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5 things we learned as Maple Leafs made Bruins miss Zdeno Chara 11.12.14 at 10:32 pm ET
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Phil Kessel scored twice against the Bruins Wednesday. (Abelimages/Getty Images)

Phil Kessel scored twice against the Bruins Wednesday. (Abelimages/Getty Images)

TORONTO –€” The first eight games of the Zdeno Chara-less schedule looked like a group of largely winnable contests before they would have to face the Canadiens.

For as well as the Bruins survived that stretch, they ended it in disastrous fashion.

For all the bad moments have had this season — and they’€™ve had plenty between their early-season struggles and the injuries they’€™ve suffered –€” they hadn’€™t really gotten walloped by anyone, let alone a Maple Leafs opponent they had handled easily without Chara once already.

The Bruins’€™ 6-1 loss to the Maple Leafs (here is the box score) provided a reminder for anyone who had forgotten that, though Boston hasn’€™t played many good teams of late, things are a lot harder without No. 33 on the ice. Phil Kessel, a player who is usually silent against his former team because of Chara, enjoyed a two-goal night against Boston’€™s mortal blue line.

Tuukka Rask was yanked after giving up three goals early in the second period and four on the night. Even what looked like a well-targeted Bruins goal by Reilly Smith was negated in the second period by Carl Soderberg being in the crease.

Of course, it wasn’€™t just about Chara, Rask or Boston’€™s defense. This was one of those once-in-a-season colossal stinkers that a team can only hope will end up being their worst loss of the season with few other candidates.

Here are four other things we learned Wednesday night:

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Read More: Phil Kessel, Toronto Maple Leafs, Tuukka Rask, Zdeno Chara
Tuukka Rask expected to start vs. Maple Leafs at 12:36 pm ET
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TORONTO — Tuukka Rask was the only healthy player absent from Wednesday’s morning skate at Air Canada Center, suggesting he will start Wednesday night against the Maple Leafs.

Should Rask play Wednesday, it will make Thursday night’s matchup against the Canadiens even more interesting. The Bruins could sit Rask, who has historically struggled in Montreal, and play Niklas Svedberg against the Habs, or play Rask in both games. Rask has played both games of two back-to-backs this season, as he played on the first two days of the season and then made back-to-back starts on Oct. 15 and 16.

Rask started all five games of the team’s recent four-game homestand, winning all four.

Jonathan Bernier will start for Toronto. Bernier was in net for the Leafs the last time the teams met, allowing all four goals in a 4-1 Bruins victory.

For more Bruins news, visit weei.com/bruins.

Read More: Tuukka Rask,
Why Tuukka Rask is pleased with Dougie Hamilton after yelling at him 10.28.14 at 1:04 pm ET
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Dougie Hamilton is trying to show improvement in all areas of his game. (Getty Images)

Dougie Hamilton is trying to show improvement in all areas of his game. (Getty Images)

Dougie Hamilton is receiving praise left and right for what some might call a breakout* performance against the Maple Leafs, but it was his response to the low moment of his three-point game that might be the biggest takeaway.

Hamilton was the last line of defense as the Bruins, stuck in their zone, surrendered the Leafs’€™ lone goal of the game in the third period. The man Hamilton was covering, Richard Panik, scored with the Bruins scrambling during a delayed penalty to break up Tuukka Rask‘€™s shutout. Rask could be seen barking at Hamilton after the goal.

On Hamilton’€™s next shift, James van Riemsdyk went to the net and Hamilton manhandled him on a play that resulted in matching roughing minors. Intentionally or not, it was a good sign that Hamilton, a 6-foot-5 third-year player with no fighting majors to his name, does not want to be taken lightly around his net. Furthermore, it was a response Rask was happy to see.

“That’€™s what you have to do; you have do hold your ground and not let those guys get in there,” Rask said. “That’€™s exactly what he did. As long as it’€™s an even call, that’€™s alright.”

Shifts are usually around 45-50 seconds, sometimes more and sometimes less. Hamilton ended up being stuck on the ice for 1:37 on the shift that cost Rask what would have been his shutout of the season. During a delayed penalty call on Daniel Paille for tripping Panik, Rask had to face three shots from three different angles. A point shot squirted into the corner and was retrieved by Nazem Kadri, whose cross-ice pass to Cody Franson yielded another shot stopped by Rask. Tyler Bozak whacked the rebound across the net to Panik, who jammed it past both Rask and Hamilton, the latter of whom had been covering Panik but retreated into the net amidst the chaos.

“It was definitely my fault,” Hamilton, who had a goal and two assists in the game, said of the goal. “I was gassed and trying to playing to goalie, obviously with the shutout on the line. I apologized to him.”

Rask said Tuesday that though he reacted vocally, he didn’t mean to chew Hamilton out any more than he intended to express frustration with the overall work in front of him on the shift.

Hamilton said that on his next shift, he felt he had to “refocus and make sure I was being strong.” That ended up being subpar news for van Riemsdyk, who became the focal point of Hamilton’s aggression.

Rask wants and expects the defensemen in front of him to box players out and make them pay a price if they want to get close to the net. When that doesn’€™t happen, he isn’€™t afraid to tell them. That isn’t such a bad thing.

With Zdeno Chara out for at least a few more weeks, other players need to provide the physical presence and intimidation factor around the net. Rask will be happy to see more of that from Hamilton as he continues to round into a top defender.

“He obviously wants to be one of the best defensemen in the league, and that’€™s something he has to get better at, is the defensive side of his game,” Rask said. “He’€™s really picked up on that and gotten better, so I like it.”

*Hamilton broke out last season.

Read More: Dougie Hamilton, Tuukka Rask,
Tuukka Rask, who knows who Johnny Boychuk is, prepares to face Johnny Boychuk 10.22.14 at 2:10 pm ET
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WILMINGTON — Johnny Boychuk is expecting an emotional return to the Garden Thursday. Tuukka Rask might not know who Johnny Boychuk is.

“Oh, is he playing? I hope he gets the start. It would be good for him,” Rask said Wednesday when asked what it would be like to play against “Johnny.”

Proving that goaltenders live in their own goaltending world, Rask thought that the “Johnny” being discussed was Islanders backup Chad Johnson, who spent last season playing in Boston with Rask.

Rask laughed when he realized his error, adding that he obviously wished the best for his former teammate. He did note that if he allowed a goal to Boychuk, who has already scored twice this season for the Islanders, Rask would “never hear the end of it.”

“He actually texted me after he got traded,” Rask said. “He said whenever we play I should give him a goal, but I hope he doesn’€™t score.”

Rask was then reminded that he already has a big contract, while Boychuk is in the final year of his contract. If Rask were a true friend, he’€™d help Boychuk boost those numbers and net him a bigger payday.

“Yeah, well if the game’€™s 9-1 or something for us, then accidents happen,” Rask said with a grin.

As for Boychuk himself, the 30-year-old is loving life with the Islanders, but said it will be very difficult to take the ice Thursday (and undoubtedly receive a warm welcome) in front of the Garden crowd.

“[Expletive],” Boychuk said this week when asked what he expected. “That’€™s going to be… different. It’€™s going to be hard. It will definitely be hard.”

Claude Julien said he’€™s happy for the early success Boychuk has had with the 4-2-0 Islanders. Boychuk’€™s six points through six games are as many as he had in the lockout-shortened 2013 season with the Bruins.

“He’€™s a good team guy. He’€™s an easy guy to like for players and coaches,” Julien said. “€œHe came in and played a big role in our Stanley Cup run. Many thought he’€™d be an American Leaguer. We traded for him and he stepped up and became a really reliable defenseman in this league, and obviously a good defenseman. We lost a good person and a good player.

“You’€™re always happy that he’€™s happy well — of course you’€™re going to hear us say except when it’€™s against us, but I don’€™t think there’€™s anybody here that wishes [anything] but the best for him. Then you move on, and that’€™s what we’€™re trying to do. Hopefully he’€™s done the same thing. He seems to have done that. When you look at his start with that team, he’€™s had a good start as well.”

Read More: Johnny Boychuk, Tuukka Rask,
Video: Tuukka Rask plays drums for Buffalo band 10.20.14 at 3:57 pm ET
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We’ve seen a video game version of Brad Marchand play guitar, and now we get to see real life Tuukka Rask play drums.

According to the Buffalo News, Rask and a few teammates went to a show at the Allentown music venue in Buffalo on Friday night while they were in town for Saturday night’s game against the Sabres, a 4-0 Bruins win.

Rask asked local band The Mustn’ts if he could play drums for a song, and they let him sit in for a cover of Phish’s “Back on the Train.”

Here’s video of the performance:

Read More: Tuukka Rask,
Pierre McGuire on MFB: Bruins ‘going to be a ton of fun to watch’ 10.09.14 at 1:52 pm ET
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Pierre McGuire

Pierre McGuire

NBC Sports NHL analyst Pierre McGuire made his first weekly appearance of the season Thursday on Middays with MFB, following Wednesday night’s Bruins opener. To hear the interview, go to the MFB audio on demand page.

McGuire said there is reason to believe the Bruins, who opened with a 2-1 victory over the Flyers, will be able to overcome the losses of Jarome Iginla and Johnny Boychuk and put together a season similar to 2013-14, when they had the best record in the NHL before falling in the second round of the playoffs to the Canadiens.

“They have a healthy Chris Kelly, I think that makes a big difference,” McGuire said. “Carl Soderberg is a ton better, you saw that last night. I think Loui Eriksson will be a ton better this year. Dougie Hamilton, even though he had a couple of turnovers, you could see when he really amped his game up he was very good. Having Dennis Seidenberg back makes them better. Tuukka Rask is a year more mature.

“I think they’re a lot better in a lot of areas. I think they’re the best team in the Eastern Conference. I’m not changing on that; I won’t change even when we’re on Game 40, barring injuries, obviously. I think this team is extremely good.

“I like the energy of a young player like Craig Cunningham. I love the energy of Bobby Robins. They obviously got last night done without David Krejci and Gregory Campbell. This is a really good team. They’re really a good team, and they’re going to be a ton of fun to watch.”

McGuire said he saw lots of promising things from the opener.

“I thought Tuukka when he had to be was really good,” he said. “I thought Kevan Miller played a solid, physical game. I like the way Torey Krug started to jump into the rush. And I like the way that the Bruins defensemen really held the offensive blue line. And probably more importantly than anything else they’re much more aggressive offensively. I know it didn’t translate because I thought Steve Mason from Philadelphia played a great job so the scoreboard’s not indicative of that. But by and large they’re a much more aggressive offensive team, and I think that’s really important for them.”

Looking at the Eastern Conference, McGuire said the Bruins’ biggest challenge might come from the Lightning.

“I think Tampa Bay’s a very good team, and I know a lot of people are talking about them, but I would look out for the Tampa Bay Lightning. I would be a little bit nervous about them,” McGuire said. “It’s going to be interesting to see how everything translates in Pittsburgh, because it is a little bit of a different roster, it’s a different coaching philosophy going from Danny Bylsma to Mike Johnston. So we’ll see how that plays out. … I don’t know if there’s a team outside of Tampa and maybe Pittsburgh that’s going to be able to play and have enough depth to play against Boston. Boston’s just that good. Montreal’s really good, I just don’t know if they’re big enough to play against Boston when Boston’s healthy. Boston’s a really, really good team.”

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Read More: Carl Soderberg, Johnny Boychuk, Peter Chairelli, Pierre McGuire
Bruins report card: Defensemen/goaltenders 06.10.14 at 4:12 pm ET
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As the Stanley Cup finals take place, the fact that the Bruins didn’€™t even reach the Eastern Conference finals after winning the Presidents’€™ Trophy further accentuates the failure that was their 2013-14 season. Here are the individual grades.

DEFENSEMEN

Zdeno Chara: A-
Regular season: 77 GP, 17 G, 23 A, 40 PTS, plus-25
Postseason: 12 GP, 2 G, 2 A, 4 PTS, plus-4

The good: He was the best defenseman in the league in the regular season and was the most deserving Norris candidate, though the guess here is he’€™ll lose to Duncan Keith. The bad: He wasn’t himself in the last couple of games against the Canadiens, which cemented the fact that when Chara isn’t right, neither are the Bruins.

Torey Krug: A-/B+
Regular season: 79 GP, 14 G, 26 A, 40 PTS, plus-18
Postseason: 12 GP, 2 G, 8 A, 10 PTS, minus-2
RESTRICTED FREE AGENT

Krug gets this high a mark because he’€™s a bottom-pairing defenseman who gives the Bruins major production in offensive situation and on the power play. He’s also getting better in his own end. It will be interesting to see what kind of money Krug commands as a restricted free agent, as this was just his first full season in the NHL.

Dougie Hamilton: B+
Regular season: 64 GP, 7 G, 18 A, 25 PTS, plus-22
Postseason: 12 GP, 2 G, 5 A, 7 PTS, plus-1

When he was healthy, Hamilton made big strides in his second season. Paired with Chara on the Bruins’€™ shutdown pairing in the postseason, he had a ball against the Red Wings in the first round, but his Game 3 mental gaffe with P.K. Subban coming out of the penalty box was the low point of what was otherwise a very promising campaign from the 20-year-old.

Johnny Boychuk: B+
Regular season: 75 GP, 5 G, 18 A, 23 PTS, plus-31
Postseason: 12 GP, 1 G, 1 A, 2 PTS, plus-3

Know who loves playing for the Bruins? Johnny Boychuk. Know who’€™s in the prime of his career (30) and a really good right-shot defenseman who could command a ton of money if he hits free agency after next season? Johnny Boychuk. This could get interesting. The Bruins could either concede that they won’€™t be able to afford him by trading Boychuk this offseason or they can try to get a deal done with him before the season starts, the latter of which is Peter Chiarelli‘€™s usual plan of attack.

Kevan Miller: B+
Regular season: 47 GP, 1 G, 5 A, 6 PTS, plus-20
Postseason: 11 GP, 0 G, 2 A, 2 PTS, plus-2

He’€™s a young defenseman who isn’t immune to making mistakes, but he’s steady enough to play the Adam McQuaid role of third-pairing defenseman with a healthy dose of nasty. While Miller proved himself to be an NHL regular, his first taste of the playoffs wasn’t so swell, as his postseason will be remembered for his giveaway in Game 6 against the Canadiens that resulted in what would end up standing as the game-winning goal. The fact that he signed a two-year extension with an $800,000 cap hit might make him a better commodity than McQuaid going forward.

Dennis Seidenberg: B
Regular season: 34 GP, 1 G, 9 A, 10 P, plus-11
Postseason: DNP

Seidenberg was fine before he went down with a torn ACL/MCL, and you have to commend his effort to return to the lineup, which he would have done had the Bruins reached the Eastern Conference finals. He signed a four-year extension before the first game of the season.  Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Dougie Hamilton, Torey Krug, Tuukka Rask, Zdeno Chara
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