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Through the motions in Minnesota

April 9, 2014, 5:29 PM ET [12 Comments]
Ty Anderson
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Last night’s shootout loss to the Minnesota Wild: Who even cares? Yeah, we’re basically at that point of the year when it comes to the Boston Bruins. They’re in, they’re the top seed in the Eastern Conference, and we’re all just sitting here counting down the days until it’s time for playoff hockey. And based on last night’s lineup, it seems as if the B’s coaching staff feels the same way.

In the Bruins’ loss last night, head coach Claude Julien scratched top-line center David Krejci, and continued to let Jarome Iginla and Kevan Miller rest in an effort to recover from their ‘very minor’ injuries. They even dressed 5-foot-9 defensemen Torey Krug, their best puck-mover, as a left winger on a line with Gregory Campbell and Shawn Thornton. To quote Creed Bratton, “They don’t give an eff about nothing!”

A few notes, though.

- The Bruins will probably be best served if Corey Potter’s skates don’t touch the ice during the postseason. Claimed off waivers from the Edmonton Oilers on Mar. 5, Potter’s in Boston as a depth option with a righty shot in the event of it all going to hell. And boy, oh boy, if he’s in the lineup I’m sure that it’s all gone to hell. On the Wild’s second goal of the night, the Bruins won the draw, but Potter was beat to the puck by Matt Moulson, who threw it in front, right on the blade of Minnesota’s Jason Pominville, and into the back of the net.

Obviously, you can’t sit there and expect a dude that you picked up on waivers from Edmonton to be a defensive stalwart for you, but with just two games as a Bruin to his name, there’s no denying that he doesn’t exactly seem to fit the mold for what Julien wants out of this club come springtime. But if I’m behind the Boston bench, I am throwing this guy out there for the final three games of the year because you simply have to be prepared to give him ice-time in the event of multiple injuries to your point. It’s a microscopic sample, really, but he could use another three nights of around 15 minutes or so to get properly acclimated to Boston’s system.

As best he can, anyways.

- Returning to the middle of the Bruins’ third line last night, the Bruins appear to have dodged a bullet with an injury that forced Chris Kelly out of last night’s contest.

The last thing Boston wants right now is losing one of their leaders to injury in a by all means meaningless affair. And what a blow losing Kelly would be, all things considered. Though the Bruins have loved the contributions they’ve gotten from Carl Soderberg at center, and even though top prospect Ryan Spooner is a viable option in the club’s pipeline, there’s nobody that can really replace the 33-year-old Kelly come playoff time for Julien.

Sure, the Bruins have managed with Kelly on the shelf at points in the season -- he missed 22 games this year with a fractured fibula -- but in the postseason, Kelly’s going to be the Bruins’ go-to penalty killing centermen behind Patrice Bergeron. And judging from the wear-and-tear Bergeron went through by last year’s Final, you’d prefer to limit his shorthanded minutes if at all possible.

That’s not even taking Kelly’s chemistry with Swedish linemates, Soderberg and Loui Eriksson, into consideration, as Kelly’s been the ‘jam’ of that line’s three-zone game.

The Bruins have called Spooner up on an emergency basis, though, just in case.

- The offensive game of one Patrice Bergeron? Out of this world.

Striking with a goal last night, the 28-year-old center extended his point-streak to a white-hot 12 games. Over that stretch, Bergeron's scored 10 goals and added six assists. His offensive game is on another planet right now. Simple as that.

- Krug as a forward? Alright. The Bruins going with a seven defensemen lineup? A preview, maybe.

I don’t think that either one of Matt Bartkowski or Andrej Meszaros has really blown the doors off in their competition for a spot on Boston’s second defensive pairing come playoff time. They’ve both had their moments of success (I thought Bartkowski played pretty well last night) and their moments of “What the hell was that?” I think that Bartkowski’s experience and familiarity with the system gives him a bit of a natural leg-up on the 28-year-old Mezsaros, but right now it seems like you could really just flip a coin when it comes to picking one over the other.

So while a fun experiment, maybe Krug skating into the lineup as the club’s seventh defensemen is an idea that the B’s will seriously consider come time for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

By now, the postseason scratching of the 36-year-old Shawn Thornton is almost a given if the Bruins are drawn into a seven-game series with a skill club (like a Detroit Red Wings, for example). But instead of a Jordan Caron for Thornton swap, a defensemen for Thornton swap could seemingly make more sense if it’s a move that Julien makes at some point in the postseason.

On the flip side, though, Thornton’s vocal presence has been linked as a source of motivation and knowledge for the Black-and-Gold, as demonstrated by last year’s late-game comeback against the Toronto Maple Leafs in Game 7. Thornton’s moment in that game, was in the overtime intermission, when he basically got in Tyler Seguin’s ear and told him to earn his minutes out there.

Not sure if you really wanna scratch that to give Andrej Mezsaros an 11-minute night.

- The biggest concern when it comes to last night's loss? The late-game collapse that allowed Ryan Suter to score the game-tying goal with just 65 seconds left in the third. It was the second third period goal allowed in less than a few weeks (the first came in Philadelphia), and that's something that'll simply kill you come playoff time. See: Toronto Maple Leafs, Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals.

It's a bump in the road in Game 79, sure, but when it happens with your top guns like a Patrice Bergeron and a Zdeno Chara out there, you're a bit concerned.

Avoiding that for the next three games would be a great idea. (How's that for analysis?)
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