|04.24.11 at 1:20 pm ET|
Tomas Kaberle was supposed to be the answer for Boston’s power play. So far, there’s just been more questions in what has been an ugly tryout for a new contract.
Seemingly destined to don the black and gold eventually, the Bruins finally acquired the heavily sought-after free agent-to-be 10 days prior to the trade deadline. Since then, the Bruins’ power play has been almost unfathomably unproductive. With just seven goals in 80 opportunities, the unit has been clicking just eight percent of the time. Even general manager Peter Chiarelli said recently that the team expected more out of the defenseman when they sent a first-round pick and highly touted prospect Joe Colborne to Toronto in exchange for the veteran defenseman. Chiarelli isn’t the only one hoping Kaberle can pick it up.
“I always put a lot of pressure on myself,” Kaberle said Sunday at TD Garden. “Hopefully I can prove why I’m here. I would like to help with every little thing I can do on the ice. Obviously, I am one of the guys on the PP, and it would be nice to be something going there.”
Kaberle had nine points for the Bruins in his 24 regular season contests since being acquired, but as the spotlight grew brighter with the arrival of the playoffs, the 33-year-old had an ugly showing. He reversed a puck too hard in the Bruins’ zone, making for an easy Scott Gomez pass to Brian Gionta to set up what would be the game-winning goal.
From there, things didn’t improve as much as they needed to. Kaberle had major struggles in Game 2, displaying an inability to keep the puck in the zone on routine plays, a suggestion that perhaps he may have been pressing. If a turnaround is to be made, perhaps the defenseman can build on the fact that things have at least been looking up statistically. He’s had an assist in each of the last two games, and with how bad things were in Games 1 and 2, it’s a starting point.
“I felt like the first couple of games I could have been better,” Kaberle admitted Sunday. “The last few games, I’ve felt a lot better, and I’m feeling better confidence-wise. I’ll take it from there.”
Right now, any signs of confidence from Kaberle should be a good thing, as his play — despite making the as-advertised passes — has not been a major game-changer for the B’s in the postseason. He still isn’t producing on the man advantage, and his now-infamous fakes on the power play aren’t fooling anybody. Fairly or unfairly, Chiarelli’s move to get Kaberle will be seen as a major steal by the Leafs unless the power play starts getting the results that have eluded them for too long. There’s no better way to do that than to get the power play going, but teammates won’t let all the responsibility fall on Kaberle.
“I’m sure he feels pressure just like all of us,” Dennis Seidenberg said Sunday. “It’s not just him that wants to do better. I think it’s everybody that wants to create and wants to get that advantage you’re supposed to get. Right now it’s just not working, and I’m sure he thinks as much as everybody else about it — what he can do, and what we should do improve it. I guess it’s a work in progress.”
A first-round pick and a former first-round center with as high a ceiling as Colborne’s is not something a team wants to give up for a player that can help the power play be a “work in progress.” That type of package is reserved for a star player, and that’s clearly what the Bruins thought they were getting. There’s still time for Kaberle to justify the move and prove that the trade for a puck-moving defenseman was more than an asset-moving blunder, but for now the waiting game continues.
|04.24.11 at 1:00 pm ET|
The Bruins did not practice Sunday after their 2-1 victory in double-overtime over the Canadiens on Saturday night, though select members of the team and coach Claude Julien were at TD Garden to discuss the state of affairs with the team leading the Eastern Conference quarterfinals, 3-2.
The B’s, who found themselves in a hole after dropping the first two games of the season, have won three straight games, including the last two in overtime. Now one win away from going to the Eastern Conference semifinals for the third time in as many years, Julien said he does not anticipate an easy time as the B’s try to clinch the series in Montreal on Tuesday.
“I think we just have to turn the page here and understand there is another full game to be played,” Julien said Sunday. “When you win three in a row you should feel confident. But again, there is a lot of work to be done. We know this next game is going to be the toughest one. You have a team playing for their lives and they are plying in their home building. So it represents a pretty big challenge for us so we are going to have to be at our best.”
|04.24.11 at 12:26 pm ET|
History can be a funny thing in sports.
It can be a teacher. It can be a guide. It can provide motivation.
If you’re the Boston Bruins, the next two days, it’s going to be all of the above.
The Bruins want to close out the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday night in Game 6 because if they don’t they are going to hear about 2010 again. No, it’s not like they were up 3-0 against the Habs like they were against the Flyers in the Eastern semis last year but they are going to be asked about how hard it is for them to close a team out.
Just ask their coach.
“I think we’ve experienced that last year, right?” Claude Julien asked rhetorically in the afterglow of Game 5 Saturday night. “We don’t want to bring that up, but unfortunately it is what it is. That last win is a tough one, we recognize that. We need to go to Montreal with the intentions of winning that game and playing to win that game. We need to understand it’s probably going to be the toughest game of the series. When teams are playing for their lives they come out with their best effort. And we have to be ready for that.”
Then again, experience is what you make it – like Brad Marchand and Nathan Horton who are playing in their first playoffs. Marchand scored the first goal Saturday and Horton put in the game-winner in double-overtime.
“It was a huge goal for him,” Julien said of Horton. “I wasn’t worried about the fact he hasn’t played in the playoffs because he is a guy that competes all the time. That is one reason why he wanted to come to Boston was to be on an Original Six playoff team. I’m sure he is pretty happy. That has got to be his biggest goal but I think he has been great for us.”
Before the meltdown against Philly last year, there was the stunning Game 7 overtime loss to the Hurricanes in the Eastern semis in 2009 that kept a 53-win team on the sidelines as the NHL held its own final four party.
But having faced those pressure situations in past playoffs may finally be paying dividends. In Games 4 and 5, the Bruins have shown tremendous poise, to go along with great goaltending from Tim Thomas, Michael Ryder and Zdeno Chara.
“We’ve been through a lot the last few years and this was something different,” said Milan Lucic, the player who scored twice in Game 7 last year against Philly before the lights went out on the B’s offense. “Obviously this year going down the first two games at home and having to go to a building where we haven’t won all year and try to even up the series.
“But I think our focus so far is after those first two games wasn’t on the big picture like it was on the first two games. After we were down, the focus was just on, okay, forget about what’s going to happen. Let’s just worry about what we need to do next and what we’re going to do that next shift and that’s what is getting us in a bit of a groove here.”
The Bruins need to make sure the music doesn’t suddenly stop in Montreal Tuesday night.
|04.24.11 at 1:28 am ET|
Tim Thomas wasn’t just big Saturday night. He was – as they say in hockey – HUGE.
And his most monumental moment set up the game winner minutes later by Nathan Horton. If Thomas doesn’t stop Brian Gionta coming down the right wing and in on net for a clear shot with just over 13 minutes left in the double-overtime, the series has a totally different – and certainly desperate – feel for the Bruins.
“When it started I actually came out and was playing it as if [Travis] Moen would have a breakaway, because that’s what it looked like, a break, right off the start,” Thomas said of his stonewall job on Gionta. “And then I realized my D was going to get back and make it a two-on’one, and I was out pretty far so I had to make sure I started to get my backward momentum going so I could play both the shot and the pass. And I was just barely had enough speed to be able to make that push over on the pass. And I was just fortunate enough to get a leg out and cover that part of the net.”
Was the save on Gionta that helped the Bruins take a 3-2 series lead the biggest save of his career?
“No, I mean I don’t have a list like that,” Thomas said at first before reconsidering the question. “I do have a couple that stick out from the past and stuff and I’m sure I haven’t had much time to think about it. Yeah, probably because it ended up being such an important save. And I’ll have to watch it to get a better picture of exactly what happened because it was the second overtime and thing happen fast and I was just playing goalie.”
Thomas also had some help, like in the first period when Michael Ryder slid down to stop Tomas Plekanec as Thomas was out of the crease.
“That was awesome,” Thomas said. “And I was actually turned around, I got to watch it pretty good. That was a huge save and in this type of game that’s a game-breaker.”
Is Thomas capable of appreciating what an epic game it was? Read the rest of this entry »
|04.24.11 at 1:00 am ET|
|04.24.11 at 12:43 am ET|
Bruins forward Brad Marchand would have been a popular guy either way on Saturday night, as he scored the Bruins’ lone goal of regulation in a game the B’s went on to win in double overtime. Yet before he even put his first career playoff goal past Carey Price more than four minutes into the third period, there was a buzz surrounding the 22-year-old thanks to injured Habs forward Max Pacioretty.
Out since taking a hit into the stanchion on March 8 from Zdeno Chara, Pacioretty tweeted after the second period that “this game is longer than marchands [sic] nose.”
At times a very interesting quote during the regular season, Marchand did not take the bait Saturday, downplaying the significance of the tweet, which Pacioretty later deleted and apologized for.
“I don’t know what kind of reaction I should [have],” Marchand said. “It happens.”
Minutes after the tweet surfaced, Marchand scored to give the B’s a 1-0 lead.
“I didn’t know [about the tweet at the time].” he said. “I scored quickly after, but it’s always nice to just kind of rub it in a little.”
The rookie winger did note that he will not get on twitter, saying “twitter is not for me” and adding that he would probably get himself in trouble if he began using it.
Asked whether he feels he’s a bit more creative with his trash talk, Marchand laughed and said “yeah, on the ice, but that’s going to stay on the ice.”
Marchand’s fellow rookies, Tyler Seguin and Steven Kampfer, are the only Bruins using twitter.
|04.24.11 at 12:38 am ET|
The struggles of the Bruins’ top line this series have been well-documented. Through four games, Milan Lucic was without a point while David Krejci and Nathan Horton had just one each. But even before Horton netted the game-winner in double overtime Saturday night, the line was beginning to show signs of turning it around.
The trio combined for 14 shots on goal in the game, including a game-high eight off the stick of Lucic. They went in hard on the forecheck and were able to create some quality chances around the Montreal net. And they were finally rewarded for their effort 9:03 into the second overtime when a good cycle led to an Andrew Ference shot from the point and a rebound tap-in for Horton.
“They were better and that was a good sign,” Claude Julien said of his top line. “Scoring that OT goal is hopefully going to give that line a real good boost. We all know that when you start thinking positively, things seem to be a lot easier. I think they were carrying some weight on them for not producing and wanting to be one of the lines that produced.”
Julien said the goal was particularly satisfying for Horton, who is playing in the first playoff series of his career.
“That goal for Nathan Horton in his first playoffs, to score that kind of goal, now he knows what it feels like,” Julien said. “He was a pretty happy man in the dressing room.”
Horton couldn’t help but let a giant grin form on his face as he sat in front of the media for his postgame press conference.
“It’s so nice. It feels so good,” Horton said. “It was an exciting game for both teams, but in the end, it felt good to get that. We knew it was going to be a greasy goal, and it sure was. It was a rebound, but they all count. That was a big goal for us.”
Horton said guys were obviously getting tired the longer the game went, but that you can’t dwell on that when you’re on the ice.
“You’re just pushing through it,” he said. “You put that in the back of your mind when you’re playing in double overtime, the first overtime, whatever. You put it in the back of your mind. You really focus on what you have to do to get the job done. That’s basically it.”
His line was able to exactly what it took to get the winner.
“You work hard, you go out and try to play the same style, and don’t turn the puck over,” Horton said. “That’s a huge part of our game. When we don’t turn it over and get it in deep, things happen. That’s what you see on that last goal. That’s what happened.”
Lucic, who had an assist on the decisive goal, said the key for his line moving forward is to build off the game-winner and not just be satisfied with it.
“It’s obviously great that were were able to create that goal, but you definitely don’t want to be satisfied,” Lucic said. “You want to keep pushing for more and contributing.”