Since my last diary I've been to Sochi and back. With this Olympics, I was able to go to a lot of the events, unlike Vancouver where all the events were far away from one another. This time the Olympic Park was pretty close to the village. I went to curling, women's hockey and speed skating. I enjoyed watching the other athletes compete.
This was a special Olympics. I went over there just thinking I wanted to help the team out any way that I could. I wasn't expecting to get as much playing time as I did even though I was ready for anything to happen. While I've played before at the Olympics and World and Junior Championships with Sidney Crosby, this was different. We played on the same line, which was a great experience. I think he's the best player in the world. The way that he plays, his speed is something that makes him special. He creates a lot of plays by just the way he skates. His vision is amazing. It was fun playing with him and I tried to learn as much as possible. It was a great experience.
My roommate was Duncan Keith of the Blackhawks. You may be wondering if one of us brought up last year's Stanley Cup finals, but the honest answer is no. We've never really talked about in Sochi because we talked about it over the summer since we saw each other in the offseason. This time was really just about getting to know each other a little bit more on a different level and getting ready for the games because everything over there was a quick turnaround. Pretty much our roommate situation was about catching up on sleep and talk about a few things, but the Cup never came up.
It took us a few games for the team to get clicking again after the Olympic break. I think it was just about getting back to our system. We were lacking a little bit of urgency in the first few games. Guys weren't quite playing the way we were used to or playing with layers. It seemed like we were playing perimeter hockey. We were letting the other team have possession time with the puck in our zone, which usually we try to close as quickly as possible to get back on offense. There were a lot of things that made us not ourselves. But we were aware of it and I thought we turned things around pretty quickly. It took a few practices and we're back at it.
I also was battling jetlag. It really affected me quite a bit and more so coming home then going over there. Coming back here was really tough and it was a quick turnaround as I got home in the afternoon and the next day I was leaving for Buffalo. I couldn't really catch up with my sleep especially being away from home still. I'd say it took me a good week to really feel like my sleeping habits were back to normal.
My suggestion for anyone trying to battle jetlag is sleep. Sleep and try to go for walks in the daytime as much as possible. You need to let your body know that it is daytime and not time to sleep yet.
Then right after the Olympic break was the trade deadline. We added two new faces with Andrej Meszaros and Corey Potter on defense. Andrej scored a goal in the first game he played with us. I think he brings a lot of offense as a defenseman. I think he's offensive-minded and will be great on the power play. From what I've seen from here, but also before, that's what I think he is. I think he's also a guy that skates well and has good vision. So far, so good.
We're also still close to guys that used to play on this team too. I was out to dinner with my teammates when we got the news about Rich Peverley having a cardiac event. Obviously some guys have twitter and it was blowing up with the news. Honestly, I was sick to my stomach that first night I heard about it. I couldn't wait to get some news from either Tyler [Seguin] or Rich but I knew he needed to obviously take care of himself. It was tough to watch it. It obviously put a huge dent in our dinner plans as we were so worried about him and trying to find out what was going on.
Tyler was kind enough to reassure us with texts letting us know that Rich was stable and at the hospital. The next day, Rich directly texted me. So that felt very comforting that he was doing better and was able to text me. It was good to hear from him. You think about his family. Hockey becomes really secondary. It was just all concern about his health.
Even what I experienced in the Stanley Cup playoffs last year with my injuries makes you realize how much you do put your body at risk in this sport. It's something that you're aware of when you play sports like we do. That being said, you put things into perspective when things happen like that. Especially for Rich, he's got two beautiful kids. I was just thinking about his family and him and want him to come back healthy.
Let's lighten the mood a bit now. I realize you are used to seeing me on the ice. I figured this diary might be a good place for you to know a little bit more about my likes off the ice too. So I'll answer some questions:
Am I a morning or night person? I'd actually say I'm an afternoon person. I'm definitely not a morning person. I don't go to bed that late either. If I had to choose between the two, I'd say night, but really I'm an afternoon guy.
Cat or dog person? Dog. I have a Maltipoo, a small little guy. He's my wife's dog named Wilson.
Do I prefer odd or even numbers? Odd because I wear 37.
Biggest superstition or pregame ritual? Taping my sticks in front of my stall.
TV or movie guy? I love TV shows. Currently I'm watching "Vikings," "The Following," "Shameless," and "Game of Thrones."
Would my wife say I'm a romantic guy? I don't know if she'd say yes or no, but I'm trying. The effort is there, like for Valentine's Day preparing dinner with flowers and everything.
Most embarrassing song on my playlist? Miley Cyrus, "I Can't Stop"
My favorite sport to watch other than hockey? Football. I like watching the Patriots.
A couple more items before I wrap this up. I know my name may be mentioned as someone who has a chance to win the Selke Award but that's not anywhere near as important to me as winning the Stanley Cup. I know we're far away from that, but to me, it's not something I'm thinking about.
Something the fans can watch for the rest of the season is who will end up with the most goals on the team. We have a tight race with Looch [Milan Lucic], Jarome Iginla, and Marchy [Brad Marchand] and I know I'm not too far behind them. If I had to pick which one I'd like to see take the title, taking myself out of it, I'd go with Marchy because he's my linemate. I've been playing with him for so long that I wish he gets it but it's tough to pick because they're all my teammates.
We beat Montreal last week which was great as we hadn't been able to all season. It was a team effort. It showed that if we play our game, we're able to beat them. They are a great team. It's always a fun game against them and lot more fun when you win.
We have lots of travel coming up in the homestretch of the regular season. Seven of our last nine games are on the road. It's a challenge when you have to travel so much. But it's also a challenge you face during the playoffs. We might as well get ready now.
The goal for rest of the season is to stay consistent. It's the motto we've had all year. As we get closer to the playoffs, it's even more important. Having the best record in the Eastern Conference would be a great goal of ours right now to shoot for, but it's really about getting better and making sure we're ready for the long stretch.
BOSTON -- Whether or not Boston Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli has already discussed a possible contract extension for Jarome Iginla, it's a no-brainer to re-sign the veteran forward and future Hall of Famer.
His first season in Boston has been a good one. No doubt the Bruins have been a successful team without him in previous seasons, but Iginla's presence, both on and off the ice, has helped this team once again become a serious Stanley Cup contender.
Iginla scored a pair of goals in Boston's 5-1 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes Saturday at TD Garden, while the Bruins extended their winning streak to eight games.
Iginla increased his point streak to four games, with four goals and one assist for five points in that span. In the past 18 games, he has 10 goals and 14 assists for 24 points, and it was his 13th multiple-point game of the season. Overall, he has 23 goals and 30 assists for 53 points, while playing in all 67 games this season.
He's added so much to this team, it's easy for fans to forget last year's trade snub when Iginla waived his no-movement clause and chose the Pittsburgh Penguins over the Bruins. No one should blame him for that decision. All he wants is to win his first Stanley Cup before he eventually retires.
During the summer, his agent contacted the Bruins to see if the team still had interest in his client, and Chiarelli quickly jumped at the opportunity and signed Iginla to a one-year, incentive-laden deal. The 36-year-old forward has reached all but one of those incentives. He's only seven goals shy of reaching 30 and earning his entire $6 million contract this season.
The Bruins received a pair of goals from Jarome Iginla, while Milan Lucic, Chris Kelly and Torey Krug contributed a goal each en route to a 5-1 win over the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday at TD Garden. Boston's David Krejci added three assists. Lucic also had two assists.
With the win, the Bruins now have a three-point lead over the Pittsburgh Penguins for the top spot in the Eastern Conference. The Philadelphia Flyers defeated the Penguins [MUST UPDATE] on Saturday. Pittsburgh still has a game in hand.
For Iginla, it was his 22nd and 23rd goals of the season and he now has 53 points in 67 games. Bruins goaltender Chad Johnson finished with 29 saves to improve his record to 14-3-1 in 21 games this season.
The Bruins gained a 1-0 lead at 15:28 of the first period when Lucic notched his 21st goal of the season. Boston gained control of puck in the neutral zone and in transition forced their way into the offensive zone with Lucic leading the way. His shot ricocheted to the slot, where Krejci sprawled out to make a return pass before Lucic finished with a backdoor goal.
Boston's top line continued to produce in the second period when Iginla netted his 22nd of the season at 17:24 to give the Bruins a 2-0 lead. Again, Lucic showcased his size, strength and relentless forecheck behind the Carolina net before feeding a nifty backhand pass to Iginla, who popped it past Hurricanes goalie Cam Ward for the tally.
Carolina scored its first goal of the game at 3:53 of the third period to cut its deficit. After a tough icing call on the Bruins, the faceoff was to the left of Johnson when the Hurricanes' Alexander Semin's shot deflected off Bruins forward Carl Soderberg and defenseman Johnny Boychuk before it ricochetted past Johnson.
With Carolina threatening, Kelly scored at 12:49 and Iginla netted his second at 13:02 for a 4-1 Boston lead.
Krug scored his 14th goal of the season with only 9.4 seconds remaining in regulation.
SCARY MOMENT: With 9:27 remaining in regulation and the Bruins holding onto a 2-1 lead, Boychuk was racing back for a puck behind Boston's net when it appeared Carolina's Patrick Dwyer pushed him. Boychuk crashed into the end wall and rolled over in obvious pain, favoring his right leg. He was able to get to his feet, but couldn't skate. Trainers tended to the injured defenseman and teammates assisted Boychuk off the ice. He was taken down the tunnel and was able to return for his next shift. However, he blocked a shot on that shift and went to the bench in obvious pain again. He was tended to by team doctor Peter Asnis and remained on the bench and was able to return to game action.
UPDATE: After the game, Boychuk said he was sore but thankfully it wasn't serious.
"Ah, I mean a little bit sore, but just glad everything's OK," he said.
Boychuk said he didn't know whether he was pushed or lost an edge going into the corner for the puck.
"I don't really know, I can't really say that I lost an edge right now because I haven't really seen it," he said. "It was kind of just awkward going in and I'm just glad my leg's not broken."
ANOTHER 50: With his goal in the first period, Lucic has now reached the 50-point plateau in three of the last four seasons. He registered 62 points in 2010-2011, 61 in 2011-2012 and 27 in the lockout-shortened, 48-game season in 2012-2013. This season, he has 21 goals and 31 assists for 52 points.
DEBUT: Bruins prospect Matt Lindblad made his NHL debut on Saturday against the Hurricanes. He becomes the seventh player this season to make his NHL debut with the Bruins. The 23-year-old forward was on the Bruins' third line, along with Gregory Campbell and Daniel Paille.
Lindblad played a total of 12 shifts and logged 8:25 of ice time in his NHL debut. Julien was pleased with the rookie's first game.
"I liked his game," Julien said. "He skates well, quick skater, quick thinker, he made some real good heads up plays. So, like I said all along, I like his hockey sense."
Prior to the game, Lindblad appeared a bit nervous, which is understandable.
"Yeah, definitely nervous to come in. Even just in warm ups, you come out and the crowd is just pumping and it was just a great atmosphere unlike anything else," he said. "You have a lot of your friends and family texting you wishing you good luck and you just want to play your best and I'm pretty happy with how I played."
The Bruins sent Lindblad back to Providence after the game.
SCRATCHES: Paille returned to the lineup after missing the last two games with a minor concussion, so Jordan Caron was a healthy scratch. Since Lindblad made his debut in order for the organization to get a look at his game at this level, Bruins coach Claude Julien decided veteran Shawn Thornton would also be a healthy scratch. On the defensive side, newcomer Andrej Meszaros was a healthy scratch.
UP NEXT: The Bruins host the Minnesota Wild on St. Patrick's Day Monday (7 p.m.) at TD Garden.
The 23-year-old forward becomes the seventh player this season to make his debut for the Bruins. Since Lindblad is in the lineup, it’s likely Jordan Caron will be a healthy scratch.
The Bruins informed Lindblad of his promotion Thursday night, and coach Claude Julien told him he was playing when he arrived at the Garden Saturday morning.
“I’m really excited for the opportunity today and I’m going to leave it all on the ice,” Lindblad said.
Lindblad has seven goals and 15 assists for 22 points in 43 games for the Providence Bruins this season.
Lindblad’s parents, older brother, younger brother and sister, and his aunt will all be in attendance for his NHL debut.
“It’s definitely emotional and it does kind of feel like a surreal experience,” he said. “You always dream about playing in the your first NHL games, but I’m not going to take this any different than any other game, whether it was in Providence or whether it was back at school. My preparation will be the same and I’m really looking forward to it.”
TOP OF THE HEAP: The Bruins are in the midst of a seven-game winning streak, which has them leading the Eastern Conference. The Bruins are battling the Pittsburgh Penguins for conference supremacy and Boston only has 16 games remaining in the regular season.
WHAT HAVE YOU DONE LATELY: This is the third and final meeting of the season between these two teams. The Bruins won the first two games of the regular-season series 4-1 and 3-2 (OT), respectively. Along with its current winning streak, Boston is 10-1-2 in its past 13 games and 15-2-3 in the past 20. In the midst of this streak, the Bruins have defeated the New York Rangers, Florida Panthers (twice), Washington Capitals, Tampa Bay Lightning, Montreal Canadiens and the Phoenix Coyotes. The Hurricanes are 3-7-0 in their past 10 games. Carolina has won two in a row, including a 3-1 win over the Rangers and a 4-2 win over the Buffalo Sabres.
MASKED MEN: Since Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask (30-14-4/2.10/.928) played back-to-back games and posted victories against the Canadiens and Coyotes this week, one would think he would get the day off against the 13th-ranked Hurricanes. If he does, backup Chad Johnson will get the nod. Johnson is 7-0-1 in his past eight starts and is 1-0-0 with a 1.97 GAA in one game against the Hurricanes. If Rask does play, he's 4-3-0 with a 2.41 GAA in eight career games against Carolina. For Carolina, Cam Ward is 12-12-3 with a 2.63 GAA and three shutouts in 27 career games against the Bruins. Justin Peters is 1-0-0 with a 4.62 GAA in three career games against Boston. Anton Khudobin, a former Bruin, has not faced Boston in his career.
Chris Kelly, Carl Soderberg and Loui Eriksson have built chemistry and the three compose arguably one of the best third lines in the league.
"We're a great line and we just want to keep that going," Soderberg said. "Since I started to play center, it's quite obvious I'm creating more offense. I can still play the wing, but I prefer center."
It took a little bit of time, a few injuries, and a few tweaks for coach Claude Julien to find the right trio.
At the start of the season, Eriksson played on the team's second line with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand, while Reilly Smith played with Kelly and Soderberg. After Eriksson suffered his first of two concussions early in the season, Smith replaced him on the second line and that trio quickly had success.
When Eriksson returned, Julien decided it would be best to ease the veteran winger back into the lineup by putting him on the third line. The coach also moved Soderberg to the middle more frequently and had Kelly playing the other side.
Suddenly, the entire lineup had harmony and now the Bruins are in the midst of a seven-game winning streak.
When Soderberg registers a point, the Bruins are 23-3-3 this season. He's finally showing the skating ability, strength and production the Bruins were hoping for.
Julien says he sees Soderberg is settling into a good rhythm.
"His line is one of the reasons that he's been doing really good," Julien said. "Kells has come in and done a good job on that left wing, but Loui, as we're all seeing, is just playing much better hockey since that injury. So that in itself makes for a better line, and like I said the other day, I think in Carl's situation he loves to skate, so by putting him in center he's been able to cover a lot of ice and that seems to suit him better."
Top-line winger Milan Lucic has been impressed with the play of the third line, especially Soderberg.
"It's real good," Lucic said. "You can see his confidence coming in and he's using his big body and he's found his skating game in the NHL, which wasn't really there for him when he first came here, but you can see the commitment and the time he put in to make sure he can contribute to this team this year and you can see him starting to get rewarded for that."
Like Soderberg, Eriksson is coming into his own. Limited by a pair of concussions earlier this season, he started to show signs before the Olympics, where he won a silver medal for Sweden. Since being back with Boston he's playing well.
"To me, Loui has been really a good player and we're starting to see the player that he is and that's encouraging," Julien said. "That line has been good overall, but Carl's a big body that can skate well and he's strong on the puck and he does make things happen."
The third line has become an important part of Boston's success this season. They need that kind of depth to continue to enjoy another deep run through the postseason this spring.
It’s easy to forget that he’s only 20 and in the midst of his first full season in the league (his rookie season was shortened by the lockout). He’s still learning to harness his size, strength and ability and once it all comes together it should be an impressive package.
Bruins coach Claude Julien thought it best for Hamilton to sit as a healthy scratch for two games earlier this week against the Florida Panthers and Montreal Canadiens. He was back in the lineup Thursday and helped Boston to a 2-1 win over the Phoenix Coyotes at TD Garden.
After the game, Hamilton sat at his locker stall and discussed his playing situation. It’s understandable that he was upset for not being in the lineup as a healthy scratch, and the Bruins coaching staff would be disappointed if it didn’t bother him. But Hamilton is not the type of young player to whine about anything.
“I think that’s because he trusts us,” Julien said. “We’ve told him as a coaching staff the whole time he’s a good player and he’s going to be an even better player as we move on here. What we’ve asked him is to be patient with us because he came in here as a 19-year-old. A 19-year-old that’s on a team that’s rebuilding is going to play a ton, a 19-year-old that’s on an established team doesn’t get the same luxury, but he gets the luxury of developing in a winning environment and finding out quickly what it takes to win, so he’s in a good situation.
“I think he trusts us, I think we know what we’ve got, he knows that we know that as well and it’s just a matter of being patient and he comes in [against Phoenix] and plays a good game. He moved the puck well and he was assertive and all the little things that you talk about, you can see that effort in him. It’s trust. It’s respect and that has to happen both ways here.”
Hamilton understands the process and the veterans on the team help him, too. During his recent two-game stint as a healthy scratch, he found himself dissecting the game from press level. He’s been breaking down video with the coaching staff and learning ways to improve his game.
“I think it’s obviously a different game from up there and it’s a lot easier. Everything is slower and stuff like that so you can see things, but I think just trying to add different things to my game,” Hamilton said. “The coaches talked to me and told me certain things to add and I think there’s been things all year that I’ve been working on and trying to improve. And I think I just have to keep adding more and keep getting ready so I can play in the playoffs.”
Last season was not the typical rookie season for Hamilton. Due to the NHL work stoppage, Hamilton remained with his junior team until labor dispute was settled and the 48-game, lockout-shortened season began in January. It was a crash course for Hamilton, then 19. He played 42 regular-season games and seven in the playoffs.
This season he’s played 47 games and has played well. He’s shown improvements in every aspect and the experience from a year ago has paid dividends.
“I think I’m more used to it now. Obviously it’s not fun not playing but I think I got to learn a lot last year through that whole playoff run and know more what to expect and what’s expected of me,” he said. “So just trying to get my game to a trustworthy playoff game in this last month or so, and hopefully I can do that and earn a spot.”
With less than 20 games remaining in the regular season, and a postseason berth imminent, Julien has time to figure out his pairings for the playoffs. Since Dennis Seidenberg is lost for the season due to a knee injury, Julien losses some of the defensive consistency that has helped the Bruins reach the Stanley Cup finals twice in three years.
When general manager Peter Chiarelli added veteran defensemen Andrej Meszaros and Corey Potter at the trade deadline, the team’s blue line regained some depth. It gives Julien options. Until puck drops for the Stanley Cup playoffs, it will be a tryout of sorts to figure out what pairs work best.
Hamilton said he understands the coach’s philosophy. Since Hamilton was back in the lineup Thursday, fellow blueliner Torey Krug was a healthy scratch and missed his first game of the season.
“We know we have eight D now and I think it’s, I guess, a competition so, just trying to play your best when you’re in the lineup, but it’s out of your control so you can’t really think about it. Just do your best and work hard in practice,” Hamilton said.
Whether he’s in the lineup or not, Hamilton needs to remain confident because everything will eventually click and the Bruins’ blue line should be secure for the foreseeable future.
* Sharks: Won four straight games
* Sharks: win gives SJ 93 pts on season, tied with Ducks for most in Pacific Division
* Patrick Marleau (SJ): Two goals; 60th multi-goal game of career (tied for eighth-most among active players).
* Sharks: 1-3 on power play; entered game 1-23 on PP since Olympics.
From Elias: Patrick Marleau scored a pair of goals for the Sharks in their shootout win at Columbus. Remarkably, it was Marleau's first multi-goal game since he began the lockout-delayed 2012-13 NHL season by scoring two goals in each of San Jose's first four games (Jan. 20-26, 2013).
Maple Leafs 3, Kings 2
* Kings: Loss snaps 8-game win streak.
* Kings: Led 2-0, allowed 3 unanswered.
* James Reimer (TOR): Saved all 31 shots he faced; came in to start 2nd period after Jonathan Bernier left with injury
Wild 2, Rangers 1
* Wild: Snap three-game winless streak (0-1-2 past three games).
* Rangers: 2-4-1 in past seven games.
* Zach Parise (MIN): Game-winning goal; four goals in last six games.
* Darcy Kuemper (MIN): 29 saves; 6-1-1 in past eight starts
Bruins 2, Coyotes 1
* Bruins: Seven consecutive wins; longest win streak since 2011-12 (also seven games).
* Zdeno Chara (BOS): Scored 16th goal; three shy of career-high 19 goals.
* Shane Doan (PHX): Played his 1,300th game (54th all-time)
BOSTON -- It's not about the winning streak. It's all about the process for the Boston Bruins.
With a 2-1 win over the Phoenix Coyotes on Thursday night at TD Garden, the Bruins won their seventh game in a row and now own the top spot in the Eastern Conference with 93 points, one ahead of the idle Pittsburgh Penguins.
With 16 games remaining in the regular season, Bruins coach Claude Julien is pleased with the way his team is playing right now. Boston is a deep team, and every aspect of its game is on display. With a crazy schedule this month not only for the Bruins but for the league as a whole, Julien believes his team knows that the name of the game is about preparing for the Stanley Cup playoffs, not making excuses.
When the Bruins are playing well defensively, it translates into a potent offensive style of play, and that's what they've been exhibiting during this streak. Goaltender Tuukka Rask has a front-row seat and he's pleased with what he's watching.
"We're just playing Bruins hockey day in and day out and not trying to do too much," Rask said. "The schedule's tough and we're trying to keep things simple. We pretty much know we're going to make the playoffs, and we just want to get our game to a level we think it needs to be going into the playoffs."
The Bruins concluded their 12th of 17 sets of back-to-back games, and they're 9-2-1 in the first game and 10-2-0 in the second game. Thursday's game easily could have been a letdown for the Bruins, especially coming off an emotional 4-1 win over the division rival Montreal Canadiens on Wednesday night at Bell Centre.
"We're playing really well right now," said Bruins forward Brad Marchand. "Everyone seems to be buying into the system and playing their role and not trying to do too much. When you have all four lines going, and all six D and both goalies, it's great. We're showing we've got a really good team here, and that's what we need to be doing down the stretch."
With the regular-season schedule winding down, it's going to be a battle for Eastern Conference supremacy between the Bruins and Penguins. Boston has basically secured the top spot in the Atlantic Division, but the Bruins are focused on more than just the seeding in the standings.
"It would be big, obviously," Marchand said of winning the conference title. "You want to finish as high as you can, and home-ice advantage in the playoffs is huge, but it's more about the process and how you get there. I think if we just worry about playing our game every single night, things will work themselves out."
Given the Bruins were facing the Coyotes on a back-to-back game on Thursday night, it was a bit of a surprise that Julien decided to start Rask in net. It proved crucial as he finished with 21 saves, many of them timely.
"I don't think we should overanalyze Tuukka, or Tuukka's fatigue," Julien said. "Chad [Johnson has] played well for us, and he's going to play and they're going to share the net. For me, it was a decision I made, and I felt Tuukka wasn't overly tired. He felt great and he can rest tomorrow because we don't play."
After the game, Rask said he didn't feel completely fresh Thursday but expected to play.
The Bruins believe there's still another level they can raise their game to, and that's something they want to reach when the playoffs arrive.
"Honestly, we've been pretty focused," said forward Jarome Iginla. "We've been trying to keep pushing ourselves to be better and to keep working on things. It's been fun winning. Guys here, it's a hungry team and a very competitive team. We want to keep winning and keep getting better. We've been able to get ourselves into a battle for the top of the conference, but even that guys don't really talk about on a day-to-day basis."
Not lost in Thursday's win was the fact that Julien earned his 300th career victory in Boston. Overall, he has a 419-249-10-84 record in 762 career games as a coach, but he always downplays individual accomplishments. His goal is to win another Stanley Cup with the Bruins.
"I had no knowledge and my guys know it doesn't matter to me," Julien said. "It's great, don't get me wrong. It's great and I'm happy it's happened here. I'm happy to have that, but at the same time, to me, I'd rather look forward to hopefully a lot more than just that. I'm proud to have accomplished this in Boston. It's great. I've really enjoyed myself here and I'm looking forward to another 300."
BOSTON -- The Boston Bruins extended their winning streak to seven games with a 2-1 win over the Phoenix Coyotes on Thursday night at TD Garden.
With the win, the Bruins have gained control of the top spot in the Eastern Conference with 93 points, one point ahead of the Pittsburgh Penguins, who did not play Thursday.
The Bruins received goals from Zdeno Chara and Jarome Iginla, while goaltender Tuukka Rask finished with 21 saves.
During this current streak, the Bruins have defeated the New York Rangers, Florida Panthers (twice), Washington Capitals, Tampa Bay Lightning, Montreal Canadiens and the Coyotes.
After the Bruins returned from a three-game road trip, Thursday's game could have been a letdown but that wasn't the case. Boston's penalty kill proved crucial as it went 5-for-5 against the Coyotes' power-play unit.
After the Bruins killed off a Jordan Caron double-minor for high sticking, Boston gained the early lead when Chara scored his 16th goal of the season for a 1-0 advantage at 5:54 of the first period. Phoenix turned the puck over in its own end when Chara gained control and walked in from the blue line. Teammate Chris Kelly set the screen and Chara's shot beat Coyotes goaltender Mike Smith.
Rask faced only eight shots in the opening period, but he made a significant save when he kept a loose puck from crossing the goal line. The Bruins gained control and quickly scored at the other end of the ice when Iginla redirected Johnny Boychuk's shot at 17:31 to give Boston a 2-0 lead.
The Coyotes scored at 8:14 of the third period to cut their deficit when Lauri Korpikoski redirected a shot past Rask, but the Bruins held on for the win.
SAVE OF THE GAME: With the Bruins holding a 2-0 lead early in the second period, the Coyotes' Shane Doan, who was playing his 1,300th career game in the NHL, capitalized on a Boston turnover and created a breakaway. Rask held his ground and made a left-pad save to secure the Bruins' two-goal advantage.
IN AND OUT: After missing the past two games as a healthy scratch, Bruins defenseman Dougie Hamilton returned to the lineup against the Coyotes. As a result, fellow blueliner Torey Krug was a healthy scratch. It was the first game he's missed this season. Overall, Krug has 13 goals and 22 assists for 35 points, including a plus-11 rating in 65 games.
UP NEXT: The Bruins host the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday (1 p.m.) at TD Garden.
MONTREAL -- A season is not won or lost at the NHL’s trade deadline.
It’s a general manager’s job to improve his team, especially if that team is a Stanley Cup contender. The Boston Bruins have become a perennial Cup contender, so when GM Peter Chiarelli added depth to the team’s blue line by adding two veteran defensemen at the deadline on March 5 -- Andrej Meszaros and Corey Potter -- it was a simple move that would keep the team’s core intact and wouldn’t disrupt its chemistry.
Boston’s division rival, the Montreal Canadiens, made a significant acquisition by adding veteran forward Thomas Vanek, who is considered a Bruins killer based on his repeated success against the black and gold.
Even before he was asked a question during his trade deadline day press conference, Chiarelli acknowledged the fact that the Canadiens improved their team. He said it would be a challenge to play them and that he looked forward to it.
The Bruins entered Wednesday’s game at Montreal with an 0-4-1 record in their last five games against the Canadiens, but Boston ended its skid with a 4-1 win at Bell Centre. The Bruins received contributions from every line, each defensive pairing and goaltender Tuukka Rask, who made 35 saves in the victory.
It was the type of game Bruins coach Claude Julien was hoping he’d see.
Entering this game, the Bruins were riding a five-game winning streak and Julien wanted his players to downplay the fact they were playing their storied rivals. He also wanted to downplay the fact they were playing in hostile territory. As much of a challenge as that would be for the Bruins, they successfully accomplished their goal.
More importantly, the Bruins gained some confidence, knowing if they play their style of hockey, they can beat anyone in the league. Currently, Boston is atop the Atlantic Division with 91 points and only one point behind the Eastern Conference-leading Pittsburgh Penguins. The conference standings are tight, so there is a possibility the Bruins will face Montreal in the playoffs.
“It is a nice way to answer, especially after what happened last game against them when they embarrassed us in our building,” Bruins assistant captain Patrice Bergeron said. “I thought we responded really well and we stayed poised in that first period, even though it wasn’t our best start. We battled through it and we got it going.”
Even though the Bruins attempted to downplay the situation, there was definitely a sense of relief after the win.
“It was real important,” said Bruins forward Milan Lucic, who scored his 20th goal of the season. “We talked about our mindset going into this game, and it was just about focusing on what we’ve done well to this point, especially on this road trip.
“We just wanted to play to our strengths. Obviously you don’t forget when you lose a game the way you did last time against whether it’s the Habs or anyone else, you don’t forget how you played the last game against them and that gave us some motivation as well heading into this game. It’s nice to finally get a result against these guys.”
It didn't start out that way. The Bruins couldn’t create any sustained pressure in the first period and had trouble getting the puck deep into the Montreal zone. Turnovers were a problem too. Fortunately for the Bruins, Rask finished the first period with 13 saves.
“Early in the game, they got some early power plays, so we had to kill those and Tuukka stood tall in that situation, but I thought everyone overall played well,” Julien said. “You need your goaltender to be good and that’s what he’s paid to do and that’s what he did tonight. The rest of the team did the same thing.”
Rask finished with 35 saves to improve his career record to 3-10-2 against Montreal. Even though statistically he hasn’t been on the receiving end of many wins, Rask joked after the game that he’ll take full credit for Wednesday’s victory.
“I don’t care,” he said of his numbers. “I felt good against them [in the past] but I still have the losing record, so I’ve got to win some more games.”
At the start of the second period, the Bruins played their style of game. They created a fierce forecheck and took advantage of Montreal’s miscues. It was an important game for Boston, and with a six-game winning streak in hand, the Bruins are satisfied with the way they’re playing with only 17 games remaining in the regular season.
“Despite the start, I thought we played a pretty solid game,” Rask said. “We took most of their opportunities away and capitalized on ours in the second period. It’s a good road win, especially with the little cushion [in the standings] and we’re happy where our game is headed right now.”
Teams or winning streaks are not built at the trade deadline. The simple fact is the Bruins are a solid team, and Wednesday’s win against the Canadiens is just another example of how good the defending Eastern Conference champions can be.
Said Bruins forward Carl Soderberg: “We didn’t play well at all at home against them and we wanted to get a win here, so if we’re going to play against them in the playoffs we know we can beat them.”
The Bruins made that statement loud and clear.
The Bruins entered Wednesday's game with an 0-4-1 record in their last five games against the Montreal Canadiens, but Boston ended its skid with a 4-1 win at Bell Centre. With the victory, the Bruins extended their current winning streak to six games.
The Bruins received goals from Carl Soderberg, Patrice Bergeron, Milan Lucic and Zdeno Chara, while goaltender Tuukka Rask finished with 35 saves. With the win, Rask improved his career record to 3-10-2 against Montreal.
On Wednesday, the teams were scoreless in the first period, but there were quality chances at both ends of the ice.
Lucic had a golden opportunity during Boston's first power play of the night. He received a pass in the slot and had time to get off a snap shot, but Peter Budaj made a blocker save with 1:15 remaining on the man-advantage. Lucic was smiling and shaking his head after the next whistle.
With the game scoreless early in the first period, the Bruins had control in the offensive zone, but the puck squirted out to center ice. The Canadiens' Max Pacioretty collected it and broke in on Rask, who turned away the scoring opportunity with a right-pad save.
Rask was key again during Montreal's second power play of the game. The Canadiens' Alexei Emelin threaded a pass through the neutral zone to Alex Galchenyuk, who snuck in behind defenseman Andrej Meszaros and broke in on Rask. But Rask denied the quality scoring chance with a glove save.
Montreal finished the opening period with 14 shots, while Boston had only six.
The Bruins drew first blood in the second when Soderberg notched his 12th goal of the season at 1:33 of the period. He collected a loose puck in front, and with linemate Chris Kelly setting a screen, Soderberg beat Budaj to give Boston a 1-0 lead.
The Bruins added to their lead when Bergeron scored his 19th of the season at 9:25 as Boston gained a 2-0 advantage. Bergeron and linemate Brad Marchand created a nifty passing sequence in the Montreal zone before Bergeron finished with a quick shot from the slot.
The Bruins weren't done.
Montreal had control of the puck in the offensive zone when Lucic stapled Emelin into the side wall, which created a turnover, and in transition the Bruins' Jarome Iginla gained the blue line and held the puck along the wall, waiting for Lucic to jump into the play. Iginla fed Lucic the puck and he blasted a one-timer past Budaj to give the Bruins a 3-0 lead at 18:32. It was Lucic's 20th goal of the season.
The Bruins still weren't done.
Boston scored only 23 seconds into the third period when Chara netted his 15th of the season. Marchand made a centering pass to Chara in the slot, but Budaj made the original save before Chara collected the rebound and gave Boston a 4-0 lead.
The Canadiens, however, would not be shut out.
Montreal created a scramble in front of Rask and he lost sight of the puck as he was sprawled out in the crease. The Canadiens' David Desharnais found a hole and put it in for Montreal's first goal of the game at 2:46 of the final period.
DROP 'EM: After the Bruins gained a 2-0 lead in the second period, Montreal needed to do something, so the Canadiens' Brandon Prust asked Bruins defenseman Kevan Miller to drop the gloves. Miller obliged and the two went toe-to-toe. Prust landed a few shots, but Miller held his own. It was Miller's third fighting major of the season.
UP NEXT: It's a quick turnaround for the Bruins. This is the 12th of 17 sets of back-to-back games this season as they return to Boston and host the Phoenix Coyotes Thursday night (7 p.m.) at TD Garden. The Bruins are 9-2-1 in the first game and 9-2-0 in the second of those series.
With the trade deadline wrapped up, teams viewing the bigger picture soon will be turning their attention to their free agents. That's not necessarily a good thing for those looking to use free agency this summer as a way to restock their franchise. There are good players on the top 25 unrestricted free-agent list below, but it only thins out from there.
"I have the preliminary list," said Buffalo Sabres general manager Tim Murray, who is going to have a lot of money to work with this summer. "You can look at that and say, 'OK, we have 10 guys on that list we like, they can sign between now and then.' So I don't get too excited about that list."
With teams as diligent as ever about signing their players to long-term contracts before they hit free agency, the number of available quality players is already a small one. Supply and demand will put general managers in a tough spot.
"Obviously, it's getting tougher and tougher," Florida Panthers GM Dale Tallon said during a quick chat Tuesday.
Like Murray, Tallon is going to have money to spend this summer.
"There's some assets we're interested in," he said. "We've identified who we like, who fit into our player allotment, where they would fit into our organization and how they would help our young guys develop quicker."
This list, like Murray's preliminary list, is going to change between now and July 1, but here's an early look at the top 25 unrestricted free agents for this summer, ranked in order of the most value they'll provide their next team:
Note: All cap hit data is courtesy of CapGeek.com.
At this point in Miller's career, he has to decide where he thinks he has the best chance of winning a Stanley Cup. "That's what it comes down to," one NHL source said. "That is the determining factor." It's hard to argue there's a better spot than the one Murray sent him to before the trade deadline. The Blues really like Jake Allen, but are firmly in the middle of a Stanley Cup window, and Miller gives them the best chance to win. It might be the perfect marriage. If the Ducks decide to let Jonas Hiller walk this summer, Anaheim is another city that would intrigue Miller, who spends offseason time in California. The problem there is that Ducks GM Bob Murray has no shortage of goalie options in the system. Miller's future may hinge on how things go this postseason in St. Louis.
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SNAPPING IT: The Bruins are 0-4-1 in their last five games against the Canadiens. This is the third of four games between these teams this season. The Bruins are 17-10-3 on the road this season and 16-8-1 against Atlantic Division teams. Montreal beat Boston 2-1 on Dec. 5 at Bell Centre. Then the Canadiens won 4-1 on Jan. 30 at TD Garden.
WHAT HAVE YOU DONE LATELY: The Bruins are in the midst of a five-game winning streak. Boston is 8-2-1 in its last 11 games and 13-2-3 in the last 18. After a 4-3 shootout win over Tampa on Saturday, and 5-2 win over the Florida Panthers on Sunday, the Bruins close out this three-game road trip against the Canadiens.
“We’ve got to go out there and play our game and let’s continue to do the things we’ve done lately,” said Bruins coach Claude Julien. “That’s where our focus has to be. Not on the team we’re playing, not on where we are, but what we have to do and that’s what we intend to do tonight. We played a great game in Tampa, a great game in Florida and now it’s about bringing this game here and doing the same things that have given us success. If we focus on those things our chances are good.”
Montreal is 6-3-1 in its last 10 games and has an 18-10-5 record on home ice. The Canadiens are 9-6-4 against divisional opponents.
“If we go out and play our game tonight, it’s going to be an interesting one,” Julien said.
MASKED MEN: Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask did not participate in the team’s optional morning skate Wednesday, but he’s expected to start against the Canadiens. He has a 2-10-2 career record against Montreal, with a 2.88 goals-against average and a .899 save percentage. Rask is leading the league with six shutouts, and is 7-3-2 in his last 12 starts. Since Montreal’s No. 1 goalie Carey Price remains sidelined with a lower-body injury, fellow netminder Peter Budaj will start against the Bruins. Budaj is 4-1-0 in his career against the Bruins, including one shutout, a 2.34 GAA and a .919 SP. He stopped a season-high 34 shots en route to a 4-1 win over the Bruins on Jan. 30. Overall, he’s 8-7-2 with a 2.42 GAA and a .909 SP in 20 games this season.
LINEUPS: The Bruins will be without forward Daniel Paille (concussion) and defenseman Dougie Hamilton (healthy scratch). Forward Jordan Caron will play on the Bruins’ energy line, along with Shawn Thornton and Gregory Campbell. Montreal added forward Thomas Vanek at the trade deadline and this will be his first game against the Bruins as a member of the Canadiens. He has 61 points in 53 career games against the Bruins. Montreal defenseman Josh Gorges is out with a broken left hand.
“I’m going with the same D-core as I had the other night,” Julien said.
The pairings will likely be: Zdeno Chara-Andrej Meszaros, Matt Bartkowski-Johnny Boychuk, Torey Krug-Kevan Miller.
Meszaros, who arrived in Boston via a deadline-day trade with the Philadelphia Flyers, made his Bruins debut in a 5-2 win over the Florida Panthers on Sunday in Sunrise, Fla. He scored a goal, registered six shots on net and logged 20:36 of ice time.
Since the Bruins play a completely different defensive style than he’s used to, Meszaros has been watching video before and after games, and has been spending time learning the system from the coaching staff.
A left-handed shot, Meszaros played the majority of his career on the right side, but this season the Flyers had him on the left side. Julien would like Meszaros to return to the right side, which is a comfortable spot for the veteran defenseman.
“To me it doesn’t matter,” Meszaros said. “I like it because your stick is always in the middle in the offensive zone so you can shoot it right away. Obviously, it’s a little tougher to pull [the puck] off the wall and in the defensive zone it’s a little bit harder to pass it, but when you play for so long you get used to it and I don’t mind it at all.”
Hamilton has played well this season, his first full season in the NHL, but he had a few critical miscues in Saturday’s 4-3 shootout win over the Tampa Bay Lightning. Prior to the acquisitions of Meszaros and Corey Potter, the Bruins had only six healthy defensemen. Now that there’s depth again, it creates a healthy competition on the team’s blue line. Overall, Hamilton has seven goals and 11 assists for 18 points, including a plus-14 rating in 47 games this season.