Bruins

Bruins teetering on the edge of disaster

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Bruins teetering on the edge of disaster

BOSTON -- Even the most optimistic Bruins fan had to know that the month of November was going to be a struggle.

The B's faced a stretch of 12 games against eight teams that made the playoffs last year, and they were doing so with a raft of damaging injuries and a considerable amount of youth in the lineup. And even the four opponents that didn't make the playoffs last year -- the Golden Knights, Kings and Devils, in particular -- are off to very strong starts this season. 

It had trouble written all over, and November has turned into exactly that for the B’s after a 4-1 loss to the Maple Leafs on Saturday night at TD Garden. They're now on a three-game losing streak and have lost six of their last eight. In addition, they're a putrid 0-3-3 against Eastern Conference teams they’re competing with for a playoff spot.

“You know, it’s early to [play] the ‘What-If’ game, but . . . you want to win against the teams you’re going to be fighting for down the road for playoff position,” said Bruce Cassidy. “That’s our goal, so I’m not going to hide from that. Any points are good for us, and the division games mean more, no doubt. We let some get away [in Saturday's 4-1 loss], and actually [on Friday night], you know. If we close that out, it’s a .500 weekend. So that’s a tough one.”

The home loss against the Leafs was particularly frustrating as they outshot Toronto by a 39-24 margin but were 0-for-4 on the power play -- which is operating without David Krejci, Ryan Spooner and David Backes -- dropping them to 2-for-21 with the man advantage in the month of November. But that wasn't the sole reason for the loss. Shutdown defender Brandon Carlo was the culprit behind three of the four goals allowed, and Tuukka Rask once again couldn’t come up with a big save in Boston’s biggest time of need.

The way they lost was clearly frustrating for the Bruins, and that was the insult added to the injury of getting swept in a home-and-home series to their rivals in Toronto, which is playing without its own best player in Auston Matthews. The Bruins are trying to put on a brave face and it's true that they’ve been in just about every thus far this season from a competitive standpoint, but it’s clear the weight of all the missing players is beginning to drag them down.

“We’ve done a good job of making sure that we’re in every game so far and we’ve had a chance to win hockey games, and we’ve clawed our way back,” said Torey Krug. “We’ve had some tough starts but we never give up and that’s a good characteristic to have. It would be nice to start flipping the script there and play with the lead and for a whole 60 minutes and lead the game. But it’s not going to look like that when you’re missing a lot of key players. We’ll just have to keep going.”

Of the biggest concern is the picture in the Eastern Conference as the Bruins are sliding down the standings. The Bruins are now 14th out of 16 teams in the East and a full four points out of a playoff spot with the Thanksgiving marker only a couple of weeks away. The only teams below the Bruins in the Eastern Conference standings are the perennially bad Buffalo Sabres and the permanently adrift Florida Panthers.

That should be a clear message that what the Bruins are doing right now isn’t good enough, even with the built-in excuses. Sure, the B’s have some games in hand against most of the other teams, but they aren’t of much value if they lose them. That’s the situation right now as the Bruins ready to embark on a West Coast road trip that could push them deeper into the depths of the standings.

“I’m not nervous," said Rask. "I think you gotta look at the positives. We haven’t played bad hockey. You know, there’s been bad 5-10 minutes, but it hasn’t been work ethic or nothing like that. You know, we’ve been making plays and battling hard out there. I don’t think it’s going to be an issue. You know, we’ve been here before. We just have to dig deeper and win some road games, it’s definitely not going to be an easy road trip.”

The numbers aren’t really debatable at this point. If the Bruins aren’t in a playoff spot by Thanksgiving, history shows they have about a 25 percent chance of making the postseason. If they’re more than five points out of a spot on Turkey Day, they're in deep, deep trouble.

It’s beginning to feel more and more like the “deep, deep trouble” thing might be a reality for the Bruins, and they’re going to need to do some spectacular things in the next couple of weeks to get out of it.

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Morning Skate: Want any cheese with that whine, Isles?

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Morning Skate: Want any cheese with that whine, Isles?

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while trying to figure out when exactly I’m going to be able to go see the new Star Wars movie.

*The New York Islanders were crying in their beer over the fact that Brad Marchand side-stepped a suspension and claimed it was because John Tavares didn’t writhe around, kick and scream on the ice like a soccer player. The truth is the play wasn’t the kind of thing that’s going to injure a player under normal circumstances but was clearly a late, uncalled for hit. That’s why it got the five-minute major penalty and nothing more. Threatening to give an award-winning acting performance next time in order to try and get a suspension for an opposing player just sounds like crybaby soup from the Isles. Buckle the chin strap and get ready to play a contact sport next time, particularly if you’re Tavares, who was hacking at Charlie McAvoy’s legs with your stick like you’re Paul Bunyan chopping at a piece of wood. It works both ways, you know?

*The Winnipeg Jets continue to be one of the excellent, unsung stories of the NHL’s first half as they really take hold at the top of the Western Conference.

*Here’s a good piece on Jonathan Quick and what his good health has meant to a resurgent Los Angeles Kings team this season.

*Former Boston College standout goalie Thatcher Demko is way ahead of schedule in the Vancouver Canucks organization, but they’re not looking to rush him.

*Here’s a great video of a youngster playing the Star-Spangled Banner on the violin prior to a New York Rangers game at Madison Square Garden. Well done, young lady!

*Pro Hockey Talk as the details of the Ducks and Red Wings getting into a fight on Monday night ahead of the Bruins traveling to Hockeytown for a Wednesday night showdown.

*For something completely different: A list of the 10 actors who could replace Ben Affleck as Batman now that DC has given up the charade that they’re not intending to replace him underneath the cowl.

 

Spooner travels with Bruins but questionable for Detroit

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Spooner travels with Bruins but questionable for Detroit

BRIGHTON, Mass – Ryan Spooner has practiced in each of the past two days, but his status is still in question for the back-to-back Bruins games against the Red Wings and Capitals over the next couple of days.

Spooner has missed the past couple of games with a lower-body injury after playing in the previous five contests following a month-long layoff with a groin injury. The current injury is believed to be similar in nature to the original groin problem and that’s the reason the Bruins are treating it cautiously as they approach Wednesday night’s game in Detroit.

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“He’s practicing fully with the team, and the long and short of it is that he’s still day-to-day. We’ll decide [on Wednesday] but we just want to keep moving forward with him,” said Bruce Cassidy, who also mentioned that Kevan Miller was missing from practice to be with his wife for the birth of their child. “We’ve had a couple of stops and starts with him, so we’re going to manage it to the best of our ability so we’re moving forward [in his recovery]. He’ll travel with the team, and if we decide that he’s in the lineup [vs. the Red Wings] then Donnie [Sweeney] and I will talk about how that’s going to affect our roster.”

Spooner has played 10 games this season, with a goal and four points in the intermittent action. It’s too bad as Spooner has been pretty good when healthy and has played with speed and a higher level of competitiveness this season when he’s actually suited up.

The problem with Spooner’s return at this point, however, is that the Bruins have a third line of Danton Heinen, Riley Nash and David Backes that’s been gaining traction in recent days and had a monster game vs. Arizona last week. A return from injured reserve for Spooner would mean that the Bruins finally have to make a tough roster choice. Either put a player such as Frank Vatrano on waivers or send a young player such as Sean Kuraly down who deserves to stay based on his performance.

With Spooner’s status in question for the next two games, here are the line combos and D-pairings from Tuesday’s practice at Warrior Ice Arena with Tuukka Rask set to get the start Wednesday night in Detroit:

Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak

DeBrusk-Krejci-Bjork

Heinen-Nash-Backes

Schaller-Kuraly-Acciari

Vatrano-Spooner-Beleskey

 
Chara-McAvoy

Krug-Carlo

Grzelcyk-Postma

McQuaid

 
Rask

Khudobin