By Mike Miccoli, Boston Bruins correspondent
Not many fans would guess that the Minnesota Wild are the only NHL team at has never lost a regular season game in Boston. After their 3-1 victory over the Bruins on Thursday night, the Wild improved to a perfect 6-0-0 at the TD Garden and 9-1-1 all-time against the Original Six club. The Bruins continued their on-again, off-again relationship with consistency giving up a valuable two points to a Western Conference club that has their number.
Looking back on the Wild’s ten years in the NHL, it’s hard to find the real reasons why they are so difficult for the Bruins to steal a victory from. The Wild haven’t had their share of superstars throughout the years aside from Marian Gaborik or premiere goaltending (a case could be made for Niklas Backstrom) but have always played a trap game using their entire depth chart. Thursday night in Boston was no different. While rolling out four consistent lines, three solid pairs of defense and the strong goaltending of Jose Theodore (who hasn’t lost a regular season game in regulation against Boston since 1/31/04), the Wild were able to outlast the B’s, capitalizing on Boston’s most crucial mistakes. The Bruins only goal came from Steve Kampfer, his third in five games, but were otherwise unable to capitalize on four power play chances and ultimately failed to build upon their lead in the Northeast division.
A Costly Turnover
While it may be an understatement to say that Marc Savard hasn’t been the play-maker he usually is since returning from his concussion, he was certainly key to a pivotal goal on Thursday night. Except the pass he made was right to Cal Clutterbuck, a Minnesota Wild forward, who is definitely not on his team. Whoops.
Savard was about 49 seconds into his first shift of the third period when he attempted to clear the puck out of the Boston end after a spirited scoring chance in the offensive zone. Instead of the clear, his lazy lob landed directly on Clutterbuck’s stick who lifted it past Tuukka Rask to break the tie and ultimately, win the game.
“It was a mistake and it happens,” said Savard after the game. “We have to try and bounce back from that. We were a tired group and in our zone for a bit. I wanted to get a high flipper out in the zone to get a change but the puck never left the ice.”
Savard didn’t see much ice-time after the turnover and finished the third period with only three more shifts–the fewest of any Bruin center. His final shift came as the extra-attacker once Boston pulled Rask.
“I think when you make a mistake like that everybody’s got to be accountable,” said Bruins coach Claude Julien during his post-game press conference. “You know it’s one of those things that happens throughout a game and from the first player to the last player, you want to make sure that everybody understands that [because] it was a mistake that you don’t expect a guy like that to make, [it] doesn’t mean that you lose confidence in him. Because you’re gonna go right back with him next game and you hope that they bounce back.”
Two U’s, two K’s, too bad…
Tuukka Rask’s record is now 3-8-1–pretty poor when you look at the line on paper. If you have been watching Rask this season, you’d know that the goalie has actually looked pretty good making some key stops. On Thursday night, he had this incredible superman save.
But here are some tidbits to lighten up this otherwise gloomy statistic. Rask has a G.A.A. of 2.57 and a .928 save percentage with one of his three wins coming via a shutout. He’s allowed only 30 goals in 12 starts and has played close to 700 minutes. The downside? When Rask is in net the Bruins have only scored 29 goals, a -1 difference. And although the Bruins no longer look like the play well in front of Rask, some of the B’s speak in contrast.
“I think it’s awful that that kid plays so good for us all the time and we don’t get the wins for him,” said Shawn Thornton after the Bruins’ loss. “We care about him and we should probably show it in a better way, he stood on his head for us pretty much every night.”
Rask was coming off of a strong win in Toronto on Monday night before getting the nod against Minnesota.
“I try to feel good about myself everyday and think positive,” said Rask. “The past couple games have been solid. Tough to lose like this. It’s kind of frustrating but you always try to feel good about yourself, but the last three games have been a step in the right direction.”
For me, the jury is still out on Tyler Seguin. His play has been getting better as he tallied an assist tonight and got a good amount of total ice-time. I’ll see his speed on a breakaway and think that he could be the most electrifying skater in Boston for years to come. But then, I’ll notice some of his simple mistakes–going offsides, missed passes, Dunkin Donuts commercials, etc. He’s obviously still progressing, and I understand that, but I think Seguin may need a little more room on the ice to spread his wings. A solution could be putting Seguin on one of the power-play units.
Though he did see time briefly tonight, Seguin has only spent an average of 1:34 on the power play, 12th amongst Bruins, but does has a goal and two assists while on the ice for the man-advantage. Aside from the fourth line of Gregory Campbell, Shawn Thornton and Brad Marchand, only Blake Wheeler has less time on the power play than the 2nd overall pick in the 2010 Entry Draft. Seguin has been touted as a highly-skilled play-maker that’s loaded with speed. What’s the Bruins power play missing, aside from efficiency? My guess is that number 19 finds himself on one of the units sooner than later especially with the Bruins trying to find an answer for their drought. Since Mark Recchi’s power play goal against the Tampa Bay Lightning on 12/28, the B’s are 0 for 10. Help wanted?
The Next Five
The Bruins are now entering what could potentially be the toughest five-game stretch of the season. In the course of a week, the Bruins will travel to Montreal on Saturday and Pittsburgh on Monday before returning home to play Ottawa on Tuesday, Philadelphia on Thursday and Pittsburgh again on Saturday. The stretch will certainly be a good test for this often inconsistent black and gold team as well as for Claude Julien too. Julien will have the tedious task of properly planning out his starting goaltending to assure maximum efficiency and success down the stretch.
Four of those games are against elite Eastern Conference teams while the fifth, Tuesday, 1/11 against Ottawa, will be challenging since it comes less than 24 hours after a game against Sidney Crosby and the Penguins. These ten points may be the most difficult to pick up during a consecutive stretch of games but if successful, it will be hard to ignore the Bruins as a legitimate contender.
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