|Matt Bartkowski’s mostly good return to lineup highlights small margin for error||11.15.14 at 5:54 pm ET|
Matt Bartkowski made one mistake that could have been costly. Early in the second period, with the Bruins leading Carolina 2-1, Bartkowski turned the puck over to Chris Terry just inside his own blue line. Terry led a quick 2-on-1 and tried to center for Jeff Skinner, who wound up redirecting an aerial pass over the net.
Aside from that one play, Bartkowski’s return to the lineup following seven straight healthy scratches was a good one. He was effective on breakouts. He got involved in the offensive zone and wound up with four shots on goal, tied for the team lead in the game. He was physical, most notably landing a big, clean hit on Patrick Dwyer midway through the second. His plus-3 Corsi was the best among Bruins defensemen in the game.
“I think I did alright for how much time I sat out,” Bartkowski said. “I was moving. I didn’t really give them too much, a few chances, but other than that it went pretty well.”
In many ways, Saturday’s game was a good representation of Bartkowski as a whole. There has always been quite a bit to like about Bartkowski’s game, namely his skating, puck movement in transition and ability to win battles down low.
Let’s not forget that Bartkowski was a top-four defenseman for a stretch during the 2013 playoffs and then for most of last season, and that he was at least serviceable in that role. There’s a reason he got those minutes over other options — because he was better-equipped to handle them.
But there have always been those mistakes, too. They started to reach a breaking point in last year’s playoffs, when he wound up being a healthy scratch in favor of Andrej Meszaros four times in 12 games. Then they continued into this season, and Bartkowski found himself watching from the press box as less experienced players like Joe Morrow, Zach Trotman and David Warsofsky were given a look.
Bartkowski said he didn’t work on any one thing in particular while he was out of the lineup and instead just tried to work hard and stay positive.
“Just worked hard in practice, worked hard on the bike, in the weight room,” Bartkowski said. “That’s about it. … Just playing hockey, that’s all it is. And just focused on staying in game shape.”
Bartkowski playing well can help the Bruins’ back end more than Morrow or Trotman. He could even get back into the top four (for what it’s worth, he was sixth among Bruins defensemen in ice time on Saturday). But he needs to cut down on the mistakes. An occasional mistake is understandable, but if they happen every night, Claude Julien may be forced to bench him again.
Even a mistake like Saturday’s — just one in an otherwise good game — is pushing it. What if the Hurricanes had converted on that 2-on-1 and tied the game? The rest of Bartkowski’s good game would have been completely forgotten and that mistake would have been the story of the game if the Bruins went on to drop a point or two.
It’s a thin line for Bartkowski right now, and that what-if scenario from Saturday highlights just how thin it is.
|Young defensemen Joe Morrow, Zach Trotman, David Warsofsky aim to make most of opportunity||11.01.14 at 11:51 pm ET|
The Bruins’ defense could easily be a complete disaster right now. With Zdeno Chara, Torey Krug and Kevan Miller all injured and Matt Bartkowski struggling mightily, disaster might have even been the expectation.
But thanks to the way Joe Morrow, Zach Trotman and David Warsofsky have played the last two games, the Bruins’ defense has not been a disaster. Warsofsky made one glaring mistake Thursday night against Buffalo on a bad pinch that led to an odd-man rush and a goal at the other end, but other than that, the trio of young defensemen (Trotman and Warsofsky are 24; Morrow is 21) have played mistake-free hockey, which is all anyone can realistically ask for given the situation.
“They’ve been really good,” Dougie Hamilton said. “I think it just shows how deep our organization is. You could see that in the preseason and training camp and everything. They can all play, so it shows, I guess, how deep we are as an organization. They’ve played really well, so it’s nice to have that.”
All three have played 15 or more minutes in each of the last two games. Warsofsky, who has the most NHL experience in the group with eight career games, has led the way at 18:09 on Thursday and 19:16 in Saturday’s 4-2 win over the Senators. Trotman, now up to six career NHL games, played a career-high 17:51 on Saturday. Morrow, a former first-round pick, played 16:05 Saturday after logging 17:51 in his NHL debut on Thursday.
Warsofsky and Trotman both saw significant power-play time Saturday, with Warsofsky’s 3:24 on the man advantage leading all Bruins. All three have gotten a taste of killing penalties as well.
One thing Warsofsky, Trotman and Morrow can all do well is break the puck out, either with their skating or their passing. They all still have work to do when it comes to playing without the puck, but their decision-making with the puck has been a noticeable strength so far.
“I think they’ve been very poised with the puck, skating the puck very well, and just playing consistent hockey,” Dennis Seidenberg said. “It’s nice to see that. We always talk about depth, and hopefully we can build on that and put some consistency together.”
It’s worth noting that the two games in which all three have played haven’t exactly been against the toughest competition. The Sabres are a contender for the first overall pick, and even though it took overtime for the Bruins to beat them, it was a game the B’s dominated from a possession standpoint. The Senators have a decent record (5-3-2), but they’re also not a very good possession team.
Still, the fact that Warsofsky, Trotman and Morrow have done what’s been asked of them is encouraging. These last two games should give them some confidence moving forward, and the Bruins will need them to continue their solid play while they wait for Chara, Krug and Miller to return.
“I think we’re all just taking advantage of it,” Warsofsky said. “We’re all around the same age and it’s all of our first handful of games, so we’re all kind of in the same boat. We’re having fun with it and trying to play our games every night like we do in Providence and translate that up here. I think so far everyone’s done a good job.”
|How Bruins overcame uncharacteristically bad nights from Patrice Bergeron, Zdeno Chara||10.21.14 at 11:51 pm ET|
Usually the Patrice Bergeron line and Zdeno Chara-Dougie Hamilton pairing are the Bruins’ constants. They’re the guys who are going to create offensive-zone possessions and not make mistakes.
That wasn’t the case on Tuesday. Bergeron was on the ice for all three of the Sharks’ goals, linemates Brad Marchand and Reilly Smith joined him for two of them (it is worth noting that Marchand had a nice power-play goal), and Chara was on the ice for two of them as well. Those four and Hamilton were the only Bruins who finished with Corsi-for percentages under 50 percent, meaning they were the only Bruins who were on the ice for more 5-on-5 shot attempts against than shot attempts for.
That would seemingly be a recipe for disaster for the Bruins, especially when you consider that outside of the Carl Soderberg line, the rest of the team had been one giant question mark to this point in the season. David Krejci had looked good since his return, but linemate Milan Lucic was off to a slow start and he still didn’t have a set-in-stone right wing. The fourth line had featured several different combinations, and none of them had really done much. And the second and third defense pairings had been inconsistent at best, with Kevan Miller’s injury raising even more questions on the back end.
At least for one night, those questions turned into answers. Lucic, Krejci and rookie right wing Seth Griffith factored into four of the Bruins’ five goals, with Lucic notching three assists and Griffith scoring his first NHL goal. Two of the goals they were on the ice for — Griffith’s and Torey Krug’s — came as the direct result of getting bodies to the net. Krejci set a great screen on Krug’s, and then Lucic created some net-front havoc that freed up Griffith on his goal.
“I think it definitely was the best game that we’ve played so far this season,” Lucic said. “You saw we were hungry in the O-zone and hungry getting pucks to the net. We made some smart decisions in some important areas and it just seems like things are starting to head in the right direction.”
The fourth line of Daniel Paille, Gregory Campbell and Simon Gagne was a positive possession line that even created some chances against the Sharks’ top two lines. They scored what proved to be the game-winner midway through the third when Paille won the puck along the boards and threw a shot on net that Campbell tipped in for his first goal of the season.
Campbell and Paille were also big on the penalty kill, especially late in the game when Bergeron went to the box for a four-minute double minor. Until Krejci’s empty-netter to seal the win, Campbell had the biggest play on that kill when he blocked a Joe Thornton shot that came off a Chara turnover.
“We’ve got to be a responsible, reliable line, and Claude [Julien] has to trust us to put us in those situations,” Campbell said. “With hard work comes trust, and if we’re playing our game and we’re in on the forecheck and creating chances and bringing energy to the lineup, then he usually has confidence in us.”
As for the bottom two defense pairings, the only glaring error was a bad miscommunication between Krug and Dennis Seidenberg that led to a goal, but as Julien pointed out after the game, Bergeron’s line was just as much at fault, as Smith had failed to clear the zone and Bergeron and Marchand had gotten caught up ice.
Outside of that, the Seidenberg-Krug and Matt Bartkowski-Adam McQuaid pairings played well. Krug’s goal and two assists obviously stand out, but let’s not overlook the fact that Seidenberg had seven shots on goal and 12 shot attempts, and that he and Krug had Corsi-for percentages of 63 and 62 percent, respectively. McQuaid and Bartkowski weren’t far behind at 61 and 57 percent, respectively, and McQuaid was also big on that final penalty kill.
Obviously this is just one game. No one should think that all of the Bruins’ question marks are gone and that everyone’s going to be great from here on. But on a night when the Bruins’ best players were uncharacteristically unreliable, it was encouraging to see everyone else step up and show that they can lead the way, too.
|Video: Tuukka Rask plays drums for Buffalo band||10.20.14 at 3:57 pm ET|
According to the Buffalo News, Rask and a few teammates went to a show at the Allentown music venue in Buffalo on Friday night while they were in town for Saturday night’s game against the Sabres, a 4-0 Bruins win.
Rask asked local band The Mustn’ts if he could play drums for a song, and they let him sit in for a cover of Phish’s “Back on the Train.”
Here’s video of the performance:
|Kevan Miller out indefinitely with dislocated shoulder||10.20.14 at 3:12 pm ET|
Bruins defenseman Kevan Miller is out indefinitely with a dislocated right shoulder, general manager Peter Chiarelli announced Monday. Miller suffered the injury in a fight with Buffalo’s Nicolas Deslaurier on Saturday night.
Miller had played in six of seven games for the Bruins, posting zero points and a plus-4 rating. He also has a plus-10.48 Corsi per 60 minutes and plus-0.2 CorsiRel, according to behindthenet.ca.
In Miller’s absence, Matt Bartkowski is likely to see more playing time.
|David Krejci, Reilly Smith provide offense as Bruins beat Red Wings, end losing streak||10.15.14 at 11:02 pm ET|
David Krejci and Reilly Smith each scored in regulation, and then they each scored in the shootout as the Bruins beat the Red Wings, 3-2, Wednesday night to end their three-game losing streak.
Krejci opened the scoring 5:12 into the game with his first goal of the season after Chris Kelly forced a neutral-zone turnover and sprung Krejci up the middle of the ice. The Red Wings answered a few minutes later when Tomas Tatar took advantage of some sloppy defensive play and ripped a shot under the crossbar.
The Bruins regained the lead with 6:29 left in the second. Brad Marchand retrieved a dump-in deep in the offensive zone and calmly moved the puck to Patrice Bergeron, who then tried a wraparound that led to a juicy rebound for Smith to bury.
The Red Wings answered again, though, when Gustav Nyquist fired a laser shot past Tuukka Rask for a power-play goal 2:56 into the third. The Bruins failed to capitalize on two power plays of their own in the third period, and Jimmy Howard made several big saves in the final minute — most notably on a Simon Gagne rebound bid — to force overtime.
The Bruins were the better team in overtime, but couldn’t finish their chances. The best opportunity came on a 3-on-1 a minute and a half in, but Smith tried to force a pass that was easily broken up. The B’s had to kill a 41-second Wings power play to end the overtime after Brendan Smith drew a call on Bergeron with a pretty blatant embellishment.
Here are some other observations from the game:
-For the second time in as many games against Detroit, the Bruins suffered a Patrice Bergeron injury scare. Last week Bergeron missed most of the second period after crashing awkwardly into the boards. On Wednesday he limped off the ice late in the second after blocking a Danny DeKeyser slap shot. Fortunately for the Bruins, Bergeron was back on the ice for the start of the third period. As he so often is, Bergeron was the Bruins’ best forward Wednesday night. He went 17-for-24 on faceoffs and posted a .740 Corsi, and his line registered 12 shots on goal to go along with Smith’s second-period tally.
-This is partially tied into Bergeron since they played with that line a lot, but Zdeno Chara and Dougie Hamilton were great, as they usually are. They had Corsis of 78 percent and 79 percent, respectively, which is very good. Hamilton was also a force in overtime, as he jumped into the offense several times and helped create scoring chances.
-The Bruins absolutely dominated the first period, outshooting the Red Wings 14-4 in the opening 20 minutes. They spent entire shifts in the offensive zone and won the majority of 1-on-1 battles. The scoreboard didn’t reflect that dominance, though, as the two teams entered the intermission tied at 1-1. Even on the Red Wings’ goal, they hadn’t really established any sort of possession in the Bruins’ zone, as it came off a turnover that led to a bouncing puck around the net.
-It was a particularly interesting first period for Chris Kelly. He made a great play to set up Krejci’s goal, as he forced a turnover in the neutral zone and then made a nice pass through the seam to spring Krejci. Just a few minutes later, though, it was a turnover of his own that led to Tatar’s goal, as Kelly failed to handle a pass up the boards from Dennis Seidenberg. On the whole, though, it was another good game for Kelly and linemates Carl Soderberg and Loui Eriksson. Kelly’s five shots on goal were tied for the team lead.
-The Bruins’ penalty kill had been very good until Nyquist’s power-play goal in the third period. Before that, the B’s had allowed just two shots on goal on the Red Wings’ first three power plays and made it tough for the Wings to get set up. On the fourth, though, they gave the dangerous Nyquist too much room to operate and he made them pay by walking in and snapping a shot past Rask.
-Considering it was his first game since April 2013, Simon Gagne looked pretty good. He played 12:13 and recorded four shot attempts and two shots on goal, one of which nearly won the game in the final minute of regulation. He started the game on the fourth line with Daniel Paille and Ryan Spooner, but wound up seeing some time with Krejci and Milan Lucic as the game went on.
|Milan Lucic on his slow start: ‘I have to be better’||10.11.14 at 11:22 pm ET|
Milan Lucic has only been on the ice for one goal against this season, so to make him the scapegoat for these last two games wouldn’t be fair. A lot of guys have struggled and there have been a lot of team breakdowns, such as the two that allowed Alex Ovechkin to get open on his two goals Saturday night.
That said, Lucic’s performance so far this season is, at the very least, concerning. Through three games, he has registered two shot attempts, one shot on goal and zero points. This from a guy who has averaged nearly two shots on goal per game over the last four years.
He has been virtually invisible in the offensive zone and has consistently been out of sync with new linemates Ryan Spooner and Matt Fraser. There hasn’t even been the usual hard forechecking and big hits we’ve come to expect from Lucic.
“We have to keep our chins up and fight through it, because nobody’s going to do it for us,” Lucic said. “We have to do it ourselves, starting with myself. I have to be better and take charge and do what I do best, and try to lead that way.”
Lucic’s linemates haven’t helped him much. There was already a question mark on the right wing after Jarome Iginla left in free agency, and then center David Krejci suffered an undisclosed injury in the preseason that has kept him out of the lineup since.
That left Lucic with Spooner and Fraser, two players who had a total of 54 NHL games between them entering the season. Lucic had played a whole 19 minutes with Spooner before this season and just two with Fraser.
The trio has had little chemistry so far, and Spooner and Fraser clearly still have a lot to learn at this level. Lucic hasn’t been playing anywhere to close to the level he’s capable of, but you have to wonder how much better he’d look if he had Krejci next to him.
Lucic isn’t using the new linemates as an excuse, though.
“You can try to make that as an excuse, but at the end of the day, we’re all in the NHL for a reason. We’re all really good hockey players,” Lucic said. “No matter who you’re playing with, you have to find a way to make it work. It’s up to every individual to bring their best game. You hope that it flows and jells. I think if everyone’s on the same page as far as the system goes, everything falls into place. We’re not there right now. ”
Another factor here is Lucic’s recovery from offseason wrist surgery. He admitted to reporters earlier in the day Saturday that he does still think about his wrist, and that it’s something he needs to overcome mentally.
“When you come back from an injury,” Claude Julien said, “you’re always a little overprotective of it until maybe something happens where you would have expected your injury to reoccur and it doesn’t and you realize, I guess it’s OK. It’s normal to be a little tentative. In his case it’s fully healed. Hopefully he can get over that if that’s what he thinks is holding him back a little bit.”
Lucic should get Krejci back soon, but the most important thing is that he gets his own game back as quickly as possible.