|Zdeno Chara leaves as Islanders beat Bruins in Johnny Boychuk’s return||10.23.14 at 9:30 pm ET|
The Bruins’ latest lost hurt more than usual, as Zdeno Chara left Thursday’s 3-2 loss to the Islanders after just five shifts in the first period.
The team announced at the start of the second period that Chara would not be retuning to the game, though they did not specify why. With Chara out, the B’s were forced to play with five defensemen the rest of the way.
Chara and Dougie Hamilton were both beaten in front early on in the night as Frans Nielsen took a pass from Josh Bailey and put it behind Niklas Svedberg at 6:21 of the first. Milan Lucic answered back with his first goal of the season, which came off a nice play from linemate Seth Griffith.
The Bruins struggled mightily in the second period, with Kyle Okposo scoring on a particularly rough shift from Matt Bartkowski and Cal Clutterbuck later capitalizing on poor coverage from Boston’s third line to make it 3-1.
The third line would make it up, however, as Chris Kelly won an offensive zone faceoff and jumped on a loose puck after a Carl Soderberg shot bounced off Brian Strait and into the slot. Kelly fired it into the net for his second goal of the season, bringing the B’s within a goal.
The Bruins proceeded to put forth a feverish comeback bid, spending long stretches in the offensive zone with good looks, but they were unable to out a game-tying goal past former B’s netminder Chad Johnson.
The game marked the return of former Bruin Johnny Boychuk to the Garden. Boychuk received a standing ovation during a first-period video tribute.
With the loss, the Bruins are now 4-5-0 on the season.
Here are some notes from the game:
– Chara played only five shifts, the last of which lasted 1:06. He didn’t appear to be hurt at any point during the shift, though he did land a big open-ice hit on Islanders captain John Tavares. After a TV timeout, Chara stayed on the ice to finish his shift.
– Chara was actually having his second consecutive rough game before exiting the game. He was on the ice for a 5-on-5 goal against (Bailey’s goal) with Bergeron on the ice for the second straight game and had a minus-10 even strength Corsi in his five shifts on the night.
– It was also another bad night for Patrice Bergeron, who was a minus-2 and could have been a minus-3 if Okposo made more of the opportunity that arose when Bergeron whiffed on a puck high in the offensive zone to send the play the other way.
– Matt Bartkowski had just a woeful shift on Okposo’s goal. After Tavares lost him deep in the zone, Bartkowski went to the net, leaving Bergeron to take Tavares. As has become a recurring theme, Bartkowski lost track of the guy going to the net, and Okposo was unencumbered as he stood feet from Bartkowski and batted the rebound from Tavares’ shot past Svedberg.
– Having to play with five defensemen when Chara isn’t one of them isn’t something Boston’s struggling defense is at all suited for. Bartkowski was also on the ice for Cal Clutterbuck’s goal, as the B’s got burned with a pair of Bartkowski and Torey Krug in their own end. The blown coverage on the play, however, fell on a forward in Loui Eriksson.
– Seth Griffith is fitting in more and more with each game. He made a nice play on Lucic’s goal, taking a pass from Krejci as the line entered the zone and throwing a pass towards the net from the high in the zone. With Lucic driving to the net with Cal Clutterbuck, the puck went off either Lucic’s skate or stick and beat Johnson. The play gave Griffith a two-game point-streak (one goal, one assist) since re-entering the lineup Tuesday.
– The Bruins obviously had to mix and match on defense once Chara left the game, but here was the lineup to begin the game:
Marchand – Bergeron – Smith
Lucic – Krejci – Griffith
Kelly – Soderberg – Eriksson
Paille – Campbell – Gagne
Chara – Hamilton
Seidenberg – Krug
Bartkowski – McQuaid
|How Bruins overcame uncharacteristically bad nights from Patrice Bergeron, Zdeno Chara||10.21.14 at 11:51 pm ET|
Usually the Patrice Bergeron line and Zdeno Chara-Dougie Hamilton pairing are the Bruins’ constants. They’re the guys who are going to create offensive-zone possessions and not make mistakes.
That wasn’t the case on Tuesday. Bergeron was on the ice for all three of the Sharks’ goals, linemates Brad Marchand and Reilly Smith joined him for two of them (it is worth noting that Marchand had a nice power-play goal), and Chara was on the ice for two of them as well. Those four and Hamilton were the only Bruins who finished with Corsi-for percentages under 50 percent, meaning they were the only Bruins who were on the ice for more 5-on-5 shot attempts against than shot attempts for.
That would seemingly be a recipe for disaster for the Bruins, especially when you consider that outside of the Carl Soderberg line, the rest of the team had been one giant question mark to this point in the season. David Krejci had looked good since his return, but linemate Milan Lucic was off to a slow start and he still didn’t have a set-in-stone right wing. The fourth line had featured several different combinations, and none of them had really done much. And the second and third defense pairings had been inconsistent at best, with Kevan Miller’s injury raising even more questions on the back end.
At least for one night, those questions turned into answers. Lucic, Krejci and rookie right wing Seth Griffith factored into four of the Bruins’ five goals, with Lucic notching three assists and Griffith scoring his first NHL goal. Two of the goals they were on the ice for — Griffith’s and Torey Krug’s — came as the direct result of getting bodies to the net. Krejci set a great screen on Krug’s, and then Lucic created some net-front havoc that freed up Griffith on his goal.
“I think it definitely was the best game that we’ve played so far this season,” Lucic said. “You saw we were hungry in the O-zone and hungry getting pucks to the net. We made some smart decisions in some important areas and it just seems like things are starting to head in the right direction.”
The fourth line of Daniel Paille, Gregory Campbell and Simon Gagne was a positive possession line that even created some chances against the Sharks’ top two lines. They scored what proved to be the game-winner midway through the third when Paille won the puck along the boards and threw a shot on net that Campbell tipped in for his first goal of the season.
Campbell and Paille were also big on the penalty kill, especially late in the game when Bergeron went to the box for a four-minute double minor. Until Krejci’s empty-netter to seal the win, Campbell had the biggest play on that kill when he blocked a Joe Thornton shot that came off a Chara turnover.
“We’ve got to be a responsible, reliable line, and Claude [Julien] has to trust us to put us in those situations,” Campbell said. “With hard work comes trust, and if we’re playing our game and we’re in on the forecheck and creating chances and bringing energy to the lineup, then he usually has confidence in us.”
As for the bottom two defense pairings, the only glaring error was a bad miscommunication between Krug and Dennis Seidenberg that led to a goal, but as Julien pointed out after the game, Bergeron’s line was just as much at fault, as Smith had failed to clear the zone and Bergeron and Marchand had gotten caught up ice.
Outside of that, the Seidenberg-Krug and Matt Bartkowski-Adam McQuaid pairings played well. Krug’s goal and two assists obviously stand out, but let’s not overlook the fact that Seidenberg had seven shots on goal and 12 shot attempts, and that he and Krug had Corsi-for percentages of 63 and 62 percent, respectively. McQuaid and Bartkowski weren’t far behind at 61 and 57 percent, respectively, and McQuaid was also big on that final penalty kill.
Obviously this is just one game. No one should think that all of the Bruins’ question marks are gone and that everyone’s going to be great from here on. But on a night when the Bruins’ best players were uncharacteristically unreliable, it was encouraging to see everyone else step up and show that they can lead the way, too.
|David Krejci, Reilly Smith provide offense as Bruins beat Red Wings, end losing streak||10.15.14 at 11:02 pm ET|
David Krejci and Reilly Smith each scored in regulation, and then they each scored in the shootout as the Bruins beat the Red Wings, 3-2, Wednesday night to end their three-game losing streak.
Krejci opened the scoring 5:12 into the game with his first goal of the season after Chris Kelly forced a neutral-zone turnover and sprung Krejci up the middle of the ice. The Red Wings answered a few minutes later when Tomas Tatar took advantage of some sloppy defensive play and ripped a shot under the crossbar.
The Bruins regained the lead with 6:29 left in the second. Brad Marchand retrieved a dump-in deep in the offensive zone and calmly moved the puck to Patrice Bergeron, who then tried a wraparound that led to a juicy rebound for Smith to bury.
The Red Wings answered again, though, when Gustav Nyquist fired a laser shot past Tuukka Rask for a power-play goal 2:56 into the third. The Bruins failed to capitalize on two power plays of their own in the third period, and Jimmy Howard made several big saves in the final minute — most notably on a Simon Gagne rebound bid — to force overtime.
The Bruins were the better team in overtime, but couldn’t finish their chances. The best opportunity came on a 3-on-1 a minute and a half in, but Smith tried to force a pass that was easily broken up. The B’s had to kill a 41-second Wings power play to end the overtime after Brendan Smith drew a call on Bergeron with a pretty blatant embellishment.
Here are some other observations from the game:
-For the second time in as many games against Detroit, the Bruins suffered a Patrice Bergeron injury scare. Last week Bergeron missed most of the second period after crashing awkwardly into the boards. On Wednesday he limped off the ice late in the second after blocking a Danny DeKeyser slap shot. Fortunately for the Bruins, Bergeron was back on the ice for the start of the third period. As he so often is, Bergeron was the Bruins’ best forward Wednesday night. He went 17-for-24 on faceoffs and posted a .740 Corsi, and his line registered 12 shots on goal to go along with Smith’s second-period tally.
-This is partially tied into Bergeron since they played with that line a lot, but Zdeno Chara and Dougie Hamilton were great, as they usually are. They had Corsis of 78 percent and 79 percent, respectively, which is very good. Hamilton was also a force in overtime, as he jumped into the offense several times and helped create scoring chances.
-The Bruins absolutely dominated the first period, outshooting the Red Wings 14-4 in the opening 20 minutes. They spent entire shifts in the offensive zone and won the majority of 1-on-1 battles. The scoreboard didn’t reflect that dominance, though, as the two teams entered the intermission tied at 1-1. Even on the Red Wings’ goal, they hadn’t really established any sort of possession in the Bruins’ zone, as it came off a turnover that led to a bouncing puck around the net.
-It was a particularly interesting first period for Chris Kelly. He made a great play to set up Krejci’s goal, as he forced a turnover in the neutral zone and then made a nice pass through the seam to spring Krejci. Just a few minutes later, though, it was a turnover of his own that led to Tatar’s goal, as Kelly failed to handle a pass up the boards from Dennis Seidenberg. On the whole, though, it was another good game for Kelly and linemates Carl Soderberg and Loui Eriksson. Kelly’s five shots on goal were tied for the team lead.
-The Bruins’ penalty kill had been very good until Nyquist’s power-play goal in the third period. Before that, the B’s had allowed just two shots on goal on the Red Wings’ first three power plays and made it tough for the Wings to get set up. On the fourth, though, they gave the dangerous Nyquist too much room to operate and he made them pay by walking in and snapping a shot past Rask.
-Considering it was his first game since April 2013, Simon Gagne looked pretty good. He played 12:13 and recorded four shot attempts and two shots on goal, one of which nearly won the game in the final minute of regulation. He started the game on the fourth line with Daniel Paille and Ryan Spooner, but wound up seeing some time with Krejci and Milan Lucic as the game went on.
|Zdeno Chara gets stick to eye in morning skate||10.11.14 at 12:06 pm ET|
Both Gregory Campbell and David Krejci participated in Saturday’s morning skate, though neither will be on the ice when the Bruins host the Capitals at TD Garden Saturday night. Krejci is on injured reserve and is not eligible to play until Monday at the earliest, while Claude Julien said there is no timetable for Campbell, who has yet to be cleared for contact.
The B’s survived an injury scare in practice when Milan Lucic and Zdeno Chara collided and Chara was hit in the eye by Lucic’s stick. Chara was down for a moment before getting up and holding a towel over his face. Chara stayed on the ice for the rest of the skate.
Based on morning skate, the lineup for Saturday is unchanged from the first two games:
Marchand – Bergeron – Smith
Kelly – Soderberg – Eriksson
Lucic – Spooner – Fraser
Paille – Cunningham – Robins
Chara – Hamilton
Seidenberg – McQuaid
Krug – Miller
For more on the Bruins, visit weei.com/bruins.
|Pierre McGuire on MFB: Bruins ‘going to be a ton of fun to watch’||10.09.14 at 1:52 pm ET|
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.”
|Andy Brickley on MFB: ‘Expect further moves to be made’ by Bruins||10.08.14 at 1:52 pm ET|
NESN Bruins analyst Andy Brickley made his first weekly appearance of the 2014-15 season Wednesday, hours before the Bruins drop the puck against the Flyers in the opener at TD Garden. To hear the interview, go the MFB audio on demand page.
Prognosticators think highly of the Bruins heading into the campaign, and Brickley explained there’s a good reason for that.
“I don’t know if they’ve gotten better in any one particular area other than a little bit more experience,” Brickley said. “I think they have the strengths that most teams that want to be an elite team have. You try to build teams from the goal line on out. So they have a goaltender that won the Vezina in the last year, obviously, Tuukka [Rask] is tremendously talented and calm and has that demeanor that everybody likes to play in front of.
“They have a real good defensive corps led by Zdeno Chara. They play a defense-first system. They play a backchecking formula that really, really pays off, which is one of the main reasons that they play four lines. The demand by Claude Julien and his coaching staff to have that back pressure to help out the team defense part of the game is almost unmatched across the league. And it really stands out when you break down tape just how committed the Bruins forwards are to get back and play defense and pressure the puck and try to turn defense into offense with turnovers and control the middle of the ice — that’s that straight-down-the-middle phrase that I use.
“And then try to have their offense be a balanced scoring attack along with quality special teams. They were the third-best power play in the league last year, that has a lot to do with the infusion of young talent that they got — like a Dougie Hamilton, like a Torey Krug, they both play power play on different units. Reilly Smith comes in in that deal for [Tyler] Seguin, he gives you a different element, a little bit more speed, a little bit more skill up front. It allows Chara to play the front of the net — whether you thought that was going to be a successful and productive experiment or not, it has paid off for the Bruins.
“So, that’s the formula for success. That’s why the Jeremy Roenicks and the Barry Melroses feel that the Bruins, relative to every other team in the Eastern Conference, that they’re right there at the top.”
Last season, Chara finished a distant second to Duncan Keith for the Norris Trophy, which is voted on each season by members of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association (full disclosure: I am a voting member who gave Chara my top vote last season).
Intended to go to the league’s top defenseman each season, the Norris is perhaps the most up-for-interpretation award on which the writers vote.
Voting, in the eyes of the players and at least this member of the media, is out of control. Either more specific criteria should be set for voters or writers shouldn’t determine who wins. The Vezina Trophy, for example, is voted on by NHL general managers. They mess it up sometimes, too, but general managers are (for the most part) smarter than writers.
“A lot of times, it’s like a political campaign,” Ray Bourque, a five-time Norris-winner in his day, told WEEI.com.
Defensive metrics are becoming more widely available, but as they become fine-tuned and the hockey world slowly begins to accept them, the statistic that voters continue to look to first remains points. Lunacy.
In 2012, Erik Karlsson won the award, while Chara finished third. The year after that, P.K. Subban won. Both Karlsson and Subban’s Norris wins were based exclusively on points; Karlsson did not kill penalties for the Senators and Subban was 12th on the Habs in shorthanded time on ice the year he won.
Yet Subban, after tying for the lead among NHL defensemen in points in his Norris-winning season, finished fifth in points last season but dropped all the way to 14th in voting, receiving a single third-place vote and a single fifth-place vote. So is the award about playing defense or putting up points? If it’s the latter, why were Subban’s points ignored last season? And why, then, were Mike Green‘s 31 goals in Chara’s Norris-winning season not enough to wrest the trophy from Chara?
It’s that inconsistency in voting that each year brings Chara closer to finishing a Hall of Fame career with just one Norris to show for it.
“You kind of feel like, ‘OK, is this going to ever happen again or is this going to change or are they going to look at it differently?’” Chara said. “Because every year they tell you, ‘He didn’t get it because he had a lot of points, a lot of goals, but he’s not an all-around defenseman.’ Then the next year they’ll be like, ‘Hey, he’s an all-around defenseman but this [other] guy got 25 goals as a defenseman,’ so it’s like every year it’s almost like it swings, the way they look at it. How do you know really [what they want]?”
Over the last 10 seasons, Chara has been a top-three finisher in Norris voting six times and finished in the top five eight times. His only win came in 2008-09, and while both Niklas Lidstrom and Keith have won the award multiple times in that span, no defenseman has finished near the top with Chara’s consistency in the last 10 years.
Translation: Chara comes up short a lot.
He loses because of points. In fact, he even understands that though he was the best all-around defenseman in the league last year, his 17 goals (10 of which were on the power play, where he mostly played forward) were probably as big a reason that he got as many votes as he did as his defensive dominance.
Winning the Norris is important to Chara, but he shouldn’t expect to win it again. Last season he was as deserving of the award as he usually is – Chara’s performance was backed up well by both advanced and old-fashioned stats (his plus-25 rating was tops among the top 10 vote-getters; Shea Weber, who played tougher minutes, was a minus-2) — but he was blown out of the water by Keith, a well-rounded defenseman who was used on Chicago’s second pairing to maximize his offensive output. That meant a sensational 61 points (second among defensemen) but it came against easier competition than Chara faced.
The Blackhawks’ usage of Keith was brilliant, but it should have done more for Joel Quenneville’s Jack Adams (top coach; voted on by broadcasters) candidacy than it did for Keith’s Norris odds. Regardless, the voting wasn’t close. Keith finished first in votes with 1033 points and 68 first-place votes. Chara was given 667 points, receiving less than a third of Keith’s first-place votes with 21.
“I’m not mad about Duncan or anybody who is winning the trophy,” Chara clarified. “I just feel a little bit disappointed at times that I’ve really felt I had a strong season, I really had an all-around season and I would deserve it, but it’s voting. It’s in the hands of writers, and [that] is obviously something that only [writers] who have votes can change and make a difference, if that’s something you guys feel should be different.”
Bourque’s five Norris seasons give him the fourth-most in NHL history behind Bobby Orr (eight), Doug Harvey and Nicklas Lidstrom (seven apiece). Keith, who won the award as a shutdown defenseman in 2009-10, is now in the exclusive club of players with multiple Norris wins (12 players).
It’s very easy to argue that Chara should be in that club, but both he and anyone who has seen how the votes have fallen over the years should be wise enough to not hold their breath.
“If you want to get me started talking about the Norris Trophy and who should win it and how that all comes about in terms of who wins it in certain years,’ Bourque said, ‘’… I think that Karlsson in Ottawa is an incredible offense player, but I think that when you look at the Norris Trophy and the position of DEFENSE-man, and I put an emphasis on DEFENSE-man, it’s incredible to me sometimes, the voting and how it all happens.
“Believe me, I’ve been there,” Bourque added. “I’ve been in his shoes many, many times. I won it five times, but it was very frustrating at times, not saying that I’ve won it more times.”