Saturday, April 11, 2015

Game 82: Another Season In The Books

Several seasons have come and gone, but the 2014-15 campaign has been a roller coaster to say the least. 

From a roster that contained the youngest player in the league to being decimated with season-ending injuries, and from fraudulent contract extensions to jabbing at each other to the media, the Boston Bruins is not the same franchise that we used to know.

With all of that being said, the Bruins still had one last gasp of hope entering Saturday night because if certain miraculous events unfolded, they would still make the playoffs.  

Since the Pittsburgh Penguins fells to the New York Islanders on Friday night, that made things a little bit more interesting heading into the final day of the regular season. The Ottawa Senators won their game in the afternoon, clinching a playoff spot. So, the Bruins or the Penguins would be heading to the postseason. Earlier in the night, Pittsburgh knocked off the Buffalo Sabres and eliminated the Bruins from playoff contention. 

Who would have thought that this team would miss the playoffs? After eight seasons at the helm, Head Coach Claude Julien and General Manager Peter Chiarelli could be out of Boston come Monday morning. 

In the meantime, Boston played its final game of the season against the Tampa Bay Lightning to end the week.

Once again, the B's got off to a sluggish start in the neutral zone. The back-and-forth action normally would favor a team like Tampa Bay due to the speed and young guns that they have up front, but the Bruins got more chances to climb ahead and pull away. 

After a scoreless first period, the teams traded goals in the second period. The score ended up tied at two goals a piece after regulation. In the shootout, the Lightning took the full two points by netting the only goal. Not a very eventful game from either side despite what was on the line. Boston ended the year on a three-game losing streak and emerged up with only one point on the road trip. 

With 96 points on the year, the Bruins failed to make the postseason. This is going to be a very interesting offseason. It is too bad that is comes two months early this year. We will see what happens. Enjoy the playoffs and we will see everyone in October. 

Gold Star: Brad Marchand...He showed the heart and fortitude to play hard until the very end. His goal at the end of regulation gave the Bruins a burst of energy, even though it was short lived. 

Black Star: Tuukka Rask...It is time to hold him accountable. He looked lazy in the shootout when his team still had a chance to win, but this whole road trip was forgettable for the netminder.

Game Eighty-Two Box Score

*This will be the last season of the game-for-game blog. Everything else will be through Inside Hockey going forward. 

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Games 80-81: Final Week Of The Regular Season

The race for the final two playoff spots could not be more convoluted than it is at this point in time. Over the course of the past week, the Eastern Conference has broken down to officially only nine teams competing for eight spots. 

Welcome to the push for postseason positioning. 

The Boston Bruins got launched into seventh place (third in the Atlantic Division) on Sunday night without even playing a game; the Detroit Red Wings dropped two points to the Washington Capitals. After the Ottawa Senators knocked off the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday, the B's were right back to where they entered the week (eighth place). 

Speaking of the Caps, that was the team that the B's faced off against on Wednesday night to begin this final three-game road trip to end the year. This was also the first game of their 16th back-to-back set of the season. 

Not only were the B's looking for their first win of the season against Washington, but also their first goal; they were shut out in the previous two meetings. This was going to be a herculean task for Boston on this night, but there was no more room for letting up. The Black and Gold could easily fall out of the playoff picture if they do not take care of business this week.

Dougie Hamilton skated before practice all week since suffering an "upper-body" injury on March 21. However, he did not make the trip. Joe Morrow was recalled from Providence on an emergency basis. 

With shuffled lines and tweaked defensive pairs, the game started off sloppy for the Bruins. There were turnovers galore and multiple defensive breakdowns in front of Tuukka Rask. The Caps blasted in two quick goals as a result of the B's play. The second period was a little bit more like the B's as they broke down the Caps defense with some great scoring chances. However, Braden Holtby continued to be a B's killer. 

After the Caps recorded another goal in the second period, that was more than enough for them to hold on. It was easily forgettable that Washington was playing for playoff positioning, so the intensity that was brought was justified. Patrice Bergeron, Brett Connolly, and Milan Lucic all had golden opportunities to put the puck in the goal, but nothing to it. The puck possession and face-offs won were in the B's favor (39-24), but that does not translate to goals or points. The Capitals took this game by a final score of 3-0. Holtby became the first goaltender to shut out the Bruins for the entire season, stopping all 27 shots he faced on this night. 

Boston's five-game winning streak was snapped with this loss and it also signified a season sweep by the Capitals. 

The Bruins were also in action on Thursday night against the Florida Panthers, a team that was recently eliminated from playoff contention. Their mission? Spoiler. On a side note, Boston and Ottawa entered Thursday tied with 95 points each and two games remaining on the schedule. 

Boston came out on fire to begin the game. The Panthers did not get a quality scoring chance on Rask until after the midway point of the opening 20 minutes. Even though the first period was scoreless, the B's clearly came out with a purpose. Both sides got a chance on the power play and both sides were in rare form with the man advantage.

The B's and Panthers entered the second period playing four-on-four hockey due to matching minors at the end of the previous period. At that point, Florida was the team in control...which was absolutely baffling. The physical aspect of the game was definitely there, so much so that we witnessed a lengthy fight between Adam McQuaid and Alex Petrovic. We finally did manage to get some scoring in this game. Bergeron and Aleksander Barkov--two fine young top-line centers--each recorded a power-play goal for their respective teams, setting up a wild third period. 

Even though the B's showed signs of life, the Panthers just wanted the two points more. They scored three goals in the final 20 minutes while Roberto Luongo had a solid night in net for Florida. In stunning fashion, the Bruins fell by a final score of 4-2 to the Panthers. 

Since the Senators knocked off the New York Rangers earlier in the night, they leapfrogged the B's right into the playoff picture. There is so much on the line with one game left on the schedule. 

The Bruins will play their regular-season finale on Saturday night against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Gold Star (combined): Adam McQuaid...He actually put together a decent start to the road trip. He took meaningful shots as well as shutting down the best players on the opposition. Above all else, he was consistent. 

Black Star (combined): David Krejci...He was down on the fourth line for Thursday after being invisible on Wednesday. The knee injury has clearly taken its toll on the veteran center and messed with his confidence out on the ice.

Game Eighty Box Score

Game Eighty-One Box Score

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Game 79: Last Home Game

It is already that time of year. The Boston Bruins played their final home game of the regular season on Saturday night. 

At the TD Garden this year, the B's posted a record of 23-10-7 (not including Saturday), a very modest record on home ice. They would have loved nothing more than to send the Boston faithful home happy one last time this year, and they had an excellent chance to do just that.

On Saturday night, the Bruins played host to the Toronto Maple Leafs. 

What an awful disaster that has gone on north of the border this season. But shockingly enough, the Maple Leafs own two victories over the Black and Gold this year--one of them being a 6-1 shellacking up in Toronto. It was just tough to reminiscence about this team because these two teams last met back in December. With a team that has as many skilled players as the Maple Leafs, they had no problem attempting to play spoiler against the Bruins.

Max Talbot was back in the lineup for Boston as Gregory Campbell was the healthy scratch. Tuukka Rask got his 67th appearance between the pipes. 

The first period was scoreless, but what we took from the opening 20 minutes is that the Bruins were not productive on the power play. However, the B's were the dominant team during five-on-five play. Boston out-shot Toronto 19-6 over the course of the first period.

In the second frame, the Leafs were forced to play defense early...and that is something that they never were able to do. Patrice Bergeron opened the scoring just 19 seconds into the second period. From there, Toronto seemed to stand up to the Bruins from a physical standpoint. The Maple Leafs worked their way back into it by tying the game on the stick of James van Riemsdyk. Similar to how Rask was dominant in period one, Leafs netminder James Reimer was the man in period two as he stopped all 12 shots he face. 

The third period was a stalemate, even though the B's racked up 47 shots on goal in regulation. This game eventually went into overtime and then into a shootout. Bergeron ended up coming through yet again by scoring the only goal in the shootout while Rask stopped all three Leafs. Boston defeated Toronto by a final score of 2-1 and improve its winning streak to five games. 

The Ottawa Senators also played simultaneously with the B's on this night as well. The Sens were three points behind Boston for the second wild card spot. They knocked off the Washington Capitals in overtime, so the lead is still three points for the Bruins in the Atlantic Division. 

The Bruins will begin a three-game road trip to end the season next week, starting on Wednesday when they take on those very same Capitals.

Gold Star: Patrice Bergeron...He totaled six shots on net. At least one of them ended up going in the net. In all seriousness, this guy in money. We should expect nothing less.

Black Star: Torey Krug...Not a very effective game for the young blue liner. The size of the Leafs forwards did not bode well for him when it came time to hit.

Game Seventy-Nine Box Score

List of Boston Bruins Team Awards

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Game 78: Chasing The Teams Ahead

Thursday night was actually a more important night than this past Tuesday. Yes, the Boston Bruins completed the comeback in the third period of the game against the Florida Panthers to take two points and increase their lead in the wild card hunt.

With the win, the B's put themselves in a spot to do more than just settle for eighth place in the Eastern Conference. 

The Detroit Red Wings were on the slate for Thursday, the final meeting of the regular season between these two "Original Six" squads (Boston leads the season series 3-1 with Thursday being the fifth game of the year). Only two points separated Detroit and Boston heading into this game, so the winner could jump to third place in the Atlantic Division. 

The Bruins were heading into this one poised to face an incredibly hot goaltender in Petr Mrazek, but unhealthy players like Pavel Datsyuk were watching from the press box. To counter that, Brett Connolly finally made his B's debut after missing four weeks with a broken finger. David Krejci moved to his natural position at center between Carl Soderberg and Loui Eriksson. The stakes were high and both sides were prepared to reap the results. 

Joe Morrow was recalled from Providence and joined the team in Detroit. He did not end up playing in this game. Tuukka Rask was in goal yet again for Boston while Maxime Talbot was a healthy scratch. 

In the first period, Detroit came out with a purpose. Despite being undermanned, the Red Wings were just too quick for the Bruins in the opening 20 minutes. The B's had a couple of bad turnovers and Rask saw way too many pucks thrown his way--the Red Wings racked up 14 shots on goal. The bottom line here is that the Bruins were lucky that the period was scoreless...especially when the Red Wings got two chances to demonstrate the second-best power play in the league. 

Boston switched up all four lines in order to get something going in the second period. They did get an opportunity on the power play, but failed to capitalize even with four shots on net. After strong pressure in front of Rask, Detroit was able to poke the puck into the goal to start the scoring. The Red Wings targeted David Pastrnak all night long with the physical play. During that time, Patrice Bergeron left the game with an apparent head injury, but later returned. Thank goodness. Nothing was going right for Boston at that point in the game.

In the third period, Detroit added another goal on the power play to increase the lead. The Bruins managed to get the next two tallies to tie the game. The final 20 minutes was such a back-and-forth affair that nothing was predictable. In fact, what was unbelievable is that Zach Trotman scored the game-winning goal (his first career NHL goal as well) late in the period in front of his home state of Michigan. What a feel-good story this game turned out to be for the Bruins. 

With the win, Boston and Detroit are tied at 93 points for third place in the Atlantic Division. Connolly and Reilly Smith each racked up two assists. 

The Bruins will be in action on Saturday night against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Gold Star: Tuukka Rask...He made 35 big saves throughout the game. He was vital to keeping his team in the game until the very end. 

Black Star: Zdeno Chara...He took two penalties in the opening period and was sloppy with the puck in the defensive zone. Usually his heavy shot can make up for his lapses, but not on this night.

Game Seventy-Eight Box Score

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Game 77: Nearing The End

Can you believe that playoff tickets are already going on sale this coming Friday? Perhaps everyone (management included) should not be so overzealous about the postseason. The Boston Bruins have yet to clinch that wild card spot.

The Bruins, however, do only have six games remaining and this two-week push to the end of the regular season will be beyond grueling. 

Once again, this team has put themselves in a position where they control their own playoff much so that they have a chance to catch the teams in front of them within the Atlantic Division. Is it wise to concern themselves with that fact? Nope. As cliche as it sounds, they need to take things one game at a time.

On Tuesday night, the B's played host to the Florida Panthers. The Panthers are still battling to get into the playoff picture; they were four points behind the Bruins in the standings. These two teams also have one more meeting next week, but the goal was to get the two points on this night.

Prior to the game, NESN announced that David Pastrnak was the recipient of the Seventh Player Award for performing above and beyond expectations this year (10 goals, 15 assists, plus-13 rating through 40 games). This was a well-deserved honor. Take notes, Claude Julien and keep on playing the kids. 

Brett Connolly took part in the team warm-ups prior to the game, but did not play. He is getting really close to making his B's debut. Tuukka Rask made his 62nd start of the season between the pipes for this one. Now, let's talk about the game.

In the first period, there was a pretty good pace out there through several minutes of continuous play. As the period went along, both teams committed bad turnovers that led to scoring chances for the opposition. There were also phases of sloppiness out there. The Panthers blew a chance with the power play and committed a bad penalty to negate the man advantage. It was on the ensuing four-on-four that Loui Eriksson netted a nifty back hander into the net for his 20th goal of the season (fifth time in his career that he reached the 20-goal mark). 

With the Bruins possessing a 1-0 lead in the second period, Florida erased that deficit under one minute into the second frame (a power-play tally). That was the jump start that the Panthers needed in this game. From that point forward, the B's were smothered by Florida and that rushed Boston into making some plays that it would otherwise not make. A fanned shot by Matt Bartkowski combined with a shot that should have been saved by Rask, the Panthers grabbed the lead midway through the second on a goal by Brad Boyes. 

Florida started to leave doubts in the minds of the Bruins. In the third period, the B's started to get some of their confidence back. The defensive mindset became a precedent. When you play smart, good things happen. The Bruins tied the game on the stick of Ryan Spooner. Pastrnak got an assist on the play as he adds to his numbers on what has been an impressive rookie year--a more impressive rookie year statistically than Tyler Seguin. 

As time winded down, Milan Lucic blasted home the game-winning goal to seal the very important victory and all but end the playoff hopes of the Panthers. They are now six points behind Boston for the final playoff spot. Now, the Black and Gold can just worry about the Ottawa Senators.  

The Bruins will play their next game on Thursday night against the Detroit Red Wings. 

Gold Star: Dennis Seidenberg...He has really picked up his game lately. All of the criticism that he has been receiving is starting to go away with his gritty and physical style. 

Black Star: Matt Bartkowski...Another tough night out there for him. You think that he would have cleaned up some of the sloppy play that he brings to the ice on a consistent basis.

Game Seventy-Seven Box Score

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Games 75-76: This Is More Like It

Thank goodness for the New York Rangers. If it were not for them, the Boston Bruins would still be out of the playoff picture.

Due to a very debatable non-call on Thursday night, the B's blew a late third period lead and eventually fell to the Anaheim Ducks. Meanwhile, the Rangers blew out the Ottawa Senators a couple of hundred miles across the country on that same night. Therefore, the B's and Sens were tied for eighth place in the Eastern Conference heading into the weekend.  

That would be the only time that Boston fans would be cheering for the Rangers down the stretch because the Bruins faced that very team on Saturday afternoon to begin a back-to-back set. 

New York is chasing the very overrated Presents' Trophy for best team in the NHL. Remember that feeling, B's fans? Our team won the thing last year....and look where that got them. Either way, both sides had something to play for on this day. The importance of each end goal lies with the fans of the respective teams. This vital third meeting of the year would determine the season series. 

The lineup remained the same for Boston, but New York got goaltender Henrik Lundqvist back from if things did not get any more challenging. 

The Bruins, however, did not let that stop them. They jumped out to an early 3-0 lead, two of those goals came from Milan Lucic. They were also battling hard in every zone and along the boards. It seems that when they do get out to an early lead, they play with a chip on their shoulder. Man, if they only possessed that mentality at all times. The Rangers were looking for answers very often because Tuukka Rask kept them stymied.

The Rangers got on the board in the second period, but it was on Niklas Svedberg in relief. Rask left 10 seconds into the period for possible dehydration, leaving everyone at the TD Garden scratching their heads. With that said, Boston still was one relentless team. The B's out-shot the Rangers 13-7 in the period and totaled 24 hits through 40 minutes on the opposition. Heck, even Reilly Smith netted a goal. Everything was clicking for this team on Saturday afternoon. New York did get a late goal in the third period, but the B's knew they needed this one and did not lose sight of the two points. The final score was 4-2 in favor of Boston. 

The Bruins ended the weekend by traveling to Raleigh to take on the Carolina Hurricanes.

With the lineup remaining the same as the previous game (Rask back between the pipes included), the Black and Gold picked up right where they left off. Ryan Spooner opened the scoring by blasting a shot home off a nifty pass from David Pastrnak. As the game went along, the Hurricanes forced the Bruins to chase the puck a lot more than they would have liked. It got to a point where the B's were so sloppy that Rask had to save their skin and make some big stops on key scoring chances by the Hurricanes. However, he was not invincible. Nathan Gerbe put Carolina on the board with 20 seconds left in the second period.  

In the third period, the Canes again put lots of pressure on the Boston blue liners. Rask ended up making 28 saves in regulation to keep his team in the race for two points. The game ended up going into overtime, a spot where Pastrnak slapped the game winner into the net with seconds left in overtime. The youth movement continues in Boston as the B's won this game by a final score of 2-1.

Out of 16 back-to-backs this season, the Bruins (so far) have five wins in the second game of back-to-backs. With the two points, they now lead the Senators by three points for eighth place in the Eastern Conference. 

The Bruins will play their next game on Tuesday night at home against the Florida Panthers. 

Gold Star (combined): Milan Lucic...He was the offensive production leader in the first game and the tone setter for the second game. That line is clicking right now and he is one of the main reasons why that is the case.

Black Star (combined): David Krejci...The experiment with him playing at wing has not really worked. He should move back to his natural position sooner than later.

Game Seventy-Five Box Score

Game Seventy-Six Box Score

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Game 74: Is It Time To Give Up?


No, not just yet...even though they are currently outside the playoff picture because of the hot streak of the Ottawa Senators. 

Although the regular season is dwindling down to its final two weeks, the Boston Bruins have gone from having aspirations of making the playoffs to praying for a miracle. However, no one should feel sorry for them.

They still have a fighting chance. David Krejci was supposed to return at some point during that three-game road trip. The coaching staff must have felt that the time was not right, so they held him out until Thursday's game against the Anaheim Ducks. After he notches a few games back from injury, then we can get a better understanding of where this team is going. Brett Connolly is also close to making his team debut after taking part in the morning skate for the first time since breaking his finger in his second practice with the team. 

With that being said, the Ducks are always one of those teams that play a heavy game. Perhaps a stiff test is not exactly what this team was hoping for with the way things have gone since losing five in a row. Let's see what the three off days did for this team.

Dougie Hamilton will be out of the lineup indefinitely due to an upper-body injury, another huge blow for this team. Get used to seeing Zach Trotman a lot more in the coming games. Tuukka Rask continued his impressive workload on Thursday as well. 

Although the first period was scoreless, it was certainly physical and chippy. There were two separate four-on-four opportunities due to matching slashing penalties. No one ever said that the Ducks would back down; they are the top team in the Western Conference. The Bruins looked lazy at times, especially when they did get the puck into the offensive zone. All in all, a pretty evenly matched opening 20 minutes. For what it is worth, boy was it strange seeing Krejci skate on the wing.

In the second period, both teams picked up some momentum. Rask was huge for the B's early on in the period, but thanks to a defensive letdown, the Ducks got on the board first thanks to Patrick Maroon. That did not last long as Ryan Spooner netted a power-play goal to even things up. Boston had plenty of chances with the man advantage on this night and they capitalized on 50% of those opportunities (two-for-four).

To make things even more promising, Boston kicked off the scoring in the third period with one of those power-play tallies. Loui Eriksson was the goal scorer, his 19th of the season. With the pressure that the Ducks put on since that point, it was just a matter of time that they would net the equalizer. Corey Perry tipped a shot past Rask with seconds left in regulation. 

Sure enough, Ryan Getzlaf blasted the game winner over the glove of Rask. The top guns of Anaheim took down the Bruins on this night. They fell by a score of 3-2 in overtime. Krejci posted two assists in his return game. With the overtime loss and accumulating one point on Thursday, the Bruins are now tied in points with Ottawa for eighth place in the Eastern Conference. 

Boston will play its final weekend back-to-back of the year in the coming days. The New York Rangers and the Carolina Hurricanes will be on the slate. 

Gold Star: Torey Krug...He had such a solid night. He pushed the puck up ice when necessary, but was physical and aggressive in all three zones. 

Black Star: Matt Bartkowski...He had a couple of decent moments, but he was struggling for most of the night. He is usually a good skater, but he was flat-footed on several occasions and was responsible for the first goal allowed.

Game Seventy-Four Box Score