Old Time Hockey

Are the big, bad Bruins being targeted by the refs?

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The Boston Bruins played another dumb game last night in Montreal, where the defending Cup champs put themselves shorthanded six times, surrendering two power-play goals on their way to a 4-2 defeat.

Following the loss that dropped the Bruins to 3-7-0, the second-worst mark in the NHL, captain Zdeno Chara was forced to address the issue of team discipline.

“I don’t think guys really want to take some bad penalties, it’s just the way it’s happening,” Chara told reporters. “There are a lot of emotions involved in these games and sometimes guys do things that are just automatic. I’m sure that if you would ask them they would take those things back. It’s O.K. to play with emotions but you have to be smart about it.”

When asked about Milan Lucic’s minor penalty for slashing Montreal’s P.K. Subban behind the play, Boston coach Claude Julien echoed his captain’s sentiments.

“If we’re not smart enough to take that responsibility not to get goaded in, that’s our problem,” Julien said.

Subban embellished the slash, to be sure, but that’s the risk Lucic ran when he decided to give the Montreal defenseman a love tap on the back of the leg. Subban has been known to embellish. It’s kind of his thing.

But is it just the Bruins playing dumb hockey, or is there something more to the story?

CSSNE.com’s Joe Haggerty thinks the B’s are being targeted by the NHL after “they bullied their way to a Stanley Cup championship over the Vancouver Canucks.”

One of the iconic images from last year’s Cup Finals was Brad Marchand punching the closest available Sedin with five or six jabs to the head while A) the refs refused to call any penalties and B) Sedin refused to protect himself or engage with Marchand when nobody came to his defense. Even better was Marchand’s “because I felt like it” defense.

Now it looks like the league is keeping close tabs on Boston this season via their refereeing crews. The refs have called a bevy of penalties on the Black and Gold in the early portions of the season, and that has played into Boston’s difficulties.

The Bruins were whistled for eight penalties and 19 penalty minutes in a 4-2 loss to the Montreal Canadiens at the Bell Centre on Saturday night, and at least three of the calls were retaliatory penalties after the B’s truly lost their cool.

For the record, Marchand received a roughing minor for giving Sedin the speed-bag treatment. Say what you will about Sedin’s lack of response, but a Vancouver power play was exactly what he was hoping for by not reacting. Marchand’s “because I felt like it” defense was certainly revealing in that it summed up a lot of what happened in the series, but were the Bruins able to take liberties with Vancouver players because the Canucks weren’t manly enough to fight back, or were they able to take liberties because the Canucks couldn’t score on the power play the way they’d done all season?

This isn’t bitterness from a Vancouver guy, by the way. The Bruins deserved to win the Cup. However, I would suggest the Bruins took liberties in the Cup finals because they weren’t paying a price on the scoreboard. And it was a good strategy against Vancouver. But it didn’t work last night. And it sure didn’t work Oct. 18 against Carolina.

Boston hosts Ottawa on Tuesday at TD Garden. If the Bruins are smart, they’ll knock it off with all the penalties. The Senators have the second-best power play (29.0%) in the NHL.

Raanta rewards Rangers for starts over Lundqvist by blanking Blackhawks

VANCOUVER, BC - NOVEMBER 15: Goalie Henrik Lundqvist #30 of the New York Rangers shares a laugh with teammate Antti Raanta #32 after defeating the Vancouver Canucks 7-2 in NHL action on November 15, 2016 at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.  (Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images)
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If someone told you that the New York Rangers started a goalie on back-to-back nights, and that goalie wasn’t Henrik Lundqvist, you’d probably wonder if he was hurt or retired.

Nope. It just so happens that Antti Raanta is playing at an incredibly high level, Alain Vigneault noticed, and that decision paid dividends on Friday night. Raanta won both nights of a back-to-back, allowing a single goal (with the Rangers protecting him, being that he only needed to stop 43 of 44 shots during that span).

Raanta and the Rangers blanked the Chicago Blackhawks with a 1-0 overtime win, at least briefly climbing to first place in the massively competitive Metro Division:

1. Rangers – 39 points in 29 games played
2. Penguins- 37 points in 27 GP
3. Blue Jackets – 36 points in 25 GP
4. Capitals – 35 points in 26 GP
5. Flyers – 35 points in 29 GP

Nick Holden ended up scoring the only goal of the game:

Meanwhile, the Blackhawks lost but at least salvaged a standings point and it seems like Patrick Kane is OK after this injury scare:

Raanta improved to 7-1-0 on the season, allowing two goals or less in all but one of his appearances so far this season. That’s the kind of work you’d expect to see if you’re going sit a guy who’s, you know, a living legend.

Blue Jackets remain in thick of things in Metro on tough night for Red Wings

DENVER, CO - DECEMBER 01:  Boone Jenner #38 of the Columbus Blue Jackets is congratulated by his teammates after scoring the go ahead goal against the Colorado Avalanche at the Pepsi Center on December 1, 2016 in Denver, Colorado.  (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
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As the Columbus Blue Jackets keep rolling, the Detroit Red Wings are probably just happy to get Friday behind them.

For the second straight game, the Blue Jackets beat their opponent 4-1.

They’re now on a five-game winning streak, and like the climbing St. Louis Blues, things look great if you go back a little further. They’re 10-1-2 in their last 13 games and 13-2-3 since November began.

Columbus is now at 16-5-4, giving them 36 standings points. They’re once again in breathing distance of leading the Metro Division when you consider games in hand.

Update: Here’s how the standings look after the Rangers beat the Blackhawks 1-0 in overtime:

1. Rangers – 39 points in 29 games played
2. Penguins- 37 points in 27 GP
3. Blue Jackets – 36 points in 25 GP
4. Capitals – 35 points in 26 GP
5. Flyers – 35 points in 29 GP

That’s a stout division, and the Blue Jackets remain shockingly effective. Then again, with results like these over and over again, it might be time to merely expect such impressive work.

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For Detroit, it was a rough night. Jonathan Ericsson couldn’t play, Mike Green was a little banged up and Petr Mrazek was pulled for Jimmy Howard. This goal summarized some of their struggles:

Blues blaze through Devils, even in New Jersey

NEWARK, NJ - DECEMBER 09: (L-R) Brad Hunt #77, Robby Fabbri #15 and Vladimir Tarasenko #91 of the St. Louis Blues celebrate Fabri's first period goal against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on December 9, 2016 in Newark, New Jersey.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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The New Jersey Devils have been incredibly difficult to beat at home. Lately, the St. Louis Blues have been on a roll just about anywhere.

On Friday night, the Blues were the hotter team, handing the Devils their first home loss in regulation in 2016-17. And it wasn’t particularly close, with St. Louis winning 4-1.

It’s a convenient time to note that the Blues rank among the hottest teams in the NHL. Most recently, they’re 5-1-1 in their last seven games, but they’ve been especially impressive since they flirted with .500 at 7-6-3. Beginning with a 4-1 win against the Buffalo Sabres on Nov. 15, the Blues are on a 8-2-1 tear.

This leaves them second in the Central with a 16-8-4 record.

That’s impressive stuff.

This 4-1 win was quite the showcase for Robby Fabbri and Vladimir Tarasenko, in particular. Tarasenko collected three assists while Fabbri scored two goals on Friday night. His second goal was particularly slick:

The Blues are right in saying that this was a pretty fitting opportunity to drop a “Holy Jumpin.”

Oh yeah, don’t forget about Jake Allen, either.

Leon Draisaitl continues hot streak with silky smooth goal (Video)

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Minnesota Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk has been the most difficult goalies to score against this season. Leave it to a high-level player like Leon Draisaitl to make it look this, well, “easy.”

Draisaitl scored his 13th goal of 2016-17 by capping this pretty give-and-go play with Benoit Pouliot. You can see the frustration from Dubnyk at the end of the tally, as if he was saying “How was I supposed to stop that?” (though probably with more colorful language).

Draisaitl came into Friday with five goals and three assists in his last five games, so he’s been almost unstoppable lately.

Read more about his rise here.

Update: The Wild were able to shake off that goal, ultimately beating the Oilers 3-2 via a shootout.