|Ryan Spooner, Joonas Kemppainen, Brett Connolly jell quickly, create chances in Bruins’ win over Maple Leafs||11.21.15 at 11:50 pm ET|
A quick look at Saturday night’s box score wouldn’t reveal anything notable about the Bruins’ third line. Ryan Spooner, Joonas Kemppainen and Brett Connolly didn’t score. None of them played more than Spooner’s 14:40. They combined for four shots on goal, which is fine but certainly not something that jumps out at you.
But Saturday night was a notable game for that trio. They played really well together, even if it didn’t show up in the box score. They had a lot of puck possession and created some of the Bruins’ best scoring chances in a game that didn’t have many of them.
And to be honest, that was a little surprising. Spooner, Kemppainen and Connolly had spent hardly any time together before Saturday, yet they appeared to have pretty good chemistry. Spooner had played the wing only in spurts before Saturday, yet he looked comfortable there and made things happen from the left side. Kemppainen hadn’t exactly been lighting the world on fire on the fourth line, yet he didn’t look out of place at all in a top-nine role.
“I think most of the game we played pretty well together,” Spooner said. “We talked a lot before the game and just said, ‘If we don’t have much, just try to get the puck in deep.’ We did that. And I think off the rush, we had a couple chances too. I thought it went well for sure.”
Spooner, Kemppainen and Connolly all entered Saturday as negative possession players in terms of both regular Corsi and relative Corsi. You wouldn’t have been able to guess that watching Saturday night’s game against Toronto, though. They were the Bruins’ top three players in terms of Corsi-for percentage, with all three finishing the night at 69 percent or better.
They combined for one fewer shot attempt than Patrice Bergeron‘s line and three more than David Krejci‘s line, despite getting significantly less ice time. They also created a couple good chances that didn’t even count as shot attempts — a Kemppainen centering pass just missed a charging Spooner early in the first period, and a Spooner feed for a charging Connolly did the same midway through the third.
On the latter chance, Spooner’s speed down the wing was clearly a factor, something Claude Julien was happy to point out after the game.
“I think Spoons has really done a good job on the left wing there, adapting to it and using his speed,” Julien said. “A lot more involved in the last two games, and that’s what we need out of Ryan. And that’s a sign of a young player really who’s getting it. He wants to be better, so kudos to him.”
Spooner said after the game that he’s still not completely comfortable on the wing — he said he’s probably played wing fewer than 20 times in his life — but he also noted that having fewer defensive responsibilities helped, as he admitted that his defense as a center hasn’t always been great. Kemppainen helps in that respect, as he is pretty responsible defensively. And Kemppainen clearly benefited from playing with faster, more skilled players.
Whether Spooner, Kemppainen and Connolly stay together remains to be seen. Frank Vatrano is expected back soon, perhaps as early as Monday, so expect more line-juggling to make room for him. But even if they don’t stay together for now, it’s nice for Julien to know that he has this as a bottom-six option that can be effective in the future.
|Torey Krug ends 26-game goal drought, insists he wasn’t ‘too worried’ about it||11.14.15 at 11:41 pm ET|
On his 44th shot on goal of the season, Torey Krug finally scored his first goal. Dating back to last season, it was his first goal in 27 games, ending the longest drought of his young career.
If Krug were a forward, this would all be a pretty big deal. Given that he’s an offensive defensemen who has scored 26 goals over the last two season, it’s still at least noteworthy. Krug insists he wasn’t giving the drought much thought, though.
“I wasn’t really too worried about it, especially with a few more minutes being played,” Krug said. “My number one job is always defense and that’s been good so far. I can always improve, but it’s nice to get the first one.”
Krug is right, of course. Even if he is an offensive defenseman, he is still, first and foremost, a defenseman. In the past, it was easy to overlook that fact. Krug was often used in situations that catered to his strengths and shielded his question marks (he got a lot of offensive zone starts and faced mostly third and fourth lines), so his defensive game wasn’t exactly facing tough tests.
This season has been different, though. Krug hasn’t been nearly as sheltered as he has been in the past. Given the lack of true top-four defensemen on the Boston blue line, Krug has had to play a bigger role. According to war-on-ice.com, Krug has an offensive zone start percentage of 53.25 percent this year vs. 59.97 percent last year, and only Zdeno Chara has faced tougher quality of competition among Bruins defensemen. Oh, and Krug is second on the B’s in average time on ice (again behind only Chara).
Krug said he has embraced the challenge and pointed out that playing against first and second lines might actually suit his game in a way people wouldn’t necessarily notice.
“You go out there and play hockey that is more suitable to my type of game,” Krug said. “Playing against top-two line guys, they think the same way that I think. How hockey should be played — it’s more fun to play that.”
|Brad Marchand named NHL’s first star of week, David Krejci named third star of month||11.02.15 at 3:58 pm ET|
The Boston Bruins have won six of their last seven games, and Brad Marchand and David Krejci have been a big part of the recent success. On Monday the NHL recognized them for their efforts, naming Marchand the league’s first star of the week and Krejci the third star of the month for October.
Marchand registered four goals and two assists in wins over the Arizona Coyotes, Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning last week. He beat out St. Louis Blues goalie Jake Allen and Edmonton Oilers left wing Taylor Hall for the top weekly honor.
Krejci currently ranks second in the NHL in points per game with 15 points (7 goals, 8 assists) in 10 games. Prior to Saturday’s game against the Lightning, he had found the scoresheet in every game this season. Krejci’s 1.50 points per game are second only to the Dallas Stars’ Jamie Benn (1.55), who was named first star of the month. Montreal Canadiens goalie Carey Price, who is 7-2-0 with a .936 save percentage, was named the second star.
|Claude Julien ‘disappointed’ by no-goal ruling, but says he won’t hesitate to use challenge in future||10.10.15 at 11:24 pm ET|
Goalie interference? Uh, okay… pic.twitter.com/KpkX8qykna
‘ Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) October 11, 2015
The play and review seemed pretty straightforward. The refs waved off a Loui Eriksson goal because Patrice Bergeron made contact with Carey Price. However, Bergeron was clearly pushed into Price by Alexei Emelin, meaning the goal should have been allowed.
It was understandable that the refs missed it in real time; hockey is a fast game and sometimes you just don’t catch that push. But once Julien decided to use his challenge, it seemed like a pretty safe bet that the no-goal call would be overturned.
Instead, the refs upheld the call on the ice. Why they upheld it remains a mystery, with the league’s official statement saying simply that the review “confirmed that Boston’s Patrice Bergeron made incidental contact with Montreal goaltender Carey Price before the puck crossed the goal line, preventing Price from doing his job in the crease.” No mention of Emelin’s shove. No mention of the fact that Bergeron actually made an effort to stay out of the crease while getting pushed.
Julien said he was “disappointed” with the call and didn’t understand why it wasn’t a goal.
“I really felt, and I looked at it in between periods, and I said how can that not be a goal when the guy has both feet outside the blue paint and is doing everything he can to stay out of his way and is really trying to fight off the guy trying to push him in,” Julien said. “So, I thought that warranted obviously a goal, but for some reason they saw it some other way.”
Goalie interference plays are one of two things coaches can challenge (with goals scored on a potential offsides being the other), and Julien said it’s his understanding that whether or not a player was pushed into the goalie is part of what can be reviewed, which would rule out the possibility that the refs could only look at Bergeron’s contact with Price and not how he got there.
Bergeron couldn’t make sense of the ruling either, as he also thought that being pushed into Price should’ve negated the interference.
“That was my understanding of the rule,” Bergeron said. “They thought otherwise and we can’t really control that, I guess. … It happens fast, so I guess I understood that maybe he thought that I pushed into the goalie. But then on the replay, I thought it was clear that I got pushed into him. My understanding was that if I get pushed into the goalie and I’m working hard to get out of there, it’s fine.”
Julien said that despite the fact that this challenge didn’t go the way he expected, he wouldn’t hesitate to challenge a similar situation in the future.
“That’s a thing you’ve got to be careful of — you can’t [be discouraged],” Julien said. “In our minds, the people that looked at it in the first place all felt it should have been a goal, and I went back to my office in between periods and I felt it should have been a goal. But if you’re afraid to call those then you may miss an opportunity to either get a goal called for you or the other way around, a goal rescinded from what you think was interference.”
The disallowed goal certainly isn’t the reason the Bruins lost Saturday. More turnovers, more defensive mistakes and an inability to get the puck out of their own zone had a lot more to do with Saturday night’s 4-2 loss than that one call. But there’s no denying that it was a turning point of sorts, especially since the Canadiens scored just over a minute later to make it 3-0.
|Bruins’ worst fears realized as inexperienced defense struggles mightily in loss to Jets||10.08.15 at 11:51 pm ET|
If you were worried about the Bruins defense being a disaster with Dougie Hamilton gone and Zdeno Chara banged up, your worst fears were realized in Thursday night’s season-opening loss against the Jets.
The game actually didn’t start off too badly at all. The Bruins were on the attack most of the first period and the defense didn’t really give the Jets any good looks on the few occasions they did get into the Bruins’ zone.
But then the second period happened. The Jets’ first goal came off a combination of all three Bruins forwards getting caught up ice and Joe Morrow not putting enough on his pass into the neutral zone, leading to an easy interception for Dustin Byfuglien and an odd-man rush the other way.
The second came off a brutal turnover by Matt Irwin behind the Bruins’ net, as Andrew Ladd picked his pocket clean before setting up former Bruin Blake Wheeler right in front. The third resulted from another tough sequence for Irwin and defensive partner Zach Trotman. Trotman couldn’t get his stick on a pass through the slot that went right by him, and then Irwin compounded that by completely losing track of his man and allowing Drew Stafford an easy finish on the doorstep.
Things didn’t get any better in the third. After the Bruins cut the deficit to 3-2, Irwin got caught pinching in the offensive zone (as you’ve probably gathered by now, the UMass product did not have a good night) and David Krejci, who was the closest to being able to cover for Irwin, could not keep up with Chris Thorburn on the rush the other way. The Jets then made it 5-2 when Torey Krug couldn’t clear out 5-foot-9 Nicolas Petan and watched a centering pass bounce off Petan’s skate and in.
“I think the examples are pretty clear of where we made those mistakes and where it cost us goals,” Claude Julien said after the game. “It was clear right from the get-go there, so it’s going to be easy to show those kinds of things. We’re early in the season, you’ve got to show those kinds of things. We’ve got to work and rectify those things as soon as possible.” Read the rest of this entry »
|Bruins sign defenseman Matt Irwin to 1-year deal||07.10.15 at 10:54 am ET|
The Bruins have signed defenseman Matt Irwin to a one-year deal worth $800,000, the team announced Friday.
The 27-year-old Irwin has spent the last three seasons with the San Jose Sharks and registered eight goals and 11 assists in 53 games last year while playing 17:01 per game. Irwin, who is listed at 6-foot-2 and 210 pounds, played two years of college hockey at UMass from 2008-2010.
The strength of Irwin’s game is his offense, as he likes to jump into the rush and has a good shot. He has generally been pretty sheltered in terms of usage and has seen his CorsiRel go from a stellar plus-3.9 in 2012-13 to a not-so-stellar minus-4.0 in 2013-14 before settling in the middle at an even 0.0 in 2014-15, according to war-on-ice.com.
Irwin adds to a logjam of Bruins defensemen who would ideally be suited for a third-pairing role, but he probably won’t be the top-four solution they need unless the defensive side of his game really improves.
Still, he should be able to push for playing time, especially if the Bruins want someone who can bring more puck-moving and offensive skill than Adam McQuaid or Kevan Miller.
|Bruins prospect Matt Grzelcyk announces he will return to BU for senior year||04.17.15 at 10:14 pm ET|
Bruins prospect Matt Grzelcyk announced that he will return to Boston University for his senior season at the team’s awards banquet Friday night. He had been mulling the possibility of signing with the Bruins and forgoing his senior year.
Grzelcyk, a 5-foot-10 defenseman from Charlestown whom the B’s drafted in the third round in 2012, served as BU’s captain this past season and will reprise the role next year. He finished fourth nationally among defensemen with 38 points (10 goals, 28 asssists) in 41 games and was named a First Team All-American.
As the leader of a defense corps that featured four freshmen, Grzelcyk helped guide BU to a Hockey East regular-season title, a Hockey East tournament title and a Frozen Four appearance. The Terriers’ season ended with a 4-3 loss to Providence in last Saturday’s national championship game.
Another interesting development at BU’s awards banquet was that Hobey Baker Award winner and future No. 2 overall pick Jack Eichel was named an alternate captain for next season.
Eichel is probably still more likely to sign with the team that drafts him than return to BU for his sophomore year, but him getting an ‘A’ is still notable. Eichel has said that he hasn’t decided anything as far as going pro vs. returning to BU, and people close to BU have suggested that there is more of a chance of him returning than people might assume.