|Claude Julien should go back to what works in must-win games||04.09.15 at 11:15 am ET|
SUNRISE, Fla. — By the end of Thursday night, the Bruins could either be in the playoffs, a win away from them, or in big trouble.
Two points against the Panthers is the team’s surest path of avoiding that last scenario. With the B’s tied with the Senators with 95 points and holding the regulation and overtime wins tiebreaker for the time being, the Bruins must assume that Ottawa will win both its remaining games. The Rangers have incentive to let Ottawa win on Thursday as a means of making sure they don’t have to see Tuukka Rask in the postseason. Winning Thursday and Saturday could very well be the only way in for Boston.
After Wednesday’s loss to the Capitals, Claude Julien should go back to some of the lines that helped the Bruins beat the Panthers and four other teams during Boston’s recent five-game win streak.
A confusing lack of commitment was a bigger reason for Wednesday’s result, but the lines also played a part. Julien broke up the trio of Ryan Spooner between Milan Lucic and David Pastrnak Wednesday in his second attempt to return David Krejci to center. The Lucic-Krejci-Pastrnak line opened with two bad shifts, the second of which saw them give Washington a goal, and they were broken up. In the third period, Julien went back to Lucic-Spooner-Pastrnak and returned Krejci to Patrice Bergeron‘s right wing.
He shouldn’t wait that long Thursday. The Spooner line scored the game-tying and game-winning goals against the Panthers on March 31 at the Garden, making up for the fact that they allowed a Brad Boyes goal.
It’s understandable why Julien wants to move Krejci back to center, but at this point the B’s could actually better afford to experiment in Game 1 or 2 of the playoffs than in Game 81 of the regular season. Julien should go back to Brad Marchand-Bergeron-Krejci and Lucic-Spooner-Pastrnak against the Panthers.
Where things go from there is unknown. The Bruins did not have a morning skate on Thursday, so Julien’s plan with his lines is once again anyone’s guess.
He should use the lines he used against the Maple Leafs last Saturday. Even if they scored only one goal during 65 minutes of play against a bad team, they took 81 shots. Such performances should pay off on the scoreboard, even if one didn’t overwhelm on Saturday.
The lines in that game were as follows:
That game saw the Marchand-Bergeron-Krejci line score its first goal in its six games together. Moving Krejci to center meant breaking up a line when it was just starting to produce.
After a couple of costly mistakes from Reilly Smith, Brett Connolly moved up to play with Carl Soderberg and Louis Eriksson. Julien should start the game with Connolly playing in that spot.
This is suboptimal for the Bruins. In a perfect world, they could take their time and get to a point where Lucic and Krejci can be reunited. Lucic-Spooner-Pastrnak playing against weaker competition is too proven to go away from now, however. Julien’s best bet at winning these games is sticking with what works.
|5 things we learned as Bruins get shutout by Braden Holtby once again||04.08.15 at 10:38 pm ET|
WASHINGTON, D.C. — When the Senators fell behind by three goals Tuesday night, it seemed the Bruins were a win away from a playoff spot. When the Bruins fell behind by three goals a night later, Boston’s playoff chances became slightly better than a coin flip.
While Ottawa was able to erase its deficit and win on Tuesday, the Bruins’ worrisome outing against the Capitals meant that their game in hand is now gone and they enter a two-game fight for their playoff lives.
For the third time this season, the Bruins failed to beat Braden Holtby as the Washington netminder picked up his third shutout against the Bruins this season, stopping all 27 Boston shots Wednesday. The B’s played sloppily with the puck and didn’t enjoy potent stays in the offensive zone, leading to the 3-0 blanking.
He becomes the first goalie to blank the Bruins in all three games in one season, stopping all 88 shots he faced.
Not helping the Bruins was the fact that they did not have a power play on the night. The only three penalties of the game came against Boston.
With the loss, the Bruins remain at 95 points, tied with the Senators for the second wild card spot in the Eastern Conference through 80 games. If the Bruins win Thursday in Florida and Saturday in Tampa with at least one of the wins coming in regulation or overtime, they’ll be in.
The B’s could still also surpass the Penguins (96 points), Red Wings (97) or Islanders (98), but Wednesday presented a much easier option for the team to control its destiny. Now their playoff hopes could very well come down to the final game of the season.
Here are four more things we learned Wednesday:
“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.”
|Pierre McGuire on MFB: ‘Targeting [injuries] is a very real thing in our league’||04.02.15 at 1:42 pm ET|
NBC Sports NHL analyst Pierre McGuire made his weekly appearance Thursday on Middays with MFB to talk about the Bruins and their playoff push, as well as other NHL league matters. To hear the interview, go to the MFB audio on demand page.
Wednesday night Celtics forward Kelly Olynyk revealed Bruins defenseman Dougie Hamilton has broken ribs and is trying to work his way back for the playoffs. The Bruins did not disclose Hamilton’s injury, and that is because of the nature of the NHL and how other teams can potentially target injuries.
“It would be difficult — very, very difficult,” McGuire said of playing with broken ribs. “That is why we don’t have injury, whatever, revealing of injuries. Most teams will just go overall body soreness so you don’t know. Targeting is a very real thing in our league because we have sticks, we have boards and we don’t have out of bounds. Things happen and you can target guys and that is why everyone is guarded in terms of their medical rooms and medical staffs. You don’t see any breaches usually when it comes to that stuff.”
The Bruins are starting to play well once again and are now three points ahead of the Senators for eighth place in the Eastern Conference and just two points behind the Red Wings for seventh. McGuire feels the Bruins’ success now and potentially in the playoffs depends on their injuries.
“A lot of it obviously has to do with injury situations,” he said. “The Dougie Hamilton thing is very unfortunate. You see what has happened, the leadership has come to the fore. Whether it’s Patrice Bergeron. Whether it’s Dennis Seidenberg. You can look around, so many guys have really stepped up and produced for the team, it’s been phenomenal to watch. Obviously Milan [Lucic]. Milan the other day against the Rangers just took the team on his back and turned it over.”
With David Krejci coming back after missing significant time, McGuire likes what the Bruins have done with their lines and wouldn’t change a thing as the playoffs get closer and closer.
“I really like what has gone on and obviously Krejci’s really fit in pretty well playing along side with [Brad] Marchand and [Patrice] Bergeron,” McGuire said. “I wouldn’t be messing around. The one thing I am encouraged by is it looks like Reilly Smith is starting to percolate a little bit. That is a real important thing and obviously [Carl] Soderberg and [Loui] Eriksson have had some key plays lately which has helped a lot, whether it’s Loui scoring or Soderberg making an assist, especially on the [David] Pastrnak goal the other day in Carolina. There are things that are starting to happen with the group that has to get you a little bit excited if you’re a fan of the Bruins.”
|David Krejci moves to line with Carl Soderberg, Loui Eriksson in Bruins practice, Brett Connolly takes contact||04.01.15 at 11:45 am ET|
WILMINGTON — David Krejci may be making the move back to center and Brett Connolly may be closing in on his Bruins debut.
After four games at right wing on Patrice Bergeron‘s line, Krejci was in the middle of Carl Soderberg and Loui Eriksson in Wednesday’s practice. Reilly Smith moved back to Bergeron’s line.
The lines in practice were as follows:
The line moves Soderberg to left wing, where he has not played since last season.
These lines may not last long, as Connolly continues to progress. He took contact in Wednesday’s practice and took turns on the Bruins’ second power play unit. His return will lead to further changes in the lineup.
The Bruins will play Thursday night in Detroit. The B’s trail the Red Wings by a pair of points with five games remaining, while the Red Wings have six. If the Bruins are to catch the Wings, they would take over the third spot in the Atlantic Division.
For more Bruins news, visit weei.com/bruins.
|Pierre McGuire on MFB: ‘Zdeno [Chara] is not the same player that he was’||03.26.15 at 2:00 pm ET|
NBC Sports NHL analyst Pierre McGuire made his weekly appearance Thursday on Middays with MFB to discuss the Bruins and their run to make the playoffs. To hear the interview, go to the MFB audio on demand page.
Part of the struggles for the Bruins this season has been the play of defensemen Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg. McGuire feels Chara isn’t the same player as he’s been in the past, as he is now 38 years old.
“Zdeno [Chara] is not the same player that he was,” McGuire said. “He’s having a harder time maintaining lots of ice time. He’s making mistakes we’re not used to seeing him make in terms of turnovers below the goal line from the hash mark down to the goal line. He’s losing guys in coverage. Getting beat wide which we haven’t seen a lot of him over the years because of that long stick.
“I don’t think he has the quickness in confined areas that he used to have and again, that doesn’t mean he can’t get it back, but it hasn’t been there for him and I am huge a Dennis Seidenberg fan and Dennis has not been the same player and I think a lot of that is because of injury more than anything else, I really believe that.”
David Krejci is likely to return to the lineup Thursday night, and the Bruins now need to find a place for him to play. McGuire says it will be an “experiment” to see where exactly he will fit in and on which line.
“I think it’s going to be an experiment,” McGuire said. “I think you’re going to take your time. I don’t think you want take away Ryan Spooner’s ice time. You don’t want to take [Patrice] Bergeron‘s ice time. You need [Carl] Soderberg to deliver for you and Gregory Campbell plays a different role. It is going to be very interesting to see how they do it. I probably would start him playing on the wing with Bergeron just because he won’t have to do a lot of the defensive heavy lifting that a center man has to do because he has Patrice there to help him out and it’s an easier position to play up high. We’ll see. Let’s be honest, Reilly Smith would be the first person to tell you he has not had a sterling season.”
As for the current status of the team, the Bruins are currently out of the playoffs in ninth place in the Eastern Conference, a point behind the Senators for the final spot. With nine games left in the regular-season, the team will need to get things going in a hurry in order to make the postseason.
“It’s not going well for them at all,” said McGuire. “There will be a lot of people watching the scoreboard tonight between Anaheim and Boston. This is not the position I’ll say just me in particular, I never thought the Bruins would be in this position. Even though I knew they would have a hard time replacing Jarome’s [Iginla] 30 goals, and he’s at 25 this year playing on a Colorado team that won’t make the playoffs and doesn’t have nearly the fire power that Boston does. But, he’s going to get 30 again, so replacing his 30 I thought would be tough and the Johnny Boychuk stuff would be tough, but I thought they would find a way doing it by committee, but they haven’t been able to do it. It’s been very disappointing.”
|David Krejci probable to return for Bruins vs. Ducks||at 11:37 am ET|
David Krejci will take warmups and is “probable” to play Thursday night against the Ducks, Claude Julien said after the Bruins’ morning skate.
Krejci, who has missed the last 15 games with a partially torn MCL, will play right wing on Patrice Bergeron‘s line according to line rushes in morning skate.
Tuukka Rask is expected to start against the Ducks. Boston’s lineup in morning skate was as follows:
For more Bruins news, visit weei.com/bruins.