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First period summary: Bruins vs. Sabres – Game 2

04.17.10 at 2:00 pm ET
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Take a bow, Tyler Myers.

The 20-year- old, 6-foot, 8-inch Buffalo defenseman is in the midst of his coming out party. As the second tallest man in the NHL (behind Zdeno Chara, of course), it is hard to miss the lanky blue liner but it Boston hockey fans had not noticed him in the six regular season games the Bruins and Sabres played, they sure will now.

Myers got the Buffalo on the board early with a bomb from the blue line that deflected off the skate of Boston forward Steve Begin just enough to redirect it through the crease and a diving Tuukka Rask. It was the rookie’s first ever postseason goal and the second time this series that the Sabres have taken a goal lead in the first five minutes of the game.

Buffalo had momentum all period as the Bruins could not keep themselves out of the penalty box. Vladimir Sobotka took the first when crashing the net at 6:56 for goaltender interference. Buffalo gave Boston the man-advantage as Derek Roy was guilty of holding the stick at 9:04 but Boston could not take the opportunity as David Krejci gave it right back with a high-sticking call at 9:25.

Defenseman Johnny Boychuk was the next to the box when he was called for hooking at 13:39 when he hacked at Thomas Vanek’s knee. Vanek lost his edge and slid into the end wall. He was hurt on the play and had trouble hobbling back to the bench and down the tunnel.

Matt Ellis made it a two-goal game for the Sabres at 12:00 when he threw a backhand at Rask the flew to the far side, off the post into the net.

That is how it stands heading into the second period, 2-0 Buffalo.

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Neely on D&H: We have to make it more difficult for Miller

04.17.10 at 9:52 am ET
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Bruins vice president Cam Neely joined Dale and guest host Sean McAdam on Friday to discuss the Bruins series against the Buffalo Sabres.

Buffalo took Game 1 on Thursday night 2-1 behind 38 saves from netminder Ryan Miller, and the Bruins will try to knot things up at one game apiece in Game 2 Saturday afternoon in Buffalo. The Bruins will be hoping that they can put more pressure on the Sabres’ goalie in that one and manufacture some more goals. “Obviously with a guy like Miller, you certainly want to get in front of him a little bit more and make it more difficult for him to see those shots,” Neely said. “That is obviously something that we have to work on as a team.”

As for his goaltender’s play, Neely was pleased with Tuuka Rask’s first playoff performance in the loss. “A lot of us didn’t have questions with him as far as dealing with pressure,” Neely said.  ”He is a pretty poised kid and he made some really big stops a few times during the game to keep us in the hockey game. And he pretty much played how we expected him to play.” He added that Rask was screen on Craig Rivet’s second period goal and had “no sight at all.”

Now that the Bruins know they have the second pick in the NHL draft in June, Neely also discussed the two most likely candidates for the Bruins to pick: Taylor Hall and Tyler Seguin. Neely said that he has only seen Hall play, and described him as a, “competitive player, loves to go to the net, he’s got great speed and he sees the ice really well.” He added that, “both of those guys are going to be guys that any team would be happy to get.”

A transcript of the interview is below. To listen, click here.

Is the glass half or half empty after last night’s game?

Well, you have to go half full I think. You try to stay positive. More often than not when we play like that we will have better outcomes.

I was disappointed in how your team played in the first period. I thought you guys started a little slow and then the second period was terrific. Why didn’t we see that earlier?

At the start of the game, first playoff series on the road, you know the home building is going to be cranking and the home team is going to want to come out flying, and that is generally what happens. I don’t think we played that bad in the first but we were that much better in the second.

One of the criticisms of the Bruins last night, and all season, has been that there has not been enough traffic in front of the offensive zone. There hasn’t been enough physical play and getting in front of the goaltender. Did you see that last night, and if so how does that change?

I don’t think that in the last 10 or so games there has been an issue with effort or desire. Obviously with a guy like Miller, you certainly want to get in front of him a little bit more and make it more difficult for him to see those shots. That is obviously something that we have to work on as a team. I think we have done a better job of that, but for sure there is definitely more room for improvement to make it more difficult for him to see the puck and get traffic in front of him and keep getting pucks at the net. That is all you can preach.

Cam, I haven’t mentioned the officiating once today. But from what I have read about the new Matt Cooke rule, what Tyler Myers did last night is a violation of that rule. Have you guys heard from the league about whether they are going to take a look at it or not?

Haven’t heard anything yet on that, Dale. It is something that you certainly think, with the new rules in place, that would be a hit that they would want to look at. But I don’t think that Peter [Chiarelli] has heard anything from the league about that at all.

The cynic in me would say that we won’t hear anything about that. I don’t have a lot of faith in the NHL in this case.

I think that you look at no call on the ice — our player wasn’t injured — I don’t expect to hear much about it. But I think we have other things to worry about other than what the league is thinking about.

Cam, what was your take on Tuukka Rask‘s playoff debut?

Tuuka played, to be honest with you, as I expected him to. A lot of us didn’t have questions with him as far as dealing with pressure. He is a pretty poised kid and he made some really big stops a few times during the game to keep us in the hockey game. And he pretty much played how we expected him to play.

Was he screened on the Craig Rivet goal in the second period?

Yeah, absolutely. He had no sight at all on that puck and it was placed in a perfect area. He had no sight at all.

We’ve seen a number of surprising upsets in the first game of some of these playoff series. What do you think happens in some of those instances?

Well, there is so much parity in the league, as you know, now. There is a lot of pressure for the top seeds to come out and win those games, and there is not as much pressure on the bottom seeds going into those buildings. But they are seven game series, as you know Dale, and anything can happen. It is just one game, and that is what we are looking at. We came here to leave with a split, and that is what we are looking to do tomorrow.

Goal scoring was an issue for this team throughout the regular season, and you get into the playoffs and teams tend to tighten up. You are obviously facing one of the best goaltenders in the league. What is the message to the team in terms of trying to get over that offensive hump?

Well, I think one of the things that you have to do is try not to focus too much on where to put the puck. There are times were you go through stretches when you are not scoring and you try to place it, and you take an extra half a second or so and that opportunity is gone. The thing I think is just getting the puck to the net as much as possible because a lot of good scoring opportunities can come from just getting the puck at the net and trying to be more instinctual as opposed to thinking about where to put it. That is one of the things were our guys just fire it at the net and see what happens. We talk about this all the time —get pucks to the net, take the puck to the net and get in front of the net. That is kind of what you have to preach and what these guys have to do.

Is it deflating at all, Cam, to get 38 shots and only get one out of them. Is it tough to keep sending that message when you see that you almost got 40 shots and only beat Miller once?

I don’t think so. Listen, I think you have to be as positive as possible. You have to look at it like, ‘We had 38 shots on net and it is going to come,’ as opposed to, ‘We had 38 shots and only got one.’ So I think you have to be as positive as possible when you are playing.

Cam, how much have you seen of Taylor Hall or Tyler Seguin?

I saw Hall play a couple of games. I didn’t see Seguin … but what I do know from listening to our staff — and that goes along with [assistant GM] Jim [Benning], [scout] Denis [LeBlanc] and Peter, they have gone our and seen those guys as well— is that both of those guys are going to be impact players.

It is hard to believe that nay kind of pressure like this would be put on an 18-year-old kid. But either one of those guys is going to be counted on to be a pretty important player on your franchise right off the bat.

I think, quite honestly Dale, that when you look at types of players those guys are, they probably relish that. That would be my guess. You look at anybody that is going to be picked in the top two or three in any draft year, they want to be the guy. So I don’t think that is going to be any issue. We are certainly not going to put any pressure on anybody, but when you are that type of an elite athlete you want to be the guy.

Without giving away any secrets, because we don’t know how the draft is going to go, what were your impressions of Hall when you watched him?

Competitive player, loves to go to the net, he’s got great speed and he sees the ice really well. Like I said, both of those guys are going to be guys that any team would be happy to get.

I have a feeling you guys are going to hear a whole lot of offers for that second pick, and I have the feeling you guys are not going to listen to any of them.

I am sure Peter’s phone is going to be ringing, but we are in a position that we certainly didn’t think that we would be in —being in the playoffs and also having the second overall pick in a very deep draft.

Let’s try to put it as simply as we can. For the afternoon game in Buffalo tomorrow, what do you want to see differently from your team, if there is anything, compared to last night.

I think that we can get on them a little bit more; get the puck in deep and give their D a little more problems than we did in the first game. I think that will give us some more opportunities. Just keep getting pucks to the net and keep getting bodies in front of the net. But I think that we can get the puck in on their D a little more and have them make some more mistakes.

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Miller and Sabres claim Game 1

04.15.10 at 9:43 pm ET
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Summary — Playoff hockey is a different animal than its regular-season cousin. The Bruins and Sabres proved that on Thursday in Game 1 of their quarterfinal Eastern Conference matchup that was won by Buffalo 2-1 at HSBC Arena in Buffalo. (Recap.)

Tuukka Rask made his first career playoff start and allowed the two goals on 32 shots but was out-dueled by veteran superstar Ryan Miller, who made 38 saves in the win.

Thomas Vanek gave Buffalo the early lead at 4:52 in the first period. He was set up by Sabres center Derek Roy, who won the puck coming out of the Buffalo defensive zone and started a break down the right wing. After making the entry, he skated to the top of the faceoff circle and laid the puck up for Vanek, who chose his spot (far side high) on Rask and buried it for the 1-0 lead.

Mark Recchi got the Bruins back into it during a second period in which his team rarely let the puck out of the Buffalo zone. In the second 20 minutes, Boston outshot the Sabres, 24-8. Recchi tied it on a power play (Toni Lydman – cross check, 8:44) when he found the puck bouncing in the slot after a booming one-timer from the point by Zdeno Chara that had been set up off the stick of Matt Hunwick. Patrice Bergeron tangled enough in front of the net to let the puck pass back through traffic on the rebound, and Recchi swept in to put it back on the top shelf at 9:30.

The tie would not last long. Boston was caught sleeping once in the second period, just long enough for Craig Rivet to beat Rask with a slap shot from the top of the right circle for the game-winner. Tim Kennedy set up Rivet with a back pass from the goal line as the Sabres captain came down the wing with a full head of steam at 14:10.

The victory gave the Sabres a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven series. Game 2 is scheduled in Buffalo for Saturday.

Three Stars

Ryan Miller — The likely 2009-10 Vezina Trophy winner and MVP candidate stood tall for Buffalo, especially in the second period, when the Bruins set a record with 24 shots, the most the Sabres have ever allowed in a period in the playoffs.

Mark Recchi – The veteran scored on the power play in the second period for his 51st career postseason goal, good for a tie for second among active NHL players.

Tim Kennedy — The Sabres forward was a pest on the ice all night and totaled a plus-two with an assist on Rivet’s second-period goal.

Turning Point – In the midst of withstanding a 24-shot period by the Bruins, Rivet was able to find enough time (which the Sabres had very little of as Boston controlled the puck all period) and space on the right wing to let loose a slap shot after a back feed by Kennedy. The goal stopped Boston’s momentum just enough to allow the Sabres to catch their breath to finish the period with the lead.

Key Play — With Boston trying to claw back in the game towards the end of the third period, two consecutive hard-luck penalties that sapped any momentum it could have gained. The first was on what looked to be a phantom tripping call on Dennis Wideman when Roy went to the ice with hardly a touch at 13:20. Right after the Bruins killed that penalty, Miroslav Satan accidentally flipped the puck over the boards into the crowd for a delay of game at 15:40 that put Boston on the kill for half of the remaining four minutes.

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Second period summary: Bruins vs. Sabres – Game 1

04.15.10 at 8:46 pm ET
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Maybe the Bruins power play is starting to come back to life.

They scored one in the regular season finale against Washington to break an 0 for 23 funk and then turn around to score on their first opportunity of the postseason after a Toni Lydman cross checking penalty. Mark Recchi found the back of the net off a rebound in the low slot from a Zdeno Chara slap shot from the high slot. The play was set up by a nice touch pass by defenseman Matt Hunwick on the point to give Chara the one-timer that split the Sabres forward penalty killers. Patrice Bergeron did not register and assist on the play, but he should have as his tangling play in front of Ryan Miller helped keep the puck loose from Buffalo defenseman Henrik Tallinder long enough for Recchi to find it and put it home to tie the game at 9:30.

Boston absolutely lived in the Sabres’ zone for most of the period but, outside of the power play strike, did not have much to show for it except a bunch of shots and Recchi’s goal. Then, the moment that the Bruins let their foot off the gas pedal for a minute, Buffalo struck.

It was captain Craig Rivet that did the damage with a back pass assist from Tim Kennedy. Rivet came down the right wing from the point with a head of steam and let go a slap shot at the top of the circle that whittled its way through traffic passed Rask at 14:10.

Boston had another power play opportunity late in the period when Thomas Vanek went for tripping Milan Lucic flying through the neutral zone at 16:28. The Sabres penalty kill was more effective this time around to preserve their 2-1 lead heading into the third.

Boston outshot Buffalo 24 to 8 on the period and lead the game 33 to 20.

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First period summary: Bruins vs. Sabres – Game 1

04.15.10 at 7:55 pm ET
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Thomas Vanek taught us the first lesson in the first period of the first game in the quarterfinal playoffs series between the Bruins and Sabres — capitalize on all opportunities.

The story lines in this series are inevitably going to be about tip-ins and deflections and superb goaltending between Ryan Miller and Tuukka Rask. But Vanek, the best pure goal-scorer in the series, showed that the Sabres will not always have to rely on the dirty goals to put points on the board.

Sabres’ center and leading point scorer Derek Roy won the puck coming out of Buffalo’s defensive zone and started a break down the right wing. Once he made the entry he laid the puck up for Vanek in the high slot. The sniper picked his spot, far side and up on Rask, and let it go and the Sabres had the early lead in the game at 4:52.

Tempers flared later in the first period after a series of shots and blocks in front of the Bruins net by Tuukka Rask and defenseman Johnny Boychuk. Bruin captain Zdeno Chara got rough with former Bruin Steve Montador and forward Raffi Torres came in give Chara the what for. Away from that scrum Milan Lucic and Toni Lydman got into fisticuffs, with Lucic taking a wild swing (and missing) before Montador joined that scrum and all three went to a heap on the ice.

Sorting out the penalties.

Bruins: Chara – cross-checking, roughing, Lucic – double  roughing minor.

Sabres: Lydman, Montador, Torres — all two-minute roughing. Patrick Kaletta — 10-minute misconduct.

When it was all said and done, the Sabres had a two-minute power play that the Bruins killed off. Buffalo shortly went on another power play when Adam McQuaid went for hooking at 18:56 which brought play to the end or the period. The Sabres will start the second with a four-second man-advantage.

Buffalo leads the battle in shots thus far, 12 to 9.

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Series keys: Clogged lanes and blocked shots

04.14.10 at 1:19 pm ET
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WILMINGTON — Remember the end of the 2006 NFL regular season? Nobody thought that the Colts would be able to do anything in the playoffs because their defense could not stop the run to saves its life that year. Then Indianapolis got safety Bob Sanders back, dominated both phases of defense through the postseason and won the Super Bowl over the Bears in February.

With the two best statistical goaltenders in the league between the pipes for the Bruins and Sabres series, do not expect a Colts like turnaround for Boston’s offense. At the same time that does not mean it will be completely incapable of putting the puck in the net. The Sabres are known as a team with some good scorers (Thomas Vanek and Tim Connolly come to mind) who also crash the net and clog the lanes in the offensive zone with all five skaters.

The Bruins have been focusing on crashing the net, especially in the latter part of the season when it seemed that was the only way they could score, though have also specialized the last couple of years in coach Claude Julien’s system in making sure that their goaltenders have the best sight lines possible.

“They can complain all they want about not getting goal scoring but they have the talent,” Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller told Mike Harrington of the Buffalo news earlier this week. “From our side we have to defend against the talent. Its the playoffs. Everything goes to zeroes. There are no stats established right now.”

That being said, the keys to this series fall within the lanes. The Sabres are known as a team that likes to send five guys towards the net, clog the shooting and passing lanes enough that it is hard for the goaltender to see the puck. This type of game, growing more prevalent in the NHL, leads to shots having eyes through traffic, deflections, tip-ins and rebounds as the primary mode of scoring.

“Well, I think everybody in the league, and I think this is no secret, is that they attack at least four and at times will have five guys by the time that they get to the goal at the top of the circle,” Julien said on Tuesday. “Rightfully so, because they are so confident about the guy between the pipes [Miller] that they feel they can bail him out.”

The Bruins have one of the forefathers of this style of play on their team in the form of veteran Mark Recchi who offered his wisdom on what the series is going to look like and how teams go about defending it.

“It is all about blocking shots, basically,” Recchi said. “It is a little harder to do things than you wanted too. You used to be able to do whatever you wanted to in front. But now there are so many people blocking and making sure that pucks don’t get to the front of the net, basically that is how you control something like that. We have to make sure that our defensemen get pucks on the net so we can create some problems.”

Recchi knows that that particular style of play will be dominant in the series and the team that controls the front of the net will have the advantage. In that regard, both the Bruins and Sabres have a lynchpin at the center of defensive cores that know how to clear the way in front of the goaltenders. For Boston that is the big man, captain Zdeno Chara. Not to be overlooked though is the fact that Buffalo has a bit of a Chara clone in the form of 6-foot 8-inch 20-year-old defenseman Tyler Myers. Which team wins that battle, experience or youth?

“He is a key player on their team,” Milan Lucic said of Myers. “It is like every team. They have a standout defenseman that you have to get after early and often. It is no secret that they are going to be getting after [Chara] early and often and try to wear him down. He is a key part of their team and we have to do everything in our power to try and shut him down.”

After Chara and Myers, the rest of the defensemen on each squad will do their best to make sure that pucks do not even make it to the net. As the Bruins stretch run of tight games running up to the playoffs have had win-or-go-home circumstances, there have been a lot of of Black and Gold bodies flying towards the point to impede impending slap shots. Dennis Seidenberg was particularly effective in that department for Boston (he led the league in blocked shots between the Panthers and Bruins) but without him, the Bruins have other players who have been willing to sacrifice their bodies. Patrice Bergeron has been known to dive in front of pucks, so has Dennis Wideman.

“Both teams are trying to do that. Both teams defensively block a lot of shots and get it lanes and that is the key to most teams actually now. You know, shot blocking is a big thing now and that is going to be a big factor in a lot of ways,” Recchi said. ”Well, they try to block you out of the lane, not let you get to the front of the net. When you do get to the front they try to get in front of you and block you out that way, so basically they are trying to avoid you getting there and blocking out and not letting the goaltender see it. What they do is step in front of you and they try to block the puck inside.”

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Put Kessel to rest

04.13.10 at 10:56 pm ET
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In every major sport, the draft is the time of year when visions of future glory bounce like through the minds of fans and front offices all across the leagues. It is fun to imagine that sought after prospect blossoming into the next big thing and carrying your team to the championship that has eluded it for so long (because, let’s face it, if you are looking forward to the draft then your team probably was not that good).

For the Bruins, this dream was spawned from a nightmare.

We are talking, of course, about Phil Kessel, who was also once a twinkle of a dream in the corner of Boston’s eye when he was taken with the fifth overall pick in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft. Now that Boston knows it will end up with either Taylor Hall or Tyler Seguin with the No. 2 overall pick, it is time to put the Kessel issue to rest in the Hub.

Yes, he was petulant. Yes, he and coach Claude Julien had their variety of skirmishes. Yes, he was only a lukewarm two-way forward. Yes, he more or less forced himself out of Boston when Toronto general manager Brian Burke orchestrated the trade that brought him to the Leafs.

This is all water under the bridge now. Burke probably did not envision his wager in bringing in Kessel to ending up netting the Bruins No. 2 overall pick.

“This has been an emotional trade for both parties,” Chiarelli said. “I think Toronto has seen Phil and realized that he is a very good, young player. Going into making this trade, trying to project a couple other teams that were in on it, trying to project as far as where draft picks were. In the end finish we make projection that was not this high but we are going to get a very good player out of it and so is Toronto. It is a deal that was emotional for a variety of reasons and there was a lot of thought that goes into it from both sides. We feel we got good consideration for the player that we have up.”

Kessel is gone. Time to get over it. The argument now should move on what the Bruins should do with the pick — Hall of Seguin?

Both are 18-years-old. Both have been playing the in the Ontario Hockey League, where Hall’s Windsor team just knocked Seguin’s Plymouth team out of the playoffs. Both are considered to be natural scorers. Hall is more of a power forward who Chiarelli said has good net drive and physical presence, perhaps like Jerome Iginla whereas Seguin may be more of a mix between Steve Stamkos and Pat LaFontaine.

“Seguin plays for the Plymouth Whalers, he is a right shot center and could play both wings, I have seen him play both wings. He has a got a terrific shot, a terrific release, dynamic speak and playmaking ability. I have said before that is a cross between a Stamkos and a LaFontaine and I understand that is pretty lofty company but he is a pretty special player. Taylor Hall is bigger, heavier. Perhaps 12 or 13 pounds heavier. He plays more of a prototypical power forward type of game. Left shot, can play both sides. Good one-timer. Really like his drive to the net and cycles really well.”

Listening to Chiarelli talk one might come to the suspicion that he likes Seguin a little bit more (he already has a young power forward with Milan Lucic) but the fact of the matter is that both players have what the Bruins organization deeply needs — offense.

“First and foremost their talent is on the offensive side of the puck. [Hall] with the net drive and the strength and Seguin with the playmaking and the shot,” Chiarelli said.

Kessel teamed well with Boston’s top playmaker Marc Savard when he scored 36 goals in the 2008-09 season. Chiarelli said that the he could envision Seguin or Hall on the wing of Savard or paired with any of the other centers on the top three lines.

“You think about it, you put up different lines, I do it all the time,” Chiarelli said. “As far as immediate impact. Both of these players are young and I think the could play in the NHL next year. I don’t know if they are going to be immediately impactful. They have to get their feet wet too, but with the talent and skill that they have I feel that they will contribute very well in the top three lines.”

Outside of the excitement that is inherent in the NHL playoffs, which start Thursday at 7 p.m. ET in Buffalo, the future visions of either Seguin or Hall putting on a Spoked-B will be the biggest buzz the Bruins have going. In dealing Kessel away, necessary if controversial as the trade was, Chiarelli has laid the seeds of hope for a franchise that has seen its fans become jaded and bitter after years of mediocrity and issues with the owners. Kessel? Just another name to pass through town.

Seguin or Hall? Who knows, perhaps one of them will be the force that finally brings Lord Stanley’s Cup back to Boston.

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