|Bruins must find way to steal game from The Hamburglar||03.18.15 at 5:30 pm ET|
In the Bruins’ biggest game of the season, they’ll have to go against someone they have, for the most part, never seen.
As the legend of Senators goaltender Andrew Hammond a.k.a. “The Hamburglar” continues to grow, the 27-year-old netminder, who has earned points in all 12 of his starts (11-0-1) is just that to most Bruins: a legend — someone of whom they’ve heard, but actually haven’t actually witnessed in person.
When the teams last met on March 10, Ottawa started Craig Anderson in Boston’s 3-1 win.
By this writer’s count, only Torey Krug, Reilly Smith and Matt Bartkowski have played against Hammond (all in college against Hammond’s Bowling Green squad). Smith scored six goals against the Hamburglar in seven games over a three-season stretch, while Krug racked up four assists over seven games. The icing on the cake? Bartkowski, who has zero goals in 119 career regular-season games in the NHL, scored on Hammond back on Jan. 8, 2010 and added an assist against the Hamburglar the next night.
With the way Hammond’s playing now, however, one shouldn’t expect a multi-goal performance from Smith or, unfortunately, a single-goal performance from Bartkowski. The undrafted Hammond, who began the season in the AHL but whose contributions since his callup earned him a card that gets him free McDonald’s for life, has allowed just 15 goals in his 12 starts. He’s given up just one goal in each of his last three starts and has never given up more than two in an NHL start.
“We’ve got an opportunity to hand this guy his first loss,” Claude Julien said Wednesday. “It’s up to us to make that happen.”
Making that challenge harder is the fact that the Bruins aren’t exactly the goal-scoring type these days. They’ve put just two pucks past goaltenders over the last three games, with Zdeno Chara adding an empty-netter Saturday in Pittsburgh. Overall, the B’s rank 19th in the NHL with 2.60 goals per game.
Assuming Ottawa, who continues to nip at Boston’s heels for the second wild card spot, does start Hammond, the Bruins will need to find a way to beat him — either with a balanced scoring effort or, more realistically, a lights-out performance from Tuukka Rask — to avoid a scary stretch run. The Senators trail the B’s by just four points for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, but they also have a game in hand. The Bruins do have more regulation and overtime wins (33 to Ottawa’s 29), so if Ottawa does match the Bruins’ point total, Boston would likely hold the tie-breaker.
Still, it shouldn’t have to get to that for the Bruins. Their roster, as we’ve documented perhaps too many times, is better than it’s performed. Despite the injuries with which they’ve dealt, the Bruins should easily be a playoff team, but Ottawa’s recent run presents a very realistic threat.
Mostly because of Hammond’s play, the Senators have are 12-1-1 over their last 14 games. Their only regulation loss in that span is the aforementioned contest earlier in the month in which the B’s faced Anderson.
Fortunately for the B’s, despite the fact that they’re facing a hot team and goaltender at a time in which they’re struggling to score, they have a goaltender of their own who can steal a game.
“It’s always slim,” Rask said Wednesday of his margin for error. “It doesn’t matter if it’s the hottest or coolest goalie in the league. I know that I try to keep the goals against as low as possible, but lately, a few games, we haven’t scored as many goals. Obviously you know that most likely you can’t let in too many.”
Hammond’s play has inspired a fan to throw a McDonald’s burger on the ice after a win. Rask quipped Wednesday that the strangest thing he’s seen thrown on the ice was a milk crate. The Bruins can only hope there’s no reason for either to be thrown on Thursday.
|Pierre McGuire on MFB: In the playoffs ‘I would prefer Montreal if I were Boston’||03.12.15 at 1:48 pm ET|
NBC Sports NHL analyst Pierre McGuire made his weekly appearance Thursday on Middays with MFB to discuss the Bruins’ recent hot stretch and to look ahead to possible playoff opponents. To hear the interview, go to the MFB audio on demand page.
The Bruins have rattled off wins in five of their last six games, and it now seems more likely they will make the playoffs, as they currently sit in eighth place in the Eastern Conference, six points ahead of the Panthers. When it comes to possible playoff opponents, McGuire thinks the Bruins should actually want the Montreal Canadiens.
“I watched what happened with Henrik Lundqvist last year and there are a lot of similarities,” McGuire said. “I can’t believe nobody in the Boston media has brought this up. I watched Henrik Lundqvist go into Montreal and exorcised so many demons for him. The Rangers couldn’t win forever in Montreal, but Henrik Lundqvist found a way and they eventually won against the Canadiens in the Eastern Confercence Final last year.
“Yes, they didn’t have Carey Price on the Montreal side because of an injury after a collision with Chris Kreider, but Montreal because they are offensively challenged right now and they didn’t really address that at the trade deadline. I know they tried to, but they didn’t want to dismantle good portions of their roster to do that because they still think they are a team that is building for the future, which I agree with them on.
“I would prefer Montreal if I were Boston just because I saw what Lundqvist did last year. I think [Tuukka] Rask could do the same thing. I think quite frankly because they are offensively challenged Montreal would be a better matchup than the Rangers or Tampa.”
McGuire feels the most important player on the roster is goaltender Tuukka Rask.
“I think the most important thing is if Tuukka can hold it up,” he said. “If he can play like he did in Ottawa the other night, Boston will be a very, very difficult out as an eight seed. I would not want to be the No. 1 seed and play them in the first round.”
Overall, McGuire feels good about the Bruins because he feels they now have four lines, especially with the addition of Max Talbot at the trade deadline.
“I feel really good about the Bruins,” McGuire said. “I spent the weekend in Boston last weekend watching them come from behind and beat Philadelphia and then do a really good job, especially with their special teams, against Detroit on Sunday. The biggest thing to me is the coaching staff is sound. The leadership of the team is sound. Tuukka Rask played a tremendous game against Ottawa the other night. He was a big difference for why the team won. Sometimes you don’t have your best game. What I am impressed with is this team now has four lines. With the addition of Max Talbot this is a four line team again. Really important to their well-being moving forward.”
|5 things we learned as Ryan Spooner helps Bruins keep distance from Senators||03.10.15 at 10:06 pm ET|
Ryan Spooner had to go home to have the most productive game of his NHL career.
The Kanata, Ontario, native netted two goals as the Bruins enjoyed a 3-1 win over the Senators on Tuesday in Ottawa. Spooner picked up his second career goal with a second-period power play tally and added an even strength goal by finishing off a Milan Lucic net drive later in the period.
The 23-year-old center now has eight points (three goals, five assists) in the eight games since he was called up following David Krejci‘s knee injury. Spooner is also riding a six-game point streak (three goals, four assists).
The game should be a confidence-booster for Spooner, as his production had recently been accompanied by some five-on-five struggles for his line in a weekend that saw his group stuck in the defensive zone too much for Claude Julien‘s liking.
Here are four more things we learned Tuesday:
BRUINS KEEP SENATORS AWAY
With the win, the Bruins created some distance between themselves and an Ottawa team that was pushing for the second wild card spot in the Eastern Conference.
The B’s now sit seven points ahead of the Sens through 66 games, though Ottawa has one game in hand. The Panthers (72 points in 66 games) sit between the two teams.
RASK TURNS 28, NEARLY TURNS IN A SHUTOUT
Though Tuesday was Tuukka Rask‘s birthday, it was the netminder who gave a gift to his teammates with a solid performance that kept the Bruins with a bigger lead than they may have deserved.
Rask survived a 21-shot barrage in the second period from Ottawa, though he was helped out by three hit posts. The Senators finally broke up his shutout when Matt Puempel took a puck off the end boards from a wide Patrick Wiercioch point shot and tapped it into the net.
The reigning Vezina-winner finished the night with 39 saves on 40 shots faced.
Perhaps David Pastrnak and linemates Lucic and Spooner spent so much time stuck in their own zone last weekend that they forgot what to do in the offensive zone.
Pastrnak, who entered Tuesday with just two penalties in 29 career games, took two penalties — both in the offensive zone — in the first 10 minutes of Tuesday’s game. The 18-year-old tripped Eric Gryba on his first shift of the game and, about six minutes after leaving the penalty box for that infraction, smothered the puck behind the net for a delay of game call.
ERIKSSON FLASHES SKILL
Loui Eriksson continued what figures to be a relatively quiet 20-plus goal campaign with a sensational play that got him to 17 goals on the season.
With the Senators not getting the puck deep on a line change in the second period, Dougie Hamilton threw the puck off the boards up the ice from his own end with Eriksson giving chase. Eriksson beat Cody Ceci to the puck in the offensive zone and made a brilliant one-hand pass to himself through the defenseman before beating Craig Anderson to make it 2-0.
(Vine courtesy of Pete Blackburn)
|Bruins’ late-game heroics push Flyers further back in Eastern Conference||03.07.15 at 7:06 pm ET|
The importance of Saturday’s game for the Flyers could not be overstated.
Trailing the Bruins by four points for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, Philadelphia could have moved closer in the standings with a win. Before Saturday’s game started, Bruins coach Claude Julien admitted this would most likely be Philadelphia’s biggest game this season.
With the clock winding down in the third period, the Flyers looked like they would get two valuable points in this critical game. Forward Chris VandeVelde redirected a shot from the point past goaltender Tuukka Rask, which gave Philadelphia a one-goal lead with 4:30 remaining. All seemed ripe for a Flyers win.
Until it didn’t.
Wayne Simmonds was called for tripping at the 17:57 mark. The penalty set the Bruins up with a power play, and essentially a 6-on-4 chance when Rask left for the bench.
Brad Marchand then tied the game up on the ensuing man advantage with 14.1 seconds to go with a deflection goal. And with 1:08 remaining in overtime, Marchand did it again with a backhanded goal that bounced over netminder Steve Mason’s shoulder.
Instead of pulling within two points of the Bruins, the Flyers now are five back of a playoff spot.
“It’s a tough defeat, but there’s still time and I mean there’s more games,” VandeVelde said following the loss. “But it’s getting down there so we’ve got to start winning games and doing the right things and holding on to wins.”
|Bruins recall goaltender Jeremy Smith on emergency basis||02.27.15 at 1:33 pm ET|
The Bruins recalled goaltender Jeremy Smith from Providence on an emergency basis Friday.
Rask has not had a night off since Jan. 8. With Smith up, the Bruins have the options of sitting Rask and dressing Svedberg and Smith.
|Pierre McGuire on MFB: ‘Pressure is just amped up unbelievable’ with Bruins right now||02.19.15 at 2:11 pm ET|
The Bruins lost in a shootout to the Oilers on Wednesday night, which was their fifth straight loss overall, and sixth in their last seven games. McGuire noted the loss to the struggling Oilers was a bad loss, and the pressure has been raised a great deal with the team as the trade deadline approaches.
“I am not going to change because I really like this team. I like major components of this team, but there were a few things last night,” McGuire said. “No. 1, they did all the changes they needed to change in order to try and be competitive in that game. Secondly, they had a terrible start, which doesn’t speak well to some of the commitment of some of the players on that team. And the third thing is they did go with their perceived best goalie and probably is their best goalie in Tuukka Rask and weren’t able to get the job done.
“That is a huge point in the standings. It’s a huge, huge point. If you look at the rest of the road trip — they are in St. Louis and they are in Chicago — two very difficult places to play. This has a chance to be 0-5 on the trip. That is not where you wanted to be, especially with their run through Alberta. This is going to be really interesting to watch the Bruins because I got to believe the pressure is just amped up unbelievable.”
With the way things are in the standings, currently sitting in eighth place in the Eastern Conference, there is no wiggle room for the Bruins.
“They are up against it, no question,” said McGuire. “I think this is going to be, especially when you consider Cam Neely’s words to Kevin Paul DuPont. Those were strong words. Those were coming from ownership. Those were coming from a man that is fully vested in the team and helped put the team together. You have to think this is a real difficult situation for Peter Chiarelli and for the Bruins hierarchy to figure out because the cap wise they are in trouble. That is the reason why they traded Johnny Boychuk this year. Now some people could say revision is history.
“‘Hey, they should have kept Boychuk and just played it out at the end of the year, and why didn’t they keep Jarome Iginla and his 30 goals?’ There are going to be a lot of second guessers here. I still think the team is good enough to make the playoffs and have a run, but I do think they need to do something before they get to the trade deadline on March 2. What that is, I don’t know. I don’t know how they are going to pull it off.”
For more Bruins news, visit weei.com/bruins.
|5 things we learned as Bruins play Tuukka Rask over Malcolm Subban, still lose to Oilers in shootout||at 1:09 am ET|
The Bruins opted against starting Malcolm Subban Wednesday night, further underscoring the importance placed on getting two points against the second-worst team in the NHL.
They still lost.
After coming back from a 3-1 deficit in the second period, the Bruins held even with the Oilers through the third period and overtime before losing in a 12-round shootout that saw Boston fail to score once. Tuukka Rask finally surrendered the shootout’s only goal to Martin Marincin on the 24th overall attempt.
The loss was Boston’s fifth straight (0-3-2) and sixth in the last seven games (1-4-2). The Bruins have two more games on their current road trip, as they’ll play the Blues Friday and the Blackhawks Sunday. Rask has now played in 24 of the Bruins’ last 25 games, so the Bruins, entering must-win mode each night, may face more tough decisions regarding whether to risk burning out their best player.
Here are four more things we learned Wednesday night:
REVAMPED POWER PLAY SCORES
Claude Julien hasn’t been afraid to tinker with his forward lines, and on Wednesday that extended to the power play.
When Andrew Ference went off for tripping Brad Marchand late in the first period, Julien sent out a unit that featured Dougie Hamilton and Torey Krug at the points, with David Krejci and Patrice Bergeron up front and Loui Eriksson in front of the net. The group stayed out there for all 91 seconds of the power play until Eriksson tipped a Hamilton shot past Ben Scrivens. The goal was the group’s sixth shot on goal of the power play.