|Bruins’ worst fears realized as inexperienced defense struggles mightily in loss to Jets||10.08.15 at 11:51 pm ET|
If you were worried about the Bruins defense being a disaster with Dougie Hamilton gone and Zdeno Chara banged up, your worst fears were realized in Thursday night’s season-opening loss against the Jets.
The game actually didn’t start off too badly at all. The Bruins were on the attack most of the first period and the defense didn’t really give the Jets any good looks on the few occasions they did get into the Bruins’ zone.
But then the second period happened. The Jets’ first goal came off a combination of all three Bruins forwards getting caught up ice and Joe Morrow not putting enough on his pass into the neutral zone, leading to an easy interception for Dustin Byfuglien and an odd-man rush the other way.
The second came off a brutal turnover by Matt Irwin behind the Bruins’ net, as Andrew Ladd picked his pocket clean before setting up former Bruin Blake Wheeler right in front. The third resulted from another tough sequence for Irwin and defensive partner Zach Trotman. Trotman couldn’t get his stick on a pass through the slot that went right by him, and then Irwin compounded that by completely losing track of his man and allowing Drew Stafford an easy finish on the doorstep.
Things didn’t get any better in the third. After the Bruins cut the deficit to 3-2, Irwin got caught pinching in the offensive zone (as you’ve probably gathered by now, the UMass product did not have a good night) and David Krejci, who was the closest to being able to cover for Irwin, could not keep up with Chris Thorburn on the rush the other way. The Jets then made it 5-2 when Torey Krug couldn’t clear out 5-foot-9 Nicolas Petan and watched a centering pass bounce off Petan’s skate and in.
“I think the examples are pretty clear of where we made those mistakes and where it cost us goals,” Claude Julien said after the game. “It was clear right from the get-go there, so it’s going to be easy to show those kinds of things. We’re early in the season, you’ve got to show those kinds of things. We’ve got to work and rectify those things as soon as possible.” Read the rest of this entry »
Without Zdeno Chara, the Bruins’ defense figured to be suspect at best. At least there were no surprises on opening night.
Playing without their captain, Boston’s defense fell apart after the first period, allowing three goals in each of the last two periods as the Jets took a 6-2 victory in Boston’s season-opener.
The most egregious misplay came from newcomer Matt Irwin, who coughed up the puck behind Boston’s net with the game tied at one. Jets captain Andrew Ladd picked the puck cleanly from Irwin and fed former Bruin Blake Wheeler, who beat Tuukka Rask to give Winnipeg the lead. At least one of Irwin or partner Zach Trotman were on the ice for four of the five goals against on the night, excluding Winnipeg‘s empty netter with 3:38 left to play.
The night actually started out well for the B’s, who controlled play in the first period and got the game’s first goal from David Krejci. The B’s failed to cash in on their subsequent chances however, and when play turned sloppy in the second, the game slipped away.
Such a turn of events wasn’t too shocking. Things can go south quickly when a team doesn’t have a good blue line and the Bruins learned that the hard way Thursday.
Here are four more things we learned in the season-opener.
MAMBO NO. 5
For as much as Rask had to play last season, he didn’t get lit up frequently. Thursday saw him allow five goals, something he only did three times last season.
Rask is obviously one of the best goaltenders in the world, but with Boston’s sloppy showing in front of him from the start of the second period on, he had his work cut out for him. It actually could have been worse, as Rask stopped Andrew Ladd on a shorthanded breakaway.
BERGERON TAKES HEAD SHOT
Patrice Bergeron doesn’t go ballistic on his opponents often, but Alexander Burmistrov can probably join Alexander Burrows and Jeff Skinner’s club after Thursday.
With Bergeron chasing after a puck deep in Boston’s zone late in the first period, Burmistrov cut back and caught Bergeron in the face with an elbow. Bergeron bolted after the Jets forward immediately and a scrum ensued. Burmistrov got two minutes for an illegal check to the head and Adam Lowry got a roughing minor, while Bergeron was given a minor for cross-checking.
PASTRNAK STICKS OUT
Pastrnak brought the Bruins within one in the third period with a dart of a wrist shot that beat Ondrej Pavelec short-side, but it was a play on which he didn’t get a point at all that may have been most encouraging.
The second-year player isn’t going to be an overly physical player because, well, he can’t be. Though remarkably skilled, the slender 19-year-old is at risk of getting pushed around by bigger, stronger players.
That’s why it was a very positive sign when Pastrnak was able to steal the puck behind the Winnipeg to set up up David Krejci‘s goal. After forcing the turnover, Pastrnak swung around and sent the puck to the front of the net. Krejci got a stick on Winnipeg‘s attempt to get it out and backhanded it past Pavelec to five the Bruins a 1-0 lead.
Pastrnak didn’t get an assist on the play because he didn’t get the puck to Krejci cleanly, but the fact that he was able to win a puck by having a good stick was a good sign that the teenager can be resourceful.
EVERYBODY HATES RINALDO, WHICH IS GOOD
During pregame introductions, Zac Rinaldo got more boos than any other home player. The boo birds (not a large group and certainly a group drowned out by cheers) at TD Garden quickly learned that the weren’t alone when Adam Lowry tripped Rinaldo on the fourth line’s first shift of the game.
The fact that Rinaldo’s opponents don’t like him for his past sins could be a very good thing for the Bruins, as long as he can play within the lines and draw penalties. Rinaldo was able to do that during the preseason, but a player with a reputation like Rinaldo’s might have a hard time behaving for 82 games.
McGuire said with so many players being added to the team in the offseason, patience is going to be key for coach Claude Julien, as well as getting off to a hot start.
“Well, he’s going to have to be because that’s patience is going to be part of his job to make sure these players learn how to play,” McGuire said. “Dougie Houda, the other assistant coach who works mostly with the defense, he’s going to have to do some pretty patient work with those young players as well on defense. The expectation in Boston is so high, obviously, and it should be. It is a strong franchise and an original six franchise. I love the intensity. The fan base is obviously rapid.
“It’s an important franchise in the league, but it’s really, really critical that they get off to a good start because this is the kind of thing that confidence is going to be a premium. If they get off to a bad start, the confidence starts to wain, it would be a tough year.”
With the team already dealing with a number of injuries to open the year, health is a concern.
“They will have to start getting some people healthy, especially Big Z (Zdeno Chara) No. 1, and No. 2 [Dennis] Seidenberg injury sets them back a little bit,” McGuire said. “They also have Kevan Miller and Colin Miller with Colin Miller coming over in the [Milan] Lucic trade, who can really step up his game. I thought there was some moments in preseason where he was very good. The Bruins clearly know him well from his days in Manchester and his days at [Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds]. They have to hope he can get it going and obviously Torey Krug takes another step forward.
“This is going to be interesting. It is going to be interesting to watch. The one thing I would caution Bruins fans on is I would never bet against a team that has Patrice Bergeron and Zdeno Chara in their leadership core. I never would just because I respect those guys so much.”
With Dougie Hamilton in Calgary, Dennis Seidenberg rehabbing from back surgery and Zdeno Chara officially out for Thursday night’s meeting with the Jets due to an upper-body, the Bruins’ top defensive pairing is now Torey Krug with Adam McQuaid.
If that sounds alarming, it’s because that has never been a top pairing before. Though both guys have played on Chara’s right at times over the years, trying to shut down Winnipeg‘s top forwards by themselves will be a challenge.
“I don’t really know what to expect, but I’ll obviously be prepared for that,” McQuaid said of potentially playing top-pairing minutes. “Whether we’ll have a definitive 1-2-3 pairings, I’m not quite sure. I think we’re all pretty capable of playing. I think it’s a pretty solid three pairings. We’ll be prepared to play against anyone.”
Boston’s three pairings for Thursday are expected to be Krug-McQuaid, Joe Morrow-Kevan Miller and Matt Irwin-Zach Trotman. Colin Miller is expected to be a healthy scratch on defense.
This season figured to be difficult for the Bruins defensively even before Seidenberg and Chara got hurt. The loss of Hamilton made a team that struggled on the back end last season even worse, and though the B’s had ample bodies with the additions of Matt Irwin and Colin Miller, the blue line figured to be a work in progress, at best. Without Chara, the getting-to-know-you period for guys like Irwin and new full-timers in Trotman and Morrow will be harder than expected.
Where the Bruins benefit (if you can call it that) is that they have last change at home for the first three games of the season. It’s unknown how much longer Chara will be kept out, but Julien will at least have an easier time getting the matchups he want while the games are at TD Garden.
That means that Winnipeg‘s top line of Bryan Little between Andrew Ladd and Blake Wheeler can probably expect a healthy dose of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and Loui Eriksson on Thursday night. Playing against the Bergeron line is never easy, but it’s easier when Chara isn’t out there, too.
A former Bruin who was sent to Atlanta in the 2011 Rich Peverley trade, Wheeler likely would have seen plenty of Chara given that their positions match up (Wheeler’s a right wing; Chara’s a left D). Wheeler was matched against Seidenberg and Kevan Miller when the teams met last Nov. 28, but he faced Chara and Hamilton in a Dec. 19 meeting that saw his line go without a point and struggle with possession.
“You want to see Zee back on the ice as soon as possible, but it’s never that much fun playing against him with that said,’ Wheeler said after Winnipeg‘s morning skate. “I mean that as a compliment. He’s one of the more intimidating tough guys to play against in the NHL. He’s a big hole to fill for sure.”
Julien answered a question about his defense Thursday by noting that the Bruins have “dealt with it before” and “dealt with it last year.” Of course, the Bruins had Hamilton then, while Boston’s other D’s assignments didn’t change too drastically. This will be more difficult, however long it lasts.
|Zdeno Chara (upper-body injury) out for Bruins season-opener||at 10:46 am ET|
Claude Julien confirmed what Thursday’s morning skate suggested when he revealed the Bruins will take the cautious route with Zdeno Chara and hold him out of Thursday’s season-opener against the Jets.
The Bruins paired Chara with Colin Miller in Thursday’s morning skate, an indication that he’d be out after Miller did not participate in power play work Wednesday. Chara has been out since Sept. 24 with an upper-body injury.
Chara still cannot take slap shots, as he’s been doing them lightly since Wednesday. Given that he is clearly not at 100 percent, the B’s are wise to hold him out, even if it means icing a potentially porous defense for the time being.
The reason Julien might hold Colin Miller out figures to be because of Boston’s need to defend without the ultimate shutdown defenseman. With Chara out, all three remaining left-shot defensemen are offensive-minded defenders in Torey Krug, Joe Morrow and Matt Irwin. As such, it’s hard to fault Julien for sitting the right-handed Miller in favor of better defensive players in Adam McQuaid, Kevan Miller and Zach Trotman.
Boston’s roster is currently at 23 players with Chara on injured reserve. If they are to take him off IR in the coming days, they would need to remove a player from the roster.
Boston’s lineup in morning skate was as follows:
(Tyler Randell, Max Talbot)
ESPN NHL hockey analyst Barry Melrose joined Dennis, Callahan & Minihane on Thursday morning to look ahead to the 2015-16 NHL season. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.
With the Bruins’ disappointing season last year, he feels coach Claude Julien is under pressure right away.
“I think he is. I don’t think he should be,” Melrose said. “I think Claude is a heck of a coach, won a Stanley Cup in Boston. They had a long drought, there was no Stanley Cup winners and he comes in and gets the job done and the team is good every year. I think he’s under pressure. Boston is a team that expects to win. They expect the Red Sox to win, the Patriots to win, the Celtics to win and they expect Boston to win. It’s going to be a tough year for the Bruins. They are not the dominant Bruins they once were. Everybody got a little bit better in the East and it is going to take Claude’s best coaching job he’s ever done in his life to make this a playoff team and give them a chance of winning.”
This past offseason the team lost a number of key players, including Dougie Hamilton and Milan Lucic. Melrose says their margin for error is very small.
“Are they as good today as they were last year? I don’t think so,” he said. “I think what has to happen for the Bruins now is they don’t have any margin anymore. The Bruins used to be able to overcome an injury or overcome maybe a struggling player here or there, but I don’t think they can anymore. I think the Bruins have to get plays from their kids, they have to get great games from [Patrice] Bergeron, [David] Krejci and [Zdeno] Chara. They can’t afford any injuries to key players. Tuukka Rask probably has to play the best he’s ever played and they just don’t have any margin for error anymore with their lineup.
“If all those things happen they are a playoff team, but if all of a sudden Bergeron misses six weeks or Krejci, who has been hurt a lot lately, misses six weeks, Chara is already starting the year hurt, [Dennis] Seidenberg is already gone for two months, so that’s going to be tough. They’ve been able to overcome those before, I don’t know if they will be able to overcome those now.”
|Zdeno Chara (upper-body injury) mum on opening night status||10.07.15 at 12:45 pm ET|
As the Bruins held their final practice in anticipation of the 2015-16 season Wednesday at TD Garden, Zdeno Chara may have taken a step closer to being game-ready.
Chara was present as the Bruins practiced the power play prior to practice, switching off with Zach Trotman on the point of Boston’s second unit. During one of the first unit’s turns, Chara took a pair of light slap shots against the boards, marking the first time he’d been seen taking slap shots since suffering his upper-body injury on Sept. 24. Overall, the day was another step in the right direction for the Bruins and their captain as the B’s prepare to open the season against the Jets on Thursday.
“I was just focusing on having a good practice today,” Chara said. “That went well, so again, we’re going to be looking towards tomorrow to have a better feeling and better knowledge.”
Chara danced around the subject when asked about his comfort with slap shots, responding that he was “just doing the drills that we had been told to do.” He was also somewhat equivocal on the subject of whether he still needs to be medically cleared to play.
The Bruins had eight defensemen practice Wednesday, seven of whom are on the active roster given that Chara is on injured reserve. Based on Wednesday’s practice, it would appear Colin Miller could be the odd man out if Chara doesn’t play. Miller, whose skill set makes him a potential power play specialist, did not practice on the power play and was paired with Chara in practice. The lines in Wednesday’s practice were as follows:
The power play units looked as such:
The Bruins roster currently stands at 23 players, not counting Chara. If the B’s are to activate him, they would need to send someone down. The Bruins roster, as announced by the NHL Wednesday, is as follows:
Matt Beleskey, Patrice Bergeron, Brett Connolly, Loui Eriksson, Jonas Gustafsson, Jimmy Hayes, Matt Irwin, Chris Kelly, Joonas Kemppainen, David Krejci, Torey Krug, Brad Marchand, Adam McQuaid, Colin Miller, Kevan Miller, Joe Morrow, David Pastrnak, Tyler Randell, Tuukka Rask, Zac Rinaldo, Ryan Spooner, Maxime Talbot, Zach Trotman.
Check out the latest Bruins Podcast, a 6-Pack of questions to preview the season, with DJ Bean and Ken Laird: