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
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