|Milan Lucic: Canadiens are Bruins’ biggest test||12.05.13 at 1:45 pm ET|
MONTREAL — It’s a bit odd that the Bruins and Canadiens have yet to meet roughly a third of the way into the regular season, but when they finally do Thursday night, it will mean a lot more than it would have had they met in one of the first two months of the season.
First place in the Atlantic Division is on the line — and crazily, as NHL.com’s Arpon Basu notes, it’s the fifth straight meeting between the teams in which the top spot in a division was up for grabs. The Canadiens, who have played 29 games to the Bruins’ 27, sit one point behind the B’s in the standings with 37.
Some quick background on the Canadiens: They’ve been really good of late — 7-0-1 over their last eight games, as Bruins team statistician/left winger Milan Lucic noted Thursday morning.
“I think it’s probably our biggest test of the year, coming into a real tough building against a real good team who’s playing its best hockey so far this year,” Lucic said. “It’s going to be a good test for us.”
The Habs, who have much of the same roster from last season but added a top-six winger in Daniel Briere and toughened up a bit with George Parros, have been led by the usual strong play from the likes of Carey Price and P.K. Subban. Price has a 2.00 goals-against average and .937 save percentage in 22 games this season and likely will be in net Thursday after Peter Budaj played Wednesday against the Devils.
Subban, fresh off of winning the Norris Trophy as a 23-year-old, leads the Habs with 24 points (four goals, 20 assists). Claude Julien said after the morning skate that Subban is being considered for Team Canada and that after years of adjusting to being a young star player, he’s got everyone on the same page about what he brings to the table.
“I think P.K. is a player that is electrifying,” Julien said. “He makes a lot of things happen offensively. When he carries that puck, he’s hard to stop. Throughout the years, a player is allowed to mature just like any other player. We’ve got some in our lineup that go through that same thing. Expectations sometimes are extremely high, and sometimes they’re not realistic and you don’t allow a player to develop the way you should without criticism, which you should.”
The Bruins haven’t played since Saturday, while the Canadiens are playing the second game of a back-to-back. The Habs blew a third-period lead against the Devils on Wednesday but came back to force overtime and eventually win a shootout.
That brings them to Thursday, when they will at long last face the Bruins. It’s been a good start for both teams, but the season doesn’t really start until the Bruins-Canadiens rivalry gets kicked off.
“It does feel different [having not played them], no doubt,” Julien said. “It’s probably a game that everybody’s been waiting for, fans and players alike. This is a great rivalry. We enjoy this kind of rivalry, and those are easy games to get up for for both sides and they end up being pretty entertaining games as well. ‘¦ These are the kinds of games that I think fans want to watch.”
|Milan Lucic scores twice as Bruins beat Blue Jackets||11.30.13 at 9:35 pm ET|
Picking up the win for the Bruins was Chad Johnson, who faced only 14 shots and improved to 4-1-0 on the season.
Patrice Bergeron scored the Bruins’ first goal, firing a puck past a screening Loui Eriksson and Columbus netminder Curtis McElhinney for Bergeron’s second goal in as many games. After Carl Soderberg got hooked by Ryan Johansen, Lucic tipped a Torey Krug shot in front for a power-play goal to give the Bruins a 2-0 lead in the first period.
Lucic added his second of the game and 11th of the season with a shot that beat McElhinney high in the third period, and though the Blue Jackets got one back on a power-play goal from Johansen, the B’s were able to limit their chances throughout the night and prevent them getting back into a game in which the B’s probably could have led bigger.
The Bruins will have four days off before they play next, as their schedule will resume Thursday in Montreal for their first meeting of the season against the Canadiens.
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE BRUINS
– Chad Johnson could have stayed on the bench and the teams would have been tied in the first period, as Columbus put only two shots on goal in the first 20 minutes. That followed a showing for the Bruins Friday in which they surrendered just 11 shots over the final two periods to the Rangers, so the B’s went three periods while only allowing 13 shots on goal with no goals against.
– Speaking of shots on goal, this weekend the Bruins allowed less than 20 shots on gaol in back-to-back games for the first time since April of 2002.
– Eriksson continues to reward the Bruins with his play in front. A day after his work in front led to a rebound going off Dan Girardi and in, Eriksson screened McElhinney on Bergeron’s first-period goal.
Eriksson had the pass to Dougie Hamilton before Hamilton fed it to Bergeron, so he picked up the secondary helper and now has two goals and an assist for three points against the Blue Jackets in three meetings this season.
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE BRUINS
– Lucic fought Dalton Prout in the second period, and though it was a good fight between a couple of big kids, it was questionable timing on Lucic’s part. The Bruins had the puck in the offensive zone when he got tangled up with Prout in front, and though the B’s lost possession and the puck was coming out of the zone by the time the two were well into the fight, they were going at it for a few seconds beforehand.
– Jarome Iginla can’t seem to buy a goal, as he was stopped on a bid off a McElhinney rebound in the second period and, after appearing in real-time to tip Lucic’s second goal in, saw credit rightfully given to his linemate. Iginla still has just five goals through 26 games this season, but he’s turned in strong play despite not being able to find the back of the net often.
– Brad Marchand could have had his second goal in as many games were it not for a hit post in the third period. Things continue to look up for Marchand, however, and it was pretty comical seeing him take two laps around the offensive zone with the puck on a third period shift.
Scott McLaughlin contributed to this report.
|Milan Lucic continues strong season with first career overtime goal||11.14.13 at 11:22 pm ET|
Milan Lucic is something of a walking encyclopedia when it comes to hockey. He can tell you on the spot what the Bruins’ history is against a certain team or player, and he can always recall the last time he accomplished a certain feat. And yet on Thursday night when he said that his overtime winner was the first time he had ever scored an overtime goal, it seemed like he had to have been mistaken.
But sure enough, Lucic was spot on. Of his 126 NHL goals (including playoffs), none of them had come in overtime. The 60 he scored in juniors? Nope. None of those were in an extra session either.
Ironically, Lucic said just the other day that he’d like to see overtime changed in order to increase scoring chances and cut down on the number of games that are decided in a shootout. Then on Thursday, he took matters into his own hands with the clock winding down.
Lucic stepped into the shooting lane in his own end and took a Nikita Nikitin slapper right off his shin pads. The puck caromed all the way to the Columbus zone, where Lucic tracked it down, walked in alone on Sergei Bobrovsky and snapped a quick shot through the five-hole.
“A great job of blocking the shot, and he got on his horse and took off,” Claude Julien said. “Again, he can shoot the puck. He got him in the five-hole and it was a great decision on his part.”
For Lucic, it was his team-leading seventh goal of the season, and his second on a five-game homestand in which the Bruins went 4-0-1. On a night when the B’s didn’t play their best, his great individual effort allowed them to head out on the road feeling much better than if they had let a game against an inferior opponent slip away.
“I think when you look at the record it’s what you wanted, to have a good homestand, and we did,” Julien said. “Nine out of 10 points is something certainly to be happy with. And now we have to bring our game on the road, and we have three tough road games coming up.”
Lucic is on pace for a career-high 34 goals, and while he could be due for a bit of a regression in terms of goal-scoring (his 21.9 percent shooting rate is well above his career average of 15.1), there’s no reason to think the B’s top line won’t continue to produce the way it has so far this season.
David Krejci and Jarome Iginla are both below their career shooting percentages — Iginla by a full five points — so the law of averages would dictate that any regression from Lucic will be canceled out as the percentages start to come up for Krejci and Iginla.
But whatever happens going forward, Lucic certainly will remember Thursday night’s game. He probably would’ve even without the overtime winner.
Lucic picked up his eight goal of the season with 48.6 seconds left in overtime, beating Sergei Bobrovsky five-hole on a breakaway.
The Blue Jackets got on the board first, when Blake Comeau took a feed from Mark Letestu and fired a shot past Johnson, but the B’s were able to tie it when a Zdeno Chara wrist shot from the point went off Loui Eriksson and past reigning Vezina winner Sergei Bobrovsky.
The Bruins took the lead in the second period when a Shawn Thornton shot from the top of the circle went off Jack Johnson’s stick and over Bobrovsky’s glove, though a bad rebound from Chad Johnson allowed Nick Foligno to tie it.
The Blue Jackets dominated play in the third period thanks in part to a pair of penalties from the Bruins and shoddy defensive play from the B’s, but the B’s were ale to make it to overtime despite their slow finish.
The Bruins will hit the road to face the Senators Friday in Ottawa.
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE BRUINS
– The Bruins dodged a major bullet on the injury front, as David Krejci lost an edge going into the corner in the first period and lost his helmet as Brandon Dubinsky hit him into the boards. There was no wrongdoing on Dubinsky’s part (he couldn’t have anticipated Krejci going into the boards the way he did as they got there), but Krejci remained down on the ice for a minute and was tended to by trainer Don DelNegro.
Krejci seemed OK as he skated off the ice, but he went down the tunnel and did not play there rest of the period. He returned for the second period, however, and showed no ill effects in staying in the game the rest of the way.
– Though Johnson at points looked like someone who was shaking off rust, he came up with a pair of big saves in the opening minutes of the third period on Ryan Johansen and Cam Atikinson and later with a stop on Derek MacKenzie in front.
He came up big again in overtime, when a Torey turnover led to a scoring chance on which he stopped Foligno.
– In holding the Blue Jackets 0-for-4 on the power play on the night, the Bruins have now killed off 6 consecutive penalties. The last power-play goal they allowed was Chris Kunitz’ second-period tally on Oct. 30 in Pittsburgh.
– With the secondary assist on Thornton’s goal, Torey Krug now has a five-game point streak. Krug has two goals and three assists over Boston’s last five contests.
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE BRUINS
– The Bruins kind of put all their eggs in one basket chasing a puck behind the net and it burned them on Comeau’s goal. Both Zdeno Chara and Dougie Hamilton went behind the net for a puck with Mark Letestu, and when Letestu beat them both to it he was able to throw it in front to a wide-open Comeau, who beat Johnson to open the game’s scoring.
That wasn’t the extent of the Bruins’ breakdowns defensively, as they played a cleaner game in front of Johnson than they did in his last start against the Islanders, but they were so sloppy in the third period that Johnson had to be on his toes to keep the game tied.
– You cut Johnson some slack because he was playing in just his third game of the season, but he gave up a pretty bad rebound to give the Blue Jackets their second goal of the night. Johnson made a kick save on a Nikita Nikitin shot but kicked it right back in front, where Nick Foligno buried it to tie the game.
– This could be seen as a good thing or a bad thing, but the Bruins’ third line created a lot of scoring chances but couldn’t finish, as nice offensive plays by Carl Soderberg, Reilly Smith and Chris Kelly were all wasted. Nine minutes into the game, Soderberg blew past a Columbus defender at the blue line to create a 2-on-1 for the B’s, but Kelly couldn’t handle his pass.
Later in the period, Smith made a nice move down low and fired a shot that went through Bobrovsky and was headed into the corner of the net, but Ryan Murray was able to knock the puck away before it could go in or be tapped in by Soderberg.
In the second period, Kelly tipped a puck in the neutral zone around a defender to Soderberg to give him a breakaway, but Soderberg was denied on his backhand bid.
|Bruins waste great start, still can’t get out of funk||11.05.13 at 11:29 pm ET|
It looked like the Bruins had snapped out of their recent malaise. They outshot Dallas 15-1 over the first 10 minutes of Tuesday’s game, and out-attempted them 21-1. Sure, the Stars scored on their one chance, but the Bruins answered back just 38 seconds later. Then the dominance continued.
You had to figure the Bruins were on the verge of breaking through with another goal or two. When a game is that lopsided, it’s usually only a matter of time before the levee breaks.
But the levee didn’t break. The Bruins’ pressure slowed throughout the remainder of the first period, and by the second period it was pretty much non-existent. The B’s reverted to the bad habits and mental mistakes of the last week and a half — a span in which they are now 1-3-1 — and found themselves on their heels throughout the middle frame.
“First 10 minutes were good, and then we got back to some of our old habits,” said Bruins coach Claude Julien. “Eventually, when you play that way, you find ways to lose hockey games, and that’s what we’re doing right now. We’re finding ways to lose.”
Despite being outshot 13-4 in the second, the Bruins still found themselves in a tied game entering the third. When Milan Lucic tipped in a Dougie Hamilton shot with 8:21 to go, it looked like the Bruins might even pull out the win after all.
Instead, they had one more costly mistake in them — a bad line change that gave Vernon Fiddler a breakaway. Dennis Seidenberg hauled him down from behind, and Fiddler scored on the ensuing penalty shot. The Stars went on to win in a shootout.
“We’re making costly turnovers in areas which we usually don’t, that’s made us a successful team over the past few years,” Lucic said. “It just seems like everything is out of sync right now, and right now we’ve got to do whatever we can to try to get ourselves out of this jam, out of this funk. Frustration is not going to help us get through it. We’ve got to dig deep and start doing things the right way if we want to start playing better.”
Most of the Bruins have been through stretches like this before. Last year, they lost five of seven toward the end of March, then seven of nine to close out the regular season. In 2011-12, it was a 3-7-0 start to the season, and later a four-game losing streak in March. In the 2010-11 season (that’s the one that ended with a Stanley Cup), they lost four of five on SIX different occasions.
It happens. The season is too long not to have these lulls. It doesn’t mean the Bruins shouldn’t work their tails off to try to get out of it. It doesn’t mean Julien shouldn’t shake things up if he feels the need to. But it also doesn’t mean anyone should be panicking.
“It’s a long season. It’s never going to be perfect from the first game to the last,” Lucic said. “But as a player and as a professional, you have to worry about the things that you can control, and that’s work ethic and your effort and your commitment and focus and all that type of stuff. It seems like those are the things that are costing us right now.
“Fortunately, in the past, we’ve gotten strong by being able to get through funks like this. But just because we’ve gotten through it before doesn’t mean it’s just going to happen again. We have to find a way to find a way to do it.”
|Appreciative Jaromir Jagr on stint with Bruins: ‘We had a pretty good run’||10.28.13 at 12:11 pm ET|
Bruins fans gave a gift to Jaromir Jagr which he’d never received in all of years playing hockey.
“I remember my first shift I played here,” said Jagr, “everybody stand up and clap their hands. They show me the respect the first time I step on ice. That never happened to me before.”
On Saturday night, Boston welcomed back Jagr, the NHL’s active leading scorer, and the future Hall of Famer delivered two assists in the Devils’ come-from-behind 4-3 victory over his former team at the Garden.
The Bruins parted ways with Jagr shortly after the Blackhawks hoisted the Cup, and he signed with New Jersey in July. The former mulleted superstar from the Czech city of Kladno, who still claims he plans on scoring a goal at the age of 50, spoke highly of his time with the Bruins.
“The fans really like the hockey here, they understand the hockey here,” Jagr said. “We had a pretty good run. Maybe with a little more luck we would have been holding the Cup.”
Though Jagr is only 17 goals shy of 700, he failed to put the puck in the net during the B’s 22-game playoff run.
“I know a lot of people are going to say he didn’t score,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said. “And he didn’t. But he certainly added a lot to our team.”
Previously known for tormenting Bruins fans every spring during his time with Pittsburgh, Jagr’s lasting memory in Boston will be his assist on Patrice Bergeron‘s overtime goal against the Penguins in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals. Jagr won over his teammates by outdueling Evgeni Malkin for a loose puck on the boards, and the victory gave the Bruins a commanding 3-0 lead in the series.
Along with Jagr’s buying into the team concept, Julien also was impressed with the example the veteran set for his teammates.
“He worked hard, he had a great attitude, he made things happen,” Julien said. “I still remember in overtime there in Chicago where he just took a shot, hit the crossbar, and it could have been the winning goal. He was a good example for young guys — working out, doing extra and trying to stay on the top of his game, so he led by example in a lot of ways. We were happy to have him.”
|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.