|Re-examining Nov. 1 and the uphill climb the Bruins face||10.31.11 at 5:21 pm ET|
Last week, we noted the Bruins should want to be either in or very close to the top eight teams in the Eastern Conference by the time the first of November rolls around. Now, the day isn’t over yet, but chances are there will be no Halloween miracle that takes the Bruins out of dead last before the second month of the season, and based on history, that means they’re in deep trouble.
Without totally recycling last week’s story, each of the last two seasons has seen only one Eastern Conference team not in the top eight on Nov. 1 go on to make the playoffs. That means, for the most part at least, that the playoff picture is largely made up after a month, and it barely changes.
So, with the Bruins 3-7-0 and in last place at the end of October, they are going to have a heck of a climb back into the playoff picture if they don’t want the season that follows June’s Stanley Cup victory to be a colossal failure. It means they’re going to need to turn things around quickly to avoid suffering the fate so many teams who start slow, finish strong and still miss the playoffs, see every season. Last year, it was the Devils and the Hurricanes whose stellar play late couldn’t save them, but those teams didn’t have nearly the expectations of the depending champs.
“You look back at things like this [later in the season],” Milan Lucic said Monday. “Obviously, there’s adversity that you have to face throughout the season. For us, it’s right now. We’ve got to figure it out quick, because I know it’s only 10 games, but you know how many teams that have had starts like this that haven’t been able to recover.
“You look at New Jersey last year, who finished as probably the best team since January, and they weren’t able to recover. You can reflect on this. Obviously we’ll see what happens down the road, but we’ve got to do everything we can to get out of this as quick as possible. We’re going to have to do it as a team and as a group effort. The only way we’re going todo this is if we help each other.”
There seems to be an understanding throughout the Bruins’ dressing room that as far as time for struggles go, this is it. They won’t be able to slump at later points in the season, because with overtime losses in place, it will be hard enough as it is for them to gain ground.
“Basically, every team in the league is going to go through a rough patch at some point this year. Our’s is right now, unfortunately. We understand that this is our rough patch, and we won’t be able to have another one, or we’re going to sink ourselves,” Claude Julien said. “There’s a lot of things that you just keep trying to figure our they those things happen, and there are no answers. '¦ Right now if we had the answer, it would have been fixed. That’s why you try to find those answers.”
Whatever the answers are, the Bruins need to find them quick. The last defending champion to miss the playoffs was the 2006-07 Hurricanes.
WILMINGTON — When a team is in dead last one month into the season, it’s generally obvious that change is needed, but what about when that team is just a few months removed from winning the Stanley Cup?
With the Bruins currently sitting in last place in all of the Eastern Conference and coming off three straight losses, there has been speculation regarding what moves can be made to improve the club. General manager Peter Chiarelli has reportedly been working the phones, and the possibility exists that the team could call up a player from Providence.
Bruins forward Milan Lucic, who led the team with 30 goals last season, said after Monday’s practice that he doesn’t feel change to the roster is needed.
“I think we’ve proven that this group works. If you look into it too much, you can almost go [crazy] if you read into it or look into it too much,” he said. “This group works, and the only way we’re going to start working again is if we start playing like a group again. I think that’s our biggest challenge right now.
“We need everyone going at the same time and everyone being on the same page and trusting the system, because when we’re going as a group and playing that system that we know how to play, we’ve obviously shown that we can be one of, if not the best, team in the league.”
The 3-7-0 Bruins will host the Senators Tuesday at TD Garden.
|Andrew Ference on D&C: ‘We needed a little shakeup’||10.21.11 at 10:47 am ET|
Bruins defenseman Andrew Ference joined Dennis & Callahan Friday morning for his weekly appearance. After the Bruins’ dominating 6-2 victory over the Maple Leafs Thursday night, Ference talked about Boston’s line changes and improvement on the power play.
“It’s one of those things, the power play was actually working pretty good, we were getting the puck around, we just weren’t putting it in,” Ference said. “We were working towards larger things on the power play and we felt that it was doing a lot of good things, so it was a matter of time.”
The Bruins scored twice on the power play against Toronto, with Ference assisting on one of those goals. In addition to better play from special teams, the Bruins also benefited from some line changes made by coach Claude Julien in recent days. The top line of Milan Lucic, Chris Kelly and Tyler Seguin was particularly effective against the Maple Leafs. Ference said that the line changes helped the Bruins get back to focusing on the simple parts of the game.
“I think it helped, it energized guys I think a bit, just to give them a little kick in the pants,” Ference said. “I think when you change linemates, you get out of your comfort zone a bit. You really just concentrate on doing simple things, like skating hard, getting to the net, throwing pucks at the net.
'ª”It was a good move. We needed a little shakeup. Guys were a little bit stale with the old lines and you can always go back to them, but I think just letting guys concentrate on the simple things really helps.”'¬
Ference also talked about emotions running high in the Bruins’ loss to the Hurricanes on Tuesday and forward Shawn Thornton‘s value to the team.
Following are more highlights from the conversation. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.
On Boston’s penalty-filled loss to the Hurricanes: “I think that game, the emotion was a byproduct of the frustration. When our team’s good, the emotion’s just a part of our game. It’s not forced, it’s just there. I think that I mentioned after the game, the game of hockey within its rules allows us to be very physical, allows us to be emotional without hitting the box all night. When our team’s playing well, sure there are fights here and there, but we’re just a physical team all the time. We’re always hitting, always forechecking, always giving teams no room. … In a game where there’s a bunch of fights and a bunch of penalties and it’s just kind of chaotic with the physical stuff, that’s going to happen once in a while but that stuff’s definitely not something that we define ourselves as.”
|Steven Kampfer takes contact early, collides with Milan Lucic in first practice back||10.17.11 at 12:58 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — Bruins defenseman Steven Kampfer, who is coming off a sprained left knee injury suffered in the preseason, practiced Monday with the expectation that he would begin taking contact the next day. Tuesday came a little early for Kampfer when he and Milan Lucic collided in the final minutes of practice, leaving Kampfer down on the ice for a moments before taking a knee and eventually getting up.
“I guess we were supposed to wait till tomorrow for that,” Kampfer said with a laugh after practice, noting that he was fine following the hit.
Kamper was skating backwards when Lucic turned into him, a hit that neither saw coming and one that at least for a moment provided a bit of a scare to onlookers.
“I actually felt fine getting hit like that, and not expecting it,” Kampfer said. “I guess that kind of eases the mind a little bit, to know that you can get hit and it doesn’t hurt anything.”
If Kamfper were to have been injured in practice, there would be no knee left to injure for the first time. He suffered a right knee injury while playing for Providence late last season and sprained the left knee on Sept. 29 against the Senators. He took the ice this weekend, starting with light skating in circles before returning to practice on Monday.
“I think going through it [with the other knee last season] definitely helps,” Kampfer said. “Obviously this one wasn’t nearly as severe as the last one, so to get back and start skating, you know you’re going to feel the tweaks and pulls and everything like that, so it’s kind of comfortable to get back and start skating.”
Kampfer noted that he did not feel any pain or discomfort when turning, which was his biggest worry heading in. He figures to be a good bet to replace Matt Bartkowski as the team’s seventh defenseman once he does get healthy, though that remains to be seen. RIght now, the second-year defenseman is just happy to be making progress.
“It feels like it’s getting there, so obviously we’ll see in a couple of days when it keeps getting better,” Kampfer said of his knee. “Right now it feels good.”
|Is three games too soon to panic over Bruins’ first line woes? Yes||10.11.11 at 5:35 pm ET|
While information is awaited on the status of David Krejci (who did not get on the plane to Carolina but could possibly join the team Wednesday), it’s hard to tell what the Bruins’ first line will look like Wednesday against the Hurricanes. At this point, the Bruins feel that injury is the only thing that will cause them to break up the trip if Krejci, Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton at this point.
Krejci, Lucic and Horton went onto the ice early Tuesday, beginning their day 20 minutes before their teammates as a way to “get the frustration out and get back to playing how we know we can play,” according to Lucic. They stayed out in their first-line white sweaters for Tuesday’s skate until Krejci left with an undisclosed injury, the severity of which is unknown.
Through three games, the line has only one goal, a Krejci tally, and all three members of the line have a team-worst minus-2 rating. It hasn’t been smooth sailing, but the left wing feels that shaking things up three games into the season would be premature.
“Obviously, it keeps dragging on, changes have to be made,” Lucic said, “but right now, I think we just have [bring the right mindset] to the game and things will take care of themselves.”
The worst of the three has been Nathan Horton, who aside from penalties in each of the first two games and a 2-on-1 with Lucic in Monday’s loss to the Avalanche has been invisible thus far. He has just one shot on goal and has yet to register a hit.
“Personally, I feel like we haven’t found him enough and passed him the puck in areas where he’s most dangerous,” Lucic said of Horton. “As a linemate, that’s what I and our centerman need to do for him and give him more opportunities where he can be more dangerous.”
What doesn’t help from a pressure standpoint is the fact that this is the same line that, aside from struggles from an injured Lucic, had big success in the playoffs. Horton was arguably the team’s most clutch player, with three game-winning goals, two of which came in Game 7s. Krejci led all players in postseason goals and points.
“Sometimes when you’re just thinking about producing and scoring, that’s when it becomes the hardest. Maybe we just need to focus on something else and the rest will take care of itself.”
With the top trio struggling, the team’s second line of Patrice Bergeron centering Brad Marchand and Rich Peverley has been the team’s best line. Marchand is tied with Tyler Seguin for the team lead with three points, while Peverley’s two goals lead the defending champs. The success of the second line and the struggles of the first line have led to some speculation that switching up the lines could be an option, but Marchand has no interest in hearing any of that.
“I think people are overreacting right now,” Marchand said frankly on Tuesday. “It’s three games into the season. It was a short but long summer, very busy and very busy times right now. I think people have to settle down and realize that it’s only three games into the year. It’s not that big of a deal. Guys are still getting back into things. They’re three of the top guys into league. They’re going to bounce back. We’re not worrying about it, so they’ll be fine.”
|Milan Lucic agrees with Claude Julien: B’s took the game ‘way too lightly’||10.10.11 at 4:57 pm ET|
It was pretty apparent, even before Claude Julien called out his team before reporters in a post-game press conference, that the Bruins were fairly disgusted with their performance in a 1-0 loss to the Avalanche that wasted a brilliant performance by Tuukka Rask.
The Bruins managed 30 shots on Semyon Varlamov, but not enough sustained pressure. When they got great chances, including Lucic with just under six minutes to go in the game, they couldn’t finish.
“Well, they played well, you have to give them credit,” Lucic said. “But on our part, we took today's game way too lightly. We lost most of the battles, they were first on pucks. Regardless of if we were the champs last year or not, the major areas on the ice, they wanted the puck more than us. And that's why we weren't able to generate enough to get that goal.
“We created some pretty good chances, just have to find a way to bear down on them.”
In their losses to the Flyers and Avalanche, the Bruins could not do two basic things essential to winning hockey and their Cup run of last spring: Control the puck and win physical battles.
“Yeah, it seemed like we were chasing a lot and they were just chipping past us and going,” Lucic said. “And we were a step late, a second late here a step late, a second late over there. And that's basically what happens. I talked about being first to the puck and winning battles and we didn't have enough of that. Good for four periods and need to work on the rest.”
|Milan Lucic: Fans think ‘this is the biggest game in 40 years’||10.06.11 at 9:51 am ET|
Milan Lucic is a hockey player of the people.
He has met plenty of ecstatic Bruins fans this summer and he has listened to them.
What’s been the overriding theme from them about opening night against the Flyers tonight?
I’ve heard from a lot of fans, just walking around the street and getting some feedback from them. They’re all saying this might be the biggest game in 40 years and people haven’t looked forward to a game more than this.
After getting their diamond-studded rings on Tuesday night as their personal reward for giving Boston its sixth Stanley Cup title on June 15 in Vancouver, the Bruins tonight will share their joy with 17,565 of their closest friends inside TD Garden as the 2011 Stanley Cup banner is raised to the rafters at TD Garden, their first in 39 years.
“Obviously, I’ve thought about it and it’s something you think about, that first game and getting to see that banner go up and just take it all in and enjoy the stuff that happening before the game,” Lucic said. “It’s great that people are so appreciative of what we accomplished last year and looking forward to what we can accomplish this year.”
Every player knows what’s next: The challenge of putting the emotions of the banner-raising behind them for 2 1/2 good hours and trying to beat one of the teams they dispatched on their way to the Cup.
They start the 2011-12 season with the new-look Philadelphia Flyers, who will be in their dressing room while the banner is raised, hearing the roars of the crowd in the same building their season ended in last May. That’ll be followed up on Saturday night with the next team they beat, the Tampa Bay Lightning.
“Yeah, it’s going to be a good test, getting two great teams right off the bat, and obviously, they’re teams we beat last year in the playoffs and that’s something that always sticks with you,” Lucic said.
It certainly did for the Bruins last November, when they beat the Flyers, 3-0, in Philadelphia and they had to listen to all the jokes about actually holding on to a three-goal lead, five months after letting it get away in Game 7 of the 2010 Eastern semifinals.
Said Lucic, “I remember the team that knocks you out, you always want to get back to them and beat them in that first game when you play them first in the season. It’ll be a good test playing two elite teams early in the season and there’s probably no better way to get the season off than that.”
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