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Kalman: Quick Hits From Bruins’ Western Canada Road Trip

By Matt Kalman, CBS Boston
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Bruins forward Reilly Smith and defensemen Kevan Miller and Torey Krug. (Photo by Bruce Bennett and Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

Bruins forward Reilly Smith and defensemen Kevan Miller and Torey Krug. (Photo by Bruce Bennett and Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

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BOSTON (CBS) – The Bruins played three games in Western Canada last week, but you can argue they only played three (maybe four) periods over the course of those contests.

After starting their road trip with a comeback win in Toronto, the Bruins beat Calgary by rallying from 1-0 down in the third to win 2-1. Their next game was a 4-2 win that started with a 3-0 first-period lead and then got too close for comfort over the final 40 minutes.

In the trip finale, the Bruins played Vancouver even in the first period except for a Jannik Hansen’s “knuckle-puck” goal from center ice that eluded Tuukka Rask. After that, the Bruins looked like they – except for the guy trying out for a new pantomime troupe – had their minds on the flight home, as the Canucks rolled to a 6-2 win.

The 2-1-0 week featured a flu bug, a couple more injuries, the return of Johnny Boychuk from injury and a 15-game suspension for Shawn Thornton. It’s difficult to make heads or tails of where the Bruins stand after the trip, except to say that they’re still leading the Atlantic Division and the upcoming schedule – featuring a rematch with Calgary, a home-and-home with Buffalo and a road tilt with Nashville – should feel like an early Christmas present. None of the Bruins’ next four games will be played against a team that’ll get a sniff of the postseason in a few months.

Here are a few quick-hit thoughts on the trip:

*Kevan Miller continued to impress as a solid stay-at-home defenseman with a knack for jumping up and making a play or a big hit when the time is right. He’s playing right now the way you figure Adam McQuaid would be playing if McQuaid hadn’t been hindered by so many injuries the past couple seasons. The Bruins have lived with mistakes from their other young defensemen, but Miller’s hardly made any. When the defense corps is healthy, it’ll be tough to take him out.

*If Reilly Smith keeps up his current pace, they’re going to have to rename that Dallas trade. Smith’s production, including two goals against Vancouver, has helped the Bruins save face for dealing Tyler Seguin. Loui Eriksson has now been out twice with concussion troubles and he was invisible before and after the injuries. The inclusion of Smith is a credit to the Bruins’ collegiate scouting, which has found gems like Smith, Torey Krug and Matt Bartkowski, and to their pro scouts that kept a close eye on Dallas last season.

*Krug is starting to remind everyone that he’s just a second-year pro. His decision-making suffered on the road trip and with the exception of a scoring chance here or there, he was a liability beyond what the Bruins can tolerate. So until everyone’s healthy, coach Claude Julien is going to have to considering upping the minutes of Miller and Bartkowski at Krug’s expense. Or Krug is going to have to simplify his game a bit and then build back up to the dynamic style he thrived with earlier in the season.

*This was a great opportunity for Jordan Caron to show that he could fill in on the fourth line and either earn more opportunities to play or raise his trade value. Instead he’s been mostly invisible. The fourth line is an important line for Boston, but Julien hasn’t been able to rely on it since Thornton and Daniel Paille left the lineup. Caron, a Bruins’ first-round pick, might be writing the end of his Bruins career with the word bust in bold type.

Matt Kalman covers the Bruins for CBSBoston.com and also contributes to NHL.com and several other media outlets. Follow him on Twitter @TheBruinsBlog.

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