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5 things we learned as Bruins miss playoffs for first time under Claude Julien 04.11.15 at 10:17 pm ET
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The Bruins have missed the playoffs for the first time under Claude Julien.  (Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)

The Bruins have missed the playoffs for the first time under Claude Julien. (Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)

TAMPA, Fla. — The Bruins have missed the playoffs for the first time since Claude Julien took over as the team’€™s head coach in the 2007-08 season, as the Bruins fell 3-2 in a shootout to the Lightning in the season finale.

Boston’€™s fate was secured prior to the conclusion of its shootout loss to the Lightning Saturday, as the Penguins secured the wild card spot Boston sought by beating the the Sabres earlier in the night.

In addition to needing a victory over the Lightning, the Bruins needed the Penguins to lose in any manner (regulation, overtime or shootout) in order to make the playoffs. Boston was in control of its playoff destiny earlier this week, but regulation losses to the Capitals and Panthers allowed the Senators to leapfrog them. Ottawa secured its postseason spot on Saturday with a win over the Flyers.

The eight Eastern Conference playoff teams, in addition to the Presidents’€™ Trophy-winning Rangers, are the Canadiens, Lightning, Senators, Capitals, Islanders, Red Wings and Penguins. The final order of the teams in each division was not yet decided at the time of Pittsburgh’€™s victory.

Nikita Nesterov broke a 1-1 5:12 into the third period to give the Lightning a lead. The Bruins were officially eliminated minutes later, though Brad Marchand scored late in the game to force overtime. Victor Hedman scored the shootout winner for Tampa.

With the Kings and Bruins both missing the playoffs, the last Stanley Cup champion from each conference will be absent from this postseason. The Bruins’€™ season proved to be colossal failure, their 96 points are the most an Eastern Conference team has had without making the playoffs since the Eastern and Western Conferences came into existence in the 1993-94 season.

Here are four more things we learned on the final day of the Bruins’€™ season:

BRUINS CARRY PLAY EARLY, DON’€™T SCORE

The Bruins had a lot of good first-periods late in the regular season. They were rarely as good as they needed to be, however.

For the second straight game, Boston outplayed its opposition in the first period only to hit the first intermission scoreless.

The Bruins were all over the puck early on, making aggressive plays in the offensive zone to stay in Tampa’€™s end. The Lightning, meanwhile, didn’€™t get their first shot on goal until 9:14 of the first.

After a furious first few shifts, the momentum for the Bruins was halted by their power play. Brad Marchand was held by Nesterov to put the B’€™s on the man advantage at 2:40, but the B’€™s managed no shots on goal and barely got set up during the power play.

The Bruins ended up outshooting Tampa, 10-6, in the first period while holding a 19-12 advantage in shot attempts.

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Read More: Boston Bruins, Tampa Bay Lightning, Tuukka Rask,
Steven Stamkos, Lightning would ‘love’ to keep Bruins out of playoffs at 11:00 am ET
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Steven Stamkos and the Lightning would "love" to keep the Bruins out of the playoffs. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Steven Stamkos and the Lightning would “love” to keep the Bruins out of the playoffs. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

TAMPA, Fla. — The Eastern Conference is changing. Since the Bruins won the Stanley Cup in 2011, then-competitive teams have fallen off and risen again.

One of them is the Tampa Bay Lightning. Now, after earning their second consecutive playoff berth following a two-year drought, the Lightning can make it so the last Eastern Conference team to win the Cup will not participate in the postseason.

“I think any team in the league would love to knock a team like this out because of how dangerous they can be come playoff time,” Steven Stamkos said after the Lightning’s morning skate. “I think you look at LA and you look at Boston. Those are the teams that, no matter where they finish, if they can get into the playoffs, anything can happen because of the personnel they have, the experience they have. With LA being out, I think everyone in the West can sleep a little easier and obviously if Boston doesn’€™t make it, teams are a little happier here.”

Thanks to Friday night’s Penguins loss, the Bruins will still technically be alive when they hit the ice Saturday night at Amalie Arena.

When told of Stamkos’ words, Brad Marchand wasn’t surprised.

“We know that there’€™s no team that wants to do us a favor,” Marchand said. “We know that they’€™re going to bring their best game tonight. They played well at home their last game against us.

“We’€™re a good playoff team. We’€™re kind of built for that. Any team would be happy to knock us out. We know that they’€™re going to get their best game. That means that means that we’€™re going to have to play even harder and make sure we lay our bodies on the line and sacrifice for the team.”

Neither wild card spot in the Eastern Conference is clinched entering Saturday’s games. The Senators can clinch a playoff berth with a win Saturday afternoon in their regular season finale in Ottawa. The Penguins can tie up a spot with a win over the Sabres Saturday night. If the Senators lose in regulation or the Penguins fail to get a point, the Bruins can claim a spot with a win over the Lightning.

Yet the Lightning have more than one reason to try to win Saturday. In addition to knocking off the Bruins and making sure that they would never have to run into Tuukka Rask this spring, a win could potentially earn them the top seed in the Atlantic Division.

Through 81 games apiece, Tampa Bay has 106 points to Montreal’s 108. If Montreal loses to Toronto in regulation and Tampa beats Boston, the Lightning would take the top seed in the Atlantic by virtue of the regulation and overtime wins tiebreaker.

Read More: Boston Bruins, Brad Marchand, Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning
5 things we learned as Bruins inch themselves closer to an early offseason 04.09.15 at 10:22 pm ET
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SUNRISE, Fla. — The Bruins had 20 minutes to stay in control of their season’s destiny. They didn’t do it.

Within the same hour, the Bruins allowed a late second-period power-play goal to the Panthers to tie the game, and the Senators defeated the Rangers. The third period was going to be critical for the B’s in what was a 1-1 game, but rather than making a statement, they allowed the Panthers to score twice against Patrice Bergeron‘s line, putting the Senators a win away from reaching the playoffs in the process.

Brad Marchand got the Bruins within one with a well-placed wrist shot over Roberto Luongo‘s shoulder to end a 15-game scoreless streak with five minutes to play, but the Panthers answered promptly with a Jimmy Hayes goal to make it a 4-2 Panthers win.

Claude Julien was aggressive in pulling Tuukka Rask with 3:35 remaining in regulation, but the team was called for a too-many-men minor with 2:37 left.

The Bruins (95 points) are not yet eliminated, but they must win Saturday in Tampa and receive help from other teams. If Boston beats Tampa Saturday and Ottawa loses to the Flyers in regulation, Boston would make the playoffs over Ottawa. If Boston wins Saturday and Pittsburgh loses both of its remaining games, the B’s also would get in. Detroit going to overtime against the Canadiens Friday meant the B’s can no longer catch the Red Wings.

Here are four more things we learned Thursday:

STRONG START, NO GOALS AND A PREDICTABLE LETUP

A terrible start to Wednesday’s game against the Capitals cost the B’s two much-needed points. They realized their errors and dominated in the early going against Florida.

Boston had 10 of the first 12 shots on goal, while a power play that Marchand drew resulted in two full minutes without the Panthers clearing. One thing was missing, however: goals.

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Read More: Boston Bruins, Patrice Bergeron,
Pierre McGuire on MFB: Wednesday vs. Capitals ‘was not the most intense Bruins environment I’ve seen in a long time’ at 1:52 pm ET
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Pierre McGuire

Pierre McGuire

NBC Sports NHL analyst Pierre McGuire made his weekly appearance Thursday on Middays with MFB to look at the Bruins’ loss to the Capitals Wednesday night and ahead to the playoffs and the Bruins’ chances. To hear the interview, go to the MFB audio on demand page.

McGuire worked the game Wednesday night, a 3-0 Bruins loss in Washington, and said the Bruins didn’t look like some of the Bruins’ teams he knows from the past.

“I thought they were kind of passive last night, I really did,” said McGuire. “I also know that there were some guys under the weather. They are not going to use that as an excuse, but I know there were guys not feeling very well last night — Brad Marchand was one of them. I mean, the fact that he dressed and played as well as he did was pretty nice indication of his character and how much he cares. Again, you don’t want to get everything wrapped up in one game. If they turn around and win tonight then everybody is going to be happy again. It was not the most intense Bruins environment I’ve seen in a long time.”

Claude Julien mixed up his lines, to the disliking of some, but McGuire brought up Julien was likely thinking ahead to Thursday night’s game in Florida too, and not just Wednesday’s game in Washington.

“I was really surprised at some of the maneuvers, but I also know that Washington is one of the most balanced teams in the league,” said McGuire. “They have really a four-line attack. You could see it, they had that kid line last night that was really working for them that didn’t score, but it generated chances for them. They are still missing Jay Beagle, they are still missing Eric Fehr, they will get those guys back at some point. Washington is a balanced team.

“I think what Claude was trying to do is get more of a balanced attack so he could compete with a four line game knowing the schedule that he has. That is a quick back-to-back with Washington and Florida. It is one of the most difficult ones you have in the league just because of travel, humidity and the time that you arrive. This will be a very difficult game for the Bruins. I think he was trying to look at the whole schedule rather than one game.”

With the Eastern Conference so tightly bunched, and only two games left, anything can happen. Currently the Bruins are tied with the Senators for eighth place, and a point behind seventh place, and two points behind sixth place. So one of those four teams will miss out on the postseason. McGuire thinks the Bruins will be able to make the playoffs, as they take on Florida Thursday night and Tampa Bay on Sunday.

Tuukka [Rask] is going to be large early on tonight, I think that is really important,” he said. “If he can be and stabilize the game early then the Bruins I think will have a chance to get going. You’re going to be looking at a showdown obviously on Sunday against Tampa. I think Tampa will probably rest some people. The game won’t have as much meaning for them. I still believe Boston is a playoff team. I do. I believed it from the start of the year and I still believe it.”

Read More: Boston Bruins, Brad Marchand, Claude Julien, Pierre McGuire
5 things we learned as Bruins get shutout by Braden Holtby once again 04.08.15 at 10:38 pm ET
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WASHINGTON, D.C. — When the Senators fell behind by three goals Tuesday night, it seemed the Bruins were a win away from a playoff spot. When the Bruins fell behind by three goals a night later, Boston’€™s playoff chances became slightly better than a coin flip.

While Ottawa was able to erase its deficit and win on Tuesday, the Bruins’€™ worrisome outing against the Capitals meant that their game in hand is now gone and they enter a two-game fight for their playoff lives.

For the third time this season, the Bruins failed to beat Braden Holtby as the Washington netminder picked up his third shutout against the Bruins this season, stopping all 27 Boston shots Wednesday. The B’€™s played sloppily with the puck and didn’t enjoy potent stays in the offensive zone, leading to the 3-0 blanking.

He becomes the first goalie to blank the Bruins in all three games in one season, stopping all 88 shots he faced.

Not helping the Bruins was the fact that they did not have a power play on the night. The only three penalties of the game came against Boston.

With the loss, the Bruins remain at 95 points, tied with the Senators for the second wild card spot in the Eastern Conference through 80 games. If the Bruins win Thursday in Florida and Saturday in Tampa with at least one of the wins coming in regulation or overtime, they’€™ll be in.

The B’€™s could still also surpass the Penguins (96 points), Red Wings (97) or Islanders (98), but Wednesday presented a much easier option for the team to control its destiny. Now their playoff hopes could very well come down to the final game of the season.

Here are four more things we learned Wednesday:

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Read More: Boston Bruins, David Krejci, David Pastrnak, Washington Capitals
Chris Kelly on looming line choices: ‘We’ve got a great problem to have’ 04.05.15 at 10:27 am ET
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Chris Kelly is hardly worried about the looming decisions that will have to be made to determine who will play and who won’t come playoff time.

Kelly moved from his left wing spot and centered a line Saturday that had Max Talbot on left wing and newcomer Brett Connolly on the right. This left out Gregory Campbell and Daniel Paille. The way Kelly sees it, there are five players trying to make Claude Julien‘s job as difficult as possible with competition in the last week.

“Competition, that’€™s why we all play. Competition is good, and it makes everyone better, I think. We’€™ve got a great problem to have, good players that can play in the lineup, and I think every guy is trying to make it difficult on him to make those tough decisions,” Kelly said. “Ultimately, you want to go out there and play your best hockey and help the team.”

Connolly played in just his second game with the Bruins since returning from a broken finger in his second practice with the Bruins and was relieved to finally contribute. Kelly said he was happy from what he saw from his line during a 2-1 shootout win over the Maple Leafs Saturday.

“We had some pretty good chances,” Kelly said. “I think all three of us, our feet were moving, and we weren’€™t in our end too often, so it was good. A bounce here, a bounce there, maybe we would’€™ve been able to get one.”

Julien insisted after the game that what he’s trying to do is more about keeping everyone fresh than holding an audition for the fourth line in the final week. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Boston Bruins, Brett Connolly, Chris Kelly,
Pierre McGuire on MFB: ‘Targeting [injuries] is a very real thing in our league’ 04.02.15 at 1:42 pm ET
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Pierre McGuire

Pierre McGuire

NBC Sports NHL analyst Pierre McGuire made his weekly appearance Thursday on Middays with MFB to talk about the Bruins and their playoff push, as well as other NHL league matters. To hear the interview, go to the MFB audio on demand page.

Wednesday night Celtics forward Kelly Olynyk revealed Bruins defenseman Dougie Hamilton has broken ribs and is trying to work his way back for the playoffs. The Bruins did not disclose Hamilton’s injury, and that is because of the nature of the NHL and how other teams can potentially target injuries.

“It would be difficult — very, very difficult,” McGuire said of playing with broken ribs. “That is why we don’t have injury, whatever, revealing of injuries. Most teams will just go overall body soreness so you don’t know. Targeting is a very real thing in our league because we have sticks, we have boards and we don’t have out of bounds. Things happen and you can target guys and that is why everyone is guarded in terms of their medical rooms and medical staffs. You don’t see any breaches usually when it comes to that stuff.”

The Bruins are starting to play well once again and are now three points ahead of the Senators for eighth place in the Eastern Conference and just two points behind the Red Wings for seventh. McGuire feels the Bruins’ success now and potentially in the playoffs depends on their injuries.

“A lot of it obviously has to do with injury situations,” he said. “The Dougie Hamilton thing is very unfortunate. You see what has happened, the leadership has come to the fore. Whether it’s Patrice Bergeron. Whether it’s Dennis Seidenberg. You can look around, so many guys have really stepped up and produced for the team, it’s been phenomenal to watch. Obviously Milan [Lucic]. Milan the other day against the Rangers just took the team on his back and turned it over.”

With David Krejci coming back after missing significant time, McGuire likes what the Bruins have done with their lines and wouldn’t change a thing as the playoffs get closer and closer.

“I really like what has gone on and obviously Krejci’s really fit in pretty well playing along side with [Brad] Marchand and [Patrice] Bergeron,” McGuire said. “I wouldn’t be messing around. The one thing I am encouraged by is it looks like Reilly Smith is starting to percolate a little bit. That is a real important thing and obviously [Carl] Soderberg and [Loui] Eriksson have had some key plays lately which has helped a lot, whether it’s Loui scoring or Soderberg making an assist, especially on the [David] Pastrnak goal the other day in Carolina. There are things that are starting to happen with the group that has to get you a little bit excited if you’re a fan of the Bruins.”

Read More: Boston Bruins, David Krejci, Dougie Hamilton, Pierre McGuire
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