|Will the playoffs be the time for Tuukka Rask to shine?||04.26.13 at 4:58 pm ET|
The last time Tuukka Rask started a playoff game was one all Bruins fans would like to forget.
It was May 14, 2010. Rask was spotted a 3-0 lead in the first period of Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Flyers. The Bruins would lose the game on a power play goal by Simon Gagne when the Bruins were called for too many men on the ice.
The game marked Boston’s collapse after going up 3-0 in the series and three goals in the final game on home ice. Rask was thrown into the spotlight that season when Tim Thomas was nursing an injured hip that eventually required surgery. Rask was 7-6 in the playoffs that season with a 2.61 goals against and a .912 save percentage. Not bad but a lot of Bruins fans felt Rask was exposed.
Of course, that was all forgiven 12 months later as Thomas and the Bruins won their sixth Stanley Cup in history.
Now, Thomas is gone. It’s Tuukka’s time to shine, and shine is exactly what Rask has done this season. He has five shutouts, including a 2-0 blanking of the Lightning on Thursday in which he turned aside all 30 shots. He is a leading candidate for the Vezina Trophy awarded to the top goalie, sporting a 19-9-4 record with a sparkling 1.97 goals against and a .930 save percentage.
There’s no doubt he’s the goalie going into the playoffs. Still, there were questions about Rask and the Bruins in the last three weeks, as the team has struggled with consistency.
How important was Thursday night in terms of confidence? Even Rask isn’t sure it means all that much.
“I don’t know. I guess you always try to take the positives no matter how it goes, but the playoffs is a different season,” Rask said. “Everybody knows that. I just try to feel comfortable out there and play the game one at a time.” Read the rest of this entry »
|Claude Julien on bounceback win: ‘I’m not looking for perfection, I’m looking for reaction’||04.26.13 at 12:59 am ET|
After his team shut out the Lightning, 2-0, to clinch home ice in the first round of the playoffs, Bruins coach Claude Julien said he was happy with his team’s response to Tuesday night’s loss in Philadelphia.
“Like I said [Thursday] morning, we’re going to find out quickly if it was just a little bump in the road or whether it was a step back,” Julien said. “I thought our guys played hard tonight. I’m not looking for perfection, I’m looking for reaction.”
What kind of reaction?
“Reaction, to play with some emotion, play with some grit, desire, determination,” Julien added. “I saw all those things tonight. The identity of our team is as such, we’re a team that prides ourselves on being a physical team, a team that’s hard to play against. We have to create that, the rest of the game will come along. That’s what we’re looking to see from our guys for 60 minutes and I think they did a good job of playing a full 60 tonight.
Tuukka Rask was a big part of the reaction Thursday, turning back all 30 shots in recording his fifth shutout of the season.
“Overall, I thought we played hard, we moved the puck quickly, when there was a breakdown Tuukka was there to make the big saves. I was pretty happy with the game, I know that if we keep playing that way we’ll only get bet better.”
|Fourth line getting into postseason form for Bruins||04.26.13 at 12:55 am ET|
It’s getting to be the time of year when tight games are often decided by players like Daniel Paille, Gregory Campbell and Shawn Thornton. As the Bruins wrapped up home ice in the first round of the playoffs with a 2-0 win over the Lightning on Thursday, their Merlot Line came through with a goal that solidified the victory, playing the way they’ll likely need to when the postseason begins.
Paille became a 10-goal scorer for the first time since 2009-10 at 13:31 of the second. Campbell found him open at the top of the right circle and sent the puck right into his wheelhouse, setting up Paille to fire a one-timer past Tampa Bay goalie Anders Lindback.
Paille had three shots and another that was blocked on Thursday, as many as any Bruin. Although they weren’t all over the scoresheet, the fourth line was one of the Bruins’ most energetic, creating chances with an aggressive forecheck and consistently maintaining possession in the Lightning’s zone.
“We know, for our line, if we don’t score it’s not a big deal, but the main goal for us is to create as much energy as we can and it felt like we did that today,” Paille said. “With [Thornton] taking the puck from a couple of guys, and [Campbell] as well, you know, I thought we all contributed in a positive way today, even if we didn’t score.”
Entering Thursday’s game, the trio had a combined 16 goals on the year. They’re not on the ice to score on every shift, but the Bruins will welcome any offensive contributions from them, especially with just two games left in the regular season. And although they haven’t been exempt from the Bruins’ recent line-shuffling, Paille acknowledged that the three of them do always seem to wind up back together.
“We know we’re not going to play a ton of minutes, but we’re happy with who we play with,” Paille said. “And I think that’s a big thing going on the last few years that we’ve been here.”
Bruins coach Claude Julien said he thought that line did its job on Thursday, overcoming some issues it had earlier in the year.
“There’s some confidence there — you know, [Campbell] making that pass and Paille not hesitating, great shot, and the goaltender didn’t have much time to get across,” Julien said. “So overall making the right plays and keeping pucks in down low and battling. And [Thornton], the same thing. Not only that, but they’ve had some challenges at times this year where they weren’t making good line changes and leaving the next line … hanging. But they were sharp in all those areas tonight, so I thought they were good.”
|Tuukka Rask, Bruins blank Lightning to lock up home ice in first round||04.25.13 at 10:05 pm ET|
Tuukka Rask made all the timely saves a coach could ask for as the Bruins clinched home ice in the first round of the playoffs with a 2-0 win over the Lightning at home on Thursday.
Rask earned his fifth shutout of the season, tying a career high set in the 2009-10 season. Dennis Seidenberg chipped in with his third goal of the year, a slap shot through traffic from the point, and while the Bruins didn’t have a particularly inspiring start to the game, they finished strong, holding off a late Lightning onslaught for the win.
Here’s a look at what went right and wrong for the Bruins on Thursday.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
- Rask was sharp from the start and ultimately made 30 saves. Perhaps his most memorable stop came in the second, when he robbed Steven Stamkos on an odd-man rush for the Lightning, sliding across the crease to snatch Stamkos’ wrister out of the air. Shortly afterward, he drew chants of his name from the Garden crowd when he made two impressive kick saves in rapid succession.
Late in the third, with the Bruins maintaining a 2-0 lead, Rask shut down another Lightning rush, stopping Tampa leading scorer Martin St. Louis.
Rask also kept the Bruins in the game when they were being outshot and outworked early in the first period, stopping a number of quality chances from close range. He effectively put his brief but unspectacular outing in Philadelphia, in which he allowed three goals on 13 shots in relief of Anton Khudobin, behind him.
|Dougie Hamilton wins Bruins’ Seventh Player Award||04.25.13 at 7:45 pm ET|
In what could be the first of many individual honors, Dougie Hamilton received his first Thursday night.
The Bruins announced that the 19-year-old defenseman is the winner of the NESN Seventh Player Award. Voted on by Bruins fans, the Seventh Player Award is an annual award presented to the Bruin who went above and beyond the call of duty and exceeded the expectations of Bruins fans during the season.
Ironically, Hamilton was a healthy scratch Thursday night against the Lightning as the team gives him a rest before the start of the playoffs next week.
In his first season with the Bruins, Hamilton has notched five goals and 11 assists in 42 games with a plus-6 rating. The rookie ranks second among Bruins defensemen in points (16) and goals (5).
Hamilton is tied for third in the NHL among rookie blueliners in points (16), third in assists (11) and tied for third in goals (5).
Hamilton started the season with the Niagra IceDogs (Ontario Hockey League), skating in 32 games, notching eight goals and 33 assists for 41 points. Last year, he was named the Canadian Major Junior Defenseman of the Year.
The 6-foot-5, 199-pound native of Toronto was drafted by the Bruins in the first round (9th overall) of the 2011 NHL draft.
In addition to the Seventh Player Award trophy, Hamilton will receive $5,000 to donate to the charity of his choice.
Recent recipients include Tyler Seguin (2012), Brad Marchand (2011), Tuukka Rask (2010), David Krejci (2009) and Milan Lucic (2008).
The Seventh Player Award sweepstakes winner was Scott Martioski of Orange, Mass. Martioski wins a three-year lease on a 2014 Kia Sorento courtesy of Central Auto Team of Norwood and Raynham.
|Andy Brickley on M&M: ‘Bruins appear to be very vulnerable right now’||04.24.13 at 12:18 pm ET|
NESN commentator Andy Brickley joined Mut & Merloni on Wednesday to talk about the Bruins’ turnover issues, how their defensive pairings might look in the playoffs and how Milan Lucic has responded to being benched on Saturday.
Brickley said he saw a number of recurring issues in the Bruins’ 5-2 loss to the Flyers on Tuesday.
“[I was] surprised by the lack of complete-game effort by Boston,” Brickley. “It’s almost an indifference to their game. Not enough meaningful contact, the turnovers were just way too many. And not just by one player or a handful of players — it’s everybody. When they get good penalty-killing, their power play can’t score. When they get a power-play goal, their penalty kill seems to fall by the wayside.
“When they need a save in a close game, they haven’t gotten it lately. And if you’re looking for that Bruin team that we got so used to liking because they had that cockiness and swagger to them and they had tremendous confidence as a team, it’s just not there, plain and simple. This is a team that no matter where they finish, whether it’s second or fourth in the conference, [potential playoff opponents] will have no reservations because the Bruins appear to be very vulnerable right now.”
Turnovers have plagued the Bruins all over the ice as they’ve continued to struggle recently, and Brickley said he thinks that’s their No. 1 issue at the moment.
“The ones that jump out at you are the ones where the defensemen turn the puck over in their own zone, and a scoring chance or a goal happens,” Brickley said. “But turnovers at the offensive blue line, turnovers deep in the offensive zone, bad passes through center ice — usually when you make mistakes like that, it’s your decision-making.
“Is that a result of mental or physical fatigue? If you told me that in the middle of the third week of March, when they were playing 17 games in that month, I’d say, OK, I get that. But not now. This is where fatigue cannot be part of the equation. You have to compartmentalize, totally focus on the job at hand. And what the Bruins really need is for their leaders to lead and their star players to do more. [Zdeno] Chara can be a better player. [Patrice] Bergeron has been awesome all year long, but I’m going to ask him to do even more. I want [Andrew] Ference to stand up, [Dennis] Seidenberg, those are the guys that really play tons of minutes. Those are the guys that have to lead the way.”
|With Northeast Division up for grabs, Bruins and Canadiens sputtering late||04.24.13 at 12:59 am ET|
The Bruins and Canadiens always go down to the wire — though the Habs won three of four meetings this season, all four were one-goal games — but this is just weird. With the Northeast Division up for grabs, neither team seems willing to take it.
As of Wednesday, the Bruins and Habs are tied with 59 points, with each team taking turns giving the other an opportunity to take control of the division and No. 2 seed in the conference.
Boston is 1-4-1 over its last six games, while the Habs are 1-5-0. What was once a furious race for a division title has turned into standstill consisting of loss after loss.
The Canadiens gave the Bruins their latest chance at getting some distance in the standings when they dropped a 3-2 decision in regulation to the Devils on Tuesday night. The Bruins could have led by two points with one game in hand by beating the Flyers, but they put up a stinker in Philadelphia and lost, 5-2.
The B’s still have the edge, as they have three games remaining to Montreal’s two. However, if the teams both finish with the same number of points, the Canadiens would hold the tiebreaker as long as they don’t win another game in a shootout (the tiebreaker is regulation and overtime wins combined, with the Habs holding a 24-23 advantage).
Both of Montreal’s remaining games are against contenders in the desperate Jets (ninth in the conference and a point out of a playoff spot) and the Maple Leafs. The series finale between the fifth-place Leafs and Habs actually could matter, as the Leafs have three games left to play. If they win on Wednesday against Tampa Bay or Thursday against Florida, and Montreal loses to the Jets, Toronto will be able to leapfrog the Habs for fourth place. There’s a number of scenarios in which the Leafs could surpass the Habs (or the B’s for that matter), as Toronto has more regulation and overtime wins (25) than either team. Long story short, the Bruins and Canadiens actually do have to win games, or they’ll run the risk of falling as low as the No. 5 spot and lose home-ice advantage in the first round.
Both the B’s and Habs are obviously struggling, but one can’t help but look at the standings and see that the potential opponent for the No. 4 seed (which currently would the No. 5 Maple Leafs) would be a lot easier than some of the teams that the No. 2 seed could face. As of Wednesday, the Rangers and Senators were tied with 52 points, with the eighth-place New York having played 46 games to Ottawa’s 45. Depending on how things play out, the Bruins beating the Senators on Sunday potentially could lock them into a matchup with the Rangers. John Tortorella‘s club has been a mess this season, but Henrik Lundqvist might be the last guy the Bruins would want to see in the first round. Maybe the Canadiens are thinking the same thing.
So with five days remaining in the regular season, the Northeast Division is up for grabs, maybe even between three teams. Maybe neither the Canadiens nor the Bruins want to see the Rangers or Senators in the first round, but they’ve got to start winning games for the sake of not dragging their feet into the playoffs.
By the end of the day Sunday, one of these teams will have won the division, but neither will be able to say it was pretty.
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