|Brad Marchand’s improved play pays off with goal, assist vs. Rangers||11.29.13 at 5:19 pm ET|
It’s still too early to say Brad Marchand has completely turned things around, but he has certainly been making more good things happen over the last few weeks. At times, it hasn’t translated to points, but in Friday’s 3-2 win over the Rangers, it did.
Midway through the first period, Marchand one-timed a Zdeno Chara pass under the crossbar to give the Bruins a 1-0 lead. Then early in the third, he weaved through the Rangers defense before setting up Patrice Bergeron for the game-tying goal. It marked Marchand’s first multi-point game of the season, in his and the team’s 26th game played. By comparison, Marchand had five multi-point games in the first 26 games last season and four the year before.
A quick look at Marchand’s game log shows that he had two goals and three assists in his 12 games prior to Friday. Big deal, right? True, that in and of itself is not a big deal. But what could be a big deal is that Marchand has been getting chances.
He had two or more shots on goal in 10 of those 12 games. To put that in perspective, his career average is just under two per game. (Oddly enough, his goal Friday was actually his only shot on goal for the game.) And to add even more context, in the eight games prior to that stretch, he had three shots on goal total.
So Marchand had been getting looks and taking shots; they just weren’t going in. And this is where we point out that Marchand’s shooting percentage going into Friday was 7.5 percent, less than half of his 16.8 and 19.8 marks the last two seasons.
“I really think that he’s picked up his game a lot,” Bergeron said. “Obviously everyone in the last game [a 6-1 loss to Detroit], that was something that we just can’t really talk about. But for six, seven games before that, I thought he was playing really well and improving, moving his feet. Every time he does that, he creates a lot of chances for himself, but also for us as his linemates. I think he’s been playing pretty well actually.”
To illustrate Bergeron’s point about Marchand’s importance to the whole line: in shifts with Marchand on the ice, the Bruins have out-attempted their opponent in 12 of the last 13 games. In the eight games before that — the same eight in which Marchand wasn’t getting shots on goal — the Bruins out-attempted the opposition during Marchand’s shifts just once.
Marchand hasn’t forgotten how to shoot the puck. His goal Friday afternoon — a blast from the lower right circle that Henrik Lundqvist had virtually no chance of stopping — is evidence of that. So if Marchand continues to shoot, chances are more pucks will start to go in.
The biggest concern during Marchand’s early-season struggles was that he wasn’t even getting the chances. According to him, that was because he wasn’t doing a lot of the little things he needed to do to be successful. He admitted on Friday that it started to get to his head, that he started worrying about the lack of points.
“I was frustrated and worried about points and putting up numbers and stuff like that,” Marchand said. “I think I had the wrong mindset there. It was more about the things you’ve got to do to get there and different areas of the game that I had to improve.”
But now he’s in a better place. He knows he’s doing those little things, he knows he’s getting his chances, and he knows the points will follow.
“I think once I just kind of calmed down and worried about playing my game and letting everything else go, I felt a lot better.”
|Patrice Bergeron’s line too quiet for Bruins||11.06.13 at 7:05 pm ET|
Loui Eriksson is back. Now how about some goals?
No, not just from Eriksson, but from Patrice Bergeron‘s line as a whole. Regardless of who else has been on Bergeron’s line — and there have been three different configurations so far this season — it hasn’t been scoring.
In the last seven games, Bergeron’s line, whether Reilly Smith-Bergeron-Eriksson, Smith-Bergeron-Brad Marchand or Marchand-Bergeron-Eriksson, has scored a grand total of one goal. Bergeron is one of the best players in the league (arguably the best player on the Bruins), but top-six lines need to produce, and his hasn’t.
Bergeron’s third-period goal last Wednesday is the second line’s only goal since the Bruins’ 5-0 win over the Lightning on Oct. 19. It’s safe to say that Lightning game was the most complete game the B’s have played this season, and a lot of that is due to the fact that Bergeron’s line simply hasn’t been going.
Consider that Bergeron himself has been a minus player in two of the last three games and three times this season after having a negative rating in just five games total last season. Goals are being scored against the Bergeron line, but just as worrisome is the fact that it hasn’t been producing.
Sure, there are some reasons as to why. Bergeron’s coming off a few injuries, there’s turnover with Eriksson coming aboard, there have been moving parts on the wings and Marchand is in the midst of what will likely go down as one of the worst slumps (12 games without a goal) of his career. That’s no excuse for a line centered by Bergeron to be anything less than very good.
‘There have been a lot of changes, but the bottom line is that you have to find ways to do your job,’ Bergeron said. ‘It seems now that hopefully it’s going to stay [the same] and we can do some great things.’
Indeed, it does. Tuesday’s game marked the first of this season that the Bruins used the lines they had put in place in the final week of the preseason to be their lineup. Yet injuries to Carl Soderberg and Eriksson messed with that, and on Tuesday the Bruins played their fifth game of the season with the Marchand-Bergeron-Eriksson line. It was the first time the trio had played together since the second period of the fourth game of the season.
While the results were underwhelming with a no-show on the scoring sheet, the line actually did play well, with the trio moving the puck well and creating chances in Eriksson’s first game back from a concussion.
Encouraging is good, but it doesn’t put points on the table. Marchand, who spent four games and a period on the third line after a demotion against the Blue Jackets last month, has just one goal through 14 games this season. Last season he’d already scored nine times through 14 contests.
Between Marchand’s struggles and Eriksson’s absence, Claude Julien doesn’t sound too surprised by the lack of offensive output.
‘You’ve got a guy that just came back from a concussion, and you’ve got another guy that hasn’t played extremely well,’ Julien said. ‘There’s a mixture there that doesn’t really [suggest] success, does it? I think it’s just a matter of getting those guys going.’
Tuesday was definitely a step in the right direction, but the B’s need their second line’s fortune to change if the team wants to have the success of years past. Remember, all three members of the line (Bergeron, Tyler Seguin and Marchand) found themselves top five in the league in plus/minus two seasons ago. Those kind of numbers don’t come without putting the puck in the net.
‘I’m trying to play my game and do everything right, but production is part of my game also, and I need to find that,’ Bergeron said. ‘With that being said, it’s about bearing down when we do have some chances.’
|Claude Julien calls out his team: ‘Too many mediocre players’||10.27.13 at 12:32 pm ET|
The reaction of head coach Claude Julien was fairly predictable after his team blew a 3-1 lead to the Devils and lost, 4-3, Saturday night at TD Garden.
“Even when we had the 3-1 lead in the second there I thought we missed a couple of real good opportunities,” Julien began. “But I don’t really think that’s where the game was played. Had a good start compared to the other night; much better in the first. But we kind of faltered after that. I thought the second period we allowed them to get back in the game and they were a better team as well. They won battles and especially in our own end they had us bottled in there and were out-muscling us and coming up with pucks and they got themselves within a goal and that kind of gave them life for the third.”
The Bruins were not good on the penalty kill Saturday, an area of excellence late in the regular season and playoffs last spring. They allowed four power play goals, though one of them was a very rare 6-on-3 opportunity for the Devils, when Torey Krug was called for a double-minor high sticking and Patrice Bergeron was tagged with a delay of game. The Devils pulled Martin Brodeur and they finally got the 3-3 equalizer with under two minutes left.
“But our penalty kill obviously faltered and wasn’t good enough; when you allow four power play goals in a game that’s not a good sign for a win. So that certainly didn’t help. But again, I thought we had too many mediocre players tonight and those things kind of create those situations.”
As for the penalties themselves, Julien knows his team needs to be more aware, especially when clearing the puck out of their own end.
“It is a costly penalty,” Julien said of the delay of game calls on Bergeron and earlier on Zdeno Chara. “Both pucks over the glass ended up being a goal against and those are tough penalties to take, but rules are rules. At the same time, the high stick, it is a high stick. You have to be in control of your stick, so it was deemed a four minute, which I thought was the right call. So they scored on their opportunities that they had and unfortunately, like I said, our penalty kill wasn’t up to the task.
“To me, we had one line going and we needed more. Like I said too many mediocre guys whether it’s hitting a wall, whatever the case may be it just wasn’t good enough. We had the day off yesterday to give those guys a rest but three games in four nights isn’t always an easy thing to go through and you wish you could have pulled this one through and had a real good week but unfortunately that wasn’t the case. We have to regroup, and another back-to-back and another three in four coming up there next week so hopefully we learn from that.”
The Bruins have another three-in-four nights scenario this week when they play in Pittsburgh Wednesday night before playing Anaheim on Thursday and on the road against the Islanders next Saturday.
|Patrice Bergeron defends Carlos Beltran, discourages comparisons||10.26.13 at 11:52 am ET|
Oh my god, Beltran is out with a bruised rib. Oh my god, the Bergeron stuff is going to start. Oh my god. Oh my god.
‘ Sean Gentille (@seangentille) October 24, 2013
Yep, the second “out” and “rib” are used in the same sentence in sports (especially a game involving a Boston team), you know the comparisons to Patrice Bergeron are coming. Bergeron famously played in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup finals with a cracked rib, a separated shoulder, torn cartilage and a hole in his lung.
This was after Bergeron left Game 5 with the rib injury and cartilage damage and was taken to a Chicago hospital. Bergeron’s work in the Stanley Cup finals earned him both iron-man status in professional sports and a three-day stay in the hospital. So sure enough, Beltran’s injury Wednesday was met with snark and comparisons to Bergeron.
‘ Down Goes Brown (@DownGoesBrown) October 24, 2013
Bergeron discussed the comparisons and defended Beltran Saturday morning, noting that an injury in one sport isn’t the same as an injury in another sport. Beltran’s injury was deemed a severe rib bruise, though he was back in the lineup for Game 2.
“It’s kind of weird,” Bergeron told WEEI.com. “There’s so much that goes into injuries, especially in baseball. If you have any injury to your core, it’s going to be pretty bad with the way that they swing.
“It’s funny that people will compare that to me, but once it happened, it was a no-brainer for me to be in the game. There’s so many different situations for guys playing hurt. They’re all professionals and he wants to be in there, so he had a good reason to not be in there.”
|Loui Eriksson kicking old habits as he gets familiar with Bruins||10.07.13 at 9:21 pm ET|
It’s only been two games, but with a four-day break between games for the Bruins, there couldn’t be a better time for the first of what should be about 600 “How is Loui Eriksson fitting in?” posts.
The new second line of Patrice Bergeron between Brad Marchand and Eriksson has tried to gain chemistry while also handling some mighty tall tasks in matching up against Steven Stamkos‘ line Thursday and Pavel Datsyuk‘s line Saturday. The three kept Stamkos and Martin St. Louis’ trio off the board in season-opener and swapped goals with Datsyuk’s line in the Bruins’ win over the Red Wings.
Yet with Eriksson coming in to do more than defend, one couldn’t blame Bruins fans for being eager to see how the three will fare offensively. That’s a work in progress, as Eriksson admitted Monday that he’s still trying to shake some old habits.
“Sometimes it feels like I’m trying to play like I did in Dallas a little bit,” he admitted. “I’m just trying to learn to ‘¦ stay more on my side. I get a tendency to go on the other side. I think that’s a pretty simple thing to adjust to.”
Indeed, a first-period opportunity Saturday fell apart when Eriksson, a left-shot right wing, and Marchand didn’t seem to be on the same page on a play in which they were on the opposite wings. It wasn’t a matter of where they were on the ice, as that happens all the time, but Eriksson seemed to want to get back on their respective sides while Marchand appeared eager to continue as is. Marchand, waiting at the blue line, tried to stay the course and remain on the right side, while Eriksson seemed to be getting back over to the right side as he brought the puck through the neutral zone.
The good news is that there wasn’t any confusion the next period, when Marchand flew down the right wing and, with Bergeron driving the net, fired a shot past Jimmy Howard for his first goal of the season.
“You just need to read each other,” Eriksson said. “I think we’re getting better at that.”
The three players seemed to get more comfortable with one another as the game went on, and though it’s surprisingly been the third line that has perhaps clicked the most on the early season, Julien sees enough progress that he likes the direction in which perhaps his most important line is headed.
“I think you see it in practice, too. Games, practice. It’s a matter of time,” Julien said. “You can’t judge or expect miracles in the first few games of a season. You give them a good month to get to know each other and play together, and you hope that in that month it progresses. So far I’ve seen that from training camp to now.”
|Here come Pavel Datsyuk and the Red Wings||10.04.13 at 2:01 pm ET|
No matter how you slice it, it should be tougher for the Bruins to win their division this season. The Red Wings are a big part of that.
With realignment bringing Detroit over to the Eastern Conference and Atlantic Division, the B’s now have four meetings with a team that has made the playoffs in 22 consecutive seasons, and they’ll have to worry about them (as well as the Canadiens and Maple Leafs) if they want to be atop the standings when all is said and done.
The first of the regular-season meetings will come Saturday night, when Mike Babcock‘s 1-0-0 squad comes to TD Garden.
“I think they’re an elite team,” Claude Julien said Friday. “They always have been, and you have to look at, for example, their third line. When you’ve got a guy like [Daniel] Cleary and [Todd] Bertuzzi on a third line, you know you’ve got some pretty good depth. They’re a good, experienced team.
“They’re a smart team, they play a good, smart game. That will certainly bring an even bigger challenge for all the teams in our conference right now to add them in them. It’s not like it’s a new franchise coming in and breaking the bottom, but it’s a team that’s at the top of the league almost every year. I think it’s good for our game. I think it’s good for our fans to see those teams a little bit more, and an Original Six team is always welcome in the cities that have seen those teams for years.”
While the Red Wings’ presence in the division certainly doesn’t make things easier for the Bruins, the best part about it from a hockey standpoint might be the fact that it also brings two members of the Selke fraternity against one another in Pavel Datsyuk and Patrice Bergeron in what should be some fascinating hockey to watch.
“Obviously he’s a very smart player and tough to play against,” Bergeron said of Datsyuk. “I think it’s going to be a good challenge to play Detroit and a good challenge to play him and his line.”
Datsyuk is a three-time winner of the award, which is given to the best two-way forward in the league annually. Bergeron won it in 2011-12 and just narrowly lost out on winning it again last season.
When Zdeno Chara had the first pick in the All-Star Game fantasy draft two seasons ago, he chose Datsyuk, saying, “I just really admire, personally, the way he plays.”
Datsyuk scored this goal against the B’s earlier that season, and he played a big part in the Red Wings’ 8-2 preseason drubbing of the B’s a couple weeks ago with Bergeron still out of the lineup.
“Two great two-way players,” Julien said of Datsyuk and Bergeron. “You saw Datsyuk in action here the one night when we didn’t have Patrice in the lineup, and you could see the type of damage that he could do. There’s no doubt that he’s an elite player, but we’re fortunate to have Patrice, who we feel is an elite player as well.”
|Bruins thrilled to see Andrew Ference named captain of Oilers||09.29.13 at 12:32 pm ET|
While the Bruins haven’t yet revealed who will wear Andrew Ference‘s ‘A’, the hockey world learned Sunday which letter the veteran defenseman will wear in Edmonton: ‘C’.
Ference, who signed a four-year, $13 million dollar with the Oilers on the first day of free agency this summer after not being brought back by the B’s, was named captain of the team on Sunday. There, the 34-year-old will a team with such young stars as Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Nail Yakupov.
The folks around TD Garden were delighted to hear the news.
“Captain?! Really?! I didn’t know that,” an animated Patrice Bergeron said upon being told. “That’s awesome! It’s well-deserved. It’s not really surprising to me, to be honest with you, but like I’ve said before, I’m going to miss him because he’s a great guy that I was really close to. I’m really happy for him and I think he’s going to do a great job.”
In his time with the Bruins, Ference’s leadership and value to the community was constantly on display. He came up with various things in to unify the team, from the ‘Darth Quaider’ t-shirt and the old nylon jacket in the 2010-11 season, to the chain the following season, to the short-lived rooster shirt last year and the Army Ranger jacket following the Boston Marathon bombing.
“I just sent him a text to congratulate him,” Claude Julien said. “I think he’s deserving. Everybody that knows him here knows what kind of a person he was and what kind of a leader he was on and off the ice.
“They’ve got a young team over there, and the minute he signed there, in the back of my mind I thought he had an opportunity to become the captain there. I think they made a great choice. He’s very deserving because of what he is and what he represents and what he does for a hockey team.”