David Pastrnak.

David Pastrnak

In a matchup of the league’s top goal scorer against the league’s third-best goal scorer at TD Garden tonight between the Bruins and Jets, the latter will have to watch from above, as Bruins winger David Pastrnak will miss his second straight contest for the club with what’s been termed an upper-body injury.

“Still day-to-day,” Bruins coach Claude Julien confirmed of Pastrnak, who ranks 13th among NHL right wingers with 48 shots on goal this season, after the club’s morning skate at Warrior Ice Arena.

“[For] tonight he’s ruled out.”

This will be the B’s fourth game on the year without Pastrnak in the lineup — be it through injury or suspension — and though the Bruins have survived their brief glimpses of life without Pastrnak by way of a 2-1-0 record, there’s no doubt that the Black and Gold have struggled to generate offense without No. 88. In those three games, the Bruins have scored just two goals, both of which came in one game, too, a 2-1 squeak-it-out win against the Panthers on Nov. 1, and failed to score on 25 shots on Wild goaltender Devan Dubnyk last game.

Pastrnak’s absence has also magnified the struggles of his linemates, Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand, two players that have combined for just one goal and three points (all from Marchand) over the last six games.

“It’s important not to get frustrated,” Julien said of the drought surrounding his one-two punch that’s totaled 123 goals since the start of the 2014-15 season. “You look at some of the scoring chances [against Minnesota] and I think Bergeron had maybe four of them. They’re there, and I think that’s the encouraging part, it’s just a matter of time before those two guys score again.”

The Bergeron line, with bottom-sixer Riley Nash expected to once again fill in Pastrnak’s spot on the wing, will be leaned on to stop and counterattack a quick-moving Winnipeg offense led by the contributions of the league’s aforementioned top scorer, as Patrick Laine, the No. 2 overall pick last summer, enters tonight’s tilt with an NHL-best 12 goals scored.

The Bruins beat the Jets in their only prior head-to-head this season by a 4-1 final on Oct. 17.

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson
Bruins goalie Anton Khudobin will start for the Providence Bruins on Saturday. (Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports)

Bruins goalie Anton Khudobin will start for the Providence Bruins on Saturday. (Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports)

Absent from the last 12 games with an upper-body ailment, the road back to the B’s backup job begins with today for Anton Khudobin.

Present for the team’s three-game road trip last week and on the ice for practices all throughout, the 30-year-old has finally been officially cleared for game action and will start in goal for the Providence Bruins of the American Hockey League in their Saturday night contest against the Springfield Thunderbirds (the AHL affiliate of the Florida Panthers) at 7:05 p.m. at Springfield’s MassMutual Center, according to Bruins head coach Claude Julien.

Khudobin, who was seen skating in Boston last week but not yet with a stick in his hand, was injured in an Oct. 24 practice at Warrior Ice Arena, and has skated in two games for the B’s this season, with no wins and an .849 save percentage with 45 stops on 53 shots against.

With Khudobin in Providence on a rehab assignment, Zane McIntyre will remain Tuukka Rask’s backup for the fifth straight game tonight as the Bruins host the Jets at TD Garden.

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson
The Bruins are an NHL-best 7-4-0 on the road this season. (Matt Kartozian/USA TODAY Sports)

The Bruins are an NHL-best 7-4-0 on the road this season. (Matt Kartozian/USA TODAY Sports)

The Bruins canceled their Friday practice at Warrior Ice Arena.

That’s probably not the go-to act of a team that collapsed their way out of at least one point for the second time in nine days — this time with a Mikael Granlund goal banked off Adam McQuaid’s shinpad and into the B’s net with 44.5 seconds to go in a 0-0 game in a 1-0 loss to the Wild at Xcel Energy Center — but the Black and Gold have earned it.

On a three-game road swing with stops in Arizona and Colorado last weekend, and Minnesota on Thursday, the Bruins nabbed four of a possible six points, and improved to 10-7-0 on the year.

The trip also allowed the B’s to keep pace with an insanely tight Eastern Conference that could require a 100-point season from all of its playoff teams, and saw their NHL-best road record pop up to 7-4-0 (only the San Jose Sharks have played as many road games as the Bruins’ league-leading 11 games away from home thus far).

So while the ending to the road trip can’t nullify all the positives the Bruins have accomplished this season, it should serve as a reminder to a group that’s anything close to settled into a groove as one of the league’s top teams.

Not yet, anyways.

Of the club’s four road losses this season, three have come against teams currently within the league’s playoff structure. The first was an Anton Khudobin-started loss in Auston Matthews’ first home game as a Maple Leaf, the second was a loss to the Rangers at Madison Square Garden with Zane McIntyre in net for his first career start opposite Henrik Lundqvist, a last-minute loss in Montreal with McIntyre in net against Carey Price came as the third, and a shutout at the hands of Devan Dubnyk, who now leads the league with four shutouts, was the fourth, last night. And as you can see, there are convenient excuses within all of the losses.

In two head-to-heads with some of the league’s top goaltenders, the Bruins’ top goaltender was either injured or on the bench. And in the third, he was given a donut to work with in terms of goal support. (Gotta score one to win one.)

But the Bruins haven’t exactly lit the world on fire with their offensive game in those contests, either, with a combined five goals in those four losses. In total, the Bruins have scored four goals on 122 shots (3.3 shooting percentage), and a nightmarish three goals on 106 even-strength shots (2.8 shooting percentage), including an 0-for-23 mark in even-strength shots last night.

That figure is in line with some of the B’s struggles this season, as they currently sit with the league’s eighth-worst shooting percentage at five-on-five (6.5%), but have been saved by the league’s ninth-best five-on-five save percentage (.930%). This is all in spite of a team that’s averaged the third-most shots on goal per contest this season, with 32.2 per night.

In essence, the Bruins do not have enough capable scorers in their lineup to routinely hang with some of the league’s best.

It’s a problem that was magnified and/or exposed with the loss of top-liner David Pastrnak (out of last night’s game with an undisclosed injury), who has taken the 18th-most five-on-five shots in the league to date (even with a total of three games missed now due to either injury or suspension) and is currently rocking a 11.7% shooting percentage at five-on-five play.

The easy fix-all would be increased opportunities — or in this case, goals — from Pastrnak’s linemates, Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron. The Bruins’ top combo have combined for just seven goals on 93 shots in total (7.52 shooting percentage) this season, compared to the 116 goals on 946 shots (12.3 shooting percentage) the duo had from 2014 to 2016.

With four total goals on 100 shots during this three-game road trip, the truth is that the Bruins were lucky to escape with four-of-six points in their pockets, but nights in which the Bruins rely solely on the play of Tuukka Rask like Thursday are going to become both increasingly common and maddening if the Bruins continue to shoot blanks at even-strength.

And already evident in a combined 1:48 between last-minute losses to the Habs and Wild, it could be the reason the Bruins yet again miss the postseason by mere points. But that’s not something the Bruins can fret about.

Again, not yet, anyways.

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson
The Bruins are an NHL-best 7-4-0 on the road this season. (Matt Kartozian/USA TODAY Sports)

The Bruins are an NHL-best 7-4-0 on the road this season. (Matt Kartozian/USA TODAY Sports)

The Bruins canceled their Friday practice at Warrior Ice Arena.

That’s probably not the go-to act of a team that collapsed their way out of at least one point for the second time in nine days — this time with a Mikael Granlund goal banked off Adam McQuaid’s shinpad and into the B’s net with 44.5 seconds to go in a 0-0 game in a 1-0 loss to the Wild at Xcel Energy Center — but the Black and Gold have earned it.

On a three-game road swing with stops in Arizona and Colorado last weekend, and Minnesota on Thursday, the Bruins nabbed four of a possible six points, and improved to 10-7-0 on the year.

The trip also allowed the B’s to keep pace with an insanely tight Eastern Conference that could require a 100-point season from all of its playoff teams, and saw their NHL-best road record pop up to 7-4-0 (only the San Jose Sharks have played as many road games as the Bruins’ league-leading 11 games away from home thus far).

So while the ending to the road trip can’t nullify all the positives the Bruins have accomplished this season, it should serve as a reminder to a group that’s anything close to settled into a groove as one of the league’s top teams.

Not yet, anyways.

Of the club’s four road losses this season, three have come against teams currently within the league’s playoff structure. The first was an Anton Khudobin-started loss in Auston Matthews’ first home game as a Maple Leaf, the second was a loss to the Rangers at Madison Square Garden with Zane McIntyre in net for his first career start opposite Henrik Lundqvist, a last-minute loss in Montreal with McIntyre in net against Carey Price came as the third, and a shutout at the hands of Devan Dubnyk, who now leads the league with four shutouts, was the fourth, last night. And as you can see, there are convenient excuses within all of the losses.

In two head-to-heads with some of the league’s top goaltenders, the Bruins’ top goaltender was either injured or on the bench. And in the third, he was given a donut to work with in terms of goal support. (Gotta score one to win one.)

But the Bruins haven’t exactly lit the world on fire with their offensive game in those contests, either, with a combined five goals in those four losses. In total, the Bruins have scored four goals on 122 shots (3.3 shooting percentage), and a nightmarish three goals on 106 even-strength shots (2.8 shooting percentage), including an 0-for-23 mark in even-strength shots last night.

That figure is in line with some of the B’s struggles this season, as they currently sit with the league’s eighth-worst shooting percentage at five-on-five (6.5%), but have been saved by the league’s ninth-best five-on-five save percentage (.930%). This is all in spite of a team that’s averaged the third-most shots on goal per contest this season, with 32.2 per night.

In essence, the Bruins do not have enough capable scorers in their lineup to routinely hang with some of the league’s best.

It’s a problem that was magnified and/or exposed with the loss of top-liner David Pastrnak (out of last night’s game with an undisclosed injury), who has taken the 18th-most five-on-five shots in the league to date (even with a total of three games missed now due to either injury or suspension) and is currently rocking a 11.7% shooting percentage at five-on-five play.

The easy fix-all would be increased opportunities — or in this case, goals — from Pastrnak’s linemates, Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron. The Bruins’ top combo have combined for just seven goals on 93 shots in total (7.52 shooting percentage) this season, compared to the 116 goals on 946 shots (12.3 shooting percentage) the duo had from 2014 to 2016.

With four total goals on 100 shots during this three-game road trip, the truth is that the Bruins were lucky to escape with four-of-six points in their pockets, but nights in which the Bruins rely solely on the play of Tuukka Rask like Thursday are going to become both increasingly common and maddening if the Bruins continue to shoot blanks at even-strength.

And already evident in a combined 1:48 between last-minute losses to the Habs and Wild, it could be the reason the Bruins yet again miss the postseason by mere points. But that’s not something the Bruins can fret about.

Again, not yet, anyways.

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson

A meeting between the goaltenders with the league’s best and second-best mark in both save percentage and goals against average came with the performances — and lack of goals — you would expect in Thursday’s meeting between the Bruins and Wild at Xcel Energy Center.<

Tuukka Rask (Brad Rempel/USA TODAY Sports)

Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask stopped 28-of-29 shots, but took a loss as the B’s fell to the Wild, 1-0, on Thursday night. (Brad Rempel/USA TODAY Sports)

A meeting between the goaltenders with the league’s best and second-best mark in both save percentage and goals against average came with the performances — and lack of goals — you would expect in Thursday’s meeting between the Bruins and Wild at Xcel Energy Center.

At one end, though particularly unchallenged on the night, the Wild’s Devan Dubnyk continued to be his normal dynamite self, with zeros on the board through 40 minutes of play. At the other end, Tuukka Rask, in the best season-opening groove of his professional career, was just as strong with a slightly larger workload thrown his way.

Pestered by a Wild group that dominated the puck for much of the night, the Bruins leaned heavily on Rask (as they have all trip and all season for that matter), and Rask stood tall, with his biggest stops coming with two momentum-stopping saves on Minnesota winger Jason Pominville in the second period.

With Rask doing his job in the B’s crease, the Bruins appeared to finally get their goaltender a lead to work with on a net-front putaway from Minnesota native David Backes with 5:24 left in the second period, but a challenge and subsequent review determined that it was Ryan Spooner that was offside on the zone entry half a minute prior. (Krejci, Backes, and Spooner were actually offside on the play as the puck danced laterally across the blue line while they all skated over the blue.)

Worked over on a review for the umphteenth time since its introduction last season, the B’s best chance of the scoreless draw came with an early third period breakaway chance for Matt Beleskey off a Mathew Dumba turnover, but Beleskey’s bid was slammed shut by a diving poke and cover from the 6-foot-6 Dubnyk.

But in a night of heavy Wild pressure, it was their final push on Rask that finally broke the dam.

In the B’s end for over 40 seconds, the Wild struck for the game’s first goal with 44.5 seconds to go, as a puck banked off a groggy Adam McQuaid and into the B’s net for Mikael Granlund’s fourth goal of the season.

It was a goal that seemed completely avoidable, too, as the Bruins whiffed on chances to clear the puck out of their zone long before McQuaid’s legs were taken out and then used by the Wild as the tip-in for the game-winning tally.

The Bruins gave it one final push with a Torey Krug slapshot at the buzzer, but it was blocked, and Dubnyk rolled to his second shutout in as many head-to-heads with the Bruins this season, this one behind a 25-save performance.

Krejci takes blocked shot to knee, returns

Bruins fans everywhere held their breath for a moment when center David Krejci took a Christian Folin bomb off his knee and collapsed down to the ice. As Krejci struggled to get back to his feet, you thought about all of Krejci’s injury struggles over the last two years, and how important Krejci has been historically, and how No. 46 was just starting to look like himself out there on a second line with Ryan Spooner and David Backes. Your fears were reinforced by the sight of Krejci heading back to the B’s room after he slowly made his way to the bench, and you immediately started armchair coaching up some new lines. But as soon as you found the perfect winger for your sans Krejci second line, the crafty Czech pivot was back on the ice. Huge. Bullet. Dodged.

Although Krejci feels the wrath of B’s fans at times, he’s still without a doubt the club’s most offensively gifted playmaker, and eases the overall workload on guys like top-line center Patrice Bergeron, and even David Backes, to a lesser extent.

Morrow gets in game for second straight night

It’s official: the Bruins are holding tryouts on their blue line. With the return of Kevan Miller (fractured left hand) looming, B’s coach Claude Julien is clearly trying to figure out what he has from every one of the seven bodies on his point before the club has to actually make a move on one of them. So for the second game in a row, and for the first time since Oct. 20-22, defenseman Joe Morrow found himself in the lineup for consecutive nights while Colin Miller sat as a scratch once again.

When No. 86 returns to the ice, somebody is going to have to go and likely hit the waiver wire. And of that group, either Morrow or Colin Miller seem like the likeliest candidates (unless the Bruins ditch having a 13th forward, which seems unlikely), so giving them both an equal shot at earning their keep in the B’s lineup and on the roster for that matter, is only fair.

Usage of slumping Jimmy Hayes still seems odd

Down David Pastrnak (undisclosed), the Bruins had just one natural right winger (unless you want to count Backes, who has played both center and wing throughout his career depending on the situation/line/etc.) dressed for tonight’s game: Jimmy Hayes. And where did Hayes skate for this game? On the fourth line, of course. See, this is weird. While we go on and on about Hayes’ struggles in Boston (and we have), Pastrnak’s spot on the first line was seemingly wide open. So why not Hayes? Is it viewed as ‘wrong’ to potentially reward Hayes — who has not scored in 31 games dating back to last season — with such a spot? Maybe. But it’s also worth noting that that line is perhaps the best way to get a ‘passenger’ going and/or masked. When the Bruins acquired Hayes from the Panthers in 2015, it was with the hope that he could chip in 20 goals a season (something he nearly did with the Panthers during his final year in town), and while that seems incredibly unlikely at this point, why not give him an opportunity typically reserved for a 20-goal scorer? Bogging him down on the fourth line does little for anybody.

Late collapse brings back shades of last year

It was nine days ago in Montreal that the Bruins allowed a goal with just 1:03 to go in the third period to drop a 3-2 final to the Canadiens. Tonight, they allow the game-winning goal with just 44.5 seconds. In a combined 1:48 between two games, the Bruins have now left at least two points on the table. For a team that’s likely going to battle for one of the Eastern Conference wild card spots this season, that’s huge, and especially so when you realize that the Bruins have missed out on the postseason by just three points last season, and two the year before. So while you’ve liked the team’s ability to protect a lead on most nights (and something they did very well in the first two games of this road trip), breakdowns like the one that cost the Bruins at least one point tonight are absolute no-nos as the club settles into the grind of the season.

The Bruins are back in action on Saturday night at TD Garden against the Winnipeg Jets.

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson
. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

The Bruins and Wild wrap up their season series tonight in Minnesota. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

Nobody in the NHL has been better away from home than the Bruins.

The start to the team’s latest stint away from the Garden, a three-game road swing that began last Friday, was no exception, either. With a dominant puck-possession game, the Bruins rattled off impressive back-to-back performances against the Coyotes and Avalanche last weekend, and now go for the sweep with a Thursday night visit to the Xcel Energy Center for a head-to-head with the Wild.

But in their first game back from a four-day layoff (their second-longest gap between games this season), the Bruins will have to find a way to score goals against a Wild team that’s allowed a league-low 29 goals through 15 games without one of their best, as top-line winger David Pastrnak will miss tonight’s tilt with an undisclosed injury.

Pastrnak’s 10 goals are the second-most in the NHL this season, and though the Bruins are 2-0-0 with Pastrnak out of action this year (No. 88 missed two games to suspension late last month), the Bruins will have to continue to pour shots on goal in an attempt to mask his absence. Shots have not been the problem for the Bruins of late, especially after a season-high 46 shots hammered on the Avalanche net on Sunday, but there’s no doubt that the Bruins need to find more than just shots, as the team enters tonight’s game with just four goals (one of which was an empty-net goal in the closing seconds of Sunday’s win) on their last 85 shots on goal dating back to the third period of last Thursday’s win over the Blue Jackets.

“We’d like to have some more goals scored with the number of chances we have, but at the end of the days we’re winning hockey games,” B’s head coach Claude Julien, whose team has won three games in a row, said after an optional morning skate on Thursday. “So you build on that stuff and you hope that the goals will come. I think we’ve been through that before many times, and when you stick with it eventually goals start going in.”

The Bruins are expected to turn to Tuukka Rask in net for his fourth straight start. Rask has been lights out on this road trip, with two wins and 51 stops on 52 shots against, and enters play with seven wins and a .956 save percentage in seven road games this season. The 29-year-old has two wins and a .932 save percentage in five career games against the Wild.

Minnesota will counter with Devan Dubnyk. The towering Dubnyk stopped all 27 shots against in his last appearance against the Bruins, a 5-0 beatdown of the B’s back at TD Garden on Oct. 25, and stopped 26-of-27 in his last appearance, a loss to the Flames.

In addition to the injured Pastrnak, forwards Noel Acciari (lower-body), Frank Vatrano (foot), and defenseman Kevan Miller (hand) remain out of action for the Bruins. Defenseman Colin Miller is the expected healthy scratch.

This will be the season series finale between the B’s and Wild this season.

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

Jimmy Hayes – Tim Schaller – Sean Kuraly

Zdeno Chara – Brandon Carlo

Torey Krug – Adam McQuaid

Joe Morrow – John-Michael Liles

Rask

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson
Marc Savard

Marc Savard

These days, Marc Savard collects paychecks from the New Jersey Devils. Last year, it was the Florida Panthers, and before that, the Boston Bruins, the team Savard called his own since coming to the Black and Gold in the summer of 2006. But the now 39-year-old Savard’s skates have not touched NHL ice since he suffered a concussion in his last game, which came all the way back on Jan. 23, 2011.

And they won’t again.

Profiled in a tremendous Boston Globe story, Savard touched on the final months of his playing career, which began with a cheapshot at the hands of then-Penguin Matt Cooke (Savard noted that he’s still yet to hear from Cooke), had its up upon a return with an overtime goal against the Flyers in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals in 2010. And the moment it all ended, with a seemingly inconsequential hit from ex-teammate Matt Hunwick in that aforementioned Jan. 2011 contest.

“I said, ‘Donny, I don’t know what’s wrong here, but I’m dying. I can’t see anything,'” Savard recalled to the Globe. “And my eyes were open, so I was quite scared there.”

The Ottawa, Ont., native spent five years with the Bruins, and recorded an impressive 74 goals and 305 points in 304 games with the organization, including a stellar eight goals and 22 points in 25 Stanley Cup Playoff games (all with the Bruins). Savard was such an impactful presence for the Bruins that even though he skated in less than 30 games for the Bruins in 2010-11, that the Black and Gold successfully petitioned to get his name on the Stanley Cup, and No. 91 himself was at the team’s Cup parade.

Now a coach in Ontario (which is profiled heavily in the story), Savard’s contract — one signed with the B’s and then-GM Peter Chiarelli back in 2009 — will run out at the end of this upcoming season, when Savard is expected to formally retire.

 

 

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson

The Bruins began their three-game road with back-to-back wins — in impressive fashion, too — in Arizona and Colorado, but will have to go for the clean sweep of the trip without their top goal-scorer, as David Pastrnak will miss tonight’s head-to-head with the Wild at Xcel E

David Pastrnak.

David Pastrnak.

The Bruins began their three-game road with back-to-back wins — in impressive fashion, too — in Arizona and Colorado, but will have to go for the clean sweep of the trip without their top goal-scorer, as David Pastrnak will miss tonight’s head-to-head with the Wild at Xcel Energy Center with an undisclosed injury.

Given a maintenance day on Tuesday, absent from Wednesday’s practice, and then confirmed out for tonight’s game following an optional skate early this morning, coach Claude Julien quipped “not sure” when asked if Pastrnak’s injury was an upper or lower-body injury.

The loss of Pastrnak — who is tied for the second-most goals in the NHL, with 10 — is a big one for a Bruins club that while winning, have scored just four goals (one empty-netter) on 75 shots on this road trip.

“I like the way we’re playing,” Julien said. “I like the fact that we’re winning some hockey games here and playing well. You build on the positives here and let the other stuff hopefully come.”

This is not the first time the Bruins have been without No. 88 in their lineup, as the team was forced to skate without him during his two-game ban for an illegal check to the head of the Rangers’ Dan Girardi, and went 2-0-0 in his absence.

With Pastrnak out, the B’s are expected to skate Riley Nash in his spot on the top line with Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron, while Dominic Moore will move up to the middle of the third line with Matt Beleskey and Austin Czarnik. Tim Schaller will move to the middle of a fourth line with Jimmy Hayes flipped to the left side and recent AHL recall Sean Kuraly on the right side.

 

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson