monday’s trade deadline, they delivered a message that they haven’t delivered enough this season: This group can be dominant.
The team needs reinforcements to go far, with a top-four defenseman rivaling consistency for the biggest thing standing between this Bruins team and a deep run. Still, Boston turned in a thorough performance Saturday and took an easy 4-1 victory against a bad Coyotes team (box) in an effort that was more promising than
Patrice Bergeron‘s line scored a pair of goals against potential trade targets, while Ryan Spooner’s line continued to show it has the offensive chops to make up for its defensive shortcomings. The team chased Arizona starting goalie Mike Smith after putting four of their first 20 shots past him.
Tuukka Rask, after finally getting a night off Friday, came 9:39 away from his third shutout of the season, with Martin Erat breaking it up late in the game.
The Bruins’ play of late – wins in three of four games – and their current standing in the final Eastern Conference wild card spot leaves management with a difficult decision regarding whether the Bruins should be big buyers in a season that’s seen injuries and subpar play prevent the team from getting any traction.
Here are four more things we learned Saturday:
VERMETTE LOOKS ROUGH IN LIKELY FINALE
Antoine Vermette may be the biggest name remaining of the players expected to be dealt, which probably says more about this trade market than it does about Vermette.
Nevertheless, Vermette being in town Saturday meant the Bruins, who are believed to be interested in Vermette’s services, got a chance to watch him on Garden ice. The takeaway: He isn’t going to dominate top lines, and he’s now gone six straight games without a point.
Matched up against Bergeron’s line early, Vermette was exposed Saturday night for a first-period Brad Marchand goal. Vermette was passive in the offensive zone, as Marchand broke the puck out cleanly with a pass through Vermette to Bergeron. The Bruins took the puck the length of the ice before Marchand took a feed from Reilly Smith and fired it in from the left circle.
Patrice Bergeron is as difficult an opponent as there is in the NHL and Saturday was in all likelihood Vermette’s final game with the Coyotes, so the environment and circumstances may have factored into the veteran center’s performance. Either way, the guy isn’t worth a first-round pick.
BRUINS BEAT YANDLE, TOO
The thought here has been that the Bruins shouldn’t give up much for Vermette unless defenseman Keith Yandle comes with him. Well, just in case the Bruins are interested in that, the Bergeron line did its best to lower his value, too.
Bergeron scored his 18th goal of the season thanks to Smith outbattling Yandle in front of the net. With the players fighting for position in front and Yandle’s stick elevated, Bergeron’s pass in front went off the Milton native’s skate and past Smith to make it 3-0.
Yandle has one more year remaining on his contract after this season at $5.25 million. He’s a terrific offensive player, but plays like Saturday’s will happen with him.
SPOONER LINE SCORING
As we’ve written before Ryan Spooner’s line with Milan Lucic and David Pastrnak is going to make defensive mistakes, and the Bruins can live with that as long as the line scores.
Four games into the experiment, the Bruins (relatively, given what this season has been) are alive and well. Members of the Spooner line have totaled three goals over the last two games and four in the four games they’ve been together, as Spooner netted the game-winner Friday night in overtime and Pastrnak scored on the shift following a power play in the second period.
Lucic scored his 13th goal of the season Saturday after Pastrnak chipped the puck into the zone, with the bouncing puck causing Mike Smith to leave his net and quickly retreat. This allowed Lucic to throw the puck off the goalie’s skate from behind the net for the game’s first goal.
The line had to be bailed out a couple times ‘ Dennis Seidenberg bailed out Pastrnak in the second and Rask bailed out Spooner after missing the puck in the neutral zzone on a third-period chance, but that’s to be expected. As long as the goals for outweigh the goals against, the Bruins can get away with playing the three together.
CHARA ON POINT LIKE A DECIMAL IS
Part of the Bruins’ recent revamp of their power play included a position change for Zdeno Chara. It worked out for the Bruins Saturday night.
After playing forward as the net-front man on the first power play unit since the beginning of last season, Chara was moved to the point on the second unit. Boston’s second group had a very rough go of it during Boston’s first power play, struggling with a pair of entries, the first of which resulted in a clear and the second of which saw Pastrnak go offsides.
The group made up for it in the second period, as Chara took a pass from Reilly Smith and stepped into a one-time from the top of the right circle that went flying past a screening Carl Soderberg and Mike Smith.
|Bruins recall goaltender Jeremy Smith on emergency basis||02.27.15 at 1:33 pm ET|
The Bruins recalled goaltender Jeremy Smith from Providence on an emergency basis Friday.
Rask has not had a night off since Jan. 8. With Smith up, the Bruins have the options of sitting Rask and dressing Svedberg and Smith.
|Bruins might have to rely on Matt Bartkowski again||02.26.15 at 9:30 pm ET|
When asked Thursday what he learned from last postseason, Matt Bartkowski brought up an expression that Providence coach Bruce Cassidy tells his players.
“If you don’t bring your A game,” Bartkowski said, “you’ve got to bring your B game.”
That might not fit any player better than it does Bartkowski. Ups and downs and ins and outs are pretty much all he knows at the NHL level. Getting into the Bruins’ lineup has been tough, and when he’s played he’s been the ultimate trick-or-treat player. Now the Bruins might need him again.
Defense has arguably been the Bruins’ biggest need all season, and that was before the B’s lost Kevan Miller to season-ending shoulder surgery. After serving as a healthy scratch for a month and a half (17 straight games), Bartkowski was given a game against Calgary during the Bruins’ recent road trip and stuck in the lineup after Miller went down.
A trade (or a callup of Joe Morrow) could change things, but for now Bartkowski finds himself in a similar situation as last season. He could be in line to play a top-four role down the stretch, as he did last season when Dennis Seidenberg went down in late December and the Bruins couldn’t adequately replace him via trade. Perhaps because the Bruins would rather Torey Krug stay on the third pairing, Bartkowski is almost always used as a top-four player when he is in the lineup.
While an upgrade to Boston’s second pairing (Bartkowski-Seidenberg) is needed for the Bruins to make a deep run, Bartkowski’s last few games have suggested he’ll fare better in the spot than he did earlier in the season, when he and Seidenberg turned in some especially ugly games, including one in which Bartkowski’s positioning cost the B’s a game against the Avalanche in the final second on a Daniel Briere goal.
It’s odd that Bartkowski has looked fine after not playing for a month given that he was a disaster at the beginning of the season, when one would thing he would be physically sharper. Bartkowski himself finds it puzzling, but his priority is keeping his play where it is.b
“To start the year, I wasn’t playing well at all, and then when I got in right before the California swing, I started to play well, and then out again,” he said. “I don’t know. It just came around. I’m playing like myself again.”
Claude Julien said that while Bartkowski was out of the lineup, the team had him fine-tune things that have left him better equipped now than he was before. Asked what specifically, Julien replied ‘a lot of everything.’
“A lot in all different areas. Sometimes you know you’re a natural skater, which I think he is, and you think you can get away with that,” Julien said.”But it takes a little bit more than that. You’ve got to be prepared as a player. Are you mentally prepared to make plays? Are you ready to put the time in? To be in good shape is one thing; to be in great shape is another.”
Bartkowski’s experience in this role ended the wrong way last year. After Andrej Meszaros was brought in to challenge him, Bartkowski got sick and missed the beginning of the playoffs. When he came back, he was off his game. Meszaros wasn’t any better, and the Bruins were forced into a rotation of struggling defensemen playing important games.
“It was just more inconsistent in the playoffs,” he recalled. “There was like a good [game], a really bad one, a good one, a really bad one. That just can’t happen again.”
The next few days will say a lot about what Bartkowski’s role with the Bruins will be going forward, assuming he isn’t traded. Forcing their seventh defenseman to play big minutes hurt the team last season, but if it happens again, Bartkowski thinks that with health and improved play, he can handle the job.
“This year, I’m gonna hold my spot,” Bartkowski said. “I want to stay consistent. I don’t want to have any dips at all.”
That’s the right attitude to have, but it’s always been easier said than done with Bartkowski and the Bruins.
|Bruins place David Krejci on long-term injured reserve||02.26.15 at 7:48 pm ET|
David Krejci is on long-term injured reserve, a team source confirmed Thursday. The news was first reported by ESPN’s Joe McDonald.
Krejci is expected to miss four-to-six weeks with a partially torn MCL that was suffered last Friday against the Blues. The team presumably put him on LTIR Monday, as that is when he was first listed as being on injured reserve.
While Krejci is on LTIR, the Bruins can exceed the salary cap by his $5.25 million cap hit (as they also can with Kevan Miller’s $800,000 hit). The Bruins can use Krejci’s cap money else where for as long as he’s out, but the team must be cap compliant by the team he returns should he come back in the regular season.
There is no salary cap in the playoffs, so if the team uses Krejci’s cap hit elsewhere and Krejci doesn’t return until the postseason, the Bruins wouldn’t need to worry about being cap compliant.
|Bruins prepare for back-to-back vs. Devils and Coyotes||02.26.15 at 1:14 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — The Bruins skated the same lineup Thursday at Ristuccia Arena as the team prepared for a back-to-back that will see them play in New Jersey Friday and host the Coyotes Saturday.
The lines and defensive pairings were as follows:
Tuukka Rask who has played in 18 straight games, should finally get a night off this weekend, but stranger things have happened. The last time Rask did not play in a game was on Jan. 8 against the very Devils the B’s will face Friday.
|Gary Bettman: Hard to prove whether a team exploits playoff cap loophole||02.24.15 at 10:45 pm ET|
In an interview that will air on this week’s episode of Sunday Skate, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman shed some light on the possibility of teams sitting players for the rest of the regular season in order to go over the salary cap come playoff time.
This situation applies to the Bruins and how they could handle things with David Krejci, who they recently announced will miss four-to-six weeks with a partially torn MCL. Because there is no salary cap in the playoffs, the Bruins could, in theory, sit Krejci for the rest of the regular season, put him on long-term injured reserve and exceed the salary cap by his $5.25 million cap hit (as well as Kevan Miller’s $800,000 hit).
Such action, whether done by the Bruins or another team, could mean teams sitting healthy players for longer than they are injured and using LTI space by dishonest means. Asked whether the league would take issue with such maneuvers, Bettman said that while the NHL “frowns upon the use of loopholes,” the league would have a tough time proving teams were doing it.
“You can only ice a certain number of skaters,” Bettman said, “and the fact of the matter is, who’s to say how severely the injury will impact his play longer term, what kind of shape he’s been in? These are all speculative kinds of questions, and I’m not trying to duck them. It’s just simply, let’s wait to see what happens before we try to draw any conclusions.”
Added Bettman: “We frown upon the use of loopholes, but I don’t think an injury was sustained in order to create a loophole,” he said. “The rules are the rules. They’re competitive. The collective bargaining agreement tends to be fairly clear and we try to enforce it pretty consistently across the board.”
For the rest of the interview, tune in to this week’s episode of Sunday Skate at 8 a.m.
|5 things we learned as Bruins return home with loss to Canucks||02.24.15 at 9:39 pm ET|
The Bruins’ playoff hopes looked a little better Tuesday night as the Panthers, their top competition for the last wild card spot in the Eastern Conference, traded forward Sean Bergenheim to Minnesota. The Bruins still have to win games, however.
While the effort was light years better than they displayed for most of their recent road trip, the B’s returned to Boston Tuesday night with a 2-1 loss to the Canucks.
The game saw the Bruins get ample scoring chances but fail to get more than one goal past Eddie Lack. Ironically enough, the Bruins’ only goal was scored by Daniel Paille, who had been as snakebitten as any Bruin of late and had been taken out of the lineup for the two games prior to Tuesday.
Lack made 40 saves in the win for Vancouver, as the B’s outshot Vancouver, 41-28.
The loss dropped the Bruins to 29-22-9 on the season. The Panthers lost to the Blackhawks in a shootout Tuesday and now trail the B’s by two points.
Here are four more things we learned Tuesday:
PAILLE RETURNS (AND SCORES)
The news that Gregory Campbell will be out for at least a week with an upper-body injury meant that Paille returned to the lineup after serving the previous two as a healthy scratch.
Paille skated in Chris Kelly‘s place, as Kelly moved to the fourth line to center Jordan Caron and Brian Ferlin. The lineup was as follows:
Paille scored his first goal since Nov. 21 when he buried a Loui Eriksson rebound in front of the net early in the first period. It was just his second goal of the season, both of which have come skating with Eriksson and Soderberg.
CANUCKS CATCH A BREAK
Rule 67.4 reads, “If a defending player, except a goalkeeper, while play is in progress, falls on the puck, holds the puck, picks up the puck, or gathers the puck into his body or hands from the ice in the goal crease area, the play shall be stopped immediately and a penalty shot shall be awarded to the non-offending team.”
Somehow, the officials didn’t feel that applied here. No penalty shot (or infraction at all) was called.
After Paille sent rebound of an Eriksson shot on net with crowd in front, puck went off Eddie Lack and was then covered up two different times by Ryan Stanton. As the Vine above shows, Stanton literally pulled the puck off the goal line the second time.
RASK MAKES IT 18 STRAIGHT, 27 OF 28
By starting Tuesday night, Tuukka Rask took to the pipes for the 18th consecutive game and 27th time in the Bruins’ last 28 games.
The Bruins won’t play next until Friday, when the team faces the Devils in New Jersey. The Devils were the Bruins’ opponent the last time Rask had a night off, as Niklas Svedberg had a 14-save shutout on Jan. 8.
KASSIAN KEEPS SCORING
Zack Kassian, who once upon a time looked like he could become one of the league’s premier power forwards but has had a disappointing career with the Canucks, has been mentioned in trade speculation at points this season.
With the Canucks in line for a playoff spot in either the Pacific or as a Wild Card, they should be happy they haven’t moved the 24-year-old winger.
With a blast past Rask in the third period, Kassian has now scored seven goals in his last nine games. He had a pair of assists against the Bruins when the teams met in Vancouver earlier this month.
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