|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.”
|04.23.11 at 11:07 pm ET|
By DJ Bean and Scott McLaughlin
Brad Marchand got the Bruins on the board at 4:33 of the third period, beating Price for his first career playoff goal. The lead would later be relinquished as Jeff Halpern tied it at 13:56, breaking up Tim Thomas‘s shutout bid.
In skating to more than two scoreless periods, the teams made the 44 minutes of shutout hockey the longest a game in the series had gone without a goal. Prior to Saturday, a goal had been scored no later than 8:13 into the first period.
The teams will next play on Tuesday in Montreal for Game 6 at the Bell Centre; a win will permit the Bruins to advance to the conference semi-finals. If necessary, Game 7 will be played the following day at TD Garden.
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE BRUINS
– Milan Lucic finally got involved on offense. After leading the team in goals during the regular season and tying for the team lead in points, he had just five shots and no points through the first four games of the series. He got the primary assist on the game-winner, and he did a much better job of making his presence known in Game 5. He led all skaters with seven shots on goal, consistently went in hard on the forecheck and found himself with a few quality scoring chances around the net.
– Lucic wasn’t the only one shooting for the Bruins in the first period, as their 12 shots on Price marked just the second time this series that the Bruins have hit double-digits in first-period shots on goal. It didn’t pay off Saturday for either team, but the B’s have the right idea.
– Michael Ryder was a temporary fan-favorite before the game thanks to his Game 4 heroics, but the crowd really took it to a new level in the first period when Ryder made what at the time was the save of the game, stopping Tomas Plekanec with Thomas way out of the net.
In addition to his work as a part-time netminder (he actually played the position in ball hockey back in his Canadiens days), Ryder continued to get chances Saturday as well, though none made their way past Price.
– Marchand came up with a clutch goal on a night in which he’d been made popular for the wrong reasons. First, he nearly went face-first into the ice in the second period while attempting to throw down with Plekanec on a play that earned each player a roughing minor.
At the second period’s conclusion, Max Pacioretty — possessing villain status around these parts for shoving Zdeno Chara and jumping Steven Kampfer at different points this season, but more widely recognized as the victim of Chara/a Montreal stanchion from March 8 — tweeted that the game was “longer than marchands [sic] nose.” Pacioretty deleted the tweet shortly after and apologized.
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE BRUINS
– The Bruins probably would have preferred it if Benoit Pouliot remained in the lineup for the Habs, as Halpern was able to score the equalizer in his second game back in the lineup. Halpern got back in for the Canadiens on Thursday after missing Games 1 and 2 with a lower-body injury.
– Boston struggled in the faceoff circle, as Montreal won 33 of 57 draws through the end of regulation. The subpar performance on draws didn’t have a huge effect on the game until they lost a defensive zone faceoff that directly led to Halpern’s game-tying goal late in the third. The Canadiens were also able to kill some time when the Bruins were on the power play by winning faceoffs in their own end and sending the puck down the river. The B’s actually did a much better job in the first overtime, winning 14 of the 20 draws in the frame.
– The Bruins went 0-for-3 on the power play — including missing out on a chance to end it with a man advantage in the first overtime — and are now 0-for-15 in the series. They got some nice setups and some decent looks at the net, but they need to find a way to score on the man advantage, plain and simple. They still seem too lackadaisical when it comes to getting traffic in front and digging for rebounds. Shots from the point can be the best power-play strategy when you’re getting screens, deflections and rebounds, but the Bruins aren’t getting much of any of that right now. They’re starting to get some dirty goals at even strength; now they just have to carry that over to the power play.
|04.23.11 at 9:27 pm ET|
Max Pacioretty may not be able to play, but he can still chirp. Check out what the injured Habs winger tweeted after the second period Saturady (stick-tap to Michael Berger for finding the screen-grab after it was deleted):