|Kevan Miller shows he can handle NHL in debut||11.21.13 at 11:40 pm ET|
It ended with Reilly Smith feeding Carl Soderberg in the slot and Soderberg burying his third goal of the season. The middle of the play featured Chris Kelly winning a one-on-one battle behind the net and working the puck to Smith. But the Bruins’ second goal Thursday night started with Kevan Miller keeping the puck in the zone and dumping it down low.
It was a simple play, it was the right play, and it was one of many instances of Miller doing exactly what the Bruins wanted him to do in his NHL debut. The 26-year-old defenseman never looked out of place in the 17:42 he played against the Blues. He broke up several rushes and didn’t let forwards get behind him. He battled in front of the net — and at 6-foot-2, 210 pounds, he more than held his own there. He made quick plays to get the puck out of the zone, whether it was a short pass or a flip up the boards.
And, just as he did on that goal, he stood his ground in the offensive zone when the time was right, but never took himself out of the play.
“Kevan Miller played extremely well,” Claude Julien said. “He’s a defensive defenseman who makes good, strong plays. He did that tonight. He was strong, I really liked his game. I thought he was a poised player out there for his first real NHL game.”
Miller will never catch fans’ eyes the way Dougie Hamilton, Torey Krug and Matt Bartkowski do, because offense simply isn’t a big part of his game. But he’s proven to be a dependable player at every level, and that’s afforded him an opportunity few people thought he’d have a few years ago.
Miller wasn’t drafted, and he didn’t garner a whole lot of interest once he wrapped up his senior season at the University of Vermont in 2011. But the Bruins saw enough to give him an amateur tryout contract. Then in six games in Providence at the end of the 2010-11 season, they saw enough to invite him to training camp. And then in training camp, they saw enough to sign him to an AHL contract.
Miller has continued to defy the odds in the two years since. In a system stacked with young, talented defensemen — almost all of whom were more highly-touted — Miller has just continued to get better and force himself into a bigger and bigger role.
He performed well enough in this year’s training camp to make the Bruins’ opening night roster as an eighth defenseman, but the B’s eventually decided it wasn’t going to do anyone any good to have him sit in the press box every night. They placed him on waivers, and fortunately no one claimed him, allowing the B’s to send him back to Providence.
“To be an eighth defenseman is all good and dandy,” Miller said. “But I just know the organization felt it was best for me to continue to play games and develop down there, and I completely agree with that. I think that’s helped me a long way.”
While it was a bit of a surprise to see Miller make the team out of camp, it was no surprise to see him be the guy the Bruins turned to with Dennis Seidenberg and Adam McQuaid injured. Besides being in the same sort of stay-at-home mold as those two, he was also the P-Bruin most ready to step in and contribute.
Whether or not Miller can stick with the Bruins remains to be seen. He showed on Thursday that he can play in the NHL, but he could once again find himself the victim of the numbers game once everyone’s healthy.
|Milan Lucic continues strong season with first career overtime goal||11.14.13 at 11:22 pm ET|
Milan Lucic is something of a walking encyclopedia when it comes to hockey. He can tell you on the spot what the Bruins’ history is against a certain team or player, and he can always recall the last time he accomplished a certain feat. And yet on Thursday night when he said that his overtime winner was the first time he had ever scored an overtime goal, it seemed like he had to have been mistaken.
But sure enough, Lucic was spot on. Of his 126 NHL goals (including playoffs), none of them had come in overtime. The 60 he scored in juniors? Nope. None of those were in an extra session either.
Ironically, Lucic said just the other day that he’d like to see overtime changed in order to increase scoring chances and cut down on the number of games that are decided in a shootout. Then on Thursday, he took matters into his own hands with the clock winding down.
Lucic stepped into the shooting lane in his own end and took a Nikita Nikitin slapper right off his shin pads. The puck caromed all the way to the Columbus zone, where Lucic tracked it down, walked in alone on Sergei Bobrovsky and snapped a quick shot through the five-hole.
“A great job of blocking the shot, and he got on his horse and took off,” Claude Julien said. “Again, he can shoot the puck. He got him in the five-hole and it was a great decision on his part.”
For Lucic, it was his team-leading seventh goal of the season, and his second on a five-game homestand in which the Bruins went 4-0-1. On a night when the B’s didn’t play their best, his great individual effort allowed them to head out on the road feeling much better than if they had let a game against an inferior opponent slip away.
“I think when you look at the record it’s what you wanted, to have a good homestand, and we did,” Julien said. “Nine out of 10 points is something certainly to be happy with. And now we have to bring our game on the road, and we have three tough road games coming up.”
Lucic is on pace for a career-high 34 goals, and while he could be due for a bit of a regression in terms of goal-scoring (his 21.9 percent shooting rate is well above his career average of 15.1), there’s no reason to think the B’s top line won’t continue to produce the way it has so far this season.
David Krejci and Jarome Iginla are both below their career shooting percentages — Iginla by a full five points — so the law of averages would dictate that any regression from Lucic will be canceled out as the percentages start to come up for Krejci and Iginla.
But whatever happens going forward, Lucic certainly will remember Thursday night’s game. He probably would’ve even without the overtime winner.
|Dougie Hamilton steps up against Toronto, adding to his second-year improvement||11.09.13 at 11:58 pm ET|
Dougie Hamilton saw his three-game point streak come to an end Saturday night. He couldn’t get off the ice during a two-and-a-half-minute shift in the second period. And he said after the game that he didn’t know where the phrase ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ came from.
There you go. Those are all the things that went wrong for Hamilton in the Bruins’ 3-1 win over Toronto. The list of things that went right is much, much longer, as the 20-year-old defenseman played arguably his best game of the season, and maybe the best of his young career.
With Adam McQuaid playing just 44 seconds before leaving the game with an injury, the rest of the Bruins’ defense corps had to pick up his minutes. But it was Hamilton who saw the biggest spike in playing time. He wound up playing 24:43, a career high for a 60-minute game and a full five minutes more than his season average entering Saturday.
“His first part of the year he was in and out a little bit. But he’s played really solid for us,” Claude Julien said after the game. “Offensively he continues to make good decisions, good plays, very aggressive. Defensively he’s becoming better and better all the time. So he’s a young player — he’s a 20-year-old — but with experience, he’s starting to flourish and he just has to keep going that way.”
Hamilton would’ve picked up a couple extra minutes no matter what, but the way he played warranted even more than that. He created a number of scoring chances in the offensive zone, including one in the first where he made a nice move around Nikolai Kulemin at the blue line before zipping a pass over to David Krejci, only to have Krejci flip the shot off the side of the net. Read the rest of this entry »
|Bruins waste great start, still can’t get out of funk||11.05.13 at 11:29 pm ET|
It looked like the Bruins had snapped out of their recent malaise. They outshot Dallas 15-1 over the first 10 minutes of Tuesday’s game, and out-attempted them 21-1. Sure, the Stars scored on their one chance, but the Bruins answered back just 38 seconds later. Then the dominance continued.
You had to figure the Bruins were on the verge of breaking through with another goal or two. When a game is that lopsided, it’s usually only a matter of time before the levee breaks.
But the levee didn’t break. The Bruins’ pressure slowed throughout the remainder of the first period, and by the second period it was pretty much non-existent. The B’s reverted to the bad habits and mental mistakes of the last week and a half — a span in which they are now 1-3-1 — and found themselves on their heels throughout the middle frame.
“First 10 minutes were good, and then we got back to some of our old habits,” said Bruins coach Claude Julien. “Eventually, when you play that way, you find ways to lose hockey games, and that’s what we’re doing right now. We’re finding ways to lose.”
Despite being outshot 13-4 in the second, the Bruins still found themselves in a tied game entering the third. When Milan Lucic tipped in a Dougie Hamilton shot with 8:21 to go, it looked like the Bruins might even pull out the win after all.
Instead, they had one more costly mistake in them — a bad line change that gave Vernon Fiddler a breakaway. Dennis Seidenberg hauled him down from behind, and Fiddler scored on the ensuing penalty shot. The Stars went on to win in a shootout.
“We’re making costly turnovers in areas which we usually don’t, that’s made us a successful team over the past few years,” Lucic said. “It just seems like everything is out of sync right now, and right now we’ve got to do whatever we can to try to get ourselves out of this jam, out of this funk. Frustration is not going to help us get through it. We’ve got to dig deep and start doing things the right way if we want to start playing better.”
Most of the Bruins have been through stretches like this before. Last year, they lost five of seven toward the end of March, then seven of nine to close out the regular season. In 2011-12, it was a 3-7-0 start to the season, and later a four-game losing streak in March. In the 2010-11 season (that’s the one that ended with a Stanley Cup), they lost four of five on SIX different occasions.
It happens. The season is too long not to have these lulls. It doesn’t mean the Bruins shouldn’t work their tails off to try to get out of it. It doesn’t mean Julien shouldn’t shake things up if he feels the need to. But it also doesn’t mean anyone should be panicking.
“It’s a long season. It’s never going to be perfect from the first game to the last,” Lucic said. “But as a player and as a professional, you have to worry about the things that you can control, and that’s work ethic and your effort and your commitment and focus and all that type of stuff. It seems like those are the things that are costing us right now.
“Fortunately, in the past, we’ve gotten strong by being able to get through funks like this. But just because we’ve gotten through it before doesn’t mean it’s just going to happen again. We have to find a way to find a way to do it.”
|Loui Eriksson out indefinitely with concussion||10.24.13 at 4:19 pm ET|
Bruins forward Loui Eriksson is out indefinitely with a concussion, general manager Peter Chiarelli announced Thursday afternoon. According to Chiarelli’s statement, Eriksson flew back to Boston on Thursday and was diagnosed with a concussion by team doctors in Boston.
Eriksson suffered the concussion in the third period of Wednesday’s win over Buffalo when Sabres forward John Scott landed a vicious elbow to his head after Eriksson had dumped the puck in from center ice. Eriksson needed to be helped off the ice by teammates and did not return to the game.
Scott was ejected from the game and has been suspended indefinitely by the NHL pending an in-person disciplinary hearing.
Full statement from Chiarelli:
“Loui traveled back to Boston from Buffalo by plane today (October 24) with a member of the Bruins medical staff. After an examination by team doctors in Boston, he has been diagnosed with a concussion and will be out indefinitely. The team will provide a further update on Loui’s status when appropriate.”
|Bruins’ new-look power play takes center stage vs. Wings||10.05.13 at 11:21 pm ET|
Torey Krug gets the puck at the point. Zdeno Chara sets the screen in front. Goalie never sees the shot coming.
That’s exactly what the Bruins coaches had in mind when they decided to reconfigure the power play heading into this season, and the new look was executed perfectly on Boston’s first goal Saturday night.
Once Krug emerged as such a dangerous offensive weapon in last year’s playoffs, it was an easy decision to have him quarterback the top power-play unit — especially when you consider how much the Bruins’ power play struggled for most of last season. He has great hands and a great shot, and he’s able to create open lanes with his footwork.
The tougher decision — at least looking at it from the outside — was what to do with Chara. As great as Chara is in pretty much every other area, he never seemed totally comfortable as a power-play quarterback.
When he got an open look, he could take advantage with his rocket of a shot, but getting those looks — and being able to move the puck quickly when he didn’t — could sometimes be a struggle. The problem for the Bruins was that they didn’t have anyone else who was a great fit for the quarterback role, either. Read the rest of this entry »
|Jarome Iginla establishes physical presence in Bruins debut||10.03.13 at 11:29 pm ET|
Jarome Iginla didn’t think it was a particularly dirty hit. He just didn’t like being knocked to the ice by Lightning defenseman Radko Gudas, so he decided to say something. After a quick verbal exchange, the gloves were off and Iginla had his first fight as a Bruin.
“It is always nice [to get the first fight out of the way],” Iginla said. “Between seasons, with the summer off, you always feel a little bit rusty at the start. It’s always nice. Just going off emotion. Nothing planned. Just got run over. That’s part of it.”
Whether it was the best time for Iginla to drop the gloves is highly debatable. He’s a first-line winger, and Gudas is not a first-pairing defenseman. On top of that, the Bruins had the lead at the time. All things considered, the Lightning would take that trade-off every time, especially since they ended up scoring just 1:26 after the fight.
But the fight did serve a purpose for Iginla. It was the centerpiece of his effort to establish himself on a new team. Combined with some of the hits he threw as an aggressive forechecker, the fight let everyone know that, at age 36, the future Hall of Famer is still going to be as physical as he’s always been.
And on a team that takes pride in sticking up for each other, Iginla made it known that he’s perfectly capable of sticking up for himself and fighting his own battles.
“That’s been Bruins hockey for a long time,” Iginla said. “Guys stick up for each other, but you also have to stick up for yourself. You don’t want anyone else rushing in on a good, clean hit. It’s just part of the intensity, part of the emotion.”
While it wasn’t Iginla’s primary motivation for dropping the gloves, the fight also won over the small group of Bruins fans who hadn’t quite forgiven Iginla for spurning the B’s in favor of the Penguins last season. There had even been a few boos when Iginla was introduced before the game.
But after the fight? Standing ovation.
“It felt good to play here and play at home, have the crowd, and be a Bruin,” Iginla said. “Guys play hard. Some big blocked shots. [Shawn Thornton] starting it off with a tilt there. There’s some hits. It felt good to be a part of an intense season opener again to get things started.”
Ultimately, the Bruins didn’t bring Iginla to Boston to be a fighter. They brought him here to be the first-line goal scorer he’s been his whole career. And given that Iginla scored 14 goals in last year’s lockout-shortened season and 30 or more in each of the 11 seasons prior to that, there’s every reason to believe he’ll be that.
Iginla’s track record speaks for itself. He didn’t need to prove himself to anyone on Thursday night. But the fact that he wanted to prove himself — to his new teammates and to his new home crowd — certainly bodes well for the Bruins.
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