|05.12.11 at 2:06 pm ET|
In just two days, fans will be able to see something they haven’t seen in a while: a Bruins hockey game.
Sure, this time of year, the wait is generally longer for the next Bruins game (something in the neighborhood of five months), but it still been quite a while for these B’s. When the puck is dropped Saturday in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals, it will be Boston’s first game in eight days, as they have had penalty of time on their hands since sweeping away the Flyers in the semifinals last Friday.
After the Philadelphia series, the team took the weekend off from skating, returning to practice for Monday and Tuesday before staying off the ice on Wednesday. Thursday, they held their third practice of the extra-long layoff period, and it certainly belonged in the “high intensity” category. Claude Julien reached into his bag of tricks for an interesting drill which featured two goals in the corner, with a short area of space to play in between. It kept things physical, and for a team that’s gone so long without playing actual games, it kept the energy up.
“We have to find the best drills for similar-to-game situations and prepare ourselves for that same intensity like we’ve been playing,” captain Zdeno Chara, who took Tuesday off, said after Thursday’s skate. “We’re having good practices.”
One player who could certainly benefit from such a drill is Tyler Seguin. Physicality is an area in which the No. 2 overall pick’s game is lacking, and as he makes his playoff debut, being able to give and take more contact could come a long way. The rookie noted that it was only the second time the team had done the drill this season. The other came just before a very big win for the team.
“We actually did it once in Vancouver,” Seguin said. “Just going against big teams, you’ve got to be strong on the battles. We were just touching up on that in tight areas.”
By comparison, the B’s had two days off between their seven-game quarterfinal series with the Canadiens and their semifinal showdown vs. Philadelphia. Yet this time, they haven’t had to do a bit or traveling since their Game 4 win on home ice, and while they can appreciate the time off, they know they can’t let up.
“We’ve got to have tough practices,” Seguin said. “We’re going to get our rest and our breaks, but we’ve got to get back to work here. We had a tough practice today, and [we’ll have] another one tomorrow to get ready for Saturday.”
Four wins away from a chance at the Stanley Cup, the B’s are having little trouble staying motivated between the series. It’s the farthest they’ve been since 1992, but it’s not as far as they want.
“It’s been nice to have the time off,” center Chris Kelly said. “It has not been difficult at all. We know that there’s still lots of work to be done.”
|05.12.11 at 2:01 pm ET|
Brad Marchand has shown all season that he is not shy, nor does he lack in confidence.
Both were on display on Thursday at TD Garden as the Bruins had their most intense practice yet as they prepare to shake off the cobwebs from a week off and get ready for Game 1 with the Lightning Saturday night at 8 p.m.
“I think the biggest thing is we’re just keeping the mindset on the game and I think having the excitement of the game coming up and having these days off, guys are going to be hungry to play again. I think that’s big for us right now,” Marchand said.
“Everyone is hungry to go. I don’t think think we’ve been away long enough to get out of the rhythm. We’ve still been practicing very hard. Guys are staying focused and staying ready. I think it’s all mental. We’re staying in good shape. We’re working hard, practicing hard but the biggest thing is when you’re off this long is you have to stay mentally ready, mentally focused and don’t get off track.”
The man most responsible for that approach – according to Marchand – is coach Claude Julien.
“Claude’s been unbelievable,” Marchand said. “He’s such a good mentor. He really knows how to bring players along and teach them the little aspects of the game that make you a good player. He’s great at knowing players and how to read them and how to teach them. He’s been such a great mentor for me this year. I don’t think I’d be the player I am right now if I didn’t have him as a coach.”
That’s why Marchand isn’t losing sleep over how a player like Tyler Seguin will approach Saturday night when he gets his first-ever taste of playoff action. Julien brought Marchand along perfectly, in a 20-20 season. He feels Seguin will have the same result from the same treatment.
“He’s rounded out my game,” Marchand said of Julien. “He brought me in slowly, gave me more minutes as the season went on and let me grow as a player. He guided me in the right direction with agitating and using my offensive skills at the right time and when to be defensive, playing on that [fine] line but not going over it. He’s been great at just rounding out my game.”
|05.12.11 at 1:35 pm ET|
Patrice Bergeron was again absent from Bruins practice on Thursday as he continues to recover from a mild concussion suffered in the Game 4 series-clinching win last Friday against the Flyers.
“All I can say is he keeps progressing on a daily basis,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said after Bruins practice Thursday. “He hasn’t been on the ice or done any of that stuff yet so we’re keeping our fingers crossed that thing will be clear and more optimistic as we move forward.”
Bergeron, who has yet to take part in any physical on-ice or off-ice activity, sustained a concussion when Philadelphia’s Claude Giroux finished a check in the Bruins defensive zone early in third period. Bergeron had a difficult time get up from the ice and making his way to the bench. It was the third concussion he’s had in his career in Boston, the second since his most severe concussion when he was checked into the board’s by then-Flyers defenseman Randy Jones in Oct. 2007.
The Bruins are preparing to take on the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday night at TD Garden in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals without Bergeron available, as Chris Kelly has taken Bergeron’s spot with Brad Marchand and Mark Recchi on the team’s second line.
|05.11.11 at 1:12 pm ET|
At this point in the season, you would expect any team still playing to have its line combinations set, and the Bruins did through the end of the regular season and the first two rounds of the playoffs. But with Patrice Bergeron out with a concussion, Claude Julien has had to shuffle his second and third lines.
Chris Kelly has moved up to take Bergeron’s spot as the second-line center between Brad Marchand and Mark Recchi. Meanwhile, Michael Ryder has switched from right wing to left wing to make room for Tyler Seguin to be the third-line right wing. All that movement and potential unfamiliarity could be reason for concern, but Julien doesn’t see it that way.
“Those guys have gone through those kinds of things throughout the whole year,” Julien said. “I think our guys have been used to playing with each other. Even in practice, we mix and match and you see different pairings at times. I thought our guys adjusted well, and if we did decide to make some other changes, I’m sure it wouldn’t be a big issue.”
One interesting thing to note about the new lines is that the second line now consists of three left-handed shots, while the third line comprises three righties. Kelly said that shouldn’t be an issue, either.
“These guys can pick up passes on their backhand just as easy as they can pick up passes on their forehand,” Kelly said. “So I don’t think it’s anything that you need to think about or worry about.”
Of course, Recchi has played the off-wing for most of the season, so there’s no adjustment there. Ryder, on the other hand, has been on the right side for the majority of the season. Julien said Ryder is just as much at home on the left side, though.
“Mike is just as comfortable playing on the left as he is on the right, that much I know,” Julien said. “So making that change isn’t a big deal.”
|05.11.11 at 12:30 pm ET|
Tomas Kaberle has been one of the most scrutinized Bruins since he arrived in Boston in mid-February, and for good reason. He wasn’t contributing as much on offense and the power play as he was expected to, and he was making some costly mistakes in his own zone.
Claude Julien said he thought Kaberle played better in the Bruins’ most recent series against the Flyers, though. In fact, the 12-year veteran finished the series with a plus-4 rating.
“I know at one point we had expected a little more out of him, and we were clear with that,” Julien said. “I think since that time, he’s certainly been a pretty good player for us these last few games against Philly. We’ve seen him move the puck extremely well and I think he’s been a better player. … We’ve liked the way he’s handled the puck and handled the pressure of the forecheck and getting the attack going.”
Julien said Kaberle will have to step up even more in the Eastern Conference finals against the Lightning because of their 1-3-1 scheme that clogs up the neutral zone (explained here).
“I think in this series coming up, he’s going to have to be even bigger for us because of the way they play the game,” Julien said. “We’re going to need some really good puck movement from the back end, so he’s going to be a key element to our success.”
|05.10.11 at 8:40 pm ET|
Back during the preseason, Nathan Horton, who had come to the Bruins after playing the first six years of his career in Florida, was gearing up for his first game against the Canadiens. Sure, it was an exhibition, but it was a big deal for a player who never felt he played in a major rivalry.
Yet it wasn’t his first rivalry, it was just his first major rivalry. In asking Peter Chiarelli about it for a story, the general manager said “the Florida-Tampa rivalry, when it was going, actually there were some good games.”
It was tough for it to be seen as a major rivalry for Horton given that the stakes weren’t nearly as high. In his last three years in Florida, neither team made the playoffs, or even finished better than third in the Southeast Division. Horton had identified the in-state battle as being the closest thing he had to preparation for Bruins-Habs, saying he had “a little rivalry with Tampa Bay in Florida, but not really.”
What a difference a year makes.
Last season, only three points separated the fourth-place Lightning from the last-place Panthers in the cellar of their division. A year later, Horton is finally up to face the Lightning, though it’s taken relocation for him and major changes to Tampa Bay’s organization and roster to make it possible.
With a new general manager in Steve Yzerman, a new coach in Guy Boucher and a revamped roster, the Lightning are ready to storm into Boston this weekend with the intention of grabbing a lead in the Eastern Conference finals. Horton, still in his first postseason, is looking for a different result, and when it comes to him facing the lightning, the stakes are finally high.
“It’s weird,” Horton said Tuesday. “I mean, I’ve played them so many times in my career from when I played [in Florida]. They’ve been great this year. They’ve changed a lot from when I was there. They’ve gotten a lot better. Different faces, a new coaching staff. They’re a real talented team, but it’s definitely weird to be playing them.”
For Horton, it’s simply a sign of what change can do. For a player who wanted out of Florida, he’s enjoyed every second (his smile would suggest he’s even enjoyed the struggles) of his time in Boston. Change has been good for him, and it’s been good for the Lightning.
“It changes so quickly,” Horton said. “It’s going to be fun to go back there, and hopefully we can win some games.”
In four games against Tampa Bay this year, Horton has three assists.
|05.10.11 at 5:26 pm ET|
NESN announced that it had reached a multi-year extension with Jack Edwards. Edwards has been the play-by-play man for the network’s coverage of the Bruins since 2005.
‘For the past six years, Jack has been an energetic and important part of NESN’s Bruins hockey coverage,’ Sean McGrail, NESN President and CEO, said in the press release announcing the agreement. ‘We are very happy to extend his contract, and look forward to his passionate presence in the broadcast booth for years to come.’
Edwards added in the statement: ‘Who has more fun than us? To work with Brick, Naoko, and our NESN production crew is to live the dream. We feed off the energy and passion of Bruins fans across New England and hockey fans all over the world. We love our work and we love working together. To be part of that, to share the space with people who pour so much of their time and effort into covering this team and this sport, is the pinnacle of my career.’