|06.13.11 at 1:50 pm ET|
It was a little thing – a little thing that Claude Julien works on often during practice. But on this Monday morning, the small detail of winning faceoffs could have a huge impact on who wins Game 6 of the Stanley Cup finals.
Last Friday, in Game 5 in Vancouver, the Canucks found a way to win 34 of 65 draws while the Bruins only won 29 of those 65 one-on-one battles.
While none of them led directly to a goal, it did skew puck possession in Vancouver’s favor as the game progressed.
It’s actually been an area the Canucks have won in nearly every game of this series, including in both blowout wins by the Bruins in Games 3 and 4. But add the faceoffs in with losing puck battles and not getting enough bodies in front of Roberto Luongo and the small things become huge problems – problems the Bruins cannot afford tonight with no margin of error left.
In a close game, losing those battles can be deadly, especially when you’re the Bruins trying to kill one of best power play units in the game. So far, the Bruins have killed 24 of 25 Vancouver power plays.
“I don’t think we would be putting them there if it was just a faceoff thing,” Julien said. “But between Bergeron and Krejci are right-handed shots, and whether one of them is on the half fall, doesn’t really matter. The other one can be on the goal line. Krejci can make some plays from down low and Bergeron can take pucks at the net. We just feel that right now that’s a good scenario for that power play.
“We’ve got [Rich] Peverley who does move the puck well and [Dennis] Seidenberg who can shoot the puck well, we’ve got a good combination there. It’s shown some flashes of being very good, and when it hasn’t, it’s been not because of who you got out there, but what they’ve done. We’ve lost some battles in the last game. Certainly didn’t make some strong passes that were cut off. Vancouver does a great job. They’ve got good sticks on the penalty kill. If we don’t make crisp passes, you end up turning it over.”
The same goes for Vancouver.
“We have to bring our ‘A’ game and play the right way,” said Daniel Sedin. “When we win faceoffs and we have a lot of puck possession, we’re a good team. They’re obviously a good faceoff team so that’s going to be a big thing tonight. If we play the right way, and we play tight the way we did at home, it’s hard to get good scoring chances against us. When we play like we did in Games 3 and 4, we’re going to get some scoring chances but they are too, and that’s not the way we want to play.”
|06.13.11 at 1:33 pm ET|
The Bruins’ power play appeared to finally be coming around earlier this series, as it went 3-for-13 (23.1 percent) in the first three games. It has taken a step back since then, however, going 0-for-8 in the last two contests.
Claude Julien tried something new in Game 5 when he put Gregory Campbell in front of the net on the Bruins’ first couple man advantages, hoping that the fourth-line grinder would create some traffic and get some deflections. While much of the talk has been about the decision to use Campbell on the power play, the struggles had more to do with execution than personnel. Julien said after Game 5 that the Campbell-in-front plan never materialized because the Bruins never got the looks at the net that they wanted.
On Monday, Michael Ryder — who has been on the second power-play unit most of the playoffs — agreed that the problem isn’t with who’s on the ice.
“I think it’s all about our breakouts and the way we enter the zone,” Ryder said. “It seemed like last game, we couldn’t really get set up. And when we did, [Roberto] Luongo made some big saves. It’s just a matter of us establishing traffic in front and getting our breakout all on the same page with that first pass.”
Better entries into the zone would obviously make it much easier for the Bruins to get some of those setups that Julien said were absent in Game 5. Ryder added that once they’re in the zone, the Bruins will need to work harder and not overthink plays.
“Sometimes we have a tendency in the zone to look for plays that aren’t there instead of taking what Vancouver gives us,” Ryder said. “I think tonight we have to make sure that if we get the chance to take that shot, we take it and get the traffic in front. And we have to outwork their penalty kill. I think that’s one of the biggest issues. If we outwork their PK, we’ll have success on the power play.”
Julien hasn’t said if he plans to use Campbell on the power play again — he wasn’t on the Bruins’ last two man advantages in Game 5. It won’t matter who’s out there, though, if the execution and work ethic aren’t out there with them.
|06.13.11 at 1:28 pm ET|
The Canucks have the Stanley Cup at the Garden for motivation Monday night, and it seems the Bruins will have some less famous inspiration in the house.
Bruins coach Claude Julien said he expects Nathan Horton, who is out for the series due to a severe concussion suffered in Game 3, to be in attendance as the B’s look to prevent elimination in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup finals. Horton came into the Boston dressing room after the team’s 4-0 victory in Game 4, and has seen teammates here and there since.
“He’s been around,” Claude Julien said, also noting that under no circumstances would Horton be able to make a return to the ice this week. “‘¦If people are looking for miracles, if he’s [in attendance Monday], it will be pretty special. But right now, he’s still dealing with those concussion issues as we speak.
“He popped in quickly this morning just to say ‘hi.’ I have the impression that he’s going to be coming to the game tonight as long as he feels good, and that can vary as the day goes on. I think right now his plan is to hopefully be here tonight.”
Horton had eight goals and nine assists for 17 points in 21 games this postseason, his first playoffs experience. He scored series-clinching goals in Game 7 of both the Eastern Conference quarterfinals and finals.
|06.13.11 at 1:15 pm ET|
The Eagle-Tribune reported Monday that a Haverhill teenager’s grandfather becoming a Bruins fan right before his passing has paid dividends for the team in the postseason.
“At my grandpa’s wake I placed a ticket stub from the Dallas Stars game that I attended in February with my dad, my mom and one of my cousins,” 16-year-old Nicky Mangano said. “And since then the Bruins have been doing really well. They came back from 2-0 to win the series in seven games, they swept the Flyers in four, then Tampa in seven, and now they came back to tie Vancouver 2-2.”
Mangano said his grandfather, James Cassidy, started following the Bruins so the two could talk about something to take Mangano’s mind off his grandfather’s failing health. Cassidy, a Red Sox, Patriots and Celtics fan, died on April 14 at age 85.
At Cassidy’s wake, family members placed Red Sox, Celtics and Patriots caps in his casket.
“I was thinking that he didn’t have all the sports, so I added the Bruins ticket stub,” Mangano said.
“On the morning of the funeral, when we were saying our last goodbyes, Nicky tucked in his ticket stub,” said Nicky’s mother, Deborah Mangano. “We all said maybe that will bring the Bruins some good luck.”
“Every time the Bruins win I look up and say, ‘Thanks, grandpa,’ ” Nicky said.
|06.13.11 at 1:13 pm ET|
The home team has won all five games in this series, and Olczyk indicated he expects that trend to continue Monday night in Game 6.
“I’ve already got my travel [to Vancouver] booked,” he said “So, for what that’s worth, I believe that the Bruins will have a large game tonight. I think the crowd will have a major impact on this game. I think the first goal is very crucial, but I think the Bruins will find a way and I think home ice will stay the course and there will be a Game 7 for all the marbles on Wednesday night back in Vancouver.”
There has been a lot of talk about which team will be more physical. Olczyk said another key is the play in the neutral zone.
“I think the team that has had the greatest success in this series and has really dictated is when they’ve controlled the neutral zone, the area between the two blue lines,” he said. “And I think that’s when the teams are really, really stifled, not only physically, but I think scheme-wise of not allowing either one of these teams to create anything.”
Canucks players have drawn attention for their habit of trying to draw penalties with some acting antics. Olczyk has suggested that referees waive off the initial penalty if a player dives, only assigning a penalty to the player who embellishes.
“I think that’s the way that you’re going to remove the embellishment in the game, if that’s what you want to do,” he said, adding: “When I made that suggestion, the rebuttal was, ‘We can’t get inside the mind of the embellisher.’ ”
“Regardless of how the question posed, you’re better off to be seen and not heard and just say, ‘Look, I’ve got my own issues in goal. I’m worried about how I’m playing. The other guy’s done a great job,’ and move from there,” Olczyk said. “So, I was a little bit surprised. I don’t know if he got caught up in the moment. Because I think Roberto Luongo has matured a lot. I think he’s grown up a lot over the last season-and-a-half, and expectations and what have you.”
|06.13.11 at 1:02 pm ET|
Everyone knew the loss of Nathan Horton was going to be a big blow for the Bruins. But after Rich Peverley scored two goals while playing on the top line in Game 4, some of the questions about how the Bruins were going to replace Horton subsided. Then they rose right back to the surface after the top line — along with the rest of the offense — was shut down in Game 5.
Although Peverley is the one who has scored on the first line that includes mainstays David Krejci and Milan Lucic, he hasn’t been a permanent fixture there. Michael Ryder and Tyler Seguin have also seen time there in the two-plus games since Horton went down. Krejci admitted Monday that it has been tough playing with new right wings after having Horton on his flank pretty much all season.
“As a line, me and Looch have basically played every time with a different guy, so it’s hard to get the chemistry going,” Krejci said. “Obviously you like to have your linemates and stick with them so you can get chemistry going, but it’s kind of hard to do. With the power plays and PKs, it’s tough to get us there together.”
Krejci said he was hoping that being at home Monday night and having the last change would help stabilize the lines a little bit, but Claude Julien said that isn’t necessarily something he’s trying to do.
“It’s been by design,” Julien said when asked about the revolving door. “We talked about that when Horton went down. I had to use different players, so that’s exactly what I’ve done.”
Although Lucic agreed with Krejci about the adjustment not being easy, he said they’re not going to use it as an excuse for anything.
“It’s tough because we’re obviously used to Nathan being there on our right side, and the same game you have Peverley, Ryder and Seguin on the right side,” Lucic said. “But you don’t want to make excuses. Everybody has to do their part when we’re out there. We still have to play the same way we always do. Not much is going to change tonight, so we’re going to have to find a way.”
|06.13.11 at 12:59 pm ET|
Milan Lucic has faint memories of the 1994 Stanley Cup finals, when his hometown Canucks fell to the Rangers in seven games. Though it was just a week after his sixth birthday, he knows what a Game 7 in Vancouver looks like.
Yet when asked Monday about a Game 7 in Vancouver potentially being played Wednesday, the 23-year-old Bruins winger was in no mood to answer.
“To be honest, I don’t even want to talk about Game 7,” Lucic said, “because Game 6 hasn’t even been played yet.”
Such was the mindset throughout the Bruins’ room Monday. The ultimate goal, at least as it pertains to Monday, is to force a seventh game, but it’s the last thing they want to think about. They know there is danger in overlooking the fact that the Stanley Cup is in Boston waiting to be awarded to the Canucks tonight, so preventing that from happening is far more important than thinking about winning it themselves.
“No. Game 6. It’s Game 6,” Shawn Thornton said when asked about Game 7. “That’s it. Let’s see what happens tonight and then we’ll worry about that after.”
The Bruins have dominated the Canucks at TD Garden in what have been the only two lopsided games of the series. The Bruins’ margin of victory in Games 3 and 4 was 12-1, while all three Canucks’ wins at Rogers Arena have been decided by one goal.
While the Bruins are being motivated by elimination, the Canucks are being motivated by the most coveted trophy in all of sports. For either team to count the other out would be a mistake, and it’s one the Bruins don’t want to make.
“I think it’s clear to our players that all the focus should be about tonight,” Claude Julien said. “If you want to create a Game 7, you have to focus on tonight’s game, not on Game 7.”