|Schedule not letting up on Bruins after road trip||01.04.11 at 11:17 pm ET|
The Bruins have picked up a lot of things over their past six games, the last five of which were spent outside the confines of TD Garden. As the B’s return to Boston to face the Wild on Thursday, they do so as a more finely tuned machine, and one that doesn’t face nearly as many questions as it did two weeks ago.
The top line of Lucic-Savard-Horton showed signs of breaking out and eventually did when they produced a pair of goals on Monday in Toronto. The top line woes had been one of the biggest concerns for the B’s even as the team achieved success against the Thrashers and the early stops of the trip.
That’s not the only sign of things looking up for the B’s. Tuukka Rask got a whole 80 minutes worth of time between the pipes. Tyler Seguin is looking less like an 18-year-old rookie and and more like an NHL player, which will eventually mean some sort of doom for opposing goaltenders.
The Wheeler-Krecji-Ryder line is playing as well as any of the B’s lines have all year, while the Merlot Line can continue chugging along with the health of Gregory Campbell. Points aside, the B’s have plenty going for them as they return home.
The Bruins left for the trip as a team that had followed a 1-2-2 slump with a statement-making 4-1 victory over the Thrashers that included a night’s worth of fights on a single shift, and they return having solidified its standing as one of the best road squads in the league. Additionally, they have taken 10 points over a six-game stretch for the second time since the beginning of December.
Beginning with their Dec. 23 win, the B’s have been one of the hottest teams in the Eastern Conference, as the 10 of a possible 12 points they have seized over their last six games is a mark that is matched only by three Eastern Conference teams: the Thrashers (4-0-2), the Lightning (5-1-0), and the Islanders (5-1-0).
On the trip, they went from second place in the Northeast to being owners of a three-point lead over the Canadiens, who have sputtered in notching only one win over their last three games. Given that both the Atlantic and Southeast divisions have boasted more points (both divisions have two teams with more than 50 points, while the Bruins lead the Northeast with 48), establishing a stranglehold on one of the top-three spots in the East by winning a weak division will be key for the Bruins to avoid having to battle for a playoff spot as the season progresses.
Though the last six games (4-0-2) have provided enough for hockey fans around Beantown to have a renewed faith in their squad, the test in this chunk of their schedule, so to speak, is not over. In fact, the five games they will play following Thursday night’s tilt with the Wild, regardless of venue, may be just as big a barometer for future success as the five they just wrapped up on the road.
After Thursday’s game, the B’s will hit the road for a pair of games that will kick off the following stretch: at Montreal, at Pittsburgh, vs. Ottawa, vs. Philadelphia, vs. Pittsburgh.
Of course, the Habs, Penguins (twice), and the Flyers are the teams that stand out in that stretch, as they all have a lot to do with the Bruins’ playoff picture going forward. Furthermore, after their performances against the teams yielded a mixed bag of results earlier in the season, it will be interesting to see how well this rejuvenated B’s team can handle the best the Eastern Conference has to offer.
The Bruins have a five-game sample of the three teams, and vs. the clubs they are a combined 2-2-1. They have dropped both contests vs. the Canadiens, while they beat the Flyers in Philadelphia before losing to them in overtime at the Garden. It was in Pittsburgh that the B’s, after entering the final period trailing by a score of 4-2, scored five third-period goals to give them a 7-4 victory on Nov. 10.
The Bruins will wind down (if you can call it that) from their tough stretch with a pair of games against the ninth-place Hurricanes, who blanked them at the Garden in the post-Thanksgiving matinee.
The B’s have reached one of many checkpoints along the season, but the schedule isn’t softening up on them yet.
|Nathan Horton, Marc Savard come up big in front of Tuukka Rask as Bruins defeat Maple Leafs||01.03.11 at 9:30 pm ET|
Nathan Horton had two points and Tuukka Rask turned in a gutsy performance as the Bruins defeated the Maple Leafs, 2-1, at Air Canada Centre on Monday night.
Horton, who had not scored a goal in nine games entering the night, beat Leafs goaltender James Reimer from the high slot at 7:56 of the second period and set up a Savard one-timer later in the period. Mikhail Grabovski got the Leafs on the board in the first period, but his breakaway goal was the extent of the Leafs’ scoring.
Rask made 36 saves in improving to 3-7-1 on the season. The Bruins have now wrapped up their five-game road trip and will return to the Garden to face the Wild on Thursday.
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE BRUINS
- As good as it is to see Horton get on the scoring sheet, ultimately the breakout was by his entire line. Since Claude Julien put the Milan Lucic-Savard-Horton line together following the team’s Dec. 20 loss to the Ducks, the line hadn’t produced a single goal. Two from the line on Monday was a good sign that Julien was wise in not blowing up the line after earlier, quieter showings.
- If Rask’s confidence was in question, he can leave Monday night’s game knowing that he came up big in Toronto. Rask got sharper throughout the night, stopping an onslaught of from the Leafs early in the third that consisted of two quick shots from Phil Kessel and a follow-up bid from Tyler Bozak at 15:44. He later came up huge against Colby Armstrong with just over 11 minutes remaining.
- Tyler Seguin had only two shots on goal and was a minus-1 (it was his shot that Luke Schenn blocked and sent up to Grabovski), but the youngster is playing a more confident game of late. Perhaps even more apparent than it was in Saturday’s two-point performance, Seguin doesn’t look like a rookie overly concerned with limiting mistakes. Confidence undoubtedly will yield improved stats.
- The Bruins have not lost in regulation since the aforementioned Dec. 20 game. They took eight of 10 points on their five-game road trip after beating the Thrashers at home on Dec. 23.
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE BRUINS
- Mark Recchi got caught in a line change on Grabovski’s goal, though the play was the result of many players being in the wrong place at the wrong time. The defense, assuming Seguin’s shot would go through, wasn’t anticipating the play going the other way, and with Grabovski streaking, it was a perfect storm for the Leafs.
- The Bruins had only one power play on the night, the result of a first-period interference call on Mike Komiserik, and went 0-for-1 with the man advantage. Over the last three games, the B’s have gone 0-for-6 on the power play.
- Who knew Canada was more out of touch with North American rock music than the Czech Republic? Metallica’s “I Disappear” could be heard late in the third period coming from the Air Canada Centre speakers. O2 Arena in Prague was a little closer to relevant rock with their painful Nirvana overkill.
|Tyler Ennis scores game-winner in shootout as Bruins fall to Sabres||01.01.11 at 10:15 pm ET|
In a game that could appropriately be summarized as a “shootout,” the Bruins fell, 7-6, to the Sabres Saturday in a shootout.
After Drew Stafford and Michael Ryder each scored in the first round of the shootout, Thomas Vanek and Tyler Seguin followed their teammates’ leads. Tyler Ennis then beat Tim Thomas, who came on in relief of Tuukka Rask in the second period, before Zdeno Chara missed.
The Bruins relinquished three leads and Stafford had his second hat trick vs. the B’s this season. Sabres’ netminder Ryan Miller allowed six goals on 40 shots, marking the third time in four games he’s allowed at least four goals.
The Bruins got first period goals from Andrew Ference, Dennis Seidenberg, Brad Marchand, and Zdeno Chara, but Tuukkka Rask allowed three goals on 16 shots and was pulled following the period. After Thomas relinquished the lead, the Bruins faced a 5-4 deficit in the third period.
The team made yet another third-period comeback, with Tyler Seguin tying the game and assisting Steven Kampfer’s go-ahead goal. Stafford would go on to tie the game with 27.8 seconds remaining in the game with the extra attacker on.
With the shootout loss, the Bruins have picked up six of eight points so far on their current road trip, which they will round out when they face the Maple Leafs in Toronto on Monday night.
Thomas’ record now stands at 18-4-5. He has now played in eight straight games and has lost back-to-back games in shootout fashion.
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE BRUINS
- The decision to pull Tuukka Rask was highly questionable. By not letting Rask play more than a period of his first start since Dec. 15, the B’s failed at both keeping Rask fresh and giving Tim Thomas — who had started the team’s last seven games — a day off.
To those wondering whether Claude Julien would have done the same thing if Thomas were in the situation, the answer (based on this season, at least) is no. Thomas allowed three goals on 17 shots Dec. 16 vs. the Canadiens. Julien left Thomas in as the B’s lost, 4-3.
- Blake Wheeler has found the penalty box in the last three games without drawing a penalty. He was a minus-1 on the night.
- Drew Stafford has haunted the Bruins all season. Both of his hat tricks have come against the B’s, meaning six of his 13 goals this season have come against the Bruins.
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE BRUINS
- Tyler Seguin played one of his best games this season and was clutch down the stretch. In the third period, he scored his first goal in 12 games on a nice one-timer orchestrated by Daniel Paille. He then assisted Steven Kampfer’s second goal of the season, which put the B’s up, 6-5. Seguin now has 13 points this season.
- The Bruins’ defense was instrumental in the team’s offensive success throughout the game. Four different defensemen scored for the B’s and Marchand scored his goal by redirecting a shot from Johnny Boychuk. It was the first time in team history that four defenseman scored for the Bruins.
The second overall pick still isn’t getting the ice time he was earlier in the season, but he led the B’s with six shots on goal in regulation.
- Chara’s goal, a power-play strike was his first in 24 games. The captain now has five goals and 11 assists on the season. Despite his two points, he had a minus-1 on the night.
- Give Nathan Horton credit where credit is due. He isn’t scoring, but he is (finally) getting shots on goal. He had five Saturday.
|Gregory Campbell to miss Saturday’s game vs. Sabres||at 6:01 pm ET|
Bruins center Gregory Campbell will miss Saturday’s game vs. the Sabres, as coach Claude Julien told reporters prior to the game that the center remains “under the weather.” Campbell was also held out of Thursday night’s 3-2 shootout loss to the Thrashers.
Prior to falling ill, Campbell had played in each of the team’s first 35 games. He has tallied three goals and six assists while centering the “Merlot Line” with Brad Marchand and Shawn Thornton. In Campbell’s absence Thursday, Tyler Seguin jumped from second line wing to fourth line center, while Marchand took Seguin’s usual spot with Patrice Bergeron and Mark Recchi. Daniel Paille played Marchand’s usual role as fourth-line wing.
|Gregory Campbell out vs. Thrashers||12.30.10 at 6:40 pm ET|
Bruins center Gregory Campbell was not on the ice during warmups prior to Thursday nights’ tilt against the Thrashers, as he is reportedly under the whether. With Campbell out, Tyler Seguin will center the fourth line, with Brad Marchand jumping to Seguin’s spot on the second line and Daniel Paille taking Marchand’s place on the fourth line. Here is how the lines will look after the changes:
Lucic – Savard – Horton
Marchand – Bergeron – Recchi
Wheeler – Krejci- Ryder
Paille – Seguin- Thornton
|Shots, as far as the eye can see||12.29.10 at 5:34 pm ET|
Nathan Horton‘s been a popular guy lately for all the wrong reasons, as Tuesday’s no-show was the latest example of a contest that, if made into a movie, would not have a part for the winger.
Matt Kalman had an interesting post at the Bruins Blog today pointing out that Horton has had one shot or less in 12 games this season. I was astonished last night when seeing that he’s actually third on the team in shots despite how frequent these duds seem to come. With that in mind, here’s a quick breakdown of each line and its players shots on goal. Of course, the lines are listed just for organization’s sake, as the current lines have only existed for three games this season.
Milan Lucic (77) – Marc Savard (21) – Nathan Horton (81)
Mark Recchi (59) – Patrice Bergeron (81) – Tyler Seguin* (59)
Blake Wheeler (62) – David Krejci^ (68) – Michael Ryder (75)
Brad Marchand^ (55) – Gregory Campbell (40) – Shawn Thornton (77)
* Savard has played in 12 games,
** Seguin has played in 33 games.
^ Krejci has played in 28 games.
^^ Marchand has played in 32 games.
Zdeno Chara leads the Bruins with 110 shots on goal, while Dennis Seidenberg is second among B’s defensemen with 70. The Bruins as a team are fifth in the NHL with 32.9 shots per game.
Moral of the story? As good as Thornton is at getting pucks to the net and creating rebounds, he shouldn’t be nipping at Horton’s heals — and that’s not a plea for Thornton to shoot less.
|Mark Recchi scores game-winning goal in final 20 seconds to lead Bruins past Lightning||12.28.10 at 10:12 pm ET|
Mark Recchi sent a wrist shot past Dan Ellis with 19.7 seconds remaining in regulation to give the Bruins a 4-3 victory over the Lightning on Tuesday night in Tampa.
Recchi’s goal was the B’s second power play tally of the night, as the Bruins were on the man advantage late in the contest thanks to a Steven Stamkos boarding call for a hit on Gregory Campbell.
Michael Ryder, Steven Kampfer, and Brad Marchand scored in the first, second, and third periods, respectively to give the Bruins leads in each period. Kampfer’s second-period tally was his first career NHL goal, while Marc Savard got his 700th point in assisting it.
The Lightning were able to tie the game following each of the B’s first three goals, getting tallies from Stamkos, Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis.
Tim Thomas made 31 saves on the night and improved to 18-4-3 on the season. The Bruins will travel to Atlanta to face the Thrashers on Thursday.
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE BRUINS
- Kampfer’s goal was the latest reminder that he has been just what the Bruins needed when they traded Matt Hunwick. Monday night’s blunder that led to David Booth‘s was the only time the 22-year-old’s style of play has cost the B’s, and he remains their best (and only) puck-moving D-man.
- The Bruins got Brad Marchand back. After missing three games with soreness caused by the crushing hit he took from P.K. Subban. Daniel Paille filled in admirably, but Marchand’s return to the lineup saw him grab his fifth goal, giving him as many as Tyler Seguin.
- The Bruins were able to draw penalties early on the penalty kill twice. With Milan Lucic in the box for hooking in the first, the Lightning power play lasted just five seconds before Stamkos went off for tripping Zdeno Chara.
In the second period, Blake Wheeler went off for high-sticking Dominic Moore, but Teddy Purcell was in the box 16 seconds later for holding. On the night, the B’s were 2-for-6 on the power play, while the Lightning went 1-for-5.
From the WEEI.com Stat Truck: In firing the shot that’s rebound led to Marchand’s goal, Shawn Thornton picked up his second assist of the season. That ties him with Thomas, who also has a pair of helpers.
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE BRUINS
- Milan Lucic has now gone five games without a point. Prior to this stretch, which began Dec. 18 against the Capitals, Lucic had only gone two games without a point once. Lucic is a minus-2 throughout the streak. His linemate isn’t faring much better, as Nathan Horton had a season-low 11:36 of ice time, including a 3:09 first period.
- While a couple of rookies shined in Kampfer and Marchand, Seguin has been very quiet. He failed to get a shot on goal, and has now gone 10 games without a goal. He has just two points in those games.
- The B’s blew three leads in the game. The game featured plenty of back-and-forth, but the Bruins had the opportunity to close it out following Marchand’s goal in the third and failed to do so until the Stamkos penalty.
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