|12.24.10 at 3:24 am ET|
It seemed a forgone conclusion this week that Dec. 23 was going to be a critical day in the 2010-11 Bruins’ season. It was the day the town was watching to see what they were made of, and Boston was going to get an answer, one way or another.
The answer the B’s gave came in perhaps their most complete game of the season, a 4-1 pounding of the Thrashers (recap) at TD Garden. Everything that was missing in Monday’s 3-0 loss to the Ducks, particularly the drive that seemed to escape the Bruins recently, was there. They scored, they played sound special teams, and they fought (a lot).
Now, with the Bruins going from playing their worst game of the season Monday to perhaps their best, it’s only natural to wonder if this could be a turning point for the team. Did everything this week, from the criticism to the questions to the absurd rumors that Claude Julien was on the hot seat, get to these Bruins and inspire them to put an end to the madness?
“You learn more from the losses and from the tough times,” Andrew Ference said after the game. “When you finally put it together and get a game where you take a step in the right direction, it definitely helps.”
Bruins players had mixed reactions to the idea that Thursday was a statement game, but there is no question a statement was made. Should the town get carried away with it? Why not? Hey, it did after the last game.
Here’s the Hat Trick:
A GOOD RESPONSE GOES BAD
Last season, and even this season, the Bruins have been questioned for not responding when their teammates are victims of cheap-shots. On this night of proving everybody wrong about everything, it was only fitting that they responded to one with a line brawl at 4:06 of the third period.
With Milan Lucic coming through the neutral zone, Freddy Meyer elbowed him in the face, and as Lucic hit the ice, so too did every glove (goaltenders excluded) of every skater. Ference went after Meyer, and from a massive scrum came three separate spinoffs. Nathan Horton pounded on Evander Kane, Marc Savard tangoed with Bryan Little, and Ference took on Anthony Stewart. Read the rest of this entry »
|12.23.10 at 10:43 pm ET|
Milan Lucic and Claude Julien were both upset over Thrashers defenseman Freddy Meyer‘s hit on the Bruins forward that led to the all-out brawl that took place with 4:06 remaining in the B’s 4-1 victory at the Garden Thursday night.
“It was a high hit, for sure. I was bleeding from the lip. After a hit like that — that was the second time he’s hit me cheap,” Lucic said. “That’s the second time. You can’t give a guy a free pass too many times.”
Lucic was given a match penalty for attempt to injure when he punched a helmet-less Meyer in the temple, knocking him to the ground. He now faces a suspension, pending review. Julien said the fight — which also featured Nathan Horton, Marc Savard, and Andrew Ference — could have been avoided were it not for the hit, which he deemed unequivocally cheap.
“Nobody saw that coming until that dirty hit. And that was a dirty hit,” Julien said. “I’ve looked at it again, and it’s a cheap hit, and hopefully it’s seen that way.
“If you’re a player, with all the head injuries we’ve had with our team, whether it’s [Patrice] Bergeron or Savard, and all the other things where we’re talking about cutting down on head shots, you can’t blame a player for reacting to those kind of things. I think everybody reacted, and that’s what happened.”
Thrashers head coach and former Bruins assistant coach Craig Ramsay deemed the hit fair and didn’t like the Bruins’ response.
“Freddy laid a good hit. That is what happens. You throw a big hit and you have to have a fight,” Ramsay said. “We are taking hitting out of the game. He gets a penalty for a good hit. They started all the fights and I thought we should have had a power play for the rest of the game.”
Julien disagreed and supported the way Lucic’s teammates responded.
“I’m going to stand here and say that our guys [stuck] together for something that was, to me, a real cheap shot and uncalled for. Hopefully the league sees it that way, too.”
|12.23.10 at 9:38 pm ET|
The Bruins spent the past two days dealing with backlash from both fans and the media over their recent struggles. They responded in a big way Thursday, playing one of their better games of the season in defeating the Thrashers, 4-1, at TD Garden.
Though Patrice Bergeron got the B’s on the board with a shorthanded goal in the first and Michael Ryder tallied what proved to be the deciding goal, Shawn Thornton was the offensive hero for the 17,565 to pack the Garden seats. The energy line winger had a big night, beating Thrashers goaltender Ondrej Pavelec for two goals.
Tim Thomas improved his record to 15-4-3 on the season.
The Bruins will have two days off before returning to practice on Sunday. From there, they will embark on a five-game road trip before returning home to the Garden on Jan. 6.
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE BRUINS
– Shawn Thornton came an assist away from a Gordie Howe hat trick and a goal away from a real one. His fight with Eric Boulton off the opening the face-off helped ignite everybody in attendance, while his two goals brought his season total to a career-high seven.
– The Bruins responded to the call for more passion and motivation. They were more offensively persistent and sustained energy throughout the night. Additionally, they did it against a very good Thrashers team. This game was looked at by some (including your’s truly) as a game the team could use to establish more of an identity. Now that they’ve shown they can respond to losses as ugly as Monday night’s, the next step is seeing to it that there aren’t any more like their embarrassment vs. the Ducks.
The fans undoubtedly left the house satisfied, as an all-out brawl broke out with 4:06 remaining in the game following a Freddy Meyer hit to Milan Lucic’s head. Lucic, Nathan Horton, Andrew Ference, and Marc Savard dropped the gloves for the B’s.
– Thornton wasn’t the only one to show up on the stat sheet multiple times. Patrice Bergeron (G, A) and Daniel Paille (2 A) also had two points on the night. With Brad Marchand still out due to soreness stemming from the P.K. Subban hit, it’s good for Paille to have a game that can give him some confidence should he stick in the lineup for another game or two.
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE BRUINS
– With the match penalty that Lucic received for punching Freddy Meyer in the helmet, he now faces a suspension, pending review. It was clearly intent to injure on Lucic’s part and it’s hard to believe anybody will view it as anything but.
– Of course, Dustin Byfuglien scored the Thrashers’ lone goal. Byfuglien had a goal and three assists when the Thrashers beat the B’s last month, so his tally on Thursday gave him his fifth point against the Bruins this season.
– Tyler Seguin and Steve Kampfer were the the lone Bruins players to have a negative rating. After his minus-1 on Thursday, Seguin is a plus-1 on the season.
– The Canadiens were held on for a 3-2 win over the Hurricanes after scoring twice in the final 3:03 of the second period. The B’s remain two points behind the Habs for the division lead.
|12.23.10 at 8:39 pm ET|
Ryder scored the B’s first power play tally in three games when he notched his 10th goal of the season at 4:04. With an assist on the play, Patrice Bergeron picked up his second point of the night.
As for Thornton, he may currently be a Boston fan favorite, but he did a couple of impressions of Boston stars past. Anyone missing Randy Moss (I understand that’s a stretch) saw some of his flash at 5:00 of the period. Much like Moss waving for a pass down the field, Thornton set up shop near the top of the left circle and called for a puck, tapping his stick until Adam McQuaid hit him with a pass. Thornton then made like Adrian Beltre by beating Pavelec with a snapshot off one knee.
Dustin Byfuglien, meanwhile, put the Thrashers on the board at 8:40. It was his 13th goal and 37th point. His previous career high for points entering the season was 36.
|12.23.10 at 7:45 pm ET|
The Bruins wanted to make some noise right off the bat, and after doing so they lead the Thrashers, 1-0.
With Claude Julien putting the energy line out to start the game, Shawn Thornton dropped the gloves with Atlanta winger Eric Boulton. The fight, which was the sixth between the two, energized both the B’s and the Garden crowd, but Patrice Bergeron would give them more to cheer about three minutes later.
Just 13 seconds into a Zdeno Chara hooking penalty, Bergeron put the B’s on the board by deking Ondrej Pavelec and putting it in low on the forehand. It was Bergeron’s 300th career point and the fifth Bruins shorthanded goal of the season.
The two teams have played one another tight this far, with each squad registering 10 shots on goal. There were five minor penalties handed out in the period between the two teams, with the B’s going 0-for-3 on the power play.
|12.23.10 at 2:10 pm ET|
After a lackluster effort on Monday night (a 3-0 loss to the Ducks at the Garden), the Bruins were given two days to figure things out. While the rest of the town (foolishly) talked about whether Claude Julien should begin frequenting Monster.com, the B’s buckled down and did what they deemed necessary to help them regain the promise shown at the beginning of the season. They did so with two gritty, high-energy, high-intensity practices, and as they prepare to face Atlanta on Thursday — a “must-win” game by multiple players’ accounts — they hope the hard work will have paid off.
“The last two days have been very good,” Patrice Bergeron. “Practice has been very hard with lot’s of battle and lots of emotion, and I think that’s what we need to bring in games.”
The B’s didn’t hold a morning skate on Thursday, but the players in the dressing room exuded a confidence that suggested they know they’ve put the work in, and now they need to put it to good use.
“As long as we learn from it — and we do — we’re fine,” Mark Recchi said Thursday of the team’s two days following perhaps their worst loss of the season. “We have a good group of guys who care and want to get better. The tempo was great in practice. ‘¦ We don’t get the opportunity to practice like that for a couple of days, especially with the schedule. To get that opportunity now is good.”
The Atlanta game is monumental for the young season for multiple reasons. In addition to the fact that the Thrashers beat the B’s, 4-1 last month, the Bruins will play five consecutive road games after Thursday. Given how much the team has struggled (1-3-1, 1.8 goals per game over their last five), the team also needs to show angry fans — who booed the team mightily on Monday — that the high expectations placed on them this offseason weren’t unwarranted.
A big part of the team’s struggles has been a difficulty to string 60-minute efforts together, with the forecheck and physically cutting in and out throughout the night. Recchi, who has spoken throughout the season of how difficult a team to play against the Bruins could be, knows the team has yet to reach that point, but that hope is not lost.
“We’re progressing. We’re getting there. We know when we do the right things, we’re a miserable team to play against, and we’re getting there, but it’s a process,” Recchi said. “It takes all year. … We’ve had our ups and downs, but I think the guys understand that it’s not easy being like that every night, but at the same time, it’s pretty rewarding.”
The Bruins can use Thursday, a game in which the town will be watching to see what the squad’s made of, to unveil new lines, and a new mindset for the B’s who with a win and a Canadiens loss could suddenly find themselves third in the Eastern conference. If they do, and the team does find a way to turn it around, this week could be one that’s looked back on as a turning point in the season.
“I think we needed some practices to get back on track and talk about our system a little bit more,” Bergeron said. “‘¦ I think it was good to re-focus and re-set ourselves to be back on track.”
|12.23.10 at 11:49 am ET|
“I don’t think he’s 100 percent,” Julien said of the 22-year-old winger.
Marchand, speaking for the first time since leaving in the second period of Saturday’s game against the Capitals, said that he is dealing with general soreness that came as a result of a crushing hit he took from Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban last Thursday.
“My body’s a little sore and it was affecting my game,” Marchand said. “I figured it would be best for the team if I pulled myself from the game.”
Though the brunt of the injury came from the Subban hit, Marchand began feeling worse as he took more hits in the Washington game that he ultimately left.
“I took a couple of little hits in the Washington game, and I started feeling it when I was out there.”
Marchand did not take any physical contact in his skate on Thursday. He was joined on the ice by Mark Stuart, as the Bruins, who have had high-intensity practices over the last two days, didn’t take the ice.