Boston Bruins

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.

Krug, Forbacka Karlsson suffer upper body injuries vs. Red Wings

bruins_torey_krug_091917.jpg

Krug, Forbacka Karlsson suffer upper body injuries vs. Red Wings

BOSTON – The Bruins ended Tuesday night’s preseason home date with another feel-good victory over the Red Wings, but it may have come at a cost.

Both Torey Krug and Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson were injured in the second period of the B’s 4-2 win over the Red Wings at TD Garden, and didn’t return to the game. Krug was hit in the face with a puck in the defensive zone during the second period, and quickly exited the ice with Bruins trainer Don DelNegro after the impact of the puck hitting his face initially took his feet out from under him.  

“[Krug] clearly didn’t finish the game, and took a shot up in the facial area,” said Bruce Cassidy of Krug, who had a couple of shots on net in 9:10 of ice time while largely playing with Charlie McAvoy in an offensive-minded pairing. “We’ll probably have an update tomorrow.”

Forbacka Karlsson took a hard tumble into the end boards in the game’s middle period, and never returned after serving up the primary assist on Danton Heinen’s goal earlier in that very same period. JFK tried to return to Tuesday night’s win over the Red Wings, according to Cassidy, but was kept out of the game with an upper body injury that has his status as questionable moving forward.

“He went into the boards late in the second. He’s day-to-day, upper body. I think wanted to – he did come back and try [to return to the game],” said Cassidy of JFK, who put up an assist and a plus-1 rating in 8:37 of ice time before leaving the game. “I don’t think it’s serious, but I can’t speculate. We’ll get another update tomorrow. It didn’t look good, but I don’t think it’s as bad as it looked. We’ll know more [about JFK] tomorrow.”

It certainly sounds like both Krug and JFK could miss a day or two of practice moving forward after the injury wear-and-tear of preseason action, but the hope is that the Black and Gold won’t be missing a couple of key performers for anything more than that.  

CSNNE SCHEDULE

Talking Points: Austin Czarnik puts on a show vs. Red Wings

Talking Points: Austin Czarnik puts on a show vs. Red Wings

GOLD STAR: Austin Czarnik once again showed that he can really put on a show during training camp after winning an NHL job last season based on his strong preseason. Czarnik finished with a goal and two points along with a plus-1 rating in 15:15 of ice time, created a penalty shot situation solely based on his skating speed and perfectly executed a 3-on-1 late in the third period while feeding a one-timer dish to Teddy Purcell for the insurance marker. Czarnik tied David Pastrnak with a team-high four shots on net for the night, and won 8-of-15 draws for the Bruins while manning his natural center position. Czarnik showed once again that he can play effectively when he’s motoring at a high pace and playing aggressive hockey, a couple of things he didn’t always do with the Bruins once the routine of the NHL regular season settled in last year.

BLACK EYE: Brandon Carlo didn’t have a particularly terrible night, but he did end up as the only Bruins player with a negative plus/minus. Carlo was on the ice for both goals scored by Detroit, and otherwise didn’t really factor into the game while clocking in a solid 17:48 of ice time. His only other major contribution was an interference call halfway through the first period that put the Wings on the power play. Carlo was playing without his usual partner, Zdeno Chara, of course, and one of the remaining questions about the 21-year-old D-man is exactly how good he can be as a shutdown defenseman when he doesn’t have the big captain on his left side. Clearly, it was a good night overall for the B’s, but Carlo was far from his best in his preseason debut.

TURNING POINT: Nobody would have blamed the Bruins if they were a little frustrated after outshooting the Red Wings by a 13-8 margin, and not seeing any points up on the board. Instead of getting frustrated they kept working and finally busted through with a pair of goals within 90 seconds of each other in the second frame. Ryan Fitzgerald finished off the first chance off a nice dish from Jakub Zboril, and Danton Heinen followed by banging home a backdoor dish from Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson across the ice. The two goals from two of Boston’s young forward group pushed the B’s out to a lead that they would never relinquish against Detroit.

HONORABLE MENTION: Jakub Zboril probably hasn’t received some of the fanfare of the other first-round picks in Bruins camp, but the skilled, improving D-man played an excellent first preseason game for the Black and Gold. It was Zboril’s one-man rush from his defense position that helped set up his creative dish to a wide-open Ryan Fitzgerald for Boston’s first goal, and he followed that up with 19:12 of mostly solid ice time. Zboril finished with the assist and a plus-2 rating along with a shot on net and a registered hit while also playing a special teams role on both the power play and the penalty kill. Zboril is still working on the polish to his game that will eventually make him an effective pro, but he was noticeable in a good way in his first preseason action of the season.

BY THE NUMBERS: 7 – the team-leading number of shot attempts for David Pastrnak in his first action of the preseason while skating with David Krejci and Jake DeBrusk.

QUOTE TO NOTE: “Who is hard on the puck? Who is winning pucks? Who can keep their pace up? I think [the young forwards] are all capable of making plays, the young skilled guys. You can probably list seven or eight that have talent and could make NHL plays.” – Bruce Cassidy, on what he’s looking for out of B’s forward prospects that want to win NHL jobs.