Final Buzzer: Motor City madness as B’s steal 2 points from Wings

The Boston Bruins got a pair of goals from rookie Frank Vatrano, back from missing the past several contests to injury, and a monster game in net from backup Jonas Gustavsson to stun the Detroit Red Wings on the road with a 3-2 victory in sudden death.

The hometown Wings carried the edge in play for most of the night, but Gustavsson kept them in it after surrendering Pavel Datsyuk’s 300th career NHL goal and another strike from Tomas Tatar in the second period that gave Detroit a 2-1 lead until 1:44 left in regulation.

Vatrano opened the scoring at 7:11 of the first period when he took a Joonas Kemppainen pass out near the high slot and buried a low shot past Petr Mrazek. Former Red Wing Landon Ferraro drew his second assist in as many games with the Bruins after being claimed on waivers Monday.

The goal happened in part because Zdeno Chara swept a rolling puck away from danger after Gustavsson got a piece of a Niklas Kronwall drive that squirted through and was headed for the goal line.

Datsyuk rifled home the equalizer at 2:26 of the middle frame when he took an Alexey Marchenko pass and put the puck past Gustavsson for his second goal of the year. Tatar then added to the lead with his seventh marker, assisted by Riley Sheahan and Darren Helm.

Boston was unable to get much going in the way of sustained offensive pressure and when Vatrano took a poorly-timed tripping call at 14:42 of the final period, it appeared that the B’s might be out of luck on a night when their goaltending was good enough despite a lack of scoring.

However, after killing off the Vatrano penalty, the B’s found life on a deliberate play that developed slowly through the neutral zone between David Krejci and Loui Eriksson. Without pushing the pace, the two passed the puck back and forth before Eriksson gained the zone and then backhanded a pass over to his right. Defenseman Colin Miller was trailing the play and stepped into it, blasting the puck past Mrazek and into the net off the far post to make it a 2-2 game.

In 3-on-3 overtime, the B’s survived some tense moments including a sequence when Eriksson lost his stick and then failed to clear it by kicking at the puck. Tatar nearly ended the game on an odd-man rush with a wide open net, but he heeled the pass and the puck went wide, setting the stage for an improbable duo of Matt Beleskey-Vatrano-Miller combination to win the game.

Beleskey gained the Detroit zone and curled near the left boards, protecting the puck and then dishing up to Miller who had just entered the zone and was out near the middle of the circles. He then made a perfect slap-pass on net, freezing Mrazek, who no doubt expected another “Chiller Driller” to come scorching in. Instead, Vatrano was cutting to the front of the net and he put his stick on the off-speed shot, deflecting it down and into the net for the game-winning score.

The Bruins upped their record to 12-8-1, moving into third place in the Atlantic Division on the night before Thanksgiving. Given how hard this team works despite not having an abundance of high-end talent, they’ve given the fans a lot to be thankful for.


Frank Vatrano- Back in the lineup, the East Longmeadow native tallied his first career two-goal game in the NHL. It’s not just his sublime release and otherworldly stick skills/killer instinct around the net, but he’s added a dimension of speed and is hustling all over the 200-foot sheet of ice. I said it on Twitter, but if you had told me back in March when the B’s signed the impressive 18-goal guy out of UMass that he would score 3 goals in his first 7 NHL *before* December 1st, I would’ve thought that was crazy talk. Vatrano, who previously attended Calgary Flames development camp before signing with Boston, is making anyone who doubted him including all 30 teams that skipped him in the draft three times, look like the ones who lost their marbles.

Jonas Gustavsson- He lived up to his nickname of the Monster tonight with another quality start. It’s obvious that the guy can play…the key to him going forward will be in maintaining his health, as injuries have been stumbling blocks for him in the past. He made some tough stops look pretty routine tonight, and as someone who subscribes to the “less is more” approach when it comes to goalies, that’s a good thing. He’s now 5-1, with a GAA of 2.15 and a save percentage of .920.

Colin Miller- Chiller posted the tying goal and an assist on the winning goal. He seems to be growing and developing by leaps and bounds with each game, as the confidence is getting larger. Sure, he’ll make the odd bad read or poor pinch, but he has the tools to make up for those missteps. He’s already contributing quite a bit at both ends as a raw rookie who saw his first NHL game back in October- just think how good he could be in another 2-3 years.

Claude Julien- Let’s give him credit on this one: is anyone going to say with a straight face that he hates young players when he rolled out a combo of Vatrano and Miller during 3-on-3 OT play along with Beleskey? For all the static he gets, he didn’t staple Vatrano to the bench after the youngster’s bad penalty late in the third period. He recognized that Vatrano and Miller, combined with Beleskey’s edge and energy might make for a good mix and the trio did not disappoint.

Pavel Datsyuk- 300 goals in a Hall of Fame career. At 37, he’s slowing down, but tonight, he showed why he’s been an NHL star for so long. Aside from the fact that the Bruins have been leading the league in allowing career milestones to be reached this season, Datsyuk found the back of the net with an understated, yet impressive strike that captured the essence of his elite hockey sense, talent and a penchant for making magic out of the mundane ever since he came over from Russia after being the 171st overall pick in 1998.


Ryan Spooner- Did not see much action in the final 10 minutes of regulation or overtime. For a player with his speed and skills, the team wants more from the 2010 second-rounder. Regardless of the less productive and successful performance at 5-on-5, Spooner has the ability to raise his game when challenged and has rebounded when sat down in the past. Sometimes we forget that he’s still just 23, and his 11 points in 21 contests is a little off his pace from a year ago, but when he’s on his game, there aren’t many more dangerous forwards on this team than No. 51.


How Swede it is- Eriksson hatty, Gustavsson sharpness key in B’s win

The Boston Bruins beat the Minnesota Wild Thursday night by a 4-2 score thanks in large part to Loui Eriksson’s hat trick (he now has 9 goals on the season) and solid play between the pipes by backup goaltender Jonas Gustavsson.

The win was significant also because it was only the third victory on home ice this season for Boston, which was an important two points for the team to get on the heels of Tuesday night’s loss to San Jose at the TD Garden. Additionally, that the B’s beat the Wild, the ranking modern expansion era nemesis for Boston, was an important moral win for a team that will take positives in any form these days. It was only the third time since Minnesota joined the league for the 1999-00 season that the B’s had beaten the Wild, which is a remarkable statistic when you consider the success the Bruins have had since 2008.

With defenseman Kevan Miller on the shelf after suffering an upper body injury in the third period against the Sharks, the B’s got a boost with the return of Colin Miller who had missed the previous couple of games to injury.

The story of the night was the play of Boston’s two Swedes- Eriksson and Gustavsson- who paced the home team to a solid win on home ice. For Eriksson, it was his third career three-goal game, and Gustavsson upped his record with Boston to 4-1, a 2.20 GAA and .915 save percentage. He’s making a case to see more ice, which could let Tuukka Rask get a little time to work through his struggles right now. Not surprisingly, I’m seeing some Twitter chatter mocking Rask and elevating ‘Gus’ but still believe Rask is not only a superior goaltender to Gustavsson but he’s capable of infinitely better play than he’s demonstrated to date. This is not a goaltender controversy per se and it would be absurd to argue for Gustavsson to push Rask aside at this juncture, but Gus has played well enough to perhaps get the next game or two and see what he does with the opportunity.

Loui’s first goal of the night happened when he threw the puck at the net from the near the left wing boards and it appeared to hit Brett Connolly and bounce in past Wild goaltender Devan Dubnyk. In actuality, the puck hit Wild forward Jason Pominville’s skate who was locked up with Connolly and backing in towards his net, meaning the goal belonged to Eriksson, his seventh of the year.

The second goal happened on the power play, when Torey Krug took the puck in from the blue line and near the top of the left circle put a hard pass into the slot where Patrice Bergeron was set up. Bergeron then moved the puck over to Dubnyk’s left and Eriksson buried it for his second of the game.

Eriksson completed the natural hat trick when he finished off a nice give-and-go with David Krejci to close out the scoring. It all started with a good save by Gustavsson and a heads-up pass from Matt Beleskey to spring Krejci and Eriksson on a 2-on-1 in the neutral zone.

As for Eriksson, he’s continuing a fine season in which he currently sits third on the team in scoring with nine goals (team lead) and 17 points in 18 games.

Eriksson was never going to provide the superstar potential Tyler Seguin took with him to Dallas and that was a known risk Boston was taking when they dealt the 21–year-old in 2013. However, this version of Eriksson was the guy the Bruins felt like they were getting back as part of a larger package that to date has not turned out as hoped.

Eriksson’s play this season has made GM Don Sweeney’s job a tough one, as he will have to decide whether Loui is part of a solution going forward past 2016 or if the team should trade him at or near the deadline to get what could be a pretty significant return. We’re too early in the season to figure out whether Boston will be in a position to make a trade or will be better served sticking with him, but one thing is for sure: Eriksson is doing the things we had always seen from him in Dallas. You know what you have in the guy, so if you give that up for the uncertainty of future returns in the form of prospects and/or draft picks, you might just find yourself wishing the team had stuck with Eriksson instead.

It’s no doubt a debate that will continue to be had and heat up after the Winter Classic when playoff positions will start to solidify and we will better know if Eriksson can sustain his impressive scoring pace.

Beleskey and Krejci played superb games as that line carried the night- it’s another sign that while this Bruins team might lack the talent on paper to be a legitimate Stanley Cup contender, they’re going to show up and give a top effort most nights.


Final Buzzer: Krejci costs B’s in Montreal heartbreak

They thought had this one.

The Boston Bruins really thought they had it.

But in this day and age, coming close, especially when it happens against the Montreal Canadiens, isn’t good enough.

It was a game the B’s played well enough to win and had a Cinderella story in the making when Frank Vatrano, fresh off his recall and playing in his first NHL game fired home a bullet wrist shot for his first big league goal and a 2-1 lead.

Instead, it turned into just another nightmare on Avenue des Canadiens de Montreal.

That the road team ended up with a 4-2 loss thanks to a late David Desharnais power play that should not have even happened if not for an inconceivable meltdown by another David…Krejci… is going to take a while for this B’s team to wrap their heads around.

With the game tied at 2-2 and seemingly headed to overtime when anything could happen, the Boston veteran went after Canadiens forward and fellow Czech Tomas Plekanec not once, not twice, but three times- an initial attempt to go high on Plekanec went uncalled behind the Boston net as it probably should. We don’t know yet what happened to spark Krejci’s rage, but he then followed Plekanec as the Canadien headed to the bench for a change and cross-checked him from behind. The referee’s arm went up and Krejci then hit him again behind the head as Plekanec began to rise.

The resulting man advantage ended in predictable fashion when your team is sporting a league-worst PK rating. Montreal moved the puck around effortlessly, got a shot on net that Jonas Gustavsson kicked over to Desharnais just off the right post, and he put it in. A Max Pacioretty empty-netter was fait accompli at that point to make it 4-2. It might as well have been 10-2 after so crushing the disappointment of playing so well only to give the Habs a 12th win in the last 13 regular season matchups between these rivals.

The game started well enough, with Montreal playing some undisciplined hockey and taking three first period penalties. The B’s cashed in, with Loui Eriksson tallying his fifth goal of the season to continue his tremendous power play work, as Boston still owns the best man advantage unit in the league- talk about extremes. Patrice Bergeron took a pass from Ryan Spooner and put a shot on net that Eriksson was able to redirect in past Massachusetts native Mike Condon to give the B’s a 1-0 lead less than 2 minutes in.

Montreal tied the game in the second period with a power play marker by Plekanec after he got a pass from Brendan Gallagher and snuck it into the net past Gustavsson at 1:09.

Vatrano fired up the Boston fans when he received a Colin Miller pass (who made it a six-game point streak), curled back towards the Montreal net out by the blue line, then ripped that hard, heavy shot- the one that has become a trademark so early in his pro career- to give the Bruins a 2-1 lead.

With Gustavsson playing well in the second period and nearly half of the third, even weathering a disallowed Montreal goal after it was determined that Gallagher made contact with Gus in the crease, Lars Eller got his third goal of the season out of five total markers against the Bruins to make it a 2-2 game at 8:58.

That set the stage for Krejci’s egregious penalty and another missed opportunity for the Bruins, who have gone 0-3 since beating Tampa Bay last Sunday.

Some late-game ugliness occurred when Nathan Beaulieu hit Zac Rinaldo with a cross-check up high as Rinaldo came in on him behind the net to finish the check. Rinaldo caught the stick in the side of the head and went down, Beaulieu given a match penalty for intent to injure and then chirping at Matt Beleskey as he left the ice. There was no further spillover of what had to be some significant frustration for the Bruins as the game ended.

In the end, we are left with a pretty simple premise. The chances for Boston to not only steal a critical two points on the road but to get an important moral victory for the psyche were there: Torey Krug didn’t hit an open net in the second period on a power play when it looked like the play was there for him to make. Eriksson would have another nice deflection on a Zach Trotman point shot that Condon made an even more impressive save on to keep Boston off the board. But when the B’s look back on this one, Krejci’s inexplicable loss of control will be the major takeaway.

The team will limp off to Brooklyn to face the NY Islanders tomorrow, rested and waiting for a club that doesn’t have any time to dwell on this one.


Frank Vatrano- It’s hard to believe that a year ago, the Western Mass. native was playing in just his first full season at UMass after having to transfer from Boston College due to academic issues and missing all but one game in the 2013-14 campaign. Since the B’s got wise to Vatrano’s willingness to forego his remaining NCAA eligibility last March and inked him as a free agent, the young winger has undergone an astounding transformation- losing significant weight and taking maximum advantage of every opportunity to show off his high-end offensive strengths. Playing on his “off wing” over on the right side tonight, Vatrano had a ‘welcome to the NHL’ moment in the first period when he tried to get past Montreal defender Alexei Emelin along the boards and was drilled with a hard, clean hip check. He then scored his goal in the second frame, and even made a nifty pass to Krejci in the third period that very nearly resulted in a goal and Vatrano posting a helper to go a long with his first NHL goal. The contrast between what Vatrano did with his opportunity and how Alex Khokhlachev looked this week against Dallas and Washington was striking: Vatrano leveraged what he does best and looked exactly like the AHL-leading goal scorer by playing aggressively and looking confident with the puck. He’ll make mistakes out there, but because he’s a dangerous player, you can live with those errors if he’s able to compensate for them by bringing offense to the table. The fact that he got 14:20 of ice playing with Krejci and Eriksson tells you all you need to know about what the Boston coaches thought of his fit on that line. Vatrano has not yet arrived, but even if he goes back down, there is every reason to think that much bigger things are in store.

Zach Trotman- Playing his first game since opening night, Trotman brought some physicality and played with a burr under his saddle. He did make one ill-advised pass in the third period that would have banished him to Siberia had Montreal capitalized, but overall, he played a strong game in place of Joe Morrow, who wore some goat horns after the loss to the Caps Thursday. He is what he is: a role player who is at his best when keeping things simple, but he did what the B’s needed to get out of him after missing so much time while sitting on press level over the past month.


David Krejci- It’s hard to fathom how costly a penalty it was for the veteran leader to take even as you rewind the film and watch it. He went after Plekanec once and wasn’t called for it. At that point, he could have quit while he was ahead and skated back to the bench. Maybe the B’s still lose this game on a late goal, in overtime or in a shootout. But the reality is- he made a boneheaded decision that had a significant consequence. As if that wasn’t bad enough, he took all three Boston penalties tonight, two of which ended up with goals on the scoreboard. You give Krejci the benefit of the doubt because this is so out of character for him and he’ll no doubt take it hard once the emotions come down and the reality of how costly his actions were sink in. It’s on to the Islanders, but maybe a motivated Krejci seeking redemption isn’t such a bad thing.

Jonas Gustavsson- Some observers liked his play tonight, I thought he was out of position too much and did a poor job of controlling his rebounds, leading directly to the Eller and Desharnais goals. He gave the Bruins a chance to win, making 29 saves on 32 shots, but he was unable to make a stop when Boston needed it most. He doesn’t get the blame for this loss, but he didn’t do enough to make the difference, either. Back to Tuukka Rask tomorrow.

B’s Penalty Killers- They’re in last place for a reason. The PKers do not maintain their cohesion…they pressure and force at the wrong times, allowing teams to exploit them with puck movement. There is not enough speed and quickness across the board to win more races to pucks and battles along the boards than they should. Kevan Miller is probably not the best choice to kill penalties, but he’s what the coaches are going with. Finally, the last line of defense- the guys between the pipes- just can’t seem to pull out some stops. You feel for them because teams are able to collapse and disrupt the box and diamond with their possession game, but neither Rask nor Gustavsson seem able to stop the bleeding. This is Boston’s achilles heel, especially when the team takes bad penalties.

EDIT- For his part, Krejci took responsibility as expected he would. Here are some postgame quotes from him, which appeared on the Bruins Twitter feed afterwards:

“Stuff like that shouldnt happen…especially when it’s guys that have been in league and know better. Guys battle hard and I do something like that… It was stupid and it cost us the game. I feel bad for letting my teammates and coaches down.”

Steady as Loui Goes: Eriksson’s convincing case to stay

Loui Eriksson is proof positive that bad things can happen to good people, but the best of them can use that adversity as an opportunity to adapt, overcome and ultimately reinvent themselves. Back before the season began, I predicted that Eriksson would be a prime candidate to be traded at some point this season given his impending unrestricted free agent status next summer and the opportunity for the Bruins to move him in exchange for asset(s) that would benefit the team going forward.

With 11 games in the books and Eriksson contributing to his team’s fortunes in all aspects of the game, it might be time to revisit that position.

Eriksson was the centerpiece of Boston’s most controversial trade since Mike O’Connell shipped a 26-year-old, in-his-prime Joe Thornton to San Jose for three “JAGs” (just another guy) in Marco Sturm, Brad Stuart and Wayne Primeau. The JAG moniker is not meant to be disrespectful to Sturm, as of the three he provided the most impact and valuable service for the Bruins from late 2005 until the team traded his rights to Los Angeles for cap relief during the 2010-11 campaign, but when you measure his contributions against those of Thornton with the Sharks, you get the idea. Like Sturm, Eriksson has been able to establish himself as a regular contributor in Boston, but as an identified key piece of the 2013 summer deal between Boston and Dallas, has not produced at anywhere near the pace of the young star Boston gave up for him.

In Eriksson’s case, he was part of a futures package that came to Boston in the exchange for Tyler Seguin– the well-away-from-his-prime wunderkind who has since proven that the fears of him not living up to expectations as the second overall pick in 2010 were unfounded. Even if Seguin’s off-ice discipline and overall maturity are still a work in progress, the hockey product is continuing to improve as he has emerged as one of the NHL’s brightest scoring stars since the start of 2013-14.

However, the point of this post is not to revisit Boston’s decision to trade a 21-year-old Seguin, or to debate the return from Big D. For Eriksson, he became a victim not only of two concussions that essentially cost him his first and arguably most important season in Boston, but also of an expectation bias that based on his track record, he had little chance of overcoming.

Eriksson first year in Boston was during the 2013-14 campaign, when the B’s offense was near the top en route to the franchise’s first President’s Trophy as top regular season club since 1989-90. On paper, his statistics reflect the time lost to head injuries and the likely effects he had to contend with after completing the NHL’s concussion protocol after both events. In missing 21 games, his 10 goals and 37 points ranked 10th on that team in scoring, with David Krejci finishing on top with 19 goals and 69 points in 80 contests. Both Patrice Bergeron and Jarome Iginla tied for the team lead in goals with 30. His two goals and five points in 12 playoff games, added fuel to the fire that Eriksson was a player in decline and a poor return for Seguin.

In 2014-15, Eriksson provided more consistent offense on a non-playoff club, finishing second on the team in goals scored with 22 to Brad Marchand’s 24.

When looking at some of the more advanced analytics out there on Eriksson, the contrast between his 2013-14 even strength numbers and those of this season are pretty striking, and not in the way you might think. His goals and points/60 minutes in 5 on 5 play are actually higher in his first season- (0.63 and 1.73) than both last year’s 22-goal campaign (0.60 G/60 and 1.54 Points/60) and this season’s hot 11 points in 11 games (0.38 GF, 1.54 P/60). Eriksson was more effective offensively in that first year that many pointed to as an abject failure given Seguin’s offensive explosion (and ability to stay healthy).

Where Eriksson has raised the game is on the power play in 2015-16 compared to past seasons. In 37:48 on the ice with the man advantage thus far, he’s on pace to shatter his totals from his two previous seasons in Boston. His three goals and five points are already half of what he produced in 188+ minutes of 5v4 play a year ago, and he had a total of 11 points in 115 man advantage minutes in 2013-14. His goals and points/60 totals on the power play are 4.76 and 7.94 respectively, impressive when compared against the 1.91 and 3.18 from a year ago (remember he finished second on the team in goals, and his 47 points were second to Bergeron’s 55). Eriksson’s 5v4 numbers in 2013-4 are closer- just 1.04 goals/60 but his assist ratio was a significantly higher 4.66 giving him a 5.70 points/60 during that “failed” season. David Krejci’s numbers look like a guy at the top of Boston’s pay scale- his 5v4 goals and points/60 are even higher than Eriksson’s- 2.92 and 10.21.

Time will tell if Boston can sustain its blistering power play pace, but you figure Eriksson and his teammates will come back down to Earth at some point. For now, however, he is making his presence felt, which is important given that the man advantage is helping to offset the disastrous last-place PK for Boston.

Eriksson’s shots per game are down from what they were in the previous two seasons, but he’s making more plays to pass the puck to teammates who are finishing them off with goals. His individual Corsi rating is down because he’s simply not shooting as much as he has in the past, but expect that to balance out as the season goes on.

So, if you look at Eriksson’s consistent production across the two full seasons and early part of a third, he’s actually been a good value for his current cap hit of $4.25M. At age 30, he’s not getting any younger but when you compare him to Pittsburgh forward Patric Hornqvist, for example, his  points/60 at even strength are comparable, but on the PP, Eriksson’s 7.94 far eclipses Hornqvist’s 2.46 (Hornqvist has played about 13 fewer minutes with the man advantage as Eriksson has). Jakub Voracek and James van Riemsdyk both make the same coin and are well behind the older Eriksson in terms of their 5on5 and 5on4 production. Calgary’s Michael Frolik makes $4.3M and is well ahead at even strength P/60 with 3.00, but is a big goose egg on the PP.

So- given the loss of Chris Kelly to a fractured femur and the fact that Eriksson is not only providing production, but quiet leadership as a respected teammate, don’t be so quick to advocate for his departure. It is entirely possible that by the end of the season, assuming he can continue to perform on a similar trajectory, talk of a modest AAV increase with a reasonable term of let’s say- three years- gives Eriksson an opportunity to be part of a better solution than what we have seen to date in Boston.

I realize that for some in Boston- there is simply no getting around the fact that Eriksson is not the player Seguin is and there will be a desire to move on and invest that cash on someone else perhaps a little younger with a more intriguing upside than the ‘Steady Eddie’ (Loui) No. 21 has been for the Bruins. That’s a fair point, but be careful what you wish for. At this stage of his career, Eriksson’s value can be measured in more than the statistics, and he’s probably less interested in cashing in than being valued and a part of a team that could be putting pieces in place to get back onto the road of contention in another 1-2 years.

Even in his “worst” year as a Bruin, Eriksson was a consistent producer who doesn’t get enough credit for his defensive play and willingness to do the little things to help his team have success. Some of those things come at the price of gaudier numbers and his mediocre open-ice speed is a point that critics can effectively argue against.

When all is said and done- the Bruins will be faced with an interesting choice this season. Trade him to a contender in the spring time and likely get a seller’s price for him, or invest in him continuing to be a solid citizen and contributor and make the effort to keep him in the fold come free agency. He’s proven that his play is not a fluke- he may not be putting up the pure production he did earlier in his career, but he’s providing balance and consistency, which is important to any winning club.This isn’t a Gregory Campbell situation here- if people are honest with themselves, it’s readily apparent that Eriksson is a superior offensive player who is not too old to continue his career trends for another 3 or 4 years if he can avoid any more TBI.

The case to trade Eriksson if Boston is selling at the deadline or keep him around for the next organizational iteration is something that my surface-level analysis of just a very few statistics can’t come close to effectively arguing for or against, but you can bet that someone out there is crunching the numbers.



Final Buzzer: Starstruck- Seguin hatty sinks B’s, Kelly fractures femur

Chris Kelly will be missed (Photo courtesy of Alison M. Foley)

Chris Kelly will be missed Get well soon!(Photo courtesy of Alison M. Foley)

The Boston Bruins welcomed Tyler Seguin to his old digs at the TD Garden just in time to see him net his seventh career hat trick against the club that traded him on July 4, 2013.

The home team (and Boston’s penalty killing effort) suffered a brutal loss not only on the scoreboard, but on its active roster as well when veteran two-way forward went down early in the first period when Chris Kelly’s left leg buckled under him in a non-contact situation. He stayed down a long time and was eventually hoisted up off the ice by Zdeno Chara and left the surface without putting any weight on his left leg. In the third period, Don Sweeney broke the bad news: Kelly is lost for the rest of the season as Don Sweeney announced he has a left femur fracture.

Kelly’s absence showed, with the Bruins surrendering three power play goals in a 5-2 loss, but it was a  game the B’s could have won with a more consistent performance across the entire 60 minutes after a solid start.

Seguin opened scoring with a missile off the rush from the left circle, beating Tuukka Rask in the 1st period to give Dallas the lead after the Bruins had gotten off to a hot start with six shots to none before he found the back of the net with his club’s first on net.

Colin Miller answered for the Bruins, rifling home his first career NHL goal from the point to make it a 1-1 game. “Chiller” has demonstrated a heavy shot that he can get off quickly and on net.

Loui Eriksson tallied a power play goal (his third of the season and 10th point in 11 games) off of a rebound of Torey Krug’s slapper from the left circle. Patrice Bergeron also assisted on the play, giving the Bruins a 2-1 lead after 20 minutes.

Seguin scored a power play marker in the second frame, stepping into the left circle and firing a heater past Rask with Jamie Benn set up in front taking away his sight lines.

Dallas took the lead with a point shot from Jyrki Jokipakka, who scored his first career NHL goal (in some 62 games) to make it 3-2.

Seguin tallied the hat trick again on the power play when Krug was whistled for a delay of game penalty after clearing the puck over the glass. Seguin took a Jason Spezza pass in the left circle once again and burying a one-timer before Rask could get across his crease. It was Seguin’s eighth tally of the year and gave the Stars a 4-2 lead.

Defenseman Alex Goligoski would add another power play marker to put the game out of reach.

The story of this one centers around the loss of Kelly, who was transported to Mass General Hospital and will have surgery tomorrow and then is expected to miss six to eight months. For all intents and purposes, Kelly’s season is done, and now one wonders if the team will look to Max Talbot to fill the void.

Seguin’s hat trick no doubt added some salt to the wounds in Boston, but credit the Stars for recovering from a mediocre first period after playing the night before in a loss to Toronto to turn the tables on Boston in the final 40 minutes. The Bruins outshot Dallas 39-19, but the scoreboard bore the message of Boston’s defeat: 5-3, visiting team.

Alex Khokhlachev showed some flashes of ability and hustle in his first NHL game of 15-16, but when the B’s found themselves on the PK, he didn’t get much time on ice.


Loui Eriksson- Two goals tonight including a meaningless late-game score on a give-and-go with Ryan Spooner to make it a 5-3 game with a little over two minutes remaining. Eriksson has been a consistent bright spot on offense. His four goals this season have come in two games on a pair of two-goal efforts, but he’s added seven assists in 11 games as well. With Kelly gone, Eriksson’s value to the team as one of the more experienced and effective two-way forwards is even greater.

Colin Miller- The defenseman acquired in the trade for Milan Lucic continues to generate offense, scoring his first goal on a point blast. With his tools and knack for creating scoring chances from the back end, Boston fans have to be excited for this young man’s future.

Chris Kelly- B’s fans will now learn how much more the veteran did for the club that he didn’t get credit for. It is the ultimate in irony for a player of Kelly’s character to be lost on such a random play…he wasn’t blown up on a big hit. It was a freak injury with devastating effect. He gets an up because throughout his Boston tenure, he’s been a leader and gritty two-way performer. It’s a tough pill for Boston to swallow right now.

Tyler Seguin- What more can you say about his performance? The former Bruin and 2010 second overall selection used his wicked shot and high-end offensive talent to lethal effect tonight, overcoming the fact that Boston held the statistical edge in most categories except in the one that matters most: the final score. The trade that sent him to Dallas will continue to polarize B’s fans for years to come, but Seguin still needs to demonstrate he can perform at this level and higher come February and beyond when it gets tougher to score in the NHL and points are at a premium. He deserves full marks for his three goals in this one, and becomes the first former Bruins player to score a hat trick in Boston since Mariusz Czerkawski did it with the Edmonton Oilers on November 6, 1996.

Jamie Benn- He’s a tremendous player and the chemistry Benn has with Seguin is admirable. He not only gets the big-time points production and consistent scoring, but he does the little things, like go to the net and set up a screen as he did on Seguin’s second goal. These two have been dynamite together, but with the way things have gone this season, 2015-16 just might be the real breakthrough year by both players as they are on pace to raise the bar.


Boston’s penalty kill- They gave up three goals on four Stars attempts and were at their worst when they appeared to stop skating on Seguin’s hat trick goal, thinking the puck left the zone. It didn’t, thanks a strong play at the blue line by John Klingberg and seconds later, the Stars were up by two. It’s not going to get any easier with Kelly now gone for the balance of the season. Watch for Max Talbot to come back up and try to fill those skates.

Tuukka Rask- He’s gotten credit when he plays well, and he goes back on this list when he comes up short. The Bruins needed him to make the first save tonight and he wasn’t up to the task. Sure- the defense had some breakdowns in front of him, but he was off his angles and at times made it easy for Dallas, especially on the Goligoski goal, where he seemed to lose his poise and focus. Team effort tonight- and the Bruins lost as a team, but Rask needs to be better.

Zac Rinaldo- As the John C. McGinley Bob asked Tom “Leap to Conclusions Mat” Symanski on Office Space “What would you say…you do here?” Energy is good, hitting is fine, but Rinaldo is no threat to generate any kind of consistent offensive pressure, so what he brings to the table simply does not balance out what the team could better get from someone else on the roster.

Antoine Roussel- A slew foot AND a high stick on Zac Rinaldo? On the same play? If ever there was someone who could out-rat Rinaldo, it’s Roussel.

Tough loss in what was a winnable game for the Bruins in what is going to be a challenging week, as the team loses in regulation for the first time since the Columbus Day match against Tampa Bay.

Final Buzzer: Boston road greaters- B’s begin season a perfect 5-0 as visitors

An 0-3 start at home has been offset with five consecutive road victories by the Boston Bruins, the latest a 3-1 contest against the Tampa Bay Lightning to push the team’s overall record to 6-3-1 in the 2015-16 season’s first 10 games.

The B’s got goals from Matt Beleskey, Brett Connolly and Brad Marchand (an empty-netter) to earn two more points and move into second place in the Atlantic Division behind the Montreal Canadiens.

They fell behind to the home team when Nikita Kucherov took a nifty cross-ice pass from Vladislav Namestnikov and buried a high twine tickler to make it 1-0 on a power play tally after Ryan Spooner was sent off for hooking.

Beleskey got it back later in the period when he converted a rebound of a Colin Miller shot that squirted out to him in the slot. While on one knee, Beleskey fought off a Tampa defender to spin and put the puck past Tampa goaltender Ben Bishop low to the blocker side after it appeared that the shot changed direction. Jimmy Hayes started the play when he won a footrace to the puck behind the net and threw it out to the point where Miller was able to gather it in and put it back on net.

The teams battled to a second 20 minutes of scoreless hockey before the B’s took the lead in the third period with another power play goal to extend the league’s best unit with the man advantage. Connolly was positioned out to the left of the net and took a hot Marchand pass, then took an extra second to locate Bishop and fire a high shot over the sprawling goalie for his fourth tally of the season (in his last five games to boot). It was another goal scorer’s strike from Connolly, who appeared extra motivated to score what stood up as the winning goal against his former club.

Bruins backup Jonas Gustavsson played well, giving up the lone goal in the first period. Although he doesn’t always appear to be in control or in position, he’s a perfect 3-0 in his starts this season and is giving Claude Julien and the Bruins coaches the kind of confidence they need to balance out Tuukka Rask’s workload.

David Krejci’s 9-game point streak ended tonight, but you won’t hear any complaints from him, as his team continues to roll with a 6-0-1 record in its last seven games. If not for the third period meltdown against Philly at home, they’d have a seven-game string of perfection.


Brad Marchand is playing some of the best hockey of his NHL career amidst Boston's 6-0-1 run in last 7 games (Photo courtesy of Alison M. Foley)

Brad Marchand is playing some of the best hockey of his NHL career amidst Boston’s 6-0-1 run in last 7 games (Photo courtesy of Alison M. Foley)

Brad Marchand- He was not suspended for his hit from behind on Florida’s Dmitri Kulikov, and it was a good thing, as he was Boston’s top forward, playing with his trademark energy and pace. In addition to his quality assist and ENG, Marchand drew a penalty when he exploded on a breakaway, which probably should have been a penalty shot. This is the best stretch of hockey Marchand has probably played since the final two series of the 2011 Stanley Cup playoffs.

Brett Connolly- Another game, another snipe. Bruins fans are starting to see why the Lightning drafted him so early in 2010, and why it took a pair of second rounders to pry him away from Steve Yzerman last February. At this rate, that price is starting to look like a bargain, and Connolly’s one-year, $1 million “prove it” deal with the B’s might result in a nice payday for him next summer if he keeps it up. Ever since moving onto a line with Patrice Bergeron and Loui Eriksson, the former WHL scoring star has been money.

Jonas Gustavsson- For people who like technically sound goalies, the Monster is going to fire up the nerves, but the veteran Swede is a perfect 3-0 and somehow makes the big saves when he needs to. Right now, he’s healthy and playing well- doing exactly what a top backup does, and his team has played well in front of him in his three starts. With all due respect to Jeremy Smith, the Bruins made the right call in signing ‘Gus’ and going with him.

Loui Eriksson- Another game, another superb three-zone effort from Eriksson. At this point, he’s Boston’s unsung hero as a winger who is bringing a lot more to the table than his scoring totals reflect. He’s forcing turnovers, creating scoring chances and making good defensive plays. His production won’t even begin to touch the player the B’s traded for him, but having him, Joe Morrow and Jimmy Hayes (acquired for Reilly Smith) takes a little of the sting out, as the trio is contributing a lot to Boston’s fortunes right now.

Adam McQuaid- This was a gritty, vintage McQuaid night, as he was blocking shots and making Tampa forwards pay for every inch of real estate in the Boston zone. Some won’t ever get past his cap hit, but when it comes to a shutdown defender who just goes out and does his job effectively, he’s getting it done.

Torey Krug- In retrospect he’s making anyone who doubted that he could play top minutes and a key role on defense foolish. Night in and night out, he’s one of Boston’s most valuable players, making plays at both ends of the ice and doing his part to get the puck out of his zone and up the ice. Tonight, he made a memorable defensive play while the Bruins were on the PP and allowed an odd-man rush the other way. He burned back on the rush, made a textbook defensive play to deny the pass and shot, then got off the ice because he expended every bit of energy to ensure the Lightning did not capitalize. Krug is here to stay and he’ll be worth every penny of that extension he’ll sign sometime after January.

Matt Beleskey- He scored a huge goal by doing the grunt work and that’s how most of his offense will come this year. He plays hard and is an opportunistic forward- he’s got to be feeling good about his decision to sign with Boston given the way the team has turned things around. Anaheim will get better too, but for now, he’s certainly not sitting around questioning why he made the decision not to accept the team’s offer to keep him in Southern California.

Nikita Kucherov- His goal was pretty much a layup, but man- this guy has a world of skill. The ‘Bolts are struggling with the offense right now, but you can bet that they’ll break out at some point and when they do, Steven Stamkos and Kucherov will likely be leading the charge. With his speed and hands, the best years are yet to come for this diamond-in-the-rough find by the Tampa scouts.


David Pastrnak- He’s 19- there will be bumps in the road and tonight was one of them. He might be suffering the effects of a lower body injury suffered last night in Sunrise, but he was not effective tonight and only saw some three shifts in the final two periods. On the one hand- you don’t want to make too much of the struggles he’s bound to have as he continues to grow and develop at the very highest level, but at the same time- it’s a good message to by Julien to the youngster that when he’s not effective, he’s going to take a seat on the bench.

Tyler Johnson- Did not see a great deal from one of Tampa’s breakout players from a year ago. Yes, he’s banged up right now, but he did not display that dangerous element that he’s so capable of much at all. He’s the straw that stirs the drink on that “Triplets” line of Kucherov and Ondrej Palat, and he’s mired in a tough slump.

Kudos to the Bruins for giving their season a good, honest effort. Their fans are pretty consistent- they can handle losing, especially when they know their team lacks the pure talent to hang with the NHL’s powers, but the losing has to be accompanied with an effort. This B’s club played hard even with the tough three losses to open the year but they’ve been a gritty, opportunistic bunch since.

It’s still going to be a dogfight to get into the playoffs come April, but like the 2007-08 Bruins demonstrated- the effort can compensate for quite a bit. And credit Julien and his staff for getting the players to compete. He’s not just coaching like a guy on the hot seat- he’s trying different things and has these guys believing in themselves with a power play that encourages a lot of puck movement and a willingness to take chances. So far, the pucks are ending up in the net and the wins are coming with regularity.

There are 72 games left on the schedule, but if you had told us in August that this club would begin the year with a 6-3-1 record, most would take that and smile.

Final Buzzer: B’s have Coyotes howling at the moon in 6-0 whitewash at home

The Boston Bruins, facing the Arizona Coyotes for the second time in less than two weeks, got a much-needed first home win of the season, while Tuukka Rask posted his 27th career shutout, passing Hall of Famer and two-time Stanley Cup champion Gerry Cheevers on the team’s all-time list. The B’s pasted the Coyotes en route to a 6-0 game that saw the loss of Kevan Miller, who was tripped by Arizona forward Tobias Rieder and fell awkwardly into the end boards.

After a feeling-out period in the opening 20 minutes, David Krejci scored his sixth goal of the season off a brilliant rush that started with a smart clearing pass from Torey Krug deep in his own end. The puck went out to Loui Eriksson near the left boards outside the zone and he softly redirected it to Krejci who, despite having less than blazing open ice speed, managed to skate in on goaltender Mike Smith with the Coyotes in hot pursuit. With Brett Connolly also driving the net up the middle of the ice, his presence forced Arizona d-man Nicklas Grossman to shift away from Krejci to take away the pass. The B’s veteran and top scorer then deftly moved the puck from his backhand to the forehand and then roofed a shot into the net to give his club a 1-0 lead.

Jimmy Hayes added to the lead in the second frame by finishing off the rebound of a Matt Beleskey shot after Ryan Spooner gained the zone with a slick move to stay onside. Hayes put home his third goal of the year to give his team some breathing room.

Defenseman Joe Morrow added a late goal, his first of the year when he gained the zone and snapped a high wrist shot from high in the slot into the top corner. It was a classic Morrow-like goal, as the former WHL standout defender has always been known for his ability to fire pucks on net.

Boston continued the dominance in the final frame when Brett Connolly scored his third goal in as many games when Brad Marchand streaked into the offensive zone along the left wall, pulled a defender to him and then put the puck back out into the middle of the ice where Connolly was trailing. He gathered it up and then zipped a laser on the stick side to give the B’s a commanding 4-0 lead. Patrice Bergeron drew the secondary assist on the play.

Marchand’s power play goal with some six minutes and change punctuated the danger of giving the B’s an extra man after John Scott was assessed a slashing penalty and 10-minute misconduct.

Krejci took a chip pass off the boards from Hayes to score his second goal of the game in the final minute, giving Boston the decisive 6-0 whitewash to earn that first ‘W’ at the TD Garden for 2015-16 in style. It gave him a stats line of 7-7-14 in eight games to go back on top of the NHL.


Tuukka Rask (Photo courtesy of Alison M. Foley)

Tuukka Rask (Photo courtesy of Alison M. Foley)

Tuukka Rask- Boston’s embattled veteran wasn’t tested all that much, but stood tall in his crease and answered the call after a poor showing against Philadelphia last week. This is the Rask that the Bruins and their fans expect to see every night and the shutout was the cherry on top, as he moves into a tie with Eddie Johnston for fourth place on Boston’s all-time list, and just five shutouts from moving into third place ahead of Tim Thomas. He’s got a long way to go before he catches franchise leader Cecil “Tiny” Thompson, however (74).

David Krejci- 8 games, points in all (14 total including a two-goal night and the game-winner on the opening tally). Krejci had seven goals in 47 games a year ago, he has seven markers in his first eight contests this time, and has the hungry look of a guy who is committed to justifying that big contract extension. Being healthy is key- but his smarts have always been there and he’s being much more aggressive in the way he attacks the net. He and Eriksson are really clicking together.

Loui Eriksson- Another solid performance from the savvy veteran who just goes out and makes plays without a lot of flash and fanfare. He’s been a leader in ice time for Boston forwards in the past four games and it comes down to his versatility and the trust Claude Julien has in him to play in any situation.

Brad Marchand- Wicked little game from Boston’s pepper pot. His assist on Connolly’s third period goal was a thing of beauty as he sucked the Arizona defender to him before sliding the puck back to a wide-open linemate for the score. He then used a Hayes screen in front a few minutes later to score on the power play. Can you say special teams maven?

Joe Morrow- Morrow is expected to provide some offense and push the pace for any club he’s on and he did it tonight. His goal was vintage Morrow, as he attempted a lead pass in the neutral zone, but it deflected back to him on a play by Arizona and in full gallop, he took it himself into the Coyotes’ zone and wired it over Smith’s glove.

Jimmy Hayes- He’s getting it done with another multi-point effort to seal a win. That it came in front of the home crowd is all the more sweeter for the big body who not only received an assist on the Marchand goal by moving the puck to him, but then went right to the front of the net and took away Smith’s sightlines so that Marchand’s shot could get by him high to the blocker side.

Ryan Spooner- Give Spooner (and Beleskey) credit- he returned to the third line after being demoted in the previous contest and made it work, getting the 5-on-5 goal with Hayes and making some good plays. He dished a fine backhand sauce pass that Beleskey was unable to handle in the first period, but if they keep at that one, it’ll go in sooner or later.


Kevan Miller- Let’s hope he didn’t suffer another devastating shoulder injury for his sake- no matter how effective you think he’s played of late, he doesn’t deserve a return to the extended IR like that.

Final Buzzer: B’s are Road Warriors at Barclay’s- down Islanders 5-3

Joonas Kemppainen netted his 1st points in the NHL with the Bruins vs the Isles (Photo courtesy of Alison M. Foley)

Joonas Kemppainen netted his 1st points in the NHL with the Bruins vs the Isles (Photo courtesy of Alison M. Foley)

The Boston Bruins balanced out their home winless record with a perfect standing in road games, beating the New York Islanders Friday night by a 5-3 score (including a late meaningless goal by Thomas Hickey) to collect their third win and a 3-3-1 record overall.

Joonas Kemppainen scored his first career NHL goal and the B’s got tallies from four other players- Brett Connolly, David Pastrnak, Ryan Spooner and David Krejci- plus some solid if unspectacular play in net from backup Jonas Gustavsson.

It was also a strong game from the Boston defense, who played well on the whole as a unit, limiting mistakes and making the defensive plays that they needed to preserve the win.

Boston took the lead on Connolly’s second marker of the season, a scorer’s play that he made as he put on a burst after Brad Marchand put the puck out front from the corner and Connolly zipped past Islanders captain John Tavares in the slot to wire the shot into the net past a surprised Jaroslav Halak.

The lead didn’t hold for long as Marchand was sent off for a hooking call and Justin Bailey converted a rebound to tie the score at 1 goal apiece on the power play. 1:19 later, former Bruin defender and enduring fan favorite Johnny Boychuk (playing career game 400, btw) beat the Boston forward to the puck along the right wall and threw a shot on net that Casey Cizikas redirected into the net past Gustavsson. Ryan Spooner was defending him but allowed the Isles’ fourth line center and top defensive forward to gain body position as he cut to the net for his first goal of the year to make it 2-1.

Boston battled back in the second frame after Claude Julien shook up the lines and put Spooner on the bottom unit with Kemppainen and Tyler Randell. The move paid dividends as Kemppainen, who had been mediocre up until the midway point of the second period, made a sharp play to force a turnover on an attempted Islanders breakout, getting the puck over to Spooner. The skilled center tried to get a shot on net, but the puck hit a defender and bounced right to Kemppainen who was alone in the slot and fired a short-side shot that slipped past Halak to even the score.

Pastrnak later gave Boston the lead back with a tremendous play to corral a Loui Eriksson pass in his skates, kick the puck to his stick, then rifle a bullet shot into the twine for his second goal of the season.

Spooner would score to make it 4-2 in the third when he and Kemppainen did good forechecking work to force a turnover. As Spooner took the puck to the net, he tried a return pass to the Finn, but his attempted feed hit an Islander skate and skittered into the open side.

Krejci put a shot into the empty net to put the game out of reach and extend his streak of points in every game thus far with his fifth goal and 12th point.


Zdeno Chara- The Boston captain played his 1,200th career NHL game against the team that drafted him in 1996. He’s well past his prime, but even so- he played with snarl and toughness tonight, going off late in the second period when he absorbed a hit by Matt Martin but then got elbowed by Cal Clutterbuck, who flew in on the backside and knocked his helmet off. When he plays like that, Chara inspires his young, but hard-working team to dig down a little deeper and stand a little taller in the face of adversity. He’s had a tremendous career and will one day reside in the Hockey Hall of Fame when all is said and done.

Joonas Kemppainen- Right after I tweeted about him being too soft on the puck, he finished a check in the offensive zone, then stripped the Isles of the puck, putting Spooner’s deflection home a couple of ticks later. He added an assist for good measure, getting his first NHL points and playing a more energetic, inspired game alongside Spooner.

Loui Eriksson- At times his skating looks labored, but he’s such a smart player who manages to be in the thick of the action. He tallied a couple of helpers tonight, but it was his solid 200-foot game that caught my eye for much of the night. He was strong on pucks, made good decisions with and without the puck and showed why he’s a savvy veteran and the second highest scoring (to Patrice Bergeron) player from the 2003 NHL draft’s second round.

David Krejci- He only had the empty-net goal to show for what was a solid performance from Boston’s leading scorer. He was particularly effective in puck support tonight and made some nifty plays that didn’t result in goals but reminded everyone that he’s on pace for a career-best year.

Adam McQuaid- Strong game from Darth Quaider. He fought Matt Martin in the opening period after the Isles took the lead, and played capable defense. On one memorable play in the second period, he was a step behind the Islander forward, but stayed with him and broke up the rush/prevented the shot. He also assisted on Krejci’s empty-netter.

Ryan Spooner- He belongs in both Up and Down sections in this one…his play in the first period was not encouraging, but after Julien demoted him, the 23-year-old pivot got some home cooking going with Kemppainen. Up until tonight, his 5v5 play had been a major bone of contention in the early going of the new season, but he salvaged  that a bit in the final 40 minutes by taking pucks to the net and being rewarded with a goal and helper.

Brett Connolly- What a snipe. He used his speed and hockey sense to score his second goal of the year. If there is more where that came from, he’s on the way to justifying the deal Peter Chiarelli made for him by surrendering a pair of second-round picks.

Jonas Gustavsson- He gave up three goals tonight, but was superb in the second by not allowing any of New York’s shots to get by him, opening the door for Boston to re-take the lead. He’s a bit scrambly at times, leaving fat rebounds and is an adventure when he roams from his crease to play the puck, but in two wins, both on the road, he’s done what his team has asked of him.


Spooner- Dropped from the third line, needs to bring more to the table at even strength or he could find himself doing more than just going down to the fourth line. With Alex Khokhlachev heating up in Providence, I wouldn’t put it past the Bruins to do some message sending. Thing is- he’s such a skilled and talented player- we saw what he’s capable of last season. That’s the Spooner the Bruins need back.

Brad Marchand- His lazy, undisciplined hooking penalty in the first period cost the Bruins a power play goal against. He’s got to do a better job than just putting his stick in the hands of an opponent rather than move his feet to force a turnover, especially with how fast a skater he is. He gets credit for working the puck to the front of the net on the Connolly goal, but his penalty was unacceptable in that situation and he’s got to learn from that.

Seven games in, and it looks like this is going to be an up-and-down season for this team. There are some things to be encouraged about on the defense- Torey Krug continues to log a lot of ice time and play well in all situations even if he’s snakebit and still looking for his first goal. Colin Miller and Joe Morrow are noticeable in their ability to skate pucks out of danger and make the crisp outlets. We also have to live with the inevitable mistakes they’ll make, but the raw material is there.

The B’s are a better team on the road right now than at home, but they’ll take it- it beats being poor at home AND in the role of visitors.

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.


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.


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.

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)


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.


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.