Loui Eriksson

Bruins think Eriksson ‘can be a better player’

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Nearly one year after the Tyler Seguin trade, Cam Neely thinks the centerpiece Boston got in return has room for improvement.

“Loui [Eriksson] came in and it was a difficult transition for him, and then he got hurt,” Neely said on Tuesday at the B’s annual year-end presser. “We think he can be a better player.”

Eriksson, 28, missed 21 games with a pair of concussions and a heel injury this season, which limited his production — just 10 goals and 37 points in 61 games, a .61 points-per-game average.

The worry, of course, is that ’13-14 marked the second straight season Eriksson’s production took a hit. He was at a .60 ppg average during the lockout-shortened ’13 campaign in Dallas, a noticeable dropoff for a guy that recorded three-straight 70-plus point campaigns from 2009-11 (his point-per-game averages in those three years? .87, .92 and .87)

Not helping Eriksson’s cause was the fact Seguin enjoyed good success in his first year in Dallas, finishing fourth in the NHL in points (84) while pacing the Stars to their first playoff appearance in five years.

Eriksson, meanwhile, spent the majority of the year on Boston’s third line — albeit a very good third line — and didn’t do much in the playoffs, scoring just two goals and five points in 12 games. Eriksson was also a collective minus-4 in the final two losses to Montreal, going pointless with just three total shots on goal.

As such, Neely made no bones about the B’s needing more from the Swedish winger, who has two seasons left on his six-year, $25.5 million deal with a $4.25 million average annual cap hit.

“He’s proven to be a better player,” Neely said. “That’s our expectation, that he can be a better player.”

Bruins’ Marchand searches for answers after failing to score in playoffs

Montreal Canadiens v Boston Bruins - Game Seven
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Brad Marchand was involved Wednesday night, but not for the right reasons.

The Boston Bruins, the top National Hockey League team in the regular season, are out of the playoffs in the second round after a 3-1 loss to the Montreal Canadiens on home ice in Game 7.

The pesky Bruins forward took a pair of trips to the penalty box for trying to somehow take Carey Price off his game in a crucial contest against the Canadiens. You can certainly argue the validity of both calls, but the second one, unsportsmanlike conduct for showering Price with snow after the whistle, was simply putting himself in a position for the referees to make a call.

And let’s face it, Marchand doesn’t have the greatest reputation around the league.

But he’s shown in the past that during the playoffs, he can balance throwing opposing players off their game while also contributing on the score sheet, as well. Remember 2011, when he had 11 goals in 25 games and managed to get under the skin of Daniel and Henrik Sedin of Vancouver?

He didn’t do that these entire playoffs, at least not in the goal column. Twelve playoff games in 2014 and only five assists to show.

“It’s tough. Every game the chances were there. Maybe it was a lack of focus, or I didn’t bear down,” said Marchand, as per Joe Haggerty of CSNNE.com.

No matter how much the Bruins may have tried to throw Price for a loop, the Canadiens’ puck stopper never faltered. He was fantastic in the deciding game, stopping 29 shots out of 30 he faced.

“You always give credit to the team that moved ahead and I’ll tell you one thing: Carey Price was outstanding,” said Bruins head coach Claude Julien, as per Conor McKenna of TSN 690.

And then there were five: Bruins eliminated

Tuukka Rask
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The Boston Bruins cruised through the regular season, claiming the Presidents’ Trophy, then easily dispatched of the Detroit Red Wings in the first round.

In the second round, though, the B’s finally found their match against their long-time rivals, the Montreal Canadiens.

The Bruins and Canadiens played in an NHL record ninth Game 7 on Wednesday night, but Montreal scored early and never surrendered the lead, sending the Bruins packing after just 12 postseason contests.

The Bruins certainly looked capable of going the distance this year, but now they will be left to ask what, if anything, needs to change for them to get over the hump after coming up short for the third straight campaign.

  • There are reasons to believe that things will get better on their own next season for the Bruins. Those who want to make that argument will be quick to point a finger at forward Loui Eriksson. He was supposed to be the centerpiece of the trade that sent Tyler Seguin to Dallas in the summer of 2013, but suffered two concussions that really derailed his campaign. The 28-year-old forward will get a full summer to regroup and return as a bigger part of the Boston attack in 2014-15.
  • The Bruins’ young defense, led by Torey Krug, Dougie Hamilton, and Kevan Miller also seems to be coming along nicely. The trio made mistakes in this playoff run, but more than held their own for the most part.
  • That’s key, because the B’s might need to start getting adjusting to life without Zdeno Chara — or at least not the Chara they’ve gotten used to. The 37-year-old defenseman averaged fewer minutes per game in the 2014 playoffs than he has in any run since 2009, despite the fact Boston was missing blueliner Dennis Seidenberg. There’s no question Chara’s still a dominant force in the NHL, but his age might start to become increasingly apparent.
  • Boston’s major pending unrestricted free agent is Jarome Iginla. There’s a good chance the team will re-sign him, but it won’t be easy. The problem isn’t convincing Iginla, it’s that his 2013-14 contract was heavy on performance bonuses. The Bruins didn’t have the cap space to cover them this season, so they’ll count against the Bruins’ cap hit in 2014-15, which makes Boston’s already tight cap situation a little more difficult.
  • With that in mind, even if the Bruins wanted to make significant changes, it would be hard for them to do so. They just don’t have much in the way of cap flexibility, although there’s always a chance they’ll find a way to pull off another blockbuster trade like they did last year.

For more entries in this series, click here.

WATCH LIVE: Montreal Canadiens at Boston Bruins (Game 7)

Zdeno Chara,  Travis Moen
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Not much to say here other than it’s a huge, huge game.

Puck drops at 7 p.m. on NBCSN, but feel free to watch via NBC’s Live Extra stream as well.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

Relevant linkage for tonight’s game:

Video: Remembering the last time the Bruins and Habs played Game 7

Montreal sells out Bell Centre for Game 7

Julien would be ‘very surprised’ if Seidenberg plays Game 7

Your Boston-Montreal Game 7 officials are…

Get your Game 7 notes: Habs at Bruins

Video: PHT Extra — KIL line needs to get going

Video: Remembering the last time the Bruins and Habs played Game 7

Bruins
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(Video link)

Nathan Horton’s goal won it in overtime, but the last time the Bruins and Canadiens played a Game 7, in the first round of the 2011 playoffs, had so much more than one big moment.

In case you’d forgotten, the Bruins jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead, only for the Canadiens to come back with two straight of their own, the tying tally on a shorthanded breakaway by Tomas Plekanec. And remember, this was a Boston team that was less than a year removed from choking on a 3-0 series lead versus the Flyers (and a 3-0 lead at home in Game 7). It was also a team that couldn’t score on the power play, so the fact Plekanec’s came shorthanded was a double whammy in a way.

The Bruins regained the lead halfway through the third, only to give it up again with less than two minutes remaining, on a rocket by P.K. Subban no less.

Horton’s winner came on a point shot at 5:43 of overtime, and the Bruins went on to win their first Stanley Cup since 1972, getting their revenge by sweeping the Flyers in the second round before beating Tampa Bay and Vancouver in two more series that went the distance.

Bit of a magical run, you might say.

“For us, it’s nice to reward our fans with this because they’ve been punished enough,” said Bruins coach Claude Julien after the Montreal series.

And Bruins fans have been rewarded plenty more since.