What we learned: Winnable one gets away from B's


What we learned: Winnable one gets away from B's

Here’s what we learned from the Bruins' 3-2 loss to the San Jose Sharks at the SAP Center on Tuesday night ,where the Black and Gold failed to collect at least a point in what will likely end up being the most winnable game of the three-game road gauntlet through California:

1) Not even close to good enough from the Bruins third line

Ryan Spooner, Matt Beleskey and Jimmy Hayes totaled just one shot on net for the evening and were on ice for the tying goal from Brent Burns. It was a tough break for them given that it was a pretty rough line change getting them on the ice and the Burns goal was a trailer shot from inside the blue line that ricocheted off Spooner’s stick. But Hayes brought nothing to the table on Tuesday night with zero shots on net, and even worse hurt the team with the illegal check to the head penalty in the third period that led to San Jose’s game-winner. Hayes has one goal in his past 17 games, so he needs to step up immediately within the high-intensity, competitive environment of late-season hockey, or another young guy such as Frank Vatrano (sent back to Providence Wednesday) might come in and seize his spot. In general, though, the third line needs to be much, much better than it was against the Sharks.

2) Reappearance of 'Playoff Krejci' encouraging

The playmaking center was banged up enough that he missed Monday’s practice and one still wonders if he’s been nursing an injury this season, but Krejci has been elevating his game since the trade deadline. He has a goal and six points in eight games in March and finished with a goal and two points, along with a plus-2 rating in Tuesday night’s loss. He was the best player on the ice for Boston and the 20:50 of ice time would seem to signify that: he jumped on the rebound of a David Pastrnak shot for Boston’s first goal, and then gave them an early lead with a slick PK pass that led Loui Eriksson in for a short-handed goal. Krejci, Eriksson and Pastrnak are really coming together as a line this month and giving the Bruins another viable offensive line to count on. Unfortunately, we learned again against San Jose that the Bruins need more than one line going if they’re going to have success against good teams.

3) Watching Brent Burns another reminder of what the Bruins don’t have

Burns scored his 26th goal of the season to set a new record for defensemen with the Shark, and tied the score after stepping in as the trailer with a shot that was aided by a deflection off Ryan Spooner’s stick. The All-Star D-man’s production is no accident and was part of a whopping 12 shot attempts that Burns fired on net in his 26 plus minutes of ice time. The 31-year-old is on pace for 31 goal and 76 points this season and is a hulk of a No. 1 defenseman in the prime of his career. He can move the puck and obviously score, but he’ll also play the heavy, shot-blocking game that’s sometimes needed by San Jose as well. The Bruins have 38-year-old Zdeno Chara playing a pretty solid level right this moment, but they need a No. 1 D-man in his prime like Burns on their roster as soon as possible. They won’t Cup contenders without one. That is much easier said than done for the B’s, and that remains the challenge for Don Sweeney in the offseason.


*David Krejci finished with a goal and two points, five shot attempts and 10-of-18 faceoff wins in 20:50 of ice time, and now has a goal and six points in eight games in March while picking up his game at crunch time.

*Loui Eriksson finished with a short-handed goal, four shots on goal and was very good in a whopping 21:56 of ice time for the Bruins as the chemistry comes alive with David Krejci and David Pastrnak. He has three goals and five points in his last three games, and is catching fire again after a slow stretch right around the trade deadline.

*Brent Burns was a beast all night with a goal and two points, a game-high 12 shot attempts as a constant offensive threat and a massive 26 plus minutes of ice time as the linchpin of San Jose’s D-man corps. He’s one of the best in the league and set a San Jose franchise record with his 26th goal as a defenseman on Tuesday night.


*No shots on net and no offensive presence for Jimmy Hayes. Even worse, he took a couple of penalties including an illegal check to the head call in the third period that led to the game-winning, power-play goal for the Sharks. It’s one thing if Hayes is going to disappear as a 6-foot-6 forward, but it’s infinitely worse when his penalties and mistakes are costing the Bruins.

*Dennis Seidenberg was on the ice for all three goals against, was a minus-2 for the game in 15:07 of ice time and had a tough night in the defensive zone against one of the big, heavy teams the B’s will face on this trip.

*Rookie fourth line Noel Acciari was on the ice for two goals against in 8:58 of ice time. He’s largely been pretty good for the B’s since getting called up at the trade deadline, but he was guilty along with Seidenberg and John-Michael Liles of leaving “the house” open on San Jose’s first goal of the game. Big breakdown all-around.



Injuries opening up path for Donato to show what he can do

Injuries opening up path for Donato to show what he can do

In an ideal world the Bruins could have signed highly regarded prospect Ryan Donato to a two-year entry level contract, watched him develop his game deliberately at the AHL level and received two full years of service before the forward hit restricted free agency. 

But that doesn’t take into account the current injury situation for the Boston Bruins with a few weeks to go in the regular season, and it didn’t factor in Donato’s leverage as an NCAA player that could have chosen free agency, or going back to Harvard for his senior year, if he didn’t get what he was looking for in negotiations with the Black and Gold. Clearly it never got to anything approaching a hard ball level between the Bruins and a young player with plenty of B’s background in Donato, and now he’ll get to suit up for Boston and most likely make his NHL debut on Monday night against the Columbus Blue Jackets. 

MORE - Backes 'will be out for a couple games' with right leg laceration

Once he plays for the Bruins that will burn the first year on his two-year entry level contract, and it will also prohibit him from heading to Providence and playing for the P-Bruins through the rest of the hockey season. It’s the exact same situation Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson found himself in last spring when it was pretty clear after one game in Boston that he wasn’t quite ready for the NHL level. 

After Donato makes his debut it will be up to him and how NHL-ready he looks when he jumps into the Boston lineup, but it’s pretty clear they need some more dynamic top-6 bodies with Patrice Bergeron, David Backes, Jake DeBrusk all out of the lineup, and Anders Bjork done for the season as well as what could have been a good reserve option at the AHL level. 

None of those players are expected to return in the next couple of games or even in the next week most likely, so there may be an opening for Donato to dazzle if he's prepared to seize the opportunity. 

“Once [Harvard’s season] was over with I had an opportunity to speak with his family advisor and with the family and with Ryan himself. We just worked through what looked like the opportunity he was looking for and we were happy to provide that,” said Bruins general manager Don Sweeney. “We have some injuries and we’re at the point in the season where every game has a lot on the line. I think his being able to go over and have success at the Olympics this year really started to jumpstart his thought process that he was ready for the next challenge.

“I think Ryan might have looked at [the injuries on the NHL roster] as an even bigger opportunity for him to go in and possibly play as early as [Monday night]. From our standpoint, we had always been committed to providing the opportunity to Ryan if and when he decided to leave school. I think the two things just kind of lined up accordingly. We definitely are cognizant that the injuries are there, and they’ve mounted a little bit here coming down the stretch. It’s a testament to the group of players that we have [that led to the Tampa] win after losing [David] Backes early in the game and guys really playing well.”

Clearly Donato was ready for the next level after dominating college hockey to the tune of 26 goals in 29 games for the Crimson this season, and serving as one of Team USA’s best players in last month’s Olympic hockey tournament. Donato has a high hockey IQ that usually comes along with being the son of an NHL player, has a nose for the net for a young player that isn’t the biggest or strongest guy on the ice and has become a dangerous sniper with his NHL-level shot and release. The question now is whether all of those skills are “plug and play” at the NHL level, or if he’s more in the mold of similar NCAA players like Anders Bjork or Danton Heinen that needed some development time at the minor league level. 

“He’s a kid that’s got a confidence about himself, a talent level, and he’s got some details that he’s going to have to work on. All young players do, more importantly the inexperience part of it, but he’s a kid that has hard skill,” said Sweeney. “So we’re looking forward to having him join our team, get immersed, and get a taste, and then it’s up to him. He’ll take it with however far he can run with it, but he is welcomed to the opportunity.

“We’re not going to put any pressure on him to say ‘You have to produce.’ It’s like every player; he’s going to be another player that the coach will have an opportunity to play in situations, and the player himself will dictate how much time and circumstances they play in. We feel that, if we get healthy, we’re going to have a deep group. He’s going to add to that group. Then it’s up to him.”

It would be unfair to expect Donato to have an impact on this Bruins team like Craig Janney did coming out of college thirty years ago, but that’s what many are going to equate it to based on the circumstances. Instead it should be looked at as another talented young player that the Bruins are going to add to their embarrassment of young hockey talent riches, and a player that could possibly help them get through a current tough stretch of injuries and attrition. If Donato does anything more than that then it’s another great story in a Boston Bruins season that’s been chock full of them from beginning to end.


Backes 'will be out for a couple of games' with right leg laceration

File Photo

Backes 'will be out for a couple of games' with right leg laceration

The late season attrition continues for the Boston Bruins as David Backes will miss some time with the laceration on his right leg caused by an errant skate blade in Saturday night’s win over the Tampa Bay Lightning. 

MORE - B's sign Donato to entry-level contract

It took roughly 18 stitches to close a wound that was gushing blood as Backes quickly exited the ice in the first period, and now it looks like it’s going to force him to miss a handful of games here late in the season. Bruins GM Don Sweeney confirmed that Backes isn’t “day-to-day” as they wait for nature to take its and heal a significant gash that could have been much worse for the 33-year-old power forward. 

“David Backes returned late [Saturday] night with the team. He did meet with our doctors, and they reevaluated the cut. They did some work on it. Obviously, you’ve got great medical care down in Tampa; we’re thankful for that, but our guys wanted their own hands and eyes on it,” said Sweeney. “A timetable hasn’t been set for him. 

“You can imagine it was a pretty significant cut, and now that it’s been, sort of, re-cleaned and addressed accordingly, we’ll just let nature take its course, let it heal. I don’t have a definitive timetable on that one, certainly not day to day. I would suspect he’ll be out for a couple games, and then we’ll reevaluate.”

MORE - B's make statement vs Lightning

The biggest concern for the Bruins with a cut of that nature is the chance of infection, so that’s something the Bruins medical staff will be monitoring closely as Backes heals over the next week or two. It’s too bad for both the B’s and Backes as the Bruins forward was knocked out in the first period against both Florida and Tampa after serving a three-game suspension, and has had his share of freak injuries and illness this season with first diverticulitis that ended with colon surgery, and now the skate blade incident. 

The good news is that it doesn’t sound like Backes is in any danger of being ready for the playoffs, and that’s truly matters as the Bruins continue to win games with so many good players injured and removed from the lineup. Sweeney also gave updates on Patrice Bergeron, who may join the Bruins on their next extended road trip following Monday night’s game vs. Columbus, and Jake DeBrusk, who it doesn’t sound like is all that close to returning to the lineup with his upper body injury.