Sunday, March 31, 2013

Game 34: Slow Start, But Solid Finish

The Boston Bruins closed out the month of March by playing a divisional game on Easter Sunday. They took on the Buffalo Sabres.

Normally, a game like this would not be much trouble for the Bruins. However, coming off a pathetic loss to the Philadelphia Flyers and having only defeated the Sabres once this season, this game was by no means a sure thing. 

This game was going to be a challenge for the B's. In all honesty, that is exactly what they needed. A rugged and tough opponent like Buffalo would be the perfect match-up for the Bruins to wake them up. Also, Thomas Vanek was out of the lineup for the Sabres, their current point leader. All positive signs to begin the game.

Anton Khudobin was back in net, which was not a surprise since he was the goaltender for Boston in the lone victory against the Sabres this season. Matt Bartkowski made his return to the lineup as well. As for him being involved in the Iginla trade, sorry about that (in the mind of Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli). 

In the first period, the Bruins came out slow once again. With that being said, they played at a decent level compared to some of their recent games. The Sabres had several great scoring chances, but Khudobin came up with some big saves for his team. There were no goals scored in the opening 20 minutes, but what we did see were a couple of embellishment penalties called (one on each team) and that is a rarity in today's NHL. Boston continued its streak of consecutive games without a first-period goal to seven. 

The Bruins spent some time killing off three minor penalties in the second period. They proved once again that they have a solid penalty killing unit. The problem is that they could not get any decent scoring chances. Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller made 22 saves through the first two periods, but it seemed that most of them were no issue for him. The Bruins lack of pressure led to them missing on the few scoring chances that they generated. 

In the third period, it was the Milan Lucic-David Krejci-Nathan Horton line that came through for the Bruins. That line accounted for two goals in the final 20 minutes. Krejci and Horton each recorded a goal and an assist while Bartkowski also recorded his first-career NHL point on Krejci's goal. That was all Khudobin needed as he stood on his head and preserved the 2-0 shutout victory.

The Bruins will head back home for Tuesday night's game against the Ottawa Senators.

Gold Star: Anton Khudobin...He finished the game with 26 saves, some of them being very key early on in the hockey game. Those saves kept the momentum on the Bruins side.

Black Star: Jordan Caron...He had a team-low 7:31 of ice time and did not do much during his minimal action. 

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Game 33: So Much For "Black & Gold" Hockey, Huh?

After coming off of back-to-back days off and a hard-fought game with the Montreal Canadiens, the Boston Bruins were back on the ice Saturday afternoon.

The B's will be spending their Easter weekend doing what they do best: playing Black and Gold hockey. Their first game of the weekend was against the Philadelphia Flyers. After this matinee game, the Bruins will only have one more regular season afternoon game. 

This game was huge for the B's since they were coming off of a demoralizing week both on and off the ice. They just missed out on acquiring Jarome Iginla from the Calgary Flames. The Pittsburgh Penguins swept in and stole him from underneath the Bruins. Boston made a very good offer compared to Pittsburgh. The Bruins offered Matt Bartkowski, Alex Khokhlachev, and a 1st-round draft pick while the Pens offered two college prospects.

The Bruins clearly made the stronger push. The bottom line is that Iginla did not want to come here. He wants to win in Pittsburgh. There is nothing more to it. Now, lets see what the Bruins do in response. A good way to start would be getting a victory against the Flyers.

Tuukka Rask was back in goal for the Bruins in this game. Also, Johnny Boychuk made his return to the lineup. 

There have been some sluggish games played by the Bruins over the years. This was one of the worst games that this team has played in a long time. There was no physical play and no emotion at all.

The Flyers recorded a goal in each of the three periods to seal the 3-1 victory. Mike Knuble, Matt Read, and Ruslan Fedotenko had the tallies for the Black and Orange. The lone bright spot for Boston was Nathan Horton recording his 10th goal of the season. Rask finished with 19 saves.

The Bruins will be back on the ice Sunday night when they travel to Buffalo to take on the Sabres. 

Gold Star: Nathan Horton (1 goal)...After this game, this is only picking the best of the worst.

Black Star: Johnny Boychuk...He did not pick the right game to make his return. He kept getting beat along the boards and he was cheating up ice all game long. 

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Game 32: Oh, By The Way, There Was A Game Tonight

Yes, the trade rumors have been circulating. Before the talks begin about changing up the roster, the focus was on a pretty important game instead....

March is slowly, but surely coming to a close and the Boston Bruins are more than happy to turn the page on this sub-par month. Although this should be nothing new for this team, but they have a history of somewhat playing below their capabilities in the third month of the year.

There is no need to jump ahead to the month of April just yet since Boston has three more games left before that day comes. The B's were on the ice Wednesday night against the Montreal Canadiens in what was the final home game of the month.

The realization that something special could happen every time these two rivals take the ice is unpredictable. Whenever you think a donnybrook or a goal-scoring spree will occur, the game disappoints. The same could be said if the opposite happened. When a game is played and nothing is expected to happen, the fans leave with a smile on their faces and their adrenaline would be through the roof.

One thing that was guaranteed for this game is that first place in the Northeast Division would go to the winner. Montreal was coming off of a loss on Tuesday night against the Pittsburgh Penguins, leaving both teams with 45 points entering this game. 

Prior to the game, it was announced that the Bruins had claimed former Ottawa Senators forward Kaspars Daugavins off of waivers. Most likely, he will be sent down to Providence. Speaking of that, the B's recalled P-Bruins defenseman Torey Krug for this game. Whatever time he gets with the big club this season, it will be more of a showcasing than anything else. Whether he is trade bait or a future replacement, this kid has some skills. 

Tuukka Rask was back in goal for the Bruins and he opposed Carey Price of the Habs.

In the first period, there were some fireworks that involved Andrei Markov of the Habs. He took liberties on David Krejci and the B's took notice as they finished their checks on him all game long. As for the play, the Bruins had trouble moving the puck and getting shots on goal. Montreal capitalized on Boston's early struggles and broke through with the first goal of the game. Long-time friend Michael Ryder had the tally for the Canadiens. 

Gregory Campbell and Travis Moen each dropped the gloves with each other in the opening period, which was due to the hard-nosed tone set early in the game. 

The Habs looked like they were in firm control of this game, especially after their power play goal by P.K. Subban to increase their lead. However, that sparked the Black and Gold to go on a tear. They scored four unanswered goals in the second period. Dougie Hamilton, Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron (power play), and Nathan Horton were the goal scorers for the Bruins. This all resulted from putting pressure on Markov and Price early on in the period. 

Before the start of the third period, the Canadiens pulled Price in favor of backup goaltender Peter Budaj. Who would have thought that would have been the key move of this game? The Canadiens and Bruins alternated goals as the period went along. A key power play for the Habs (Aaron Johnson called for a delay of game) led to the game-tying goal with eight seconds left. The TD Garden became silent and the collective air was let out of the building.

The momentum returned to the building during the overtime, albeit a scoreless overtime, because the Bruins controlled much of the possession and got some quality scoring chances. However, the Bruins were blanked through six rounds of the shootout and Brendan Gallagher beat Rask for the lone goal. The Habs regained the division lead after this 6-5 shootout victory. 

The Bruins will head back on the road for the weekend, starting on Saturday afternoon when they take on the Philadelphia Flyers. 

Gold Star: Tyler Seguin (1 goal, 2 assists, plus-3 rating)...He was physical. He was productive. He was in control. He was the best player on the ice.

Black Star: Tuukka Rask...Five goals is five goals, no matter how many of them you can blame on your defensemen. He usually bounces back pretty well though. 

Monday, March 25, 2013

Game 31: There Was No Way That The Bruins Would Lose This Game

After finishing 1-3-0 on their four-game road trip, the Boston Bruins returned home on Monday night. They took on the Toronto Maple Leafs in the second game of the home-and-home series.

This was the final game of the season series between these two teams. The Leafs grabbed the 3-2 victory over the Bruins on Saturday night, snapping their eight-game losing streak against the Black and Gold. Plus, they did it without the services of Joffrey Lupul (suspension).

In order to shake things up, B's head coach Claude Julien switched up all four lines during Sunday's practice in preparation for this game. The biggest change came when Milan Lucic was dropped to the third line and Brad Marchand was bumped up to the first line. At this point, anything would be an improvement over scoring only six goals in the last four games.

Tuukka Rask was back in net for the Bruins after coming on in relief of Anton Khudobin during the last game. Even though the lines were switched up before puck drop, they were constantly rotated throughout the game.

In the first period, the Bruins put together a few rushes but nothing worth bragging about. You would think that after a major shake-up that the Bruins would come out firing on all cylinders. We were all mistaken, even with the Bruins wearing the traditional road white sweaters at home for this game. Just a little side-note right there.

The second period did not start off any better for the B's. The Leafs were able to capitalize on an early power play opportunity on a goal by a returning Lupul. The Leafs were not done there as Nikolai Kulemin split the Bruins defense and beat Rask stick-side high to increase their lead. All of a sudden, we had a Lucic sighting. He beat Toronto goaltender James Reimer for his first goal in 16 games. From that point on, the energy of the game completely favored Boston. It was so chaotic on the ice that the Bruins kept bumping into each other in order to get that breakthrough goal. Regardless, they put themselves in a good spot for the final 20 minutes. 

What was interesting about the third period is that the Bruins defensemen kept cheating up ice to contribute in the offensive zone. Luckily, it did not come back to haunt them. In fact, it was because of Dougie Hamilton's pinch up ice that led to the tying goal off of the stick of Patrice Bergeron. Toronto really was no match for Boston in the third period as this game went into overtime.

After a scoreless extra period, the B's sealed the 3-2 victory on the game-winning save by Rask on Kulemin. Tyler Seguin and Bergeron recorded goals in the shootout. Rask finished with 23 saves.

The Bruins will be back on the ice Wednesday night when they take on the Montreal Canadiens.

Gold Star: Dougie Hamilton...This was the first game where he proved that he belongs in Boston. His physical play combined with his assist showed why he will be the future of this organization.

Black Star: Nathan Horton...As far the Bruins forwards were concerned, it was as if they were using only 11 of them. He did not record a shot on goal. His play might be worthy of a demotion or a benching. 

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Game 30: What Is Frustration? When You Do Everything But Score

The Northeast Division is quickly becoming one of the strongest divisions in the NHL. With all but one team (Buffalo) in the playoff picture, every divisional game from here on out will be important.

The Boston Bruins traveled to Toronto to take on the Maple Leafs in the final game of their four-game road trip. On this particular Saturday night, it was also Hockey Night in Canada. 

Despite all of their injuries as of late, the B's are still hanging around and competing for the top spot in the Eastern Conference. Entering this game, they were only two points back of the Montreal Canadiens for the top spot in the division. 

Speaking of injuries, the Maple Leafs recently got back forward Joffrey Lupul from a serious injury. However, he sat this game out because he was serving a two-game suspension. Things just never seem to go right for the Leafs. Would this be the night that they finally get a victory over the Bruins?

Anton Khudobin was back in goal for the Bruins. Matt Bartkowski was recalled from Providence and made his season debut in place of Johnny Boychuk in this game. Ironically, he took a puck off the leg at Friday's practice and left the ice. Boychuk is listed as day-to-day. Rich Peverley made his return to the lineup as well.

Due to the sub-par roster that the Bruins had to send out onto the ice for this game, there was a lot of line switching and defensive pair shuffling that started right away in the first period. There was sloppy play from both sides, but the Bruins had more scoring chances. However, Nazem Kadri (a.k.a. The New Bruins Killer) beat Khudobin near side for his 14th goal of the season.

In the second period, the Leafs took over as the more physical team. While they were winning puck battles in the neutral zone, the Bruins continued to put pressure on Leafs goaltender James Reimer. They outshot Toronto 20-9 through the first two periods, yet they fell into a deeper hole when the Leafs increased their lead on a goal by Mikhail Grabovski. 

After Khudobin allowed a very soft goal to begin the third period, he was pulled in favor of Tuukka Rask. That was the lone sour moment of the period for the Bruins because they absolutely took over the game. They were able to crawl back into it after goals from Dennis Seidenberg and Andrew Ference, but it was too little, too late. The Leafs ended their eight-game drought against the B's and grabbed the 3-2 home victory.

We will not have to wait long to see the Maple Leafs again. They will face the Bruins on Monday night at the TD Garden.

Gold Star: Aaron Johnson...He was solid in his 19 minutes of ice time. This was a performance he could be proud of and use to make his game even better.

Black Star: Milan Lucic...It is hard to understand why he is playing below his standards as of late. It looks as if he wants no part of getting physical along the boards, which was the key reason why the Maple Leafs scored their second goal. 

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Game 29: It Feels Like It Has Been Forever

Remember how Boston Bruins head coach Claude Julien would always preach about playing a full 60 minutes of hockey? His team seems to be forgetting that memo as of late.

The B's dropped another game on Tuesday night after holding a lead heading into the third period. This was also their third straight loss on the road.

They were looking to rebound on Thursday night as they skated against the Ottawa Senators, their third game in a four-game road trip. Even though this goes without saying, but Boston needed this game in a big way. When you have a chance to take over the division lead and fail to do so, that leaves the proverbial "bitter taste" in the mouths of the players.

There were several lineup changes in this game. Anton Khudobin was back in goal for the Bruins. Adam McQuaid, who left the last game with an upper-body injury, traveled back to Boston and will miss three-to-four weeks with a shoulder strain. He was replaced by Aaron Johnson. David Krejci made his return to the lineup in this game. Lastly, Rich Peverley was a scratch in favor of Ryan Spooner.

After a scoreless opening period, both teams started to put together some scoring chances in the second period. Kaspars Daugavins beat Khudobin for the first goal of the game. Towards the end of the period, the Bruins tied things up on a goal from Daniel Paille. Usually, Paille along with Gregory Campbell and Shawn Thornton skate as the fourth line. However, due to the make-shift nature of the third line, they had their minutes increased and they played more of the third line role.

Things started to get chippy in the third period. One would think that would favor the Senators, but the Bruins showed great restraint and discipline. They remained focus on the task at hand. Sure enough, Dennis Seidenberg blasted home the game-winning goal with a little over a minute left in the game. The Bruins finally got a much-needed 2-1 victory over a divisional opponent.

The Bruins will close out their road trip on Saturday night when they take on the Toronto Maple Leafs. 

Gold Star: Dennis Seidenberg (1 goal, plus-2 rating)...The offensive numbers he posted in this game were solid, but he still played a tight game in the defensive zone prior to his first goal of the season.

Black Star: Jay Pandolfo...It is time for Lane MacDermid to be inserted into the lineup. There is nothing else that needs to be said. 

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Game 28: Bruins Lose Three in a Row on the Road

While March is the month where folks focus on college basketball, the Boston Bruins are currently in the midst of their own "March Madness."

On Tuesday night, the Bruins continued their road trip as they traveled to Winnipeg to take on the Jets. The B's were looking for the season sweep since they had won the previous two meetings. 

Although the Bruins were coming off of a tough loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Jets were fighting for first place in the Southeast Division. Playing in Winnipeg is always a challenge, but when you throw in the fact that the Jets were battling for supremacy in the Southeast, this was fixing to be a tough game for the B's.

Heading into this game, the Bruins had to recall Ryan Spooner from the Providence Bruins on an emergency basis. He centered the first line with Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton. This move was made because David Krejci was unable to skate on Tuesday night. He was struck in the knee by a slap shot on Sunday, but he did not suffer any broken bones and is listed as day-to-day.

In the first period, the Jets really took it to the Bruins. They were very aggressive on the forecheck, leaving the B's confused and often backed up in their own zone. On a related note, defenseman Adam McQuaid suffered an upper-body injury after being checked into the boards by Jets forward Eric Tangradi and missed the rest of the game. Regardless, the Bruins outshot the Jets 10-9 in the opening period and had two power play opportunities, but failed to capitalize on either one of them. 

The second period continued with some fast-paced puck movement. It all started when Brad Marchand recorded his 13th goal of the season just eight seconds into the period. This came about after the puck took an odd bounce off of the boards and it fell right to his stick. From that point on, it was all Boston. The Bruins had several other heavy rushes and scoring opportunities, but it remained a one-goal game after two periods. 

In the third period, the Jets came storming back and beat Tuukka Rask with two quick goals to take the lead. Blake Wheeler (power play) and Evander Kane recorded the tallies for Winnipeg. The Bruins made one last push to get the equalizer, but Wheeler added his second goal of the game in empty-net fashion to seal the 3-1 victory.

The Bruins will play their next game on Thursday night when they take on the Ottawa Senators.

Gold Star: Daniel Paille...Even though he did not record a point, he played a very heavy game. He was productive and he made things happen all over the ice.

Black Star: Jordan Caron...He tried to be physical, but he was no match for the Jets defenders. He also had the costly penalty that led to the tying goal. 

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Game 27: The Puck Did Not Fall The Right Way

Don't worry, Boston Bruins fans. The onslaught of a schedule that the team has faced thus far will ease up. Whether that is a good thing (much-needed rest) or a bad thing (not seeing them play as much), everyone benefits.

The Black and Gold were back on the ice Sunday afternoon against the Pittsburgh Penguins, a team that knocked off the B's last week.

After this game, the Bruins will get a little breather in their schedule. Up until the last weekend of March, the Bruins will play no more back-to-backs and will also get two consecutive days off towards the end of the month. 

As for the game itself, we have seen this team just a few days ago. We know how lethal their scoring can be. Both teams were looking to continue their strong play as a spot near the top of the Eastern Conference was on the line. 

Boston was coming off of an emotional win on Saturday to a Washington Capitals team that had defeated them earlier in the year. Could the Bruins avenge another loss on back-to-back days?  

Tuukka Rask was back in net for Boston as he opposed Tomas Vokoun. There were no additional lineup changes for the Bruins in this game.

The Penguins went on to defeat the Bruins by a final score of 2-1. All of the scoring took place in the opening period. Sidney Crosby and Joe Vitale recorded the goals for Pittsburgh. Sandwiched in between was Tyler Seguin's 10th goal of the season.

The Bruins were highly inconsistent throughout this game. They recorded over 30 shots on goal and dominated possession, but they could not finish. Rask finished with only 16 saves on the day. A scary moment occurred in the third period when David Krejci had to be helped off the ice after getting hit with a Johnny Boychuk slap shot. This was not a great way to start a four-game road trip. 

The Bruins will continue their road trip on Tuesday night when they take on the Winnipeg Jets.

Gold Star: Johnny Boychuk...He recorded an assist and had a strong game in the defensive zone.

Black Star: Dennis Seidenberg...Finishing with a minus-2 is not what you want to see from this type of defenseman. 

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Game 26: Bruins Remain Unbeaten In Matinee Games

It seems as if matinee games on Saturdays have become the norm for the Boston Bruins. In fact, only one of their five Saturday games in the month of March will be played at night. 

Regardless, all the B's can do is just play the schedule on hand. That is what they did on Saturday afternoon against the Washington Capitals.

The Caps grabbed a huge win against Boston over a week ago. Unfortunately, they really were unable to build on that momentum since that night. They lost three of their next five games coming into their showdown with the Bruins.

As for the Black and Gold, they were looking to secure back-to-back wins at home after knocking off the Florida Panthers, another Southeast Division team. They have had good success against that division so far this season, so this game looked promising.

Anton Khudobin got the start in goal for the Bruins as he opposed Michal Neuvirth of the Caps. Adam McQuaid made his return to the lineup as well.

The first period was controlled by the Bruins, specifically the first line. Nathan Horton and David Krejci each recorded a goal in the opening period. Milan Lucic, their linemate, had an assist on both goals. 

The second period started to get chippy. Matt Hendricks of the Capitals played the role of instigator as he drew the interest of several Bruins players who wanted to drop the gloves. He eventually got into it with Horton, but not before Brad Marchand had a scrap with Mike Ribeiro. 

There was some scoring in the second period as Marcus Johansson (WSH) capitalized on a bad turnover and stuck the puck past Khudobin. Andrew Ference increased the Bruins lead again after some solid passing from Horton and Krejci. 

The physical play continued in the third period, mostly due to the chippiness showed by Hendricks. It was at that point where McQuaid took things into his own hands and pounded on Hendricks. Aside from a goal by Rich Peverley on the power play, not much else happened in the final 20 minutes. The Bruins won an exciting game on this day with a final score of 4-1. Khudobin finished with 32 saves, some of them were highlight material.

The Bruins will be back on the ice Sunday afternoon when they travel to Pittsburgh to take on the Penguins. 

Gold Star: Nathan Horton (1 goal, 2 assists, plus-2 rating)...The Gordie Howe hat-trick for the power forward was a great way to break out of the slump he has been having.

Black Star: Jay Pandolfo...This was not his type of game. He did see some time on the penalty kill in this one. 

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Game 25: It Was Tough To Watch This One

The second half of the NHL season officially started for the Boston Bruins on Thursday night. They played host to the Florida Panthers. 

The Bruins were coming off of a tough, yet not surprising loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins after holding a two-goal lead with a little over six minutes left to play in the game. To make things worse, the B's received word that they had lost center Chris Kelly to a broken tibia and will be out indefinitely.

However, a team like Florida could have been just what the Bruins needed to bounce back. 

Heading into this game, the Panthers were the worst team in the NHL (20 points). This squad has been devastated with injuries to their key players, forcing them to play several young kids. Since the Bruins already defeated them earlier in the year, this was fixing to be a tough game for Florida.

Not so much actually.

Tuukka Rask was back between the pipes for the Black and Gold. Scott Clemmensen was in goal for the Panthers at the other end of the ice. Along with Kelly, Adam McQuaid was not in the lineup due to a minor injury. He was replaced by Aaron Johnson.

The Bruins got things started in the first period on a goal by Zdeno Chara. That goal was a result of good skating and dumping the puck into the zone. On the other hand, the second goal scored by the B's resulted from spreading out and making crisp passes. Patrice Bergeron was the beneficiary as he banged in his seventh goal of the year on assists from Brad Marchand and Tyler Seguin. 

The Panthers were matching the physical play by laying some big hits on the B's through the first period and into the second period. Their persistent aggressiveness led to a short-handed goal while the Bruins were on the power play. Shawn Matthias recorded the tally after a great individual effort to track the puck down. As for the Bruins, it was a sloppy period. If Rask did not come up with some key stops, the score could have been different up until that point.  

The third period was better for the Bruins, yet it still was not perfect. They allowed the Panthers to get more scoring chances, but they were unable to cash in. Boston got some breathing room on a goal by Shawn Thornton. Bergeron would later add an empty-netter to seal the 4-1 victory for the B's. 

The Bruins will play their next game on Saturday afternoon against the Washington Capitals.

Gold Star: Tuukka Rask (29 saves on 30 shots, 1 goal allowed, .967 save percentage)...Sometimes a goaltender can change the momentum, but sometimes they can keep it on your side.

Black Star: Milan Lucic...He was responsible for the turnover that led to the lone Panthers goal. Overall, just a disappointing performance from the left-winger.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Game 24: Third-Period Letdown

There are some games that mean more than others, even though you will never hear a team admit that publicly. That is reality. 

Tuesday night was one of those games for the Boston Bruins. Despite just being one day removed from a thrilling shootout victory over the Ottawa Senators, the B's were back in action against the Pittsburgh Penguins. This could be a potential Eastern Conference finals matchup, which is why this game was important.

Whenever the Penguins take the ice, all eyes are focused on the "best player in the world" and how many points he will put up on a given night. Although Sidney Crosby is a great player, the Penguins are a great TEAM that consists of numerous skilled players. The Bruins were going to be in for a long night against another conference powerhouse.

Anton Khudobin got the start in goal for the Bruins in this game. Chris Kelly, as expected, missed this game due to a knee injury. Jay Pandolfo skated on the third line with Rich Peverley and Jordan Caron.

In the first period, the Bruins were in complete control. They spent countless minutes in the Penguins zone, forcing them to play defense as opposed to springing into their offensive rushes. The Bruins managed to jump out to a two-goal lead despite generating only five shots on goal. Zdeno Chara (power play) and Tyler Seguin recorded the goals for Boston. 

The second period was fast-moving to say the least. The lack of stoppages definitely favored the Pens as the momentum quickly turned their way. However, whether it was during five-on-five play or on the penalty kill, Khudobin and the Bruins defense came up big.

The action was more balanced out between the two teams in the third period. The Penguins had several scoring chances denied by Khudobin until they finally broke through on three quick goals scored by Chris Kunitz and two by Brandon Sutter. They completed the comeback to knock off the Bruins with a 3-2 final.

The Bruins will head back home for a Thursday night game against the Florida Panthers. 

Gold Star: Rich Peverley (1 assist, 77% face-offs won)...This was his best game in a long time. Even though he had to switch back over to his natural center position, he did not miss a beat as he was solid at both ends of the ice.

Black Star: Andrew Ference (minus-1)...He had struggles clearing the puck out of the zone all game, which is something you need to be able to do as a defenseman. 

Monday, March 11, 2013

Game 23: Claude Julien Ties A Legend

The Boston Bruins are starting to play up to their expectations. It really is amazing what a power play goal and production from your bottom two lines can do for the confidence of a team.

The B's were back on the road Monday night against the Ottawa Senators, a team that they already defeated earlier on in the year. 

While the Bruins were looking for their third straight victory, it was not going to be easy. Coming into this game, Boston was the best road team in the Eastern Conference (8-1-2) while Ottawa was the best home team in the Eastern Conference (9-1-2). That situation screams for the phrase: "Something has got to give." 

This game was also a chance for the Senators to get back to basics after returning home from an unsuccessful road trip (1-2-2). In order to build some momentum, the Sens sent out Robin Lehner to start in goal to oppose Tuukka Rask. Zdeno Chara skated in his 500th game for the Bruins on Monday night.

In the first period, the Bruins constantly moved the puck backwards. It was as if moving the puck up ice was a struggle for them. Their early sloppy play led to the Senators recording two quick goals. Guillaume Latendresse and Kyle Turris notched the tallies for Ottawa. Thanks to some key saves by Rask and Shawn Thornton scoring his second goal of the season towards the end of the period, it became a different game for the Bruins. 

Both teams started to be a bit more conservative in the second period. It also did not help that the puck would not settle on the sticks well throughout this entire game. A goal was still scored by Daniel Paille of the Bruins to tie the game up. David Krejci, who assisted on the goal, skated in his 400th NHL game on this night.

A scary moment occurred in the second period when Chris Kelly collided knee-to-knee with Chris Neil of the Sens. He later had to be helped off the ice and did not return to the game.

Things remained quiet through the third period and into overtime. In the shootout, David Krejci got the game-winning goal in the fourth round to secure the 3-2 victory for the Bruins. Claude Julien is now tied with Milt Schmidt for second all-time in Bruins history with 245 wins as a head coach.

The Bruins will be back on the ice Tuesday night when they travel to Pittsburgh to take on the Penguins.

Gold Star: Tuukka Rask (30 saves on 32 shots, 2 goals allowed, .938 save percentage)...The two-goal deficit did not phase the netminder. In fact, it made him play better.

Black Star: Nathan Horton...He finished with a minus-2 and was thrown around all over the ice. He has now gone without a point in three straight games.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Game 22: Mirror Image Across The Sheet

The Boston Bruins have the Montreal Canadiens. The Philadelphia Flyers have the Pittsburgh Penguins. Those are two of the biggest rivalries in the NHL right now.

However, when the Bruins and Flyers get together, the games are always heated and exciting. 

For the first time this season, the Bruins welcomed their foes from Philly on Saturday afternoon. The Flyers were coming off of back-to-back losses, so this game was important for them. 

Although this game was probably circled on the calendar of the Bruins, they did not expect the sudden changes that were going to be taken place on their roster. Jordan Caron was recalled from Providence after Chris Bourque cleared waivers. As for the game itself, Caron skated on the third line. Tuukka Rask was back between the pipes for Boston. With a busy schedule next week, it was good for Rask to get back in net.

In the first period, the Bruins came out strong. They were winning puck battles and did not give the Flyers many scoring chances. Their play resulted in a three-goal period. Tyler Seguin, Chris Kelly, and Daniel Paille recorded the goals for the Black and Gold.

Usually when these two teams play each other, there is very little defense played. On this occasion, the B's shut down the Flyers all game long. Rask only had to make 23 saves in this game and that stemmed from a solid defensive outing. 

Shawn Thornton, who recorded an assist on Paille's goal, dropped the gloves with Zac Rinaldo after he drilled Johnny Boychuk. There was nothing wrong with the hit, but the response was nice to see. 

Overall, a good outing at home during a matinee game for the Bruins. They defeated the Flyers by a score of 3-0.

The Bruins will be back in action on Monday night when they take on the Ottawa Senators.

Gold Star: Chris Kelly...It was great to see him get back on the scoring sheet.

Black Star: Dougie Hamilton...He had a quite game from an offensive standpoint. 

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Game 21: Getting Back On Track

It is amazing just how spoiled Boston sports fans can truly be. After the Boston Bruins dropped two consecutive games, the feeling was that the world was ending.

Yes, the B's lost back-to-back games after holding the lead in both of them. However, the Bruins still remain in fourth place in the Eastern Conference and trail Montreal by only one point for the top spot in the division. With that being said, Boston needed to get back on track.

On Thursday night, the Toronto Maple Leafs came into the TD Garden, a team that the B's have had their way with over the last several meetings. Even though the Leafs were coming off of three straight wins, this was a game that the Bruins needed to rebound. 

Anton Khudobin got the start in goal for the Bruins. Jay Pandolfo was inserted into the lineup after the team announced that they had waived Chris Bourque. Will that be the only change to the Bruins roster in the days to come? We will see what happens.

In the first period, the tone was set. The Maple Leafs started with the chippy play, specifically when Mark Fraser (TOR) boarded Pandolfo and Adam McQuaid challenged the tough defenseman. Aside from that, the Bruins were kind of sloppy in their defensive zone and that forced Khudobin to make some key saves. 

Even though they had several wasted scoring opportunities, the Bruins still managed to score the first goal. Patrice Bergeron stuck the puck through the legs of Leafs goaltender Ben Scrivens for his sixth goal of the season. Tyler Seguin and Brad Marchand had the assists. 

The second period was much better for Boston. The puck traveled up and down the ice, which led to scoring chances at both ends. The Bruins took some chances on fast breaks, but it came back to haunt them when the Leafs tied the game on a goal scored by Nazem Kadri. However, the Bruins came back and recorded two more tallies from Seguin and David Krejci.

Toronto made things interesting in the third period. The Leafs had better puck possession, yet they did not have that many great scoring chances. They beat Khudobin on one of them as the Bruins failed to get dirty in front of their own net and clear the puck. After a late rush by Toronto, Seguin added an empty-net goal for the B's to seal the 4-2 victory. This was their eighth straight victory against the Leafs.

The Bruins will be back in action on Saturday afternoon against the Philadelphia Flyers.

Gold Star: Brad Marchand...His two assists in this game stemmed from his tough play in all three zones.

Black Star: Andrew Ference...This is not the way someone who is in a contract year should be playing. 

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Game 20: A 'Capital' Collapse

It is safe to say that we all needed to step back and take a breather from the emotional high of Sunday's game against the Montreal Canadiens.

That was hockey at its best and, at some points of the game, hockey at its worst. Regardless, the Boston Bruins expect that from a rivalry game and they should have expected the same thing on Tuesday night. They were in action against the Washington Capitals, the same team that ended their brief playoff run last season.

That particular playoff series opened up a lot of eyes around the NHL. The Capitals were one of the most prolific teams at blocking shots and playing defense. In this league, it is tough to win games when you only score one or two goals. Washington made it work. 

It was also due in large part to the outstanding play of young goaltender Braden Holtby, who made his 10th straight start in this game. Tuukka Rask was back in goal for the Bruins. Chris Bourque made his return to the lineup in this game after being a healthy scratch on Sunday.

In the first period, the Bruins dominated mostly every aspect of the game. It all started in their own defensive zone, progressing all the way up ice for great offensive opportunities. Case in point came when the Bruins were on the penalty kill and Brad Marchand stole the puck off of a turnover and got hooked as he approached the net. He later cashed in on the resulting penalty shot to put the B's on the board. 

The defensemen started to get in on the action as Zdeno Chara and Dougie Hamilton (power play) each recorded a goal to extend the Bruins lead. Also, Shawn Thornton dropped the gloves with John Erskine in his first fight since the concussion. How about that for a first period?

The second period was all Washington, although the Bruins helped them out with their sloppy play in their own defensive zone. The Caps got two goals back to make the game more interesting. Mike Ribeiro and Tomas Kundratek were the ones who had the tallies.

The Bruins officially blew the three-goal lead in the third period when Wojtek Wolski beat Rask to tie the game. Washington used that momentum and scored the game-winning goal in overtime on the stick of Eric Fehr. In a game where the Bruins deserved to be criticized, they fall to the Caps with a 4-3 final score. Rask, who made 22 saves, is still winless against Washington in the regular season. 

The Bruins will return home for a Thursday night game against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Gold Star: Brad Marchand...His goal gave the Bruins some momentum. It was too bad that they could not retain it.

Black Star: Johnny Boychuk...He finished with a minus-two, not to mention he was out of position on several occasions in the defensive zone.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Game 19: Eastern Conference Supremacy

When the season ends in a couple of months, many will look back at just how important Sunday night's game would turn out to be.

The Montreal Canadiens came into Boston to take on the Bruins in a game that would determine who would take over sole possession of first place in the Eastern Conference. As if there was not enough to fuel this rivalry, the stakes were higher. Something special always seems to happen when these two teams get together.

For this contest, former Bruin Michael Ryder made his return to the TD Garden for the first time since winning the Stanley Cup with Boston. He went on to have a good career in Dallas, but he was traded to the Canadiens a number of weeks back for Erik Cole. Playing on both sides of this rivalry is an interesting position to be in, just like his current teammate Tomas Kaberle.

Tuukka Rask was back in goal for the Bruins. Instead of opposing Carey Price, he faced Peter Budaj due to the Habs coming off of a Saturday night loss with Price in net. Shawn Thornton was also back in the lineup for Boston after being a healthy scratch against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Also, Chris Bourque was a scratch for this game as predicted.

In the first period, both teams used their speed and exchanged good scoring chances that included ringing some posts. We know that Montreal has had some skill on previous teams, but this particular team can also play physical. Even though the B's outhit the Habs 15-8 in the opening 20 minutes, their tough play made things difficult for Boston in the neutral zone.

Montreal recorded two goals in the opening period, goals that Rask would like to have had back. Tomas Plekanec and David Desharnais netted the goals for the Habs. Tyler Seguin scored his fifth goal of the year sandwiched between the two Montreal tallies. 

The first period as a whole was sloppy for the Bruins. However, they definitely turned things around in the second period. Patrice Bergeron and Dougie Hamilton each had a goal to give the Bruins the lead. The goals became an afterthought as we witnessed 20 minutes of heated hockey only two rivals can duplicate. Milan Lucic and Brandon Prust had a decent fight that stemmed from an altercation between Adam McQuaid and Lars Eller. Also, Zdeno Chara responded and took liberties on Alexei Emelin after he crossed-checked Seguin right in the ribs. Sure, the captain took 17 minutes worth of penalties on the play, but it was completely justified.

All of the action led to an interesting third period. The Bruins got the benefit of some non-calls, yet they could not take advantage. The Canadiens scored two unanswered goals in the third period and they withstood the late onslaught by the B's. Montreal takes this round by a final score of 4-3.

Boston will take on the Washington Capitals in their next game on Tuesday night. 

Gold Star: Patrice Bergeron (1 goal, 2 assists, plus-3 rating, 68.4% face-offs won)...This was his best game of the season and he showed it in all three zones.

Black Star: Dennis Seidenberg...He had several turnovers and he was not positioned well in the defensive zone. He should be able to rebound quickly. 

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Game 18: What Is Good For One Team Is Good For Another

Now we can all see exactly just how much the condensed schedule is coming on at this point. The fans of the Boston Bruins love to see the Black and Gold on the ice, tired legs and all.

The Bruins were right back on the ice Saturday afternoon against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Since the Bruins were heading into a back-to-back portion of their schedule, Anton Khudobin got the start in goal.

The Lightning have gotten off to a great start so far this season. They recently have won three-out-of-four games, but they have had their struggles lately. Coming into Saturday's game, they had dropped three straight. 

As for the Bruins, they needed to focus on the task at hand instead of looking ahead to their big divisional game coming up. Matinee hockey games could throw a team off their usual methods of keeping their focus.

One minor change to the Bruins roster for this game was that Shawn Thornton was a healthy scratch. He was replaced in the lineup by Jay Pandolfo.

In the first period, things were sloppy for the Bruins. They allowed two power play goals after taking a few costly penalties. Steven Stamkos and Alex Killorn were the goal scorers for the Lightning.

After a couple of fights early on in the game, the Bruins started to find their rhythm. Tyler Seguin and Rich Peverley each had a goal in the second period to tie the game. Both goals came from the far side (left point) of the net, a pretty impressive and difficult angle to shoot from. The game went back and forth until late in the third period when Brad Marchand netted his 11th goal of the year on the power play. The final score was 3-2 in favor of the B's. They now have a six-game winning streak.

The Bruins would like to have this game back as far as their early execution. The fact that they scored two power play goals completely overshadowed the first few minutes of the game where they allowed two power play goals, which is a rarity. On the other hand, a win is a win.

The Bruins will play their next game on Sunday night against the Montreal Canadiens. 

Gold Star: Gregory Campbell...He never gets enough credit sometimes. His fight sparked the Bruins and his clutch defensive play was key down the stretch.

Black Star: Chris Bourque...He was demoted to the fourth line and saw only six minutes of ice time. We should not be surprised if he becomes a scratch in the next couple of games.