Final buzzer: Bruins blow lead, still winless at home after losing to Flyers in OT

Captain Claude Giroux’s power play goal in overtime, his second of the game, gave the Boston Bruins their fourth loss at home this season in as many tries as the Philadelphia Flyers defeated them by a 5-4 score in sudden death.

Bruins and Flyers met at the TD Garden in NBCSN’s much-ballyhooed “Rivalry Night”, and although the B’s overcame a sluggish start and 1-0 and 2-1 deficits to gain a 4-2 advantage, quick third period goals by Flyers big guns Giroux and Wayne Simmonds evened the score with 8:39 left in regulation to set up the 3-on-3 overtime period.

The B’s once again got solid production from its special teams in the form of both power play and shorthanded goals (the second such shortie in as many games) from Patrice Bergeron and Chris Kelly respectively.

The Flyers struck first with a goal from Paris, France-born Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, who put in his own rebound after boxing out Joonas Kemppainen and getting to the puck when Tuukka Rask was unable to close his glove on the initial shot.

Boston evened the score with Brett Connolly’s first goal as a Bruin dating back to his acquisition at last February’s trade deadline. He swooped in and converted a Bergeron rebound after Giroux failed to pick him up, firing the puck into the net past starter Michal Neuvirth.

The Flyers re-took the lead right after that when Sam Gagner capitalized on a bad line change by Boston to gain some extra time and space and beat Rask with a shot to make it 2-1 on his second goal of the season.

Boston tied it up when Bergeron batted a puck out of mid-air with the man advantage late in the opening frame. The NHL’s most lethal power play unit moved the puck with authority in the offensive zone and when Loui Eriksson worked the puck to the front of the net, David Krejci’s initial shot bounced up in the air with Bergeron right at the top of the paint to knock it in. Neuwirth slumped over after that play, which was a harbinger of things to come.

As the opening frame ended, Zac Rinaldo reminded everyone of the controversy that surrounded his summer acquisition (for a 2017 third-round pick) when he hit Sean Couturier hard at the buzzer, knocking the big center out of the game. At speed, the play looked like a head shot, but when slowed down, it appeared that Rinaldo went shoulder to chest, but Couturier had his head down, appearing to brace for backside checking pressure coming from Adam McQuaid. When Rinaldo ran him, his head snapped back and Couturier went down hard. Rinaldo was assessed a 5-minute charging match penalty (game misconduct) that will likely draw some form of supplemental discipline given Rinaldo’s history. The hit looked dirty, but the unfortunate outcome was that the Flyers player was lost for the remainder of the contest.

When the second period started, Neuvirth was out of the crease and not present on the bench with an undisclosed injury, giving way to Steve Mason.

While the Flyers were on the Rinaldo power play, the B’s rubbed some salt in the wounds on a breakout, with Eriksson throwing the puck to the Philly net with Chris Kelly driving straight in at Mason. The shot hit Kelly’s skate and deflected in the net to make it a 3-2 score.

Boston added to the lead when Jimmy Hayes broke in on the right side and threw a shot at the Flyers net from a sharp angle that somehow snuck over the goal line past Mason to make it 4-2.

Boston was cruising near the halfway mark of the final frame when Colin Miller found David Pastrnak all alone in the high slot with a yawning net to hit, but somehow, Mason got his glove hand across to deny the young B what looked like a surefire goal. The NHL reviewed it, but the call on the ice of no goal stood, leaving the score at 4-2.

That opened the door for Philly’s quick strikes to tie the game and eventually force overtime, especially after the B’s did not register a single shot on Mason in the final 12 minutes and change of regulation.

Ryan Spooner took a hooking call after Michael Del Zotto all but grabbed onto Spooner’s stick while hurling himself to the ice in spectacular fashion, but it worked to perfection. The Flyers went on the 4-on-3 man advantage with Bergeron-Zdeno Chara-MQuaid unable to clear the zone before the puck worked over Giroux for the one-timer that found the back of the net past Rask.

UP

Patrice Bergeron- On the day his first child, a son named Zack was born to him and wife Stephanie, Bergeron assisted on the Connolly goal and added one of his own. As Globe scribe Amalie Benjamin said- assist, goal and baby- thats got to be some kind of newfangled trick for the new dad, who couldn’t quite pull out the win for his boy.

Brett Connolly- For the former Lightning high-end prospect, this goal was a long time coming and he didn’t miss. He also displayed speed and quickness throughout the game, though that was all he was able to generate on the score sheet. If Connolly could put it all together, the B’s will benefit and for now- finding the back of the net is a good start for him.

Chris Kelly- He got one shorthanded goal and was instrumental on the Hayes tally with a hustling back check to diffuse a Philadelphia scoring chance then transition the play back the other way. The savvy veteran is contributing this season with his typical three-zone effectiveness while also adding some early production.

DOWN

Zac Rinaldo- C’mon, man. All that talk of turning over a new leaf…it doesn’t matter if the hit was technically shoulder-to-chest contact- it was unnecessary as Couturier did not have the puck and was looking away from Rinaldo as he came in. Fair or not- Rinaldo is not going to get the benefit of the doubt on plays like that, and so he’s getting hammered in the court of public opinion right now, especially since Couturier is out with what is believed to be a concussion. Not smart, but a lot of critics said this was coming and it only took six games. C’mon man.

Tuukka Rask- At some point, you have to quit making excuses for the guy. He’s off, and this was a game the Bruins played well enough to win, save for the fact that they didn’t get some key stops from him when they needed it.  Even if you allow for the fact that Kevan Miller’s turnover behind the net leading to the first Giroux strike was not on him, he was off the angle on the Simmonds goal and simply isn’t playing like the All-Star caliber goalie the B’s need him to be. It’s not Bobrovskian on the scale of disappointments in the early season, but the Bruins and their fans have a right to expect a whole lot more than what Rask is giving them right now.

David Pastrnak- Love the kid’s talent and enthusiasm, but the turnovers continue and when he had a glittering chance to put the game away, he wasn’t able to, opening the door for the Flyers comeback. You have to grit your teeth and live with the mistakes given how hard he works and how well intentioned he is, but he’s hurting the team and needs to simplify/try to find a balance between the high-risk decisions he’s making and the natural ability we all know he has to score points in this league.

Joonas Kemppainen- At this point, I’ve seen enough. He’s soft on the puck, not assertive enough, appears to be a step behind when it matters. Most of the time he looks like he’s in the right spots but  is just not making plays. I have to think Max Talbot would give you more effective all-around play on the bottom line than this guy will at this stage.

Kevan Miller- He’s got to be better in his own end. His aborted attempt to reverse the puck led to the goal that pulled Philly back into it, and when you’re a fringe d-man, you can’t afford those kinds of mistakes. Miller is one tough nut and a rugged customer, but he doesn’t have enough in the way of talent to get by when he makes gaffes out of what should be a routine exchange. Tighten up.

Ryan Spooner- Great on the power play, but not getting it done at even strength where the advanced stats are exposing him down near the bottom of the league in puck possession. The penalty he took in OT won’t help his case either, but in his defense, Del Zotto sold that like a Sotheby’s auctioneer.

Tough loss in a game the Bruins really had on their plate to win. It won’t get any easier when they travel to Brooklyn to face the Islanders on Friday, but play away from the TD Garden has offset their poor performance at home, so we’ll see.

Special K: Why David Krejci’s resurgence matters

When the Boston Bruins drafted David Krejci at the end of the second round (Detroit’s pick acquired via Los Angeles a year earlier at the 2003 NHL draft) the Czech teenager had frosted highlights in his hair and used then-B’s scout and former draft choice Otto Hascak to translate for him. He didn’t have anything all that profound to say to reporters, but the team’s front office gushed in the usual way about how excited the B’s were to get Krejci where they did and were effusive in their praise of his hockey sense and potential as a No. 1 or 2 NHL center.

11 years later, Krejci is among the NHL scoring leaders (albeit real early) and dropping the kind of thoughtful quotes that he’s been delivering with an articulate though soft-spoken and thickly accented delivery since 2009 or thereabouts. That was when posted his best offensive season and emerged as the top two line center current assistant GM and former amateur scouting director Scott Bradley said he could be in Raleigh, where the ’04 draft was held.

Here’s what Steve Conroy wrote about Krejci in the Boston Herald:

When David Krejci was asked after the Bruins’ 5-3 victory over the Arizona Coyotes on Saturday if he was at all surprised how quickly the Bruins’ power play has come together this season, the center seemed a bit perplexed.

It wasn’t an off-the-wall question, considering how much trouble the B’s have had on the power play in the past, but why would Krejci be surprised?

“If you go out there and don’t expect to score,” said Krejci, “then you shouldn’t be out there.”

Mic drop, please.

Krejci didn’t get his generous contract extension, the one that pays him north of $7M and represents another significant bite of the B’s salary cap apple, based on his statistics. Even by modern NHL standards, where scoring is down compared to where it was in the 1980s and early-to-mid 1990s, Krejci’s regular season production is pretty pedestrian. Where the native of Sternberk in the Czech Republic has raised the bar and proven his worth is in the playoffs, when his points-per-game average rises from 0.75 to 0.83. Had not not been for his struggles in the 2014 postseason (he wasn’t alone, either) with a mere 4 assists in 12 games, that postseason average would be even higher.

But Krejci has also proven his worth as a leader and student of the game. He might be a quiet guy by nature, whose voice is so soft that you’re out of luck if caught in the very back of a postgame scrum without a recorder that can pick up a pin drop or canine-like hearing; but don’t be fooled. Krejci is one of the fiercest, most driven and uncomprising competitors in that room.

The players know it. The coaches know it. Management does too. And the fans, well…let’s just say that in the world of salary cap, flashy plays and what-have-you-done-for-me-lately, even if some of them are aware of how good a teammate he is, it didn’t matter to many given the lack of scoring in the 2014 playoffs and the carryover to last season, much of it spent on the IR.

Right now, Krejci is in his prime at age 29, and he’s playing like one of Boston’s top paid players for a pretty simple reason: he knows that he must.

In an effort to get Boston’s salary cap situation better under control, more in the way of established talent left the team than came in last summer. Slow start in Los Angeles aside, Milan Lucic still represented a significant loss in production (not to mention one of Krejci’s established wingers), so it was critical for the veteran center to not only begin the new season healthy, but find away to translate his effort into production.

Krejci is not a dynamic skater, so to the untrained eye, he can look at times like he’s floating and not getting much accomplished. However, when you break down the goals he’s been scoring and the plays he’s made in the first five games, you see a player who is performing not only with confidence, but is emulating that critical element of any real NHL scorer: the ability to get to the right spaces in the offensive zone where he can either get the puck to the teammate best positioned to finish, or…screw it…score the goal himself.

Go back and look at his power play goal against Arizona. When he takes the pass from Torey Krug, he’s in that sweet spot by the left faceoff dot, coiled like a cobra ready to strike and he one-times a bullet that Coyotes goalie Mike Smith had no chance-none- of stopping. Unless Krejci hit him with it, which, he didn’t.

Krejci’s resurgence matters because the best way a player like him can lead is by example. When the younger skaters on the team watch how effective he is, see how he creates magic from the mundane but does it with a set of tools that has never earned him a great deal of respect outside of Boston, they realize that with a willingness to work and do the best with what you’ve been given, good things are possible indeed.

Like Patrice Bergeron, Krejci isn’t a rah-rah, in-your-face fiery leader who demands accountability and isn’t shy about calling people out. He speaks softly, carries a big stick and when he does have something to say, his mates listen. It isn’t an accident that Krejci wears an ‘A’ on his sweater. It’s not just because he’s scoring and winning faceoffs- the other players in the room look at him and say- “That’s the kind of veteran I want to be like,” and they embrace his example.

One day, when he hangs up the skates, Krejci is going to coach hockey at a high level. He won’t be a fiery bench boss, nor will he rub elbows and hold court with those who cover his teams. But, to those future charges he’ll mentor and train, he’ll teach them more about the game and how to be successful professionals than most.

That’s a long way off, though. For now- he’s making a difference and helping his team get back on track after an 0-3 start. If you ask him, he’ll say that winning is all that matters, and he’s telling the truth.

But deep down inside, like any driven competitor who has found himself on the receiving of biting criticism at times, he couldn’t be happier to be getting the points. And he’ll work even harder to make sure they keep coming.

Final buzzer: Bruins wilier than the Coyotes; 3 PPGs pace a 5-3 victory

The Boston Bruins got near-perfect special teams play in desert, scoring three power play goals (including two by Patrice Bergeron) on six tries, plus a short-handed marker by Brad Marchand to defeat the Arizona Coyotes by a 5-3 score, raising the record to 2-3 after five games. Tuukka Rask made 23 saves to post his first ‘W’ of the season for Boston.

A sleepy first 40 minutes saw a barrage of goals in the final period (B’s got four, Coyotes two), as the B’s took their second victory of the season after going 0-3 at home.

Arizona got goals 2:24 apart by Tobias Rieder and Kyle Chipchura to even the game at 3 goals apiece with plenty of time on the clock. However, Bergeron broke the deadlock with a power play goal about mid-way through the third, redirecting a Ryan Spooner shot/pass into the net behind Coyotes goaltender Mike Smith for the tally that stood up as the winner.

As was the case in Denver Wednesday night, the B’s came out with energy and enjoyed an advantage in territorial play early. However, unlike the Avalanche, they were unable to solve Smith.

Arizona opened the scoring on a goal by veteran Shane Doan, whose initial shot was stopped by Rask, but defenseman Kevan Miller’s skate made contact with the puck and it slid into the net for Doan’s 900th career point. Coach Claude Julien issued a second unsuccessful coach’s challenge in as many tries, making the case that Arizona forward Joe Vitale had entered the crease and made contact with the Boston netminder. Unfortunately for Julien, even though Vitale entered the crease on his own and did bump Rask, the referee elected not to overrule himself and the call stood, maintaining that the contact was not related to the play that resulted in the puck crossing the goal line.

The B’s tied the game in the second period when fourth-line winger Tyler Randell scored his second goal in as many games, rifling a nifty backhander over Smith and into the net.

The B’s extended their lead while on the power play later in the period when David Krejci took a Torey Krug (2 assists, 22:55 TOI, 5 shots, 5 blocked shots) cross-ice pass and buried it with a rocket one-timer for his team-leading fourth goal of the season.

In the third period, the B’s made it 3-1 when Marchand got behind the Arizona defense, took a Tommy Cross bank clear/pass off the glass, and went in alone on Smith, beating him with a quick backhander. That gave Marchand his first goal of the season and Cross his first career NHL point. He was victimized on the Doan goal after an errant pass gave Arizona possession, but he ended up handling the rest of the game in solid fashion. As long as the Bruins keep winning, Julien and company will likely keep rolling Cross out there.

Although the Coyotes struck back and gave Boston fans an element of “here we go again” nerves, Bergeron’s first goal of the night restored the lead and then he struck again after Adam McQuaid drew an interference call late, firing a wrist shot that Smith whiffed on to close out the scoring.

With Boston’s power play at the top of the league and Krejci leading the way in scoring while admittedly very early on, this Bruins team has strung together a pair of hard-working victories, scoring 11 goals after netting just seven in their first three.

UP

Patrice Bergeron- With a pair of power play goals and his usual solid play, Bergeron led by example tonight, firing 8 shots on net and being rewarded by the coaches with more than 22 minutes of ice time.

Brad Marchand- The pesky little waterbug showed why he is so valuable to the club, netting his first goal of the year while the B’s were killing a penalty and generating multiple other scoring chances. He creates opportunities with his speed, but he’s a smart player, too. While on the power play, he took a Zdeno Chara shot off the leg, but had the presence of mind to get his stick on the puck and work it back out to the point so the B’s could reset. That’s going to get a thumbs up from the coaches when they break down film on this one. The team is so glad to have him back after his concussion and he looked to be suffering nothing in the way of after effects tonight.

Tuukka Rask- The save percentage (.870) is nothing to write home about, but the two points are huge for him. The Bruins don’t win this game without their main man in net. His tremendous save on Rieder after Anthony DuClair set him up for a glittering chance late in the second period was a highlight reel stop and reinforces the old adage of- it isn’t how many goals you give up, but when you give them up that matters more. Although Rieder would get Rask later on a rebound of his own shot after the B’s were just standing around while killing a penalty, Boston got enough offense tonight that their goaltender’s saves pulled them through.

David Krejci- One of the great things about David is how serious he is. People who haven’t been around him don’t appreciate his off-the-charts competitive drive and how tough he is on himself when he doesn’t perform. He was immensely disappointed not only in the fact that the Bruins missed the playoffs last year, but that he had a pretty poor season by his standards even though he was less than 100 percent most of the time. He heard and read the criticisms of his contract extension, so he’s doing the only thing he knows how- playing his best to silence the doubters by producing like a $7M a year player. His scoring clip is probably not sustainable for him given his overall body of work, but if there was one player on this team who needed a quick start, it was him. It’s just Krejci being Krejci really, but he’s playing with a ton of confidence, so don’t be surprised if he sets career bests in all categories this year.

Tyler Randell- He once scored four goals in a single playoff game while in the OHL, so Randell has always had the hands…he showed them off again tonight lasering a backhand shot past Smith before the Coyotes goalie could react. And we haven’t even had a chance to see Randell do what he’s on the team for yet…his toughness. Boston may have found a fixture for the bottom line. It’s early yet, but if you think Boston fans like him now, wait until he drops the gloves a few times.

Special Teams- 3/6 with the man advantage, 1 shorthanded goal. The Rieder goal that came on the same power play just 13 seconds later was the only blemish on the night. Spooner and Krug are particularly impressive on the power play with the way they move the puck around. The hands, the vision, the ability to take advantage of the added time and space- this is precisely what every good team with the extra man tries to do. It’s nice to see a couple of young players- former housemates in Providence- demonstrating the kind of chemistry and skill they’ve shown together.

DOWN

It was a well-played game across the board for Boston. They still have problems with coverage in front of their net, especially when teams overload and the B’s have trouble sorting out who is responsible for what.

However, on this night- not singling anyone out. Sure- there were some mistakes, and some guys looked slower and hobbled at times, but the team pulled together for another gritty win and with the special teams looking as strong as they have early on, you can see that even if the 2015-16 Bruins might lack the talent to keep up consistently with the NHL’s powers, there is some character in this plucky bunch.

They head back to Boston on a high note with some time to refresh before taking on Philadelphia at home on Wednesday. Time to give the hometown fans something to cheer about, boys.

Final buzzer: B’s are on a Mile High with first win, 6-2 over Avs

Tyler Randell netted his first NHL goal in his first NHL game in Boston's first win of 2015-16 (Photo courtesy of Alison M. Foley)

Tyler Randell netted his first NHL goal in his first NHL game in Boston’s first win of 2015-16 (Photo courtesy of Alison M. Foley)

The Boston Bruins posted their first win of the season in Denver by a 6-2 score by jumping on the Colorado Avalanche and racing to a 5-0 lead. They chased starter Semyon Varlamov from the net and by dominating the puck possession game by limiting the Avs to just 12 shots in the first 40 minutes.

The 3rd line made the biggest difference keyed by Jimmy Hayes (1g, 4 points) and Ryan Spooner (1g, 2 points), forechecking effectively, forcing turnovers and then capitalizing on said turnovers with goals by Chris Kelly and Spooner in the second frame.

The game marked a couple of first career appearances for defenseman Tommy Cross and winger Tyler Randell. Cross became the second player from Boston’s 2007 draft class (Zach Hamill) and Randell the third from 2009 (Jordan Caron, Lane McDermid) to skate in the big show.

Jonas Gustavsson got his first NHL start for the Bruins, and wasn’t tested all that much. He held Colorado off the scoreboard until late in the second frame when David Pastrnak took a double-minor for high sticking former teammate Carl Soderbergh. Fellow Swede Gabriel Landeskog spun around with the puck just outside the crease, and Zdeno Chara (2 assists) tried to poke it off his stick, but inadvertently pushed it past Gustavsson to make it 5-1 after two periods.

Fourth-line center John Mitchell made it 5-2 on a lazy outside shot that caught Gustavsson cheating. This is a shame because the Monster made some excellent stops while his team was on the power play earlier in the period, so to give up such a soft goal with a little under 9 minutes left took some of the shine off of an otherwise solid performance in net (he made a terrific breakaway stop on Avs top draft pick Mikko Rantanen in the first period to keep Colorado off the board).

Boston’s top two lines had a quiet night with no goals scored (save for David Krejci’s empty net tally at the end), but that’s how its supposed to work- the big horses had generated much of the team’s offense in the three losses- so to have the bottom two lines, plus Kevan Miller grab hold of the scoring load is a good sign. The team’s strength is up front, so for one night at least, things are back on track.

Up 

Jimmy Hayes- He was in the “down” section for the Tampa Bay game, but he bounced back with a career-best 4-point night in this one, tallying the second goal of the contest by batting a Chara rebound out of the air and into the net. You could tell by his celly that a huge weight was taken off his shoulders with that one. The added pressure that local boys feel when they put on that spoked B is real, but Hayes wasn’t done. He forced a neutral zone turnover i the second period, getting the puck to Spooner, who fed Kelly with a backhand sauce pass. The veteran then skated in, made a quick deke in traffic and put the puck past Varlamov to make it 4-0. Hayes then forced another turnover deep in the Colorado zone and got it to Spooner on a backhander, who roofed a shot for his first goal of the season to finish Varlamov’s night. Hayes added an assist on Krejci’s empty-netter to seal the win. He skated a more uptempo game, and just maybe- getting away from Boston and the TD Garden was good for him. On this night, Hayes looked like he was having a lot of fun out there, and let’s face it- even though these guys are professionals, that’s how it should be for the most part.

Ryan Spooner- Along with Pastrnak, Spooner is Boston’s most dynamic forward, so if he isn’t scoring, he’s probably not helping a whole lot. Having said that- tonight he was skating hard on the forecheck, creating problems for Colorado as they tried to gain possession in their own end and break the puck out. He’s never going to be a stalwart two-way center, but the Bruins don’t need him to be that. He has to give a good effort away from the puck, but as long as he’s making things happen on offense, the team can live with the occasional lapses that will happen. His assist on the Kelly goal looked effortless- it wasn’t- and his first goal of the season was a pure snipe to the top shelf that was off his stick in a blur.

Tyler Randell- He became the first Bruin to score in his debut since Blake Wheeler back in October, 2008- which was interestingly enough- some eight months before Boston drafted Randell in Montreal. That’s how long it has been, and if you had said smart money would be on Randell finding the back of the net in his NHL debut, you should go out and get your lottery ticket. The rugged, physical forward didn’t have to do much in that regard, but his goal was vintage Randell: he tipped Adam McQuaid’s point blast home, demonstrating his slick hands. The skating is what has kept him from the NHL prior to now, but you can see that he has value on the bottom line, especially when things get tough. He won’t thrive in an uptempo game, but he’s proving that in the right role, there’s a place for him on this club.

Chris Kelly- The veteran looks pretty good on the third line left wing with Spooner and Hayes. He’s not the fastest guy out there, but he’s smart, industrious and in scoring his first of the season, showed off the slick hands that he previously parlayed into 20+ goals. Anytime you can get offense out of Kelly it’s a bonus, because he’s such a key leader and sterling example for the younger players. He may not be the most skilled LW to put on that line, but he’s getting the job done.

Tommy Cross- It was a solid, unspectacular night. He played sheltered minutes and wasn’t asked to do a whole lot, but for a guy who was drafted nearly nine years ago, he deserves ups for getting here. Cross is an NHL player- no one can take that from him. What happens from here partly up to him and partly not, but for one night- he looked like he belonged, and there are a lot more folks out there than this columnist who are genuinely happy for a genuinely good guy.

Kevan Miller- He opened the scoring on an absolute bomb from the point that rang off the far post and clanked in. For a guy who missed the second half of last season to have shoulder surgery, he looked like a winner on that play.

Adam McQuaid- Forget about the assist on Randell’s goal- did you see that nifty little spin move he put on along the half-wall to shake the defender and maintain possession, then fed it out in front to Loui Eriksson, who was stoned on what would have been a highlight goal? Wow- where did that come from?! He then put the puck to the net on the ensuing play and Randell tipped it in…great shift for No. 54.

Down-

Brett Connolly- He’ll show it in flashes, but the consistent shifts where Connolly is working, creating and making an impact on the game are still lacking. The B’s need a lot more from him. If you didn’t see it at all, it would make for an easy call for the coaches, but the talent is there for the former sixth overall pick. He’s still looking for his first goal as a Bruin and he had a great chance in the first period (right before Miller scored) when sent in alone on Varlamov but couldn’t even hit the net.

Joonas Kemppainen- Another soft performance from the Finnish newcomer. He’s not strong enough on pucks to these eyes and seems to be around the play a lot, which is a sign of his good hockey IQ, but he has left me wanting more. Kemppainen looks like a player, but he’s got to get more engaged to make a difference.

The good news- B’s fans won’t have to wonder about any more losses to increase the winless streak, and you have to hand it to the team for cooling off a hot offense at home. However, there is still plenty of work ahead for this group- improvements are showing through in their play, especially in puck support along the walls, so there isn’t a whole lot to take issue with on this one.

Providence captain Cross brought up, Koko still in the mix

There is some good stuff posted yesterday in the Providence Journal by friend and colleague Mark Divver on Tommy Cross and Alex Khokhlachev. The piece has analysis and quotes from Cross on his playing style and development since turning pro so I won’t go into that.

Cross, 26, was recalled by the Boston Bruins yesterday after Joe Morrow went on the IR in the wake of Matt Irwin’s demotion to the AHL. Irwin was not claimed on waivers by any of the other 29 teams (And why would they? His two-game stint in Boston was one of the more distressing performances in recent history), but he’ll be a valuable contributor in Providence, as his NHL experience and skill set will serve him well at the lower level.

On the other hand, Cross to Boston is a positive story for the team. He’s the last remnant of one of the worst draft classes in Bruins history- 2007- when the B’s held the eighth and 38th overall selections after Peter Chiarelli’s first full season as GM. The B’s drafted WHL leading scorer Zach Hamill with their top pick, then traded their 38th and third-round picks to move up three spots to 35 to grab Cross, the Westminster prep captain who brought good size, skating ability and a cannon shot to the mix.

It’s easy to look back at those decisions and shake the head in 2015, as the B’s would almost certainly have drafted Logan Couture at 8 and P.K. Subban at 35 (heck- they could have had him at 38 if they had stood pat), but that’s life and the NHL draft, where projected 17-18-year-old kids is more art than science. The hardcore fans who follow the draft still dredge up the memories of the failures of Boston’s ’07 class (which included such luminaries as Dennis Reul, Alain Goulet, Radim Ostrcil and Jordan Knackstedt) and that’s fair. The team not only missed on its early picks, but it absolutely swung and whiffed everywhere else that year. Blowing an entire draft class has a delayed penalty that the B’s are feeling now, especially when you take into account that they had two picks in the top-35 that year. Poor showings at the draft table in 2008 and 2009 have added to the issues the team faces, but in getting back to 2007 and what the Cross callup means for a second…

First of all, Cross is a solid minor league defenseman who just might play his way into a supporting role at the NHL level if not with Boston then another club, perhaps. His development was stalled at the beginning because he suffered a knee injury playing baseball right before the draft. The B’s took him anyway, which shows how much they liked him, but he continued to have issues with it, having several more surgeries before seemingly putting it all behind him in his last two full seasons at Boston College. By then, it had become apparent that the player Boston projected at 17 in his draft year to be a potential top-3, big minutes, two-way defender with character, was more of a solid stay-at-home bottom pairing journeyman.

A coach’s son, Cross has always demonstrated a level of leadership and a top attitude that makes him easy to root for. He probably has a future in politics when his playing career is done, and you don’t ever want to take away from who Cross is as a person and valuable presence in the room as a guy who sets the right example and is a total pro. At the same time, because of the expectations that went with his draft standing and what the Bruins gave up to draft him, Cross has always been more of a symbol of that failed Bruins draft year than even Hamill was. The B’s moved on from Hamill relatively quickly, dealing him in 2012 to Washington for Chris Bourque, who at least played some games in Boston during the lockout-shortened season, but Hamill never got another sniff of the NHL after that.

In Cross’ case, he stayed in the organization, going to five development camps and getting quickly relegated to the minors each autumn he was vying for a spot in Boston. In his first pro season, he was optioned to the ECHL after not making enough of an impression at Providence’s camp. Although Cross played very well for the South Carolina Stingrays and was soon brought back up to the AHL where he’s stayed since then, it was one more reminder that the Connecticut kid who had looked so promising coming out of prep hockey (before the knee injuries) was not on track to have any impact in Boston let alone what the team had expected him to make.

That’s why the B’s bringing Cross up is a good news story. In the grand scheme of things, he’s not likely to have an inspirational awakening and significant effect on the team’s fortunes like Johnny Boychuk did during the 2009-10 season, but you never know. Like Cross, Boychuk was a second-round pick who took a long time to reach the NHL after showing such promising tools as a teenager, but he never gave up and when his chance came, he seized it.

This is not to say that we’re looking at the dawn of another age of JB55 in Boston, but the team could do worse than at least try Cross and see how he does. He stuck with the organization (and they him) when most other players would have looked at the B’s defense depth chart and wanted out. That gets to the heart of who Tommy Cross is and what he’s about. I don’t know if this move is anything more than bringing him up to be a seventh D to sit in the press box until Morrow is ready to return, or the team finally wants to give Cross a chance to taste the NHL and see what he is made of.

One thing is certain: he’s earned it.

***

Providence coach Bruce Cassidy’s cup was overflowing with praise for Koko in the same Divver piece. Check it out:

“He’s going to be one of our assistant captains for a reason. He plays hard. He produces. He’s well-liked by his teammates. He works hard. Koko’s a little frustrated that he hasn’t gotten a better look in Boston and hopefully he takes care of that here. You can only control your own environment so he needs to be our best forward here every night so that when there is a callup situation at his position, he’s the first guy,’’ he said.

“I love the guy. I love his compete. Every year in the playoffs he’s arguably been our best player. That says a lot about a person. He’s going to have to lead for us. A lot of these guys, we don’t know what we’re going to get out of them. He’s a guy that we expect will lead us offensively and hopefully it translates to an (NHL) opportunity. He’s worked hard down here and as a coach of these young guys, you hope they get their chance. Especially for him, the way he’s played for us.’’

Translation: He’s off to a fine start in the AHL with 4 assists in two games. Keep grinding and making a difference and that next shot in Boston will come a lot sooner rather than later. With the big club off to its worst start in 50 years, the coaches are going to be far more willing to try new things and no one can argue with Koko’s talent.  When it comes, he’s got to find a way to get some points on the board, however. All the hustle and energy is great, but when you have a skill player like that, it’s not good enough to just try hard.

Watch for the next appearance of Khokhlachev in Boston soon.

Final buzzer: B’s moribund at even strength in Columbus Day matinee- drop third straight

The good news in Boston on Columbus Day 2015: the Bruins scored 3 power play goals.

The bad news: The Tampa Bay Lightning scored 6 goals (2 with the man advantage) and dominated the B’s at even strength to drop the home team to 0-3 for the 2015-16 season, with all three losses coming at the TD Garden.

The B’s squandered a 2-0 lead in the first period in a 1:09 span late in the opening frame when the fourth line collapsed too deep in their own end and got caught puck watching (Torey Krug was also guilty of this) while former St. Sebastian’s and Boston College star Brian Boyle drifted to the front of the net, took a pass from the left boards and buried a high shot for his first ever goal against the Bruins. Boston then saw Patrice Bergeron take a goaltender interference penalty (the B’s would get whistled for three such infractions on Ben Bishop today and what do you know? The 6-5 goalie went down like he’d been shot with a machine-gun every time a guy in a black sweater made contact with him.) and Tampa evened up the game when Ondrej Palat  heeled a pass that deflected through Tuukka Rask’s five-hole. Just like that, all of the hard work and two goals worth of offense compliments of David Krejci and Loui Eriksson evaporated.

Boyle took full advantage of a David Pastrnak miscue while Boston was on the power play in the second frame, intercepting an ill-advised (this is the second time in as many games I have used those words to describe a Pastrnak decision) pass to the middle of the ice out by the Tampa blue line. Boyle took off then gave Pastrnak a stiff-arm to knock him back, going in alone on Rask, sliding the puck again through the five-hole to make it 3-2.

Eriksson and the Bruins battled back to tie it at 3-3 with his second power play goal of the game, redirecting a Krejci shot (he finished with a goal and two assists, Krug had three points- all assists- as well) into the net and giving the building life.

It was short-lived, however- as Bergeron took another penalty (hooking) and then while Boston was on the PK, the Bolts’ Tyler Johnson got away with an interference play of his own to prevent Chris Kelly from clearing the puck. As a result Tampa held the zone, allowing Steven Stamkos to get open and bury a shot for the 4-3 lead and his 500th career NHL point (500s are wild in Boston- Tomas Plekanec reached the same milestone on Saturday).

Boston needed a strong final 20 minutes to come back, especially improving their 5-on-5 play, but didn’t get it. Rask gave up a soft goal to Jonathan Drouin on an off-speed shot that a sliding Boston D got a piece of, and then Valtteri Filppula closed out the scoring with a shot he directed in off his skate. After review, the goal was upheld and the Lighting left town with 6 goals, the second club in three tries this season to do it.

We knew that this Bruins team wasn’t going to be all that good, but they’ve not gotten much puck luck thus far, and more calls have gone against them than in favor. You don’t want to make excuses, though- the defense, which did benefit from having captain Zdeno Chara back, is too young and unproven at this stage, and the Boston offense does not have the horses to provide consistent scoring. In net, Rask has been mediocre thus far, which, in a nutshell, accounts for 16 goals allowed and the 0-3 start, the equaling the 1999-00 Boston Bruins, a non-playoff club.

Instead of doing 3 up/3 down, I’m just going to switch to up/down, because I don’t want to force things that are not there. More guys probably deserved down grades than up today, but to be quite honest- Tampa Bay is one of the top teams in the league and the Bruins did some good things today, especially in the first 40 minutes. I particularly liked some of the pressure they put on Tampa in their own end, disrupting their breakouts and not letting the Lightning generate much speed in the neutral zone. Unfortunately, the wheels came off in the final period and Boston couldn’t sustain that.

Torey Krug has been consistent in the early going on a defensive unit that has had some tough nights. (Photo courtesy of Alison M. Foley)

Torey Krug has been consistent in the early going on a defensive unit that has had some tough nights. (Photo courtesy of Alison M. Foley)

Up

Loui Eriksson- He pounced on a Krug pass just outside the right post for his 1st goal of the season (he had one wiped out against Saturday night, I would add), then got his stick on a Krejci shot in the second period to tie the game at three goals apiece. He’s a smart player who works hard around the net and deserves more credit than he gets from rank and file Boston fans. Unfortunately, as a 30-year-old impending free agent, he’s far more likely to be traded at some point this season where he can help a playoff-bound club than to finish out his time as a Bruin.

David Krejci- He started the scoring with his second goal in three games, then assisted on both of Ericsson’s tallies. He won face-offs and provided an offensive spark. His day was not without mistakes- he coughed the puck up a few times, got hit with one of the Bishop interference calls (Bishop sold it pretty well) and overskated the play that resulted in Tampa’s final goal. On another tough day for a loss, it’s hard to find positives.

Torey Krug- With three assists and nearly 24 minutes, Krug has been Boston’s most consistent defenseman in the first trio of contests. Like Krejci, however, Krug’s day was not without its warts. He was out of position and did not pick up Boyle on his first goal to cut Boston’s lead to 2-1, focusing on the puck instead of his surroundings. But, when it comes to handling the puck and starting the breakouts from his own end, nobody is doing it better than the third-year player.

Down

Tuukka Rask- Yes, his team isn’t very good. Yes, some of the goals today were not his fault. But, there are times when a team simply needs their goaltender to make the basic stops to keep them on top or get them back in it, Rask was AWOL today. With the money he’s making, the Bruins deserved a much better performance than they got from the moody and often times mercurial personality. It will be interesting to see if Rask digs in and dedicates himself to being better or his attitude worsens. The Bruins cannot afford any petulance from the one guy they’ll depend on the most to steal them some games this season.

I’ll be honest- I am not a fan of the people out there who never seem to think the goaltender should be accountable for anything. It’s always a defensive breakdown or a forward who didn’t get back or some other excuse. I think after a day like today- if that’s what you’re bringing to the table in a debate about Rask’s performance, then you probably need to take a step back and reevaluate your knowledge of the game of hockey. At some point- there’s a certain level of performance from the guy between the pipes that everyone should expect and demand, regardless of agendas. Rask fell short today. But, he’ll get plenty of other opportunities to shine this season, and when he does- I’ll be the first in line to give him credit, because that’s how this should work. Today, however, he let his team down when they needed him to be just above average.

Joonas Kemppainen- You can tell the guy is mature and a smart hockey player, but he seems to be gripping the stick pretty tight and playing not to lose. Like everyone on that bottom unit and defense that got burned on Boyle’s first goal, he was nowhere near in position to defend, and as the center, Boyle was his man. He’s new to North America and still getting acclimated, but the B’s need him to play better going forward after a shaky first game against Winnipeg.

David Pastrnak- His play in the second period was a costly one and he did not have a great game overall. He is easily one of the most talented players on the ice on either team in the three losses, but the B’s are going to have to live with the mistakes he will make out of a desire to try and make too much happen. Claude Julien’s challenge will be to take the good with the bad and protect the kid’s confidence by not crushing him when the mistakes occur. The Bruins are better off with Pastrnak trying too hard to make something happen than doing too little for fear of getting stapled to the bench.

Patrice Bergeron- He had an assist and was strong in the face-off dot as he normally is, but with the Bruins up 2-1 after Boyle’s strike he went into the crease and made contact with Bishop, opening the door for Tampa to tie it. He was far from the only culprit today, but a second penalty he took proved to be the winning goal against.

Jimmy Hayes- Three games and not a whole heck of a lot to talk about from the Dorchester native. You can see that he wants to be engaged out there, but his lack of speed hurts him on a line with someone as fast as Ryan Spooner is. The coaches perhaps need to look a little closer at what Hayes does well and figure out how to get him more involved. Without a strong puck possession game, he’s going to have his hands full in terms of keeping up with the play.

Next game- the Colorado Avalanche. Not exactly world-beaters, but with the B’s reeling and on the road in Denver, it’s going to be a tough matchup for them. The Bruins are dead last at 0-3 and have given up the most goals in the process.

It’s probably going to get a good deal worse before it gets better, folks. There are some things to be positive about, but the Bruins on the whole simply do not have the talent to stay with the big dogs in this league, and we’ve seen it with them going 0-3 agains three playoff teams from last spring. It’s a tough pill to swallow given where the B’s were just back in 2013, but they are where they are right now, and it looks like the team will need to sell off more veteran parts in order to commit to a true rebuild.

Trying not to be overly pessimistic here, but this club just does not seem to have it, and it’s hard to envision them suddenly turning things around based on what we’ve seen in the early going. Growing pains time, as the kids like Pastrnak and Colin Miller are going to have their ups and downs but ultimately will be some of the faces this team looks to in the future. That’s of little comfort in early October, but just calling it as I see it.

Final buzzer: Habs down the Bruins, 4-2…Marchand leaves game late

The Boston Bruins knew they would have their hands full against their hated rival from the North- the Montreal Canadiens- winners of 10 of the previous 12 contests between the clubs. Make it 11 of 13. The B’s gave up an early power play goal, had a man advantage marker of their own wiped off the board in the second period and had some more costly mistakes from a young (and pretty mediocre) defense to drop to 0-2 on the season.

Matt Beleskey found himself in the sin bin for a questionable high hit in the first period and David Desharnais knocked in a rebound to make it 1-0 on a play that was pretty much of a tone-setter, as Joe Morrow turned the wrong way on the shot and Kevan Miller was late getting to Desharnais.

The B’s dug in and finished the period with effective play to keep it a one-score game.

But, things came unraveled a bit in the second period when a bad neutral zone pass by David Pastrnak and bad decision to go for a line change allowed Alexander Semin and Lars Eller to break in on Tuukka Rask. When Matt Irwin and K. Miller converged on Semin, he hit Eller with a pass and he buried it to give the Habs a 2-0 lead. Ellen would strike again with his second goal on a feed from Alexander Galchenyuk (three assists) to make it 3-0.

A turning point in the game happened when the B’s and Loui Eriksson thought he scored his first goal of the season while on the power play on a nice play to redirect a shot past Price. Unfortunately, the referee closest to the play immediately signaled to waive off the goal, citing contact by Patrice Bergeron to goaltender Carey Price. Claude Julien issued a coach’s challenge- the first in Bruins history since the NHL instituted the rule change this season, but the NHL, citing incidental contact by Bergeron, upheld the original decision.

Beleskey later broke through against Price, when his attempted shot hit sliding Montreal defender Jeff Petry and deflected into the net. It was Beleskey’s first marker as a member of the B’s, giving him points in each of his first two games with his new team.

Alas, the B’s had a parade to the penalty box in the third period, including a match penalty and five-minute major assessed to Ryan Spooner on a hit from behind to Massachusetts native Brian Flynn. Boston killed the penalties, but could never really mount much offensive pressure and Tomas Plekanec scored an empty net goal to make it 4-1, his 500th career point. Some late silliness and a Torrey Mitchell slew foot gave the B’s a major power play of their own with less than a minute left and Bergeron tallied for his first goal of the season making it a 4-2 game for the books.

Of greater concern was a head hit that Brad Marchand took late in the third period from Boston nemesis Dale Weise. It did not look like an intentional hit, but Weise caught the shorter Marchand up high and he was down on his knees for a good 5-10 seconds before getting to his feet and struggling to the Boston bench. He did not return. If the B’s lose their top goal scorer and arguably most consistent forward at least in terms of finding the back of the net in the last four seasons, then this group is going to go deeper in the hole. We’ll hope for the best.

At least the B’s didn’t roll over and die as other Boston teams have done in the past, but they did not play well enough against a team that is clearly better than they are. Fans had best be prepared for more games like this as the season goes on.

And now here are our 3 ups and downs:

New arrival Colin Miller has skill to burn and looks like a keeper in Boston (Photo courtesy of Alison M. Foley)

New arrival Colin Miller has skill to burn and looks like a keeper in Boston (Photo courtesy of Alison M. Foley)

UP

Matt Beleskey- He scored his first goal in the black and gold and has played hard in his first two games. The guy is not a high-end talent, but despite having pretty average size, he plays bigger, hurling his body into opponents and going directly into traffic to make things happen. He chose Boston when in fact he could have stayed in Anaheim, a much better club on paper than the Bruins are at present. He wants to be here. Unfortunately, in a league where fans get far more up in arms over cap hits and economics, honest, gritty guys like Beleskey often bear the brunt of fan ire if they don’t come in and start scoring right away, so it’s nice to see that he’s been a consistent producer for a team that has scored just four goals in two games.

Colin Miller- The first player acquired in the trade for Milan Lucic to suit up for the Bruins is a keeper. He skates so well and has the vision and poise with the puck to make breakouts look easy. He’s a better defensive player than given credit for, and at least for one night, he looks like a real coup/get for Don Sweeney and Co. Julien would be foolish not to stick with C. Miller going forward and figure out ways to get him the puck. Yes, there will be some growing pains, but Miller does the things this Bruins defense as a whole is so lacking in- you can see it in the way he sees the ice and distributes the puck effortlessly. His first NHL goal/points are not long in coming.

Torey Krug- For the second straight night, Krug played 23+ minutes and played a solid all-around game. Krug is justifying the faith the Bruins have in him and they’ll need him. He posted his first point of the year- assisting on Bergeron’s meaningless late goal, but Krug has not made too many visible mistakes with the increased playing time. In other words, on a defensive unit that has struggled in going 0-2, Krug has been the least of Boston’s worries.

Honorable mention- Max Talbot- In the lineup because Zdeno Chara missed his second game with an upper body injury, Talbot played hard and with the energy of a veteran and a guy who knows he needs to demonstrate value added to this club. His play gave Julien food for thought. Yes, Talbot’s best years are clearly behind him, but he played with some intestinal fortitude tonight, going after Mitchell earlier in the game when he engaged in some shenanigans. The linesmen jumped in, but Talbot showed a willingness to stick up for his mates and this, given Mitchell was running around all night like a jackass.

DOWN-

Matt Irwin- For the second consecutive game, the off-season free agent acquisition played poorly on defense. He was on the ice for two goals against, but Eller’s first of the night was particularly bad, as both Irwin and Kevan Miller miscommunicated and converged on the puck carrier Semin, leaving Eller open for the one-timer into the open side. He was also too slow in getting to the puck when Rask was off for an extra skater, and when the initial Montreal shooter missed the net, it rimmed around to Plekanec who put the game out of reach. You can’t exactly blame Irwin on that one, but his lack of foot speed really showed on that play. You hate to say it, but the guy has been a total train wreck in two games- it’s time for him to take a seat. It might help him to watch a game from press level 9 and see if he can get his head right. Realistically, though, he’s a fringe NHL defenseman who does not look at all capable of an expanded role at this level.

David Pastrnak- His lazy, ill-advised neutral zone pass in a 1-0 game ended up in the back of his own net. Later on, he was guilty of another careless turnover, coughing up the puck to Galchenyuk behind his own net and forcing Rask to make a save in close. That kind of stuff is what Julien will point to when fans clamor for more ice time in Pastrnak’s case, but these are the things you have to live with when you roll with younger players. He’ll learn. On the plus side, when they put him on the power play at the end of the game, he assisted on the Bergeron goal.

Dan O’Rourke and Mark Lemelin- The referees were far too visible in this one for all the wrong reasons and were inconsistent in their calls. They wiped out a goal that probably should have counted, unless the NHL wants to go on record as saying that the defenseman shoving a forward into the goalie is now okay and constitutes valid goaltendender interference. No, we didn’t think so either. And, they blew it in the third period when they ejected Spooner for his hit from behind citing “intent to injure” but then curiously had no issue with Alexei Emelin’s earlier low-bridge (one could certainly call it dirty) hit on Bergeron, that could have been devastating if he connected with the B’s center’s knees. Fans just want consistency and these two didn’t really provide it tonight. Here’s hoping for better luck with the zebras on Monday when the Tampa Bay Lightning come to town.

Final buzzer: Jets strafe B’s, 6-2

A night that began with promise for the Boston Bruins in their home opener in the 2015-16 season turned into a nightmare after the young, but talented Winnipeg Jets erased a 0-1 deficit with a three-goal second period.

The B’s defense, sans captain Zdeno Chara, struggled for much of the game, with the pairing of Matt Irwin and Zach Trotman standing out in particular (and not in a good way- more on them later).

Tuukka Rask gave up five (Alexander Burmistrov tallied an empty-netter with about 3:30 left after Claude Julien tried to get some offense going), but he was hung out to dry for much of the night.

The Czech Mates/Davids- Krejci and Pastrnak- provided the Boston goals, with Krejci’s coming compliments of a nice Pastrnak play behind the net, even though the second-year winger did not get an assist because Winnipeg’s Ben Chiarot had possession and lost the puck to Krejci for the score.

Overall, however- after a strong first period played with good pace and urgency, the Bruins’ inexperience cost them on multiple occasions as defenders got burned after bad turnovers, forwards were guilty of making poor decisions and despite some nice rushes, the home team couldn’t finish off the chances that the Jets cashed in on when the B’s opened the door for them.

Things will probably get worse before they get better, but this one served as a stark reminder of the challenges this Boston club will face this year. The Montreal Canadiens and Tampa Bay Lightning are next on the docket…oy.

3 Up:

  1. David Pastrnak- Boston’s future All-Star made the play behind the net in the first period that resulted in Boston’s opening goal of the season when he separated Chiarot from the puck and threw it out front. Chiarot grabbed it but didn’t sense Krejci’s backside pressure and the savvy veteran stole it and flipped a backhander into the net before Ondrej Pavelec could get to the far post. Early in the third frame, Pastrnak made it a one-goal game when he patiently held the puck as he improved the shooting angle before rifling it past Pavelec on the short side. It was a stoppable shot, but that’s what a goal scorer does- he beats goaltenders on shots that they should make the save on. This kid is really good already…and he’s only 19.
  2. Kevan Miller- He was engaged and active all night, playing his patented physical style and even getting involved in the offense, picking up a secondary assist on the Pastrnak tally. It probably isn’t saying a heck of a lot, but Miller was arguably the best Boston defenseman on the ice tonight.
  3. Tuukka Rask- When is a goalie with an 800-something save percentage an “up” player? When you look at how well Rask did in moments when he had no help from his teammates. Rask wasn’t perfect tonight, but he gave his team a chance to win, making several memorable stops including a brain cramp meltdown by Krejci when the B’s were on the power play to start the second period and a poor pass resulted in an Andrew Ladd breakaway. Some are going to disagree with my assessment, but I’d submit those are the folks who think that the guys between the pipes aren’t allowed to give up bad goals. Ever. Tonight, Rask could have been about perfect and the Jets still would have scored their goals.

3 Down:

  1. Matt Irwin-Zach Trotman- Yikes. Where to begin? The decisions weren’t good, the turnovers worse and the outcomes on those mistakes pushed the team over the edge. The trouble started with the game 1-1 and Irwin allowing Ladd to get in on him on the forecheck behind the Boston net. Irwin did not protect the puck, and Trotman moved away from the front of his net perhaps to create an outlet for Irwin when he was in trouble, but the resulting play left Blake Wheeler alone in the slot when Ladd separated Irwin from the puck and had an easy play out front. That score broke the tie and you could see the B’s visibly sag. When Drew Stafford put a rebound up and over a sprawling Rask to make it 3-1 late in the second period, Trotman and Irwin were running around again. The horror show continued into the third period when Irwin got caught too deep up the ice on a Chris Thorburn break the other way that Krejci finished off, making it 4-2 moments after Pastrnak had given his team and the TD Garden crowd  life. Trotman seemed to play more and more tentatively as the night went on, struggling with his gaps and letting Jets get around him and straight to the net. All in all- it was a night to forget for the duo and probably opened the door for Colin Miller, who was the odd man out tonight. I suspect we’ll see one of Irwin or Trotman sit out the next one when the coaches break down the film.
  2. David Krejci- David giveth and he taketh away. He started out great with the goal and was effective on the draws in the first 20 minutes, but he forced some plays in the final 40 that he’ll have to tighten up going forward. He tried hard to back check on Thorburn but ended up chipping the puck past Rask to make it 4-2 and effectively put the game out of reach even before Nic Petan– the little Portland Rainmaker- got a puck off the skate that hit Torey Krug before going in to make it 5-2, Jets and send the fans to the exits.
  3. Adam McQuaid- He’s a great dressing room guy and character leader, but the Bruins must get better play from him. He was another player guilty of some glaring mistakes and turnovers tonight and in fairness- he wasn’t alone. More than a few Boston forwards moved pucks carelessly and ultimately handed Winnipeg prime scoring chances- the hallmark of a young, inexperienced club. But- the B’s must have leaders by example and McQuaid’s turnovers hurt the collective effort.

Notes:

Matt Beleskey registered his first point as a Bruin, making the pass that sprang Pastrnak into the offensive zone for his goal. Beleskey was finishing his checks and playing with energy…but not sure how productive he’s going to be this season.

Villain of the night award goes to Alexander Burmistrov who took a first-period run at Patrice Bergeron that he finished off with a high elbow to Mr. Everything’s noggin. You may recall that he missed most of the 2007-08 season and parts of 2008-09 due to post-concussion syndrome that nearly cost the three-time Selke Trophy winner his career. He didn’t take kindly to Burmistrov’s dirty play and to his discredit, Burmistrov was penalized on the play, but just turned away when Bergeron went after him. It was gutless and cowardly for him to take the shot in the first place and then refuse to be accountable for it, but Burmistrov did not learn his lesson, later going back at another Bruin (Connolly?) later in the game but failing to make contact with his high elbow again. Burmistrov got the last laugh not only with the win but by putting the puck into the empty net to close out the scoring. I’m betting the B’s took his No. 6 down for future reference, but the bottom line is this: the NHL will continue to lose players to head injuries if the Burmistrovs of the world are allowed to operate like that. Here’s hoping the Jets will do some self-policing, but I doubt it.

Brad Marchand looks like he’ll lead the team in goals again this year. He was all over the place and created several memorable scoring chances, but couldn’t find the back of the net. Sometimes, less is more and you wonder if he just kept it simple he might have more luck, but Marchand won’t be held off the scoring ledger for long.

Around the NHL:

Jack Eichel scored his 1st NHL goal against Craig Anderson and the Ottawa Senators. It was a short side snipe on the power play and an absolute beauty. Once upon a time in October, 1987 I saw a Buffalo Sabre named Pierre Turgeon score in his first NHL game as well. Here’s to Eichel-mania in Buffalo- and the pride of North Chelmsford, Mass. justifying that second overall pick the Sabres made on him. Bruins fans had better prepare for him lighting the lamp against the home team for years (but for the record- he grew up rooting for the Montreal Canadiens).

Bruins to begin season without Talbot, Smith

Today, both Max Talbot and Jeremy Smith cleared waivers and were designated for assignment.

In Smith’s case, the B’s did as was suggested here previously and assigned him to the Iowa Wild, Minnesota’s Des Moines-based AHL affiliate.

There, Smith is competing with Wild prospect and former Harvard ( and Loomis-Chaffee Pelicans) goalie Steve Michalek, along with former 2006 first-round pick (Calgary) Leland Irving and University of Vermont netminder Brody Hoffman.

The assumption here is that the Wild plan to take advantage of Smith’s AHL experience, but goal crease is a little crowded.

In the meantime, the Bruins can recall Smith or option him back to Providence if they so desire- by assigning him to Iowa, they are not relinquishing his rights, but rather, moving him to a different club so as not to crowd the P-Bruins crease and keep the younger prospects in Malcolm Subban and Zane McIntyre closer to home.

As for Talbot, he was still with the big club, though he told reporters that he understands hockey is a business and would do what the team asks of him. For now, he’s acting like a consummate pro. The B’s have a month to reclaim him/bring him back up without exposing him on the waiver wire.

About two weeks ago, this blog predicted that Talbot was going to be a lock because of his veteran status, but he did not do enough to earn a spot at camp. This is a reminder of other NHL-experienced players who have come into camp but fallen short in exhibition play- former Capitals captain Chris Clark in 2011 comes to mind- and more recently, Ville Leino a year ago. Of course, neither player was under contract as Talbot is, and last year, Simon Gagne started the season after his successful PTO only to leave the team in a mutual parting of ways that included the passing of his father. Gagne retired officially from the NHL just days ago.

So, as things stand right now, here is your Boston Bruins club on the eve of the official start of the NHL’s 2015-16 regular season campaign, with the B’s set to take on the Winnipeg Jets at home on Thursday:

Forwards (13):

63 Brad Marchand- 37 Patrice Bergeron- 21 Loui Eriksson

39 Matt Beleskey- 46 David Krejci- 88 David Pastrnak

11 Jimmy Hayes- 51 Ryan Spooner- 14 Brett Connolly

23 Chris Kelly- 41 Joonas Kemppainen- 36 Zac Rinaldo

64 Tyler Randell

Defense (8):

47 Torey Krug- 54 Adam McQuaid

45 Joe Morrow- 86 Kevan Miller

52 Matt Irwin- 62 Zach Trotman

33 Zdeno Chara- 48 Colin Miller

Goaltenders (2):

40 Tuukka Rask

89 Jonas Gustavsson

(Is it me or do some of these numbers remind you of the Boston Celtics?)

 

Tryout no more: Bruins ink the Monster to 1-year deal

The Boston Bruins announced today that the team has signed veteran goaltender Jonas Gustavsson to a one-year pact valued at $700,000.

It’s interesting to me how much rage I got on my Twitter feed about the signing. A lot of folks are convinced Gustavsson can’t play at this level, but that’s neither here nor there. The B’s obviously felt that going with a player who has been in the NHL since 2009 made more sense than putting their faith into the game but completely unproven (at the NHL level) Jeremy Smith. Smith was okay in the preseason, but in order to give the Bruins confidence that he should be the one to get the nod as the Boston backup, he needed to play a little better than he did. It was close enough in the performance levels between he and Gustavsson that Boston obviously opted to go with the safer bet in the veteran Swede.

Now, what remains to be seen is what the B’s do with Smith.

Here are the options:

  1. The Bruins carry three goaltenders. With a maximum roster size of 23 players, this means they would either have to carry 12 forwards and 8 defensemen or 13 forward and 7 defensemen. Right now, Tyler Randell looks like he’s going to be odd-man-out if they go with eight defenders.
  2. Assuming he clears waivers (consistent on three of four options), Smith goes to Providence and the Baby B’s try to split time between Smith, Malcolm Subban and Zane McIntyre. This is the least beneficial option for the development of Subban and McIntyre.
  3. Smith and Subban play in Providence, the B’s option McIntyre to their ECHL affiliate, the Gwinnett Gladiators near Atlanta, Ga. On the plus side, McIntyre will likely get a good share of playing time, but it comes at a lower level. Some very good NHL goaltenders began their careers in the ECHL: Jonathan QuickDevan Dubnyk, Braden Holtby, Jaroslav Halak and Scott Darling to name a few all saw some action in the “East Coast League” before they found NHL success.
  4. Subban and McIntyre play for Providence and the B’s loan Smith to another AHL team that would welcome a vet of his ability and experience with open arms.

We’ll find out what happens next, but with final roster cutdowns due by Tuesday afternoon, Don Sweeney and company have some interesting decisions to make.

Zdeno Chara is still “day to day” but expected to be back by the start of the season if not soon afterwards, and with Joe Morrow having to go on waivers in order to go down, it makes more sense to put a player like Randell or Smith on waivers and risking losing them as opposed to Morrow.

In the meantime, Gustavsson isn’t an ideal option as backup, but he’s the best chance Boston has to rest Tuukka Rask by having a player that the coaches (at least initially) will trust to spell. There are 11 back-to-backs on the schedule this year, which is fewer than in 2013-14. The Monster is a better goalie than some give him credit for, but he never really delivered on the promise he showed after a dominant 2008-09 campaign in Sweden before signing with Toronto as a coveted free agent that spring. Still, he’s shown he can rise to the occasion in stretches and is at least someone with an NHL track record if he ends up being needed more than just the occasional start to spell the starter. Perish the thought, but the B’s are putting themselves in position to at least have some NHL games in net in a worst case scenario, but should that come to pass, the B’s are in much bigger trouble than any of us can imagine, and it doesn’t really matter who your backup is at that point.