|Matt Fraser gets defensive and shows he can help fill void for Brad Marchand||11.19.14 at 12:59 am ET|
Ever since scoring the overtime goal against the Montreal Canadiens in Game 4 of the second round last spring, every Bruins fan knew the kid could score.
But on Tuesday night, they saw a different side of Fraser, the tough, gritty side, giving the Bruins exactly what they needed with Brad Marchand out with an unspecified injury.
Fraser played all 20 shifts with Patrice Bergeron and Reilly Smith as the Bruins beat the Blues, 2-0, at TD Garden.
“Obviously, I like scoring goals,” Fraser said. “I like to be an offensive threat. But you’re not going to be that kind of guy every night. There’s going to be times when you have to be relied upon to be a defensive, sound player. I think on this team, that’s more my ‘ it’s not my job, but I have to broaden my game a little bit because every guy in this room is good defensively. That’s how this franchise has built their system: you got to be good defensively. You got to make sure you’re good in all three zones.”
The irony is that Fraser did score a goal – with nine seconds left in the second period – but it was disallowed when referee Chris Lee ruled Fraser slammed into Blues goalie Brian Elliot before Elliot could play the puck.
“To me it should have been a goal,” coach Claude Julien said. “In my mind the puck’s in, it hits him, and it goes in before he even touches the goaltender. But those are unfortunately not reviewable, so he gets deprived from a goal. But the other part ‘ he deserves a lot of credit for his, he was on the line that played against their top-scoring line and defensively I thought he was very reliable. He played big, he played strong with Bergy [Patrice Bergeron] and [Reilly] Smith. I think that line did a great job against the [Vladimir] Tarasenko line.”
|Behind Reilly Smith, Patrice Bergeron, Bruins finding their ‘finishing’ touch||11.11.14 at 1:24 am ET|
Everyone in attendance at TD Garden will remember Monday night’s 4-2 win over the Devils for Seth Griffith’s spectacular effort late in the second-period.
But truth be told, the significance of the win goes far beyond that 10-second span. In winning their fifth straight game, the Bruins showed yet again they can actually finish around the net, something they struggled badly with in their 5-6-0 start.
At the center of the finishing was the line of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and Reilly Smith. Bergeron had two assists and a goal, Smith had a goal and an assist and Carl Soderberg finished his power play chance in front.
Whether it was from the circle (Bergeron), or in the slot (Smith), or on the doorstep (Soderberg), the Bruins were finding ways to put the puck in the net.
“I think it’s finishing, yeah, because there’s been some games where we have given up too many shots and too many offensive opportunities and Tuukks [Tuukka Rask] has done a great job, same with Sveddy [Niklas Svedberg], but I think we are just doing a better job finishing the puck, and we are getting chances and it seems like we are doing a better job putting it in the back of the net than we did, you know, starting in the year,” Smith said.
“When Patrice gets the puck, I just let him do his thing,” he added. “You know sometimes you can call someone for the puck and you can kind of put someone out of their groove a little bit, because you know it’s not their first play, but Bergy has eyes in the back of his head so you know I just trust him that he will make the right play all the time.”
|Brad Marchand proves he still loves seeing Roberto Luongo between the pipes||11.05.14 at 1:52 am ET|
Marchand was the player who scored five goals against Vancouver in the 2011 Stanley Cup finals, four of which came against Luongo and the final one game on an empty net in Game 7 after he and the Bruins chased him from the game with under three minutes left.
On Tuesday, in a game much less significant, Marchand did it again to Luongo, this time at 3:27 of overtime on a spectacular goal to give the Bruins a 2-1 overtime win against the Florida Panthers at TD Garden. Marchand, who missed two great chances earlier in overtime, blew by defenseman Dylan Olsen, dragging the puck to Olsen’s left. On the other side, Marchand re-collected the puck and snapped one past Luongo’s blocker. Game over.
“Well he’s a big guy, and he fills a lot of the net,” Marchand said of Luongo. “He seems to battle hard, and cuts his angles down well. I mean he’s one of the top goalies in the league. He has been for a long time. It’s always tough when you play him.”
Asked specifically if he has more confidence against Luongo, Marchand didn’t dispute the obvious.
“Yeah, definitely. Anytime I go into a game and there’s a goalie that I score on more than others, I always feel confident in that situation,” Marchand admitted. “And tonight, I kind of felt the same way. You kind of hope at the same time that maybe luck will be on your side, but again, you want to try to be confident all the time, but it’s definitely something you can use to your advantage.”
|Claude Julien still wants more out of improving Bergeron line||11.04.14 at 10:56 pm ET|
Part of the Bruins’ early-season struggles was that the team’s sure things weren’t sure things. Zdeno Chara wasn’t enjoying a strong start prior to his injury, while Patrice Bergeron‘s line was getting beaten far more than usual.
Obviously, it’s going to take some time for things to return to normal. Chara is in the second week of his recovery from a torn PCL and, assuming his recovery is on track, is expected to remain out for 2-4 more weeks. The Bergeron line, on the other hand, appears to be turning a corner.
Claude Julien broke up the trio of Bergeron between Brad Marchand and Reilly Smith three games ago, at which point Bergeron was an uncharacteristic minus-2 on the season and Marchand was looking for his first even-strength goal of the season. Smith, Julien had said multiple times, looked like he was behind after missing most of training camp because he didn’t have a contract.
Smith was put back on Bergeron’s line after a period in Buffalo and Marchand was returned to the line by the end of the game. It seems Julien got the attention of his most trusted line, as Marchand now has four goals (three of which came playing with Bergeron and Smith) and two assists in the last three games, while both Bergeron and Smith have two points apiece in the span.
The Bruins have won all three games, two of which came on overtime winners from Marchand. Both of the Bruins’ goals in Tuesday’s 2-1 overtime victory came from the Bergeron line, as Bergeron scored his first goal in 12 games with a second-period tally.
“I think tonight was a real big step forward for us,” Marchand said. “We played with a lot more confidence than we have in the past number of games, and it seems like were able to make plays now and hold on. I think that’s one thing we weren’t doing very well early on — we were throwing it away a lot, and weren’t supporting each other very well, but our legs seemed to be under us, we seemed to be more comfortable with the puck, and we felt really good tonight.”
Though the results are showing more and more, Julien said he feels the line isn’t yet where he wants it to be.
“I think the puck movement between them still isn’t quite where we’ve seen it before,” Julien said. “There’s still room for improvement and they’ve just got to keep working at it, because they’ve got one guy right now that’s really hot.”
Smith was strong on the puck and looked lightyears more confident than in games past Tuesday. Julien still expects more out of him. Reminded of his past critiques of the player and asked if he felt Smith had caught up, Julien was noncommittal. Asked again about Smith, Julien reiterated his stance that he feels the whole line could do more.
“He’s trying to get himself going,” Julien said of Smith. “I don’t think he’s playing bad ‘ I mean, he’s just one of those guys with that line ‘ I think that whole line, the three of them together, are starting to come around. Two goals from that line tonight, so you can’t complain.”
Given Julien’s lack of praise, Smith was asked after the game whether he felt his coach was hard on him. Smith’s vague answer suggested the answer might be yes, but Julien trying to motivate his young players is nothing new.
“I think here, everyone’s used to that as a hockey player,” Smith said. “You get used to it. You have pretty thick skin. I think if you don’t have it, you’re not going to go too far.”
Bergeron is a two-time Selke Trophy winner as the league’s top two-way forward, while Marchand and Smith are both looking to prove they can have consistent seasons after streaky showings last season. When that line is at its best, its among the most difficult in the league to oppose. Julien doesn’t think it’s there yet, but the positive steps its taken has helped the Bruins get wins at a time when they need them.
|Andy Brickley on MFB: ‘Maybe the [Patrice] Bergeron line needs a little change of scenery’||10.29.14 at 1:26 pm ET|
NESN Bruins analyst Andy Brickley made his weekly appearance on Middays with MFB to discuss the Bruins’ disappointing start to the season. To hear the interview, go to the MFB audio on demand page.
The Bruins blew a two-goal lead and dropped a 4-3 decision to the Wild on Tuesday night, putting their record at 5-6 on the young season. Brickley said the team is “treading water,” evidenced by Tuesday’s performance.
“It was 3-1 after two periods, but the Bruins were not playing all that well,” Brickley said. “That score did not indicate that the Bruins were the better team through 40 minutes. There were just too many mistakes, lack of focus, poor decision-making, getting beat on the backcheck, the defense for Minnesota was jumping into the play. And every line was guilty, none more so than the [Patrice] Bergeron line.”
Brickley said coach Claude Julien might have to resort to mixing up lines in an attempt to jump-start the team.
“It’s that one step forward, one step back that has plagued this team this year, and that’s that lack of focus and the lack of compete and consistency, just not there. It’s really hard to understand, because the core group is together and should be well schooled in all these areas and understand what they have in front of them in terms of not wanting to chase it the first two months of the season and get too far behind in the standings.
“As a coach in these situations you try to emphasize the positive things when you think that’s the right approach. Sometimes you’ve got to call guys out — not in public, but certainly within the room. Claude right now is very frustrated on what he needs to do to get this team to play better. You may even have to see some line juggling. Maybe you keep that [Carl] Soderberg line together to give you the one constant. The way the [David] Krejci line produced last night, maybe you keep them together. But I don’t know, maybe the Bergeron line needs a little change of scenery because it’s not working right now.
“You could appeal to players’ sense of, you know, ‘We’ve got to win some hockey games here, boys, and we’ve got to play better and we’ve got to do the little things that make us a good team, and we’ve got to work together as five-man units,’ because they’re just not getting the results. It’s hard to explain, it’s hard to get your hands around. And that’s the challenge for the coaching staff right now.”
|How Bruins overcame uncharacteristically bad nights from Patrice Bergeron, Zdeno Chara||10.21.14 at 11:51 pm ET|
Usually the Patrice Bergeron line and Zdeno Chara-Dougie Hamilton pairing are the Bruins’ constants. They’re the guys who are going to create offensive-zone possessions and not make mistakes.
That wasn’t the case on Tuesday. Bergeron was on the ice for all three of the Sharks’ goals, linemates Brad Marchand and Reilly Smith joined him for two of them (it is worth noting that Marchand had a nice power-play goal), and Chara was on the ice for two of them as well. Those four and Hamilton were the only Bruins who finished with Corsi-for percentages under 50 percent, meaning they were the only Bruins who were on the ice for more 5-on-5 shot attempts against than shot attempts for.
That would seemingly be a recipe for disaster for the Bruins, especially when you consider that outside of the Carl Soderberg line, the rest of the team had been one giant question mark to this point in the season. David Krejci had looked good since his return, but linemate Milan Lucic was off to a slow start and he still didn’t have a set-in-stone right wing. The fourth line had featured several different combinations, and none of them had really done much. And the second and third defense pairings had been inconsistent at best, with Kevan Miller’s injury raising even more questions on the back end.
At least for one night, those questions turned into answers. Lucic, Krejci and rookie right wing Seth Griffith factored into four of the Bruins’ five goals, with Lucic notching three assists and Griffith scoring his first NHL goal. Two of the goals they were on the ice for — Griffith’s and Torey Krug’s — came as the direct result of getting bodies to the net. Krejci set a great screen on Krug’s, and then Lucic created some net-front havoc that freed up Griffith on his goal.
“I think it definitely was the best game that we’ve played so far this season,” Lucic said. “You saw we were hungry in the O-zone and hungry getting pucks to the net. We made some smart decisions in some important areas and it just seems like things are starting to head in the right direction.”
The fourth line of Daniel Paille, Gregory Campbell and Simon Gagne was a positive possession line that even created some chances against the Sharks’ top two lines. They scored what proved to be the game-winner midway through the third when Paille won the puck along the boards and threw a shot on net that Campbell tipped in for his first goal of the season.
Campbell and Paille were also big on the penalty kill, especially late in the game when Bergeron went to the box for a four-minute double minor. Until Krejci’s empty-netter to seal the win, Campbell had the biggest play on that kill when he blocked a Joe Thornton shot that came off a Chara turnover.
“We’ve got to be a responsible, reliable line, and Claude [Julien] has to trust us to put us in those situations,” Campbell said. “With hard work comes trust, and if we’re playing our game and we’re in on the forecheck and creating chances and bringing energy to the lineup, then he usually has confidence in us.”
As for the bottom two defense pairings, the only glaring error was a bad miscommunication between Krug and Dennis Seidenberg that led to a goal, but as Julien pointed out after the game, Bergeron’s line was just as much at fault, as Smith had failed to clear the zone and Bergeron and Marchand had gotten caught up ice.
Outside of that, the Seidenberg-Krug and Matt Bartkowski-Adam McQuaid pairings played well. Krug’s goal and two assists obviously stand out, but let’s not overlook the fact that Seidenberg had seven shots on goal and 12 shot attempts, and that he and Krug had Corsi-for percentages of 63 and 62 percent, respectively. McQuaid and Bartkowski weren’t far behind at 61 and 57 percent, respectively, and McQuaid was also big on that final penalty kill.
Obviously this is just one game. No one should think that all of the Bruins’ question marks are gone and that everyone’s going to be great from here on. But on a night when the Bruins’ best players were uncharacteristically unreliable, it was encouraging to see everyone else step up and show that they can lead the way, too.
|David Krejci, Reilly Smith provide offense as Bruins beat Red Wings, end losing streak||10.15.14 at 11:02 pm ET|
David Krejci and Reilly Smith each scored in regulation, and then they each scored in the shootout as the Bruins beat the Red Wings, 3-2, Wednesday night to end their three-game losing streak.
Krejci opened the scoring 5:12 into the game with his first goal of the season after Chris Kelly forced a neutral-zone turnover and sprung Krejci up the middle of the ice. The Red Wings answered a few minutes later when Tomas Tatar took advantage of some sloppy defensive play and ripped a shot under the crossbar.
The Bruins regained the lead with 6:29 left in the second. Brad Marchand retrieved a dump-in deep in the offensive zone and calmly moved the puck to Patrice Bergeron, who then tried a wraparound that led to a juicy rebound for Smith to bury.
The Red Wings answered again, though, when Gustav Nyquist fired a laser shot past Tuukka Rask for a power-play goal 2:56 into the third. The Bruins failed to capitalize on two power plays of their own in the third period, and Jimmy Howard made several big saves in the final minute — most notably on a Simon Gagne rebound bid — to force overtime.
The Bruins were the better team in overtime, but couldn’t finish their chances. The best opportunity came on a 3-on-1 a minute and a half in, but Smith tried to force a pass that was easily broken up. The B’s had to kill a 41-second Wings power play to end the overtime after Brendan Smith drew a call on Bergeron with a pretty blatant embellishment.
Here are some other observations from the game:
-For the second time in as many games against Detroit, the Bruins suffered a Patrice Bergeron injury scare. Last week Bergeron missed most of the second period after crashing awkwardly into the boards. On Wednesday he limped off the ice late in the second after blocking a Danny DeKeyser slap shot. Fortunately for the Bruins, Bergeron was back on the ice for the start of the third period. As he so often is, Bergeron was the Bruins’ best forward Wednesday night. He went 17-for-24 on faceoffs and posted a .740 Corsi, and his line registered 12 shots on goal to go along with Smith’s second-period tally.
-This is partially tied into Bergeron since they played with that line a lot, but Zdeno Chara and Dougie Hamilton were great, as they usually are. They had Corsis of 78 percent and 79 percent, respectively, which is very good. Hamilton was also a force in overtime, as he jumped into the offense several times and helped create scoring chances.
-The Bruins absolutely dominated the first period, outshooting the Red Wings 14-4 in the opening 20 minutes. They spent entire shifts in the offensive zone and won the majority of 1-on-1 battles. The scoreboard didn’t reflect that dominance, though, as the two teams entered the intermission tied at 1-1. Even on the Red Wings’ goal, they hadn’t really established any sort of possession in the Bruins’ zone, as it came off a turnover that led to a bouncing puck around the net.
-It was a particularly interesting first period for Chris Kelly. He made a great play to set up Krejci’s goal, as he forced a turnover in the neutral zone and then made a nice pass through the seam to spring Krejci. Just a few minutes later, though, it was a turnover of his own that led to Tatar’s goal, as Kelly failed to handle a pass up the boards from Dennis Seidenberg. On the whole, though, it was another good game for Kelly and linemates Carl Soderberg and Loui Eriksson. Kelly’s five shots on goal were tied for the team lead.
-The Bruins’ penalty kill had been very good until Nyquist’s power-play goal in the third period. Before that, the B’s had allowed just two shots on goal on the Red Wings’ first three power plays and made it tough for the Wings to get set up. On the fourth, though, they gave the dangerous Nyquist too much room to operate and he made them pay by walking in and snapping a shot past Rask.
-Considering it was his first game since April 2013, Simon Gagne looked pretty good. He played 12:13 and recorded four shot attempts and two shots on goal, one of which nearly won the game in the final minute of regulation. He started the game on the fourth line with Daniel Paille and Ryan Spooner, but wound up seeing some time with Krejci and Milan Lucic as the game went on.