|The Hat Trick: Bruins can’t save the work for the third||03.15.10 at 10:43 pm ET|
Before we go any further into the Bruins’ 3-2 loss to the Devils on Monday night, let’s get one thing straight: This wasn’t a Jacques Lemaire or Pat Burns-coached team that the Bruins fell to Monday night. It wasn’t a fall-behind-by-one-and-the-game’s-over scenario, as many who have followed the Bruins have grown accustomed to when it comes to playing the Devils. And while the Devils are a very viable Cup contender this year, this wasn’t a throwback to the mid-’90s-on torture that the black and gold have fallen victim to.
This was a struggling team going against a struggling team (the Devils, currently fourth in the conference, entered the evening 4-5-1 over their last 10 games) and struggling.
On Monday night we saw plenty of the Bruins’ flaws highlighted. Whether it was the painful uncertainty in net that led to Tim Thomas being yanked after 20 minutes of decent play accompanied by bad luck and big rebounds (for what it’s worth, only Zach Parise’s goal can be blamed on Thomas ‘ Scott Niedermayer’s was the result of a screen and David Clarkson’s a breakaway), a missed opportunity at physically setting the tone (Milan Lucic’s dasher to the face) or the lack of consistent offense, it was all there in a rough night for Claude Julien and the gang.
The Bruins are still hanging onto the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference by just one point, with their 72 points narrowly edging the Rangers’ 71. Still, in a prospective matchup with the top-seeded Capitals (who are 2-0 against Boston this year and have outscored the Bruins by a margin of 8-2 in their two meetings), the playoffs might just be a formality ‘ a quick stop on the way to yet another offseason filled with questions of how the Bruins can return to prominence for good.
It wasn’t all bad, though. The offense, aside from being snakebitten when it comes to getting multiple tallies in the third (see below), peppered New Jersey netminder Martin Brodeur with 15 shots in the final 20 minutes, and after being outshot 22-21 through two periods, ended the game having outshot the Devils, 36-28. Here is the hat trick of lessons learned in close-but-not-close-enough match at the Prudential Center.
|Second period summary: Bruins-Devils||at 7:45 pm ET|
The presence of Tuuka Rask changed the tone of the game Monday night. That, of course, and the presence of scoring.
Mark Stuart, pinching in the offensive zone, threw the puck on net at an odd angle that was tipped by Blake Wheeler and slipped past the leg of Martin Brodeur just 43 seconds into the second period to bring the Bruins within two goals in a 3-1 game.
Stuart nearly had one of his own on the following drive when his shot from the point lanced off of Brodeur’s glove.
A close call came at 8:53 when Rob Neidermayer, positioned in front of Rask, redirected a shot from the point past Rask for what appeared to be the Devils’ fourth goal. The goal was waved off immediately and was confirmed seconds later.
Shawn Thornton and Pierre-Luc Letornee-Leblond participated in somewhat of a balet recital at 2:47 in a fight that never really got off the ground. Still, with the highly anticipated bout with the Penguins on tap, Bruins fans may be willing to take any sneak preview they can get.
A troubling play came when Milan Lucic, following a biffed attempt at hitting Andy Green, went face-first into the dasher in the middle of the period. He left for the locker room following the play but later returned.
The Bruins kept up the pressure late in the second period, including a drive that featured a couple of close plays involving Dennis Seidenberg. A 3-on-1 in the period’s last minute also looked promising but went for naught. Even so, the Bruins wrapped up the period playing with far more energy than they ever were in the first period.
Each team had 10 shots and through two the Devils are outshooting the Bruins, 22-21.
|First period summary: Bruins-Devils||at 6:57 pm ET|
One would think that one team outshooting the other by just one might dictate a close game. Not tonight, as the rout may be on early in Newark, with the Devils leading the Bruins 3-0 after the first period.
After a run of eight consectuive shots from the Bruins, the Devils applied a ton of pressure in the period’s 10th minute that culminated in a goal from Rob Neidermayer at 9:58. The goal came as a result of a tip from a David Clarkson shot. Patrik Elias likely would have made it 2-0 seconds later were it not for his wrister going wide of Thomas’ net. Though the stat sheet would be filled with penalty minutes for much of of the time after, smart goaltending got the Devils back on the board.
David Clarkson took a long pass from Martin Brodeur at center ice and raced up the ice untouched for a breakaway goal at 17:23. It was Brodeur’s third assist of the season.
Seconds later, Parise took a rebound from a Mike Mottau shot and put it past Thomas to give the Devils a 3-0 lead.
But enough about the Bruins’ inability to compete at the moment. With the Penguins in town Thursday, much of the focus is on the physical aspect. After Blake Wheeler went off just 52 seconds into the game for hooking, the Bruins’ penalty kill, which entered the night third in the NHL, went to work and effectively killed off a Devils power play that consisted of two shots. The highlight of the penalty kill came when Tim Thomas made a nice save through a screen on a shot from the stick of Travis Zajac.
A few minutes later, Dennis Seidenberg stapled Zach Parise in the corner and was retaliated upon by Jamie Langenbrunner, who went off for unsportsmanlike conduct at 5:34. After a shorthanded bid from the Devils, poor puckwork deraliled what dew opportunities the Bruins were able to muster on the power play.
Shortly thereafter Vladimir Sobotka has one of the best opportunities of the period when he was stuffed by Martin Brodeur on a wraparound.
Mark Stuart crushed Jamie Langenbrunner with about six and a half minutes remaining in the period and seconds later was squaring off with Rod Pelley at the blue line. Both went off for fighting at 13:50.
The Devils outshot the Bruins 12-11.
|Boychuk admits ‘Oh, no’ feeling first game back||03.05.10 at 3:52 pm ET|
It’s rare when a hockey player admits the slightest amount of fear on the ice. It’s that lack of fear that separates those in the sport from many others.
But on Thursday at TD Garden, Bruins defenseman Johnny Boychuk acknowledged that he had a few scary flashbacks to Feb. 6 on the same ice when Mikael Samuelsson’s slapshot hit him just to the side of his left eye, causing him to miss the final four games before the Olympic break and Tuesday’s game with Montreal.
But those fears were calmed somewhat when he let loose one of his own booming slapshots in the second period, beating J-S Giguere and giving the Bruins a 2-1 lead over Toronto.
“If felt good, actually,” Boychuk said of his return. “There was a couple of times where I just have to get back into things, I guess. Just little things, I guess, but overall it felt great.”
“It felt better if there was a slap shot coming from the point that I had a visor on. There were a couple of times when somebody wound up and I was like, ‘Oh, no’ and a flashback of that shot hitting me in the eye or side of the head so it’s just nice having that little extra protection.”
Boychuk said the piece of mind was more than worth the minor inconvenience of extra eye protection.
“I just have to wipe it down every once and a while from all the sweat,” he said. “That’s about it.”
It was that cannon of a slapper that earned Boychuk a place on the Bruins roster and possible future offensive force on the B’s blueline.
|Thomas proves he’s ‘ready for everything’||03.04.10 at 11:24 pm ET|
Tim Thomas admitted he felt a little rusty at first. After all, it had been seven games with the Bruins and six Olympic contests that he had served as a back-up.
But aside from a short-side goal off the stick of Viktor Stalberg in the first period, Thomas looked like the Vezina Trophy winner he was last season in helping the Bruins to a 3-2 shootout win over Toronto Thursday night at TD Garden.
“My confidence going into it was pretty good,” Thomas said. “I felt real good in practice. There’s a couple of things that happen in games that you can’t really practice. That put me on my heels a couple of different times. You’ve got to be ready for everything as a goalie, anything that’s thrown your way.”
Thomas stopped Phil Kessel not once, not twice but three times on point-blank chances, including a breakaway in the first and in the shootout.
“At the Olympics, at the end of the practice over the past two weeks, I probably took 400 breakaways after practice and 40 of them were against Phil,” Thomas said. “I didn’t know exactly where he was going to shoot because he can shoot anywhere. I was just trying to do the best I could and I was fortunate enough to be the one that ended up on top today.”
“Outstanding,” raved coach Claude Julien. “For a guy that hadn’t played in a month, for him to come in and do the job he did tonight, we needed him. There’s no doubt. He deserves a lot of credit for this win tonight.”
|Bergy, Rask out vs. Leafs||at 2:14 pm ET|
Tuukka Rask will miss tonight’s game against the Toronto Maple Leafs with a lower body injury, according to NESN.com, and Tim Thomas is expected to get the start in net for the first time since returning from the Olympics.
Rask did not skate this morning, according to the Bruins twitter page, and is day-to-day with the injury. The team recalled goaltender Matt Dalton from the Reading Royals of the East Coast Hockey League on an emergency basis and placed goaltender Dany Sabourin on re-entry waivers for the purpose of recall.
Dalton is expected to join the team tonight and be available for tonight’s game. This is Dalton’s second recall to Boston, as he was recalled on an emergency basis on Wednesday, February 24 and practiced with the team from February 25 to March 1 while Thomas participated in the Olympics.
Meanwhile, Patrice Bergeron told reporters this morning that he will miss his second straight game with tightness in his groin, an injury he suffered while playing for Team Canada in the Olympics.
|Chiarelli gets defensive||03.03.10 at 7:49 pm ET|
Call it spin or creative marketing.
But Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli, while admitting frustration in not landing one of eight snipers they hoped to add before Wednesday’s trading deadline, did say the Bruins accomplished something significant that indirectly could result in a better offense.
In making two deadline-day trades while shipping one of their current defenseman and a forward out of town, they remade their blue line. The centerpiece is 28-year-old defenseman Dennis Seidenberg, a defenseman aquired from Florida, along with the rights to Ohio State defenseman Matt Bartkowski, in exchange for forward Byron Bitz, Craig Weller and a second-round draft pick in this year’s draft.
‘I know a lot of the questions will be, ‘Why didn’t we get scoring?’ And those are very good and valid questions. Firstly, we wanted to change the composition of our defense. I can say that was an equal priority to getting some more scoring,’ Chiarelli said.
Earlier Wednesday, the Bruins sent 31-year-old defenseman Derek Morris to Phoenix for a conditional pick in the 2011 draft. On Tuesday, the Bruins added defensemen Cody Wild from Edmonton and the rights to University of Michigan defenseman Steve Kampfer from Anaheim.
‘I put [defense] as an equal priority because I feel that if we change the composition that will, in itself, allow us to improve from the backend out and that should result in better offensive production,’ Chiarelli said. ‘It allows defensemen to play in their appropriate roles and that was the motivation behind that now.’
Chiarelli said he and his staff targeted eight potential forwards around the NHL as possible acquisitions prior to the deadline but he deemed the asking price too high. Names such as Edmonton’s Steve Staios, Raffi Torres, who wound up being traded from Columbus to Buffalo and Carolina’s Ray Whitney, who wasn’t dealt at all, were among the names rumored to be on Boston’s radar.
‘With regard to improving the scoring, there were some players out there and we were in on more than a couple,’ Chiarelli said. ‘But I guess at the end of the day, I just wasn’t in a position to give what they wanted. I didn’t think additions that I contemplated would produce more than marginal improvement. Hard to believe after scoring one goal [Tuesday] night, I really believe our group can score more and we will score more.’