A few quick observations on the Bruins’ 5-2 win over the Maple Leafs on Sunday night at the Air Canada Centre.
- With everything they had going against them — down five regulars to start the night, losing Dougie Hamilton after just 16 minutes, using the backup goalie, on the road for a back-to-back after an emotionally charged game — this was a pretty impressive performance.
The Bruins took command in the second period with back-to-back power plays in less than two minutes, got an insurance goal from Kevan Miller (the first of his NHL career) and put it away in the third period with consecutive penalty kills.
Early on, the Bruins were surprisingly outshot by the Leafs as the new players found a rhythm, a feeling-out process. In the last two periods, rhythm came through and the road team found its game.
With three games in four nights against East contenders in Montreal, Pittsburgh and Toronto, the Bruins went 2-1 and were a bad period from 3-0. Now they're back in first place in the Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference, one point ahead of the Canadiens and Penguins, respectively, with a game in hand on both.
It wasn't always pretty, but a gutsy effort by a young, banged-up team on the road.
- Chad Johnson picked up his fourth straight win since that ugly performance on Long Island six weeks ago.
Johnson made 30 saves Sunday night, his best a right pad stop on Dion Phaneuf in the third period during a Toronto power play.
This was a far more difficult game for Johnson than his last two vs. Carolina and Columbus, respectively, which each had long droughts of not attacking the offensive end.
It wouldn’t have been surprising if Tuukka Rask had started for the second straight night, but Johnson is making it easy to go to him in these situations. The Bruins’ next back-to-back is Dec. 27-28 with a home-and-home vs. Ottawa; Johnson will certainly see action before then.
- Ryan Spooner was the center on the third line, but got pulled out of the faceoff circle in the first period.
Spooner lost his first four draws and Carl Soderberg took over for him. Soderberg won 4-of-10 draws, including winning a draw just before Miller’s goal and losing one in the defensive zone leading to Jay McClement's score.
Julien avoided using the third line of Soderberg, Spooner and Matt Fraser for defensive-zone draws when possible. Patrice Bergeron (3 for 7), David Krejci (1 for 5) and Gregory Campbell (5 for 7) took much of that responsibility, an area where Chris Kelly had been relied on.
Overall, Spooner played 16 shifts for 8:53 of ice time. Fraser had 18 shifts for 8:04 in his Boston debut.
- With Loui Eriksson and Kelly both out, the Bruins needed a new third forward pair on the penalty kill. On Sunday night, it was David Krejci and Jordan Caron, who have both worked shorthanded before. Jarome Iginla is also an option.
By using Caron, who’s taking his regular shifts on the fourth line, Claude Julien can keep Caron involved in the game.
Brad Marchand took Eriksson’s place on the second power-play unit, operating on the right-side half-wall.
- Incredible non-call on Phaneuf for boarding Miller in the final minutes. Phaneuf blatantly hit Miller between the numbers when Miller wasn’t expecting anything. Blatant penalty that didn’t get a thing. … Big shift by the Krejci line in the second period shifted momentum back to Boston. The Leafs surged after Miller made it 3-1 and the Bruins’ No. 1 line ended that. … Torey Krug was on for Peter Holland's opening goal, but he keeps opening eyes. He moved back into a tie for the defensemen goals lead with eight, and is crafty with his body in his own zone. He held off the much bigger David Clarkson for a long time to allow partner Zdeno Chara to play the puck in the second period. … On to Calgary for the Bruins, and Iginla’s reunion with the adoring fans of Alberta.
In the aftermath of the ugliness between the Penguins and Bruins on Saturday night, there were multiple players asked about the viciousness they had just been involved in.
While Bruins enforcer Shawn Thornton seemed on the verge of crying as he repeatedly expressed how sorry he was for jumping and ultimately concussing Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik, Pittsburgh winger James Neal was defensive when asked about kneeing Brad Marchand in the head just before Thornton punched out Orpik.
“What do you want me to say? That I was trying to hit him? No, I’m going by him, I don’t get out of the way,” Neal told reporters. “I need to try to be more careful and, I guess, get my knee out of the way, but I’m not trying to hit him in the head or injure him.”
Before Sunday’s game at Toronto, Bruins coach Claude Julien took issue with Neal not owning his role in the events.
“The one thing about (Thornton) is that anybody who knows him personally knows he's a pretty honest player and pretty honest person, and if he said he really regretted and felt bad, he really did,” Julien told the media. “I support his comment because I know he’s being truthful to that.
“That’s more than we can say about players that pretend it wasn’t done on purpose. It’s pretty obvious when you look at it that (Thornton) did cross the line, but others did too. But sometimes you have to man up to those things and I think he did.”
The Boston coach also took issue with Penguins coach Dan Bylsma saying Orpik’s open-ice hit on Loui Eriksson — which touched off all the wildness Saturday night — was clean. Orpik’s shoulder appeared to make contact with Eriksson’s head, giving Eriksson his second concussion in seven weeks.
“I heard Dan Bylsma’s comments after the game and I’m going to have to respectfully disagree that it was a legal hit,” Julien. “(Eriksson) didn’t have the puck. (Orpik) was lining up to hit more than attempting to play the puck. People will argue that it touched his blade, but it certainly wasn’t from trying to take a pass."
Neal and Thornton are expected to receive suspensions after hearings with the NHL’s Department of Player Safety. There's been no hearing announced for Orpik.
Defensemen are becoming an endangered species for the Bruins, with Dougie Hamilton the latest blue liner to go down.
Hamilton departed the ice with just over four minutes remaining in the first period Sunday night in Toronto flexing his leg and didn't return.
Coach Claude Julien told reporters after the 5-2 win that Hamilton will return to Boston to have a lower-body injury looked at and is unlikely to play this week. That would put Hamilton out for the remainder of the team's road trip, which takes them to Western Canada for the rest of the week.
Julien was optimistic that Kevan Miller, who was boarded by Toronto's Dion Phaneuf late Sunday night and left the ice, would play Tuesday in Calgary. It's possible Johnny Boychuk (sprained back) could return against the Flames; if Boychuk can't play, the Bruins will have to recall a defenseman from Providence, likely David Warsofsky or Zach Trotman.
Hamilton was injured as he collected the puck by the right point on the power play and got into a collision with Toronto defenseman Carl Gunnarsson. It appeared Gunnarsson’s skate may have clipped Hamilton’s left leg, which Hamilton was flexing as he skated off.
For the fifth time this season, the Bruins were forced to play the majority of a game with just five defensemen.
Boychuk and Adam McQuaid (groin) are traveling with the Bruins on their four-game road trip.
One phrase in Malawi seems to get repeated more than any other. Perhaps it if was said in the local language it would seem less annoying, "Patseni ndalama zanga". But when it is said in plain English especially by three year olds it gives new insight into the economic climate of Malawi. “Give me my money.”
"Tis the season on non-stop holiday gatherings with family, friends and co-workers when we bring out the "party" clothes.
Expect a bit of a wintry mess in Natick Monday morning, in time for the commute.
More than 600 runners ventured through the streets of West Natick for the fourth annual Jingle Bell Run at Brown Elementary School on Sunday, Dec. 8.
The Bruins visit the Maple Leafs on Sunday. Here’s what you need to know for the game.
Records: Bruins (19-8-2, 40 points), Maple Leafs (16-11-3, 35 points)
Where and when: Air Canada Centre, 7 p.m.
TV: NESN (Jack Edwards, Andy Brickley, Jamie Erdahl)
Radio: WBZ-FM (Dave Goucher, Bob Beers)
Goals: Phil Kessel, 16; James van Riemsdyk, 13; Mason Raymond, 10
Assists: Cody Franson, 14; Phil Kessel, 13; James van Riemsdyk, 12
Points: Phil Kessel, 29, James van Riemsdyk, 25; Nazem Kadri, 20
Goals: Milan Lucic, 11; Patrice Bergeron, 8; Zdeno Chara, 7; Torey Krug, 7
Assists: David Krejci, 17; Reilly Smith, 13; Jarome Iginla, 11; Milan Lucic, 11
Points: David Krejci, 22; Milan Lucic, 22; Reilly Smith, 19
Projected starting goalies
Maple Leafs: Jonathan Bernier (19 games, 9-7-2, 2.40 GAA, .931 save percentage)
Bruins: Chad Johnson (5 games, 4-1-0, 1.97 GAA, .918 save percentage)
Maple Leafs: Dave Bolland (ankle tendon), Tyler Bozak (oblique strain), Joffrey Lupul (groin), Colton Orr (elbow)
Bruins: Johnny Boychuk (sprained back), Loui Eriksson (concussion), Chris Kelly (broken ankle), Adam McQuaid (groin)
Stat of the day: The Bruins are 4-1-0 on the second half of back-to-backs, the Maple Leafs are 4-2-0.
Storylines: The Bruins begin a four-game road trip through Canada, and will do so without five regulars. Ryan Spooner and Matt Fraser join the lineup, Fraser making his Boston debut. … Jordan Caron is expected to play for the first time since Nov. 27. … The Bruins and Maple Leafs meet for the second time this season. Boston won 3-1 at TD Garden on Nov. 9. … Both teams are on the second half of back-to-backs. On Saturday night, the Bruins rallied to beat Pittsburgh 3-2 and the Maple Leafs won 3-0 in Ottawa. … Phil Kessel has been battling various ailments, but is on a six-game point streak (4-4--8). … The referees are Dennis LaRue and Tim Peel. The linesmen are Kiel Murchison and Mike Cvik.
Both teams' projected lineups after the jump.
Chris Kelly has a fractured right fibula and will miss 4-6 weeks, the Bruins announced Sunday afternoon.
Kelly was slashed in the second period of Saturday night’s win over Pittsburgh by Pascal Dupuis. He was placed on long-term injured reserve.
With Boston already down to 10 forwards, Kelly completed the game, playing his usual six shifts in the third period as the Bruins rallied for a dramatic win. Coach Claude Julien indicated in his postgame press briefing he didn’t know Kelly was injured until after the game.
Kelly missed just under a month last season when he broke his left tibia in March. His return was faster than expected, although it took him about two months to start skating the way he was used to.
Kelly was recovered from that injury at the beginning of this season and had been skating well before his fibula was broken in Game No. 29 Saturday night.
Long-term injured reserve specifies a player must miss at least 24 days or 10 games. Kelly is not eligible to return until Jan. 2.
Ryan Spooner and Matt Fraser were officially called up from Providence and are available for Sunday’s game at Toronto. Spooner is expected to take Kelly’s spot as the third-line center.
Also, defenseman Adam McQuaid was placed on injured reserve. McQuaid has missed the last two games with a groin injury and hasn’t played since Nov. 30 vs. Columbus, when he re-aggravated the problem.
The move is largely procedural as McQuaid had already missed seven days, the minimum number of days for a player to be activated from the IR.
Erin Merchant MacAllister of Humarock makes paper and then creates beautiful and useful products, including notepaper, journals, lamps and books. We're in a world of text messages and emails, but this young mother is preserving an old-fashioned art form. She was one of the surprises at the annual Holiday Marketplace at the James Library and Cultural Center in Norwell Saturday.