|04.26.11 at 1:23 pm ET|
MONTREAL — The Bruins couldn’t have expected to play a potential series-clinching game without hearing about last year, and it was a popular topic at the Bell Centre Tuesday morning.
While some, such as coach Claude Julien, noted that the team has “turned the page” and are thinking about the present, forward Milan Lucic had no problem addressing the team’s inability to close out their Eastern Conference semifinals series with the Flyers despite winning the first three games.
“We learned last year that the fourth one is always the hardest one,” Lucic said. “It’s not going to be any different tonight. We know they’re going to bring their best game, and we have to do the same.”
Right now, the Canucks are dealing with the same thing the B’s faced last year. After jumping out to a 3-0 series lead, the top-seeded Canucks have dropped the last three to the Blackhawks, with the series-deciding Game 7 to take place Tuesday night. A native of Vancouver, Lucic can see big similarities between Boston’s collapse last year and Vancouver’s situation.
“You don’t want to relax just because you’re in the position that you’re in,” Lucic said. “It almost felt like that a bit too. After they won Game 4 and they won Game 5, all of a sudden you start panicking. You don’t start executing like you did the first three games. You’re seeing a little bit of it right now with Vancouver and Chicago. You give the their team a little bit of life, and they start gaining momentum. They start coming at you.
“You go back to [Chicago’s] Game 4, where they won 7-3,” he added. “Obviously, you can switch our Game 4 vs. Philly with their Game 6 that they just had with the big overtime win. They had Simon Gagne come back, and now [Chicago] has David Bolland coming back. It’s just an emotional lift for the team, and all that type of stuff. I remember Game 5 at home. Philly came into our building and won 5-0. It was almost the same thing when [Chicago] went into Vancouver and won 5-0. The wheels start turning and all that type of stuff. For us, we want to not make the same mistake, that’s for sure.”
Lucic seemed very comfortable going into detail when discussing one of the more devastating moments in team history. Despite how painful a lesson it was at the team, the 22-year-old feels the lesson was learned in the B’s dressing room.
“You learn from it,” Lucic said. “You definitely do learn from it. It’s a lot easier to talk about it now than before, for sure.”
The B’s will find out how well they learned when they face the Habs in Game 6 Tuesday night.
|04.26.11 at 12:31 pm ET|
MONTREAL — The Bruins can wrap up their Eastern Conference quarterfinals series Tuesday night with a win over the Canadiens at the Bell Centre. Following a trend they’ve had going lately, all B’s with the exception of Mark Recchi were on the ice for Tuesday’s morning skate at Bell Centre. Recchi has often got the morning off on gamedays in the playoffs this postseason.
The Habs held an optional skate, with Jaroslav Spacek, P.K. Subban, Yannick Weber, Paul Mara and Alex Auld among those to take the ice. Coach Jacques Martin reiterated following the skate that both James Wisniewski and David Desharnais will be game-time decisions. Both players suffered lower-body injuries Saturday in Boston, with Wisniewski’s (leg) occurring in the second period and Desharnais (knee) suffering his injury in overtime.
|04.25.11 at 5:43 pm ET|
Before taking his team north for a Game 6 showdown with the Canadiens Tuesday night at Bell Centre, Bruins coach Claude Julien said he is fairly condifident that the Canadiens won’t engage the Bruins in a physical battle because they would likely lose that kind of game.
“I think both teams realize that discipline is a big factor in this series,” Julien said. “And when you look at last game, I think again, both teams had 30-plus hits. And it’s not like it’s not a hitting series, but it’s not a dirty one. And I think there is a lot of hate probably between the two teams but there is also a lot of respect. And we know that we respect their offense and their power play and we certainly don’t want to give them that advantage. And I think that they respect that if they get into a physical situation with us, they are probably not going to win that one.”
The Bruins lead the best-of-7 Eastern quarterfinal series, 3-2, needing just one more win to advance to the second round for the third straight year. Julien said the key Tuesday night is for the Bruins to match the Canadiens’ desperation with determination.
“I think that’s been something we’ve had to really adjust to in this series, is making sure we don’t give them an early lead,” Julien said. “But when they are in that situation I think they are playing out of desperation, they are playing for their lives, you have to play that game with determination and that’s the difference. For us it’s about determination, for them it’s about desperation and you have to hope that the determination is better than their desperation. It’s as simple as that.”
If the Bruins lose Tuesday, they will have one final chance on Wednesday in Game 7 at TD Garden to close out the Canadiens.
|04.25.11 at 1:27 pm ET|
On Monday, Chara was named one of three finalists for the Norris Trophy, given annually to the top defenseman in the NHL – the third time in four seasons that the Bruins captain has been so recognized.
Chara, who won the award in 2009, led the league with a plus-33 rating and recorded 44 points, including 14 goals and 30 assists.
“I think, obviously, he’s a well-deserving player,” Julien said. “There are a lot of reasons. I think everyone who knows him here knows he plays a lot of minutes. He also always plays against other team’s top lines. He’s utilized as a shutdown D against the top players on other teams. The stats at the end of the year, I think he’s a plus-30 something, plus-33, and I think that speaks for itself. And double digits in goals, and certainly, offensively, he’s contributed well.
“So, if you’re talking about the Norris and talking about a defenseman that brings a lot, he’s certainly. And I don’t think there are many players in this league who will raise their hand and say they really enjoy playing against him.”
Chara has bigger concerns on his plate right now, like closing out the Canadiens in Game 6 Tuesday night, but he did show sincere appreciation after Monday’s practice at TD Garden for being recognized.
“It’s obviously a big honor and I’m very humbled and very thankful, especially after you consider how many guys had such a great season – breakout seasons.” Chara said. “I’m just very thankful that people who did vote recognize the definition of the Norris Trophy award. And obviously, a big thank you goes to all the people who helped me get there, especially my teammates, all those in the organization, and obviously, my family and fans.
Chara consistently faces the opposing team’s top offensive line, something that makes him one of the most reliable players in black and gold.
“That’s something I take a lot of pride in,” Chara said. “I’m very competitive when it comes to defending the top lines and playing top lines. I know that it’s not an easy job, but I get up to it every night. You can’t think that it’s just you. Yeah, it’s a big motivation for me every night to face such skill and great players.”
Chara – who has climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro for fun – takes as much pride as anyone in his off-season training that year-in, year-out puts him among the finest conditioned athletes in not only hockey but the world. Monday, in the wake of another Norris nomination, he pointed to that training regiment as a big reason for his continued success.
“To me, the first priority is hard work,” Chara said. “I always like to work extremely hard on and off the ice. I’m very competitive, I’m very motivated to play against top lines and the best players every night. I take a lot of pride in that, and I just want to help the team as much as I can to win. That was always my first thing. I always want to put the team in front of egos or individual goals.
“To me, that’s the most important thing, and everything else will fall into place. I know I’m not the extremely skilled defenseman who’s going to put probably 70 points on the board every year. But I know that if I play my game, I give my team a good chance to win hockey games. That’s all I can do.”
Joining Chara as finalists are Detroit’s Nicklas Lidstrom and Nashville’s Shea Weber. The three were voted as finalists by the Professional Hockey Writers Association, and the names were released Monday by the league.
The winner will be announced June 22 during the 2011 NHL awards ceremony in Las Vegas.
|04.25.11 at 1:09 pm ET|
Entering this season, the Bruins were known as the team that choked away a 3-0 series lead en route to being eliminated by the Flyers in the playoffs. Now, the Canucks are helping people forget that.
Vancouver held a 3-0 series lead against the No. 8 Blackhawks in their Western Conference quarterfinals series, but Chicago has come storming back. Sunday night, they tied the series at three games apiece with an overtime victory.
“I think I understand what they’re going through,” Claude Julien said of the Canucks Monday. “We lived through it. You watch those games and you see how another team can grab momentum pretty quick and confidence and belief. It’s there again this year and there’s an opportunity again to create what happened last year to our team for another team. Whether that’s a trend that’s going that way now, I don’t know. But it certainly shows that there’s parity in this league and nothing is over until it’s over.”
|04.25.11 at 1:00 pm ET|
One team won two games in a row. Then the other rattled off three straight. For series that has seen such stretches of wins, it’s quite surprising that neither run has exactly featured dominance. It’s been close the whole way.
Looking at the Bruins/Canadiens Eastern Conference quarterfinals series, neither team has necessarily outperformed one another to the point of it being noteworthy. Both teams have scored 12 goals in the series, and neither has won by more than two goals (something that’s only occurred twice). The Bruins, who hold a 3-2 series lead, have a chance to close it out Tuesday, and it’s just how close it’s been that has let them keep the right perspective.
“The last two games have been in overtime and could have gone either way, right? It could have been a totally different series,” Gregory Campbell said of the Bruins’ victories in Games 4 and 5. “Even the first three games were tight as well. We had a lot of chances in the first two games, and in Game 3, they had the lead on us.”
Given their awareness of just how close it’s been, there is no chatter of desired second-round opponents. The B’s know that if they let up even the tiniest bit, the Habs can put their backs to the wall.
“It hasn’t been the case, where you look at other series, and there’s been some games where a team has dominated the other team. That’s not been the case in this series,” Chris Kelly said. “Every game’s been close, and a hard-fought battle right to the end of the game. We don’t expect anything different tomorrow night, and I don’t think they would either.”
With all that having been said, there’s obviously the added factor of desperation. The Habs are playing for their playoff lives, but the Bruins are also taking the must-win approach. That can be a good thing and a bad thing, depending on the way you approach it.
“You don’t want to ever categorize a game where it kind of takes you off your game and makes us tense. You feel everything’s got to be done in the first period and think, ‘we have to get the first goal,'” Campbell said. “I mean, We have to play our game. We have to play like we’ve been playing the last three games. That has included being desperate, that’s included making plays, getting a lot of chances and scoring goals. That’s what we’re going to do tomorrow night.”
|04.25.11 at 10:42 am ET|
The Bruins are one win away from advancing to the Eastern Conference semifinals for the third time in as many seasons. Momentum would appear to be on their side, as they have won the last three games of this quarterfinal series vs. the Habs, including the last two in overtime. In order to close it out and move on, they’ll need to win either Tuesday at the Bell Centre (their first trip to Montreal since Bird Gate), or Wednesday in Boston. Here are six things they might need in Game 6:
1. Never underestimate a desperate team
If the Bruins have trouble with this one, perhaps they didn’t learn anything from a certain series last year. The Habs want nothing more than to force a Game 7 in Boston Wednesday, and given that the teams won’t have a day off before the decisive final game, the B’s wouldn’t want to give the Habs that momentum.
2. Get even a fraction of the Tim Thomas they got in Game 5
Thomas has established himself as one of the better goaltenders in the league since making it to the show with the Bruins. In his six-plus seasons in Boston, he’s done some incredible things. He won a Vezina a couple of years ago and figures to win another for this season’s performance. He broke the single-season save percentage record. He’s even racked up 26 shutouts with the Bruins.
Amidst all the great showings the 37-year-old has turned in, Thomas’ performance in Game 5 had people wondering whether, despite it not being a shutout, they were seeing some version of Tim Thomas that is generally saved for special occasions. Thomas’ save on Brian Gionta when the Habs captain and Travis Moen were on a 2-on-1 was sensational, as he didn’t cheat towards Gionta in anticipation of the pass, but was still able to get over in time to make the highlight-reel stop after it. If the B’s can get that type of performance Tuesday, they’ll certainly be hard to beat.
3. Make the power play an actual advantage
This one’s almost like the free space in Bingo. It just goes without saying, so it’s almost cheap to include this among the six. Even if it does go without saying, the power play has gone without scoring for too long. The 0-for-15 mark it’s posted in the playoffs might make one wonder if the team ever scores on the power play. Such questions can be answered with the reassuring stat of the seven goals they’ve had on 80 power plays since acquiring Tomas Kaberle.
4. Watch out for that pesky blue line
The two teams combined for 10 offsides calls in Game 5. While it is perhaps a goaltender’s second-best friend, there’s no better way to disrupt an offense. This is certainly an area in which both teams would like to see less calls.
5. Get the Chris Kelly line the B’s got in Game 4
The Kelly line with Michael Ryder and Rich Peverley was the biggest one for the Bruins in their Game 4 overtime win. While Ryder made two very big non-offensive plays (a nice save and a nifty backcheck), the line’s output wasn’t nearly what it was when it pumped out three goals Thursday in Montreal. Ryder had three shots on goal Saturday, while Peverley had just one and Kelly had none. Kelly was one of only two Bruins players (Gregory Campbell) to have a negative rating on the night.
There has been no Bruin better than Patrice Bergeron in this series, and given the way Tim Thomas played Saturday, that’s saying something. Bergeron has six points over the last four games, and it seems his work has also elevated the play of Brad Marchand, who has four points over the last four.
Though the Bergeron line has been great, the David Krejci line has been hot and cold. The coldest link has certainly been Milan Lucic, who still has no goals and just one point through five games, though he was more involved Saturday night and led the Bruins with eight shots on goal in the double-overtime contest. If he can keep sending pucks Carey Price‘s way, he’ll be able to snap out of it.