Jason Brough

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The Bruins are on a roll, and it’s not just Rask

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Tuukka Rask improved to 10-1-0 with his third shutout of the season last night in Denver. With a .945 save percentage, the netminder’s play is a major reason the Boston Bruins are off to a 10-6-0 start, as PHT duly noted.

But don’t be mistaken, the B’s have been more than just their goalie.  In their last five games, they’ve outshot their opponents by a combined margin of 192-124. Their only loss came against Montreal, which had to get a first-star performance from Carey Price, otherwise the result may have been much different.

The Bruins more than doubled the Avalanche’s shot total, 46-20.

“That’s how you win a road game — a pretty much mistake-free game,” Rask told reporters. “We kept them on the outside and really limited their scoring chances and rushes. And then we kept the puck in the offensive zone and made some plays and created chances.”

How are the B’s doing it?

Well, their top line of Brad Marchand, Patrick Bergeron and David Pastrnak has been one of the best top lines in the league, so that certainly helps. GM Don Sweeney was hoping Pastrnak could make more of an impact this season, and the 20-year-old has responded with 10 goals in his first 14 games.

“When you see a kid come in with that much potential and when he really breaks out and has a year like he’s having now, it’s a lot of fun to see it,” said Marchand, per CSN New England. “He’s going to be a great player in this league for a long time. He’s so fast and so skilled, and he does things with the puck that I don’t think opponents have seen before.”

The Bruins’ second line is pretty good itself, with David Krejci centering Ryan Spooner and David Backes. The third line of Matt Beleseky, Riley Nash and Jimmy Hayes received a ton of criticism early on, but replacing Hayes with Austin Czarnik seems to have been a good move by head coach Claude Julien. Even the fourth line of Hayes, Dominic Moore, and Sean Kuraly played well against the Avs.

As for the back end, the importance of Brandon Carlo‘s emergence cannot be understated. The 19-year-old rookie has logged 22:19 per game on the top pairing with Zdeno Chara. Carlo is a plus-11, Chara is plus-12. If not for Carlo, it’s anyone’s guess who would be playing with Chara. Bruins fans would prefer not to imagine such a scenario.

Related: Carlo has ‘impressed the heck’ out of Bruins

Sure, it would be nice if Colin Miller was making more of an impact — he was a healthy scratch against the Avs — but Carlo has taken a lot of that urgency away. Miller does actually have impressive possession numbers, but he’s a minus-6 after 15 games, with just one goal and one assist. It will be interesting to see how much the 24-year-old plays when Kevan Miller returns from his hand injury.

The Bruins finish their three-game road trip Thursday in Minnesota. Win that and they’ll return home with eight victories in their last 10, and not just because of their goalie.

Nothing much going right for the Avs, who are already in a hole

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The Colorado Avalanche got off to a decent start under their new head coach, but things have taken a decided turn for the worse.

Jared Bednar’s group fell to 5-7-0 on Tuesday, dropping a 4-2 decision at home to the Arizona Coyotes. With just two wins in their last eight, the Avs host Winnipeg tonight, already trying to make up lost ground in the tough Central Division.

“Right now when we’re making mistakes, teams are capitalizing on them,” Bednar said following Tuesday’s defeat. “You hope that your team starts to understand the mistakes that we’re making, and then you get a little better at it and you can show more positive than negative.”

Semyon Varlamov will be back between the pipes against the high-scoring Jets. It seemed like Calvin Pickard might get an extended run, but four goals on 25 shots versus the Coyotes put an end to that.

As a team, the Avs have struggled with pretty much everything. They’ve got the 28th-ranked offense (2.00 goals per game), and the 24th-ranked goals-against (3.08).

Possession-wise, the Avs’ numbers remain a concern, with a score-adjusted Corsi that ranks 26th out of 30. Combine that with a low shooting percentage (6.9) and the results are not going to be pretty. At the very least, the shooting percentage is likely to go up a bit.

Individually, Matt Duchene has a respectable 11 points (6G, 5A), but the next highest total is seven, belonging to Nathan MacKinnon (2G, 5A).

Meanwhile, future Hall of Famer Jarome Iginla has just two goals in 12 games. He told the Denver Post recently that it’s “about winning and making the playoffs and having a chance to play for the Stanley Cup.” A pending unrestricted free agent, the 39-year-old may need a trade to give himself that chance.

 

 

To be sure, Bednar deserves more time to instill his system. Roy’s shock resignation in August caught everyone by surprise, and management had to scramble to find a replacement.

Unfortunately for the Avs, they’re already in a hole — four points back of a wild-card spot, five back of third in their division — and the schedule isn’t waiting for them to figure things out. Colorado hosts Winnipeg tonight, Boston Sunday and Los Angeles Tuesday, and then it’s a three-game road trip through Dallas, Minnesota, and Colorado.

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Related: The ‘Avs are ‘just spinning in the mud again’

‘Canes put Faulk on IR

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RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) The Carolina Hurricanes have placed All-Star defenseman Justin Faulk on the injured list with an upper-body injury.

General manager Ron Francis also said Friday that the team has assigned forward Phil Di Giuseppe to its AHL affiliate in Charlotte.

Faulk was hurt in the Hurricanes’ loss to New Jersey on Sunday, and his spot on the injured list is retroactive to Nov. 7. The two-time All-Star has three goals and three assists in 11 games.

Di Giuseppe has played in 11 of 13 games during his second NHL season. He had seven goals and 10 assists last year with the Hurricanes.

Carolina fell to 3-6-4 with last night’s 4-2 loss to the Ducks. In all six of the Hurricanes’ regulation losses, they’ve finished with more shots than their opponents.

The ‘Canes host Washington on Saturday. Faulk will not be eligible to play that game.

Related: The curious case of the Carolina Hurricanes

Five NHL player stats you may find interesting

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.961Jimmy Howard‘s save percentage, the highest of any NHL goalie with at least six starts. Yes, even higher than Carey Price‘s .953 mark. Of all the goalies off to a hot start, Howard’s is easily the most surprising. Recall this offseason when Howard’s contract looked like an unmovable anvil, to the point GM Ken Holland had to spin why it might be a good idea to keep him. OK, maybe it wasn’t all spin from Holland, but Howard had just finished up his third straight sub-par season, and the 32-year-old goalie with the $5.3 million cap hit for three more years was not exactly considered an asset. For the Red Wings’ sake, hopefully Howard can keep it up, because if you translate Henrik Zetterberg, they might be in trouble if not for their much-maligned netminder:

19 — Mark Scheiffele’s point total, making him the NHL’s leading point-getter. Scheifele (9G, 10A) has been centering a line of Nikolaj Ehlers and Patrik Laine, the latter of whom leads the league with 11 goals. So yeah, quite a bit of young talent in Winnipeg. Scheifele is still only 23 years old, while Ehlers is 20 and Laine just 18. To be sure, the Jets (7-7-1) need to keep improving defensively, but don’t forget they’ve played most of their season without veteran center Bryan Little, and their entire season without just-signed defenseman Jacob Trouba. If they can find some consistent goaltending — a big if, mind you — they could really start to roll.

Minus-76: Jack Johnson‘s 5-on-5 shot-attempt differential. John Tortorella probably doesn’t want to hear about it, but that’s the worst differential in the NHL. In a related story, the Blue Jackets have not been a good possession team. They’re only 6-4-2 because Sergei Bobrovsky has been excellent in goal (6-4-1, .935) and their special teams have been off-the-charts good. Last night in Boston, the Jackets got badly outshot (32-17), Bobrovsky had an off night, and Columbus lost 5-2.

10 — Combined goals for the Sedin twins, who have five each. The rest of the Vancouver Canucks have 17 goals, for a measly total of 27 in 15 games. This is why there’s so much concern in Vancouver. The Sedins are 36 years old and they’re still having to carry the offense. True, Brock Boeser is in the pipeline, and he continues to fill the net for the University of North Dakota. But much more is required of the club’s other young wingers like Sven Baertschi and Jake Virtanen. If the Canucks can’t develop some reliable everyday scorers, the road back to respectability is going to be very long indeed.

18:44: The average ice time for Alex Ovechkin, a fair bit less than the 20:19 he averaged last season. This is by design, with an eye towards the playoffs. “He’s used to around the 21 mark,” said coach Barry Trotz. “It may not feel great sometimes right now, but hopefully game 92 and 93 and 94 when we get into that, that’s when you’ll see, hopefully, the effect of sort of spreading the minutes about.” One guy who’s taken some of Ovechkin’s ice time is Andre Burakovsky, who’s gone from an average of 13:01 last season to 15:43 in the first 12 games of 2016-17.

Lack of discipline keeps costing the Isles

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The New York Islanders’ penalty killing got burned for 12th and 13th times last night, and it cost them in a 4-1 loss to Tampa Bay.

The Isles went shorthanded six times against the Bolts — a bad idea against a team with Steven Stamkos, who scored on the first of three Tampa Bay power plays in the first period alone.

“There’s no secret,” Isles captain John Tavares told reporters. “The amount of penalties we take, it’s really putting us in a tough spot.”

“We’re probably one of the most penalized teams in the league — and it’s not the refs, you know what I mean?” added defenseman Johnny Boychuk, per Newsday. “We should’ve learned from the last game against them.”

That “last game” was Nov. 1 in Brooklyn, when the Bolts went 2-for-7 on the power play and won 6-1. Andrew Ladd called it “easily our worst game of the year,” and unfortunately for the Isles, things haven’t gotten much better since.

In fact, the Isles’ only win of the month came over one of the worst teams in the league, the Vancouver Canucks, who’d lost eight straight coming in. It was hardly a dominant victory either, requiring a third-period push to get it done.

On top of all that, last night’s loss marked the start of a brutally tough stretch for Jack Capuano’s crew. The Isles play the Panthers in Sunrise tomorrow, then return home for games against the Lightning and Penguins. After that, it’s off to California to visit the Ducks, Kings, and Sharks.

Indeed, just 14 games into the season and it’s already desperation time, as the Isles (5-7-2) have fallen four points out of a wild-card spot and five points back of third place in the Metropolitan Division.

Most PP goals surrendered
Calgary: 17
Chicago: 16
NY Islanders, Dallas: 13

Fewest PP goals surrendered
Columbus: 3
Carolina, Edmonton, San Jose, Minnesota: 4