|5 things we learned as Bruins snap losing streak, create breathing room with win over Maple Leafs||03.26.16 at 9:50 pm ET|
Claude Julien likes to note that the Bruins control their own destiny as it relates to making the playoffs. For the time being, he can still say that.
Though they looked to be at risk of putting themselves in a bad spot early, the Bruins took advantage of the Red Wings’ loss earlier in the day and defeated the Maple Leafs, 3-1, Saturday night at Air Canada Centre. The victory snapped a five-game losing streak for the B’s.
Down a goal and playing with nothing to lose, the Maple Leafs pulled goaltender Jonathan Bernier with over three minutes remaining as they tried to mount a comeback, but strong goaltending from Tuukka Rask and a pair of blocked shots from Matt Beleskey helped Boston hold the lead. The Leafs kept Bernier pulled after a P.A. Parenteau penalty with 1:37 left, which fittingly led to a Beleskey empty-net goal that sealed the win.
Beleskey’s empty-netter made Saturday’s game the first time in the Bruins’ last six games that they have scored three goals and the second time in their last nine games.
With the victory and Detroit’s loss, the Bruins have a three-point lead over the Red Wings for the third spot in the Atlantic Division, though Boston has only six games remaining to Detroit’s seven. The Bruins and Red Wings will meet at TD Garden on April 7 in the Bruins’ 81st game of the season.
One thing to watch going forward: Ryan Spooner did not play in the third period. Claude Julien told reporters in Toronto it was injury-related.
The Bruins will next play Tuesday in New Jersey.
Here are four more things we learned Saturday:
SECOND IS THE BEST
The first period was fantastically underwhelming for the Bruins. They failed to achieve sustained zone time, while a lesser Toronto team managed to display far more energy. Toronto shot the puck more than twice as often as Boston in the first period, holding a 27-13 edge in shot attempts in all situations.
|Brad Marchand hopes to snap scoring slump while helping Bruins secure playoff spot||03.25.16 at 4:04 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — Here’s how widespread the Bruins’ goal-scoring woes are right now: Even Brad Marchand has gone seven games without a goal.
Seven games (a span in which he also has just one assist) hardly presents reason for a player to panic, but in a season like Marchand’s — 34 goals in his first 64 games — the Bruins’ leading goal-scorer admits that it’s felt like a while.
“It is a long time, especially at this time of year when it’s so important,” Marchand said Friday. “It’s frustrating, but you’ve got to stick with it and eventually it’s going to go in.”
Like linemate Patrice Bergeron, any statistical speed bumps for Marchand tend to get overlooked because they rarely mean the player is actually performing poorly. To that end, Marchand and his linemates have only had one particularly bad game possession-wise in that stretch (Thursday against the Panthers on a night that saw Vincent Trocheck’s line with Jussi Jokinen and Reilly Smith do very well against Boston’s top line). Over the last seven games, the Bruins have attempted 24 more 5-on-5 shots on goal with Marchand on the ice than they’ve surrendered.
So Marchand doesn’t feel particularly bad about his game right now, as he noted his 11-game stretch without a goal from Dec. 16 to Jan. 13 (with a suspension wedged in there) was the only time this season in which he’s truly felt that he had cooled. Still, the team needs the scoring a lot more than he does.
The Bruins have managed just six goals over the last six games. David Krejci is not at his best and Ryan Spooner’s five-on-five play has dropped off. That leaves Bergeron and Marchand’s line to carry the weight for the Bruins as they try to avoid missing the playoffs for the second straight year. Though these numbers are more of a sign that Marchand’s teammates need to pull their weight more than he does, he’s the best they’ve got. If anybody is going to singlehandedly score enough to help the Bruins out of their slump, it’s Marchand.
“Any time you go through a tough stretch and you’re on a scoring line or you’re positioned to score, you definitely feel that pressure,” he said. “You want to produce, you want to help the team, but collectively we all have to be a little bit better. We’re still giving up too many goals in wins. If we can be a little bit better defensively, that will help us out, too.”
|John-Michael Liles (lower-body injury) won’t travel with Bruins to Toronto||03.25.16 at 12:27 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — John-Michael Liles will not travel with the Bruins for their trip to Toronto, as the defenseman is still being evaluated after suffering a lower-body injury in Thursday’s loss to the Panthers. Claude Julien did not indicate how long Liles will be out of the lineup.
Liles appeared to hurt his right leg on a hit from Florida forward Garrett Wilson late in the second period of Florida’s 4-1 victory over the B’s. He was slow to leave the ice and did not return to the game.
With Liles out, either Joe Morrow or Zach Trotman will enter the lineup. Morrow and Trotman have been healthy scratches for the last six and eight games, respectively. If the Bruins prefer to have an even balance of lefty and righty defensemen, Trotman would be the choice, though Liles’ recent spot in the lineup has meant the B’s have gone with four lefties and two righties, with Dennis Seidenberg playing the right side next to Liles.
Morrow and Trotman were among eight players to take the ice Friday at Ristuccia Arena while their teammates did off-ice work. David Pastrnak, Landon Ferraro, Brett Connolly, Tyler Randell, Noel Acciari and Jonas Gustavsson also skated.
The Bruins will leave Friday for Toronto and will face the Leafs Saturday.
|Bruins looking for offense with just 6 goals scored during 5-game skid||03.25.16 at 1:21 am ET|
The Bruins have scored a total of six goals during a season-worst five-game losing streak.
And while, yes, the B’s could have had two more markers if the results of NHL video reviews worked out in their favor Wednesday in New York and Thursday at TD Garden, a Boston team that has averaged nearly three goals per game in 2015-16 is shooting blanks at just about the worst possible time.
“Unfortunately in this game there’s times you go through [in] a season where things just seem to be a little harder,” admitted coach Claude Julien. “We’re definitely not scoring at the pace that we were and certainly not a good time for that to happen. At the same time, we’re certainly not getting any breaks that are going to help us, either. It just seems that’s what happens when times are tough. Everything around you seems to go against you, so it’s a matter of staying strong. It’s a matter of staying positive. It’s a matter of being determined to make your own breaks here and turn this around. So, you know, this is not time to hang our heads. It’s the time to show, I guess, the character of our team as individuals and as a group.”
After Boston scored 18 goals during a 5-0-2 surge post-trade deadline, the most recent 15 periods of hockey have produced just one goal apiece from David Krejci, Loui Eriksson, Tyler Randell, Lee Stempniak, Frank Vatrano and Ryan Spooner.
Top goal-scorers Brad Marchand (34) and Patrice Bergeron (28) are suffering through seven- and eight-game droughts, respectively, and the Boston power play has gone bone dry with an 0-for-13 slide dating back to the team’s west coast departure on March 13th.
“Yeah, it’s tough,” said Marchand. “Ultimately we have to score goals and our power play has got come up big for us. And same five-on-five, we have to be able to score goals and create more opportunities. So we’ve got to figure that out.”
|An NHL coach texted Claude Julien ‘WTF’ after bad video review||03.24.16 at 10:22 pm ET|
Claude Julien said he was just as baffled as everybody else when a video review led officials to say there was no conclusive evidence of the puck crossing the goal line on what would have been a Patrice Bergeron goal Thursday night.
Furthermore, Julien said a coach from another team texted him about the play.
Said Julien: “I got another coach that texted me, and [it] was ‘WTF. How can that not be a goal?’ That’s coming from somebody who’s neutral.”
“No conclusive evidence of the puck crossing the goal line" pic.twitter.com/tlktefKt3d
— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) March 25, 2016
“I think you need to call the league because I can’t explain it either. I’m as baffled as you are right now, and I looked at it many times here before coming out here,” Julien said. “It looks like it’s in. It looks very conclusive.”
The goal would have tied the game at two goals apiece, but the Panthers ended up building on their lead with two more goals in an eventual 4-1 win.
|5 things we learned as Bruins fall to Panthers for 5th straight loss||03.24.16 at 10:01 pm ET|
That was a disaster.
Playing in a game they probably needed to win if they wanted to push for the top spot in the Atlantic Division, the Bruins lost a defenseman to injury, struggled on the power play and fell victim to perhaps the worst video review flub yet. The end result was a 4-1 Panthers win at TD Garden, marking the only time in the team’s four meetings this season that Florida was victorious. The game also extended the Bruins’ season-worst losing streak to five games (0-5-0) and could have made Boston’s next seven games more about just making the playoffs than securing desired matchups.
The Bruins dominated the first period Thursday, holding a 15-5 edge in shots on goal, but the teams were scoreless through the first period. After Ryan Spooner scored his 13th goal of the season, the Panthers scored twice in the final seven minutes of the second.
While it seemed that Patrice Bergeron had tied the game at 8:03 of the third period, a lengthy review led to a surprising ruling that conclusive evidence was lacking.
“No conclusive evidence of the puck crossing the goal line” pic.twitter.com/tlktefKt3d
— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) March 25, 2016
The Panthers added to their shortly after on Jussi Jokinen’s 16th goal of the season, while Jonathan Huberdeau scored an empty-netter to put the game out of reach.
The Bruins did have Tuukka Rask in the lineup, as Boston’s starter returned after being pulled after a period Wednesday night due to illness.
The Panthers now lead the Bruins by five points and have eight games remaining to the Bruins’ seven. The Bruins will next play Saturday in Toronto. Boston sits third in the Atlantic Divison, but the Red Wings’ win over the Canadiens Thursday brought Detroit within one point of the B’s with a game in hand.
|Bill Belichick, David Ortiz, other Boston and national sports figures pay tribute to Claude Julien in video||03.24.16 at 7:30 pm ET|
Prior to Thursday’s game against the Panthers, the Bruins held a ceremony honoring Claude Julien for becoming the all-time winningest coach in franchise history.
In addition to being given a watch and a trip to Disney World, Julien received a video tribute featuring several local and national sports figures, including Bill Belichick, Doc Rivers, Brad Stevens, Terry Francona, Mike Babcock and David Ortiz.
Here is the video, courtesy of the Bruins: