|Bruins vs. Ducks preview||12.20.10 at 10:39 am ET|
Two teams with 38 points will face off on Monday when the Bruins (17-10-4) take on the Ducks (17-15-4). The B’s will see an Anaheim team that aside from a six-game win streak to begin November has struggled to find consistency. The Ducks enter Monday night having lost two straight, while the Bruins broke a three-game skid on Saturday by beating the Capitals, 3-2. It wasn’t the prettiest of wins, as the B’s had to fend off a swarming Washington offense in the third period after holding a 3-0 lead in the first.
WHERE IT’S AT
- The Bruins are 8-4-3 at the Garden (8-5-3 in home games including the Prague opener) and have turned their luck at the Garden around since entering December as a 4-4-2 home team. The Bruins have come away with a point in all five home contests this month, posting a 4-0-1 record.
- The Ducks have been a fine home team, but their 6-9-3 road record is what finds them in third place in in the Pacific division despite having played three more games than the first-place Stars (43 points) and second-place Sharks (39). The Ducks have lost their last two games, both of which were on the road, and are 2-2-1 in their last five road contests.
- Blake Wheeler has points in consecutive games for just the third time this season, while he has scored in back-to-back contests for the first time all year. Things are starting to pick up production-wise between the 24-year-old winger and linemate Patrice Bergeron (four points in the last two games), so whether the second line can keep up their new-found means of success is worth keeping an eye on.
- The number of shots allowed recently has been alarming. Tim Thomas saw 40 or more shots just once in 15 starts through the first two months of the season. This month, however, Thomas has seen at least 40 in four of his seven starts.
Saturday was the most blatant case of the shots-on-goal problem. The B’s were outshot 26-2 in the third period. Those 26 shots for the Capitals in the final 20 minutes were five more than the 21 the B’s had all game.
- Anaheim right wing Corey Perry enters Monday night’s game fifth in the NHL with 38 points. The 25-year-old has eight points in his last four games, including an impressive showing Dec. 12 against the Wild in which he picked up his first hat trick and tied a career-high with five points.
Ryan Getzlaf also finds himself top 10 in the league in points with 35. The former first-rounder scored both of Anaheim’s goals in Saturday night’s 4-2 loss to the Hurricanes.
STORYLINES GOING IN
- The Bruins may have broken their losing streak, but their struggles are still evident. Fortunately for them, they are no longer the woeful home team they were last season and for the majority of this season. This seems to be the right setting for them to get the convincing win they haven’t had since perhaps the Tampa Bay game or the Buffalo contest. Wins over the Islanders don’t count.
- Despite the sub-par play over their last four games, the B’s, currently with 12 points in December, are a win away from tying the 14 points they had in November, their most successful month this season. Including Monday, the Bruins have five games let this month.
- The inconsistency for Nathan Horton is back, and with three shots on goal (and zero points) in his last three games, he’s got to shoot more and be more physical to avoid confirming the reputation he had coming in as a player who disappears.
|Claude Julien says Brad Marchand is day-to-day for Bruins||12.18.10 at 10:24 pm ET|
Bruins coach Claude Julien revealed little about the state of winger Brad Marchand following the Bruins’ 3-2 victory over the Capitals on Saturday night. Marchand left the game following the second period with an undisclosed injury.
“What I was told in between periods was that he wasn’t going to come back tonight and that they’d evaluate him,” Julien said. “Right now, what I was told is he’s day-to-day.”
It is unknown whether the forward’s injury is in any way related to the hard hit he took from Montreal defenseman P.K. Subban in Thursday’s game.
For more on the Bruins, visit their team page at weei.com/bruins.
|Patrice Bergeron, Blake Wheeler propel Bruins to 3-2 win over Capitals||12.18.10 at 9:31 pm ET|
Despite nearly blowing a three-goal lead, the Bruins rode a hot start and the continued recent success of their second line to victory on Saturday, defeating the Captials, 3-2. In taking the fourth and final matchup between the two teams this season, the Bruins finished their season series at a 3-1 advantage.
Tim Thomas allowed a second-period goal to Matt Bradley and a third-period strike from Karl Alzner. He improved his record to 15-3-3 on the season.
The B’s will next face the Ducks at the Garden on Monday night. It will be the team’s second game of a three-game homestand.
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE BRUINS
- Ference’s first-period goal was his first in 99 games. He had last scored on Feb. 22 in Tampa Bay. According to the Bruins, his goal drought was the longest of any player in tonight’s game.
- Wheeler and Bergeron have both picked it up of late. Wheeler orchestrated Bergeron’s tally by drawing in both Washington defenders on a 2-on-2 and dropping the puck back to the 25-year-old center.
Both players had multi-point nights, as Bergeron picked up the primary assist on Wheeler’s goal.
- Four games against the Capitals this season are in the books, and the B’s have allowed two assists and an empty netter to Alexander Ovechkin. Of his three points, one proved to make a difference. This season has been a struggle goal-wise for Ovechkin, but the Bruins will take those results any day of the week.
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE BRUINS
- Boston’s momentum from the first period didn’t stick. The Capitals began to work their way out of it in the second period, but they exploded in the third, outshooting the B’s 26-2.
It had seemed like the Capitals were going to be in for a long night after Wheeler scored the B’s third goal of the game, but the Boston offensive attack slowed considerably, while the passing was also off in the second period.
The Capitals, who are simply playing dreadful hockey over their last eight games (0-6-2), very well could have climbed their way back into the game, as they had opportunities with Thomas out of position in the each of the first two periods.
- Brad Marchand left the game with an unspecified injury, and should his injury keep him out in the future, the B’s might be looking at the return of Jordan Caron. The B’s sent Caron down to Providence last Monday, with the 20-year-old winger picking up two assists and a minus-1 rating in five AHL contests.
- Why Tyler Seguin is deking until his only option to stuff it in on a breakaway, as was the case in the second period, is a little confusing. He’s been able to make goalies look foolish by going top-shelf on the back-hand in the past, so the rookie should use his skill to his advantage.
|Matt Bradley cuts into Bruins lead||12.18.10 at 8:37 pm ET|
The Bruins slowed down a bit in the second period, while Matt Bradley potted his third goal of the season. After two, the Bruins lead the Capitals, 3-1.
Tyler Seguin had perhaps the best scoring opportunity for the Bruins when he waited too long on a breakaway and had no room to stove it in glove-side on Capitals goaltender Michal Neuvirth.
After being outshot, 9-5, in the first period, the Capitals had the shots-on-goal advantage in the second, 10-8. Through two, the B’s have 19 shots the Washingon’s 15.
|Patrice Bergeron, Andrew Ference and Blake Wheeler contribute to early Bruins lead||12.18.10 at 7:44 pm ET|
On a 2-on-2, Wheeler attracted the attention of both Washington defenders and dropped the puck off to Bergeron, who beat Michal Neuvirth at 3:27 for his sixth goal of the season. Ference then scored his first goal in 99 games by sending one past Neuvirth from the point.
Bergeron returned the favor in setting up Wheeler’s eighth of the season, and suddenly that second line is looking awfully good of late.
Following the Ference goal. Matt Bradley tried to swing the momentum in Washington’s favor by dropping the gloves with Adam McQuaid. Unfortunately for Bradley, the Garden only got louder as McQuaid unequivocally pummeled the Capitals winger.
Tim Thomas saw only five shots, stopping them all.
|Tyler Seguin still working to ‘figure this league out’||12.18.10 at 1:22 pm ET|
Tyler Seguin knows that he’s been able to produce in the face of adversity. He’s done it since he’s been on the radar of hockey fans, but it might be a bit different at this level. That’s why he doesn’t want himself — or anyone else — to assume he’ll embark on a career-defining hot streak after being a healthy scratch earlier this week. Observe the following exchange.
WEEI.com: Obviously in juniors after that coaching change, and then when you didn’t make the World Juniors team last year, these things have seemed to spark a –
Seguin: Don’t. Don’t jinx it. Don’t keep going.
[A bit of background information: Seguin, who was taken ninth overall by the Plymouth Whalers in the OHL draft in 2008, wasn't producing like a top-10 pick out of the gate. He had just one goal in his first 17 games, and after coach Greg Stefan left to take a scouting gig with the Carolina Hurricanes, Seguin finished the season with 21 goals despite his slow start. This came after Mike Vellucci, who took over as coach, sat the then-16-year-old down and told him he expected him to produce regardless of age.
Last season, Seguin, the ninth-ranked prospect in the NHL draft, didn't make the World Junior Championship team and used it as motivation as he went on to lead the OHL with 48 goals and take over as the top-ranked prospect.]
Fast forward to mid-December.
Whether he liked it or not, Seguin was forced to take in Wednesday’s game against the Sabres from the press box, observing the pace of a game he’s still learning at a professional level. He sat alongside Doug Jarvis as the Bruins fell to the Sabres, 3-2.
“I got to sit up top and look at it from a different perspective, and that’s how the coach and GM wanted me to spend the game,” Seguin, seemingly understanding of the decision, said.
The 18-year-old followed the scratch with an encouraging showing in Montreal, making a nice play to get the puck to Andrew Ference to set up Marc Savard‘s first goal of the season. Seguin has just three points in his last 10 games, so he’ll look to build on whatever forward steps he can take after being kept out of the lineup.
“I always try to turn a negative into a positive,” Seguin said. “All it is is adversity. You’ll face it a million times in your hockey career, so it was just another experience of it. I wanted to come out with a strong game in Montreal, and I think I did that. I just want to stay consistent.”
As the second overall pick still gets his bearings and finds different ways to adjust to the NHL, top pick Taylor Hall has seemed to hit his stride, scoring 10 goals thus far. Still, Seguin knows that how a player performs in the early going of his rookie year does not exactly set the pace for one’s career production.
One of the players to whom he most often compared in Steven Stamkos (flip a coin on the frequency of comparisons of Seguin to Stamkos or Steve Yzerman) was also a healthy scratch at times as a rookie. Seguin, who has five goals thus far, kiddingly noted that Stamkos had four before Christmas prior to lighting it up with 20 goals after the holiday. In fact, Stamkos — the same guy who has 24 goals this season — only had three before Dec. 25. Regardless of the solace he may take in knowing he isn’t the first to deal with such adjustment to the NHL, Seguin isn’t trying to follow anyone’s path or try to be somebody he’s not.
“I just want to be Tyler right now,” Seguin said. “I want to find my own identity and figure this league out.”
|Post-morning skate odds and ends||12.18.10 at 12:07 pm ET|
Tim Thomas was first off the ice for the Bruins following their morning skate, an indication that he’ll be in net when the B’s face the Capitals tonight. In three starts against the Capitals this season, Thomas is 2-0-0 with five goals allowed and a shutout. He was pulled from the team’s 5-3 loss on Nov. 5 after allowing three goals through two periods.
The Capitals aren’t exactly jonesing to face the early Vezina favorite in Thomas. Coach Bruce Boudreau said Saturday that “you just have to play really perfect hockey to beat [the Bruins] and then you have to play more perfect hockey to beat Thomas.
- If you’re surprised by how many minutes Steven Kampfer has been getting, you’re not along. Asked if he expected to play as much as he has, Kampfer honestly replied, “Uh, no. I definitely didn’t think I’d be getting that many, but I’m just trying to play well, trying to play simple and help the team get a couple of wins here.”
Kampfer said patience has been the biggest thing he’s picked up at the NHL level, which is quite interesting and a good explanation as to why he’s handled the callup and the minutes so well. Young players often try to counter the quick pace of the NHL game by hurrying things more than they need to, but it hasn’t seemed to be the case with Kampfer — at least not much.
- Claude Julien knows the Capitals have been winless over their last seven, but he’s worried about his own guys, who have gone three without a W. Julien addressed the slump by saying “we’ve got to show some determination and resilience.”
- The Capitals have been followed by HBO cameras for the NHL 24/7 show that’s sweeping the nation. Have to admit I haven’t been able to see it (or this season of Eastbound and Down) due to my lack of owning HBO, but the hockey world has been going nuts over this show. One of the draws of the show is the prolific use of a four-letter word beginning in “F” by Boudreau.
“That goes on in every dressing room, in every team, in every sport at this level,” Boudreau said, noting that the team is so comfortable with having the camera around that it has become “second nature.”
Boudreau is by no means taking pride in the language aspect of it, but he said such talk “just comes out of your mouth when you’re mad,” adding, “my mom talked to me about it, so I’ll be OK.”
- Stay tuned for what came of an interesting chat with Tyler Seguin about Christmas, being a healthy scratch, and once again having something in common with Steven Stamkos. More to come later.
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