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With Bruins’ fourth line constantly changing, Craig Cunningham appears a safe bet to stay 01.13.15 at 12:39 pm ET
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Craig Cunningham

Craig Cunningham

The Bruins, injuries and a suspension aside, pretty much had one fourth line since midway through the 2010-11 season: Gregory Campbell between Daniel Paille and Shawn Thornton. Just over halfway through this season, they’€™ve had 15 different fourth lines by our count (see below).

Fifteen!

As Scott McLaughlin recently pointed out, these fourth lines have mostly been ineffective. Yet with Simon Gagne recently informing the Bruins he will not be returning this season, the team can at least have a better idea of who will make up their bottom trio. Specifically, you can count on Craig Cunningham to stick on Gregory Campbell’€™s right wing.

In a season that has seen the Bruins struggle to get any traction with their bottom trio(s), playing Cunningham has looked to be the right idea all along. He moves relatively well, brings an element of grit, and, when given the minutes, isn’€™t to throw the puck on net even if it isn’€™t the prettiest chance.

“Any time the goalie kicks out a rebound, no one really knows where it’€™s going and it’€™s a 50-50 puck,” Cunningham said Tuesday.

Claude Julien acknowledged Tuesday that the Bruins are giving Cunningham a real shot to become a permanent member of the line, but he doesn’€™t feel he’€™s won anything yet.

“No. I don’€™t think so,’€ Cunningham said. “For me, I’€™m still trying to make an impact and show that I can play at this level every night. You live day-to-day up here. For me, you never want to get comfortable. I think every day is kind of like a tryout. They’€™re watching you and you’€™ve got to bring something every single day.”

Daniel Paille moved up from the line last week as he was promoted to a new-look top-six trio with Patrice Bergeron and Milan Lucic. Chris Kelly and Jordan Caron have manned his left wing spot since, but that could continue to change.

As long as Campbell is in Boston, he figures to be on that fourth line, and it seems Cunningham stands a better chance than any of Boston’€™s youngsters of sticking on the right side. The other wing may continue to be a revolving door, but in the meantime, Campbell and Cunningham, linemates for eight games entering Tuesday night, should seize the opportunity to prove they’€™re the men for the job as the Bruins look to re-establish the puck-possessing, energy-providing fourth line the Bruins once had.

“I guess I was lucky — we were lucky, in a sense — to have that stability for the last four years,” Campbell said. “You kind of take it for granted, because if you look around, it doesn’€™t happen often where a line’€™s together that long where you can create that chemistry and whatever. The thing is, our role doesn’€™t change. We just have to take pride in that. The guys that have been on the line are more than capable of doing the job and they’€™re good players. We’€™ll make it work. Sometimes it takes a little bit longer.”

THE MANY DIFFERENT FOURTH LINES

These aren’€™t groups that were just used for shifts at a time. From tracking the team’€™s lineups throughout the season, these are the lines that the B’€™s have used for a game or games at a time. Some have changed from mid-game line shakeups, but that has rarely been the case.

Paille-Cunningham-Robins: Games 1, 2, 3
Paille-Spooner-Caron: Game 4
Paille-Spooner-Gagne: Game 5
Paille-Campbell-Gagne: Games 6, 8, 9, 10, 11, 13, 14, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 25, 26, 27, 28
Paille-Campbell-Fraser: Game 7, 34, 35, 36
Paille-Campbell-Smith: Game 12
Kelly-Campbell-Paille: Game 15
Lindblad-Khokhlachev-Fraser: Game 22
Caron-Khokhlachev-Pastrnak: Game 23
Smith-Kelly-Griffith: Game 24
Paille-Campbell-Griffith: Games 29, 30, 31
Paille-Campbell-Cunningham: Game 32, 33, 38, 39, 40, 41
Lindblad-Cunningham-Griffith: Game 37
Caron-Campbell-Cunningham: Game 42
Kelly-Campbell-Cunningham: Game 43

Read More: Craig Cunningham, Daniel Paille, Gregory Campbell,
Why December 23 is a meaningful day for the Bruins 12.23.14 at 1:02 pm ET
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The Bruins were in a similar position in 2010 to where they are now. (Elsa/Getty Images)

The Bruins were in a similar position in 2010 to where they are now. (Elsa/Getty Images)

It’€™s been a while since the Bruins approached the Christmas break as a fringe playoff team. The last time it happened, however, they won the Stanley Cup.

Dec. 23, 2010 was a critical day in that ultimately successful season. The Bruins, coming off a postseason collapse against the Flyers the previous spring, were struggling.

Offseason acquisition Nathan Horton, who was in the midst of what would be a nine-game slump with no goals and one assist, was looking like a very talented non-factor who appeared to be bringing Milan Lucic down with him.

The team was going through the motions and it was taking them nowhere. It led to the Bruins losing four of five games, punctuated by a troubling no-show in a 3-0 shutout loss to the Ducks on Garden ice. Claude Julien, who historically is a set-it-and-forget-it guy with his lines, pulled Horton off the top line and replaced him with Blake Wheeler in that game.

After that 3-0 loss, the eighth-place Bruins had two days off before they would host the Thrashers in their final game before the holiday break. Those two days were the height of “Fire Claude Mania.”

In his weekly interview with CBS radio, President Cam Neely was asked if they were going to fire the coach. Neely said the Bruins weren’€™t, but did say, “€œI can understand why the fans are frustrated and may be calling for a coaching change.”€

Dennis Seidenberg doesn’€™t remember too many specifics about the mood of the team at that point, only saying Tuesday that “€œit was really dead.”

Then, on Dec. 23, the Bruins came out and absolutely ran over the Thrashers. Shawn Thornton fought Eric Boulton off the faceoff and spent the next five minutes in the penalty box devising a plan to score two goals in the game. Patrice Bergeron had a shorty. Michael Ryder had a power play goal. Lucic sucker-punched Freddy Meyer and somehow didn’€™t get suspended.

Ference fought. Horton fought. Marc freaking Savard fought. The game was an explosion of emotions and every bit the coming out party that the team had forgotten to have earlier in the season.

“I think that was definitely a defining game for us,” Brad Marchand said Tuesday. “We turned it on and really didn’€™t look back.”

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Read More: Claude Julien, Gregory Campbell, Shawn Thornton,
Pierre McGuire: ‘Hated’ Bruins’ schedule to open season 10.23.14 at 2:12 pm ET
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Pierre McGuire

Pierre McGuire

NBC Sports NHL analyst Pierre McGuire made his weekly appearance Thursday on Middays with MFB in advance of Thursday night’s Bruins matchup against the Islanders. To hear the interview, go to the MFB audio on demand page.

The Bruins got off to a slow start to the season — going 1-3 in their first four games, but McGuire said some of that was because of the way their schedule was constructed — playing those four games in a six-day span.

“I hated the way their season started, not the way they were playing, but the way the schedule was set up for them,” he said. “I think I talked to you guys about it, they almost had eight days where they had three games in four nights. That’€™s crazy stuff. Then, when you compound that with a [Monday] afternoon game at home after a Saturday night loss, that’€™s really hard. I’€™m not making excuses for them, but they are starting to settle into what team they want to be.”

He also noted the team was coming off of trading veteran defenseman Johnny Boychuk to the Islanders, just prior to the regular season.

“I think they were all a little stunned about Johnny Boychuk being traded to the Islanders because he was an extremely popular guy on their team,” said McGuire. “They started the season without Gregory Campbell, he’€™s a very important guy on that team. I think they are feeling their way through, but they are starting heat up. I liked their game the other night against San Jose, especially the last parts of that game.”

The Bruins and Boychuk will be reunited Thursday night as the Islanders will be at TD Garden. Boychuk has had a strong start to the season, posting two goals and four assists over the first six games.

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Read More: Gregory Campbell, Johnny Boychuk, Pierre McGuire, Torey Krug
How Bruins overcame uncharacteristically bad nights from Patrice Bergeron, Zdeno Chara 10.21.14 at 11:51 pm ET
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Gregory Campbell was one of many Bruins who came up big Tuesday night. (Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

Gregory Campbell was one of many Bruins who came up big Tuesday night. (Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

Usually the Patrice Bergeron line and Zdeno Chara-Dougie Hamilton pairing are the Bruins’€™ constants. They’€™re the guys who are going to create offensive-zone possessions and not make mistakes.

That wasn’€™t the case on Tuesday. Bergeron was on the ice for all three of the Sharks’€™ goals, linemates Brad Marchand and Reilly Smith joined him for two of them (it is worth noting that Marchand had a nice power-play goal), and Chara was on the ice for two of them as well. Those four and Hamilton were the only Bruins who finished with Corsi-for percentages under 50 percent, meaning they were the only Bruins who were on the ice for more 5-on-5 shot attempts against than shot attempts for.

That would seemingly be a recipe for disaster for the Bruins, especially when you consider that outside of the Carl Soderberg line, the rest of the team had been one giant question mark to this point in the season. David Krejci had looked good since his return, but linemate Milan Lucic was off to a slow start and he still didn’€™t have a set-in-stone right wing. The fourth line had featured several different combinations, and none of them had really done much. And the second and third defense pairings had been inconsistent at best, with Kevan Miller’€™s injury raising even more questions on the back end.

At least for one night, those questions turned into answers. Lucic, Krejci and rookie right wing Seth Griffith factored into four of the Bruins’€™ five goals, with Lucic notching three assists and Griffith scoring his first NHL goal. Two of the goals they were on the ice for — Griffith’€™s and Torey Krug’€™s — came as the direct result of getting bodies to the net. Krejci set a great screen on Krug’€™s, and then Lucic created some net-front havoc that freed up Griffith on his goal.

“I think it definitely was the best game that we’€™ve played so far this season,” Lucic said. “You saw we were hungry in the O-zone and hungry getting pucks to the net. We made some smart decisions in some important areas and it just seems like things are starting to head in the right direction.”

The fourth line of Daniel Paille, Gregory Campbell and Simon Gagne was a positive possession line that even created some chances against the Sharks’€™ top two lines. They scored what proved to be the game-winner midway through the third when Paille won the puck along the boards and threw a shot on net that Campbell tipped in for his first goal of the season.

Campbell and Paille were also big on the penalty kill, especially late in the game when Bergeron went to the box for a four-minute double minor. Until Krejci’€™s empty-netter to seal the win, Campbell had the biggest play on that kill when he blocked a Joe Thornton shot that came off a Chara turnover.

“We’€™ve got to be a responsible, reliable line, and Claude [Julien] has to trust us to put us in those situations,” Campbell said. “With hard work comes trust, and if we’€™re playing our game and we’€™re in on the forecheck and creating chances and bringing energy to the lineup, then he usually has confidence in us.”

As for the bottom two defense pairings, the only glaring error was a bad miscommunication between Krug and Dennis Seidenberg that led to a goal, but as Julien pointed out after the game, Bergeron’€™s line was just as much at fault, as Smith had failed to clear the zone and Bergeron and Marchand had gotten caught up ice.

Outside of that, the Seidenberg-Krug and Matt Bartkowski-Adam McQuaid pairings played well. Krug’€™s goal and two assists obviously stand out, but let’€™s not overlook the fact that Seidenberg had seven shots on goal and 12 shot attempts, and that he and Krug had Corsi-for percentages of 63 and 62 percent, respectively. McQuaid and Bartkowski weren’€™t far behind at 61 and 57 percent, respectively, and McQuaid was also big on that final penalty kill.

Obviously this is just one game. No one should think that all of the Bruins’€™ question marks are gone and that everyone’€™s going to be great from here on. But on a night when the Bruins’€™ best players were uncharacteristically unreliable, it was encouraging to see everyone else step up and show that they can lead the way, too.

Read More: David Krejci, Dennis Seidenberg, Gregory Campbell, Milan Lucic
Claude Julien feels his Bruins have been ‘a lot more consistent’ of late at 9:03 am ET
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WILMINGTON — As his team prepares to take on San Jose, the Islanders and Toronto this week, Claude Julien can finally sense things coming together after a sluggish start.

The Bruins started 1-2-0, including an ugly 4-0 loss to the Capitals on home ice and a brutal 2-1 loss to Colorado in the final second. After beating the Red Wings in a shootout, the Bruins were embarrassed again in Montreal, featuring the emotional meltdown of Milan Lucic.

But things finally seemed to click in Buffalo, where Niklas Svedberg earned his first career shutout in just his third NHL start. The 4-0 win seemed to give the Julien and the team something to build on. Two wins in three games doesn’t classify as red-hot, but it’s certainly a step in the right direction the way Julien sees it.

“I don’t know if it’s how far we’ve come or how far we have to go,” Julien said. “I think it’s just a matter of us continuing to get better as a team. I think it’s still early in the season and I think there are a lot of teams that are probably saying the same thing. It takes certain guys a while to get going. It takes others even longer. Some guys get off to a good start and then they slow down.

“We’re just looking at our team as a whole. I think what we’re looking for is consistency and we’re looking for an identity. And that’s what we’re starting to get right now, more of an identity. I think we’ve been a lot more consistent in the last three games.”

What is that identity?

“Same as it’s always been,” Julien said, referring to his team’s tough, rugged style that relies on good defense, a good forecheck, stellar goaltending and opportunistic play around the net.

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Read More: Boston Bruins, Chris Kelly, Claude Julien, Dennis Seidenberg
Gregory Campbell a game-time decision for Bruins Thursday 10.16.14 at 6:36 pm ET
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MONTREAL — Gregory Campbell is a game-time decision for Thursday night’s game against the Canadiens, Claude Julien said shortly before the game.

Campbell missed all of training camp and the Bruins’ first five games with a core injury. In his place, the Bruins used Craig Cunningham at center for the Bruins’ first three games and Ryan Spooner for the last two. The Bruins clearly haven’t been satisfy with their play in that spot, as Spooner was given just 4:22 of ice time in Wednesday’s game, which also featured a five-minute overtime.

According to Fluto Shinzawa of the Boston Globe, Spooner will be sent to Providence to play wing once Campbell is ready to play.

For more Bruins news, visit weei.com/bruins.

Read More: Gregory Campbell,
Gregory Campbell skating, doubtful to begin season 10.02.14 at 2:36 pm ET
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Bruins coach Claude Julien said Thursday that center Gregory Campbell is “doubtful”€ to begin the season as he recovers from a core injury.

Campbell has missed all of training camp thus far, but began skating Thursday when he took the ice by himself at TD Garden.

“I don’t know where he stands. He’s skating now, he just started skating on his own,” Julien said. “I think it’ll be doubtful to start the season because starting to skate and get full practices and contact, getting in game shape, it’s going to be tough for him to do that in this short span. The good thing is he’s skating and hopefully he progresses in the right direction.”€

With Campbell out, either Chris Kelly or Craig Cunningham could center the fourth line to begin the season.

Julien also said that players who have already been cut are possibilities to play in Friday night’€™s game against the Islanders. Justin Florek, Ryan Spooner and Alexander Khokhlachev were among four cuts made Wednesday. Linus Arnesson never skated in training camp due to a groin injury and was never listed in the team’s cuts, but Julien said Wednesday that the defenseman was no longer in camp.

For more Bruins news, visit weei.com/bruins.

Read More: Chris Kelly, Craig Cunningham, Gregory Campbell,
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