Bruins

Paoletti: Bruins-Flyers was a passion-less play

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Paoletti: Bruins-Flyers was a passion-less play

By Mary Paoletti
CSNNE.com

BOSTON -- It was an unusually warm December day when the Flyers were in Boston.

Temperatureswere reported around 50 degrees and fans rolled into the TD Gardendressed in light layers; Black and Gold hoodies or hockey sweaters andscarves. Funny thing, though; the crowd wasn't heated. Not in temperament.

Therewas nothing unruly about Saturday night's spectators. Some forecastedpiano-string tension before meeting Philadelphia again. Those hatedFlyers. The team that made the Boston Bruins an answer to a triviaquestion.

"What club became the third team in NHL history to lose a playoffs series after winning the first three games?"

Yeah. That question.

MaybeBruins fans don't play trivia. Maybe they're content to go out withfriends, drink some beer and hope for -- but not need -- a win. Thatwas the vibe floating around as folks found their seats. A smatteringof boos were tossed toward the ice when the Flyers starters wereannounced during warm-ups. But it was nothing more than what Montrealreceived in November.

Boston's marketing department made aclever play. Minutes before puck dropped a montage rolled. "What aWeek!" the jumbotron declared. The slides showed a hell of a NewEngland sports recap: the Patriots beat the Jets, the Bruins beat theSabes, the Celtics beat the Nuggets, the Bruins and Celtics win againon the same night, the Red Sox sign Carl Crawford. "And it's notover . . . " the screen promised.

Was no one revved up enough about the damn Flyers?

Atleast the trick worked. The fans were properly roused by the week thatwas and broke into a chant just 30 seconds into the game "LET'S GOBRUINS! LET'S GO BRUINS! LET'S GO BRUINS!" And the rally cry wasrewarded with an early shot on Philadelphia's goal.

But as theB's quieted down so too did the arena. Instead of faces set with fiercedetermination, each section was littered with discontent.

There was that moment, though, during the second period . . .

TheBruins are down, 1-0. Braydon Coburn sends the puck from his Flyerszone down a long diagonal towards Boston's end. Andrew Ference and AdamMcQuaid race Philly winger Jody Shelley to the puck on the icing call.Ference moves to play the puck. McQuaid pulls up in a defenselessposition. Shelley is right behind him. Shelley throws his 230 poundsinto a thunderous hit on McQuaid, shoving him into the boards. McQuaidis down. He's not moving.

Fans rose in the wave ofindignation. A "FLYERS SUCK" chant rained down from the balcony andswelled to a deafening roar. A lusty chorus of boos met theannouncement of Shelley's five-minute major for boarding and gamemisconduct penalty and it felt like things would finally turn around.

It was only a moment. The power play proved fruitless and the mob grew restless.

Where was the energy? Where was the excitement?

Oneguy seemed worthy of emotion: Tim Thomas. It was the goalie's night. Itis his season. Thomas stopped 31 shots in Boston's 2-1 overtime loss onSaturday night but that burden doesn't rest on his shoulders. Nor doesthe crowd's frustration. His effort was a combination of body and willas he made save after save, each more inconceivable than the last, andthe fans loved him for it.

Their passion reflected the play. Youwonder why that rink wasn't rocking with full-tilt Philly hatred? TheBruins aren't playing complete hockey games right now. Maybe fansaren't compelled to stand and cheer for 60 minutes when the team isn'tgiving a 60-minute effort. It's hard to say.

But then again, as the sell-out crowd of 17, 565 filtered out into the cold night air, they weren't saying much.

Mary Paoletti can be reached at mpaoletti@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Mary on Twitter at http:twitter.comMary_Paoletti

Bruins get a needed boost from young players in win over Sharks

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Bruins get a needed boost from young players in win over Sharks

Here’s what we learned from the Bruins' 3-1 win over the San Jose Sharks at the SAP Center on Saturday night, which gave Boston four of a possible six points in its California road swing.
 
1) The kids stepped up at a great time for the Bruins. Boston needed some young players to step up and fill in for the injured veterans up front, and they got it on Saturday night. Jake DeBrusk was the main playmaker on both goals in the first period, and the Bruins got goals from rookies DeBrusk, Peter Cehlarik and Danton Heinen. It was Cehlarik’s first NHL goal and the 10th point of the season for Heinen, who continues to show signs that he is going to be a productive, reliable winger  even though he didn’t start the season at the NHL level. DeBrusk finished with a goal and an assist and twice used his speed and aggressiveness taking the puck to the net to create scoring chances: On the first goal it was Cehlarik who finished the loose puck after DeBrusk’s net drive created a rebound, and on the second it was DeBrusk simply beating reigning Norris Trophy winner Brent Burns to a race for the puck and then snapping it up and over San Jose backup goalie Aaron Dell. Cehlarik became the sixth Bruins rookie to score the first goal of his NHL career with Boston this season, and it all shows tangible results of the youth movement they were fully embracing this season. There will be peaks and valleys with so many young players in the lineup, but Saturday night turned out to be one of those high-water marks.

2)  At their healthiest, the Bruins can be a fast-skating, skilled team that will be equal parts offense and defense in a hard-working style that features pace and creativity in the offensive zone. The Bruins aren't healthy right now, obviously, and aren’t going to find success that way as attested by the fact that they hadn’t won two games in a row this season until Saturday night in San Jose. With a number of players already out of the lineup, Torey Krug now injured as well and Tuukka Rask taking an extended rest in favor of a red-hot Anton Khudobin, the Bruins are actually playing a very different brand of hockey right now. With Rask not playing -- and not allowing the types of bad or soft goals he's given up so far this year -- they can play a little more conservatively and try to make a two- or three-goal output in a game actually stick as the game-winning margin. Just check the box score,  as the Bruins blocked a whopping 30 shots and conversely the Sharks blocked just 12. Zdeno Chara, Kevan Miller and Robbie O’Gara all had blocked shots in the final few minutes, and Brandon Carlo stepped in front of a wide-open chance for Burns in the third period off a clean offensive zone faceoff win for the Sharks. Those are all gritty, tough plays in the D-zone that you don’t always see, and it perhaps comes a little more naturally when the Bruins are making the clear choice to feature their defense and goaltending right now. It may not be sustainable once Anton Khudobin inevitably cools off a little bit, but for now it’s pretty darn effective.


 
3)  After watching him stop 36 of 37 shots for the win on Saturday night, the Bruins need to see this thing through with Khudobin until he loses a game. Khudobin is 5-0-2 with this season, with a .949 save percentage in three appearances in November. He's playing the best he's played in the last couple of years. Right now Khudobin is actually leading the NHL with a .935 save percentage for the season, and that really contrasts to Rask's .897 save percentage. Certainly part of it is about the Bruins selling out defensively in front of him and blocking 30 shots in the win while knowing they didn’t have to play again until Wednesday night. But it’s also about the Bruins backup goaltender playing himself into a position where the B’s should ride him until he cools down a little bit, and give Rask some more time to figure out what is slowing him down between the pipes right now.
 
PLUS
-- DeBrusk made a couple of big plays in the first period that led to goals for the Bruins, and he finished with a goal, two points, a plus-2 and a team-high four shots on net in 15:49 of ice time. He has a goal and three points in three games since being a healthy scratch last weekend against Toronto.
 
--Khudobin made 16 saves in the first period when the Bruins were outshot 17-5 and it certainly seemed like they were going to get run out of the building. Instead Khudobin stood tall.
 
-- Heinen finished with two goals and three points on the three-game trip and iced the game for the Bruins with a backdoor strike in the third period after Kevan Miller had dashed up the right side of the ice to create the chance. Heinen is pushing up near the Bruins team leaders in some offensive categories and looks like he belongs in the NHL this season.
 
MINUS
-- Burns was burnt on each of the Bruins' two first-period goals, he actually missed the net with 12 of his 16 shot attempts, and he had seven giveaways in a pretty sloppy game managing the puck. Burns hasn’t had a great season to date, and Saturday night was a good example of things not going well for him this year.
 
-- Paul Postma finished with just eight minutes of ice time in the win, and was part of the poor defensive coverage on the Sharks goal by Joonas Donskoi in the first period that ended up getting overturned on video review. Postma didn’t show much else after that only playing a handful of minutes over the remainder of the game, and based on his early performance looks like he’s only going to be a seventh defensemen in Boston.
 
-- Here’s a hearty boo to the 10:30 pm West Coast starts on Saturday night that only the diehards, or those getting paid, are going to closely watch on the weekend leading up to Thanksgiving. Congrats to you if you were one of the lucky ones that decided to stay up and watch a game that didn’t end until after 1 a.m. in the East.  

Morning Skate: Payroll mess at the heart of Bruins' problems

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Morning Skate: Payroll mess at the heart of Bruins' problems

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while battening down the hatches for Thanksgiving week.
 
-- When longtime Bruins follower Clark Booth opines about the Black and Gold, I tend to listen. And he's not happy with the Bruins' salary cap situation at this point in time. It should be noted that this was written before they won the last two games. But some of those truths still remain self-evident when it comes to the B’s.

-- Kevin Bieksa will never stop talking about former teammate Rick Rypien, or about the factors that ultimately led to his tragic passing.
 
-- Alex Ovechkin is truly living up to the “Russian Machine Never Breaks” mantra these days, which led to the creation of an entire blog about the Capitals.
 
-- This Saturday Night Live skit with Chance the Rapper playing a clueless hockey reporter was funny, even to people that have been covering the league for 20 years and still struggle to pronounce a name like Brady Skjei.
 
-- The good, the bad and the ugly courtesy of FOH (Friend of Haggs) Mitch Melnick from last night’s Montreal blowout loss to the Maple Leafs that probably could have just been called the ugly, the ugly and the ugly.
 
-- It’s 20 games into the season, and the Buffalo Sabres media are wondering what’s wrong with their team, and star Jack Eichel.
 
-- For something completely different: It sounds like some of the NFL rank-and-file players want to know why Roger Goodell deserves $50 million and a lifetime private plane.