|Bruins need a productive and confident Reilly Smith||03.24.15 at 10:23 pm ET|
If Brett Connolly hadn’t broken his finger, rendering him a non-factor down the stretch before he ever played a game for the Bruins, maybe the Reilly Smith problem wouldn’t matter as much as it does.
If Connolly were healthy and in the lineup, he would provide the B’s with a viable option to take Smith’s minutes and, with any hope, do more with them than Smith has.
Connolly isn’t there, however, and the Bruins’ playoff chances are slipping away while Smith’s confidence is seemingly nowhere to be found. On a team loaded with players who can run hot and cold, Smith has been at his coldest at the worst time imaginable.
The Bruins need the Smith of early last season and last postseason. The current Smith — the one who has no goals in his last 13 games and only 12 this season despite playing most of the year with one of the best centers in the world in Patrice Bergeron — needs to access the smarts and mindset that have previously made him a good top-sixer. It’s anyone’s guess as to whether that happens down the stretch, including him.
“I think you try to build it every day,” Smith said when asked if his confidence is where it needs to be. “Obviously when the team’s struggling and things aren’t working out, your confidence isn’t going to be as high as it usually is, but it’s something you’ve got to kind of work around.”
Smith missed the first game of his two-year Bruins career on Saturday when he was made a healthy scratch against the Panthers. Uninspired play — most notably a dreadful showing against the Senators last Thursday in which he had two turnovers that led to goals and was given just one shift over the final 28:03 — led to the benching, but he was back in the lineup the next day. Smith picked up an assist on Zdeno Chara‘s third-period power play goal against the Lightning, good for just his first point in seven games.
Tuesday’s practice saw Smith skate with Carl Soderberg and Loui Eriksson, while David Krejci held Smith’s usual spot to the right of Patrice Bergeron. Krejci playing with Marchand and Bergeron makes for a loaded first line, but the Bruins have historically had success with balance throughout their top three lines, if not all four.
That means that Smith needs to start producing regardless of where he plays. Even when Connolly returns, the prospects of him contributing are worse than they were prior to the injury, as finger injuries can still keep players off their games for a while after they return to action.
Four goals in 12 games. That’s what Smith brought to the table last postseason. It wasn’t anything remarkable, but it was consistent with his role. He’s been too quiet for too long this season, and he needs to find the aforementioned production to avoid being an easy scapegoat in a lost season.
“I think I can, and that’s obviously the goal, I think for everyone on this team,” Smith said. “These are a very important nine games coming up here at the end and we’re going to need our best effort coming from everyone. Anything you can do and anything extra is definitely going to go a long way in this stretch here.”
|Tuukka Rask: ‘I’ll play as many as I need to’||03.24.15 at 4:08 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — As has been documented many a time, Tuukka Rask has been given much more work this season than he’s ever experienced. His 61 games played are already three more than he’d ever played in a regular season, and there are still nine games to go.
Rest be damned, the Bruins might need to start Rask in each and every one of those games, or until a playoff spot is secured if that happens at all. Without saying those exact words, Rask seemingly admitted as much Tuesday.
“Nobody cares about that now,” he said of potential fatigue. “We’re playing the most important games of the year. Obviously rest is important, but when it’s game time, it’s game time, and then you rest when you have a chance to rest.”
This season, Rask has for the most part been asked about two things: whether he’s tired and whether he’s had it with the product in front of him. At worst, Rask has been average this season, and at best he’s been brilliant. That’s better than most Bruins can say for themselves this season.
After Tampa scored their fourth goal in Sunday’s 5-3 win over the B’s, Rask gestured in frustration, as he has frequently this season. He said that while he’s frustrated that the team is losing, he’s trying to not let the team’s struggles get to him.
“I’ve been pretty even all season,” Rask said. “Obviously, it’s frustrating when you have these ups and downs. We play good and then we play really bad and we never seem to settle, so obviously it’s frustrating for everybody, but if I get too frustrated, then I’m just going to slip away from my game.”
The Bruins are in the midst of a three-day break between Sunday’s game and their next contest on Thursday against the Ducks. They have two more back-to-backs on their schedule and three three-in-fours. The team should be able to start their backup in a game like Sunday’s against the Hurricanes and be confident in winning, but maybe that’s too big a risk to take with a playoff spot on the line.
Rask said he’d be willing to play all nine games, even if he didn’t sound too enthusiastic about the idea.
“I don’t know. We’ll see how it goes,” he said. “I’ll play as many as I need to.”
As for what needs to get better in front of him to make his nights easier and the Bruins’ chances of securing a playoff spot greater, Rask said he couldn’t point to one specific issue.
“It’s just team defense,” Rask said. “There’s not one thing. When we defend as a unit and everybody does their job, I think that’s when we’re at our best. There’s not really one thing that we need to figure out more than everybody just playing together as a unit and defending in front of the net.”
|David Krejci noncommittal about availability for Thursday||03.24.15 at 12:47 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — The Bruins need David Krejci back as soon as possible, but neither he nor the team is committing to his availability for Thursday’s game against the Ducks.
Krejci has been out since Feb. 20 with a partially torn MCL. Claude Julien had said last week that he was a possibility to return as early as last weekend’s games against the Panthers in Lightning, but Krejci remained out of the lineup. On Tuesday, Krejci skated as the right wing of Patrice Bergeron‘s line with Brad Marchand.
After the practice, Krejci was noncommittal regarding whether he could return for Thursday.
“It was a possibility last game, but I wasn’t able to,” Krejci said. “It’s a possibility for next game again.”
Krejci then went into Marshawn Lynch mode, repeating some variation of “it felt pretty good today” when asked whether the delay in returning to the lineup is due to him not being cleared or because he doesn’t feel ready.
Asked if the Bruins were still in “wait-and-see” mode with Krejci for Thursday, Claude Julien responded, “yes we are.”
Krejci has been limited to 38 games this season due to multiple lower-body injuries. He is third on the Bruins with 1.87 points per 60 minutes.
|Source: Dougie Hamilton out weeks, not months, could return in playoffs||03.24.15 at 11:09 am ET|
WILMINGTON — Following Tuesday’s practice, Claude Julien said that Dougie Hamilton is “out indefinitely” and that the team will reevaluate his status later in the week.
A source told WEEI.com that Hamilton’s injury is a weeks thing, and not a months thing. If the Bruins make the playoffs and string together something of a run, Hamilton could return in the postseason.
That said, the source revealed that Hamilton’s injury will take “more than a few weeks to heal.”
The nature of Hamilton’s injury has yet to be revealed, but one should take caution with the guessing game of which area Hamilton injured Saturday against the Panthers.
With Hamilton out and the team struggling (0-3-2 over the last five games), Boston’s lineup was notably different in practice:
The B’s will next play Thursday when they host the Ducks at TD Garden.
For more Bruins news, visit weei.com/bruins.
|Bruins lose to Lightning, further damaging playoff hopes||03.22.15 at 7:32 pm ET|
The Bruins made their hole even deeper hole Sunday, suffering a 5-3 loss to the Lightning that extended their losing streak to five games (0-3-2).
The loss leaves the Bruins at 84 points on the season through 73 games, with the Senators (83 points in 71 games) in leap-frog the B’s for the second wild card spot in the Eastern Conference as soon as Monday.
While Sunday’s game became disastrous for the Bruins midway through the first period, it actually began on a positive note. Patrice Bergeron scored during a delayed penalty call just 33 seconds into the game, but the Lightning would answer back with three unanswered goals in the first, two of which were scored in a 15-second span. Tampa’s mid-period scoring run to break what was then a 1-1 tie came moments after a fight between Steven Stamkos and Brad Marchand.
A Jason Garrison point shot made the game 4-1 and chased Tuukka Rask 7:54 into the second period. Rask, who was playing in his 61st game of the season, stopped only eight of the 12 shots he faced before he was replaced by Niklas Svedberg.
Zdeno Chara cut the lead to 4-2 with a power-play goal at 10:22 of the third, but Tampa increased their lead back to three with an Ondrej Palat tally on the man advantage. Daniel Paille made it 5-3 with 47.7 seconds remaining.
The Bruins played Sunday’s game without both Dougie Hamilton and David Krejci. Hamilton will undergo further testing on an undisclosed injury back in Boston on Monday, while Krejci’s return — initially believed to come as soon as this weekend — will have to wait. Reilly Smith returned to the lineup after being made a healthy scratch Saturday. Smith picked up an assist on Chara’s goal.
For the Lightning, Sunday marked the first time they have defeated the Bruins in their last 11 meetings, as Tampa entered Sunday having not beaten the Bruins since March 15, 2012.
The B’s will return home to Boston after an 0-2-1 road trip, but an extremely difficult two-game homestand awaits. The B’s will first face the Ducks at TD Garden before hosting the Rangers on Saturday.
|Dougie Hamilton out vs. Lightning; Bruins recall Zach Trotman||03.22.15 at 11:57 am ET|
Dougie Hamilton will not play Sunday against the Lightning due to injury, according to a source. With Hamilton out, the Bruins recalled defenseman Zach Trotman from Providence on an emergency basis Sunday.
Hamilton will undergo further testing back in Boston on Monday. He did not play at all in the third period or overtime of Saturday night’s shootout loss to the Panthers, seemingly due to a second-period play in which he was hit by both Nick Bjugstad and Scottie Upshall.
The Bruins had only been carrying six defensemen. Trotman was recalled last weekend for Saturday’s game against the Penguins, but was returned to Providence without playing any games during the callup.
Trotman has played 17 games for the Bruins this season, registering four assists.
Sunday will mark the first game Hamilton has missed this season. He has played in every game this season, making him one of just three Bruins to play in each of the first 72 games for the Bruins.
For more Bruins news, visit weei.com/bruins.
|5 things we learned as Bruins lose Dougie Hamilton and (for now) control of playoff destiny||03.21.15 at 9:56 pm ET|
On Saturday night, the Bruins lost Dougie Hamilton to an undisclosed injury, a shootout to the Panthers and, although they still sit eighth in the Eastern Conference, ultimate control of the final playoff spot.
After the B’s and Panthers skated to a 1-1 tie through 65 minutes, Brandon Pirri scored the only goal of the shootout as Florida took a 2-1 win and improved to 80 points on the season through 72 games.
The loser point gave the B’s 84 points through 72 games, but a Senators victory over the Maple Leafs Saturday improved Ottawa to 83 points through 71 games, as they hold a game in hand on Boston. Should both teams win all their remaining games, the Senators would get in over the Bruins.
Dougie Hamilton left with an undisclosed injury that appeared to be suffered on a second-period play in which he was hit by both Nick Bjugstad and Scottie Upshall.
Hamilton left the game early in the second period, but returned to take four more shifts in the second. He was not on the bench to begin the third period, with the team announcing shortly after that he was done for the night.
The Bruins will play the second game of their current back-to-back Sunday in Tampa.
Here are four more things we learned Saturday:
Reilly Smith missed the first game of his Bruins career Saturday night, and it wasn’t for a particularly flattering reason.
Smith was made a healthy scratch for the Panthers game after committing a pair of turnovers that led to goals Thursday night against the Senators. Smith had also been benched for all but one shift of the final 28:03 of the Senators game.
The lines were as follows:
Claude Julien moved David Pastrnak up to play with Bergeron and Marchand in the third period, though that could have been due to a possible injury for Paille, who was back on the ice for overtime.
KELLY PUSHES RIGHT BUTTONS
Ryan Spooner and Dougie Hamilton picked up the assists on Bergeron’s second-period goal, but Chris Kelly played just as big a part.
Kelly, who is sneaky good at pestering opponents to draw penalties, took a shot at Dave Bolland in the neutral zone, knocking his helmet off and getting Bolland to high-stick him. Only Bolland’s infraction was called, and it led to the power play on which Bergeron tied the game.
This wasn’t the first time Kelly has irked an opponent to successfully draw a retaliatory penalty. He did it before a faceoff to Jakub Voracek back on Jan. 10, getting Voracek to take an interference penalty off a faceoff to set up a Boston power play on which David Pastrnak scored.
SEIDENBERG HAS ANOTHER ROUGH NIGHT
This obviously hasn’t been a good season for Dennis Seidenberg, but you could imagine the veteran defenseman was especially looking to bounce back from a horrid showing in which he and partner Matt Bartkowski for the Senators’ first three goals Thursday. It didn’t happen.
Seidenberg took a penalty in each of the first two periods Saturday, but it was a lapse in coverage that was particularly costly Saturday. Jimmy Hayes slipped behind the 33-year-old defenseman in front of the net, leaving him space to take a feed that Bolland backhanded toward the net from the corner and jam it past Rask.
Rask bailed out Seidenberg and every other Bruin on the ice late in the game when he reached back to rob Bolland with a brilliant stick save on what looked like a sure goal for the Panthers with about seven minutes left in regulation.
THORNTON HITS 600
An interesting note from the great Jack Edwards: Thornton became the first player to play 600 AHL games before playing 600 NHL games.