Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Game 58: The Prodigal Sons Have Returned

Welcome back, fans of the Boston Bruins. 

The NHL has fully resumed and there is no bigger fan base that has been eager for this day than the Black and Gold of Boston. Although it was an exciting Olympics to watch, especially the men's hockey tournament, the elite showcase is hockey at the NHL level. With that being said, a congratulations is in order to Patrice Bergeron and the Canadian national team for their gold-medal performance. Loui Eriksson (Sweden) took home the silver medal. 

We all can assume that the friendly competition will be duly noted, but there is nothing wrong with that omnipresent "jealousy" among teammates. Heck, it gives them something to play for. 

The five Bruins that returned back from Sochi earlier in the week looked forward to practicing with their old teammates again in preparation for Wednesday night's game against the Buffalo Sabres. The final 25-game stretch will be tough, but the team was eager to get back to their normal regimen. 

This was the final game in the month of February for the team, which just so happened to be only their fifth game of the month. It really is funny how that works, but nonetheless. The B's will endure a grueling March schedule, featuring a plethora of road games and some matchups against stiff competition. They looked to continue their momentum that they acquired before the break against a team that they have somewhat struggled against so far this season.

Chad Johnson was in goal for the Bruins on this night while Niklas Svedberg served as the backup. Tuukka Rask (who did not make the trip to Buffalo) struggled at times for Finland early in the Olympics, but finished strong with gutsy performances, both in the knockout round and the medal round. He and his country blanked the USA to take home the bronze medal. He assured himself that he would have a bounce-back second half of the season to ensure pseudo-playoff form. 

In the first period, the Bruins did not get off to the most auspicious start. The passes were not crisp and the physical play on their end was just not present. They fell behind early, but Chris Kelly tied the game later in the period. That was when the B's started to disintegrate.  

As the game went on, the Bruins were on the receiving end of some questionable penalties. The Sabres capitalized on the calls, plus some of the Boston miscues. However, the B's found some fight left in them and turned the game around. With goals from Zdeno Chara and Brad Marchand, the game was tied 3-3 after two periods.

The third period started off rather conservatively by both teams, neither side wanting to make a mistake. A double-minor penalty and an extended power play opportunity later, the Bruins grabbed the lead for the first time in the game on a goal by Milan Lucic. However, Matt Moulson (BUF) grabbed the tying goal with the goalie pulled to send this game into overtime. 

Just seconds into overtime, Matt D'Agostini (BUF) beat Chara in a chase for the puck and stuck it past Johnson. Once left for dead, the Sabres came back and won this game by a final score of 5-4. Five goals allowed by Johnson? Not a great night at all. 

The Bruins will play their next game on Saturday afternoon against the Washington Capitals, their first meeting of the season. What a way to kick off the month of March for the B's!

Gold Star: Chris Kelly...The two-week break was much needed for a player like him. He seemed relaxed and rejuvenated, contributing at both ends of the ice. 

Black Star: Jarome Iginla...He did not see as much ice time as he would have liked, due to the numerous amount of penalties that his team had to kill early on. When he was out there, he finished with a minus-three rating.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Games 56-57: Captain-less (For Good Reason)

The final two games before the Olympic break were intended to be very huge for the Boston Bruins. However, they were without one HUGE asset.

B's captain Zdeno Chara did not play in these two games because he had to fulfill his duties as the captain of the Slovakian national team. He was chosen to carry his country's flag during the opening ceremony, so he had to take an early flight over to Sochi. David Warsofsky took the place of Chara in the lineup for both games, but the bulk of the minutes went to Johnny Boychuk. 

With that being said, the B's still needed to finish strong before the break and they were not going to make excuses. Up first was a road game against the St. Louis Blues. In the first meeting of the season, the Blues took the full two points in a shootout. Tuukka Rask was in net on Thursday night for the B's. 

As expected, this game was a physical one. What wasn't expected was the fact that the Bruins had to come back after trailing the Blues for most of this game. It was because of two quick third-period goals, which were scored by David Krejci and Brad Marchand, that the B's finally picked up some momentum heading into overtime. However, the Blues ended the game on a sloppy turnover that produced a goal from T.J. Oshie (STL) to give his team the 3-2 victory. Hey, at least they got one point out of the trip down to St. Louis, right? 

They returned home for a game against the Ottawa Senators on Saturday afternoon. The Sens always give the B's a run for their money and judging from the season series thus far, it really came down to a bounce of the puck. Chad Johnson got the start for the Black and Gold.

Holy smokes, what a game for the Bruins. They knocked off the Senators by a score of 7-2 behind a solid performance from Patrice Bergeron. Also, 12 different players had at least one point for Boston and seven had multi-point games. They out-shot Ottawa 42-28, chasing starting goaltender Craig Anderson after the fifth goal. That was a great way for the Bruins to end this part of the season. They will head into the break with a great deal of confidence. 

See you in two weeks, NHL!

Gold Star: Patrice Bergeron...The Bruins will wish him the best of luck while he is over in Sochi, but his performance on Saturday afternoon (two goals, one assist) and his solid effort on Thursday proved to be vital once again. Word of advice: don't get hurt, please. 

Black Star: Daniel Paille...He really did not do too much in these two games. Yes, his penalty killing is always solid, but the lack of production is worrisome.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Game 55: No Love Lost

February is here, meaning the NHL season and the playoff picture is beginning to take shape. This is also the last week of hockey before the Winter Olympic break. 

Although the Boston Bruins will be in decent shape by the end of the regular season, they still would like to settle some internal huffing and avenge some bulletin board material.

The B's wrapped up their four-game homestand on Tuesday night when they played host to the Vancouver Canucks. 

While the Bruins lead the Atlantic Division, the Canucks are holding pact in the middle of an intense and competitive Pacific Division. This game should have been all about the two points, but these two squads always play each other hard when they face off on rare occasions. This goes all the way back to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2011. 

With Canucks head coach John Tortorella being recently lifted of his 15-game suspension for his actions in a game against the Calgary Flames (the epic tirade after the five-fight, seven-ejection, 142 penalty-minute brawl), one would have assumed that he and his team would be on their best behavior. 

Adam McQuaid (leg injury) will most likely not return before the Olympic break. David Warsofsky was recalled from Providence on Monday to fill the roster. Tuukka Rask was also back in goal for Boston. 

In the first period, the Bruins got things started and never looked back. Milan Lucic netted a beauty on assists from his linemates David Krejci and Jarome Iginla. The top line played outstanding for Boston in this game. The B's also capitalized on two second period goals as they cruised to a 3-1 victory to hand the Canucks their fifth-straight loss. Both Lucic and Iginla recorded multi-point games. 

This was probably not the type of game that fans were expecting, but the Bruins needed this victory and the Canucks were in the same boat. Both teams took the ice with business on their mind, only it played in favor of the Bruins on this night. 

The Bruins will travel to St. Louis on Thursday night when they take on the Blues.

Gold Star: Tuukka Rask (27 saves on 28 shots, 1 goal allowed, .964 save percentage)...With a highway robbery of a save on Daniel Sedin (VAN), that was all the motivation he needed to outperform Roberto Luongo (VAN). 

Black Star: Shawn Thornton...Even though this was a game against a heated rival, this was not a game that fit his style of play.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Games 53-54: We Meet Again (x2)

Six goals in three-straight games for the Black and Gold. The Boston Bruins are on a tremendous role right now and it will be hard for most teams to slow them down. 

With that being said, their opponent on Thursday night might be a worthy challenger of the previous statement. The B's continued their homestand against the Montreal Canadiens. The rivalry was renewed. 

It has been awhile since we witnessed these two bitter foes exchange a hateful spewing of infectives at one another. In fact, early December was the last time these two teams saw each other. The Habs edged out the B's up in Montreal, so this one was all about breaking even. 

Thursday night's game was one of the more disappointing ones in recent memory. Tuukka Rask was back in goal for the Bruins and he opposed Peter Budaj. 

This game brought out the best in Montreal and the worst in Boston. The Bruins got outworked in every facet of the game. The Canadiens went on to win this game by a final score of 4-1. The B's used both goaltenders after Rask was pulled immediately following the third goal. 

The calls did not go the Bruins way, but they were very sloppy and the forwards did not play effectively in all three zones. This was certainly a tough home loss. The Bruins are now winless in their last five games against Montreal. 

Also, the Bruins played host to the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday afternoon. Oilers defenseman and captain Andrew Ference was welcomed back with a great reception. That guy will always be a Bruin. Both sides have mutual respect for one another. Why have it any other way with a fan favorite? Anyway, let's briefly discuss the game. 

Aside from that monumental occurrence, not much else happened for the Oilers on this day as the Bruins cruised to a 4-0 victory. They scored two power play goals and played much better overall. The offense, anemic as it was on Thursday, looked like it was back to form (albeit against a team who is in last place). 

The Bruins will play their next game on Tuesday night against the Vancouver Canucks.

Gold Star: Patrice Bergeron...His usual solid and hard effort never goes unnoticed. 

Black Star: Tuukka Rask...He was pulled in the first game after allowing three soft goals, which was the last image we saw of him over these two games.