Coming back into their own
Recent play is an encouraging sign
LOS ANGELES - The Bruins clinched nothing in the standings during their three-game California tour, but they did get a much firmer grasp on their game. Their 3-2 win Sunday night in Anaheim brought Rich Peverley back to their lineup, had Marty Turco providing solid goaltending (25 saves), and all in all had them much more closely resembling the team that won the Stanley Cup last June.
“We still feel we have work to do,’’ said coach Claude Julien, whose squad will try to land a third straight win for the first time in three months Tuesday night against the Lightning at the Garden. “The fact is, we’ve struggled the last couple of months and now that we’ve won four out of five, that’s better. But we can’t get comfortable.’’
A look at the standings shows the Bruins can’t turn into gentleman farmers for the immediate future. They still haven’t secured a playoff berth, although the one-goal wins in LA and Anaheim left them still holding the No. 2 seed in the East, and if the playoffs had started Monday morning they would have had home ice in a seven-game set with the Senators.
But with seven games still on the schedule, the Bruins still have the likes of Ottawa and Buffalo pressing them for that No. 2 spot and a late kick by the Capitals - with Alex Ovechkin striking for six goals the last four games - still has the Bruins in slight peril of missing the playoffs altogether. That is a very remote chance, however, because even mediocre play over the last seven games would leave the Bruins with 98 points. In that scenario, Washington, Buffalo, and Ottawa all would pretty much have to run the table for the Bruins to post a DNQ.
The most encouraging sign for the Bruins over the last half-dozen games has been the chemistry and offensive consistency among the Benoit Pouliot-Chris Kelly-Brian Rolston trio. Rolston was added nearly as an afterthought at the Feb. 27 trade deadline and the 39-year-old refried B has been perhaps the league’s most prolific offensive pickup of the closeout season.
Rolston added 2 more points, a goal and an assist, in the win over Anaheim, leaving him with a line of 3-8-11 over his last six games.
“I’ve been in this league for 20 years,’’ said a smiling Rolston after his big night in Anaheim, his steaming slapper late in the third period the winning strike. “I know I can still produce.’’
Meanwhile, Kelly and Pouliot also picked up 2 points apiece in Anaheim, leaving Kelly with 7 points in the last five games and Pouliot with 8 points in the last six games. Hard to find a line anywhere in the league that has produced 26 points over the last couple of weeks.
Encouraging, too, was the return of Peverley Sunday night. Sidelined five weeks with a wrenched knee, Peverley rode with Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron, moving Tyler Seguin up a notch to the Milan Lucic-David Krejci combination. Neither of those lines factored in the scoring vs. the Ducks, but they managed 10 shots, two of them by Peverley, who rolled over the boards for 23 shifts and 16:44 in ice time.
Krug is eager
Torey Krug reports to work on Causeway Street Tuesday morning, after signing his entry-level contract with the Bruins over the weekend. Only 5 feet 9 inches, the Michigan State backliner eschewed his senior season with the Spartans for his crack at the big time.
Krug, who will turn 21 April 12, was this season’s CCHA Player of the Year and the league’s top offensive defenseman, connecting for 12 goals and 34 points.
Bruins assistant general manager Don Sweeney, only an inch taller than Krug, became a fixture on the Boston backline at the start of the ’90s, after a fairly short AHL primer following his four years at Harvard. Sweeney went on to play 1,115 NHL games, all but 63 of those with the Bruins, though he was never the offensive force (273 career points) the Bruins hope they’re getting in Krug.
Never drafted, in part because of his size, Krug reportedly had nearly half the NHL teams inquiring about his services this weekend, only some nine months after all 30 of them passed him up for a second time in the June 2011 draft.
“I never thought this day would come and be possible,’’ Krug told the media Sunday in East Lansing. “But with the people I’ve been surrounded with over the last three years of my life, it’s come true.’’ Krug spent two years as a Spartans captain.
Krug’s three-year entry-level deal carries a base value of just under $2.5 million, with a $95,000 signing bonus each season. It is a two-way contract, with his minor league deal paying $70,000 per season. All of which means, if he doesn’t make the varsity the next two years, he will make a minimum of $165,000 per season. His base salary the next two seasons will be $832,500 if he stays with the Bruins, and he can double that if he hits all his performance bonuses.
Coast not clear
The Bruins were outshot in all three West Coast games (San Jose, Los Angeles, and Anaheim) by a margin of 96-68 . . . The Bruins have carried a lead into the third period in three of their last five games, reversing a disturbing trend that manifested in mid-January when they went 10 straight without holding an advantage after 40 minutes . . . If they can win Tuesday night, it will bet he first time the Bruins have won three straight since the end of December. They are now 16-17-2 since slipping into their mediocre ways in mid-January . . . Lead time, a big Bruins bugaboo in the second half this season, has been on the club’s side again of late. After not leading for a second in four straight losses earlier this month, they’ve now led for substantial minutes in four of the last five games for an average of approximately 41:15 per game . . . The Bruins and Penguins lead the league with five players to have scored 20 or more goals this season. Kelly has 19, while dastardly Matt Cooke also has 19 with the Penguins . . .The Capitals play on Causeway Thursday night, and the Bruins will spend the weekend in New York with a pair of matinees, Saturday on Long Island and Sunday at Madison Square Garden . . . Trent Whitfield was assigned to Providence. The forward was recalled March 20 and traveled to California with the team on its three-game road trip, but did not play . . . A sign that the playoffs are coming: the disappearance of the fight game. The only bout the Bruins had in the three California games was a Kelly-Trevor Lewis scrap Saturday night in LA. Asked if he hurt his hand when it appeared his final punch at Staples Center missed Lewis and appeared to strike the ice, the self-effacing Kelly said, “Nah, you don’t get hurt when all you can do is toss pillows.’’