|05.31.11 at 12:44 am ET|
VANCOUVER — The Bruins know that they have plenty of guys who can create problems for other teams. Tim Thomas can be unbeatable, while David Krejci made things very hard for both the Flyers and Lightning in the last two rounds of the playoffs. Very high on (and perhaps at the top) of the list of players the Canucks might worry about is Zdeno Chara.
With the captain and Dennis Seidenberg providing Boston with an outstanding top pairing this postseason, Vancouver’s first line of the brothers Sedin and Alex Burrows.
As has been well-documented, the Sedins have not played to their usual point (or more) a game pace when facing the Bruins. Daniel Sedin has five points in 10 career games vs. Boston, while Henrik Sedin has four points in 11 games against the B’s. Not all of those have come against Chara, and ultimately the biggest thing Henrik feels he lacks going into the Stanley Cup matchup is experience against the 6-foot-9 defenseman.
“He was in Ottawa and we played him a couple times there,” Henrik said, “and Boston maybe once or twice [note: the Bruins have played the Canucks four times since signing Chara in 2006]. We played the Slovaks in the Olympics a couple of times, but that’s it.’
The Sedins faced Chara three times when he played for the Senators. Each brother had one goal over those three games.
“I haven’t really seen him play in game action like for a lot of time,’ Henrik admitted. ‘It’s tough for me to [pick up] what his tendencies are. Like if you want to get close to him or if you want to try to move around him. I don’t know. We’ll see.”
The Sedins (and all of Vancouver’s forwards, for that matter) are not the only ones who have to worry about Boston’s captain. In an attempt to help a historically bad power play, Claude Julien finally moved Chara up front on the man advantage to create chaos for the goaltender. Roberto Luongo has taken notice, and said Monday that when the Bruins are on the power play, he hopes that Chara’s the only one in front.
“I think the key is not to get into battles in front of the net with him as far as our D men are concerned and things like that,” Luongo, a Vezina finalist, said. “For myself, I prefer to just leave him there by himself and it will be easier for me to pick up the puck than having one of our D men try to move him out of the way. I mean, I don’t know if we have anybody strong enough back there. Maybe [Aaron Rome], but apart from that, that’s it.”
Whether or not Chara has company in front, Luongo’s coach has faith that his netminder can deal with him.
‘Roberto has seen big bodies in front of him before,’ Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said. ‘He’s adapted his style to that this year. He’s staying in the blue paint to play his game. He’s been excellent all year, so it’s just another big body for him.’
Chara is a finalist for the Norris Memorial Trophy, which is awarded to the league’s top defenseman. He won it back in 2009 with the B’s, and has been a frequent finalist.
This postseason, he leads all skaters with a plus-11 rating. He missed Game 2 of the first round due to illness, but his 28:17 average time on ice is second only to Seidenberg for the most among remaining players.
‘He’s one of the best defensemen in the league,’ Vigneault said. ‘He’s strong 1-on-1, and without a doubt, he uses his size to his advantage. Obviously it’s a challenge for us offensively to try and generate when he’s on the ice.’
The players might not be used to Chara, but they’ll have to get used to him in a hurry. With Seidenberg turning in a stellar postseason that was brought into the spotlight with his eight-block performance in Game 7 vs. the Lightning, they should be prepared for a difficult time. On the other hand, Henrik Sedin hopes the unfamiliarity is a two-way street.
“I’m hoping it’s going to help us that they haven’t seen us that much,” Henrik said. “But we’ll see. They’ve got to watch their video, we’ve got to watch ours, so it shouldn’t be a big difference.”
|05.30.11 at 7:38 pm ET|
VANCOUVER — Call Roberto Luongo and Tim Thomas polar opposites, but the truth is there was a time when the Canucks’ Vezina finalist seriously considered playing Thomas’ signature risk/reward, flopping style.
“I did when I was five and playing street hockey,” Luongo said with a laugh after Monday’s practice at Rogers Arena.
All kidding aside, Luongo made it pretty clear that he has a great amount of respect for Boston’s 37-year-old netminder. In the end, Luongo, along with Nashville’s Pekka Rinne, will fall short of Thomas when the Vezina is awarded this summer, so as unorthodox as Thomas plays, Luongo can appreciate what he’s doing.
“You’ve got to give him credit for the type of value that he has on the ice,” Luongo said. “When you play like that, you have to have tremendous reads and anticipation and things like that.”
Though their styles differ, both Thomas and Luongo share a 2.29 goals against average and have 12-6 records thus far in the postseason. Luongo was pulled twice and was even benched for a game in the first round against the Blackhawks, but since Game 7 of the quarterfinals has been sharp as a tack.
You won’t catch Luongo lunging to make save after save or using his stick to bat down game-tying goals, but just because he’s more of a conventional goalie does not mean he is fooled by Thomas’ tendency to be all over the place.
“I mean, he likes to make saves looking at the net. I like to look the other way,” Luongo said. “He’s a great goalie. He had a great year and he’s a guy that we can’t take for granted that just because maybe you think he’s out of position that we’re going to get a goal. We have to make sure that we bear down and bury it, because he’ll find a way to stop it.”
|05.30.11 at 6:00 pm ET|
VANCOUVER — Andrew Alberts may be a healthy scratch with the Canucks, but he has plenty of reason to stay motivated during the Stanley Cup finals. His team is going up against his first NHL team in the city in which he played his college puck. The former BC and Bruins defenseman noted that the Bruins are “not the same team” that he played for from 2005-2008, but that he still remembers his time in Boston fondly and looks forward to returning.
“Playing with Brian Leetch my first year was great, playing with Hal Gill,” Alberts said Monday after the Canucks practiced. “Playing college in Boston and getting to know the city and playing there for three years was great. I love the city. It’s fun to go back, and it’s a great organization.”
Alberts was traded early in the 2008 season after finding himself stuck as a healthy scratch. Though there’s been significant roster turnover over the years in Boston, the likes of Patrice Bergeron, Zdeno Chara, Shawn Thornton, Andrew Ference, David Krejci, Tim Thomas and Michael Ryder are among those who are still on the team. Though some faces remain, the biggest chance since Alberts last played for the Bruins is clear: They are winning,.
“It was a little bit different when I was there,” Alberts recalled. “We were kind of rebuilding and what not. We didn’t have a real great team, so it’s going to be excited to see the Fleet Center, the — what is it — the TD Bank North Garden or whatever now? To see it rocking. The city will be behind them for sure. It’s going to be an tough environment to play in.”
The 29-year-old native of Minneapolis said he doesn’t keep in contact with his former teammates though he will greet them if he sees them on the ice. Should he find his way into Vancouver’s lineup for the finals, he’ll refrain from that this time around.
Said Alberts: “It’s a different circumstance now.”
|05.30.11 at 5:31 pm ET|
VANCOUVER — Canucks center Manny Malhotra participated in both the team’s scrimmage and special teams work in Monday’s practice at Rogers Arena. Malhotra, who has been out since March with an eye injury but was recently cleared for contact, said that Monday was “the most game-like” he was felt since his injury. His coach saw the same.
“I thought today was a good day. We scrimmaged, and we did a little bit of power play and penalty killing. I thought he looked alright,” Alain Vigneault said. “He’s still day-to-day, and we’ll see how he practices tomorrow.”
Malhotra, who had 11 goals and 19 assist for 30 points in 72 regular-season games, doesn’t know whether he’s good to go for Game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals vs. the Bruins, but is happy just to be on the ice.
“A lot of my status is going to be based on how I feel post these two scrimmages. It was good to get back in, mix it up a little bit,feel the pressure in the corners, get into some intense face-offs and get some PK work in. We’ll see on a daily basis how the progression goes.”
Once Malhotra makes his return to the lineup, it’s hard to tell whether he will return to centering the third line with regular minutes or whether he might be brought along slowly.
“It’s kind out of my hands at that point,” he said. “Everybody in this room has it the same way. If you’re ready to play and you’re in there, you’re either ready to play two minutes or 20 minutes. It doesn’t matter. You’re going to be used however coach sees fit.”
|05.30.11 at 5:26 pm ET|
Dennis Seidenberg knows what the main assignment for him and Zdeno Chara is going to be in the Stanley Cup finals — contain Daniel and Henrik Sedin. It certainly isn’t going to be easy, but Seidenberg said he’s looking forward to the test.
“I love shutting down those guys, trying to at least,” Seidenberg said. “There’s nothing better than having a big challenge ahead of you.”
The Sedins can make their opponent look like a JV team with their ability to possess the puck for entire shifts at a time. They always know where the other is, and the two of them make no-look and indirect passes seem easy. Eventually, they wear their opponent down to the point where someone ends up open in a quality scoring area.
Seidenberg said the key in defending the Sedins is to not get caught chasing them around.
“You want to try to not be over-aggressive, because once you do that, they spin off of you,” Seidenberg said. “They’re really good at finding each other with the give-and-gos and the blind pass behind the back. So that’s a real challenge for us, to be aggressive without being stupid about it. We have to be smart in our defensive play.”
|05.30.11 at 4:55 pm ET|
The Bruins held their final practice before departing for Vancouver in preparation for Wednesday’s opening game of the 2011 Stanley Cup finals at Rogers Arena.
Every player was on the ice – with the exception of defenseman Shane Hnidy – for the 45-minute skate that began at 11:35 and ended with several laps of hard skating around the rink, which was covered in a thin haze of fog by the end of the session. It was the first day back on the ice for several players since winning Game 7 Friday night against Tampa Bay.
“Conditioning doesn’t go bad,” coach Claude Julien said. “We came back on the ice, and then as a whole team, it was obviously a little warm out there today. So, the ice was probably not at its best and it was a tough grind to push through this practice today, which I think is not a bad thing because we might as well get used to it.
“That’s what the buildings are like on game nights. I thought we pushed ourselves pretty good today and did a little bit of sprints at the end to make sure we raise the volume, if you want, and [Tuesday] hopefully, we’ll be really good and flying out there in Vancouver and getting ready for Wednesday.”
“They don’t get the same amount of ice time those others do,” Julien said. “And with Thorty not having played, I think it was important for them to get a regular turn at practice. And those other guys play a lot. Whether it’s Mark who we like to give a rest at times, or Bergy, who plays a lot, we kind of rotate through that. I wouldn’t read more into it than it was.”
Julien moved Peverley up to the second shift during Friday’s Game 7 against Tampa Bay, replacing Recchi at times to give the line added speed with Bergeron.
Peverley told WEEI.com’s Scott McLaughlin he’s totally fine with moving from line to line, especially at this time of year.
|05.30.11 at 4:52 pm ET|
For the entire first two rounds of the playoffs, Rich Peverley played on a line with Chris Kelly and Michael Ryder. It was the same line — with some guest appearances by Tyler Seguin — that he had played on since coming to Boston in mid-February.
In Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals, however, Peverley was dropped down to the fourth line. Patrice Bergeron‘s absence in the first two games had opened the door for Seguin to assert himself as a top-nine forward, and once Bergeron returned, Peverley found himself as the odd man out of the top three lines.
The problem for Claude Julien — one any coach would love to have — was that Peverley was simply too good to keep on the fourth line. He is solid defensively and he kills penalties. He has the speed and vision to create chances on offense. And he has been the Bruins’ second-best faceoff man behind Bergeron, having ranked 13th in the NHL in the regular season with a 55.9-percent success rate.
So in Game 7 against the Lightning, Julien got Peverley on the ice any way he could. He slid him onto other lines throughout the game, both giving Peverley more ice time and giving some other guys more rest in the process. In fact, Peverley had played on all four lines by the end of the first period.
“I’m all over the place,” Peverley said Monday. “But I enjoy getting minutes. I just try to play my game and use my speed. I’m lucky I’m used in all situations. … Whichever way the minutes come, it really doesn’t matter to me as long as I continue to play my game.”
The only concern with moving Peverley around so much would be that there wouldn’t be much chemistry. Peverley said that isn’t an issue, though, because everyone knows how everyone else plays by this point in the season.
“You don’t want to change too much,” he said. “You want to try and play your game, and hopefully guys will adapt to you, also. … I think everybody I’ve played with so far, I had a chance to play with them even before last game. So you already know what guys are doing, and that helps.”
Whether or not Julien continues to bounce Peverley up and down the line chart against the Canucks remains to be seen, but Peverley said he’s ready to play with anyone.
“Yeah, I think so, just being out there in different situations,” Peverley said when asked if he expects to be used in a similar role. “Claude relies on me a little bit for faceoffs, so sometimes I stay out there, sometimes I change. Just being able to play with everybody, I think that’s good for me, too, because it gets me a little more ice time.”