Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Game 11: Showdown In Pittsburgh

For all of the hype that has surrounded the individual games that the Boston Bruins have played so far this season, only a select few are worthy of circulation on the calendar. 

Wednesday night was certainly one of those games. 

The Black and Gold were featured on "Wednesday Night Rivalry" for the second straight week. Last week, Loui Eriksson suffered a concussion. What would happen this week?

The Bruins were in action against the Pittsburgh Penguins. We all remember what happened last season in regards to the Penguins. In somewhat slick fashion, they acquired several veteran players (including Jarome Iginla) at the trade deadline to make a serious run at the Stanley Cup. The "lock" that Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli described them as proved to be inaccurate. The Bruins went on to sweep the Pens in the Eastern Conference Finals, receiving brief satisfaction and a sense of redemption. 

Now, a new season is upon us. This rivalry will write a new chapter and it started on Wednesday night. 

After a very hard-hitting and entertaining opening period, both teams remained scoreless. Tuukka Rask was outstanding for Boston and that continued into the second period. However, he was not invincible when it came to the Penguins power play. Chris Kunitz deflected a shot past Rask with the man advantage to give Pittsburgh the lead. 

In the third period, the Bruins started to play more physical. This created more scoring chances for them late in the game. Patrice Bergeron notched a goal by deflecting a shot by Dennis Seidenberg past Pens netminder Marc-Andre Fleury to tie the game. At the end of the night, it was Pittsburgh standing tall. They added two more goals in the third period and rode their solid defensive play to the end. Iginla added a late goal for Boston, but it was not enough. The Penguins took this game by a score of 3-2.

The Bruins will play on Halloween night back at home against the Anaheim Ducks. 

Gold Star: Patrice Bergeron...Even without his goal, he played excellent at both ends of the ice.

Black Star: Torey Krug...This was a rare struggle for the youngster. He let skaters dance around him all game, including on the goal that put the Penguins in the lead for good. 

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Game 10: Skating With The Devils

The Boston Bruins had quite the week to say the least. 

By grabbing wins on back-to-back nights, they remain near the top of the Atlantic Division and the Eastern Conference. They had a chance to end the week on an extremely high note when they welcomed the New Jersey Devils into the TD Garden. 

The Devils have been struggling to find an identity this season. After the loss of Ilya Kovalchuk, they have been in a downward spiral to the bottom of the conference. With only six points on the year coming into this game, a win against the Bruins would have been a step in the right direction.

Tuukka Rask was back in net for the Black and Gold. He opposed Martin Brodeur. This was also the return of former Bruin Jaromir Jagr, who now plays for New Jersey.

In what turned out to be a very disappointing night, the Bruins fell to the Devils by a score of 4-3. The way that this game ended was shockingly reminiscent of game six of the Stanley Cup Finals between the Bruins and the Chicago Blackhawks. Boston allowed two quick goals in the final minutes of the game, much like the case on Saturday night. 

The story here was just how undisciplined the B's were in this one. They could not stay out of the penalty box. As a result, the Devils capitalized and scored all four of their goals with the man advantage. 

The Bruins will play their next game on Wednesday night against the Pittsburgh Penguins. 

Gold Star: Jarome Iginla...He racked up a goal and two assists on a night where his point streak continued. It turns out that he still has something left in the tank.

Black Star: Zdeno Chara...When you are such a big part of your team's penalty kill, you have to be on the ice. Unfortunately, he was serving penalties. 

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Game 9: Statement Game

In the world of sports, the unwritten rule for a team coming off a victory is to take it and quickly move on to the next game.

For the Boston Bruins, that "rule" has become an afterthought.

What took place on Wednesday night in Buffalo was hard to watch and even harder to move on from. John Scott blindsided Loui Eriksson with a hit to the head. Since then, Eriksson has been diagnosed with a concussion and is out indefinitely. As for the perpetrator, Scott is suspended indefinitely until he has his in-person hearing with the NHL. 

The two teams will face each other again on December 19, but who is keeping track.....

Anyway, the Bruins put that behind them the best way that they could as they took on the San Jose Sharks on Thursday night. 

The Sharks have always been one of the premier teams in the league and this year, that is no different. They have yet to lose in regulation, so this was going to be a tough test for Boston. Also, Freddie Hamilton was in the lineup for the Sharks. He is the brother of B's defenseman Dougie Hamilton.

Jordan Caron took Eriksson's place in the lineup for this game and probably for the foreseeable future. Tuukka Rask also made his return to the net in this one. He opposed Antti Niemi (SJ). 

Through the first two periods, the Sharks absolutely dominated the Bruins. Even though the play was dominated in both zones by San Jose, both goaltenders were in All-Star form. Specifically, Rask stopped 25 shots through the first 40 minutes. That propelled the Bruins to nabbing the first goal of the game towards the end of the second period. Jarome Iginla recorded his first goal as a Bruin as he slid the puck in under Niemi, who made some key stops on the Bruins up until that point.

In the third period, the Sharks got right back into it on an early goal by Patrick Marleau.The game went back and forth until David Krejci scored a goal, literally, in the final second to give the Bruins the 2-1 victory. They were outshot 39-17 in a winning effort.

The Bruins will play their next game on Saturday night when they take on the New Jersey Devils.

Gold Star: Tuukka Rask (38 saves on 39 shots, 1 goal allowed, .974 save percentage)...This was one of those games were a goaltender kept his team in it. Sure enough, the Bruins pulled out a well-deserved victory for him.

Black Star:  Jordan Caron...It may be attributed to rust, but some of his passes were not crisp and he was not physical.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Game 8: Some Things Never Change

The Boston Bruins are off to a very auspicious start to the 2013-14 season. They sit at 5-2-0 on the year and were tied for third place in the Atlantic Division heading into their next game.

How fitting that their next game was showcased as part of Wednesday Night Rivalry. Their opponent on Wednesday night was the Buffalo Sabres. 

Buffalo is sitting at the bottom of the Eastern Conference. This was a team that was built on going younger since they traded away Jason Pominville towards the end of last season. However, these are the teams that you have to watch out for. They certainly have handed the Bruins their fair share of problems, both in muscle and on the scoreboard.

The B's seemed poised heading into Wednesday night. In fact, this game featured the Bruins debut of goaltender Chad Johnson. He won the backup job in camp beating out some very young, stiff competition. Since the Bruins were playing a back-to-back this week, Johnson was going to see the ice sooner rather than later. 

Let's see how this one turned out for the new netminder, shall we?

The game started out rather slowly considering it was these two teams on the ice. Both sides played excellent defensively, forcing their opponent to be very conservative with the puck. The only goal allowed in the opening period came off a shot by Jarome Iginla that deflected off the skate of Milan Lucic and into the goal. If it was not for Ryan Miller protecting the Sabres net, the score may have looked a little different.

In the second period, those two players picked up right where they left off. Iginla hooked up with Lucic yet again to put the Bruins up by two. 

Heading into the third period, the B's possessed a one-goal lead. The defensemen got involved in the scoring for Boston as Dougie Hamilton beat Miller for one while Torey Krug racked up a pair. The Bruins stayed on top of the Sabres for the rest of the game. They were forced to play sloppy because the Bruins were so aggressive. 

About midway through the third period, Sabres tough guy John Scott nearly decapitated Loui Eriksson with a hit to the head. He had to be carried off the ice by a couple of his teammates. As for Scott, he had to answer for that when Adam McQuaid was right there to challenge him. Scott received a match penalty, which means that the hit will automatically be reviewed by the league. 

The B's won this game by a score of 5-2 and they remain unbeaten on the road this season. As for Johnson, he looked decent, allowing two questionable goals on 16 shots. 

The Bruins will return home on Thursday night when they play host to the San Jose Sharks.

Gold Star: Milan Lucic...He recorded two goals and an assist on a night where he took a puck to the face. He got stitched up and headed right back out on the ice. This is why he wears the Black and Gold.

Black Star: Chad Johnson...The main factor here was that all of the other Bruins played well. He will surely see more games this year and it will be interesting to see how he grows.  

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Game 7: Redemption for Bolts?

Even though we are only a couple of weeks deep into the NHL season, one would assume that it is too early for a team to be in a must-win situation. 

This may be a little over-dramatic, but the Boston Bruins were one game removed from that must-win situation. 

They knocked off the Florida Panthers on Thursday night, a team that was struggling heading into that meeting. If you add in the fact that they were going against Tim Thomas in the opposing goal, then you have to figure that coming away from that game without maximum points would have been disappointing. 

Luckily, they pulled out the full two points on a late goal by Reilly Smith. They were riding some momentum into their game on Saturday night against the Tampa Bay Lightning. This was the final game of the B's two-game Florida road trip. 

The Bruins defeated Tampa Bay on opening night, but would they have the same success against the Bolts on the road?

In the first period, the tone was set early when Gregory Campbell dropped the gloves in a scrap with B.J. Crombeen. From that point on, the game was intense and physical. The game ended with a couple of other fights as well. Normally, fighting in hockey is not discussed here. However, when they have an impact on the outcome of the game, then it becomes important.

In the middle of all of that featured the Bruins finding their scoring touch. They put up five goals by five different players, including one from Shawn Thornton. Also, Tuukka Rask was brilliant as he stopped all 23 shots he faced. With Carl Soderberg making his return to the lineup, the B's are clicking at a great time. 

The Bruins will play their next game on Wednesday night when they travel to Buffalo to take on the Sabres.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Game 6: An Old Friend

The 2011 Boston Bruins were a special team to watch. They got hot at the right time and stood victorious over their opponents en route to a Stanley Cup title.

However, without a certain goaltender, they may not have achieved the success that they did during the conclusion of that season. Does anybody remember the name Tim Thomas?

Well, he plays for a different opponent now. He protects the net of the Florida Panthers, the team that the Bruins were in action against on Thursday night. This was the first of two games the B's played in the state of Florida this week. 

The Bruins are all too familiar with the style of Thomas, so this match-up was going to be interesting from the opening puck drop. With Thomas protecting the goal, he gives the Panthers a fighting chance in their division. However, he has been battling a lingering groin injury since the start of the season. Let's see what happened in this one. 

First things first, the fans of the Florida Panthers should be ashamed. The arena was so empty that it looked like a morning skate or a scrimmage. It really was a sad sight to see. Anyway, now it is time for the game itself. 

In the first two periods, both teams played a very sloppy style of hockey. They each traded scoring chances, but those came as a result of reckless turnovers at both ends of the ice. The Bruins actually held a 2-0 lead at one point, but surrendered it when Florida tied the game with six minutes remaining in the third period. However, Reilly Smith played the role of hero in this one. He netted the game winner on a back-hand shot in front of the net with just seconds remaining.

As for Thomas, he looked decent. He did give up numerous rebounds throughout the game, but we can attribute that to some rust since he has played in only four games in a year and a half span. At the other end, Tuukka Rask stood on his head and came up with some key saves to keep his team in the game.

The B's continue their brief road trip on Saturday night when they take on the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Gold Star: Dougie Hamilton...He blasted home a power play goal and recorded a team high five shots on net. Also, he looked more confident in the defensive zone.

Black Star: Brad Marchand...What is going on with this guy? He finished with a minus-1 rating and was completely ineffective.

*Adam McQuaid did not play in this game. Instead, all three of the young defensemen suited up for this one.  

Monday, October 14, 2013

Game 5: Matinee Hockey At Its Finest

There really is something truly special about matinee hockey. 

It is hard to put a finger on it. Whether it is the ruckus of the crowd jam packed with kids as they enjoy a day off from school or just the overall atmosphere of the TD Garden ice glowing on an afternoon. The Boston Bruins thrive on playing hockey during the day.

However, that was not always the case. The B's used to have a poor record in matinee games. They are off to a good start so far this season as they defeated the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday afternoon and hoped to continue that trend on Monday. They were in action against the Detroit Red Wings, a team that they had already beaten last week.  

In the first period and throughout the duration of this game, the Bruins had several opportunities to put this game away. In fact, not only did they have the better scoring chances but they recorded more power play time than the Red Wings.

That turned out to be not enough. The Red Wings took this game by a score of 3-2. They held a 3-1 lead at one point and the Bruins cut the lead in half on a late goal by Milan Lucic. However, it was too little, too late. Henrik Zetterberg, Stephen Weiss, and Daniel Cleary were the goal scorers for Detroit. 

The Bruins will head back on the road Thursday night when they travel to Florida to take on the Panthers.

Gold Star: Loui Eriksson...He seems to be finding his scoring touch. He has recorded goals in each of his last two games and his solid play on both sides of the ice is immense.

Black Star: Brad Marchand...He really has looked shaky at both ends of the ice in the early stages of this season. He was bumped down to the third line in this game in favor of Reilly Smith. Maybe this will be a move that will turn his game around. 

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Games 3-4: Finishing The Week Strong

The Boston Bruins have looked pretty good in their first two games of this young season. The key word in that sentence is YOUNG. Two games down, 80 to go. 

Although two games is only a small sample size compared to the actual length of the season, we can only judge based on what we have seen thus far. The B's knocked off two strong Eastern Conference opponents at home and did so by only allowing two total goals.

On a somewhat related note, this team will go as far as Tuukka Rask takes them. Sure, the Bruins have great depth up front and on the blue line. At the end of the day, you need a top-five goaltender to be successful in this league and the Bruins have themselves one of those. 

The Black and Gold wrapped up the week against two teams that are on the rise. First, they took on the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday night at the TD Garden to conclude the three-game homestand. This Avalanche team is different from years past. They were undefeated heading into this game and they look to make a push in the Western Conference this season.

In this game, the B's did everything but score. They fell 2-0 to the Avalanche with the second goal coming with Rask pulled. Avs goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere was outstanding in net, stopping all 39 shots he faced. It was a very entertaining game that featured a few scrums. Colorado is not known for its muscle, but the Bruins lost sight of that and let it hurt them on the scoreboard. It did not help that Zdeno Chara sat out some of this game with a leg injury. He did finish his remaining shifts and looked fine once the contest concluded.

The Bruins were also in action on Saturday afternoon when they traveled to Columbus to take on the Blue Jackets. 

No, Nathan Horton did not play in this game. He is still recovering from shoulder surgery. Patience, B's fans. That time will come soon enough. 

This one was also a very physical match-up for the Bruins. After another stellar performance by Rask, the B's battled and came out with the 3-1 victory. This came on a day where Claude Julien coached his 700th career NHL game. Loui Eriksson scored his first goal as a member of the Black and Gold. Matt Bartkowski made his season debut on the blue line in place of Dougie Hamilton in this game.

After a very successful week to begin the year (3-1-0), the Bruins will play their next game on Monday when they take on the Detroit Red Wings. 

Gold Star: Tuukka Rask...This is why he was paid the big money to remain in Boston long term. He recorded a combined 54 saves through these two games. 

Black Star: Dougie Hamilton...He still cheats up way too much for a defenseman. After coming off a loss, it was no wonder that they turned to Matt Bartkowski to regain some idenity. 

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Game 2: Detroit Red Wings, Division Rival?

It has been decades since hockey fans were allowed to say that phrase. Saturday night featured the renewal of one of the most classic rivalries in all of sports. The Boston Bruins played host to the Detroit Red Wings in an "Original Six" match-up. 

Both teams were coming into this game unbeaten, although the Red Wings had played one more game than the Bruins. Regardless, something had to give. Detroit plays a very finesse style of hockey while Boston plays the hard-hitting style. If the Bruins expose their opponent in that way, then it will be a long season for the Red Wings.

Let's start with the first game of the season between these stellar squads. 

Well, in this game there was not really much to debate. This night belonged to the Bruins as they knocked off the Red Wings by a score of 4-1. The power play unit was responsible for two of the goals. This was an element of the B's game that they were hoping to improve as the season went along. With two games down, they are handling themselves quite well.

There is one developing story that we should keep an eye on. If and when Carl Soderberg returns from his injury, will he be slotted right into the lineup? Jordan Caron has played solid in the first two games and has earned his spot on the roster. Either way, it will be an interesting situation. 

The Bruins will play their next game on Thursday night when they wrap up their three-game homestand against the Colorado Avalanche. 

Gold Star: Torey Krug...He is becoming the power play "magician" for this team. He racked up a goal and an assist with the man advantage.

Black Star: Patrice Bergeron...He was under 50% from the face-off dot and was blanked across the board in all offensive categories. 

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Game 1: New Look, New Season

This was one of the most anticipated off-seasons for the Boston Bruins in quite some time. 

The feeling around the city was that once the organization handled some of the internal issues with the team, the fans were under the assumption that we may be in for a roller coaster of emotions heading into a new hockey year.

You know what they say about assumptions, right?

Anyway, this was covered in great extent during the summer months. However, this is just a brief recap. With Tyler Seguin, Rich Peverley, Nathan Horton, and Andrew Ference all playing for new teams this season, the Bruins had to recapture their identity. Based on the preseason, they succeeded.

Jarome Iginla, Loui Eriksson, and Reilly Smith are the new forwards that will wear the Black and Gold while the strength of this Bruins team lies within their young defensive core. Also, Chad Johnson was brought in to compete for the backup goaltending job and after a grueling training camp battling Niklas Svedberg, he won the right to back up Tuukka Rask.

The new additions gelled perfectly with the core of the team as they compiled a 6-1-0 record during the preseason. The young "bubble" skaters played so well that it was tough to see most of them get sent back to their junior teams or back down to Providence, but that is the nature of the business. 

After all of the remaining roster cuts and final practices, the Bruins were ready to begin the regular season. They opened up their 82-game campaign at home against the Tampa Bay Lightning, a team who has dawned a refreshed look themselves. 

Even though they still have the services of Steven Stamkos, they lost Vincent Lecavalier to the Philadelphia Flyers via free agency. This may be a younger team as a result, but the Lightning are a legitimate threat in the Eastern Conference this season.

Prior to the game, it was announced that David Krejci would wear the third "A" this season, carrying on that tradition left behind by Ference. Also, Carl Soderberg will begin the season on injured reserve due to an ankle ailment. He will be replaced by Jordan Caron. 

What a game this turned out to be at the Garden. The Bruins defended their home ice and knocked off the Lightning by a final score of 3-1. Chris Kelly, Milan Lucic, and Patrice Bergeron netted the goals for Boston. Rask looked absolutely solid in net, stopping 32 shots. 

In the game, there was a handful of questionable hits by Tampa Bay. Every time, the Bruins were there to defend their teammates. That is a great thing to see this early in the season. 

They will remain at home on Saturday night when they take on the Detroit Red Wings. 

*Dennis Seidenberg received a lucrative contract extension prior to puck-drop. The deal is for four years and it is worth approximately $16 million. This was a guy that they needed to lock up and upper management did just that.  

Gold Star: Tuukka Rask: 32 saves on 33 shots, 1 goal allowed, .970 save percentage....Why not acknowledge the solid play of the new franchise goaltender?

Black Star: Daniel Paille...Although he spent most of his ice time on the penalty kill, he could not utilize his speed at all during this game.