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Pierre McGuire on M&M: Bruins ‘well on their way to creating three things you have to have if you’re going to win’

04.25.14 at 2:40 pm ET
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NBC Sports hockey analyst Pierre McGuire joined Mut & Merloni on Friday to discuss Thursday night’€™s game against the Red Wings.

After winning 3-2 in overtime on Thursday, the Bruins have a 3-1 series advantage over Detroit in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

“I would say the three things you want to plant in an opponent’€™s mind during a playoff series — concern, doubt and fear,” McGuire said. “Clearly there’€™s concern. If you’€™re Detroit, there’€™s got to be a whole lot of doubt, and I think coming into Game 5, there’€™s a little bit of fear.

“So Boston’€™s well on their way to creating the three things you have to have if you’€™re going to win a playoff series. But to say it’€™s over would be disrespectful to the Detroit Red Wings, and I would never disrespect that franchise.”

The Red Wings took a 2-0 lead in the first 25 minutes of play Thursday before Boston made its comeback.

“(Detroit) can put 60 minutes together,” McGuire said. “They just can’€™t do it the same way Boston can. The biggest thing is … Detroit, under (Mike) Babcock, made a subtle adjustment. They were really trying to stretch out the Bruins defense, and that’€™s why you saw the speed game engaged by the Detroit Red Wings in the first period, and that’€™s why the shot totals were so in Detroit’€™s favor.

“But (Claude) Julien and his staff made a subtle adjustment. They started moving their defensemen up and closing the gap, forcing more turnovers that allowed them to control the puck more and then they started a counterattack forcing those quicker Detroit players to play defense rather than offense.”

McGuire added: “You saw Boston with the four lines start to dominate, and what was really apparent in the third period (when) he was rolling four lines, and he was basically cutting the shift times from 35 to 45 seconds down to 30 to 25 seconds — and even 20 seconds, in some cases. But that four-line attack just wore Detroit down.”

Following are more highlights from the interview. For more team news, visit weei.com/bruins.

On Brad Marchand: “It’€™s three (missed shots) in a row now. You go back to Game 3 where he hit the post on the empty net and then two last night. … The good news for Brad is that he’€™s creating these opportunities and he’€™s playing with a whole lot of vim, vigor and vitality, which is really important. … He’€™s just trying to be too refined right now, and I think it’€™s a little bit in his head.”

On Carl Soderberg: “I’€™m prepared to say he’€™s the best third-line center in the National Hockey League right now from a skill standpoint, from a game-breaking standpoint and from a not being a defensive liability standpoint. And when you factor in no Chris Kelly on that line — he’€™s such an important player for the Boston Bruins – that says a lot about the Bruins’€™ depth. It says a lot about Carl Soderberg’s ability to really stabilize a game.”

To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.

Tuukka Rask named Vezina Trophy finalist, joining Tampa’s Ben Bishop, Colorado’s Semyon Varlamov

04.25.14 at 11:27 am ET
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For the first time in his career, Tuukka Rask is a Vezina Trophy finalist. The NHL announced the three finalists for the league’s top goaltending honor Friday, with Tampa Bay’s Ben Bishop and Colorado’s Semyon Varlamov joining Rask.

Among goalies who started at least 40 games, Rask ranked first in save percentage (.930) and second in goals-against average (2.04), trailing only Cory Schneider of the Devils. Rask also led the NHL in even-strength save percentage (.941), which is considered a stat that goalies have even more control over than overall save percentage since it eliminates discrepancies between different teams’ penalty kills.

Bishop and Varlamov are first-time finalists as well. Varlamov finished second with a .927 save percentage (.933 even-strength) while facing 372 shots more than Rask over the course of the season. That heavy workload is probably the strongest case against Rask among this group.

Bishop posted a .924 save percentage (.932 even-strength), and it was easy to see how much the Lightning missed him over the last few weeks after he went down with a wrist injury and had to watch from the sidelines as Tampa got swept by the Canadiens in the first round.

Rask finished fifth in voting last year and seventh in 2010.

Brad Marchand on Justin Abdelkader: ‘By no means am I ever trying to be like him’

04.25.14 at 3:32 am ET
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DETROIT — Great goal-scorers respect other great goal-scorers. Great defensemen appreciate another blueliner who can take away half the ice. Great coaches may occasionally fear one another, but they become great by outthinking their counterparts. Even fighters have respect for one another and are thankful when the other obliges.

So what do pests think of other pests?

Red Wings forward Justin Abdelkader is not a fighter; he’ll do it once or twice a season. Yet he’s been the first in line to participate in post-whistle festivities, as the Bruins have seen in their first-round series against the Wings. In the last two games, the 27-year-old grinder has taken two roughing minors and drawn three.

Brad Marchand is one of the league’s most noteworthy pests, as he routinely gets chippy after the whistle but doesn’t drop the gloves often. Though both play on the top six for their teams, Abdelkader has never scored more than 10 goals in the a season in the NHL, whereas Marchand has scored 20 goals in each of his three full NHL seasons (he scored 18 in the lockout-shortened 2013 campaign).

Asked about Abdelkader’s extracurricular work following the Bruins’ Game 4 overtime win, Marchand didn’t seem overly impressed.

“He’s really the only guy they have on their team that’s like that that plays a physical game,” Marchand said of Abdelkader. “I think he’s trying to play that role a bit and help the team a bit, but by no means am I ever trying to be like him.”

As for his own antics, Marchand, who cross-checked Henrik Zetterberg after a whistle in Game 4 and was accused of diving (which he probably didn’t) in Game 3, said he feels he’s better served toning it down for the remainder of the series. Marchand missed two open nets in Game 4 and said he needs to put all of his focus on performing better rather than mixing it up.

“I think I’€™m going to try to stay out of the scrums the rest of the series and just worry about playing,” Marchand said. “I might be focusing a little too much on other stuff, and that’€™s why I’€™m missing my opportunities. I think I want to help the team more on the scoresheet than in other ways.’€

Read More: Brad Marchand, Justin Abdelkader,

Bruins can’t wait for fourth win vs. Red Wings like they did with Leafs

04.25.14 at 12:27 am ET
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DETROIT — The Bruins know too well that 3-1 doesn’t mean a series is over.

Even without taking into consideration their blown 3-0 lead against the Flyers in the 2010 Eastern Conference semifinals, all they have to do is think back to the first round a year ago.

Just like they did last season in Toronto, the B’s earned an overtime win in Game 4 to take a 3-1 series lead. What happened next the last time around were two straight 2-1 losses to a force a Game 7 that they would have lost were it not for a major comeback.

What happens this time around can be different, and the B’s will keep last year in mind.

“We were in this position last year, same thing, winning in overtime in Game 4 in Toronto,” Milan Lucic said Thursday after the B’s 3-2 overtime win over the Red Wings. “We all know what happened after that, so we’re not taking anything for granted here. We all know how hard it is to close out a series and we all know how desperate they’re going to be headed into Saturday.”

The team that the Bruins had up 3-1 in the first round last year hadn’t been to the playoffs in nine years. The one the B’s face now are in the playoffs for a 23rd consecutive season. Though the B’s also faced a solid coach in Randy Carlyle in the first round, this Red Wings team is an experienced and extremely well-coached team. If the B’s go into cruise control, guys like Pavel Datsyuk will take advantage and the Red Wings will close the gap.

So, with a recent reminder of what can happen, the B’s — particularly David Krejci‘s line, which won’t have to play against Datsyuk with the Bruins getting last change at home — need to keep the pedal to the metal.

“You can’t really describe it with words,” Krejci said. “You just go out there and you use those experiences. Everything happens so fast out there, so you’ve got use what happened in the past and learn from it.”

If the Bruins can close out the Red Wings and advance to the second round, they will face the Habs for the first time since they played in the first round in 2011. Oddly enough, that first-round series also saw the Bruins win Game 4 in overtime.

The B’s showed in Games 3 and 4 that they can win at Joe Louis Arena — something they hadn’t done since 2007 in the regular season — but they’d be silly to want to return for a Game 6. Saturday presents an opportunity to get to the second round without any of the dramatics.

The B’s are better-served saving those for the later rounds, anyway.

“We can talk about it all we want, but it’s going to show in our play,” Lucic said. “We’ve learned a lot of hard lessons in the past, like Toronto, and fortunately we were able to get out of that and move on, and last year we had Chicago down, 2-1, and we probably didn’t play our best Game 4 and lost that in overtime and weren’t able to recover after that. You don’t want to do anything to give the other team life in a series.”

Read More: David Krejci, Milan Lucic,

Bruins come back, beat Red Wings in overtime to take 3-1 series lead

04.24.14 at 11:11 pm ET
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DETROIT — The Bruins came back from a 2-0 deficit to earn a 3-2 overtime win in Game 4 Thursday and take a 3-1 series lead over the Red Wings. Jarome Iginla was credited with the game-winner as Dougie Hamilton fired a shot that went off bodies and in.

The Red Wings, who had captain Henrik Zetterberg back in the lineup, were forced to start Jonas Gustavsson in net due to flu-like symptoms suffered by starter Jimmy Howard.

After a Justin Florek high stick drew blood on Drew Miller, Detroit made quick work with its power play. Pavel Datsyuk won a faceoff against David Krejci and drew it back to Niklas Kronwall. With Todd Bertuzzi going to the front of the net and screening Tuukka Rask, Kronwall blasted a shot from the point through traffic to make it 1-0.

Datsyuk made it 2-0 in the second period, but Torey Krug answered back with a power-play goal, firing a slap shot from high in the zone that deflected off a Red Wings stick on its way past Gustavsson.

Carl Soderberg turned in a beauty of a play early in the third when he chased down a puck behind the net and threw it in front to Milan Lucic, who put it in to tie the game.

Rask was key for the Bruins, keeping them in it in the first period and stopping a Justin Abdelkader breakaway in the opening minute of overtime.

Zetterberg returned to the lineup for Detroit, playing for the first time since having back surgery in February. Bertuzzi was also in the lineup in place of Tomas Jurco.

The B’s will have a chance to close out the series and advance to face the Canadiens with a win in Saturday’s Game 5 at TD Garden.

WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE BRUINS

- Detroit would have held a much greater lead early on were it not for some missed nets and Rask saves. A Jakub Kindl pass through the neutral zone gave Datsyuk the entire right side of the ice to come in on Rask alone, but he missed the net stick-side. Darren Helm later did the same thing in the first on one of two missed opportunities early for Helm. The Detroit center missed the net glove-side high later on in the first period.

Rask, meanwhile, came up with with some big stops, including a right pad save on a low Kyle Quincey shot from right in front that could have made the game 2-0. Read the rest of this entry »

Bruins won’t let Henrik Zetterberg distract them from Pavel Datsyuk

04.24.14 at 2:02 pm ET
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DETROIT — Mike Babcock used the expression “Who knows?” when talking about whether game-time decision Henrik Zetterberg will play in Game 4 against the Bruins.

Claude Julien thinks he knows.

“In my mind, he’s going to be there tonight,” Julien said.

Zetterberg has not played an NHL game since Feb. 8 and had back surgery on Feb. 21 after playing one Olympic game. He skated on a line with Pavel Datsyuk and Justin Abdelkader in Thursday’s morning skate, suggesting he will be in the lineup and play on Detroit’s top line. Babcock did note that he must first be cleared by a doctor.

Babcock matched Datsyuk’s line against David Krejci‘s in Game 3. If he does that again Thursday, it will be interesting for a couple of reasons. For starters, it could potentially make that top line a handful for Krejci’s trio. Having Datsyuk play against a line not centered by Patrice Bergeron is one thing, but Datsyuk and Zetterberg together is a different animal.

For Krejci, his focus won’t change if Zetterberg’s in the lineup. As he sees it, there is one man that absolutely has to be accounted for, and that’s Datsyuk.

“You know what? [Zetterberg] is a good player, but Datsyuk is Datsyuk and we still have to be aware of Datsyuk any time he’s on the ice,” Krejci said.

The Bruins have held Datsuk to one goal on four shots on goal in the first three games of the series. In total, Detroit has scored just two goals through three games.

With Zetterberg skating alongside Datsyuk, Krejci would welcome the challenge of facing such a line. Krejci has led two of the last three postseasons in scoring, but has no points thus far as he has been tasked with keeping Detroit’s offense quiet, especially in Game 3. That’s different from some other series, but it’s working out for Boston.

“It’s kind of fun,” Krejci said. “For most of the year, you’re facing lines that are trying to shut you down and you’re fighting through it. This time, it’s a little bit different. We’re trying to shut their line down. It’s kind of fun. It’s a little bit challenging at times, but I’ve been having lots of fun this series so far.”

If Datsyuk’s line with Zetterberg does play against Krejci’s line, it also means that a player returning from a back injury will have to take regular shifts against Milan Lucic and Jarome Iginla — two very physical players — in his first game back.

Asked whether he thought Zetterberg would be up to that physical challenge, Detroit defenseman Brendan Smith laughed.

“Are you serious? Like yeah, obviously I think he can,” Smith said. “I mean, the harder the competition, the better Z is. You look at series before where you have [Ryan] Getzlaf and [Corey] Perry, who are big boys. He just came in and stepped in really well there and then he had to go against [Marian] Hossa and [Jonathan] Toews and just kind of toyed with them.

“He’s an unbelievable player. He’s a top-notch player. Yeah, any first line on any team is going to be tough to come in for your first game, but that’s the type of player he is. He’s a competitor.”

Regardless of which line plays against Datsyuk and Zetterberg, you can bet Zdeno Chara will be on the ice against them. Zetterberg scored two five-on-five goals this season when both Chara and Bergeron were on the ice, which is fairly unheard of.

“They’re very dangerous,” Chara said of Datsyuk and Zetterberg being teamed together. “They play really well together. They know about each other pretty well, even without looking at each other, they know every time where they’re at. It’s a really good line with them being together.”

Read More: David Krejci, Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk,

Absolutely no surprise: Patrice Bergeron a finalist for Selke

04.24.14 at 1:02 pm ET
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DETROIT — To the surprise of no one, Patrice Bergeron finished in the top three in Selke voting for the trophy annually awarded to the league’s best defensive forward.

The other nominees were Anze Kopitar and Jonathan Toews; Bergeron will in all likelihood win, with Kopitar likely finishing second and Toews coming in third.

Bergeron won his first Selke in the 2011-12 season and just barely lost to Toews last season. With a 30-goal season, the most faceoff wins and first- and second-place finishes in Corsi and CorsiRel, respectively, this regular season, Bergeron appears to be in line for his second Selke.

“€œI’€™ve always been taught to play the game that way –€“ both sides of the ice,”€ Bergeron said Thursday. “Growing up playing junior my coach put a lot of emphasis on that, and I tried to work on my faceoffs as well.

“I came into the league and guys like Ted Donato and other older guys that were taking a lot of pride in that aspect of the game helped me through it. Obviously, with the coaching staff here now, that’€™s something we put a lot of work on and I’€™m trying to get better at it.”

Zdeno Chara is the main reason as to why the Bruins are such a great defensive team, but its forwards — most notably Bergeron, who plays against other teams’ top lines — is why Boston regularly finishes with one of the league’s top goal-differentials.

“I think there’s no [surprise] about the nomination,” Chara said of Bergeron. “Even before it was announced, a lot of people knew that he would be one of the finalists. [It's] well-deserved; he works really hard on both ends of the ice. He does so many things offensively, defensively that it’s nice that he’s recognized again. I’m sure he’s probably going to be one of the favorites to win it.”

Bergeron’s 30-goal season was the second of his career, as he scored 31 in the 2005-06 season. Given that he never cheats offensively or risks a potential odd-man rush for the sake of a scoring opportunity, the consensus is that he could score much more if he didn’t play such a responsible game.

Yet throughout his career, Bergeron has never cared to find out just what would happen if he sacrificed two-way play for scoring. That sense of responsibility is why he wears an “A” on his sweater and why the Bruins pay him handsomely. Next year, Bergeron will begin an eight-year, $52 million contract that makes him the team’s highest-paid forward.

“That’€™s the way I want to play the game,” Bergeron said. “It does feel natural for me to play both sides of the ice.”

Read More: Patrice Bergeron,
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