|Top to bottom: Bruins’ strange usage of Seth Griffith||12.15.14 at 4:29 pm ET|
When players get called up to the NHL, it’s typical for them to play in lesser roles before working their way up to higher lines. It’s been the opposite for Seth Griffith.
With only three goals through their first three games of the season, the Bruins recalled Griffith from Providence to play on their first line with David Krejci and Milan Lucic. Griffith, a second-year pro, has been Krejci’s right wing in all 11 of Krejci’s games this season.
Yet Krejci, who may be nearing a return to the lineup, has missed a lot of time due to injury and the Bruins haven’t been as confident in Griffith as a first-line player when No. 46 hasn’t been centering him.
The last two games, Griffith has been on Boston’s fourth line in place of the absent Simon Gagne. Griffith, who scored as many as 45 goals in a season in his junior days, is not a prototypical fourth-line grinder. Prototypical or not, however, he’s a fourth-liner.
“For now,” Claude Julien said Monday. “We don’t have any extra forwards and we’d still like to be able to see our fourth line be able to bring some offense, so that’s why we put him there. That line was actually pretty good with Simon Gagne, and Simon Gagne’s been a top-line player his whole career.”
With all due respect to Julien, that line was not pretty good. The trio of Gregory Campbell between Daniel Paille and Gagne struggled in much of its time together, though it turned a corner on this month’s California trip.
Going from a top-line to a bottom line can be quite the adjustment. For one, you have to deal with playing fewer minutes. In most cases, you’re also working with less skilled players around you and opposing different types of players. Elite scorers who skate on top lines can be easier to oppose when you have the puck, as many top-liners are there mostly on offensive merit. The bottom-six is a working man’s game.
Guys like Brad Marchand in 2010-11 had to hone their craft in such roles before graduating to higher lines.
“I think it’s just going to help me,” Griffith said. “It’s my first year in the league. You look at this whole lineup; everybody plays hard. It’s not like it’s really a fourth-line role. You’re playing the same.
“You’re just trying to play hard every shift. If you want to be in this league a long time, you’ve got to learn to do little things like that. It’s just something that can help improve my game, if anything.”
The Bruins’ attempts at changing their fourth line from the Merlot Line days have been unsuccessful so far, and Griffith has been unsuccessful without Krejci so far. The 21-year-old has five points (three goals, two assists) when Krejci’s been in the lineup and two points (both goals) in 11 games without Krejci.
The Bruins have used Krejci on a couple different lines in practice over the last week, but Griffith hasn’t been a part of them. His return could either return Griffith to the first line or move him out of the lineup altogether (Craig Cunningham is more of a prototypical fourth-liner), but for now, Griffith will take whatever minutes he can get.
“Griff is a pretty smart player,” Julien said. “It’s not the same definition as what we had before – bang and crash and that kind of stuff – but that’s where he fits right now.”
|Bruins recall Seth Griffith, send Alexander Khokhlachev and Jordan Caron to Providence||11.25.14 at 5:22 pm ET|
The Bruins recalled right wing Seth Griffith and returned forwards Alexander Khokhlachev and Jordan Caron to Providence Tuesday.
Griffith, who is tied for the team lead with five goals this season, was a victim of the waiver process and roster limit Monday, as the B’s had to demote him to stay at the 23-man roster limit with Brad Marchand coming off injured reserve.
The Bruins recalled Khokhlachev last week and brought up Caron on Sunday. Khokhlachev played in Boston’s last three games and scored the shootout winner in Friday’s victory over the Blue Jackets, but he was given just 2:53 of ice time in Monday’s overtime loss to the Penguins. Caron played only 3:35 on Monday.
The Bruins don’t play again until Friday. That gives them time to either determine the health of ailing players (David Krejci and Chris Kelly have both missed multiple consecutive games) or make more callups and demotions.
For more on the Bruins, visit weei.com/bruins.
|Seth Griffith scores ‘sick’ goal, draws comparisons to Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin||11.11.14 at 12:10 am ET|
Seth Griffith doesn’t talk the same game he plays.
So, when asked about his blocked shot, sprint through a pair of opponents and spin-o-rama that ended with a goal on a backhanded shot with his back facing the net, the rookie had to quote Patrice Bergeron to do the feat justice.
“He just said that was a sick play,” Griffith said. “He’s one of the guys that talks to me all the time and he’s making me more confident in the room. Bergy was one of the first to congratulate me. It’s always pretty cool when a guy like that says something to you like that. He’s a great guy.”
The goal that Griffith scored with 1:59 left in the second period not only snapped a 2-2 tie, but it provided much needed inspiration that helped the Bruins beat the Devils, 4-2, Monday night at TD Garden. The reason for the inspiration was exactly how the play unfolded.
With the Devils possessing the puck in the Bruins’ zone, Griffith slid down to block a shot. In one motion, he got up, controlled the puck and took off on a sprint. He split Devils defensemen Marek Zidlicky and Bryce Salvador and somehow managed to carry the puck, lose it, get it back, put his back to goalie Corey Schneider and backhand it through his own legs and under the left pad of the Devils’ goalie for the go-ahead tally.
“Yeah, we picked up our game after that but it just goes to show how good we can play and we shouldn’t wait for stuff like that to happen to get going,” Griffith said.
|5 things we learned as Bruins won 5th straight: Seth Griffith scores crazy goal||11.10.14 at 9:29 pm ET|
One goal can make a game. Seth Griffith’s second-period goal did just that.
With the Bruins and Devils tied at two goals apiece late in the second period, the Bruins rookie scored what is likely the most impressive goal he’ll score in his career when, after blocking a shot, he battled for a puck through Bryce Salvador and got tangled up with Marek Zidlicky as he raced to the net. After getting spun around, he backhanded the puck through his legs and those of Cory Schneider to give the Bruins a 3-2 lead.
Reilly Smith would score soon after, giving the Bruins two goals in the final two minutes of the second period and sending them on their way to a 4-2 victory over the Devils (Check out the game boxscore).
Griffith, who was playing in his 12th NHL game after getting called up for top-six duty last month, is becoming no stranger to sensational goals. After flying through the air Bobby Orr-style on his Oct. 28 goal against the Wild, Griffith is setting the bar pretty high for himself going forward in his young NHL career.
Here are four other things we learned Monday night:
Torey Krug returned to the lineup after a four-game absence caused by a broken pinky finger suffered on Oct. 28.
Krug skated on the team’s third defensive pairing with Zach Trotman, taking the place of the injured David Warsofsky, who is out 2-4 weeks with a groin strain. The second-year defenseman also returned to his usual spot on the point of Boston’s first power play unit.
Matt Bartkowski served as a healthy scratch for the fifth consecutive game.
|The lasting effects of Benoit Pouliot’s Bruins stint||11.06.14 at 4:28 pm ET|
Benoit Pouliot’s signing in Boston in 2011 didn’t register as an earth-shaker and nor did his departure, yet both have had lasting impacts on both the player and the Bruins.
Pouliot, a third-liner in Boston who served as a journeyman for years, now has a longterm home. Trading him away helped the Bruins get a top-six right wing.
After playing for five different teams in five years, Pouliot now looks at his 2011-12 campaign in Boston as a major reason as to why, for the first time in his career, he has job security. Pouliot signed a five-year, $20 million contract with the Oilers in free agency this summer after post-Boston stops with the Lightning and Rangers.
“It helped me a lot. I think I had best year [to that point] in Boston,” Pouliot said Thursday. “I think I learned a lot about playing defense first and then offense. I think it helped my game a lot and I think I still had a good production year in the role I was put in in Boston. I really enjoyed it and I think it set me up to where I am today.”
The fourth overall pick in the 2005 draft by the Wild, Pouliot fell out of favor in both Minnesota and eventually Montreal before taking a one-year, $1.1 million contract with the Bruins, who were looking to fill Michael Ryder‘s spot on the cheap. For his shortcomings with consistency and offensive zone penalties, Pouliot essentially replaced Ryder’s production, scoring 16 goals in the regular season after Ryder scored 18 in each of his last two seasons in Boston.
It’s Pouliot’s exit in Boston that has helped the Bruins now. During the 2012 draft, the B’s traded the rights to the restricted free agent to Tampa for a fifth-round pick and AHLer Michel Ouellet. The Bruins released Ouellet, but the fifth-round pick was used on Seth Griffith, a right wing playing for the London Knights of the OHL. Griffith is now a top-six forward on David Krejci‘s line.
Pouliot scored eight goals and added 12 assists in 34 games for the Lightning in the lockout-shortened season before signing a one-year deal with the Rangers. He turned in a modest regular season of 15 goals and 21 assists for 36 points, but he scored some big goals in the team’s run to the Stanley Cup finals and hit free agency with a number of teams interested. The Rangers were among them (“I really wanted to go back,” he said), but Pouliot prioritized term over everything else. The Oilers offered $4 million annually over five years ‘ a major gamble for which the team has been criticized ‘ and he took it.
Now, Pouliot is at the beginning of what should be a lengthy stay in Edmonton. Though he’s only 28, he’s the fourth-oldest forward among a very young crop of offensive talent. His top-five high selection in the draft gives him something in common with Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Nail Yakupov, all of whom are first overall picks.
Pouliot knows what it’s like to be a high pick, but the only advice he feels he should give the trio of first overall picks is to try to avoid a path like the one he’s traveled.
“I’ve been through the worst things possible, I think,” he said. “One-years everywhere and I wasn’t really consistent on my game. It got me to this point where I finally found it and try to bring it every night.
“For them, they’re such good players. There’s still a lot to learn obviously and a lot to do, but they’ll be fine. I’ll try to help them out as much as I can, but at the same time, I don’t see a problem with the young guys we have on our team, because they’re really good. We’ll figure it out.”
|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.”
No Stanley Cup was on the line Tuesday night at TD Garden, but Seth Griffith certain woke up the Gallery Gods echos when he made like Bobby Orr of May 10, 1970, and flew through the air to score what was, at the time, the go-ahead goal in the second period.
But the trouble with this airborne goal is that it wasn’t the final goal of the season. It wasn’t even in the final goal of the game.
The Bruins would score again, on a power-play tally from Milan Lucic, to go ahead 3-1 entering the third period. But the final 20 minutes featured a meltdown as the Wild outworked the Bruins and came away with a 4-3 win at TD Garden.
Still, the Griffith goal is what many Bruins fans will take with them out the door as the lone highlight. Gregory Campbell made it all possible when he rushed the net, drew a defender and left Griffith alone to come down the slot and finish it off. It was the rookie’s second goal of the night and third of the season. He also added an assist and was just a fight shy of the Gordie Howe hat trick.
“It’s kind of hard to be happy but two goals — obviously the win is more important,” Griffith said. “It’s too bad we didn’t have a very good third.”
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