Saturday, November 30, 2013

Game 27: So Long, Mustaches

The month of November has reached its conclusion and the Boston Bruins have made their presence felt throughout the first portion of the season.

Heading into Saturday night, the B's held a 17-7-2 record, good for first place in the Eastern Conference. They also possess a 9-3-2 record in November. However, they have a history of starting out strong but we should accept the fact that they are playing well now. 

Boston wrapped up this rough patch in the schedule by hosting the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday. Nathan Horton remained out of the lineup as he is still "not close" to returning from his shoulder injury. Since this was the final regular-season meeting between the two teams, Bruins fans will have to wait until next year to give Horton a nice "homecoming" of sorts. 

The season series ended on a positive note for the Black and Gold as they knocked off the Blue Jackets by a final score of 3-1. Milan Lucic recorded a pair of goals for Boston. The second period got a little chippy, but these squads have been known to get physical with each other from time to time. It just so happens that Columbus gets lost in the shuffle with some of the other heated rivalries that the Bruins are involved in. 

Chad Johnson was back in net for the B's, stopping 13-out-of-14 shots that he faced. Overall, the B's remain on top of the Eastern Conference heading into December. Now, we will get a taste of some different and intense competition. This is perfect timing with the roster presently at full health.

The Bruins will not play again until Thursday night when they travel to Montreal to take on the Canadiens. Woo Hoo!

Gold Star: Milan Lucic...Excuse the expression, but this guy has been a boss. He leads the team in goals (11) and his play has not slowed down at all. 

Black Star: Reilly Smith...He flashes moments of greatness, yet he has trouble being consistent with it. 

Friday, November 29, 2013

Games 25-26: Rough Stretch Nearly Complete

When a team gets on a roll and strings a few wins together, strange breaks start to go your way. 

The Boston Bruins played one of the best games in this young NHL season on Monday night against the Pittsburgh Penguins. After a back-and-forth, fast-paced contest that produced the exchanging of goals and great goaltending, Sidney Crosby netted the game-tying goal with less than a second left to play. With momentum on the opposite side, Torey Krug blasted home the winning goal to give the B's the full two points and Eastern Conference supremacy....for the time being. 

The wins are coming in and the team is finding the rhythm that they lacked during the early part of the season. They wanted to finish out the month of November with as many points as possible against some good teams. 

Boston traveled to Detroit on Wednesday night to take on the Red Wings. The teams split the first two meetings of the season. Their fourth and final meeting will not take place until April, so the team on the wrong end of this one would have a bad taste in their mouths for quite some time. 

Although Adam McQuaid and Dennis Seidenberg made the trip for the Bruins, only McQuaid laced up the skates to play in this game. Shawn Thornton was a healthy scratch in this one as well.

The Bruins will have to look themselves in the mirror after this shellacking they endured against Detroit. They fell 6-1 in a game where they did not look like themselves. The Red Wings scored the first six goals of this game. If it was not for a late goal by Jarome Iginla, this would have looked outright embarrassing. This was not a great way to start a holiday weekend and the flight home must have been excruciating.   

While the rest of the city enjoyed their Thanksgiving dinners and early-morning shopping, the Bruins were preparing for their annual "Black Friday" matinee game. This year, they took on the New York Rangers. 

Seidenberg did return to the lineup for the Bruins in this one. He missed the last several games with an undisclosed injury. As a result, Kevan Miller was assigned back to Providence.

If there was one thing that the Bruins have yet to do effectively this year, it has been the lack of ability to stage comebacks. Friday afternoon featured a solid come-from-behind victory. They defeated the Rangers by a score of 3-2 in a very chippy and physical game.

The Bruins will play their final game of the month on Saturday night against the Columbus Blue Jackets. 

Gold Star: Patrice Bergeron...The entire offense runs through this man and sometimes players rely on their leaders to step up their game. 

Black Star: Carl Soderberg...He was playing so well. He followed up a great week of play by finishing with a minus-4 rating through two games.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Game 24: Top Guns In The East Meet Again

The rough stretch in the Boston Bruins schedule is almost at its conclusion. They just have to get through this week of games before they can enjoy a slight breather. 

They seemed to have handled themselves with great professionalism over the last month since they have gone 7-1-2 in their last 10 games. The real test is upon them because the last week in November could push them over the top as the premier team in the Eastern Conference.

They were in action on Monday night against the Pittsburgh Penguins to conclude their three-game homestand. The Penguins got the better of the B's in their first meeting, but that was a hard-fought game that could have gone either way. Regardless, we are always in for a thrilling match-up when these two teams take the ice.

Tuukka Rask opposed Marc-Andre Fleury in net while Dennis Seidenberg missed another game due to injury for Boston. Kevan Miller made his third-straight start on the blue line in his place. Adam McQuaid also did not play in this game.

In the first period, the Penguins pitched a fort in the Bruins defensive zone. They were absolutely dominant, but Rask blocked every shot he faced in the opening 20 minutes. At the other end of the ice, Boston jumped out to a 2-0 lead on goals by Loui Eriksson and Reilly Smith (power play). Eriksson and Carl Soderberg recorded multi-point games on this night. 

The second period started with a bang as Pittsburgh pulled within one on a goal by James Neal. The two teams battled each other hard the rest of the way. The third period featured the exchange of goals, including a goal in the last second of regulation by Sidney Crosby to send the game into overtime. 

It did not take long for the B's to send the TD Garden fans home happy. Torey Krug blasted home the game-winner to give the B's the 4-3 victory and secure the top spot in the Eastern Conference.

The Bruins will be back in action on Wednesday night when they travel to Detroit to take on the Red Wings. 

Gold Star: Loui Eriksson (1 goal, 2 assists, plus-1 rating, 5 shots on goal)...This was the night that he had the breakout performance we have been waiting for him to have. He has earned the sweater.

Black Star: Jarome Iginla....There will be an Inside Hockey piece to follow.  

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Games 22-23: They Keep Accumulating Points

Momentum in any sport, particularly in the NHL, can turn on a dime. 

Just a few weeks ago, the Boston Bruins were playing .500 hockey and barely getting by within their division. As of Thursday night, the Bruins were sitting on top of the Atlantic Division and the Eastern Conference. 

The momentum that they have been carrying through this rough stretch in their schedule has been huge. We can thank the third/fourth lines and the solid goaltending for the fact that the B's won on back-to-back nights a few days ago. After securing maximum points in two-out-of-three road games this past week, they looked to return home and play even better. They were in action on Thursday night against a red-hot St. Louis Blues team that is poised to make a deep playoff run this year. 

Despite playing in back-to-back games this week, Tuukka Rask was back in net yet again. Also, Kevan Miller, who was recalled from Providence, made his debut in the lineup for this game, which was perfect timing considering the status of Dennis Seidenberg and Adam McQuaid. 

It really is amazing to watch these two teams play against each other because they are identical. They both play heavy games and they both like to put pressure on the opposing goaltender. With that being said, Boston and St. Louis can provide the fans with some entertaining hockey and that is exactly what we witnessed in this game. 

In a game that featured Gregory Campbell netting his first goal of the year, the Blues got the better of the Bruins on this night. They secured the two points in the shootout. What was impressive is that the Bruins held Alexander Steen (STL) shotless in regulation and overtime. He is tied for the league lead in goals.

The B's wasted little time after Thursday night because they played an afternoon game on Saturday against the Carolina Hurricanes. Chad Johnson was in net for Boston, giving Tuukka Rask a breather. Hey, even number-one goaltenders need a break.

These two teams played each other just a few days ago with the Bruins getting the victory. The same result took place on this day as the B's recorded the 3-2 overtime win on a game-winner by David Krejci. Although the Hurricanes had some of their top guns back in the lineup, they took numerous penalties and they could not get into a rhythm. 

The Bruins will play again on Monday night against the Pittsburgh Penguins. 

Gold Star: Carl Soderberg...It seems like he is adjusting to the NHL with tremendous ease. The last couple of games have been prime examples of that. 

Black Star: Jarome Iginla...He has been getting a pass with his sub-par play lately. The veteran needs to start scoring some goals.  

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Games 20-21: Stealing Games

It is rare for an NHL team to have an entire weekend off during the regular season. Although the Boston Bruins did practice, they experienced the luxury of having a game-free weekend. 

However, that was probably the best thing for them because they have a full schedule this week with four games on the slate. Yes, they had a minor bump in the road with a loss to the Ottawa Senators, but they accumulated 9 out of a possible 10 points during their five-game homestand. That kind of confidence would certainly be called upon this week. 

The Bruins were in action on Monday night against the Carolina Hurricanes. They followed that up with a game in New York against the Rangers. 

Cam Ward (injury) made his return between the pipes for the Hurricanes. However, the Canes sent out a depleted roster for this one with Alexander Semin and Jeff Skinner out of the lineup. For the Bruins, Shawn Thornton was a healthy scratch and he was replaced by Jordan Caron. 

The Bruins jumped out to an early 2-0 lead, but it looked like history was about to repeat itself. Carolina climbed back into the game and cut the lead in half. In the end, it was two goals in the third period that put the Bruins over the top. They secured the 4-1 victory over a team that has had their number over the last couple of seasons. 

They also avoided blowing a second-consecutive 2-0 lead due in large part to Tuukka Rask. He came up with 23 big saves in this one. Milan Lucic, Reilly Smith, and Carl Soderberg posted multi-point games. Overall, a solid start to the week.

They looked to continue that trend on Tuesday night against the Rangers. Rick Nash made his return to the lineup for New York after missing the last 17 games with a concussion. Adam McQuaid, who did not travel with the team for this road trip, looks to make his return from a hip injury later this week. 

With Rask back in net for the Bruins, these gentlemen were in for a physical confrontation. The Rangers piled up the shots as well as the hits, making every trip up ice for the Bruins difficult. Thornton and Daniel Paille of the "Merlot Line" each recorded a goal in the second period. Despite being out-shot 33-13 through the first two periods, the B's held a 2-1 lead in the third period and that was the way it ended. 

The Rangers ended the Bruins consecutive penalty-killing streak at 33 before scoring on the power play early in this game. 

Dennis Seidenberg left the game on Tuesday night after only one shift. His status remains unknown for the rest of the week at this point.

The Bruins will play again on Thursday night against the St. Louis Blues. 

Gold Star: Tuukka Rask...He only allowed two total goals in these two games, including tying a career high in saves with 43 of them on Thursday. He has been stealing games for the Bruins.

Black Star: Brad Marchand...He was demoted to the fourth line during Monday's game, the same line where his career began three years ago. His play has been that bad as of late.  

Friday, November 15, 2013

Games 18-19: Those Back-To-Backs Always Get You

Over the years, the Boston Bruins have developed a reputation around the NHL. Some folks will look at them and see a tough, rugged, united team who will stick up for each other. Critics of the team will compare them to the likes of a gang. 

Regardless of your opinion, they are one of the best teams in the league. This past week, they altered the careers of two different individuals. The Florida Panthers fired head coach Kevin Dineen immediately after their loss to the Bruins. More recently, Steven Stamkos broke his leg Monday afternoon against the B's. 

Coincidence? Definitely. The Bruins are not "career killers" ..... at least not intentionally. 

There were certainly more important things to take care of on the ice for Boston the rest of the week. They ended their five-game homestand on Thursday night against the Columbus Blue Jackets. Nathan Horton did not play in this game for Columbus, but he skated for the first time this week since his shoulder surgery. He is getting closer. 

Anyway, let's discuss the game. Matt Bartkowski took the place of Adam McQuaid back on the blue line in this game since McQuaid is still dealing with a nagging injury. Also, Chad Johnson made his TD Garden debut in net for the Bruins. He definitely came up with some huge stops, 32 of them to be exact.

At the end of the night, the B's sealed the two points in overtime on a breakaway goal from Milan Lucic. He has already surpassed his season total in goals from last season and we are only 19 games into the 2013-14 season. He is having a great start to the year. Boston ended its homestand with a 4-0-1 record.

The Bruins finished up the week by traveling up to Ottawa to take on the Senators in their first meeting of the season. These two teams will be battling for Atlantic Division supremacy all year long and this game would go a long way in establishing early control for that top spot. 

As for this one, the game got away from the Bruins. The more the game progressed, the worse the B's played and the Senators capitalized on some key turnovers. After holding a 2-0 lead, Boston fell 4-2 to Ottawa.

The Bruins will play their next game on Monday night when they take on the Carolina Hurricanes. 

Gold Star: Milan Lucic...He strung together two good games during this stretch and he looks poised to lead this team in goals this year.

Black Star: Reilly Smith...He has become a turnover machine. His struggles continue to be evident in the defensive zone, something that was not advertised when it came to his play. 

Monday, November 11, 2013

Game 17: This Is More Like It

The Boston Bruins picked up another couple of victories last week against teams that featured some familiar faces of "Bruins past" and they were well earned. They are now keeping pace with some of the top teams in the Eastern Conference. 

Those games were simply tune-ups to the game that they were set to play on Monday afternoon. They were prepared to go into battle with the Tampa Bay Lightning, the best team in the conference. Ironically, Monday was Veteran's Day and many fans were anticipating a war between these two teams. 

This was the third meeting of the season between the Bruins and the Lightning with Boston emerging victorious in the first two games by just allowing one total goal combined. Was this the game that the Lightning would get over the hump and knock off the Bruins on their home ice? 

Tuukka Rask was back between the pipes for the B's. Adam McQuaid, who has a lower-body injury, did not skate in this game. He was replaced in the lineup by Matt Bartkowski. As it turned out, the depth that the B's have on the blue line proved to be the deciding factor.

Does anyone remember that brief hiccup that the Bruins experienced in their schedule last week? Well, that seems to be in the rear-view mirror. The B's knocked off the Lightning Monday afternoon by a final score of 3-0. This was by far one of their best and most complete 60 minute performances of the season. Every player skated well in both zones and were solid at the face-off circle. Gregory Campbell recorded an assist on Daniel Paille's goal, which just so happened to be his first point of the season. 

The Bolts held their breath during this game when Steven Stamkos had to be stretchered off the ice. It looked like that the All-Star center broke his leg when he charged the net in pursuit of a puck. If that is the case, then he will be out for quite some time and Tampa Bay could be in trouble. 

The Bruins will wrap up their five-game homestand on Thursday night when they take on the Columbus Blue Jackets. 

Gold Star: Tuukka Rask...He stopped all 28 shots he faced en route to his second shutout of the season. In three meetings with Tampa Bay this season, he has stopped all but one shot.

Black Star: Shawn Thornton...This did not turn out to be a game where he could have been used effectively. 

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Games 15-16: "Reunion Week" Continues

The Boston Bruins are currently in the middle of their longest homestand of the season. The Bruins play five games at the TD Garden over the next week or so. 

However, this was clearly a happy accident for the Bruins. During this stretch of home games, they were treated with the return of some familiar faces. 

Earlier this week, Tyler Seguin made his return to Boston with the Dallas Stars. He was able to get the last laugh as he netted a goal in the shootout to help his team prevail. 

In order for the B's to snap out of this funk that they have been in over the last two weeks, they needed to accumulate some points at the expense of more returning players. Thursday night marked the return of Tim Thomas to Boston when the Bruins took on the Florida Panthers. Unfortunately, Thomas did not skate in this game due to a lower-body injury. 

Maybe this could have been the solution to the B's getting back to their winning ways after dropping four of the last five games? 

This game certainly had a brisk pace to it. That is something that definitely played into the hands of the Bruins. Their passing was solid and their penalty killing was back to what it used to look like when they were at the top of the league. Bottom line was this: the Bruins started to look like the Bruins. They went on to win this game by a score of 4-1. The Boston goals were scored by David Krejci, Brad Marchand, Torey Krug, and Reilly Smith.

There was a point in this game where the B's lost two players for a brief amount of time. Patrice Bergeron took a puck to the face and Chris Kelly got elbowed in the head by Panthers forward Jesse Winchester. Both were able to return.

The Bruins closed out the week against the Toronto Maple Leafs where Phil Kessel is absolutely crushing things this year. That is not a total surprise since most players tend to catch fire during contract years. Either way, he is still a great player and his team is at the top of the Eastern Conference this season. This one was not going to be easy for Boston.   

The Bruins battled through an incredibly tough contest with the Leafs. In the end, they came away with a 3-1 victory. Patrice Bergeron netted two goals while Tuukka Rask was outstanding yet again. Two U's, two K's, two victories to end the week. However, Adam McQuaid left the game after injuring his leg during his second shift. His status will be monitored over the weekend.

The Bruins will play their next game on Monday afternoon against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Gold Star: Brad Marchand...The proverbial "monkey" was lifted off his back. He broke his lengthy scoring drought (13 games), not to mention the fact that his puck-handling skills have improved.

Black Star: Gregory Campbell...The entire fourth line has become a shell of themselves and it all starts with its center. 

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Game 14: Good To See You Again, Kid

In a previous blog entry, it was stated that there are certain games on the Boston Bruins schedule that are worthy of circulation.

With that being said, those games are broken up into two separate categories. There are games that are circled by the players/coaches and then there are games that are circled by the fans. This past Wednesday, the game against the Pittsburgh Penguins was a match-up that the players were looking forward to. Tuesday night was a game that the fans were salivating over.

The Bruins were in action against the Dallas Stars. Yes, this was the first game of a five-game homestand for the B's. Yes, the Stars are near the bottom of the Central Division in a very tough Western Conference. However, the fans were not concerned about that. They were hoping to snap some pictures of a player that used to dawn the Black and Gold. Does anyone remember the name Tyler Seguin?

That is correct. He wears the green sweater in Dallas now. He is currently one of the best players on the team from a numbers perspective. It is hard to forget his time here in Boston though. He won the Stanley Cup with the Bruins in 2011 and slowly became an offensive powerhouse in 2012. Although he played below expectations last year (which led to him being traded to Dallas), fans will never forget him.

The question now becomes how would they react when Seguin makes his return to the TD Garden? As it turned out, the fans of Boston booed him quite soundly.

Tuukka Rask was back in net for the Bruins while Loui Eriksson made his return to the lineup to take on his former team. As a result, Ryan Spooner was sent back down to Providence. Johnny Boychuk made his return to the lineup as well after missing the last game with an undisclosed injury.

In the first period, the sloppy play from both teams resulted in solid performances by the goaltenders. This was more so the case for Stars netminder Kari Lehtonen because the Bruins racked up 18 shots in the first period. However, the game was tied at one goal each after the first 20 minutes.

The score remained the same into the third period, but the chippy play continued. In fact, players on both teams had the opportunity to drop the gloves in this game. Sometimes, the chippy play benefits and motivates a certain side. At the end of the night, it was the other ex-Bruin who ended the game as Rich Peverley beat Rask in the fourth round of a shootout to seal the 3-2 victory for the Stars.

The Bruins originally had the lead, but a late penalty shot allowed the Stars to tie the game and send it into overtime. Also, a questionable non-whistle on a delay of game call by Dallas would have put the B's on the power play late in the contest. The breaks are just not going their way at the moment.

The Bruins will play their next game on Thursday night when they take on the Florida Panthers.

Gold Star: Johnny Boychuk...Holy smokes. This guy may not put up the numbers every game, but he is one of the most underrated defensemen in the league. No doubt about that.

Black Star: Gregory Campbell...We all know he is a grinder and superb penalty killer, but he has not played with the same intensity over the last couple of games. He continues to play sub-par hockey. 

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Game 12-13: Uh, Oh?

We all had a feeling that this would happen soon enough. It seems as if the schedule might be starting to take an early toll on the Boston Bruins.

They were riding a two-game losing streak and they were playing on back-to-back nights for the second consecutive week. The Bruins still had seven wins on the year going into Thursday night, but it is always a concern if a losing streak occurs.

Their rough stretch did not get any easier as they closed out the week against some pretty solid opponents. They returned home on Halloween night to play host to the Anaheim Ducks, one of the best teams in the Western Conference. 

Prior to the game, it was announced that Ryan Spooner was recalled from Providence to join the Bruins roster. He replaced Jordan Caron in the lineup. The goaltender match-up was Tuukka Rask vs. Jonas Hiller.

In this game, the Bruins started out incredibly slow as far as the shots on net were concerned. On a night where Carl Soderberg recorded his first-career NHL goal, the B's got the full two points in a shootout win against Anaheim. They were out-shot 5-1 in the opening period and never held the lead in regulation. With the help of some solid goaltending and timely goals, however, the Bruins pulled this one out.

After a hard-fought game on Thursday, the Bruins hit the road again for an Eastern Conference match-up against the New York Islanders. This was the first time that the Bruins skated against Thomas Vanek since being traded to the Isles from the Buffalo Sabres. 

In this game, Chad Johnson made his second start in goal as a member of the Bruins. Also, Matt Bartkowski was in the lineup for this one as he replaced Johnny Boychuk. He is listed as day-to-day with a minor injury.

The Bruins played great for 40 minutes. Unfortunately, there are 60 minutes in a hockey game and they took the second period off. The Islanders beat Johnson for three goals during that time. The B's did manage to grab a power play goal, but that was not enough as they fell to the Islanders by a score of 3-1. 

The Bruins will play their next game on Tuesday night in one of the most anticipated contests of the season. They will take on the Dallas Stars.

Gold Star: Carl Soderberg...With a goal and several other scoring chances over the last couple of games, the Swedish forward is starting to come into his own as a Bruin and as a winger.

Black Star: Reilly Smith...Where is the consistency? He has not strung together some decent games in a long time. He needs to be able to finish better at the offensive side of the ice.