|Bruins’ playoff streak could be over much earlier than expected||04.11.15 at 1:47 pm ET|
TAMPA, Fla. – Chowder and playoff hockey: That’s what Boston does.
Perhaps until Saturday night, anyway. If the Bruins do not get the help they need from both other teams and then beat the Lightning, they will miss the playoffs for the first time since the 2006-07 season. Dave Lewis was the head coach, Zdeno Chara was in his first year with Boston and a 21-year-old Patrice Bergeron was the team’s bright spot. David Krejci (six games) was the only other current Bruin to play for that team.
That roster was terrible. This one isn’t.
Postseason hockey has become a given since Claude Julien arrived the following season. Brad Marchand, in his fifth full NHL season, has never realistically had to think about where to vacation in April. If Lady Luck spurns the B’s Saturday, he and his teammates will be cleaning out their lockers at TD Garden before the superior half of the league begins the playoffs on Wednesday.
Julien’s Bruins have set a higher standard. Though they’ve had a couple close calls over the years, none have been anything like this. Marchand said that while he figured there would be a time in his Bruins career that the team might fall off from the elite teams of the Eastern Conference, he never thought it would happen this quickly.
“I know teams go through times where they rebuild, especially in the cap era, but I don’t think we were expecting to be battling for a playoff spot like this for a few years to come,” Marchand said after Saturday’s morning skate.
Milan Lucic, a member of the 2009-10 team that finished with the seventh seed and blew a 3-0 series lead in the Eastern Conference semifinals to the Flyers, said Saturday morning that he would consider this the most disappointing season he has experienced if the Bruins missed the playoffs.
Lucic’s first season was in 2007-08, the start of Boston’s seven-year streak of reaching the postseason annually. That group didn’t secure its spot until the final days of the season, getting in as a No. 8 seed before taking the top-seeded Canadiens to seven games before being eliminated.
Compared to this, that season was triumphant. There is no feel-good story attached to the Bruins’ current situation and they know it.
“You compare this team to the ‘07-08 team,” Lucic said. “On paper, we’re so much better, and here we are with the situation we’re in. I guess I’ll have a better answer for you tonight.”
The Bruins built off that 2008 playoff berth. Missing out on one this season could signal organization changes and they know it.
Peter Chiarelli and Claude Julien both deserve to keep their jobs. They are two of the best in the league at what they do, and with no guarantee that better options will be available, blowing things up could leave the Bruins where the Penguins currently stand: fighting for the playoffs on the last day themselves, with no first-round pick after the team hastily moved it in a desperate attempt to bolster its offense.
Yet Charlie Jacobs said what he said in January and he might feel required to hold someone accountable. That could mean changes, and a new leadership group would mean no current players are safe.
“Anything can happen if things go wrong,’ Marchand said, ‘but today isn’t really the time to talk about that. It’s more worrying about what we can control and playing a big game tonight.
“You know what? If we win tonight, then it’s possible that we’re still in. Hopefully that’s the case, but if not then we’ll worry about that in the next few days.”
TAMPA, Fla. — By all accounts, the Bruins treated Friday like a regular off-day: no big team-dinner, no major group outing, just a day to clear their heads.
When they awoke Saturday, some of the shock of their situation had subsided. Whether overcompensating or genuinely confident, Claude Julien sported his bravest face in the team’s morning skate as he and his players held on to the slightest bit of hope that they could still find a way into the playoffs. With the Penguins losing in regulation Friday, the Bruins are at least feeling a little better than they did following Thursday’s 4-2 loss to the Panthers. No matter what happens with Ottawa or Pittsburgh Saturday, however, the Bruins must beat the Lightning Saturday in addition to getting help.
“It’s pretty obvious that you have an opportunity here tonight,” Julien said. “I don’t think you need to go back on the last game. I think our first period was the energy that we needed; we just couldn’t sustain it for three periods, so you end up with a loss. Do you keep going back to that or do you keep going to the excitement and the excitement that you have tonight. I think that’s what we’ve got to do here as a team.”
The Bruins did not do line rushes in Saturday’s morning skate. All that is known is that Tuukka Rask will start and the only six defensemen on the roster will play. How the forward lines look and who will be scratched up front is unknown.
On the other side, the Bruins may catch a bit of a break if Jonathan Drouin doesn’t play. The star rookie left wing was not at Saturday’s morning skate and is under the weather. His status for the game is unknown, but Tampa did recall Jonathan Marchessault on an emergency basis. Defensemen Braydon Coburn, Andrej Sustr and Jason Garrison, as well as forward Jason Killorn, are all out with injuries.
If the Penguins lose to the Sabres in regulation and the Bruins get any kind of win, Boston will get in over Pittsburgh. If the Penguins lose in overtime or a shootout, the Bruins could get in with a regulation or overtime win. The other scenario in which Boston could sneak into the playoffs would be with a regulation or overtime win and a Senators regulation loss to the Flyers.
Either scenario would result in the Bruins getting a wild card spot. Should they reach the playoffs, they will play either the Rangers or the Canadiens in the first round.
They know that is unlikely. In the meantime, they will try to earn a bit of luck with their best effort of the season.
“There is something to play for tonight. We have to take that mentality into the night that there’s still a lot on the line and we need to win a hockey game in order to hopefully end up in the playoff picture,” Milan Lucic said. “Obviously, some things have to happen. It’s not the situation that we want to be in. Again, some things can happen. It always seems like we always have to do things the hard way. Here’s one of those situations again.”
|Milan Lucic: ‘Obviously, these are desperate times’||04.01.15 at 10:15 am ET|
The Bruins have been as streaky as Milan Lucic. A five-game win streak was followed by six straight losses.
It’s only appropriate the Bruins ended March with their third straight win, a key victory, spurred on by one of their better players in the month as the left winger provided the game-winning margin with some grit and good fortune.
His rush to the Panthers blue line with just over a minute left in regulation ended with a “why not” shot on goal that found its way through the skates of Roberto Luongo and gave the Bruins a 3-2 win Tuesday at TD Garden. Lucic has become a leader for young stars Ryan Spooner and David Pastrnak on his line. On Tuesday, he led by example when it mattered most.
His drop pass to Spooner resulted in a bad-angle shot by Spooner from the left boards that tied the game early in the third period. His late-game rush with Spooner ended up being the difference in winning and losing.
“I was checking to see to see if Spoons was onside,” said Lucic, who finished the game with a goal and an assist and five of each for the month. “It was kind of a one-on-four situation and I just tried to get [the puck] past the two D-men [and] on net and I got a little bit of luck there and was able to find a hole there in the five-hole. It was one of those things where you’re kind of swarmed. You’re just getting the puck on net, and thankfully it went in for myself and ends up being a big goal for a big win.”
|Peter Chiarelli on Sunday Skate: Milan Lucic in group that has underperformed this year||03.29.15 at 9:45 am ET|
Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli joined Sunday Skate with DJ Bean, Joe McDonald and Pete Blackburn Sunday morning to talk all things Bruins heading into the final few games of the regular-season as the team battles to make the playoffs. To hear the interview, go to the Weekend Shows audio on demand page.
Milan Lucic has seen his play improve with new linemates recently, but the team could an interesting choice with him going forward given that next season will be the final year of a three-year, $18 million deal. Chiarelli was asked about the team’s intentions with the player.
“I think I would put him in the overall group that we’ve all kind of underperformed,” Chiarelli said. “I haven’t made any real decisions on really anything and that includes Milan’s case. He’s done a lot for this organization. But, like I said, I think a lot of personnel have underperformed, so I would put Milan in that category like the rest of the group, myself included.”
Also a major topic of late with the Bruins is the job security for both Chiarelli and Claude Julien. Unlike past seasons, the final games of the regular-season have much more importance and therefore Chiarelli is in a different position than he’s ever been in.
“Yeah, interesting is a good way to put it,” he said of this season. “The year has been a bit of a difficult year. We’re battling for a playoff spot now. Much chronicled about Claude’s job and my job, but we’re professionals. We try and get the best out of our team — I try and make the right decisions and it’s a grind every game to watch. It seems like every game goes to overtime and it’s been difficult, but part of the business.”
When asked if he thinks his position should be reviewed, especially having made the postseason seven straight seasons, he refrained from going into detail.
“I am not going to comment on that,” said Chiarelli. “I am a professional paid to make the right decisions and make decisions that are best for the organization. These are things that happen in our business. … If it’s my job, it’s my job, but I hope that it’s not.”
If the Bruins do make the playoffs and Chiarelli does keep his job, there has been concern from the fanbase that the team would be satisfied with the current roster and refrain from making the necessary changes to avoid another season like this one. Chiarelli said he would plan on making the moves this team needs regardless of how it fares down the stretch.
“What we’ll do at the end of the year is, we’ll look at this roster,” Chiarelli said. “You ask me about all the things — I call them reasons, you may call them excuses — why the team isn’t performing the way it’s supposed to or where the expectations are, we’ll look at those. We’ll look at how the season finishes off. We’ll look at each individual player and make decisions, well-informed, educated decisions based on that.
“For me to say, ‘OK, what if things go well?’ I’m not going to speculate on either [scenario]. We have the season we’re having. I’m going to go through this process and we’ll make the proper decisions.”
Following are more highlights from the interview. For more Bruins news, visit weei.com/bruins.
|Pierre McGuire on MFB: Milan Lucic has ‘elevated his game’ playing with Ryan Spooner, David Pastrnak||03.19.15 at 1:40 pm ET|
NBC Sports NHL analyst Pierre McGuire made his weekly appearance Thursday on Middays with MFB to discuss the Bruins and their push for the playoffs, as well as other NHL matters. To hear the interview, go to the MFB audio on demand page.
With David Krejci being out, the Bruins have shuffled their lines up front and currently have Milan Lucic playing with Ryan Spooner and David Pastrnak. McGuire feels this has improved Lucic’s game, as he’s been playing more like a leader being paired with two of the youngest players on the team. He does feel once Krecji returns, Lucic will be reunited with him, but doesn’t know when that will happen.
“The thing that really stood out to me is he’s really relishing this role as a leader with those two young players in Spooner and Pastrnak,” said McGuire. “I think he’s elevated his game because of the leadership potion that has been put on his plate. I don’t know what Claude [Julien] is going to do, it’s a real debatable issue. I have to think at some point Krejci will be back with Lucic, I really do. I don’t know when or for how long, but I have to think at some point they will put them back together.”
The Bruins are in Ottawa Thursday night to take on the Senators. As it stands now the Senators are four points behind the Bruins for eighth place in the Eastern Conference. McGuire feels the Bruins are in a good spot to make the playoffs.
“I think Boston has a very good chance to be a playoff team,” he said. “In fact, I would be shocked if they didn’t make it. They deserved a better fate the other night (in a shootout loss to Buffalo). The biggest thing to be was Anders Lindback, he never played a game that good in his life. I give Buffalo a lot of credit. They showed a lot of heart and a lot of desire, but the Boston Bruins were [playing hard], they just couldn’t beat Lindback. I don’t expect goaltending like that every night against Boston.”
It seems the NHL getting rid of the shootout and going to 4-on-4, and 3-on-3 overtime is getting some steam to be put in place next season. McGuire thinks this change is needed, and will be a welcomed change with members of the league — both with the coaches and players.
“I think most people that really care about the sport want to see the best players play in the game and having the game decided by the players playing the sport rather than just having a skills competition,” said McGuire. “I am all for it and I think most of the players are for it. I can tell you 99 percent of the coaches are for it in terms of the people that I have spoken with, so I would be absolutely shocked if it was not put into place for next season.”
|Claude Julien says ‘lack of finish is probably the biggest concern right now’||03.06.15 at 8:50 am ET|
It’s been the one thing that has haunted these Bruins all season.
They can’t find a way to finish scoring opportunities in and around the net and wind up regretting it at the end of the game. Such was the case again Thursday night in a 4-3 shootout loss to the Calgary Flames. There were several chances for the Bruins to put some distance between themselves and Calgary in the early and middle parts of the game and they simply couldn’t find the finishing touch.
There was Daniel Paille with a wrister on Flames goalie Karri Ramo midway through the first period. There was a slap shot from Dougie Hamilton that was deflected away by a stick at the last moment. But there was no better example of Boston’s inability to find the scoring touch than when Loui Eriksson, on a 3-on-1 rush, had the puck on his stick and fired wide of an empty net midway through the third period.
Carl Soderberg, without a goal since Jan. 17 against Columbus, has now gone 17 games without a goal. He had two chances in the opening period and couldn’t find the back of the net.
“Again, the challenge of our lack of finish is probably the biggest concern right now,” coach Claude Julien said. “So I think we had the better of the game, five-on-five. There’s no doubt we played a lot more in their end then they did in ours.
“It’s a little bit of maybe confidence, and you squeeze your stick you’re trying so hard. There’s a lot of guys, use Carl Soderberg as an example. He’s really struggled the last little while scoring goals, and guys are putting pressure on themselves. There’s games where you like your team’s game, but your finish is what ends up killing you at the end.”
Julien realizes that the Bruins had chances leading 1-0 and 2-1 to really do damage and failed to seize on the opportunity because they simply couldn’t finish.
Read the rest of this entry »
|David Krejci injury could change way Bruins deal with free agents to-be||02.24.15 at 10:29 am ET|
Peter Chiarelli likes to sign his pending unrestricted free agents before they go into their walk years. It’s a tactic that saved the Bruins a lot of money when he re-upped both Zdeno Chara and Patrice Bergeron before they helped lead the Bruins to the Stanley Cup in 2010-11.
Yet with the news of David Krejci‘s partially torn MCL that will keep him out for 4-6 weeks, the Bruins are learning for the second straight year that waiting a bit to sign a player has its benefits too.
The Bruins gave Dennis Seidenberg, who was scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent after last season, a four-year, $16 million at the start of the 2013-14 season. At the time, the fourth year looked like it could potentially be a problem down the road, but given the reasonable $4 million cap hit for the trusty No. 2 defenseman, no one batted an eye.
Seidenberg tore his ACL in December of that season. He most likely would have still gotten even more money than he signed for had he hit free agency (here’s your daily reminder that Brooks Orpik, who is older than Seidenberg, got five years and $27.5 million, and he’s Brooks Orpik), but the fact that Seidenberg signed before the season showed his preference to stay with Boston. Had the Bruins waited to sign him, perhaps they would have gotten him on a better deal, or perhaps the Bruins would have chosen to try to sign Johnny Boychuk and let Seidenberg walk.
Now, Seidenberg’s deal is viewed as one of the worst contracts the Bruins have. His play has dropped significantly and he looks like he would be more at home on a third pairing. The Bruins could probably move him if they wanted to, but his contract – the very one that looked good at the time of its signing — could hurt his trade value.
It’s hard to imagine the Bruins experiencing the same thing with Krejci, but it’s fair to say his price tag would have been lower after the most injury-plagued season of his career. Krejci, who signed a pretty team-friendly six-year, $43.5 million contract before the start of the season, had already missed 20 games due to lower-body injuries this season prior to getting hurt again in Friday’s loss to the Blues.
No matter what happened with Krejci this season, he would have been the best free-agent center if he made it to free agency this summer. His only competition already signed in Jason Spezza, so even with the injuries, Krejci would have easily gotten six years and $43.5 million this summer. In fact, he probably still would have gotten a lot more than that.
Next season, Milan Lucic will be the Bruins’ biggest-name free-agent-to-be. The Bruins need to think long and hard before determining whether he’d be worth whatever money he would command, but it is a no-brainer to opt against signing him before the season. Lucic has not lived up to his $6 million cap hit this season and the team shouldn’t carelessly throw him into the group of players they perceive to be their core.
If they go into the season with Lucic playing for a contract, they can use the opening months of the season to further evaluate the player while potentially getting the elevated performance that often comes when players are looking for a pay day. At the very least, they would avoid signing a player just before they get hurt.