|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.
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|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.
|Pierre McGuire on MFB: Bruins need ‘proven’ veteran who can score goals||02.05.15 at 1:50 pm ET|
NBC Sports NHL analyst Pierre McGuire made his weekly appearance Thursday on Middays with MFB after the Bruins’ loss to the Rangers Wednesday night, and to look ahead to their stretch of games before the trade deadline. To hear the interview, go to the MFB audio on demand page.
With the trade deadline approaching, McGuire feels the Bruins’ biggest need is a veteran presence on the first line who can score goals, and play with Milan Lucic and David Krejci. He feels the defense can be corrected on its own.
“I don’t know about the top four [defenseman], it’s a fair question,” McGuire said. “I think it is more pressure and get more consistent offense in the first line and insert with [Milan] Lucic and [David] Krejci, and this isn’t a knock on whomever they have tried there — whether it’s [Loui] Eriksson or Reilly Smith, whenever it be anybody, David Pastrnak — it doesn’t matter. I think they really need a veteran presence, a proven guy that can score goals in a first line situation and then the rest of the batting order kind of stabilizes itself.
“I think they can do it by committee on defense really because of the way the team plays. I think they need to get more run support with consistency, I think that is one of the reasons why they play so many one goal games, they are in so many close games, they just don’t have consistent run support for their defense and their goalie.”
“The one thing that stands out to me and not even being 19 years of age or pretty darn close to it, he can still dominate the puck,” said McGuire. “He made some pretty creative plays last night. It’s a hard league for kids that weigh 165-170 pounds to play in. I don’t see him tailing off. I think this will be a lot like what we saw with Tyler Seguin in the Bruins run to the Cup in , just because it took awhile for Tyler to get comfortable and once he got comfortable you saw what he did in the Tampa Bay series in particular.
|Milan Lucic picks between his teams as Seahawks and Patriots meet in Super Bowl||01.19.15 at 1:35 pm ET|
“My West Coast team against my East Coast team,” the Bruins’ left wing said with a smile Monday.
Lucic, a native of Vancouver, grew up rooting for the Seahawks but has become a Patriots fan since coming to Boston. Lucic says his allegiance to the Pats, which grew as he nursed an ankle injury in the 2009-10 season, will win out when he watches Super Bowl XLIX.
“Since ‘09 when I had that high ankle sprain, I’ve kind of converted into a Patriots fan,” he said. “I’ve got to stick with my team now and keep cheering for the Pats.”
Lucic, the Bruins’ resident sportscaster/statistician, watched both the NFC and AFC title games Sunday, the first of which resulted in a comeback/collapse by the Seahawks and Packers, respectively, when the Seahawks, with just one timeout remaining, scored a touchdown to bring them within five points, recovered an onside kick on a botched blocking assignment, took the lead on a touchdown and two-point conversion and, after the Packers forced overtime with a field goal, won on a 35-yard touchdown pass.
Lucic thought the game was over when Russell Wilson threw his fourth interception of the game with 5:04 left and the Seahawks trailing by 12.
“I even congratulated some of my cousins from Milwaukee who are huge Green Bay fans for the win,” he said.
But then the Seahawks made their push and the Packers went to the bathroom in their pants. If the way that game ended reminded you of the Leafs blowing a three-goal lead in the final 10:42 of Game 7 of the first round against the B’s back in 2013, you aren’t alone.
“Obviously it brings back memories of the Game 7 against Toronto that we had,” Lucic said. “You kind of know the feeling that [the Seahawks are] feeling today and how excited they are to pull something like that off. I think looking back, the run that we went on having a comeback like that, because you’re so high and it seems like nothing can go wrong when you’re able to come back from something like that. I’m pretty sure that the Seahawks are feeling that right now. I think it’s going to be a real, real fun Super Bowl to watch.”
Between the Patriots’ six Super Bowl appearances since 2002, the Red Sox‘ three World Series titles since 2004, the Celtics‘ two recent NBA Finals appearances, the Revolution’s MLS Cup appearance last season and the Bruins’ Cup Finals appearances in 2011 and 2013, Boston fans are used to seeing title games and Boston athletes are used to playing in them.
Lucic says the Pats going back to the Super Bowl provides motivation for the B’s to follow suit in their league.
“You know the feeling of being there and you know the feeling of winning and winning it all,” Lucic said. “You see the Patriots make it back to the Super Bowl again, it definitely gives you a little bit of a boost, just because you know that feeling and you want to do whatever you can to re-live that feeling.”
|David Pastrnak’s first year burned off as his line comes down to earth||01.17.15 at 10:59 pm ET|
Given all of the attention that’s been placed on Pastrnak prior to the Bruins deciding to keep him and the success that the trio has had, the goose-egg from Boston’s trio actually is somewhat notable, really only because it’s the first time the line hasn’t been very good since being united.
Pastrnak, who has now officially accrued one season of service time in the eyes of the NHL and NHLPA (Saturday was 10th NHL game this season, which means this season is officially the first of his three-year entry level contract) and his linemates came down earth against the Blue Jackets, overpassing and losing the possession battle in Boston’s first regulation loss in 10 games.
“A lot of passing, a lot of missed passes,” Lucic said. “Maybe trying to do too much and didn’t play that north-south type of game that gave us success when we were put together originally.
“We have to know night-in, night-out as a line that in order to be successful and get results and contribute to the team, that there’s a certain way that we need to play. That’s a straight-ahead game and using our speed and obviously using our skill, but when we’re moving straight ahead and using all those things, that’s when we’re going to have success.”
The line nearly scored in the first period when David Krejci threw a puck on net from the top of the right circle that bounced off Pastrnak’s skates in front with half the net open. Pastrnak whiffed on his shot attempt as the puck glided to Blue Jackets netminder Curtis McElhinney. That stood as the line’s best chance, though Pastrnak did draw a penalty in the final minute of the period when he was tripped by Scott Hartnell.
But that was the extent of the good for the line offensively. Though Lucic tied for the team lead with five shots on goal, the Czech Davids combined for zero. Saturday was Pastrnak’s first game without a shot on goal since his NHL debut on Nov. 24.
Since coming up, Pastrnak has been a standout player. He’s found instant chemistry with Krejci, whose vision and creativity could make him a 30-goal scorer in future seasons. Yet there will be speed bumps along the way, such as when Pastrnak took a drop pass from Krejci entering the zone in the first period and, rather than shooting or finding Krejci again, forced a n0-look pass across the ice to Lucic that would have earned him an intentional grounding penalty in the NFL.
“That line didn’t do much for us tonight; nobody did as a matter of fact,” Julien said. “We need David to use his speed on the outside; we need Krech to make sure to use his speed on the outside and find him. If you’re going to be cute and try and overpass, you’re not going to get the results. That’s not how we’ve had success in the past. I don’t think that’s how we’re going to get success in the future.”
One telling takeaway that should bode well for this line’s future: In eight periods together, the Lucic-Krejci-Pastrnak trio has yet to get scored on. They have four goals for and none against.
|Bruins confident David Pastrnak can hold up defensively||01.14.15 at 6:11 pm ET|
With David Pastrnak, the Bruins’ first line will be able to score goals. The question is how many it will give up.
Given that Pastrnak, though clearly offensively gifted, is the youngest player in the NHL, it’s only fair to question how Krejci and Milan Lucic‘s line will do in the plus-minus department when playing against other teams’ top players. The line did not allow a goal in its first game together on Tuesday (really half a game, as they were united midway through the second), but it did score three. Claude Julien will take that any day of the week.
Yet the cautionary tale of the Tyler Seguin Experiment exists, as Pastrnak isn’t the first highly talented youngster to see time in the spot that has typically reserved for veteran power forwards (Nathan Horton, Jarome Iginla) over the years.
When Horton was out for the season with a concussion in March of 2012, Julien went for broke offensively by sticking the then-20-year-old Seguin with Lucic and Krejci. They produced at over a goal-per-game clip, but gave up 10 goals before Julien separated them. When the B’s were desperate for offense in Game 7 of the first round in 2013, Julien again put Seguin with Krejci and Lucic, only to see them allow goals on their first two shifts.
In case you haven’t noticed by now, Julien isn’t comfortable with lines that give up more goals than they score (insert then-why-does-he-ever-play-the-fourth-line quip here), so if he plays a trio together, he does so because he thinks it can do more good on the scoreboard than damage.
As such, it was interesting to see that, after the Lightning scored to make it a one-goal game Tuesday night, Julien kept Pastrnak with Krejci and Lucic for the top line’s next shift.
Or, put it this way: With the Bruins defending a one-goal lead in a game they had to win against the division leaders, Julien put the youngest player in the league — one whose defense seemed to be one of the things he’d need to improve in order to make the NHL — on the ice against Steven Stamkos and the Bruins lived to tell about it.
“This is not a time to test guys,” Julien said Wednesday of his decision to play Pastrnak in such an important spot. “If he was out there, it was because I felt comfortable with him.”
Julien said that he considers such decisions with young players to be ‘calculated chances.’ He noted Pastrnak’s improvement getting pucks out along the wall in his defensive zone (Julien makes a good point; Pastrnak had some struggles there in his first five game stint with the B’s) and sound decision-making he’d seen from the rookie all night that made him confident that Pastrnak would not be defensive liability in the game’s most crucial minutes.
“I think for a player to develop, when you see the right things on certain nights, you’ve got to allow that player to have an opportunity,” he said. “That’s how you gain that kind of experience in those situations. Throughout the game, if you’ve seen situations where he’s kind of struggled and had some tough situations come up, you try to keep him away from that. It’s up to me to stay on top of the player and the game itself and see whether he’s earned it.”
Both Krejci and Lucic have given their endorsements to Pastrnak; it would be rather difficult to do given that he’s scored four goals over his last two games. Yet while Lucic acknowledged that the trio must stick to the team’s system to avoid suffering the same score-a-goal, allow-two-goals fate that they did in the Seguin days, Krejci said that Pastrnak, who hopes to become a strong two-way player like Krejci, will become better and better at applying his defensive learnings as he gains experience.
“It’s going to happen that we’re going to get scored on, that’s for sure, but we have to try to minimize the mistakes,” Krejci said. “On the other hand, he knows what to do defensively, but he has just been here a small amount of games and sometimes in a situation, he has to think twice of what do, and in that split second, something can go wrong. It will come with games played and I’m sure he’ll be fine.”
|Pierre McGuire on MFB: ‘I would be absolutely shocked if Milan [Lucic] was traded out of Boston’||01.08.15 at 2:15 pm ET|
NBC Sports NHL analyst Pierre McGuire made his weekly appearance Thursday on Middays with MFB to look back on Wednesday’s Bruins overtime win against the Penguins, a game McGuire called, and also to discuss recent trade rumors with the team. To hear the interview, go to the MFB audio on demand page.
There have been a number of rumors circulating with the struggling Bruins, but one player not to expected to be traded according to McGuire is Milan Lucic.
“I would be absolutely shocked if Milan [Lucic] was traded out of Boston — at least for this year. I would be really surprised,” said McGuire. “If you watched my interview with him after the game, that is an invigorated Milan Lucic. I thought after the first period, and even parts of the first period, he made a huge difference in that game. He was skating, he was going to the boards, he was dictating the slot, he was fore-checking with a purpose. He obviously was a very good assist player last night. He made a real good play on the game-winning goal. I would be shocked if he were traded out of Boston, I really would be.”
Earlier in the week, Charlie Jacobs, the new CEO of Delaware North’s Boston Holdings, which runs the Bruins, TD Garden and NESN, fired a warning shot across the organization, saying not making the playoffs wouldn’t be acceptable. The Bruins are currently 20-15-6, and sit in eighth place in the Eastern Conference.
McGuire sensed a team that wasn’t its normal self before the game on Wednesday night, their first since the Jacobs comments, but as the game went along the team got their “swagger” back.
“What was amazing to me was before the game how some of the swagger I am used to seeing the Bruins have, wasn’t there. There just wasn’t that Bruins swagger. Then at the end of the game, that Bruins swagger was back,” McGuire said. “They are not an arrogant, pompous, rude team — there are some teams in the league that are — they’re not. They are a hard-working, industrious and proud group. They have very good internal leadership. It was interesting to see how it changed from before the game to after the game and if you watched my interview with Claude Julien after the second TV timeout in the second period, he basically said, ‘Listen we’re a team that doesn’t have a lot of confidence right now. We’re working to get our confidence back.’ You could see as the game went along they started to get their confidence back.”
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