Game 28: Canadiens 2, Bruins 1

Four thoughts on last night’s loss that sent the B’s to second place in the Atlantic Division:

  • There was nothing malicious about Max Pacioretty’s hit on Johnny Boychuk last night. Though the result was undeniably bad, calling for Pacioretty to get suspended, as some were on Twitter last night, is a little bit too much. It certainly was a two-minute penalty, but nothing more. Watching Boychuk go into the boards, my first thought was a separated shoulder. However, as the minutes wore on, it became clear that it was something more serious. The consensus now seems to be that it was some kind of back injury that led to intense spasms, probably coupled with a few broken ribs for good measure. Ain’t hockey fun?
  • Carey Price is a really good goalie, whether bitter Bruins fans will admit it or not. If I were picking Team Canada, he’d be my starter in Sochi. (That’s not true. If I were picking Team Canada, I’d make someone ridiculous my starter so I could submarine the Canadians and guarantee US dominance, but that’s a story for another day.) Price certainly didn’t “steal” the game last night, as he got some help from the solid D-corps in front of him. However, he was excellent when it mattered in the third period. Despite being a Canadien, Price is a fairly likable guy. He’s used to playing in the pressure cooker that is Montreal, and could stand up to the pressure of tending goal in the Olympics. He’d be a great choice for Team Canada.
  • I’m beginning to falter in my support for fighting in the NHL, but I do think it still has a place in the game. However, last night’s scrap between Shawn Thornton and Brandon Prust was a snoozer. If all fights were like that, no one would want fighting in the NHL. “Hey, look! A fight! Yea…zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.”
  • It’ll be interesting to see what the Bruins are made of in the coming weeks. Last night marked the start of a stretch of ten games that will see the B’s on the road eight times. Road games against Toronto, Vancouver, and Nashville will be good tests, and all kinds of weird things can happen out in Calgary and Edmonton. Last night marked the first time in what seems like an eternity that the Bruins weren’t atop the Atlantic Division. If they don’t get things together, this road trip could make the top of the Atlantic even further away.
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Four Thoughts: Weekend Recap

Here are four quick thoughts on the Bruins’ weekend against former Western Conference pals Columbus and Detroit.

  • It was good to see Loui Eriksson get on the board, notching his first two goals as a Bruin. The first goal (on Saturday) was a beauty, a “how did that go in?!” backhand whack that somehow eluded Sergei Bobrosky. Truthfully, his second goal, the one scored yesterday, probably should’ve been his first as a Bruin: the fluky, tipped-off-the-knee goal that every player in a slump seems to score. Eriksson has been solid thus far, fitting in well with Patrice Bergeron. There had been some grumbling within the fanbase after Tyler Seguin’s big night the other night, but Eriksson has been just fine, and the goals will continue to come as he gets more and more comfortable with his new teammates.
  • Brad Marchand, on the other hand, is struggling. Marchand was demoted to the third line on Saturday, skating some shifts with Jordan Caron and Chris Kelly while Reilly Smith saw action on the second line. Marchand spent all of yesterday’s game on the third line as well. Perhaps most damning, however, was Claude Julien putting Caron and Smith on the second power play unit over Marchand late in yesterday’s loss. It’s clear that Julien isn’t happy with Marchand’s game. Marchand’s case is a bit different from that of Jarome Iginla, who is getting the puck on net and making good plays but can’t seem to get a bounce. Marchand isn’t really doing much of anything, and Julien’s demotion is definitely meant to be a wake-up call. Marchand shouldn’t really be lost. Sure, best bud Seguin is out of town, but Marchand is still playing with the same center, which would be a much bigger change. It’ll be interesting to see if Marchand gets the Lucic Healthy Scratch treatment if his struggles continue, as Carl Soderberg should be ready to go any day now.
  • It was interesting to see Dougie Hamilton get sent to the press box this weekend. I don’t think it was so much a message being sent as it was Julien wanting to get Matt Bartkowski in a couple of games. Hamilton has been fine since the season started: he hasn’t done anything to earn a seat in the press box, but at the same time, he hasn’t done much to solidify his spot on the ice. Dougie is still learning the NHL game, and the Bruins have the luxury of having an extra NHL-ready young defenseman on hand at all times. I’d like to see Hamilton in the line-up, as that’s how he’ll improve, but it makes sense to get Bartkowski some reps as well.
  • The power play is back to being…well, the Bruins’ power play: failure after failure after failure. The B’s went 0-for-5 with the man advantage yesterday, also wasting 1:53 of a two-man advantage early in the third period. At first, it seemed like the B’s new power play strategy (Iginla on the side, Chara at the net-front) was working, but the B’s have fallen back into their powerless play ways. Is it time for a shake-up? Probably not yet, but at some point, the B’s have to stop the whole “maybe this time it’ll be different!” approach and go with something else.
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Game 1: Bruins 3, Lightning 1

Rather than just a bunch of random thoughts, I’m going to try to keep it to four for each game this year. We’ll see how it goes.

  1. The third line already looks miles ahead of last year’s. Remember, last year was the year the third line never really got it together: Chris Kelly struggled, Rich Peverley struggled, and the third skater featured a revolving door of players. Last night, Kelly was probably the best player on the ice, Jordan Caron looked like he finally woke up, and even Reilly Smith fit in nicely. If he continues to play like he did last night, Caron probably won’t find himself out of the lineup when Carl Soderberg is ready to return. Truthfully, the entire trio may stay intact, and Soderberg could be on the sidelines. One game doesn’t make a season, but Kelly appears determined to right the wrong that was his 2012-2013 season, and it looks like his line has the horses (pun intended, Jordan Caron) to make some noise.
  2. Jarome Iginla played like a guy who wanted to endear himself to his new teammates and especially to his new fanbase. There were grumblings on Twitter that Iginla was greeted with a smattering of boo’s as the game started, which is juvenile, but apparently some fans still have hard feelings towards the Flames legend. However, Iginla threw a big hit on his first shift, had a couple of scoring chances, and fought Radko Gudas. Nothing like dropping the gloves to win over the Garden. I say it was done on purpose because Iginla himself said that the hit by Gudas was clean (and really, it was a terrible pass by Milan Lucic, reminiscent of the awful pass that led to Lars Eller’s injury last year), and that he thought it was just the right time to do so (read: I wanted to fire up the crowd). If he keeps playing like he did last night, he’ll be welcomed with open arms.
  3. The penalty kill looked strong last night, which is a good sign. The Bruins have routinely been near the top of the league in PK efficiency for the past few years, making last year’s occasional PK slumps all the more surprising. The B’s killed off every penalty they received last night, including a couple of extended 5-on-3′s. Making the feat more impressive is the fact that Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis were among the skaters on those penalty kills, two of the more prolific power play producers in the NHL. Ideally, the B’s will stay out of the box this year, but it’s good to know that it looks like the PK can be depended on again this season.
  4. Anders Lindback didn’t exactly look like the solution in goal last night for Tampa. This is a team that has struggled to find a goalie for years now, only finding a temporary solution in Dwayne Roloson in 2011. I’m not sure if Ben Bishop will be any better, but Lindback wasn’t exactly inspiring last night. Obviously it’s not terribly fair to make judgments based off of a single game, so take all of this with a grain of salt. Lindback can’t be faulted for Kelly’s tremendous deke. However, he seemingly whiffed on Milan Lucic’s goal, and somehow let Bergeron’s squeeze past him. He also very nearly completely missed on an attempted glove save, and had a few other hairy moments. Tampa has elite offensive talent, but their defense and goaltending is suspect. The Bolts need some back-end help before this team’s offensive prime passes it by.
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Thoughts on the premiere of “Behind the B”

Some quick thoughts on last night’s premiere:

  • Overall, I really enjoyed the show. I’ve enjoyed watching HBO’s “24/7″ series, and it’s even more entertaining when it’s the hometown team. I was surprised at just how much access the cameras were granted, but I guess that’s what happens when the team produces its own show: they’re doing the final edits, so they can take whatever footage they want and make their own decisions. The first episode featured a lot of drama regarding off-season moves and the end of the Cup Final, so it’ll be interesting to see if the series can maintain its momentum or if it fizzles out during the tedium of the regular season.
  • Tyler Seguin came out of the episode looking much worse than he did going in. Everyone knew the Bruins had tired of Seguin, but it hadn’t been stated as plainly as it was last night. Interestingly, Peter Chiarelli and the Bruins brass had meetings about moving Seguin as early as the first week in June, long before the season was even over. There were two telling quotes about Seguin. One remark was about how he avoids physicality and relies on his skill, with a member of the office chiming in, “sound familiar?”, an obvious reference to Phil Kessel. The second remark was far more damning, as Seguin was compared to Patrick Kane, who also had a notorious partying past. A member of the brass said that if Seguin gave the Bruins half of what Kane gave Chicago during his younger years, the Bruins would’ve won the Cup. Ouch.
  • The B’s were very high on Andrew Ference, and made it clear that his departure was strictly one of bad circumstance. Ference simply didn’t fit anymore, as sitting young players like Torey Krug and Matt Bartkowski could no longer be justified. During his segment, Milan Lucic praised Ference as well, showing just how respected he was in the locker room. Ference’s leadership will be missed, but the team will be better with the addition of the youngsters.
  • It was funny to see that Chiarelli first found out Nathan Horton wasn’t returning to Boston the way most of us did: through Twitter.
  • The prospects segment was interesting as well, as it revealed that the B’s appear to be highest on Brian Ferlin and Matthew Lindblad, two players who were said to be close to making the jump during last night’s episode. Ferlin will be going back to Cornell, but seems to be ready to challenge for a roster spot next September. Lindblad seems as close as anyone, having recorded five points in four games with Providence last season. Lindblad reported to Providence after his college career ended and he signed with the B’s as a free agent, so it’ll be interesting to see what he can do in his first full professional season. If he has a strong start in the AHL, Lindblad may be a “first guy up” kind of player, i.e. the first P-Bruin brought to Boston in the case of an injury.
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Wrapping up a wild weekend

The Bruins had some fireworks of their own this weekend, moving Tyler Seguin and Rich Peverley while adding Loui Eriksson, Jarome Iginla, and a few prospects. Here are some thoughts on what went down.

  • What happened to Seguin? Simply put, it seems like the Bruins got tired of waiting for Tyler Seguin to grow up, both on and off the ice. On the ice, Seguin still hadn’t fully committed to playing the two-way game the Bruins wanted from him. Though he improved over last season, he still was hesitant to initiate or take body contact, and still shied away from the corners on occasion. Off the ice, Seguin had chugged his last Boston beer, in the eyes of the B’s brass. It seems like everyone of age in Boston has some Seguin party story, someone who knows someone’s cousin who partied with Seguin at a bar, or someone who got a picture of her friend with Seguin at a house party, etc. There’s nothing wrong with a 21-year-old millionaire enjoying himself; however, when it allegedly starts entering into “house arrest” territory (an inflammatory accusation that isn’t at all attributed to anyone, so I kind of can’t believe the Herald ran with it), there’s clearly a bigger issue. For those saying “whatever, he’s just a kid, all kids screw up and party too much,” proof that refutes that can be found in the other winger on Seguin’s line for most of the season. Brad Marchand was the most notorious partier in Boston in the summer of 2011, with his shirtless antics being broadcast all over the Internet. Notice how there hasn’t been much news about Marchand’s clubbing or red Solo cup-filled parties since then? Marchand grew up. To see the contrast, one needs to only look at this past week: Seguin got traded, then threw a party anyways (sure, it may have been scheduled in advance, but maybe don’t invite people who will plaster you all over Instagram), while Marchand supposedly spent the holiday in Bristol with his girlfriend. One player is still here, and one isn’t. One had his fun, got it, and grew up, while the other fist pumped his way to Texas. I think the B’s will miss Seguin’s talent, but if these are the stories that come to the surface, imagine how much may lurk behind the scenes. Cutting ties with Seguin before his big contract kicked in was probably the right move. It’s up to him to wise up, ditch the crew of hangers-on he surrounds himself with, and embrace his new opportunity in Dallas. For his sake, I hope he figures it out.
  • Loui Loui! The acquisition of Loui Eriksson is pretty exciting for the B’s, as Eriksson had a reputation for being an underrated player who often flew under the radar because he played hockey in a football market. In fact, Eriksson was once voted the most underrated player in the league in a Sports Illustrated poll of his peers. If he continues to produce in a sports-crazed market like Boston, he won’t be under the radar much longer. Eriksson is a good two-way player, and will likely skate on the second line with Patrice Bergeron and Marchand. Since 2008-2009, Eriksson has put up totals of 63, 71, 73, 71, and 29 (lockout season) points, so he’s been pretty consistent for years now. If the B’s want to try to switch things up, they can try to skate him with fellow Swede Carl Soderberg and hope the Tre Kronor connection cashes in. But Eriksson is a fine talent and a very good player, something that makes parting with Seguin’s potential easier to swallow.
  • A do-over for Jarome Jarome Iginla got his second chance this weekend, signing a one-year deal with the Bruins just months after spurning them for the Pens at the trade deadline and a few weeks after those same Penguins were swept by the Bruins. It was apparently Iginla who initiated the conversation, an interesting, pride-swallowing step considering what happened at the trade deadline. I wasn’t really thrilled with this signing, as giving Iginla $6 million didn’t seem to make much sense to me. If it was all about the cap, the Bruins traded a better player (Seguin) making less money ($5.75 million) to sign an older guy with a big name. I don’t think Iginla will be a bust in Boston, and I do think he’ll do well skating on a line with David Krejci and Milan Lucic. One can’t help but be concerned with his durability as he gets older, however, and if he’s a shell of his former self, that’s a big chunk of change to be giving him. However, I do think Iginla will fit in with the B’s just fine, and that the trade deadlines hard feelings will be forgotten by the fans the first time Iginla takes the ice in black and gold.
  • Rich a victim of riches Rich Peverley was the other Bruins shipped to Dallas, and his departure is going a bit unnoticed, with Seguin getting most of the press. Peverley had a pretty down season (as did most of the third line), and ended up being a victim of his prior success: Peverley’s better Bruin days led to a big pay raise, which led to the team being unable to keep him due to cap constraints. Such is life in the salary cap NHL, and Peverley will be missed. He was a dependable two-way player, a guy who was good for a big goal every few weeks, and the best fist-pumper the Bruins had.
  • Now what? I’d expect the Bruins to be done for a while now, standing pat aside from re-signing Tuukka Rask and extending Patrice Bergeron’s contract. Below is what the lineup projects to look like on opening night. Not too shabby.

Lucic-Krejci-Iginla

Marchand-Bergeron-Eriksson

Soderberg-Kelly-Caron/Providence

Thornton-Campbell-Paille

Chara-Seidenberg

Boychuk-Krug/Bartkowski

McQuaid-Hamilton

Rask

Johnson/Svedberg

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Game 3: Bruins 2, Blackhawks 0

Some quick thoughts on last night’s shutout victory:

  • Third line strikes again I’m not sure what it is about the new third line of Chris Kelly, Daniel Paille, and Tyler Seguin, but they’ve got something good going on. Perhaps it’s the fact that all three have great speed, and are using it to their advantage? At times, they’ve buzzed around the offensive zone, almost daring the Chicago checkers to keep up. Paille and Kelly are also tremendously responsible defensively, and that has combined with Seguin’s playmaking skill to be deadly on the counterattack. Seguin has looked better and better as this series has gone on. He’s close to breaking through.
  • Ho hum, another solid night from Rask It’s getting to be almost routine now, isn’t it? Tuukka Rask comes up big again, making the big stops when called upon and not making any mistakes. Rask now leads the postseason in wins, shots face, saves, save percentage, goals against average, and shutouts. He wasn’t tested nearly as often last night as he was early in Game 2, but he was ready when he needed to be. He was also excellent at controlling his rebounds and at playing the puck when it was dumped in. Simply put, Rask was stellar. Again.
  • Hawks trying too hard? The Bruins did a great job of limiting the Blackhawks’ scoring chances last night, but the Hawks also did a great job of limiting themselves. They had three or four prime scoring chances from the slot, and seemed to either pass up on the shot or miss the net every time. Is Rask in their heads? Yes, I think he is, to an extent. By that, I mean that Rask has been so solid that they’re trying to make the perfect shot every time. Rather than think “just get it on net and go for a rebound,” players like Patrick Kane are aiming for a tiny spot in the net where they think Rask can’t get to it. Sure, all players shoot to score. But all players also shoot just to get the puck on net a lot of the time, and whatever happens from there is great. My point is that the Hawks may be fine-tuning their shots a little too much, going for the perfect shot rather than a good shot.
  • Bad ice It can probably be chalked up to the humidity and crappy weather outside combining with the heat inside the arena, but the ice at the Garden looked pretty bad last night. In fact, Rask said the ice was “shitty,” and he would know. The bad ice led to a 3-on-1 being fumbled by Kaspars Daugavins, a few rare turnovers from Zdeno Chara, and a failed breakaway from Brad Marchand. Such are the perils of playing hockey in June, but it’ll be up to the players to make the sure plays rather than the hope plays.
  • Bad Bolland Dave Bolland had himself a tough evening. The Blackhawk agitator/Canuck killer took three minor penalties, was a minus-1, and got his stick lifted immediately before the Paille goal. Ouch.
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One series left: Cup Final preview

Busy day at work today, so I’ll keep my thoughts on this series brief. Here we go:

  • To me, the Blackhawks are a lot like the Penguins: high-end talent up front, a fantastic regular season, and high expectations. There’s one key difference: the Hawks have a defense that, you know, plays defense. The Blackhawks are like the Penguins in that they’re a well-rounded team with plenty of firepower, but they also have a very solid defense corps. This series will be another challenge for the B’s, but they’ve clearly been up to the task thus far. The Hawks’ defensemen move the puck out of their zone very well. It’ll be important for the Bruins to establish a good forecheck, particularly bruisers like Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton on the first line and Shawn Thornton on the fourth. Wear the Hawks’ defensemen down.
  • I’m not sure what to expect from Corey Crawford. He seems to alternate between being a top-flight goalie and being merely average enough to stay in the net. He’s got very solid stats this postseason, but I don’t buy him as an “elite” goalie quite yet. However, the Hawks won the Cup in 2010 without an “elite” goalie (Antti Niemi), so that may not matter as much.
  • My father, Father BruinsHockeyNow, and I have watched a lot of Hawks games over the past few years to watch our neighbor, Jimmy Hayes, play professional hockey (which is pretty cool). He won’t be playing in this series (barring injuries), but it’s given me a chance to watch this Chicago team. The other day, my father said that he thinks Patrick Kane will go away if the Bruins put a body on him, and I tend to agree with him. Kane and Tyler Seguin are similar in that they’re both highly skilled but shy away from physical contact. If they get pounded and pounded every shift, they’ll start to stay away from the corners and loose pucks. It’ll be important for the B’s to put a body on Kane (legally) every time he touches the puck.
  • Jonathan Toews is normally one of the most even-keeled players in the NHL, so it was strange to see him absolutely lose his mind in the Detroit series. It was also a plus for the Bruins. If Toews got that far off his game against Detroit, imagine what a player like Brad Marchand, a known agitator could do to him. Toews was absolutely ineffective for huge stretches of that Detroit series because players like Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk were driving him nuts. Toews is the rudder of this Hawks team; if the B’s can get him off his game, good things will happen.
  • Special teams may be a wash again in this series. Both teams have strong penalty kills, and both have struggling power plays. If one side can break through, it’ll be a game-changer.
  • It’ll be important for the Bruins to not buy into Andrew Shaw’s antics, the same way the Hawks must avoid being baited by Marchand. Shaw is a Marchand Lite, a small, annoying guy who has a knack for scoring when you hate him the most. Lucic in particular is a guy who I can see taking a swipe at Shaw and possibly taking a dumb penalty in the process. The B’s must maintain their composure.
  • So what happens? The Bruins are currently playing the best hockey I’ve ever seen them play, quite frankly. No Bruins team I’ve ever seen has played the kind of all-around hockey this team has played since the last ten minutes of Game 7 vs. Toronto. It’s incredible. If Tuukka Rask puts forth the effort he did against Pittsburgh, the B’s have this one in the bag. If he’s merely average, they should still be OK if they play the strong team defense they’re capable of. I see the Bruins splitting the first two in Chicago, winning both at home, then clinching the Cup on Garden ice in Game 6. Let’s hope that’s how it goes down.
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