|Top to bottom: Bruins’ strange usage of Seth Griffith||12.15.14 at 4:29 pm ET|
When players get called up to the NHL, it’s typical for them to play in lesser roles before working their way up to higher lines. It’s been the opposite for Seth Griffith.
With only three goals through their first three games of the season, the Bruins recalled Griffith from Providence to play on their first line with David Krejci and Milan Lucic. Griffith, a second-year pro, has been Krejci’s right wing in all 11 of Krejci’s games this season.
Yet Krejci, who may be nearing a return to the lineup, has missed a lot of time due to injury and the Bruins haven’t been as confident in Griffith as a first-line player when No. 46 hasn’t been centering him.
The last two games, Griffith has been on Boston’s fourth line in place of the absent Simon Gagne. Griffith, who scored as many as 45 goals in a season in his junior days, is not a prototypical fourth-line grinder. Prototypical or not, however, he’s a fourth-liner.
“For now,” Claude Julien said Monday. “We don’t have any extra forwards and we’d still like to be able to see our fourth line be able to bring some offense, so that’s why we put him there. That line was actually pretty good with Simon Gagne, and Simon Gagne’s been a top-line player his whole career.”
With all due respect to Julien, that line was not pretty good. The trio of Gregory Campbell between Daniel Paille and Gagne struggled in much of its time together, though it turned a corner on this month’s California trip.
Going from a top-line to a bottom line can be quite the adjustment. For one, you have to deal with playing fewer minutes. In most cases, you’re also working with less skilled players around you and opposing different types of players. Elite scorers who skate on top lines can be easier to oppose when you have the puck, as many top-liners are there mostly on offensive merit. The bottom-six is a working man’s game.
Guys like Brad Marchand in 2010-11 had to hone their craft in such roles before graduating to higher lines.
“I think it’s just going to help me,” Griffith said. “It’s my first year in the league. You look at this whole lineup; everybody plays hard. It’s not like it’s really a fourth-line role. You’re playing the same.
“You’re just trying to play hard every shift. If you want to be in this league a long time, you’ve got to learn to do little things like that. It’s just something that can help improve my game, if anything.”
The Bruins’ attempts at changing their fourth line from the Merlot Line days have been unsuccessful so far, and Griffith has been unsuccessful without Krejci so far. The 21-year-old has five points (three goals, two assists) when Krejci’s been in the lineup and two points (both goals) in 11 games without Krejci.
The Bruins have used Krejci on a couple different lines in practice over the last week, but Griffith hasn’t been a part of them. His return could either return Griffith to the first line or move him out of the lineup altogether (Craig Cunningham is more of a prototypical fourth-liner), but for now, Griffith will take whatever minutes he can get.
“Griff is a pretty smart player,” Julien said. “It’s not the same definition as what we had before – bang and crash and that kind of stuff – but that’s where he fits right now.”
|David Krejci to travel with Bruins, return date unknown||12.15.14 at 1:23 pm ET|
David Krejci will travel with the Bruins for their three-game road trip this week, Claude Julien said after Monday’s practice.
Julien did not indicate whether Krejci would play. The B’s have three games in the next four days beginning with Tuesday’s contest against the Predators.
“I hope so. I can’t guarantee that, though,” Julien said of Krejci playing. “I hope so.”
Krejci has missed the last 10 games and has been limited to just 11 games this season due to lower-body injuries. He skated on a four-man line with Milan Lucic, Chris Kelly and Craig Cunningham Monday.
The lines were as follows:
Marchand – Bergeron – Smith
Fraser – Soderberg – Eriksson
Lucic – Kelly – Krejci – Cunningham
Paille – Campbell – Griffith
When Krejci has been in the lineup, he has been productive and the Bruins have been successful. Krejci has three goals and seven assists for 10 points in 11 games, with the B’s going 7-4-0. The Bruins have gone 8-9-2 when Krejci has not been in the lineup.
For more Bruins news, visit weei.com/bruins.
|Zdeno Chara, Bruins not making excuses for poor play||12.13.14 at 6:10 pm ET|
The Bruins have had plenty of built-in excuses this season if they wanted to use them. They lost two of their best players from last season (Jarome Iginla in free agency and Johnny Boychuk via trade) and didn’t do anything to replace them. And they’ve had injuries pile up both at forward and on defense, with the prolonged absences of Zdeno Chara and David Krejci the most notable.
The Bruins aren’t using any of those as excuses, though. Despite all of that, they still expect to be a good team. For the first month or so of Chara’s absence, they were at least good enough to beat some bad teams and maintain control of a playoff spot.
Over the last few weeks, however, they’ve faced better teams, lost seven of nine and lost control of a playoff spot — while they are still eighth in the Eastern Conference in terms of point, they’re actually 10th in points percentage thanks to the fact they’ve played more games than the other bubble teams.
“We can look at all the excuses we want, but we haven’t been that type of a team and I don’t want it to be that type of a team,” Claude Julien said. “So instead of feeling sorry for ourselves, let’s get mad and let’s do something about it.”
Chara returned to the lineup Thursday night against the Blackhawks, but the Bruins have lost both games since then, erasing any dreams anyone had that his return would be some magical elixir.
Chara has looked OK at times — especially in the third period Thursday night — but it’s been obvious that he’s still not up to speed. He’s taken four penalties in two games, with his second penalty Saturday leading to an Ottawa power-play goal that tied the game at 2-2. Julien didn’t even use Chara in overtime Saturday, something that would be unheard of if Chara was playing like Chara.
With the rest of the team struggling as much as it is, the Bruins need Chara in top form as soon as possible. He knows that, and like the rest of the team, he’s not making excuses for why he isn’t there yet.
“The first guy, I’m looking at myself,” Chara said. “I’ve got to be better and I have to work to be at the top of my game. … I can be here and talking about how difficult it is, but that’s the way it is. My job is to get to that performance where I need to be as soon as I can, as quick as I can.”
|Milan Lucic: Bruins ‘can’t wait too much longer to turn this thing around’||12.13.14 at 5:20 pm ET|
With one point on Saturday, the Bruins technically moved back ahead of the Panthers for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. In reality, they remained 10th in the conference in terms of points percentage, as all the other bubble teams — the Panthers, Maple Leafs, Rangers and Capitals — have games in hand on the Bruins.
Throughout the Bruins’ early-season struggles and rash of injuries, there was always the sense that as long as the B’s remained in playoff position, there was no need to be too worried.
Well, it’s time to be worried. The Bruins have lost seven of their last nine, and they’re not in playoff position anymore.
Zdeno Chara is back, but he’s still getting up to speed. David Krejci is still out, meaning three of the four forward lines are still in flux. A month ago, it might have been OK to say “Just wait until Chara is back to being himself” or “Just wait until Krejci returns.”
But the Bruins don’t have the luxury of waiting now, and they know it.
“We can’t wait too much longer to turn this thing around,” said Milan Lucic. ” We have to do it now. We can’t wait much longer. We have five games before Christmas break. We should be hungry on wanting to get as many points as we can get.”
It’s not going to be easy for the Bruins to turn it around in the next week, as they hit the road for games in Nashville, Minnesota and Winnipeg against three pretty solid teams. But somehow, they’re going to have to find a way to do it.
It can be tempting to look at those other bubble teams and say, “Well none of them are all that good. Maybe they’ll start losing more.” And maybe they will. But the Bruins aren’t all that good right now either, and having to rely on others to lose in order to make the playoffs is a dangerous way to go.
It’s still a little early for full-blown panic mode, but it’s definitely time for concern. And for the Bruins players, it needs to be time for a lot more urgency.
“No one is going to do it for us,” Lucic said. “We can’t bank on other teams to lose and other teams to do us favors. We have to start bringing it on the ice and start getting wins.”
|5 things we learned as Bruins fall in shootout to Senators||12.13.14 at 3:48 pm ET|
The Bruins got just one point out of Saturday’s shootout loss to the Senators, but it could have been worse.
Patrice Bergeron had a late injury scare in the third period, but the Bruins were able to breathe a sigh of relief with his eventual return. That wasn’t enough to get the B’s past the Senators, however, as Boston fell to 15-13-2 on the season with a 3-2 loss on penalty shots.
Bergeron left the ice during a third-period shift with less than five and a half minutes to play after getting slashed on his left hand/wrist.
The veteran center did not stay on the bench, instead heading down the tunnel to the Bruins’ dressing room. He did not play for the rest of regulation, but he was back on the ice for the start of overtime. He was stopped by Robin Lehner on a shootout attempt.
Here are four more things we learned Saturday:
CHARA SLOW IN GETTING BACK
Chara has had his ups and downs through two games, struggling with the puck and taking four penalties, including a first-period high-sticking minor and third-period interference minor Saturday. His second penalty of the day was costly, as it led to David Legwand’s power play goal.
One stat we perhaps over here at the good ship ‘EEI is five-on-five goals against for the Bruins with Patrice Bergeron and Zdeno Chara on the ice together. That number is usually low for the season, but Ottawa’s goal off Marchand’s turnover marked the fifth time in 11 games that the opposing team has scored an even strength goal against Bergeron and Chara.
CUNNINGHAM SCORES FITTING FIRST GOAL
Craig Cunningham has not been bad when the Bruins have let him play this season. In scoring his first career NHL goal Saturday, he left the Bruins with fewer reasons to take him out again.
Cunningham is used as a bottom-six forward and penalty killer. His first-period goal, a shorthanded tally, showed that playing a simple game can play off.
Chasing a puck into the offensive zone and getting there first, Cunningham knew he wasn’t going to be able to gain separation with Erik Karlsson racing back to cut off his angle to the net. Rather than taking a chance, Cunningham simply wound up and hoped for the best, with his waffling slap shot trickling past Robin Lehner.
It was undoubtedly a horrible goal for Lehner to give up, but Cunningham’s work and execution deserved to be rewarded at some point.
MARCHAND PULL-UP PULLS BRUINS DOWN
Time and time again, we’ve seen Marchand race into the zone, pull up and find an option for dishing the puck. It’s an extremely useful move and has been for years, yet it can be costly. On Saturday, it was costly.
In the second period, Marchand brought the puck into the zone, pulled up at the left circle and sent the puck towards the middle of the ice, where it was picked off by the Senators and taken the other way, leading to a Mika Zibanejad goal. Marchand would later score in the shootout.
BRUINS WON’T GIVE UP THE FIGHT
After Thursday’s game against the Blackhawks — one that saw Chris Kelly drop the gloves with Andrew Shaw – the Bruins were averaging about one fight every three games. Perhaps Saturday showed that the Bruins would like to ramp up their fisticuffs pace.
Milan Lucic fought Mark Borowiecki after the Ottawa defenseman hit him in the corner of the offensive zone. The fight was Boston’s 11th of the season and Lucic’s second.
|Red Sox COO Sam Kennedy on Mustard & Johnson: ‘We would love to have [Winter Classic] at Fenway Park’||12.13.14 at 12:49 pm ET|
Red Sox COO Sam Kennedy joined Mustard & Johnson at Christmas at Fenway on Saturday to talk about the possibility of Fenway Park hosting the 2016 Winter Classic. To hear the interview, visit the Mustard & Johnson audio on demand page.
TSN’s Bob McKenzie reported on Thursday night that the Bruins were the favorites to land next season’s Winter Classic, but that it was unclear where the game would be held. Kennedy confirmed that the Red Sox are making a bid to get the game back at Fenway, which also hosted the 2010 Winter Classic between the Bruins and Flyers.
Kennedy acknowledged that Gillette Stadium is also in the running and hinted that other venues could be involved, too.
“Of course we understand that if it goes to Gillette Stadium or some other venue, that’s good for hockey, good for New England,” Kennedy said. “But I’ll be extremely disappointed [if Fenway doesn’t get it]. … And by the way, the NHL could surprise us. You’ve got Gillette Stadium and Fenway Park, but I’ve been day-dreaming about other places they might be talking to. We’re not the only game in town.”
Kenendy outlined the Red Sox’ pitch and talked about the challenge of competing against the Patriots and Gillette Stadium.
“I think the reasons that we would put forward is the fact that this is Fenway Park, in the city of Boston, unbelievable atmosphere, one of the most iconic sports venues in all of the world really,” Kennedy said. “The experiment back in 2010 was so successful. It was such a great game, great environment. I think NBC loved it. And that’s of course with all due respect to the Patriots and Gillette Stadium.
“Listen, let’s do the math. They’ve got 68,800 seats down there or whatever it is. It’s going to be difficult to compete with that. We’ll put our best foot forward. Tom Werner and Charlie Jacobs had a conversation yesterday, they chatted about it. Everyone knows we’d love to host the game here, but we also respect the fact that we’re not going to get every single major event that comes to the region.”
|NHL handles Jonathan Toews injury scare the right way, Blackhawks don’t||12.12.14 at 5:23 pm ET|
The NHL does not want Jonathan Toews to get hurt. Neither does Dennis Seidenberg. Yet while the league was smart in reacting to Thursday night’s scary play, the Blackhawks themselves were not.
The Department of Player Safety chose the perhaps not-so-popular, but rational option in assessing Boston’s defenseman no supplemental discipline for a play that resulted in Chicago’s captain going face-first into the end boards at TD Garden.
The play was not a “hit,” nor was it dirty. Seidenberg was battling for position chasing a loose puck and tried to put his left arm under and in front of Toews’ right arm to gain leverage. He outmuscled Toews, but rather than Toews being knocked off the puck, his feet as he tried to turn away took him into the boards.
It was fast, it was scary and it’s the last thing either team wanted to see. It wasn’t dirty. If the result of the play was anything but Toews hitting the boards, the takeaway by any and every observer would be surprise at how easily Toews was knocked off the puck.
It’s understandable why anyone outside of Boston might be upset with the play. The league doesn’t want its stars getting hurt and it also doesn’t want to admit ‘ as it effectively did by not punishing Seidenberg ‘ that bad things such as head injuries are going to happen even when guys play within the rules.
Still, by not punishing Seidenberg they avoided an equally big mess of an issue, as suspending Seidenberg would have sent the message that you’re not allowed to be stronger than the guy you’re battling.
Claude Julien, who blamed the play on Toews after the game, said Friday that he was relieved that the league let Seidenberg off.
“I looked at it again. You look at those things and you look at it quick,” Julien said. “I say the same thing: I’m not necessarily saying that’s the situation, but sometimes we’ve got to protect ourselves as players. Dennis is a strong individual, and he went in there to close the gap quickly away from the boards.”
Asked whether he would have called the play a “hit,” Julien said he wasn’t sure that Seidenberg deserved a boarding penalty.
“It’s debatable. It’s debatable,” Julien said. “It depends on who you talk to and how you look at it. I looked at it again, and I’m saying the same thing. It’s debatable whether it’s a penalty or not. He did go in head-first and it looks like he was going the other way and Dennis did what he had to do [on the penalty kill], was get on him aggressively and try and close the gap.”
The issue actually shouldn’t be with Seidenberg, Toews or Julien. It should be with Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville and anyone else who decided to keep Toews on the ice.
Somehow, that’s where Toews was for Chicago’s five-on-three after the play. He took a penalty during that five-on-three and then had another three-second shift before leaving the game for good.
Quenneville said after the game that Toews “seemed all right.” Still, two more shifts before hitting the showers is absurd for a guy with a history of concussions. Players are supposed to go to the quiet room and go through the proper protocol after concussion scares, and Thursday night’s play was undoubtedly a concussion scare.
The play itself was unfortunate, but at the very least, the Department of Player Safety did the right thing. That’s more than the Blackhawks can say for themselves.
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