|Tuukka Rask defensive, but says confidence isn’t shaken||03.24.13 at 2:17 pm ET|
After jumping out ahead of the pack in the Eastern Conference early on in the season, the Bruins find themselves in their most trying times with 18 games left on their schedule. They’ve lost three of their last four in regulation, and Claude Julien has tried different tactics in recent days to wake a team that’s been bad for the first time.
Part of that included giving back-to-back starts to Anton Khudobin for the first time this season when he put the backup between the pipes Thursday in Ottawa and Saturday in Toronto. That followed a 3-1 loss to the Jets Tuesday in which Winnipeg marched back from a 1-0 deficit in the third period with three unanswered goals (one of which was an empty-netter), resulting in Julien saying following the game that the B’s needed “timely saves” and didn’t get them from Tuukka Rask.
Rask made his return to the net in the third period of Saturday’s loss to the Maple Leafs, but it’s been a strange week for him. He got called out by his coach for the first time this season and was then given his longest stretch of time on the bench all year.
The 26-year-old, who is in the final year of his contract and will be a restricted free agent following its expiration, bit his tongue when asked about Julien’s comments.
“We do need timely saves,” Rask agreed. “It’s no secret I don’t think, right?”
As for Khudobin getting back-to-back starts, Rask doesn’t feel threatened or shaken by Julien’s decision.
“I’d like to play every game, obviously, but I didn’t take it too personally,” he said. “I’ve got to play good games, I realize that. Some tough losses there, I let in two goals in Pittsburgh and Winnipeg and we lose the games, but I wasn’t awful. It shouldn’t break my confidence.”
Julien insists that he wasn’t trying to send any sort of message to Rask by sitting him for consecutive games. He was correct in pointing out that Khudobin’s been more than serviceable thus far and added that he simply wanted to reward Khudobin for breaking Boston’s two-game losing streak Thursday.
“Tuukka is Tuukka. He’s hard on himself,” Julien said. “My thinking behind that was that Khudobin’s played well for us this year, and after playing that game in Ottawa where he was really good, he deserved a second start. I anticipated that this week coming up, Tuukka would have lots of opportunities to play. It was more based on what I saw coming up and on [Khudobin’s] play. Unfortunately it didn’t pan out [well] but Tuukka went in there and I thought he was solid in the jobs that he got in the third period.”
In fact, Rask wasn’t very hard on himself, but more defensive on Sunday. After saying that he agreed with Julien’s “timely saves” comment, Rask was asked how he’d assess his level of play of late. He responded by saying that he was between the pipes as the Jets came back, but that he didn’t single-handedly blow the game.
Said Rask: “I’m not blaming myself for those goals, but we were still up 1-0 and it would be nice to at least get a point out of that, but I don’t think I’ve been awful, if that’s what you’re saying.”
Rask wouldn’t be getting all of this attention were it not for Julien’s comments Tuesday. He’s been one of the league’s top goaltenders this season (Greg Wyshynski of Yahoo! Sports even wrote on Tuesday that Rask should be the favorite to win the Vezina) and his team hasn’t scored in front of him. Still, the last week has served as a bit of a speed bump in Rask’s first full season as a starter and it will be interesting to see how he comes out of it.
|Bruins’ comeback falls short vs. Maple Leafs||03.23.13 at 9:47 pm ET|
The Maple Leafs got goals in the first and second periods from Nazem Kadri and Mikhail Grabovski, respectively. Frazer McLaren made it 3-0 early in the third when he took a loose puck in front of the net and backhanded it off his skate and through the five-hole of Khudobin. The goal chased Khudobin in favor of Tuukka Rask, as Claude Julien replaced his starting goaltender for the first time this season. Khudobin, who was starting his second consecutive game for the first time this season, allowed the three goals on 11 shots.
Dennis Seidenberg got the Bruins on the board with a wrist shot from the point following the goalie change, with Andrew Ference scoring to make it 3-2 with the goalie pulled and just over a minute to play.
The Bruins outshot the Leafs, 33-13. The loss was the Bruins’ first against the Maple Leafs since March 19, 2011, breaking up a string of eight consecutive wins against Toronto for the B’s.
With their four-game road trip concluded (1-3-0), the Bruins will return to Boston and host the Leafs Monday at TD Garde
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE BRUINS
– With the Bruins down two of their six defensemen in Adam McQuaid (shoulder) and Johnny Boychuk (leg), Claude Julien had to rely more on his other blueliners. Andrew Ference led the B’s in time on ice through two periods (16:59) as Julien played Dougie Hamilton (8:09 through two periods) more sparingly. Hamilton did come up big by swatting a puck out that was headed into the net after a Khudobin save on a Toronto 2-on-1, but Julien clearly had his younger defensemen on a shorter leash Saturday.
– Speaking of defensemen, Bartkowski had a forgettable night in his season debut. The 24-year-old was on the ice for Toronto’s first two goals, the second of which was the result of a play that started with the youngster pinching in the offensive zone. With Bartkowski pinching, Toronto was able to get the puck out of the zone, and though Milan Lucic was back, Grabovski was able to blow past him with ease.
– Bartkowksi and Lucic weren’t the only two who deserved blame on the Grabovski goal. The Toronto forward was struggling with the puck from the right circle, and David Krejci had both time and the opportunity to take the body or steal the puck, but he allowed Grabovski to regain control of the puck and fire a shot past Khudobin to make it 2-0.
– The Bruins turned it on following an Aaron Johnson high-sticking penalty in the first period, and the closest they got to scoring was on a shift by the David Krejci line. Nathan Horton had two golden opportunities to tie the game, but couldn’t bury it. Horton had James Reimer off-guard when the right-winger controlled a loose puck in front but fired a low shot right into the Toronto goaltender’s pads.
– The Bruins were putting the pressure on heavy after Seidenberg got them on the board, but a power play in which they got zero shots on goal halted any momentum the B’s may have gained to that point.
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE BRUINS
– Though they got nothing to show for it, the Gregory Campbell line was once again Boston’s third line and came out of the first period with two of Boston’s better shifts in the first 20 minutes. Daniel Paille failed to bury chances on both shifts, but give the Merlot Line — including Shawn Thornton, who dropped the gloves with Colton Orr after Toronto took a 1-0 lead — credit for showing up in an increased role.
– Seidenberg’s goal was his second in as many games, which is pretty impressive when you consider that he had no goals on the season entering Thursday.
|Putting up a good fight: Milan Lucic, Nathan Horton big as Bruins overwhelm Capitals||03.16.13 at 3:40 pm ET|
Milan Lucic had a career-high three assists and Nathan Horton scored once, added two assists and had a fight for a “Gordie Howe hat trick” as the Bruins outmuscled the Capitals, 4-1, Saturday afternoon at TD Garden. Anton Khudobin stopped 32-of-33 shots for the Bruins, who won for the fifth time in six games and improved to 19-4-3, good for 41 points in the Eastern Conference, one point behind the Penguins, who beat the Rangers Saturday afternoon.
Another Saturday, another quick start by the Bruins. One week after scoring three goals in five minutes against the Flyers, the Bruins scored twice in a three-minute span late in the opening period. Lucic skated behind Michal Neuvirth and fed Horton in the low slot from behind the net. Horton fired the shot pass the Caps goalie for the game’s first score.
Three minutes, three seconds later, it was Lucic again in the role of playmaker, as he centered a pass for David Krejci, who beat Neuvirth for a 2-0 lead.
Khudobin had a big first period, facing just eight shots but making several key saves to protect the lead, including a pair of stops on Alex Ovechkin and a glove save on Marcus Johansson.
The Capitals cut the Boston lead in half just 84 seconds into the second on a fluke goal. Johnny Boychuk played a puck to the left of Khudobin and the puck went right to Krejci, who tried passing it across the crease but the puck went through Khudobin for a Washington goal.
Moments after a great sprawling glove save by Khudobin on Nicklas Backstrom, Andrew Ference wristed a shot past Neuvirth for his first goal of the season and a 3-1 lead. The Bruins then established their physical presence in the game as Brad Marchand took exception with the play of Mike Ribeiro and beat him badly in a fight in the Bruins zone. That was followed less than a minute later by a bout in which Horton landed several blows to Matt Hendricks. Horton, with a goal, assist and fight completed the so-called Gordie Howe hat trick.
The Bruins iced the game on the power play, as Rich Peverley scored on a center from Lucic, just eight seconds after Jack Hillen was whistled for high sticking. Adam McQuaid handled Hendricks in another tussle at center-ice in the third period as the Bruins put away the win.
The Bruins outhit the Capitals, 35-24, on the day. The Bruins also increased their league-leading penalty kill, increasing their streak to 27 straight kills. They are 95-for-102 this season on the penalty kill.
The Bruins have little time to celebrate as they play in Pittsburgh Sunday afternoon, five days after allowing three goals in four minutes in a 3-2 loss Tuesday night.
For more from DJ Bean and Mike Petraglia at the Garden, visit the Bruins team page at weei.com/bruins.
|Claude Julien admits: ‘We’re certainly not perfect right now’||03.08.13 at 12:26 am ET|
The Bruins had to battle with a Toronto team that, despite playing on the road the night before, came into Boston and gave the Bruins a game before wilting under the persistent pressure of Boston’s top line of Tyler Seguin, Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand. Still the Bruins are 15-3-3 right now, good for 33 points and a spot near the top of the Eastern Conference with Montreal Canadiens.
“We’re certainly not perfect right now,” Julien said. “We’re certainly not firing on all cylinders. I think right now, we’re laboring through it. But, the work ethic was there tonight. The peaks and valleys of a season are pretty obvious that watching us play, nothing is real easy right now. The fact that we’re working through it ‘ if we keep working like that it will come back.”
Julien did like one particular aspect of his team – the fact that they didn’t panic when the Leafs cut the lead to one, 3-2, with just over five minutes left in regulation. The Bruins were up, 3-2, against the Canadiens Sunday night and lost, 4-3. They blew a 3-0 lead in Washington Tuesday night and lost 4-3 in overtime. The Bruins were determined not to have it happen again.
“I think their whole attitude was, ‘listen, we’re here to win, let’s not play on our heels. Let’s go get the next one,'” Julien said. “We had a couple good scoring chances after they made it 3-2. Like I said before, we even scored that empty netter. At least we didn’t sit back,we didn’t panic. Our guys responded well, we looked more like the team of before, when they made it 3-2, than we did the last couple games.”
The Bruins got a big boost from Anton Khudobin, who stopped 25 of 27 shots in the win.
“I don’t know if it was to find out more, but I think that it’s the confidence we had in him that we could put him in against real good team,” Julien said. “The Leafs played a really good game for a team that played last night and they played hard and gave us all that we could handle. But he deserved to be in that game and we knew he could give us that and again it’s about the schedule and making sure that we rotate our goal tenders and make sure that we keep our goal tenders as fresh as possible because there are guys that on a lot of nights that will make a difference in a game. So it wasn’t so much about what can he do more we have the confidence that he can do it.
For more, visit the Bruins team page at weei.com/bruins.
|Top guns: Tyler Seguin, Patrice Bergeron lead Bruins to win over Leafs||03.07.13 at 9:38 pm ET|
Tyler Seguin set up the game’s first goal with a powerful offensive rush and scored the go-ahead tally as the Bruins avoided their first three-game losing streak of the season with a 4-2 win over the Maple Leafs Thursday night at TD Garden. Anton Khudobin got the start in net and stopped 25-of-27 shots for the Bruins (15-3-3), who also managed to stay ahead of the surprising Maple Leafs (15-10-0) in the Northeast Division. Boston has 33 points while the Leafs have 30, with the Bruins enjoying four games in hand on Toronto.
Seguin added his second goal of the night on an empty-net tally with 14.8 seconds left to provide the final score.
Before getting on the board first, the Bruins had several chances in close on Leafs goalie Ben Scrivens. Chris Kelly was denied on a backhander in front. The puck bounced out to Rich Peverley, who couldn’t control the loose puck to put it into the open net. Jay Pandolfo also had a chance on the same shift but was stopped by Scrivens.
It was Pandolfo’s first game filling in on the third line, as Chris Bourque was placed on waivers earlier in the day. The Bruins and Leafs appeared to be headed for a scoreless first period when Seguin picked up a loose puck in front of the Toronto bench and split two defenders. He skated in on Scrivens, who made the initial stop but couldn’t contain the rebound. Patrice Bergeron was there to put in the rebound between the legs on a backhander to give the Bruins a 1-0 lead with 52.3 seconds left in the first.
The Bruins led after 20 minutes, extending their shutout streak over the Leafs to 146 minutes, 47 seconds, which spanned a pair of shutout wins last season and on Feb. 2. The Leafs finally broke through when David Krejci lost a puck in the offensive zone, leading to an odd-man break on a 4-on-4 situation. Nazem Kadri finished off the rush with his 11th goal of the season at 2:32 of the second, ending the shutout streak at 149 minutes, 19 seconds.
But the rest of the second period belonged to the Bruins. Bergeron took control of the puck in the neutral zone and fed Brad Marchand down the left wing. Marchand found Seguin rushing down the right wing and fed him with a circle-to-circle pass. Seguin beat Scrivens for a 2-1 lead at 7:11 for the go-ahead tally. Over the last nine games, the Marchand-Bergeron-Seguin line has 13 goals and 22 assists for 35 points, with 15 of those points coming in last three games.
Khudobin was big several times in the first and second period, including pad saves on Tyler Bozak in each period.
The Bruins made it 3-1 when the Krejci line finally broke through. Andrew Ference fired a shot from the high slot. Scrivens couldn’t contain the rebound and Krejci was there with the backhander into the open net for a two-goal lead after 40 minutes.
The Leafs made it a one-goal game when Mikhail Grabovski skated to the middle of the left circle and fired a shot through a screen that Khudobin never saw until it was past him and in the net with 5:08 left in regulation. The Bruins had a great chance in the final two minutes to restore their two-goal lead but Scrivens stopped a Bergeron slap shot in close before Seguin’s second goal of the night.
The Bruins helped their cause by killing off all three Toronto power plays, including a brief 5-on-3 in the first period. The Bruins have killed off 79-of-86 penalties this season, good for an NHL-best 91.8 percent rate.
The Bruins are off Friday before hosting the Flyers Saturday afternoon at TD Garden. For more from DJ Bean, Mike Petraglia and the WEEI.com team at the Garden, visit the Bruins team page at weei.com/bruins.
|Bruins prepare for action-packed March||03.01.13 at 3:24 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — Claude Julien kept his top six forwards (among others), five of his six starting defensemen and his No. 1 goalie off the ice Friday, and it wasn’t because they didn’t have their legs Thursday against the Senators, but because they’re going to need their legs this weekend and this month.
March will be an especially busy month for the Bruins after having a lighter schedule to open the season. The B’s have played 17 games since the season began on Jan. 19, but they’ll have 17 games in 31 days in the month of March. That includes four sets of back-to-backs.
“We have to take it game by game,” David Krejci said. “When you look at it as 17 games in a month, that’s a lot. When you look at it game-by-game, it’s not that bad.”
The Bruins are set to host the Lightning Saturday afternoon and the Canadiens Sunday night. The former is an offensively skilled team that’s lost three straight and needs to get its record back to .500 (9-10-1), while the latter is perhaps the NHL’s biggest surprise team, leading the Eastern Conference with 29 points in 20 games.
The Bruins’ 17 games played is the least in the NHL. They’ve actually been the conference’s most productive team, as they’re just a point behind the Habs with three games in hand, but seeing any team above them in the standings is enough to keep them from getting complacent.
“It’s easy to stay motivated right now,” Julien said after Friday’s session. There are teams that are ahead of us and we want to be at the top. You work to get there, and you can’t afford to have any letdowns. Those are all motivational factors that keep us going.”
March’s busy schedule means the B’s will have to go about things differently. There will be less practices and more video work to make up for lost time between games. There will also be more of Anton Khudobin, who will spell Tuukka Rask more frequently than he has thus far. Khudobin has played just three of the Bruins’ first 17 games, but he should get into at least four this month with the back-to-backs. Khudobin will be in net Saturday against the Lightning.
|Anton Khudobin expected in net for Bruins vs. Hurricanes||01.28.13 at 1:51 pm ET|
According to multiple reports out of Carolina, Anton Khudobin was the first goaltender off the ice at Monday’s morning skate at PNC Arena, indicating that he will make his first start of the season Monday night against the Hurricanes.
Tuukka Rask has started all four games for the Bruins thus far, compiling a 3-0-1 record with a 1.96 goals-against average and a .925 save percentage. It will be the sixth career NHL start for the 26-year-old Khudobin, who made 44 saves on 45 shots in his only start for the B’s last season, a 3-1 win over the Senators on April 5.
For more on the Bruins, visit weei.com/bruins.