|Reilly Smith is just trying to ‘keep the ball rolling’||11.23.13 at 8:22 pm ET|
Bruins coach Claude Julien looks on the ice and sees the skill of Reilly Smith. Then he has to remind himself and others that he is just 22 years of age.
On Saturday, he saw a sure-fire sign that Smith is fully capable of handling the load at the NHL level. With 6:29 left in the second period of a 1-1 game, Smith broke in on Hurricanes goalie Cam Ward and had the puck on his backhand. Earlier in the season, Smith’s eyes might have gotten too big and he might have felt the pressure to rush the shot. But not Saturday. He waited.
Smith took a pass from Carl Soderberg in the low slot between the circles, skated across the crease and flipped the puck just hard enough that Ward couldn’t control it, providing the go-ahead goal, already the fourth of the season with his new team.
“Kells [Chris Kelly] was tied up in front so he kind of set up a good pick, I didn’t want to force it right through and I thought I might have a little more net going to my backhand,” Smith explained. “Cam [Ward] still almost had it so I was kind of lucky that it snuck through.”
Does Saturday’s patience on the goal show he’s getting more comfortable?
“Absolutely, just little things like that where probably a few weeks or a month ago I probably wouldn’t have done that, I probably would have tried to get it on net right away,” Smith said. “With every day, you build confidence.
“Every day gets a little bit easier. When you stay with the same linemates, for a few weeks or a month, everyday gets easier, chemistry builds every day so just take it day by day but I think everything is going pretty well right now, just try to keep the ball rolling.”
With Kelly and Carl Soderberg on the third line, the young winger acquired along with Loui Eriksson from Dallas for Tyler Seguin and Rich Peverley is looking more and more ready to fit in on a regular basis.
“They just feel better more and more about playing together,” Julien said. “They’re reading off of each other extremely well; I said that earlier in an interview about how they’re just reading off each other, they’re anticipating, so they’re always on top of the puck. We still have some lines right now that are kind of waiting to see what the puck carrier is going to do with it and you hope that with time we can get that same level as that third line is right now of anticipating well. They know exactly where they want to go and where they’re going to put the puck so they’re on top of it all the time and the last few games they’ve had a lot of chances and a lot of offensive zone time.
“Again, we’re talking about a young player here. I keep saying it all the time, we always seem to overlook his age and he’s a young player. And the way I think he’s handled himself in pressure situations and handling the puck a little bit better and holding onto it. And at the same time, I thought tonight he shot the puck a little bit more; he had a little bit better of a nose for the net and before, looking to make plays versus shooting the puck. So he’s really turned a corner and is really coming along well for a young player.”
It’s not just Julien either. Smith is winning over veteran teammates at the same time.
“I didn’t know much about him before he got traded,” David Krejci said. “I know he’s a great player, he’s still young, but he’s playing like a ten year vet [veteran]. It’s good to see him doing well; hopefully he can keep it up.”
|Pierre McGuire on M&M: Brad Marchand ‘running out of race track pretty fast’||11.21.13 at 2:22 pm ET|
NBC Sports hockey analyst Pierre McGuire joined Mut & Merloni on Thursday afternoon to discuss the Bruins’ upcoming game against the Blues, the recent struggles of Brad Marchand, as well as other news from across the NHL.
Boston have been rolling as of late, winning six out of its last seven games. Despite the dominant run in November, some members of the Bruins have been slumping, namely Marchand. The 25-year-old winger has yet to really find his bearings so far this year, as he has seen a dip in his production (eight points in 21 games) while increasing his turnovers and penalties. Bruins coach Claude Julien‘s frustration with Marchand has become apparent over the last few days, as Marchand was demoted to the fourth line during Monday night’s 4-1 win over Carolina.
“[Marchand’s] just going through tough times right now as a player on the ice and he’s not helping himself at all,” McGuire said. “He is running out of race track pretty fast in terms of some of his decision-making.”
The Bruins will have a tough task in their next game, as they will face off against the Blues, who hold the third seed in the Western Conference with a 14-3-3 record. St. Louis, off to its best 20-game start in franchise history, has gotten a big boost from Alexander Steen, who leads the NHL with 17 goals.
“[St. Louis] learned a lot from their first-round loss to Los Angeles last year, where it was just a battle of attrition,” McGuire said. It was just unbelievably savage the entire series and obviously Steen is off to a great start. It’s the depth of their team. … they remind me so much of the Boston Bruins. They really do.The teams are so similar. … This is a great game you guys are going to have tonight. Unbelievable game.”
Elsewhere in the NHL, a former Bruin’s play is starting to attract attention, as Panthers goaltender Tim Thomas has been viewed as a possible candidate to the U.S. Olympic team. Thomas has bounced back from a poor start to post solid numbers over the last month (2.49 goals-against average, .915 save percentage in November).
“He’s definitely worked his way back into the discussion, I can tell you that right now,” McGuire said. “He’s back into the discussion, that doesn’t mean that he’s going to make the team. One of the reasons why he’s back in the discussion, the injury to Jonathan Quick, who won’t be back until December, maybe even not until the middle of December. The other thing is Craig Anderson and Jimmy Howard have both been lukewarm … and Cory Schneider is sitting on the bench in New Jersey behind Martin Brodeur.”
|Pierre McGuire on M&M: ‘I’d be all in’ for overtime rule changes||11.14.13 at 4:47 pm ET|
NBC Sports hockey analyst Pierre McGuire joined Mut & Merloni on Thursday afternoon to discuss potential format changes to NHL overtime rules, the Bruins’ three-game winning streak, and the potential for some members of the Black and Gold to make it on Olympic rosters come February.
One of the chief topics at the NHL GM meetings this week has been the discussion about changing the rules for overtime play. A proposed format would have an overtime period last 10 minutes instead of five, with four-on-four hockey for the first five minutes and three-on-three play for the remaining five minutes. The game would then switch to a shootout format if no team can score over those 10 minutes.
“I’d be all in,” McGuire said. “Five minutes of four-on-four, five minutes of three-on-three. I was talking with one of the premier players in the league last night after the Pittsburgh-Philadelphia game and he said the one thing that it would do is create a lot of water-cooler conversation around the fan base, because the fans are so passionate.
“Coaches would be challenged: Do you go with two defensemen and one forward? Do you go with two forward and one D? Do you go with three forwards if you’re trying to put an extra point in the bag. It would create all kinds of different fodder and conversation. … I’m all for anything that would get the game decided by players on the ice rather than just a shootout situation.”
After two disappointing losses to the Islanders and Stars last week, the Bruins seem to have righted the ship, as they are on a three-game winning streak with victories over Florida, Toronto and Tampa Bay.
“I was blown away by their effort on Saturday night vs. Toronto,” McGuire said. “I mean, that was a smash-mouth kind of, ‘Here you go Toronto, do you like it? Take it,’ and they took it hard. That was a physical beatdown that I’m used to watching the Bruins perform, and then to see them carry it over to Monday afternoon against Tampa. … I was really impressed with, again, the Bruins’ defensive ability, their ability to move the puck.
“Milan Lucic is a completely different player because of his speed. Last year, he had a tough time getting up and down the rink, this year he’s not having that problem and it’s really impressive to watch. David Krejci, same kind of thing. These guys are in much better shape, you can see it as the season has gone along.”
While players such as Zdeno Chara and Tukka Rask seem to be locks to make their respective Olympic teams, other Bruins are on the outside looking in for a possible roster spot. One such player is Lucic, who has received some consideration from Team Canada. Lucic is the top goal-scorer for Boston this year (seven) and is second on the team in points (14).
“Yes, very good shot [Lucic makes Team Canada],” McGuire said.”In 2007, Canada played against Russia, the best under-20 players in a eight-game super series. It was a celebration of the 1972 Summit Series, and Lucic was basically the star for Team Canada. Hockey Canada remembers those things. He basically carried that team on his shoulders through 18 days in Russia, and he was off-the-charts good. … He was very capable playing on big ice, he was an intimidating factor, and they’re watching him right now. … There have been a lot of guys working for Team Canada that are watching a lot of Bruins games. … He’s played well enough to merit major consideration to be on that team.”
|Tyler Seguin says ‘in the end, you want to play where you’re wanted’||11.05.13 at 11:28 pm ET|
Tyler Seguin made it clear after Tuesday night’s 3-2 shootout win over his former Bruins team that he is very happy in Dallas and doesn’t regret leaving Boston.
“If I got a contract or trade or asked, I don’t think I’d come back,” Seguin said. “I think, in the end, you want to play where you’re wanted. I have great relationships with our coach and our GM here and I know how much they want me. I know how much they want me and it feels great to play here. That’s all I have to say on that.”
“Pretty intense. I went into the game with the mentality, I know they’re not going to try and talk to me so I’m not going to. I’ve been in that dressing room when Joe Thornton has come to town or Phil Kessel, it’s a hockey game out there, not friends,” Seguin said. “I had a few guys, Johnny being his funny self, grabbing me, and Tuukka getting in my way one time when there was a mini-line [scrum] when nobody dropped their gloves. Besides that, it was just a hockey game.”
It was a weird feeling and a tense night on the ice. He scored the tying goal in the shootout and watched as another former Bruins teammate, Rich Peverley scored to give the Stars a 3-2 shootout win. Seguin finished with two shots and was a plus-1.
“Glad it’s over,” Seguin said. “I didn’t know what to expect. It was just weird. It was weird being out there, especially first period. It felt more comfortable as things went on but for our team, that’s a huge win for us.”
Seguin lost 13-of-14 face-offs Sunday in Ottawa and was called out by his coach Lindy Ruff, despite a 4-3 Stars win.
“I kind of got called out by my coach a little bit there last game in Ottawa,” Seguin said. “I wanted to be better on face-offs, be a better centerman out there. I thought I played pretty solid. Obviously, nothing offensively but our line was plus tonight against a pretty good hockey team and great face-off men and we’ll take it from there.”
The Bruins did pay tribute to Seguin, showing two pictures of him holding up the 2011 Stanley Cup after the Game 7 win in Vancouver.
“It was nice,” Seguin said. “Definitely a very classy organization.”
Claude Julien was in a foul mood to begin with. His team had just blown a 2-1 lead late in the third period and then blown the extra point by losing in a shootout when not only Tyler Seguin but Rich Peverley both scored against their former Boston teammates to give Dallas a 3-2 win.
But then the Bruins coach was asked if losing to Seguin was extra painful.
“I don’t care about that. Give it a break,” Julien responded sharply. “I’m mad because we lost. Next.”
Julien did explain what he felt was the problem with his team in the last two games, losses to the Islanders and Stars.
“When you play that way, you find ways to lose hockey games and that’s what we’re doing right now, we’re finding ways to lose,” Julien said. “Bad change on the tying goal, real bad change. So, it’s not just the young guys, it’s good players, it’s everybody right now. We’re not playing well right now. We’re finding ways to lose versus finding ways to win.”
|Claude Julien calls out his team: ‘Too many mediocre players’||10.27.13 at 12:32 pm ET|
The reaction of head coach Claude Julien was fairly predictable after his team blew a 3-1 lead to the Devils and lost, 4-3, Saturday night at TD Garden.
“Even when we had the 3-1 lead in the second there I thought we missed a couple of real good opportunities,” Julien began. “But I don’t really think that’s where the game was played. Had a good start compared to the other night; much better in the first. But we kind of faltered after that. I thought the second period we allowed them to get back in the game and they were a better team as well. They won battles and especially in our own end they had us bottled in there and were out-muscling us and coming up with pucks and they got themselves within a goal and that kind of gave them life for the third.”
The Bruins were not good on the penalty kill Saturday, an area of excellence late in the regular season and playoffs last spring. They allowed four power play goals, though one of them was a very rare 6-on-3 opportunity for the Devils, when Torey Krug was called for a double-minor high sticking and Patrice Bergeron was tagged with a delay of game. The Devils pulled Martin Brodeur and they finally got the 3-3 equalizer with under two minutes left.
“But our penalty kill obviously faltered and wasn’t good enough; when you allow four power play goals in a game that’s not a good sign for a win. So that certainly didn’t help. But again, I thought we had too many mediocre players tonight and those things kind of create those situations.”
As for the penalties themselves, Julien knows his team needs to be more aware, especially when clearing the puck out of their own end.
“It is a costly penalty,” Julien said of the delay of game calls on Bergeron and earlier on Zdeno Chara. “Both pucks over the glass ended up being a goal against and those are tough penalties to take, but rules are rules. At the same time, the high stick, it is a high stick. You have to be in control of your stick, so it was deemed a four minute, which I thought was the right call. So they scored on their opportunities that they had and unfortunately, like I said, our penalty kill wasn’t up to the task.
“To me, we had one line going and we needed more. Like I said too many mediocre guys whether it’s hitting a wall, whatever the case may be it just wasn’t good enough. We had the day off yesterday to give those guys a rest but three games in four nights isn’t always an easy thing to go through and you wish you could have pulled this one through and had a real good week but unfortunately that wasn’t the case. We have to regroup, and another back-to-back and another three in four coming up there next week so hopefully we learn from that.”
The Bruins have another three-in-four nights scenario this week when they play in Pittsburgh Wednesday night before playing Anaheim on Thursday and on the road against the Islanders next Saturday.
|Andy Brickley on M&M: Bruins ‘not where they want to be yet’||10.22.13 at 2:47 pm ET|
NESN’s Andy Brickley joined Mut & Merloni on Tuesday afternoon to talk about the Bruins’ victories over the Panthers and Lightning last week, as well as the team’s upcoming matchup against the lowly Sabres on Wednesday.
After dropping a 3-2 contest to the Red Wings on Oct. 14, the Bruins rebounded by defeating the Panthers, and old teammate Tim Thomas, on Thursday before following that up with a dominant 5-0 win over Tampa on Saturday in which all four Bruins lines had at least one goal in the contest.
“If you go back to what they were able to accomplish in Florida, not the prettiest game, not an instant classic, in that win in the final minute against Florida, but an important two points. But the way they played Tampa is a lot closer to the way this team wants to play, not only because it was 5-0, but that balanced scoring, all four lines scoring goals, how they scored,” Brickley said. “It was the way they played, the style that they played. They’re not where they want to be yet, certainly, and that’s to be expected seven games in, but that’s how they want to play.”
So far this season, the Bruins have utilized an unconventional rotation of seven defensemen on the roster, as Dougie Hamilton, Matt Bartkowski and Adam McQuaid have all been healthy scratches at various points.
“Sometimes matchups will dictate who plays and who doesn’t when all seven are healthy,” Brickley. “The ability of the left-hand shots to play the right side gives them the options and the luxury of really being able to put different pairs together, depending on who’s playing well, who’s playing in what situation, who’s getting a majority of the power play or the penalty-killing time.”
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