|It’s time to start giving Don Sweeney some credit||11.12.16 at 9:00 am ET|
Bloated deals, unearned no-trade clauses, and some truly awful drafting were just some of the reasons for fan resentment. But it hasn’t been all bad and Sweeney and his staff should be commended for the work they’ve done in shoring up the bottom six. Though the bottom half of the forwards are often overshadowed by the top half because scorers get the glory, the work they do is essential, as well.
Ever since the Dan Paille/Greg Campbell/Shawn Thornton line was dismantled, the Bruins have struggled to find a similarly effective and cohesive fourth unit. Thanks to a couple of shrewd summer pick-ups, however, they now have a trio that isn’t a liability when Claude Julien sends it over the boards.
Dom Moore was the latest addition to the roster when he signed in late August and has been effective pivoting the fourth line. Moore is the epitome of a role player. He’s a vital penalty killer, and his contract is $900,000 well spent, even if the Corsi Crew whines about his possession metrics. Julien is able to trust him in all situations and his experience is better to have out there late than a kid. His three goals and two assists have been a nice little bonus.
On July 1, the Bruins released a list of six signings with Anton Khudobin and John-Michael Liles, the two biggest names on it. Tim Schaller wasn’t a name most were familiar with, unless they’re Providence College fans, but he’s certainly become known since. A free agent after three years in the Buffalo organization, Sweeney signed him for a shade over the minimum ($600,000) and has more than gotten his money’s worth.
Schaller brings some good size, energy, and as we saw Thursday, some nifty hands in close as he potted a sweet roof job. He grabbed onto the role and his two goals so far have doubled his NHL career total. It’s not a stretch to think he’ll add to it further in the near future.
The undrafted Noel Acciari was signed on June 8, 2015 for just under $800K after leading the national champion Providence Friars with 15 goals; his 32 points was second on the team. He played in 19 games last year notching one assist but struggled to make an impression on a team that struggled throughout the year to make an impression.
However, this year Acciari has meshed well with Schaller and Moore to revitalize the bottom line prior to being injured on Monday (he’ll miss about four weeks). He plays much bigger than his 5-foot-10 frame and uses his body well along the boards and in the corners to dig out pucks. He has two helpers on the year and helps drive possession in the 10 minutes of ice he gets per game.
Even if this threesome doesn’t quite make you forget about that old ‘Wine Line,’ it’s still been one of Claude’s most effective so far this year. And a lot of the credit for that goes to the front office for doing their due diligence on these guys.
Under $2.3M for a quality fourth line is good cap management. We beat up on the front office guys all the time when they screw up. It’s only right that we acknowledge their work when they do things well, too.
|Bruins finally finding contributions from everybody else||11.11.16 at 3:55 pm ET|
On his 46th shot of the season, Bruins defenseman Torey Krug found the back of the net for the first time this season. Matt Beleskey, in his 13th game of the season, followed Krug’s first with his first goal of the season. Austin Czarnik followed the Beleskey strike with the second goal of his NHL career. Fourth-line forward Tim Schaller struck with his second goal of the season 24 seconds after Czarnik, and in 4:01, the Bruins had goals from four different scorers in what would finish as a 5-2 win for the B’s over the Blue Jackets on Thursday.
In a night that ended with goals from five different Bruins when David Backes added the fifth goal of the night, and his first since the first game of the season — and six, actually, if you want to include defenseman Colin Miller’s own-goal on goaltender Tuukka Rask in the third period — the Black and Gold finally found contributions from somebody not on their ultra-talented first line.
Neither Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, nor David Pastrnak registered a point in the win.
In fact, they weren’t even on the ice for any of the goals.
|Bruins recall Sean Kuraly from American Hockey League||11.11.16 at 1:44 pm ET|
Officially down fourth-line forward Noel Acciari, who will be out for the next four weeks with a lower-body injury according to Bruins general manager Don Sweeney, the Bruins have wisely decided to carry an extra body up front for their three-game road swing through the Western Conference with the recall of Sean Kuraly from the P-Bruins.
An emergency recall on the club’s last road trip, Kuraly made his NHL debut on Nov. 3 in an 11-shift, 7:07 of time on ice night for the B’s. In for a scratched Matt Beleskey and on a third line with Riley Nash and Jimmy Hayes, the 23-year-old Kuraly finished the night with a minus-1 rating, one shot attempt, and an 0-for-2 mark on faceoffs.
In Providence, Kuraly has tallied two assists, with 21 shots and nine penalty minutes in 10 games.
Acquired in the Martin Jones to San Jose trade, Kuraly is a true first-year pro, and is in the B’s organization after a four-year collegiate career with Miami of Ohio that included 43 goals and 93 points in 154 games played. His 93 points rank 51st on the university’s all-time scoring list.
A Dublin, Ohio native, Kuraly was originally drafted by the San Jose Sharks 133rd overall in 2011.
The Bruins are back in action on Saturday night against the Arizona Coyotes.
|Anton Khudobin will join Bruins on 3-game road trip||11.11.16 at 1:22 pm ET|
Set to embark on a three-game road trip with stops in Arizona, Colorado, and Minnesota, the Bruins will get an experienced boost to their goaltending corps with the return — or at the very least, the accompaniment — of backup goaltender Anton Khudobin.
Injured before the start of practice on Oct. 24, the 30-year-old was originally expected to miss three weeks with an upper-body injury, but was seen at B’s practice earlier this week skating (albeit without a stick in his hand) and has progressed well enough to be with the team.
“Khudobin is coming,” Bruins coach Claude Julien confirmed.
Like every Bruins goaltender not named Tuukka Rask, Khudobin is winless on the year, with an 0-2-0 record and .849 save percentage in two games played. With Khudobin out of action, the Bruins have relied on Zane McIntyre to be Rask’s backup, and the true second-year pro has come through with a winless record and .859 save percentage in three games played against undeniably stiff competition in the Wild, Rangers, and Canadiens.
One of four injured Bruins — forwards Noel Acciari, Frank Vatrano, and defenseman Kevan Miller round out the group — Khudobin is the only one expected to be with the team for the trip.
“Kevan is not due to come with us,” Julien said. “He may join us, we’ll see how his rehab is going.”
Miller, who was also on the ice this week, is recovering from a fractured left hand.
|5 Things We Learned as Bruins chase Sergei Bobrovsky with 4 goals in 4:01 in big win||11.10.16 at 9:38 pm ET|
In front of a sellout crowd on Military Appreciation Night at TD Garden, Bruins defenseman Torey Krug — one of seven American Bruins to donate $2,500 worth of tickets to tonight’s game to military members and their families — found another way to show his appreciation to members of the country’s armed services.
And it began with his goal that opened the floodgates on a 4:01 stretch that chased Blue Jackets goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky with four goals on just eight shots on goal and paved the way for a big B’s win on home ice in a 5-2 final over the visiting Jackets.
Down in an 0-1 hole just 2:29 into the first period when Nick Foligno capitalized on a Zdeno Chara breakout pass blocked by Alex Wennberg, and then on a penalty kill just four minutes later, the game had the early makings of one that the Black and Gold, who did everything but win in their last game (a 3-2 loss to the Canadiens), would let slip through their hands.
But with over 30 seconds of zone time in the Columbus end, it was Krug that found the equalizer with his first goal of the season, scored on his 46th shot of the season, with help from a deflection that appeared to go off the Blue Jackets’ Scott Hartnell. Forward Matt Beleskey matched Krug’s first of the year with his own just 1:08 later, while it was Austin Czarnik scored at 12:24, and then fourth-line forward Tim Schaller that put the nail in Bobrovsky’s coffin with a goal 24 seconds after that.
In came Curtis McElhinney, who replaced Bobrovsky after just 12:48, and up came the Jackets’ white flag on this game.
For Bobrovsky, the early hook ended his bid for career victory No. 1 against the Bruins. In what was his seventh career appearance against the club, the Bruins — who beat the ultra-talented Russian netminder with five goals on 36 shots on opening night this season, too — remain the only National Hockey League franchise that he’s yet to beat in his six-year NHL career.
The Bruins would add a fifth goal courtesy of David Backes’ third goal of the season, scored 11:51 into the second period, while the Jackets got on the board in the third period behind a Colin Miller own-goal off a faceoff that went through Tuukka Rask.
Bruins stymie Jackets’ high-powered special teams
The Blue Jackets entered tonight’s game with the league’s top power play, and the league’s second-best penalty kill. And while the Jackets leave the Garden with their gaudy penalty killing figures intact behind a 2-for-2 showing, it would be the power play that took a dip with an 0-for-3 mark on the night. Limited to the outside on their man advantages, the Jackets struggled mightily to find high-quality chances against B’s netminder Tuukka Rask, and had nothing to show for it when the night was done.
This is a B’s team that’s really felt like they’ve been a dominant five-on-five group this year on both sides of the puck, so to carry some of that success into their shorthanded game against a vaunted power play team like the Jackets can only be a positive for the B’s PK as it heads on the road against a subpar Coyotes power play and Avalanche power play that’s been great at home.
Don’t look now, but the B’s third line is cooking
It took a few games, but the Bruins might have found themselves a third line that can chip in with some much needed offense.
With center-turned-winger Austin Czarnik on the right side for the slumping Jimmy Hayes, the B’s third line combo with Czarnik and Matt Beleskey between Riley Nash has become a capable secondary scoring presence for Claude Julien’s squad. Now in their fourth game together, the trio accounted for a combined five points through 20 minutes of play, with a goal and an assist from both Czarnik and Beleskey while Nash picked up a helper of his own.
In a night of goals for the Bruins, it was really the Beleskey goal that showed off what can make this line so great. As Nash pressured Blue Jacket defender Markus Nutivaara, Nutivaara ditched the puck with a blind pass that was intercepted by Czarnik, and then dished across the circles to Beleskey, who fired it home for his first of the year.
You had the strong forecheck of Nash, the strong playmaking sense of Czarnik, and net-drive by Beleskey all on one play.
Bada-bing, bada-boom. (I just really wanted to write that, I’m sorry.)
Still, with a combined five points, the line has now accounted for three goals and nine points in their last four games.
Bruins find back-to-back success in Boston
For the first time since Mar. 1 and 3, 2016, the Bruins have won consecutive home games. That streak may not seem like anything special, but for a Black and Gold group that’s been straight-up pitiful at home, it means a whole lot. The Bruins had been 0-3-0 in home games following a home win since that aforementioned winning streak in March, and had just two home winning streaks all of last season (the only other one was a three-game streak from Nov. 19 to 27, 2015).
Backes continues to dominate Blue Jackets
Think David Backes likes playing the Blue Jackets?
In his 47th career game against the Jackets, the 32-year-old came through with one goal and an assist, giving him 19 goals and 40 points against the Columbus franchise overall. So much of Backes’ damage against the Jackets came during his run with the St. Louis Blues, which included the Jackets as a Central Division rival for all but three of his 10 years with the Blues. And since coming to the Bruins, all but one of his six points on the year have come against the Jackets, too.
On a line with Ryan Spooner and David Krejci, Backes has looked more comfortable with each game, and admitted on Thursday morning that his elbow has been pain free since his return to the ice last Saturday.
The Bruins will return to action with a Saturday night road game with the Arizona Coyotes.
|Bruins host Blue Jackets in Military Appreciation Night||11.10.16 at 5:38 pm ET|
On the eve of Veterans Day, the Boston Bruins will do their part to honor the armed forces when they play host to the Columbus Blue Jackets in Military Appreciation Night at TD Garden.
Seven members of the Bruins — Noel Acciari, David Backes, Jimmy Hayes, Torey Krug, John-Michael Liles, Kevan Miller, and Frank Vatrano — have each donated $2,500 worth of tickets to military members and families of military members. In addition to their contributions, top-line center Patrice Bergeron has donated his suite to Gold Star families also.
The Bruins will also wear camoflague warmup jerseys during their pregame skate (those jerseys will be auctioned off during an in-game auction), and will sport American and Canadian flag tape on their sticks to show their support for the military.
“In proportion to what the military does for us, to be able to donate tickets and spend some time with them after the game is such an easy way to show your appreciation for what they do for us,” Krug said. “It’s always a game that we look forward to, especially as Americans.”
Despite a loss to the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday night, the Bruins seemed pleased with their game overall, especially after a 43-shot barrage thrown on Carey Price in the defeat, and come into tonight’s game with a chance to win consecutive home games for the first time this season (and first time since Mar. 1 and Mar. 3, 2016).
“We need to establish our building as a really tough place to come into and an even tougher place to leave with any points coming out of,” Backes, who has 18 goals and 38 points in 46 career games against the Blue Jackets, said following the morning skate at Warrior Ice Arena. “It starts tonight, we have a great opportunity, we can’t waste it.”
The first goalie off the ice at the morning skate, Tuukka Rask is the expected starter in net for the Bruins. Rask stopped all 32 shots thrown his way in his last appearance, a 4-0 shutout win over the Sabres on Monday, and enters play with seven wins and a .941 save percentage in eight games this season. In seven career starts against the Blue Jackets, Rask has six wins and a .932 save percentage, and stopped 28-of-31 shots in a head-to-head with the Jackets earlier this season.
On the second leg of a traveling back-to-back that saw Sergei Bobrvosky in net last night, the Jackets are expected to give this start to backup netminder Curtis McElhinney.
Defenseman Joe Morrow is the expected healthy scratch for the Bruins.
Morrow will be joined by the injured Acciari, who will miss the next four weeks with a lower-body injury sustained in Monday’s loss. Acciari has two assists and eight shots on goal in 12 games played this season.
Here are the expected lines and defensive pairings for the Bruins
Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – David Pastrnak
Ryan Spooner – David Krejci – David Backes
Matt Beleskey – Riley Nash – Austin Czarnik
Tim Schaller – Dominic Moore – Jimmy Hayes
Zdeno Chara – Brandon Carlo
Torey Krug – Adam McQuaid
John-Michael Liles – Colin Miller
|Out of the United States on election night, Bruins touch on presidential race||11.10.16 at 3:12 pm ET|
Professional hockey players approach talking politics the way they would an opportunity to block a Zdeno Chara slapshot face-first, without a visor. Ideally, you simply don’t do it.
It’s almost never been worth it, and there’s a great — if not likely — chance you come out of it looking worse than you entered.
The Tim Thomas saga endured by the Boston Bruins throughout their 2011-12 season, a year in which Thomas — who sported the coiled rattlesnake from the Gadsden Flag on the back of his mask — declined the invitation to join the team at the White House for a celebration of their 2011 Stanley Cup win with President Barack Obama is more than enough to scare any player off from giving their opinion.
And it was after a deeper sigh and moment of reflection that David Backes, a Minnesota native and one of the league’s biggest American stars, offered his voice on Thursday.