|What realignment, new schedule format means for the Bruins||12.05.11 at 10:12 pm ET|
The NHL’s Board of Governors approved a new, four-conference format for the league Monday, with the new conferences to be implemented at the start of next season.
Realignment was deemed necessary when the Atlanta Thrashers, who played in the Southeast division, moved to Winnipeg. As a result, the Jets will play in the Central division with more mid-western teams.
The four conferences (which have yet-to-be-named) will look like this:
Conference 1 (seven teams): Boston, Buffalo, Florida, Montreal, Ottawa, Tampa Bay, Toronto.
Conference 3 (eight teams): Chicago, Columbus, Dallas, Detroit, Minnesota, Nashville, St. Louis, Winnipeg.
Conference 4 (eight teams): Anaheim, Calgary, Colorado, Edmonton, Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Jose, Vancouver.
One major change that accompanies the realignment is that every team will play one another twice, with each time team facing out-of-conference clubs both at home and on the road. Teams will play opponents in their conference six times.
For the Bruins, this essentially means the B’s will be seeing Guy Boucher and the Lightning, as well as the Panthers, twice more each season, and will host each team at TD Garden and play them on the road.
Also, with the four conferences champions playing one another beginning in the third round of playoffs, it means the B’s could not face a team like the Canadiens in the round prior to the Stanley Cup Finals (the third round), as they could have before. With that being said, they could play a team like the Flyers for the Cup. Again, it’s radical.
|Tim Thomas shines as Bruins beat Penguins in Pittsburgh||12.05.11 at 9:43 pm ET|
If anyone was wondering how the Bruins measured up to the first-place Penguins, a convincing answer was given Monday night when the B’s beat the Penguins, 3-1, at CONSOL Energy Center.
Gregory Campbell got the B’s on the board in the second period with his second goal of the season, with Benoit Pouliot taking a feed from Rich Peverley and beating Marc-Andre Fleury to make it 2-0. Tyler Seguin scored 1:07 into the third period before Bruins nemesis Matt Cooke broke up Tim Thomas‘ shutout bid at 10:54 of the final period.
The game featured two fights, with Brad Marchand taking on Matt Niskanen after the pesky B’s forward slew-footed the Penguins defenseman in the second period. Gregory Campbell dropped the gloves with former Northeastern forward Joe Vitale in the third period after Vitale ran into Tim Thomas.
The B’s now have points in 15 straight games (14-0-1), and have 35 points. A win Tuesday in Winnipeg will put them in first place in the Eastern Conference for the first time this season.
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE BRUINS
– Benoit Pouliot had his best game as a Bruin. He drew a slashing penalty on Depres in the first period when the Pittsburgh defenseman knocked the stick out of his hands following a strong scoring opportunity from the third-line winger, and Pouliot was the only Bruins forward with more than one shot on goal (three) in the first period. Rich Peverley intercepted a pass from Brooks Orpik in the neutral zone in the second period to set up Pouliot’s fourth goal of the season, an absolutely sizzling wrester over Fleury’s right shoulder. Pouliot finished the night with four shots on goal, the most he’s had as a Bruin.
– The Bruins had to kill off two 5-on-3’s, one of which was an entire two minutes, and they silenced the Penguins both times. Because Chara was in the box, Bergeron, Dennis Seidenberg, Johnny Boychuk, Andrew Ference and Chris Kelly handled PK duties on the first 5-on-3, with Thomas making four saves. He stopped all three shots on the second two-man advantage.
– Seguin’s goal was just his second in his last 10 games, and if he gets going again, there’s no telling when this tear the Bruins are on will stop. Patrice Bergeron was masterful in maneuvering past Pittsburgh skaters and feeding Seguin, who sent the puck just inside the right post, past the right leg of Fleury.
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE BRUINS
– Blaming the refs is generally weak, but the B’s certainly found themselves getting the short end of the stick with the officiating. The call on Zdeno Chara that gave the Penguins their first two-man advantage of the night seemed a bit extreme, as it seemed Chara was simply clearing out traffic in front of Thomas’ net. James Neal also appeared to hold Peverley’s stick in the second period when the Bruins forward was sent off for hooking.
– The Penguins showed why they entered the night with the second-best penalty kill in the league right off the bat, though the B’s eventually broke through with Seguin’s power play goal in the third period. The B’s failed to get a single shot on goal in the two minutes that followed Pascal Dupuis’ holding penalty. The B’s were quiet on their next two power plays as well, but finished the night 1-for-5 on the man advantage.
– Paille learned that wearing a cage inconveniences more people than just him. The fourth line forward went to hit Evgeni Malkin, but his cage collided with Malkin’s face. A scrum ensued, but no penalties were assessed.
|Bruins-Penguins Live Blog: Matt Cooke makes it 3-1||12.05.11 at 6:59 pm ET|
|Bruins recall Jordan Caron, Steven Kampfer||12.03.11 at 10:51 pm ET|
The Bruins recalled defenseman Steven Kampfer and forward Jordan Caron from Providence Saturday night. The B’s had sent the two players down Wednesday in order to get them some game action, with both players playing for Providence Friday and Saturday.
Caron had been a healthy scratch for the seven game prior to Wednesday’s move, while Kampfer has played five games this season, regularly serving as the team’s seventh defenseman.
Both players will travel with the Bruins Sunday when they leave for their two-game road trip that sees stops in Pittsburgh and Winnipeg.
|Bruins beat Maple Leafs, sweep home-and-home||12.03.11 at 9:40 pm ET|
The Bruins opened December by doing something they got used to in November when they beat the Leafs, 4-1, at TD Garden Saturday. The B’s are now 4-0-0 against the Leafs this season and lead the Northeast division by three points.
David Krejci opened the scoring for the Bruins at 4:20 of the second period, but Mikhail Grabovski answered back 48 seconds later to tie it. Chris Kelly then scored his 10th goal of the season to make it 2-1, with Johnny Boychuk adding to the Bruins’ lead with a bomb past Toronto goaltender James Reimer in the third period. Nathan Horton scored on a wrist shot from the top of the circle to make it 4-1.
Picking up the victory for the Bruins was Tuukka Rask, who improved to 4-3-1 on the season. He made 21 stops Saturday.
The Bruins have a busy week ahead of them. They’ll face the Penguins in Pittsburgh on Monday, the Jets in Winnepeg on Tuesday, the Panthers at home on Thursday and the Blue Jackets in Columbus on Saturday.
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE BRUINS
– Count me and everyone else in the world among those surprised that Kelly has scored 10 goals through 24 games. The third-line center took a long pass from the bottom of the circle across to Kelly, who beat Reimer to break the 1-1 tie in the second period.
Kelly’s career-high in goals was 15, which he registered in both the 2006-07 and 2009-10 seasons in Ottawa. It’s safe to say he’ll be surpassing the mark this season. Add to the equation that the alternate captain will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, and you’ve got a player exceeding expectations at the same time.
– He didn’t face an insane amount pressure early on, but Rask made timely saves in final two periods and had his latest strong outing, further proving that he isn’t average goaltender he was a season ago. Rask has now allowed one in two of his last three starts, as he also held the Blue Jackets to one goal on Nov. 17.
The Bruins likely went with Rask Saturday so they could play Tim Thomas Monday against the Penguins and go back to Rask the next night against the Jets, and the decision has paid off so far.
– Joe Corvo received his first career major penalty when he fought Joey Crabb in the third period. The puck-moving defenseman had gotten in a tussle with Boris Valabik (who ended up being a throw-in in last season’s trade with the Thrashers that sent Rich Peverley to Boston) in 2008, but did not receive a major.
– Phil Kessel was a minus-4 for the Maple Leafs over this week’s home-and-home against the Bruins. If that doesn’t say “mission accomplished” for the B’s gameplanning, nothing does. Zdeno Chara put a big hit on the Toronto winger in the first period, and that kept the NHL’s leading goal-scorer quiet for essentially the remainder of the opening 20 minutes. Kessel finished the night with five shots on goal, but he finished the home-and-home without a goal.
– Whatever kind of slump Krejci was in prior to this week, it’s definitely over now. The recently re-signed center has four points (2 G, 3 A) over his last two games.
– Saturday night marked the Bruins’ 100th consecutive sellout. Fun note: the the streak began two seasons ago against the Maple Leafs.
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE BRUINS
– The B’s have been known to score goals in bunches this season, but on Satruday, rather than scoring again soon after scoring, the B’s allowed a goal in the “vulnerable minute” when The Bruins last allowed a goal within a minute of scoring last Friday against the Red Wings. Pavel Datsyuk scored on Rask 35 seconds after Daniel Paille beat Jimmy Howard in the second period.
– Tyler Seguin has one goal over his last nine games. He also has two assists in that span, but it’s a far cry from the pace at which he was producing earlier in the season. In the four games prior to the aforementioned stretch, Seguin had an incredible seven goals, including a hat trick on Nov. 5 against the Leafs.
Seguin and Brad Marchand had a great scoring chance in the second period on a 2-on-1 Saturday, but the playas doomed by one too many passes. The 19-year-old was on the ice for Boychuk’s goal, increasing his league-best plus-minus to plus-20. Seguin has still been a point-per-game player thus far, leading the B’s with 24 points (12 G, 12 A) through 24 games.
|Bruins-Maple Leafs Live Blog: Nathan Horton makes it 4-1||12.03.11 at 6:43 pm ET|
|Points ain’t nothing but a number for Zdeno Chara||12.03.11 at 1:03 pm ET|
Statistically speaking, Zdeno Chara is having the best season of his career. After not registering a point in the season’s first six games, the massive defenseman with the league’s hardest shot has five goals and 13 assists for 18 points, with only Tyler Seguin registering more points for the B’s since Oct. 20.
That leaves Chara on pace for a career-high 64 points (his current career-best is 51, which he registered in 2007-08). Not all of Chara’s points have been blasts from the point, or even teammates burying rebounds of blasts from the point. Chara was in on the rush Wednesday when David Krejci fed him to set up a wrist shot from right before the hash mark for what became his fifth goal of the year.
It’s been a big year offensively for Chara, but he knows that a defenseman’s worth is not always measured by stats. Even so, the 6-foot-9 blueliner is happy to be producing at a pace he’s never seen before.
“My first priority is to play well defensively. My job is obviously to shut down top lines every game, so that’s the No. 1 job to me,” he said after Saturday’s morning skate. “Anything above that is a plus. Any time I can help the team offensively and contribute on the other side of the ice, it’s a big plus.”
Seven of Chara’s points (3 G, 4 A) have come on the power play, and he leads the team in points on the man advantage. With the power play performing better than it was down the stretch last year and Chara producing more, the B’s have been able to give penalty killers a much harder time than they were when they would go games at a time without scoring on the man advantage.
“I think it’s about doing everything,” Claude Julien said Saturday. “I mean, in order for [Chara] to get some shots you got to have some versatility on your power play and some of the opportunities have to come from different places. Tyler on the half wall has done a great job of course there, [Milan Lucic] in front of the net and other guys. Again, we’ve moved some guys around. [Patrice] Bergeron finds the right people to pass to, and with Zdeno where he is right now, it allows him to take a shot whenever he’s open and if they pay too much attention to him, then there’s something else open.”
Chara is currently a plus-15 as well, meaning that while he may get beaten occasionally (as he was when Phil Kessel flew by him in the neutral zone Wednesday to set up a 2-on-1 and a Toronto goal), he still does what he believes to be his No. 1 job: playing against top lines and seeing to it that no goals are scored unless they’re from the B’s. He’s on pace for a plus-53 rating, which would surpass last season’s career-best plus-33. Between the points and the strong rating (only Seguin and Chris Kelly have better ratings on the B’s at plus-19 and plus-16, respectively), there’s been very little not to like about the big man’s game this season.
“You also want to be an all-around defenseman,” Chara said of the offensive production being a part of his game. “That’s what it takes.”