Thomas backstops Bruins to 2-1 win over Canadiens

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Thomas backstops Bruins to 2-1 win over Canadiens

BOSTON -- The Bruins still havent got their full groove back after last weeks epic clash against the Canucks, but they had just enough Thursday night to take down the struggling Canadiens.

Goals in the first and third periods gave the Bruins all the offense they would need, and Tim Thomas' 33 saves backstopped the Bs to a 2-1 win. Thomas 16 saves in the first period served notice to Montreal that it was going to take something a little extra to beat him, and the Habs didnt have it on this night.

The Bruins got on the board early in the first, and the Hockey gods handed it to Jordan Caron after he had played sparingly over the last month. Johnny Boychuk fired a dump-in attempt off the glass in Montreals end, and the puck bounced right to Caron in front with Carey Price out of the net.
Carons second goal of the season gave the Bruins a slim one-goal lead, and thats the way it stayed until the red-hot David Krejci line struck for the insurance score in the final period. A Nathan Horton pass from behind the net reached Milan Lucic waiting in the slot, and he lofted a funky-looking backhander off Josh Gorges' stick and past Price to make it a two-goal lead.Krejci picked up the second assist on the goal and has now put together a career-high 10-game point streak this season.
Montreal attempted to pick up the intensity in the third period with a P.K. Subban cheap shot on Krejci, followed by a power-play goal, but the Bruins held on and improved to 21-0-0 when entering the third period with a lead.GOLD STAR: Tim Thomas made 33 saves to backstop the Bruins to a victory they might not have deserved, and only gave up a goal when the referees handed the Canadiens a power play in the aftermath of a nasty P.K. Subban elbow thrown at David Krejcis head that led to a scrum on the ice. Thomas was at his best in the first period when sloppy turnovers and porous defense led to close scoring bids from Mike Blunden and Andrei Kostitsyn among his 16 stops. Wouldnt quite say this was a game stolen by Thomas, but it comes awfully close to that territory.BLACK EYE: Patrice Bergeron lost 5 out of 15 faceoffs, missed high on a perfect 2-on-1 scoring opportunity and didnt register much in 15:40 of ice time. He looked frustrated and uncomfortable on the ice, and perhaps he was after missing on an invitation to the NHL All-Star Game that he so richly deserved. If he was disappointed, it spilled out onto the ice a little bit against a Montreal team that he always ups his compete level against. Bergeron was the most deserving among those snubbed for the NHL All-Star Game, so maybe the voting process should get the black eye instead.TURNING POINT: A turning point for Milan Lucic and the Bruins when he managed to scoop the puck like his stick was a shovel and backhand a shot off Josh Gorges and past Carey Price for the game-winner.HONORABLE MENTION: A little bit of credit to Pierre Gauthier for ripping apart a Montreal Canadiens team over the last two years, and really helping out the Bruins in the process. Trading Mike Cammalleri in the middle of a game is just the latest in a long line of panic moves engineered by Gauthier, and there has to be some mal intent behind doing it during the game. Cammalleri was removed from the locker room, put into a cab bound for the team hotel and told hed been traded before the third period had even started. That is some cold stuff, and a clear reaction to his losers mentality speech from Wednesday.BY THE NUMBERS: 10 the number of consecutive games with a point for David Krejci after picking up the secondary assist on Milan Lucics game-winner. Its the longest point streak of Krejcis career, and the longest this season in the NHL.QUOTE TO NOTE: Im sure its going to be a good experience for him to see all these players. There are a lot of top players from different teams in the league that all get together. Hopefully hell learn from them and carry it with him. Hes come a long way from last year. Zdeno Chara on first-year All-Star Tyler Seguin getting selected to take part in the NHLs midseason classic.

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. 

Blidh plans to bring some energy to Bruins after call-up

Blidh plans to bring some energy to Bruins after call-up

BRIGHTON, Mass. – Anton Blidh plans on keeping things pretty straightforward on his first call-up to the NHL. 

The former sixth-round pick of the Bruins has earned his stripes at the AHL level with Providence over the last couple of seasons, and comes to Boston as a gritty, energy forward capable of stirring things up in otherwise sleepy games. There’s also a bit of offensive upside for a fourth line-type player with five goals and nine points with 22 penalty minutes and a plus-eight rating in 19 games for the P-Bruins this season. 

It remains to be seen if the Blidh call-up means that the Bruins intend to scratch a player or that somebody is questionable for Saturday afternoon’s game in Buffalo, but Patrice Bergeron did miss Friday’s practice without any real defined reason for his absence. The 21-year-old Swede said he plans to play to his strengths if he gets into the lineup for the Black and Gold, and that could mean getting under the skin of his Sabres opponents. 

“It’s my first time called up, so I’m happy,” said Blidh, who was asked what he'll bring if he gets into the lineup. “I’ll just play simple and play my own game: be hard on the puck and play with some energy. I worked hard [in Providence] and then I got some confidence. I’m not a goal-scorer, but I scored a couple of goals and got some confidence.”

Claude Julien hasn’t been able to catch up Blidh’s work since the season got started, but was pleased by the youngster’s progress in training camp, where he earned notice for his feisty, physical play on a line with Noel Acciari. 

“They said he’s playing well, so they brought him up. We’ll get to see him, hopefully tomorrow,” said Julien. “I didn’t hear a ton of fine details aside from him being a guy that was certainly playing with a lot of energy. I didn’t mind him in training camp either. He works really hard and competes hard, and we could use that.”

That would certainly be the case after watching the Bruins go through the motions for long stretches Thursday night against Carolina before essentially stealing a game that they didn’t deserve to win.