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Thoughts from a back-to-back split with Sens, Pens; Kelly breaks tibia

March 13, 2013, 3:05 PM ET [53 Comments]
Ty Anderson
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Part of the Boston Bruins’ five games in seven days stretch, a Monday in Ottawa and Tuesday in Pittsburgh seem to bring the best out of the Black-and-Gold -- and the worst out of one of the East’s best squads at the halfway point of the 2013 season.

Beginning with a nightmare start that saw Guillaume Latendresse score on Ottawa’s first shot of the game, and then down by two when Kyle Turris capitalized on a lazy turnover from the Bruins’ Nathan Horton, just how big was Tuukka Rask’s save on Colin Greening late in the first period of Monday’s contest against the Ottawa Senators?

Let’s just say that the Gonchar to Greening pass leads to a goal for the Sens, shall we? The Bruins are now in a 3-0 hole in the first period, they’re stymied by the Sens’ never-say-die attitude, and Shawn Thornton is sent out there to look for an ‘energizing’ fight. He does such, and he’s not on the ice to score the Bruins’ first goal of the game. Huge.

Boston would end up tying it up on a Danny Paille breakaway (You read that right, by the way), and forced a shootout, where David Krejci’s tally in the bottom of the fourth did the trick against budding-Bruins-killer Robin Lehner and the Sens.

And it was pretty much the complete opposite that damned the Bruins the next night in Pittsburgh.

In the first meeting between the two Eastern Conference favorites, the B’s were the early aggressors, jumping out to a 2-0 lead in the first period behind a power-play goal from Zdeno Chara (his fifth goal of the season), and a beauty in the slot from a falling Tyler Seguin, good for his ninth goal of the year.

But in the third period, the wheels fell off the Boston bus once again, and the Pens struck with three goals in under five minutes to down Anton Khudobin and the B’s at CONSOL Energy Center, securing the Bruins their fourth regulation loss of the year.

Stop hating fun: Kaspar Daugavins shootout attempt was cool

I must’ve been napping when the shootout became a sacred hockey event.

It (apparently) began with then-Oiler Linus Omark’s ‘spin-o-rama’ that prompted tons of criticism for the ‘classless’ twist on the shootout, something that’s been part of the NHL culture for a mere eight years now, and continued on Monday night following the Sens’ Kaspar Daugavins attempt on Tuukka Rask in the fourth round of the Bruins-Sens shootout.



Oh, wow! That guy totally did something unique that almost worked! Let’s kill him!

At the end of the day, there’s nothing wrong with Daugavins’ attempt other than the fact that it didn’t go by Rask, and therefore didn’t result in a goal. Sure, the Ottawa forward didn’t go with your standard skate in, do a little deke, and try to beat an all-world goaltender with a wrist shot, but My God, it’s Kaspar Daugavins! Did you really think that this chance killed the Sens’ chance for a victory more so than a regular attempt from the 24-year-old Latvian?

No, so for the love of all things hockey, relax.

It’s best described as the ‘age of outrage’, because rather than appreciating unique and skillful shootout attempts in a contest essentially based off such, we’re trying to tell Daugavins that his effort was stupid despite the fact that Rask barely stopped his shot.

Fourth line continues to be strength of Bruins

At one point, you could make the case that Boston’s fourth line was the best fourth line in the game. But in a 2013 that’s seen all of the Bruins’ bottom-six struggle, such a thought became a slightly outdated adage, but has seemed to found the spark its needed as of late.

Following a strong Saturday against Philly last weekend, the Thornton-Campbell-Paille trio continued to bring their A-game to the rink on Monday night, accounting for both of the Bruins’ goals, and providing the momentum the club needed beyond a staged fight, the trio continues to lift the B’s up in the noticeable absence of the club’s top line forwards.

One of these things is very good! The other... uhhh... not so much.

Neil on Kelly: Not dirty, but killer for Boston's bottom-six

I don't think Chris Neil went in and tried to take former teammate Chris Kelly's knee out, and neither should you.

Even if Neil was upset after being drilled by Adam McQuaid in the first period, there's no way that Neil went out there with the intent of maiming a Bruin, especially one he played with from 2003 to 2011. Neil's not that kind of player. He plays hard, he plays annoying, and he's extremely unlikable for the opposition, but he's not a dirty player. I mean, c'mon, the dude's got a $1,000 fine issued back in 2003 to his name. That's it!

In essence, Neil plays hard, but not dirty.

But just how will a knee injury affect the Bruins' third line?

Well, the loss of Kelly is huge, and I shouldn't have to tell you that. Despite the lack of scoring from his line, and Kelly in particular (two goals and six points in 23 games this year), his ability to be among the Bruins' best shutdown penalty-killers has been stronger than ever. In over 15 minutes of time-on-ice per game, the 32-year-old Kelly has won 60.6 percent of faceoffs this year, and has averaged 2:25 of shorthanded time-on-ice per game this year, third among forwards on the Bruins' NHL-best shorthanded unit.

The semi-good news for Boston, however, is that Kelly's winger, Rich Peverley, is a natural center that's shown the ability to cover Kelly in short-term fills when needed.

Winning 98 of 160 faceoffs this year, Peverley has the ability to center the club's third line without much of a problem, but the loss of his speed on the wing, forcing Jay Pandolfo to suit up in his place on the third line, will force a shift among Boston skaters that ultimately lessens the offensive punch of the club's bottom-six.

B’s goaltenders love playing the Ottawa Senators

Former Boston netminder Tim Thomas had 23 wins and a .937 save-percentage in 34 career starts against the Sens. Anton Khudobin stopped 44 of 45 shots thrown his way in his only game against the Senators last season, and following Monday’s game, the 25-year-old Tuukka Rask now boasts a 4-0-0 record and .952 save-percentage against the Sens. That’s downright filthy.

Is the power-play on the up-swing?

Over their last five games, the Boston Bruins’ power-play is 3-for-11. 5-for-18 if you include the two games before that, giving them a 27.7 success rate for the month of March.

That’s a greatly needed boost for a slumping B’s power-play unit, and it’s really all started with the play of the 21-year-old Tyler Seguin. Waking up from the nap that’s left us wondering what the hell is going on with his play, Seguin’s ability to be the play-maker and the sniper on the Bruins’ man-advantage has paid dividends on the way to the Bruins’ resurgent PP.

That being said, the B’s could still without question use an upgrade on the man-advantage at the deadline, as the second unit continues to be a complete crap-show.

Khudobin has rotten luck in loss against Pittsburgh

For two periods, Boston backup Anton Khudobin was everything you needed and more. Whether it was the 26-year-old's first period stop on James Neal when the Penguin forward looked to have a sure goal, or Khudobin's second period stop on Tyler Kennedy, the Kazakh netminder looked poised for what would've been his first shutout in a B's uniform.

Successfully pushing onward for the shutout when the Bruins (somehow) found a way to kill off third period penalties against Patrice Bergeron and even Khudobin following his high-stick to the Pens' Chris Kunitz, it's as if the Bruins just shut down and allowed the high-powered Penguins attack to take over.

In case you didn't know, that proved to be an extremely bad idea.

Pittsburgh brought themselves within two when Kunitz scored, knotted it up when Brandon Sutter scored, and then took the lead with just over two minutes to go when Dennis Seidenberg just opted to give the puck right away, handing it off to Sutter and the Penguins, who wasted no time in scoring and giving Pittsburgh a 3-2 lead they'd hang on to rather easily.

Finishing the night with 31 saves on 34 shots, Khudobin did anything but deserve this loss.

Did B’s get goaltending duties mixed up?

Continuing to pontificate on the Bruins' goaltending woes (if you want to call them that), I can't be the only one confused as to why the Bruins rolled Tuukka Rask out there on Monday and essentially threw Anton Khudobin to the wolves on Tuesday against Pittsburgh.

As previously mentioned, Khudobin stopped 44 of 45 shots in his only career appearance against Ottawa, and given the Sens' lack of finishers with injuries to Erik Karlsson, Jason Spezza, and Milan Michalek, it seemed obvious that the B's would turn to him and save Rask for the ridiculously talented forward core of the Penguins.

Nope!

Perhaps putting more value in the divisional matchup against Ottawa, the B's undoubtedly should've thrown that belief out the window and turned to Khudobin against Ottawa. Of course, that's my opinion, but doesn't it seem to make more sense?

With just one win in three career games against Pittsburgh, posting a .913 save-percentage over that stretch, Rask's going to have to prove himself as a goaltender capable of winning a game against the conference's elite at some point in 2013, and yesterday gave him that opportunity, especially given the lack of Chris Kelly in the Bruins' lineup.

Basically, what I'm saying is that last night could've been the statement game from Rask.

It could've put (even more) doubters to bed, and it would've meant a lot more than him slamming the door on the struggling Philadelphia Flyers for the first time since the choke.

The good news, of course, is that he'll probably have a chance to accomplish such a feat this weekend as the B's return to Pittsburgh for a St. Patrick's Day matinee against the Pens.

Where's the Bruins' first line?

It hasn't been all bad for Boston's top-line in 2013, but you can't help but wonder where the hell the club's trio of David Krejci, Nathan Horton, and Milan Lucic have been over the past few weeks, or even last month really?

By all means nonexistent in the Bruins' loss last night, and with a quiet two before that against Ottawa and Philadelphia, just what's going on with the leading force of the Bruins' attack since the Cup run in 2011?

Perhaps it's been due to a perceived David Krejci injury suffered during Saturday's 3-0 win over Philadelphia, Krejci's tame production since, with one assist, a minus-3 rating, and a disappointing 4-for-15 night at the dot last night, has been alarming, but the disappearance of the Bruins' two power forwards has been even more concerning.

To this blogger, anyways.

The 24-year-old Lucic has just three goals in his last 13 games. He's been better in front of the net, noticeable on the power-play, sure, but that's in no way enough given the expectations and resume that the 6-foot-4 winger's built over the past 36 months.

Horton, on the other hand, has been feast or famine.

Without a goal in seven straight games, the 27-year-old has been borderline invisible out there outside of a four-shot game against Philly that almost saw Horton finish on what would've been a beautiful assist to Zdeno Chara, but has had 2013 stretches that include a five-game point-streak and run that saw Horton score three goals in four games.

No longer the physical threat they've been known as, the Krejci line has looked incredibly soft in 2013, and has really put the pressure on the Bruins' second line of Marchand-Bergeron-Seguin to carry the offense, something that just won't continue to slide under coach Claude Julien.

UPDATE: CHRIS KELLY HAS FRACTURED TIBIA

Coming through the wire at this moment is the news that B's third line center Chris Kelly will be out indefinitely with a fractured left tibia. Suffering the injury on Monday night against the Sens, Kelly's tibia injury comes as a familiar blow to Bruins fans.

In 2007-08, a fractured tibia ended Chuck Kobasew's season, forcing the winger to sit out the final 13 games (six regular season games and seven postseason games) of the year, and forced Andrew Ference to miss 31 games in 2008-09.

Kelly had two goals and a six points in 23 games this year.

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