|Reilly Smith making quick progress with Bruins||10.16.13 at 6:02 pm ET|
SUNRISE, Fla. — When the Bruins made their blockbuster trade with the Stars on July 4, Loui Eriksson appeared to be the only top-six forward they were getting in return. Five games into the season, Reilly Smith would beg to differ.
While the move is probably viewed more as a Brad Marchand demotion than a Smith promotion, Claude Julien has moved Marchand to the third line and Smith up to Patrice Bergeron‘s line in the third period Saturday against Columbus, giving the 22-year-old a lot more responsibility in the process. Julien has trusted Smith with some important minutes the last two games, most notably when Smith and Bergeron’s line played against Pavel Datsyuk‘s line on Monday. The lines were unchanged Wednesday, meaning you can expect Smith to stick on the second line for at least another game.
“He’s a young player, and what I see in this player is he seems to be getting better all the time with confidence,” Julien said Wednesday of Smith. “You see his skill level is pretty good. His hockey sense and his vision is also pretty good. I think we’re going to discover that this guy’s only going to get better as he progresses and gets more experience.
“I think he’s got the ability to possibly be a guy that can move up there, whether it’s permanently or at times. He’s got that skill level. No matter what, he’s a good player and I like the way he plays. He’s conscientious and very reliable for a player that has more or less limited experience in this league.”
The move also reunites Smith with Eriksson, with whom he played last season in Dallas, as the two were linemates for a couple of weeks last season. In fact, Eriksson assisted Smith’s first career goal. Smith returned the favor Saturday in Columbus, when, in his first period playing with him this season, he assisted Eriksson’s first goal as a Bruin.
Smith recalls his time as Eriksson’s linemate last season fondly, saying that Eriksson’s a very easy linemate to have. It hasn’t been perfect so far — Smith should have broken up Datsyuk’s pass to Henrik Zetterberg on Detroit’s first goal Saturday, but the offensive results have been, as Eriksson has scored in both games. Though the Bruins probably don’t have long-term designs of Marchand being a third-line player, the Smith-Eriksson combo is at least something they know can work for them.
“They know each other well,” Julien said. “It’s obvious that they’ve been together before and that they know each other a little bit better than we know them.”
|Jarome Iginla on his slow start to season: ‘I’ve been here many times’||10.15.13 at 1:57 pm ET|
The numbers are not pretty for 36-year-old Jarome Iginla to start the Boston portion of his career.
No goals, one assist in five games on 19 shots.
The effort is there, like the rest of the team. But like the rest of the Bruins, the finishing touch has yet to be put on his work. After failing to get the right winger at the trade deadline last spring, the Bruins signed him to a one-year, $6 million deal in the summer with the hopes of successfully replacing Nathan Horton and giving another right wing – 22-year-old Jordan Caron – more time to mature.
Last season, he had one goal in his first 16 games before finishing with 14 between Calgary and Pittsburgh. In 2011-12, he opened with two goals in his first 10 games and four in his first 15. The year before? Two goals in his first 17 games, before breaking out with a hat trick in Game No. 18.
“Unfortunately, I’ve been here many times,” Iginla said Monday. “It’s all part of the game and you just try to work hard and keep going and keep getting the chances and always keep saying that the next one is going to go in.”
Iginla is getting his chances with David Krejci and Milan Lucic and the general consensus is that he looks more in tune with with his linemates in his first five games than fellow newcomer Loui Eriksson on the second line with Patrice Bergeron with Brad Marchand line.
“Krech and Looch have been playing great and working hard and I’m trying to work hard with them and like I’ve said I’ve had really good chances for a number of games,” Iginla said. “Whenever you win you never feel as bad, you just shrug it off and say next time. But whenever you lose by a goal it always feels a lot worse when you know that one of those could have made a difference. But keep going and like I said I’ve been here before and you just keep working through it and stay positive and keep trying to get open and like I say, keep believing the next one goes in.”
In an attempt to get Iginla some momentum, Claude Julien placed Iginla on Boston’s 5-on-3 power play unit. Good chances, a couple of missed shots but still no dice.
“I think I had a few of them but two were good ones, one I just missed probably by a couple inches the top right corner, one I missed by a mile and that was just trying to hard and too excited and just missed it,” Iginla said. “But I thought ‘ when you’re feeling it those go in and unfortunately they didn’t. It was an important time of the game, it could have been a big difference. And you get out there in those situations and you definitely want to help the team and feel responsibility, all of us out there. So when you don’t score when you have a two minute one it stings but at the same time I think the guys did a great job and just keep going almost to that last second and really we almost found a way to get it to over time there.
|New guys help Bruins top Blue Jackets||10.12.13 at 4:39 pm ET|
The Bruins’ two biggest offseason additions made the difference Saturday as Jarome Iginla and Loui Eriksson helped the B’s past the Blue Jackets, 3-1, in Columbus. Eriksson scored his first goal as a Bruin in the third period, which proved to be the game-winner.
The Blue Jackets got on the board late in the first period, when Jack Johnson fired a slap shot past Tuukka Rask with Patrice Bergeron in the box for holding. It was Columbus’ third shot on goal of the game, as the Blue Jackets mustered only four shots on goal in the first period and one in the first 17:05.
The Bruins tied it up in the second period when Iginla made the most of his time on the penalty kill. Right after a Chris Kelly penalty expired, Iginla fed Kelly in the neutral zone and saw the veteran center enter the offensive zone and fire a slap shot that beat Sergei Bobrovsky five-hole. Eriksson then gave the B’s in the third period with a 2-on-1 goal assisted by Patrice Bergeron. The B’s got an empty-netter from Milan Lucic, putting he and Kelly in a tie for the team lead with two goals this season.
Matt Bartkowski made his season debut Saturday, playing on the second pairing with Dennis Seidenberg, while Dougie Hamilton was a healthy scratch. Brad Marchand was pulled off the second line in the third period, as he and Reilly Smith were flip-flopped. Smith picked up the secondary assist on Eriksson’s goal.
The Bruins will return to Boston to host the Red Wings Monday at TD Garden.
For more on the Bruins, visit weei.com/bruins.
|Loui Eriksson confused over ‘stupid call’ for embellishment||10.10.13 at 10:25 pm ET|
Loui Eriksson has one more embellishment penalty than he has points through three games, and he isn’t happy about the first figure.
Eriksson was called for a dive in the third period of the Bruins’ 2-0 loss to the Avalanche Thursday night when he was hooked along the boards by P.A. Parenteau with 8:40 left in regulation. Following the game, Eriksson expressed confusion over the penalty.
“I don’t know why he called me on it. He was holding me and I couldn’t do anything,” Eriksson said of his fall. “It was kind of a stupid call by him.”
The call negated a Boston power play, but the B’s got a 4-on-3 36 seconds later when Gabriel Landeskog was sent off for hooking. The Bruins finished 0-for-3 on the man advantage in their first loss of the season.
With the 2013-14 NHL season in its second week, NBC Sports hockey analyst Pierre McGuire joined Mut & Merloni on Thursday afternoon to discuss the Bruins’ new additions, as well as other news from around the NHL.
McGuire praised the Bruins’ two biggest offseason additions, wingers Jarome Iginla and Loui Eriksson, and indicated he thought the Bruins won the July 4 trade with the Stars that sent shipped budding star Tyler Seguin to Dallas.
“[Jarome will fit] fantastically well,” McGuire said. “Jarome is awesome, he will fit in perfectly in Boston, I’m really happy for him. Didn’t work out for him the way he wanted to last year [in Pittsburgh], but I’m glad that Boston, especially Cam [Neely] and Peter [Chiarelli], were wise enough to give him a chance, because he definitely fills the void that Nathan Horton created by departing to go to Columbus.
“Courageous trade by Peter Chiarelli and the Boston Bruins, because Tyler will be a superstar in the league, especially if he can just clean up a little bit of his behavior. … That being said, the trade is excellent for Boston. … [Eriksson] is the legitimate deal. He’s a very solid two-way player, he’s capable of playing with big-time superstars, he can play deep in your lineup, he’ll never pout, he’ll never complain, and all he’ll do is produce. The other guy that came in that trade, Reilly Smith, way underrated player. … I really like the trade for both teams, but in particular, I think it’s weighted a little bit towards Boston, just because of the consistency the two players they got in Loui Eriksson and Reilly Smith.”
McGuire also touched on the new NHL rule that specifies players will be penalized for an additional two minutes, for a total of seven minutes total, if they take off their helmets before a fight.
“I hate to say this, because I’m all for player safety, I really am. I’ve seen too many horrific incidents going to even this year in the regular season with George Parros. … I’ve got to tell you, I don’t want to see anyone take their hat off, I don’t see the hats come off. I just don’t think that it’s appropriate,” he said. “There’s got to be a balance, there’s got to be a way. I don’t know what the way is, but I know one thing, there are a lot of people in the hockey community talking about it. I know it’s a big, big, point of emphasis for a lot of people that make big decisions in this league.”
McGuire gave a brief preview of the Bruins’ opponent Thursday night in the 3-0 Avalanche, who are mostly comprised of young and talented players.
“The fact of the matter is you’re going to see Nathan MacKinnon tonight, you’re going to see [Matt] Duchene tonight, you’re going to see what could be arguably one of the top third lines in the league right with Jamie McGinn, who’s played so well with Nathan MacKinnon and P.A. Parenteau. That line’s a ton of fun to watch.”
|Shawn Thornton on D&C: ‘Guys are built not to take a night off’||10.09.13 at 10:21 am ET|
Bruins forward Shawn Thornton joined Dennis & Callahan on Wednesday morning and discussed the heartbreak of last season’s Stanley Cup finals, the optimism he has for this year and his relationship with Red Sox players.
Boston began the regular season 2-0 with a pair of victories at home last week. The Bruins beat the Lightning 3-1 last Thursday, then the Red Wings 4-1 last Saturday.
‘It’s only been two games, but you can tell the personalities in the room, that guys are built not to take a night off,’ Thornton said. ‘We might not be at our best every night, but I think that guys get in there wanting to show up and play every night. That might sound like it’s easy to do and you should do it, but not everyone’s built like that. But I think that the guys we brought in, and the guys who were already here, and the guys we kept are definitely built that way.’
Looking back at last season’s Cup finals, the Bruins blew a 2-1 lead with just over a minute remaining in the third period of Game 6 vs. the Blackhawks on June 24, a loss that still stings for Thornton.
‘No, it’ll never be over,’ Thornton said when asked when the hangover from the postseason ends. ‘I’ll be thinking about it for years to come, but it’s more of a motivator than a hangover, you get that close and it stings.’
Less than three months removed from its gut-wrenching loss to Chicago, Boston made significant changes to its lineup. Forwards Tyler Seguin and Nathan Horton are gone, replaced by former Penguin Jerome Iginla and former Star Loui Eriksson, while youngsters Reilly Smith — acquired via trade from Dallas along with Erikkson this offseason — and Jordan Caron have taken on elevated roles.
‘We’ve got a group of guys that have been around for seven or eight years, and we know how important that is to make people feel welcome. So, coming into our room, you’d probably have to ask them, but I’d like to think that it’s a fairly easy transition, you come in with open arms,’ said Thornton.
The NHL implemented a new rule regarding fighting this season. Any player who removes his helmet before the start of a fight will receive a two-minute penalty in addition to the five-minute penalty for fighting.
‘I’m not a fan, I’m really not,’ said Thornton, Boston’s enforcer. ‘Obviously I’m a little biased, but it’s seven minutes for fighting now if a guy has a visor because everyone’s going to take their helmet off. And I think when you take the helmet off you take away from the player safety that everyone’s preaching, so I think it’s counterproductive.’
The Red Sox beat the Rays on Tuesday night and moved on to the ALCS where they’ll face either the Tigers or Athletics.
‘We’re big supporters of the Sox, pretty much any local sports team I guess,’ Thornton said. ‘You get to meet a lot of those guys when you’re out and about in town so there’s a lot of crossover, they support us, we support them. I’ve been here for seven years, kind of turned me from a Jays fan to a Sox fans, I’m not going to lie.’
|Loui Eriksson kicking old habits as he gets familiar with Bruins||10.07.13 at 9:21 pm ET|
It’s only been two games, but with a four-day break between games for the Bruins, there couldn’t be a better time for the first of what should be about 600 “How is Loui Eriksson fitting in?” posts.
The new second line of Patrice Bergeron between Brad Marchand and Eriksson has tried to gain chemistry while also handling some mighty tall tasks in matching up against Steven Stamkos‘ line Thursday and Pavel Datsyuk‘s line Saturday. The three kept Stamkos and Martin St. Louis’ trio off the board in season-opener and swapped goals with Datsyuk’s line in the Bruins’ win over the Red Wings.
Yet with Eriksson coming in to do more than defend, one couldn’t blame Bruins fans for being eager to see how the three will fare offensively. That’s a work in progress, as Eriksson admitted Monday that he’s still trying to shake some old habits.
“Sometimes it feels like I’m trying to play like I did in Dallas a little bit,” he admitted. “I’m just trying to learn to ‘¦ stay more on my side. I get a tendency to go on the other side. I think that’s a pretty simple thing to adjust to.”
Indeed, a first-period opportunity Saturday fell apart when Eriksson, a left-shot right wing, and Marchand didn’t seem to be on the same page on a play in which they were on the opposite wings. It wasn’t a matter of where they were on the ice, as that happens all the time, but Eriksson seemed to want to get back on their respective sides while Marchand appeared eager to continue as is. Marchand, waiting at the blue line, tried to stay the course and remain on the right side, while Eriksson seemed to be getting back over to the right side as he brought the puck through the neutral zone.
The good news is that there wasn’t any confusion the next period, when Marchand flew down the right wing and, with Bergeron driving the net, fired a shot past Jimmy Howard for his first goal of the season.
“You just need to read each other,” Eriksson said. “I think we’re getting better at that.”
The three players seemed to get more comfortable with one another as the game went on, and though it’s surprisingly been the third line that has perhaps clicked the most on the early season, Julien sees enough progress that he likes the direction in which perhaps his most important line is headed.
“I think you see it in practice, too. Games, practice. It’s a matter of time,” Julien said. “You can’t judge or expect miracles in the first few games of a season. You give them a good month to get to know each other and play together, and you hope that in that month it progresses. So far I’ve seen that from training camp to now.”
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