Bruins

Talking Points: Sabres 6, Bruins 0

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Talking Points: Sabres 6, Bruins 0

BUFFALO In the greatest piece of evidence yet that the Bruins are experiencing some serious issues, the Black and Gold suffered their worst beating of the season at the hands of the Sabres Wednesday night.

The Bruins were robbed of a Milan Lucic goal on a bad goalie-interference call in the first period, then didnt respond at all to an aggressive, desperate Sabres bunch in a 6-0 loss at the First Niagara Center.

It's the 11th time they've lost a game to a team down and out of the playoff race -- they've only lost 17 games all year -- and that screams to focus problems against bad teams.

There was serious trouble brewing when the Bs defense was burned for goals by Christian Ehrhoff and Jason Pominville in the first period, and then Tuukka Rask was yanked in the second period after a Tyler Ennis score.

Lucic dropped the gloves with Patrick Kaleta, and Shawn Thornton fought twice attempting to keep the Bruins emotionally invested. But it was all for naught by the time Kaleta beat Tim Thomas with a five-hole goal to spot the Sabres a 4-0 lead heading into the third period.

All that was left was for the villainous Kaleta to act up in the final minutes of the third period and draw 10-minute misconducts from Lucic and Adam McQuaid during a line brawl donnybrook in front of the Boston bench.

The Bruins are now 3-4-1 in their last eight games and havent put two solid, victorious efforts together back-to-back since prior to Christmas.

GOLD STAR: Shawn Thornton dropped the gloves twice iand showed exactly what he was all about while so many of his teammates floundered. His first fight, against Cody McCormick, attempted to set the emotional table for the Bruins, and his second-period brawl against Mike Weber was a direct move to stick up for Benoit Pouliot. Weber had taken a run at Pouliot as Pouliot was headed to the bench for a line change and instead Thornton dropped the Buffalo defenseman with three overhand lefty punches. He also finished with three shots on net in 7:14 of ice time.

BLACK EYE: David Krejci was finally reunited with Lucic in the third period after failing spectacularly during the first two periods on the third line. Krejci was on ice playing matador defense for a pair of Buffalo goals, lost 8-of-10 faceoffs, and was thoroughly invisible at the offensive end of the ice. Krejci said he would act like a professional no matter where he was in the lineup, but he didnt appear to be giving an honest-to-goodness effort in the lopsided loss to the Sabres.

TURNING POINT: It was 2-0 at the end of the first period, and the Bruins had played solid hockey while battling through a horrendous call that waved off a Lucic goal due to goalie interference. But Rask was beaten on an Ennis backhander that made it 3-0 less than two minutes into the second period, and the roof effectively caved in after that. The Bruins are able to remain relatively close in all of their games due to structured defense and elite-level goaltending, and both of those qualities eluded them over the final two periods against Buffalo.

HONORABLE MENTION: Patrick Kaleta is a despicable rat, but give him credit for getting under the skin of his opponents. He was able to draw Lucic into a five-minute fighting major and a 10-minute game misconduct in separate incidents while also potting a backbreaking goal in the second period. Kaleta looked like a fool raising his hands in celebration after getting pounded by a series of Lucic punches in the first period, but he got his team emotionally invested into the game. Thats Kaleta filling the agitator role.

BY THE NUMBERS: Minus-3 The final plusminus total for Zdeno Chara in 6-0 loss to the Sabres his worst plusminus mark of the season and his worst since a minus-4 against the Caps on Nov. 5, 2010.

QUOTE TO NOTE: Its definitely been a while since we had a loss like this. Maybe its for the best and its a wakeup call that shows we need to be better. It shows us we cant take any team lightly no matter what the reason. Milan Lucic on making some sense of getting pounded by the Sabres, 6-0.

Bruins demoralize Habs in three game set

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Bruins demoralize Habs in three game set

MONTREAL – The Boston Bruins weren’t about to dance on any Montreal Canadiens’ graves after it was over and done with, but they effectively closed the door on any flickering playoff hopes for the Habs this week. It all ended with Saturday night’s 4-1 win over the Canadiens at the Bell Centre that finished off the sweep of all three meetings between the two arch-rivals over an eight day span, and with the reeling Montreal a stunning 13 points out of a playoff spot in the Atlantic Division.

It was a close game nearly all the way through in Montreal until David Pastrnak and Riley Nash scored in the final few minutes of the third period, but the Bruins outscored the Habs by an 11-5 margin while clearly establishing they were the better team in all three contests. It all makes sense given the opposite directions that the two hockey clubs are headed at this point in the season, and because of that the Bruins were playing it pretty cool after burying the Habs.

“It was kind of a crazy week because we were playing them three times, so we obviously wanted to play good hockey,” said Tuukka Rask, who won all three games vs. the Habs while improving his lifetime record vs. the Habs to 10-15-3 in the process. “[We wanted to] get as many points as possible, and won all of those games along with the one on Long Island. So it was a great week for us.”

Certainly it seemed like there was more genuine emotion from the Bruins in Claude Julien’s return to Boston midweek, and perhaps a little more adrenaline in last weekend’s first game at the Bell Centre where rookies like Jake DeBrusk, Charlie McAvoy and Danton Heinen were dipping their toes into the storied rivalry for the first time.

But on this Saturday night it was more about a complete dismantling of the Bleu, Blanc and Rouge even as the Bruins initially fell down by a goal after a bad McAvoy turnover. Instead it was Boston’s Perfection Line that went to work with an efficient, dominant performance as David Pastrnak scored the game’s first goal and insurance third goal in the third period. They also accounted for the game-winner when Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak hemmed Montreal’s fourth line in the defensive zone, and Torey Krug eventually stepped up and rifled one short side on Carey Price.

Marchand, Bergeron and Pastrnak combined for two goals, six assists and a plus-8 in the resounding victory over the Habs, and had a dominant 12 of Boston’s 31 shots on net when the final horn had sounded. They simply overwhelmed Montreal with their depth, the high end quality of their lineup and the fact that Boston was rested while the Habs had to play in Washington DC on Friday night in a three games in four days stretch.

All of that allowed the Bruins to drive the final nail into Montreal’s coffin when the game was over, and it furthermore allowed Boston to keep worrying about the teams they’re trying to catch (ahem…Tampa Bay Lightning) rather than Eastern Conference bottom-feeders like the Canadiens.

“We talked about doing the job against them and finding a ways to push teams down while gaining ground on the teams above us,” said Patrice Bergeron. “I thought it was a great effort again. We knew that they would be ready for us, but we also knew that they had played last night. So maybe if we had a good start we could jump on them. I thought we had a good game.”

Clearly there have been ebbs and flows to the Bruins/Habs rivalry over their long history together, and both Boston and Montreal have been in the catbird at different times even in the recent editions of their history. But right now Boston is beating the Canadiens badly at their own skill and speed game and dominating thing with pure hockey rather than bullying, and that’s got to sting for a Habs group that simply couldn’t compete with the Bruins in three different chances to do so this week. 

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Celtics-Magic Preview: Boston looks to improve shooting down the stretch

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Celtics-Magic Preview: Boston looks to improve shooting down the stretch

BOSTON – When Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens was asked about what he saw in the team’s newest (10-day) addition Jarell Eddie, his response was, “shooting … shooting.”

Indeed, shot-making has been the one area of play that has been problematic for the Celtics most of this season.

Boston comes into today’s game against Orlando (13-32) shooting just 44.8 percent from the field which ranks 25th in the NBA.

In the month of January, Boston has been even worse, connecting on just 41.8 percent of their shots which ranks 29th in the league this month.

While the addition of Eddie had more to do with the recent flu bug that has made the rounds throughout the Celtics lineup and the uncertainty a couple days ago surrounding Kyrie Irving’s sore left shoulder (it has improved and he’s expected to play today), adding Eddie speaks to a greater problem – guys making shots – that has to be addressed in some capacity sooner or later.

Boston always has the option to pursue a trade. They also have an $8.4 million disabled player exception they can use on free agent players, with the most likely pool of talent that they will choose from consisting of players who would have been bought out by their current teams.

Or there’s raiding the G-League for talent, which is what they did in signing Eddie to a 10-day contract.

Regardless, there’s a growing sense that this team has to add more scoring punch to the mix or at a minimum, improve the overall offensive execution of the roster as it stands now.

“We have to do our stuff better,” Stevens said. “The start of the season it was predictable, losing Gordon (Hayward who suffered a dislocated left ankle injury in the season-opener) and having to adjust. The middle portion of games we were pretty darn good. And then I thought we were reasonable in London, reasonable against New Orleans. But the other three of the last five games, we weren’t very good.”

Boston’s offense should get a boost from Irving’s return to the lineup after missing Boston’s 89-80 loss to Philadelphia with a sore left shoulder.

And while it was just one game, Irving understands the challenge that lies ahead in getting Boston’s offense to play better and more consistently.

“We have very unique talents on this team,” Irving said. “When you’re trying to put that together and guys are coming back into the lineup and getting their rhythm still and guys are in and out sometimes … big picture, down the stretch, we’re going to need everyone to be on the same page.”

Marcus Morris has been one of the players who has been in and out of the Celtics lineup because of a sore left knee.

However, the schedule has eased up to where he’ll be able to play more games, for longer stretches.

He comes into today’s game having scored in double figures each of the last three games.

“I’m just trying to get healthy. I know what I can do,” Morris told NBC Sports Boston. “My confidence is always going to stay high, no matter if I miss or make shots.”

In the last three games, he has averaged 15.0 points while shooting 45.7 percent from the field.

While Morris’ play of late is promising, it doesn’t diminish the concern Boston should have for an offense that for the most part, has been sputtering this season.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE