|Tim Thomas and Milan Lucic celebrate Saturday’s tough shootout win vs. Nashville. (Barry Chin/Globe Staff)|
It’s promising to be a fight to the finish
After his team’s 4-3 shootout loss to the Bruins on Saturday, Nashville defenseman Ryan Suter spared no bullets in criticizing his club’s performance.
“We came out slow in the second period. We were playing like a minor hockey team,’’ said the alternate captain. “The second half of the second period, we started to play a little better. We were fortunate, very fortunate, to get one point today.’’
That minor hockey team, however, was just over a minute away from tagging the Bruins with a zero-point result. Had it not been for a Milan Lucic goal late in regulation, the hard-working Predators would have handed the Bruins their second straight setback.
“When they may not have their best game, they’re a good enough team that they’re capable of keeping themselves in the game, even to the point where they took the lead,’’ said Bruins coach Claude Julien. “As I was telling the players on the bench, we were playing so well. It was a 1-1 hockey game. It’s like, ‘This is what you’re going to be facing from here on in.’ We can’t expect to have blowouts like we did earlier in the season. They’re going to be tight games. We need to learn to win those types of games. We’re going to see a lot more of that. We have to be able to stay focused, positive, and find ways to win those.’’
Tomorrow, the Bruins host the Rangers, the Eastern Conference’s best team. The Bruins dropped a 3-2 overtime game to the Rangers on Jan. 21 at TD Garden.
Wednesday, the Bruins visit Montreal to start a six-game road swing, their longest of the year.
If the Bruins are going to march through these next seven games, they’ll need efforts similar to the one against the Predators. For most of 65 minutes, the Bruins played with purpose and smarts. They extended their shootout success when Tyler Seguin and Patrice Bergeron beat Pekka Rinne. The Bruins are 6-1 in shootouts. They are one of only three teams with a lone setback.
“I’m looking forward to it,’’ Julien said of tomorrow’s game. “I like the game we played them last time. Even though we lost, it was a heavy game with two teams that are hard to play against. That’s what we need right now. We had a great team coming in [Saturday] that was going to give us a challenge, and they did. We’ve got New York coming in, then we’ve got that six-game road trip that starts in Montreal. It’s probably what we need right now if we want to get ourselves going in the right direction. We need those kinds of challenges.’’
The trade deadline is two weeks from today. Unless the market thaws considerably before then, the Bruins might be best to stand pat.
Currently, demand is outpacing supply. Concurrently, prices are high. Before the start of yesterday’s games, only four teams were 10 or more points out of a playoff spot: Carolina, Anaheim, Edmonton, and Columbus. There are too many clubs that have yet to determine whether they are buyers or sellers.
Also, the Bruins might have a hard time matching their competitors’ best offers when it comes to picks and prospects. Prior to last year’s trade deadline, the Bruins had two first-round picks: Toronto’s and their own. They packaged their first-rounder, prospect Joe Colborne, and a conditional 2012 second-round pick to Toronto for Tomas Kaberle.
This year, their first-round pick projects to fall in the 20-30 range. Scouts do not consider the 2012 draft as deep as the 2011 version. The Bruins do not have a second-round pick nor a fourth-rounder, which they ceded to Carolina on July 5 for Joe Corvo.
In Providence, there are no players on track to become top-six NHL forwards or top-four big-league defensemen, which are the currency in trade talks. Any team could have nabbed Zach Hamill off waivers for nothing. The No. 8 pick of the 2007 draft cleared waivers last Tuesday. Jordan Caron projects to be a third-line NHL wing.
Ryan Spooner and Jared Knight, the team’s second-round picks from the 2010 draft, are the Bruins’ most valuable trading chips. Both are point-per-game players in the OHL. Spooner could be a top-two NHL center. Knight projects to be a third-line wing. Defenseman Dougie Hamilton, the team’s 2011 first-rounder, is not in play.
Day of rest
The Bruins were given yesterday off. They will practice today at the Garden (closed to the public) in preparation for tomorrow’s game . . . Defenseman Steven Kampfer played for Providence yesterday against Albany. Kampfer should be recalled prior to the road swing . . . The Bruins could look for help in Washington, and not of the stimulus kind. Yesterday against the Rangers, former Bruin Mike Knuble was a healthy scratch for the second straight game. The 39-year-old Knuble has scored only three goals this year after potting 24 last season. Knuble will be an unrestricted free agent at year’s end. Also scratched was Jeff Schultz. The 25-year-old stay-at-homer has been competing with fellow defensive defenseman John Erskine for the No. 6 spot on Washington’s back end.