|Bruins hope back-to-back games will help them shake off rust||03.01.14 at 5:06 pm ET|
The good thing about back-to-backs is that if you stink in the first game, you get a chance to make amends the very next night.
That’s the mindset the Bruins will have as they head to New York to take on the Rangers Sunday night. They weren’t entirely terrible on Saturday — in fact, they actually out-attempted Washington 67-44 — but they had some horrific defensive breakdowns that directly led to four goals and a loss.
The Bruins suffered similar breakdowns in Wednesday’s overtime loss against Buffalo, another game they dominated possession-wise. They had two days of practice to try to correct those mistakes, but obviously that didn’t do a whole lot of good.
Perhaps the solution is to just keep playing games. Claude Julien thinks that could be the case.
“I think we’re OK,” Julien said. “I think we’ve played together and played the way we should for long enough that, basically, they need to see it more than they need to practice it. Tomorrow’s going to be a good day for us to look at those things and get ready for tomorrow night. It’s probably not a bad thing that we have back-to-back games. We can put this one aside quickly and work on the next one.”
It makes sense. The Bruins had been playing great prior to the Olympic break. Then everything just stopped for two weeks. It shouldn’t be a total shock that they’ve struggled to pick up where they left off.
The Bruins have still been good enough to control play for long stretches of both their post-Olympic games, but the rust has shown with some miscommunications (like the one Matt Bartkowski and Johnny Boychuk had on Washington’s third goal Saturday), missed assignments (like Alex Ovechkin being left open on his two power-play goals) and bad reads (which Patrice Bergeron and Torey Krug were both guilty of on the Capitals’ fourth goal).
Some fans and reporters will use this to fuel the Bruins-need-an-impact-defenseman talk. While getting one would certainly help, let’s not lose sight of the fact that the mistakes made in these last two games are the exception, not the rule. The Bruins are second in the NHL in scoring defense for a reason. They’re a good defensive team. They just have some kinks to work out of their game.
They’ll get another crack at doing that a little more than 24 hours after Saturday’s loss, and that could be just what they need. A lot of teams struggle in the second game of a back-to-back, but the Bruins have actually excelled in those situations this season, posting a 7-2-0 record in second games. That could be a good sign moving forward, as the B’s have eight back-to-backs left this season.
“I think it’s good to kind of turn the page right away and get back at it tomorrow,” Gregory Campbell said. “There’s some things that we need to do better, some things we addressed before the game, and it didn’t really take into account during the game. So I think from our standpoint, it’s good that we’re playing tomorrow night.”
|Bruins in the Olympics: David Krejci scores in Czech Republic’s win over Slovakia, setting up quarterfinal meeting with U.S.||02.18.14 at 2:26 pm ET|
David Krejci netted the first goal by a Bruin in these Olympics and later added an assist to help lead the Czech Republic to a wild 5-3 qualification round win over Zdeno Chara and Slovakia. The Czechs will take on the United States in the quarterfinals Wednesday at noon ET.
The Czechs led 4-0 with under two minutes to go in the second period, but a late goal from Marian Hossa cut it to 4-1 heading into the third. The Slovaks then scored twice more in the first nine minutes of the third period, making it a one-goal game with 11 minutes to go. They kept the pressure on the Czechs and came close to tying the game several times, but then Krejci set up Tomas Plekanec for an empty-netter with 38 seconds to go to seal the win.
With the Czechs already leading 2-0 in the first, Krejci struck on the power play with 2:57 left in the period. He set up in the left circle, where he took a pass from former Bruins teammate Tomas Kaberle and ripped a rocket of a one-timer over Jan Laco‘s right shoulder. Krejci and the Czechs enter Wednesday’s game against U.S. with a 2-2 record — they beat Latvia 4-2 in group play, but lost to Sweden (4-2) and Switzerland (1-0).
For Chara and Slovakia, the loss marks the end of an extremely disappointing tournament. The Slovaks failed to win a single game, as they got blown out by the U.S. and upset by Slovenia before taking Russia to a shootout in group play.
Chara was on the ice for three of the Czech Republic’s four goals Tuesday, and he also took a tripping penalty in the second period. The first goal came on a power play when Chara and two of his teammates couldn’t clear out the front of the net, allowing Ales Hemsky to eventually bury one from in close. Chara was also on the ice for Krejci’s goal, although there wasn’t anything he could’ve done about it.
The third came when Andrej Sekera misplayed a Chara pass at the offensive blue line, leading to a breakaway goal at the other end. Chara did help the Czechs cut the lead to 4-2, though, as his drive to the net opened up space for Hossa to score his second goal of the game. Chara finishes the Olympics with one assist, two penalties and a minus-1 rating.
In other qualification round action, Slovenia beat Austria 4-0, Russia beat Norway 4-0, and Latvia beat Switzerland 3-1. That sets up the following quarterfinal matchups for Wednesday:
Sweden vs. Slovenia (3 a.m. ET)
Finland vs. Russia (7:30 a.m. ET)
USA vs. Czech Republic (12 p.m. ET)
Canada vs. Latvia (12 p.m. ET)
|Bruins in the Olympics: Tuukka Rask great for most of game, but gives up two soft goals in loss to Canada||02.16.14 at 2:42 pm ET|
Tuukka Rask played very well for most of Sunday’s game against Canada, stopping 25 of the 27 shots he faced. Unfortunately, the two goals he gave up came on shots he should’ve stopped. With 6:16 left in the first period, Drew Doughty beat him clean on a wrist shot from the left circle. Then with 2:28 left in overtime, Doughty beat him again. There was traffic heading toward the net, but Rask got a look at the shot and just didn’t get his left pad flat on the ice.
Canada took the group with the win, but Finland still earned a bye into the quarterfinals by virtue of having more points than any other second-place team. The difference is the Finns will most likely get Russia in the quarterfinals (assuming Russia gets past Norway), while Canada will face the winner of Switzerland-Latvia.
Patrice Bergeron played on a line with Sidney Crosby and Jamie Benn on Sunday, but the trio generated just two shots on goal (one from Bergeron, one from Crosby). Bruins fans suffered a bit of a scare early in the first when Bergeron took a Shea Weber slap shot to the midsection and left the ice doubled over. Fortunately, he didn’t miss a shift.
Earlier in the day, Zdeno Chara and Slovakia played Russia to a 0-0 tie through 65 minutes, but Russia took the extra point in the shootout. Chara led all players in ice time at 27:39. He also registered one shot on goal and took an interference penalty. The Slovaks finished group play without a win and will be the 10-seed in the qualification round, where they’ll take on David Krejci and the Czech Republic for the right to advance to the quarterfinals.
The United States — bumped up to the second seed because Canada and Finland went to overtime — will get the winner of that Czech Republic-Slovakia game. If the U.S. and Canada both advance, they would meet in the semifinals in a rematch of the 2010 gold medal game.
Here is the full bracket for the quarterfinals:
1. Sweden vs. 8. Slovenia/9. Austria
2. USA vs. 7. Czech Republic/10. Slovakia
3. Canada vs. 6. Switzerland/11. Latvia
4. Finland vs. 5. Russia/12. Norway
|Bruins in the Olympics: Loui Eriksson, Sweden improve to 3-0; Zdeno Chara gets assist in Slovakia loss||02.15.14 at 2:43 pm ET|
Loui Eriksson and Sweden finished group play undefeated after beating Latvia, 5-3, on Saturday. Eriksson did not record a point, but he did rank third among Swedish forwards with 18:20 time on ice. The Swedes had already clinched a bye into the quarterfinals before Saturday, and they’re now locked into one of the top two seeds, as the winner of Sunday’s Canada-Finland game is the only other team that could match their nine points (the United States got two points rather than three for its shootout win over Russia on Saturday, so its ceiling is eight points).
In other Group C action, David Krejci and the Czech Republic got shut out, 1-0, by Switzerland. Krejci was a minus-1 and was third among Czech forwards with 19:23 time on ice. He made a nice play to set up Marek Zidlicky for a potential game-tying goal in the final minute, but Zidlicky sent the shot wide. The Czechs finished third in the group with one win and two losses.
In the first game of the day, Zdeno Chara and Slovakia suffered a major upset at the hands of Slovenia, which picked up its first-ever Olympic victory. Chara assisted on Slovakia’s lone goal in the 3-1 defeat and finished with a minus-1 rating while playing 24:06. The Slovaks will try to avoid going winless in group play when they face Russia at 7:30 a.m. ET on Sunday. Even if they lose, they’ll have at least one more game, as all 12 teams in Sochi advance to the qualification round.
Patrice Bergeron and Canada close out group play against Finland on Sunday at noon ET, with the winner taking Group B and earning a bye to the quarterfinals. Finland has not yet announced who it will start in goal. Tuukka Rask picked up the win in the Finns’ first game, but he also allowed four goals on 20 shots. Kari Lehtonen started the second game and stopped 20 of the 21 shots he faced.
|Bruins acquire AHL defenseman Blake Parlett from Columbus for Carter Camper||02.07.14 at 3:47 pm ET|
The Bruins made a minor move Friday afternoon, sending forward Carter Camper to the Blue Jackets in exchange for defenseman Blake Parlett.
Parlett has four goals and 14 assists this season for AHL Springfield. The Rangers signed the undrafted blue-liner to a minor league contract out of the Ontario Hockey League in 2010, then traded him to Columbus last April as part of the blockbuster deal that sent Marian Gaborik to the Blue Jackets. Parlett has yet to appear in an NHL game.
Camper was the Providence Bruins’ third-leading scorer this season, posting eight goals and 23 assists in 41 games. The Miami of Ohio product totaled 36 goals and 90 assists over three full seasons in Providence. He appeared in three games for the parent club during the 2011-12 season.
|Claude Julien: Bruins ‘not great at playing catch-up hockey’||01.14.14 at 11:24 pm ET|
While Claude Julien acknowledged that the Bruins’ special teams have been struggling, and that Tuukka Rask has been fighting the puck recently, the one thing he kept coming back to in his postgame press conference on Tuesday was that his team can’t keep falling behind.
“I think it’s hard to win in this league when you have to play from behind all the time,” Julien said. “I think that’s the biggest thing for me right now. We’re not great at playing catch-up hockey.”
It’s true that the Bruins have been falling behind quite a bit recently. On their recent West Coast swing, they went down 3-0 to both the Ducks and Kings, and unsurprisingly lost both games. A week before that, they fell behind 3-1 to the Senators and wound up losing 4-3.
Tuesday’s 4-3 loss to the Maple Leafs was actually a little different, though. The Bruins didn’t fall behind by multiple goals early on like they did in those other three losses. In fact, they had two different leads in the first period, and didn’t trail until the middle of the second.
They went into the third trailing by just a goal, and while Julien says his team isn’t good at playing catch-up, the numbers indicate the Bruins are actually better at it than most. Entering Tuesday, the B’s were 5-10-0 when trailing after two periods, good for the third-best winning percentage in the NHL in such situations. So this wasn’t quite the same as falling behind by three goals, a situation in which no team is good.
The biggest issues Tuesday were defensive lapses, a poor penalty kill and another shaky performance from Rask. Those problems eventually led to the Bruins falling behind, and Julien eventually touched on some of them in his postgame press conference.
“I thought the first 10 minutes, we came out pretty hard,” Julien said. “Then it just kind of leveled off. We gave them a couple goals. You let a guy go to the front of the net for a rebound. The other one, you take a penalty because you don’t dump it in when you’re trying to get a line change. Those are all things that are self-inflicted. Until we clean up that part of our game, we’re going to be coming from behind, like we did again tonight.”
|Bruins’ comeback bid falls short in loss to Maple Leafs||01.14.14 at 9:48 pm ET|
Any momentum the Bruins may have generated from Saturday’s hard-fought 1-0 victory over the Sharks disappeared Tuesday night with a 4-3 loss to the Maple Leafs.
The Bruins opened the scoring 3:38 in when Brad Marchand buried a rebound created by Reilly Smith‘s nice drive to the net. The Leafs answered 2:14 later with a goal that went against the grain of play when Tyler Bozak collected a rebound off a Carl Gunnarsson point shot and slid it past Tuukka Rask.
The Bruins retook the lead on Patrice Bergeron‘s 11th goal of the season, but then a pair of power-play goals from Bozak and Jake Gardiner put the Leafs up 3-2. James van Riemsdyk made it 4-2 a minute into the third with a wrister from the top of the right circle. Gregory Campbell cut the lead to one with 10:25 to go, but that was as close as the Bruins would get despite applying some heavy pressure for the remainder of the game.
With the loss, the Bruins dropped to 3-5-0 in their last eight. Their next game is Thursday night in Dallas.
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE BRUINS
– The Bruins dominated the first period in terms of possession and scoring chances, but ended up tied at 2-2 heading into the intermission thanks to a pair of defensive breakdowns. On the Leafs’ first goal, Torey Krug missed a block attempt on Gunnarsson’s shot attempt from the point, inadvertently screening Tuukka Rask in the process. Kevan Miller couldn’t clear the rebound or muscle Bozak off the puck, and the Leafs center knocked the puck home. On the second goal, Johnny Boychuk got caught puck-watching and let Bozak slip right behind him for an easy finish.
– The Bruins struggled on special teams. Their penalty kill, in particular, was dreadful. Bozak’s second goal (and Boychuck’s defensive lapse) came on a Leafs power play, as did Gardiner’s tally that gave the Leafs a 3-2 lead. While Rask should’ve made the save on Gardiner’s wrister, the Leafs had been able to move the puck with ease leading up to that chance. The Leafs also came dangerously close to scoring on their third power play of the game, with van Riemsdyk getting three whacks at the puck from right in front after Campbell failed to clear the zone. As for the power play, the Bruins’ first one generated some good looks, but they barely even got set up on their second, which featured Zdeno Chara at the point instead of in front, where he’s been most of the season.
– Rask had another rough game. There wasn’t much he could’ve done on Toronto’s first two goals, but he definitely should’ve had the third and fourth. Rask now has an .876 save percentage over his last seven games.
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE BRUINS
– The Bruins benefited from a combination of impressive work from Smith and some not-so-impressive work by Toronto’s defense pairing leading up to Marchand’s goal. Smith was able to skate right through Gunnarsson and Dion Phaneuf (van Riemsdyk was also with him) as the three Maple Leafs passively allowed Smith to get to the slot and fire off the backhander that yielded the rebound on which Marchand scored. Teams often pride themselves on being strong around the net, and the Maple Leafs were just the opposite.
– The fourth line continued to score. With Campbell’s third-period goal — which included a nice setup by Daniel Paille and a better finish by Campbell — that line has now scored in four of the last five games, and Campbell and Paille have four points apiece during that stretch.
DJ Bean contributed to this story.
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