|05.12.14 at 2:19 pm ET|
MONTREAL — Monday’s Game 6 marks the Bruins’ last game at the Bell Centre this season. It’s up to them to decide whether the same goes for the Canadiens.
There’s no home-ice advantage like the Bell Centre. Look up home and away records and it will tell you otherwise, but there is no crowd like the Montreal crowd — both in decibel level and in influence.
The Bruins actually had a much better home record (31-7-3) than the Canadiens (23-13-5) this season, which makes sense because the Bruins were the best team in the NHL. The Bruins already have a victory at Centre Bell this series, and they can fondly recall the days of winning Games 3 and 4 in Montreal in 2011. Yet as the teams prepare for Monday’s Game 6, the idea of eliminating the Canadiens in their own building is daunting. The B’s couldn’t do it when they had the chance in 2011, as it took a seventh game and Nathan Horton overtime heroics to close out that series.
Should the Canadiens take Game 6, as they did in that classic 2011 series, they’ll have a full head of momentum headed into Boston for a winner-take-all seventh game. It’s do-or-golf time for the Habs, and they wouldn’t rather face it anywhere else.
“We understand they use their crowd to their advantage here,” Torey Krug said after Monday’s morning skate. “They come out very fast. When you can handle that, it does well for your team. We’re just going to come in and make sure we focus on the first 10 minutes and then after that we’ll see what happens and let it take care of itself.”
The Bruins aren’t going to psych themselves out, however. They know the building and they’ve won in the building. As intimidating as it may be to sit in the dressing room and hear all the madness going on during Montreal’s epic — and it is epic — pregame ceremony, they’re smart enough to try to avoid it. That especially goes for the younger guys.
“You try to focus on yourself. The biggest thing is you know they’re going to have their game plan and we’re going to have ours,” Matt Fraser said. “I think for us, we want to dictate the pace of play and dictate how things out there. That’s the biggest thing. We’ve got to stick to our game plan.”
Fraser handled his first real experience in the Bell Centre (he’d played a preseason game there back in September) extremely well, as he was given a career-high 14:44 of ice time and scored the game’s only goal on his first shift in overtime of Game 4. Read the rest of this entry »
|05.12.14 at 1:35 pm ET|
MONTREAL — It’s not often that you hear professional athletes in any sport make a prediction, but David Krejci couldn’t help but make one Monday morning before Game 6 against the Canadiens.
With his team one win away from the Eastern Conference finals, the man who has led the Bruins in playoff scoring since 2011 feels a breakout is coming. Krejci, with only three assists and a minus-3 rating in 10 playoff games so far, says he owes a debt of gratitude to his linemates Milan Lucic and Jarome Iginla and his teammates, in general, for picking him up so far in these playoffs.
“That’s what you need in the playoffs. You need different guys to step up,” Krejci said. “I believe my time is about to come and I’m going to be big for my team. I owe to it these guys, so I’m going to do everything I can to start tonight.
“It feels like it’s right there. We have to execute on our chances. We have to start putting the puck in the net more often. My linemates have been doing a pretty good job at it. They’ve been great for me all year. I want to return the favor for them and I’m going to try and be better for them.”
|05.12.14 at 12:41 pm ET|
MONTREAL — Dennis Seidenberg has begun taking contact, marking a sizable step in his road back from ACL/MCL surgery.
Seidenberg, who had surgery in early January after tearing the ligaments in his right knee on Dec. 27 and being ruled out for the season, stayed out after Monday’s morning skate and did one-on-one battle drills in the corner with Jordan Caron and Andrej Meszaros. Seidenberg has been skating since April 8, doing more and more until eventually joining the team in practices late last month. Monday was his first time taking contact.
The 32-year-old had said last week that he felt good enough to play but that he still wasn’t healed. Now that he is taking contact, the chances of him returning this postseason — assuming the Bruins advance past the Habs — become much more realistic, but the timetable is unknown. Daniel Paille, who was working his way back from a concussion, had begun taking contact on April 25 before playing May 1, but Seidenberg has been out much longer, and such timetables vary from player to player and injury to injury. It’s safe to assume that Seidenberg would need at least a week of contact before the team could start considering him as an option to play.
The Bruins initially had said that Seidenberg’s recovery time would be 6-8 months, but he has been well ahead of schedule. Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli has declined comment on the status of the player since the beginning of the playoffs, saying only that the team is not assuming that the player will return at some point.
“We’re not counting on Dennis to be back,” Chiarelli said on April 14. “We’re going to be very cautious with this injury. He has been skating and that’s pretty much all I can say on it.”
If Seidenberg were to return, he would provide stability on the B’s back end in a spot that has seen some inconsistency. Both Meszaros and Matt Bartkowski have struggled on the left side of the second pairing, and though Seidenberg traditionally has served as Zdeno Chara‘s postseason partner, he might be better served strengthening Johnny Boychuk‘s pairing.
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|05.11.14 at 11:10 pm ET|
It isn’t just because the Bruins have a 3-2 lead in the series, but they have plenty reason to be confident in themselves right now.
With two chances to close out the Habs, the B’s are playing their best hockey of the series. The first two games of the series saw them have to rely on third-period comebacks to allow them to split the games at the Garden, while Game 3 saw them make far too many mistakes in a 4-2 loss. Yet the last two games have seen them turn a corner of playing sound defensive hockey while managing to get offense both on the power play and an increasingly strong third line.
‘I like the way we’ve gotten better as a team. I like that we’ve progressively improved our game,’ Gregory Campbell said Sunday. ‘We’ve been fairly strong mentally. Montreal’s a tough place to play and we were down 2-1, but we fought our way back and put ourselves in a good position.’
Bruins players seemed to be in agreement that Saturday’s 4-2 victory in Game 5 was their best game of the series. That game saw their power play break through with a pair of goals, while the fact that they got on the board early and built a 3-0 lead allowed them to play all but the first 13:19 with a lead.
“We had a solid game last game,” Matt Bartkowski said. “We had a good start and had the lead for once, which was nice. I think we played a pretty complete game. I said that before the game, if we play a full 60 minutes, we don’t really give them much and we’re fine.”
The Bruins didn’t give the Habs much in Game 5. After shutting out Montreal in Game 4 to even the series, the B’s kept the Habs quiet in five-on-five play, with Montreal’s only goals coming in the form of power play tallies, the second of which was a six-on-four goal with Carey Price pulled with 2:29 remaining.
Whether Game 6 sees as few penalties as the first two in Montreal did (the B’s took two penalties) remains to be seen, but if the refs lay off the whistles it will be advantageous to the Bruins. Boston is the better five-on-five team anyway, but the way the B’s have silenced Max Pacioretty and David Desharnais (thanks largely to Zdeno Chara and Patrice Bergeron) has made up for the lack of offense out of David Krejci‘s line and left Montreal looking for answers.
With the Bruins having found their way and the Canadiens struggling to find a way to beat Tuukka Rask, the best thing the Canadiens have going for them in Game 6 is the fact that it’s at the Bell Centre. Remember, the last time the Bruins had a 3-2 series lead and the opportunity to end the series in Montreal, they couldn’t do it. The roster is plenty different from that 2011 team, but it doesn’t take a genius to know that closing out the Habs at the Bell Centre won’t come easy.
“Our biggest focus right now is to close out the series as fast as we can,” Reilly Smith said. “You don’t want to give a team like Montreal time to linger around because anything can happen in games and their goalie’s been pretty hot. If you give them a chance to shut you out, he’ll definitely do that. We’re going into the Bell Centre trying to [win]. That’s definitely our main focus.”
|05.11.14 at 11:21 am ET|
Thornton squirted Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban with a water bottle at least once during the game, with Subban complaining to the official and yelling at Thornton after the second occurrence in the final minute of the game.
“With Thorty, I don’t know if it was him, but somebody had squirted water twice at the end of the game there,” Subban said after the Bruins’ 4-2 win. “Hit me in the visor. I couldn’t even see the last minute and a half out there. I was pretty upset about that.”
After the fine was handed down, Thornton spoke to the media about it, taking no questions. Thornton seemed irked by the life the story has taken on and didn’t sound overly apologetic.
“I obviously got caught up in the moment. I’ll pay the fine. We obviously agree with what the league does there. I’ll pay the fine and move on. I’m sorry that the silly incident kind of overshadowed how my teammates played and the great win and how good the series has been.
“I think that there are definitely more important things to be focusing on. I got caught up in the moment. I probably shouldn’t have done that. I’ll move on, get ready for Game 6, pay the fine, and hopefully have a good showing.”
Claude Julien said Sunday morning that upon seeing the video of Thornton squirting Subban, he gave Thornton a talking to. Julien also made clear that he doesn’t support such behavior.
“As a coach, you always want to support your players, but there are certain things you can’t support,” Julien said. “I don’t think I can support Shawn on those actions. To me, I don’t think we like seeing our players do that. Whether he got caught up in the game or whatever, to me, he’s got to own up to it. That’s all I’m going to say about it.”
The fine was the maximum possible for unsportsmanlike conduct under the current CBA.
It’s been a costly season for Thornton, who forfeited approximately $84,615.45 earlier in the season during his 15-game suspension that stemmed from his Dec. 7 incident with Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik. This season is the first in which Thornton has made over $1 million, as he signed a two-year contract that would pay him $1.1 million both last season and this season, but he lost somewhere in the neighborhood of $456,000 during last season’s lockout.
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|05.11.14 at 8:33 am ET|
Keep it simple.
It’s a time-tested cliche in sports and the Bruins third line is proving that it’s also a very effective way to finally get through the Canadiens’ wall of defense and establish the style of play needed to advance.
Loui Eriksson and Carl Soderberg each had a goal and an assist while Matt Fraser added an assist to help the Bruins build a 3-0 lead on their way to a 4-2 win Saturday night in Game 5 of their best-of-seven series against the Canadiens at TD Garden.
The third line was responsible for the only goal of Game 4 as Fraser scored within the first two minutes of overtime on a rebound from a shot by Soderberg. Since being down 2-1, the Bruins re-worked third line has single-handedly turned the Canadiens and the series around.
“We’re playing really good. We’re playing smart and simple and making good plays and we’re getting some really good chances out there. So, it definitely feels good. We have to keep doing that,” Eriksson said. “I thought in the game the other night we played really well, too. It was nice that we kept going in this game and I thought we played a really good game. So, it was definitely nice.”
“We are pretty good team to play with a league and they are, too,” said Soderberg, who was wearing the winner’s jacket on the dais postgame. “So I think in four of five games, the first goal scorers have won the game. It’s always important, especially in the second and third.”
Since Chris Kelly went down late in the regular season, the Bruins have been searching for an answer on the third line. They tried Justin Florek, who had a measure of success against the Red Wings in the opening round. But before Game 4 in Montreal, Peter Chiarelli decided to call up Fraser, who along with Reilly Smith and Eriksson, is yet another product of the Tyler Seguin trade.
“Yeah, I play with whoever Coach [Julien] wants to play with me. But right now since Fraz [Matt Fraser] came in and he scored the game winner last game and it seems like he is fitting in pretty well with our line. Loui [Eriksson] and I, I think we have played good the whole playoffs but we haven’t scored so it is a good both of us scored,” Soderberg said of the line chemistry.
“It always takes [time] — with [Chris] Kelly we had before, it took like 10 games, 15 games to get the chemistry together but then it was all set. Loui [Eriksson] and I had that chemistry for a long time and now we have changed the third guy in our line and, I don’t know. It seems like Fras [Matt Fraser] is a pretty good option there.
|05.11.14 at 7:00 am ET|
With a little more than 10 minutes remaining in Saturday’s Game 5, and with the Bruins leading 3-1, Max Pacioretty appeared to have his chance. He grabbed the puck just inside his own blue line and turned up ice. The Bruins were in the middle of a change, and he had an open lane down the left wing — the opposite side of the ice as the Bruins bench.
Unfortunately for Pacioretty, the first guy over the boards was Patrice Bergeron. The Selke Trophy favorite made a beeline for Pacioretty, and within a matter of seconds, all that space Pacioretty appeared to have was gone. He was forced to settle for a long snap shot that Tuukka Rask kicked right to Bergeron.
Then Bergeron did what he’s done all series, and all season. He turned up ice, led a rush through the neutral zone, and helped set up an offensive-zone cycle with linemates Brad Marchand and Reilly Smith. Pacioretty and his linemates — David Desharnais and Brendan Gallagher — didn’t sniff the Bruins zone the rest of the shift.
That shift perfectly encapsulated what Bergeron and his linemates do so well. They’re often called a shutdown line, especially in the playoffs. You hear about how they “take away time and space” and “keep guys to the outside.” Bergeron did both of those within the first five seconds of that shift.
What you don’t always hear enough about is what the trio did over the next 30 seconds of that shift. They don’t give up second and third chances. They get the puck and flip the ice. They cycle. They attack. They possess the puck and pin their opponents deep in their own zone.
In football, you often hear the cliche “The best defense is a good offense.” The idea is that if your offense keeps getting first downs and holds onto the ball, the other team’s offense can’t get on the field. The same applies in hockey.
Bergeron and his linemates shut down top offensive players, like Pacioretty, by not allowing them to have the puck. Yes, they’re also great at defending when those guys do get the puck, but they’re most effective when they’re able to keep those guys about 175 feet away from the Boston net. Read the rest of this entry »
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