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What to make of these Bruins as they head into homestretch 04.08.13 at 1:26 am ET
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How good are the Bruins? Depends on your mentality.

The optimist loves their chances. He remembers that the team is one of just four with fewer than 10 regulation losses. The pessimist, on the other hand, is worried. He notices that five of those losses have come in their last 11 games. The realist, meanwhile, is trying to figure out just who these Bruins really are.

Good luck, realist.

Regardless of your level of hope, there is no doubt that Bruins are scuffling right now. The team that looked dead in Philadelphia, asleep for 50 minutes in Buffalo, gave up 87 shots in two home games and then embarrassed itself when it couldn’t even muster a shot in their six-on-four power play late in Montreal is clearly not the same group that cruised to a 19-4-3 record to start the year.

There are some obvious differences. These Bruins have had serious personnel changes since the start of the year. Not only have they lost the contributions from two key centermen (Chris Kelly and now Patrice Bergeron), but their loss has tested their depth at the position. It has forced Claude Julien to juggle his lines and shift both Tyler Seguin and Rich Peverley from the wing, weakening two of his four lines. They’ve also been forced to test their depth on the blue line as Matt Bartkowski and Aaron Johnson have spelled the injured Adam McQuaid and Johnny Boychuck.

Fortunately for the B’s, I think the optimists win this one. Boychuck is already back. Kelly is close to returning. McQuaid has now skated with the team. Only Bergeron remains as a great mystery for the playoffs, and without him I think we all become horribly pessimistic. He is that important to their postseason chances. Without his presence, as Paul Pierce said about Kevin Garnett‘s effect on the Celtics, ‘€œThey aren’t going anywhere.’€

During this downturn, however, we’ve seen a run of third-period losses. A team once built upon late-game surges has seen its power turned off in key spots. I see two possible explanations: Either the Bruins are getting tired in the third periods, or their goalie keeps losing concentration.

I think the B’s are just tired, and so on this question I’ll remain optimistic as well. Much has been made of the condensed schedule and the toll it is taking on especially physical teams. Julien’s blueprint has always been to beat you up for 40 minutes then take advantage of your exhaustion late. If the schedule has prevented them from playing as physically as they’d like, I’ll assume that they are smartly keeping something in reserve for the playoffs.

But that doesn’t mean there aren’t causes for major concern.

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Bruins trying to solve an offensive mess 04.07.13 at 11:23 pm ET
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Claude Julien said before the season he was going to be quicker to make reactionary moves this season. It would be impossible to blame him for doing so after Saturday’s loss to the Canadiens.

Julien demoted Tyler Seguin to the third line, put Rich Peverley on the seldom-played fourth line and promoted Gregory Campbell to the second line (making the second line the 2010 version of the Merlot Line, except with Jaromir Jagr in place of Shawn Thornton) for Sunday’s practice. The moves speak to how in flux Boston is offensively, as the B’s have scored two goals or less in four of their last five games, with three one-goal showings.

The lines looked like this:

Milan Lucic-David Krejci-Nathan Horton
Brad Marchand-Gregory Campbell-Jaromir Jagr
Daniel Paille/Jay Pandolfo-Chris Kelly-Tyler Seguin
Kaspars Daugavins/Jordan Caron-Rich Peverley-Shawn Thornton

Sunday’s lines could have just been a threat on Julien’s part to wake up some of his slumping forwards, and there are plenty of candidates. Brad Marchand wasn’t demoted with the revamped lines, but he has just two goals in his last 17 games. He and Seguin combined for zero shots on goal Sunday night in what was a very untimely disappearing act for two of Boston’s top scorers.

Then there’s the Peverley thing, which is very interesting. Julien clearly expects way more than he’s getting out Peverley (no points, minus-2 rating last five games). After Peverly was a healthy scratch last month, it appears he is back in the doghouse.

It hasn’t been a no-win situation for Peverley, but you do have to take into consideration that he hasn’t been playing with top players for the most part. His linemates have included Chris Bourque, Jay Pandolfo and Kaspars Daugavins. It isn’t exactly like Peverley’s been put in a position to win the Hart Trophy, but it’s reasonable to expect better numbers than he’s put up even with subpar linemates.

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Claude Julien on allowing 87 shots in 2 games: Bad habits have ‘crept into our game’ 04.05.13 at 2:20 am ET
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Claude Julien can read the shot board on the TD Garden scoreboards like anyone else.

He knows full well that the Bruins gave up 47 shots on Tuesday night and escaped with a 3-2 win over the Senators thanks to the play of back-up goalie Anton Khudobin.

He knows full well the Bruins allowed Tuukka Rask to face 40 shots Thursday night against New Jersey, only to have their rear ends saved by the fact their goalie turned away all 40 in a 1-0 squeaker over the Devils.

“Well, he was good,” Julien said in his best understated voice. “You know, he was one of the reasons we won, obviously. He made the big saves when he had to and kept us in the lead at times when they could have gotten themselves back into the game. He was good for us tonight, and sometimes a little bit of rest and a little bit of work with the goalie coach is what goaltenders need.”

Rask wasn’t complaining afterward. Actually, he was happy to see so many pucks early, as the Bruins were outshot 17-6 in the opening 20 minutes after he had the last two games off.

“Yeah, I was saying to Doby [Anton Khudobin] in the first intermission that I would rather take 17 shots, then three or four shots to just get kind of get going and even though they had 17 shots there were a lot of shots from the outsides so it was good to get that feeling. Feel for the puck and stuff like that, so good effort.

“I’€™d just rather go out there and just get my mind right during the game. Doby played great in Buffalo, played great against Ottawa so I wasn’€™t feeling sorry for myself sitting out there. I was feeling good for him. He’€™s kind of in that groove and he’€™s playing really good so it was good to watch him for a couple of outings there and I felt good out there.”

Is Julien concerned about the shot totals and the way his team is playing defensively? Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Boston Bruins, Claude Julien, NHL, Tuukka Rask
Chris Kelly days away from returning to Bruins lineup 04.04.13 at 12:40 pm ET
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Chris Kelly skated for the fourth consecutive day on Thursday as he nears a return from a broken tibia suffered on March 11 against the Senators, but Thursday marked the first time he skated with his teammates.

Kelly participated fully in the Bruins’ morning skate, and though he will not play Thursday against the Devils, Claude Julien said that his return to the lineup is right around the corner.

“I think it’s just a matter of probably days now vs. a week that hopefully he’ll be back,” Julien said.

The coach added that Kelly will travel with the team to Montreal this weekend for Saturday’s game, though it’s too early to tell whether Kelly will actually play vs. the Habs.

Though Kelly is itching to get back on the ice (this is the longest he’s been out with an injury in his NHL career), he isn’t getting too far ahead of himself when it comes to jumping back in the lineup.

“It’s just about how I feel. If I feel good, I do a little bit more the next day,” he said. “If I don’t feel as good, maybe don’t push it as much. One step at a time. Today was my first day with the guys, and it was just a morning skate. Maybe if we practice tomorrow, I’ll get to skate a little longer with them and maybe do a little more.”

Morning skates aren’t a very physical affair, as the half hour is used for skating, line rushes, and other work such as special teams and face-offs. The next step in Kelly’s recovery would appear to be adding the physical aspect.

“I’m hoping not to get hit, to be honest,” he said with a laugh. “If they want to hit me, I guess that will be the next step.”

As for what he’s looking to get out of the final days before he gets back into games, Kelly said that it’s a combination of getting over the injury and getting his strength back.

“I think it’s a little bit of both. Conditioning is definitely a big part of it,” he said. “You don’t want to be fatigued and put yourself in a vulnerable position for other injuries. The fatigue aspect is definitely there. I need to work on that and just feel comfortable with the injury as well.”

When he does return, his line could look different. When he was injured, he was skating with Rich Peverley and Jordan Caron on the third line, but since then the Bruins have added Kaspars Daugavins and Jaromir Jagr, both of whom could eventually be in the third line mix. The B’s have also used Jay Pandolfo more on the third line (Pandolfo and Daugavins played on Peverley’s wings in Thursday’s morning skate).

Kelly’s line struggled mightily before he went down, and the third line has continued to underachieve. He doesn’t view his eventual return as a chance to bounce back with a new linemate or two, focusing instead on just playing when he can.

“I just want to be back. Whoever I play with will be great,” he said. “I know adding [Jagr] was great, and Daugavins as well. There are a few new faces, but whoever I play with will be great with me.”

Read More: Chris Kelly, Claude Julien, Jaromir Jagr,
Bruins not offended by Jarome Iginla’s decision, but can still prove him wrong 03.29.13 at 2:05 pm ET
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WILMINGTON — Jarome Iginla slighted the Bruins when, after the Flames and B’s agreed to a trade Wednesday, he told the Flames that he wouldn’t waive his no-trade clause to go to Boston and would rather play for the Penguins. That’s it, plain and simple, but the Bruins on Friday showed no effects of having been spurned.

David Krejci likely would have been Iginla’s center, and the addition of the rugged right wing would have given Krejci a more consistent scorer in a season in which linemates Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton have seen their offense go missing for long stretches.

“I’ve got nothing [to say] about it,” Krejci said. “I’m just playing a game. I heard rumors he might be coming here and I guess he picked Pittsburgh, and that’s his decision. We’re still the same team as we were a couple days ago.”

The message Bruins players could have gotten from the fiasco is that Iginla thought he had a better chance of winning with the Penguins than he would have with the Bruins. That should add extra motivation for the Bruins to prove him wrong, but the B’s don’t want to make it about Iginla.

“They’re a great team, so it’s always been a motivation to play Pittsburgh,” Patrice Bergeron said. “I don’t think this should change anything. We’re confident in our team. It’s always been that way, so to me it doesn’t matter.”

The Penguins have won 14 games in a row, while the Bruins have gone 7-5-2. The Penguins have Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, two of the best three or four players in the league. The Bruins don’t blame him for picking Pittsburgh, but they feel they’re still capable enough to make him regret not picking the B’s.

“That was his entitlement. He’s got a no-trade clause, and when you look at what Pittsburgh’s done, you’ve got to respect the guy’s decision. It was his decision to make, and he made that,” Claude Julien said. “It will be at the end of the the year that he’ll see whether he made the right decision or not.

“Certainly there’s no animosity here. We’re a good team, and if he would have come here it would have made us better. He’s not here because he went somewhere else and we’ve turned the page. It’s about us right now, not about him.”

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Claude Julien acknowledges Jarome Iginla trade rumors swirling 03.27.13 at 11:55 pm ET
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Bruins coach Claude Julien acknowledged the trade rumors involving Calgary Flames veteran superstar Jarome Iginla were swirling around his team after the Bruins blew it two-goal lead in the third period and lost 6-5 to the Montréal Canadiens in a shootout Wednesday night at TD Garden.

“I don’t know if it affected the game, but I know it’s present,” Julien said. “You know, there’€™s a lot of rumors circling around our team. I called a couple players into my office just to talk before the game about certain things and they were a little jumpy ‘€“ they were all expected the worst news. And it had nothing to do with trades more than talking about the game. So it’€™s present and it’€™s pretty obvious why.

Julien also would not offer specific comment on two controversial calls against the Bruins late in the third that eventually ended in the game-tying goal, unlike earlier in the month when he accused the Canadiens of “embellishment” in drawing penalties in a win at TD Garden over the Bruins.

Read More: Boston Bruins, Claude Julien, Jarome Iginla, NHL
Trade loss: With Jarome Iginla rumors swirling, B’s blow lead, lose shootout to Habs at 10:37 pm ET
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Brendan Gallagher scored the decisive goal in the sixth round of the shootout as the Canadiens beat the Bruins, 6-5, in overtime Wednesday night at TD Garden. Gallagher also scored once in the third period before the Canadiens tied it with 8.2 seconds left in regulation. The Bruins had a pair of two-goal leads but couldn’t hold on, as they fell a point behind the Canadiens in the Northeast Division. The Bruins went 0-for-6 in the shootout while Gallagher was the only Canadien to score in six tries.

Patrice Bergeron scored a goal and added three assists while Tyler Seguin added a goal and two assists

With his team battling for the top spot in the Northeast Division six floors below, Bruins president Cam Neely went back and forth on the ninth floor, shadowed by security. This led to speculation about whether the Bruins might be ready to pull the trigger on a major trade for Calgary Flames star Jarome Iginla, who was scratched from his game Wednesday night, the first game the 35-year-old has missed since Feb. 2007.

For a second straight game, Claude Julien juggled his lines at the start before reverting midway through the game. And, for the second straight game against a division rival, the Bruins came out flat in the first period. They were held without a shot for the first eight minutes of the game.

With the exception of Seguin, the Canadiens generated most of the energy on the ice in the opening 20 minutes. It paid off for the visitors when former Bruin Michael Ryder got enough on a snap shot from the low slot and beat Tuukka Rask just 4:15 into the game for a 1-0 lead.

The Canadiens appeared to be in the driver’s seat when arch-nemesis P.K. Subban blasted a slap shot from the right point through a screen and past Rask 2:53 into the second period for a 2-0 lead.

Despite falling behind for the fourth straight game, the Bruins did not panic. And as they did on Monday, when they also fell behind by two goals at the start to the Maple Leafs, the Bruins woke up just in time.

It was a rush from Seguin that got things going 30 seconds after the Subban goal. Seguin came flying down the right wing and fired a shot off the crossbar. The puck came down in front of Bergeron. He couldn’t put it in the open net but Dougie Hamilton was in the right place at the right time and drilled a one-timer from between the circles past Price and the comeback was on.

Less than four minutes later, with Julien again rejoining his regular lines, Marchand netted the game-tying goal by battling for position in front of Price and knocking the puck past the Montreal goalie. Marchand, who started the game on the third line with Rich Peverley and Jordan Caron, was reunited with Bergeron and Seguin. It was Seguin who won the battle in the corner and fired the puck in front of the net for Marchand.

After Lars Eller hauled down Shawn Thornton on a rush down the left wing, the Bruins went on the power play. With 14 seconds left on the man advantage, Bergeron potted his 10th of the season to put the Bruins up, 3-2. The play was set up when Zdeno Chara fed Torey Krug, called up earlier in the day. Krug fired a shot from the right point. The shot deflected off Rich Peverley in front and onto the stick of Bergeron who finished it off.

With the Garden crowd still buzzing, David Krejci fed Nathan Horton on a mini-break and Horton beat Price 35 seconds later for a 4-2 lead. After spotting the Canadiens the game’s first three shots in the opening seven minutes, the Bruins outshot Montreal 26-8 and finished with a 26-11 advantage after 40 minutes.

Price was pulled in favor of Peter Budaj to start the third. Andrew Ference drew a hooking penalty and the Bruins had a power play but could generate little momentum. Then moments later, Ryder added his second of the night, drawing the Canadiens within one, 4-3, with just over 16 minutes still left in regulation.

With Hamilton in the penalty box for holding, Budaj kept the Canadiens in the game with a huge save on Gregory Campbell on a shorthanded breakaway with 10 minutes left. Seguin then gave the Bruins huge insurance with a backhander to beat Budaj with just over eight minutes left, putting Boston up, 5-3. The Canadiens made it a one goal game again as the Seguin goal was being announced as Brendan Gallagher got a lucky bounce off the mouth Dennis Sidenberg and beat Rask with 7:42 left. The Bruins killed off their first five shorthanded situations, including an elbowing call on Chara with 4:40 left in regulation.

But a delay of game on Aaron Johnson with 1:27 left, led to a 6-on-4 with Montreal’s empty net. A shot from Subban deflected off the stick of Chara past Rask with 8.2 seconds left to tie the game. Andrei Markov was credited with the goal The Bruins got a power play with 1:20 left in overtime when Alexei Emelin was called for a hooking penalty. Krejci had one final chance to win it but Budaj smothered the shot from the right circle two seconds before the end of overtime.

The Bruins are off Thursday and Friday before visiting Philadelphia for a matinee with the Flyers on Saturday. For more, visit the Bruins team page at weei.com/bruins.

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