|Matt Fraser, Ryan Spooner struggling to find confidence||10.12.14 at 2:54 pm ET|
It isn’t that the Ryan Spooner experiment isn’t working, or that the Matt Fraser experiment isn’t working; the Ryan Spooner and Matt Fraser experiment isn’t working.
The two young forwards enjoyed success playing together on Providence’s first line last season, but struggled to do much for Boston when called up for third-line duty in the middle of the season. The first three games of this season, in which Spooner centered Milan Lucic and Fraser, were all the Bruins needed to see before pulling the plug. Claude Julien flipped Spooner and second-line left wing Chris Kelly late in Saturday’s loss to the Capitals, and, by the looks of Sunday’s practice, has now taken Fraser out of the lineup.
Spooner skates. Fraser shoots. Yet when they play together, they do neither. Through three games, Fraser has just one shot on goal.
Whatever the cause of it may be (Spooner says it’s mental) their poor start to the season has played a part in Sunday’s lineup shakeup. With Seth Griffith skating with David Krejci and Lucic Sunday and Patrice Bergeron‘s line remaining unchanged, Spooner was demoted to the fourth line and Fraser was bounced from the lineup. Spooner centered Daniel Paille and Jordan Caron, the latter of whom is expected to replace Bobby Robins.
Both Spooner and Fraser are clearly lacking confidence right now, with Fraser serving as his harshest critic.
“At the end of the day, we’re all good players,” Fraser said. “You’ve got to make the coach put you on the ice. For me, it was probably an easy decision for him to say, ‘No. Fraz doesn’t deserve to go.’ It’s hard to look in the mirror and recognize that and say, ‘Yeah. I don’t deserve to be in the lineup.’ That alone is very frustrating.”
Though Fraser is down on himself at the moment, it’s hard to see him staying out of the lineup for long. He’s a left wing playing the right side, which obviously doesn’t help, but his shot and goal-scoring prowess can be lethal if utilized properly.
Fraser’s success has come on the left side. He played there in the AHL, and his struggles as Spooner’s linemate at the NHL last season came on the right side. When he was recalled during the second round of the playoffs to play with Carl Soderberg and Loui Eriksson, he was on the left and was effective despite playing on a broken foot.
There isn’t a left wing spot for Fraser to play, however. Brad Marchand and Milan Lucic have cemented their spots on the first two lines, while Kelly holds down the spot that Fraser played last postseason. Paille is playing left wing on the fourth line. The Bruins need right wings, and Fraser insists he can do the job. The problem, he says, is his execution.
“At the end of the day, there’s all the Xs and Os you want, but if you’re not prepared to work hard enough to get to those spots, you’re not prepared to work in the offensive zone to get my shot off, it’s useless,” he said. “It doesn’t matter. I can make up all the excuses in the world about my play or anything like that, but at the end of the day it falls on my shoulders. There’s no one that can correct it but me.”
As for Spooner, he can count himself fortunate that he survived Sunday’s lineup shakeup. Fourth-line center Craig Cunningham was sent down, but the B’s could have kept him and demoted Spooner.
“I’m not really happy with myself and how I’ve been playing,” Spooner said Sunday.
Spooner’s problem last season was that he didn’t shoot or take pucks to the net. So this summer, he shot 200-300 pucks a day to gain confidence in his shot.
Just three games into the season, Spooner admits he’s fallen back into his old habits, and he plans to better apply his offseason work going forward.
“I still need to shoot more. I’ve had some chances where I should have gone to the net. It’s just how I am. I’ve always been a pass-first kind of guy,” Spooner said. “I think for me, it’s just a mental thing. I’ve got to put it in the back of my mind to shoot more. It’s the only way you can score.”
|David Krejci close to return as Bruins shake up lines in practice||10.12.14 at 11:34 am ET|
David Krejci practiced and took contact Sunday, a promising step as he aims to return from what is believed to be a hip injury. After the practice, Claude Julien said Krejci hadn’t been cleared to play, but could be cleared before Monday’s game against the Avalanche. Both he and Krejci were optimistic about the center’s return.
Krejci was joined on his line by usual linemate Milan Lucic and recent call-up Seth Griffith. It was one of multiple changes Claude Julien made to his lineup a day after saying he would “reevaluate” in wake of back-to-back losses.
By the looks of practice, out from the lineup are Matt Fraser and Bobby Robins. They were joined Gregory Campbell and Simon Gagne in green sweaters.
Jordan Caron appears to be in the lineup, replacing Robins.
The lines were as follows.
Extras: Fraser, Campbell, Robins, Gagne
|Bruins send Craig Cunningham to Providence, recall Seth Griffith||10.12.14 at 10:52 am ET|
The Bruins sent center Craig Cunningham to Providence and recalled right wing Seth Griffith Sunday.
Cunningham had been serving as Boston’s fourth-line center as the team’s bottom two lines struggled in the opening three games of the regular season. Given that Boston has scored just three goals in three seasons, recalling Griffith provides them with a scorer where they might need it. Griffith scored 33 goals in 54 OHL games two seasons ago before netting 20 in his first professional season last year in Providence.
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|Milan Lucic on his slow start: ‘I have to be better’||10.11.14 at 11:22 pm ET|
Milan Lucic has only been on the ice for one goal against this season, so to make him the scapegoat for these last two games wouldn’t be fair. A lot of guys have struggled and there have been a lot of team breakdowns, such as the two that allowed Alex Ovechkin to get open on his two goals Saturday night.
That said, Lucic’s performance so far this season is, at the very least, concerning. Through three games, he has registered two shot attempts, one shot on goal and zero points. This from a guy who has averaged nearly two shots on goal per game over the last four years.
He has been virtually invisible in the offensive zone and has consistently been out of sync with new linemates Ryan Spooner and Matt Fraser. There hasn’t even been the usual hard forechecking and big hits we’ve come to expect from Lucic.
“We have to keep our chins up and fight through it, because nobody’s going to do it for us,” Lucic said. “We have to do it ourselves, starting with myself. I have to be better and take charge and do what I do best, and try to lead that way.”
Lucic’s linemates haven’t helped him much. There was already a question mark on the right wing after Jarome Iginla left in free agency, and then center David Krejci suffered an undisclosed injury in the preseason that has kept him out of the lineup since.
That left Lucic with Spooner and Fraser, two players who had a total of 54 NHL games between them entering the season. Lucic had played a whole 19 minutes with Spooner before this season and just two with Fraser.
The trio has had little chemistry so far, and Spooner and Fraser clearly still have a lot to learn at this level. Lucic hasn’t been playing anywhere to close to the level he’s capable of, but you have to wonder how much better he’d look if he had Krejci next to him.
Lucic isn’t using the new linemates as an excuse, though.
“You can try to make that as an excuse, but at the end of the day, we’re all in the NHL for a reason. We’re all really good hockey players,” Lucic said. “No matter who you’re playing with, you have to find a way to make it work. It’s up to every individual to bring their best game. You hope that it flows and jells. I think if everyone’s on the same page as far as the system goes, everything falls into place. We’re not there right now. ”
Another factor here is Lucic’s recovery from offseason wrist surgery. He admitted to reporters earlier in the day Saturday that he does still think about his wrist, and that it’s something he needs to overcome mentally.
“When you come back from an injury,” Claude Julien said, “you’re always a little overprotective of it until maybe something happens where you would have expected your injury to reoccur and it doesn’t and you realize, I guess it’s OK. It’s normal to be a little tentative. In his case it’s fully healed. Hopefully he can get over that if that’s what he thinks is holding him back a little bit.”
Lucic should get Krejci back soon, but the most important thing is that he gets his own game back as quickly as possible.
|Bruins leaders question work ethic, Claude Julien says he’ll reevaluate lineup amidst early skid||10.11.14 at 11:10 pm ET|
Complain about Chris Kelly‘s cap hit all you want, but he’s the guy who’s going to hold the Bruins accountable when they play as poorly as they have the last two games.
“It’s tough to put into words,” Kelly said after the Bruins were shut out by the Capitals for their second straight loss. “I think we were outworked, outbattled, and obviously outplayed over the course of 120 minutes, not just 60. I think the only positive I can think of is, it’s game three. Other than that, it’s two poor, poor efforts.”
The Bruins barely had the puck in their 2-1 loss to the Red Wings Thursday, with Kelly saying after Saturday’s blanking that guys haven’t been working hard enough. Zdeno Chara said the B’s were “embarrassed” Saturday and that their play is ‘not acceptable.’
The Bruins’ roster is obviously not at full strength. David Krejci is eligible to come off injured reserve and potentially return to the lineup Monday, but it’s no sure thing that he does. Milan Lucic is coming off wrist surgery and is clearly not functioning at full capacity.
The fourth line has been more detrimental than it’s been a source of energy. That’s been made worse by the fact that the line playing above it (Lucic with Ryan Spooner and Matt Fraser) have done nothing. Bobby Robins and Ryan Spooner have put themselves in tough positions if they want to stay in the lineup. Fraser has also been a non-factor, but deserves to get a look on a line without Spooner, as he has the best shot among Bruins forwards and has shown promise when playing away from his former Providence linemate.
Asked if the weakened roster has to do with the team’s struggles so far, Kelly said he didn’t care who was playing where or with whom.
“It’s a team-wide thing, it’s not just a few guys. You guys can see it just as much as we can,” Kelly said. “It’s not a passing thing or a positioning thing, it’s a working thing. It doesn’t matter who you’re playing with. You could play with two total strangers, and all you have to do is go out and work hard.”
If Krejci is able to return for Monday, the Bruins might be wise to keep Lucic and Fraser together and have Krejci replace Spooner, who could either move to the fourth line as a center or wing or serve as an extra forward. They could also consider playing Jordan Caron on the fourth line right wing, a job currently held by Robins.
Asked after the game whether he feels he needs to make lineup changes, Julien hinted at the possibility.
“You certainly have to reevaluate,” Julien said. “There’s no doubt there, and guys are given chances, and so on and so forth. When you play two games like that, you have to reevaluate, and that’s what we’re going to do.”
|Bobby Robins’ NHL career off to rough start||10.11.14 at 10:32 pm ET|
Robins has been one third of a fourth line that has struggled for the Bruins, but his difficulty thus far hasn’t just been limited to poor shifts. The longtime AHL fighter has gotten into two scraps this season, both of which were the result of hits for which he was penalized.
In Wednesday’s season-opener, Robins took a minor penalty for charging that led to a fight with Luke Schenn. On Saturday, he took a kneeing penalty for a hit on Matt Niskanen in the offensive zone and then fought Michael Latta. The Capitals scored eight seconds into their power play for what would prove to be the game-winning goal in Washington’s 4-0 shutout win.
Robins is a fourth-line player. His job is to be an energy player in the low minutes he receives. He has two minor penalties in three games this season. By comparison, Shawn Thornton, the man who held his job a season ago, had seven minor penalties all regular season (64 games).
“That’s definitely not what I’m looking for,” Robins said after Saturday’s loss. “Refs call it pretty tight in this league, and that’s something that I’m going to have to evolve my game and learn from and grow. That’s something I’m working on.”
Robins said he understands that he needs to make changes “right away,” but his spot in the lineup could be in jeopardy for now. Without a doubt, Robins is a good piece to put in and out of your lineup depending on the opponent, but his play thus far and the Bruins’ struggles to find offense could hurt his chances of staying in the lineup even if David Krejci doesn’t return to the lineup.
Robins isn’t alone in putting his spot in jeopardy for now. Ryan Spooner and Matt Fraser have been non-factors so far, though Fraser deserves a longer look, perhaps away from Spooner. The last two seasons have seen the two struggle together at the NHL level, though Fraser looked good on various lines in the preseason.
It took nine years of playing in various lesser leagues across multiple continents for Robins to reach the NHL, so it’s hard to think a few bad games will get him down. Still, this should be a learning experience on which Robins should improve if he keeps his spot.
“This league is better, stronger, faster. It’s quick.” Robins said. “It’s a quick league. Mistakes are magnified. When you’re playing at the NHL level, you have to be really good every night. You have to be consistent and that’s something I’m working on and trying to take pride in being consistently good out there.”
|Alexander Ovechkin scores twice as Bruins get blanked by Capitals||10.11.14 at 9:28 pm ET|
The Bruins suffered their second consecutive loss as they fell to the Capitals, 4-0, Saturday at TD Garden. Braden Holtby stopped all 29 Bruins shots he saw.
After a Bobby Robins offensive zone penalty, Alexander Ovechkin scored a power play goal to give Washington a 1-0 lead at 11:26 of the first period. Ovechkin followed up with an even strength tally in front with 1:21 remaining in the first.
Washington extended its lead to 3-0 on its second power-play goal of the night, with Mike Green taking a feed across the zone from Evgeny Kuznetsov and one-timing it past Tuukka Rask. John Carlson beat Rask for Washington’s final goal with just over a minute to play in regulation.
The Bruins will next play when they host the Avalanche Monday afternoon at TD Garden. David Krejci, who is eligible to come off injured reserve, could potentially return to the lineup then, though Claude Julien said Saturday morning that the player is day-to-day.
- Rask wasn’t to blame for any of Washington’s first three goals. Both of Ovechkin’s goals were the result of blown coverage, while there wasn’t much Rask could have done to get across his net in time to stop Green’s one-timer.
The reigning Vezina winner has now allowed nine goals in nine periods this season.
- It’s rare to see the Bruins allow a 5-on-5 goal with both Zdeno Chara and Patrice Bergeron on the ice, but such was the case on Ovechkin’s second goal of the first period. Ovechkin joins Thomas Vanek, Henrik Zetterberg and Gustav Nyquist in the group of players to score a 5-on-5 goal against Boston’s shutdown stars over the last three seasons.
- Bobby Robins fought for the second time in two home games, but both fights came as a result of a hit that got him penalized. On Saturday, it was a Robins knee to Matt Niskanen in the offensive zone that forced Michael Latta to stick up for his teammate, with Ovechkin scoring eight seconds into Washington’s power play.
- As it has been thus far this season, Carl Soderberg’s line was solid Saturday, facing some tough assignments against Ovechkin’s line and not surrendering a goal to the trio. Soderberg also drew a second-period interference penalty on Brooks Orpik.
- At the very least, the Bruins fared better in terms of possession Saturday than they did in Thursday’s disaster in Detroit. Specifically, Patrice Bergeron‘s line and Soderberg’s line had good possession numbers in the game.
- The Bruins’ bottom six is not good. The third line of Ryan Spooner between Milan Lucic and Matt Fraser has been non-existent through three games, while Craig Cunningham and Bobby Robins might be bringing Daniel Paille down a bit on the fourth line. Claude Julien switched Ryan Spooner and Chris Kelly halfway through the third period. Lucic’s line had better shifts with Kelly than with Spooner. A trio of Soderberg with Spooner and Fraser allowed the fourth goal.
The good news is that can change as early as Monday with Krejci’s potential return.
- Lucic was given a cross-checking minor and 10 minute misconduct for chasing down Green after taking a hit from Green along the boards late in the game.
- The Bruins have gone 0-for-8 on the power play over the last two games. With Krejci still out, Dougie Hamilton and Reilly Smith have had to double-shift on the point at times so far this season.
- Ovechkin could have secured a hat trick in the opening minutes of the third period, but Adam McQuaid was just able to get his stick on a pass to Ovechkin in front with half the net open.
- The Bruins’ lineup in the game was as follows:
Marchand – Bergeron – Smith
Kelly – Soderberg – Eriksson
Lucic – Spooner – Fraser
Paille – Cunningham – Robins
Chara – McQuaid
Seidenberg – Hamilton
Krug – Miller
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