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
Torey Krug and Adam McQuaid were among three Bruins defensemen that missed Tuesday's practice. (Timothy T. Ludwig/USA Today Sports)

Torey Krug and Adam McQuaid were among three Bruins defensemen that missed Tuesday’s practice. (Timothy T. Ludwig/USA Today Sports)

The Bruins got two of their six injured skaters back in Monday night’s Game 3 against the Senators with the return (and immediate impact) of fourth-liner Noel Acciari and top-six center David Krejci.

Defenseman Colin Miller, who participated in the morning skate and pregame warmup after having missed the second half of Game 1 and all of Game 2 because of a lower-body injury, almost made it three, but was ultimately ruled out in favor of Tommy Cross at puck drop.

But their returns were not enough for the B’s to regain the series lead against the Sens, as they fell by a 4-3 overtime final at TD Garden.

So, with the club in danger of falling behind 3-1 with a loss on Wednesday, how about adding some more healing bodies to the mix? Preferably one of Brandon Carlo (upper-body) and Torey Krug (lower-body), who have yet to play in this series, or Adam McQuaid, who missed Monday’s Game 3 after leaving in the first period of Game 2.

“He’s doing OK, he’s day-to-day, doubtful for tomorrow,” Bruins interim head coach Bruce Cassidy said of Carlo, who did skate on his own prior to the start of B’s practice. “Colin Miller is better. We’ll have an update in the morning, but he’s ahead of Carlo and Krug for sure.”

With the pairings at practice the same as they were last night — Zdeno Chara and Charlie McAvoy were the top pair, Joe Morrow and Kevan Miller made up the middle pairing, and John-Michael Liles and Cross were the third pairing — Miller skated on a fourth pairing with Matt Grzelcyk, which could stick out as a sign that he is still a little bit away from a return. If Miller does indeed return for tomorrow’s Game 4, however, it’s expected that Cross would take a seat as a healthy scratch after making his season debut last night, with one assist and two blocked shots in 13:08 of ice time.

But the big loss for the Bruins in this series has been Krug.

After a career-high 51 points in 81 games during the regular season, and the quarterback of a Boston power play that simply thrived under Cassidy, Krug’s absence has become glaring by way of the club’s 2-for-10 mark against an Ottawa penalty kill that they just straight-up torched in the regular season, where they went 5-for-8 against Craig Anderson. The moment Krug becomes available is the moment that series could truly shift back towards the Black and Gold’s favor, you’d think.

But it’s one step at a time, and Krug is not there just yet.

“Krug, we’ll list him as day-to-day, but he wasn’t on the ice,” said Cassidy.

The good news, though, is that Krug, who did not travel to Ottawa last week, was seen at TD Garden last night without crutches he reportedly left the arena on when the injury happened two weeks ago, and was once again at Warrior Ice Arena on Tuesday.

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson

A sellout TD Garden crowd felt robbed of a meaningful overtime when referee Tim Peel’s horrendous call against Riley Nash put Bobby Ryan and the Senators on the power play, where they scored the game-winning goal to take a 2-1 series lead.

So, naturally and in the true essence of the eye for an eye mentality of playoff hockey, one Bruins fan tried to return the favor with some larceny of his own as the Senators made their way back to the locker room to celebrate.

As bottles rained down on the ice in disgust of the game’s finish, this fan sitting to the right of the tunnel that leads the Sens back to the cramp visitors’ locker room tried to grab one of Ottawa’s sticks from off their stick rack. But he was thwarted by Sens captain Erik Karlsson, who caught him in the act and delivered a slash right to that fan’s hand.

Ouch.

In line with how this series has gone, Karlsson was not assessed a penalty for the slash.

And strangely enough, this is actually not the first time that this has happened in a playoff game in Boston.

It was back in 2009 that a fan stole then-Canadien sniper Alex Kovalev’s stick right from out of his hands.

(If you’re looking for the original thief, watch the glass-banger in the white shirt as the scrum ensues following the goal.)

“Passionate hockey fans in Boston,” Senators forward Mark Stone said. “It’s just the nature of the game.”

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson

Bruins forward Riley Nash would have had every right to step into his media availability and simply rip the piss-poor officiating that put him in the box for Bobby Ryan’s game-winning overtime goal on Monday.

Riley Nash took the blame for the penalty that led to Ottawa's game-winning goal. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

Bruins forward Riley Nash took the blame for the penalty that led to Ottawa’s game-winning goal in Game 3. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

Bruins forward Riley Nash would have had every right to step into his media availability and simply rip the piss-poor officiating that put him in the box for Bobby Ryan’s game-winning overtime goal on Monday.

Instead, the 27-year-old Nash took the fall for the B’s Game 3 loss.

“I think it was pretty selfish of me,” a visibly emotional Nash said following Monday’s game. “You can’t make that play, can’t put the refs in that position regardless of what happened before that, you’ve just got to do it, and it’s pretty tough for the boys.”

Knocked down to the ice and then blatantly elbowed in the head by Ryan, Nash got to his knees and responded with a quick jab to Ryan’s face, complete with a hard sell from the theatrical Ottawa winger.

“I felt like I was down on my knee, and he came and hit me, or elbow or fist, whatever it was. I tried to just push him or punch him off me and caught his face,” Nash continued. “He kind of embellished it, but I don’t know. Still, it just can’t happen.

“You’ve got to take that. It’s playoffs, you’ve got to take it.”

The penalty was universally slammed for being a garbage call (not that you expect anything less from Tim Peel, who is among the worst of the worst at his job), especially for an overtime frame that came with almost everything else let go, and Bruins interim head coach Bruce Cassidy called the penalty a “terrible call” on NESN’s postgame show.

“I think [Peel] looked over and just saw my reaction,” said Nash. “At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter. They see what they see, and there’s only two of them out there, and there’s 10 guys, so you just can’t really put them in that position to make that call.”

The Bruins, who finished the year with the league’s best penalty kill, have the second-worst penalty kill in the playoffs through the first three games of action, with three power-play goals against on 10 times shorthanded.

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson
Bruins winger Brad Marchand had just one shot in Game 3's loss. (Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports)

Bruins winger Brad Marchand had just one shot in Game 3’s loss. (Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports)

Bruins winger Brad Marchand’s emergence in the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs took just about everybody by surprise. But that was six years and 171 goals ago, and now, Marchand is a marked man.

Teams target him in more ways than one, too.

Not only do they try to keep the 5-foot-9 winger off the scoresheet, but they also attempt to get under his skin, and goad him into the bad penalties he’s wont to take at times. The Senators accomplished both in Monday’s Game 3, as they held No. 63 to just one shot on goal, and frustrated him into a needless penalty

The agitator became the agitated, and that’s something that’s just not going to work for the now-trailing Black and Gold.

“Well, clearly, he took a penalty tonight, probably out of frustration, but listen, Brad Marchand was what, the fifth leading scorer in the National Hockey League this year? He’s going to get keyed on. So part of the process for him becoming an elite player is to play through that, take advantage of the opportunities, and certainly we can get him away from certain matchups,” Bruins interim head coach Bruce Cassidy said following his team’s Game 3 overtime loss. “But at the end of the day, they’re going to get the D pair out against him for the most part, unless there’s an O-zone face-off after an icing, and we try to get that matchup.

“But obviously, he’s got to play through it.”

On the ice for the game-winning goal against, Marchand’s night ended with a team-high three missed shots, and with two giveaways to his name in 21:22 of time on ice. The 28-year-old was also held without a point for the second straight game.

“We’ll talk to him tomorrow about it, but at the end of the day, that’s what happens when you’re an elite player,” Cassidy said. “You’re going to get marked, and you’ve got to find your way through the checking part of the game, because they’ve got a number of guys, they’re a good defensive team. It’s not like one guy is all over him, it’s just, he’s one of the guys you circle on the board.”

 

“Big thing is just try and push through it,” Marchand said. “I would say I have to be better; I haven’t been at my best so far, but guys have done a really good job of stepping up. Every night we have four lines going and that’s what we need.”

What the Bruins need more than that, you’d argue, is Marchand to return to form with the big goals he’s known for, like the one he scored with under three minutes to play in the B’s Game 1 victory over the Senators last Wednesday.

“[Brad Marchand] can create a little more out there,” Cassidy said. “And he will.”

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson

The Bruins are 8-22 all-time when trailing 2-1 in a series. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)A series cannot be won or lost in Game 3, and that’s still true in this round one war between the Bruins and Senators.



Bobby Ryan scored the game-winning goal after getting away with an obvious elbow. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)

Bobby Ryan scored the game-winning goal after getting away with an obvious elbow. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)

No one play or call ever singlehandedly decides a game. We know that. In the case of the Bruins’ Game 3 loss to the Senators Monday night, you could point to the Bruins’ brutal first period, which saw them register just three shots on goal and fall behind 2-0. You could also point to injuries that continue to deplete their lineup, especially on defense, or a struggling penalty kill that surrendered two power-play goals.

But let’s not pretend that penalty call against Riley Nash in overtime, which sent the Senators to a power play on which they’d win the game, was anything other than horrendous.

Yes, Nash threw a quick job to Bobby Ryan’s face in retaliation. But somehow the officials missed Ryan’s blatant elbow to Nash’s head a split second before that. At worst, it should’ve been matching penalties, something the refs had already called twice earlier in the game. In fact, one of those previous matchings also included a punch — Marc Methot threw a jab at Tim Schaller during a confrontation, but both players were still sent to the box.

Refs sometimes call only the retaliation in an effort to send the message that they’re not going to put up with it and players aren’t going to get bailed out by matching calls. But on Monday, Tim Peel and Eric Furlatt had already set the tone and made it clear they were perfectly fine making matching calls. Overtime was certainly not the time to go in a different direction.

So, the only other possibility is that they really did somehow miss Ryan’s elbow, which would be pretty astounding considering that’s where the puck was.

Generally no one other than fans really wants to blame the refs. Coaches and players can get fined for doing it, so they generally take the high road. Unsurprisingly, Nash did just that after the game, putting the blame on himself instead of the officials.

“I think it was pretty selfish of me,” Nash said. “You can’t make that play, can’t put the refs in that position regardless of what happened before that. … It’s pretty tough for the boys.”

Cassidy showed his true feelings a little more, agreeing with reporters’ assessments of the call in his press conference and calling it a “terrible call” in his postgame interview with NESN.

“Demoralizing and disappointing. I think you guys summed it up,” Cassidy said in his press conference. “There’s probably a lot more words, but they called it. So once they call it, it’s our job to kill it.”

Media members also tend to avoid being too critical of officiating because they sometimes worry about looking like whiny homers. But there’s really no getting around this one — it was an awful call and it directly contributed to the game-winning goal, which was of course scored by Ryan, that put the Bruins in a 2-1 hole in the series.

Blog Author: 
Scott McLaughlin