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Saturday, December 31, 2016

If Only the Bruins Could Play The Sabres Like Once Every Week, They'd Be in Good Shape


As the Bruins (20-15-4) have proven over and over again already this season, especially when they're at TD Garden, they can't underestimate anyone after they've lost to a bunch of bottom-feeder last-place teams. For whatever reason, the Sabres (13-15-8) are just what ails them since with today's 3-1 New Year's Eve matinee victory, the Black and Gold swept the season series with Buffalo for the first time in either team's franchise history. Of course, keep in mind that when there were fewer clubs in the NHL, the Atlantic Division rivals used to meet up to eight times a season which looking back on it now is pretty funny.

This was a feel-good moment for the B's as they captured back-to-back wins for the first time in nearly a month (Dec. 1, 3, 5), Patrice Bergeron continued to heat up offensively (3 goals in 5 games) while Ryan Spooner (3 goals, 4 assists) and Torey Krug (7 assists) each extended their point streaks to five games apiece. Tuukka Rask (26 saves, 19th win of the season) continued his mastery of the Sabres as he improved to 13-5-1 in 21 career games vs. Buffalo. Boston had won 4-2 in Buffalo on Thursday but they paid a price for those particular two points as David Backes is now out indefinitely with a concussion.

One of the guys that will counted on for more production with Backes out is Frank Vatrano who has been moved up to the second line. He gave Boston a 1-0 lead just 1:28 into the contest with one of his signature quick release shots. Zdeno Chara assisted on Vatrano's second goal of the season (2 goals, 2 assists in 5 games) that fooled Sabres goaltender Robin Lehner (25 saves). Seeking some payback from Thursday when he got bloodied by William Carrier's cheap shot punches while they were tied up by the refs, Adam McQuaid drilled Johan Larsson with a clean hit (that dislocated the left wing's wrist).

Bergy doubled the Bruins' lead in the second period with a one-timer from Spooner and Brad Marchand at 7:04 on the power play. Bergeron had been a ghost in terms of goal-scoring for much of the early going so it's been nice to see him find his game lately. Lehner had started his New Year's Eve drinking early or something as Tim Schaller's harmless backhander beat him at 9:29 of the second period for a commanding 3-0 Bruins advantage. Three goals scored by Boston can feel like double that with their struggles to find the back of the net and couple that with how well Rask has played. The Bruins are now 14-2-1 when they lead by 2+ goals in 2016-17. Krug and Austin Czarnik assisted on Schaller's fifth goal of the season that had to feel a little sweeter against his former team.

As you probably noticed lately, the NHL has done everything in its power to outlaw fighting so even though Kevan Miller and Evander Kane wanted to fight each other later in the second, not to mention many other chippy moments throughout the proceedings, the linesmen and referees weren't having any of it. I understand they want to eliminate needless injuries (most notably concussions) from fights but one of the things that makes hockey so great is the ability to settle things after a cheap play.

North Chelmsford, MA native and BU one-and-done star Jack Eichel always seems to do something when he's at the Garden so he didn't disappoint his friends and family with a one-timer at 19:38 of the second that he hammered past Rask. His seventh goal of the season was assisted by Rasmus Ristolainen and Sam Reinhart. This was the first time in this campaign that Bergeron has scored in consecutive games and Boston's sputtering power play is slowly figuring things out with goals in four of their last five.

Nearly halfway through the season, Boston still finds itself in third-place in the Atlantic Division. They have 44 points like Ottawa (20-12-4) but the Senators have played three less games. Also, the Bruins are four points ahead of Tampa Bay (18-15-4) going into their meeting with Carolina this evening (Lightning will have 1 game in hand after that). Boston is back at .500 at home and five games over .500 on the road (11-6-4) so I suppose it's good news that they head out of town for five of their next six games.

This week is another one that at least on paper isn't too scary: at reeling New Jersey (14-16-7) on Monday (7, NESN), they host Edmonton (19-12-6) on Thursday (7, NESN) in Milan Lucic's latest return, at Florida (15-14-8) on Saturday (7, NESN) and at Carolina (16-12-7) on Sunday (5, NESN). The Bruins should get points in all of those road games and even though the Oilers have been unexpectedly good this season, I still don't fear them.




Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Ugh, the Bruins Continue to Pathetically Fold at TD Garden Against the NHL's Worst Teams


Question: how many last-place teams can come into TD Garden in a short amount of time and all leave here with wins? Answer: three (Colorado, Toronto and Islanders). Tonight, Boston (17-14-3) spotted New York (12-14-6) a 3-0 lead in the second period before they finally decided to show a pulse in the third period. By that time it was too late as the Islanders snapped a five-game losing streak (0-4-1) to take the 4-2 decision. It was a nice homecoming for two former Bruins defensemen: Dennis Seidenberg (playing in his first game back in Boston since signing with NY in September) and Johnny Boychuk were both a game-high +2.

Tuukka Rask (16-6-3) has been stellar all season so I guess he was due for an off-night of sorts. He was victimized by two fluky goals and ended up getting pulled for the first time since April 3, 2015 (at Chicago). He finished with 10 saves and three goals allowed. Anton Khudobin made 15 saves in his appearance that began at 13:42 of the second period. He actually picked up his first career NHL point (an assist) but he allowed an Islanders power play goal in the third period that effectively closed the curtain on this one. New York goaltender Thomas Greiss (7-5-0) made a career-high 48 saves as Boston had a season-high 50 shots on goal (95 shot attempts!).

The B's hadn't played since Sunday afternoon's 1-0 win vs. LA, so they were sitting around at home since then and thus there really is no valid excuse for coming out so slow once again. Rask and Brad Marchand ran into each other behind Boston's net, allowing Anders Lee to knock in an early Christmas present at 3:05 of the first period. Lee's team-leading 11th goal of the season was unassisted. Another rare mistake happened a few moments later as Patrice Bergeron got caught up ice, leaving New York with a 3-on-1. Thomas Hickey beat Rask glove-side with a shot at 5:40 for a 2-0 lead. Josh Bailey and Lee had the assists on Hickey's tally.

Boston's offense had two near misses in the second period as Patrice Bergeron and Austin Czarnik each hit the crossbar in quick succession. New York took a commanding 3-0 lead at 6:18 on yet another bizarre strike. Boychuk dumped the puck in Boston's zone, it bounced off the end boards (and eluded Kevan Miller's stick) before Rask got handcuffed by it on the goal-line. Nikolay Kulemin was there to smack it in for his fourth goal of the season.

As we all predicted, Bruins rookie Anton Blidh sparked the comeback attempt when his centering pass intended for goal-machine Jimmy Hayes deflected by Greiss off of Islanders defenseman Nick Leddy's skate. The first goal of Blidh's NHL career was assisted by Brandon Carlo and Khudobin just 3:04 into the third. After rightfully booing the Bruins off the ice to end the second, the Garden crowd finally had something to cheer about and they really got loud for a few minutes after Dominic Moore tipped in Zdeno Chara's shot from the point at 7:12. Moore's eighth goal of the season was also assisted by Hayes (his 1st helper of the season).

New York head coach Jack Capuano (a Rhode Islander) sensed his team falling apart and smartly took his timeout to settle them down. It worked as they were able to hold off the Bruins and get the insurance goal they needed when Lee received another easy tap-in at 13:02. Khudobin lost the puck in his pads with the assists going to Bailey and Leddy. Boston ended up outshooting New York 23-9 in the third. It seemed like they had a power play (a good one though, not theirs) for almost the entire 20 minutes and they put tons of pressure on the Isles but they never completely cracked like you hoped that they would.

The good news for Boston is that they get to go on the road where they are much better (9-5-3) than at the Garden (8-9-0) so far in 2016-17. The B's are in Florida (15-13-5) on Thursday (7:30, NESN) before they wrap up things (sorry) before a brief Christmas break (Dec. 24-26) on Friday (7:30, NESN) in Carolina (13-11-7). Boston is clinging to third-place in the Atlantic Division, two points ahead of both the Lightning (16-14-3) and Panthers. Needless to say, Christmas will be much more enjoyable for the entire team if they can get three or four points on their mini-Southern road trip.





Sunday, December 18, 2016

With No Pastrnak, Bruins Blank the Kings 1-0 Thanks to Rask and Hayes (No, Really)


With David Pastrnak out at least for the next few games after an unexpected minor surgery on his elbow (bursa sac) on Friday, the Bruins' (17-13-3) anemic offense has been put to the test even further. At least this afternoon, they got it done with a result that is basically head coach Claude Julien's dream score. Boston beat Los Angeles (16-13-2) 1-0 this afternoon at TD Garden. Tuukka Rask picked up an easy shutout (his 4th of the season, tying him for most in the NHL) with 18 saves as he improved to 16-5-3 this season. Jimmy Hayes of all people scored the only goal as the Kings never really got much going on with 10 shots on goal through the first two periods.

Both power-plays went 0-for-4 and if it feels like Boston usually has had this type of low-scoring game in 2016-17, it's because they have. It was the 22nd time out of 33 games that they have scored two goals or less, they improved to 9-12-1 in those and 3-0-0 in matinees. Originally the Hayes goal, which came at 4:20 of the first period, was credited to Colin Miller but replays showed that the BC product had tipped the puck before it reached Kings goaltender Peter Budaj (29 saves). It was the second goal of the season for Hayes (and only his 2nd point), the other came back on November 27 vs. Tampa Bay. He's on a hot streak now! Colin Miller and Dominic Moore had the assists on the lone tally of the contest.

Sadly, about as rare as a goal by Hayes these days is an actual fight in the NHL but wouldn't you know the fans were treated to one of those as well. What an early Christmas gift! Kevan Miller dropped the gloves with Kyle Clifford later in the first period and those are each legitimate tough guys. Marian Gaborik (who only has 1 goal in 9 games this season) and Dustin Brown (4 goals in 30 games) were scratches for the Kings who are similarly offensively-challenged as the Bruins. UMass legend Jonathan Quick is out (groin) until at least February so it'll be tough for LA to hold onto a Wild-Card spot in the Western Conference. Granted, that's the least of Bruins' fans worries at this moment. They just want to see the Black and Gold back in the postseason for the first time in three years. It's been way too long!

Boston hosts the reeling Islanders (11-13-6) on Tuesday (7, NESN) at the Garden. Rhode Islander Jack Capuano, the head coach of the Isles, has to be on the verge of getting fired since somehow his team is currently in last-place in the Eastern Conference. It'll be a nice little reunion with former Bruins Johnny Boychuk and Dennis Seidenberg back in town and isn't that what the holidays are all about? All told, the B's have three games left before a mini-Christmas break (Dec. 24-26). They are at Florida (14-13-5) on Thursday (7:30, NESN) and at Carolina (13-11-7) on Friday (7:30, NESN). Out of a possible six points available next week, I'm thinking that they should grab at least four from that trio of winnable opponents.


Thursday, December 15, 2016

Nevermind Playing Hockey Games, The Worn-Out Bruins Desperately Need a Rest Like Right Now


In any professional sport, every team will face a rough stretch with tons of games (and travel) condensed into a short amount of time. That's why it is pointless fodder (although always a favorite crutch for my fellow lazy media members) to whine about such circumstances since at some point, everyone will have to deal with it. With all that said, the Bruins (16-13-3) have to be happy that they finally get two days between games for the first time in nearly a month (Nov. 20-21). After getting three out of four unlikely points with a 2-1 overtime win in Montreal (19-6-4) on Monday and a 4-3 loss to Pittsburgh (20-7-3) last night, they returned to TD Garden and lost 4-3 to the Ducks (16-10-5) this evening.

The season-long trends for the B's of losing in Game 2 of back-to-backs (1-5-0) and Game 3 of three-games-in-four-nights (3-5-0) continued along with the even more troubling poor play when anyone not named Tuukka Rask (15-5-3) occupies their net. Backup goaltender Anton Khudobin (1-5-0) clearly isn't the same guy he was in his first go-around with the Bruins back in 2013 but it doesn't help that his few starts are usually marked by team-wide shitty outings.

A new wrench was thrown into Boston's usual script for home losses as they actually jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first period only to see Anaheim quickly erase that. Boston dropped to 11-2-0 this season when they lead by 2+ goals. The Ducks went up 3-2 early in the second period and the Bruins tied it up but once again, Anaheim had the last laugh. The game got off to such a crazy start that it was a shame to see it end in such an anti-climatic fashion (with 0 goals in the final 34:58). It was a battle of backup goaltenders with Khudobin (23 saves) facing your boy Jonathan Bernier (6-2-1) who finished with 31 saves.

Bruins captain Zdeno Chara blasted home a shot from the point at 12:07 of the first period. David Backes and Brad Marchand assisted on Chara's second goal of the season (his 1st goal in 22 games and 1st point in 8 games). Only 13 seconds later, Austin Czarnik doubled Boston's advantage with a one-timer from Ryan Spooner and Riley Nash. The rookie has slowly started to find his legs in the NHL with two goals and two assists in the last six games. It turned into video game hockey as Andrew Cogliano cut it to 2-1 just 24 seconds after Czarnik's strike. The three goals in 37 seconds was the most in a Bruins game since Boston and St. Louis combined for three in 34 seconds on Dec. 19, 1987. In truth, it was an own goal as Cogliano passed it to Jakob Silfverberg but the latter whiffed while David Krejci accidentally put it in his own goal. Woof.

Earlier in the frame, Khudobin had stopped a partial breakaway on Silfverberg but then Kevin Bieksa tied it up at two by jumping out of the penalty box and taking a stretch pass by Ryan Getzlaf (his 23rd assist, 2nd most in the NHL) before he beat Khudobin. Former Northeastern Husky Josh Manson went to the net and was rewarded with a juicy rebound right on his stick with Khudobin way out of position. His 1st goal of the season came 55 seconds into the second period with Silfverberg and Rickard Rakell picking up the assists. Krejci scored one for his team which was nice (his 6th of the season), depositing a power-play goal from Backes and Torey Krug at 2:06.

Rakell put in a rebound at 5:02 of the second period which turned out to be the game-winner. Sami Vatanen and Cam Fowler assisted on Rakell's 12th goal of the season (he was also named the 1st star of the game). The B's will have no practice tomorrow and then probably a light workout on Saturday before they host the Kings (15-12-2). Los Angeles is in Pittsburgh tomorrow night so unlike many of their recent contests, Boston will be waiting for someone to visit them rather than the other way around. Tonight's loss dropped them to under .500 at the Garden (7-8-0) in 2016-17. The Kings are hanging onto the second Wild Card spot in the Western Conference but without star goaltender Jonathan Quick (what up ZooMass?) out until March with a groin injury, it's doubtful that they'll be able to hang on to it. The B's will have to take advantage of playing a West Coast team on Sunday afternoon (1, NESN), granted the Kings' bodies should be used to the Eastern Time zone by then.





Saturday, December 10, 2016

B's Double Down On Their Bad Loss To Avs With an Equally Horrifying Loss to Wretched Leafs


Every game in the marathon known as the 82-game regular season of the NHL is for all intents and purposes worth the same: two points. However, that doesn't mean that they always feel like they have the same exact worth. If you beat a quality team or even get a point against them (think that 4-3 overtime loss to Washington on Wednesday), that is seen as a good thing. Conversely, when you lose to the dregs of the league, there is no putting lipstick on that pig. Boston (15-12-2) lost 4-2 to lowly Colorado (10-15-1) on Thursday which was depressing enough and they followed that up with another poopfest, a 4-1 setback to Toronto (11-10-5) tonight at TD Garden.

Along with their alarming lack of goal-scoring (outside of one David Pastrnak), Boston's latest issue has been allowing the first goal. They have done that in the last three games and in fact, they have been down 2-0 to the Capitals, Avalanche and Maple Leafs so it's no wonder that they only got one point out of a possible six points in that stretch. Boston outshot Toronto 11-2 in the first period (tied for the fewest shots they've allowed in a frame this season) but weren't able to find the back of the net. The Maple Leafs took a 1-0 lead 1:44 into the second period as American hero Auston Matthews (the No. 1 pick this past summer) beat Tuukka Rask (16 saves) top shelf. William Nylander had the assist on Matthews' 12th goal of the season (tied for the team-lead) after Pastrnak had turned over the puck in his own end.

Zach Hyman tipped in a floater from the point by Jake Gardiner, giving Toronto a 2-0 advantage at 15:14 of the second period. Former Bruins great Matt Hunwick had the second assist on Hyman's (tough name) fourth goal of the season. Unbeknownst to everyone in the world except his family and agent, Maple Leafs goaltender Frederik Andersen (32 saves) is now 6-0-0 in six career games against the B's. The good news for the Bruins is that if they get to the playoffs this spring, at least he won't be there. Brad Marchand cut it to 2-1 at 18:39 as he poked in a backhander after a scramble in front of Andersen. David Backes assisted on Marchand's eighth goal of the season. As Marchy noted after the game, they need to get more dirty goals like that to snap this team-wide scoring drought.

Former UNH star James van Riemsdyk put this one away with an acrobatic tip-in of his own at 9:52 of the third period to make it 3-1 in favor of the Leafs. Tyler Bozak made the play happen with a great backhand pass and JVR was out front to get just enough of it to sneak it by Rask. Hunwick picked up his second assist of the game (he had 4 in 17 games coming in) on van Riemsdyk's 12th goal of the season. Connor Brown's empty-netter at 18:27 gave us that gross final score.

On paper (and probably in real life as well), things don't figure to ease up for Boston this week as they go to Montreal (19-6-3) on Monday (7:30, NESN) and then Pittsburgh (18-7-3) on Wednesday (7:30, NBC Sports)-the two best teams in the Eastern Conference. They return to the Garden on Thursday (7, NESN) vs. Anaheim (14-9-5) and they host Los Angeles (14-11-2) on Sunday afternoon (1, NESN). Rask is due to win at the Bell Centre sometime soon, right? Maybe it'll be the old reverse lock against the Canadiens. The Bruins can't let this slide go on for very long or else they'll drop out of a playoff spot; it sounds silly but even this early in the season, it's hard to make up much ground when so many teams are in front of you.






Monday, December 5, 2016

David Pastrnak is Here to Save Us All from Another Season of Bruins Mediocrity


All night at TD Garden, the Bruins (15-10-1) couldn't shake the Panthers (12-11-3). Three different times Boston scored to take a temporary one-goal lead but each time Florida answered with a tying goal. Luckily for the B's and their fans, they employ David Pastrnak who you may have heard has morphed into one of the best goal-scorers in the NHL (see: his overtime goal that gave Boston a thrilling 4-3 win). Pasta had scored earlier in the contest to make it 2-1 and he potted the game-winner at 1:23 of overtime that will undoubtedly be in every highlight reel for awhile (not just hockey).

It was a big two points for the Bruins since the Panthers entered in a bit of a tailspin (after surprisingly firing head coach Gerard Gallant last weekend and replacing him with GM Tom Rowe). Moreover, with Roberto Luongo (9-8-1) in between the pipes for Florida, Boston had to take advantage of the same bozo from the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals vs. Vancouver. In 38 career games against the Bruins, Luongo fell to 15-17-1. Florida won the Atlantic Division last season but Boston still owns them (10-1-0 in their last 11 games in Boston and 15-2-1 in their last 18 games overall) dating back several years now.

After missing six games with a lower-body injury Bruins captain Zdeno Chara returned with a team-high 23:31 time on ice. There was plenty of action in the first period even though it looked like it would end 0-0. Former BC star Michael Matheson had a shorthanded bid stopped by Tuukka Rask (27 saves; 14-4-1). On the other end, Luongo robbed Ryan Spooner (the subject of trade rumors since he hasn't played well so far this season) with a ridiculous glove save. David Backes' one-timer from the doorstep hit Luongo in the chest and rookie Anton Blidh nearly nabbed his first NHL goal when he redirected Adam McQuaid's slap pass just wide. PC's Tim Schaller gave the B's a 1-0 lead at 18:32 (with his 4th goal of the season) when he one-timed a pass from David Krejci (who was stationed behind Florida's net).

The ageless wonder Jaromir Jagr tied it at 9:44 with a one-timer of his own. Florida's great young franchise defenseman Aaron Ekblad fed it to Jagr for his fifth goal of the season (and 754th all-time, 3rd most in NHL history). Pastrnak helped Boston regain a 2-1 lead at 16:37 with help from a slick feed by linemate Brad Marchand. Patrice Bergeron had the other assist on Pastrnak's 14th goal of the season (3rd most in the NHL). It was only a one-goal advantage but the team records were in Boston's favor after two periods: they were 11-0-0 when leading after two and Florida was 1-7-2 when trailing after two.

Obviously, that one-sided sample will change for the B's at some point and it appeared to be this evening as Alexander Barkov tied it at 7:54 of the third period. Patrice Bergeron turned the puck over in his own zone (something which hardly ever happens) and former teammate Reilly Smith was there to pass it to Barkov for an absolute snipe on Rask. Boston responded a little over five minutes later as Backes tipped in Spooner's shot from the half-wall for his seventh goal of the season. Luongo had just reached his bench when Jason Demers scored one last tally that knotted things at three. Matheson and Vincent Trocheck assisted on Demers' fourth goal of the season which came at 18:31 after a fortuitous bounce off the end boards came right to him and he was able to sneak it by Rask from a tough angle.

Pastrnak's goal in overtime as mentioned above was pure filth, some fine Bruins porn if you will. Krejci held the puck and waited for his fellow Czech to go out of the zone then come back in with speed so when he got the puck he was able to work it around Matheson and then Luongo who went down to the ice a bit early. Pastrnak was able to lift the puck with a forehand shot over Luongo as the Garden crowd exploded. Rookie Brandon Carlo had the second assist on Pastrnak's unforgettable strike (which tied his total goal output from last season).

This was the start of another busy week as Boston is at Washington (14-7-3) on Wednesday (8, NBC Sports) before they host Colorado (9-13-1) on Thursday (7, NESN) and Toronto (10-9-5) on Saturday night (7, NESN). The Capitals are still one of the top teams in the NHL and they always seem to give Boston a tough game, no surprise. The Bruins have won three games in a row and they extended their season-long point streak to five games (4-0-1). The Avalanche are currently in last-place in the Western Conference and the Maple Leafs as always are near the bottom in the East so those are two prime matchups for the B's to continue to bolster their home record (7-5-0). So far, this edition of the Bruins is playing moderately better on home ice, one of their main shortcomings that bit them in the ass last season.

Left wing Matt Beleskey is expected to miss the next six weeks after he hurt his right knee in Saturday's 2-1 win at Buffalo. He had gotten off to a crappy start (2 goals, 3 assists in 24 games) but Boston has very little depth at that particular position so it could be a sneaky important loss for the Black and Gold.












Thursday, December 1, 2016

B's Basically Steal Two Points from the Hurricanes With an Improbable 2-1 Shootout Victory


For almost 60 minutes tonight at TD Garden, the Bruins (13-10-1) and Hurricanes (9-9-5) played just about the most boring NHL game that you've ever seen. Then Teuvo Teravainen kicked the puck into his own net with 32 seconds left in regulation, giving the Bruins a much-deserved tying goal (they had 80 total shot attempts!). From there, they battled through a scoreless overtime (Carolina survived a hooking penalty on Viktor Stalberg) and at the end of it all, the B's managed to escape with a 2-1 shootout win after goals by Ryan Spooner and David Pastrnak.

Backup goaltender Anton Khudobin (1-3-0) earned the distinction of first Bruins goalie not named Tuukka Rask to earn a victory this season as he made 29 saves. The backups (Subban, McIntyre and him) had been 0-6-0 collectively before tonight. Haha is that bad? They might not have shown it for much of the contest but Boston still owns Carolina (7-0-3 in their last 10 games) including 5-0-2 in their last seven games here against the Hurricanes. One other note for the B's: this was the first time this season that they had rallied for two points after being down after two periods (they had been 0-8-1).

After losing at Philadelphia in a lengthy shootout on Tuesday (3-2), it figures that Boston had to decide things in their third shootout of this campaign. Carolina outshot Boston 12-10 in the first period but neither punchless offense could find the back of the net. Former BC star (and Norwood, MA native) Noah Hanifin once again had a good performance in his hometown as he gave Carolina a 1-0 lead with a power-play goal at 7:37 of the second period. His shot from the point found a hole through traffic with Jeff Skinner and Derek Ryan notching assists on Hanifin's second goal of the season (he has 2 goals, 2 assists and a shootout winner in his 4 NHL games here).

Boston was lifeless for most of the first two periods and the fans even booed them early in the third (totally within their right after paying for that garbage) when they were on a fruitless power-play. Eventually they flipped that proverbial switch with some serious pressure on Cam Ward (34 saves; 7-8-3). Carolina's No. 1 penalty kill unit in the league acquitted themselves well (4-for-4) so the Bruins ended up scoring their lone goal after they had pulled Khudobin for the extra attacker. Torey Krug took the shot from the point and David Backes created some chaos in front of the net which in turn forced Teravainen to freak out and kick the puck like a soccer player. Haha or something like that. Krug's second goal of the season extended his point-streak to three games (1 goal, 4 assists) while David Pastrnak (9 goals, 2 assists in his last 13 games) and David Krejci (3-game point streak with 1 goal and 2 assists) had the helpers.

The B's dominated in overtime as well, outshooting the Hurricanes 6-2 but they still couldn't find the ocean with their shots. Hat tip to Khudobin for stopping Skinner on two breakaway attempts (a 3-on-0 in the second period then a more usual vintage in the extra session). After Tuesday's shootout lasted nine tedious rounds (Boston was 1-for-9), it was nice that the home team decided things with only needing their first three shooters. Something called Jaccob Slavin scored for Carolina in the first round but Khudobin stepped up with stops on Hanifin and Skinner to mercifully end it. Surprisingly, only Brad Marchand failed to score of Boston's three shooters.

The Bruins know that they were lucky to walk away with two points after such a pathetic showing in so many ways. They are at Buffalo (9-9-5) on Saturday afternoon (1, NESN) as they get their first look at former BU star (and Chelmsford, MA native) Jack Eichel who made his season debut this week after missing tons of time with a severe ankle sprain. The Sabres are improving but that's another club the Bruins own. For the B's there are very few givens anymore left in the NHL so when they meet them, they need to find a way to get a win no matter what. Tuukka Rask has to sleep a little easier tonight knowing that hopefully he won't be run into the ground as Khudobin begins to prove once again that he's a capable backup on a decent team.


Sunday, November 27, 2016

Hell Freezes Over (Again): Jimmy Hayes Scores His 1st Goal for the Bruins In 2016-17


Coming in on a three-game losing streak (outscored 9-4 in the process) and with captain Zdeno Chara gleefully cheering from the press box (more on that later), the Bruins (12-10-0) desperately needed a victory on Sunday afternoon at TD Garden vs. the Lightning (13-9-1). Surprisingly enough they got it in pretty easy fashion, 4-1, with even Jimmy Hayes finding the back of the net for the home team. Boston opened up a scoreless affair with a trio of goals in the second period and capped it off with one more in the third period before Tampa Bay avoided the shutout with a Victor Hedman goal in garbage time (that deflected in off a Bruins skate).

Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask (30 saves, 12-4-0) has been superb all season but the funny part is this marked the fourth time already that he's lost a shutout with less than five minutes left in regulation (11/1 at Florida, 11/17 at Minnesota, 11/19 vs. Winnipeg). He's been by far Boston's best player and he's reclaimed his spot as one of the top goalies in the NHL but it just goes to show you how thin the margin is for the upper echelon players like himself.

Things weren't nearly as enjoyable for Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop (26 saves, 7-8-0) who fell to 4-5-3 in his career against Boston. Dominic Moore (read my feature about him in tomorrow's edition of Metro Boston!) continued to rack up goals at a crazy pace (at least for him). Colin Miller (who made his return for the 1st time in 2 weeks) chipped a puck into Tampa Bay's zone that Moore chopped out of mid-air for his sixth goal of the season at 2:24 of the second period. Ryan Spooner also assisted on Moore's goal which tied him with Brad Marchand for second on the team in goals and matched his entire total from all of last season with the Rangers.

At weekend afternoon contests, you don't expect to see much action but this game was a pleasant surprise in that regard. These teams clearly don't like each other as you could see late in the first period when lightweights Torey Krug and Nikita Kucherov fought each other. There were also plenty of skirmishes after the whistle all game long. Additionally, the Bruins potted a few pretty goals which for them is a big accomplishment in many ways. David Backes scored on a rare double deflection from Patrice Bergeron and Torey Krug at 12:30 of the second period. It was Backes' fifth goal of the season and it gave Boston a 2-0 lead.

You know that it was the Bruins' day when Hayes scored his first goal of the season at 17:33 of the second for a 3-0 Boston advantage. Not only was it his first point of the season (in 20 games!) but dating back to last season, his first goal in 36 games. Seriously, when you are a 6-foot-5 forward in the NHL how is that remotely possible? Anywho, Chara happened to be next to me in the press box at the time (waiting to go downstairs to the locker room between periods) and like when a little kid that stinks at sports does something positive, Chara started clapping like a Little League dad or soccer mom when Jimmy got the proverbial monkey off his back (props to him for celebrating by throwing said monkey to the rafters).

Even for this limited offensive group, David Pastrnak just can't stop scoring goals. He threw the puck at the net in the third period and it deflected off a Lightning player past Bishop. Krug and Marchand assisted on Pastrnak's team-leading 13th goal of the season (2nd most in the NHL behind Sidney Crosby). Pasta has 10 points (9 goals, 1 assist) in his last 10 games. Is that good?

As weeks go in the NHL, this upcoming one doesn't look too daunting on paper for the Black and Gold: they are at the Flyers (9-10-3) on Tuesday (7:30, NESN, they host the Hurricanes (8-8-4) on Thursday (7, NESN) and go to Buffalo (7-9-5) next Saturday afternoon (1, NESN)-their second of 13 matinees this season. They have been a good road team so far this season (7-5-0) and whatever shape that they're in health-wise (John-Michael Liles left in the 1st period today with what looked like a concussion), I still expect them to beat the dregs of the Eastern Conference like those three blah opponents.



Friday, November 25, 2016

Bruins Drop Their Third Straight Game as Their Goal-Scoring Has Gone Mostly Missing


Playing their third game in four nights (including a game on Thanksgiving for the 1st time since 1989) and on the second half of a back-to-back, the Bruins (11-10-0) looked predictably tired to start tonight's game vs. Calgary (10-12-1) at TD Garden. Still the Bruins got better as the time went by yet they found themselves on the wrong end of a 2-1 loss. It's been a rough week as they have lost their captain Zdeno Chara (lower-body injury) on Tuesday vs. St. Louis and now three straight contests. Boston had been 6-0-3 against Calgary in their last nine games with the last regulation loss coming way back on October 30, 2008.

Returning from injury and a rehab stint in Providence, backup goaltender Anton Khudobin (27 saves, 0-3-0) made his first start for Boston since October 22 (4-2 loss vs. Montreal) but he couldn't grab the first win by a Bruins goalie not named Tuukka Rask (11-4-0) of this entire campaign. Khudobin, Malcolm Subban and Zane McIntyre have combined to go 0-6-0 in 2016-17, is that bad? More relevant at the moment is the alarming lack of goal-scoring by the B's, after all they have been outscored 9-4 in this slide against the Blues, Senators and Flames (only 1 good team in that bunch).

It was a weird night what with former Bruins backup goaltender Chad Johnson (35 saves, 7-3-1) getting the first star of the game (he's won 5 of his last 6 starts and playing the best hockey of his NHL career) and something called Sam Bennett picking up two points. Oh and former BU star Alex Chiasson (who hadn't registered a point in 9 games) provided the game-winning goal. Did I mention that the horrorshow defensive pairing of Kevan Miller and Joe Morrow was on the ice for both Calgary goals? Me thinks that those bozos won't be together for too much longer, hopefully.

After a blocked shot in their own defensive zone, the Flames got a semi-breakaway that was finished by Bennett at 8:36 of the first period. Matt Stajan and T.J. Brodie assisted on Bennett's fifth goal of the season (his 1st point in 10 games). Boston had four of the five power plays of the night but sadly they weren't able to take advantage of any of them. Their only guy that can consistently find the back of the net this season-David Pastrnak-fittingly tied it at one at 5:55 of the third period. After sustained pressure on a power play, he was able to knock in a rebound with plenty of traffic in front. Tim Schaller and John-Michael Liles (celebrating his 34th birthday today) assisted on his team-leading 12th goal of the season (tied for 2nd most in the NHL).

Barely more than a minute later (1:10 after it to be exact), Chiasson roofed it past Khudobin after a sweet backhand no-look pass by Bennett from behind Boston's net. Flames captain Mark Giordano had the second assist on Chiasson's third goal of the season. Jimmy Hayes is still stuck on zero points in 19 games (don't ask me how that's possible) but at least he dropped the gloves tonight and got in a instant classic brawl with Maine native Garnet Hathaway. Just kidding, they spun around for what seemed like an eternity then Hayes basically gave Hathaway a rock bottom to drop him to the ice. Woo, good times.

You know that Rask will be back in net on Sunday afternoon (1, NESN) as the B's host the Lightning (13-8-1). It promises to be a pretty dead atmosphere on an NFL Sunday although the Patriots-Jets game starts at 4:25 p.m. Needless to say Boston could really use a win at this point, no matter how it transpires. Don't expect to see Chara back anytime soon although we still have no real idea what the big man is dealing with in terms of an injury. Without him in the lineup, the team hasn't been nearly the same group that they were through the first 18 games where they got off to a better than expected beginning.






Bruins Drop Their Third Straight Game as Their Goal-Scoring Has Gone Mostly Missing


Playing their third game in four nights (including a game on Thanksgiving for the 1st time since 1989) and on the second half of a back-to-back, the Bruins (11-10-0) looked predictably tired to start tonight's game vs. Calgary (10-12-1) at TD Garden. Still the Bruins got better as the time went by yet they found themselves on the wrong end of a 2-1 loss. It's been a rough week as they have lost their captain Zdeno Chara (lower-body injury) on Tuesday vs. St. Louis and now three straight contests. Boston had been 6-0-3 against Calgary in their last nine games with the last regulation loss coming way back on October 30, 2008.

Returning from injury and a rehab stint in Providence, backup goaltender Anton Khudobin (27 saves, 0-3-0) made his first start for Boston since October 22 (4-2 loss vs. Montreal) but he couldn't grab the first win by a Bruins goalie not named Tuukka Rask (11-4-0) of this entire campaign. Khudobin, Malcolm Subban and Zane McIntyre have combined to go 0-6-0 in 2016-17, is that bad? More relevant at the moment is the alarming lack of goal-scoring by the B's, after all they have been outscored 9-4 in this slide against the Blues, Senators and Flames (only 1 good team in that bunch).

It was a weird night what with former Bruins backup goaltender Chad Johnson (35 saves, 7-3-1) getting the first star of the game (he's won 5 of his last 6 starts and playing the best hockey of his NHL career) and something called Sam Bennett picking up two points. Oh and former BU star Alex Chiasson (who hadn't registered a point in 9 games) provided the game-winning goal. Did I mention that the horrorshow defensive pairing of Kevan Miller and Joe Morrow was on the ice for both Calgary goals? Me thinks that those bozos won't be together for too much longer, hopefully.

After a blocked shot in their own defensive zone, the Flames got a semi-breakaway that was finished by Bennett at 8:36 of the first period. Matt Stajan and T.J. Brodie assisted on Bennett's fifth goal of the season (his 1st point in 10 games). Boston had four of the five power plays of the night but sadly they weren't able to take advantage of any of them. Their only guy that can consistently find the back of the net this season-David Pastrnak-fittingly tied it at one at 5:55 of the third period. After sustained pressure on a power play, he was able to knock in a rebound with plenty of traffic in front. Tim Schaller and John-Michael Liles (celebrating his 34th birthday today) assisted on his team-leading 12th goal of the season (tied for 2nd most in the NHL).

Barely more than a minute later (1:10 after it to be exact), Chiasson roofed it past Khudobin after a sweet backhand no-look pass by Bennett from behind Boston's net. Flames captain Mark Giordano had the second assist on Chiasson's third goal of the season. Jimmy Hayes is still stuck on zero points in 19 games (don't ask me how that's possible) but at least he dropped the gloves tonight and got in a instant classic brawl with Maine native Garnet Hathaway. Just kidding, they spun around for what seemed like an eternity then Hayes basically gave Hathaway a rock bottom to drop him to the ice. Woo, good times.

You know that Rask will be back in net on Sunday afternoon (1, NESN) as the B's host the Lightning (13-8-1). It promises to be a pretty dead atmosphere on an NFL Sunday although the Patriots-Jets game starts at 4:25 p.m. Needless to say Boston could really use a win at this point, no matter how it transpires. Don't expect to see Chara back anytime soon although we still have no real idea what the big man is dealing with in terms of an injury. Without him in the lineup, the team hasn't been nearly the same group that they were through the first 18 games where they got off to a better than expected beginning.






Bruins Drop Their Third Straight Game as Their Goal-Scoring Has Gone Mostly Missing


Playing their third game in four nights (including a game on Thanksgiving for the 1st time since 1989) and on the second half of a back-to-back, the Bruins (11-10-0) looked predictably tired to start tonight's game vs. Calgary (10-12-1) at TD Garden. Still the Bruins got better as the time went by yet they found themselves on the wrong end of a 2-1 loss. It's been a rough week as they have lost their captain Zdeno Chara (lower-body injury) on Tuesday vs. St. Louis and now three straight contests. Boston had been 6-0-3 against Calgary in their last nine games with the last regulation loss coming way back on October 30, 2008.

Returning from injury and a rehab stint in Providence, backup goaltender Anton Khudobin (27 saves, 0-3-0) made his first start for Boston since October 22 (4-2 loss vs. Montreal) but he couldn't grab the first win by a Bruins goalie not named Tuukka Rask (11-4-0) of this entire campaign. Khudobin, Malcolm Subban and Zane McIntyre have combined to go 0-6-0 in 2016-17, is that bad? More relevant at the moment is the alarming lack of goal-scoring by the B's, after all they have been outscored 9-4 in this slide against the Blues, Senators and Flames (only 1 good team in that bunch).

It was a weird night what with former Bruins backup goaltender Chad Johnson (35 saves, 7-3-1) getting the first star of the game (he's won 5 of his last 6 starts and playing the best hockey of his NHL career) and something called Sam Bennett picking up two points. Oh and former BU star Alex Chiasson (who hadn't registered a point in 9 games) provided the game-winning goal. Did I mention that the horrorshow defensive pairing of Kevan Miller and Joe Morrow was on the ice for both Calgary goals? Me thinks that those bozos won't be together for too much longer, hopefully.

After a blocked shot in their own defensive zone, the Flames got a semi-breakaway that was finished by Bennett at 8:36 of the first period. Matt Stajan and T.J. Brodie assisted on Bennett's fifth goal of the season (his 1st point in 10 games). Boston had four of the five power plays of the night but sadly they weren't able to take advantage of any of them. Their only guy that can consistently find the back of the net this season-David Pastrnak-fittingly tied it at one at 5:55 of the third period. After sustained pressure on a power play, he was able to knock in a rebound with plenty of traffic in front. Tim Schaller and John-Michael Liles (celebrating his 34th birthday today) assisted on his team-leading 12th goal of the season (tied for 2nd most in the NHL).

Barely more than a minute later (1:10 after it to be exact), Chiasson roofed it past Khudobin after a sweet backhand no-look pass by Bennett from behind Boston's net. Flames captain Mark Giordano had the second assist on Chiasson's third goal of the season. Jimmy Hayes is still stuck on zero points in 19 games (don't ask me how that's possible) but at least he dropped the gloves tonight and got in a instant classic brawl with Maine native Garnet Hathaway. Just kidding, they spun around for what seemed like an eternity then Hayes basically gave Hathaway a rock bottom to drop him to the ice. Woo, good times.

You know that Rask will be back in net on Sunday afternoon (1, NESN) as the B's host the Lightning (13-8-1). It promises to be a pretty dead atmosphere on an NFL Sunday although the Patriots-Jets game starts at 4:25 p.m. Needless to say Boston could really use a win at this point, no matter how it transpires. Don't expect to see Chara back anytime soon although we still have no real idea what the big man is dealing with in terms of an injury. Without him in the lineup, the team hasn't been nearly the same group that they were through the first 18 games where they got off to a better than expected beginning.






Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Bruins Fall to Their Western Conference Clones-the Blues-and Lose Chara to an Undisclosed Injury


Former Blues captain David Backes met his old NHL team for the first time this evening as his Bruins (11-8-0) fell 4-2 to St. Louis (11-6-3) at TD Garden. Boston mustered 41 shots on goal but the combination of Jake Allen's quality start (39 saves) and a lack of scoring touch by the B's meant that it was a frustrating night for the Black and Gold. More worrisome, Bruins captain Zdeno Chara left after skating only one shift in the second period and never returned (head coach Claude Julien had no injury update after the game). Apparently he was hit by Jaden Schwartz which might have caused the departure but honestly, I didn't see it. So I guess we'll have to hold our breath on that until we hear more information from either the Bruins or more likely the most connected NHL reporters (Bob McKenzie, Darren Dreger, Pierre LeBrun, etc).

As is usually the case with these very identical clubs, they combined to produce an entertaining tilt. Backes actually gave Boston a 1-0 lead at 7:44 of the first period with a power-play goal. He tipped in Torey Krug's shot from the point and the puck just got over the line (under Allen's leg pads). Backes' fourth goal of the season was also assisted by David Krejci who now has seven points (1 goal, 6 assists) in his last six games. There were two noteworthy milestones on that tally: it was the 20,000 career goal in Bruins franchise history (only Montreal had reached that before them) and the 100th career NHL assist for Krug.

Both times that the B's took a lead in this game, the Blues responded like you would expect from a good team (despite their 2-5-1 road record coming in). Jori Lehtera tied it at one at 3:23 of the second period. He tipped in Colton Parayko's bullet past Tuukka Rask (24 saves) with Vladimir Tarasenko notching the other helper. Who has been a more pleasant surprise early on this season for the Bruins (given their respective expectations) than Dominic Moore? The former Harvard star made it 2-1 Boston at 8:59 with a gorgeous shorthanded strike. Riley Nash found him for a breakaway and he was able to lift a forehand shot over Allen's glove for his fifth goal of the season (he had 6 all of last season) and second shorthanded marker (which ties a career-high from 2 years ago with the Rangers).

Rask wasn't his normally locked in self from 2016-17 as he let up a pair of juicy rebounds which wouldn't you know it both came back to bite his team (no pun intended). Robert Bortuzzo tied it at two just five minutes later as Rask basically handed the puck right to him and the clunky defenseman was able to slide in a backhander. Patrik Berglund and Parayko assisted on Bortuzzo's first goal of the season. 2:12 after that, Paul Stasny scored what turned out to be the game-winning goal as once again Rask laid a puck out in a dangerous area on a silver Thanksgiving serving tray. Stasny's fifth goal of the season was assisted by Jaden Schwartz and the huge bust known as Nail Yakupov.

Boston came out with renewed energy in the third period and outshot St. Louis 17-7 but they couldn't find that all-important tying goal on Allen. Rask was pulled with 1:48 left in regulation and a face-off in the Blues' defensive zone. Lehtera put it in the win column via an empty-net goal at 18:44. David Perron and Berglund had the assists on Lehtera's second goal of the contest.

It promises to be a weird couple days for the Bruins, especially for the few Americans on the team, as they have a meeting with the Senators (11-7-1) on Thursday night (7:30, NESN). I've been lucky enough to cover the B's for five seasons and obviously I am a life-long fan but I can't ever recall them playing on Thanksgiving. The usual script is flipped too in the sense that they usually have the afternoon matinee on Black Friday at the Garden with the Celtics getting the nightcap. This time around, the Celts host San Antonio in the first game (1, CSN) followed by the Bruins hosting the Flames (8-12-1) that night (7:30, NESN).

I probably won't write anything until Friday so Happy Thanksgiving everybody, hope you have a wonderful day with your family and friends!



Saturday, November 19, 2016

Bruins Skate to Just About the Easiest 4-1 Win that You've Ever Seen, Apparently Against the Jets


I'm told that Saturday night there were two NHL teams competing at TD Garden but from what I saw there was only one. Boston (11-7-0) beat Winnipeg (9-9-2) 4-1 which doesn't even do it justice since the Jets managed only 12 shots on goal (!) for the entire contest. That was the fewest that the B's had allowed since Nov. 24, 2001 (Toronto) and the fewest that an opponent had here since way back on Jan. 12, 1981 (Minnesota). We'll forgive Tuukka Rask (11 saves, 11-2-0) for not getting a shutout since he probably fell asleep in the crease multiple times. Boston picked up its third straight win at home which seems like way more than that if you remember how wretched they were at the Garden last season.

Boston outshot Winnipeg 14-4 in the first period and even had a two-man advantage for 33 seconds but the Jets escaped with a scoreless frame. They weren't so lucky in the second period as the Bruins blitzed them with three goals. Matt Beleskey scored on a one-timer (his 2nd goal of the season) from Joe Morrow and Dominic Moore at 2:01. Brad Marchand notched his sixth goal of the season at 11:37 after captain Zdeno Chara hit him with a perfect stretch pass off the boards. Marchand lost the puck for a split-second as he went from forehand to his backhand around former Bruin Michael Hutchinson (34 saves) but he was able to recover in time to sweep it in the corner of the net. The B's put it out of reach with Patrice Bergeron's power play goal at 17:00. The one-timer was Bergeron's third goal of the season (snapping a 6-game scoreless stretch) and it came on another 5-on-3 advantage, assisted by David Krejci and Chara.

The Jets hardly ever showed any life, as evidenced by the fact that they didn't record their 10th shot on goal until there was less than nine minutes left in regulation. They were somehow fooled again by another stretch pass as Torey Krug found Tim Schaller at 1:41 of the third period for a 4-0 lead. Schaller's third goal of the season was also assisted by Austin Czarnik. If Rask could have recorded another shutout, he would have been tied with Minnesota's Devan Dubnyk for the NHL lead. Instead, he'll have to settle for tied with Montreal's Carey Price for the most wins in the league. Your boy Adam Lowry displayed a sliver of pride for Winnipeg as he banged in a loose puck at 17:20. Rookie phenom Patrik Laine and Toby Enstrom each assisted on Lowry's fifth goal of the season.

The B's got back over .500 at home this season (4-3-0) and they'll hope to keep that rolling as they host the Blues (10-6-3) on Tuesday (7, NESN), the Flames (7-11-1) on Friday (7:30, NESN) and the Lightning (12-6-1) in next Sunday's matinee (1, NESN). Keep in mind between passing out in food coma glee on Thanksgiving night that the Bruins will be in Ottawa (10-7-1) that evening (7:30, NESN) to entertain us all. What says Happy Thanksgiving more than a game against the Senators? The meetings with St. Louis are always rare but usually solid (since they play very similar styles) plus this will be the first time that former Blues captain David Backes plays against his old team so that'll be interesting.




Thursday, November 10, 2016

Did You Really Think That the Bruins Would Lose at TD Garden During Military Appreciation Night?


I think that we all could get used to this. For the second game in a row, Boston (8-6) notched an easy two points at home. This evening was Military Appreciation Night at TD Garden-always one of the best events of the entire season-so it was great to see the Bruins play well in front of so many deserving veterans and their wonderful families. Columbus (6-4-2) actually scored first but the B's rattled off the next five goals (including 4 in the first period in a span of 4:01) to roll to a 5-2 win.

Coming off a tough 3-2 loss at Montreal (12-1-1) on Tuesday, I'm going to pretend that nothing else notable happened that night in a certain presidential election, Tuukka Rask (15 saves, 8-1-0) was back in goal and life was good for the Black and Gold. The same couldn't be said for poor Sergei Bobrovsky (5 saves) who gave up four goals before he was pulled just 12:48 into the proceedings. The Blue Jackets surprisingly boast the top-ranked power play in the NHL and No. 2 penalty kill unit so the Bruins were happy to keep it mostly to a 5-on-5 contest with only three penalties called on the home team all game.

Alexander Wennberg stole the puck along the boards in Boston's end and fed Nick Foligno for Columbus' opening tally at 2:29. Foligno's goal was his fifth of the season and Wennberg is now the NHL leader with 13 assists (who knew?). Torey Krug finally broke his dry spell with his first goal of the season at 8:47 which tied things at one. His shot from the point deflected off Blue Jackets defenseman Ryan Murray and it was assisted by the Davids (Krejci and Backes). 1:08 after that, Matt Beleskey also got off the goal-scoring schneid as his linemate Austin Czarnik capitalized on a Columbus turnover and fed him for a slap shot that Bobrovsky could only get a piece of.

The rookie Czarnik's speed was on full display as he scored his second NHL goal at 12:24. Beleskey had chipped it in the zone to Riley Nash who hit Czarnik for a 2-on-1 one-timer that he buried. 24 seconds after that, PC's Tim Schaller roofed a sweet backhander from in close (that had to be reviewed since it hit the camera in the net and popped out) which ended Bobrovsky's night for good. Dominic Moore (who was 13-3 on faceoffs as well) assisted on Schaller's second goal as a Bruin.

Backes made it 5-1 in favor of the B's in the second period at 11:51. His one-timer (his 3rd goal of the season) was assisted by Krejci and Ryan Spooner. The last Blue Jackets goal was something straight out of the soccer world as Colin Miller managed to stickhandle the puck right past Rask and into his own net at 8:40 of the third period. Undoubtedly, Sam Gagner was credited with the easiest goal (his 4th of the season) of his life.

Stop me if you've heard this before but the Bruins are headed back out on the road, a three-game road trip to be exact. This means that 11 of their first 17 games will be away from home. The good news is that in this limited sample size so far, they still look like a decent road team (5-3-0) while their next two contests this weekend are against the worst squads in the Western Conference: Arizona and Colorado are both 5-7-0. They are at the Coyotes on Saturday night (8, NESN) and then the Avalanche on Sunday night (7, NESN) before going to Minnesota (7-4-1) next Thursday (8, NESN). Their next home game isn't until Saturday, November 19 (7, NESN) vs. Winnipeg (6-7-1).


Monday, November 7, 2016

Between Tough Games (Rangers & Canadiens), B's Take Care of Business Against the Depleted Sabres


Coming off a dispiriting 5-2 loss to the Rangers (10-3-0) on Saturday, the Bruins (7-5-0) needed an easy win tonight and that's exactly what they got as they disposed of the shorthanded Sabres (5-5-2) 4-0 at TD Garden. With the Canadiens (10-1-1) looming tomorrow night, I'm not quite sure why he started but Tuukka Rask (7-1-0) made 32 mostly routine saves for his second shutout of the season and 32nd of his NHL career (moving him ahead of Tim Thomas for 3rd place in franchise history). Meanwhile head coach Claude Julien continued to extend his franchise record by grabbing his 400th win as Bruins head coach.

There were a couple very promising developments for the B's besides the two points: their power play which had been wretched all season (3-for-38) but this evening they went 3-for-8. Also, David Krejci and Riley Nash scored their first goals of the season, Matt Beleskey had an assist (his 1st point of the season) and a fight while David Pastrnak (1 goal, 1 assist) continued to score at an amazing clip (12 points in 10 games). Minus probably their three best players-BU's Jack Eichel, Evander Kane and Zach Bogosian-Buffalo was not nearly at full strength.

Dominic Moore somehow completely missed the net when he was wide open for a few seconds right in front of it so the game was scoreless after one period. The action thankfully picked up in the second period as the Bruins crafted possibly their best frame of this young season. They blitzed Buffalo with three goals in a less than 10-minute span. Brad Marchand's shot squeaked by Robin Lehner (38 saves) at 5:44 for his fifth goal of the season (4-game point streak), assisted by Pastrnak and Beleskey. Coming off hip surgery over the summer, Krejci has predictably started off slowly so it was nice to see him hammer in a one-timer from Torey Krug and Ryan Spooner at 10:12 for another power-play goal (Boston was 5-on-3 for 2:34). For a second it looked like Beleskey finally got a goal of his own but Nash's centering pass actually bounced in off a Sabres skate, that made it 3-0 Bruins at 14:41.

After being a healthy scratch last Thursday at Tampa Bay, Beleskey has responded with two good performances in a row capped off by his best game thus far (clearly not saying much). You can never question his toughness or desire to win as he stood up for Marchand after the latter was cross-checked into Buffalo's net. Beleskey dropped the gloves for a short scrap with some guy named Derek Grant. Less than a minute later, Pastrnak put it on ice (terrible pun totally intended) by putting in a juicy rebound on the doorstep. It was his team-leading eighth goal of the season (he's scored a goal in 4 straight games) with rookie Austin Czarnik picking up his first career NHL assist and John-Michael Liles notching his third helper of the season.

The Canadiens have been playing like the best team in the NHL, except from their bizarre 10-0 loss to Columbus (5-3-2) on Friday, and we all know how much the B's typically struggle against their most heated rival. It feels like Boston bungled things by having Rask start tonight since he's dealing with an injury (hamstring, groin?) that has already caused him to miss multiple games this campaign. Would they dare stick rookie Zane McIntyre in goal for only his second NHL start at the Bell Centre? Either way, it's probably a moot point since the Bruins seemingly never play well up there. If you need an escape from the relentless presidential election coverage tomorrow, check out B's-Habs starting at 7:30 p.m. on NESN. No matter your political beliefs, hating on the loathsome Canadiens will never go out of style.


Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Can Anyone Play Goaltender for the Bruins Tomorrow Night at Madison Square Garden?


It didn't all happen at once but between injuries to goaltenders Tuukka Rask (general soreness, day-to-day) and Anton Khudobin (upper-body, out 3 weeks) over the last few days, this left the Bruins (3-3-0) in quite a predicament. Tonight, they were forced to suit up both of their Providence Bruins (AHL) goaltenders-Malcolm Subban (13 saves, 3 goals allowed) and Zane McIntyre (15 saves, 2 goals allowed)-against a decent Wild (4-2-1) team at TD Garden with predictable results: an embarrassing 5-0 Minnesota victory that was as ugly as you'll ever see in an NHL regular season game on home ice.

Like a fateful David Price start in the MLB playoffs, you quickly wondered why we ever thought for a second that maybe the B's could squeak out a point or two tonight. Subban, their terrible first-round pick from 2012 (24th overall) made his second NHL start and just like the last time in St. Louis (spring 2015), he was pathetically pulled in the second period. Where did it all go so wrong for Malcolm? It was 0-0 after a dull first period (save for a brief mauling of one Zac Dalpe by PC's own Tim Schaller). It all began when BU's Charlie Coyle managed to get a weak shot through traffic that Subban (who probably didn't see it) couldn't stop. Coyle's third goal of the season came at 5:07, assisted by Nino Niederreiter and Eric Staal. 12 seconds later Chris Stewart banged in the puck that came shooting out to him in front of Boston's goal, it had deflected off of Patrice Bergeron's skate. Stewart's second goal of the season was assisted by Joel Eriksson Ek and Jason Zucker.

Subban's night was prematurely over after he gave up the softest goal of the trio: Ryan Suter floated a one-timer by his glove (which seemed to be in the proper position). Suter's second goal of the season was assisted by Matt Dumba and Mikael Granlund at 10:36. McIntyre's first NHL appearance (in a regular season game) was a strange one and he didn't have that much more success although down 3-0 with a lifeless team in front of him (no David Backes either), what did you realistically expect? Boston's defense let Zucker park in front of McIntyre where he tipped in Suter's shot from the point. Eriksson Ek had the other helper on Zucker's first tally of the season.

If you were hoping for any kind of spark for the Bruins to build on from the third period, it wasn't your night. At least they showed some balls when Torey Krug stuck up for Noel Acciari who had been boarded by Dalpe. Former Sabre Jason Pominville deposited a rebound after McIntyre made an initial quality save on Eriksson Ek. Pominville's second goal of the season rounded out the scoring mercifully at 15:12 (by that time the Garden was so empty, on Hockey Fights Cancer night no less) with the other assist credited to Zucker.

Along with these key injuries that have piled up recently, the B's have no luck from the schedule as tonight kicked off their first of 14 sets of back-to-back games. Tomorrow is Rivalry Night on NBCSN so the entire hockey world will get to see another potential disaster as the Rangers (4-2-0) host the Bruins in primetime (8 pm). I suppose the team doesn't have a choice but to start Subban again for fear of losing him mentally if they started McIntyre over him. Then again, barring the return of Tim Thomas or some other Bruins legend from the past, it's tough to see a much different outcome playing out in the Big Apple. All we can hope is that Rask's injury is not that serious; obviously if it is, the front office can't sit by idly and watch all those points get flushed down the Black and Gold toilet.


Saturday, October 22, 2016

Bruins Fall 4-2 to the Canadiens in their First Meeting of the Season


We are nowhere close to being sure if the Canadiens (4-0-1) are a quality team in 2016-17 but this much is true: they are better than the assorted slop that the Bruins (3-2-0) faced in their first four games of this campaign (Columbus, Toronto, Winnipeg and New Jersey). Many of the names and faces have changed but in this opening installment of Bruins-Canadiens, Boston was no match for Montreal as they lost 4-2 at TD Garden. Tuukka Rask (general soreness) was surprisingly out for the B's but backup goaltender Anton Khudobin (25 saves) did the best he could on short notice, frankly his teammates let him down for the most part. Oh and Montreal improved to 7-0-2 in their last nine regular season games in Boston, yeesh!

Carey Price (19 saves) didn't need to be anywhere near his best since Boston only managed 21 shots on goal in the entire contest. After a scoreless first period, Montreal potted a pair of goals midway through the second. Brad Marchand's brother from another mother Brendan Gallagher made it 1-0 Canadiens at 11:41. He was left wide open above a face-off circle to fire an easy one-timer from Max Pacioretty and Alex Galchenyuk for his third goal of the season. Something named Phillip Danault doubled Montreal's lead at 17:44 when he finished a 2-on-1 from Alexander Radulov for his first goal of the season. Greg Pateryn notched the second helper on the goal that came courtesy of the Bruins getting caught up ice.

The Bruins trailed 2-0 going into the third but thankfully, they woke up a bit thanks to another goal from their fourth line that has already shown some nice chemistry early on. Harvard's Dominic Moore got the goal, assisted by my PC guys Tim Schaller and Noel Acciari. Moore's second tally of the season came at 5:34 to cut it to 2-1 Canadiens. Montreal didn't give Boston much of a sniff at a comeback attempt though as "Lord" Paul Byron broke free for a shorthanded breakaway and goal less than two minutes later at 7:32. Shea Weber (who you might have heard was traded straight up for P.K. Subban over the summer with Nashville) banked the pass to him off the boards that eluded Torey Krug pinching in at Montreal's offensive zone. Andrei Markov had the second assist on Byron's first goal of the season.

Boston's scuffling power play (2 for 20) finally came through 37 seconds after Byron's backbreaking goal as Ryan Spooner (who for some reason was a healthy scratch on Thursday vs. the Devils) hammered in a one-timer from David Backes' sweet cross-crease sauce. David Krejci had the other assist on Spooner's first goal of the season. The B's put some pressure on the Habs for a few minutes when it was a one-goal game but yet again, their suspect defense fell apart when UVM's Torrey Mitchell stole the puck from Joe Morrow and put it past Khudobin with a beautiful diving shot (while he got a high stick in the face by Morrow for his troubles).

This inaugural three-game homestand ends on Tuesday night (7, NESN) as the Bruins host the Wild (3-1-1). Minnesota is at the Islanders (2-3-0) tomorrow night but at the moment, they are in first-place in the Central Division. Unless it's something really serious, you'd have to think that Rask will be back for that one. Following that matchup, Boston heads out on a four-game road trip (Rangers, Red Wings, Panthers and Lightning) that promises to be much more difficult than their first trip. Plus those are all Eastern Conference foes that they'll be seeing plenty of from now until April and hopefully beyond.




Thursday, October 20, 2016

Unlike Last Season, Bruins Decide to Actually Win Their Home Opener 2-1 vs. Devils


The Bruins (3-1-0) continued their promising start to the 2016-17 season as they beat the Devils (1-2-1) 2-1 tonight at TD Garden in their home opener. While the teams that they've beaten so far are not exactly Cup contenders (Blue Jackets, Jets and Devils), anything is better than their horrid 0-3 start last year (all blowout home games). Patrice Bergeron played his first contest of this campaign (after nursing a minor lower-body injury) so of course he scored the game-winning goal with 1:15 left in regulation. His best friend forever Brad Marchand assisted on Bergy's patented one-timer from the slot with David Pastrnak picking up the second helper.

Marchand (3 goals, 6 assists) currently leads the NHL in points while both he and Pastrnak are riding four-game point streaks. It was a good night for Boston's stars as Tuukka Rask made 28 saves. If you missed the first two periods, believe me you won't need to see the highlights of it since there literally weren't any to speak of. All the action fittingly came in the third as Kyle Palmieri put New Jersey ahead at 4:14 with a power-play goal from Damon Severson and Jacob Josefson. The shot apparently was meant to be a pass and even more tricky, it took a slight deflection off of rookie Brandon Carlo's skate for Palmieri's second goal of the season.

The 2016 World Cup of Hockey apparently wasn't a fluke as Marchand is playing like one of the best players in the NHL. He beat Devils goaltender Cory Schneider (34 saves) with a wicked snap-shot top shelf, blocker side at 9:47 that tied it at one. John-Michael Liles and Colin Miller had the assists on Marchand's tally which quite honestly, was all due to his brilliance. With tonight's win, the Bruins now have an all-time record of 47-23-20-1 in home openers.

Boston hosts Montreal (3-0-1) on Saturday night (7, NESN) in what should be a much more entertaining tilt than tonight's mostly forgettable game. It is new Bruins like David Backes Dominic Moore and Carlo's first taste of the Boston-Montreal rivalry and you know that the Garden crowd will be very into it even if it is only late October. Carey Price (27 saves) made his first appearance of the season in the Canadiens' 5-2 victory against the Coyotes (1-2-0) so you can bet that he'll be between the pipes and opposed by Rask. The B's have allowed the first goal in each game this season which makes 3-1-0 all that more impressive. Needless to say, that bizarre trend won't last much longer.



Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Thanks for Everything, Big Papi



Clearly everyone that calls themselves a sportswriter, blogger, reporter, author etc in New England (or with ties to these six wonderful states) has chimed in with the token David Ortiz farewell piece at this point since he announced his retirement last winter. Still, seeing him officially play his final game ever for the Red Sox tonight at Fenway Park (that sounds so weird to say) as they were swept by the Indians in the 2016 ALDS, I couldn't help but feel like I should chime in with a few thoughts of my own.

Like a great song, album, TV show or movie, the best athletes and teams always have a special way to transfer us back to a unique time in both their careers and as a fan, in our own collective minds. Big Papi anonymously joined Boston in 2003 (which seems like a lifetime ago) and by now, he's carved out his place not only in Boston sports history-as the most clutch Red Sox ever-but in MLB as well. Name another pro athlete that is more universally beloved, I'll wait. For a sport that is all about individual accomplishments not to mention filled with too many hardos and rednecks, Ortiz was always a breath of fresh air with an enormous smile permanently etched on his face.

He was the best Red Sox in my lifetime and I feel confident in saying that sadly we'll never see another player like him (for many reasons). For a native of the Dominican Republic, he reached such a mythical level that he basically became a member of all our extended families. He appealed to every age (from children to grandparents) and demographic (rich or poor) and while he was larger than life on the field (especially in the unbelievable postseason performances), he still seemed like an actual human being as he won three World Series titles in Boston (2004, 2007, 2013).

The dream scenario was obviously to see him go out on top once again but it wasn't to be. Such is life. However, nothing will ever diminish all the sheer joy and fun that he brought to our lives for the last 13 years. We can only hope that he sticks around the Red Sox in the future with a front-office job. He has become such a part of the fabric of this region that it would be a shame to see him move elsewhere. I won't rattle off the best moments in his Red Sox career since they're so widely known but at the same time, we all have our own memories of him that are singularly important to us. In short, he was everything to everyone and that's why there will never be another David Ortiz.

You are the best, Big Papi. You will always hold a special place in all of our hearts, forever. Don't be a stranger!





Monday, September 26, 2016

Marchand Takes a Bit of a Discount to Hopefully Spend the Rest of His NHL Career as a Bruin


Oh hello friends, sorry for the extended absence over the spring and summer but I'm back here now that the Bruins' preseason has begun. Perhaps if you're good, I'll also sprinkle in some Red Sox playoff stuff, Patriots and Celtics thoughts as well from time to time as long as I'm feeling it. Hours before their first fake game, the Bruins made headlines by agreeing to an eight-year extension with star left wing Brad Marchand worth $49 million (average annual value of $6.125 million per year). He is currently away on Team Canada duty so all we got from Marchand was some hastily assembled quotes and videos from the Bruins media relations team, it'll be fun to hear from the man himself when he gets back soon (after Canada beats Europe in the World Cup of Hockey Final series in Toronto).

Coming off a career-season (37 goals, 23 assists and +21 in 77 games), Marchand's NHL value has never been higher. He's second on Team Canada in scoring (3 goals, 2 assists) and this should calm down those recent rumors that popped up the last few days about him going to Pittsburgh to play with his temporary linemate Sidney Crosby (ever heard of him?). At 28, Marchand is in the prime of his career and with Patrice Bergeron by his side wherever he goes, the B's have a spectacular 1-2 punch locked up now for awhile. They have been on the same forward line for years with the B's and Crosby is centering them on Canada, why mess with success?

Of course, a true cynical Bruins fan would like this move but then rightfully question what the hell they are doing with their defensemen? They really never changed anything over the off-season to address by far their biggest need-on the back end. Marchand, Bergeron, David Krejci, David Backes, David Pastrnak, etc should provide plenty of offensive firepower but unless many of the young defensemen step up in a big way, it's hard to see the B's being that much better than they've been these last two frustrating seasons (where they've missed out on the playoffs each time by losing the final contest).

Conversely, it's promising to see a core player that still believes in the Bruins' shaky front office and coaching staff, enough so to leave millions of dollars on the table that he undoubtedly could have gotten elsewhere. This was a very fair deal for what Marchand is currently worth and what that could increase to over the next few seasons if he keeps bumping up his production. It's easy to forget at times but Boston really isn't that far away from a Stanley Cup (2011), another Finals appearance (2013) and a Presidents' Trophy (2014). Marchand was an integral part of all those teams and if the Black and Gold are ever going to return to those glory days anytime soon, he no doubt will be a huge reason why. With this contract will come much more pressure on Brad but he typically is the type of player that thrives under those circumstances so I'm confident that he won't change anything about his game that got him here in the first place.




Saturday, April 9, 2016

With Everything to Play For, Rask Sits Out (Illness) & B's Predictably Fall Flat on Their Face


Before the all-important game against the Senators (38-35-9) had even started this afternoon, you knew that something was up when the Bruins (42-31-9) called up goaltender Jeremy Smith from Providence on an emergency basis. Apparently Tuukka Rask was very sick and after taking a few shots during warm-ups, he simply couldn't continue. He left for the dressing room, never to be seen again today (and possibly much longer this off-season). If you can believe it, things only got worse from that ominous beginning as Ottawa blasted Boston 6-1 in the regular season finale at TD Garden.

This isn't to say that backup goaltender Jonas Gustavsson (30 saves) is solely to blame for the loss. In fact, I don't think the outcome wouldn't have been any different with Rask in goal since Boston's terrible defense had to remind everyone once more just how hopeless they were for most of this campaign. Plus the B's finished under .500 at home this season (17-18-6; only other Eastern Conference teams to do that were Buffalo and Toronto). Still, if it was just an illness (bad sushi?) for Rask-the franchise goaltender-you can understand why he'll be hammered on the radio and TV for months if not years to come around here.

The Bruins actually scored first as David Pastrnak made it 1-0 at 5:04 (the second straight game that he'd opening the scoring) on a goal that looked offside but it was reviewed and held up for once. Brad Marchand and Max Talbot assisted on Pastrnak's 15th goal of the season as he got behind Ottawa's defense and then beat Andrew Hammond (39 saves) upstairs. Boston led 1-0 after the first period but they were outshot 17-10 so you knew that eventually the roof would cave in if they kept allowing that many quality chances.

Sure enough, the mighty Senators (who had nothing to play for but pride) hit the B's with a flurry of four goals in a span of 8:18 in the second period to put it way out of reach already. It was a microcosm of Boston's disappointing season as goon Chris Neil outhustled them to jam in the tying goal at 1:42, Nick Paul and Ryan Dzingel assisted on his fifth goal of the season. After that, Ottawa scored three virtually identical goals all on re-directed shots. Zach Smith tipped in Erik Karlsson's shot at 5:54 for his 24th goal of the season and Karlsson's NHL-leading 66th helper with Fredrik Claesson picking up the second assist. Less than three minutes later, Puempel re-directed a pass from Phil Varone with Buddy Robinson (are those real people?) for his second goal of the season. Mika Zibanejad put the final nail in Boston's coffin by tipping in a pass from Mike Hoffman at 10:00 for his 21st goal of the season. Bruins head coach Claude Julien took his timeout but by then, it was long over and you have to feel the same way about his storied tenure in Boston (remember he is the team's all-time winningest coach).

Other than rookie defenseman Colin Miller's fight with Mike Kostka, the Black and Gold showed barely a pulse or any semblance of heart in the third period. Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Smith both added empty-netters as Julien tried to coax a goal out of his power play unit but nothing worked in this miserable performance for his club. Ironically, Detroit (41-30-11) lost 3-2 at the Rangers (46-27-9) this afternoon which meant that a Bruins win would have gifted them third-place in the Atlantic Division. Instead the Red Wings clinched a playoff spot for the 25th straight season (extending their American pro sports record). Now the B's are down to their last hope: they need the Flyers (currently tied 1-1 at Pittsburgh in the second period) to lose today and also tomorrow night at the Islanders (45-26-9). If Philly is able to scratch together two points between those two tilts, they will get the second Wild Card in the Eastern Conference and the rough prize of the Capitals (55-17-8) in the first-round of the playoffs.

If Boston doesn't get that aforementioned miracle and they miss the postseason for the second year in a row, there is no chance that Julien keeps his job here again, right? Clearly, it is not all his fault that the front office made some terrible moves (trading for Jimmy Hayes, not having more NHL-ready defensemen, etc) and many of his players underperformed but he tapped dance past the firing line last summer and I don't think that he could make that magic happen again, especially so soon thereafter. This franchise has so many issues at the moment but unfortunately for Cladue, getting rid of him would be the easy first move for GM Don Sweeney.


Thursday, April 7, 2016

With Their Backs Against the Wall, the Bruins Respond With a Big-Time 5-2 Win vs. Red Wings


For such an arbitrary number like 82, it is still amazing that the entire 2015-16 Bruins season comes down to Saturday's finale vs. Ottawa (37-35-9). After peeing down their leg in Tuesday's 2-1 shootout loss to the Hurricanes (35-30-16), Boston (42-30-9) bounced back in a huge way with a 5-2 victory against the Red Wings (41-29-11) tonight at TD Garden. They picked a fine time to play their best home game of the season (17-17-6) since they had very little margin for error remaining.

Philadelphia's (39-27-14) 3-2 overtime loss to Toronto this evening means that the B's currently are the second Wild Card in the Eastern Conference. At the risk of giving you an ice cream headache, Boston is also tied with Detroit for points (93) but the Red Wings have one more regulation plus overtime win (39) than them which is the first tiebreaker. While the Bruins are playing the Senators on Saturday afternoon (12:30, NESN), Detroit will be at the Rangers and later on the Flyers host the Penguins (48-25-8). It's quite possible that nothing will be decided in terms of the second Wild Card until Sunday night when Philadelphia travels to Brooklyn to face the Islanders (45-26-9) in one of only two games leaguewide that day.

Haha got that all? Good, me neither. For once, it was nice though to see the Bruins play with some urgency. Hell, they scored more goals in the first 2:44 against the Red Wings than they did in 65 minutes vs. the Hurricanes. David Pastrnak broke free for a breakaway and tucked in a backhander past Jimmy Howard at 1:25. John-Michael Liles hit him with a stretch pass and Colin Miller had the other assist on Pastrnak's 14th goal of the season. Before you could say 2016 Bruins Seventh Player Award winner Brad Marchand (which he picked up before this game), he buried his team-leading 37th goal of the season at 2:44 on a one-timer from Torey Krug and Patrice Bergeron.

Speaking of Krug, he broke an absurd 54-game goal-less stretch by making it 3-0 Bruins at 5:02 in the second period. His power play goal was his fourth tally of the season and first since Dec. 5, 2015 vs. Vancouver. Loui Eriksson and David Krejci notched the helpers on the goal that hopefully gets Krug back on track. Detroit clearly gave everything they possessed to pick up a vital 3-0 win last night vs. Philadelphia so they had nothing left for this one (as evidenced by their 15 total shots on goal). Defenseman Alexey Marchenko cut it to 3-1 Boston at 6:59 of the second when his shot from the point eluded Tuukka Rask (13 saves).

Boston was up 3-1 after two periods and they sealed it early in the third with another flurry of goals. Lee Stempniak put it a rebound 20 seconds in (from Krug and Marchand) for his 19th goal of the season and Eriksson deflected in Krejci's redirect from Spooner 25 seconds later for his 30th goal of the season. That ended Howard's outing and forced Detroit to use former starter Petr Mrazek for almost all of the final frame. Good luck figuring out which of those guys will start vs. New York. It's the second time in Eriksson's career (36 in 2008-09 with Dallas) that he's reached that plateau and it also meant that the Bruins have a trio of 30-goal scorers for the first time since 2002-03 (Marchand, Bergeron and Eriksson). Rookie forward Andreas Athanasiou potted a garbage time goal if I've ever seen one with 1:23 left in regulation that made it 5-2 Bruins.

So there we go, everything hinges on Saturday for the Black and Gold. To make things easier on themselves, a one-sided regulation win like this would keep that good mojo going for whatever it's worth (absolutely nothing). All they can control is themselves but Boston will need some more help to reach the 2016 postseason. Otherwise, to miss the playoffs for the second straight year (and to do it in the last possible game) would make for another brutally long off-season for everyone (players, coaches, front office, fans, media, etc). Plus, there is no way that head coach Claude Julien could keep his job, right? As the late great Raiders owner Al Davis always said, "just win baby!"