Bruins look to regain composure vs. Wild

675622.jpg

Bruins look to regain composure vs. Wild

ST PAUL, MN The Bruins should have plenty of things to ponder heading into Sunday afternoons highly anticipated tilt against the Minnesota Wild at the Xcel Energy Center.

The Bs only visit hockey-crazed Minnesota once every two years to square off against the Wild, and this seasons tilt is serving as the NBC centerpiece game for Hockey Day in America.

Its an honor befitting the Stanley Cup champs with a roster littered with many of the NHLs most recognizable faces.

But the Bruins dont really care much about any of this headed into Sunday.

The Bs have gone 16 games (7-8-1) without winning consecutive games while essentially spinning their wheels for more than a month. The Wild will be just as, well, wild about a victory as losers of seven straight games coming off a Saturday afternoon 4-0 whitewashing in St. Louis.

Bostons frustration is obvious along a bench where the players have become accustomed to winning. The rankled feelings have even crept into the coaching staff where Claude Juliens answers are getting shorter by the day.

Ill be pleased if we can do the right things on Sunday, said Julien, who spoke for exactly 76 seconds to reporters after Fridays loss to the Jets before pulling the plug. We just keep working on trying to find our game and finding our rhythm. Its a challenge and we need to keep pushing through that. Its as simple as that. There is a lot in our game that has to be better.

It starts with the commitment to play the way we can, the work behind that goes behind that and the enthusiasm. Enthusiasm creates energy and we havent had that in a while. When we do have that in spurts during certain games it makes a big difference. We have to find that again and get geared up to put things in the right direction. Every team goes through doldrums. We go through it every year and were going through it now.

The Bs have been shut out three times since losing Nathan Horton to a mild concussion less than a month ago, and now theyre likely without Rich Peverley for the rest of the regular season to a sprained right MCL in his knee.

The Bruins have led the NHL in offense for nearly the entire season after overcoming their 10-game season-opening hangover, but they dropped out of the top spot after their loss in Winnipeg Friday night.

The Bs power play is 2-for-20 during the month of February and looks alarmingly close to the PP power outage Boston staged during last years playoffs.

The ever-reliable defensively Bruins bunch have allowed 3.8 goals per game in the last five contests, and Zdeno Chara is a shocking minus-6 over Bostons last three games.

The Bruins have been the leagues best third period team this year while outscoring their opponents by a 77-47 margin, but issued lifeless collapses in their last two games against the Canadiens and Jets.

Thats not our game, said David Krejci. Our game is to be the best third period team in the league. The last few games it hasnt happened, you know? Weve got to find a way to be the same Bruins as we used to be.

Its not hard. Its in us. Its in this dressing room, but somehow we have to find it again. We have to start showing that killer instinct in the third period again.

What do all of these statistics mean for the Black and Gold?

The Bruins havent looked like themselves over a month plus of fitful hockey. The Cup champs arent brandishing the same focused, aggressive brand of physical hockey thats unmistakable when theyre at their best.

Good teams snicker at words like complacency and comfort being tossed around, but facts are facts.

The Bruins are seven points behind a Rangers team that doesnt show any signs of slowing down after defeating the Bs twice over the last month, and the Northeast Division looks like a romp for Boston. The Ottawa Senators are closest to the Bs at four points behind, but the Bruins have a whopping four games in hand with 26 games to play.

With no push from within their division for the No. 2 seed in the East and the Southeast Division unable to produce a team worthy of catching up to the Bruins or Blueshirts, there is very little flickering Bostons flame during the dog days.

Leaders within the Boston dressing room like Chris Kelly, who finished practice and conducted interviews Saturday despite shattering his two front teeth in a head-first collision with the boards, know how important it is to keep piling up points amid the February doldrums.

I dont know if were locked into the No. 2 seed. I hope complacency isnt the case, but we certainly seem to be playing that way, said Kelly. I think Ottawa is four points back and, yeah, we have some games in hand. But that means nothing. We need to win those games.

Everybody is playing well right now. In the second half there are a lot of three point games and you need to be ready to get every point that you can.

The Bruins and Wild will each get a chance to show things are different on Sunday afternoon before a national audience, but it wont be easy.

The injuries are piling up with Tyler Seguin missing practice on Saturday, and Tuukka Rask is mired in a personal five-game losing streak while badly in need of a boost of confidence from the Bruins coaching staff.

Perhaps that boost will come from the Bruins going right back to Rask after a shaky performance in Friday nights loss to Winnipeg, but its about a lot more than goaltenders psyche at this point in the season.

The Bruins are concerned with only one thing Sunday: getting the two points against a reeling Minnesota bunch that could push them right back into the Bs way of doing things.

Saturday, May 28: Frustating season for Pred's Rinne

cp-morning-skate.jpg

Saturday, May 28: Frustating season for Pred's Rinne

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while wondering how much of a dark cloud Slava Voynov’s presence is going to bring to the World Cup of Hockey.

*PHT’s Joey Alfieri tracks the ups and downs of Nashville Predators goalie Pekka Rinne, who had a frustrating season.

*Jonathan Drouin says that he “definitely wants to be” part of the Tampa Bay Lightning after a very rocky year with a happy ending for all.

*Speaking of the World Cup of Hockey, Taylor Hall was one of a number of deserving Canadian players – including P.K. Subban -- left off the roster.

*The San Jose Sharks have come a long way from their inaugural season in the league.

*Ottawa Senators senior advisor Bryan Murray is still getting used to a new role after a change in the Sens front office structure.

*Pittsburgh Penguins GM Jim Rutherford has plenty of reasons to be proud after a very good year running hockey ops for the Penguins.

*For something completely different: this January Rolling Stone magazine piece on Stevie Nicks was an excellent retrospective.

 

 

Marchand: Selection to Canada World Cup 'on a different level'

usatsi_9235538.jpg

Marchand: Selection to Canada World Cup 'on a different level'

Bruins left wing Brad Marchand definitely altered a lot of people’s perceptions about him as a hockey player when he scored 37 goals this season, and embraced more of a leadership role on a B’s team getting younger by the year. The B’s agitator started to reap the rewards of those changed opinions with a gold medal at the IIHF World Championships in Russia earlier this month, and on Friday with his inclusion on a ridiculously talented Team Canada roster set for the NHL and NHLPA-organized World Cup of Hockey in the fall.

Marchand will join linemate Patrice Bergeron and head coach Claude Julien as part of the Team Canada contingent, and could even be part of a reunited Marchand-Bergeron-Tyler Seguin line if Mike Babcock and Co. are looking for instant chemistry.

Either way Marchand was excited about suiting up for his country, and being part of a World Cup tournament that will include Bruins players Tuukka Rask, Zdeno Chara, David Pastrnak, David Krejci (who may not be available to play due to his hip surgery), Loui Eriksson and Dennis Seidenberg along with the Team Canada contingent.

“It’s an incredible honor to play for Team Canada. It’s something that I think we all take a lot of pride in, and something that is…it’s not an easy accomplishment,” said Marchand. “It’s not something you get to do very often, and to have that opportunity twice this year is very special and it’s not something I take for granted

“I think being part of a team like this is on a different level, and people may give a little more respect to that fact and may look at more of the kind of player I am, other than just the stuff they’ve seen in the past, with the hits and being a pest and stuff like that. Maybe those people will realize that I’m an OK hockey player, and I do play the game as well. But regardless, that’s not why I play the game. I play it to help our team win and just because I love the game, so however they feel, then that’s their opinion. But [earning more respect league-wide] is a possibility.”

This is the fifth time Marchand has been selected to compete for his home country of Canada in international play. The 5-foot-9, 181-pound forward tallied four goals and three assists in 10 games while helping Canada earn a gold medal at the aforementioned 2016 IIHF Men’s World Championships, held earlier this month in Russia. Marchand previously won gold with Team Canada at the U-20 World Championships in 2007 and 2008. He also earned a bronze medal with Team Canada Atlantic at the 2005 World U-17 Hockey Challenge.

The 2016 World Cup of Hockey will take place from Sept. 17 to Oct. 1, 2016 at Air Canada Centre in Toronto, home of the NHL’s Toronto Maple Leafs. The two-week tournament, featuring eight teams comprised of more than 150 of the best players in the NHL, will progress from the Preliminary Round to the Semifinals and ultimately the Final. 

The involvement of so many Bruins players along with Julien will make for a spare NHL camp in Boston come September with so many important pieces out for what is traditionally the first two weeks of camp.