Saturday, February 28, 2015

Games 61-62: Thank Goodness It's Over

The month of February is drawing to a close, and there is no team out there that cannot wait to see it evaporate away more than the Boston Bruins. 

Heading into the weekend, the B's only compiled two victories in the entire second month of the year. The good news here is that Boston had the opportunity with this back-to-back set to end the month strong against two beatable teams. 

On Friday night, New Jersey was on the slate. From the looks of things, the Devils have been playing very well at home lately (15-9-7 on the year). However, the Bruins looked to get a much needed victory on the road and sweep the season series with the Devils. 

Before the start of the game, it was announced that the Devils traded Jaromir Jagr to the Florida Panthers--the same team that is right behind the Bruins for the second wild card spot. Things just got a little more interesting. #pressureison. Also, goaltender Jeremy Smith was recalled from Providence on an emergency basis since Tuukka Rask was not feeling 100%. He backed up Niklas Svedberg on Friday night. 

Svedberg, who's last victory came against New Jersey earlier in the year, looked good early on. The entire team played aggressively throughout the first period. Shots were 12-4 in favor of the Black and Gold. This was just a complete tilting of the ice, pouring it on and smothering the Devils if the puck crossed neutral ice. New Jersey just could not get anything going. Daniel Paille scored to open the game off a bad turnover. He now has goals in back-to-back games. 

In the second period, the Devils started to put together some chances to build momentum. However, that was quickly halted when they failed to score on the power play. All moments of sloppy play for the Bruins that took place within this period were minor, which was no shock since it is statistically their worst period this season as far as production. They did bend, but they did not break.

The third period is when they fell off. After David Pastrnak netted a beautiful tally, New Jersey came back and scored two quick goals to tie the game. In overtime, the Bruins showed their resiliency as Ryan Spooner blasted home his first-career NHL goal (35 games) to grab the two points that they rightfully deserved. Highly entertaining, yet fast moving game. Svedberg made 29 saves in a solid outing. He definitely accumulated some more confidence that was desperately needed. 

The Black and Gold capped off the week back at home on Saturday against the Coyotes. Arizona will definitely be sellers this year. Get familiar with this team folks; we could be foreshadowing the appearance of some of these players in B's gear next week (Keith Yandle and Antoine Vermette). You never know, right?

With Rask back in goal for the Bruins on this night, they were not going to be denied another victory. They beat down Arizona throughout the first two periods, scoring four goals in an offensive onslaught. The final score ended up being 4-1 in favor of the Bruins. They ended the month on a positive note, so the playoff hopes of the team and the entire city are starting to come back. 

Twenty games left in the regular season. Boston now leads Florida by four points for the eighth playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. 

The Bruins will not play another game until Thursday night when they host the Calgary Flames, which is plenty of time to reflect on all of the action that will take place at the trade deadline. 

Gold Star (combined): David Pastrnak (1 goal, 2 assists, plus-2 rating, 8 shots on goal, 3 takeaways in both games)...The ideal young player for Claude Julien is taking shape. He is playing at a high level right now. 

Black Star (combined): Chris Kelly...He is USELESS out there. He does not even hit guys anymore. Being complacent is the worst thing to happen to an athlete.

Game Sixty-One Box Score

Game Sixty-Two Box Score

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Game 60: "Lack" Of Production Results In Loss

We are now officially into the final week of February, which means that the NHL trade deadline is vastly approaching.

Actually, the trade deadline is less than a week away. For the Boston Bruins, the hope is that they take what happened in Chicago on Sunday afternoon with a grain of salt. Of course we have to look at a 6-2 victory over one of the best teams in the Western Conference as impressive, but ANY team can have a good night (and bad night if you are a fan of the Blackhawks). They still finished the five-game road trip with only one victory. 

The B's organization should look at the victory with an even bigger need to do something major next week. With David Krejci sidelined for four to six weeks with a partially torn MCL, it is a no-brainer at this point. 

Update On David Krejci

The Bruins were looking for the third victory of the month on Tuesday night when they finally returned home to the TD Garden. They were in action against the Vancouver Canucks, a team that knocked them off in the first game of the road trip. 

Earning a split in the season series was in reach. Now, let's talk about the game.

Gregory Campbell will be out of the lineup for at least a week with an upper-body injury. Once again, Tuukka Rask was between the pipes for Boston. 

The Bruins took it to the Canucks in the first period. With fresh legs in the lineup against an ailing Vancouver team, it was as if the Canucks did not know what had hit them. Daniel Paille netted his second goal of the season just a minute into the period. That lead was short lived as Ryan Stanton beat Rask just two minutes later. 

In the second period, the B's were the dominant team yet again. They had three power play chances, but failed to capitalize on all of them. If it were not for Canucks goaltender Eddie Lack, the game would not have been as close as it was. He ended up stopping 40 shots on the night against Boston. Despite their lack of chances, the B's allowed their opponent to take the lead during a mental breakdown in the neutral zone. 

Even though there was a late rush by the B's, Lack was there to shut things down. Boston fell at home on this night by a score of 2-1. Wasted opportunities was definitely the theme on this night. 

The Bruins will end the week with a back-to-back set on Friday and Saturday. Their opponents will be the New Jersey Devils and the Arizona Coyotes, respectively. 

Gold Star: Torey Krug...He used what brought him to the dance in this game. He recorded a team-high six shots on net, generating lots of scoring chances.

Black Star: Jordan Caron...Useless, plain and simple.

Game Sixty Box Score

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Game 59: Undermanned For Huge Matinee

If the Boston Bruins did not have bad luck, then they would not have any luck at all. 

In the midst of a six-game losing streak, the B's are still searching for their first victory on this grueling Western Conference road trip. Mercifully, the trip came to a conclusion on Sunday afternoon. The only problem was that this was arguably going to be the stiffest challenge of the season so far. They traveled to Chicago to take on the Blackhawks. 

On Saturday morning, B's general manager Peter Chiarelli announced that Kevan Miller re-dislocated his shoulder during the game against the Calgary Flames and will undergo season-ending surgery. Here is a copy of the release: 

Update on Kevan Miller

As undermanned as the Bruins were heading into Sunday afternoon, it got even more disastrous. David Krejci left the game on Saturday against the St. Louis Blues with a lower-body injury, but traveled with the team to Chicago. He did not end up playing in this game. Ryan Spooner, who is completely capable of filling that void, was inserted into the lineup after being recalled from Providence. 

The general consensus is that the Blackhawks will be the Western Conference representative in the Stanley Cup Final this year. They have the deepest team with All-Star talent at each position, led by Corey Crawford between the pipes. With the way things are trending for the Black and Gold, it would have been miraculous if they could emerge with two points in this game.

It's worth noting that Malcolm Subban was sent back down to make room for Spooner. Niklas Svedberg was the backup goaltender on this day behind Tuukka Rask. 

The Bruins jumped out to an early 2-0 lead in the first period, one of the goals coming on the power play. Patrice Bergeron (200th career goal) and Loui Eriksson netted the tallies. They had an extra jump in their step and were matching up physically with Chicago hit for hit. However, Chicago crept back into the game after two ridiculously mindless penalties on Rask. 

One thing that the B's needed to work on was being a little bit more careful with the puck as the game progressed. The patience and precision caused the B's to pop in two more goals, eventually chasing Crawford from the game. Brian Ferlin recorded his first-career NHL point as he picked up an assist on Gregory Campbell's goal. Dougie Hamilton and Reilly Smith each netted a goal as well. This looked like a totally different team on the ice through the first 40 minutes. The Bruins out-shot the Blackhawks 15-7 in the second period. 

In the third period, both teams were playing at a snails pace, knowing full well what the end result of this game would be. Chicago still pushed hard to try and save face in this one. Bryan Bickell scored later on in this period, but that was the highlight of the day for Chicago. The final score was 6-2 in favor of the Black and Gold. For the Bruins, 12 different skaters had at least one point. 

Boston finally broke the losing streak by getting this win, avoiding dropping seven straight games. The B's salvaged what was left of the road trip by accumulating four points. 

The Bruins will return home on Tuesday night to face the Vancouver Canucks. 

Gold Star: Tuukka Rask...This was certainly a bounce-back game for him despite his immature start to this game. He made 26 saves on 28 shots. 

Black Star: Carl Soderberg...He really did not do much in this game. Did anyone really see him do anything useful on the ice? Not so much.

Game Fifty-Nine Box Score

Friday, February 20, 2015

Game 58: Just Win...Please?

The Boston Bruins lost to the Edmonton Oilers on Wednesday night. Just let that sink in for a minute....

So, what do you make of that? Is this rock bottom for one of the proudest organizations in the NHL? Setting aside the fact that they could not pull out a win against one of the worst teams in the league, the manner in how they lost was horrid. After 12 rounds of the shootout, NOT ONE puck ended up past Oilers goaltender Ben Scrivens. The B's are not locked in. They cannot score. They cannot win.

Boston has accumulated two out of a possible six points thus far on this road trip. The team also has posted a very underwhelming 1-4-2 record in the month of February heading into Friday night. This trip was not going to get any easier as the Bruins took on the St. Louis Blues to close out the week.

With the Blues, this is a team that ranks in the top ten in scoring and they have one of the deepest teams in the entire league. Remember when the Bruins could brag about those attributes? Vladimir Tarasenko leads the team in points (55), hence the justification for the great rankings. However, Kevin Shattenkirk did not play on Friday due to injury. The B's needed to capitalize and crash the defense. 

The Bruins recalled forward Brian Ferlin from Providence as they placed Kevan Miller on injured reserve. He skated on the fourth line in place of Daniel Paille. Malcolm Subban made his NHL debut in net for the Black and Gold. Let's what the hype is all about, shall we? 

In the first period, we started to see the Bruins of old...and by old, we are only going back to January. The B's held the high-powered Blues to only three shots on goal, keeping the work load for Subban low. Brad Marchand put Boston on the board first with a quick wrist shot. For 80 minutes of hockey this season, St. Louis did not score on Boston..interesting stat. 

The second period is when the B's fell apart. Subban was pulled from net after the Blues scored four unanswered goals in the second 40 minutes. To add injury to insult, David Krejci left the game after suffering a lower-body injury when he hit Alex Steen. 

Not much happened after that; the teams were just skating along in the third period to just get through the night. In what was a fast-moving (and disappointing) affair, the Bruins fell to St. Louis by a final score of 5-1. Just one more chance to get this right. 

The Bruins will close out the road trip on Sunday afternoon when they take on the Chicago Blackhawks.

Gold Star: Patrice Bergeron...Normally putting his name here gets old, but he really was the best player out on the ice for Boston. He had an assist and three shots on goal with a solid night from the face-off circle. 

Black Star: Malcolm Subban...Three goals allowed in his debut...and they were incredibly soft goals at that. However, he needs to shake things off and move on with his career. These nights will happen.

Game Fifty-Eight Box Score

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Games 56-57: Are The Bruins In Trouble?

The trip continues for the Boston Bruins.

With an awful 5-2 loss against the Vancouver Canucks on Friday night, should the B's wait until after the road trip to make a trade/deal? Let's hope that they used the weekend to think about that; they cannot afford to stand pat and wait around. 

As important as it is to focus on the teams in front of them in the Eastern Conference standings, the B's need to be aware of the Florida Panthers. They were only three points behind Boston for that final playoff spot heading into the week. 

However, the focus was on Monday night and the Calgary Flames. Both the Bruins and Flames are fighting for the last Wild Card spot in their respective conferences. Although Calgary has turned into a surprise team this year, they are a legitimate squad built from the back out. This game had the potential for a high-octane and gritty affair.

Matt Bartkowski, who had not played since December 31, entered the lineup against the Flames and skated with Dennis Seidenberg. Tuukka Rask was in goal yet again for the B's. 

The Bruins turned a complete 180 from Friday; they got off to an explosive start. Brad Marchand and Zdeno Chara (finally) recorded early tallies for the Black and Gold. Calgary would not go away, though. In fact, it has been awhile since the B's faced a team that was as relentless and aggressive as the Flames were on this night. Rask and the rest of the defense felt the onslaught of scoring chances from their stars (Johnny Gaudreau, Mark Giordano, and Sean Monahan). 

At one point the Bruins possessed a 3-0 lead in this game, and the B's had a record of 10-0-0 when leading by three at any point this season. However, the Flames are one of the best third period plus/minus teams in the NHL. Which one prevailed? 

With Jiri Hudler netting a pair, Calgary came back to tie the game...and eventually stole the full two points in overtime. Unbelievable.  

On Wednesday night, the Bruins headed to Edmonton to take on the Oilers. Edmonton is the worst team in the Western Conference in terms of points, but sometimes those teams are the most dangerous. Hey, Boston: don't take these young guns lightly and play this game like it was the last game of the year. Points are at a premium.

Malcolm Subban was recalled from Providence earlier in the week and joined the team in Edmonton. Kevan Miller missed this game with a shoulder injury and he may miss significant time since he was sent back to Boston for the rest of this trip. Adam McQuaid was inserted in his place. With Rask undefeated against the Oilers in his career, the B's were hoping to pick up their 14th consecutive win in the series with him back between the pipes. 

Well, the start was pathetic. The B's fell behind 2-0 just minutes into the first period. They have now allowed the first goal in six out of the last seven contests. Aside from one goal scored by Loui Eriksson on a "new-look" power play, Boston did not play with any intensity in the first period.

It took the Bruins to get down by two goals to finally get it together. They started to play harder and rack up scoring chances as the game progressed. Reilly Smith and Chara netted a goal each in a span of 1:35 to tie the game at three heading into the final 20 minutes. The game eventually went into overtime (an extra period that was absolutely dominated by Boston) and then into a shootout. After 12 rounds, Edmonton ended the game on the stick of Martin Marincin to take the two points.

Playing catch-up hockey was too much for the Bruins. Another overtime loss on this road trip. Boy, this team needs a win. 

Game four of the road trip will be played on Friday night against the St. Louis Blues.

Gold Star (combined): Zdeno Chara...With a goal and assist over these two games, albeit against weaker competition, the captain played well. He was actually a force in the defensive zone. 

Black Star (combined): Tuukka Rask...Seven goals allowed in two games is a bad stretch for any goaltender. He has played well lately, but this week has been rough for him.

Game Fifty-Six Box Score

Game Fifty-Seven Box Score

Friday, February 13, 2015

Game 55: Old Foes Clash

This is more of a rhetorical question, but how confident are you right now in this Boston Bruins' team?

If you were to answer that question without hesitation, you would more than likely say that you are petrified of their future. If you take a minute to think about it, then you would say that they have a great opportunity in front of them.

Yes, the B's lost back-to-back games at home and three of the last four overall. Despite falling to a very beatable Dallas Stars' squad, Boston needs to put that in the past immediately. They will embark on a huge Western Conference road trip over the next two weeks, starting on Friday night when they traveled to Vancouver to square off against the Canucks. 

Remember these guys from the 2011 Stanley Cup Final? This team has gone through a huge overhaul since then. Ryan Miller is now the starting goaltender, no more Ryan Kesler, and Radim Vrbata is an All-Star this season. #differentanimal

Traveling to Western Canada is always a challenge. Let's see if the Bruins could take on the first leg of this trip with accumulating points in mind. The Bruins have every intention of making up some significant ground...even though it will come as a result of the most difficult of circumstances. 

Tuukka Rask was back goal for the B's. However, the defensive pairs were shaken up due to the sub-par performances on the blue line all around over the last week.

The Bruins got off to the worst possible start by allowing two early goals in the first five minutes of the game, both scored by Shawn Matthias. The sloppy play in the neutral zone and the careless passing by Boston was straight-up awful. The B's pulled within one on a goal by Patrice Bergeron. Vancouver started to play much more physical with Boston, which carried over into the second period. 

The second 40 minutes absolutely belonged to the Canucks. They were dealing (and receiving) huge hits from the opposition and forced the B's to second guess every move they made. Rask played okay, but the offense just could not get anything going. They were out-shot 12-4 in the second period, and they trailed 3-1 entering the third period.

Boston only had one win when trailing by two goals at any point this season, so that stat did not bode well for the team at all. Unfortunately, Friday night was another struggle. The Bruins just never recovered from the early deficit, not to mention the plethora of brain lapses throughout and failing to score on the power play. In a game that they desperately needed to get things going, Matthias finished with a hat trick for Vancouver in the 5-2 victory for the home team. Rask made 20 saves on the night. 

The Bruins will continue the road trip on Monday night against the Calgary Flames. In the meantime, enjoy the weekend off. 

Gold Star: Patrice Bergeron...His goal and usual hard effort carried his team for a brief amount of time early on in the game. 

Black Star: Dennis Seidenberg...He looked so discombobulated out on the ice with his minus-three rating. He was also getting bumped off the puck very easily and made awful turnovers. He really is starting to wind down.

Game Fifty-Five Box Score

Updated Wild Card Standings

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Game 54: Something "Bruin" In Dallas

How about that for a pun? 

With that being said, there is a ring of truth to that statement. The Dallas Stars made their way to the East Coast on Tuesday night to take on the Boston Bruins. For the B's, this was the final game of a three-game homestand.

As for the Stars, they are starting to put something together down there. Tyler Seguin and Jason Spezza have turned into a great one-two punch to accompany their depth scoring. With Valeri Nichuskin and Patrik Nemeth returning from season-long injuries next month, this team has so much to look forward to next season. 

However, the Bruins are focused on this season and their potential playoff push. Boston is coming off a grueling weekend back-to-back set in which it split the games between the New York Islanders and the Montreal Canadiens. Playing a team like the Stars could be perfect. 

Will it be a season sweep for the Bruins or will the Stars earn some points against the Black and Gold?

Niklas Svedberg was recalled from Providence before Tuesday night, thus sending Malcolm Subban back down. With Svedberg between the pipes, it turned out that Seguin was questionable with the flu. No surprise, but there "was no way he wasn't playing" against this team.

In the first period, the Bruins benefited from a recklessly high cross-checking call on Adam McQuaid. Since it resulted in a game misconduct for Antoine Roussel of the Stars, the B's had a five-minute power play. They could not capitalize, but the Stars scored short handed off an awful turnover by David Krejci. In a form of redemption, Krejci scored later in the period to pull even. 

The pace of the game was not as fast and reckless as one would have assumed; Dallas actually played extremely tight early on. The Stars took a 3-1 lead into the second period as Jamie Benn beat Svedberg for two tallies. With Tuukka Rask in the game at this point, the Bruins managed to tie the game on goals by Patrice Bergeron and Dougie Hamilton. However, the B's gave up yet ANOTHER short-handed goal to the opposition 

All game long, Boston was lazy in the defensive zone--it was almost as if the team was taking the Stars for granted. A lot of the B's mistakes were self-inflicted and they only put themselves in difficult situations all night. In the third period, the Bruins tried to play catch-up. Even though they had eight different players record a point and out-shot Dallas 44-32, the Stars held on to win a game in which they never trailed. The final score was 5-3 for the visitors. 

Very disappointing for the Bruins not to get points in this very winnable game. 

The Bruins will now hit the road for five games over the next two weeks. Best of luck. 

Gold Star: Brad Marchand...The agitator is starting to find a rhythm again. He picked up an assist and was the most consistent forward on the ice. The scoring chances he had in this game were things of beauty. 

Black Star: Niklas Svedberg...Three goals allowed on 10 shots in 20 minutes of work. Obviously, getting yanked was the only move to make.


Game Fifty-Four Box Score

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Games 52-53: Huge Weekend for the Black and Gold

Mmmmmm something smells a little fishy. 

The Montreal stench that usually reeks through arenas when the Canadiens come to town is not entirely their fault this time. The problem lies with the league and the scheduling that took place when it came to this season series. 

It is obvious that the league is not quite fond of the Boston Bruins; they continue to remain at the bottom of the NHL is power-play opportunities. In the four meetings that the B's lock up with the Habs this season, ALL of them come on the second half of back-to-backs for the Bruins. Conspiracy? Nah. Excuses? Never.

Before the greatest rivalry in all of sports wrote the final chapter of their history for the 2014-15 season on Sunday, the B's were in action on Saturday night against the New York Islanders. This back-to-backer marked the beginning of a three-game homestand for Boston.

The Isles lost to the B's a little over a week ago, so the teams are fresh and familiar with one another. 

The top guns for each side got their respective team on the board in the first period (John Tavares and Patrice Bergeron), both on the power play. Once the second period got under way, the teams engaged in one of the more physical periods in recent memory. Hey, that is what hockey is all about--you have to take it to give it. Aside from that, Tuukka Rask was outstanding and made some great saves on Isles scoring chances. 

For some reason, the Islanders were doing everything in their power to play chippy and get under the skin of the Bruins. Luckily, the B's kept their composure late in the game. Loui Eriksson beat Isles netminder Chad Johnson with a no-look shot that proved to be the game winner. #netfrontpressure 

With two points to start the weekend, ending the season series against New York with a 2-1 victory was huge. 

And finally, the Bruins and Habs squared off in a heavyweight fight for Atlantic Division supremacy on Sunday. The Bruins, unbelievably, where searching for the first win of the season against Montreal.

Rask, who was making his 11th-straight start on Sunday, accumulated 11 stops in the opening 20 minutes. The Bruins did have some decent scoring chances, but Montreal had the advantage in puck possession. The B's penalty kill came through big time in the first period by keeping the game scoreless. 

After the Habs went up 1-0 on a goal by Dale Weise, the pace of the game slowed down exponentially. However, there were moments over the last two periods when the teams flew up and down the ice nearly capitalizing on every scoring opportunity. As good as Rask was, Carey Price was his equal on this night. David Pastrnak came through late in the third period with his fifth goal of the year, but it was not enough for the win. The Habs added an empty netter and took the 3-1 victory. Montreal sweeps the season series. 

The Bruins will wrap up the three-game homestand on Tuesday night against the Dallas Stars.

Gold Star (combined): Tuukka Rask (70 saves on 73 shots, three goals allowed, .957 save percentage)...Vezina form right there. Too bad his teammates could not come through with some offense for him on Sunday. 

Black Star (combined): Reilly Smith...He slipped down to the bottom-two lines over the weekend, took some awful penalties, and recorded multiple giveaways for the opposition. Top-line winger? Not so much.

Game Fifty-Two Box Score

Game Fifty-Three Box Score

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Game 51: Boston vs. New York (Yet Again)

It is safe to say that the Boston Bruins have the mentality of avoiding going into cruise control. We are now in the month of February and the time to let up does not exist.

Of course, the B's could have been in a much different situation if they only got off to a more auspicious start to begin the season. However, they certainly have made up some ground. Boston posted a 8-1-3 record in the month of January and continue to accumulate points. In fact, the Black and Gold are now within one point of their opponent on Wednesday in the Eastern Conference. 

Speaking of the previous statement, the Bruins traveled to New York to challenge the Rangers (one of their eight wins last month). If the B's want to continue to creep up the backs of the competition, they have to handle Ryan McDonagh, Rick Nash, and the rest of the Rangers. New York actually played a game this week already--a 6-3 victory over the Florida Panthers--so the extra rest should have benefited the Bruins. 

Boston vs. New York yet again. Here we go. 

Tuukka Rask was back in net for Boston as he opposed Cam Talbot. Loui Eriksson (neck) and Milan Lucic (flu) were questionable for this one, but both took the ice.

Who knew that the two questionable Bruins would give the team a great start? Lucic and Patrice Bergeron each popped in a goal to start the game in the first period while Eriksson assisted on Bergeron's goal. Prior to that, the Rangers were having their way with the B's by dominating the boards and using their speed to generate scoring chances. Nash beat Rask for his league-leading 32nd goal--a nifty move that was tough to stop.

What was irritating during the opening 20 minutes is that there was a span where both teams were turning the puck over regularly in the neutral zone. Very rare from these two teams, but it happens.

In the second period, the Bruins controlled the puck possession by winning 77% of face-offs through the first 40 minutes. Unfortunately, those stats mean nothing. The speed of New York finally caught up to Boston. The home team scored two skilled goals to take a 3-2 lead into the third period. It was at that point when both sides were flying up the ice with counter-attacks looking for that defining goal. Nothing/nobody gave in and the Rangers held on to win a solid hockey game. 

The Bruins will return home to begin a three-game homestand, starting on Saturday night when they will play the New York Islanders. 

Gold Star: Craig Cunningham...He played nearly 10 minutes, his forechecking was intense, and he almost got on the tally sheet with a couple of scoring chances. Overall, a great game for the young winger. 

Black Star: Tuukka Rask...After his stellar past performances, he was not sharp here. Three goals allowed is not something we are used to seeing.

Game Fifty-One Box Score