Don Sweeney's biggest move will be the firing of Claude Julien.</p>
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The sample size is entirely too small to make any definitive statements one way or the other.

Brent Burns was stymied by the Bruins for much of the night. (Stan Szeto/USA Today Sports)

Brent Burns was stymied by the Bruins for much of the night. (Stan Szeto/USA Today Sports)

The sample size is entirely too small to make any definitive statements one way or the other. But it’s obvious that the Bruins — despite the positive results of three wins in as many games — have been a little ‘too open’ in the defensive zone under interim head coach Bruce Cassidy.

You could very well at times see a week’s worth of running around under Claude Julien in just one period from Cassidy’s group.

But the theme of the Cassidy Era, again as small of a sample as it has been, and in addition to the results, has been progress from one game to the next and actually applying the adjustments.

So when Cassidy’s Bruins returned from their bye for their second head-to-head with the Sharks in just over a week, the Bruins knew who they had to watch out for, and did just that in a 60-minute plus smother of Norris Trophy favorite (or perhaps inevitable is a better word, to be honest) Brent Burns.

It added up to another win for Cassidy’s improving Bruins, this one by a 2-1 overtime final over the Sharks at the SAP Center.

The Bruins opened the game’s scoring up at the 11:05 mark of the first period when Jimmy Hayes’ shot went wide, but bounced off the endboard and back to Ryan Spooner for an easy putaway tally for Spooner’s ninth goal of the season.

But in a second period that was more of a hang-on-for-dear-life stanza than the norm established under Cassidy, the Sharks finally countered the Spooner tally at the 17:37 mark when a Burns attempted shot took a fortunate bounce off Torey Krug’s skate and rolled towards Patrick Marleau for a by all means empty-net goal for Marleau.

It spoke to just how hard it is to contain Burns, who had over 15 shot attempts shortly into the third period, which is something that the club was able to do — as much as one can, anyways — in this game. Especially when the B’s flatlined as often as they did.

With less than five minutes to play in a tied game, Burns, who is just three points away from Oilers superstar Connor McDavid, was at 19 shot attempts and with six of them landing on net against Tuukka Rask, who finished with 29 saves on 30 shots against.

And as Burns finished the third period at 19 attempts, and it was onto overtime at the Shark Tank.

But Burns’ best chance came on shot No. 20, but as it was stymied by Rask, the Bruins had seen enough of the dangerous Burns, and took matters into their own hands with a faceoff win and set play that sent Brad Marchand in on an overtime breakaway.

It was then that Marchand danced into the San Jose zone before he tucked a puck through Martin Jones for the win.

Far from the prettiest night in terms of what the Bruins were able to create against Jones and the Sharks in the attacking zone, the biggest takeaway was the club’s ability to block shots, especially those from Burns, who finished the game with nine of his 20 attempts blocked by B’s skaters. And among the 23 blocks by the Bruins, eight came from the left wingers matched up against Burns throughout the night, including three from Tim Schaller, and four from left-side defender Kevan Miller.

With the win, the Bruins improved to 4-0-0 under Cassidy, and now have wins in four straight for the first time this season.

The Bruins are back at it on Wednesday night against the Ducks.

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson

Like Robert Plant sang back in the day, Bruins GM Don Sweeney made up his mind to make a new start with a new voice behind the bench, and after a seven-day bye week, the Bruins are going to California with three wins in as many games under interim head coach Bruce Cassidy.

The Bruins take on the Sharks tonight at the SAP Center. (John Hefti/USA Today Sports)

The Bruins take on the Sharks tonight at the SAP Center. (John Hefti/USA Today Sports)

Like Robert Plant sang back in the day, Bruins GM Don Sweeney made up his mind to make a new start with a new voice behind the bench, and after a seven-day bye week, the Bruins are going to California with three wins in as many games under interim head coach Bruce Cassidy. OK, maybe it’s not exactly like Plant, but you get the reference.

There’s no much to harp on when it comes to the first three games of the Cassidy Era. The Bruins have scored goals at will — they have 14 goals in this three-game segment, including four from their defensive corps that have been encouraged to create more offense — and now it’s time for the Black and Gold to prove that the streak was not just the high of a coaching change and that this team has legitimately improved with a new voice behind the bench and some needed system tweaks.

But that’ll be awfully hard to do here, at least if recent history tells us anything about what the Bruins are in for against the Sharks, Ducks, and Kings.

Last season, the Bruins went 0-3-0 on this trip and were outscored 9-to-3. The year before that, the Bruins again went winless on their California swing and were outscored 12-to-6. A repeat of such a nightmare this season would by all means put the Bruins back in a situation that they have successfully clawed tooth and nail out of, and undo all the good that came with the Maple Leafs’ massive failure to take advantage of their games in hand advantage over the Black and Gold.

Tuukka Rask will be in net for the Bruins. Rask stopped 25 shots in his pre-bye finale, a 4-0 shutout win over the Canadiens, and enters action with four wins and a .902 save percentage in seven career games against the Sharks. Rask made saves on 23 of 26 shots thrown his way in a Feb. 9 victory over the Sharks back in Boston. And in a year that’s been short on rest for the 29-year-old goaltender, it will be interesting to see how he responds from a week of non-hockey activity. Rask does have a 7-2-0 record and .934 save percentage with three-plus days of rest this season.

The Sharks counter with Martin Jones. Pulled after the first period of Feb. 9’s 6-3 loss to the Bruins after he allowed three goals on 12 shots against, Jones is in dire need of a bounceback game after that aforementioned early hook against the B’s and a 16-of-22 overtime loss to the Panthers less than a week later. Jones has 28 wins and a .913 save percentage in 49 games this year.

This is the season series finale between the B’s and Sharks, and the Bruins have not won in San Jose since Jan. 2014.

Here are the expected lines and pairings for the Bruins…

Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – David Backes

Peter Cehlarik – David Krejci – David Pastrnak

Frank Vatrano – Ryan Spooner – Jimmy Hayes

Tim Schaller – Dominic Moore – Riley Nash

Zdeno Chara – Brandon Carlo

Torey Krug – Adam McQuaid

Kevan Miller – Colin Miller

Tuukka Rask


Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson
The Bruins have power-play goals in eight straight games. (Christopher Hanewinckel/USA TODAY Sports)

The Bruins have power-play goals in eight straight games. (Christopher Hanewinckel/USA TODAY Sports)

After a stretch that included 50 games in just over 100 days, a week-long break was more than deserved for the Bruins.

But, as timing as a whole has often worked out for this group this season, it could not have come at a worse time. Not only did the B’s rattle off three wins in a row under interim head coach Bruce Cassidy to head into their bye week, but the Bruins rolled into the break with power-play goals in eight straight games.

Over that span, the Bruins have collected 11 power-play goals on 30 opportunities, or a 36.6 power play percentage.

It’s a hot streak that the Black and Gold have to be desperate to extend to nine games in spite of a seven-day layoff when they skate against the Sharks in San Jose as the kickoff to their California tour (and with a stop in Dallas before they return back to Boston) on Sunday night.

So much of the B’s man advantage success has come from a top-heavy first unit with Torey Krug and David Pastrnak on the points, Brad Marchand in front of the net, Ryan Spooner along the wall, and Patrice Bergeron as the noted ‘bumper’ between the circles. The Pastrnak addition to the top unit is a relatively new one for the Bruins, of course, but it’s one that has allowed David Krejci to move back down to the second unit for a more natural, patient touch when it comes to puck distribution for that group.

“I’d prefer to call them the Bergeron unit and the Krejci unit to be honest with you because my experience is that power plays are cyclical and you’re going to have some success as a team and then as groups,” Cassidy said when asked about the club’s dueling power-play units last week. “They’re red hot, the Bergeron group, no denying that. They work hard at it and the Krejci group works hard at it, they just need to find their chemistry because we are moving a few new bodies in there.”

One of the newest bodies to the mix, for over 20 games anyway, has been second-year pro Frank Vatrano.

The decision to put Vatrano, who has a quick shot and even quicker release, with a second unit that features not only Krejci but defenseman Colin Miller and with David Backes as the net-front presence, is an obvious one that predates Cassidy’s bump up to head coach (though Cassidy did run the B’s power play under Claude Julien), but one that’s still worked wonders for the club.

In Vatrano’s 24 games to date, the Bruins have scored 24 power-play goals on 82 opportunities, or a 29.3% percentage. Compare that to their 13-for-102 mark and 12.7% success rate (which stood as the second-worst in the entire league), before the shoot-first winger was activated from the injured reserve and it’s clear that No. 72 has made a major difference in the potency of their units.

 The chemistry has grown with more minutes, too, as the 22-year-old showed in the club’s 4-3 win over the Canucks last week.

Vatrano hasn’t been healthy all year, now [Peter] Cehlarik goes in and Backes came off the other group so they have got to find their rhythm and that’s one play that we’re going to look for is that seam,” Cassidy said. “Krejci to Vatrano because you got a guy that loves to pass that can see the ice and you got a guy that can get it off in a hurry. That’s plan A on that group if we find that.”

And for that unit, it’s about shots with a purpose in the time that they do get together, which will be hard to find given the effectiveness of that first unit, which has been responsible for eight of the team’s 11 power-play goals over the last eight games.

“I mean, we haven’t been getting much PP time lately,” Krejci said of Vatrano’s power-play goal in their win over the Canucks, which was Vatrano’s fourth power-play goal of the season. “Our first unit has been doing really good job and they’ve been scoring a lot, but it was nice for our unit to put the puck in, give us some confidence that we can do it as well.”

Krejci’s unit added another one the next night, too, with his own goal created off a some soft hand movement between Cehlarik and Backes at the front of the net, a move that doesn’t happen without some growing confidence from that unit.

Confidence that you hope didn’t rust over during the break.

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson
Peter Cehlarik has been recalled. (Rick Osentoski/USA Today Sports)

Peter Cehlarik has been recalled. (Rick Osentoski/USA Today Sports)

The Bruins got some much needed rest and relaxation with their bye week, which ends today with a practice in San Jose. With the exception of one player: Forward Peter Cehlarik, who was assigned to the P-Bruins after last Sunday’s win over the Canadiens, but was recalled early this morning to join the team for their California road swing.

This was expected, of course, especially after Cehlarik’s two-point night against the Habs in what finished as a 4-0 win for the Bruins. His vision on the Adam McQuaid goal, which came with a beautiful cross-ice pass that hit McQuaid right on the stick-tape, was something to behold as far as first NHL points go, and his movement to David Backes that led to the David Krejci power-play goal was even prettier.

“He’s been playing really well, not just [Sunday] but also [Saturday] and you know he makes lots of good plays out there, it’s fun to play with him,” Cehlarik’s linemate, David Krejci, said. “So it’s been good but we have to keep working hard, keep getting better every day and keep it rolling.”

On the second line with Krejci and David Pastrnak on the right, the 21-year-old Slovak, who is a more seasoned pro than most first-year N. American pros thanks to multiple years in the Swedish Hockey League, has appeared to find a groove on what everyone should call the ‘Czech Mix’ line (please send all royalty money to this blog).

“He has the hockey IQ and the hands, big enough body guy. You just don’t know when they come up – if they can handle the pace, the pressure, time and space issues and so far, so good,” B’s interim coach Bruce Cassidy said of Cehlarik. “I like his situation where we put him, I think he will complement a [David] Krejci-type player with some give-and-go hockey. He’s not a guy who needs a puck through the neutral-zone – that’s where Krejci excels – makes the little plays down low. He’s been a nice fit so far.”

“I’m really grateful to have the opportunity to play with those kind of players that I play with,” admitted Cehlarik. “I want to make it count and I want to fit there. So I think we’re playing pretty well, hopefully we are going to keep going.”

With two assists in two career games, the obvious question for Cehlarik became when do you plan on scoring your first NHL goal?

Said Cehlarik: “Once I have my first shot.”

The Bruins skate against the Sharks at 8:30 p.m. on Sunday night.

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson
The Canadiens lost to the Jets in Claude Julien's coaching debut. (Jean-Yves Ahern/USA Today Sports)

The Canadiens lost to the Jets in Claude Julien’s coaching debut. (Jean-Yves Ahern/USA Today Sports)

Given a new start with the Canadiens a week after being fired by the Bruins, it was more of the same in what’s become the theme of Claude Julien’s season in his first game with the Habs, a 3-1 loss to the Jets.

The Canadiens carried a 1-0 lead through 20 minutes of play behind Andrei Markov’s fourth goal of the season, and in spite of a 15-to-6 shot advantaged that favored the visiting Jets.

But the escapist Canadiens could not avoid trouble in the second period, as the Jets’ Joel Armia scored an unassisted shorthanded goal (Julien’s Bruins gave up six shorthanded goals this season, the sixth-most in the NHL) to bring the teams even through two periods.

The Jets wasted no time in the third period, however, with a Mathieu Perreault goal scored just 1:16 into the third period.

Patrik Laine added an empty-net goal late to seal the deal on a loss in Julien’s (second) debut with the Canadiens.

The goals against certainly had an element of Julien’s Bruins, too, with both their timing and the bad luck of missed assignments and bad plays with the puck that came with them. But there were also more than a few things that served as a reminder that Julien does not have the weapons he did in Boston with this current group. For one, the Habs could not win faceoffs to save their lives in this game. Only Torrey Mitchell, who won one of his two battles at the dot, had a faceoff percentage of 50% or higher, and as a team the Canadiens were a brutal 7-for-22 (32%) in attacking zone draws. (Where’s Patrice Bergeron when you need him?) And while the Bruins had plenty of close losses under Julien this year (15 of their 23 losses were either by one or two goals), this loss was unlike those in the sense that it didn’t come with the Canadiens dominating the puck, as they were out-attempted by the Jets 59-to-49, including a brutal 33-to-20 shot advantage that favored Winnipeg.

Canadiens netminder Carey Price made 30 saves in the losing effort.

With the loss, Julien’s 2016-17 record dropped to 26-24-6 between the Bruins and Canadiens.

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson
Zac Rinaldo disagrees with the NHL's suspension of Gustav Nyquist. (Jerome Miron/USA Today Sports)

Zac Rinaldo disagrees with the NHL’s suspension of Gustav Nyquist. (Jerome Miron/USA Today Sports)

The NHL’s Department of Player Safety has a polarizing job.

It’s almost impossible to find a suspension that everyone has agreed with, and there are many in the league that feel that there are different sets of rules for different players based on their status as a top-six forward or defenseman versus a depth piece.

And the fallout of Red Wings forward Gustav Nyquist’s straight-up vicious spear to the face of Wild defenseman Jared Spurgeon last Sunday won’t help dispel that theory any time soon.

In one of the more heinous slashes you’ll see this season, Nyquist tried to explain to the media that the incident was accidental, but later fessed up to the DoPS that he was going for a retaliatory slash/crosscheck, and was handed a six-game ban and fined over $158,000 (one that he will not appeal) for the incident.

“While we accept Nyquist’s explanation that he did not intend to spear an opponent in the face, there are two factors that elevate this incident to a level more serious than merely accidental or reckless,” the league’s disciplinary system explained. “First as Nyquist conceded he is attempting to use his stick in a retaliatory fashion. Second, no matter how he specifically intended to retaliate with his stick, Nyquist is completely responsible for using his stick to deliver a blow that was extremely dangerous and easily could have resulted in a major if not career-threatening injury.”

A malicious, potentially ‘career-threatening injury’ from the stick of somebody that’s twice scored at least 27 goals at this level is worth just six games. That obviously doesn’t sit well with those that feel they’ve overly punished given their role.

Insert Zac Rinaldo.

The agitating energy winger, who has five goals and two assists and just 20 minutes in penalties in 29 games for the P-Bruins this season, took to Twitter on Thursday to voice his displeasure with some of the perceived double standards with the league.

On the surface, Rinaldo, who was placed on waivers and by all means banished to the AHL after another run-in that came with a five-game suspension for this hit on Lightning forward Cedric Paquette last season, is not wrong. The biggest difference though, is that this was Nyquist’s first incident, while Rinaldo has been suspended four times in his career.

Rinaldo, an unrestricted free agent this summer, still has to serve that five-game suspension upon any NHL recall.

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson

The Atlantic-leading Canadiens not only hired Claude Julien to coach their team, but they backed up the Brinks truck to make it happen.