Healing Bruins ready to pick up the pace


Healing Bruins ready to pick up the pace

BRIGHTON -- Given the spaced-out schedule and the preponderance of non-playoff opponents they were facing, the Bruins' 3-3-1 record at this stage of October would seem to represent missed opportunity.

But, in actuality, we may remember it more as a blessing.

The Bruins were swamped by a massive wave of injuries in the first weeks of the season, and a lull in the schedule may prove to be the best time to absorb it. Even with Tuukka Rask and Kevan Miller cleared to play for tonight’s game against the San Jose Sharks, they’re still missing David Krejci, Noel Acciari, Ryan Spooner and Adam McQuaid. Nor do they have Patrice Bergeron, David Backes or Torey Krug at full strength, even though they're more-than-welcomed returnees to the lineup.

So there's still some time that needs to pass, and healing that needs to be done, before the Bruins will be anywhere close to 100 percent.  

But in spite of all that, the B’s are looking forward to things picking up with their schedule.

After playing 10 games during the entire month of October, the Bruins will ramp it up with 9 games in 16 days at the start of November. They’ll ease into that stretch with three games in five days to close out October after a lot of practice time in the last couple of weeks.

It’s a rare thing  for an NHL head coach to eschew extra practice time, but Bruce Cassidy openly wished his team could have played Wednesday rather than tonight. Too much practice can dull the sharpened edges of game action or suck the emotion out of things for the players, and that’s not a good thing.

“It would have been nice to play [on Wednesday] after we’d dealt with our issues at practice as far as defending the slot are and working back to put our fires so to speak,” said Cassidy. “Last week it was a puck-support issue, and I thought we did a much better job against Vancouver and Buffalo with that, and it showed on the score sheet offensively.

“But I think we need to play some games to better evaluate our group as well. It’s just a more enjoyable process for the guys, as well. Last year it was one of those things at the beginning of last year where it was too much, and the schedule was crazy. We’d like to get back at it.”

After playing a grand total of 3 games over the last 10 days and 6 over the last 16, the Bruins will not only pick up the pace but they'll also start facing more conference foes. After a West-heavy start to the schedule, the Bruins will play traditional Eastern opponents like the Blue Jackets, Rangers, Capitals and Maple Leafs. And they hope all this  will finally get them into the rhythm of the season after an uneven start.

One might think the Bruins will take all the off days they can to heal and regroup. But that would be wrong according to the B’s players.

“I think this is going to help us, actually,” said Backes. “You get into a rhythm and you get into a routine, and you remember that feeling when it was just 36 or 48 hours prior to the next game. You’re able to cultivate that -- whether it was a good or a bad one -- into the next game, and either change it or not. Now it’s been four days with three days of practice, and those feelings aren’t as recent or as familiar. It’s not fresh in our minds.

“We’ve come out well [in the games], but I think playing every day is going to be very good for this group. We can stop some of the monotony of practice and play for keeps every other day. That’s going to be really good.”

The monotony ends when the puck is dropped tonight. And the Bruins hope that'll be reflected in on-ice results once they get into the true rhythm of the regular season.

Talking Points: Khudobin's effort helps B's snap losing streak


Talking Points: Khudobin's effort helps B's snap losing streak

GOLD STAR: Anton Khudobin continues his stretch of picking up points in all of his games for the Bruins as he made 27 no-nonsense saves in a straight-up, blue collar kind of hockey game between the B’s and the Kings. Perhaps even more encouraging the Bruins dominated much of the final 20 minutes while protecting a third period lead, so Khudobin was forced into making just five saves against Los Angeles in something a little less than a frenzied, frenetic between the pipes performance that we’re sometimes used to seeing out of the backup. The big period for the Russian backup was the middle 20 minutes when he was making 17 big saves and eventually improving to 4-0-2 on the season while just simply winning all the time these days.  


BLACK EYE: Just one shot on net and three giveaways for Anze Kopitar in 22:08 of ice time for the Kings, who did have an assist on Drew Doughty’s power play goal in the second period during the loss. Kopitar had three giveaways in a bit of a sloppy effort taking care of the puck, and he lost 12-of-22 face-offs as well while facing off directly against his Selke Trophy winning competitor in Patrice Bergeron. Kopitar has never been really all that impressive going up against No. 37 over the years, and he hasn’t really been a killer when it comes to facing the Bruins. That sort of thing played out again for the Kings against the Bruins this season with guys like Kopitar and Doughty not quite enough against Boston. 


TURNING POINT: The Bruins scored the game’s first goal in the first period, and that proved to be one of the big difference-makers in the eventual victory for the Black and Gold. Charlie McAvoy’s early goal put the Bruins on the board and forced the LA Kings to start chasing the game a little bit more in a strange sequence of events that hasn’t been the norm with the Bruins much as of late. Once McAvoy darted in after the offensive zone face-off and scored in the first, the rest was up to a Bruins team that’s managed to score the first goal of the game for just the seventh time in 18 games this season. Given the real lack of depth on the roster for the B’s due to injuries, it’s vital to take an early lead and force the Kings, or any other opponent, to respect their game plan a little bit more armed with an early lead.    


HONORABLE MENTION: Charlie McAvoy was a beast for the Bruins while topping 27 minutes of ice time, scoring the game’s first goal in the first period and not depriving himself of any of the physical play over the 60-minute course of the game. It was McAvoy that took the puck in a win on an offensive zone face-off, and darted straight to the front of the net where he was able to lift a backhanded a shot past Jonathan Quick for the early goal. It was his second goal of the season, and his first score since lighting the lamp on opening night vs. Nashville. Above and beyond that McAvoy had a goal and a plus-1 rating in 27:53 of ice time, and filled out the dirty work portion of his job description with four blocked shots and four registered hits to go along with his skill contributions. 


BY THE NUMBERS: 6 – the alarming number of giveaways for Zdeno Chara in the win while also registering the game-winning goal in the second period amongst his 26:53 of ice time on the second night of a back-to-back game.  Chara was obviously far from perfect, but he was digging deep for the win. 


QUOTE TO NOTE: “No passengers. I think everybody pulled on the rope today. A lot of guys blocked shots and took hits to make plays, and that’s what it took.” –Bruce Cassidy to NESN on what the difference was in Thursday night’s win over the LA Kings. 

Bruins snap four-game losing streak with 2-1 win over Kings


Bruins snap four-game losing streak with 2-1 win over Kings

LOS ANGELES -- The Boston Bruins and Los Angeles Kings were two teams going in the wrong direction, the losses suddenly piling up for both of them.

Something had to change when they met Thursday night and it did for the Bruins, who made Zdeno Chara's tiebreaking goal in the second period stand up for a 2-1 victory over the Kings.

"Our guys were sick of losing," Boston coach Bruce Cassidy said after his team snapped a four-game skid.

The Kings, however, continued their unexpected spiral. After starting the season 11-2-2 for the best record in the Western Conference, they have dropped four in a row.

"We're going to have to dig down," coach John Stevens said. "You can't have part of your lineup going. You need your whole lineup going if you're going to win. It doesn't matter who you're playing."

The Kings won in Boston on Oct. 28 in the last second of overtime off a faceoff. This time, the Bruins returned the favor.

Patrice Bergeron won a faceoff for Boston in the first period and the puck went to Charlie McAvoy, who skated across the crease and lifted a backhand over the shoulder of goalie Jonathan Quick.

"I thought we played a much more complete game," McAvoy said. "We really wanted to get a win. It's been a while. We put together a complete 60 minutes."

Los Angeles tied it 1-all at 4:33 of the second on a power play. Jussi Jokinen found Drew Doughty open in the middle and the defenseman flicked in his fourth of the season.

Boston regained the lead at 13:16 when Chara fired a slap shot from outside the lower part of the circle that deflected off the stick of Los Angeles' Trevor Lewis a few feet in front of the net. The puck nicked the back of Quick's jersey and went in for Chara's second goal this season.

"I'm real happy with the way we played," Chara said. "We battled and deserved to win."

But the Bruins still had to hang on to preserve the victory, with almost 27 minutes yet to play.

"It's been an issue for us, closing out games," Cassidy said. "We did it well, comfortable. We didn't look scrambly. We didn't look like we lost our composure or poise."

The Kings never got another puck past backup goalie Anton Khudobin, who stopped 27 shots and improved to 4-0-2.

Quick made 28 saves for Los Angeles.

"You had that sense we did not want to let it go," Chara said. "You had that feel on the bench."

The Kings aren't sure what to feel after getting off to such an impressive start and now suddenly reeling.

"I don't think we're playing a 60-minute game," Anze Kopitar said. "Parts of the games, we play like we need to be, where we're in their zone making plays, creating chances.

"And in parts of the games, we're just pretty much non-existent out there. That's got to change. We have to have a better effort from everybody for a full game."

NOTES: Boston center David Krejci returned after missing 11 games with an upper-body injury. He played 18 minutes. "I felt pretty good for my first game back," Krejci said. . Kopitar assisted on Doughty's goal, extending his point streak to a career-best nine games. . The Kings had one four-game losing streak all last season. . The Bruins earned their second road win of the season.


Bruins: Head to San Jose to play the Sharks on Saturday.

Kings: Stay home Saturday to host the Florida Panthers.