|Bruins and Canadiens square off with first place on the line||01.08.11 at 8:52 am ET|
First place in the Northeast division is on the line as the Bruins (21-12-6) take on the Canadiens (22-16-3) at the Bell Centre on Saturday night. The Habs have taken both of the contests between the rival teams thus far this season, with Tuukka Rask and Tim Thomas taking losses on Nov. 11 and Dec. 16, respectively.
The Bruins are coming off a 3-1 loss to the Wild at the Garden on Thursday. It was their first regulation loss since being blanked by the Ducks on Dec. 20.
WHERE IT’S AT
– The Canadiens are 13-5-3 at the Bell Centre, and their 29 home points are second only to the Capitals’ 33 in the Eastern conference. Following their Dec. 16 4-3 win over the B’s, they spent seven games on the road and have returned to Montreal with an overtime loss to the Thrashers on Sunday and a shootout win over the Penguins on Thursday.
– While this game features one of the league’s best home teams, it also features one of the best road teams in the Bruins. The B’s 12-5-3 road mark is among the best in the conference, as only the Flyers and Rangers have more points (29 apiece) on the road this season.
– New Habs defenseman James Wisniewski has five points — two goals and three assists — in four games since joining the Canadiens. He was a minus-18 with the Islanders this season, but playing for a winning team has changed that a bit. Wisniewski hasn’t posted a negative rating in any of his games with Montreal since being acquired from New York for second and fifth-round picks.
– Who would have thought that Steven Kampfer would be the hottest Bruins scorer over the last five games? The rookie defenseman has scored the first three goals of his career over the span, including a second-period tally against the Wild in which he sent a rebound from a Patrice Bergeron shot past Jose Theodore.
STORYLINES GOING IN
– There’s no bigger story than what this game means in the standings. The B’s have been in first place since beating the Panthers back on Dec. 27. Since then, they have opened a three-point lead in the Northeast and seen it shrink to one point. The the Bruins have played have played multiple games less than most of the other teams in the Eastern conference, the fact that their division-leading 48 points is worse than those of six other teams in the conference should be eye-opening enough to illustrate how important winning the division is to being in a good spot when the playoffs roll around.
[UPDATE: Horton is not expected to play, as Julien told reporters Saturday that he is “very unlikely” to go.]
If Horton plays, it seems he will do so on a new line. Julien flip-flopped Horton and Michael Ryder, meaning Horton is with Blake Wheeler and David Krejci, while Ryder will play with Milan Lucic on a line centered by Marc Savard.
– Though he has battled his way in and out of the lineup as a healthy scratch this season, Habs rookie defenseman P.K. Subban has been a pain in the Bruins’ you-know-what. The 21-year-old Toronto native scored his first career goal back on Nov. 11 at the Garden and most recently laid a crushing hit on Brad Marchand that led to the winger leaving the following game vs. Washington and then missing the next three.
(You can brush up on your French with the feed.)
– This is a bear of a stretch for the B’s, as their four games following Saturday includes two games against the Penguins and one against the Flyers. It’s one their schedule’s toughest stretches of the season (they’ve got another one coming up in February that includes games against the Stars, Sharks, Habs, and Red Wings) and a good test of how far this team has come since snapping out of its mid-December funk.
|Michael Ryder gets bumped up to top line in Bruins practice||01.07.11 at 12:11 pm ET|
After Thursday’s 3-1 loss to the Wild, Bruins coach Claude Julien did a bit of tinkering with the lines in practice on Friday. According to multiple reports out of Wilmington, here is how the lines looked:
Horton reportedly left practice with an unknown ailment, and Claude Julien told reporters that he considers the winger day-to-day.
Though he has gone four games without a point, Ryder has been one of the Bruins’ best offensive threats this season and is having a bounce-back year after scoring only 18 goals a season ago. The free-agent-to-be has 11 goals and 12 assists this season for 23 points. He is on pace for 23 goals.
Horton has been hot and cold throughout the season, and though his statistics may not reflect it, he has shown improved play over the team’s last four games. He has 12 goals and 14 assists for 26 points.
Neither winger would face too major of an adjustment to their new line, as both Horton and Ryder have worked with David Krejci and Marc Savard, their new respective centers. Horton began the season on a line with Krejci and Milan Lucic before recently playing with Savard in the middle of his line with Lucic. Ryder was on Savard’s line when he returned from post-concussion symptoms last month before playing on his familiar line with Krejci and Blake Wheeler.
|Why the Bruins feel so bad for Tuukka Rask||01.06.11 at 11:54 pm ET|
Thornton called out the rest of the team for non-support of goalie Tuukka Rask. The Bruins netminder made several athletic saves, including a spectacular one on Martin Havlat to keep the Bruins tied. But the save was for naught as the Bruins fell, 3-1, Thursday night to the Minnesota Wild.
“Tuukka was awesome again,” Thornton said. “I think its awful that that kid plays so good for us all the time and we don’t get the wins for him its’¦we care about him and we should probably show it in a better way, he stood on his head for us pretty much every night and I don’t know his save percentage is .940 or something stupid like that.
“That should be good enough to win a lot of hockey games so we have to look ourselves in the mirror as far as that goes.”
Not that anyone is nit-picking at this point, but his save percentage is .928 after stopping 31-of-33 shots he faced, not including the empty-netter by Mikko Koivu with less than a minute to go that sealed Boston’s fate.
“It has been disappointing for him all season,” B’s benched center Marc Savard added. “He comes in and gives us a solid effort. We can’t seem to score at all when he is in there. I feel bad for him. He is one of the best goaltenders in the league.”
What about the man himself?
“I always try to have a good feeling, you know?” Rask said. “We definitely’¦ we talked about playing better after the second period and, you know, digging deep but, an awful’¦ an awful mistake there went in and cost us the game. I don’t even know what happened, it’s just, I guess we just lost our focus.”
As frustrated as he gets, Rask said he is doing everything in his power to stay upbeat – though the stat sheet shows otherwise, at least in terms of wins and losses.
“Yeah, you know I try to feel good about myself everyday and think positive, and you know, the past couple games have been solid,” Rask said. “Tough to lose like this, it’s kind of frustrating but you always try to feel good about yourself, but the last three games have been a step in the right direction.”
Rask has stopped 67-of-70 shots in his last two games, showing Claude Julien that he might just be ready to pick it up for the second half of the season. There was no better example of that than his save on Martin Havlat late in the second period to keep the game tied, 1-1. From his stomach, he put his left hand up at the last moment to rob the man who already had beaten Rask for the first goal of the game.
“I saw him at the last second, and I just dove there, and I guess the puck was bouncing a bit for him too, and he didn’t get enough wood on it,” Rask said. “But, you know, it’s’¦ you got to be lucky to make those saves, too, but, I guess, half luck, half skill.”
In just his 13th game – and 12th start – Rask fell to 3-8-1 despite a 2.58 goals against average, a record neither Thornton nor their coach – Julien feels Rask even remotely deserves.
“This is a goaltender tonight that was outstanding for us, deserving a better fate and gave us a chance to win,” Julien lamented. “And so I feel bad for him because he deserves probably to be in the win column tonight, not in the loss column.”
|Cal Clutterbuck goal sinks B’s as Wild defeat Bruins, 3-1||01.06.11 at 9:30 pm ET|
A third-period goal from Cal Clutterbuck sunk the Bruins as the Wild defeated the B’s, 3-1, at TD Garden on Thursday night.
Clutterbuck’s goal, an unassisted strike following a Marc Savard turnover, gave the Wild the lead in the third period, with Mikko Koivu sealing it with an empty netter. Martin Havlat and Steven Kampfer scored in the second period for the Wild and Bruins, respectively.
Despite a couple of highlight-reel saves, Tuukka Rask took the loss for the Bruins and fell to 3-8-1 on the season. He stopped 31 shots on a night in which the B’s outshot the Wild, 35-34.
The loss was the Bruins’ first regulation loss in seven games. They had gone 4-0-2 over their previous six. The Bruins will travel to Montreal to take on the Canadiens on Saturday night.
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE BRUINS
– Shawn Thornton had every reason to be screaming in the penalty box after his hooking call in the second period. His stick wasn’t a factor in Brent Burns losing an edge. Not only did the call kill a play in which Thornton got the puck in the offensive zone, but Havlat scored on the power play just four seconds later.
– The power play continues to be a non-factor for the Bruins. After going 0-for-4 on the power play, not only are the B’s 0-for-11 over their last four games, but they are 0-for-35 against the Wild all-time.
– Savard had a costly turnover that led to Clutterbuck picking up an unassisted goal in the third. The ill-advised attempt at a clear wasn’t quite as monumental as his turnover in overtime against the Flyers back on Dec. 11, but it seemed to sting the Garden crowd every bit as much.
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE BRUINS
– Kampfer has now scored three goals in the last five games, which is more than anybody else on the team in that stretch. Claude Julien clearly has faith in the 22-year-old considering the ice time he’s given him, and as we kicked around last month, Kampfer’s production could mean bad news for Adam McQuaid when Mark Stuart returns from his hand/finger injury.
– If confidence is actually a big concern for Rask, he turned in yet another sound performance that should change his tune a bit. It was his third straight start, and the first time all season Julien gave him the nod in three consecutive games.
– Rask made a nice lunging save on Pierre-Marc Bouchard in the second period, but the save of the night came in the second period, when he dove across the goal to rob Havlat with a save reminiscent of Tim Thomas‘ against the Maple Leafs back on Dec. 4.
– With Bergeron’s assist on Kampfer’s goal, he now has 10 points over his last 10 games. He now has 25 points on the season.
|Steven Kampfer scores, Bruins and Wild tied after two||01.06.11 at 8:38 pm ET|
Bad refereeing, a sprawling save, and a pair of goals made it an interesting second period, and after two, the Bruins and Wild are tied at one.
Shawn Thornton was called for a phantom hook on Brent Burns in front of the Wild net. Thornton actually made a nice play in getting possession of the puck after Burns lost an edge. Thornton’s stick appeared to lightly tap off one of Burns’ skates prior to him losing an edge, but the penalty was called nonetheless, with a clearly irate Thornton screaming in the penalty box. Four second into the penalty, Martin Havlat beat Tuukka Rask from low in the circle for his ninth goal of the season.
Later in the period, Patrice Bergeron fired a shot on net from the dot, and with Tyler Seguin in the slot awaiting the rebound, Jose Theodore seemed too concerned with one rookie to turn his attention to the other in time. Steven Kampfer raced in to grab the rebound and fire it in for his third goal in the last five games. Seguin and Bergeron picked up assists on the play, though it was unclear at full speed whether Seguin got a stick on the puck.
Late in the period, Rask was treated to a Garden-wide “Tuukka” chant after he robbed Martin Havlat with a diving save. Through two, the Wild are outshooting the B’s, 25-23.
|Bruins and Wild scoreless after one||01.06.11 at 7:43 pm ET|
The Bruins have gotten some opportunities early on, but they head to the locker room in a scoreless tie with the Wild after one at TD Garden.
Tuukka Rask looked very sharp, and made the early save of the night in lunging to rob Pierre-Marc Bouchard. Rask stopped all nine shots he saw while B’s got 13 shots on Jose Theodore.
The two penalties of the period came in the form of tripping calls on Kyle Brodziak and Brent Burns at 11:47 and 17:20, respectively. The B’s went 0-for-2 with the man advantage and are now 0-for-7 over the last four games. Historically, they are now 0-for-33 on the power play vs. the Wild.
Marc Savard led the B’s with three shots on goal, while Clayton Stoner and Cal Clutterbuck had two shots apiece for the Wild.
|Tuukka Rask to start for Bruins vs. Wild||01.06.11 at 6:58 pm ET|
Tuukka Rask will make his third consecutive start when the Bruins take on the Wild Thursday night at TD Garden. Rask, who hadn’t started two games in a row this season until Monday’s 2-1 win over the Maple Leafs, is 3-7-1 with a 2.63 goals against average and .927 save percentage.
Due to the emergence of Tim Thomas as the league’s top netminder this season, Rask, who led the NHL in both GAA and save percentage last season, has had to deal with a backup role to the surprise of many. After being pulled following three first-period goals against the Sabres on Saturday, Rask came back to stop 36 shots against the Leafs.