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Julien: Kessel shouldn’t be afraid “to do extra” while in slump 02.20.09 at 5:00 pm ET
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The last 13 games have been pretty damned unlucky for Phil Kessel.

The last 13 games have been pretty damned unlucky for Phil Kessel.

It’s pretty clear that one of Bruins head coach Claude Julien’s famous messages is being extended out to winger Phil Kessel, who hasn’t scored a goal in his last 13 games — including 10 since returning from mononucleosis in late January.

The streak is the longest since he had a pair of 15-game goal-scoring droughts back in his rookie season of 2006-07.

The 22-year-old was pulled off the power play in Boston’s win against Carolina on Tuesday night, and Julien indicated he wants to see something out of his skilled winger before he’s placed back on the unit. The man advantage scored two goals without Kessel buzzing around at his normal position, so it wasn’t exactly a ringing endorsement for the youngster’s immediate return to the special teams’ squad.

It’s not exactl akin to benching Kessel in the playoffs as he did last season against the Montreal Canadiens, but it’s another example of some tough hockey love from a coach imploring he see more out of his budding superstars. The Bruins will need Kessel’s firepower with the playoffs on the horizon, and — reading between the lines — they’d like to see him work a little harder at lighting the lamp.

Skating with playmaking David Krejci — who appears to have turned the corner earlier this week against the Hurricanes – and the gritty, aggravating Vladmir Sobotka could be just what the doctor ordered for Kessel. But the B’s bench boss clearly wants to see more oomph and effort out of his ice-cold forward with whichever linemates he finds himself with. 

“The message you’ve got to give to any young player that’s (not scoring) is to work your way through it,” said B’s coach Claude Julien following this morning’s practice at Incredible Ice in Coral Spring, Fla. “That’s the biggest thing. Some people wait for it to happen again, and some people work to make it happen again. That’s that the message that we’re giving him. Don’t stop doing things or don’t be afraid to do extra stuff to get yourself going. If you can shoot 100 extra pucks at the end of practice, then you go and do it.”

The additional work extends out to his work in the shootout, where Kessel has gained a slight air of predictability while continuing to employ his his favorite “deke and drive” move during the shootouts. Maybe it’s just me, but the whole thing sounded quite a bit like a parent telling a young child that they’ll get a better grade if they start doing a little more studying.

“Even in the shootouts it’s about trying to use different moves for him as well and to expand his different types moves,” added Julien. “Nowadays everybody has those scouting reports on both the goalies and the shooters for the shootouts.”

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Bruins strike back and take third-period momentum 02.17.09 at 11:14 pm ET
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During the recent four-game losing binge that had some questioning just how good a hockey team they can be, the Bruins were uncharacteristically searching for answers and struggling in the third period. The irony is striking, given how much success the team enjoyed over the first half of the season in that very same third period. The Black and Gold were so good and so unstoppable while blowing people away in the final hockey stanza, and it was a formula that many thought would last the whole year through.

Funny how things can change so quickly.

The young Bruins skaters reclaimed the third period and then some when they potted three third-period goals Tuesday night en route to a closer-than-the-final-score 5-1 win over the Carolina Hurricanes at the RBC Center on Glen Wesley Night. The Black and Gold also used a victory over the Eastern Conference bottom-dwelling ‘Canes to notch their 40th win of the season — the first NHL club to earn that distinction this season and just one win away from last year’s entire win total.

The B’s are second in the NHL with 70 goals scored in the third period in 58 NHL games this season (1.20 goals per game in the third period), and the final 20 minutes of regulation represent Boston’s most prolific period through the current season. But they’d suffered third-period collapses against both the Philadelphia Flyers and San Jose Sharks, and scored a grand total of two third-period goals in the last six B’s games leading into last night’s tilt.

Much of the third-period slowdown seemed to be right in line with the offensive swoon that a host of Boston’s younger players had suffered since the NHL All-Star break, but familiar names like Blake Wheeler, David Krejci and Patrice Bergeron — among others — seemed to have finally shaken free of the fatigue and are again fighting for more ice time and all-important points.

Phil Kessel was a buzzing, irritating threat while skating with new linemates Krejci and Vladimir Sobotka, and fired off three shots while showing some pretty good competition and grit levels looking for loose pucks all over the ice. Milan Lucic also rebounded from a so-so effort against the Nashville Predators on Saturday night, and Wheeler looked strong and energetic in the third period last night while drawing penalties, creating mismatches on the ice and appearing every bit the big, rangy, talent he appeared to be as he flashed on the scene in the early going.

Wheeler also seemed energized skating with Lucic and center Marc Savard on Boston’s top line, and each jiggling of the lines seemed to finally click in and start working for the Spoked B during the all-important third period. The biggest piece of credit obviously goes to Krejci, who is again playing good hockey as evidenced by his 17:20 of ice time,  two points and a +2 for the evening and a team-high six shots on net for the Czech Republic prodigy.

Medical Ward: Several players were dinged up during the first two stops (P.J. Axelsson, Bergeron) on Boston’s southern road swing through Nashville and Carolina, but it didn’t appear that any of the injuries were significant.

Goat Horns: Dennis Wideman didn’t have any points and finished with a -1 on the night after getting turned into a turnstile by yet another hockey player recently. Wideman struggled a bit defensively and didn’t really have much to on offense as well, and Ray Whitney’s ability to speed right around Wideman set up Carolina’s only goal on the evening. That being said, it was a pretty strong all-around effort for the Black and Gold.

Player of the Game: The aforementioned Krejci really upped his tenacity, grit and compete levels along with his creative, finesse game — a pair of necessary elements needed along with the breathtaking skill out on the ice that’s made him such a bright major league prospect.

Turning Point in the Game: The game completely turned in favor of the Bruins when Bergeron collected the puck during the PK and threaded out a lark of a pass toward the neutral zone that sprang Krejci free. The nifty center outraced the Hurricanes defense, and skated in all alone on the Carolina net. Krejci grabbed himself a filthy backhander as the finishing touch — a deft hockey move that’s was the one-on-one equal of every great offensive player in the league. More efforts like this from Krejci and the Bruins will be right back on track for the playoffs.

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Jumbo Joe Thornton gets the last laugh in Boston 02.10.09 at 11:20 pm ET
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Joe Thornton knows the way to San Jose, and the way to beat the Bruins...

Joe Thornton knows the way to San Jose, and the way to beat the Bruins...

The script had a deliciously Boston flavor to it after the first two periods of play last night, but Jumbo Joe Thornton got the last surfer boy chuckle in a 5-2 loss to the San Jose Sharks at a jazzed up TD Banknorth Garden.

Milan Lucic banked himself a pair of blue-collar goals in the first period to push the Bruins out to a 2-1 lead, and the Bruins had their new punch ‘em out/light ‘em up face on the franchise staring down their old hockey hero in the NHL “Best of the Best” showdown. Looch had two goals, four bone-shattering hits and a +2 after two periods of play, and Thornton was doing his best “vintage 2003-04 big game no-show” impression with a -1, one measly shot on net and a generally invisible game in this second Hub homecoming.

But everything turned in the fateful third period. Up became down, and down became up. The Bruins, normally dominant in the final period, coughed up four goals over the final 20 minutes and looked like a weary and beaten team with the rest of the hockey world watching. 

A B’s team that has prided itself on being tough to play against suddenly lost a pair of forwards (Petteri Nokelainen, Chuck Kobasew) to injury and their hockey mojo — as the inimitable Dave Lewis would put it — seemed to shrink back before San Jose’s challenge. The Bruins managed only seven shots despite a pair of power play opportunities during a limp third period performance, and watched as the Sharks poured it on with four unanswered goals en route to Boston’s worst defeat of the season.

“Our third period has been our best period most of the year,” said Marc Savard. “It’s really frustrating. It’s almost…I’m mad right now. I’m really mad right now because we had a chance to set a statement tonight here, and we let it slip in 20 minutes of play. It’s frustrating, I think, to all of us.”

The backbreaker in this frozen sheet horror show, you ask?

That would the insurance marker scored by the once-invisible Jumbo Joe, who picked the exact opportune time to drop his 6-foot-4, 235-pound body right in front of the net with 9:48 to go in the third period. Devin Setoguchi whistled a pass from the corner that simply deflected off Thornton’s shimmering skate blade and then slipped between Tim Thomas’ pads.

“I think midway through the game we kind of turned it on and when we do that team can’t handle us,” said Thornton in perfect bulletin board form. “That’s what you saw tonight. Just our size, our speed, everything. You can’t handle the Sharks for 60 minutes.”

It was the perfect storm of absurdity for the Boston hockey fan. They watched their former No. 1 draft pick and Bruins poster boy venture to the treacherous middle — a place where he would never set up as a member of the Black and Gold — and get rewarded with the fickle bounce of a puck that both cinched the game and gave the Big Lug his cathartic Boston moment — a cherry on top of the puck sundae that he had surely always craved while surfing along the Pacific Ocean in lovely San Jose.

While the goal clearly brought a smile to the happy-go-lucky face of the former Bruins star, it probably brought a good faction of the B’s fandom running for some Puck Pepto-Bismol with the familiar sinking feeling in their collective stomachs. Instead of the deja vu appearance of Thornton prepping for his next playoff no-show, the Bruins are instead a team that’s beginning to show cracks and weakness where once they appeared young, strong and invincible.

The numbers don’t lie and younger players like David Krejci, Blake Wheeler and Phil Kessel are continuing to recede to the background as the NHL seasons turns into the final stretch — and the hockey-playing men go out hunting for playoff spots. Boston’s power play has been sapped of its energy over the nine-game stretch they just completed against playoff-caliber opponents, and they’ve been held without a power play score in six of their last seven games. The B’s man advantage has gone 2-for-30 during that seven-game stretch, which gives them a 6.7 percent success rate and has seen them drop from a 25 percent success rate to 23.3 in just nine games. 

So much for Jack Edwards’ ”Peach Fuzz” power play that shocked and amazed over the first four months of the NHL season.

“I don’t think we’re moving the puck with enough authority, we’re not moving it quick enough and we’re definitely not strong enough on the puck,” said Julien. “You’ve got to work the PK. Those three things aren’t happening right now.”

The numbers weren’t too pretty for the young players that have looked altogether too invisible and timid on the puck as the physicality has increased. To wit:

*David Krejci — 17:01 of ice time, no points, -1 for the game, and zero shots on net.

*Blake Wheeler — 13:07 of ice time, no points, and four shots on net.

*Phil Kessel — 19:43 of ice time, no points, and three shots on net.

That trio certainly weren’t the only players that couldn’t distinguish themselves in the ultimate “statement  game” the Bruins will play during the regular season — Patrice Bergeron, P.J. Axelsson and Stephane Yelle had a pretty rough ride of it as well — but they simply appeared overmatched amongst the tall trees within the big-bodied Sharks lineup. It’s a stark contrast to a first half that saw them set the NHL world on their ear, and it’s something that will need to change before the ultimate hockey tournament begins in April. 

“I think obviously with our youth that we’re still learning,” said defenseman Aaron Ward. “With our team, we’ve obviously got some lessons to learn with our competition. Big game against Jersey coming up, and we have to realize that every game is important whether or not it’s in a national level like it was today or it’s a game against a conference foe that means a lot more in the standings.”

Medical Ward: Petteri Nokelainen was hit in the eye with a high stick by Sharks D-man Dan Boyle at the end of the first period, and many of his teammates and coaches were voicing concern after the game while the Finnish forward was getting treatment at a nearby hospital. “It’s an eye injury and I don’t think it looks very good right now,” said B’s coach Claude Julien.

Chuck Kobasew managed to play 14:35, but suffered both a lower body and upper body injury in the second and third periods.

B’s Player of the Game: Milan Lucic had nothing to hang his head about after the game as he made himself a physical presence during the game and scored both of Boston’s goals in the first period. Looch would have been hailed as a hero had the Bruins answered San Jose’s call to hockey arms in the third period.

Goat Horns:  Patrice Bergeron took Boston’s only penalty, which led to a power play goal, was a -2 for the evening, wasn’t a factor while running the point on the first power play, lost 8 of 11 faceoffs in a forgettable night for the B’s from the dot and just didn’t look strong on the puck amidst the playoff intensity. There was plenty to go around in this category, however.

Turning Point: Both referees Chris Rooney Don Van Massenhoven missed a high sticking call on Dan Boyle that ripped open a cut around Petteri Nokelainen’s right eye at the end of the first period — an injury that sent Nokelainen to the hospital. The B’s missed out an obvious four minute power play for the high-stick that drew blood, and the Sharks began stealing momentum away from a B’s team with a shortened bench.

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B’s talked about signing Shanahan 01.29.09 at 2:58 pm ET
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The B's missed out on a chance to add more magnificent hockey hair to the roster when they didn't sign Brendan Shanahan

The B's missed out on a chance to add more magnificent hockey hair to the roster when they didn't sign Brendan Shanahan

According to several hockey sources, the Bruins and current New Jersey Devils forward Brendan Shanahan discussed a potential one-year deal during the first few months of the hockey season — but both sides ultimately opted to go in different directions. The B’s decided to stick with the exciting young talent that’s performed so very well for them this season, and the right-handed shooting Shanahan inked a one-year $800,000 deal with the Devils. Shanahan and his Atlantic Division-leading Devils will be taking on the B’s at the TD Banknorth Garden (7 p.m.) tonight.

It’s been well-documented that the Bruins have been actively looking for a big, left-handed shot to A) replace the lefty shot they’re currently missing with Marco Sturm gone for the season and B) add another southpaw shot to an overabundance of right-handed shooters (Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Blake Wheeler, Michael Ryder, Chuck Kobasew) on the Black and Gold roster.

The 40-year-old Shanahan has the grit, size and the power play skills that could have made for a potent addition to Boston’s playoff roster, but the veteran winger ultimately didn’t fit the left-handed shooting mold listed in the Bruins’ want ad for a “have shot, will travel” kind of player.

To his credit, Shanahan wasn’t talking about specifics this morning with any of the teams involved in the pre-signing sweepstakes, but the Bruins clearly fit the 20-year veteran’s criteria: a northeast location and a competitive situation.  

“There were a lot of teams in the mix, but I don’t think it’s appropriate to talk about other teams right now,” said Shanahan, who has two goals in three games since signing with the Devils on Jan. 15. “I’d be lying if I said there weren’t other teams in the mix that I was obviously interested in and curious about.”

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Lucic and Wheeler invited to All-Star Weekend 01.09.09 at 11:16 am ET
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Did this guy get hosed by the NHL? I would say so...

Did this guy get hosed by the NHL? I would say so...

A bit of good news/bad news here for the Bruins as — according to media relations guru Matt Chmura — second-year winger Milan Lucic and rookie forward Blake Wheeler were the only fresh-faced Bruins players asked to take part in the NHL All-Star Game’s newly adopted Rookies vs. Sophomores Game. The game will take place on Saturday’s All-Star Skills Competition along with traditional fare like the NHL’s hardest shot competition — a test of shooting strength that towering blueliner Zdeno Chara has turned into his own personal playground over the last few years.

In the Bad News Dept.: Somehow both second-year center David Krejci and rookie blueliner Matt Hunwick were bypassed for the game despite Krejci’s place among the NHL’s top 20 scorers this season and Hunwick’s place among rookie defenseman. Hunwick is perhaps understandable in that he’s not a household name, but Krejci has easily been among the best players in the entire NHL this season, and should have merited more consideration for the main event game at the Bell Centre on Sunday — never mind a showcase event for the NHL’s Young Guns one day prior.

–B’s General Manager Peter Chiarelli announced that Bruins winger Marco Sturm will undergo surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee and may also potentially be facing ACL surgery during the same procedure. If Sturm’s ACL is torn — a notion that Chiarelli said appears to be be likely but won’t be certain until the doctors look at the injury during surgery — then the German forward will be lost for the duration of the 2008-09 season.

–Boston Bruins General Manager Peter Chiarelli also announced today that the Bruins have assigned forwards Martin St. Pierre and Vladimir Sobotka to the Providence Bruins (American Hockey League). Chiarelli also informed the assembled media that the B’s would call up two forwards from Providence to take their place on the roster — as Milan Lucic will be out of the lineup with the undisclosed injury again Saturday afternoon — for tomorrow’s matinee against the Carolina Hurricanes.

St. Pierre has seen action in nine games for Boston this year and recorded 1-2=3 totals. In 30 games with the P-Bruins this season, he registered a 10-25=35 line.

The 25-year-old St. Pierre has appeared in 30 NHL games in his career – 21 with Chicago, 9 with Boston – and has tallied two goals and five assists. Signed as a free agent by the Blackhawks on November 12, 2005, St. Pierre was acquired by the Bruins on July 24, 2008 in exchange for Pascal Pelletier.

Sobotka has played in 15 games for Boston during the 2008-2009 season and recorded 1-1=2 totals. In 17 games with the P-Bruins this year, Sobotka tallied 10 goals and 11 assists.

He split the 2007-2008 season between Boston and Providence. With Boston, he saw action in 48 regular season games and contributed one goal and six assists and added two goals in six postseason games. With Providence last year, he had 10-10=20 totals in 18 regular season games and added four assists over six postseason games. Sobotka was originally drafted by the Bruins in the 4th round (106th overall) in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft.

The Bruins play the fifth game of a six-game homestand on Saturday, January 10 when they host the Carolina Hurricanes at 1:00 p.m. ET.

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“More important than everyone thinks…” 01.08.09 at 9:12 pm ET
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Bruins coach Claude Julien wanted to drill a real simple message into his team prior to its game with the Ottawa Senators Thursday night. Don’t let a two-game losing skid reach three.

He began preaching this on Wednesday morning at practice. He continued this through the morning skate on Thursday and preached it during the game as he watched his team lose a 3-1 lead to the lowly Ottawa Senators and head into the third period tied, 3-3.

But the switch turned on during the second intermission. The Bruins got goals from David Krejci, Marc Savard and P.J. Axelsson as they outscored the Senators, 3-1, in the final 20 minutes to skate off with a 6-4 victory.

“This was a very important game, more important than everyone thinks,” said Bruins captain Zdeno Chara. “It’s kind of a situation where you lose a couple of games, the team starts questioning the talent, the play. I think at some points it’s okay to face adversity but also we have to believe we’re a good team.”

Adversity is what the Bruins faced following a 4-2 loss to Buffalo on Saturday and a 1-0 clunker on Tuesday against Minnesota.

“It was either stop the hemorrhaging and continue the slide,” added coach Claude Julien. “You lose three in a row, your confidence takes an even bigger beating. Losing this game would have certainly hurt us a lot more than we think and winning it might hopefully be what we need to get back to our game.”

With Milan Lucic and Shane Hnidy out with injuries, Aaron Ward’s first goal of the season and Chuck Kobasew’s seventh have helped the B’s pick up the slack and take a 2-0 first-period lead. The highlight of the opening period was a knock-down, drag ‘em out bare-fisted brawl between Shawn Thornton and Ottawa’s Chris Neil.

While Julien loved the energy of Thornton, he didn’t like his team’s response.

“I thought our first six minutes was pretty good,” Julien said. “I thought that after the fight, Thorny stood in there and did a good job. We didn’t respond. They did. If you look at the second period, a lot of bad mistakes.”

Mistakes that resulted in two Ottawa goals and a 3-3 game after two. But still, the Bruins showed the kind of resiliency that teams with 30 wins halfway through an NHL season show.

“We’re at a stage right now where we’re highly critical of our team because of what we’ve accomplished so far. We’ve got some guys right now who are underperforming,” said the coach.

One of those NOT underperforming is Manny Fernandez. He has shown why the Bruins acquired him before the 2007-08 season from the Minnesota Wild. There was some discussion as to who would start the game as Fernandez had an extra-long skate in the morning but he came out and started for the Bruins.

Martins Karsums was recalled on an emergency basis for tonight’s game at TD Banknorth Garden. The move was presumably in the event Stephane Yelle couldn’t go with flu-like symptoms. The Bruins are 2-2 so far on their season-long six-game homestand, which continues on Saturday against Carolina at 1 p.m.

“To win itself, was important but the way we won it wasn’t so good,” Julien concluded. “We’ve got a lot of things right now that are challenging us. Some of our better players are struggling right now, trying to find their groove.”

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A blueprint to beat the Bruins? 01.06.09 at 8:50 pm ET
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I want you to find whoever invented the neutral zone trap...and then put them in the Z Cocoon of Horror

I want you to find whoever invented the neutral zone trap...and then put them in the Z Cocoon of Horror

“I think for every team, every game, we talk about [scoring first] and getting an early lead and taking control of the game. I think that’s an area that we will hopefully get better at tonight, starting tonight.”

Those were the words of Bruins bench boss Claude Julien prior to last night’s 1-0 snoozer of a loss at the hands of the trap-happy Minnesota Wild, and they didn’t turn out to be prescient in any way, shape or form. Instead the Bruins managed to squeeze off only six shots during an uneventful first period, took three penalties in the second period that culminated in a power play strike for the Wild and then watched as Minnesota morphed into full trap mode in front of show-stopping goalie Niklas Backstrom.

“Personally I wouldn’t pay to watch a game like that,” said goalie Manny Fernandez, who suffered his first home loss of the season in the dulled down hockey game.

After watching the B’s suffer from a distinct lack of bounces and battle through difficulties breaking the puck into the offensive zone once both the Wild and Sabres fastened the trap clamps on the hockey game, it almost appears as if a blueprint to beat the B’s is beginning to form.

A dastardly plan that will frustrate and eventually defeat the high-powered Bruins attack, and leave their scoring machine in the shop for repairs. Granted, not every team has the talent or discipline or chutzpah to implement Operation Beat the Bruins but teams with enough scoring skills — or grit – to get a lead and a good enough goaltender could do it.

In other words squads like the Buffalo Sabres and the Wild. It’s not something that’s always going to be possible given Boston’s ability to jump on the scoreboard fast and furiously, but teams may be finding a way to escape the hostile Boston Garden with a win tucked neatly under their arms. Play a checking game during five-on-five to frustrate and fluster the Bruins skaters and then try to do your offensive damage on the power play. Then hold on tight for dear hockey life.

The Bruins were certainly a frustrated and blocked up bunch after the game. Scorers like David Krejci and Blake Wheeler have been lighting the lamp with reckless abandon over the first 39 games of the season, but suddenly looked altogether human in Boston’s first zero goal effort of the season. Even Wheeler looked a bit out of sorts in a game against his boyhood team as he dangled and attempted to dazzle with one-on-one moves but couldn’t register a single shot in 18:15 of ice time.

“We were trying; we were battling, but they were just sitting back and basically chipping pucks out and shooting anything else.  It was tough after that,” said B’s defenseman Zdeno Chara. “They don’t need much and then when they do get a goal or two, they start to play really kind of defensive trap and it’s really hard to get through.  But, that’s not an excuse for us.  We created some chances like I said, but we couldn’t score.”

Krejci and Michael Ryder both threw up three shots on net with Backstrom robbing Krejci in the second period when the crafty center seemingly had a wide open net to pick from. The Wild netminder athletically leaped across the crease to fill up the open real estate and smother the shot. Ryder smacked the left pipe with ringing authority on a perfect curl-and-drag set up coming off the left boards, and added to the B’s puck luck going south of the border just as the opposition’s defensive intensity strengthened.

Julien predictably isn’t buying any of the blueprint or formula for beating the Bruins talk, and is instead focused on what his team isn’t doing at this point: play with focus, creativity, passion and the two-way defensive responsibility that became a hallmark of their puck success.

“Our game just isn’t quite there.  Then you get some good momentum at the end of the second period when you get the [shot off the] post by [Michael] Ryder, the unbelievable save on [David] Krejci, the goaltender [Niklas Backstrom] I don’t know how he saw that one.  He made some really good saves at key moments,” said Julien. “All we needed was one shot to tie the hockey game, so it’s not the end of the world. 

“Again, talking about our team, we’re just not in sync right now and it has nothing to do with the other team, more than it has to do with us.  We see things from our team that definitely have slipped, and not as good as things are than when they were going well.”

So what do Julien and his staff do with a team that’s running low on confidence and a bit short of their ideal depth with Marco Sturm and Patrice Bergeron nowhere near returning from injury and Andrew Ference and Aaron Ward still working their way back into the mix?

“First of all you don’t panic.  Like I said, I don’t think anybody thought we were going to be flying away, flying away for eighty two games without going through some bumps and bruises,” said Julien. “It’s a combination of a lot of things.  [Andrew] Ference, [Aaron] Ward, [Patrice] Bergeron, [Marco] Sturm:  I think those are four pretty important players missing out of our lineup. 

“Eventually things catch up as well in different areas.  We’ve got four real quality guys out of the lineup, you’ve got some top players that probably aren’t at the top of their game, so it doesn’t take much to slip a little bit.  You just have to work your way through it.  I think that’s all we’re going to be doing here: address the situation; we’re going to show the guys where we’ve slipped or what needs to get better.  We’re going to work at and work our way out of it; that’s all you can do.”

Time to end the experiment

Claude Julien’s tactic of plugging lovable Swede P.J. Axelsson on the first line with Marc Savard and Phil Kessel — along with placing him on the first PP unit — was excellent for the initial spark that it provided his club, but the time has come to insert a grittier player back up on the front line with the two skilled craftsman. It was the reason that Julien inserted Chuck Kobasew onto the first line in the waning minutes of Saturday afternoon’s loss to the Buffalo Sabres and it’s presumably why Shawn Thornton took at least one shift on the top line during the third period of last night’s limp showing.

Meanwhile, Milan Lucic is on the third line continuing to be the B’s leading body checker night in and night out, and he seems a bit miscast skating on the third line. Particularly so when he could be once again clearing much-needed space for Savard and Kessel on the top unit. It seems to only make too much sense when you begin watching a team search for an offensive spark over the last two games when they were awash in goal-scoring glory over the first 38 games.

There wasn’t a doubt in my mind that it was a temporary move to place Axelsson in the B’s offensive catbird seat, but there’s a reason the longest-tenured Bruins has only two goals on the season — and only one of them has come with an actual goaltender between the pipes. It might be take to shake things up again, or it might just be time to put things back the way they used to be.

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NHL Headlines