Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Game 40: ...And That Concludes 2013

Although we are still a few days away from the midway point of the NHL season, we did reach one milestone on Tuesday night. 

The Boston Bruins hosted the New York Islanders in what was the final game of 2013. This past calendar year has been very memorable for the Bruins. Some of the highlights included sweeping the Pittsburgh Penguins en route to a Stanley Cup appearance and handing out well-deserved contract extensions to the core players.

However, this past month has been rough. The injuries have been piling up like never before, even though they got some of their players back (Adam McQuaid and Daniel Paille). With Dennis Seidenberg done for the year, the Bruins needed to respond to the naysayers out there and prove that this team is still for real. 

The Islanders are never a pushover and Tuesday night was just another example of that statement. For the B's, Zdeno Chara made his return to the lineup after missing the last game with an injury.

As it turned out, his dominance did not stand a chance against those slick Isles. Even though the Bruins held the lead, they ended up falling by a final score of 5-3. John Tavares had a four-point night for New York. On a positive note for the Bruins, David Krejci recorded his 100th career goal in the first period of this game.

It was too bad that they could not send the fans home happy in this one. Now that 2013 is behind us, look for 2014 to be a huge year for Boston.

The Bruins will continue their three-game homestand on Thursday night against the Nashville Predators. 

Gold Star: David Krejci...His play was solid on a memorable night for the top-line center.

Black Star: Tuukka Rask...Even though the defense was not great in front of him, five goals is five goals. 

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Games 38-39: Hello, Ottawa-Bruins Continue Dominance At Home

Welcome back, hockey fans. 

The brief Christmas break that took place around the NHL was much needed and it was great for the players to enjoy some time with their families. 

Now, it was back to business. 

The Boston Bruins continue their dominance along the top of the Atlantic Division. That still sounds weird to say. Does anyone remember the Northeast Division?

Anyway, the B's were about to welcome in a divisional rival that is poised to challenge them as the season progresses. The Ottawa Senators came into the TD Garden on Friday night for the first game of a home-and-home series. In fact, this was the final home-and-home series that Boston would play in this season. 

The Senators, who defeated the B's in their only meeting back in November, have been struggling lately. These two games would be crucial for both teams for totally different reasons. Could Boston increase its lead in the division or could Ottawa get back on track?

Prior to puck drop, it was announced that Daniel Paille would make his return to the lineup for the home game against the Sens. He missed the last seven games with a concussion. Also, goaltender Niklas Svedberg was recalled from Providence while Matt Bartkowski made his return to the blue line.

In Friday's game, the goaltenders alternated periods of greatness. Tuukka Rask and Robin Lehner were keeping their respective teams in the game by making big stop after big stop. After nearly two scoreless periods, Jarome Iginla notched a power play goal to put the B's on top. 

David Krejci and Brad Marchand (shorthanded) each added one, and Reilly Smith added a pair in the third period to seal the 5-0 victory for the Bruins. Both Iginla and Smith were riding three-game point streaks after Friday night. Iggy's streak would extend to four games after Saturday.

With Smith's goals, it marked the seventh-straight game with a multi-goal scorer and that tied a franchise record. Rask stopped all 33 shots he faced for his fourth shutout of the season (20th of his career). Also, 10 different Bruins posted at least one point. 


In Saturday's game, a contest that did not feature Zdeno Chara, the Bruins fell to the Senators by a score of 4-3. It was reported before the game that Dennis Seidenberg is out for the year with a knee injury. That is a huge blow. David Warsofsky took his place in Saturday's game. As for the future, who knows? 

The Bruins will play their next game on Tuesday night against the New York Islanders, the last game of 2013. 

Gold Star: Reilly Smith/Brad Marchand...With the way that these two have been clicking with each other over the last couple of games, this is well deserved. Smith leads the team in goals while Marchand is building up his point total quickly.

Black Star: Carl Soderberg...This seems to be happening way too often. When he is clicking, he is a solid player. When he goes through his rough stretches, it is hard to watch him. It is still a shame to see him get hurt. 

Monday, December 23, 2013

Game 37: Sea of Gold in Music City/Claude Julien Wins 400th Game

The NHL is the only league out of the four major sporting leagues here in the United States that actually knows how to do things right. 

With all due respect to the other leagues, hockey is the one sport that takes the needs of the players and everyone else involved in the sport into consideration for major holidays. The entire NHL will go on a three-day Christmas break starting on Tuesday to enjoy time with family, friends, and loved ones. 

However, business needed to be taken care of before that could happen. 

The Boston Bruins still had one more game to play before they can enjoy their mini vacation. They were in action on Monday night against the Nashville Predators. 

The Predators like to play a heavy game that they balance with some of their skill players. With a stud on defense in Shea Weber, this was not going to be easy for the Bruins. One thing that would play in their favor was that Nashville had to send out a rookie goaltender (Carter Hutton) in place of injured netminder Pekka Rinne. 

Brad Marchand, who was dinged up in the last game, traveled with the team and skated in this game. Also, Adam McQuaid made his return to the lineup after missing the last several weeks with a groin injury. That did not stop him from dropping the gloves with Eric Nystrom (NSH) for a spirited fight in his first game back.

After three goals and a forced goalie change, the Bruins dominated the opening 20 minutes. They started to get a little sloppy with the puck towards the end of the first period, but they looked to clean that up in the second period. 

The Predators made things slightly interesting late in the second period and early in the third period by beating Tuukka Rask with a pair of goals by Craig Smith. As it turned out, that would not be enough on this night. 

The Bruins went on to win this game by a score of 6-2. Matt Fraser was one of the goal scorers, which meant that was his first goal as a member of the Black and Gold. Jarome Iginla had two goals in this one.

The Bruins will play their next game on Friday night against the Ottawa Senators.

Gold Star: Ryan Spooner...This has been long overdue. Ever since his call-up, he has played incredible two-way hockey and has shown great play-making abilities. With three assists and being solid at the face-off dot in this game, this kid will be something special.

Black Star: Milan Lucic...This was a game where he was anticipated to make some sort of impact. Not so much.

Happy Holidays!   

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Games 35-36: Those Pesty Sabres

The Boston Bruins are enjoying a stretch in their schedule that most teams would kill to have at this time of year. The workload seems normal, but they are playing a string of games against opponents with records below .500. 

This is the time to capitalize and secure some points to increase their lead in the Atlantic Division. 

Their next two games would be against a team that they have grown to despise, hate, and even loathe. The Bruins were in action on Thursday and Saturday against the Buffalo Sabres in a home-and-home series. 

The last time these two teams got together, Loui Eriksson was nearly beheaded by Sabres goon John Scott. Eriksson suffered a concussion (he currently is on injured reserve) and Scott was suspended for seven games. Although the Bruins roster has been depleted of their tough guys as well as their skill guys, would they seek retribution in Buffalo on Thursday night or would it strictly be about getting the two points? 

That did not turn out to be the case since Scott was a healthy scratch for this one. However, the Sabres would not need his muscle. They went on to defeat the Bruins by a score of 4-2. Brad Marchand did record a pair of goals in a losing effort while goaltender Chad Johnson made only 19 saves. At this point in the season, the Sabres needed any spark to get things going and this was a victory that they could be proud of. 

Prior to the game, it was announced that David Warsofsky was recalled from Providence to replace Kevan Miller. He made his NHL debut on Thursday night. 

Now, our attention shifted to the second half of the home-and-home series between Boston and Buffalo. Tuukka Rask opposed Jhonas Enroth in the goaltender match-up. 

In Saturday's game, which took place at the TD Garden, the Bruins continued their territorial dominance over their opponent through the first two periods. Also, we witnessed Patrice Bergeron drop the gloves with Tyler Myers (BUF) for his first-career regular season NHL fight. Very exciting, right? 

The B's held a 2-1 lead into the third period, where they started out playing sloppy. They soon found their rhythm, led by Rask who made some key stops. Milan Lucic recorded his team-leading 12th goal of the season and Reilly Smith scored his second of the game to seal the 4-1 victory for Boston. One thing worthy of note is that the Bruins killed off two separate five-on-three power plays from the Sabres. The youngsters who have been filling in have been staying true to the system.

The Bruins will play their next game on Monday night against the Nashville Predators.

Gold Star: Brad Marchand...He had two goals on the road against Buffalo and he showed some grit during the home game. He had to be helped off the ice with an apparent injury, but returned minutes later. So much for those "trade talks."  

Black Star: Jordan Caron...The more ice time that he seems to receive, the more he regresses. Yes, his linemates have been interchangeable but there are still no excuses. 

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Game 34: 'Flaming' Out After Road Trip? Nope.

The Boston Bruins have been ravaged by injuries and the flu bug, but that has not stopped them from becoming the second best team in the Eastern Conference and the top team in the Atlantic Division. 

Despite their less-than-stellar roster, they have been on a tear over the last two weeks. They went into their Canadian road trip behind the Montreal Canadiens. When it was all set and done, they overtook their rival and built a comfortable lead. 

Speaking of that road trip, they took six out of a possible eight points with their only loss coming at the hands of the Vancouver Canucks towards the back end of the roadie. That is a tough city to play in because the fans take their hockey seriously. Why don't you ask Milan Lucic just how serious they take it? 

Anyway, the B's were back at home on Tuesday night against the Calgary Flames. They defeated the Flames last week in Calgary, so let's see if they can have similar luck at the TD Garden.

Prior to the game, it was announced that Craig Cunningham was recalled from Providence on an emergency basis. This came as a result of the news regarding Daniel Paille. He has been suffering from concussion-like symptoms and is out indefinitely. Man, a break cannot be caught with this team lately.

In the first period of Tuesday's game, both sides played a very heavy style of hockey. After a scoreless opening 20 minutes, that trend continued into the second period. The hits came in bunches from Calgary, but Boston produced the better scoring chances. 

After several stoppages that killed the B's momentum, they finally capitalized on the power play when Zdeno Chara blasted home his eighth goal of the season. It was somewhat poetic justice that "Big Z" recorded the goal because he was the recipient of a high stick that was not called. Ironically, the power play was a result of a high-sticking penalty. 

In the third period, the Flames did come on strong with some pressure. The Bruins did bend, but they did not break even though they struggled in the neutral zone during the last 20 minutes. At the end of the night, it was Boston standing tall. Chara recorded his second goal of the game to seal the 2-0 victory for the Bruins.

Both David Krejci and Jarome Iginla had multi-point games on this night while Tuukka Rask recorded his third shutout of the season, stopping all 21 shots he faced. The Flames just cannot score a goal in Boston.

The Bruins will be back on the road for a Thursday night game against the Buffalo Sabres. 

Gold Star: Zdeno Chara...He had a pretty solid game in the defensive zone. He was dishing out body contact and did not produce any significant turnovers. Oh yes, recording a pair of power play goals helps too.

Black Star: Brad Marchand...He may have straightened up his play, but he still does not seem to understand how to play the game correctly. Please get the memo....no more hits from behind. Something is going on. 

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Games 30-33: Canadian Road Trip/They're Dropping Like Flies

The Boston Bruins are in quite the predicament right now. 

This was supposed to be a week that was highly anticipated by the players and fans alike. Some of the highlights included the following: Jarome Iginla squaring off against a team/city that he called home for the majority of his career, the first time facing Andrew Ference in a different sweater since leaving Boston, and a high-profiled showdown between two teams that hate each other.

All of that did take place this past week, but that quickly became an afterthought. 

After an amazing victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins last Saturday night, the likes of Shawn Thornton (suspension) and Chris Kelly (broken ankle) did not join them on the road trip. This led to the call-up of both Matt Fraser and Ryan Spooner. Also, Adam McQuaid was placed on long-term injured reserve.

This was not exactly what the Bruins had in mind when embarking on the week-long journey north of the border, but things quickly got worse.

Yes, the Bruins secured the 5-2 victory in Toronto against the Maple Leafs on Sunday (a game that featured Kevan Miller's first-career NHL goal), but Dougie Hamilton suffered a lower-body injury and flew back to Boston. Long story short, another man down. This was overshadowed by a superb game by Chad Johnson between the pipes. 

The rest of the week was intriguing. You have to love those late-night puck drops against opponents rarely seen on a regular basis. Welcome to Western Canada.

Tuesday night featured the return of a beloved player to a city he spent well over a decade showcasing his craft. The Bruins traveled to Calgary, Alberta to take on the Flames. That city and organization is filled with class, as made evident by the tear-jerking video tribute to "Iggy" prior to puck drop.

Before the game, it was announced that Loui Eriksson was placed on injured reserve and the team recalled Nick Johnson. Also, Daniel Paille was ruled out with an upper-body injury. On the plus side, Johnny Boychuk made his return to the lineup after missing the last two games with a sprained back. It would not surprise anyone if the entire Providence Bruins roster was called up to skate for the big club with the way the players have been dropping. 

Iginla and the B's bested the Flames 2-1 in his return. Now, it was on to another reunion of sorts. Despite having a warm spot in their hearts for Ference, who now wears the "C" for the Oilers, the Black and Gold secured another two points against Edmonton. The final score was 4-2 where Iginla recorded a pair. This was their 11th consecutive victory against this franchise.

Their last stop on this trip was to a city and against a team that they spoiled some Stanley Cup dreams back in 2011. We all remember those Vancouver Canucks, correct? 

Well, they certainly remembered the Bruins. They put a shellacking on the B's Saturday night by defeating them 6-2, snapping their four-game winning streak. 

Overall, a decent road trip for Boston. 

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Game 29: Tisk Tisk Tisk

The new realignment that kicked in this season for the NHL definitely triggered some schedule changes, both positive and negative. 

For the Boston Bruins and their fans, one of those negative changes took place on Saturday night. No need to worry about it too much though. This was not completely devastating news. 

The Bruins hosted the Pittsburgh Penguins for the final time this season. These two juggernauts are on a collision course that is slated to explode in April come playoff time. In the meantime, both Pittsburgh and Boston will look to take care of business in their respective divisions. 

The teams split the first two meetings heading into the rubber match on Saturday. They always give the fans some entertaining hockey games to watch, so it is a shame that the season series wrapped up this early. It is what it is. 

Obviously, Johnny Boychuk did not play in this game and is out for about a week. It was reported that he suffered a sprained lower-back after being on the wrong side of a check into the boards courtesy of Habs forward Max Pacioretty. Kevan Miller took his place in the lineup. Tuukka Rask was also back in net for the B's. 

As if the previous game didn't contain any controversy, this one was swarming with it. Instead of explain it, here is what happened....definitely some suspensions coming. 

With that being said, we still had a hockey game to play! The Bruins took this game by a final score of 3-2. The B's finished off the comeback in the third period with goals by David Krejci and Zdeno Chara, while Rask was solid in net yet again. As for the incidents that took place, we will wait for the league to respond. 

The Bruins will head out on a four-game Canadian road trip that will begin on Sunday night. Their first stop will be Toronto where they will take on the Maple Leafs. 

Gold Star: Zdeno Chara...Not only did he record the game-winning goal, but he posted a plus-3 rating and was shutdown in the defensive zone. There you go, big buy.

Black Star: Carl Soderberg...Maybe his last name is Swedish for "invisible?"

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Game 28: From First To Second

There are some things that are so obvious that they do not need to be pointed out, especially by someone who constructs a blog that goes without reading by his peers....

However, this blog is about the Boston Bruins so pointing out the obvious will have to be done on this occasion.

The month of December is upon us and the NHL season is heating up. For the Bruins, they will be playing in some key games that are upcoming on the schedule. Thursday night marked the first time this season that they played the Montreal Canadiens and unless you have been living under a rock, this is the matchup of all matchups.

The greatest rivalry in all of sports is Boston/Montreal. Here is one of the reasons why:

With both of these teams near the top of the Eastern Conference yet again, all four games this year will be intense and entertaining. Brian Gionta and Alexei Emelin are healthy for the Habs, and the Bruins have their roster back to full strength. This rivalry was about to write a new chapter to its history and it all started on Thursday night.

As expected, Tuukka Rask opposed Carey Price in the goaltender matchup. Adam McQuaid did not make the trip to Montreal for this one due to an undisclosed injury. This led to the emergency call-up of Kevan Miller from Providence.

The Bell Centre, home of the Habs, is surely a great home-ice advantage for Montreal. Among the sea of red lied a sheet of white that displayed one great hockey game. The game started out sluggish, but slowly picked up. The hits came often and the teams responded by elevating their play. The Bruins got the better of the Habs early on in terms of shots, but Montreal put more pressure on Rask than expected.

The score was 2-1 in favor of the Canadiens heading into the third period. The Bruins absolutely dominated the final 20 minutes. It was as if they refused to spend any time in their defensive zone. They put an enormous amount of pressure on Price, but they could not get the puck in the net. The Bruins fell to the Canadiens and dropped to second place in the Atlantic Division.

*There was a scary moment that took place during the first period. Canadiens forward Max Pacioretty checked Bruins defenseman Johnny Boychuk hard into the boards and could not get up. He had to be stretchered off the ice and taken to a local hospital. According to B's General Manager Peter Chiarelli, he was responsive and moving all of his extremities. Pacioretty received a two-minute boarding minor on the play. His status will be updated as the week progresses. 

The Bruins will return home on Saturday night to take on the Pittsburgh Penguins. 

Gold Star: Tuukka Rask (25 saves on 27 shots, 2 goals allowed, .926 save percentage)...He did all that he could to try and seal the two points, but he just could not get enough offensive help from his teammates.

Black Star: Jarome Iginla...It was rough to see so many off passes. What was worse was the lack of physicality. What is going on?