Claude Julien and the Bruins are looking for answers. (Getty Images)A lot was said Sunday — a lot more than usual, anyway — so it was fitting that the best description of this strange Bruins season came from the team’s best quote. 



Courtesy of Pete Blackburn of Days of Y’Orr, here’s a GIF of Matt Bartkowski’s first-period hit on Sabres captain Brian Gionta.

Bartkowski was given a five-minute interference major and game misconduct for the hit. It also led to Bartkowski’s first NHL fight, as he dropped the gloves with Marcus Foligno following the hit.

Gionta did not return to the game, with Sabres coach Ted Nolan saying the veteran forward was “still a little shaken up” after the game. Bartkowski has never been disciplined by the league before. Sunday was his 100th career regular-season game in the NHL.

Bruins coach Claude Julien declined comment on the hit.

Blog Author: 
DJ Bean
The Bruins have reportedly considered trading for Chris Stewart. (Harry How/Getty Images)

The Bruins have reportedly considered trading for Chris Stewart. (Harry How/Getty Images)

Chris Stewart is a big, strong right wing on a bad team and he will probably get traded. The Bruins have reportedly discussed him with the Sabres.

In fact, it’€™s been reported so many times (first by ESPN’€™s Pierre LeBrun), that Stewart is well aware of his link to the Bruins.

“I’€™d be lying if I [said I] haven’€™t heard it. You see it on Twitter every day,” Stewart told WEEI.com after Sunday’€™s game. “People [message] you and stuff like that, but that’€™s stuff that’€™s out of my control. I’€™m just going to take it game-by-game here and worry about playing well for the Sabres.”

Playing well for the Sabres until he gets traded. The Sabres are in all likelihood more interested in having Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel on their roster next year than having Stewart, who is in the last year of his contract. Selling off parts helps to achieve that, and, with Stewart not possessing any no-trade rights, it’€™s a safe bet that Stewart, part of last year’€™s Ryan Miller trade with the Blues, will be moved again.

There are two issues preventing him from becoming a Bruin, however. For one, he has a $4.15 million cap hit that would require the cap-space-strapped B’€™s to move salary in order to fit him on the roster.

The other issue might be the biggest one: Stewart might not be worth it. Now 27, the former first-round pick has struggled for most of the season and was even made a healthy scratch earlier in the month. He played well against the Bruins Sunday in assisting an Andrej Meszaros goal, but that helper made for just his seventh point of the season (three goals, four assists).

So, is Stewart an unmotivated player in a bad situation or is he no longer the guy who scored 28 goals back in the 2009-10 season with the Avalanche? LeBrun wrote back on Dec. 10 that the Bruins weren’€™t offering much for Stewart because of those questions.

“I think when I am firing on all cylinders, I’€™m definitely a difference-maker on the team,” Stewart said. “I think that’€™s what I’€™ve got to bring every night. I hold myself to high expectations and I want to contribute.”

An acquisition of Stewart might be underwhelming for Bruins fans hoping that if the B’€™s shed cap space from their roster, they do it for more of a sure thing. Boston has prospects on defense, goalie Malcolm Subban and former high picks on forward who are collecting dust in Providence. They also have their first-round pick and two second-rounders in each of the next two seasons, so if they can make room, they have the pieces to get an impact player if one were to become available.

Still, Stewart’€™s build and style of play when he’€™s going might be familiar to the Bruins. The 6-foot-2, 228-pounder is pretty much the exact same size as former B’€™s right wing Nathan Horton. He’€™s also a right-shot right wing, which the Bruins don’€™t have outside of Seth Griffith (scratched Sunday) and David Pastrnak (currently playing in World Juniors).

Given his size and preferred style of play, Stewart said he feels the Bruins would suit his style of play well.

“I like to consider myself a hard-nosed player who can stick up for his teammates,” Stewart said. “If I do get open, I can put the puck in the net. So yeah, I think that could be a good fit.”

Blog Author: 
DJ Bean

With all due respect to the Sabres, the Bruins were lucky they were playing the Sabres.

Dougie Hamilton

Dougie Hamilton

With all due respect to the Sabres, the Bruins were lucky they were playing the Sabres.

It took a come-from-behind effort after a sloppy showing for the Bruins to eek past the Atlantic Division’€™s worst team in overtime. Loui Eriksson, who was moved up to the first line and then back to the third, scored his second overtime winner in less than a week to save the Bruins the embarrassment in a 4-3 overtime win (box).

Dougie Hamilton scored a pair of goals, taking a feed from Carl Soderberg on a backdoor goal during a first-period power play and beating Jhonas Enroth with 91 seconds remaining in regulation to tie the game with an extra attacker on.

Here are four more things we learned Sunday night:

BARTKOWSKI TOSSED FOR BAD HIT

Matt Bartkowski still doesn’€™t have a goal in 100 career regular-season NHL games. His first suspension may come before his first goal.

Bartkowski caught Brian Gionta with a hit to the head at the Sabres blue line in the first period that sent the Sabres captain flying as he flipped 180 degrees on his side before landing on his head/shoulder area. A bloodied Gionta remained on the ice before leaving the game.

Marcus Foligno immediately went after Bartkowski for the hit, leading to Bartkowski’€™s first career fight. After the lengthy bout, Bartkowski was assessed a major for fighting, an interference major for the hit and a game misconduct.

Bartkowski is Boston’€™s best skater on the back end. The circumstances of the play were best put by Mick Colageo of the The Standard-Times.

JULIEN TRIES ERIKSSON WITH LUCIC AND KREJCI… BRIEFLY

Claude Julien finally put Loui Eriksson on David Krejci‘€™s right wing to begin Sunday’€™s game, marking the first time Eriksson got a look of three shifts or more on Boston’€™s top line this season.

Then, after some struggles in the second period (allowing a goal followed by a later shift in which a Krejci turnover led to a Buffalo scoring chance and a Lucic flub at the blue line led to Dougie Hamilton taking a penalty), Julien put Eriksson back with Carl Soderberg back with Chris Kelly.

Maybe it’€™s because they were playing the Sabres and maybe it’€™s because they really like playing with each other, but their reunion after being apart for an hour was like the end of ‘€œSlumdog Millionaire.’€ Kelly scored on the first shift they played together, marking his first goal in 23 games.

With Eriksson back with Kelly and Soderberg, Craig Cunningham moved up to Krejci’€™s line. Cunningham began the game with Kelly and Soderberg.

STEWART WATCH

One name that’€™s been attached to the Bruins all season has been Chris Stewart, Buffalo’€™s struggling right wing who could be a decent forward in the right situation.

Stewart played on a line with Mikhail Grigorenko and Cody Hodgson. He made some nice plays, forcing a Dennis Seidenberg turnover and feeding a nice pass up to Andrej Meszaros (!) off the rush for a Sabres goal in the second period.

Still, the assist made for just the seventh point this season for the former first-round pick, as he now has three goals and four assists this season.

Stewart is in the last season of his contract and will be a restricted free agent. The 27-year-old’€™s contract carries a $4.15 million cap hit.

RASK GIVES UP A SOFTIE

Tuukka Rask has had to keep the Bruins in games during their struggles (though at this point we should just call it ‘€œthis season’€), so the last person at whom the finger should be pointed is the goaltender.

That said, Rask was uncharacteristically weak in sealing off the post as he allowed an inexplicable goal to Tim Schaller on a wraparound in the third period to give Buffalo a 3-2 lead.

Equally responsible on the play was Dennis Seidenberg, who watched as Schaller took two whacks at the puck to put it in the net.

The goal was the first of Schaller’€™s NHL career. Add in that Meszaros’€™ goal was his first of the season, and the Bruins allowed a pair of goals to players who, entering Sunday night, had not scored this season.

Blog Author: 
DJ Bean
Carl Soderberg

Carl Soderberg

Claude Julien does not want to separate Loui Eriksson and Carl Soderberg. That much we definitely, definitely know.

On Sunday, Julien reiterated that stance with a quote that got us thinking.

‘€œRight now, the Soderberg line is the only one that’s scoring for us,’€ Julien said, ‘€œso do you guys want me to break that up and we get no more scoring? So you pick your poison.’€

Krejci has been in the lineup for 13 games and has had Seth Griffith as his right wing, with Simon Gagne also getting some shifts and Eriksson getting a small taste late in Friday’s game. The Bruins might not be 100 percent on Griffith being their first-line right wing, but they won’€™t try Eriksson to see if they have any other internal fits for the job before potentially trading for one.

So, given Julien’€™s quote, we looked at every goal the Bruins have scored when Krejci has been in the lineup. In each game, Soderberg and Eriksson have been together, so it’€™s actually rather easy to tell whether Julien has a point. Keeping in mind that different lines (Krejci’€™s and Patrice Bergeron‘€™s) have tougher matchups, here were our findings:

Total goals (13 games): 35

Soderberg line: 9

Krejci line: 8

Bergeron line: 7

PP: 7

PK: 2

Campbell line: 1

Krejci during change with Kelly, Eriksson: 1

The findings aren’€™t overwhelming, but they do illustrate that when the Bruins have their full offensive lineup, the Soderberg line does pretty much all of Boston’€™s secondary scoring (nine of 10 goals). That might be reason enough for Julien to not want to tinker with Kelly – Soderberg – Eriksson.

That said, the Bruins are 22nd in the league with 2.42 goals per game (2.69 with Krejci in the lineup). They need goals, and Eriksson had a four-point game against the Flyers last season when skating with Krejci and Lucic.

Following is a goal-by-goal breakdown, which also takes into consideration that Julien changed half of his lines on Oct. 30 against the Sabres but kept Griffith with Krejci while also keeping Eriksson with Soderberg. 

Oct. 13 vs. Colorado

PP (Eriksson)

Oct. 15 at Detroit

Krejci (During change; Kelly and Eriksson on ice)

Bergeron line (Smith)

Oct. 16 at Montreal

PP (Chara)

Soderberg line (Soderberg)

Soderberg line (Eriksson)

Krejci line (Gagne)

Oct. 18 at Buffalo

Bergeron line (Hamilton)

Bergeron line (Chara)

Krejci line (Krug)

Soderberg line (Soderberg)

Oct. 21 vs. San Jose

PP (Marchand)

PP (Krug)

Krejci line (Griffith)

Campbell line (Campbell)

PK (Krejci)

Oct. 23 vs. Islanders

Krejci line (Lucic)

Soderberg line (Eriksson)

Oct. 25 at Toronto

PP (Soderberg)

Krejci line (Krejci; Campbell took shift)

PK (Campbell)

Bergeron line (Hamilton)

Oct. 28 vs. Minnesota

Krejci line (Griffith)

Krejci line (Griffith; amidst line change)

Oct. 30 at Buffalo (Note: Julien used Lucic -€“ Krejci – Griffith, Kelly -€“ Bergeron – Gagne, Marchand -€“ Soderberg -€“ Eriksson, Paille – Campbell -€“ Smith to begin game and reverted back to Marchand – Bergeron – Smith late.)

Soderberg line (McQuaid)

Soderberg line (Marchand)

Bergeron line (Marchand)

Nov. 6 vs. Oilers

Bergeron line (Smith)

Soderberg line (Eriksson)

PP (Soderberg)

PP (Hamilton)

Krejci line (Lucic)

Dec. 17 at Minnesota

Soderberg line (Soderberg)

Bergeron line (Bergeron)

Soderberg line (Krug)

Blog Author: 
DJ Bean
Loui Eriksson

Loui Eriksson

It appears Claude Julien is sticking with Seth Griffith on David Krejci‘€™s right wing Sunday after trying Loui Eriksson on the first line late in Friday’€™s game against the Jets.

After Sunday’€™s morning skate, Julien answered a question about not trying players other than Griffith on Krejci’€™s line by saying it was tough to do with Krejci out of the lineup. When it was pointed out that he has still only really used Griffith as Krejci’€™s right wing, Julien again pointed to his reluctancy to split up Eriksson and Carl Soderberg on the third line.

“When we don’t win, we get second-guessed. I understand that. But right now, Soderberg line is the only one that’s scoring for us,” Julien said. “So do you guys want me to break that up and we get no more scoring? So you pick your poison. As much as we’d like to do that and we want to do that, and we did the last game a few times, it’s hard to really see when it’s only in spurts. But at the same time, I’m trying to win a hockey game here, so that’s the bottom line.”

Griffith has been Krejci’s right wing in each of Krejci’s 13 games this season, with Simon Gagne spending parts of games on the line as well. Eriksson has not spent a game with Krejci and Lucic this season, though he played with them late last season and at points during training camp.

Zach Trotman and Matt Fraser appear to be the healthy scratches Sunday against the Sabres. The lineup in morning skate was as follows:

Lucic – Krejci – Griffith
Marchand – Bergeron – Smith
Kelly – Soderberg – Eriksson
Paille – Campbell – Cunningham

Chara – Hamilton
Bartkowski – Seidenberg
Krug – Miller

Rask

Blog Author: 
DJ Bean

None of the Bruins are happy about losing, and it’€™s obvious.

Dougie Hamilton

Dougie Hamilton

None of the Bruins are happy about losing, and it’€™s obvious.

On Saturday morning, Claude Julien joined that club, holding his most honest press conference of the season as he dug into the Bruins’€™ struggles.

After the press conference –€” in which he pointed to Dennis Seidenberg’€™s struggles and lamented the inconsistency of many of his forwards –€” Dougie Hamilton admitted that “€œeveryone’€™s frustrated,” and that he can see why his coach would be.

“I think one of the biggest things is that he gives us a game plan and we don’€™t follow it,” Hamilton told WEEI.com. “There’€™s a lot of times where he’€™ll say, like, ‘€˜There’€™s nothing more to say.’€™ He’€™s telling us exactly what we need to do to win and we’€™re not following it. I don’€™t know. Hopefully we can win and not have to worry about all this stuff.”€

None of this is good for the Bruins, obviously. The B’s have had several injuries this season — most notably to Zdeno Chara and David Krejci, both of whom are currently back in the lineup — but frustration from a winning coach coupled with a group not following directions might be an even bigger problem with the season just eight games away from the midway point.

Entering Sunday’s game, the 16-14-3 Bruins sit 10th in the Eastern Conference.

For more Bruins news, visit weei.com/bruins.

Blog Author: 
DJ Bean

A frustrated Claude Julien may be a more honest Claude Julien.