|Bergy… No holding back this year||04.14.09 at 3:27 pm ET|
Patrice Bergeron would rather not relive last year at this time when the Bruins were getting ready to take on the Canadiens in round 1 of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
The star center was on the cusp of returning from a grade 3 concussion suffered on Oct. 27, 2007 when Philadelphia’s Randy Jones drilled him into the corner boards at the Garden. He battled all winter with severe headaches and pain generally associated with that type of serious concussion.
Bergeron had returned to the Ristuccia Center ice and was skating with his teammates, even taking some hits in practice. But head coach Claude Julien and general manager Peter Chiarelli were not about to risk the long term future for short-term gain, even if it meant conceding a huge piece of depth along the front line.
“There’s no doubt that had we had him last year, and even Chuck Kobasew who missed the playoffs, we might have gotten past the first round,” said Julien, who watched his team come from 3-1 down only to succumb in seven heart-stopping games in the first round. “Those are sometimes the little details that you’re missing at times. But our young guys had a chance to develop because of the absence of those guys.”
|Julien and his Bruins are in full, feisty playoff mode||04.14.09 at 12:40 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — The Bruins were in full playoff mode before an oversized throng of Boston television, print and blog media members firing off all manners of questions about playoff pressure and the hated Habs. The best line came from B’s bench boss Claude Julien when asked about the Montreal players already making noise about “getting under Tim Thomas’ skin in front of the net and agitating the B’s into taking penalties.” It’s the exact kind of activity that Montreal employed to get the B’s into penalty trouble last Thursday night, but the playoffs are a much different beast altogether. Julien was in mid-playoff mode, and even sounded a little feisty in answering the query about the Habs’ diabolical plan.
“We all know it’s important to be disciplined whether you are skilled or physical, or however you play,” said Julien. “A skilled team might not be physical, but they might be hooking and tripping. A physical team might cross the line, and that’s we did in the second period (Thursday night). I don’t think we hid the fact that we crossed. But we are what we are and we’re going to play our game. We’ve got to stay out of the box. We know that.
“I’ll tell you what. You guys have this whole game and this whole series figured out,” added Julien. “They’re going to get under our skin and we’re going to take a lot of penalties. Why don’t we just drop the puck and see what’s going to happen? We’ll deal with that.”
–Bruins defenseman Andrew Ference wasn’t present on the ice, and is still day-to-day with an undisclosed injury. Julien said that if Ference isn’t on the practice ice, then you won’t be seeing him in any of the ensuing playoff games. It should be anybody’s guess when Ference will be ready to return to the playoff fray, and it’s expected that either Shane Hnidy or Steve Montador will be logging regular blueline shifts against the Canadiens along with Zdeno Chara, Aaron Award, Dennis Wideman, Matt Hunwick and Mark Stuart. At the very least, don’t expect Ference back in the first few home games at the Garden with his (hidden under lock and key) undisclosed ailment.
“(Ference) continues to be day-to-day, guys. That’s his situation and as long as you don’t see him on the ice that means he’s not ready to come back yet,” said Julien when asked about Ference’s status. “When you see him on the ice for the first time, it will be a good sign.”
–Indications from Montreal were that top defenseman and “power play cornerstone” Andrei Markov could be ready for a return to the Canadiens’ lineup by the middle of the first round series vs. Boston. Markov has been out with a knee injury for the last several weeks, and it was first thought he would miss the entire first round. Word also has it that Big Georges Laraque will be dressing for Game One of the series at the TD Banknorth Garden on Thursday night, so be prepared for more Montreal shenanigans on the Garden ice.
–The lines looked pretty close to intact with Milan Lucic still skating with David Krejci and Michael Ryder, Chuc k Kobasew, Patrice Bergeron and Mark Recchi skating together as another unit, Marc Savard, P.J. Axelsson and Phil Kessel together as the top line and Vladimir Sobotka and Stephane Yelle sharing time wearing the maroon practice jerseys along with Shawn Thornton and Byron Bitz.
–Bergeron declared himself healthy after taking a shot off the foot against the Canadiens last Thursday night and subsequently missing the season’s final two games over the weekend. The 23-year-old center missed last season’s seven game series after suffering a horrific concussion against the Flyers, and has been playing his best hockey of the season over the last month. Julien went so far as to say that Bergeron has been his ”best two-way player” over the last month for the Bruins.
“I can’t wait (for the playoffs to start),’ said Bergeron, who said he won’t be wearing any kind of padding inside his skate to protect his left foot. “I was sore, but I’m feeling good now. It’s not the first time I’ve blocked a shot. It always hurts and it’s the same pain every time.”
–The NHL Playoff Preview is out in this week’s Sports Illustrated. SI picks the winners of each series, and has the top-seeded Bruins defeating the eight seed Canadiens in 6 games. This humble hockey writer has the Black and Gold prevailing in seven grueling, highly entertaining games, and I also think that Alex Kovalev will be the key for the Habs. He’s looked like he’s been in the mood to actually give an effort over the last month of the season, and he can be a dangerous force to contain in a seven game series. His ability on the PP and improved play from Carey Price will push this series to the Game 7 distance.
Pierre McGuire’s take on the 1 Bruins vs. 8 Canadiens, courtesy of Sports Illustrated: “Boston has the physical edge, led by defenseman Chara, a Norris Trophy candidate and the Bruins’ tone-setter. Also look for left wing Milan Lucic (6′ 4″, 220 pounds) to confront Montreal right defenseman Mike Komisarek (6′ 5″, 240) in what could be the most physically intense one-on-one matchup of the playoffs. The Canadiens need their middling power play to produce, or there’ll be daunting pressure on forwards Kovalev, Saku Koivu and Alex Tanguay to score at even strength. Bruins in 6”
|Bruins skate underway||04.14.09 at 10:42 am ET|
With Game 1 of the Stanley Cup playoffs just over 48 hours away, the Bruins took to the to ice this morning just after 11 at Ristuccia Rink in Wilimington in preparation for the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday night at TD Banknorth Garden.
Practice is expected to last approximately an hour.
Defenseman Andrew Ference, who has been out with an undisclosed injury since April 4, was the only Bruin not to take the ice while Patrice Bergeron did return.
“He continues to be day-to-day,” Bruins head coach Claude Julien said of Ference following practice. “That’s his situation and as long as you don’t see him on the ice, that means he’s not ready to come back yet. I think when you see him on the ice for the first time, that’ll be a good sign.”
|Chiarelli: Bruins/Canadiens rivalry is “electric”||04.13.09 at 11:57 am ET|
In a conference call with reporters this morning, Bruins General Manager Peter Chiarelli said he expects an “electric” first round Stanley Cup playoff series between the B’s and the Montreal Canadiens after the Red Sox/Yankees-type games that have taken place between the two Original Six franchises over the last two years. The Bruins GM also referenced last season’s playoffs, when the roles were reversed and the ragtag Bruins took the top-seeded Canadiens to seven games before falling in the first round of a memorable series. The records and station in the Eastern Conference standings might be different this season, but that gets tossed out when the on-ice hate and stirring passion of the Bruins and Habs rivalry bubbles to the surface.
“I think our guys are really excited to get the (playoffs) going. You saw the emotion and you saw the passion — and maybe even overrun in the second period a little bit by us — against Montreal (last Thursday). I think they’ll be very motivated to play the Canadiens,” said Chiarelli. “The Canadiens are a very good team. A very skilled team. They will also be motivated the same way we were motivated to play them in opposite spots in the standings last year.
“We look forward to the playoffs. I really think we learned a lot on two fronts: last year what it takes to get there and what it takes to play in an intense series and this year having occupied top spot for a large part of the season. It’s a different dynamic playing against all these teams with the games being ‘statement games’ so to speak for the other teams. I think our guys learned to play under different circumstances this year and I think that will translate for the playoffs.”
–The B’s GM said the team learned a valuable lesson in the third period and overtime of Thursday night’s game against the Habs when they curbed their flaring tempers and stayed out of the box long enough to win the game by a 5-4 score in OT. The Habs players — led by new McFilthy and McNasty HOF member Mike Komisarek — will try to goad and annoy the B’s into penalties during a series sure to be chock full of high emotion, but it’s imperative that the Black and Gold stay out of the penalty box to sustain success and ultimate victory.
“In in the third period we held our emotions in check and still played a physical game, and that’s exactly what we have to do,” said Chiarelli. “There will be an element of managing that stuff and I’ll leave it up to Claude. Of course the Montreal power play — while it wasn’t as good this season as it was last year — is a good power play. I think it’s a function of staying out of the box and managing our emotions.
“There were a lot of different types of games throughout this season when we played the (Canadiens). You just have to look to last year when they beat us during the season and it was a close (playoff) series, and I think the same is going to apply this year. I think there’s an element of a little bit more confidence that we have (now) than we did last year. (The Canadiens) certainly came in very highly touted and they hit their bumps along the way, but they performed well at the end to secure a playoff spot.”
–Chiarelli wouldn’t bite on a question about how far this Bruins team has to advance in the playoffs to meet expectations following one of the best regular seasons in franchise history.
”I don’t think at all that this year was hope,” said Chiarelli. “It was always about expectations. But now the degree of expectations have been heightened significantly. I can’t give you the number of rounds. History shows that we haven’t much success in getting past Round One in a long time, so what I can say is let’s get past Game One first and I can give you a more clear answer.
“I’ve preached to the players and Clause has preached to the players about not looking ahead, so I’m not going to do that right now.”
–There was no update on the health and well-being of defenseman Andrew Ference and center Patrice Bergeron entering the first round matchup against the Canadiens. Chiarelli indicated there won’t be anything new regarding either player until Thursday’s game day.
“Not any clearer today,” said Chiarelli. “We’ll probably have more news on them as Thursday approaches, but they’re both being treated today and I can’t tell you anything more than that.”
|Lehtonen assigned back to Providence Bruins||04.13.09 at 11:15 am ET|
Bruins winger Mikko Lehtonen was assigned back to Providence this morning after playing in his first career NHL game over the weekend on Saturday against the Buffalo Sabres. The winger finished with one shot on net in 16:14 of ice time. Lehtonen was a healthy scratch for Sunday’s game against the New York Islanders. The P-Bruins wrap up their AHL regular season with a pair of games this week against Portland, and then Lehtonen and the rest of the Baby B’s begin the minor league playoffs.
|Bruins/Habs playoff schedule announced||04.12.09 at 11:57 pm ET|
2009 EASTERN CONFERENCE QUARTERFINALS
|Thursday, April 16||at Boston, 7:00 p.m.||CBC, RDS|
|Saturday, April 18||at Boston, 8:00 p.m.||VERSUS, CBC, RDS|
|Monday, April 20||at Montreal, 7:00 p.m.||CBC, RDS|
|Wednesday, April 22||at Montreal, 7:00 p.m.||CBC, RDS|
|*Saturday, April 25||at Boston, 7:00 p.m.||CBC, RDS|
|*Monday, April 27||at Montreal, TBD||CBC, RDS|
|*Wednesday, April 29||at Boston, TBD||CBC, RDS|
|Time for one final B’s bow before the playoffs||04.12.09 at 10:17 pm ET|
With 116 points in the final ledger for the 2008-09 regular season, the Bruins have much to be proud in a season that has awakened the dormant Boston hockey population.
The Black and Gold capped it off with a 6-2 drubbing of a New York Islanders team dreaming of golf season at the Nassau Coliseum on Sunday afternoon. Phil Kessel capped off an outstanding third NHL season with a hat trick that put him at 60 points for the season. The 21-year-old led the B’s with 36 goals scored, and would have had a shot at 40 goals if mononucleosis hadn’t knocked him out of commission in the middle of the season.
With the playoffs on the horizon, it’s the right time for Kessel to go into one of his patented scoring binges — a ride that he seems to have been on while closing the season strong with nine goals in his last eight games. Kessel also led the team with 232 shots on net for the season, despite missing 12 games with illness and injury this season — a testament to Kessel’s offensive philosophy that he never saw a shot that he didn’t like.
The B’s gave up the fewest goals (194) in the NHL this season, which means that both Tim Thomas and Manny Fernandez will take home a share of the Jennings Trophy. Thomas appeared in 54 games and Fernandez in 28 as the Bruins finished with NHL’s fewest goals against (196), edging the second-place Minnesota Wild (200). This is the first career Jennings Trophy for Thomas and second for Fernandez, who teamed with Niklas Backstrom to win as members of the Wild in 2006-07. Thomas and Fernandez are the second Bruins tandem to win the award since its inception in 1981-82, as Andy Moog and Reggie Lemelin captured the trophy during the 1989-90 season.
Thomas — who set a career high with 36 wins this year and played in his second straight NHL All-Star Game — finished the 2008-09 regular season as the league leader in goals against average (2.10) and save percentage (.933). Fernandez, meanwhile, compiled a 16-8-3 record with a 2.59 GAA and .910 save percentage.
David Krejci finishes the season leading the NHL with a +37 for the year in a breakout campaign that saw him play in all 82 games and finish second on the team’s scoring list with 73 points and 51 assists. Marc Savard and Mark Stuart also finished with all 82 games played under their belts this season. Savard led the team with 88 points.
Power play output was spread around between a series of players this season with Zdeno Chara (11), Michael Ryder (10), Marc Savard (9) and Kessel (8) all registering as the top four among B’s skaters in terms of power play points.
Injury Ward: Shawn Thornton took a high stick to the face, Mark Recchi took a shot off the noggin’ while camped in his usual spot in front of the net and Byron Bitz took a shot off the foot, but all three Bruins stayed in the game and appeared to be okay. Chara and P.J. Axelsson both took part in the pregame skate, but were scratched for the Sunday night game. We’ll have updates on Andrew Ference and Bergeron on Tuesday as there will be no practice and no media availability with Claude Julien or the players tomorrow.
Player of the Game: Kessel goes for a hat trick and finishes the season with some strong performances. It looks like it won’t take three games on the pine to get Kessel going this postseason. Kessel finishes the season with 36 goals — more scores than much bigger names like Evgeni Malkin, Jarome Iginla, Sidney Crosby, Jonathan Toews, Alexander Semin and Simon Gagne. Kessel just keeps getting better and better each season. It’ll be interesting to see how high his ceiling is before he starts to plateau.
Goat Horns: There are no goat horns on a day when the Bruins finish with more points than they have at any point since the B’s Stanley Cup champion days of the Bobby Orr-led squads in the early 1970′s. Time for the Black and Gold to take a quick bow before the playoffs begin.
Turning Point: How about 23 seconds in when the Ryder and Krejci combo knifed through the Islanders D for a goal that made it 1-0 in the first period off the opening faceoff? This game was over before it even started in Uniondale.
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