|04.14.11 at 10:40 am ET|
With the Canadiens in town for Game 1, there’s only one thing to do: play soccer.
After two straight days of practice in anticipation of the playoffs, the B’s held an optional skate Thursday morning, with the rest of the players getting loose with some hallway soccer.
Tuukka Rask, Anton Khudobin, Shane Hnidy, Tyler Seguin, Michael Ryder, Gregory Campbell, Chris Kelly and Matt Bartkowski participated in the skate. From the goes-without-saying department, expect Tim Thomas between the pipes and Tyler Seguin to be the healthy scratch.
We’ll have more from the Bruins and Canadiens dressing rooms after each team has its morning availability.
|04.14.11 at 1:35 am ET|
Finally, after plenty of hype, the Bruins and Canadiens are a matter of hours away from beginning their best-of-seven first-round series.
While one group of fans (and both will be present at TD Garden) chants ‘Ole’ and the other chants ‘USA’ (Bruins fans must really like Tim Thomas, as chanting ‘USA’ applies to only one player on the team), there will be hockey to be played. The Bruins-Canadiens rivalry is the circus of all circuses, but if either team gets caught up in it, they could slip. Here are the things that will actually matter in this series:
DICTATING THE TEMPO EARLY
The first game of a playoff series is a big one, but the first 20 minutes of this series might be even more important. The Bruins are capable of overpowering the Canadiens with their style of play, but there were multiple instances in which the B’s sat back early and waited until the Canadiens had already established their presence. The two teams were split, 3-3, in the first-goal department, and in the four instances that a team got on the board in the game’s first 10 minutes, that team won.
The Habs certainly gave their netminder plenty of work this season, as price finished second to only Cam Ward in games played among goaltenders with 72. That’s a heavy workload, but Price handled it well, and it will be interesting to see whether the 23-year-old wears down in the postseason.
While Price was very good for the Canadiens this season, TD Garden was far from good to him. After allowing one goal in a 3-1 Canadiens win back on Nov. 11, his other two trips to Boston this season provided Habs fans with reason to worry. He gave up 13 goals over two losses at TD Garden in 2011 and was yanked from the the March 24 game less than five minutes into the third period.
The mystery of how Price can handle this series is very intriguing. His eight shutouts this season suggests he should be considered capable of taking over a playoff series, and if he does, it could be a classic goaltending matchup. If not, the Habs could be in trouble.
MILAN LUCIC AND NATHAN HORTON
The Bruins are the better team in this series, so they need their best players to be relentless. It’s no secret that Horton can disappear in games and struggled with consistency at points of the regular season, but it’s unknown whether he’s susceptible to drop-offs in the playoffs. Horton had a pair of forgettable games in his first two contests against the Canadiens (zero points and just one shot on goal over a pair of losses), but came up big in the other three (three goals, four assists).
Lucic, meanwhile, enjoys being known as a playoff player, and his 18 points over the last two postseasons speak for that. Lucic stepped up his game big-time this season but after scoring his 30th goal failed to strike again in the final 10 games. Will he also take his postseason play to a new level, or will his goal-less streak spill over into the playoffs?
The Bruins couldn’t buy a power play goal down the stretch, and with special teams always playing an important role in the postseason, they’ll have to find a way to convert against a very good Montreal penalty kill. The Bruins were just 3-for-24 against the Canadiens on the power play this season, while the Habs were 9-for-28.
THE BELL CENTRE
The reason this series might not be a short one is because the Bruins could struggle playing at the Bell Centre, as they did during the regular season (0-2-1). The difficulty they’ve encountered winning games in Montreal will make the B’s home games even more important. The Habs are capable of stealing one or two on the road, and the B’s need to prove they’re capable of doing the same.
|04.13.11 at 12:40 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — Bruins coach Claude Julien spoke Wednesday about what his team must do to find success against the Canadiens in the first round of the playoffs. Among the things touched on was the play of special teams, an area in which the Habs have excelled and the B’s have struggled of late.
“This is a team that we’re playing that played good on the power play,” Julien said. “They’ve had success, and we’ve got to stay out of the box as best we can.”
While the Bruins’ penalty kill unit (which allowed three goals in the last six games) will be key, there is no area more lacking for the Bruins than the power play. Since acquiring puck-moving defenseman Tomas Kaberle, the success on the man advantage has trended in the opposite direction. The B’s have just seven power play goals in 67 opportunities since Kaberle joined the team.
The Bruins finished 20th in the league with a 16.2 power play percentage, while their 82.6 penalty kill percentage was 16th. Boston was 3-for-24 on the power play in six regular season games vs. the Habs this season. The Canadiens finished seventh in both power play percentage (19.7) and penalty kill percentage (84.4).
The Bruins got some work in on the power play Wednesday, and they can only hope their success with the man advantage is better in the playoffs than it has been for the last two months.
|04.13.11 at 11:06 am ET|
WILMINGTON — All the expected Bruins were accounted for Wednesday as the B’s held their last practice before they square off with the Habs in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs.
No surprises in the color-coded lines:
|04.12.11 at 8:35 pm ET|
The Devils won the NHL Draft lottery Tuesday night, meaning they got to move up the maximum four spots from No. 8 to the fourth overall pick. Given that the team that won the lottery was already picking ahead of the Bruins, the B’s, who have Toronto’s first-round pick from the Phil Kessel deal, will remain at ninth overall.
For the second consecutive year, the Oilers will pick first overall. Edmonton selected Windsor (OHL) left wing Taylor Hall with the top pick last season. Edmonton general manager Steve Tambellini had tried to swing a deal with Boston to get the second overall pick as well in order to secure both Hall and Plymouth (OHL) center Tyler Seguin, but the B’s kept the pick and selected Seguin.
The rest of the top five sees Colorado picking second, followed by the Panthers, Devils and New York Islanders.
|04.12.11 at 6:25 pm ET|
Given the odd setup of the Bruins and Canadiens’ first-round schedule (thank you, Rush and Lady Gaga), one of the oddities of the B’s trip to Montreal next week is that they will have both Tuesday and Wednesday to practice in between Games 3 and 4.
The question hasn’t been how, but where the B’s will spend next Tuesday and Wednesday. One logical option seemed to be somewhere in Vermont, but the team announced Tuesday that they will head to Lake Placid, N.Y. to practice at the Whiteface Lake Placid Olympic Center.
|04.12.11 at 3:23 pm ET|
“Our fans are going to want us to beat the hell out of them and their fans are going to want to see them to beat the hell out of us,” Lucic said. “We know the energy is going to be high in both buildings, and I think that’s what makes this rivalry so great, the fans are so pumped up about it. That’s what it makes it fun being a player, being a part of this rivalry.”
The Bruins are trying to advance past the Eastern Conference semifinals for the first time since 1992. They have lost in Game 7 in each of the last two seasons, including last year when they blew a 3-0 series lead and a 3-0 lead in Game 7 to the Flyers, dropping Game 7, 4-3, when the Bruins were called for too many men on the ice.
“It is the playoffs, and it can even come down to one little thing that makes a difference in winning or losing,” Lucic said. “For ourselves, we have to do a good job of managing our emotions and using it to our advantage and feeding off of it. We don’t have to change anything from how we played in the season.
“We still have to play with an edge and play that high-energy type game where we’re into the game emotionally but then again we have to manage it to the point where we’re not spending most of the time in the box.”