The Bruins are still looking for consistency from their second line. (Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports)

The Bruins are still looking for consistency from their second line. (Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports)

The left side of the Bruins’ second line has been a revolving door, and Thursday night’s one-goal night against the Hurricanes was no exception. After a few games with Tim Schaller to the left of David Krejci and David Backes, Ryan Spooner — for you have to believe the billionth time this season — was plugged back into that spot with Krejci and Backes for the third period of a 2-1 shootout win.

It was not until the clock read just 31.5 seconds and with a 6-on-5 that the Bruins scored, and off the foot of the Hurricanes’ Teuvo Teravainen no less, on ‘Canes netminder Cam Ward to force overtime.

The goal, originally credited to Torey Krug but later changed to Backes (about 13 hours later, actually) for his sixth goal this year, was the lone strike on a night in which the Bruins put 35 goals on net. Two nights before that, too, the Bruins had just two goals on 47 shots, including one from a solid solo finish from Krejci for his third goal of the season.

Tuesday in Philly was a dominant performance from the line — then Schaller-Krejci-Backes — but Thursday was a common effort. Too many nights has the line controlled the puck, but failed to generate prime scoring opportunities. And though a lot of that blame has been thrown the left’s way, what about chemistry between Krejci and Backes, the line’s two veteran presences and talents that combine for $13.25 against the B’s books?

Do they have any chemistry together?

“Well, you hope so,” B’s boss Claude Julien said when asked just that. “I think at times that line goes quiet, other times it’s better. We’ve tried different guys on the left side right now and one might give them speed but doesn’t win as many battles. The other way guys are a little harder right now and they spend more time in the O-zone. Really trying hard to find the right balance there.

“I think both Davids are very capable of bringing a good game every night as far as creating scoring chances and being some of the better players. So at times, you think that it’s not so much about what’s on our left or what’s not on our left, more that it’s about their game. So the chemistry takes some time and I think they’re starting to get to know each other all the time.”

But forget about the left for just a second. On Backes’ six goals this year, Krejci has come through with the primary assist just once. That would lead you to believe that these two are not a necessarily great fit together, not yet anyways. That’s definitely a little weird, too, as Backes fits the bill of Krejci’s linemates during his prime, like Nathan Horton and Jarome Iginla. He’s a big-bodied winger that is good at digging pucks out along the walls and dishing them back to Krejci. Although at the same time, Backes’ shot is not as potent as that of Iginla or even Horton for that matter. He’s a little more grind than glam in that regard.

“I thought our line was really good in Philly and we were on the puck and holding it,” Backes noted of their success Tuesday versus Thursday’s struggles. “Carolina plays a different game where they’re on top of you with really good sticks and poking pucks off of you. It’s not like they’re imposing physically, but they’re in really good position with really good sticks. It’s almost frustrating how they poke it off your stick and you don’t get time to pick your head up and make your next play.

“I thought we were not a great factor in the game, maybe even a negative through the first 40 minutes,” Backes admitted of their play Thursday. “We really found our game in the third, kind of the way the team did. We just need to work on putting more consistent minutes together, that’s myself included. Make the play at the right time and tilt the scales in our favor like we can do.”

That success in the third period came, again, with Spooner back on that line with the two Daves. But with Patrice Bergeron out of Friday’s practice at Warrior Ice Arena, Spooner was shifted up to the first line pivot spot between Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak while Schaller returned to the second line wing with Krejci and Backes. And if that holds for tomorrow and Bergeron is unavailable for any reason, it will once again be on the Krejci-Backes combo to find some offensive consistency together.

For the first time this season.

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson
Anton Blidh

Anton Blidh

The Bruins have rolled with a 12-forward unit (without an extra body on deck) since Sean Kuraly was returned to the American Hockey League on Nov. 24. But with Patrice Bergeron absent from Friday’s practice at Warrior Ice Arena with an apparent day off, the Bruins have recalled forward Anton Blidh from the Providence Bruins ahead of tomorrow’s road game against the Sabres.

Blidh’s jump to Boston comes off a start in which he’s recorded five goals and nine points, the fifth-most among any P-Bruins skater, in 19 games played. Blidh had also recorded one goal and three points in his last three AHL contests. A sparkplug, energy forward if there ever was one, Blidh has also tallied 22 minutes in penalties for Kevin Dean’s youthful Providence club this season.

Blidh practiced on the fourth line with Dominic Moore and Jimmy Hayes.

A native of Molnlycke, Swe., Blidh was drafted in the sixth round (180th overall) in 2013.

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson

Zdeno Chara exited the Bruins' lineup six games ago due to a lower-body injury. (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)Oh, what Bruins fans would give to say, “Chara just looks slower out there” these days. 

Anton Khudobin picked up his first win of the season Thursday behind a 29-of-30 performance. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

Bruins goaltender Anton Khudobin picked up his first win of the season Thursday behind a 29-of-30 performance. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

On the first of December and still without a victory to his name, though in just three prior games, Bruins goalie Anton Khudobin was a man possessed Thursday night in a 2-1 shootout win over the Hurricanes that featured stops on all but one of the 30 shots thrown his way.

Behind a Black and Gold group that was just flat as can be through the opening 40 minutes of play, Khudobin held the fort behind 11 first period stops, and even stopped a 4-on-0 chance the other way before the ‘Canes finally broke through on a Noah Hanifin power-play goal 7:37 into the second period. Khudobin even made two gigantic breakaway stops, the first on the aforementioned 4-on-0 the other way on Jeff Skinner, and another, again on Skinner, in overtime.

“Very good,” Bruins bench boss Claude Julien said of Khudobin’s play in the win. “He deserves a lot of accolades tonight, the way he played, the way he responded after being out such a long time. He made some big plays for us, solid in the shootout. You couldn’t ask more from him and there’s no doubt that there was a lot of confidence that grew in that dressing room by watching his play and knowing that we have two goaltenders that can play extremely well for us.”

Very good, actually, might be an undersell on Julien’s part.

On a night in which the Bruins gave the puck away 13 times, Khudobin consistently bailed the B’s out, and kept things close when the club had almost no answer or pressure on the Hurricanes’ Cam Ward down at the other end of the rink.

“He was awesome tonight,” Riley Nash said of Khudobin. “He shut the door on everything. I thought he was fantastic.”

In what was without question his most positionally sound effort of the same, Khudobin felt bolstered by a stretch that’s included two starts in less than a week since returning from an upper-body injury that put him on the shelf for 15 games, and five games in the last 12 days if you include his three-game conditioning assignment in the AHL with the Providence Bruins.

In those two NHL contests, the 30-year-old has been back to the Khudobin of old, with 56 stops on 59 shots against.

“Like I always say, the more a goalie plays, the better he feels,” Khudobin said of his comfort now versus at the beginning of the year. “All together [including the AHL], I’ve played seven games now, and five have come in the last week and a half.

“The rhythm of it is really helpful.”

It also didn’t hurt that Khudobin appeared to command the crease with an undeniable chip on his shoulder against the team that traded him to the Ducks for defenseman James Wisniewski (who now plays in the KHL after just a single shift with the Hurricanes last season) a little more than a year ago in spite of a strong 70-game sample with the club from 2013 to 2015.

“I know their shooters,” Khudobin hinted of his success against the ‘Canes in regulation, overtime and the shootout.

“It’s just a little bit extra for us,” Nash, another ex-Hurricane that was let go by the club (although Nash walked as an unrestricted free agent without an offer from the club versus a trade like Khudobin), confirmed after the win after a day of playing nice. “We parted ways with them, they parted ways with us, so it’s just one of those games where you want it a little bit more.”

But at this point in the year, Khudobin doesn’t care who the win comes against, so long as they come.

“Whenever you get the W it’s always – nothing can be better,” Khudobin said. 

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson

Shockingly, between three other goaltenders and 23 games into their season, the Bruins still did not have a win by a goaltender not named Tuukka Rask. But after an improbable 2-1 shootout win over the Hurricanes at TD Garden, Anton Khudobin is finally on the board.

Bruins/Hurricanes (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)

The Bruins pulled off a third period comeback for their second point in as many games Thursday. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)

Shockingly, between three other goaltenders and 23 games into their season, the Bruins still did not have a win by a goaltender not named Tuukka Rask. But after an improbable 2-1 shootout win over the Hurricanes at TD Garden, Anton Khudobin is finally on the board.

And in one of the sleepiest hockey games you will see this year, and maybe this decade for that matter, Khudobin did just about everything he could the Black and Gold in it against Cam Ward.

Peppered at will by his former club in an 11-shot first period, the 30-year-old Khudobin made stop after stop, and that carried on over into the second period, when the Kazakh backstop came up with a stop on the Hurricanes’ Jeff Skinner on a 3-on-0 his way. (It may have even a 4-on-0 had one of the ‘Canes noticed what was up ahead of him.)

But just seconds after that stop, the dam on Khudobin finally gave way in the form of a Noah Hanifin power-play bomb that simply went through No. 35 and into the B’s net for Hanifin’s second goal of the season. Although the Bruins had little jump in this game, the Hanifin bullet didn’t help energize the Bruins one bit, as they put just seven shots on Ward in the middle period, and were en route to their second straight defeat after 29 shots — and few real chances — on the veteran Ward.

But it was on the 30th shot of the night that the Bruins finally found an answer.

With the net empty for a 6-on-5 advantage, and David Backes camped out in front of the Carolina net, a kick from Hurricanes forward Teuvo Teravainen made its way into the ‘Canes crease and into through Ward for a 1-1 draw with just 31.5 seconds to go.

The goal was credited to Torey Krug, while David Pastrnak and David Krejci picked the assists.

Onto their second overtime period in three nights, the Bruins’ best chance came on a Krug net-front opportunity stoned by a splitting Ward, and was shortly followed up by a penalty drawn by ex-Hurricane Riley Nash that put the Bruins on a 4-on-3 power-play opportunity. But while the passing game remained sharp, the shot game stayed cold, even on the 4-on-3 and with Ward’s vision blinded by first Backes and then Matt Beleskey, as the Bruins rang high glass with incredible regularity.

In a shootout, again, for the second time in three nights, the first round began with a Ryan Spooner gloveside goal on Ward, while Jacob Slavin countered with a pretty goal of his own on Khudobin. The second round came up with stops from Ward and Khudobin, while Pastrnak deked Ward out of his pants for a goal in the top of the third.

And with a chance to seal the deal on his first win of the season, Khudobin came up with the stop and put a ‘W’ next to his name for the first time this year, behind a straight-up stellar 29-of-30 performance.

Here are four other things we learned in an improbable thievery on B’s ice

B’s man advantage continues to sputter vs. strong PK teams

The Hurricanes came into tonight’s game with the league’s best penalty kill, with just six power-play tallies allowed on 58 times shorthanded (89.7%). So perhaps the Bruins’ struggles on the man advantage — an 0-for-3 finish to the night — was to be at least somewhat expected.

But in 24 games this year, and in six games against teams currently ranked in the league’s top 10 for penalty killing percentage (the ‘Canes, Blues, Maple Leafs, Devils, and two games against the Rangers), the Bruins are now just 2-for-18 on the power play.

“Oh, wow, the power play struggles against good penalty killing units?” you ask in a mocking tone. “Good analysis, jabroni.”

But in what used to be an incredible strength for the Bruins (remember that the B’s finished last year with the seventh-best power play in the entire NHL, at 20.5%), the Black and Gold’s man advantage simply looks overmatched when it goes against the best in the opposing category. It’s simply no longer a strength on strength matchup.

Striking first remains an issue for Bruins

Without a goal on 10 first period shots, and without a goal at their own end behind 11 stops from Khudobin, the Bruins carried a scoreless draw into the first intermission for the 11th time this season.

That, of course, means that the Bruins have failed to open up their first period with a goal in almost of their games to date (tonight was Game 24 of 82). This figure hasn’t been as disastrous as it could be, however, as the Bruins have scored 15 first period goals overall (which puts them in the middle of the pack) while allowing just 13 on their own net.

But after two periods, it was the Hurricanes that were on the board while the B’s continued to sit with a zero next to their name. With just seven second period shots to their name, too.

And it took the Bruins until the final minute of play to come up with an actual response (a goal), for that matter.

This has been a problem and will continue to be a problem, especially when the Bruins run into offenses that are much better than that of the rather mild Hurricanes, much like it was when the B’s spotted the Flyers a two-goal lead after one.

Hanifin non-trade continues to haunt Bruins

It was at the 2015 NHL Draft that then-new B’s general manager Don Sweeney wanted to make a big splash. And as the story goes, he had sights set on Massachusetts native and Boston College standout Noah Hanifin. Projected to somewhere in the top ten (but closer to the top five), the Bruins wheeled and dealed into back-to-back-to-back picks in the middle of the first round at the expense of Milan Lucic (to the Kings) and Dougie Hamilton (to the Flames).

But the Bruins did not have the pieces — both before they moved Lucic and Hamilton and after — to pull off a deal to entice a team within striking distance of Hanifin (who ended up going to the ‘Canes at No. 5 overall).

And Hanifin has made ’em pay for it ever since.

In just his fourth career game against his hometown club, the 19-year-old scored the game’s first goal, a power-play tally, and has now scored two goals and four points in four career games against the Bruins. As a rite of passage for any local or ex-Bruin returning to the Hub against the Bruins, Hanifin also scored the game-winning shootout goal against the B’s a year ago.

And though the club’s inability to land Hanifin has become a somewhat manageable pill to swallow thanks to the emergence of Brandon Carlo (drafted in the same class, just 32 picks later) as a legitimate NHL defenseman, there’s no denying that Hanifin is a legitimate superstar in the making and foundational piece that would have looked absolutely perfect in his backyard.

Chara-less defense beginning to find its groove

In what the club hopes will be their fifth and final game without their captain and No. 1 defenseman, Zdeno Chara, the Bruins actually saw solid contributions from their defensive six, including a noteworthy pressurizing attack from the third pairing. Given advantageous matchups through the night, the Joe Morrow and Colin Miller duo really seemed to generate positive traction with each shift, and were especially noticeable in the Bruins’ pushes through the neutral zone.

The Bruins also saw two significant defensive contributions from their second pairing of Kevan Miller (shifted to the left) and Brandon Carlo, with each coming up with a strong one-on-one effort in the first and third period to deny the Canes a prime scoring chance on net. Both times, the respective defenseman wiped out any chance of a real opportunity for the opposition.

That said, you still want and need to see the 6-foot-9 Chara back to his normal spot for this club and soon.

The Bruins are back in action with a Saturday matinee in Buffalo against the Sabres.

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson
Riley Nash came to the Bruins from the Hurricanes this past offseason. (Brad Rempel/USA Today Sports)

Riley Nash came to the Bruins from the Hurricanes this past offseason. (Brad Rempel/USA Today Sports)

Riley Nash was more than surprised to find a crowd of reporters in front of his locker at Warrior Ice Arena this morning.

“What’d I do?” a genuinely curious Nash asked.

Apparently, Nash forgot to check the calendar and notice that tonight is his first head-to-head with his former team, the Hurricanes, at TD Garden. But, really, it’s all you need to know about Nash’s vendetta against the organization he called his own for six seasons.

It doesn’t exist.

“It’s a little different, I’ve never had this feeling before,” Nash, who spent a Monday off-day catching up with his old teammates, including former roommate Jutin Faulk, said. “You don’t really miss a beat when you see those guys.”

But the fact that theyr’e considered his former teammates does seem a little odd. Despite the Hurricanes’ effort to get younger, Nash is only 27 years old, and ended his final season with the club with five goals and 13 points in his final 27 contests.

Still, there’s no ill will on Nash’s part.

“It’s business,” Nash noted. “They wanted to go in a new direction. And I think that’s pretty much it.

“I don’t have anything negative to say about them,” Nash said. “[Hurricanes general manager] Ron Francis was awesome to me. He took care of me. It’s just a new opportunity here. I’m happy where I’m at, and I’m happy to be with this club and this group.

Signed to a two-year, $1.8 million deal on July 1, and a seamless fit into Claude Julien’s system as a do-it-all forward that’s played both wing and center for extended stretches this year, Nash said that he felt welcomed from the moment the Bruins called.

“You could usually tell with a phone call if a person is excited or wants you to be there or not,” Nash said of when ‘a few’ people from the B’s organization called him when free agency began. “You can kind of hear it in their voice. It’s pretty hard to mask that.

“I felt this was an option that would be a good choice for me. They won a Cup here, and they went to another Stanley Cup Final, and this is a group that knows how to win and has been there before, so for me, it was a pretty easy decision.”

As for any collisions with his old friends, Nash said there might be a few laughs, depending on if he’s the one getting hit into the boards or if he’s the one dishing out said hit into boards.

In net, Anton Khudobin gets the start for the Bruins. This will be just his second start since coming back from an upper-body injury last weekend. The 30-year-old Khudobin stopped 27-of-29 in his last appearance, a 2-1 loss, and has zero wins and an .878 save percentage in three games this season. Khudobin, another former Hurricane, won 27 contests in 70 games for the club from 2013 to 2015 before he was moved to Anaheim in a trade for James Wisniewski.

The Hurricanes counter with Cam Ward. In an unexpected renaissance year of sorts, the veteran Ward comes into play with seven wins and a .915 save percentage in 17 games this season, and posted six wins and a .935 in 12 games last month. Ward has found some on-again, off-again success against the B’s in his career, too, with 14 wins and a .918 in 32 career games.

This is the first of three meetings between the Bruins and Hurricanes this season.

Here are the expected lines and pairings for the Bruins

Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – David Pastrnak

Tim Schaller – David Krejci – David Backes

Matt Beleskey – Riley Nash – Austin Czarnik

Ryan Spooner – Dominic Moore – Jimmy Hayes

Torey Krug – Adam McQuaid

Kevan Miller – Brandon Carlo

Joe Morrow – Colin Miller


Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson
Brad Marchand has totaled 460 minutes in penalties in his NHL career. (Eric Bolte/USA Today Sports)

Brad Marchand has totaled 460 minutes in penalties in his NHL career. (Eric Bolte/USA Today Sports)

Bruins winger Brad Marchand is no stranger to outbursts. Marchand is also no stranger to current Canadiens agitator Andrew Shaw. The two have history dating back to Shaw’s days with the Blackhawks, and even dropped the gloves in the 2013 Stanley Cup Final.

So, safe to say that Marchand had some thoughts on Shaw’s complete and total meltdown after a penalty assessed his way in the final moments of a 2-1 Tuesday night loss to the Ducks.

In case you didn’t click the link above, Shaw smashed his own stick to absolute bits inside the penalty box, dropped about a dozen f-bombs on the referees, was given the gate, and then punched an entire rack of unbroken sticks on his way back to the Habs’ locker room.

“Oh, he showed those sticks,” Marchand said with a grin.

“I think we all get frustrated,” Marchand, a player having taken more than his share of penalties similar to that of Shaw’s game-ending call, admitted, noting the frustration that can come when you’re whistled for a call that late in a close game. “You know, I’ve learned — well I’m still learning — [there’s] not a whole lot you can do at that time. It is what it is, and guys are emotional at that time in a game.”

Whistled for 182 penalties since the start of the 2010 season, including eight majors, four misconducts, and two game misconducts, the 28-year-old Marchand hangs his hat on one positives from his own meltdowns.

I didn’t lose it as bad as [Tuukka Rask] when he threw the pucks over the glass,” Marchand joked. “So I feel good about that.”

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson

What does the second-most goals in the NHL get you? Well, I’m not sure to be honest, but I can tell you that it does not get your name on the ballot for the 2017 NHL All-Star Game in Los Angeles.

Not if you’re Bruins winger David Pastrnak, anyways.

David Pastrnak has scored 13 goals in just 18 games this season. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

David Pastrnak has scored 13 goals in just 18 games this season. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

What does the second-most goals in the NHL get you? Well, I’m not sure to be honest, but I can tell you that it does not get your name on the ballot for the 2017 NHL All-Star Game in Los Angeles.

Not if you’re Bruins winger David Pastrnak, anyways.

Despite his 13 goals and 17 points in 18 games played this season, the 20-year-old was not among the four Bruins featured on the ballot that dropped earlier today for Atlantic Division representation in this year’s weekend festivities at the Staples Center. Instead, the ballot featured Pastrnak’s linemates, Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand, along with defenseman Zdeno Chara, and goaltender Tuukka Rask.

In comparison to Pastrnak’s stats on the year among other forwards on the team (and more specifically those put on the ballot), only Marchand is close, with seven goals and 20 points in 23 contests. Bergeron has tallied just three goals and six points in 20 games played. Bergeron, of course, was the lone Bruins rep at last year’s All-Star weekend in Nashville.

And among the 16 other forwards featured within the Atlantic over Pastrnak, only the Leafs’ James van Riemsdyk (19) and Lightning top-liner Nikita Kucherov (26) have recorded more points than No. 88 in black and gold has this year.

It’s still possible for Pastrnak to get into the game, however, but it will just need to be done via a write-in campaign.

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson