|5 things we learned as Maple Leafs made Bruins miss Zdeno Chara||11.12.14 at 10:32 pm ET|
TORONTO – The first eight games of the Zdeno Chara-less schedule looked like a group of largely winnable contests before they would have to face the Canadiens.
For as well as the Bruins survived that stretch, they ended it in disastrous fashion.
For all the bad moments have had this season — and they’ve had plenty between their early-season struggles and the injuries they’ve suffered – they hadn’t really gotten walloped by anyone, let alone a Maple Leafs opponent they had handled easily without Chara once already.
The Bruins’ 6-1 loss to the Maple Leafs (here is the box score) provided a reminder for anyone who had forgotten that, though Boston hasn’t played many good teams of late, things are a lot harder without No. 33 on the ice. Phil Kessel, a player who is usually silent against his former team because of Chara, enjoyed a two-goal night against Boston’s mortal blue line.
Tuukka Rask was yanked after giving up three goals early in the second period and four on the night. Even what looked like a well-targeted Bruins goal by Reilly Smith was negated in the second period by Carl Soderberg being in the crease.
Of course, it wasn’t just about Chara, Rask or Boston’s defense. This was one of those once-in-a-season colossal stinkers that a team can only hope will end up being their worst loss of the season with few other candidates.
Here are four other things we learned Wednesday night:
|Milan Lucic must use powers for good as he prepares for latest meeting with Canadiens||11.12.14 at 1:25 pm ET|
Thursday will mark Lucic’s first game at the Bell Centre since he made something of a spunky gesture toward Habs fans on Oct. 16, which was his first game in Montreal after he allegedly threatened players in the handshake line after Game 7 of the second round last season in Boston.
Translation: When Lucic goes to Montreal, there’s a whole lot of people waiting to let him hear it for something he did before.
Lucic knows that, and though his aim is to help the Bruins get a win against an opponent the B’s will need to start beating eventually (the Canadiens have won seven of the teams’ last eight regular-season meetings), going into that setting with a clear head is easier said than done.
“It’s tough, but that’s one of the things that you kind of learn when you become a pro,” Lucic said. “You block out all the stuff on the outside when you first come into the league it’s overwhelming playing in front of 20,000 people, but as time goes on you tend to figure that stuff out and focus on playing the game. I think that’s the main thing I have to focus on is just tuning everything out and focus on playing the best game I can for my teammates.
“I’m not going in there trying to make it me against them. It’s us going in there trying to get a job done and get a result we want. That’s the mindset that I have to have and we have to have in order to have success.”
|Tuukka Rask expected to start vs. Maple Leafs||11.12.14 at 12:36 pm ET|
Should Rask play Wednesday, it will make Thursday night’s matchup against the Canadiens even more interesting. The Bruins could sit Rask, who has historically struggled in Montreal, and play Niklas Svedberg against the Habs, or play Rask in both games. Rask has played both games of two back-to-backs this season, as he played on the first two days of the season and then made back-to-back starts on Oct. 15 and 16.
Rask started all five games of the team’s recent four-game homestand, winning all four.
Jonathan Bernier will start for Toronto. Bernier was in net for the Leafs the last time the teams met, allowing all four goals in a 4-1 Bruins victory.
For more Bruins news, visit weei.com/bruins.
|Switch to Joe Morrow a big reason why Bruins have survived without Zdeno Chara||11.11.14 at 1:07 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — The Bruins are now 6-1-0 without Zdeno Chara. They’re also 5-0-0 with Joe Morrow in the lineup instead of Matt Bartkowski.
The latter point isn’t a shot at Bartkowski, a good player whose struggles with his game and his confidence led him to the press box for the time being, but it does tell part of the story as to why the Bruins have improved defensively over the course of this stretch without their best defenseman.
Paired with Adam McQuaid, Morrow, a 2011 first-round pick, has been safe. For a team that had been looking up to tighten up defensively, that’s all the B’s could have wanted. Like Bartkowski, Morrow is a good skater and passer, but Bartkowski’s decision-making and defensive coverage were uncharacteristically poor in his five games this season. The Bruins called up Morrow after the team’s Oct. 28 loss to the Wild to replace Bartkowski.
Decision-making was one of the questions attached to Morrow when the Bruins got him from the Stars as part of the Tyler Seguin trade. Peter Chiarelli said the day of the trade that the B’s would be patient with the twice-traded player and give him the proper AHL instruction. That potential red flag that has been mentioned at points of his two-year-plus AHL career has yet to pop up.
“I don’t know exactly what that means, but when you when you have the company of these players around you and that’s what you’re playing with, you kind of raise your game match theirs and to contribute,” Morrow said. “You don’t want to let anyone in the dressing room down. You know it’s really important to win up here, so you give that little extra effort.
“Yeah, I think I have a more suitable style to the National Hockey League than I do to the American Hockey League, but I guess time will tell if that’s really true.”
His coaches and former coaches aren’t the only ones who have been satisfied with what Morrow’s brought to the table. Tuukka Rask said that Morrow has brought some defensive stability to the B’s.
“I think he’s been playing really good and improving every game,” Rask said of Morrow. “Especially the past couple of games, I’ve really liked the way he’s played and played defense and carried the puck up the ice.”
Rask pointed to a third-period play Monday against the Devils in which Morrow’s positioning allowed him to break up a potential back-door scoring opportunity and skate the puck to safety.
“Things like that that people might not see,” Rask said, “I see and try to give them credit for it.”
All in all, Rask likes the way the team has looked defensively of late.
“Really good. Really good,” Rask said of the Bruins’ play in their own zone. “We’re eliminating chances we kind of want to eliminate and making little plays around the net and taking their sticks away and stuff. It’s paid off lately. I feel like we’re really taking steps in the right direction.”
Bartkowski is a better player than he’s shown and he will be better if and when he gets more games. His absence, however, has allowed the Bruins to get a look at another young defender and enjoy stronger defensive efforts.
|David Krejci to miss games vs. Maple Leafs and Canadiens||11.11.14 at 12:05 pm ET|
Krejci has been in and out of the lineup since suffering a hip injury in the preseason, with the 28-year-old center missing three of the last four games. By missing the next two games, Krejci will have missed five of the last six games and eight games in total this season. He last played last Thursday when he returned for one game against the Oilers but left the bench in the third period due to what he called soreness.
Kevan Miller participated in practice as he continued to work his way back from a dislocated shoulder suffered on Oct. 18. He will travel with the B’s, though Julien said that Miller still is not taking contact.
Lucic – Kelly – Griffith
Marchand – Bergeron – Smith
Fraser – Soderberg – Eriksson
Paille- Campbell – Gagne
Seidenberg – Hamilton
Morrow – McQuaid
Krug – Trotman
For more Bruins news, visit weei.com/bruins.
|Behind Reilly Smith, Patrice Bergeron, Bruins finding their ‘finishing’ touch||11.11.14 at 1:24 am ET|
Everyone in attendance at TD Garden will remember Monday night’s 4-2 win over the Devils for Seth Griffith’s spectacular effort late in the second-period.
But truth be told, the significance of the win goes far beyond that 10-second span. In winning their fifth straight game, the Bruins showed yet again they can actually finish around the net, something they struggled badly with in their 5-6-0 start.
At the center of the finishing was the line of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and Reilly Smith. Bergeron had two assists and a goal, Smith had a goal and an assist and Carl Soderberg finished his power play chance in front.
Whether it was from the circle (Bergeron), or in the slot (Smith), or on the doorstep (Soderberg), the Bruins were finding ways to put the puck in the net.
“I think it’s finishing, yeah, because there’s been some games where we have given up too many shots and too many offensive opportunities and Tuukks [Tuukka Rask] has done a great job, same with Sveddy [Niklas Svedberg], but I think we are just doing a better job finishing the puck, and we are getting chances and it seems like we are doing a better job putting it in the back of the net than we did, you know, starting in the year,” Smith said.
“When Patrice gets the puck, I just let him do his thing,” he added. “You know sometimes you can call someone for the puck and you can kind of put someone out of their groove a little bit, because you know it’s not their first play, but Bergy has eyes in the back of his head so you know I just trust him that he will make the right play all the time.”
|Seth Griffith scores ‘sick’ goal, draws comparisons to Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin||11.11.14 at 12:10 am ET|
Seth Griffith doesn’t talk the same game he plays.
So, when asked about his blocked shot, sprint through a pair of opponents and spin-o-rama that ended with a goal on a backhanded shot with his back facing the net, the rookie had to quote Patrice Bergeron to do the feat justice.
“He just said that was a sick play,” Griffith said. “He’s one of the guys that talks to me all the time and he’s making me more confident in the room. Bergy was one of the first to congratulate me. It’s always pretty cool when a guy like that says something to you like that. He’s a great guy.”
The goal that Griffith scored with 1:59 left in the second period not only snapped a 2-2 tie, but it provided much needed inspiration that helped the Bruins beat the Devils, 4-2, Monday night at TD Garden. The reason for the inspiration was exactly how the play unfolded.
With the Devils possessing the puck in the Bruins’ zone, Griffith slid down to block a shot. In one motion, he got up, controlled the puck and took off on a sprint. He split Devils defensemen Marek Zidlicky and Bryce Salvador and somehow managed to carry the puck, lose it, get it back, put his back to goalie Corey Schneider and backhand it through his own legs and under the left pad of the Devils’ goalie for the go-ahead tally.
“Yeah, we picked up our game after that but it just goes to show how good we can play and we shouldn’t wait for stuff like that to happen to get going,” Griffith said.
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