|Claude Julien still wants more out of improving Bergeron line||11.04.14 at 10:56 pm ET|
Part of the Bruins’ early-season struggles was that the team’s sure things weren’t sure things. Zdeno Chara wasn’t enjoying a strong start prior to his injury, while Patrice Bergeron‘s line was getting beaten far more than usual.
Obviously, it’s going to take some time for things to return to normal. Chara is in the second week of his recovery from a torn PCL and, assuming his recovery is on track, is expected to remain out for 2-4 more weeks. The Bergeron line, on the other hand, appears to be turning a corner.
Claude Julien broke up the trio of Bergeron between Brad Marchand and Reilly Smith three games ago, at which point Bergeron was an uncharacteristic minus-2 on the season and Marchand was looking for his first even-strength goal of the season. Smith, Julien had said multiple times, looked like he was behind after missing most of training camp because he didn’t have a contract.
Smith was put back on Bergeron’s line after a period in Buffalo and Marchand was returned to the line by the end of the game. It seems Julien got the attention of his most trusted line, as Marchand now has four goals (three of which came playing with Bergeron and Smith) and two assists in the last three games, while both Bergeron and Smith have two points apiece in the span.
The Bruins have won all three games, two of which came on overtime winners from Marchand. Both of the Bruins’ goals in Tuesday’s 2-1 overtime victory came from the Bergeron line, as Bergeron scored his first goal in 12 games with a second-period tally.
“I think tonight was a real big step forward for us,” Marchand said. “We played with a lot more confidence than we have in the past number of games, and it seems like were able to make plays now and hold on. I think that’s one thing we weren’t doing very well early on — we were throwing it away a lot, and weren’t supporting each other very well, but our legs seemed to be under us, we seemed to be more comfortable with the puck, and we felt really good tonight.”
Though the results are showing more and more, Julien said he feels the line isn’t yet where he wants it to be.
“I think the puck movement between them still isn’t quite where we’ve seen it before,” Julien said. “There’s still room for improvement and they’ve just got to keep working at it, because they’ve got one guy right now that’s really hot.”
Smith was strong on the puck and looked lightyears more confident than in games past Tuesday. Julien still expects more out of him. Reminded of his past critiques of the player and asked if he felt Smith had caught up, Julien was noncommittal. Asked again about Smith, Julien reiterated his stance that he feels the whole line could do more.
“He’s trying to get himself going,” Julien said of Smith. “I don’t think he’s playing bad ‘ I mean, he’s just one of those guys with that line ‘ I think that whole line, the three of them together, are starting to come around. Two goals from that line tonight, so you can’t complain.”
Given Julien’s lack of praise, Smith was asked after the game whether he felt his coach was hard on him. Smith’s vague answer suggested the answer might be yes, but Julien trying to motivate his young players is nothing new.
“I think here, everyone’s used to that as a hockey player,” Smith said. “You get used to it. You have pretty thick skin. I think if you don’t have it, you’re not going to go too far.”
Bergeron is a two-time Selke Trophy winner as the league’s top two-way forward, while Marchand and Smith are both looking to prove they can have consistent seasons after streaky showings last season. When that line is at its best, its among the most difficult in the league to oppose. Julien doesn’t think it’s there yet, but the positive steps its taken has helped the Bruins get wins at a time when they need them.
Perhaps the only thing about the Bruins losing Zdeno Chara for 4-6 weeks that wasn’t a total negative was that it came at the beginning of a relatively weak part of the Bruins’ schedule. Though banged up, the Bruins are still managing to get those points against lesser teams as they try to recover from their sloppy start to the season.
It wasn’t pretty until the last second, but Tuesday’s 2-1 win over the Panthers (box) on Brad Marchand‘s sensational overtime winner improved the B’s to 4-1-0 without their captain, who is in the second week of his recovery from a torn PCL.
More winnable games await the Chara-less Bruins, as they will face the Oilers, Devils and Maple Leafs before returning to the Bell Centre next week in search of their first win against the Canadiens this season.
Here are four other things we learned Tuesday night:
BERGERON SNAPS GOAL SKID
Entering Tuesday, Bergeron’s only goal of the young campaign came against Detroit in the second game of the season. The two-time Selke winner scored for the first time in 12 games Tuesday.
After Reilly Smith won the puck along the wall, Brad Marchand picked up the puck inches from Smith and sent it Bergeron, who knocked down the puck, wheeled around and swept it past Roberto Luongo. The puck might have gone off the stick of a Florida defender to change the trajectory.
The goal gave Bergeron points in two straight games, as he picked up a helper Saturday against the Senators. Bergeron’s eight points (two goals, six assists) put him two behind Carl Soderberg, who leads the B’s with 10 points (three goals, seven assists).
Marchand, on the other hand, remains red hot with four goals and two assists for six points in his last three games. Reilly Smith had one of his better games of the season.
KREJCI REMAINS OUT
Lucic - Kelly – Griffith
Marchand - Bergeron - Smith
Fraser - Soderberg – Eriksson
Paille - Campbell - Gagne
Seidenberg - Hamilton
Morrow - McQuaid
Warsofsky – Trotman
LOUI ERIKSSON IS GETTING HIT IN THE FACE WITH STICKS AGAIN
Loui Eriksson ran into some bad luck prior to the Olympics when he took a stick to the mouth in a game against the Blues. Eriksson required dental work after the incident.
It was something of a familiar sight in the final minutes of regulation Tuesday when Scottie Upshall got Eriksson in the face with his stick. There was no penalty called on the play, but Eriksson stayed in the game.
THORNTON RETURNS TO BOSTON
Tuesday marked Shawn Thornton‘s first game at TD Garden since leaving the Bruins this offseason and first game ever as an opponent in Boston.
The veteran enforcer, who spent seven seasons with the B’s, was met with a standing ovation when his name was announced in the starting lineup and was again received a strong response when the Bruins played a video tribute during a first-period stoppage in play. The video featured goals, hits, fights, hospital visits and Thornton raising the Stanley Cup in 2011.
Thornton and linemate Derek MacKenzie were stuck on the ice for Bergeron’s second-period goal.
|5 things we learned in Bruins’ overtime win over Sabres||10.30.14 at 9:49 pm ET|
It shouldn’t take messages from Claude Julien to his players to beat the Sabres and it shouldn’t take overtime to beat the Sabres, but the Bruins were able to breathe a sigh of relief Thursday night thanks to both.
Reilly Smith and Brad Marchand, both of whom were moved off of Patrice Bergeron‘s line to begin the game, connected for the game-winning goal in a 3-2 win in Buffalo (box score) to improve to 6-6-0 on the season.
Maybe the old lines would have gotten the job done just as well against the lowly Sabres, but the Bruins found a way to hold possession throughout the night come back in the third period from what appeared to be the very real possibility of a regulation loss to one of the worst teams in the NHL.
Either way, a new-look third line of Carl Soderberg between Brad Marchand and Loui Eriksson tied the game with 5:30 remaining when Soderberg, whose faceoffs are usually taken by Chris Kelly, won a draw back to Dennis Seidenberg, who sent the puck up to Eriksson. The veteran right winger’s shot went off Marchand’s glove and in to both tie the game and save the B’s some real embarrassment.
The lines began as follows:
Lucic – Krejci – Griffith
Kelly – Bergeron – Gagne
Marchand – Soderberg – Eriksson
Paille – Campbell – Smith
Smith moved back up to Bergeron’s line in the second period, with Gagne returning to Campbell’s line. Kelly skating on the other wing of that Bergeron line meant that Soderberg had to assume all center responsibilities on his line, including taking faceoffs. That didn’t end up being a problem, especially on the game-tying goal.
|Brad Marchand leaves practice early, Bruins shake up lines after latest loss||10.29.14 at 12:28 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — The Bruins reshuffled their lines in Wednesday’s practice, with both Brad Marchand and Reilly Smith being moved off Patrice Bergeron‘s line. Marchand left the ice during practice, with Claude Julien saying afterwards that the left wing “tweaked something.” Marchand’s status for Thursday’s game in Buffalo is unknown.
Upon Marchand leaving the ice, Matt Fraser switched jerseys and went from the fourth line to the third line, playing the left wing with Carl Soderberg and Loui Eriksson. It’s worth noting that Fraser was the best he’s been as a Bruin when he played in that spot last postseason while Chris Kelly was out with a back injury.
David Krejci‘s line remained the same after a strong showing in Tuesday’s loss to the Wild, but all of the other lines were changed. They were as follows:
Lucic – Krejci – Griffith
Kelly – Bergeron – Gagne
Marchand/Fraser – Soderberg – Eriksson
Paille – Campbell – Smith/Fraser
Both Joe Morrow and David Warsofsky were on the ice after being recalled earlier in the day.
|Brad Marchand thinks NHL’s new diving fine policy is ‘a little absurd’||10.11.14 at 1:15 pm ET|
This season, the NHL is hitting accused divers where it hurts. Guess which Bruins player doesn’t like that?
Under a new set of rules for this season, players will be given a warning for their first dive, a $2,000 fine for their second, a $3,000 fine for their third, a $4,000 fine for their fourth and a $5,000 fine for any and every dive after that.
They’ll also likely find themselves in the doghouse, as coaches will be fined $2,000 if one of their players dives a fourth time, $3,000 if they dive a fifth time and $5,000 for any other dives.
Brad Marchand, a player with a track record of embellishment penalties, was given the first of the 2014-15 season Thursday night when he was sent off for selling a Henrik Zetterberg interference penalty. The penalty came on the first shift of the second period.
There was just one problem: Marchand didn’t appear to dive on the play. It looked like, after passing the puck back to the point in the offensive zone, he was trying to avoid Zetterberg by jumping around him.
(GIF courtesy of Boston.com)
Both Marchand and Claude Julien took issue with the call, which in all likelihood shouldn’t have been a penalty on either player. Whether Zetterberg even knew Marchand was there when they made contact is up for debate as well.
Dives — whether penalized or not — are reviewed before action is taken by the league’s part. The Bruins have yet to hear whether Marchand has received a warning for the play, with Claude Julien saying Saturday that, to his knowledge, Marchand hadn’t. The Bruins will know more soon, as a list comes out each week indicating which players have earned a strike.
Whether or not the clock has started on him, Marchand still opposes the league’s new approach.
“I think the new rule is a little absurd,” Marchand told WEEI.com Saturday. “It’s all a judgment call by the referee. How do you judge how guys are on their balance, how they’re on their skates? What if they’re on one foot and on their turn a guy gets pushed? Does that mean that he has embellished?
“The fact that guys are going to start getting fined for it, I don’t agree with that. It’s all the discretion of the referee and you’ve got to try to play within the rules. We’re going to try to find that line, but at end of the day, it’s up to the referees with what they want to call, and you’ve got to live with it.”
Though certain teams — the Bruins certainly among them – have played the “everyone dives but us” card over the years, the fact is that if you want to look for it, there’s proof of selling calls with every team and many, many players throughout the league. Some are known more for it than others, and some of Marchand’s more egregious falls, as well as closer calls, have earned him a reputation that might make keeping all of his $4.5 million salary more of an uphill climb this season.
Marchand is correct, however, when he questions what is is viewed as embellishment. He brought up a terrific example of a player grabbing his face when he has not been hit with a stick.
“There’s no real definition of embellishing,” Marchand said. “Even when a guy sees a stick up on his face, it happens so quick, it might not hit you, but at the same time, you’re going to react to a stick up within inches of your face. It’s just everyone’s natural reaction. Sometimes it hits you, sometimes it may not. Yeah, you might think it’s going to hit you and you move your head back and that’s [considered] embellishing. It’s just a natural reaction; you may not even mean to do it.
“That’s where there’s such a fine line between that rule. I’m not too fond of all the fining and all that, but if that’s where it’s going to go, then you’ve got to live with it.”
Marchand knows he has a reputation for many things, and diving is among them. Of all the things for which he’s known, Marchand says the “diver” label is the most infuriating.
“It is,” he said. “Especially after a play like last game, I think it was an absolutely ridiculous call, and the fact that now I have a strike against me because of something like that [Editor’s note: Said strike is TBD]. I don’t think you can argue anything; I had my feet completely taken out from under me. What are you supposed to do there? It’s a bit of a ridiculous call, but that’s how it is.”
Julien says that he has ‘no doubt’ that referees are more inclined to call such penalties on Marchand, but he puts that on the player.
“That’s up to him to clean up that situation. He created it, right?’ Julien said. “I think he’s done a great job this year of staying focused and just playing his game. Whether he gets in the other team’s kitchen or not, that’s part of his game. But I think it’s just about making sure you don’t lose the respect of your referees by chirping or by continuing to do things after the whistle when they tell you to stop. I think that’s where he’s lost those guys a little bit. You can always redeem yourself, or you’d like to think players can, he’s really tying to do that.”
Julien has gone after other teams – specifically the Canadiens – in the past for embellishing. On Saturday, however, he admitted what many know to be true but don’t always want to say: Everyone dives.
“I don’t encourage embellishment. I don’t want to see it. That doesn’t mean it won’t happen every once in a while on our team,” Julien said. “Like anybody else, I just don’t like it. Our players are clear on that. We’re not clean; we do make those kind of mistakes every once in a while, and when it becomes an issue, it gets addressed.
“The league is doing a great job of trying to take that out of the game, and I think it’s a real important thing to our game to take out because it really tarnishes what this game’s all about.”
|In showdown of elite centers, Patrice Bergeron dominates Flyers’ Claude Giroux||10.09.14 at 12:23 am ET|
In theory, Wednesday night’s season opener between the Bruins and Flyers should have given us a great back-and-forth battle between two of the NHL‘s best centers. Patrice Bergeron and Claude Giroux both finished in the top five in Hart Trophy voting last season, and their lines were matched against each other for most of the game Wednesday night.
But instead of that great battle, what we got was a total beatdown in favor of the Bruins. Bergeron, Brad Marchand and Reilly Smith dominated Giroux, Brayden Schenn and Jakub Voracek all game long, rendering one of the best players in the league virtually invisible.
Bergeron won 10 of the 12 faceoffs he took against Giroux and ended up with a plus-16 Corsi (22 shot attempts for, 6 against), according to hockeystats.ca, while Giroux finished the night with a minus-18 Corsi (6 attempts for, 24 against). Bergeron and his linemates combined for seven shots on goal, while Giroux and his managed just two. It seemed like every time the two lines were on the ice, the puck was in the Flyers’ zone, and the numbers reflect that.
“They take pride in being a better line than the line that they’re facing up against,” Claude Julien said. “It’s just a trait that they have. They worked hard. You have to give them credit, too, for how they checked against that line because it had a lot of potential to be dangerous offensively. But those guys did a pretty good job of taking away those opportunities.”
The key was winning battles. Bergeron is one of the best faceoff men in the NHL, but it’s not like he won all 10 of those faceoffs cleanly. Some of them required him outworking Giroux on a second or third attempt to win the puck back, and some of them required Marchand or Smith to jump in and beat the opponent to a loose puck.
Battles in the corner led to longer offensive-zone possessions. One of the best examples of this came with around 9:40 left in the second when Bergeron won a 1-on-1 battle in the corner to the left of the Flyers’ net. He came away with the puck and moved it back to Zdeno Chara at the left point. Chara then moved it over to Adam McQuaid, who sent a shot through a nice Smith screen, one that he was able to set by winning a battle for position. The shot didn’t go in, but it wasn’t an easy save either. Read the rest of this entry »
|Islanders beat Bruins in preseason contest||09.30.14 at 9:42 pm ET|
The Bruins came back from a two-goal deficit in the third period of Tuesday’s preseason game against the Islanders but ultimately fell, 5-3.
Boston first got on the board in the first period with a goal from Patrice Bergeron putting in his own rebound, but three straight goals from the Islanders gave them a 3-1 lead heading into the third. After Brad Marchand took a cross-checking penalty, Matt Bartkowski scored a shorthanded goal and Marchand took a pass from Loui Eriksson upon exiting the penalty box for a breakaway on which he tied the game. Cal Clutterbuck beat projected Providence backup goaltender Jeremy Smith to make it 4-3 with 3:09 remaining in the game. The Islanders got an empty-netter from Scott Mayfield with 1:11 to seal the victory.
Niklas Svedberg started the game for the Bruins, allowing one goal on eight shots. Smith took over halfway through the second and allowed two goals late in the second before settling down in the third.
Torey Krug and Reilly Smith did not play, but are expected to this weekend. The Bruins’ lineup for the game was as follows:
Lucic – Krejci – Eriksson
Marchand – Bergeron – Cunningham
Gagne – Soderberg – Fraser
Caron – Kelly – Robins
Chara – Hamilton
Seidenberg – Boychuk
Bartkowski – McQuaid
The Bruins have two more preseason games remaining. They’ll play the Islanders in Connecticut on Friday before wrapping up the preseason Saturday evening against the Red Wings. The B’s will host the Flyers in their season-opener Oct. 8.