Charlie McAvoy's first NHL was overturned on a coach's challenge. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

Charlie McAvoy’s first NHL was overturned on a coach’s challenge. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

The Bruins once again found themselves on the wrong end of a one-goal final on Wednesday, this time by a 1-0 score. It was the same score that favored the Bruins for all of a few seconds at one point, too.

At the 10:49 mark of the second period, Bruins rookie Charlie McAvoy fired a puck through traffic and beat Craig Anderson. Enough for the first goal of his NHL career (though a deeper review may have credited the goal to Noel Acciari, who appeared to get a stick on the puck), the goal jumped the Bruins out to a 1-0 edge in a game that 100 percent had the feel of a ‘first team that scores wins’ kind of contest.

But in a game where scoring was at a premium, Senators coach Guy Boucher was not going to let that goal stand without a fight.

So in came his coach’s challenge. It was there that it was determined that Acciari was offsides about 20 seconds before the goal was scored, and off came the tally.

“Yeah, it definitely sucks. When that happens you’re happy when it’s on the other side, but not when it happens to you,” Patrice Bergeron said. “It’s the rule and I guess they made the call and we still have to find a way that’s the bottom line.”

With a heavy round of boos rained down on the referees for the second game in a row, the score returned to 0-0.

And the Bruins never quite recovered.

From the non-goal on, the Bruins were outscored 1-0, and put just three more shots on goal to end the period, and opened up their third period with just two shots in the opening six minutes or so of action. After that, the Bruins went almost a full 10 minutes without a shot on goal before they were whistled for a too many men on the ice penalty, and were held to just five shots by the end of the third period, with all of the shots that followed coming with their net empty and a 6-on-4 advantage.

“It’s disappointing when those things happen. You have a tough time scoring, a low scoring game,” Bruins interim head coach Bruce Cassidy said. “But, our guys on the bench were good. They said, listen, let’s be resilient here and let’s keep pushing. So, I don’t think it was a huge factor in the game. It might have gave them a bit of a life thinking they got a break. But, for us, like I said, I don’t think it deterred us from what we wanted to do other than the obviously disappointment of losing a goal.”

But what was said on the bench versus what was done on the ice told two drastically different stories.

“We had the high tip from Noel [Acciari] – was obviously a pretty good play for us. The offsides challenge – that really has no bearing on the play – calls that back,” Bruins forward David Backes noted. “I think that for some reason made us pause rather than realize that we broke the mold there and had the recipe for success and to keep doing that.”

Officially one loss away from the summer, the B’s know their luck has to flip if this series is to return to Boston on Sunday.

“We’ll start by winning one game, and that’s all you’ve got to focus on, winning one game, and then come back home and win another one, and then it’s Game 7,” Bruins netminder Tuukka Rask said after the loss. “So, we don’t have to make it any more complicated than it is, but we’ve just got to make sure that we play a heck of a game on Friday.”

Staying onside may help, too.

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson

The Bruins couldn’t do anything offensively Wednesday night and fell into a 3-1 series hole with a 1-0 loss to the Senators. WEEI’s Ty Anderson, Scott McLaughlin and Josh Dolan reacted on Facebook Live after the game. Watch it below.

Blog Author: 
WEEI

At one point in the second period of Wednesday’s Game 4 between the Bruins and Senators, a rogue beachball landed on the ice during play. If this were either Game 2 or Game 3, there’s a good chance that the beachball would have gone through one of the goalies in this game.

Tuukka Rask and Craig Anderson returned to form in Game 4. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

Tuukka Rask and Craig Anderson returned to form in Game 4. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

At one point in the second period of Wednesday’s Game 4 between the Bruins and Senators, a rogue beachball landed on the ice during play. If this were either Game 2 or Game 3, there’s a good chance that the beachball would have gone through one of the goalies in this game.

But not on Wednesday, as Bruins netminder Tuukka Rask and Sens goaltender Craig Anderson both brought their best back to the rink.

Both Rask and Anderson were incredible in the opening game, which ended as a 2-1 final for the Black and Gold, but have since seen their play dip in what was back-to-back seven-goal contests, both of which have been 4-3 overtime finals in favor of the Senators. As a result of those games, Rask came into tonight’s game with nine goals allowed and an .898 save percentage for the series while Anderson had eight goals allowed and an .892 save percentage. Both goalies are much better than that, and they showed that in a 1-0 duel of a Game 4.

In what was a 26-shot opening period of play, with 14 shots for the Sens and 12 for the Bruins, Anderson stepped up the plate first with an opening game stop on a Brad Marchand breakaway. Rask, however, matched that when he flashed his glove and stoned Erik Karlsson on a ridiculous breakaway opportunity. Anderson came up with one last stop on Marchand, however, this time flying out of his crease to chip Marchand’s partial breakaway bid out of danger, and the teams skated to a 0-0 draw through 20.

The second period brought little from both sides — even with a few power plays between the teams — and for the first time in this series, neither the B’s or Sens came through with a middle frame goal, and on the teams marched to a 0-0 stalemate.

But not before the Bruins had another goal disallowed, as a successful coach’s challenge from Sens bench boss Guy Boucher determined that Noel Acciari was offside 20 seconds before Charlie McAvoy scored what would have been his first career goal.

As the pace and desperation returned in the middle frame, it was Rask that made the first big stop of the period, as he kicked his skate out just far enough to stop Derick Brassard on a drive towards the side of his net. But when chaos returned to the B’s crease just moments later, and as Bobby Ryan gained inside positioning on McAvoy, it was the Senators that struck first for the third time in four games thus far, with Ryan’s puck trickling in just above a sprawled Rask and outstretched Zdeno Chara.

Rask put his hands to his face as he laid on his belly outside his crease. As if he knew that it would be all the Senators needed.

He wasn’t wrong.

The Bruins countered Ryan’s goal with over 10 minutes of five-on-five play without a shot on goal before they were whistled for a too many men penalty. They killed it, with the help of one great Rask save on Kyle Turris, and it was Rask to the bench.

With the extra attacker and two offensive zone faceoffs, the Bruins had their chances, including the best from Marchand, but Anderson once again came up for another stop, his 21st of the night, and added another for a 22-save shutout.

Now down in the series 3-1, the Bruins will look to stave off elimination on Friday night in Ottawa.

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson

To the surprise of absolutely no one, Bruins center Patrice Bergeron is once again a finalist for the Selke Trophy, which is given to the top defensive forward in the NHL. The other finalists are Anaheim Ducks center Ryan Kesler and Minnesota Wild center Mikko Koivu.

Patrice Bergeron is once a Selke Trophy finalist. (Dennis Wierzbicki/USA Today Sports)

Patrice Bergeron is once again a Selke Trophy finalist. (Dennis Wierzbicki/USA Today Sports)

To the surprise of absolutely no one, Bruins center Patrice Bergeron is once again a finalist for the Selke Trophy, which is given to the top defensive forward in the NHL. The other finalists are Anaheim Ducks center Ryan Kesler and Minnesota Wild center Mikko Koivu.

It’s the sixth straight year Bergeron has been one of the three finalists, and he’ll be looking for his fourth win. He last won it in 2015 and probably should’ve won last year as well, but voters apparently got bored of giving it to him and went for Los Angeles Kings center Anze Kopitar instead.

Kesler is also a former Selke winner, as he took home the hardware back in 2011 as a member of the Vancouver Canucks. Koivu is a first-time finalist, although he did finish tied for fourth in voting back in 2009.

The case for Bergeron is pretty straightforward: He led the NHL in both Corsi-for percentage (61.8 percent) and relative Corsi-for percentage (plus-9.7 percent). He tilted the ice in his team’s favor more than any other player in the NHL and therefore kept the puck out of his own zone better than anyone else.

That should be enough to win it, but if you wanted to make the case for Kesler or Koivu, it would be that they dealt with tougher usage in terms of zone starts and still had a positive impact on their team’s possession numbers.

Whereas Bergeron had an offensive zone start percentage of 54.7 percent, Kesler and Koivu were at 33.4 percent and 36.2 percent, respectively. They had a relative Corsi of plus-2.0 percent and plus-0.8 percent, respectively.

The most notable omissions are probably Calgary Flames center Mikael Backlund and Toronto Maple Leafs center Nazem Kadri, who similarly got tough usage and still managed to swing positive numbers. Backlund clocks in at 36.3 percent offensive zone starts and a very impressive plus-6.2 percent relative Corsi, while Kadri’s at 37.4 percent and plus-1.4 percent.

Personally, I think Backlund had the best case against Bergeron this year. But as it is, Bergeron looks like a pretty easy favorite.

(Courtesy corsica.hockey)

(Courtesy corsica.hockey)

Blog Author: 
Scott McLaughlin
The Bruins could use some more production from the Spooner line. (Charles Leclaire/USA Today Sports)

The Bruins could use some more production from the Spooner line. (Charles Leclaire/USA Today Sports)

Bruins center David Krejci, who finished the year third among B’s skaters in both goals and points, is not playing at anything close to 100 percent. Top-line winger Brad Marchand, who scored a team-high 39 goals this season and produced above a point-per-game pace for the first time in his career, has been bottled up as much as one can given his skill, with one goal through three games of round one.

And to state the obvious, with those players either frustrated or hobbled, the Bruins need to find production elsewhere.

It’s pretty easy to find those players for the Bruins, too. They’re all on the same line, too; Ryan Spooner has just two helpers through three postseason games (both secondary helpers on the power play), while Frank Vatrano and Drew Stafford enter play with just one goal each.

“Well, secondary scoring — I mean, the first game Frankie got us going, he got us a big goal. Then, [Brad Marchand] got the winner. I think every coach would tell you that’s important. And even getting our backend a little more involved,” Bruins interim head coach Bruce Cassidy said before Wednesday’s Game 4 at TD Garden. “[Dion] Phaneuf got a big goal for them, [Chris] Wideman — so, you need offense from all sources because the other guys are more targeted.”

“In the playoffs it’s huge,” Vatrano said of the team’s secondary scoring. “Obviously they’re going to pay extra attention to our top guys and when they’re taking time, space, and scoring away from them, it’s up to the secondary scorers to get the job done.”

Vatrano did not get the job done on Monday, with just one shot on goal in 18 shifts. Stafford was not much better, with zero shots and a minus-1 rating in 12:15 of time on ice, and Spooner was a non-factor in his seven-plus minutes of five-on-five play.

But they’ll get another chance to step up tonight, with Stafford dropped back to his natural right-side on a line with Spooner and Vatrano, as Cassidy knows it’s a need for the club to make any sort of run deeper into the spring.

“Clearly, your best players need to be your best players,” Cassidy said. But, every year in the playoffs, there’s always those guys that step up. [Tim] Schaller got one, game two, big shorty. So we’ve had some of that and we’ll continue to look for it.”

As expected, Tuukka Rask gets the call in the B’s net. Rask surrendered four goals on 32 shots in a Game 3 overtime loss, and has allowed nine goals on 88 shots this series. And, again, as expected, Ottawa counters with Craig Anderson. The veteran Anderson has had similar struggles in this series despite the series lead for his club, with eight goals on 74 shots against.

Bruins defenseman Colin Miller (lower-body) draws back into action for the first time since Game 1. Tommy Cross, who was on the ice for three of Ottawa’s four goals in his season debut on Monday night, will sit as a healthy scratch in his place.

Here are the expected lines and pairings for the Bruins…

Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – David Backes

Tim Schaller – David Krejci – David Pastrnak

Frank Vatrano – Ryan Spooner – Drew Stafford

Dominic Moore – Riley Nash – Noel Acciari

 

Zdeno Chara – Charlie McAvoy

Joe Morrow – Kevan Miller

John-Michael Liles – Colin Miller

Tuukka Rask

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson
Erik Karlsson has four assists in three games this series. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

Erik Karlsson has four assists in three games this series. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

If there’s a big goal scored by the Senators in this series, there’s a good chance that it’s been created by the wizardry of Erik Karlsson.

Karlsson danced through the attacking zone before he fed Derick Brassard for the game-tying goal in what finished an Ottawa overtime win in Game 2. Karlsson helped the Sens jump out to a lead in the first period of Game 3 when he hit Mike Hoffman with a Hail Mary pass. He danced around three B’s forwards to keep the puck in the attacking zone for the second Sens goal of that game, and helped create the overtime winner when Dominic Moore gave chase to him behind the net and created all the space in the world for Karlsson to operate.

A minute-eater that’s led the Sens in time on ice in both of their wins this series and has four helpers in three games thus far, it’s been just as hard for the Bruins to avoid Karlsson as it’s been to contain him.

“He’s an elite player, he plays half the game, so he’s going to do damage,” Bruins interim head coach Bruce Cassidy said of Karlsson. “You gotta limit the damage. He’s a dynamic player. Coming from the backend, everything is front of him and he can beat you up ice. So there’s a lot of ways he can beat you and we need to do a better job neutralizing him.”

Neutralizing him would be a start, but as the Bruins can attest, it’s also much easier said than done.

“His speed,” Bruins winger Brad Marchand said (and without a second’s hesitation) when asked about Karlsson’s dynamic skillset and the challenges it can bring to the Black and Gold. “He’s able to jump by everyone, get up and be the first on the forecheck and be the first on the backcheck, so his speed is a very special thing.”

It seemed in the past that the Bruins had to just worry about Karlsson burning them in the attacking zone. That’s where they could simply stick a Patrice Bergeron and Zdeno Chara combo out there and try to erase that. But under Sens coach Guy Boucher, and even before that as Karlsson has progressed over the years, the plays have started in the defensive zone, where Karlsson has made his high-risk plays almost automatic positives for his club, like he did on the aforementioned Hoffman goal in Game 3.

In the blink of an eye, with his skates, stick, or with his mind, Karlsson can send numbers the other way.

“He’s equally as good now on both sides of the ice. And his leadership, people talk about his leadership the previous game because he got a little loud on one of the goals. But his leadership [Monday] was right on and he was very calm after the other team tied the game,” Boucher said. “He was very calm between the second and third and you saw his calm play calmed everybody down also on the ice. But to tell you I’m impressed – after awhile you kind of get used to it. It’s pretty sad but, that’s how it is. He’s just that good. I’ve seen him do it in practice, I’ve seen him do it in games. He’s a game breaker.”

“Chasing the puck out of his hands, good angles, good stick to puck, be physical when you can — always easier said than done with any good player. It’s always the strategy for a lot of guys,” Cassidy said when asked how the B’s can stop Karlsson. “But knowing where he is on the ice and pushing him to the outside and taking good angles, I think we’re capable of that.”

The truth, however, is that the Bruins have given Karlsson entirely too much space all over the ice.

The Bruins know that, too, and you saw them attempt to address that with some hard finishes on Karlsson along the boards. That’s by design, too, as Karlsson entered this series at less than 100 percent healthwise. It’s a barbaric strategy. But one that’s been deployed by the Senators as well, as you can tell by their clear-as-day efforts to hammer a battered Boston defense corps at every stop and turn, and one that may be the B’s only hope when it comes to slowing the Ottawa captain down before it’s too late.

“Be physical with him. He came off an injury. Within the rules of the game, make him work through your body to get up ice,” Cassidy, whose team has 124 hits through three playoff games, offered. “That makes it a lot easier, and it makes it tougher on him over the course of two weeks. He might get away with it for one game, but you keep being heavy on him and it can wear on him.”

But it’s hard to hit what you can’t catch, and Cassidy would be the first to admit that through the first three games of this one.

“It’s just.. it’s not that easy at times,” Cassidy said.

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson

Down 2-1 in a series for the 31st time in franchise history, the Bruins will hope to find a series-evening boost with the return of one of their injured defensemen for tonight’s Game 4 with the Senators.

Colin Miller is expected to play in Game 4. (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

Colin Miller is expected to play in Game 4. (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

Down 2-1 in a series for the 31st time in franchise history, the Bruins will hope to find a series-evening boost with the return of one of their injured defensemen for tonight’s Game 4 with the Senators.

In a series that’s become defined by the B’s health woes on the point (the Bruins skated in Game 3 without four of their regular NHL defensemen), it’s expected that Colin Miller will be the one that steps back onto the ice and makes his return to the club’s blue line.

Injured in the second period of Game 1 on a knee-on-knee collision with the Senators’ Mark Borowiecki, Miller has missed both Games 2 and 3, but has found a way to consistently ramp up his on-ice participation over that span. Miller first gave it a go on a Friday practice that ended earlier than expected, and was also a participant in Game 3’s morning skate and pregame warmup before he was ruled out in favor of Tommy Cross.

And after being on the ice for this morning’s optional skate, Miller has declared himself ready to go, and so has his coach.

“That’s the plan — that he’ll go in tonight,” Bruins interim head coach Bruce Cassidy said. “Obviously we’ll make that at gametime, but he looks like he’s ready to go, so he’ll go in with John-Michael Liles, and Tommy [Cross] will come out.”

It’s not the major return — the Bruins are still without Brandon Carlo (upper-body), Torey Krug (lower-body), and Adam McQuaid (upper-body) on their point — that the club was hoping for, especially when it comes to helping the club return to their roots of blocking shots and boxing out bodies in front of Tuukka Rask with strong physical play, but it’s one that will certainly help a Boston defense that’s simply running on empty and running out of options.

 

The 24-year-old Miller had one shot and one hit in just 7:08 back in Game 1, and skated in 61 games for the Black and Gold during the regular season, with six goals and 13 points along with 85 shots on goal.

Of those six goals and 13 points, three goals and five points came in 22 games following the switch from Claude Julien to Cassidy.

Including playoff games, the Bruins are 37-22-3 with Miller in the lineup this year, and 8-11-4 without him in action.

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson