|Bruins not satisfied with win streak as long as they’re out of top-eight||11.16.11 at 4:11 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — The Bruins’ 3-7-0 start to the season brought many words to mind: surprising, unacceptable, even the overused “hangover.”
Based on history, what should have come to mind would be more along the lines of “screwed.”
The Bruins found themselves at the bottom of the Eastern Conference when they had just six points through 10 games. If Thursday’s game against the Blue Jackets were to be played two weeks ago, it would have been a matchup of cellar-dwellars. Instead, the B’s have rattled off six straight wins that’s seen balanced scoring from all four lines.
“We’re very confident in the group we have,” Shawn Thornton said Wednesday. “We dug ourselves a bit of a hole, yes, but we knew we were right there. I think the guys did a good job of just sticking with it and working through it to get to where we need to be.”
The win-streak has brought the Bruins all the way up to ninth in the conference, just one point behind the Senators for eighth with three games in hand. Year after year, good teams get off to bad starts and are never able to recover due to the difficulty of climbing the standings with three-point games. After all, over two teams in the last two years who weren’t in the top eight on Nov. 1 ended up making the playoffs.
There are two ways of looking at what the Bruins have done here. One thing to take from it is that it’s proof that moving up in this league isn’t easy. The Bruins have been hotter than any team in the league, and the fact that it hasn’t catapulted them into the top eight shows that there’s still work to be done.
“Ninth still doesn’t put us in a playoff position. Our goal is to keep climbing, and you see how tough it is. We’ve won six games in a row and we’re still not in a playoff position,” Gregory Campbell said. “It’s a feather in our cap to have done what we’ve done, but for us to have so many losses early on, we can ill afford to get comfortable and rest on our streak so far.”
After the Bruins play the Blue Jackets and Islanders on Thursday and Saturday, respectively, they will have one of their biggest two-game stretches of the young season. Monday will see them square off with the Habs in Montreal and Wednesday will take them to Buffalo. The B’s currently trail the Sabres by four points in the Northeast division. If the B’s can grab four easy points against the struggling Blue Jackets and Islanders, they could be sitting pretty to move up even further and not only vie for a top-eight spot, but for the division lead.
“We’re just trying to maintain our intensity, our solid play structurally, and continue climbing,” Campbell said. “We have two huge division games coming up next week, so in order to set ourselves up to make another jump [in the standings], we have to win these next two games.”
For the streaking Bruins, there doesn’t seem to be a hint of satisfaction. They’ve made it hard on their opponents over the last six contests, but anybody in their dressing room will tell you the goal isn’t to win six in a row. The goal to correct the bizarro standings of two weeks ago, and get their names right around the top.
“For us, we’ve been down below too long,” Claude Julien said. “It’s been a month and a half. The season’s been going, and we’re still in ninth of today, not in a playoff spot. We feel we’re a much better team than that. I think that there’s an opportunity here in this next week and a half to really, I guess, move up in the standings as long as we can continue to win games and play as well as we have.
“It’s one of those things where we don’t want to be relying on other teams to do our job. It’s up to us to continue to play well and win hockey games. I think if we can keep playing the way we have lately, this next week and a half is going to really be telling for our hockey club.”
Added Campbell: “No matter who you are or what team you are, how good you are, this league is full of good teams,” Campbell said. “Things change quickly, as you’ve seen. We have to stay focused on the task here and set ourselves up. We’re in a good spot now, but teams ahead of us keep winning. It’s up to us to do the same.”
|Claude Julien: Andrew Ference not yet a game-time decision, Tuukka Rask ‘has a temper’||at 1:33 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — After practicing for the first time since his lower-body injury, Bruins defenseman said that he is “still day-to-day,” but the Bruins doubt he will play Thursday against the Blue Jackets.
“I don’t think we’re even at that stage yet for Andrew where it’s a game-time decision,” Claude Julien said. “I don’t even know if he’s been assessed well enough to make that comment, but maybe that will change tomorrow morning.”
Perhaps the most interesting moment of Wednesday’s practice came when an enraged Tuukka Rask banged his stick on the cross-bar four times and threw his stick through the door and off the ice following a goal from Patrice Bergeron‘s line.
“Tuukka has a temper,” Julien said. “It’s not the first time he’s exhibited that. He gets mad and he’s competitive. It’s never a bad thing as long as it’s for the right reasons.”
|Brad Marchand knows he did wrong and makes up for it||at 8:16 am ET|
No one had to tell Brad Marchand why he was benched in the second period of the Bruins’ 4-3 win over the Devils Tuesday night at TD Garden.
He knew that coach Claude Julien wasn’t pleased with him taking a roughing penalty midway through the period, throwing a punch at New Jersey’s Adam Henrique when the two squared tussled in the Devils zone.
The penalty was the first of two straight called on Boston, which led to a 5-on-3 power play and a New Jersey goal, after the Devils had gone scoreless in 22 straight power plays.
“I didn't have to say anything. I think we're kind of at the stage where we've been together long enough, he knows what I wasn't happy with and why he sat,” Julien said. “But at the same time, he's a good player for us, and he certainly deserves a chance to get back into it, and it was nice to see him respond quickly. He was a much smarter player in the third period.”
He took a pass from Zdeno Chara on the opening faceoff of the third period – as Julien put him back on the top line – and raced down the ice and beat Johan Hedberg six seconds into the period to give the Bruins a 2-1 lead.
“I took a bad penalty there and they scored on it and it's a learning process when things like that happen,” Marchand admitted. “You're going to pay for it sometimes. And I had to pay by sitting on the bench tonight.
“You just want to bounce back. I didn't want to hang my head I wanted to go and show I can be better. And I think he was kind of giving me a pat on the butt. I had to be better in the game. I didn't have a good first couple periods I want to come in the third and play stronger and help the team win.”
He was given encouragement on the bench from teammates like Patrice Bergeron.
“Bergy a couple of times before the third and right before when we're on the ice and just said, ‘keep your head up and let's go for it, bounce back,’ that kind of thing and kind of get me motivated. It just shows his leadership and just another little thing.
“You don't ever want that to be the scenario when you miss a couple of opportunities at the end of the game when your down a bit. But a couple penalties were'¦I have to avoid. It's kind of a wake up call. It is needed sometimes and tonight was one of those times.”
|Claude Julien: If Milan Lucic wanted to hit Ryan Miller, ‘he would have never got up’||11.15.11 at 11:59 am ET|
Claude Julien said after Tuesday’s morning skate that the team was “convinced” Lucic’s hit on Miller “wasn’t deliberate” and were therefore pleased with Brendan Shanahan‘s decision to not suspend the forward.
Julien said that he doesn’t believe goalies should be hit, but noted the difference between a hit and a collision. He believed Saturday’s incident was a collision.
“I know for a fact that if Milan had intended on hitting [Miller], he would have never got up,” Julien said of Lucic. “We all know how hard he hits. It speaks for itself.”
For more on the Bruins, visit weei.com/bruins.
|Andrew Ference takes the ice||at 11:50 am ET|
Andrew Ference did not participate in the Bruins’ morning skate Tuesday, but the injured defenseman did return to the ice prior to the skate. Ference left Thursday’s game against the Oilers with a lower-body injury and did not play Saturday night. Claude Julien had said the defenseman was close to skating again Monday, and was glad to see him progress on Tuesday.
“He skated, and it’s his first game of skating,” Julien said. “'¦ He’s come along, so he started saint again today. Hopefully he’ll progress. '¦ He becomes day-to-day the minute he steps on the ice.”
Julien hadn’t yet spoken to trainers about Ference on Tuesday, but said he might know by Tuesday night whether Ference might practice with the team on Wednesday.
|Bruins don’t hang their heads and get rewarded||11.02.11 at 10:35 am ET|
Tim Thomas is usually the center of attention whenever he plays and the Bruins win a game.
But this has hardly been a usual season so far and Tuesday was hardly a typical game.
“Yeah, I was waiting around my locker when you guys came in but no one came over,” he told reporters with a good-natured smile after Boston’s 5-3 win over Ottawa. “But I wasn’t the story tonight.”
Thomas – as is usually the case – was right on the money. The story Tuesday was the rediscovered tenacity of a Bruins team that rode its determined style to a Stanley Cup title four months earlier.
That tenacity was tested when the team fell behind 2-1 after one period to the Senators and blew a 3-2 lead early in the third period. That was hardly what the Bruins – losers of three straight and seven of 10 to start the season – needed for confidence.
“I think we were trying to maintain that 60-minute focus in our game,” head coach Claude Julien said. “I thought maybe in the beginning of the third, after that power play, we seemed to get a little bit sloppy, and of course, they tied the game up. But I think everybody was on the same page tonight as far as, don't hang your heads, let's go out there, let's get the next goal, and let's find a way to win this game. Determination was a lot better tonight and positive, I guess, thoughts, more than hanging our head and saying, 'Here we go again.'”
“I thought we had the momentum all night and it was one of those games where we felt confident we could do it and come back,” added Patrice Bergeron. “And playing like that, that's how we come back in games and show character and stay consistent and keep going at them. And I thought tonight was the perfect example that when we put the puck in deep and work at it, we're a tough team to beat.”
|Re-examining Nov. 1 and the uphill climb the Bruins face||10.31.11 at 5:21 pm ET|
Last week, we noted the Bruins should want to be either in or very close to the top eight teams in the Eastern Conference by the time the first of November rolls around. Now, the day isn’t over yet, but chances are there will be no Halloween miracle that takes the Bruins out of dead last before the second month of the season, and based on history, that means they’re in deep trouble.
Without totally recycling last week’s story, each of the last two seasons has seen only one Eastern Conference team not in the top eight on Nov. 1 go on to make the playoffs. That means, for the most part at least, that the playoff picture is largely made up after a month, and it barely changes.
So, with the Bruins 3-7-0 and in last place at the end of October, they are going to have a heck of a climb back into the playoff picture if they don’t want the season that follows June’s Stanley Cup victory to be a colossal failure. It means they’re going to need to turn things around quickly to avoid suffering the fate so many teams who start slow, finish strong and still miss the playoffs, see every season. Last year, it was the Devils and the Hurricanes whose stellar play late couldn’t save them, but those teams didn’t have nearly the expectations of the depending champs.
“You look back at things like this [later in the season],” Milan Lucic said Monday. “Obviously, there’s adversity that you have to face throughout the season. For us, it’s right now. We’ve got to figure it out quick, because I know it’s only 10 games, but you know how many teams that have had starts like this that haven’t been able to recover.
“You look at New Jersey last year, who finished as probably the best team since January, and they weren’t able to recover. You can reflect on this. Obviously we’ll see what happens down the road, but we’ve got to do everything we can to get out of this as quick as possible. We’re going to have to do it as a team and as a group effort. The only way we’re going todo this is if we help each other.”
There seems to be an understanding throughout the Bruins’ dressing room that as far as time for struggles go, this is it. They won’t be able to slump at later points in the season, because with overtime losses in place, it will be hard enough as it is for them to gain ground.
“Basically, every team in the league is going to go through a rough patch at some point this year. Our’s is right now, unfortunately. We understand that this is our rough patch, and we won’t be able to have another one, or we’re going to sink ourselves,” Claude Julien said. “There’s a lot of things that you just keep trying to figure our they those things happen, and there are no answers. '¦ Right now if we had the answer, it would have been fixed. That’s why you try to find those answers.”
Whatever the answers are, the Bruins need to find them quick. The last defending champion to miss the playoffs was the 2006-07 Hurricanes.
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