Ryan Spooner has three goals and seven points this season. (Brad Rempel/USA Today Sports)

Bruins forward Ryan Spooner, moved to the fourth line on Saturday, has three goals and seven points in 17 games this season. (Brad Rempel/USA Today Sports)

On the wing of a second line with David Krejci and David Backes, Bruins forward Ryan Spooner entered Saturday’s game against the Jets with points in four of his last six contests.

But by the night’s end, even in a 4-1 win in which the Bruins held the Jets to just 12 shots on goal, Spooner ended his night demoted down to the center spot on the fourth line.

It’s worth noting, however, that Spooner was not the only piece shuffled about. His spot on the B’s second line was filled by Matt Beleskey, who scored his second goal of the season in the win, while Schaller moved to the third line on Beleskey’s spot on the left wing, while everyone else remained in their respective spot.

“Moving parts around and having people respond,” B’s coach Claude Julien said of the decision to finish Spooner’s night on a line with Sean Kuraly and Jimmy Hayes. “First shift of the third, Schaller who moved up, scored a goal and I thought Spoons did a great job with that line of spending some time in the offensive zone and sometimes he moved pucks around and that’s things that made me happier with or want to see something different. I think that with the score the way it was, it was an opportunity to see something different.”

So it was a demotion that wasn’t a demotion?

“I thought we could have just been a little bit better again with those loose pucks around the net, and getting our noses dirty a little bit more, which we did in the second and third, so we responded well,” Julien noted after Saturday’s victory. “Again, moving parts around during the game and then having those guys respond well is important, too. At some point you got to move some players around and when they respond with the way they did, all of them, it is great to see that as well.”

This has been a straight-up weird year for Spooner, and a Sunday practice at Warrior Ice Arena didn’t really clear things up, either, as Spooner skated at center… but in an 11-player practice that went on without Krejci, Dominic Moore, and Patrice Bergeron on the ice.

After a 13-goal, 49-point season a year ago spent in the middle of the team’s third line, Spooner has spent an entire training camp and regular season on the wing — mainly due to the club’s thinness on the left side (Beleskey and Brad Marchand are the club’s lone natural left wingers on the roster) — and has been asked to produce in an unfamiliar role almost anywhere besides the third-line pivot spot that he made his own a year ago.

“It takes some time,” Spooner, a center throughout nearly his entire playing life, admitted of the adjustment to the wing. “I’ve kinda gotten used to it. It’s obviously been I guess a little bit better, but I still have a little work to do, too, so.”

But is there any other possible way to spin a move back to center, but behind Moore on the fourth line, than calling it a demotion? And that’s not a slight to Moore as much as it’s a testament to the club’s borderline weird refusal to put No. 51 back at the position he’s been at his most comfortable. For better or worse, though, Spooner is used to it.

“It’s happened probably five or six times,” Spooner said of Julien demoting or sending a message to him via playing time. “Just gotta go out there, play, and that’s all I can do.”

Wherever that playing time comes. But probably — for some reason — not at the center spot on their third line.

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson
Patrice Bergeron should pick things up soon. Ron Chenoy/USA Today Sports)

Patrice Bergeron should pick things up soon. Ron Chenoy/USA Today Sports)

Patrice Bergeron has had an unusually slow start to the 2016-17 campaign, notching just 2-2—4 totals in 14 games. Both assists came in the game at Tampa on Nov. 3, while he scored in his first game on Oct. 20 vs. the Devils then again on Nov. 5 against the Rangers.

Throw in scoreless streaks of five and (currently) six games and it’s clear that Bergeron is scuffling a bit when it comes to contributing offensively.

Still, it’s nothing to really be alarmed about.

Bergeron and his linemates Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak have held onto the puck more than any other trio in the league. Bergeron has been getting over four shots per game during his current scoreless slump. Opportunities haven’t been the issue as much as puck luck — Bergeron’s shooting percentage of 3.8 percent is well below his career average of 10.1.

It’s not like the perennial Selke candidate just lost it a year after reaching his career high of 32 goals. The heart-and-soul of the B’s just needs to keep doing what he’s doing and the points will return because the chances are there. But the sooner that is the better it will be for the Bruins.

Injuries are part of life in the NHL but the last week was unusually rough even by NHL standards. The league lost Steven Stamkos, Taylor Hall, and Johnny Gaudreau in the blink of an eye. You hate to see guys end up on the shelf, especially talent of this magnitude. But the losses are just a reminder that hockey doesn’t discriminate when it comes to injuries. Still, the league will go on as it always does.

After a torrid start to the year, the Oilers have wafted back down to Earth. The Connor McDavid-led squad has lost five straight and will drop from the top eight teams in the West if they don’t stop the bleeding soon. Both conferences are so ridiculously tight right now that a team can go from the top of the standings to on the outside looking in very quickly as the Oilers have shown. We’ll get a good look at just how the young captain McDavid handles the adversity in fixing his team.

Winnipeg’s Mark Scheifele and Tampa Bay’s Nikita Kucherov are currently tied for the NHL lead with 22 points apiece, just like everybody predicted back in October.

Old friend Tyler Seguin’s 7-14—21 is good for third place and he will surely be in the run for the Art Ross Trophy once again. Jimmy Hayes and Joe Morrow, what the Bruins have left to show for the trade, have zero points in 19 combined games.

After two straight 100-point seasons, the Islanders have really struggled out of the gate. They’ve won just five of 17 games and their 14 points has them tied with the cellar-dwelling Buffalo Sabres. New ownership isn’t happy with the underachievement and coach Jack Capuano is feeling the heat. The eight seed currently has 20 points so the Isles can get right back in it by running off a few wins in a row. But if they don’t turn it around soon, the season can slip away from them real quick.

Blog Author: 
Rear Admiral

The Bruins aren't just a good possession team right now; they're one of the best in the NHL.</p>
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WEEI’s Josh Dolan sat down with Bruins forward Austin Czarnik after Sunday’s practice to talk about Saturday’s win over Winnipeg, his rookie season, Thanksgiving and more. Watch it here:

Blog Author: 
WEEI
The Bruins held the Jets to just 12 shots on goal in Saturday's win. (Gregory J. Fisher/USA Today Sports)

The Bruins held the Jets to just 12 shots on goal in Saturday’s win. (Gregory J. Fisher/USA Today Sports)

A four-goal outburst from a Bruins team still without top-liner David Pastrnak was the story of the night in the club’s third straight home win, a 4-1 victory over the Jets at TD Garden on Saturday.

And perhaps rightfully so given the way the Bruins struggled to put pucks in the net during their three-game road trip (they had just four goals on 100 shots in three games, and one of those four goals was an empty-netter) in spite of some impressive puck possession.

It was a just reward for a B’s attack that’s put in its share of work.

But it was the defense — though subtle and understated, much like it’s been throughout the season — that remained as dominant as ever.

In what was the club’s most punishing defensive effort of the season, the Bruins held a high-powered Jets attack to just 12 shots on goal.

Yes, that same Winnipeg club that came to Boston with 56 goals, the sixth-most in the NHL through 19 games, and not the New York Jets of the National Football League, as one would expect when reading such a stat, had just 12 shots on net. It was the fewest shots by a Bruins opponent since Nov. 24, 2001 (a game that the Bruins somehow actually lost to the Maple Leafs by a 2-0 final) and the fewest shots taken by a visiting team in Boston since the Minnesota North Stars took just 10 on Jan. 12, 1981.

And finally, even without that longed-for defensive upgrade in town via trade or free agency, the Black and Gold have started to reap the rewards of the defensive tweaks made to their system with the help of new assistant coach Butch Cassidy.

“Defensively I think we’re taking a lot of pride in defending well,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said after the win, the club’s seventh in their last 10 games. “It seems to be a pretty good buy-in right now and that’s allowing us to win hockey games.

“Everything we’ve talked about, and even closing plays a little quicker in the neutral zone we turned a lot of pucks over and we played a little bit more patient at one point over here and we did a good job at defending,” Julien continued, “but now we’ve become a little bit more aggressive and I think the good skaters that can close quicker and those kind of tweaks has really paid off on our game, the pace of our game as I mentioned at the beginning of the year, it’s not about having a bunch of good guys that skate at 100 miles an hour, it’s about having guys that can play at a quicker pace and our guys have done just that fairly well.”

But the Bruins’ complete shutdown of the opposition really took hold in the second period, a period that saw the Jets put just three shots on net (all on the power play), and finish the period without a shot in their final 13:48 of the frame.

One of the matchup victories that proved key for the Bruins was the success of the Zdeno Chara and Brandon Carlo pairing against the Jets’ top line and one-two punch of center Mark Scheifele (leading the league with 22 points) and winger Patrik Laine (leading the league with 12 goals), who were held in check with just one assist and three shots on goal in the B’s win.

“I live for the competitiveness of the game and coming into the game I knew that those guys have been putting the puck in the back of the net pretty well,” Carlo said of his challenge against Winnipeg’s best. “I kind of focused on that and tried to get in their shot lanes as much as possible and I felt like we really shut [Patrik] Laine down on the power play when he was on that post there, and that’s where he scores most of his goals, so I feel like we did a good job getting in that lane.”

It was on the power play that the Bruins put their best defensive efforts forth, too, with four successful kills on as many times shorthanded, including a Chara penalty against shortly after Beleskey’s go-ahead goal in the second period.

“They got a pretty good you know power play as far as creating shots and moving the puck around. They got some dangerous guys from [Blake] Wheeler to Laine, to [Dustin] Byfuglien and those guys, Scheifele, and when you look at their first power play [unit], it can be pretty scary,” Julien said of the kills the Bruins came up with in the win, noting the club’s ability to stop the Jets even with Chara in the box. “So it was important for us to get a good kill but also to stay out of the box as much as we could. I know the one kill we had some guys stuck on the ice almost the whole penalty time, but we managed to dodge a bullet there and kill it.”

And on a night that saw every Bruin with the exception of David Krejci and Tim Schaller finish with a Corsi-For% over 50% at five-on-five, Julien did not want to single one defensive contribution out over the other.

“I wouldn’t put it all on one player,” Julien admitted with a grin. “I think our team did a good job.”

Something the Bruins are finally able to say in earnest.

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson

A scary moment took place in Tucson, Arizona, Saturday night, as former Bruin and current Tucson Roadrunner Craig Cunningham reportedly collapsed on the ice before his team’s American Hockey League game against the Manitoba Moose.

Craig Cunningham

Craig Cunningham

A scary moment took place in Tucson, Arizona, Saturday night, as former Bruin and current Tucson Roadrunner Craig Cunningham reportedly collapsed on the ice before his team’s American Hockey League game against the Manitoba Moose.

According to the Arizona Daily Star, Cunningham appeared to convulse after hitting the ice and medics performed chest compressions before he was taken away in an ambulance. The game was postponed and no updates on his condition have been given as of 10:50 p.m.

Cunningham played 34 games for the Bruins over two seasons from 2013-2015 and spent parts of four seasons with AHL Providence.

Some of his former teammates took to Twitter to offer their well-wishes.

Blog Author: 
WEEI

After a three-game road trip in which the Bruins scored just four goals on a combined 100 shots with stops in Arizona, Colorado, and Minnesota, it turns out that a return back to the TD Garden ice was all the Bruins needed for a quick fix to their recent scoring woes.

Matt Beleskey scored his second goal of the season in a 4-0 win for the Bruins on Saturday. (Gregory J. Fisher/USA Today Sports)

Matt Beleskey scored his second goal of the season in a 4-0 win for the Bruins on Saturday. (Gregory J. Fisher/USA Today Sports)

After a three-game road trip in which the Bruins scored just four goals on a combined 100 shots with stops in Arizona, Colorado, and Minnesota, it turns out that a return back to the TD Garden ice was all the Bruins needed for a quick fix to their recent scoring woes.

Back in Boston for the start of a two-game homestand and start of an eight-day stretch with four of five games played in their home barn, the Bruins made up for their lost goals with four against the Jets’ Michael Hutchinson, and did it in their first 27 shots of the night.

With David Pastrnak out for the second straight contest, the Bruins responded to the loss of their leading goal scorer with a feverish pace that eluded the team on Thursday night, and jumped out to a 1-0 lead behind Matt Beleskey’s second goal of the season, banged home on a one-time blast 2:01 into the second period.

Less than 10 minutes later, it was Brad Marchand, who has been snakebit in recent days, that decided to join the party, with a goal that just straight-up undressed Hutchinson and put the Bruins up by two midway through the period. And it was Marchand’s linemate, the equally snakebitten Patrice Bergeron, that wrapped up a dominant third period with his first point in six games, to put the Bruins up 3-0 through 40 minutes of play.

A lead that was extended to four early in the third period with Tim Schaller’s third goal of the season.

But while the goals were impressive, it was the Bruins’ relentless defensive effort that once again stole the show in the club’s third straight win on home ice, as the Black and Gold held the Jets without a shot on goal for the final 13:48 of the second period, and just two even-strength shots through the opening 40 minutes of play.

The Jets ultimately broke through with an Adam Lowry goal scored with 2:40 left to go in the third period, but it didn’t matter, as the Bruins stifled the Jets to just 12 shots on goal in 60 minutes of play, their lowest of the season.

Here are four other things we learned in the victory

Julien tinkers with lines in third period

Holding a four-goal edge, the Bruins decided to tinker with their lines a bit in the third period of their victory. The big change: Ryan Spooner, a fixture on the left wing of a second line with David Krejci and David Backes, was bumped down to the fourth line where he skated as the center between Sean Kuraly and Jimmy Hayes. That moved Beleskey into Spooner’s old spot on the second line, while Schaller moved to the third line with Austin Czarnik and Dominic Moore. Overall, I’ve liked the idea of putting Beleskey with Krejci and Backes, as it gives the Black and Gold something somewhat close to the Lucic-Krejci-Horton/Iginla combo that they had during Krejci’s strongest seasons. But if you’re going to move Spooner around, you might as well put him in a third-line center role, a spot where he’s without question been at his best during his three years with the Bruins.

Defense holds Jets’ Laine in check

Saturday night at the Garden came with the Boston’s first look at the No. 2 overall pick from last summer, Patrick Laine. But you honestly would not have known it with the way the Black and Gold shut Laine down throughout the night. Frequently matched up against the Bruins’ Brandon Carlo, Laine’s attempts to drive to the net were consistently shut down by the 6-foot-5 Carlo, and his power-play chances were borderline nonexistent. The Finnish standout will finish his rookie season with zero goals and one assist on four shots on goal in two games against the Bruins.

Bruins remain limited on power play options

The Bruins came into tonight’s game without the focal point of their second power-play unit, David Pastrnak, and it didn’t take long for his loss to get exposed in the special teams game. With David Backes — the net-front presence on the club’s first unit — in the box on a roughing, Matt Beleskey moved up to the first unit from the second unit, and with two forwards already dropped back on the point on each unit (David Krejci on the first and Austin Czarnik on the second), the Bruins needed to find somebody, anybody to fill the void on their second unit. Insert fourth-line center Tim Schaller. An unusual pick, sure, the Bruins had Schaller serve as a net-front screener while Jimmy Hayes moved into more of a shooting-esque role on that secondary unit. There were a lot of mitigating factors that pressed Schaller into some power-play time, no doubt, but it’s slightly alarming how quickly this team can run out of go-to scorers on the man advantage, isn’t it? Frank Vatrano, by the way, should be back next month.

Return to Garden ice comes with extra bite in B’s game

For the first time since Nov. 2015, the Bruins have wins in three consecutive games at home. And they’ve come with a bit of a budding identity for the B’s, too. With each shift, the Bruins punished the Jets with physical, grind it out battles along the walls and in the corners, and really took the Jets out of this game with statement shift after statement shift. If that continues, the Bruins can get a hit-loving Garden crowd on their side, and return this building to its status as one of the tougher rinks in the NHL.

The Bruins are back at it on Tuesday night against the St. Louis Blues.

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson
David Backes and the Bruins will begin a two-game homestand tonight against the Jets. (Bruce Fedyck/USA TODAY Sports)

David Backes and the Bruins will begin a two-game homestand tonight against the Jets. (Bruce Fedyck/USA TODAY Sports)

When the Bruins struggled with back-to-back-to-back losses early in the year, head coach Claude Julien harped on his team’s inability to respect the system. It was a three-zone problem for the Black and Gold, too; If the defense wasn’t up to task, the offense suffered with a desperate, pressing approach. When the offense struggled, the defense and goaltending was left with absolutely no room for error.

The latter reared its head in the club’s last game, too, with a game-winning goal banked off Adam McQuaid’s shinpad and into the back of the B’s net with just 44.5 seconds left to go in a scoreless draw with the Wild. It was a just end to a 120-minute stretch of road hockey that saw the Bruins score just four goals on 100 shots, but somehow escape with four of a possible six points in their pockets.

But back home for after a week-plus away on the road — a theme of the season if there’s ever been one — the Bruins know it’s time for the rest of their offense to step up in defense of their defense in a tone-setting head-to-head with a quick-moving Jets attack.

“We need to continue to create our own luck and occupy the offensive zone and tilt the chances in our direction,” B’s forward David Backes, who scored a goal before a successful Wild challenge determined that Ryan Spooner was offside and thus nullified his would-be tally, said following the club’s morning skate at Warrior Ice Arena. “I think overall we like the way we’re going, but we’re always looking for ways to improve and we had an honest meeting today and review of the game in Minnesota and I think we’ve found a few areas where we can get better and if we do that we’ll continue to roll here, especially at home.

“We need to make [TD Garden] a miserable place to come into for opposing teams.”

 

At home for just the seventh time this season, the Bruins know that they need to impose their will on home ice with the same intensity they have on the road thus far, as nobody has been better on the road than the B’s this year, with seven road victories. And they’ll need contributions from guys like Backes, who is lined up as the club’s most tenured right wing on a thin right side that will continue to skate without the club’s leading goal scorer, David Pastrnak, for the second straight contest.

Out with an upper-body injury, this will be Pastrnak’s fourth game missed in 2016-17 due to either injury or suspension, and the Bruins have scored just two goals in total without No. 88 in action, and had zero on 25 shots in Thursday’s loss.

“Pastrnak is definitely one of our guys who’s been one of our most lethal weapons so far, but at the same time, there’s other guys on other lines as well [that can score],” Julien admitted this morning. “I’d hate to think that because we’re missing one player we can’t score anymore, so I think it’s up to the other guys here to step up and hopefully find the back of the net.”

Tuukka Rask will get the start in net for the fifth straight contest.

The 29-year-old Rask started all three games on the club’s road trip, with stops on all but two of the 82 shots thrown his way, including a 28-of-29 mark on Thursday. Rask has already beaten the Jets once this season with a 34-of-35 night, and comes into this game with 11 wins and a .931 save percentage in 17 career games against the Jets.

The Jets are expected to counter with former Bruins prospect Michael Hutchinson. The 6-foot-3 Hutchinson took an overtime loss in his last outing behind a 25-of-28 night, and though he has just two wins in eight games this year, Hutchinson enters play with two wins and a .954 save percentage in four career games against the team that drafted him 77th overall in 2008.

Colin Miller is the expected healthy scratch for the Bruins, while Kevan Miller remains on the shelf with a fractured hand.

This will be the season series finale between the B’s and Jets, and a win would give the Black and Gold their first season sweep over the Jets since the 2009-10 season, when the Jets were the Atlanta Thrashers.

Here are the expected lines and pairings for the Bruins

Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – Riley Nash

Ryan Spooner – David Krejci – David Backes

Matt Beleskey – Dominic Moore – Austin Czarnik

Sean Kuraly – Tim Schaller – Jimmy Hayes

Zdeno Chara – Brandon Carlo

Torey Krug – Adam McQuaid

Joe Morrow – John-Michael Liles

Rask

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson