|Seventh-place Bruins thinking corrections, not collapse||03.16.12 at 11:38 pm ET|
The Bruins fell into seventh place in the Eastern Conference Friday night, something that would have seemed impossible back in late December when the Bruins were dominating teams left and right.
Yet for as good as the Bruins were back in December (a nine-point lead in the Northeast Division and just three regulation losses over a two-month span), their horrid play of late has been enough to undo their good standing in both the division and the conference. The Senators haven’t needed to play well (10-10-3 over their last 23 games) to catch Boston, but they overtook the division Friday night with an overtime win over the Canadiens.
On Friday, the Bruins held an hour-long skate to try to get their legs going for Saturday’s game. They know that when they take on the Flyers, they won’t just be trying to break a season-worst four-game losing streak, but trying to get back in front of the Senators.
“If you ask anyone and [they say] they don’t know what the standings are, they’re lying to you,” Chris Kelly said after the practice. “Obviously, we know where we stand and where other teams stand. All we can do is focus on ourselves and the games we have coming up.”
It wasn’t too long ago that the Bruins were using the standings for motivation. They woke up on November 1 in last place in the Eastern Conference after a wretched October. The defending champs didn’t like it where they stood, so they did something about it by going 21-3-1 for the rest of 2011.
This slump is much worse than anything that happened in the first month of the season (3-7-0). This isn’t some ugly 10-game stretch to open the season, but a two-and-a-half-month-long collapse. They’ve given up five goals in three consecutive games, and have allowed six in their last two.
“To give up six goals in back-to-back games, that’s not the definition of this hockey team. I think we’re a good, sound hockey team, especially in our own end,” Kelly said. “That hasn’t shown in the last few games.”
The Bruins’ mistakes have been clear. Take the Panthers’ fifth goal Thursday for example. Kelly tried firing a pass across to Andrew Ference in the Bruins’ zone, but the pass went of Adam McQuaid‘s skate and bounced right to Tomas Kopecky in front to set up a Florida tally. The Bruins know what they’re doing wrong, but they can’t seem to keep from doing it. They’re running with just 12 games left in the regular season, they’re running out of time to figure it out.
“Obviously we’d like to [have fixed everything] after one game,” Patrice Bergeron said after Friday’s practice. “Right now it’s not happening. It’s about finding answers and not worrying about the four-game losing streak. It’s about us finding desperation and finding answers. It’s about us working hard and giving everything we’ve got on every shift and coming out on top on every shift. If we do that [every game] we’re going to be alright.”
Said Claude Julien: “You lose your identity when you lose the way [we] have been lately,” Julien said. “Any team that goes through a slump loses its identity. We understand that we have to work hard and win more battles and that comes again with the attitude. The breakdowns are kind of camouflaging the fact that we are still a pretty hard-working team, but when you don’t work smart, you don’t look like a hard-working team.”
If they don’t figure it out, the Senators will stay atop the division, while the Bruins would likely remain in seventh place, making for a regular-season collapse that would be considered unfathomable had some baseball team not just re-written the book on regular-season collapses.
The Bruins know they’re headed down a disappointing path unless they right the ship. Fixing it is their only option, assuming they can do so in time.
“It’s not really a thought right now,” Kelly said of losing the division. “We’re going to go play and see what happens.”
|Andy Brickley on D&C: David Krejci ‘hasn’t been good enough’||02.08.12 at 11:18 am ET|
NESN Bruins analyst Andy Brickley made his weekly appearance on Dennis & Callahan Wednesday morning and talked about David Krecji being dropped to the third line, the evolution of Patrice Bergeron, and the tough road ahead for the Bruins.
Krecji, who usually plays on the first line with Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton, saw his role changed when he was put on the third line. Brickley looked at the move as Bruins coach Claude Julien trying to ignite a spark under the veteran.
‘You always have to be as measured as you can be as a coach in order to get the desired results,” Brickley said. “But I will guess that David Krecji going to the third line, things have happened prior to this move to try to get more from David Krejci. … From time to time these are the things you have to do to get his attention in order to get more out of him.’
Brickley said the move isn’t that much of a shock, based on how Krecji had been playing with Rich Peverly, who was a replacement on the line for the injured Nathan Horton.
‘He’s affected by not having Nathan Horton on his right side, he’s real comfortable when he plays in between Lucic and Horton,” Brickley said. “Peverly gives you a totally different element on that right side. I don’t think he and David Krecji are a good mix, I think they’ve proven that, there’s a little bit of stretch where it hasn’t gone their way.
“But David Krecji is good enough to dictate how that line plays. He hasn’t been good enough, and Claude needs to figure out a way to get more out of him. And I’m sure he’s had conversations with him, I’m sure that they’ve made adjustments on how they want to move the puck and how they want to break it out and how they want to forecheck given the personnel that he’s playing with. And now it’s gotten to the point where I’m going to win hockey games by putting other lines together that I know what I’m going to get from, and David, you make your adjustments playing with these two other players.”
|Patrice Bergeron spent his break skating on ponds in Lake Placid||01.30.12 at 5:03 pm ET|
Then there was Patrice Bergeron, a player many would consider an All-Star snub. Bergeron, who is tied for the team lead with 43 points this season, decided to go somewhere rich in hockey history and, as of last season, Bruins history.
“I actually went to Lake Placid, and just relaxed over there,” he said. “It was a lot of fun.”
The average person will tell you that Lake Placid is where 1980’s Miracle on Ice occurred, when USA Men’s hockey defied the odds and won the gold in the Olympics.
But for the Bruins, Lake Placid is where the team went between Games 3 and 4 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals vs. the Canadiens last season. The B’s bolted out of Montreal between the two games to find some peace and quiet as they tried to mount their comeback in a series they had trailed, 2-0. It was there that David Krejci played “Don’t Stop Believing” on a jukebox (by accident, he later claimed), and when the Bruins returned to Montreal after two days in Lake Placid, they evened the series thanks to heroics from Michael Ryder, and went on to win in seven games. The rest, as they say, is history.
Bergeron brought his skates along with him for his mini-vacation, but he didn’t step foot inside Whiteface Lake Placid Olympic Facilities Center. The trip was about soaking up all that the city had to offer, so Bergeron took to a pond to do his skating.
The locals and children skating on the pond had no idea they were sharing the ice with a Stanley Cup champion and Gold Medal Olympic hockey player. Nobody spotted the Stanley Cup champion out on the ice, so Bergeron embraced the free skate with locals and kids from nearby. The B’s alternate captain has never been the type to beg for attention, so it proved to be the perfect vacation.
“I wouldn’t mind getting recognized, but I like just going about my business and just doing my stuff and having fun and relaxing,” he said. “It was great. People were real nice, real friendly. It was great.”
Bergeron got some pointers on what to do from trainer Don DelNegro, who lives there in the summer. Relaxation was the name of the game for Bergeron, who leads Bruins forwards in time on ice with his average of 18:35 minutes a game. While he got the biggest thing he had hoped for — rest — out of the trip, he admitted he’ll always have memories when he goes to Lake Placid.
“It is special,” Bergeron said. “Obviously, not as special as for Americans, but in some way it was special for us last year, just to come down there for two days in between the games in Montreal. It seemed like it helped us to stay focused. It was nice, but it was nice for me to enjoy what’s going on down there, just relax with the nature and all that. It was great.”
|Andrew Ference on D&C: Patrice Bergeron ‘got everybody fired up’ for comeback vs. Devils||01.20.12 at 12:28 pm ET|
Bruins defenseman Andrew Ference checked in with Dennis & Callahan Friday morning to discuss Thursday night’s victory over the Devils. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.
The Bruins scored all four goals in the final period of the 4-1 victory, including two in the final 35 seconds.
“I think we snapped out of some frustration last night,” Ference said. The first two periods were kind of same old story. Guys almost trying too hard, trying to do too much and getting frustrated, throwing stuff around. Third period, [Patrice] Bergeron had some good words just to calm everybody down and get everybody back on track. Obviously, it helps to get an early goal and their team really deflated but we definitely picked up our game.”
Added Ference: “Bergy got everybody fired up. We’re mature enough and have an experienced enough team to know to do better than what we were doing, to let the frustration kind of use up all our energy. So, it was just a matter of instead of complaining about the reffing or complaining about this or that, just going out and doing our jobs and doing them well and taking pride in it. Nothing too complicated. But you have to kind of hit reset every once in a while and get everybody on the same page.”
The Bruins have a highly anticipated game against the Rangers this Saturday. The Rangers are leading the Eastern Conference with 62 points, with the Bruins in second with 61.
“They’re a really good team,” Ference said. “I think that they’re one of those teams that you have to respect the way they play and the way they approach the game. Obviously, they’re doing a great job this year.”
Ference also gave his prediction for Sunday’s AFC championship game between the Patriots and Ravens: “28-14, Patriots.” As for the NFC game between the 49ers and Giants: “I’m hoping for the 49ers,” he said, explaining: “I just don’t want a New York team in there.”
|Bruins crush Flames, 9-0, behind Tuukka Rask’s latest shutout||01.05.12 at 9:27 pm ET|
Since losing to the Stars on Saturday night, the Bruins may have developed a habit of blowing teams out of the water. They did so for the second straight night Thursday, crushing the Flames, 9-0, behind Tuukka Rask‘s third shutout of the season.
This one was never close following Tyler Seguin‘s tally 74 seconds into the game, and the Bruins weren’t afraid to pile it on once again. Patrice Bergeron and Nathan Horton each had two-goal nights, while the B’s also received goals from Milan Lucic, David Krejci, Chris Kelly and Daniel Paille.
The Bruins picked up the win without forward Brad Marchand, who was out with flu-like symptoms. The B’s certainly made due without the 23-year-old, as Bergeron’s line still produced three goals.
The Bruins will next play on Saturday when they host the Canucks in a rematch of the 2011 Stanley Cup finals.
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE BRUINS
— No Marchand? No problem. Pouliot was superb in filling in for the ill winger on the second-line, getting four shots on goal and assisting Seguin and Bergeron’s goals. Benoit Pouliot did a nice job of stealing the puck in the neutral zone, feeding Seguin to set top Bergeron’s goal in the second period. He now has 13 points (seven goals and six assists) in 31 games this season. He got secondary assists on Seguin’s goal and Bergeron’s second tally.
The three assists for Pouliot matched a career-high, and it doubled his assist total this season.
— More of the same from Rask. The B’s backup lowered his league-best goals-against average and save percentage with the shutout, and has now allowed just one goal over his last five games. Scary to think that this is a guy who might not even get a start in the postseason.
– Good to see Paille score a shorthanded goal on the breakaway. Very quietly — a secret that’s been kept off the stat sheet for the most part — Paille has been putting together a heck of a season. He now has seven goals on the season, and if he had a better finishing touch he could easily have double that.
— Joe Corvo was a plus-4 on the night despite not picking up a point in the game with a game-high seven shots on goal. His plus/minus was best among the Bruins, while Flames defenseman Chris Butler was a horrific minus-7. In Butler’s case, Wednesday’s game could ruin him in that category for the season.
— Given how many goals the B’s scored on the night, of course it was another night in which the Bruins scored goals within a minute of each other. Bergeron’s first goal and Kelly’s tally came 47 seconds apart, marking the 13th time this season the B’s have scored two goals in less than a minute.
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE BRUINS
|Patrice Bergeron to be profiled on ‘NHL 36′||12.27.11 at 2:22 pm ET|
The show, which follows players for 36 hours, began following Bergeron at 7:30 a.m. Tuesday morning and will air the episode on Jan. 4 at 6:30 p.m. on NBC Sports. Peter Coyote will provide narration.
In a statement about the episode, executive producer Ross Greenburg cited Bergeron’s championships in the NHL, the Olympics and World Junior Championship, calling him “one of the league’s most underrated superstars.”
Bergeron has seven goals and 21 assists this season for 28 points and is on pace for his first 70-point season since 2006-07.
For Bruins fans, this should be must-see TV. Bergeron, who is as polite and humble as they come, doesn’t go out of his way to stick his head in the spotlight. Teammates describe him as an increasingly vocal leader, so it will be interesting to see how much of that is captured.
|Tuukka Rask says he wasn’t as angry as he looked during apparent meltdown||11.17.11 at 12:22 pm ET|
Tuukka Rask is among the most relaxed and courteous players you’ll find on the Bruins, so on the rare occasion that he gets upset, it’s a must-see moment.
The Finnish goaltender provided one of those moments in Wednesday’s practice, when Patrice Bergeron scored on him during a special teams drill. A suddenly furious Rask swung his stick four times over his head as he attempted to break it over the crossbar. When he had no luck doing so, he skated over to the gate, forced it open, and threw his stick off the ice.
“We were just joking around, or I was just joking around,” Rask explained to WEEI.com Thursday. “I was half-mad. It was a penalty-killing [drill], so I was just joking around, trying to break my stick. I couldn’t break it.”
Rask, who became a YouTube sensation when he threw milk crates onto the ice after a shootout in Providence back in 2009, knew his mini-meltdown would get plenty of attention. As such, he wasn’t surprised when it became the biggest story of Wednesday’s practice.
“Obviously you guys [expletive] jump on it right away,” he said with a laugh.
Coach Claude Julien said after the practice Wednesday that “Tuukka has a temper,” but that the B’s don’t mind it. In fact, Rask’s teammates have had fun on the rare occasions that the mild-mannered Rask gets frustrated. Last season, Rask stormed off the ice late in practice, with Michael Ryder firing a slapshot through the door that hit him in the rear end as he left the ice. Wednesday saw more of that, as players got a kick out of his attempt to break his stick.
“We were practicing the power play and Tuuks couldn’t stop a beach ball. He decided to take it out on his stick,” Brad Marchand said Wednesday on Mut and Merloni. “It was funny, though, because he couldn’t break it. So, he ended up getting madder and madder. He was breaking his stick over the post and it wouldn’t break. The boys just kept laughing at him. It was pretty funny.”
Rask said Thursday that he didn’t mind the laughter, and that it establishes that such tirades are nothing too serious.
“We were just [joking] around. Guys were laughing,” he said. “It was real good.”
Who knows if and Rask will lose his cool again. Whenever it is, he can bet on it being both a big deal and a good source of light-hearted amusement for his teammates.