|From the stat truck: Do Bruins make good first impressions vs. opponents?||03.15.11 at 12:27 am ET|
With the stretch run upon the Bruins, Claude Julien‘s club obviously has an undesirable streak to snap. Winless over their last four, the B’s need to show that their 0-2-2 slump won’t continue at a part of the season in which each point is placed under a microscope.
There are multiple issues facing the team as they return to the road, like the sudden tendency to blow multi-goal leads, as was the case when they saw both the Sabres and Islanders come back in games in which the Bruins led by two. It will be focused on heavily, but it isn’t the only thing to keep an eye on.
Despite having just 14 games remaining in the regular season, this week will also be all about making a good first impression. Both Tuesday and Thursday’s games will come against opponents the B’s have yet to face this season in the Blue Jackets and Thrashers, respectively.
To this point of the season, the Bruins have fared decently against teams when facing them for the first time. Per the good ol’ WEEI.com stat truck, they have a 14-10-2 records in such games. For the sake of comparison, the results have been worse than the Flyers’ 16-6-6 mark and better than the Canadiens’ 12-9-2.
Looking at things more recently, the B’s have fared well of late in their first meetings with teams. Since Jan. 22, the B’s have played seven opponents for the first time this season (all of whom, unsurprisingly, were Western Conference teams). The Bruins went 5-2-0 against those clubs, losing to only the Red Wings and Sharks, who are currently second and third in the Western Conference, respectively. They beat the Flames, Presidents’ Trophy-favorite Canucks and Oilers, three teams they hadn’t seen previously this season, in succession Feb. 22-27.
To both snap their winless streak and continue their successful stretch against unfamiliar faces, the B’s will have to bounce back against a Columbus team that has been nothing short of bad lately. The Blue Jackets are just 1-4-3 over their last eight games, with the win coming Saturday against the Hurricanes. While the Blue Jackets have had their fair share of struggles of late, looking at how they’ve fared in their first meetings with clubs might suggest they shouldn’t be taken lightly. In facing 26 teams for the first time this season (as many as the Bruins have entering Tuesday), Columbus has gone 15-8-3.
To round things out, the Predators are 13-8-5 when seeing a team for the first time this season, losing their last two such contests. Of course, those losses came against the top two teams in the NHL in the Canucks and Flyers, and the Predators have gotten points in six of their last seven games (4-1-2).
These stats aren’t everything, and when it comes down to it, execution, consistency and holding onto leads will likely be the biggest factors this week for the Bruins. Still, it will be interesting to see if the Bruins’ recent string of success when seeing a team for the first time continues, or whether the funk they’ve been in over their last four games will persist.
After Thursday’s game in Nashville, the Bruins will have faced 28 of the other 29 teams in the league thus far this season, missing only the Blackhawks, whom they’ll see March 29 at the Garden.
|Bruins expect either Steven Kampfer or Andrew Ference to return to lineup Tuesday||03.14.11 at 1:54 pm ET|
Bruins coach Claude Julien told reporters after Monday’s practice at Ristuccia Arena that injured defensemen Andrew Ference, Steven Kampfer and Shane Hnidy will travel with the team to Columbus for Tuesday night’s tilt with the Blue Jackets. While Julien noted that Hnidy is still unavailable, either Kampfer (concussion) or Ference (lower body) could suit up on Tuesday.
“We feel that one of them, at least, will be ready, and hopefully two,” Julien said of Kampfer and Ference. The coach added that, “there isn’t any definite decision that’s been made on either of those two players.”
Both Kampfer and Ference have skated with the Bruins the last two days. Kampfer has been out since suffering a concussion on a hit from Mattias Ritola on March 3. Ference has not played since Feb. 26.
|Bruins blow another two-goal lead, fall to Islanders||03.11.11 at 9:32 pm ET|
It took exactly six minutes for the Bruins to see a 2-0 lead turn into a 3-2 deficit against the Islanders Friday night at Nassau Coliseum, and an awarded empty-netter made it a 4-2 Islanders victory. The Bruins remain winless in their last four games (0-2-2).
With the B’s leading 2-0 on goals from Nathan Horton and Zdeno Chara, Islanders forward Matt Moulsen scored a timely power-play goal in the final seconds of the second period. Michael Grabner and Jack Hillen would add goals early in the third period to wipe away the Bruins’ lead. P.A. Parenteau was awarded an empty net goal with 10 seconds remaining when he was taken down by Milan Lucic.
Friday’s regulation loss marked the first of the season in which the B’s led after the second period, as they entered the game 25-0-1 in such games. The Bruins have not won since March 3, when they beat the Lightning at TD Garden for what at the time was their seventh consecutive victory. Since then, they have fallen in overtime to both the Penguins and Sabres, while losing in regulation to the Canadiens and Islanders.
Tim Thomas saw his record fall to 29-9-8 on the season. He made 38 saves on 41 shots, allowing at least three goals for the third straight games (0-1-2).
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE BRUINS
– While the Sabres’ ability to come back against the Bruins twice on Thursday probably had as much to do with officiating as it did with Boston’s play, this is now two straight days in which the B’s have let their opponent capitalize on big opportunities to find their way back into the game. The B’s couldn’t finish off an important penalty kill with a 2-0 lead and Brad Marchand in the box, and Moulson made it 2-1 with two seconds remaining in the period. Grabner tied it up 1:28 into the third, and Hillen blasted one from the point to give the Islanders their first lead of the season series at 5:58.
– It’s safe to say Marchand is slumping. The rookie winger has been stuck on 19 goals for the last eight games, and he has just one assist in that span. His production this season has been a pleasant surprise, but not lately. He received minimal ice time in the third period.
– Adam McQuaid entered Friday’s game third in the league in plus-minus with a plus-27 rating, and despite being on the ice for Horton’s tally, posted a minus-2 on the night.
– Horton took a bad interference call at the wrong time when he hit Hillen high with 6:48 remaining in the game and the B’s trailing by one. A comeback is that much harder to make when you’re playing shorthanded in the final minutes of the game.
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE BRUINS
– Chara’s used to being booed in opposing arenas, but the Islanders fans certainly ramped it up in wake of all that’s happened this week. The B’s captain responded the best way he could, scoring his second goal in the last four games with a one-timer from David Krejci from the top of the left circle. Chara also drew both penalties to create the 5-on-3 on which he scored.
– It took a while, but Boston’s power play finally scored. Much has been made of the unit’s inability to finish since adding Tomas Kaberle, but the blueliner got an assist on Chara’s goal, which was the B’s first strike in their last 22 power plays.
– Make it two more assists for David Krejci, and 15 points in his last 11 games. Milan Lucic also picked up an assist on Horton’s tally, and now has 14 points over his last 11. The Bruins might have some issues of late, but the top line isn’t one of them. Horton, who began the night top-five in plus-minus with a plus-26, scored his 20th goal of the season and posted a plus-1 rating.
|Zdeno Chara scores, Bruins lead Islanders after two||03.11.11 at 8:37 pm ET|
The power play drought is over, Zdeno Chara is making noise on the scoring sheet, and the Bruins lead the Islanders 2-1 after the second period.
The Bruins captain scored his 12th goal of the season when sound passing by Tomas Kaberle and David Krejci led to a blast from the top of the left circle on a 5-on-3. It was the Bruins’ first goal in their last 22 power plays.
Chara drew both penalties, as he was held by Milan Jurcina and saw the Islanders turned a shorthanded bid into a Bruins 5-on-3 when Frans Nielson cross-checked him in the Bruins’ zone.
|Bruins lead Islanders after one||03.11.11 at 7:41 pm ET|
The Bruins lead the Islanders, 1-0, after a period thanks to Nathan Horton’s 20th goal of the season.
Horton beat Al Montoya by kicking a rebound off a Milan Lucic shot back to himself and firing it in. He now has goals in two straight games and six goals in his last 10.
The Bruins went 0-for-2 on the power play, failing to take advantage of penalties to Justin DiBenedetto and Kyle Okposo. Matt Bartkowski was the only Bruin sent to the sin bin, and a sprawling Tim Thomas came up big for the B’s by stopping an onslaught with Boston shorthanded.
The Islanders outshot the Bruins, 11-8, in the period.
|Brad Boyes burns Bruins in overtime||03.10.11 at 9:48 pm ET|
A couple of players with Boston ties burned the B’s in overtime, as former Bruin Brad Boyes took a pass from BC product Nathan Gerbe to beat Tim Thomas for a 4-3 Sabres win with 1:16 remaining.
Zdeno Chara, who has been a popular topic of discussion in the last two days, had two assists for the B’s, who have now gone three games without a win (0-1-2).
The Sabres received their regulation scoring from Tyler Ennis, Thomas Vanek and Tim Connolly. Goaltender Ryan Miller made 42 saves in the victory.
The Bruins will follow Thursday’s loss by heading to Long Island for a bout with the Islanders.
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE BRUINS
– The Sabres had two separate two-man advantages on the night, and the B’s were only able to kill off the first one, which lasted 30 seconds in the second period.
The second one proved more challenging. With Mark Recchi already in the box for high-sticking, Brad Marchand was the victim of a bad (and late) tripping call. The Sabres had 1:44 of a 5-on-3 to deal with, and Tim Connolly put home a rebound with 20 seconds remaining on Recchi’s penalty.
The Sabres would go 2-for-7 on the power play on the night, as Vanek’s goal came with Johnny Boychuk in the box in the second period.
– The Bruins blew a two different leads, one of which was of two-gaol variety. With the B’s leading, 2-0, in the second, Ennis scored just 27 seconds after Recchi’s goal, and Vanek made it a tie game about eight minutes later. Less than minutes after Campbell gave the Bruins a 3-2 lead, Connolly returned the game to a tie.
– The B’s had just seven shots on goal in both the second and third periods after having 15 in the first. Shots on goal can be an overrated statistic at times, but its easy to blow leads when you’re not getting pucks to the net.
– While Chara’s production was strong in the game, he was the recipient of a very questionable boarding call on Steve Montador. What will this mean to the criminal investigation?
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE BRUINS
– The David Krejci line remains red hot. Both Milan Lucic and Krejci have 13 points in their last 10 games, as well as four-game point-streaks. Horton, meanwhile, has five goals in his last nine games. The Bruins will need their top line producing like this come the playoffs, so their stellar play and production over the last few weeks is a very good sign.
– It was a good debut production-wise for the new line of Recchi, Chris Kelly and Michael Ryder. Recchi scored his first goal in nine games, a tally that was assisted by Ryder, but that Chara largely set up with an aggressive pinch down low.
– Timely scoring from Gregory Campbell this season, as he came up big back in November to send the game vs. the Blues to overtime. The Merlot Line center’s 10th of the season was a big one as well, as it gave the B’s the lead in the third.
|Bruins enter third period tied with Sabres||03.10.11 at 8:44 pm ET|
The Bruins gave up a two-goal lead in the second period, and they head to the third period tied with the Sabres, 2-2.
The Sabres would tie the game on a Thomas Vanek power-play goal. Tim Thomas made the initial save, but in trying to make sure he had it secured saw it slowly glide into the net.
There were five minor penalties between the two teams in the period, with the B’s killing off a 5-on-3. There were two fights in the final minutes of the period, as Adam McQuaid fought an even bout with Paul Gaustad, while Milan Lucic fought Cody McCormick for McCormick’s second fight of the night.
Zdeno Chara was called for a debatable boarding call, as he shoved Steve Montador in the circle and saw the momentum take his former teammate into the boards after the spill.
The Sabres are outshooting the B’s, 33-22.
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