Bruins

Early deficits are burying Bruins

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Early deficits are burying Bruins

Here’s what we learned in the Bruins 4-2 loss to the Anaheim Ducks on Wednesday night at the Honda Center:

1) The Bruins can’t afford to be the comeback kids anymore
At least not until the cavalry arrives with some more reserves. The B’s have done a good job of battling to stay in games and have even engineered some pretty solid comebacks to salvage points along the way, but they are so undermanned and outgunned due to injuries that they can’t dig their way out of early deficits. They simply don’t have the offensive firepower five-on-five. They aren’t functioning normally on the power play with David Krejci and Ryan Spooner out and they are being forced to work extremely hard for any offense they’re getting. Playing from behind and chasing the game just exacerbates all of these things and creates a pattern where the B’s are constantly climbing uphill. So, the Bruins allowing the first goal in 11 of their 17 games isn’t a good sign for a team that’s having trouble finishing plays and ideally employs a style where they’re playing with a lead. Instead, there are too many games such as  Wednesday night where it feels like a Herculean effort to just to get things back to even and every little mistake turns into a death sentence. 

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2) The Bruins can’t afford mental mistakes and focus problems from veterans
They certainly can’t survive them. Zdeno Chara has been very good this season and he’s had to be, given how many bodies the Bruins are missing. Wednesday night was one of the bad nights for the 40-year-old captain. To make matters worse on a night where he was a minus-3 overall, Chara had an uncharacteristic mental error at the worst possible time when he stopped playing to protest a call after he was getting a delayed penalty call on a Corey Perry drive to the net. Chara broke it up but was going to get called for a stick infraction, but instead, he lost focus to look at the ref for an instant and exactly at that time Josh Manson fired a puck off his skate directly in front of the net. That was Anaheim’s go-ahead goal after the Bruins had worked hard to tie it and the B’s started losing control of the game at that point. So, on the first night of a back-to-back on the West Coast, the Bruins played Chara a whopping 25:33 of ice time for a minus-3 performance where he clearly wasn’t at his best. There doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of hope that it’s going to be any better on Thursday night in Los Angeles. That doesn’t bode well for a Bruins team struggling to stay within shouting distance of a playoff spot.

3) Danton Heinen should be in Boston to stay
He’s still not exactly what he’s going to be when he’s fully developed as a player, but the crafty, skilled winger knows how to make plays in the NHL no matter who he’s playing with. Even better, he’s also showing some of the grit and battle that even skill players are going to need in order to create offense. On the goal he scored, Heinen won a couple of battles to extend the possession of the puck in the offensive zone and then took it straight to the middle of the net. Heinen waited out John Gibson, then lifted a backhanded bid after the Anaheim goalie impatiently dropped to the ice. Heinen, 22, is sixth on the Bruins in points (eight) despite starting the season in Providence and is showing the kind of talent that made him a top prospect coming out of the University of Denver. Heinen is on pace for 18 goals and 48 points and those are the kind of numbers they would gladly take from a young player in their time of need. Now, the Bruins just need Heinen to get even more dominant in terms of getting the puck on his stick and making things happen offensively.

PLUS
*Noel Acciari was a beast for the Bruins scoring a late goal, leading all players with 10 registered hits and blocking three shots despite having just returned from a broken finger.

*Heinen finished with the goal and three shot attempts in 14:26 of ice time and was one of the few Bruins players able to break through for some offense and create their own scoring chance that was a little closer to the net.

*Congrats to the Northeastern University hockey program for creating a pair of players, Kevin Roy and Josh Manson, who both scored for the Ducks. It was Roy’s first as an NHL player. For the Bruins, who covet American college hockey players, it had to burn them to watch the Ducks using that formula to beat them.

MINUS
*Zdeno Chara finished a minus-3 and had a distracted play in the second period where he was complaining about a penalty call, and allowed Manson to fire a puck off his skate when he stood right in front of the Boston net. It was not the B’s captain’s best night by a long stretch.

*Frank Vatrano finished a minus-2 with just a single shot on net and didn’t play with the same spirit, physicality and energy that he showed at home coming off being a healthy scratch. Vatrano needs to play every night the way he played last weekend at TD Garden against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

*Riley Nash had a fairly strong game, but he also had a pair of golden scoring chances where he was stopped by Gibson both tries including a double-stacked pad beauty in the second period and a clean breakaway in the third period. With so many players out, the Bruins need Nash to step up and finish some of those plays. 
 

McQuaid returns to first B's practice since breaking leg

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McQuaid returns to first B's practice since breaking leg

BRIGHTON, Mass – It marks just another step on Adam McQuaid’s eventual return to game action, but it was a big one getting back on the ice with his Bruins teammates on Monday for his first practice since breaking his right fibula on Oct. 19. 

The 31-year-old McQuaid has missed 21 games and counting since blocking a pair of shots in a win over Vancouver that ultimately snapped his right leg. It’s been a long road of rehab and working his way back after a fairly significant surgery, but the light is present at the end of the tunnel now for the rugged, stay-at-home defenseman.

However, it looks like there will be a healthy amount of practice time involved before McQuaid has sufficiently knocked the rust off for game action after missing the last seven weeks. 

“He’s still got a ways to go, so I don’t want to even speculate [on a return date],” said Bruce Cassidy. “We’ll start to sort the pieces together when he’s truly ready to play, but it’s nice to have him around. He’s a great guy and his teammates all love him.”

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Clearly McQuaid has suffered his share of injuries over the years while playing a fearless style of blocking shots, throwing hits and defending his teammates at all costs. Just don’t expect him to change the way he plays after suffering a major injury in that particular line of duty because McQuaid knows exactly what his job description is on the ice. 

“Obviously today was a good step. It was good to be out there with the guys, and hopefully things continue to progress,” said McQuaid, who had an assist and a minus-3 rating in six games this season. “It’s tough. Without sugarcoating it, it was [a tough injury]. But you can’t change the situation. You try to persevere through and be better for it, so hopefully that will be the case with this. I felt good coming into the season, so it was disappointing in that way. But I’m looking to work back to that level now.

“I’ve said to some people that I can choose between getting hurt once in a while and missing some time, or playing a different style and probably not playing at all. I don’t foresee anything changing with me in that way. When you get out there, you just play and get into that mindset where you can’t think about injuries. 

It’s going to be a challenge for Bruins head coach Cassidy to work McQuaid back into the lineup when he is ready to play given the six-man defense corps that’s functioning well these days with rookie puck-mover Matt Grzelcyk in the lineup. Still McQuaid is bullishly strong, a Stanley Cup champ and as good of a teammate as you’ll find when it comes to defending everybody else in a Bruins uniform, so it won’t be too long before he finds his way back into the lineup.  

Cassidy appreciates all of those things in McQuaid’s game since their early days together with the Providence Bruins, and bristles at the notion of his injuries being looked at as a liability in any way. McQuaid has missed an average of 18 games per season over his seven full seasons with the Bruins, but Cassidy sees it as more of a hazard of the particular role he fills on the back end. Not everybody can do what McQuaid does, but it’s absolutely needed on any hockey club that’s going to be successful in the regular season and playoffs. 

“He plays hard every night and he’s a guy that blocks more shots than anybody,” said Cassidy. “Yes, he missed the last seven weeks because he blocked two shots in the same sequence. He puts himself in harm’s way and he’s suffered some injuries because of it. That’s the way I look at it. I don’t want to get into labels…I love the guy. 

“The game needs players like him, and the team needs him if you want to be hard to play against. Guys like that are necessary…I’ve heard that [injury-prone] description and I think it’s unfair because [McQuaid] lays it on the line every night.” 

Here are the Bruins line combos and D-pairings based on Monday’s practice at Warrior Ice Arena with both Ryan Spooner (lower body) and Noel Acciari (upper body) practicing and uncertain if they can play Wednesday night in Detroit: 

 

Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak

DeBrusk-Krejci-Bjork

Heinen-Nash-Backes

Schaller-Kuraly-Acciari

Beleskey-Spooner-Vatrano

 

Chara-McAvoy

Krug-Carlo

Grzelcyk-Miller

Postma-McQuaid

 

Rask

Khudobin

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Morning Skate: Boeser continues to produce for Canucks

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Morning Skate: Boeser continues to produce for Canucks

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while avoiding all “The Last Jedi” spoilers out there. 

 

*Brock Boeser continues to score and play well for the Vancouver Canucks despite the extra attention as one of the NHL’s lead rookie players this season. I hate to say it, but this is another one of those players from the second half of the first round in the 2015 NHL Draft. I’ll leave it at that and move on. 

 

*Alex Burrows fined $5000 for an incident in San Jose, but at least he didn’t bite anybody this time around, right? 

 

*It must be a slow week if there’s a big think piece about the ritual of using smelling salts right before the drop of the puck in NHL games. 

 

*There is more speculation about the Ottawa Senators trading Erik Karlsson than ever before in his NHL career, but his thoughts haven’t changed about wanting to win in Ottawa. 

 

*Good for the Bruins going out and donating some Christmas trees this weekend to the families of service members and veterans in Leominster. 

 

*It’s been a whopping 44 games since Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith has scored a goal, and that’s an almost unthinkable drought considering how much he handles the puck. 

 

*For something completely different: Wonder Woman is getting snubbed by the Golden Globes, and it’s difficult to understand why.