Saturday, November 11, 2017
Is This The Start of the Inevitable Collapse for the B's While They Are Missing So Many Good Players?
With budding superstar (and American hero) Auston Matthews out for both meetings with an injury and facing the immortal Curtis McElhinney (38 saves) in net this evening for the Leafs, this was a game that the Bruins had to have and despite outshooting Toronto 39-25, they lacked any sort of finishing ability. Tuukka Rask (21 saves) fell to 3-6-2 as yet again he was not able to play like a true No. 1 goaltender that can carry his team or teammates when they are down. I still think that Rask can be a very good goalie but it doesn't help when Brandon Carlo turns the puck over right to Mitch Marner at 8:52 for an easy goal, his 2nd of the season.
James van Riemsdyk enjoyed his time against the B's since he had a pair of goals on Friday and he made it 2-0 tonight with a power-play goal at 14:16 of the first period. He tipped in Nazem Kadri's shot for his ninth goal of the season with Morgan Rielly picking up the second assist. The Black and Gold world might be collapsing (sorry for the stupid hyperbole) around them but at least Frank Vatrano has somewhat remembered how to do his one skill that got him here: score goals. He tipped in a shot from Torey Krug (7-game point streak) and Kevan Miller at 15:18 of the first for his second goal of the campaign.
Toronto led 2-1 after the first and Matt Martin laid a massive hit on rookie Anders Bjork early in the second frame at center ice. Both guys were shaken up but they each remained in the game, because hockey. Matt Beleskey might be nothing more than a fourth line plug these days but at least he stands up for his teammates: he fought Martin a few minutes later since who else would in this Swiss cheese lineup? With the Leafs up 2-1 after 40 minutes, Boston needed to conjure up something notable to avoid grabbing only one point out of a possible four this weekend against their Atlantic Division foe. Instead, their power play was blanked on four occasions overall and the Leafs put it out of reach with Rielly's goal at 6:52 that of course deflected off Carlo's stick. JVR and Marner picked up their second points on Rielly's third goal of the season.
To say that goal was deflating would be an understatement since right before it, Boston had a two-man advantage for 1:07 that they shamelessly flushed down the toilet. Head coach Bruce Cassidy used his timeout right after the second penalty was whistled but there would be no proper response by his club. Grandpa Marleau broke Boston's hearts with the overtime tally and he put this slopfest to bed with an empty-net goal with 1:47 left in regulation. His eighth goal of the season was assisted by Zach Hyman (fun name!) and Leo Komarov.
Dating back to last season, Toronto improved to 6-0 vs. Boston meaning that the B's have two more chances left to avoid another ugly fate: a season sweep at the hands of one of their sneaky biggest rivals these days. Hey no worries though, the Bruins won't return to the Garden until Black Friday (1, NESN) when they host the Penguins (9-7-2) in their annual day after Thanksgiving matinee. Between Now and Then (cheesy 90s movie reference, just call me Bill Simmons) they leave on the dreaded California trip and then they go to New Jersey (10-4-2)-the Eastern Conference's biggest surprise-the night before Thanksgiving (7, NESN).
Did I mention that the B's are 1-3-2 on the road thus far? Anaheim (7-6-3) on Wednesday is probably their best chance at a win on the road trip since the Ducks are super banged up just like them. At LA (11-3-2) the next night (10:30, NESN) is no picnic since the Kings are one of the NHL's best at the moment (who could forget their last second 2-1 overtime win here back on Oct. 28?) and finally, the Sharks (8-6-0) on Saturday night (10:30, NESN) will be looking for revenge after they lost here 2-1 on October 26.
Monday, November 6, 2017
When you have such a patchwork lineup, hell it feels like half of the Providence Bruins are currently here, you take regulation wins whenever you can get them. Tuukka Rask (24 saves) had arguably the play of the game when he stopped Mikael Granlund's penalty shot in the third period with Boston clinging to a 4-2 lead. Devan Dubnyk (20 saves, 4 goals allowed) wasn't anything close to the same guy from last season who blanked the B's both times that these clubs met. He was pulled after two periods by Angry Dad I mean Wild head coach Bruce Bouderau and replaced by Alex Stalock (9 saves).
Nino Niederreiter gave Minnesota a 1-0 advantage just 4:53 into the contest when the Bruins chose not to cover him for an easy putback on a rebound. His second goal of the season was assisted by that tireless American hero Ryan Suter (who skated a game-high 28:02) and Jared Spurgeon. Boston responded with two goals in the first period, both of the extra fluky variety. Jake DeBrusk tried to find Frank Vatrano with a pass from behind the net but it bounced in the net off of Suter's skate at 10:23. Zdeno Chara (team-high 25:48) and Jordan Szwarz (1st NHL assist) had the helpers on DeBrusk's third goal of the season. Later, Vatrano simple shot on goal from the blue line went off the post then Dubnyk's leg and in at 12:42. It was Vatrano's first tally of this campaign and first in 25 regular season games (he had 1 in the playoffs last season) with more assists to Szwarz and Chara. Matt Beleskey even made a contribution as he fought something called Luke Kunin shortly after Vatrano's go-ahead goal, good times!
At his post-game press conference, Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy called the second period their best of the season as they outshot Minnesota 15-4 and potted two more goals to go up by three. Sean Kuraly put in a rebound from Danton Heinen and Tim Schaller at 5:34 for his second goal of the season. Boston's first line (which is basically all they have at the moment) finally got in on the action as Torey Krug (4-game point streak) one-timed a pass from David Pastrnak and Patrice Bergeron at 7:43 for his third goal of the season.
The B's have trouble putting games away (see the overtime loss to Buffalo a few weeks ago) and they certainly made their fans sweat on an unseasonably warm night as Pasta's brutal giveaway led to a one-timer by Granlund from Matt Dumba at 1:33. Eric Staal got a shorthanded breakaway after Pasta was stuck up ice on the power play and he beat Rask to cut it to 4-3 Bruins at 15:56. Cassidy took his timeout with 2:40 left and Stalock was pulled for an extra skater. Schaller caused a turnover and won a race for the loose puck, leading to the empty-net goal (his 3rd goal of the season) at 19:03 and his first multi-point performance in the NHL.
The Rangers and Bruins usually have entertaining battles and since it's Rivalry Night, you know that they'll pull out all the stops. Just kidding, hopefully it's a half-decent product in primetime. New York had gotten off to an awful start but they've reeled off four wins in a row to potentially save their season. It'll be only Boston's fifth game on the road where they have begun 2017-18 a little wobbly (1-2-1) while New York is 5-4-2 at Madison Square Garden-the world's most overrated arena.
Thursday, November 2, 2017
The Golden Knights weren't feeling sorry for the Bruins' recent rash of injuries since they are currently starting their fourth goaltender of the young season-your boy Maxime Lagace (26 saves)-backed up by Dylan Ferguson who was just called up from juniors. Having to play four goalies in less than a month of existence is borderline insane. The B's are the same club that was nearly shut out by their former first round bust Malcolm Subban so I guess we should have expected a similar pop gun performance by their middling offense that is trying to find their way with one legitimate forward line at the moment.
After a scoreless first period, Boston got on the board first as Nash's first shot hit the post but then he stuck with it long enough to knock the loose puck in for his first goal of the season at 3:24 of the second. Austin Czarnik (recalled earlier today from Providence) notched his first assist of the season and Torey Krug had the other helper (only his 2nd of the season). The Golden Knights answered a little over six minutes later as Cody Eakin one timed a pass from Nate Schmidt for his second goal of the season. Bruins rookie Jake DeBrusk coughed up the puck in his own end, putting his teammate Tuukka Rask (28 saves) in a vulnerable position.
Boston's penalty kill went 3-for-3 this evening and Kuraly scored the game-winning goal at 9:53 of the third period after some fine work by Krug and DeBrusk. Krug had the initial shot that was blocked in front but DeBrusk fought down low to force a save by Lagace and Kuraly crashed the net (and ran into the post) leading to the memorable tally (his 1st NHL regular season goal; he had two including the 2OT GWG vs. Ottawa in Game 5 last spring).
On Saturday night (7, NESN), Boston hosts Washington (6-6-1) who is off to a puzzling start themselves to say the least. Backes had surgery today and I doubt that Krejci will be back by then so the B's will have to continue to find a way to grab points while they have this mish-mash of a lineup. The good news is that even when the Black and Gold aren't playing particularly well in 2017-18, multiple times they have still recorded points when it was less than their best effort-Monday's 4-3 shootout loss at Columbus (9-4-0) being a perfect example after they trailed 3-0 but rallied for the still disappointing point.
Saturday, October 28, 2017
It was a crazy way to lose for the B's and there were so many things that could have gone differently: Torey Krug iced the puck with four seconds left, LA called timeout but David Pastrnak was on the ice (remember 3-on-3 in OT) with Krug and Anders Bjork. Pastrnak tried to fall on the puck but Anze Kopitar (one of the best faceoff guys in the NHL) pulled it back to Toffoli for his second goal of the game and fifth of the season. The play was reviewed but the puck was already in the net with 0.4 seconds left. Finally, the refs had put half a second back on the clock so if they hadn't done that, it wouldn't have gotten off in time.
Bigger picture, the Bruins put together a pretty complete performance against one of the better teams in the league. For the third straight contest, the B's scored first as Brad Marchand (6 goals, 5 assists in his last 6 games) tapped in with his backhand a sweet cross ice feed from McAvoy (6 assists in his last 6 games) at 5:27 of the first period. Bjork had the second assist on Marchand's team-leading 7th goal of the season. LA was not daunted as Toffoli tied it up only 3:34 after Marchand's goal. He whipped a loose puck by Tuukka Rask (28 saves in his return from a concussion and a 3-game absence).
Not much happened in the second or third period, both teams went 0-for-2 on their respective power plays but they obviously saved up all the collective excitement for an absolutely insane extra frame. Each club had 26 shots on goal in regulation and four in overtime. Drew Doughty was called for goaltender interference just 13 seconds into overtime after he barreled into Rask but surrisingly, Patrice Bergeron (his Team Canada homie) was also nabbed for slashing on that play. By the way, how cheesy are slashing calls in the NHL nowadays?
Former UMass star Jonathan Quick (29 saves) is back to his old form as he was brilliant in overtime: stopping McAvoy twice and Bjork on a breakaway. Rask did his part to keep the game going with an earlier quality save on Toffoli. It's hard to blame Rask or anyone on the Bruins besides head coach Bruce Cassidy (how do you let Pastrnak take a key face-off) but then again, who could have predicted that once in a lifetime ending? The only recent similar play against the B's came a little over three years ago: Daniel Briere (back when he was on Colorado) helped beat them with a goal on October 13, 2014 with less than a second remaining in regulation.
Boston has played six home games already (3-1-2) so they go back on the road (where they are 1-2-0) for Monday's (7, NESN) meeting in Columbus (7-4-0). The Blue Jackets are one of the better squads in the Eastern Conference so the Bruins will have their hands full there. Somehow the Black and Gold return here for three more games at the Garden to kick off November: Thursday (7, NESN) vs. Vegas (8-1-0)-easily the surprise of the NHL, off to the best start ever for an expansion team; Saturday night (7, NESN) vs. struggling Washington (4-5-1) and Monday (7, NESN) vs. Minnesota (4-3-2). Any way you slice it, that's a tough week for the B's so they'll have to put this shocking loss behind them and soon.
Thursday, October 26, 2017
Boston can't match San Jose's overall skill but they outworked them by blocking two more shots (16-14) and recording three more takeaways (13-10). The ice was very tilted in the Sharks' favor, at least according to the referees who awarded them a whopping six power-plays (3 penalties alone on rookie Sean Kuraly) but Boston's penalty kill managed to go 5-for-6 and they erased that power play goal by potting a shorthanded goal of their own (their 2nd of the young season). Heinen gave his team a 1-0 lead at 9:41 of the first period as former Bruins great Martin Jones (31 saves) left a juicy rebound right on his doorstep for the rookie to knock in his first NHL tally. David Backes and Kevan Miller each had assists-their first points of the season-on the shorthanded goal.
The Bruins led 1-0 after the first period but the Sharks tied it at 10:40 of the second as former Boston No. 1 overall pick Joe Thornton (in 1997!) was helped by Khudobin's save which left a loose puck right in the crease. It was Jumbo Joe's second goal of the season (he has a 5-game point streak) and 1398th career NHL point, tying him with Jari Kurri for 20th all-time. Something called Tim Heed (great name) and Thornton's bearded brother Brent Burns provided the assists. Heinen quickly answered at 13:27 when a lucky bounce (a shot that went wide of the net but caromed right to him stationed on the other post) found his stick for an easy tap-in. Brandon Carlo and Tim Schaller assisted on Heinen's second goal of the night that turned out to be the game-winner.
San Jose outshot Boston 37-33 for the contest, including 15-11 in the third period thanks to two late power plays (they pulled Jones for the latter one). Tom Brady gets all the credit around here for being an unparalleled 40-year-old but Zdeno Chara (game-high 26:40 ice time, 8:21 shorthanded) is also a freak of nature and future first ballot Hall of Famer that continues to defy the laws of aging as well. Fresh off a 4-0 win at hapless Montreal (2-7-1 with a goal-differential of -20) this evening, the high-flying Kings (8-1-1) visit the Garden on Saturday night (7, NESN). It should be a fun atmosphere with another quality opponent in town plus a crowd that is sure to be celebrating Halloween a little early (glug, glug). David Krejci (back) will remain out for that tilt but Tuukka Rask (who backed up Khudobin tonight) could potentially return for his first start in nearly two weeks after being in the concussion protocol.
Saturday, October 21, 2017
With so many young players in the lineup every game not to mention numerous injuries that seem to befell them daily, the Bruins (3-3-1) are in no position to switch gears into cruise control at the moment. The Sabres (2-5-2) were coming off a 4-2 loss to Vancouver (3-3-1) on Friday so when they went down 4-1 in the second period at TD Garden on Saturday night, it appeared to be an easy victory lining up for the B's. Unfortunately that wasn't the case at all as Buffalo rattled off four straight goals including Ryan O'Reilly's game-winner in overtime to take a shocking 5-4 victory back to God's Country (Upstate NY).
Anton Khudobin (37 saves) will never be a starting goaltender on a good NHL team, that's just a fact. He is the classic backup goalie that can occasionally catch fire but more often than not, he won't be counted on for anything other than uneven results. Granted, Buffalo outshot Boston 42-31 in the contest, including 15-6 in the third period and 6-0 in overtime so it's tough to pin that loss all on him. Adam McQuaid is out for eight weeks with a broken leg (surgery on Monday) and Kevan Miller was a late scratch with a mangled hand. Who had six games being all that the most injury prone players in the NHL would last in 2017-18? Meanwhile, Colin Miller continues to develop in Vegas. (Huge sigh while throwing my arms in the air).
David Krejci took warmups with the B's tonight but also sat at the last-minute which didn't help the Black and Gold since he had six points (1 goal, 5 assists) in the first six games. Paul Postma and Rob O'Gara made their season debuts for the Bruins (in Postma's case his first ever game for Boston) while Matt Beleskey (0 points in 6 games) was re-inserted into the lineup. Boston opened up a 2-0 lead in the first period as David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand (power-play) continued their race for the team scoring lead as both guys notched their fifth goals of the season. Tim Schaller and Charlie McAvoy assisted on Pasta's fluky jam-shot by the immortal Robin Lehner (27 saves) while Marchand didn't need any help on his.
Marchand made it 3-0 B's 37 seconds into the second period with assists to Anders Bjork and McAvoy. At that point, Buffalo could have easily packed it in and got ready to watch the Bills game tomorrow but veteran Jason Pominville cut it to 3-1 at 8:01 with a snipe from Ryan O'Reilly, his fifth goal of the season. Pastrnak tallied another weird goal-off your boy Matt Tennyson's leg-for a 4-1 Bruins advantage at 11:22. Riley Nash and Torey Krug had the assists as it felt like either Marchand or Pastrnak would get a hat trick for the home crowd. Chelmsford's Jack Eichel deposited a rebound past Khudobin at 16:07 to give the Sabres a breath of life. Marco Scandella and Justin Bailey had the helpers on the former BU star's fourth goal of the season.
Still when you face a nothing team like Buffalo with a three-goal lead or up 4-2 after two periods, you have to put them away. No excuses. Boston couldn't do that though as former Bruins great Benoit Pouliot fired in a loose puck at 6:55 to draw Buffalo within one goal for the first time since the first period. Sam Reinhart and Jake McCabe were credited with assists on Pouliot's first goal of the season (how is he still in the NHL?). For whatever reason, the B's looked like the gassed team that played the night before as Buffalo outworked them for the tying goal at 17:52. Evander Kane potted his sixth goal of the season, off a goal-mouth scramble and the assists went to McCabe and Pominville.
Boston's power play scored for the fifth time in seven contests this campaign but they didn't draw any penalties after early in the second period. Buffalo wasn't ever on a power play in overtime, it just felt like it as the puck was seemingly in Boston's end the entire time. Khudobin was shaky all night, most of his saves weren't exactly masterpieces which in turn made you think that every shot was going in. Torey Krug pushed a Sabre into Khudobin on O'Reilly's goal so the referees reviewed it for awhile but it ultimately held up. O'Reilly made a brilliant play, going 360 degrees from behind the net to his backhand shot. His third goal of the season was unassisted.
The crappy taste from this OT loss will most likely linger for days since the Bruins won't be back in action until Thursday (7, NESN) when they host San Jose (3-4-0). In his press conference after the loss, Boston head coach Bruce Cassidy said that Krejci and Miller are each probable to return then but with the way that their players are dropping like flies, we'll have to hope that all the important guys are bound in bubble wrap this week lest they get hit by a meteor or a drone. The Bruins simply cannot afford anymore injuries to key players this early in the season.
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.