|Bruins match Flyers in pressure, beat ’em in goals||01.14.17 at 3:41 pm ET|
A head-to-head with a Flyers team that entered play with the sixth-most goals scored in the league this year would have been a death sentence for the Bruins a month ago. Or even a couple of weeks ago.
But back in Boston after a four-game road trip in which the Bruins scored 13 goals and seized five of a possible eight points, the Bruins carried that confidence into Saturday and proved more than capable of hanging, with goals from five different scores in a back-and-forth game of yesteryear and 6-3 win over their rival of half a century.
In a situation where they simply need points, the victory showed a sign of progress and growth as a team given the obstacles that the Flyers and this game presented the club with, and early.
Down in a one-goal hole 2:05 into the first period, and forced to work from behind in a TD Garden that’s been unkind to them for two seasons in a row now, the Bruins found life with a shorthanded breakaway from Brad Marchand that had a familiar ending.
In his 500th NHL game and what was Marchand’s 21st career shorthanded goal, moving him into sole possession of third on the club’s all-time shorthanded goals list, Marchand capitalized on a flubbed keep-in from the Flyers’ Sean Couturier and then outraced Ivan Provorov to beat Michal Neuvirth for the first Bruins goal of the night and 1-1 draw through 20.
…And then the floodgates opened. But in a good way for the Bruins.
David Krejci scored on the power play two minutes into the second, Torey Krug put the Bruins on the board with an insurance marker for his third goal in as many games. And even when the Flyers cut the deficit back to one, the Bruins came at them with two more goals in a 2:14 span, and continued to pound the Flyers into submission, even if the middle period ended with the Flyers drawing back within two behind Wayne Simmonds’ power-play goal with just 3.2 seconds left in the second period.
When the Flyers put the screws to the B’s, the Bruins not only matched it, but doubled it.
A team that’s typically had to work twice as hard for the same amount of goals, the B’s flipped the script and kept the pressure cranked on the Flyers for the full 60 minutes of play, and refused to give up any ice even in the third period with the Flyers pressing down by two goals, limiting them to just five shots on goal against Tuukka Rask.
This was something that the club did well against both the Panthers and Blues during their road trip, but that’s something that’s been seldom seen at the Garden this year. And the importance of that cannot be stated enough.
With a schedule that’s seemingly worked against the B’s all year long in terms of games played versus games played by those around them, the Bruins will play 21 of their remaining 36 games at TD Garden, and establishing some sort of home-ice consistency is of the utmost importance to this team in regards to maximizing their point totals. And doing it with a stronger counterpunch to everything the Flyers showed the resolve that this team can battle with to make that happen.
The win improved the Bruins to an even 10-10-0 at home this season.
|Tim Schaller’s head takes TD Garden over for Bruins-Flyers||01.14.17 at 2:05 pm ET|
Look on the ice for today’s game between the Bruins and Flyers and you’ll see just one Tim Schaller head. Look into the TD Garden crowd, however, and you’ll see more than a few. You’ll see several, actually.
OK, what the hell am I talking about?
It is a simple as it sounds. It’s just oversized cutouts, about 40-by-30 in size, of Schaller’s headshot from his first season with the Sabres organization and with the Merrimack, N.H. native donning a mustache straight out of the ’80s.
It’s all part of an event orchestrated by Tim’s older brother, Dave, and it’s called Timmyhead Takeover at the Garden.
“We have a bunch of crazy friends that I work with. I work for the printing department at my office and I said, ‘How big can I make a Timmyhead?’ So we tried it. And here we are,” Dave, a regular at B’s games this year (with or without the cutouts), said. “The second we did it, even with like two-foot tall heads, people were like ‘Whoa, this is cool!’ and now they’re almost five feet tall.”
There’s been different versions of the Timmyhead this year, too.
Around Christmas they put a Santa hat on him. Today there are heads with LED lights around them.
“I never expected this many people. I thought it’d be fun to do at work with my friends because all of them know Timmy,” continued Dave, “but the second I put this on social media and all my friends from home started seeing it, it blew up.”
A roleplayer that’s done his job in all situations for the Black and Gold this year, the phenomenon has helped Schaller get comfortable and have some fun with the extra motivation of knowing his friends are in the crowd.
“He loves it. He absolutely loves it,” Dave said when asked what Tim thinks. “Well, I don’t know if he loves it, but he’s accepted it.”
“It’s unbelievable,” Tim said with a laugh. “I think it’s the funniest thing ever.”
|Rear Admiral: Bruins better start identifying themselves, or else||01.14.17 at 9:04 am ET|
The Bruins have played more than half of their schedule so far this season and, despite currently sitting in second-place in the Atlantic, they still give off a pretty severe Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde vibe that makes one wonder if they’ll make the playoffs.
The Bruins have accrued 49 points in 45 yin-yang games while putting together a Tuukka Rask-aided 22-18-5 record. They have a losing record at home at 9-10 but are 13-8-5 on the road.
All too frequently, they turn in subpar efforts when they play subpar opponents and have squandered too many points in the process. Yet they’ll go up to their personal House of Horrors in Montreal to snag a win from the division leader. They’ve also handed the NHL-leading Columbus Blue Jackets a quarter of their eight losses.
So who, exactly, are the 2016-17 Boston Bruins?
They’re a decent, flawed team whose biggest current issue its inability to score timely goals. But thanks to their stellar netminder, they’re in the thick of the postseason hunt. Of the 16 teams currently in the playoffs, the Bruins have scored the third least (though only seven current playoff teams have given up fewer goals). Simply, it’s a real issue for the team.
Claude’s charges have only three double-digit goal scorers thus far; David Pastrnak’s 19 goals lead the team followed by Brad Marchand with 15 and David Backes with 11. The Bruins have not gotten nearly enough of the secondary scoring that NHL teams need if they plan on making some noise come springtime. But more alarmingly, they’re also lacking the primary scoring.
Patrice Bergeron, who has been better lately than earlier in the season, has only tallied eight goals (the same as free agent fourth liner signing Dominic Moore). David Krejci has nine. Ryan Spooner, who has ridden on Krejci’s left side quite a bit, has seven goals. Those guys need to produce more and quickly or the Bruins will find themselves falling out of the conference’s top eight.
But they’re hardly the only ones to blame. Jimmy Hayes, whose return home has been nothing short of a nightmare, has just two goals in 36 games and has been a healthy scratch lately. Riley Nash, though certainly not considered a sniper, has just two tallies in 45 games. Matt Beleskey was hardly lighting the world on fire before his injury and is also a member of the Two Goal Club (in 24 games).
With the trade deadline a month and a half away, you can be sure that you’ll hear the Bruins mentioned as being in on several players (with Colorado’s Gabriel Landeskog the first prominent name to surface so far). Of course, you should believe almost nothing you read leading up March 1st but that’s another column for another day.
Regardless, if the Bruins plan to not only make the playoffs but actually make some noise for the first time in quite awhile, the front office needs to go out and get another top-six guy who can put the puck in the net. Because as currently constituted, the Bs look earmarked for a one and done if they do manage to get into the postseason dance.
And lack of playoff success is a story that’s getting old around here real quick.
|Tuukka Rask returns to Bruins practice Friday||01.13.17 at 2:25 pm ET|
Tuukka Rask, who left Thursday’s head-to-head with the Predators in the first period after he caught a Roman Josi slapshot in the collarbone/throat area at the 12:49 mark of the game, was back on the ice for the normal routine of a Friday practice at Warrior Ice Arena.
On the ice with Zane McIntyre, who stopped 14-of-16 last night in relief of Rask en route to his third NHL loss in as many decisions, the practice remained that way. And as of right now, the Bruins have not called a goaltender up from the P-Bruins, which seems to indicates that Rask should be well enough to play — or at the very least spectate as the backup — when the B’s play host to the Flyers tomorrow afternoon.
The undisputed MVP of the first half of the season for the Bruins, Rask has 21 wins and a .926 save percentage in 34 games this season, and the Bruins have just one win in 12 games not decided by the 29-year-old Rask this season.
|Will Anton Blidh be suspended for this hit on Preds d-man Roman Josi?||01.13.17 at 9:25 am ET|
The Bruins knew what they were bringing to their big league roster when they called Anton Blidh up from Providence.
An energy player with an agitating style through and through, Blidh has been just that for the Black and Gold while rarely crossing the line. In fact, the 21-year-old Blidh has been a model citizen as far as agitators go, with more penalties drawn than egregious penalties taken.
But late in the first period of Thursday’s loss to the Predators, Blidh finally did cross that line, and was hit with a five-minute major for an interference penalty in which he clocked the Predators’ Roman Josi right in the jaw with a late and unnecessary hit upstairs.
It’s unsure what Blidh’s intentions were on the hit (keep in mind that this hit came after Josi’s slapshot had taken Tuukka Rask out of the game, though that was surely unintentional), but there’s no denying the fight that the hit came in late — at least one-plus second after Josi had ditched the puck with a pass up ice — and that he caught Josi in a vulnerable position.
What’s interesting about the hit (and you’ll notice this on replay) is that Blidh seems to make solid body contact and that it’s Josi’s stick that comes back and clips him in his own face and backwards. In other words, it’s not Blidh’s shoulder that drives into Josi’s chin and helps dump him onto his backside in the corner, but rather his own hands and stick. Is this hit as bad as it looks without that being the case? I don’t know, but it’s something that could and should be weighed into any decision made by the NHL Department of Player Safety, as Blidh could very well make the case that he’s making his effort to have this be body-on-body.
It’s also be worth noting that Josi did leave the game and did not return.
The Bruins have had one player suspended already this year, as David Pastrnak was hit with a two-game ban for his illegal check to the head of Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi in a head-to-head between the B’s and Rangers back on Oct. 26.
|Reminder to the NHL: Fighting Adam McQuaid is a bad idea||01.13.17 at 1:45 am ET|
Maybe the National Hockey League and their referees were onto something with their decision to not let Adam McQuaid fight.
In a game that quickly took on the feel of a playoff game — complete with injuries and questionable hits along with a fervent pace from end to end — McQuaid drew the ire of Predators forward Derek Grant after McQuaid’s hit on Harry Zolnierczyk. And it was Grant, in his first game with the Preds since being claimed off waivers from the Sabres, that decided to engage with the 6-foot-4 defender at center ice.
In the 30-year-old McQuaid’s first fight since Nov. 1 against the Panthers’ Shane Harper — I know it was called a fight and McQuaid was assessed a fighting major, but there’s no way to classify the refs holding McQuaid’s arms behind his back while the Sabres’ William Carrier pounded away back on Dec. 29 as a ‘fight’ — McQuaid dropped Grant with an uppercut straight out of Mike Tyson’s Punch Out.
Credit to Grant, who gave up an inch on McQuaid and is not nearly as experienced in the fighting department (Grant’s lone prior NHL fight came against Matt Beleskey earlier this season), but this was a massive matchup that was exposed as such the longer the fight seemed to go.
This demolition comes less than 48 hours after McQuaid’s night was cut short by an upper-body injury sustained in the first period of the B’s win over the Blues at the Scottrade Center. (McQuaid didn’t even travel to Nashville ’til the next day.)
“He came in and played the game the way we know he plays it,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said of McQuaid’s game. “Stood tall for our team when he was being challenged and I thought that, for our team anyways, was a good boost as well.”
McQuaid has a team-leading three fights this year, and has twice been denied of a fight by the on-ice officials.
|Tuukka Rask injury stuns Bruins in one-goal loss to Predators||01.12.17 at 10:51 pm ET|
It may have been a scoreless affair, but everything was going swimmingly for the Bruins. Just over 12 minutes into the first period, the Bruins controlled the pace of play and were outshooting the Predators 7-to-3. Their defensive game was stout and three-zone support from the center — and wingers, too — was there.
Then came a heavy slapshot from Predators defenseman Roman Josi that changed the fortune for each bench in a 2-1 Preds win.
Rifled between the circles and blue line, the shot rocked Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask right where the padding stopped or gave ever so slightly, and off came Rask’s glove and the mask shortly followed. B’s trainer Donny Del Negro came out to attend to the 29-year-old, and exited Rask in favor of rookie backup Zane McIntyre.
And it was then that you could feel the air leave the Bruins, not in one fell swoop, but in a little-by-little trickle reminiscent of everything that came before what was a successful road trip for the Black and Gold. The story of the year came back to the Bruins, and their little mistakes became big, glaring mistakes.
The Bruins survived a five-minute penalty kill and allowed the Preds to put just one shot on goal, but allowed a goal just 31 seconds after the penalty ended when Austin Watson capitalized on a muffed clear attempt by Torey Krug.
Krug atoned for the error near the midway point of the period, but it was at the 17:36 mark of the period that Filip Forsberg outmuscled Brandon Carlo in a one-on-one battle to score on McIntyre and put the Predators up 2-1 through 40 minutes of play when they were just 2:24 away from escaping the middle frame with a 1-1 draw on each bench.
It was a fitting go-ahead goal given everything the Bruins did and did well in this game.
The shots were there, but the finish was not. The effort was there, but the clock worked against the Bruins.
Even more of that happened in the third period, too, when the Bruins put 13 shots on goal and allowed just four at the other end but failed to get anything by Predators netminder Juuse Saros, who made a career-high 35 stops in the win.
Is this much different with Rask in net? It’s hard to say when the Bruins gave their netminders just one goal of support. But you get the sense that their mentality would have been just a little bit different and there wouldn’t be such a fatalistic approach that came with each goal against tonight — and on the year for that matter when you look at how the B’s have fared without Rask.
Without Rask in their crease and at their disposal as the club’s last line of defense, the Bruins just look like the embodiment of a team that feels like they have to work two times harder than the other club to get the same result — and they were close to it tonight, with 36 shots compared to just 19 from the Predators — and even then, it might not be enough.
Call it what you want; Frustration, a mental blockade, or just bad luck.
But also call it what it is: the team’s 11th loss in 12 games not finished by their ace netminder.