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Offense taking over defense with Matt Bartkowski ready to step in for Adam McQuaid 11.10.13 at 1:36 pm ET
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Matt Bartkowski

Matt Bartkowski

WILMINGTON – Claude Julien said at the beginning of the season that the Bruins wouldn’t let Matt Bartkowski sit for a month. It’s true — they didn’t — but they’ve hardly gotten him into the lineup regularly of late.

With Bartkowski set to step in Monday for the injured Adam McQuaid, he’ll be playing in just the second time in the last 11 games. Bartkowski last played last Saturday against the Islanders, when he posted a minus-1 in a 3-1 Bruins loss.

“It’s just like stepping in for another game,” Bartkowski said Sunday. “I just try and think about that, so it’s nothing new.”

Assuming Bartkowski is in, the Bruins will likely be looking at having one of their young, mobile defensemen on each of their three pairings. Bartkowski was paired with Johnny Boychuk in practice Sunday, while Hamilton skated with Zdeno Chara and Krug — playing on the right side — was with Dennis Seidenberg.

If the Bruins go with those pairings — which are different from the ones they had when McQuaid was scratched in favor of Bartkowski in Florida last month — a Bruins back end that has already become a lot more offensive-minded will take it a step further with half of the defensemen being mobile blueliners.

“We do bring a little bit different game, I guess, with the skating and everything,” Bartkowski said. “It seems like the league has a lot of those D, and it’s good that we can bring that to the team. The solid D core that they’ve had here for years has worked. They won a Cup with it and everything, so for us to be able to add a little bit, it definitely helps.”

On the season, Bartkowski has played in four games, registering one assist and posting a minus-3 rating.

Given that the Bruins entered the season with seven defensemen capable of being NHL regulars, it seemed likely that Bartkowski, the fourth left shot among the seven, would be the odd man out. Yet Julien vowed to get him in the lineup wherever he could rather than letting him collect cobwebs in the press box like many spare parts.

As such, Bartkowski played in three of the Bruins’ first six games. Yet due to steady play from Torey Krug and Dougie Hamilton and perhaps a desire on the Bruins’ part to get some consistency during a rough stretch of the season, Bartkowski played in only one of the next 10 contests.

“We all know that under other circumstances he’d probably be in the top-4 maybe even on some other teams when he’s on top of his game, so he’s a good defenseman,” Julien said. “It’s just right now we’ve got numbers. We’ve got veterans that are extremely good, that we’ve relied on in the past.

“We’ve got some good young players here. … How do you take Krug out of the lineup when he’s probably one of your most important guys on the power play? Hamilton is the same way. He’s on the power play but he’s also played extremely well, so it’s not easy to balance those things out. So you make decisions as you go along, you know with time it’ll even itself out but he’s a good player, he deserves and belongs in this league. It’s as simple as that.”

Read More: Adam McQuaid, Matt Bartkowski, Torey Krug,
Claude Julien calls out his team: ‘Too many mediocre players’ 10.27.13 at 12:32 pm ET
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Claude Julien. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

Claude Julien. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

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.

Read More: Boston Bruins, New Jersey Devils, NHL, Patrice Bergeron
Andy Brickley on M&M: Bruins’ power play ‘a work in progress’ 10.09.13 at 2:11 pm ET
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Andy Brickley

Andy Brickley

NESN’s Andy Brickley joined Mut & Merloni on Wednesday to talk about the Bruins’ hot start to the season.

Boston posted a pair of home victories last week. On Thursday, the Bruins beat the Lightning, 3-1, then they took down the Red Wings, 4-1.

One area Boston needed improving on following its Stanley Cup runner-up season is the power play. The Bruins ranked dead last in the NHL in power-play goals last season with 18. But they’ve already notched two man-advantage goals through two games.

“It’s still a work in progress, and will be for a while, they’ll continue to experiment, and continue to try [Zdeno] Chara at the front of the net with one power-play unit,” Brickley said. “You’ve got different weapons this year, [Jarome] Iginla’s a great finisher with the man advantage, [Loui] Eriksson’s a real good power-play guy.”

Aside from the power play, Boston also must fill the void left by playmakers Tyler Seguin, who was traded to Dallas, and Nathan Horton, signed as a free agent by Columbus.

The Bruins hope Eriksson, who came over from the Stars for Seguin, can fill that void. Eriksson has not entered the point column yet as a Bruin.

“He came in as the centerpiece of that deal, with Seguin going the other way down to Dallas, and I think the expectations are that he’s going to be a 70-point guy, and he’s off to a slow start as far as the offense is concerned,” Brickley said. “I think the reason why is he, too, is playing with a little bit of a conservative attitude, trying to fit in with the system.

“But he had a couple of really good scoring opportunities last game.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Andy Brickley, Jordan Caron, Louis Eriksson, Nathan Horton
Bruins’ new-look power play takes center stage vs. Wings 10.05.13 at 11:21 pm ET
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Torey Krug's power-play abilities have allowed the Bruins to move Zdeno Chara to the front of the net. (Mike Petraglia, WEEI.com)

Torey Krug’s power-play abilities have allowed the Bruins to move Zdeno Chara to the front of the net. (Mike Petraglia, WEEI.com)

Torey Krug gets the puck at the point. Zdeno Chara sets the screen in front. Goalie never sees the shot coming.

That’s exactly what the Bruins coaches had in mind when they decided to reconfigure the power play heading into this season, and the new look was executed perfectly on Boston’s first goal Saturday night.

Once Krug emerged as such a dangerous offensive weapon in last year’s playoffs, it was an easy decision to have him quarterback the top power-play unit — especially when you consider how much the Bruins’ power play struggled for most of last season. He has great hands and a great shot, and he’s able to create open lanes with his footwork.

The tougher decision — at least looking at it from the outside — was what to do with Chara. As great as Chara is in pretty much every other area, he never seemed totally comfortable as a power-play quarterback.

When he got an open look, he could take advantage with his rocket of a shot, but getting those looks — and being able to move the puck quickly when he didn’t — could sometimes be a struggle. The problem for the Bruins was that they didn’t have anyone else who was a great fit for the quarterback role, either. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Torey Krug, Zdeno Chara,
Bruins season preview: Defense/goalie projections 10.01.13 at 8:24 am ET
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Zdeno Chara

Zdeno Chara

Here’s the second installment of the player projections for the 2013-14 season, featuring defensemen and goalies. For a look at the forwards, click here.

Note: It’s silly to predict injuries, so all players’ projections will assume they play somewhere in the 75-82-game range. Extra forwards/defensemen aren’t shown given the uncertainty of whether (and where) they’ll play. 

DEFENSEMEN

Zdeno Chara: 13 goals, 37 assists, 50 points

Chara wasn’t bad in the Stanley Cup finals; he was hurt. When he isn’t hurt, he’s one of the best defensemen in the game. It’s as simple as that.

Dennis Seidenberg: 5 goals, 22 assists, 27 points

It’s a contract year for the 32-year-old Seidenberg, so he’ll have plenty of motivation to perform. Depending on what happens cap-wise and given the Bruins’ group of young defensemen, this could very well be Seidenberg’s last season in Boston.

Dougie Hamilton: 10 goals, 20 assists, 30 points

Don’t forget how good Hamilton was at the start of last season. If he can sustain that throughout this campaign, the 10-goal mark is certainly within reach.

Torey Krug: 11 goals, 19 assists, 30 points

After what he did against the Rangers, people’s expectations of Krug might be a little high, but here’s what we do know: He can skate, he’s smart, and he’ll be on the power play. Points will find him.

Johnny Boychuk: 4 goals, 15 assists, 19 points

Johnny Rocket turned into Johnny Wrist Shot last postseason. It will be interesting to see if his offensive success changes his regular-season approach.

Adam McQuaid: 2 goals, 9 assists, 11 points

McQuaid isn’t there for his offense, which actually makes him a logical defensive partner to balance out Krug.

GOALIES 

Tuukka Rask: 54 starts, 2.20 goals-against average, .922 save-percentage

This isn’t a suggestion that Rask will take a step backwards performance-wise, but smaller goalie pads plus a Red Wings team that should score more than it did let season minus Andrew Ference should equal more human numbers.

The only question regarding Rask there should be is whether he can physically handle a full season and playoffs, something he’s never done as a starter at the NHL level. Rask did play 57 regular-season games and 16 playoff contests in the 2008-09 season for Providence, but he hadn’t played into late June in the previous season.

Chad Johnson: 28 starts, 2.41 goals-against average, .912 save-percentage

The 27-year-old Johnson doesn’t have a ton of NHL experience (10 games), but he’s been good at the NHL level with a 1.97 GAA, .929 save percentage and a shutout. We’ll see how good a replacement for Anton Khudobin he ends up being.

Read More: 2013-14 Bruins Projections, Dougie Hamilton, Torey Krug, Zdeno Chara
Bruins continue captains practices 09.03.13 at 3:08 pm ET
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WILMINGTON — More and more Bruins are arriving for voluntary practices each day at Ristuccia Arena as the open of training camp gets closer. After last week featured groups of skaters in the single digits, Tuesday’s informal session featured a much larger group. The newcomers among NHLers were Torey Krug and Johnny Boychuk.

Joining them were, among others, Carl Soderberg, Shawn Thornton, Tuukka Rask, Daniel Paille, Bobby Robins, David Krejci, Loui Eirksson, Dennis Seidenberg, Niklas Svedberg and David Warsofsky.

The likes of Ryan Spooner, Jared Knight and Malcolm Subban were also in the house, but they were there for the first day of rookie camp, which featured meetings rather than ice time. The youngsters will take the ice Wednesday for the start of on-ice sessions, with the veterans skating beforehand as captains practices continue.

Read More: Johnny Boychuk, Torey Krug,
Barry Pederson on D&C: Bruins ‘are going to be a good team for a long time’ 06.25.13 at 10:05 am ET
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NESN analyst Barry Pederson, in an interview on the Dennis & Callahan show, identified a number of roster decisions that now face the Bruins following their elimination in a Game 6 loss to the Blackhawks. Still, Pederson suggested that the team’s long-term outlook remains excellent.

With a number of young, still-improving talents like Tyler Seguin, Matt Bartkowski and Dougie Hamilton, Pederson suggested that if Boston can re-sign restricted free agent Tuukka Rask and lock up Patrice Bergeron — who now has one year left in his contract — to an extension, the team has the core to continue to build upon its run of two Stanley Cup Finals and one championship in the last three years.

He emphasized the need for players like Tyler Seguin, Carl Soderberg and Jordan Caron to get stronger to help carry the Bruins through a 2013-14 season that starts in 13 weeks, but overall, Pederson pointed to a sunny outlook for a team that just endured a devastating defeat. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Barry Pederson, Carl Soderberg, Jordan Caron, Matt Bartkowski
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