Saturday, November 29, 2014

Game 24: Holiday Hangover?

Hopefully, everyone around the National Hockey League enjoyed the Thanksgiving holiday. Now that fans have binged on turkey and football, Black Friday was the day for hockey to resume. 

The Boston Bruins were at the TD Garden to conclude a three-game homestand against the Winnipeg Jets. 

The B's were coming off a very tough overtime loss on Monday night to the Pittsburgh Penguins, but they felt that they had the game won. That type of fire and motivation should have carried over to this game here. 

Slowly but surely, the B's squad is inching its way back to full health. Even though it will be a few weeks before that actually happens, the Bruins wanted to end the month of November strong before they begin an incredibly difficult December schedule. 

This was the first matchup of the season between these two teams. Winnipeg is hanging around the .500 mark, which is no small feat in a monumental Western Conference. The Jets are in flux--we do not know if they are buyers or sellers on the current roster. The Bruins should only be concerned on making the Jets believers in this B's team.

Tuukka Rask was in goal for the Bruins, as he opposed Michael Hutchinson. Chris Kelly made his return to the B's lineup after missing the last two games with an undisclosed injury. 

The Jets jumped out to an early lead on the power play, putting the thought in the minds of everyone present at the Garden that this was going to be a long night for the home team. But thanks to Rask and the 35 total saves that he made in the game, the Bruins were in it the entire time.

Milan Lucic eventually tied the game up after tipping in a beautiful pass from Carl Soderberg, who tallied two assists in this one. The two teams stymied each other for the full sixty minutes, leading to a thrilling ending in overtime--Dougie Hamilton blasted the puck high glove-side after carrying the puck slightly into the offensive zone. 

Boston won this game by a score of 2-1, grabbing two hard-earned points and setting up a Herculean stretch of contests.

The Bruins will start the month of December with a four-game road trip along the West Coast. This will be no easy task.

Gold Star: Tuukka Rask...The team has relied on him more than once to offset another sub-par offensive performance. He kept the Bruins in it the entire time and came up with the timely stops. 

Black Star: Brad Marchand...Coach Claude Julien had some harsh words for him after the game--he alluded to him almost costing the Bruins the game because of his late and unnecessary high-sticking penalty. Even before that moment, he did not play a smart game.

Game Twenty-Four Box Score

Monday, November 24, 2014

Game 23: Bruins Needed This One

There comes a point when talking about injuries with this team becomes moot. Breaking news will surface when players actually start returning, not going down. From this moment forward, discussing injuries will be no more. The only way to keep fighting is just having the next man step up.

Random soliloquy over. However, it is worth noting that Brad Marchand made his return to the lineup for this game. 

Anyway, the Boston Bruins needed to win this game. This week will be relatively light with the Thanksgiving holiday approaching, so getting some points at home was the only salvageable aspect of their recent struggles. On Monday night, the B's hosted the Pittsburgh Penguins.

We all know the deal: Sidney Crosby is arguably the best player in the world. The Penguins also have a few new (and less) faces, but playing with "The Kid" proves to work. Sitting pretty in the Metropolitan Division, the Penguins are rolling. 

The Bruins are hanging in every game themselves, but they just are not finding that many scoring opportunities. Tuukka Rask, who has done his part lately, was back in net for the Black and Gold...the real one. Sorry, Pittsburgh fans.

In the first period, the Bruins were on the receiving end of some bad-luck happenings. They had a goal disallowed and also--specifically Reilly Smith--was the victim of a tough goaltender interference call. Regardless, Boston still had great zone time and puck possession. It was the Penguins who emerged with the lead on a goal by Crosby.

The Bruins pounded the Penguins down to size when they beat Marc-Andre Fleury for two quick goals in the second period. Joe Morrow was one of the goal scorers, making that his first-career NHL goal--one heck of a slap shot. 

The heavily-depleted Bruins squad matched the physicality brought along by Pittsburgh, but they could not hold the lead. The game was tied at two goals each after 60 minutes of regulation hockey. 

All it took was an extra 32 seconds for the Penguins to strike. Evgeni Malkin netted the beautiful one timer past Rask for the full two points. The Bruins lose a tough one in overtime. 

The Bruins will play again on Black Friday evening against the Winnipeg Jets.

Gold Star: Dougie Hamilton.....The kid is maturing at such a rapid rate. Without Zdeno Chara, he is the number one option back there. He added an assist in this game to boot. 

Black Star: The entire fourth line (Jordan Caron-Alexander Khokhlachev-David Pastrnak)....This was a make-shift line with all three of these players combining for under five NHL games this season. With the line recording a minus-2 rating, these guys hardly saw any ice time as the game went on.

Game Twenty-Three Box Score

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Games 21-22: An Emotional Weekend

The proverbial "bug" has been spreading around the Boston Bruins organization, and it has no signs of letting up. 

Not only has the injury bug demolished the depth on the blue line, but the flu bug has taken affect as well. Adam McQuaid suffered a broken wrist during Tuesday night's game and will be sidelined 6-8 weeks. Also, Dougie Hamilton has come down with the flu. The Bruins just cannot seem to get fully healthy.

Well, this was the perfect weekend for the team to get some motivation and dig deep to pull out a couple of victories. First off, the B's traveled to Columbus to take on the Blue Jackets. 

This was an emotional game because of the recent news that has surfaced in Columbus--former Bruin Nathan Horton may never play again due to a degenerative back injury that will require surgery. As fate would have it, Horton has never suited up against Boston since signing with the Blue Jackets (various injuries or conflicting schedules). Regardless, the Jackets are always a handful for the B's, especially on home ice. 

Since Brad Marchand did not make the trip, both Alexander Khokhlachev (such an awesome name to say) and Zach Trotman were recalled from Providence to join the team. Niklas Svedberg made his return between the pipes for this one as well. 

Koko (as the B's like to call him) was reunited with Seth Griffith on the top line, shades of their days down in Providence. He got the insertion after David Krejci was a late scratch, and he made the most of his opportunity. He ended up giving the Bruins the full two points after seven rounds of shootout hockey. 

Leading up to that epic conclusion, Boston showed some resiliency by coming back from an early two-goal deficit. Defensively, both teams played okay. However, the goaltenders let some relatively easy pucks slide past the crease. In an intense, physical, and entertaining road game, the Bruins came out on top despite being heavily undermanned. 

On Saturday night, the Bruins returned home to take on an already-waiting Montreal Canadiens squad. Why was this one emotional? ....... Self-explanatory.....

With Tuukka Rask back in net for the Black and Gold and no Chris Kelly, that was not enough to shake the demons. Montreal defeated Boston for its third-straight victory in the season series. The Bruins dominated the game and got great scoring chances, but two breakdowns when they were outnumbered haunted them on this night. 

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

Gold Star (combined): Dennis Seidenberg.....He was the best defensive option for the Bruins over the weekend. He buckled down when needed and helped out his goaltender when he could. 

Black Star (combined): Kevan Miller.....He made his return to the lineup for the weekend, but it will take some time for him to get his full game back.

Press Release

Press Release

Game Twenty-One Box Score

Game Twenty-Two Box Score

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Game 20: Great Weeknight Game

There is a scarce number of games that the Boston Bruins will play that can be considered "must watch." It does not necessarily have to do with star power or even an intense divisional score to settle, but it has everything to do with the potential contest that will result when two great teams clash.

Tuesday night was one of those moments, and we are only 20 games into the 2014-15 NHL season.

The B's remained at home for a great matchup against the St. Louis Blues, one of the best teams in the NHL. They roll four lines, have excellent depth on defense, and top-notch goaltending--all of this has resulted in a top spot in the Central Division thus far. Both teams have aspirations of being playoff bound this year, so a cross-conference game early on in the year never hurts. 

David Krejci was back in the lineup for Boston, which was huge since he would be opposing young stud Vladimir Tarasenko (he leads St. Louis with 21 points). Also, it was great to have his offense back because the Blues lead the league in goals against average. However, Brad Marchand was not in the lineup due to an undisclosed injury. 

In the first period, the Bruins capitalized on some St. Louis miscues. The Blues just did not look comfortable and that was because of the B's intense forecheck. The best in the NHL at disrupting the offensive flow of the opposition (Patrice Bergeron) intercepted a pass and one-timed the puck home for the 1-0 lead.

The second period was a totally different story; St. Louis dominated the middle frame from a possession standpoint. The physicality picked up as well, which was no surprise considering the construction of these two teams. The Bruins, led by Tuukka Rask, were able to remain composed and survived an onslaught created by the much so that they grabbed another goal scored by Torey Krug.

In the third period, the Bruins got out-shot 15-3 and were taken off-guard by the Blues. Rask was forced to be the Tuukka that we all know and love, stopping all 33 shots he faced in the game. The Bruins won this game by a score of 2-0, shutting out one of the hottest offensive teams in the league. 

The Bruins will play their next game on Friday night on the road against the Columbus Blue Jackets, followed by a home game on Saturday night against the Montreal Canadiens. 

Gold Star: Matt Bartkowski.....No, you are not seeing things. He has played out of his mind over the last couple of games, but this was his best game in quite some time. Not only did he record his first point of the season in the form of an assist, but he was sacrificing his body to make great defensive plays. Unreal. 

Black Star: Adam McQuaid.....He left the game early in the second period after he took a shot off the arm. The guy just cannot stay healthy. Enough is enough with him. It is time to move on.

Game Twenty Box Score

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Game 19: Maybe the Daytime Will Help?

Goaltending, offense, puck possession, defense, and quality scoring chances--these are all attributes that the Boston Bruins would like to possess right now, but they are struggling to find the answers.

Hope was at a premium earlier in the week, but after a two-game road trip to Eastern Canada in which they got outscored 11-2, something significant needs to happen with this team. With the loss to Montreal on Thursday night, they have fallen five points out of first place in the Atlantic Division.

Saturday afternoon was a chance to right the wrongs and get two points at home. They took on the Carolina Hurricanes in this matinee game. 

The Hurricanes started out with a winless October, but have put together a record of 5-1-1 since then. This was not going to be an easy matchup for Boston. Both teams have a solid mixture of youth, skill, and veteran leadership, so this contest was going to be entertaining nonetheless. 

Tuukka Rask was back in net for the Bruins. Matt Bartkowski also made his return to the lineup after being a health scratch for the last seven games. 

In the first period, the Bruins were definitely the more physical team. Even players that you would not think to be dishing out hits were doing just that. By that same token, the Hurricanes controlled the puck by out-shooting the B's 16-7. But the Bruins grabbed the 2-1 lead after the first 20 minutes on goals by Seth Griffith and Patrice Bergeron. 

Boston could not let up as they had the momentum headed into the second period. They were disciplined enough to kill off a key penalty and kept the shots to a minimum. No score changes in the period, but the Bruins played well through the first 40 minutes.

In the third period, the Canes started to shift the momentum in their favor. They tested Rask early on, but the defense was well positioned for him to make the saves manageable. When the time came to buckle down, Boston held its zone and kept the Hurricanes in check. The B's held on to win this game by a score of 2-1. Rask finished with 33 saves, while Brad Marchand picked up his 100th career assist on Bergeron's goal. 

Even though this team was only coming off two-straight losses, it felt worse. This win was huge for the team's morale. 

The Bruins will play their next game on Tuesday night against the St. Louis Blues.

Gold Star: Milan Lucic.....Even though he did not produce any points, his compete level on this day was huge. This was a game where he led by example and his teammates followed suit. 

Black Star: Torey Krug.....He has not been himself. He was too eager to pass off the puck instead of carrying it and he was not physical in the defensive zone.

Game Nineteen Box Score

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Games 17-18: Redemption North of the Border?

The Boston Bruins have certainly found their stride in recent weeks.

They are now winners of five-straight games, including sweeping through the homestand that occupied all of last week. With the recent surge, the B's sit in a healthy spot in the Atlantic Division. They can be considered one of the front-runners in the Eastern Conference up until this point in the season. 

Another positive sign is that this particular team is doing this while they are not at full strength. Boston did, however, get word that Kevan Miller is almost set to return and that will bolster the blue line. 

The Bruins are getting their core back at an opportune time. They played a couple of road games on Wednesday and Thursday night in a back-to-back set. They took on the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first game. Boston took the first meeting back in October, and the team has won six of its last seven games without Zdeno Chara. No problem, right? Eh. 

The B's played the Leafs extremely tight in the opening period. Once the second period rolled around, it was a horror show. Boston surrendered four quick goals, which led to a goaltender change during the barrage. The top line of the Leafs (Phil Kessel-Tyler Bozak-James van Riemsdyk) was scorching hot on this night, combining for eight points. Toronto ended up unloading six goals on the B's, forcing them to take a hard look at themselves after a tough loss. 

Montreal was the next destination for Boston, culminating in yet another Bruins/Canadiens showdown. The Habs got the better of the B's in the first matchup in Montreal, so let's see if this night provided a different outcome. After not being satisfied with what they have had offensively (cough cough...Simon Gagne...cough cough), the Bruins recalled Alexander Khokhlachev from Providence for this game but ended up being a scratch. 

The Bruins only had flashes of excellence during this game because the Canadiens dictated much of the pace and the quality scoring chances. The plethora of minor penalties called in the game did not contribute to a steady flow either, but the onus remained with Boston. Montreal scored three unanswered goals on Niklas Svedberg in the second period. The final score was 5-1 in favor of the Habs, sending the Bruins home empty handed in their trip to Canada. 

The Bruins will play their next game on Saturday afternoon against the Carolina Hurricanes.

Gold Star (combined): Chris Kelly.....You really cannot say that he had a great trip, but he was not the worst player out there. In fact, he strung together a couple of solid outings. 

Black Star (combined): Dougie Hamilton....Maybe it was due to exhaustion, but the lack of hustle and the moments of defensive vulnerability were questionable during this trip.

Game Seventeen Box Score

Game Eighteen Box Score

Monday, November 10, 2014

Games 13-16: Early Test During Early Homestand

The Boston Bruins were absolutely in for a stiff test this week.

Yes, they began a four-game homestand this past Saturday night, but teams could possess the feeling of coasting by not taking their opponents seriously. 

The four teams that the B's locked up with this past week may not jump off the page as "juggernauts" in terms of record, but they all had the qualities to give the B's all they could have handled. 

Homestands are great, but sometimes those games can get away from a team who does not focus. Attention Bruins: Focus for these games so you can keep winning and get above .500.  

Before the start of this stretch, the team announced that they had re-signed head coach Claude Julien to a year-three extension. Details of the deal are in the release posted below. 

Up first for the Bruins were the Ottawa Senators. Due to a late scratch of David Krejci from the lineup, Matt Fraser got the nod in this game. He sure made the most of his opportunity as he scored a pair of goals en route to a 4-2 victory for the Bruins. The Sens played well and there were several occasions where one bounce of the puck could have changed the outcome, but a little luck does not hurt. The B's will look forward to playing this team again shortly.

On Tuesday night, the B's hosted the Florida Panthers. This was the first time that Shawn Thornton made his return to the TD Garden as a member of the opposition, a rough site to witness. What WAS great to witness was just how similar the Panthers play to the Bruins due to their new system put in place. The defensive-minded Florida squad was structured in its own end, which led to a tight game between the two teams. In overtime, Brad Marchand broke through for Boston and netted the game winner on a minor breakaway and some nifty moves through the defense. 

Well, we are halfway through the homestand. 

Thursday night brought the Edmonton Oilers to town, a team that was missing both Andrew Ference and Taylor Hall. For the Bruins, Krejci made his return to the lineup. He got robbed of a goal, but his teammates picked up the rest of the loose pucks. The B's exploded for three goals in a span of 2:34 in the third period when they were trailing. With Tuukka Rask coming up with some timely saves (24), Boston held on to win this one by a score of 5-2. The Bruins now have won 13-straight regular season games against Edmonton. 

Finally, after a weekend off, the B's wrapped up this home stretch on Monday night against the New Jersey Devils. Torey Krug made his return to the lineup after missing some time with a broken finger, and he did not miss a beat. 

This was another sixty minute effort put forth by the Bruins, which resulted in a 4-2 victory. The B's were a perfect 4-0-0 during their homestand. Way to climb up the standings. 

The Bruins will be in Eastern Canada next to take on two divisional rivals in a back-to-back set. They will see the Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens. 

Gold Star (combined): Brad Marchand (2 goals, 2 assists, plus-6 rating, 10 shots)...The pest is on fire with a scoring line like that. Hopefully, this will be the start of bigger things this season. 

Black Star (combined): Gregory Campbell...The lack of production and no contributions at all are bad enough. When your line is also allowing goals, now that is just awful.

Game Thirteen Box Score

Game Fourteen Box Score

Game Fifteen Box Score

Game Sixteen Box Score

Release on Claude Julien's Extension