Wednesday, December 27, 2017
Riley Nash (2 goals, 1 assist) recorded the fourth career two-goal game of his vaunted NHL life and he also tied his career-high in points which he last did on March 2, 2013 vs. Florida (1 goal, 2 assists). Tuukka Rask (25 saves, 12-8-3) continued his amazing in-season turnaround as he has earned his team valuable points in 10 games in a row (9-0-1). His goals against average during that stretch is 1.41 and his save percentage is a whopping .946. Who predicted this when he couldn't buy a win to save his life earlier this campaign? Boston is 8-1-1 in its last 10 games by the way, only Tampa Bay (26-7-2) has been better (9-1-0) lately. Two more good signs that this team is for real: their top line of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak combined for a grand total of zero points and likewise their power play produced nothing (0-for-2) yet they still pumped in five goals for their home fans (they are 13-5-3 at the Garden).
The Senators look nothing like the (lucky?) team that pushed the Penguins to seven games in the Eastern Conference Final last spring. They are 12 points out of a Wild Card spot in the East and 15 points behind Toronto (22-14-1)-who was leapfrogged by Boston (that still has 2 games in hand) this evening-so what are they waiting for? It's time to start figuring out who they want to keep and build around and which guys can get a decent return in a trade to a contending team. The Bruins got off to a fast start as they led 2-0 just 8:28 into the action: Kevan Miller jumped into the offensive zone for a juicy Craig Anderson (18 saves, 9-12-4) rebound for his first goal of the season (assisted by David Backes and Nash) and then rookie Danton Heinen continued his great stretch (3 goals, 6 assists in his last 9 games) with his 9th goal of the season after a sweet passing sequence by Ryan Spooner and Matt Grzelcyk.
Fredrik Claesson hit Noel Acciari with a dirty head shot (that I bet he'll hear from NHL player safety about in the near future) later in the first period but never fear because Tim Schaller came to the rescue of his former PC and current Bruins teammate. Schaller fought Claesson who was tagged with two majors (for fighting and a check to the head) and he also received a game misconduct. Schaller had no problem getting his second fighting major of the season and he also got a 10-minute misconduct along with a two-minute instigator penalty which was a bit of a head-scratcher. No worries though since Acciari surprisingly returned to Boston's bench to start the second period and ended up playing the rest of the game which was shocking since the hit looked like a textbook place to get a concussion. Maybe not.
Nash broke things open early in the second period as he got in on a breakaway (the 1st of his life?) and beat Anderson with what looked like a routine wrist shot that somehow eluded his glove hand for his third goal of the season, unassisted. Ottawa's only highlight of the proceedings came when Thomas Chabot banged in a one-timer at 3:49 of the second period to cut Boston's advantage to 3-1. Nash scored his second tally on a nice power move that showed off his sneaky decent hands. Anders Bjork had the lone assist on that one. Anderson was never pulled so he had the honor of giving up the last Bruins goal with 1:20 left in garbage time: Backes took a shot that deflected off the end boards and pushed it in the net, nice and easy for his fifth goal of the season. Grzelcyk and Heinen provided the helpers so each had multi-point performances which is swell.
For many reasons (mental and physical), tomorrow night's game in Washington (7:30, NESN) will be infinitely hard than this glorified exhibition. The Capitals (22-13-2) have won their last 11(!) games vs. the Bruins and Boston head coach Bruce Cassidy had already announced this afternoon that backup goaltender Anton Khudobin (8-2-2) will get the start vs. star netminder Braden Holtby after Washington started its backup Philipp Grubauer tonight in a 1-0 shootout loss at the Rangers (19-13-4). Both teams are in the second half of a back-to-back so neither should have much more energy than the other (Charlie McAvoy was the only Bruin to play over 20+ minutes vs. Ottawa but he's Captain America so who cares?), especially after the mandatory three-day break for Christmas. At some point, the B's are going to beat the Capitals again so why can't it be tomorrow night in our nation's capital? Basically everything is going right for the Bruins at the moment so that would be a nice albatross for them to get out of the way before the New Year.
Thursday, December 21, 2017
The Jets have been one of the pleasant surprises in the NHL this season and even with this shootout loss, they are still tied with Nashville (21-8-4) and St. Louis (20-10-6) for first place in the Western Conference's mighty Central Division. Winnipeg's captain and leading scorer is old friend Blake Wheeler (9 goals, 32 assists) who unbeknownst to probably most of his haters in Boston has completely transformed his game into one of the top American players in the league. Tuukka Rask (season-high 37 saves, 10th win of the season) and Hellebuyck had the hockey equivalent of a pitcher's duel going as they went through the first two periods without allowing a goal.
Winnipeg superstar Patrik Laine hit the post in the first period with one of his patented snipes and you'll here more from him in a moment. Bruins defenseman Torey Krug finally broke the ice with an unassisted goal (his 6th of the season) at 8:16 of the third period. A loose puck was flung in his direction by a silly Jets defenseman and Krug made him pay with a blast from the point that finally eluded Hellebuyck. Less than a minute later (9:13 to be exact), Laine tied it up with his team-leading 18th goal of the season. Boston was in scramble mode and that's never a place you want to be in with Laine in your vicinity. He beat Rask top-shelf, assisted by Ehlers and Thrasher/Jet for life Bryan Little.
When it was officially going to overtime, you had to laugh since Boston was 1-4 in the extra frame this season which was a better record than Winnipeg's stinky 0-5. Both teams had some golden opportunities in overtime (Winnipeg outshot Boston 6-4 then and 38-33 for the entire contest) but ultimately this had to be decided by that cheesy format. Little went first for the Jets and scored while Marchand (playing through a nasty flu virus that forced teammates Riley Nash and Ryan Spooner to sit out tonight's action) was stopped. Laine couldn't find the back of the net again vs. his fellow Finn and David Pastrnak tied it up. Mark Scheifele and Patrice Bergeron couldn't convert in round three which sent it to round four.
The B's have a good thing going right now-7-2-1 in their last 10 games-and they have pulled within two points of the Leafs (21-14-1) for second-place in the Atlantic Division with a whopping three games in hand. Boston has one more tilt before Christmas break (when every club gets 3 days off) as they host sputtering Detroit (13-14-7) on Saturday afternoon (1, NESN). A win there would be the perfect way to send the team into the holidays. David Krejci missed his third game in a row which meant that rookie center Colby Cave was an emergency recall from Providence this afternoon and he became the third Bruin to make his NHL debut this season (joining Anders Bjork and Jake DeBrusk). It's a tough call which Bruins goaltender should get the start against the Red Wings since Rask is 7-0-1 in his last eight games and backup Anton Khudobin is coming off a 36-save shutout of the pitiful Sabres (8-19-7) on Tuesday. Anything can happen in wacky Saturday afternoon games but whoever Cassidy chooses, shouldn't find it too difficult to get another two points for the Black and Gold.
Monday, December 18, 2017
Boston never trailed as they jumped out to a 3-0 lead midway through the game and they scored four goals in the third period to complete the lopsided final result. Brad Marchand made it 1-0 B's at 14:48 of the first period as he jumped on a loose puck for his 14th goal of the season (1 behind David Pastrnak for the team lead), assisted by Patrice Bergeron and Chara. The Bruins' power play has heated up recently with goals in six of their last seven contests (8 for 28, 28.6%). David Backes and McAvoy scored this evening's power play strikes just 3:30 apart in the second period to extend the Boston lead to 3-0. DeBrusk had the primary assist and Heinen the secondary assist on both special team markers-Backes' third of the season and McAvoy's fifth of the season.
Sergei Bobrovsky (38 saves) came in with rough numbers vs. Boston (now 2-5-2 in his career) and they only got worse as that old scrooge Blue Jackets head coach and Masshole supreme John Tortorella kept him in net for the entire whitewashing. Season's Beatings! After McAvoy fought your boy Pierre-Luc Dubois early in the third period-the first NHL fight for both guys-Columbus' Josh Anderson made sure that Tuukka Rask (16 saves, 9th win of the season) didn't get a shutout although he did extend his point streak to 7 games (6-0-1). In garbage time of the third, the Bruins pumped in four goals and it could have been even more since Tim Schaller of all people earned a penalty shot (Boston's first in over a year) but was predictably stopped on a weak backhander.
Heinen (8th goal of the season), Torey Krug (5th goal of the season), Patrice Bergeron (8th goal of the season) and DeBrusk (7th goal of the season) turned it into quite the romp with padding the stats type goals. Also of note from the full box score by the B's: Ryan Spooner had two assists, Anders Bjork added a helper after being a healthy scratch on Saturday vs. New York (for the 1st time in his young career) and David Pastrnak set a new career-best point streak (12 games, most in the NHL at this moment) with an assist.
This was a start of a busy week for the Bruins as they have four games in six days: they are in Buffalo (8-18-7) tomorrow night (7:30, NESN) to face Jack Eichel and the worst team in the Eastern Conference. David Krejci was a late scratch tonight with an upper-body injury and Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy said that he won't travel with the team to Upstate NY. Anton Khudobin (7-2-2) should be between the pipes as he bids for his first win in nearly a month (Nov. 24 vs. Pittsburgh). Boston has a chance to put some pressure on Toronto (20-13-1) who is in second-place in the Atlantic Division and four points ahead of the B's (who have 3 games in hand on them).
Saturday, December 9, 2017
Bigger picture, none of this would have been possible without Tuukka Rask (7-8-2) remembering who he was and how he could still consistently perform in the NHL. He was named the first star of the game after making 30 mostly routine saves. He has won his last four starts and in the last five games (he appeared in relief for Anton Khudobin on Monday in Nashville), he has allowed just five goals with a 1.10 goals against average and .955 save percentage. As Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy alluded to after the contest, the Black and Gold are at their best when Rask brings his A-game.
After a sleepy and scoreless first period, Bruins rookie Jake DeBrusk brought some energy to the Garden as he dropped the gloves for his first NHL fight with Islanders forward Casey Cizikas. Charlie McAvoy had been rocked by a clean Cizikas hit which still led to DeBrusk taking exception to it. Somewhere his dad-former NHL goon Louie DeBrusk-must have smiled and cracked his burly knuckles. New York had come in 10-0-0 when they scored the first goal so the Bruins were smart to grab the first tally. Brad Marchand (5-game point streak) scored a somewhat weak power play goal that Islanders goaltender Jaroslav Halak (30 saves) should have squeezed his pads tighter on. Torey Krug and David Pastrnak (8-game point streak) assisted on Marchand's 11th goal of the season.
Between an instigator penalty, not to mention his fighting major and 10-minute misconduct, DeBrusk had to ride an exercise bike in the Bruins' locker room for an excessive amount of time. No worries though as he potted a huge insurance goal at 6:45 of the third period. With his back to the Islanders goal, he spun around and fired a hard, high shot for his sixth goal of the season. Just like before, Krug and Pastrnak had the helpers. All that was missing from a Gordie Howe hat trick was an assist but sadly, it would have to wait for another time. Rask looked poised to notch his second shutout of the week but New York scored right after a power play had ended for them. Anders Lee (17th goal of the season) tapped in a feed from Josh Bailey (27th assist!) & gifted rookie Mathew Barzal at 16:52 to cut it to 2-1 B's. Rookie Danton Heinen sealed it for Boston with an empty-netter at 19:18, his sixth goal of the season was assisted by Patrice Bergeron (5 assists in his last 4 games).
There were two interesting penalties called on the Bruins in the third period: Marchand was tagged with a five-minute major for interference on his Team Canada homie John Tavares and David Backes apparently head-butted Andrew Ladd which also resulted in an obscure five-minute major. Marchand's hit was high and pretty iffy so given his checkered past with dirty plays, I wouldn't be surprised if he hears from the league about it. As far as Backes, nobody (outside of the refs) really noticed what had transpired along the boards and needless to say, that would be very out of character for a tough but honest player like himself.
This is a very favorable stretch for the Bruins in terms of tons of home games (6 of their remaining 10 tilts in December are here) where they currently own a 9-4-2 record. They earned a day off from practice tomorrow and they'll be back at Warrior Ice Arena for practice on Monday as they get ready for Wednesday's (8, NBC Sports) "Rivalry Night" matchup in Detroit (11-13-5). The Red Wings are still the definition of mediocre so that's a contest that they should win. On Thursday (7, NESN) they host the Capitals which promises to be a much harder battle. They close out next week against the Rangers (16-11-2) on Saturday (5, NESN) at the Garden. After such a turbulent start to the campaign, the B's are settling in nicely as a team and the mix of so many young guys and notable veterans is beginning to yield many positive results.
Thursday, December 7, 2017
In case you haven't been paying attention (and who doesn't love the NHL in October, November and December?), Backes had colon surgery and returned way sooner than anyone could have reasonably expected. His assist in Monday's 5-3 loss at Nashville (18-7-3) was the 500th point of his NHL career and his pair of goals tonight were his first of the season (his last one was on March 28 vs. Nashville). Backes is a very likable guy to begin with so this admirable return gives you even more reason to root for him. Did I mention that he loves animals and does tons of charity work for dogs?
The Coyotes were 5-3-2 in their last 10 games coming into this tilt but they couldn't be bothered to put up much of a fight this evening. What else can you conclude when Brad Marchand made it 1-0 B's just 15 seconds into the contest? David Pastrnak (7-game point streak) and Patrice Bergeron assisted on Marchand's 10th goal of the season. Thanks to Brandon Carlo's rough turnover, Christian Dvorak (4th goal of the season) tied it for Arizona at 17:07 of the first period.
Backes' goals came in succession in the second period: first he tipped in Riley Nash's shot from the point with Matt Grzelcyk picking up the other helper at 13:54. Alex Goligoski saw Carlo's error and matched it with an equally egregious mistake that led to Backes' unassisted goal with 54 seconds left in the frame. The veteran American skated in on a breakaway which needless to say, doesn't happen too often for a slower player like him. This marked the second time this season that Boston hasn't been called for a penalty (also Nov. 15 at Anaheim) and Arizona faced the brunt of four whistles.
David Krejci put it out of reach 45 seconds into the third as he finished a pretty passing sequence with Marchand and Bergeron for a power play goal (his 4th tally of the season). Poor Scott Wedgewood (26 saves)-great name!-had no friends that wanted to help him out as he was continually under fire by the Bruins' normally average offense. Two rookies rounded out the scoring for Boston as Danton Heinen (5th goal of the season) put in a juicy rebound at 17:56 from Nash and Kevan Miller than Anders Bjork was on the end of a rush that looked straight out of practice or better yet a preseason game with 1:09 left in garbage time. Bjork's fourth goal of the season was also assisted by Zdeno Chara.
You never talk about the goaltender in a 6-1 victory but Tuukka Rask (20 saves) won his third start in a row, remember when there was a legitimate goalie controversy a few weeks ago? Unlike the miserable Coyotes, an actual living, breathing NHL team visits the Garden on Saturday night (7, NESN) as the Islanders (16-9-3) come for their first game against the Bruins in 2017-18. Highly coveted free-agent-to-be John Tavares (17 goals, 14 assists) is playing the best hockey of his life and we'll also be able to see some old friends in Johnny Boychuk and Dennis Seidenberg who are defensemen for New York. The Isles lost 4-3 in Pittsburgh (16-11-3) tonight but they are 6-3-1 in their last 10 games while Boston improved to 7-3-0 in their last 10.
Wednesday, November 29, 2017
Rask's most recent win was November 6 vs. Minnesota so needless to say, this was a long time coming. Given the quality of the opponent and the way that it played out, the B's have to hope that this is the kick-start that he's been looking for basically all of this so far bizarre season. Boston also received a boost since David Backes (missed 12 games) and Brad Marchand (missed 6 games) returned from injuries and immediately had an impact on the tilt. Marchand assisted on the first two Bruins goals as they took a 2-0 lead in the first period. Charlie McAvoy opened the scoring with a goal at 7:27 that originally was called off for goaltender interference on Andrei Vasilevskiy (33 saves) but eventually the refs overturned it. David Pastrnak and Marchand had the helpers on McAvoy's third goal of the season.
Boston got some always appreciated secondary scoring to double their lead as Riley Nash sniped a shot by Vasilevskiy at 17:13. Danton Heinen and Marchand assisted on Nash's second goal of the season which also extended his point streak to three games. Cedric Paquette crushed Torey Krug along the end boards early in the second period which led to Frank Vatrano tripping Paquette. Little guys stick together! Shortly after that, Mikhail Sergachev was nabbed for interference on Marchand who simultaneously was called for embellishment (which only him and a few other guys around the league would have been charged with in that instance). No matter as Krug exacted some revenge with a one-timer at 5:59 from Ryan Spooner and McAvoy when the teams were skating 4-on-4, his fourth goal of the season.
Lightning defenseman Andrej Sustr scored his first goal since March 30 of last season when his shot from the point through traffic found a hole into Boston's net. Braydon Coburn and Chris Kunitz assisted on that fluky goal. It could have been worse for the B's since Tyler Johnson broke in on Rask but his shot somehow hit the post and skimmed along the goal line but never went in before he ran into the embattled Finnish goaltender. Boston escaped the frame with a 3-1 advantage which was trimmed to 3-2 at 2:10 of the third period as Steven Stamkos scored his 11th goal of the season and NHL-leading eighth power play tally of the season. He crushed a one-timer from Alex Ovechkin's office (left side half-wall), assisted by Nikita Kucherov and Mikhail Sergachev. Rask clinched the win with a key stop on Dan Girardi's shot that was tipped by Ryan Callahan.
As far as we know, the Bruins made it through a complete game (including McAvoy who played a career-high 28:11) without sustaining another key injury. Their next game is Saturday (1, NESN) at Philadelphia (8-10-7) who is a woeful 1-4-5 in their last 10 games. It shouldn't matter who gets the start in that contest, either Rask or Anton Khudobin (7-0-2) should be able to beat the Flyers who are currently a dumpster fire with their fans booing them off the ice and calling for their head coach's head. Haha what else is new for that silly team that still doesn't have a legitimate goaltender of its own?
Sunday, November 26, 2017
Anton Khudobin (7-0-2) has won his last four straight starts and he hasn't lost in regulation this entire season (7-0-2). Still, Rask is the undisputed No. 1 (at least for the time being) so he had to get back in there at some point and the Oilers seemed like a good spot for him since they had dropped four out of their last five contests. Boston got off to a good start as David Pastrnak scored a power play goal at 14:03 of the first period for a 1-0 lead. Torey Krug and Rask had the assists on Pasta's team-leading 12th goal of the season. He finished the shot right in the nick of time before he got flattened by a pair of Edmonton players and Cam Talbot (23 saves)-who's had a miserable campaign himself-couldn't react to it in time.
Patrick Maroon apparently lives to play in Boston as he followed up his hat trick here last year with another goal, this one tying things up at 9:50 of the second period. Zach Kassian found him with a cross-ice pass and he was able to beat Rask up high to the top shelf for his seventh goal of the season. Edmonton took a 2-1 lead less than five minutes later at 14:20 as Adam Larsson (how's that Taylor Hall trade looking this season? Haha woof!) had a shot from the point deflect in off Charlie McAvoy's skate. Larsson's third goal of the season was assisted by the newly-acquired Mike Cammalleri and some nobody named Connor McDavid. The B's continued to get outshot at an alarming rate (17-5 in the 2nd!) but somehow it was knotted at two after two frames as David Krejci roofed one by Talbot at 15:31. Riley Nash, his temporary linemate, and Krug provided the assists on Krejci's third goal of the season.
With everything to play for in the third, Boston finally stepped on the gas-outshooting Edmonton 14-9-but it didn't really matter as a defensive breakdown allowed Ryan Strome to be wide open in the slot for an easy goal at 2:07 that Rask couldn't be expected to save in most instances. Leon Draisaitl had the lone helper on Strome's fourth goal of the season. Talbot came in with a horrid 3.13 goals against average so he tried his best to give away the lead but the Bruins couldn't take advantage of a shaky goaltender on the other end. Draisaitl ended it with an empty-net goal at 19:09: his first attempt was blocked but he stuck with it for his seventh goal of the season, assist by McDavid and old friend Milan Lucic (who earlier was mistakenly credited with Larsson's goal).
So where do the Black and Gold go from here? Well they are off tomorrow and then get back to practice on Tuesday before Tampa Bay (16-5-2)-the top team in the Eastern Conference and one point behind St. Louis (17-6-1) who has played one more game-is here for rivalry night on Wednesday (7:30, NBC Sports Network). Boston head coach Bruce Cassidy has been around for too long to be baited into committing too early to his starting goaltender for that tilt but I honestly would be surprised if he goes back to Rask in that one. I still have a hard time explaining the reason behind it (maybe just that some things in life are unexplainable, son) but the fact remains that the Bruins are a unquestionably better team when Khudobin is in the net and not Rask. Tuukka wasn't bad today but a shutout or perhaps stealing a win for the B's-which is basically what he had to do-would have gone a long way at least in the near future for the struggling Finn.
Friday, November 24, 2017
It's a little early to be projecting a playoff matchup this spring (and keep in mind that they meet twice more in the regular season with another game in Boston) but you have to admit that it would be fun to see the Bruins and Penguins meet in the postseason since Boston improved to 9-1-2 in their last 12 contests vs. the back-to-back Stanley Cup champions. For whatever unknown reason, they have given the Penguins more problems than any other opponent over these last few years. Pittsburgh star Evgeni Malkin (7 goals, 14 assists) missed today's action with an upper-body injury but Brad Marchand (8 goals, 7 assists) was also out for Boston so that's basically an even trade-off.
Besides Khudobin (who only had to make 17 saves), the key to Boston's resurgence lately has been the fact that they've consistently gotten off to better starts. It's no surprise that hockey (just like any other team sport) is easier to play with a lead versus playing from behind all the time. The B's were up 2-0 less than 11 minutes into the proceedings as David Krejci (2nd goal of the season) finished a one-timer from Jake DeBrusk and Peter Cehlarik at 6:13 followed by Sean Kuraly's (3rd goal of the season) similar one-timer at 10:51 from fellow rookie Charlie McAvoy. Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan (a South Shore resident and another BU connection) used his timeout after that and truthfully, he probably needed it more late in the game when the B's were hanging on but that's neither here nor there.
Pittsburgh trailed 2-0 after the first period but the Penguins cut it to 2-1 with a power-play goal by Jake Guentzel at 1:02 of the second, his team-leading ninth of the season. Kris Letang and Sidney Crosby-ever heard of them?-had the helpers as Pittsburgh cashed in on a cheap hooking penalty on Krejci (granted it was Boston's only infraction). It's tough to beat rookie defenseman Matt Grzelcyk's story just to get here: Charlestown native, BU alum and his dad works on the bull gang (the group that changes the ice, court and concert stages) at the Garden. He added another chapter to his hometown hero legacy with his first NHL goal at 10:31. Krejci and DeBrusk (2 goals and 4 assists in 5 games since he was a healthy scratch) had the helpers as Grzelcyk took his head coach Bruce Cassidy's sage advice and pinched up on the play before beating Penguins goaltender Matt Murray (29 saves) down low.
The Penguins are banged up but they (cliche alert!) still have the heart of a (2-time) champion as they rallied for two goals before that frame was over. Former Bruins great Phil Kessel showed off what is still one of the best shots in the league as he sniped the puck past Khudobin at 14:07 to make it 3-2 Boston. Riley Sheahan and Justin Schultz had the assists on Kessel's ninth goal of the season. Crosby tied it up with a bizarre tally: he knocked the puck off of Khudobin's chest (it was just lying there) and it stood up for his seventh goal of the season after a lengthy review and subsequent reach of a coach's challenge by Cassidy. Patric Hornqvist and another former Bruin-Matt Hunwick-had the assists on a goal that showed off some of Crosby's numerous elite skills (hand-eye coordination, instinct, relentlessness, etc) that have all added up to make him an all-time great player.
Coming off an 11-round shootout in New Jersey on Wednesday (won 3-2 by the Bruins), not to mention it being the afternoon following the biggest eating day of the year (sorry Ramadan), the Bruins wanted no part of overtime or God forbid another shootout. They got all the remaining offense that they would need to put it in the win column as David Pastrnak finished off a breakaway from Riley Nash and Ryan Spooner at 5:06 of the third period. Pastrnak's team-leading 11th goal of the season was helped by Nash's long feed but then it was all Pasta's brilliance since he went backhand to forehand before flipping the puck over Murray's glove hand.
Boston will try to keep the good vibes going as they host the reeling Oilers (8-12-2) on Sunday (5, NESN) before the best team in hockey-Tampa Bay (16-3-2) comes to town on Wednesday (7:30, NBC Sports Network). Cassidy said they're taking the goaltender situation "day-to-day" so I have no idea if it'll be Khudobin or Rask vs. Edmonton. You can see it from both sides: when he has enough breaks in between games, why sit Khudobin before he loses in regulation but Rask will also have to start again at some point or you risk really losing him mentally this season. Wear your old Milan Lucic Bruins jersey on Sunday and silently cheer on Looch after you watch the Patriots (8-2) destroy the Dolphins (4-6) at Gillette Stadium (1, CBS).
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.
Monday, October 9, 2017
The Avalanche were by far the worst team in the NHL last season and while they have a decent amount of youngish talent, they aren't believed to make a notable leap from that in 2017-18. Patrice Bergeron (lower-body) is still day-to-day while David Backes (illness) and Noel Acciari (broken finger) are on IR meaning that Torey Krug and Austin Czarnik made their season debuts for the B's while Matt Grzelcyk was sent down to Providence. Colorado was also wrapping up a three-game road trip to begin the year but even though the Bruins hadn't played since Thursday, the Avs were somehow the fresher team.
Just like the Red Sox in Games 1 and 2 of the 2017 ALDS vs. Astros, the Bruins didn't give themselves much of a chance as they trailed 2-0 less than 14 minutes into the contest. First Tuukka Rask (19 saves) allowed a very weak goal as Sven Andrighetto's shot trickled off his glove hand and into the net at 4:41. Mikko Rantanen and Nikita Zadorov had the assists on Andrighetto's first goal of the season. After going 1-for-5 in the season-opening win vs. Nashville, Boston's power play was 0-for-4 this afternoon which was made worse by the fact that they allowed a 2-on-1 shorthanded goal to J.T. Compher at 13:22. Old friend Carl Soderberg had the assist on Compher's first goal of the campaign.
Boston outshot Colorado 29-23 including 11-5 in the first period and 11-8 in the second period but that hardly mattered. The B's also owned the face-off dot (37-15) but what does that matter when you have six more giveaways (13-7), seven less takeaways (15-8) and missed the net with 16 shots (!). If you skipped the second period, literally nothing happened besides David Pastrnak almost scored a goal except Semyon Varlamov (29 saves; 22nd career NHL shutout & 2nd vs. Boston) stopped the puck just enough with his left leg pad that it went along the goal line but never over.
Rask's rough day continued in the third period as he came way out to try to get to a loose puck before Nail Yakupov did but the former Oilers No. 1 overall pick 2012 is at least faster than him so he potted what'll be the easiest non-empty net goal of his career. Your guy Patrik Nemeth and Harvard's Alex Kerfoot had the helpers on Yakupov's laugher of a tally. Speaking of which, Yakupov rounded out the scoring by getting credit for an empty-netter with 43.6 seconds left as Pastrnak knocked the net off its mooring before the puck inevitably would have been swept in by Yakupov or Andrighetto.
These same clubs meet on Wednesday in Colorado (9:30, NESN), thanks NHL? I feel like that could be a good time for the Bruins to give backup goaltender Anton Khudobin his first start of the campaign, at least to shake things up a bit, but so far it hasn't been confirmed either way if it'll be him or Rask between the pipes. After that meeting (the last one of the season between these ancient rivals), Boston will be in Arizona (0-1-1) on Saturday night (9, NESN) and the three-game road trip concludes in Las Vegas (2-0-0) on Sunday night (7, NESN). They simply can't lose back-to-back games in regulation to the lowly Avalanche and hopefully they can earn at least two or three points in the latter two tilts against other presumable Western Conference bottom-feeders.
PS goodnight Red Sox, at least you weren't swept this season in the first round of the playoffs! Fire Farrell.
Thursday, October 5, 2017
Coming into the 2017-18 opener, the Bruins knew that they would have their hands full with the Western Conference champion Predators. That challenge only increased this morning as they discovered that Patrice Bergeron (lower-body injury) was out at least for this contest and David Backes (diverticulitis) could miss three or four weeks with some bizarre illness that I had to Google since I'd never heard of it. Who knows how long it can hold up for but at least in this tilt, Boston's rookies played collectively out of their minds in an exciting 4-3 victory at TD Garden.
Charlie McAvoy (1 goal, 1 assist) and Jake DeBrusk (1 goal, 1 assist) each recorded two points in their NHL regular season debuts (remember that McAvoy was called up for Boston's playoff series vs. Ottawa last April) while Anders Bjork notched an assist in his first career game. Tuukka Rask made 26 saves in the win and Nashville's power play had been 0-for-5 until they scored two late goals (by Scott Hartnell and Filip Forsberg) to make things a little sketchy for the home fans. The B's lost another forward in the proceedings as their fourth line winger Noel Acciari left in the second period after blocking a shot with his hand. That injury sounds somewhat serious too as head coach Bruce Cassidy didn't expect him to be available for Monday afternoon's meeting (1, NESN) with Colorado (1-0).
Boston's front office had to be psyched with the first goal of the season for their club as David Pastrnak potted a one-timer from McAvoy and David Krejci (3 assists; 17-5 on face-offs) at 8:37 of the first period for a 1-0 lead. The B's should have been in front after that frame but they allowed a back-breaking goal to Viktor Arvidsson with 11 seconds left in the first. Boston won the face-off in their own end but coughed up the puck as Ryan Johansen fed Arvidsson in the slot.
The second period was a beautiful glimpse into what the Bruins have to hope is a bright future for all these youngsters in black and gold as DeBrusk scored a pretty goal from Krejci and Bjork at 5:48 (complete with his dad crying in the stands) and McAvoy also sent his parents into hysterics with a one-timer at 15:43 from Krejci and DeBrusk. You wondered if Krejci would be able to keep up with two fast rookies and then he tied his career-high for assists in one game (something he'd done 8 times before).
Brad Marchand put the game out of reach, or at least so it seemed, with a rare short-handed empty-netter at 17:07 in the third period. Brandon Carlo had the lone assist on Marchand's 23rd career shorthanded goal (3rd most in team history). McAvoy had three penalties tonight which will be far from the norm and Kevan Miller got a delay of game penalty while Chara was called for slashing in garbage time. Hartnell chipped in a shot from close range at 18:12, assisted by Johansen and Arvidsson before Forsberg banked a shot off Rask at 19:25. Nashville had a few more chances at a possible tying goal after that but Rask and the Bruins held on. Pekka Rinne finished with 28 saves for Nashville.
It sounds odd to say this after game one of 82 (plus playoffs?) but the Bruins picked a good time to have a spaced out schedule in October. They already planned to have tomorrow off and then they'll have the weekend to ease back into practice before hosting the Avalanche on Columbus Day. Cassidy felt like Bergeron could possibly return for Monday but if he's not available, the Bruins will have to call another forward up from Providence to replace Acciari. I think the most likely name to watch for in that case would be Danton Heinen (Austin Czarnik is on IR) but we'll have to see how things shake out these next few days. Colorado was the worst team in the NHL last season but they kicked things off this evening by beating the Rangers 4-2 in New York so who knows what to expect from them?
Sunday, April 23, 2017
With so many injuries piling up seemingly every day to important players, we knew that the Bruins were a fatally flawed team (not to go deeper into their uneven roster to begin with). A Stanley Cup seemed very unlikely this spring but it was still a major bummer to see them lose Game 6 of their first-round playoff series today at TD Garden, 3-2 in OT to Ottawa, so the Senators took the series 4-2 and advance to play the Rangers in the second round. You won't find a much tighter six games than that since every tilt was decided by one goal including four of them in overtime(s). Ottawa went 3-1 in the extra session(s) and Clarke MacArthur forever etched his name in Senators history by scoring the power play goal that ended this one at 6:30.
You can always play the what-if game but it makes you wonder how much of a difference defensemen Torey Krug and Brandon Carlo (not to mention Adam McQuaid who was hurt in Game 2) and center David Krejci who missed Games 1, 2 and 6 would have made when Ottawa cumulatively outscored Boston just 15-13 over these six games. Boston's lack of depth eventually caught up to them along with the fact that Ottawa's power play (5-for-23, 21.7%) was better than Boston's (3-for-16, 18.8%) in this series. Senators superstar defenseman Erik Karlsson is actually playing with two hair-line fractures in his foot (surprisingly revealed by head coach Guy Boucher after this win) but you'd hardly know it by the way he played with a series-best six assists.
For only the second time in the six games, Boston actually scored first (both by Drew Stafford) but in each instance, they ended up losing in overtime which is a real kick in the hockey pants. Stafford scored a power play goal of his own at 18:13 of the first period when he blasted a shot past Craig Anderson (28 saves). Brad Marchand and Charlie McAvoy assisted on Stafford's second goal of the postseason. Bobby Ryan, who was also a completely random force all series-long, tied it early in the second period with a power play goal at 3:26. He tipped in Derick Brassard's shot which was also assisted by Karlsson for Ryan's series-best fourth tally of the series.
Kyle Turris gave Ottawa a 2-1 lead less than five minutes later as he ripped the puck by Tuukka Rask (26 saves) after Stafford had failed to clear the puck out of Boston's defensive zone. It was Turris' first goal of the postseason and rookie Ryan Dzingel's first career NHL playoff point. Fittingly facing elimination, the B's played one of their best frames of the entire series in the third period. They outshot Ottawa 12-3 and tied it at 1:57 on Bergeron's putback of a juicy Anderson rebound. Bergy's second goal of the postseason was assisted by Marchand and Miller. With the way that the ice was tilted their way not to mention all the momentum behind them with their home fans going wild, the Bruins should have ended it right there in regulation. You never want to leave your fate up to overtime, especially in this unwanted situation.
David Pastrnak was called for the holding penalty that preceded MacArthur's game-winner and truthfully, it was the correct call. Rask made the initial save but MacArthur was nearby to blast in the rebound for the undoubtedly biggest goal of his life. If you need something to make you feel a tiny bit better as a Bruins fan, MacArthur's career was nearly ended by concussions so this is someone that is impossible to root against if you have any sort of heart. Ryan and Brassard had the assists on his second goal of the playoffs. Karlsson dominating is one predictable outcome but who would have expected Ryan (4 goals, 3 assists) and Brassard (2 goals, 6 assists) to offensively outplay Bergeron (2 goals, 2 assists) and Marchand (1 goal, 3 assists)?
There is plenty of time to worry about the future of this team with the NHL draft, expansion draft and free agency all looming this summer. Interim head coach Bruce Cassidy said after this contest that he "absolutely wants to be here moving forward, 100%," so I think that his extension will be announced any day now. With the way that he bounced back this season, I believe that captain Zdeno Chara will want to return next fall (and not retire) but other than that, your guess is as good as mine when it comes to moves and signings although I'm confident that Pastrnak will get a long-term deal here soon.
It was great to have some NHL playoff hockey back in our lives, let's hope that it's not another three years (or god forbid more) until the next postseason appearance for the B's. With all the talented young guys, led by Pastrnak and 19-year-old rookie defeneseman Charlie McAvoy, there is plenty to be excited about. They have a bigger infusion of quality newcomers than I can ever remember in the five years that I've been covering them (for what that's worth).
Wednesday, April 19, 2017
Game 4 was right up Ottawa's boring alley: low-scoring, mostly forgettable hockey but ultimately the Senators skated away with a huge 1-0 victory this evening at TD Garden. Ottawa takes a 3-1 lead in the first round series vs. Boston and they will have a chance to eliminate the Bruins on Friday (7:30, NESN) at Canadian Tire Centre. Senators goaltender Craig Anderson made 22 saves for his fourth career playoff shutout and third in an Ottawa uniform.
After a scoreless first period (Boston has yet to score a 1st period goal in the entire series) in which Ottawa outshot the home team 14-12, things started to get bogged down in the second frame which is just how the Senators prefer it. The B's actually had some great scoring chances in the first but Anderson came flying out of the crease to stop Brad Marchand before Ryan Spooner was later stuffed on his shot from the slot. Each team was limited to five shots in the second while the Senators outshot them 8-5 in the third.
The Bruins appeared to take a 1-0 lead at 10:49 of the second when rookie defenseman Charlie McAvoy's shot from the point (possibly deflected by an Ottawa stick) went by Anderson. The issue was that rookie Noel Acciari was just barely offside something like 20 seconds before the goal. The Senators' evil genius head coach Guy Boucher used his challenge and after a long review, it was rightfully overturned much to the disappointment of Bruins fans. As I said, it was the right call (after the fact), but it's frustrating when it is called a goal on the ice and more importantly, the infraction had nothing to do with the goal which happened way later.
Ottawa had won both Games 2 and 3 by the same final scores: 4-3 in overtime. When Bobby Ryan scored his third goal of the series at 5:49 of the third period, you had a feeling that the B's were in trouble. Defenseman Erik Karlsson (of course) made the goal as his slap pass was intentionally wide of the goal right on Ryan's stick. Tuukka Rask (26 saves) and Zdeno Chara nearly combined to make the puck stop on the goal-line but Ryan overpowered them to push it across. Ryan (3 goals, 2 assists) and Karlsson (5 assists) have points in every game this series. Derick Brassard was credited with the second assist on the game-winning goal (Ryan's 2nd in a row), giving him a three-game point streak (2 goals, 3 assists).
Boston was 0-for-1 on the power play in Game 4, leaving them 2-for-11 in the series. Ottawa was 0-for-3 on the power play and they are 3-for-13 in these four games. Senators defenseman Cody Ceci led everyone in ice time (25:37) while McAvoy was second (25:03), Karlsson was third (24:51) and Zdeno Chara was fourth (24:09). The Bruins won Game 1 (2-1) but they have lost three straight contests heading into Friday's tilt in Canada's capital city. No pressure right? All the B's can do is worry about that one and figure out a way to bring this series back to Boston rather than having to pack up their stuff for the summer.
Monday, April 17, 2017
B's Improbably Rally from A 3-Goal Deficit In Gm. 3 but Once Again Fall 4-3 in Overtime vs. Senators
Playing in their first home playoff game in three years, the Bruins were so excited that they barely showed up for the first period of Game 3 tonight at TD Garden. In fact, Boston dug themselves a 3-0 hole but managed to rally with three goals in the second period before losing 4-3 in overtime on Bobby Ryan's backbreaking power play goal. The series couldn't be tighter thus far as Ottawa leads 2-1 yet every game has been decided by one goal and the last two were won by them in an overtime. The importance of winning Game 3 was apparent coming in as historically when a series has been tied 1-1, the team that wins Game 3 has won that series 67.3% of the time.
Rookie defenseman Tommy Cross made his NHL playoff debut and had an assist while rookie right winger Noel Acciari scored a goal in his first ever NHL postseason action. The Senators would never be called an explosive offense by anybody but that's exactly how they looked early in the first when they scored a pair of goals just 25 seconds apart. First the sublime Erik Karlsson connected on a long-range flip to Mike Hoffman for a breakaway that the underrated left winger finished by Tuukka Rask (28 saves) at 7:15. Derick Brassard doubled Ottawa's lead with a shot from in close, assisted by Ryan and Viktor Stalberg.
The Garden crowd was jumping from the start, it being Patriots Day and a beautiful spring day on top of that, but the B's did little to garner that love for awhile. Hoffman gave the Senators a 3-0 lead at 3:42 of the second period when he blasted in a shot from the point on the power play, assisted by Chris Wideman and Brassard. Boston punched back with a pair of goals in quick succession (42 seconds apart). Acciari tipped in John-Michael Liles' floater at 6:05 (2nd assist to Riley Nash) and then David Backes scored his first playoff goal as a Bruin at 6:47 after Ryan fell down (and lost both of his gloves in the process), assisted by Liles and Cross. By that point, the "Anderson, Anderson" chants were in full effect and Craig Anderson (17 saves) did little to calm things down when David Pastrnak smoked a one-timer by him at 13:51 for the tying goal. McAvoy and Spooner assisted on Pastrnak's first career NHL playoff goal.
The tempo along with the back-and-forth nature of this game was great and the Bruins seemed to take control in the third as they finally outshot the Senators 9-7 in that frame (after Ottawa outshot them 21-10 through 2). Boston didn't have anything to show for it though as Anderson made a nice stop on Kevan Miller's screened shot and then Hoffman hit the post with a hat trick bid. 60 minutes still wasn't enough to decide things for these chillingly even Atlantic Division clubs. Nash turned out to be the goat as he was whistled for a roughing penalty in overtime (after taking a Marc Methot elbow to the face). Boston's penalty kill survived for more than half of the two-minute power play (1:05 to be exact) but Ryan was able to work a give-and-go with Kyle Turris on the doorstep of the Bruins' net begun by Karlsson at 5:43 that gave the Sens an enormous victory on the road.
I wouldn't dive into the hot take machine and call Wednesday's (7:30, NESN) Game 4 a must-win for the black and gold since that is the laziest cliche in sports but it is ever so close. You can basically guarantee that it will be tight regardless (most likely a 1-goal game) so why not make it easier on themselves by getting off to a good start and not playing like garbage for 25+ minutes? Ottawa clearly has figured out how to get results against them and they have to be starting to creep into Boston's heads with these last two heartbreakers. It would also help if the B's don't allow two power play goals or take needless penalties on one of its best shorthanded players in overtime. Yes the call on Nash was harsh but blaming refs is never my bag so I'm going to pass on that one. There is nothing left to do but knot this series back up and return to Ottawa tied 2-2 rather than the grim prospect of facing elimination on Friday.
Saturday, April 8, 2017
The B's also suffered what could be another significant injury to their defense as Brandon Carlo (upper-body injury) left in the first period and never returned after a hit by Alex Ovechkin then awkward fall to the ice. Boston has termed defenseman Torey Krug "day-to-day" after he left Thursday's shootout loss to the Senators (44-27-10) but from all accounts, that is being generous since he has a significant right knee injury. Anton Khudobin (21 saves) played for the first two periods before departing because "he didn't feel well." Haha was he hanging out with all the Red Sox that are currently knocked out by the bird flu? BU's Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson made his NHL debut today since PC's Noel Acciari is also out with an upper-body injury. JFK centered the third line for Boston but did barely anything (1 blocked shot, 1-1 on faceoffs in just 8:25 of ice time) of note.
Washington is so skilled and loaded at seemingly every position (keep in mind that defenseman John Carlson and goaltender Braden Holtby both sat out) that many of their goals resemble something you do more frequently in a video game than actually experience in real life. Marcus Johansson (24th goal of the season) scored on a basic give-and-go with Justin Williams as they split Boston's tattered defense at 15:39 for a 1-0 Caps lead. Johansson has 12 points (2 goals, 10 assists) in his last nine games.
The second period had some nastiness as Colin Miller's legs took out Tom Wilson's legs which caused Jay Beagle to take a run at Miller. It was a cheap play that could have resulted in a serious injury since Miller was in a vulnerable position (laying on the ice against the boards) and I wouldn't be shocked if Wilson has a hearing with the league about it. Speaking of which, this was Marchand's second game of his suspension so he is free to play starting in Game 1 of the playoffs next week. Washington has swept Boston the last three seasons (7-0-2) and outscored them 30-11 in the process. The only time that the B's were able to beat backup Philipp Grubauer (21 saves) is when Colin Miller put the puck in a millisecond before Drew Stafford crashed into the net (knocking it off its moorings). The goal was reviewed but stood up, Miller's sixth goal of the season assisted by Stafford.
The tie was short-lived (for 56 seconds) as former BU star Kevin Shattenkirk one-timed a pass from Niklas Backstrom (who leads the NHL in helpers) and Ovechkin at 16:09. Shattenkirk added another goal at 17:31 but it was overturned after Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy used his coach's challenge for goalie interference. It hardly mattered to the Capitals though as they made it 3-1 at 19:10 when Williams completed a pretty passing sequence around multiple helpless Bruins with Evgeny Kuznetsov and Nate Schmidt. Tuukka Rask (8 saves) started the third period and that's about all we'll ever say about that forgettable frame. Now all we can do is wait until possibly tomorrow night (the last day of the regular season) for all the scenarios to unfold. The B's have no shot if they face the Caps but a matchup with the Senators is infinitely more winnable despite the fact that Ottawa also swept Boston during this campaign.