|Bruins cling to what little hope remains as they prepare for Lightning||04.11.15 at 12:43 pm ET|
TAMPA, Fla. — By all accounts, the Bruins treated Friday like a regular off-day: no big team-dinner, no major group outing, just a day to clear their heads.
When they awoke Saturday, some of the shock of their situation had subsided. Whether overcompensating or genuinely confident, Claude Julien sported his bravest face in the team’s morning skate as he and his players held on to the slightest bit of hope that they could still find a way into the playoffs. With the Penguins losing in regulation Friday, the Bruins are at least feeling a little better than they did following Thursday’s 4-2 loss to the Panthers. No matter what happens with Ottawa or Pittsburgh Saturday, however, the Bruins must beat the Lightning Saturday in addition to getting help.
“It’s pretty obvious that you have an opportunity here tonight,” Julien said. “I don’t think you need to go back on the last game. I think our first period was the energy that we needed; we just couldn’t sustain it for three periods, so you end up with a loss. Do you keep going back to that or do you keep going to the excitement and the excitement that you have tonight. I think that’s what we’ve got to do here as a team.”
The Bruins did not do line rushes in Saturday’s morning skate. All that is known is that Tuukka Rask will start and the only six defensemen on the roster will play. How the forward lines look and who will be scratched up front is unknown.
On the other side, the Bruins may catch a bit of a break if Jonathan Drouin doesn’t play. The star rookie left wing was not at Saturday’s morning skate and is under the weather. His status for the game is unknown, but Tampa did recall Jonathan Marchessault on an emergency basis. Defensemen Braydon Coburn, Andrej Sustr and Jason Garrison, as well as forward Jason Killorn, are all out with injuries.
If the Penguins lose to the Sabres in regulation and the Bruins get any kind of win, Boston will get in over Pittsburgh. If the Penguins lose in overtime or a shootout, the Bruins could get in with a regulation or overtime win. The other scenario in which Boston could sneak into the playoffs would be with a regulation or overtime win and a Senators regulation loss to the Flyers.
Either scenario would result in the Bruins getting a wild card spot. Should they reach the playoffs, they will play either the Rangers or the Canadiens in the first round.
They know that is unlikely. In the meantime, they will try to earn a bit of luck with their best effort of the season.
“There is something to play for tonight. We have to take that mentality into the night that there’s still a lot on the line and we need to win a hockey game in order to hopefully end up in the playoff picture,” Milan Lucic said. “Obviously, some things have to happen. It’s not the situation that we want to be in. Again, some things can happen. It always seems like we always have to do things the hard way. Here’s one of those situations again.”
|Peter Chiarelli unsure of his future, feels Claude Julien has ‘done fine’||04.10.15 at 3:04 pm ET|
TAMPA, Fla. — Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli met with reporters for over 17 minutes Friday, marking the team’s only media availability for the day.
The Bruins are all but eliminated from playoff contention. They need to both win Saturday and see either the Senators lose in regulation or the Penguins get no more than one point in their final two games. As such, there was ample reflection on this season’s issues, but Chiarelli stressed that he did not want have what he called the “postmortem” conversation until following the season.
Chiarelli’s job seemingly has been on the line since Charlie Jacobs said the entire organization was under review in January and that missing the playoffs would be unacceptable. Asked whether Chiarelli thought he would stay with the Bruins, he expressed uncertainty.
“I don’t know. I’m not sure,” Chiarelli said. “I’m operating [as if] I am [staying] until they tell me that I’m not.”
Claude Julien could also be on the hot seat despite receiving a contract extension in November. Chiarelli spoke to the job he’s done and noted that the group has collectively cultivated its current circumstances.
“I think he’s done fine,” Chiarelli said. “I look at a couple things. I think he’s mixed and matched with the lines, I think he’s integrated some youth into the forward lines. I think he’s done well mixing and matching on the defensive pairs. None of us lately have been used to these type of circumstances, myself included. I think he’s done fine. I don’t want to get into postmortem discussion. We’ll have the chance [for that]. It’s been disappointing and obviously it’s not acceptable and there’s a level of high standard in our city and our market and we haven’t reached it right now.”
|Claude Julien: ‘Have a look at the roster’||04.09.15 at 11:08 pm ET|
After the Bruins lost in regulation to the Panthers on Thursday, Julien batted down a question about his Bruins handling big moments better in the past than they have this season. In doing so, he pointed out that past teams had better players.
“I don’t think we have the same team we’ve had in the past,” Julien said. “You guys can talk about that; have a look at the roster. It’s not the same. We can’t live in the past. That’s what we’re trying to do here: work with the guys that we have. We’ve got a lot of young players and we’ve got a lot of players that haven’t played for expectations right now.
“It’s still not too late. You’ve got to win the next game and hope that you get some help and move forward here. We can hang our heads here all we want, but the bottom line is that we’ve got to regroup and think about winning ourselves a hockey game the next game, because if not, then I’m disappointed in all of us for not thinking that way.”
Jarome Iginla and Johnny Boychuk were the biggest absences from last year’s team. Both players left due to salary cap constraints, as Chiarelli let Iginla walk in free agency and traded Boychuk to the Islanders.
Julien didn’t say anything that wasn’t already known, as Chiarelli knew he wouldn’t be able to ice as potent a roster as the B’s had a season ago. The Bruins are paying nearly $5 million in dead money against the cap this season because of last season’s bonuses ($4.2 million of which were for Iginla).
Still, Chiarelli stressed in December that despite the B’s having parted with some of last season’s players, the roster was still good enough to play better.
“They’ve underperformed,” Chiarelli told WEEI.com in December. “The roster’s not markedly different from last year. There’s a couple of notable players [gone], but there are a lot of teams that have less cumulative money spent than us that are doing better than us.
“Listen, things go in cycles, right? I understand that you can’t hit it out of the ballpark all the time, and myself included.”
The Bruins need to win Saturday and get help from other teams in order to make the playoffs. Either the Penguins must get one or zero points over their final two games or the Senators need to lose their season finale to the Flyers in regulation.
|Bruins prepare for critical meeting with Panthers||at 6:40 pm ET|
SUNRISE, Fla. — The Bruins say they understand the threat that exists of them missing the playoffs. Thursday night’s game against the Panthers, their 81st game of the season, needs to be their biggest push.
That means the B’s can’t have the start they did Wednesday, when two poor play with the puck and coverage lapses put them in an early deficit from which they never recovered.
“I think [we need to] come out a lot more focused,” Dennis Seidenberg said. “Playing the way we’re supposed to, which is getting pucks deep and managing the puck a lot better than we did.”
The Bruins enter Thursday’s game tied with the Senators with 95 points through 80 games on the season. A playoff berth could be secured either by Boston winning both its final games or by the B’s finishing with more points in the next two games than the Senators.
“To this point, I think if we win the next two games I don’t think anyone will even be talking about this anymore,” Brad Marchand said. “That’s [easier] said [than] done. We’ve got a lot of really good leadership in there that we can follow going into games like tonight.”
Both the B’s and Senators are in action Thursday, as the Senators will face a Rangers team that has already clinched the Presidents’ Trophy and is resting Rick Nash, Marc Staal and Mats Zuccarello.
Perhaps the Rangers would prefer the Senators to the Bruins as a first-round opponent. Letting their players rest while improving Ottawa’s playoff chances could kill two birds with one stone.
“I’m not following what other teams do around the league,” Chara said. “Usually that’s the case for many teams, but we have to focus on what we have to do.”
|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|
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.”
|Pressure still on Bruins in difficult matchup with Capitals||04.08.15 at 1:04 pm ET|
“That third period wasn’t what I expected,” he added after Wednesday’s morning skate.
By now, he probably should have expected it. The Senators came back from from a 3-0 deficit with a goal in the second period and two more in the third to force overtime, where Mark Stone scored his second goal of the night to give Ottawa two huge points and keep the pressure on the Bruins. The fact that Pittsburgh picked up a point in the process on a night in which Detroit jumped back into the third playoff spot in the Atlantic Division didn’t help either.
Had the Senators lost in regulation to the Penguins, the Bruins could have wrapped up a playoff spot with a win over the Capitals Wednesday. Now, the Bruins need as many or more points in their final three games than the Senators get in their final two.
The Bruins and Senators are currently tied with 95 points. If the Senators are to win out, the Bruins would need to earn four points, with at least one of those victories coming in regulation or overtime. That’s what’s required to finish ahead of the Senators.
Of course, both teams could still get in and another could slip out. The Penguins are at 96 points on the season through 80 games, while the Red Wings (97 points in 80 games) and Islanders (98 points in 80 games) remain at risk to miss the playoffs.
All of the teams with whom the Bruins are competing for a spot in the postseason have played 80 games. Wednesday night’s tilt against the Capitals, who have already secured a playoff spot but would still benefit from two points for the sake of positioning, is Boston’s 80th game. Winning in regulation or overtime would allow the B’s to breathe far easier heading into their final two games.
“We’ve been playing kind of playoff hockey in the last 10, 15 games, so nothing’s going to change in these last three games,” David Krejci said.
“The good thing is that we control our own destiny, and if we win all three games then we don’t have to look at other teams,” he added. “It’s a pretty big game tonight, so we’ll try to get two points and move on to Florida tomorrow.”
Getting two points won’t be easy. Braden Holtby is expected to start for the Capitals Wednesday, and the Bruins have yet to get a puck past him in two meetings this season. The last time the teams met, a first-period Brad Marchand penalty led to a goal for Washington’s NHL-best power play that decided the March 15 contest.
“We’ve got to be a little bit better than we were last time,” Julien said. “It took us a while; they had a good start and it took us a while to get ourselves in the game. They got an early power play goal and then it stayed like that for a while.”
That is, until a Nate Schmidt shot went off Gregory Campbell‘s hand and past Tuukka Rask. From there, Braden Holtby completed his second shutout of the season against the Bruins with a 32-save blanking.
“We have to have a better start and manage the puck well against these guys. I think we can spend some time in the o-zone if we manage the puck better than we did in here last time and keep our feet moving, and at the same time, respect their offense. To me it’s going to be a man’s game tonight and if you want to play this kind of game, you’ve got to be ready to put everything on the line.”
WASHINGTON, D.C. — As the Bruins prepare for the first of what could be three must-wins to end the regular season, Claude Julien is in secret-keeping mode.
Both Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg participated in Wednesday’s morning skate, but Julien’s forward lines were borderline indecipherable. The two lines that stayed consistent throughout were Marchand-Bergeron-Eriksson and Lucic-Krejci-Pastrnak. The bottom six varied.
Early in the skate, the third line was Carl Soderberg between Chris Kelly and Reilly Smith, with Julien not putting a fourth line out in rushes. Later in the practice, the bottom six was Kelly/Paille-Spooner-Connolly and Campbell-Soderberg-Smith. How the lines look when the Capitals and Bruins square off at 8 p.m. is anyone’s guess.
“I know it’s a big story right now, but it is what it is,” Julien said after the morning skate. “We’re moving guys around and we’ve got Plan A, Plan B, Plan C, if you want. We can move different guys around, so to me it’s a normal thing for coaches. I look at the teams that are winning, and from game to game they change lines anyway.
“I guess you guys have gotten accustomed to seeing the same lines from me for years and being a little more patient. This year’s been different. That’s basically what it is.”
Krejci has played mostly right wing in his six games back from a knee injury. Asked whether he felt healthy enough to return full-time to center (such an attempt did not last in last Thursday’s game against the Red Wings), Krejci declined comment.
“I don’t like to answer these questions,” Krejci said. “I’m playing, so I feel good.”