|5 things we learned as Bruins miss playoffs for first time under Claude Julien||04.11.15 at 10:17 pm ET|
TAMPA, Fla. — The Bruins have missed the playoffs for the first time since Claude Julien took over as the team’s head coach in the 2007-08 season, as the Bruins fell 3-2 in a shootout to the Lightning in the season finale.
Boston’s fate was secured prior to the conclusion of its shootout loss to the Lightning Saturday, as the Penguins secured the wild card spot Boston sought by beating the the Sabres earlier in the night.
In addition to needing a victory over the Lightning, the Bruins needed the Penguins to lose in any manner (regulation, overtime or shootout) in order to make the playoffs. Boston was in control of its playoff destiny earlier this week, but regulation losses to the Capitals and Panthers allowed the Senators to leapfrog them. Ottawa secured its postseason spot on Saturday with a win over the Flyers.
The eight Eastern Conference playoff teams, in addition to the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Rangers, are the Canadiens, Lightning, Senators, Capitals, Islanders, Red Wings and Penguins. The final order of the teams in each division was not yet decided at the time of Pittsburgh’s victory.
Nikita Nesterov broke a 1-1 5:12 into the third period to give the Lightning a lead. The Bruins were officially eliminated minutes later, though Brad Marchand scored late in the game to force overtime. Victor Hedman scored the shootout winner for Tampa.
With the Kings and Bruins both missing the playoffs, the last Stanley Cup champion from each conference will be absent from this postseason. The Bruins’ season proved to be colossal failure, their 96 points are the most an Eastern Conference team has had without making the playoffs since the Eastern and Western Conferences came into existence in the 1993-94 season.
Here are four more things we learned on the final day of the Bruins’ season:
BRUINS CARRY PLAY EARLY, DON’T SCORE
The Bruins had a lot of good first-periods late in the regular season. They were rarely as good as they needed to be, however.
For the second straight game, Boston outplayed its opposition in the first period only to hit the first intermission scoreless.
The Bruins were all over the puck early on, making aggressive plays in the offensive zone to stay in Tampa’s end. The Lightning, meanwhile, didn’t get their first shot on goal until 9:14 of the first.
After a furious first few shifts, the momentum for the Bruins was halted by their power play. Brad Marchand was held by Nesterov to put the B’s on the man advantage at 2:40, but the B’s managed no shots on goal and barely got set up during the power play.
The Bruins ended up outshooting Tampa, 10-6, in the first period while holding a 19-12 advantage in shot attempts.
|Pierre McGuire on MFB: Wednesday vs. Capitals ‘was not the most intense Bruins environment I’ve seen in a long time’||04.09.15 at 1:52 pm ET|
NBC Sports NHL analyst Pierre McGuire made his weekly appearance Thursday on Middays with MFB to look at the Bruins’ loss to the Capitals Wednesday night and ahead to the playoffs and the Bruins’ chances. To hear the interview, go to the MFB audio on demand page.
McGuire worked the game Wednesday night, a 3-0 Bruins loss in Washington, and said the Bruins didn’t look like some of the Bruins’ teams he knows from the past.
“I thought they were kind of passive last night, I really did,” said McGuire. “I also know that there were some guys under the weather. They are not going to use that as an excuse, but I know there were guys not feeling very well last night — Brad Marchand was one of them. I mean, the fact that he dressed and played as well as he did was pretty nice indication of his character and how much he cares. Again, you don’t want to get everything wrapped up in one game. If they turn around and win tonight then everybody is going to be happy again. It was not the most intense Bruins environment I’ve seen in a long time.”
Claude Julien mixed up his lines, to the disliking of some, but McGuire brought up Julien was likely thinking ahead to Thursday night’s game in Florida too, and not just Wednesday’s game in Washington.
“I was really surprised at some of the maneuvers, but I also know that Washington is one of the most balanced teams in the league,” said McGuire. “They have really a four-line attack. You could see it, they had that kid line last night that was really working for them that didn’t score, but it generated chances for them. They are still missing Jay Beagle, they are still missing Eric Fehr, they will get those guys back at some point. Washington is a balanced team.
“I think what Claude was trying to do is get more of a balanced attack so he could compete with a four line game knowing the schedule that he has. That is a quick back-to-back with Washington and Florida. It is one of the most difficult ones you have in the league just because of travel, humidity and the time that you arrive. This will be a very difficult game for the Bruins. I think he was trying to look at the whole schedule rather than one game.”
With the Eastern Conference so tightly bunched, and only two games left, anything can happen. Currently the Bruins are tied with the Senators for eighth place, and a point behind seventh place, and two points behind sixth place. So one of those four teams will miss out on the postseason. McGuire thinks the Bruins will be able to make the playoffs, as they take on Florida Thursday night and Tampa Bay on Sunday.
“Tuukka [Rask] is going to be large early on tonight, I think that is really important,” he said. “If he can be and stabilize the game early then the Bruins I think will have a chance to get going. You’re going to be looking at a showdown obviously on Sunday against Tampa. I think Tampa will probably rest some people. The game won’t have as much meaning for them. I still believe Boston is a playoff team. I do. I believed it from the start of the year and I still believe it.”
|Tuukka Rask knows Bruins still seeking urgency: ‘I don’t think this is a great win for us, but we’ll take it’||04.01.15 at 9:25 am ET|
To Tuukka Rask, the glass Tuesday night was half full. He and his teammates sleepwalked through the second period as they have in many underachieving games this season and fell behind a desperate Panthers team smelling the chance to get back in the hunt for the final wild card spot in the East.
Then the Bruins woke up in the third, getting a fortunate goal from a very bad angle from Ryan Spooner and an admittedly lucky goal from Milan Lucic to escape with a hard-fought 3-2 win at TD Garden.
“Well, kind of frustrating,” said Rask, who allowed a weak five-hole goal of his own in the second period to former Bruin Brad Boyes that put the Panthers up 2-1. “Again, just wondering what’s going on there. There’s no emotion, and we needed to find it. We did, and a 40-minute game today got us the win, but obviously there’s wins that feel great and there’s wins you take and you feel good. I don’t think this is a great win for us, but we’ll take it for sure.”
When Milan Lucic scored with 69 seconds left in regulation, it turned out to be a crucial two points, as the B’s put themselves six points ahead of the Panthers and remained three points clear of the Senators in the race for the eighth and final spot.
From the get-go Tuesday, the Bruins appeared ready to show they were up to the task against a Florida team fighting to stay alive.
“First period was good,” Rask said. “They never really got anything great going there, but we were just so flat that it was kind of one of those games where something bad is about to happen and it did, and thank goodness it didn’t end up costing us. We showed in the third period, when we play like that it looks good and it’s going to benefit us. So just have to figure out and keep that going for 60 minutes.”
|Peter Chiarelli on Sunday Skate: Milan Lucic in group that has underperformed this year||03.29.15 at 9:45 am ET|
Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli joined Sunday Skate with DJ Bean, Joe McDonald and Pete Blackburn Sunday morning to talk all things Bruins heading into the final few games of the regular-season as the team battles to make the playoffs. To hear the interview, go to the Weekend Shows audio on demand page.
Milan Lucic has seen his play improve with new linemates recently, but the team could an interesting choice with him going forward given that next season will be the final year of a three-year, $18 million deal. Chiarelli was asked about the team’s intentions with the player.
“I think I would put him in the overall group that we’ve all kind of underperformed,” Chiarelli said. “I haven’t made any real decisions on really anything and that includes Milan’s case. He’s done a lot for this organization. But, like I said, I think a lot of personnel have underperformed, so I would put Milan in that category like the rest of the group, myself included.”
Also a major topic of late with the Bruins is the job security for both Chiarelli and Claude Julien. Unlike past seasons, the final games of the regular-season have much more importance and therefore Chiarelli is in a different position than he’s ever been in.
“Yeah, interesting is a good way to put it,” he said of this season. “The year has been a bit of a difficult year. We’re battling for a playoff spot now. Much chronicled about Claude’s job and my job, but we’re professionals. We try and get the best out of our team — I try and make the right decisions and it’s a grind every game to watch. It seems like every game goes to overtime and it’s been difficult, but part of the business.”
When asked if he thinks his position should be reviewed, especially having made the postseason seven straight seasons, he refrained from going into detail.
“I am not going to comment on that,” said Chiarelli. “I am a professional paid to make the right decisions and make decisions that are best for the organization. These are things that happen in our business. … If it’s my job, it’s my job, but I hope that it’s not.”
If the Bruins do make the playoffs and Chiarelli does keep his job, there has been concern from the fanbase that the team would be satisfied with the current roster and refrain from making the necessary changes to avoid another season like this one. Chiarelli said he would plan on making the moves this team needs regardless of how it fares down the stretch.
“What we’ll do at the end of the year is, we’ll look at this roster,” Chiarelli said. “You ask me about all the things — I call them reasons, you may call them excuses — why the team isn’t performing the way it’s supposed to or where the expectations are, we’ll look at those. We’ll look at how the season finishes off. We’ll look at each individual player and make decisions, well-informed, educated decisions based on that.
“For me to say, ‘OK, what if things go well?’ I’m not going to speculate on either [scenario]. We have the season we’re having. I’m going to go through this process and we’ll make the proper decisions.”
Following are more highlights from the interview. For more Bruins news, visit weei.com/bruins.
|Don Cherry on MFB: Bruins ‘in deep trouble right now’||03.27.15 at 12:36 pm ET|
Hockey Night in Canada’s Don Cherry joined Middays with MFB to discuss the Bruins’ playoff chances going into the final eight games of the regular season. To hear the interview, go to the MFB audio on demand page.
The Bruins are tied with the Senators for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference with 85 points, but Ottawa holds a game in hand.
“That game in hand is a killer,” Cherry said.
On Thursday night the B’s had a chance to jump over Ottawa for the second wild card spot after the Senators got blown out, 5-1, by the NHL-leading Rangers. The Bruins had a 2-1 lead over the Ducks entering the final minute of play, but Anaheim scored with just over 30 seconds left to tie the game, and then notched the game winner on a tip-in in overtime.
“That was a killer last night,” Cherry said, adding: “The winner went in off a stick, so you can’t blame [Tuukka] Rask for that one.”
The B’s goalie has not had his greatest season, but he usually has been good enough to at least give the team a chance to win.
“The problem is not Rask,” Cherry said. “He’s not stealing the games like he did last year, but he’s got a great [goals-against] average, 2.26, and a .924 save percentage. That’s pretty good. Their problem is they can’t score. And of all of the teams playing in the playoffs already, they’re the worst. They’ve got one 20-goal scorer right now, and that’s [Brad] Marchand. You’re not going to win many games if you don’t have any 20-goal scorers.”
Added Cherry: “Now they’ve got [Dougie] Hamilton hurt, he was their second-leading scorer. They’re in deep trouble right now. They’ll have to dig down.”
Cherry, a former coach of the Bruins, does not blame current coach Claude Julien for the B’s underwhelming season.
“Listen, it’s not Julien’s fault, he’s not going out telling them to not score,” Cherry said. “These are the guys, they can’t score. … He puts them on the ice and they don’t score. What, is he supposed to put the puck in?”
If the Bruins are able to rally and make the playoffs, they likely will face either the Rangers, Canadiens or Lightning. While they certainly wouldn’t be favored over any of those teams, Cherry wouldn’t count out the B’s.
“Just make the playoffs,” Cherry said. “Anybody that gets in the playoffs can make it.”
For more Bruins news, visit the team page at weei.com/bruins.
|Tuukka Rask: ‘I’ll play as many as I need to’||03.24.15 at 4:08 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — As has been documented many a time, Tuukka Rask has been given much more work this season than he’s ever experienced. His 61 games played are already three more than he’d ever played in a regular season, and there are still nine games to go.
Rest be damned, the Bruins might need to start Rask in each and every one of those games, or until a playoff spot is secured if that happens at all. Without saying those exact words, Rask seemingly admitted as much Tuesday.
“Nobody cares about that now,” he said of potential fatigue. “We’re playing the most important games of the year. Obviously rest is important, but when it’s game time, it’s game time, and then you rest when you have a chance to rest.”
This season, Rask has for the most part been asked about two things: whether he’s tired and whether he’s had it with the product in front of him. At worst, Rask has been average this season, and at best he’s been brilliant. That’s better than most Bruins can say for themselves this season.
After Tampa scored their fourth goal in Sunday’s 5-3 win over the B’s, Rask gestured in frustration, as he has frequently this season. He said that while he’s frustrated that the team is losing, he’s trying to not let the team’s struggles get to him.
“I’ve been pretty even all season,” Rask said. “Obviously, it’s frustrating when you have these ups and downs. We play good and then we play really bad and we never seem to settle, so obviously it’s frustrating for everybody, but if I get too frustrated, then I’m just going to slip away from my game.”
The Bruins are in the midst of a three-day break between Sunday’s game and their next contest on Thursday against the Ducks. They have two more back-to-backs on their schedule and three three-in-fours. The team should be able to start their backup in a game like Sunday’s against the Hurricanes and be confident in winning, but maybe that’s too big a risk to take with a playoff spot on the line.
Rask said he’d be willing to play all nine games, even if he didn’t sound too enthusiastic about the idea.
“I don’t know. We’ll see how it goes,” he said. “I’ll play as many as I need to.”
As for what needs to get better in front of him to make his nights easier and the Bruins’ chances of securing a playoff spot greater, Rask said he couldn’t point to one specific issue.
“It’s just team defense,” Rask said. “There’s not one thing. When we defend as a unit and everybody does their job, I think that’s when we’re at our best. There’s not really one thing that we need to figure out more than everybody just playing together as a unit and defending in front of the net.”
|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.