Thursday, October 19, 2017
It was a great night to be Patrice Bergeron's agent as the Bruins (3-3-0) center made his 2017-18 debut with a vengeance: he had a goal and three assists (his 5th career 4-point game) as the B's returned to TD Garden and beat the lowly Canucks (2-3-1) 6-3. After losing to Malcolm Subban in their last game and coming off a very uneven 1-2 road trip, the Bruins were in desperate need of a complete performance and luckily for them Vancouver-who has to be one of the worst teams in the NHL-was on the schedule at just the right time.
Tuukka Rask was diagnosed with a concussion today after a collision at practice yesterday with rookie Anders Bjork. Anton Khudobin (26 saves) picked up his second win of the season and the Canucks actually scored first as Derek Dorsett used a knuckle puck type shot to beat Khudobin at 2:58 of the first period. Michael Del Zotto and Christopher Tanev assisted on Dorsett's second goal of the season. It didn't take long for Boston to wake up as Bjork cleaned up a rebound 31 seconds later for his second goal of the season. Bergeron and Brad Marchand had the assists on their rookie linemate's tally.
If you are a Canucks fan, and my sincere apologies if you call yourself that, you can easily pin this loss on one stupid guy: Erik Gudbranson. He hit Frank Vatrano from behind, leading to a fight with Tim Schaller. When the smoke had cleared, Gudbranson was tagged with a boarding major and a game-misconduct. The Bruins proceeded to reel off three power-play goals on the same five-minute major penalty for the first time since Oct. 28, 1998 (vs. Montreal). First David Pastrnak undressed Vancouver's sorry defense for a 2-1 Boston lead at 9:03, his fourth goal of the season. 23 seconds after that, Bjork took a feed from David Krejci and beat poor Anders Nilsson (4 goals allowed, 13 saves) top-shelf for a 3-1 B's advantage. Charlie McAvoy had the second assist. Finally, Krejci made it 4-1 at 10:40 after a juicy rebound from Nilsson (whose night ended after that). David's first goal of the season was assisted by Bergeron and Kenny Agostino (his 1st point in Black and Gold).
Up 4-1 after the first frame, Boston continued to pile it on in the second as Marchand sniped one past backup goaltender Jacob Markstrom (2 goals allowed, 16 saves). Bjork and Bergeron had the helpers as Marchand bolstered his four-game point streak. Other than Dorsett's goal, the Canucks showed only a brief glimpse of life in the second as they cut it to 5-3. Bruins killer Thomas Vanek who will no doubt still be scoring goals against them when he's living in a retirement home tipped in a power-play goal at 16:06. Sam Gagner and Del Zotto assisted on Vanek's third goal of the season. Bo Horvat, who honestly might be Vancouver's best player at the moment, tallied a goal 34 seconds later to cause some panic in the Garden crowd on Hockey Fights Cancer night.
Fittingly Bergeron put this one away for good with Boston's fourth power-play goal of the contest (matching their total from the first 5 games combined) midway through the third period at 11:53. Pastrnak and Marchand notched the assists on Bergeron's first goal of the campaign. David Backes also made his first appearance of the season for the B's and while he didn't record any points, like Bergeron he is known as one of the vocal leaders on the team. Adam McQuaid continued to display incredible toughness as well, blocking two shots on a late third period Vancouver power play before he had to be grabbed by Backes and pushed towards the bench by Zdeno Chara since he was gliding on one leg. Still, I'll bet that McQuaid suits up on Saturday (7, NESN) vs. Buffalo (1-4-2) since he didn't miss any time despite blocking a monster slap shot by former Bruin Colin Miller on Sunday night in Vegas. This was a nice way for Boston to kick off their four-game homestand, now they need to put together their first win-streak of 2017-18.
Monday, October 9, 2017
The Avalanche were by far the worst team in the NHL last season and while they have a decent amount of youngish talent, they aren't believed to make a notable leap from that in 2017-18. Patrice Bergeron (lower-body) is still day-to-day while David Backes (illness) and Noel Acciari (broken finger) are on IR meaning that Torey Krug and Austin Czarnik made their season debuts for the B's while Matt Grzelcyk was sent down to Providence. Colorado was also wrapping up a three-game road trip to begin the year but even though the Bruins hadn't played since Thursday, the Avs were somehow the fresher team.
Just like the Red Sox in Games 1 and 2 of the 2017 ALDS vs. Astros, the Bruins didn't give themselves much of a chance as they trailed 2-0 less than 14 minutes into the contest. First Tuukka Rask (19 saves) allowed a very weak goal as Sven Andrighetto's shot trickled off his glove hand and into the net at 4:41. Mikko Rantanen and Nikita Zadorov had the assists on Andrighetto's first goal of the season. After going 1-for-5 in the season-opening win vs. Nashville, Boston's power play was 0-for-4 this afternoon which was made worse by the fact that they allowed a 2-on-1 shorthanded goal to J.T. Compher at 13:22. Old friend Carl Soderberg had the assist on Compher's first goal of the campaign.
Boston outshot Colorado 29-23 including 11-5 in the first period and 11-8 in the second period but that hardly mattered. The B's also owned the face-off dot (37-15) but what does that matter when you have six more giveaways (13-7), seven less takeaways (15-8) and missed the net with 16 shots (!). If you skipped the second period, literally nothing happened besides David Pastrnak almost scored a goal except Semyon Varlamov (29 saves; 22nd career NHL shutout & 2nd vs. Boston) stopped the puck just enough with his left leg pad that it went along the goal line but never over.
Rask's rough day continued in the third period as he came way out to try to get to a loose puck before Nail Yakupov did but the former Oilers No. 1 overall pick 2012 is at least faster than him so he potted what'll be the easiest non-empty net goal of his career. Your guy Patrik Nemeth and Harvard's Alex Kerfoot had the helpers on Yakupov's laugher of a tally. Speaking of which, Yakupov rounded out the scoring by getting credit for an empty-netter with 43.6 seconds left as Pastrnak knocked the net off its mooring before the puck inevitably would have been swept in by Yakupov or Andrighetto.
These same clubs meet on Wednesday in Colorado (9:30, NESN), thanks NHL? I feel like that could be a good time for the Bruins to give backup goaltender Anton Khudobin his first start of the campaign, at least to shake things up a bit, but so far it hasn't been confirmed either way if it'll be him or Rask between the pipes. After that meeting (the last one of the season between these ancient rivals), Boston will be in Arizona (0-1-1) on Saturday night (9, NESN) and the three-game road trip concludes in Las Vegas (2-0-0) on Sunday night (7, NESN). They simply can't lose back-to-back games in regulation to the lowly Avalanche and hopefully they can earn at least two or three points in the latter two tilts against other presumable Western Conference bottom-feeders.
PS goodnight Red Sox, at least you weren't swept this season in the first round of the playoffs! Fire Farrell.
Thursday, October 5, 2017
Coming into the 2017-18 opener, the Bruins knew that they would have their hands full with the Western Conference champion Predators. That challenge only increased this morning as they discovered that Patrice Bergeron (lower-body injury) was out at least for this contest and David Backes (diverticulitis) could miss three or four weeks with some bizarre illness that I had to Google since I'd never heard of it. Who knows how long it can hold up for but at least in this tilt, Boston's rookies played collectively out of their minds in an exciting 4-3 victory at TD Garden.
Charlie McAvoy (1 goal, 1 assist) and Jake DeBrusk (1 goal, 1 assist) each recorded two points in their NHL regular season debuts (remember that McAvoy was called up for Boston's playoff series vs. Ottawa last April) while Anders Bjork notched an assist in his first career game. Tuukka Rask made 26 saves in the win and Nashville's power play had been 0-for-5 until they scored two late goals (by Scott Hartnell and Filip Forsberg) to make things a little sketchy for the home fans. The B's lost another forward in the proceedings as their fourth line winger Noel Acciari left in the second period after blocking a shot with his hand. That injury sounds somewhat serious too as head coach Bruce Cassidy didn't expect him to be available for Monday afternoon's meeting (1, NESN) with Colorado (1-0).
Boston's front office had to be psyched with the first goal of the season for their club as David Pastrnak potted a one-timer from McAvoy and David Krejci (3 assists; 17-5 on face-offs) at 8:37 of the first period for a 1-0 lead. The B's should have been in front after that frame but they allowed a back-breaking goal to Viktor Arvidsson with 11 seconds left in the first. Boston won the face-off in their own end but coughed up the puck as Ryan Johansen fed Arvidsson in the slot.
The second period was a beautiful glimpse into what the Bruins have to hope is a bright future for all these youngsters in black and gold as DeBrusk scored a pretty goal from Krejci and Bjork at 5:48 (complete with his dad crying in the stands) and McAvoy also sent his parents into hysterics with a one-timer at 15:43 from Krejci and DeBrusk. You wondered if Krejci would be able to keep up with two fast rookies and then he tied his career-high for assists in one game (something he'd done 8 times before).
Brad Marchand put the game out of reach, or at least so it seemed, with a rare short-handed empty-netter at 17:07 in the third period. Brandon Carlo had the lone assist on Marchand's 23rd career shorthanded goal (3rd most in team history). McAvoy had three penalties tonight which will be far from the norm and Kevan Miller got a delay of game penalty while Chara was called for slashing in garbage time. Hartnell chipped in a shot from close range at 18:12, assisted by Johansen and Arvidsson before Forsberg banked a shot off Rask at 19:25. Nashville had a few more chances at a possible tying goal after that but Rask and the Bruins held on. Pekka Rinne finished with 28 saves for Nashville.
It sounds odd to say this after game one of 82 (plus playoffs?) but the Bruins picked a good time to have a spaced out schedule in October. They already planned to have tomorrow off and then they'll have the weekend to ease back into practice before hosting the Avalanche on Columbus Day. Cassidy felt like Bergeron could possibly return for Monday but if he's not available, the Bruins will have to call another forward up from Providence to replace Acciari. I think the most likely name to watch for in that case would be Danton Heinen (Austin Czarnik is on IR) but we'll have to see how things shake out these next few days. Colorado was the worst team in the NHL last season but they kicked things off this evening by beating the Rangers 4-2 in New York so who knows what to expect from them?
Sunday, April 23, 2017
With so many injuries piling up seemingly every day to important players, we knew that the Bruins were a fatally flawed team (not to go deeper into their uneven roster to begin with). A Stanley Cup seemed very unlikely this spring but it was still a major bummer to see them lose Game 6 of their first-round playoff series today at TD Garden, 3-2 in OT to Ottawa, so the Senators took the series 4-2 and advance to play the Rangers in the second round. You won't find a much tighter six games than that since every tilt was decided by one goal including four of them in overtime(s). Ottawa went 3-1 in the extra session(s) and Clarke MacArthur forever etched his name in Senators history by scoring the power play goal that ended this one at 6:30.
You can always play the what-if game but it makes you wonder how much of a difference defensemen Torey Krug and Brandon Carlo (not to mention Adam McQuaid who was hurt in Game 2) and center David Krejci who missed Games 1, 2 and 6 would have made when Ottawa cumulatively outscored Boston just 15-13 over these six games. Boston's lack of depth eventually caught up to them along with the fact that Ottawa's power play (5-for-23, 21.7%) was better than Boston's (3-for-16, 18.8%) in this series. Senators superstar defenseman Erik Karlsson is actually playing with two hair-line fractures in his foot (surprisingly revealed by head coach Guy Boucher after this win) but you'd hardly know it by the way he played with a series-best six assists.
For only the second time in the six games, Boston actually scored first (both by Drew Stafford) but in each instance, they ended up losing in overtime which is a real kick in the hockey pants. Stafford scored a power play goal of his own at 18:13 of the first period when he blasted a shot past Craig Anderson (28 saves). Brad Marchand and Charlie McAvoy assisted on Stafford's second goal of the postseason. Bobby Ryan, who was also a completely random force all series-long, tied it early in the second period with a power play goal at 3:26. He tipped in Derick Brassard's shot which was also assisted by Karlsson for Ryan's series-best fourth tally of the series.
Kyle Turris gave Ottawa a 2-1 lead less than five minutes later as he ripped the puck by Tuukka Rask (26 saves) after Stafford had failed to clear the puck out of Boston's defensive zone. It was Turris' first goal of the postseason and rookie Ryan Dzingel's first career NHL playoff point. Fittingly facing elimination, the B's played one of their best frames of the entire series in the third period. They outshot Ottawa 12-3 and tied it at 1:57 on Bergeron's putback of a juicy Anderson rebound. Bergy's second goal of the postseason was assisted by Marchand and Miller. With the way that the ice was tilted their way not to mention all the momentum behind them with their home fans going wild, the Bruins should have ended it right there in regulation. You never want to leave your fate up to overtime, especially in this unwanted situation.
David Pastrnak was called for the holding penalty that preceded MacArthur's game-winner and truthfully, it was the correct call. Rask made the initial save but MacArthur was nearby to blast in the rebound for the undoubtedly biggest goal of his life. If you need something to make you feel a tiny bit better as a Bruins fan, MacArthur's career was nearly ended by concussions so this is someone that is impossible to root against if you have any sort of heart. Ryan and Brassard had the assists on his second goal of the playoffs. Karlsson dominating is one predictable outcome but who would have expected Ryan (4 goals, 3 assists) and Brassard (2 goals, 6 assists) to offensively outplay Bergeron (2 goals, 2 assists) and Marchand (1 goal, 3 assists)?
There is plenty of time to worry about the future of this team with the NHL draft, expansion draft and free agency all looming this summer. Interim head coach Bruce Cassidy said after this contest that he "absolutely wants to be here moving forward, 100%," so I think that his extension will be announced any day now. With the way that he bounced back this season, I believe that captain Zdeno Chara will want to return next fall (and not retire) but other than that, your guess is as good as mine when it comes to moves and signings although I'm confident that Pastrnak will get a long-term deal here soon.
It was great to have some NHL playoff hockey back in our lives, let's hope that it's not another three years (or god forbid more) until the next postseason appearance for the B's. With all the talented young guys, led by Pastrnak and 19-year-old rookie defeneseman Charlie McAvoy, there is plenty to be excited about. They have a bigger infusion of quality newcomers than I can ever remember in the five years that I've been covering them (for what that's worth).
Wednesday, April 19, 2017
Game 4 was right up Ottawa's boring alley: low-scoring, mostly forgettable hockey but ultimately the Senators skated away with a huge 1-0 victory this evening at TD Garden. Ottawa takes a 3-1 lead in the first round series vs. Boston and they will have a chance to eliminate the Bruins on Friday (7:30, NESN) at Canadian Tire Centre. Senators goaltender Craig Anderson made 22 saves for his fourth career playoff shutout and third in an Ottawa uniform.
After a scoreless first period (Boston has yet to score a 1st period goal in the entire series) in which Ottawa outshot the home team 14-12, things started to get bogged down in the second frame which is just how the Senators prefer it. The B's actually had some great scoring chances in the first but Anderson came flying out of the crease to stop Brad Marchand before Ryan Spooner was later stuffed on his shot from the slot. Each team was limited to five shots in the second while the Senators outshot them 8-5 in the third.
The Bruins appeared to take a 1-0 lead at 10:49 of the second when rookie defenseman Charlie McAvoy's shot from the point (possibly deflected by an Ottawa stick) went by Anderson. The issue was that rookie Noel Acciari was just barely offside something like 20 seconds before the goal. The Senators' evil genius head coach Guy Boucher used his challenge and after a long review, it was rightfully overturned much to the disappointment of Bruins fans. As I said, it was the right call (after the fact), but it's frustrating when it is called a goal on the ice and more importantly, the infraction had nothing to do with the goal which happened way later.
Ottawa had won both Games 2 and 3 by the same final scores: 4-3 in overtime. When Bobby Ryan scored his third goal of the series at 5:49 of the third period, you had a feeling that the B's were in trouble. Defenseman Erik Karlsson (of course) made the goal as his slap pass was intentionally wide of the goal right on Ryan's stick. Tuukka Rask (26 saves) and Zdeno Chara nearly combined to make the puck stop on the goal-line but Ryan overpowered them to push it across. Ryan (3 goals, 2 assists) and Karlsson (5 assists) have points in every game this series. Derick Brassard was credited with the second assist on the game-winning goal (Ryan's 2nd in a row), giving him a three-game point streak (2 goals, 3 assists).
Boston was 0-for-1 on the power play in Game 4, leaving them 2-for-11 in the series. Ottawa was 0-for-3 on the power play and they are 3-for-13 in these four games. Senators defenseman Cody Ceci led everyone in ice time (25:37) while McAvoy was second (25:03), Karlsson was third (24:51) and Zdeno Chara was fourth (24:09). The Bruins won Game 1 (2-1) but they have lost three straight contests heading into Friday's tilt in Canada's capital city. No pressure right? All the B's can do is worry about that one and figure out a way to bring this series back to Boston rather than having to pack up their stuff for the summer.
Monday, April 17, 2017
B's Improbably Rally from A 3-Goal Deficit In Gm. 3 but Once Again Fall 4-3 in Overtime vs. Senators
Playing in their first home playoff game in three years, the Bruins were so excited that they barely showed up for the first period of Game 3 tonight at TD Garden. In fact, Boston dug themselves a 3-0 hole but managed to rally with three goals in the second period before losing 4-3 in overtime on Bobby Ryan's backbreaking power play goal. The series couldn't be tighter thus far as Ottawa leads 2-1 yet every game has been decided by one goal and the last two were won by them in an overtime. The importance of winning Game 3 was apparent coming in as historically when a series has been tied 1-1, the team that wins Game 3 has won that series 67.3% of the time.
Rookie defenseman Tommy Cross made his NHL playoff debut and had an assist while rookie right winger Noel Acciari scored a goal in his first ever NHL postseason action. The Senators would never be called an explosive offense by anybody but that's exactly how they looked early in the first when they scored a pair of goals just 25 seconds apart. First the sublime Erik Karlsson connected on a long-range flip to Mike Hoffman for a breakaway that the underrated left winger finished by Tuukka Rask (28 saves) at 7:15. Derick Brassard doubled Ottawa's lead with a shot from in close, assisted by Ryan and Viktor Stalberg.
The Garden crowd was jumping from the start, it being Patriots Day and a beautiful spring day on top of that, but the B's did little to garner that love for awhile. Hoffman gave the Senators a 3-0 lead at 3:42 of the second period when he blasted in a shot from the point on the power play, assisted by Chris Wideman and Brassard. Boston punched back with a pair of goals in quick succession (42 seconds apart). Acciari tipped in John-Michael Liles' floater at 6:05 (2nd assist to Riley Nash) and then David Backes scored his first playoff goal as a Bruin at 6:47 after Ryan fell down (and lost both of his gloves in the process), assisted by Liles and Cross. By that point, the "Anderson, Anderson" chants were in full effect and Craig Anderson (17 saves) did little to calm things down when David Pastrnak smoked a one-timer by him at 13:51 for the tying goal. McAvoy and Spooner assisted on Pastrnak's first career NHL playoff goal.
The tempo along with the back-and-forth nature of this game was great and the Bruins seemed to take control in the third as they finally outshot the Senators 9-7 in that frame (after Ottawa outshot them 21-10 through 2). Boston didn't have anything to show for it though as Anderson made a nice stop on Kevan Miller's screened shot and then Hoffman hit the post with a hat trick bid. 60 minutes still wasn't enough to decide things for these chillingly even Atlantic Division clubs. Nash turned out to be the goat as he was whistled for a roughing penalty in overtime (after taking a Marc Methot elbow to the face). Boston's penalty kill survived for more than half of the two-minute power play (1:05 to be exact) but Ryan was able to work a give-and-go with Kyle Turris on the doorstep of the Bruins' net begun by Karlsson at 5:43 that gave the Sens an enormous victory on the road.
I wouldn't dive into the hot take machine and call Wednesday's (7:30, NESN) Game 4 a must-win for the black and gold since that is the laziest cliche in sports but it is ever so close. You can basically guarantee that it will be tight regardless (most likely a 1-goal game) so why not make it easier on themselves by getting off to a good start and not playing like garbage for 25+ minutes? Ottawa clearly has figured out how to get results against them and they have to be starting to creep into Boston's heads with these last two heartbreakers. It would also help if the B's don't allow two power play goals or take needless penalties on one of its best shorthanded players in overtime. Yes the call on Nash was harsh but blaming refs is never my bag so I'm going to pass on that one. There is nothing left to do but knot this series back up and return to Ottawa tied 2-2 rather than the grim prospect of facing elimination on Friday.
Saturday, April 8, 2017
The B's also suffered what could be another significant injury to their defense as Brandon Carlo (upper-body injury) left in the first period and never returned after a hit by Alex Ovechkin then awkward fall to the ice. Boston has termed defenseman Torey Krug "day-to-day" after he left Thursday's shootout loss to the Senators (44-27-10) but from all accounts, that is being generous since he has a significant right knee injury. Anton Khudobin (21 saves) played for the first two periods before departing because "he didn't feel well." Haha was he hanging out with all the Red Sox that are currently knocked out by the bird flu? BU's Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson made his NHL debut today since PC's Noel Acciari is also out with an upper-body injury. JFK centered the third line for Boston but did barely anything (1 blocked shot, 1-1 on faceoffs in just 8:25 of ice time) of note.
Washington is so skilled and loaded at seemingly every position (keep in mind that defenseman John Carlson and goaltender Braden Holtby both sat out) that many of their goals resemble something you do more frequently in a video game than actually experience in real life. Marcus Johansson (24th goal of the season) scored on a basic give-and-go with Justin Williams as they split Boston's tattered defense at 15:39 for a 1-0 Caps lead. Johansson has 12 points (2 goals, 10 assists) in his last nine games.
The second period had some nastiness as Colin Miller's legs took out Tom Wilson's legs which caused Jay Beagle to take a run at Miller. It was a cheap play that could have resulted in a serious injury since Miller was in a vulnerable position (laying on the ice against the boards) and I wouldn't be shocked if Wilson has a hearing with the league about it. Speaking of which, this was Marchand's second game of his suspension so he is free to play starting in Game 1 of the playoffs next week. Washington has swept Boston the last three seasons (7-0-2) and outscored them 30-11 in the process. The only time that the B's were able to beat backup Philipp Grubauer (21 saves) is when Colin Miller put the puck in a millisecond before Drew Stafford crashed into the net (knocking it off its moorings). The goal was reviewed but stood up, Miller's sixth goal of the season assisted by Stafford.
The tie was short-lived (for 56 seconds) as former BU star Kevin Shattenkirk one-timed a pass from Niklas Backstrom (who leads the NHL in helpers) and Ovechkin at 16:09. Shattenkirk added another goal at 17:31 but it was overturned after Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy used his coach's challenge for goalie interference. It hardly mattered to the Capitals though as they made it 3-1 at 19:10 when Williams completed a pretty passing sequence around multiple helpless Bruins with Evgeny Kuznetsov and Nate Schmidt. Tuukka Rask (8 saves) started the third period and that's about all we'll ever say about that forgettable frame. Now all we can do is wait until possibly tomorrow night (the last day of the regular season) for all the scenarios to unfold. The B's have no shot if they face the Caps but a matchup with the Senators is infinitely more winnable despite the fact that Ottawa also swept Boston during this campaign.