BOSTON - The playoff race is heating up, and if this weekend's back-to-back wins by the Bruins are any indication, they are heating up right along with it.
"It seems like everyone right now is feelin' it," said Brad Marchand, who struck first on Sunday afternoon en route to a 5-3 win over the Detroit Red Wings at TD Garden.
"You can see every line's making plays and we're all getting opportunities, so it's something that's been a long time coming and we've been working hard at it in practice, but it feels nice out there for sure."
The victory gave the Bruins four points on the weekend following their comeback 2-1 overtime win against Philadelphia on Saturday that saw Marchand net the late tying goal and the game-winner. Marchand now has five goals in his past four games.
The Black and Gold have earned nine of 10 possible points in their past five games, with a shootout loss to Calgary the lone defeat.
They have scored first in eight straight games, their power play is producing and the penalty kill is on the upswing - and managed two shorthanded tallies against the NHL's top ranked power play on Sunday. Players who should be producing, are starting to produce.
BOSTON - David Pastrnak isn't one for many words, but he understands how the page turns in the NHL.
The Bruins pulled off a thrilling 3-2 overtime win over the Phildelphia Flyers on Saturday at TD Garden. Brad Marchand scored the tying goal with 14.1 left in regulation during a 6-on-4 power play, and then netted the winner.
"You know it was an important game for us - the Flyers are right behind us, so we knew it was going to be a hard game, but we wanted a win and try to get the better of them," the always smiling but soft-spoken Pastrnak said postgame.
But now the Bruins will quickly turn their attention to the Detroit Red Wings for a Sunday matinee (12:30 p.m. ET, NBC, 98.5 The Sports Hub), with another two crucial points on the line.
"This game is over now and it’s good we got two points, but we have a game [Sunday] and we have to get ready for [that] game," Pastrnak said simply.
Detroit hasn't played since Friday night, but the Bruins aren't focused on the challenge of the back-to-back against a rested team, even if the game was originally schedule for 7:00 p.m. before NBC chose it for its "Game of the Week" matinee.
"You know, we got a game pushed up, and not only pushed up from 7 to 12:30, but you might as well play at 11:30 with the clocks going ahead [for Daylight Saving Time], so again, just challenge after challenge and we’ve just got to face those things and get ourselves ready," Head Coach Claude Julien said after Saturday's win.
"It’s important right now that our guys get out of here, get a good meal in themselves and get some good rest to prepare for [Sunday] because [Sunday’s] game to me is just as important as [this one]."
The Bruins gave themselves a slight cushion in the standings, now with 74 points in the second Wild Card spot. As a result, the Florida Panthers were four points back heading into their game on Saturday night against the New York Islanders. When the puck drops Sunday against Detroit, the B's will still have two games in hand on Florida.
The Flyers fell in OT, but still picked up a point, putting them five points behind the Bruins through 66 games. The gunning Ottawa Senators also have 69 points, but through 63 games, with one game in hand now on Boston.
"I mean, every team is going to give us a big challenge, a big game. Like I said before the game, it doesn’t matter who we play, every team we are going to play for the rest of the season is going to give us their best fight," said Zdeno Chara. "And we have to play the same way."
"We have teams that are either really close behind us or teams right ahead of us that will be fighting for better positions or every point basically. So it’s playoff mode, playoff hockey."
The Red Wings have 83 points heading into Sunday's game, ranked third in the Atlantic Division behind Montreal and Tampa Bay. They may be ahead of the Bruins points-wise, but they're also jockeying for playoff positioning.
The Bruins are hoping to carry over momentum from their overtime win into the divisional matchup. The killer instinct showed in the victory should definitely give them extra jump - it was the kind of win that happened often last season, but that hasn't happened often enough this season.
"It was a really important win for us, especially the way that it happened, too - we’re down, but never out," said Torey Krug. "[Philadelphia] scored a big goal with four minutes left and we responded very well. So it was nice to be on that side of things for a change."
The Bruins know the Red Wings' fast-paced game well. Detroit plays with speed and has plenty of skill, but can also wear teams down.
"We’ve got to be especially focused on not shooting ourselves in the foot, by not managing the puck well," said Julien. "And we’ve got to make some smart plays. We’ve got to play a smart game."
The Wings are coming off a 5-2 loss to the Calgary Flames, marking just their third loss in regulation by more than one goal all season. Their previous two losses by more than a goal came against Montreal (4-1 on Nov. 16, 2-0 on Feb. 16).
Prior to the loss, they squeezed out a 2-1 OT win over the New York Rangers in Detroit, after coming back from a strong six-game road trip that saw them earn nine of 12 points.
Rask or Svedberg?
Following Saturday's win, Tuukka Rask had appeared in 21 of the Bruins' last 22 games.
Julien opted not to confirm the starter for Sunday's game.
"Oh, I don’t know yet. I’ll have to sleep on it," he said.
Rask has always said he'll play every game if necessary. With Boston in the playoff hunt, Julien could start him back between the pipes.
"I mean we’ll see what happens [Sunday], but I’m always ready to play," Rask said postgame on Saturday. "It’s not like it was a full period of overtime."
Being More Aggressive on the PK
The Bruins wanted to tighten up their penalty kill heading into the Flyers game. Their first PK went that way, but the second allowed yet another power-play goal.
Philadelphia may have come into the game with the NHL's third ranked man-advantage, but the Bruins have been too passive on the penalty kill, now having allowed nine goals in their past nine games.
Detroit owns the top ranked power play, so Boston has to clamp down and be much more aggressive, not letting offensive weapons like Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg make plays.
Chara's Point Production
Chara has scored twice in the Bruins' past two games from the point on the power play. He scored 10 power play goals in 2013-14 by mostly owning his new spot in front of the net on the man advantage.
He spent most of this season in that same position, but with a stalemate on the power play that caused a change-up on the units in the past few weeks, Chara has been manning the point. One of the goals came off is patented blast, and Saturday's tally came from a long-range wrister.
"He’s adjusted pretty well," said Julien. "He’s getting his shots through and you know, again, sometimes it’s not always the big slap shot but just making sure that you get shots to the net. I know he works hard in practice. He goes out there early and takes a ton of shots all the time, and it’s nice to see him get rewarded for that."
"Yeah I like it, it was something I use to play before," said Chara of the switch. "You know, sometimes it’s just a wrist shot that finds a way to get in. It’s nice to see we switched it up a little, we mixed up the units and it’s working right now."
Julien Pleased with Fourth Line
Campbell returned on Saturday after being sidelined for four games with an upper-body injury.
"I was pleasantly surprised at the way I felt, energy wise and the injury, so it was good," said the center, who played his first game with new Bruin Max Talbot on his right wing, and had the comfort of Daniel Paille on his left wing.
He iced a puck late in the third that eventually led to a Flyers' goal, and took accountability for the mistake postgame, but overall, Julien liked what he saw from the new line.
"I liked that fourth line," said Julien. "They did a great job, you know, and those are three veteran players and they played with a lot of energy and. Dan was skating like we’re used to seeing him skating and getting physically involved, and Soupy was excited to be back, and Max just, I think he’s got a great personality that I think is going to keep that line excited, and playing with a lot of intensity."
"He’s got some experience. He’s a former captain back in the day, and he’s been a great leader, so I think he’s a guy that understands the game. He understands his role. He knows he’s not the 50-goal scorer, but he’ll certainly go out there and he’ll create them. As you could see, he creates chances and can have some of his opportunities as well."
Talbot Feeling at Home with Boston
Talbot recorded his first point as a Bruin when he assisted on Marchand's overtime winner on Saturday, setting him up with a quick saucer pass off the rush. Talbot had been given a shift with Marchand and Patrice Bergeron prior to the goal.
While he's been in the Spoked-B for barely as week, and just two games, he has seemed to fit in well on and off the ice.
"It’s been great since I got the phone call from Mr. Chiarelli, and the guys have just been so welcoming and so nice to me," said Talbot. "I feel like I’ve known a couple of these guys. And on the ice as well, it’s been good, it’s been simple. The guys have made it easy for me. It’s going to be a good fit."
Talbot had an idea of the warm welcome he might receive, thanks to his teammate in Colorado, Jarome Iginla.
"Well, I talked to him at the start of the year, I was asking him about how it was in Boston, and he shot me a text when I got traded as well," said Talbot. "He said it’s a great spot, great hockey spot, good team and he only had good things to say about the city and the team."
Maybe Talbot will cement his new Black and Gold status by reminding the Red Wings about his past prowess against them - most notably scoring both goals in Pittsburgh's Game 7 Stanley Cup-winning 2-1 victory over Detroit in 2009.
Projected Lineup vs. Detroit March 8
Healthy Scratch: Brian Ferlin
BOSTON - The Bruins were 15 seconds away from not even earning a point.
With 14.1 on the clock in regulation, an extra attacker on the ice for a 6-on-4 power play, and Tuukka Rask watching from the bench, Brad Marchand fought his way to the front and tipped in a Dougie Hamilton shot from the right point to force extra time.
Marchand has scored big-time goals before, and this celebration was no different. The arms went up, the piercing shout no doubt resounded on the ice, and the determined look meant the Bruins had life. The home crowd at TD Garden followed suit.
The goal tied the game at 2-2. Boston had fought for a point, and they had the momentum heading into OT.
"I thought that everybody had that killing instinct going into that 6-on-4," said captain Zdeno Chara, who said he wasn't surprised Rask was pulled right at the start of the power play, with 2:03 to go in the third. "I mean, it’s do or die."
That killer instinct hasn't necessarily been there for the Bruins all season. Marchand helped them regain that.
Then, in overtime, the Black and Gold rolled out their sets of three forwards and one defenseman, pushing the pace, and playing to win.
With 1:08 to go, Marchand got the Bruins their second point, backhanding in the overtime winner to lift them to the 3-2 win.
BOSTON - The Bruins host the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday afternoon at TD Garden in a four-point game that has important implications in the playoff race.
Game time is set for 1:00 p.m. (NESN, 98.5 The Sports Hub).
Boston has been holding on to the second Wild Card spot in the East with 72 points through 63 games. Philadelphia is gunning for that spot, sitting just four points back of the Bruins , though the Black and Gold have two games in hand.
The Florida Panthers (70 points, 65 games) and Ottawa Senators (69 points, 63 games) are both chasing the Bruins as well.
Needless to say, the Bruins need to start creating separation in the standings. Saturday's game is yet another opportunity to do that.
"I think the intensity has been high for a while," Dennis Seidenberg said pregame from TD Garden. "We all know what we're playing for, especially today, we're playing against a team that's a few points back behind us so we all know the importance of this game, and we're looking forward to it."
"Every team we're going to play, it's going to be a fight, it's going to be a battle," said captain Zdeno Chara. "We have a number of teams that are really closing on us and some teams ahead of us that we're going to be facing and pretty much every game, it's going to be a big battle for every point."
Krug's one-year extension keeps him in Black and Gold through at least the 2015-16 season, with Smith signed a two-year extension through 2016-17.
"I want to play in Boston as long as I can, but I've got to prove myself," Krug said after signing the extension. "And that comes with defending better, and taking on a bigger role with the team."
"I want to be a top-four defenseman and I want to prove it to myself, I want to prove it to Peter [Chiarelli] and the coaching staff as well, so, in time, hopefully, it leads to something bigger and better."
With Smith's two-year extension, he's embracing the pressure that it brings, to keep improving.
"I welcome it. It's probably a little bit more pressure, but as a hockey player, and playing in this organization and at this level, you welcome that every day," Smith said. "Because people get better every day and just being able to cope with the challenges and the changes in this League, I think it's something that every player, they dream to do."
Krug and Smith are both in their third pro seasons, and just their second full-time NHL seasons. Smith spent most of the lockout season in the AHL, before joining Dallas. His first real full-time, top-six role came with the Bruins last season.
BOSTON - In the eighth round of the shootout on Thursday night at TD Garden, Calgary Flames defensemen David Schlemko dangled in and pushed the puck by Tuukka Rask to hand the Bruins a 4-3 loss.
"Well [Coach] just asked me, 'Are you good at these things?' I just told him I was 1-for-1 and [Kris] Russell said, 'He was good in juniors,' so yeah, just went out there and tried my move and it worked," said Schlemko, who was making his Flames debut after being claimed off waivers.
And just like that, amidst the Bruins' playoff race for the second Wild Card spot in the East - currently held by the Black and Gold - the all-important second point wasn't earned.
Patrice Bergeron was the lone Bruin to score in the seventh round. Boston's shootout woes are well-documented.
"Well, it’s always tough to take, and you go back – I don’t know how many years – look at my comments about them," said Rask, who stopped the Flames' first six shots in the shootout. "It’s such an emotional difference between winning and losing in a shootout, and this season we haven’t been really good at them."
"But again, that’s not the reason we lost tonight," said Head Coach Claude Julien. "I think we’ve definitely been challenged in that area. We’ve been challenged all year with shootouts."
The Bruins knew they could have ended the game way before it even became a shootout.
For the sixth straight game, they struck first, at 7:46 into the first period, when Brad Marchand notched his team-leading 19th goal of the season. The winger wrapped around the goal and banked it off Karri Ramo, after Patrice Bergeron tipped a Dougie Hamilton just wide.
BostonBruins.com - The 2015 trade deadline has come and gone, and as is customary, General Manager Peter Chiarelli held his annual post-deadline press conference at TD Garden on Monday evening.
"Going into this deadline, we identified some needs, obviously," Chiarelli told the reporters gathered, a couple of hours after the deadline had passed. "We’ve tried to address these needs. A couple of injuries that have happened maybe put us in a different direction."
A few weeks ago, the Bruins lost defenseman Kevan Miller for the season after he re-injured his right shoulder and required surgery. David Krejci sustained a partially torn MCL in his left knee and is out four to six weeks.
The Black and Gold started deadline day by acquiring forward Brett Connolly from the Tampa Bay Lightning in the early hours of the morning, in exchange for the Bruins' natural second round draft pick in 2015 and the Bruins' natural second round draft pick in 2016.
By the deadline, they had acquired forwards Maxime Talbot and Paul Carey from the Colorado Avalanche in exchange for Jordan Caron and the Bruins' sixth round pick in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft. In a depth deal, Boston acquired forward Zack Phillips from the Minnesota Wild in exchange for forward Jared Knight to wrap up the day.
Boston also explored adding defensive depth.
"And notwithstanding some injuries, specifically on defense, the exercise that we went through was the depth defensemen that we looked to add: Do they equate to the depth players that we signed in the first place? And we made a conscious effort this year to see if that was the case," said Chiarelli, later noting blueliners like Joe Morrow, Zach Trotman and David Warsofsky who have all shown their progress on the back end. "We had chances to add a lot — a number of different depth defensemen, and in the end, we didn’t"
BostonBruins.com - At 2:00 a.m. ET on Monday morning, the Bruins and Tampa Bay Lightning made the first trade of deadline day, with Boston acquiring forward Brett Connolly in exchange for two second round draft picks in 2015 and 2016.
The 22-year-old Connolly is a right-shot right wing, who added edge to his game in the second half of 2014-15 for the Lightning in a bottom-six role.
"He's a young player, can really shoot the puck, he's got some size, he was drafted sixth overall. He's just starting to come into his own a little bit," General Manager Peter Chiarelli told BostonBruins.com on Monday morning from his office at TD Garden. "He's kind of a straight line player, but he makes plays and he can really shoot the puck."
"He's a player we kind of looked at for a while," said Chiarelli. "They've got a lot of right wings in Tampa and it kind of loosened up last night so we jumped on it. It got done early this morning. But he's a guy that we think can come in and help us right away and still could have a long future for us."
Through 50 games, the Prince George, BC native has 12 goals and three assists. He's been a mainstay in Tampa Bay's lineup this season in his fourth year pro, aside from being sidelined for 12 games with an upper-body injury in October and November. He has a strong shot in his arsenal but doesn't shy away from the dirty areas in front for tips.
BOSTON - Facing the Arizona Coyotes on Saturday night didn't exactly present the Bruins with their toughest challenge. The Coyotes were coming in having lost eight straight, including three straight before closing out a four-game road trip in Boston.
Combined with the impending trade deadline coming up on March 2, there was a cloud hanging over the Coyotes heading into this one, whether they wanted it there or not.
"I haven’t really - to be honest with you - I haven’t looked at their record of eight straight losses more than I’ve looked at ours, saying this is an important game, as important as [Saturday's] was to win," Head Coach Claude Julien had said an hour before puck drop.
"We really have been taking a focus on our team, not just who we play, but how well we play. That’s the main thing right now."
The Bruins came out of a fairly stress-free night with a 4-1 win over Arizona and two straight wins for the first time in a month, having earned a 3-2 overtime win on Friday night in New Jersey.
Boston needed to take care of business, and they made it easy on themselves, for once, to push for the full 60 minutes, in all three zones.
Milan Lucic put the Bruins on the board just 2:40 in, taking advantage of a harmless David Pastrnak dump-in that jumped over goalie Mike Smith's stick. Lucic banked the puck off of Smith's skate and in for his 13th of the season.
NEWARK - Ryan Spooner had gone 34 NHL games without finding the back of the net.
He picked an opportune time to hit the twine, firing in the overtime winner to lift the Bruins to a 3-2 win over the New Jerseys Devils on Friday night at the Prudential Center.
The Bruins needed the two points, and Spooner needed the goal.
"Thanks," he smiled to reporters when they congratulated him postgame in locker room. "Finally."
Boston had given up a 2-0 lead in the third period, with the Devils tying it up 2-2 off two goals just 2:09 apart.
Early in overtime, Claude Julien was forced to a call a timeout with his team caught on an icing. It also offered a chance for the bench boss to drive home the message.
"He said, just go out there and play, and stick to our game. And we did that, and scored," said Spooner.
Niklas Svedberg, starting between the pipes with Tuukka Rask ill and not able to suit up, blocked away a shot from Martin Havlat. The Bruins got on their horse and went up ice with a four-on-two rush.