Claude Julien needs production from his third line. (USA Today Sports)

Claude Julien needs production from his third line. (USA Today Sports)

Even after a 4-2 loss to their archrival Montreal Canadiens at TD Garden on Saturday, things are far from terrible for the Boston Bruins through the first week and a half of the season. One game above .500 with their 3-2-0 record on the year, the Bruins have found success behind strong goaltending from Tuukka Rask (the 29-year-old has posted a .947 save percentage and has been in net for all of the B’s wins but missed the last game with “general soreness”), while their offense has been powered by a top-heavy first line with Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak between Patrice Bergeron.

But there is one kinda, sorta big problem for the Bruins through five games: they have struggled mightily (and that may be an understatement) to find secondary scoring.

Of the 15 goals scored by the Bruins to date, 13 have been scored by their forwards. Eight have come from by a member of the first line, with four from Pastrnak, three from Marchand, and one from Bergeron. David Backes scored both of his two goals this season in the season opener, which of course came while he skated in Bergeron’s spot between the dynamic Marchand and Pastrnak combo. Ryan Spooner scored his first of the season, a power-play goal, in Saturday’s loss to the Habs, while fourth-line forward Dominic Moore has scored two goals on just eight shots on goal.

There are three names you won’t find in any game’s scoring log. They are the B’s third line of Matt Beleskey, Jimmy Hayes, and center Riley Nash. And with another no-show to their name with a Saturday night showing that featured just one shot from the entire line (a second period shot from Hayes), Bruins coach Claude Julien was honest in regards to the line’s production, or lack thereof.

“You need something out of them besides minuses,” Julien said of the line, which was on the ice  for Montreal’s second goal of the night and has two minus-5 players on the year in Beleskey and Hayes, following Saturday’s loss. “I think they’re minus-five or six right now, and when you don’t produce, that’s what ends up happening, and we expect more. There’s no doubt, and we had, more or less, three lines that are creating some sort of momentum. We need them to step up there and help us out.

“That would make a huge difference to our team.”

With the Nash line, Julien can expect smart, strong d-zone play from Nash, and a strong forechecking presence from both Beleskey and Hayes, but there’s not much beyond that. The style routinely displayed by the line is more that of a physical, tone-setting fourth line (something the Bruins already have in the Moore line with Noel Acciari and Tim Schaller on the wings), than a third line meant to provide a complementary scoring presence that feasts on defensive mismatches in the offensive zone.

The Bruins had that when Carl Soderberg manned the pivot on the third line from 2013 to 2015. And the 24-year-old Spooner, with 13 goals and 49 points (32 of which were scored at even strength), provided that same presence for the Black and Gold last season. And with Spooner shifted to the wing, Julien had hoped for the same from training camp standout Austin Czarnik.

But when the 23-year-old Czarnik’s hot camp was derailed by a concussion sustained on a cheapshot from Flyers defenseman Radko Gudas in the preseason finale, and a quiet one shot on goal and minus-3 in two NHL contests followed upon his return, Czarnik was scratched and later returned to the Providence Bruins, where he’ll get ice time, and, more importantly, his timing back. That forced Nash, whose career high in points at the NHL level is 25 (set in a 68-game run with the Hurricanes in ‘14-15), into a role as the club’s third-line center and with the task of developing chemistry on the fly.

After three games together as a line, it’s clear that little has worked for the trio.

This is not an entirely new problem for the Bruins, though, as the Bruins had a disastrous third line combo with Hayes and Brett Connolly between Spooner to begin the 2015-16 year before Julien pulled the plug amid mounting losses and little offensive contributions in their 0-3-0 start to the year.

But in the now, the team is short on options.

Winger Frank Vatrano (foot), a player who wowed with his shoot-from-anywhere mentality and 44 goals and 66 points in 75 games between the AHL and NHL last season, is out of action until December. First-year pro Danton Heinen, who began his career on a line with David Krejci, has struggled to find his NHL footing. The aforementioned Czarnik is back in Providence and if he’s coming back, somebody is out of the mix as a healthy scratch. And the Bruins seem somewhat committed to having Spooner, the man in the middle of the club’s third line for almost all of last year, on the wing.

“I haven’t thought about next game yet,” Julien said on Saturday when asked about making line changes up front. “I’m going to digest this one first before I start making decisions.”

With a Sunday off from the practice rink, Julien and the Bruins will have one practice and a morning skate to digest their options before it’s back to work with a Tuesday tilt against the Minnesota Wild.

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson

Tuukka Rask has been limited with an injury this season. (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)Maybe Bruins fans are fed up with Tuukka Rask.

When there was talk before the season about the possibility of Chris Kelly’s old alternate captain’s letter being moved to a new jersey, one of the players consistently mentioned was Torey Krug, thanks in large part to his honesty and the way he holds himself accountable.


Torey Krug came down pretty hard on himself Saturday night. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

When there was talk before the season about the possibility of Chris Kelly’s old alternate captain’s letter being moved to a new jersey, one of the players consistently mentioned was Torey Krug, thanks in large part to his honesty and the way he holds himself accountable.

Krug hasn’t worn a letter yet and may not at any point this season, but it’s clear he’s going to set an example for his teammates regardless.

After Saturday night’s 4-2 loss to the Canadiens, a game in which Krug was a minus-3 and had a bad misplay lead to a shorthanded breakaway goal, the 25-year-old defenseman came down hard on himself in one of those interviews that makes you realize no one’s going to be more critical of his play than he is. But at the same time, he also sounded confident that he’ll figure things out.

“I have no consistency to my game at all,” Krug said. “I make a good play, then next shift a poor play. It’s something I’m not proud of at the moment. I’ll work through it. I always have. There’s always times throughout the season when you play poorly. You have to work through it. Unfortunately for me, it’s the start of the season. I’ll get back to a place where my teammates can count on me, where every time I jump over the boards they know what they’re going to get. It’s not there right now, but it will be.”

Reporters mentioned two possible mitigating factors to Krug — the fact that he’s been paired with young defense partners in Rob O’Gara and Joe Morrow, and the fact that he had offseason shoulder surgery and may not be 100 percent just yet — but he refused to take the bait.

“I was injured, but I had time to work and make sure I was ready for the season,” Krug said. “I’m not going to use that as an excuse. The doctors cleared me to play, so I’m ready to play. For whatever reason, I’m not there right now.”

Krug knows he needs to be better, and he almost certainly will be. He’s helped drive possession in each of his three full seasons, posting a positive CorsiRel across the board, and after a miserable start to the season possession-wise, those numbers have already started to turn around since Morrow took over O’Gara’s spot in the lineup. Krug was under 46 percent Corsi in each of his three games with O’Gara, but has been over 55 percent in both games with Morrow.

Krug has also yet to record a single point through five games this season, which is obviously disappointing for someone who has averaged just over half a point per game throughout his career. However, the chances have still been there.

Krug has 14 shots on goal in those five games, which is pretty close to the 3.01 shots per game pace he had last season when he set a career high for shots in a season. He was actually ahead of that pace before Saturday, when he had just one shot on goal.

The problem Saturday was getting his shot through, as he had five shot attempts blocked and another that missed the net. In general, though, getting his shot through has rarely been much of an issue for Krug. Before Saturday, he had been getting 59.1 percent of his attempts on goal, which is a very good mark for a defenseman. In his career, he’s at 49.9 percent — still a good number.

Krug hasn’t been very good so far this season. But there are plenty of reasons to believe he’ll be fine, and one of those reasons is that he refuses to accept this kind of play from himself.

“That’s what makes good teams good, when every player’s accountable. I’m trying to be accountable for my actions,” Krug said. “We need that. I’m not trying to sound like I’m better than anyone right now. You have to. In order for a team to be a good team, every player needs to be accountable.”

Blog Author: 
Scott McLaughlin

BOSTON – Another night, another game in which the Boston Bruins surrender the first goal.

Brendan Gallagher scored the game's first goal as Montreal beat Boston, 4-2.  (Credit: Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

Brendan Gallagher scored the game’s first goal as Montreal beat Boston, 4-2. (Credit: Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

BOSTON – Another night, another game in which the Boston Bruins surrender the first goal.

It’s been theme of the B’s season just nine days into it, and it was a second period goal by Montreal Canadiens forward Brendan Gallagher that ensured that it happened to the Bruins for a fifth straight contest. It’s something the club survived on nights against goaltenders like Columbus Blue Jackets starter Sergei Bobrovsky and Winnipeg’s Connor Hellebuyck, but it’s awfully difficult to put yourself in a hole when you’re going up against the best goaltender in the world, Montreal’s Carey Price.

Spotted a two-goal edge through 40 minutes with goals from Gallagher and Phillip Danault, the Bruins clawed back with goals from Dominic Moore and Ryan Spooner, but each time the Bruins came back with a goal to bring themselves within one, the Canadiens re-established their two-goal edge.

First came a Paul Byron shorthanded breakaway for Montreal’s third goal of the game, which made it a 3-1 affair, and then a Torrey Mitchell unassisted dagger put the B’s down 4-2 with 7:13 to go.

The Bruins had chances with a late-game power play, but were unable to find any holes in Price’s game, as the Montreal netminder won his 23rd head-to-head meeting against the Bruins (35 games), and his 11th game in just 18 career games at TD Garden behind a 19-of-21 showing.

The win extended Montreal’s winning streak in Boston to seven games.

Here are four other things we learned from Boston’s 4-2 loss to the Habs.

Spooner responds to healthy scratch in positive way

If you’re looking for positives from the Black and Gold, the play from Ryan Spooner after he was scratched for the home opener has to be high on the list. Reunited on a Bruins second line with David Krejci at center and David Backes on the right wing, the 24-year-old Spooner opened the first period as one of Boston’s best skaters and created countless opportunities for his line.

Spooner found paydirt in the third period, too, as he received a gorgeous cross-slot from Backes on the power play, and struck with his first goal of the season.

Although Spooner’s goal came on the man advantage, it’s clear that this is a player that’s developed some on-ice chemistry with Backes, especially at five-on-five, and it may explain some, not all, of Spooner’s struggles in the first three games of the season. It was then that Backes was centering the top line in place of Patrice Bergeron while Danton Heinen skated as opposite winger on the Krejci line.

Gallagher still supreme pest, Bruin killer

Defenseman P.K. Subban,a player who drew the ire of the entire Garden crowd every single time he touched the puck during his tenure with the Canadiens, calls Nashville home these days. Dale Weise, after a quick stop in Chicago last trade deadline with the Blackhawks, now skates for the Flyers. But the Habs still have a thorn very much pricked into the B’s side, and his name is Brendan Gallagher.

In his 17th career game against the Bruins, the 5-foot-9 winger scored his third goal of the season, and his fifth goal and 18th career point overall against the Bruins. But Gallagher’s impact went beyond a goal that proved pivotal for the Habs in their seventh straight victory on Garden ice.

From the onset of the game, Gallagher was in the Bruins’ heads.

Even when he took a four-minute penalty for a high-stick on B’s rookie d-man Brandon Carlo, Gallagher went right over to a down Carlo, had some choice words, and was greeted by an irate Zdeno Chara. Gallagher received slashes from Colin Miller and the rest of the Boston defense at every stop and any time he even went near Khudobin, and defenseman Torey Krug, sans helmet, did everything he could to try and get Gallagher to drop the gloves with him in the second period.

Moore line gives Bruins significant jump

It’s not always pretty, but Claude Julien has found a line he can deploy in all situations in the Dominic Moore line with Tim Schaller and Noel Acciari on the wings. For the third straight night, the trio put forth a solid, physical contest, and served as a solid complementary presence to Boston’s top two lines. Moore, whose career high in goals is 18, also scored his second of the season.

Habs remain opportunistic bunch

Down by a goal late in the second period, defenseman John-Michael Liles went in on a well-time pinch into the offensive zone. The only problem? He totally, completely missed the puck.

That gave the Canadiens a two-on-one rush the other way, with Miller the lone B’s defenseman between Alexander Radulov and Phillip Danault, and it was Danault that struck as Matt Beleskey did everything but get the puck on his furious backcheck into the defensive zone.

When teams talk about playing the Canadiens, they always mention how the Habs are a team that loves to take advantage of the opposition with their odd-man opportunities. (Who doesn’t?) And though the Habs typically do this by blowing the zone with a blocked shot, their second goal was an example of just how dangerous the Montreal wingers can be if you blow a single assignment.

The Bruins return to the ice for a Tuesday night game with the Minnesota Wild.

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson

There’s no two ways about it: the Bruins power play is not off to a dazzling start.

After starting the season 1-for-10 on the power play through three games, there was hope the return of Patrice Bergeron would help jolt it in the right direction. But even after failing to execute in four chances Thursday night, there’s optimism that it will turn around.

“Well you know there is no doubt that he is one of the best, what I call bumper guys in the league and we ended up putting him there at the Worlds, also because he’s so good when guys are under pressure they get into position to take away that pressure and he does a good job of that,” said head coach Claude Julien.

The Bruins sit in a rough 28th in the NHL in power play percentage, after finishing seventh in the league last season, executing on 20.5 percent of their chances.

And while they didn’t cash in on any chances Thursday night, there was noticeable improvement compared to the previous three games. Scoring chances were much more prevalent, and the synergy amongst the first power play unit was palpable.

“Bergy was a little bit better. We got some more scoring chances. The puck’s not finding the back of the net. But, like I said, stay positive and keep creating chances and eventually, it will go in,” said David Krejci.

Though it’s impractical to believe Bergeron’s return will miraculously fix the power play, it certainly will help it take huge strides. His versatility and ability to take shots from the slot or make plays in small areas will take the load off of others and help establish roles on the unit.

“He’s got a good shot there from the slot when it comes to him on his stick. So he’s to me one of the better ones in that position and we didn’t have him for the first three games and it did make a difference. As much as other guys tried to do the job, nobody could do it as good as Patrice does.”

Blog Author: 
Logan Mullen
Ryan Spooner

Ryan Spooner

Back in town for the first time since their decimation of the Boston Bruins in the 2016 Winter Classic at Gillette Stadium, and with first place in the Atlantic Division on the line, the division-best Montreal Canadiens return to TD Garden a far different team than they were on New Year’s Day.

But so are the Bruins.

For all of Boston’s offseason subtractions off the roster, the biggest change to the club’s offensive game has come with the addition of David Backes. A do-it-all forward capable of playing center and the wing, the 32-year-old Backes, a five-year captain during his tenure with the St. Louis Blues, has tallied two goals and three points in four games for the Bruins. Meanwhile, the Canadiens improved by default with the return of the all-world Carey Price in net after a 2015-16 campaign that ended just 12 games in,and have already seen a significant boost from their point with the addition of Shea Weber, an offseason import acquired from the Nashville Predators in exchange for P.K. Subban, who is tied for the team lead in points with four.

“Well, you got a different player,” B’s coach Claude Julien said of the dynamic of Montreal’s defense changing with Weber instead of Subban. “They don’t play the same way and that’s probably why they made that deal. No doubt he’s got one of the hardest shots in the league. Very similar on the power play to an [Alex] Ovechkin-type player. You got to respect that part of it. He’s big, he’s strong, he’s a good battler, but I know he’s a good team leader, and I’ve seen that firsthand.”

Familiarity breeds contempt, and Backes and Weber undoubtedly have that, whether it’s from their days of captains in the Central Division, or their numerous battles between Team Canada and Team USA. Their additions, and especially the addition of Chicago’s Andrew Shaw for Montreal, no stranger to Backes from the Blues-Hawks rivalry or the B’s from the 2013 Stanley Cup Final, to this rivalry can only help reignite the feud after what’s been a tame few years in its 90-plus year history.

“It’s been a little bit more civilized the last few years and less of a sideshow,” Julien, who has coached both the B’s and Habs, said of the rivalry’s latest chapter. “There’s still a lot of hatred between two organizations when they meet, but I think right now and the way the game is trending with penalties and how much they can be costly to a game, I think both teams are a little cautious.

“But I still think there’s great chemistry, and I think both teams get up for these games.”

In an effort to kickstart their scoring and a power play that’s sputtered to a 1-for-14 mark on the season, center-turned-winger Ryan Spooner will draw back into the B’s lineup. A healthy scratch in Boston’s home opener, Spooner has frustrated on the team’s second line to the tune of one assist and seven shots on goal through three games this season, and the Bruins, quite simply, need more.

“He just hasn’t been good enough. He’s capable of doing more and we expect more out of him,” Julien said. “He’s a guy that can produce, he’s a guy that has to play a full game, and he’s shown that he can. It’s something that he has to do, and something that he can do, and that’s what we want.”

And Spooner, on the heels of a 13-goal, 49-point campaign a year ago, knows he has to be better.

“I wasn’t moving my feet, I think I was playing too much of a passive game,” Spooner admitted of his early season struggles. “I just need to go out there and use my speed, especially if I’m on the wing there.”

Spooner will return to his preseason spot on the left side of a Boston second line with Backes on the opposite wing and David Krejci at center and on the B’s first power-play unit.

With Spooner back in the lineup, first-year pro Danton Heinen will sit as a healthy scratch.

The 6-foot-1 Heinen has just two shots on goal and zero points in four NHL games played.

Heinen will be joined by defenseman Robbie O’Gara as the expected scratches.

Anton Khudobin gets the start for the Bruins with Tuukka Rask (general soreness) out of action and will be backed up by Zane McIntyre, while Price gets the start in net for the Canadiens. Khudobin made 20 stops in his only start of the season, a 4-1 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs last Saturday, while Price stopped 27-of-29 shots in his season debut on Thursday, a 5-2 win over Arizona.

Khudobin is winless with an .867 save percentage in three career head-to-heads with the Canadiens, none of which came during his first tenure with the Bruins, while Price has 22 wins and a .923 save percentage in 34 career games against the Bruins, including 10 wins in 17 career starts at the Garden.

Here are the projected lines and pairings for the Bruins tonight

Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – David Pastrnak

Ryan Spooner – David Krejci – David Backes

Matt Beleskey – Riley Nash – Jimmy Hayes

Tim Schaller – Dominic Moore – Noel Acciari


Zdeno Chara – Brandon Carlo

Joe Morrow – Torey Krug

John-Michael Liles – Colin Miller

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson

BRIGHTON – Before the puck has even dropped in the first of four head-to-head meetings with the Montreal Canadiens this year, the Boston Bruins are already down one against their archrivals.

The Bruins will be without Tuukka Rask Saturday night against the Canadiens. (Dan Hamilton/USA Today Sports)

The Bruins will be without Tuukka Rask Saturday night against the Canadiens. (Dan Hamilton/USA Today Sports)

BRIGHTON – Before the puck has even dropped in the first of four head-to-head meetings with the Montreal Canadiens this year, the Boston Bruins are already down one against their archrivals.

Tuukka Rask, who was absent from Friday’s practice with what the team termed a “maintenance day” and not on the ice for the club’s morning skate at Warrior Ice Arena on Saturday, will be out for Saturday night’s tilt at TD Garden, Bruins coach Claude Julien confirmed.

“He’s doing better, but obviously you didn’t see him on the ice today, so we’re going to keep him off there for a bit and give him another day’s rest at least,” Julien said. “We’ll continue to go day by day.”

Rask, the starter in all three of Boston’s wins this season, has been dealing with “general soreness” since his opening night win against the Columbus Blue Jackets according to Julien, though you would not know it with his 3-0-0 record, .947 save percentage, and 1.67 goals against average on the year.

“There’s always something,” Rask, who stopped 28-of-29 shots thrown his way in the home opener on Thursday, said after the game about the discomfort he’s playing through. “Always something.”

The 29-year-old Rask has not missed more than two games to injury in a single regular season since a groin injury put him on the shelf for the final 19 games of the regular season in 2012.

Rask’s absence will put Anton Khudobin in the B’s cage for his second start of the season.

The Kazakh-born Khudobin stopped 20-of-24 in his first appearance of the year, a 4-1 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Air Canada Centre last Saturday, and is 0-3-0 with 10 goals against and an .867 save percentage in three career games against the Canadiens.

“We just need a strong performance from him,” Julien said of Khudobin. “I think when you look at putting your goaltender in, you want him to give you a chance to win, and that’s all you can ask.”

With Rask out of action and Khudobin in net, the Bruins have recalled goaltender Zane McIntyre, a sixth-round draft choice by the club in 2010, from the Providence Bruins on an emergency basis.

McIntyre has an AHL-best 0.44 goals against average and the AHL’s second-best save percentage (.977) through three games for the P-Bruins this season. This is the first recall of his pro career.

The Bruins won two of their five meetings with the Canadiens last season, but excluding postseason play, have not beat the Habs at home since Jan. 12, 2012, a 2-1 final in favor of the Black and Gold.

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson