Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Game 52: Rask vs. Thomas - Plain and Simple

Has it dawned on anybody that the Boston Bruins only play five games during the month of February? 

Although Olympic hockey is one of the great spectacles in sports, the two-week hiatus that the NHL will go on during that month will be a little hard to handle. Let's enjoy the remaining games that they have to play in January before we reach that point.

The B's returned to the TD Garden on Tuesday night to begin a four-game homestand. Up first on the slate were the Florida Panthers. 

Boston has handled the Panthers this season with ease, but sometimes a team with nothing to play for could be the most dangerous. The Panthers were up for the challenge.

After missing over six weeks of action, Chris Kelly made his return to the lineup after healing up a broken leg. Although Ryan Spooner played well in his place, this was Kelly's spot. Tuukka Rask got the start in goal and opposed Tim Thomas, the first time these two have faced each other since Thomas left Boston.

The first period was physical beyond belief. Despite their lackluster record, the Panthers will always refuse to be a pushover. The Bruins still jumped out to a 2-0 lead on goals by Milan Lucic and Zdeno Chara (who was honored during the first period for recording his 500th career NHL point in the previous game). Boston out-shot Florida 19-8 through the first 20 minutes. 

In the second period, the Panthers tried to get their game going by putting tons of pressure on Rask. Aside from that early rush and a late goal by ex-Bruin Brad Boyes (FLA), he did not see much more action. The B's added two more goals in the period to go up by three. 

The third period started with the Panthers notching a power play goal to cut the lead in half. That turned out to be the last breath of hope for the Panthers because the Bruins beat Thomas for another two goals in the third, one of them by Shawn Thornton. The Bruins won this game by a score of 6-2, the third-straight game that this team has scored six goals. 

Up next for the Bruins: The Montreal Canadiens. That game will take place on Thursday night.

Gold Star: Milan Lucic...This guy was a force in this one. He used his size to create several scoring chances, including two for himself. He loves to hit and his hitting paid dividends here. 

Black Star: Chris Kelly...It will take some time for him to get back to form. Patience will be his friend in this case. 

Monday, January 27, 2014

Game 51: The Best.....

Where has this NHL season gone?

The Boston Bruins are 50 games into their schedule and it seems like it has been going by at such a brisk pace. When you go up against a team for the final time during the regular season, that is also an indicator of a season approaching the pinnacle.

The Bruins were back in action on Monday night when they traveled to Long Island to take on the New York Islanders. This was the final meeting between these two teams this season. 

The Isles took the first two meetings, so this one was an important game for the B's. They needed to establish themselves against a team that they have yet to prove a point to. A win here could have been a huge psychological boost. 

At the same time, they were facing (get ready for this scathing statement) the best player in the world presently in John Tavares. Sorry to all of you Pittsburgh Penguins and Sidney Crosby fans out there. 

The Islanders captain leads the team in all offensive categories and shutting him down was the focus here. The Bruins still needed to play their game. 

Chad Johnson got the start in goal for the Bruins.

The first period was pretty identical as far as both teams were concerned. The tactic that favored the Bruins was the tremendous pressure that they put on the Isles, making it difficult to carry the puck out of their own zone. However, the power play was rough to watch yet again. The score was 1-1 at the end of the first 20 minutes. Loui Eriksson roofed a beauty for the Bruins. It is finally time that we can see what this guy can do when healthy.

The second period of this one was one of the most entertaining 20 minutes of hockey we have witnessed this season. The Bruins and Islanders flew up and down the ice exchanging scoring opportunities. What really hurt the B's was the plethora of mistakes made in the neutral zone. Regardless, this period could be summed up with the following: goal after goal after goal after goal! Boston and New York each scored a goal during a delayed penalty. The B's took a 4-3 lead heading into the third period. Brad Marchand, Reilly Smith, and Carl Soderberg were the goal scorers for Boston. 

They also took a penalty-killing task into the third period as well, the same way they began the second period. Just like the previous one, they killed it off. Seconds later, the perpetrator of the penalty (Patrice Bergeron) got some sweet payback when he put the B's up two for the first time in the game. 

Zdeno Chara added another one (his 500th career NHL point) to seal the 6-3 victory for the Bruins. #Avenged 

*Islanders forward Kyle Okposo had a goal and two assists in this game. He now has 23 goals and 34 assists on the year. Yes, he was snubbed by the USA Olympic hockey team. He certainly has been thumbing his nose at the selection committee as of late.

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

Gold Star: Patrice Bergeron...With one goal and two assists, he was an absolute force in this one. He was solid in all three zones.

Black Star: Dougie Hamilton....When he is the last line of defense, the Bruins are in trouble. He does not have the speed (yet) to make up for his mistakes, so he has to play the game perfectly and that is not always the case. 

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Game 50: Now This Is Hockey

Anytime that you can have contests spread out over the course of an 82-game schedule, it is truly a blessing. In other words, having multiple days off between games could do wonders for a team struggling to stay healthy. 

The Boston Bruins traveled to the "City of Brotherly Love" take on the Flyers on Saturday afternoon. This was the first time that these two teams met this season and this has been long overdue. This was also their first game since Monday's showdown with the Los Angeles Kings.

Arguably, the Flyers are one of the teams in the NHL that replicate the Bruins style of play and it is amazing to watch these hockey clubs go at it. 

With so much to say, this one has to be summed up in a condensed fashion.....Bruins 6, Flyers 1.

This game had it all. From glove-dropping fights and hard hitting to skill and great goaltending. The Bruins just had their way on this day.

**Dougie Hamilton made his return to the lineup. With Kevan Miller recently being signed to a one-year, two-way contract extension, the blue line (and the rest of the team) is finally locked up and almost back to full strength. He certainly deserves it after the way he has been playing as of late. Adam McQuaid remained sidelined with a leg injury. Jordan Caron played in this game because Ryan Spooner was out with an illness.

The Bruins will play their next game on Monday night when they take on the New York Islanders. 

Gold Star: Jarome Iginla...This was his best game as a member of the Bruins. He had two goals and two assists to show for it.

Black Star: Loui Eriksson...He is slowly getting back to form, although the third line really suits him at the moment. 

Monday, January 20, 2014

Games 48-49: Ghosts (Teams) of Stanley Cup's Past

Apparently, there was some epic football game on Sunday afternoon that had tremendous ramifications?

It's not like that needed to be a reason to combine the past two games, but these contests featured the previous two (three if you count the Boston Bruins themselves) Stanley Cup champions and that is a treat in and of itself. 

The B's traveled to Chicago to take on the Blackhawks, a rematch from last year's Stanley Cup final. This was one game on the calendar that all hockey fans wanted to see.

Both rosters look very similar to how they were constructed last June. With the additions and subtractions of a few key pieces on both sides, this was sure to be one of the marquee games of the year.

Tuukka Rask was back between the pipes for the Bruins. He opposed Corey Crawford in this one.

After an explosive opening 30 minutes that produced four total goals, things settled down thanks to the above-mentioned netminders. Despite the lack of production throughout the rest of the game, both teams never missed a beat and we were reminded that this could still be a preview of this year's Stanley Cup final. 

Even though Brad Marchand netted both Boston goals and Rask stopped 35 shots, the Blackhawks stole this game in the shootout. Patrick Kane scored the game winner in the final round. What a contest this turned out to be.

The Bruins wasted little time getting back on the ice as they traveled back to Boston to play host to the Los Angeles Kings. There is just something about those holiday matinee games that generates a special feeling while watching the game. Luckily, this one was just as entertaining as their last matchup that took place over a week ago. 

Adam McQuaid, who was injured in Sunday's game, did not play on Monday. Zach Trotman was recalled from Providence and took his spot in the lineup. Chad Johnson looked to redeem himself as he got the start in goal for Boston.

The Bruins looked solid at the start of this one, jumping out to a 2-0 lead (one short handed and the other coming on the power play). As the game progressed, both teams continued to play physical. The Kings tried to claw their way back into it and this surge was caused by a heavyweight fight between Milan Lucic and Jordan Nolan (LA). 

Los Angeles ended up tying the game in the third period on a snipe from Jeff Carter (LA), but the B's took the lead right back on Marchand's second goal of the game. They did enough towards to end to help Johnson and they secured the two points on this day. 

One side note is that Torey Krug was literally turned into a battering ram by the Kings. Poor guy, but he took a beating like a true hockey player. The Kings knew exactly what they wanted to do. 

The Bruins will not play another game until Saturday afternoon. Their opponent will be the Philadelphia Flyers. 

Gold Star: Brad Marchand...Four goals in two games. That really is a perfect example of a player who is feeling it right now. He currently leads the NHL with four short-handed goals.

Black Star: Matt Bartkowski...He took some careless penalties on Sunday and was absolutely sloppy with the puck on Monday. This could be a result of him being matched with different defensive partners.   

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Game 47: Enough Already

The Boston Bruins actually had a light week these past seven days.

They only had to complete two games during the week of January 12, which was a nice little breather for the team since the schedule will be picking up again. They fell to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Tuesday night and now they were looking to close out the week on a positive note.

The B's traveled to Dallas on Thursday to take on the Stars in what was their final meeting of the regular season. 

You know what? Thank goodness.

Throughout the entire coverage of the game (pre and post-game included), we were reminded over and over again of the "Tyler Seguin" blockbuster. Yes, he leads the Stars in points and goals. Yes, the B's now have Loui Eriksson and Reilly Smith, who are playing well here. The kid is playing well for his new team. He is just not in Boston anymore. Let it be. This time next season, we will not hear a peep.

As for the Bruins, this was just another game with the opportunity to take care of business because they were in danger of losing the lead in the Atlantic Division. 

Chad Johnson got the start in goal for the B's. Dougie Hamilton remained out of the lineup with a mild concussion. 

This one was more physical than most fans expected. Who knew that the Stars can throw some muscle around? The Bruins ended up securing the two points at the end of the night to remain on top of the division. The B's had seven different players record a point.

The Bruins will play their next game on Sunday afternoon against the Chicago Blackhawks. 

Gold Star: Milan Lucic...He had a goal and an assist to go with his big hits that he provided in this one. He was the spark that generated the top line.

Black Star: Carl Soderberg...He tends to shy away from the physical aspect, but he still did not have a great game in any other fashion.  

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Game 46: Welcome Home (For One Game)

The headline of this entry says it all.

The Boston Bruins endured a grueling and intense West Coast road trip last week that did not go as well as planned. They finished 1-2-0 against the three California powerhouses, but they ended the week on a high note by securing two points in the finale. 

Shawn Thornton, Loui Eriksson, and Kevan Miller all made their returns to the lineup last week. With the exception of Dennis Seidenberg (torn ACL/MCL), the B's are only missing Chris Kelly (broken leg). He should be eligible to return in a week or two, but Ryan Spooner has played exceptionally well in his absence. 

Controversy? We shall see.

The B's were back in action on Tuesday night when they hosted the Toronto Maple Leafs. Things seemed to be heavily in favor of the B's heading into this one. They held a record of 14-1-1 in their last 16 games at home and have knocked off Toronto in 11-out-of-12 regular season games.

Tuukka Rask was looking to return to form in this one. He received some scrutiny over the last couple of weeks due to his sub-par play. Has he been living up the contract he received and his number one goaltender status? No doubt. He shut out the San Jose Sharks on Saturday night despite being pulled in the game against the Los Angeles Kings. Everyone has their critics, but those same people have the opportunity to silence them. 


Johnny Boychuk made his return to the lineup after missing the last game due to personal reasons (birth of children). However, Dougie Hamilton did not play in this one due to a mild concussion. He should not miss any significant time.

In the first period of this game, both teams certainly got their offenses rolling. Boston and Toronto alternated goals twice. Tyler Bozak (TOR) recorded both first period goals for the Leafs. 

The second period was an interesting one for the Bruins. We witnessed different power play combinations that included Spooner playing with the "Krejci line" and Carl Soderberg playing with the "Bergeron line." It did not bode well for them and it affected the penalty kill. The Leafs beat Rask for their second power play goal of the game to take the lead. 

The Leafs held a 4-3 lead in the third period, but that was when the Bruins found new life. They were hitting, skating hard, and making plays that resulted in great scoring chances. With the extra attacker on the ice and every fan in the TD Garden standing, they could not pull out the equalizer and dropped this game to the Leafs. 

The Bruins will play their next game on Thursday night against the Dallas Stars. 

Gold Star: Patrice Bergeron (1 goal, 1 assist, 3 shots on goal, plus-2 rating, 55% face-offs won)...This is why he is the team's best all-around player. He contributed offensively and his defensive play is always prominent. 

Black Star: Jarome Iginla...He received ample time on the power play, but it just did not flow right going through him. He was also a little bit off with his linemates in this one as well. 

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Games 43-45: Week of Late-Night Puck Drops

We are going West!

Well, not so much the common folk in this particular case. However, the Boston Bruins were the lucky ones. They enjoyed their time that they spent in California this past week, but they had to keep in mind that this was a business trip. 

They took on three of the better teams in the Western Conference and they all hale from the "Golden State." If there was one positive thing that the B's could have taken away from this trip before the first game, it would be the fact that they got Shawn Thornton back from suspension. He missed 15 games for his actions in the tussle against the Pittsburgh Penguins. He returned and suited up on Saturday night.

The Bruins still had two more games to play prior to that occurrence and they were looking to make a statement in some cross-conference games. The Anaheim Ducks were up first on Tuesday night.

This game featured seven defensemen dressed for the Bruins due to the absence of Milan Lucic (illness), so make-shift lines (and lack of discipline) were prominent in this one. This strategy did not go well for the B's as they dropped this game by a final score of 5-2. Ducks goaltender Jonas Hiller was ridiculous in net. After a competitive and scoreless opening 20 minutes, Anaheim just exploded and never looked back, netting three power play goals. 

After Tuesday night, they hit the road briefly for their Thursday night matchup against the Los Angeles Kings. 

This game had all of the action a die-hard hockey fan could want. From big hits to slick skill, these two teams know how to put on a show. On this night, L.A. emerged victorious. They took this game by a final score of 4-2. They jumped out to a 3-0 lead and capitalized on some sloppy defensive play by the Bruins. However, Justin Florek (BOS) scored his first-career NHL goal in this one. Hey, that's a positive note, right?

The Black and Gold concluded the road trip on Saturday night when they traveled to "The Tank" to take on the San Jose Sharks. Before the game, Johnny Boychuk returned to Boston for personal reasons. Kevan Miller got his spot in the lineup. Also, Loui Eriksson was cleared for contact earlier in the week and he ended up playing in the finale. He skated on the third line and received some time on the penalty kill. It feels like it has been an eternity since we have seen "number 21" take the ice. 

After a very brisk and scoreless 40 minutes of hockey, the B's and Sharks were out to steal the two points. The only goal of the game occurred when Carl Soderberg beat Antti Niemi (SJ), giving Boston the 1-0 victory. This was a decent way to the end the road trip and they can build on a solid win with the lineup back intact.

The Bruins will head back home for a Tuesday night game against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Gold Star: Dougie Hamilton...He recorded a point in each of the first two games of the trip and racked up numerous shots.

Black Star: Tuukka Rask...He allowed eight goals in the first two games and was eventually pulled in the game against the Kings. Overall, not a great road trip for the netminder even though he had a solid outing in San Jose. 

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Game 42: Kruuuuuuuuuug

The Boston Bruins, as previously mentioned, would love to get their roster back to full strength (or as close to it as possible). With that being said, accumulating as many points as possible at the beginning of January will be key for this team's success the rest of the way.

The B's wrapped up their three-game homestand on Saturday afternoon. They played host to the Winnipeg Jets, a squad that is playing .500 hockey at this point in the season. 

This was the first meeting of the season between these two teams. 

Hockey fans in general were buzzing on this day because they got to see Blake Wheeler. The former Bruin made the USA roster for the Winter Olympics and his skills were showcased in this game. He currently leads the Jets in goals, so he is certainly doing his part.

Tuukka Rask was back in net for the Bruins. He opposed Ondrej Pavelec, who is no slouch in his own right. Torey Krug was questionable going into this game, but he did end up playing.

In what turned out to be a physical and fight-filled contest, the Bruins defeated the Jets by a score of 4-1. Krug had a three-point game (two goals and an assist), so all of that talk about him being a little banged up was just hogwash. Also, Justin Florek was recalled from Providence on an emergency basis and made his NHL debut to take the place of Jordan Caron.

This one will be short and sweet for those of you who actually read this.....

The B's will head out for a three-game California road trip. They will take on the Anaheim Ducks on Tuesday night.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Game 41: Halfway There

At the conclusion of Thursday's game, the Boston Bruins would have officially reached the halfway point of the 2013-14 NHL season. 

Heading into Thursday night, the Bruins possessed a record 26-12-2, good for 54 points and first place in the Atlantic Division. The second half of the season will be a grind for this team, especially with the amount of road games that they have coming up on the schedule. 

The B's continued their three-game homestand when they played host to the Nashville Predators. Boston put a smack on the Preds a couple of weeks ago when they last met. 

Prior to the game, it was announced that both Dougie Hamilton (lower-body injury, missed 10 games) and Carl Soderberg (undisclosed, missed two games) each made their return to the lineup. Slowly but surely, the roster is starting to look like it did back in October. Also, Niklas Svedberg made his NHL debut in net for the Bruins. This kid is one of the better goaltenders in the AHL (American Hockey League) and he will soon be a staple with the "Big Club" in a year or two.

As for this game, the first period was brisk, physical, and entertaining. It was also scoreless. That would change in the second period when Viktor Stalberg (NSH) crashed the net on a fast break and beat Svedberg clean. The Bruins continue to have their struggles in the second period. They have a minus-two goal differential in second-period play this season. 

In the third period, the Bruins improved significantly. After using their muscle and slick skating, the B's scored two quick goals to take the lead. Johnny Boychuk and Jarome Iginla netted the tallies for Boston. The Predators did end up tying the game with five minutes remaining in regulation on a goal by Shea Weber to send this game into overtime. 

Shortly after overtime started, Brad Marchand ended the game after a nifty dangle-and-drag move to open up space for the blast home. The B's won this one by a final score of 3-2.

The Bruins will play an afternoon game on Saturday to conclude the homestand. They will take on the Winnipeg Jets.

Gold Star: Milan Lucic...He was leaps and bounds ahead of every other skater on the ice in this game. His work with AND without the puck was solid. He had an assist and four shots on goal.

Black Star: Matt Fraser: Oh man, that was rough. He had a couple of turnovers that nearly led to goals. He is usually an all-around decent skater, but not on this night.