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Claude Julien: Tomas Kaberle will ‘have to be even bigger’

05.11.11 at 12:30 pm ET
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Tomas Kaberle has been one of the most scrutinized Bruins since he arrived in Boston in mid-February, and for good reason. He wasn’t contributing as much on offense and the power play as he was expected to, and he was making some costly mistakes in his own zone.

Claude Julien said he thought Kaberle played better in the Bruins’ most recent series against the Flyers, though. In fact, the 12-year veteran finished the series with a plus-4 rating.

“I know at one point we had expected a little more out of him, and we were clear with that,” Julien said. “I think since that time, he’€™s certainly been a pretty good player for us these last few games against Philly. We’€™ve seen him move the puck extremely well and I think he’€™s been a better player. … We’€™ve liked the way he’€™s handled the puck and handled the pressure of the forecheck and getting the attack going.”

Julien said Kaberle will have to step up even more in the Eastern Conference finals against the Lightning because of their 1-3-1 scheme that clogs up the neutral zone (explained here).

“I think in this series coming up, he’€™s going to have to be even bigger for us because of the way they play the game,” Julien said. “We’€™re going to need some really good puck movement from the back end, so he’€™s going to be a key element to our success.”

Read More: 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Claude Julien, Tomas Kaberle,

Nathan Horton ready to face old ‘rivals’ with stakes raised

05.10.11 at 8:40 pm ET
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Back during the preseason, Nathan Horton, who had come to the Bruins after playing the first six years of his career in Florida, was gearing up for his first game against the Canadiens. Sure, it was an exhibition, but it was a big deal for a player who never felt he played in a major rivalry.

Yet it wasn’t his first rivalry, it was just his first major rivalry. In asking Peter Chiarelli about it for a story, the general manager said “the Florida-Tampa rivalry, when it was going, actually there were some good games.”

It was tough for it to be seen as a major rivalry for Horton given that the stakes weren’t nearly as high. In his last three years in Florida, neither team made the playoffs, or even finished better than third in the Southeast Division. Horton had identified the in-state battle as being the closest thing he had to preparation for Bruins-Habs, saying he had “a little rivalry with Tampa Bay in Florida, but not really.”

What a difference a year makes.

Last season, only three points separated the fourth-place Lightning from the last-place Panthers in the cellar of their division. A year later, Horton is finally up to face the Lightning, though it’s taken relocation for him and major changes to Tampa Bay’s organization and roster to make it possible.

With a new general manager in Steve Yzerman, a new coach in Guy Boucher and a revamped roster, the Lightning are ready to storm into Boston this weekend with the intention of grabbing a lead in the Eastern Conference finals. Horton, still in his first postseason, is looking for a different result, and when it comes to him facing the lightning, the stakes are finally high.

“It’s weird,” Horton said Tuesday. “I mean, I’ve played them so many times in my career from when I played [in Florida]. They’ve been great this year. They’ve changed a lot from when I was there. They’ve gotten a lot better. Different faces, a new coaching staff. They’re a real talented team, but it’s definitely weird to be playing them.”

For Horton, it’s simply a sign of what change can do. For a player who wanted out of Florida, he’s enjoyed every second (his smile would suggest he’s even enjoyed the struggles) of his time in Boston. Change has been good for him, and it’s been good for the Lightning.

“It changes so quickly,” Horton said. “It’s going to be fun to go back there, and hopefully we can win some games.”

In four games against Tampa Bay this year, Horton has three assists.

Read More: 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Guy Boucher, Nathan Horton, Peter Chiarelli

NESN announces multi-year extension with Jack Edwards

05.10.11 at 5:26 pm ET
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NESN announced that it had reached a multi-year extension with Jack Edwards. Edwards has been the play-by-play man for the network’s coverage of the Bruins since 2005.

‘€œFor the past six years, Jack has been an energetic and important part of NESN’€™s Bruins hockey coverage,’€ Sean McGrail, NESN President and CEO, said in the press release announcing the agreement. ‘€œWe are very happy to extend his contract, and look forward to his passionate presence in the broadcast booth for years to come.’€

Edwards added in the statement: ‘€œWho has more fun than us? To work with Brick, Naoko, and our NESN production crew is to live the dream. We feed off the energy and passion of Bruins fans across New England and hockey fans all over the world. We love our work and we love working together. To be part of that, to share the space with people who pour so much of their time and effort into covering this team and this sport, is the pinnacle of my career.’€

Read More: Jack Edwards, NESN,

Fun while it lasted: Chris Kelly’s caged days are over

05.10.11 at 3:51 pm ET
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Bruins center Chris Kelly couldn’t wait to get rid of his full cage, and he finally did just that on Tuesday.

Kelly, who had to wear the cage after hitting his face on the post in Game 3 of the quarterfinals vs. the Canadiens, was asked time and time again whether he feared losing the cage given the success it seemingly brought him. Kelly had just six points in his first 27 games with the Bruins, but since donning the cage in Game 4 of the quarterfinals, he has had six points in eight games. Now ready to take Patrice Bergeron‘s spot on the second line until the concussed center returns, Kelly will wear an extended visor, which he said “feels a lot better.”

Kelly said that as much as he grew tired of the cage’s popularity, he did not bury or burn it, but he is officially done with it.

“I didn’t bury it. I don’t know what they did with it,” he said with a relieved grin. “Obviously you guys love it, rightfully so, but it was time to move forward, and this was a great alternative.”

Read More: 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Chris Kelly, Patrice Bergeron,

Patrice Bergeron at the Garden, Claude Julien says concussed center is ‘doing better’

05.10.11 at 1:44 pm ET
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Bruins center Patrice Bergeron was at TD Garden Tuesday, and while he did not practice with his teammates, his mere presence is something the team is taking as a positive sign for the concussed the25-year-old.

“He’s doing better,” coach Claude Julien said. “He’s here and he’s doing better, so again, he’s dealing with the concussion symptoms and everything else, the protocol of it. He’s here today because he’s feeling better. I think we’re getting some positive feedback from him.”

Bergeron suffered a mild concussion in the third period of the Bruins’ 5-1 win in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference semifinals over the Flyers. He leads the B’s with 12 points this postseason and is expected to miss the beginning of the conference finals vs. the Lightning.

Read More: 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Claude Julien, Patrice Bergeron,

Bruins-Lightning open up Saturday night at TD Garden

05.10.11 at 1:20 pm ET
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The NHL announced Tuesday that the Bruins will host the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals Saturday night at 8 p.m. at TD Garden.

Both teams will be well-rested since they swept their respective conference semifinal series. The Bruins beat the Flyers in four straight, concluding their sweep last Friday night. They will have had seven days off before playing Saturday. The Lightning will be playing on even more rest, eliminating the Capitals on May 4 in four straight, a span of nine days between games.

Game 2 will also be in Boston Tuesday night at 8 p.m. before the series shifts to St. Petersburg for Games 3 and 4. The Lightning host the Bruins Thursday, May 19 at 8:00 p.m. ET and Saturday, May 21 at 1:30 p.m. ET at the St. Pete Times Forum.

If necessary, Game 5 is set for Monday, May 23 at 8:00 p.m. ET in Boston, while Game 6 will be back in Tampa Bay on Wednesday, May 25 at 8:00 p.m. ET, and Game 7 will be played in Boston on Friday, May 27 at 8:00 p.m. ET. The Bruins have also released a limited number of tickets for Games 1, 2 and 5.

Tickets are available for purchase at the TD Garden Box Office, on www.bostonbruins.com or via phone by calling Ticketmaster at 800-745-3000. The Bruins say a limited number of tickets will likely be released from various NHL and team holds between now and the start of each game.

Read More: 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Boston Bruins, NHL, Tampa Bay Lightning

Fun with 1-3-1: How the Lightning beat teams in the neutral zone

05.09.11 at 3:56 pm ET
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WILMINGTON ‘€“ It’€™s spoken about as though it’€™s legend: the vaunted Tampa Bay 1-3- 1. It’€™s the key to Guy Boucher‘€™s success, and the reason why the Lightning are in the Eastern Conference finals. It can make opposing teams crumble ‘€“ just ask the Capitals. It sure is something.

But, um, what is it?

Since it seems it will be a matter of days before the Lightning and Bruins actually meet in the conference finals, there’€™s plenty of time to explain.

The 1-3-1 is a neutral zone scheme employed by the Lightning, and it seems to be a variation of the popular ‘€œtrap’€ system. Teams that play a trap style put one man on the puck, backed by essentially two guys behind him, and two defensemen back. Think of it as a 1-2-2 for the sake of understanding the differences.

In the 1-3-1, there is only one man hanging back, with three guys between the guy playing the puck and the last defenseman. For a fantastically in-depth look at Tampa’€™s 1-3-1, check out this lesson from the Japer’€™s Rink blog in DC.

The purpose of the 1-3-1 is to push the play toward the boards. If the first guy can do that, the three skaters in front of the man back (or ‘€œfree safety’€ as the blog likens it to), can make it very difficult for the team bringing it through the neutral zone to find seams. If turnovers can be created as a result, suddenly the team bringing the puck through the neutral zone is in big trouble.

‘€œIf you get caught flat-footed I think you are playing into their strength,’€ Claude Julien said after Monday’€™s practice. ‘€œIf you create turnovers you are obviously going to pay for it so those are two of the main things you have to be careful about when they play that system.

‘€œWhen I say we saw Montreal sit back, but I think they sit back even more. And they are even deeper so the one thing they do is once they turn that puck over they counter quickly. It’€™s going to be really important that we minimize those and obviously you have to create some speed through the neutral zone because standing still you’€™re a dead duck.’€

We’€™ll have more on the 1-3-1 and which Bruin could be instrumental in the 1-3-1.

Read More: 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Claude Julien, Guy Boucher,
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