BOSTON -- Playing alongside two of the best players in the NHL would make any rookie nervous, but the Boston Bruins’ Seth Griffith has proven he can handle his assignment with linemates David Krejci and Milan Lucic.
The Bruins have entrusted the right-wing position on their top line to a 21-year-old rookie because Griffith has shown the ability, skill and poise to produce. He has experienced a quick learning curve in his first four NHL games.
On Tuesday, Griffith finally was rewarded for his efforts when he notched his first career goal to help the Bruins to a 5-3 win over the San Jose Sharks at TD Garden.
The Sharks had a 3-2 lead early in the third before Griffith tied the game at 4:50 of the period. Lucic was creating havoc in front of Sharks goaltender Antti Niemi, and Griffith put himself in perfect position as the puck kicked out to him in the slot and he drove it in for the tally.
“It was great,” Griffith said. “I’ve had a couple of chances the past few games, so it’s great to get the first one out of the way.”
While Griffith celebrated his goal, Lucic quickly went into the net and snagged the puck for the rookie as a keepsake.
“I remember getting my first goal and how much it meant and how special it was,” Lucic said. “It was great to see him finally get it.
“When you get that first one, the confidence starts coming and you can start feeling a little bit more loose. When you’re in those positions, they seem to go in once you get that first one. He’s done a good job so far playing on our line and hopefully he can pop in a few more if he gets a few more chances.”
“I thought if I kept working hard I might get my chance again,” he said. “I’m happy it was sooner rather than later, for sure. The guys in Providence have helped me a lot to develop my game so I could play at this level.”
Griffith made his NHL debut against the Colorado Avalanche on Oct. 13 and played the next two road games -- in Detroit and Montreal -- until he was a healthy scratch against the Sabres in Buffalo on Saturday. He was assigned to Providence the next day and quickly scored a goal in the P-Bruins’ 3-1 win over the Portland Pirates.
On Monday, Boston recalled him again and he was inserted back on the Bruins’ top line Tuesday. He did not disappoint.
“It’s a pretty crazy week, for sure,” Griffith said. “But you’ve got to respect the coach’s decision and practice hard every day, and then when you get your opportunity then you make the most of it.”
Julien had replaced Griffith on the top line late in previous games with veteran forward Simon Gagne in order to have some added experience on the ice. That was not the case on Tuesday.
“Because he played well,” Julien said. “He was playing well and I thought he made some great plays. Again, this isn’t because he scored. He scored because he played well. He was pretty good and that’s a big team and he handled himself well along the walls and making good plays.
“I thought we had four lines going fairly well, one of them probably had a tougher night, but it certainly wasn’t Campbell’s line and it wasn’t Krejci’s line. They were going well too, so I just thought about leaving [Griffith] there and if those guys are going to get better, sometimes you’ve got to put him in those positions when you feel they’re doing well enough to warrant that.”
From the start of training camp, Griffith has looked comfortable in any role he has played. When second-line winger Reilly Smith was unsigned during camp, Julien had Griffith playing with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand.
Now that Griffith has played three of his four games with the Bruins on the top line, the trio is getting comfortable.
“We’re starting to get a little chemistry going, so it’s good to see,” Griffith said. “But it’s not too hard playing with two great players like that.”
Thursday in Montreal, Griffith produced a few quality scoring chances, but he couldn’t convert. He made sure not to miss against the Sharks.
“It’s one of those things where you’ve just got to kind of forget about it and move on and keep working hard,” he said of his missed chances. “I knew I’d get another chance to get a shot off.”
Griffith has celebrated 22 professional goals at the AHL level for the P-Bruins the last two seasons. But with the look on his face and his arms spread apart in jubilation as he hugged the glass along the side wall in the offensive zone, this was one celebration he won’t forget.
“It was just my first one, so I had to do something a little crazy, I guess,” he said.
Credit can go to Boston’s top-line offensive output, as Milan Lucic, David Krejci and Seth Griffith combined for six points. The Bruins’ fourth line also produced, as Gregory Campbell registered the game-winning goal, which came as a result of a solid forecheck midway through the third period.
Another key was Boston’s power play producing two of the team’s five goals.
But recognition needs to go to the Bruins’ penalty-killing unit for this win over a Western Conference power.
Holding a one-goal lead with 4:09 remaining in regulation, the Bruins’ Patrice Bergeron was called for a double-minor, four-minute, high-sticking penalty, and Boston had to kill off the man-advantage with one of its best penalty killers in the box.
So Boston faced a daunting task, but its PK delivered.
Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask, who finished the game with 31 saves, made five timely saves in the final 4:09.
“It’s a tough bounce there when your best penalty killer goes to the box. Not something you look forward to,” Rask said. “We did a good job on that PK, doing exactly what we wanted to. Everybody is doing their own jobs. I saw the pucks they shot and that’s how you do it.”
Bruins centermen David Krejci and Chris Kelly won several faceoffs, Daniel Paille blocked a couple of shots and Boston’s defensemen won the battles along the boards on that penalty kill.
“In that situation, it’s desperation mode. You’re really doing anything you can,” Campbell said. “They snap it around pretty well and they have a great power play. A couple of good saves by Tuukka, but it’s really just playing within the system that we have, and Bergy kills enough penalties for us, so it was important for us to do that for him.”
The Bruins went 2-for-3 on the PK on Tuesday and have killed off 25 of 32 shorthanded situations this season. But it was the kill in the final four minutes that proved crucial against the Sharks.
“It’s pretty huge from our group, especially when one of your best penalty killers is in the box for the last four minutes,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said. “Our guys did a great job. There was a lot of good stuff from everybody.
“Our guys for the last four minutes did an unbelievable job of battling through,” Julien added. “Our special teams tonight were really good for us and we needed that against that team.”
Boston’s power play was almost as important. That unit went 2-for-3 as Brad Marchand and Torey Krug both registered goals on the PP.
“Power play wins games in hockey today,” Krug said. “You watch it all across the league; a power-play goal will win a team a hockey game. For us, it definitely helped tonight.
“We got those two early ones. But I thought we played a solid hockey game and we were happy with our effort and the way we skated. They’re a fast team, so I thought we skated with them and took it to them. It was good.”
BOSTON -- Against one of the best teams in the Western Conference, the Boston Bruins received contributions throughout their lineup en route to a 5-3 victory over the San Jose Sharks Tuesday night at TD Garden.
The Bruins received goals from Brad Marchand, Torey Krug, Seth Griffith, Gregory Campbell and David Krejci (empty-netter), while goaltender Tuukka Rask finished with 31 saves. Bruins forward Milan Lucic added three assists, and the team's special-team units produced as well.
San Jose's Logan Couture netted two goals, and Joe Thornton added the other for the Sharks.
The Bruins gained a 1-0 lead at 13:57 of the first period when Marchand scored his first goal of the season. Boston was on the power play when Marchand gained control of the puck at the right point and created time and space for himself, skating into the right face-off circle and ripping a laser-like shot past San Jose goalie Antti Niemi to the top shelf on the short side.
The Sharks responded and tied the game at 1-1, scoring a power-play goal at 16:28 of the first. Couture collected his first goal of the game when he redirected a Patrick Marleau shot past Rask.
Boston regained the lead on Krug's power-play goal at 6:54 of the second period. He pulled the puck off the wall at the blue line, moved into the right face-off circle and unleashed a snap shot that beat a screened Niemi to give the Bruins a 2-1 lead.
Couture notched his second goal, tying the game at 2-2, at 16:15 of the second period. Only 37 seconds later, San Jose gained a 3-2 lead when Thornton redirected a shot past Rask at 16:52.
In his previous NHL game against the Montreal Canadiens last Thursday, Griffith had a few quality scoring chances, but couldn't convert. He was a healthy scratch Saturday in Buffalo and was assigned to Providence of the AHL for Sunday's P-Bruins game. Boston recalled Griffith on Monday and he was back on the Bruins' top line.
Griffith registered his first NHL goal at 4:50 of the third to tie the game at 3-3. Lucic was creating havoc in front of Niemi, as Griffith put himself in perfect position as the puck kicked out to him in the slot and he drove it in for the tally. As he celebrated, Lucic quickly went over and picked up the puck as a keepsake for Griffith.
Boston regained the lead when Campbell scored his first of the season at 10:42 of the third period to give the Bruins a 4-3 advantage. It was a strong shift by Boston's fourth line and its strong forecheck resulted in the go-ahead goal.
Holding a one-goal lead with 4:09 remaining in regulation, the Bruins' Patrice Bergeron was called for a double-minor, four-minute high-sticking penalty, and Boston had to kill off the man-advantage with one of its best penalty killers in the box. The Bruins' PK delivered and Boston finished with the victory. Rask was solid, especially in the final four minutes of regulation.
Krejci added the shorthanded, empty-net goal at 19:35.
DEFENSIVE TWEAK: With Bruins coach Claude Julien trying to find three consistent defensive pairings, he moved Krug, who normally plays the left side on the third pairing, up to play the right side, along with Dennis Seidenberg. The third pairing was Matt Bartkowski and Adam McQuaid. Zdeno Chara and Dougie Hamilton remained the top pairing.
WHAT HAVE YOU DONE LATELY: The Bruins are coming off a successful 2-1-0 road trip. This will be the first of two games between the Bruins and Sharks this season, with tonight being the lone game at TD Garden. Boston is 1-2-0 on home ice. The Sharks lost for the first time in regulation this season when the New York Rangers won 4-0 Sunday at Madison Square Garden. Tonight’s game in Boston ends a five-game road trip for San Jose.
CLOSE CALLS: The Bruins won both games against the Sharks last season. On Oct 24, 2013, David Krejci scored in the final second of regulation to give Boston a 2-1 win at TD Garden. On Jan. 11, a third-period goal by Carl Soderberg gave the Bruins a 1-0 win in San Jose. “Two tight games last year,” said Bruins forward Milan Lucic. “You look at the way they’ve started the season this year and they’re one of the top teams once again. It’s always been a tough game for us every time we’ve played the Sharks.” The Bruins hold a 16-9-5-0 all-time record against the Sharks.
“Seth has done a pretty good job of stepping in and doing what he does,” Lucic said. “You can see he’s got great hands, great vision and he’s got a great shot as well, and it’s just a matter of time before they start going in.”
Griffith, a second-year pro, remains without a point in three games for the Bruins this season. On Thursday against the Canadiens in Montreal, he had a few quality scoring chances but couldn’t capitalize.
MASKED MEN: Tuukka Rask will start for the Bruins. The reigning Vezina Trophy winner is 2-3-0, with a 2.90 goals-against average and a .870 save percentage in five games this season. He is 2-0-0, including one shutout in two career starts against the Sharks. San Jose will have Antti Niemi between the pipes tonight. He’s 3-0-0, including one shutout, a 2.27 GAA and a .933 SP in three games this season. He owns a 5-2-0 career record against the Bruins in seven games.
In the immediate aftermath, many wondered what would happen if the Bruins had to deal with key injuries on their blue line, as occurred last season when both Dennis Seidenberg and Adam McQuaid were lost for the season.
Only seven games into the season, and with Boston holding a 3-4-0 record, the Bruins' so-called depth will be tested.
On Saturday, defenseman Kevan Miller suffered a dislocated right shoulder and will be out indefinitely. That means Matt Bartkowski, who has been a healthy scratch in six of the seven games this season, will return to the lineup Tuesday night against the San Jose Sharks at TD Garden.
Miller suffered the injury during a fight with the Buffalo Sabres’ Nicolas Deslauriers at 7:55 of the first period during Boston’s 4-0 win Saturday at First Niagara Center.
At the end of the fight, the two landed hard on the ice and Miller needed to go to the locker room and did not return for the remainder of the game. Miller missed Monday’s practice and was examined by team doctors.
With Miller sidelined, Matt Bartkowski will return to the lineup Tuesday against the San Jose Sharks at TD Garden. He’s been a healthy scratch for seven of the team’s seven games this season.
“You never want to see it under this circumstance,” Bartkowski said of returning to the lineup. “Millsy’s a good friend of mine and you never want to see any of these D get hurt, but it’s good to get back in and play some games.”
In the one game he played this season, Bartkowski’s defensive miscue in the closing second of regulation resulted in the Bruins losing, 2-1, to the Colorado Avalanche on Oct. 13. He said he’s looking for redemption given this opportunity to return to the lineup.
“Yeah, absolutely,” he said. “All-around it wasn’t a good game, but I’d like to get some games in a row here and get going.”
Marchand nearly netted a couple of chances during the team’s 4-0 win over the Buffalo Sabres Saturday night at First Niagara Center. He had three quality shots on net, but still came up empty.
“It was getting a little frustrating there. I was kind of expecting a couple to go in, but I was around it and that’s what you want to do,” Marchand said. “You want to be in a position where you’re getting opportunities and eventually they will go in. You’ve got to stay positive.”
Despite finishing with decent numbers last season, he dealt with his droughts, too. He posted just two goals and three assists for five points in the first 15 games of the 2013-2014 season. During one particular game on Nov. 7, he produced the game-winning goal against the Florida Panthers at TD Garden, and after the puck went in, he reached behind his back and motioned like he was throwing a monkey off his back and onto the ice. That goal was only his second of the season.
During that dry spell, he was also getting scoring chances, similar to what he’s experiencing now.
“Hopefully they’re going to come,” he said. “You don’t know if they’re going to come. It’s good to get [those chances] but at the same time you want to capitalize, you want to produce. Regardless of getting opportunities or not, it gets frustrating when you don’t produce the way you want to and you’re capable of, so you want to get back to that, for sure.”
The one thing that has helped Marchand is the fact that he’s been playing with the same linemates. Boston’s second line of Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and Reilly Smith has been the one constant for Bruins coach Claude Julien.
“It’s good to know your linemates and be comfortable with them,” Marchand said. “Me, Smitty and Bergy are pretty comfortable with each other, so it is definitely good to have that consistency and continue to build every day at practice. When you have guys flopping around [the lineup] it’s tough to build that consistency.”
The team recalled forward Seth Griffith from Providence. He was on the Bruins’ recent road trip and was a healthy scratch, before the team assigned him to Providence on Sunday and he played for the P-Bruins in the afternoon.
This morning, Griffith was on the top line with Milan Lucic and David Krejci. Simon Gagne, who has played the last two games on the top line, was back on the fourth line with Gregory Campbell and Daniel Paille.
Also, Bruins defenseman Kevan Miller, who suffered an upper-body injury during a fight on Saturday in Buffalo, did not practice today.
Kelly will joke that he can’t stand playing with the pair of Europeans, when in actuality the three work quite well together.
Soderberg and Kelly are tied for the team lead with five points each. Soderberg has two goals and three assists, while Kelly has one goal and four assists. Eriksson has two goals and two assists for four points.
“We’ve been playing well and controlling the puck well in the offensive zone,” Kelly said. “Obviously, I would like the puck to go in the net a little bit more, but at the end of the night the chances are there and you’ve got to take the positives.”
Once Jarome Iginla signed as a free agent with the Colorado Avalanche on July 1, the Bruins had a vacancy on their top line. Numerous times during the offseason, general manager Peter Chiarelli and coach Claude Julien said they could envision Eriksson on the right side, with David Krejci in the middle and Milan Lucic on the left.
Even when Krejci returned to the lineup after missing the first three games, Julien decided to keep his third line intact.
“It’s been important and that’s why we put them back together,” Julien said. “When David was injured, and we felt that we didn’t have all the players in place, we put the ones that we thought had some good chemistry in the past together. That was [Patrice Bergeron’s] line and Carl’s line. Because of that they helped us weather the storm a little bit, so it’s been hard to break them. The other lines are starting to come around too, so we’ve got to keep plugging away in the early season.”
Julien attempts to keep his lineup as consistent as possible. It’s a long season and situations occur that will force the coach to make some changes.
“The chemistry’s there and we work well with one another. We’re reading off each other better and better every game,” Kelly said. “But things change. It’s 82 games and obviously Claude’s going to do what he feels is best for the team, not just three individuals.”
When Soderberg first arrived in Boston in 2013, his game was not even close to being ready for the NHL. He had enjoyed success in the Swedish Elite League, but it took him a while to get his game to translate to the North American style. He started to make progress last season and it was evident how comfortable he was playing with Eriksson and Kelly.
“I enjoy playing with those guys and I think I’ve played pretty good,” Soderberg said. “I want to keep that going and score some more goals too.”
Kelly is the perfect conduit for the Swedish players. He’s a leader on and off the ice, and when he’s healthy and productive, he’s a consistent player.
“He brings a lot,” Soderberg said. “He’s strong with the puck and really good on the forecheck. He makes some good plays and he means a lot to us and he makes the line complete.”
That line’s success was on display during Saturday’s 4-0 win over the Buffalo Sabres at First Niagara Center. Boston already had a 3-0 lead in the second period, when Kelly’s strong forecheck forced a turnover behind the Buffalo net. Eriksson was positioned perfectly to retrieve the puck before quickly passing it to Soderberg, who scored on a nifty backhand.
“You can see Carl from when he’s come over till the end of last year and this year and how much he’s improved, just knowing the North American game and how well he’s reading and understanding the play,” Kelly said.
Another aspect to the line’s ability to succeed is the fact that both Kelly and Soderberg can play center. Kelly is a little more versatile on the wing, and Soderberg prefers center.
“It’s really important,” Kelly said. “It’s fairly easy for a centerman to go to wing, as opposed to having a winger go to center. Carl and I communicate well. We both can take faceoffs, and both can play in our own end and know the center position well.”
Griffith played three games for the Bruins this season, while Spooner has played five.
Since veteran forward Simon Gagne has progressed to a point where he’s playing on the top line, and Gregory Campbell returned to the lineup on Thursday, Griffith and Spooner have been healthy scratches.
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- After the Boston Bruins struggled at the start of the 2014-2015 season with a 1-3-0 record in their first four games, coach Claude Julien felt the team's first multi-city road trip could help turns things around.
Sure enough, it did.
The Bruins concluded this three-game road trip with a 2-1-0 record by shutting out the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday at First Niagara Center. Boston also beat the Detroit Red Wings on Wednesday before they lost to the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday.
On Saturday, the Bruins played with more intensity and produced a solid defensive game, which had been missing to start the season. The Bruins return home feeling good about their play and will host the San Jose Sharks and New York Islanders this week at TD Garden.
"When you come off a road trip, you want to come off with a winning record," Julien said. "If we do that every road trip, we're going to be OK. You've got to start somewhere; we know we've struggled out of the gate, but you feel like it's starting to come around. You can see it even in the body language of the players. They're starting to have more fun, and when you have more fun, you seem to have better legs, and we seem to move the puck better, so you've just got to hope that it continues. I like the way we've played the last three games, and if you take away those defensive mistakes in Montreal, it was a good road trip."
The past three seasons, the Bruins have had three different backup goalies, including Anton Khudobin, Chad Johnson and now Niklas Svedberg. Khudobin (14-9-4) and Johnson (17-4-3) both were solid.
Svedberg's off to a decent start, too.
The 25-year-old netminder recorded his first NHL shutout with a 32-save performance in Boston's 4-0 win over the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday at First Niagara Center.
"It's a great feeling," Svedberg said. "Most of all, to get the win for us was huge today, and of course, I'm happy with the shutout, too."
It was only his second start (third game) this season, and it was also his first win.
"He's been good," Julien said. "He came in [against Montreal on Friday] cold and had to make some saves. I'm pretty happy with the way he's handled himself. In that first game that he lost, he was really good as well. It was tough to give up that goal with half a second left, and we know it wasn't his fault, so been pretty happy. We've been fortunate that we've got a good goaltender in Tuukka, and everybody that seems to come in continues to do the job, so that's great."
When the final buzzer sounded, Svedberg was mobbed by his teammates.
"He's working really hard," Bruins captain Zdeno Chara said. "He's making great steps forward, and everybody was really happy for him. He deserved the shutout. If you look back, he made some really big saves in the game. Buffalo had some chances and actually could have made it a tighter game than it was, but he made some really big saves for us."