Bruins

Bruins show once again they're not in Washington's class

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Bruins show once again they're not in Washington's class

BOSTON – Once again the Boston Bruins learned the painful, losing lesson that they’re simply not as good as the Washington Capitals.

The B’s dropped their 10th straight game to the Washington Capitals by falling 3-2 to the Caps, and haven’t been able to beat Washington since doing so twice in the month of March during the 2013-14 season. Some of that is clearly about the high-powered Capitals holding Boston’s number and Braden Holtby being a particularly stingy goaltender against them, but some of it also about simple reality that the Bruins aren’t in the same class as the Capitals.

That’s certainly true when the Bruins are missing so many core players with David Krejci, David Backes, Ryan Spooner, Adam McQuaid and Noel Acciari out the lineup, and it’s true when the Bruins are getting pushed around on the ice, and on the scoreboard, by the bigger, faster and more dangerously skilled Capitals.

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The Bruins did the exact wrong thing in spotting Washington a couple of goals in the first period with both Wilson and Ovechkin breaking through, and then spent the rest of the game attempting to get equal footing with a better hockey club. The loss snapped a streak of six straight games with a point, and left the Bruins to once again wonder exactly how well they're playing right now. 

“We had a bad start and we can’t have that, especially against a team like Washington with a lot of skills, and they made us pay in the first period,” said Patrice Bergeron, who enjoyed a great game with eight shot attempts and an assist in the 3-2 loss. “It’s tough to play catch-up hockey.”

After it was all over, the Bruins pointed toward their slow start to the game and talked about coming up just short in a one-goal loss, but they also would have been 100 percent correct to surmise that they’re currently outgunned by the high-powered Capitals. Perhaps when the Bruins are at their healthiest and their rookies have a little more experience, they may be able to stare down the Capitals.

But for now, it’s about Tom Wilson pushing around the B's unchecked, Braden Holtby keeping it a low-scoring game against the Bruins team he owns and Alex Ovechkin scoring yet another goal from the left face-off circle when everybody and their ever-loving uncle knows that’s exactly where he’ll be shooting from. It’s about Washington winning, the Bruins losing and the Black and Gold getting back to the drawing board to figure out how they’re going to beat quality teams this month with only one legitimate line now that Marchand, Pastrnak and Bergeron are on together.

“I think we had a strong 40 minutes, I think we were the better team but we can’t afford starts like [against the Capitals]. Especially against a team like Washington, that has bothered us the last couple years if I remember [correctly],” said David Pastrnak, who scored a pair of goals in the Saturday night defeat. “We always have a slow start against them. We have to take the positives, I think the last 40 minutes we were better team. It’s unfortunate we couldn’t get one point at least.”

It was a good sign to see the Bruins battle back from a two-goal deficit and use a couple of David Pastrnak goals to make it interesting in the final minute, but at no point did it feel like Boston was going to pull things out against Washington. Instead, the Capitals scored Wilson’s second goal of the game in the final minute of the second period, and issued a back-breaking maneuver in the form of Wilson’s high tip of a Brooks Orpik point blast.

Unfortunately the Capitals are just one of eight opponents the Bruins will face in the month of November that qualified for the playoffs last season, and the others are red-hot teams in the Devils, LA Kings and Tampa Bay Lightning. None of the others have the same butt-kicking tradition that the Capitals currently enjoy over the B's, but it shows they are going to be hard-pressed to do little more than survive in the telltale month of November.  

So far the Bruins have taken care of business against an expansion Vegas team that’s finally getting their dose of reality, and then once again got pushed around on the playground by the bigger, stronger and meaner Capitals. It could be that kind of uneven month for an incomplete Bruins roster that will need things to go perfectly in order to enjoy some real success. 

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Jarome Iginla practices with P-Bruins

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Mark Divver

Jarome Iginla practices with P-Bruins

Jarome Iginla skated with the Providence Bruins in the AHL team's practice on Tuesday, according to the Providence Journal.

Iginla doesn't want to retire yet. But he's not necessarily going to get a shot in Boston. The Bruins aren't interested in signing the 40-year-old winger, but instead wanted to do him a favor, a source told the Providence Journal.

"I'd love to still play," Iginla told the Providence Journal. "This is kind of the first step, getting out here and seeing how it is. … I wanted to see if I can still go. I don't have any deals at this point."

Iginla has had a prolific career with 525 goals and 570 assists (1,095 points). During his 2016-17 season, he spent time with the Colorado Avalanche and the Los Angeles Kings. He played in 80 games, and finished with 14 goals, 13 assists and a minus-30 rating.

Bruins' defense, goaltending enjoys mini-breakthrough against Flames

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USA TODAY Sports Photo

Bruins' defense, goaltending enjoys mini-breakthrough against Flames

Here’s what we learned in the Bruins 2-1 overtime win over the Calgary Flames at the Scotiabank Saddledome on Monday afternoon.

1)      Once again the Bruins were challenged and provided the perfect response. After giving up 15 goals in their previous four games and getting blown out by Vancouver last weekend, the Bruins recognized their defensive game had slipped in all zones. Their defensive layers had disappeared up and down the ice, the fore-check had gone missing and the D-zone coverage was leaving big holes in the slot and in front of the net. The Bruins weren’t working particularly hard, they were making some pretty elementary mistakes and they were allowing opponents to gain way too much speed and momentum entering their zone. All of that changed against Calgary after a spirited practice on Sunday, and the Bruins allowed just four shots on net in the first period against the Flames. They went on to allow just a single goal in the game, and kept grinding until they took a 2-1 win in OT. Hand-in-hand with the B’s defense responding was the Bruins goaltending situation responding to the challenge as well. Tuukka Rask hadn’t been particularly good in recent losses to the Buffalo Sabres and Canucks over the last week, and he wasn’t getting the support in front of him either. That added up to a lot of goals allowed and getting yanked in the Canucks loss amid some poor rebound control. Rask was locked in from beginning to end on Monday afternoon, and made five show-stopping saves in OT prior to Brad Marchand’s breakaway game-winner. What’s impressive is that it took just one bad loss for the B’s to totally snap back into place. There are times when it can take three, four or even five games for a hockey club to shed their bad defensive habits, but the Bruins did it immediately and haven’t lost back-to-back games since November. That is simply amazing at this point, and a testament to the coaching staff and the players. 

2)      In addition to the Bruins defense and goaltending responding, it was impressive to see Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak respond with big goals as well. Neither player was very good in the blowout loss to Vancouver, and Pastrnak had been mired in a bit of a slump with just one goal in his last 11 games headed into Monday afternoon. Both players have been targeted and thumped pretty solidly by opponents just as they were down the stretch last season as well, and they hadn’t really responded in an effective way until Monday. Even into the playoffs last season, Pastrnak really struggled to respond to some of the elevated intensity and physicality that he saw. Pastrnak scored in the first period on a nifty play aided by a Patrice Bergeron active stick against the side boards, and he enjoyed a number of scoring chances against the Flames. Marchand had seven shot attempts that culminated with his breakaway in overtime for the game-winner, and he was also engaged and physical throughout while both he and Matthew Tkachuk tried to “out-punk” each other on the ice. With a Bruins team that’s going to need their top line to produce regularly for them as the games get tighter, Monday’s mini-breakthrough was an important sign that Marchand and Pastrnak are ready to fight through some of the resistance thrown their way.

3)       Monday’s win also saw the Bruins once again drop the gloves to defend one of their teammates. On Saturday night it was Brandon Carlo sticking up for David Pastrnak, and on Monday afternoon it was Adam McQuaid dropping Garnet Hathaway after he took a shot at Charlie McAvoy right in front of the Bruins bench while practically inviting No. 54 to get involved. The Bruins will need to continue to bring their immediate reaction to borderline hits and opponents taking runs at their players, and that starts with McQuaid and trickles down through the rest of the lineup. Team toughness, they call it.

Plus

*Brad Marchand finished up with the sweet, little backhanded five-hole goal on the breakaway in overtime, and played an excellent overall game with seven shot attempts and plenty of active, engaged play all over the ice in 20 plus minutes of action. 

*Tuukka Rask stopped 28-of-29 shots against Calgary and was solid throughout the game. But he was amazing in the overtime session when he was turning away Grade-A chances from Johnny Gaudreau and Sam Bennett at one end while making five stops overall in the extra session. That little stand-on-his-head routine bought the B’s enough time for Marchand’s game-winner at the other end, and he certainly carried the Bruins to the extra OT point this time around. 

*Four shots on net and an eye-catching three blocked shots for David Pastrnak in 18:38 of ice time, including the game’s first goal in the first period when he curled to the net and beat Dave Rittich low with a shot. 

Minus

*Michael Frolik finished as a minus player for the Flames, and had the turnover to Patrice Bergeron in the first period that led directly to David Pastrnak’s goal. It was a pretty well-played game, so those little mistakes really stood out for either side. 

*Two giveaways and a minus-1 in 22:49 of ice time for Dougie Hamilton, who pretty much had a nothing game in a reminder to Bruins fans that they upgraded when they made Charlie McAvoy their No. 1 defenseman of the future. 

*No shots on net in 12:54 of ice time for Jake DeBrusk, who didn’t seem to have the same jump to his game on Monday that he did last weekend in Vancouver. He may have been saving it for Edmonton, where he grew up and certainly wants to put on a show on Tuesday night.