Haggerty: 15 thoughts from Bruins-Senators

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Haggerty: 15 thoughts from Bruins-Senators

Here are five thoughts from the first period with the Bruins and Senators tied up at 1-1 after the first 20 minutes of play at TD Garden.

1)Plenty of offensive energy that period for the Bruins with some very good saves by Ottawa goaltender Craig Anderson. Twelve shots on net, and many of them from Bruins players in exactly the spots they wanted to take them. Benoit Pouliot also rang a shot off the right post after an arms-and-legs move to dangle through a Senators defender.

2)Shawn Thornton with one of his best fights of the year pounding Chris Neil with a barrage of right-handed bombs, but it appears that it came at a price. Thornton with some serious bags of ice on his right hand before exiting midway through his five minutes into the penalty box with a trip straight to the dressing room. It looks like his right hand might be getting treated.

3)Bruins power play looked very good in the first period. Both units playing with energy and quick passing that helped set up Zdeno Charas power play strike through a Milan Lucic screen. The score pulls Chara into a tie with Nathan Horton for the team lead with six power play strikes this year.

4)Three shots on net in 7:14 for Brad Marchand, who also drew the penalty that led to Charas power play goal by taking it hard to the net. A beauty of a saucer pass from Tyler Seguin set the whole thing up for Marchand.

5) Colin Greening is turning into one heck of a player for the Ottawa Senators. It was his second effort that allowed him to pop the rebound of his own shot past Tim Thomas. Greening and Daniel Alfredsson both lead the Senators with three shots on net apiece.

Here are five thoughts from the second period with the Bruins trailing the Senators by a 3-2 score after the first 40 minutes of play at TD Garden.

1)Five shots in the second for the Bruins as they were badly outplayed by Ottawa in all phases of the game. Its funny. The second period has actually been Bostons weakest period all season long and that was the case again tonight.

2)Despite their weak second period, Milan Lucic was able to bury a sizzling wrist shot from the slot with 46 seconds left in the period to make it a 3-2 game headed into the third period. Thats a gigantic goal for the Bruins after getting outplayed for most of the 20 minutes and it really shows some of Ottawas immaturity still shining through.

3)Despite the big bag of ice and repairs in the first period after his fight with Chris Neil, Shawn Thornton was out there taking regular shifts with his fourth line in the second. That NHL enforcer thing is a tough gig, man.

4)A big mistake by Zdeno Chara trying to step up into a play that led to a 2-on-1 and Erik Karlssons goal in the second period to give Ottawa their current lead. Of all the players on the ice for the Bruins, Chara and Tim Thomas have looked the weakest after their weekend All-Star appearances.

5)Soft goals from Tim Thomas in his first game back from the break. Strange to see given his normal domination of Ottawa, but perhaps Thomas was a little distracted prior to the game tonight wondering what kind of reception hed receive.

Here are five thoughts from the third period with the Bruins taking down the Senators by a 4-3 score after 60 minutes of intense Northeast Division play at TD Garden.

1)Dennis Seidenberg with the rare 90-foot goal when he fired a puck from the center ice face-off dot that skimmed off the ice and beat Craig Anderson for the game-winner. Third period win for Bruins shows their poiseexperience and make it clear Ottawa still has some growing up to do before theyre for real.

2)Six points and a pair of goals from the Bs defensemen crew tonight. The goal from Seidenberg was a big one.

3)Nine shots on goal for the Seguin, Marchand and Bergeron line, though they were on the ice for a pair of goals against as well. A very mixed bag night for them.

4)Four hits from Jared Cowen, who literally tossed Dennis Seidenberg off his skates during a battle in the corner. Hes another impressive young player for the Senators along with Colin Greening.

5)Two power play goals for the Bruins including 5-foot-8, 180-pound Brad Marchand beating out 6-foot-3, 220-pound Chris Phillips for a rebound in front of the net that ended up being the game-tying goal. Thats simple Little Ball of Hate desire winning out in a one-on-one battle.

Bruins bouncing between left wings Schaller and Spooner on Krejci line

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Bruins bouncing between left wings Schaller and Spooner on Krejci line

BRIGHTON, Mass. – It certainly doesn’t feel like it will go on forever this way for the Bruins, but at this point it’s essentially a case of musical left wings on the David Krejci line as it’s been for much of this season. 

Ryan Spooner has spent the majority of the season adjusting to playing the wing with Krejci, and has been just okay trying to play away from his natural center spot while using his speed and playmaking on the wing. But the speedy Spooner also spent his share of time lately on the fourth line after getting off to a slow offensive start this season with three goals and eight points along with a minus-1 rating in 23 games. 

The bouncing between the second and fourth line has undoubtedly been frustrating for the 24-year-old getting pushed off his natural position after posting 49 points in his first full year as a third line center. But Spooner has continued to toe the company line, work on keeping his confidence high for a productive offensive season and do what he needs to in an effort to get off a fourth line.

That’s opened the door for hard-nosed former Providence College standout Tim Schaller to get some top-6 forward time on the Krejci line as well, but he’s just posted a single assist in the last three games while working hard to keep up offensively with David Krejci and David Backes. The 6-foot-2, 219-pound Schaller has the grittiness to do the dirty work for that line in the corners and in front of the net, and he can certainly skate well enough for a big, energy forward. 

“To think this was going to happen, I would say ‘no’,” said Schaller when asked if he could have predicted at the start of the season that he’d be getting a look from the B’s in a top-6 role. “I’ve been able to play with whoever and whenever my whole career. I wouldn’t want to say it’s one of those things that I had expected, but I’m always ready for it. 

“We’ve been working pretty well together. I don’t know that we’ve had too many great [offensive] opportunities to capitalize on, but Backes and Krejci are good enough players that they’ll come. They’re good enough to bury on those chances, so the goals will come. I’m always going to play the same way no matter who I’m with. Those guys might have the puck on their sticks a little longer than other linemates of mine, but that will just create more space and opportunities.”

So Spooner and Schaller bring different strengths and weaknesses to the table as the B’s coaching staff searches for the right fit alongside Krejci and Backes, and Julien sounds like a coach that’s going to keep swinging back and forth between the two players. He certainly did that with Spooner during the third period in Philly, which led to an immediate goal for Krejci in the third period comeback, and toward the end of the Carolina win with the B's desperate for offense. 

Julien also didn’t rule out Matt Beleskey getting another look there as well with the Bruins having a tough time finding anybody to consistently fill Loui Eriksson’s role from last season.

“At times I don’t think that offense has been producing much because maybe it’s lacking a little bit of speed at that time, so you put Spooner back up there. But sometimes you feel like that line isn’t winning enough battles or spending enough time in the offensive zone, so you put Schaller back in there because he’s going to play a little grittier. So we’re looking there,” said Julien. “We’d love to be able to find somebody to be a consistent player there. We’ve had Matt Beleskey there and that line never really did anything. 

“[Beleskey] has been much better on the [third] line and he’s been getting more chances, so I’ve been trying to put the best scenario together, I guess. Sometimes it’s the situation and sometimes it’s the matchup [against the other team] as well. So there are different reasons for that. I’ve just got to make it work. If it’s working with [Schaller] on that night then you stick with it, and if you don’t think you’re getting enough then you move [Spooner] there and see if you can a little spark with some speed. It doesn’t mean Beleskey won’t go back there. That’s what we have right now.”

So it’s clear Julien, and the B’s coaching staff, have simply tried to find something that will work on a consistent basis with a couple of key offensive players on Boston’s second most important forward line. The one wild card in all of this: the impending return of Frank Vatrano, who has been skating for nearly two weeks as he works toward a return from foot surgery.

Vatrano was initially penciled in as the left winger alongside Krejci to start NHL camp this fall, and the Bruins were hoping he was going to build on the eight goals he scored in Boston last season in a limited role.

Vatrano could be ready to play within the next couple of weeks, and should be back in the B’s lineup prior to the early January timetable originally offered at the time of his surgery. So perhaps the 22-year-old Vatrano can end this season-long carousel of Bruins left wingers getting paraded on and off the Krejci line, and finally give the B’s greater options at left wing. 

But the Czech playmaking center could use some stability also as he looks to find the highest level of his game in a challenging year for the Black and Gold, and do it while the Bruins find the right kind of talent to skate alongside him.