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Bergeron the stick that stirs Bruins offense

05.10.10 at 12:30 pm ET
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For all the talk about Miroslav Satan, his hands and his legions or Mark Recchi and how he is the remarkable ageless one during these 2010 Stanley Cup playoffs, it is Patrice Bergeron who actually leads the Bruins in points this postseason.

Bergeron has four goals and seven assists through the first 11 games of the playoffs and he has been a difference-maker on both sides of the blue line. One has to wonder, though, if a guy like Bergeron, known especially to be a great defensive forward who is strong on the faceoff, purposely started to ramp up his offensive production. It seems in the nature of a guy like Bergeron, quiet yet with a developed sense of responsibility, to take it upon himself to create more offense for a team that struggled to light the lamp throughout the year.

“If you play defensively sound and it starts for a good offense. You know, I have always done that and it has been going well,” Bergeron said. “I think right now, I don’t think I am doing anything different, it is just going in. Obviously we needed it in the playoffs and everyone wants to chip in anyway possible and you know, right now, I am just happy that it is going the way it and and I just want it to keep on going.”

Bergeron leads the team in playoff shots at 33 (two more than Michael Ryder, four more Satan and six more than the nearest defensemen, Zdeno Chara and Johnny Boychuk at 27). He is second in assists (Dennis Wideman leads with nine) and has been dominant on the faceoff dot against the likes of Flyers captain Mike Richards or Sabres center Derek Roy. He posted his first sub-50 percent faceoff game of the playoffs on Friday in Game 4 but his numbers in the circle have been closer to 60 and 70 percent for most games this postseason.

“I think in Game 4 we didn’t do as good on the faceoff that we would have liked to so, it is huge to get the puck back and work with the puck and play a puck possession game and we have done a great job of that,” Bergeron said. “So, obviously we want to start with the puck more often to start with the puck as much as we can.”

It is not like Bergeron has all of a sudden flipped a switch in terms of offensive efficiency. He led the Bruins in point at 52 this year, which is not a lot in consideration with the NHL points leaders but still not a paltry sum. But, as the Bruins offense has come awake during the playoffs, either by good fortune that was not present during the regular season or increased efforts by guys like Recchi and Satan in the offensive zone, Bergeron by been the swizzle in the Bruins coffee.

Bruins coach Claude Julien knows that it is the responsibility of his players to play a good two-way game, such as the standard is Bergeron. The center was chosen for the Canadian Olympic team because of his defensive prowess and responsibility. For the Bruins, that approach has also turned into points on the scoreboard.

“We expect everybody to play a good two-way game. We always encourage our guys to be proactive offensively and we want them to be responsible defensively that is what you want in a well rounded team,” Juliens said. “That is what we have encouraged all year, whether is has happened or not, the way we like it, that is a different story. But, to have those guys do that it just makes us a better hockey team and certainly we encourage our guys to be more proactive.”

Read More: Claude Julien, Patrice Bergeron,

Sunday notes: Pressure? What pressure for Game 5?

05.09.10 at 3:18 pm ET
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WILMINGTON — Pressure?

Whatever.

There has been a lot of talk in this Eastern Conference semifinals series about where the pressure lays. Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said that the pressure is on the Bruins before Game 4, Mark Recchi said afterward that he does not see where Laviolette gets that notion. Really though, we are talking about pressure. It is like talking about “character” — some esoteric notion that you know exists and it effects how a team plays and is perceived but it cannot be quantitated or examined until well after the point of pressure and high anxiety has passed.

“I feel that every game there has got to be a sense of urgency and that is the way we have approached it,”  coach Claude Julien said. “Some people call it pressure some people call it something else. You put the pressure on yourself to do well because we want to do well. I think pressure is something that, if you handle well, is a great thing to have on your side. If you can’t handle it well it is certainly something that can be detrimental to your team.”

Part of the reason the Bruins may have been playing so well through the playoffs is that their definition of “pressure” may have worn off. The ultimate embarrassment for Boston would have been to not qualify for the playoffs at all a season after having the best record in the Eastern Conference and starting the year as one of the Stanley Cup favorites. In that regard there was more pressure through the end of March into April than there has been during the playoffs.

“Well, we have been better for quite a while. We did it when we got into the playoffs. This is a better team and you move on from there,” Julien said. “There was a sense of urgency or whatever you want to call it before the playoffs started so, we have gone through that and are adjusting to it right now. I find we are very focused team right now. We just have to keep that in the right direction and for us, everybody game is a must-win. So, no matter what, every game is a must win, we take that approach and it has served us well.”

After making the tournament and getting out of the first round, the fear of embarrassment or failure, which might be a good definition of pressure, has not been present. They are able to go out and play hard and have fun while working hard. It is the playoffs, it is supposed to be fun because, after all, hockey is just a game.

“You can’t play this game and not have fun. You guys can’t do your job and not enjoy it. Otherwise, might as well changed your job right?” Julien said.  “It is the same thing for players. You have to go out and love this time of year. There’s a bunch of teams right now watching us play that would love to be where we are and that is fun. We have to take that approach and we have taken that approach. We have come into the dressing room after a period either down a couple of goals or tied or whatever and say ‘guys, lets just go out there and win this game and have fun doing it.’ And the guys have taken that approach and it has worked well for us.”

Notes: The full compliment of healthy Bruins skaters were present at Ristuccia with Adam McQuaid the only player who might have been a possibility missing. He is still out with a “lower-body injury” and remains doubtful for Monday’s Game 5. It is not likely that McQuaid would play either as Mark Stuart has come back to the lineup and, after a poor Game 4, feels that he will be able to get back up to mental and physical speed in his second playoff game of the year.

“Yeah, it was a little different actually, I felt like I was crashing the party,” Stuart said. “I thought my emotion level would be there because of the playoffs and it definitely was because of the situation and the intensity is way up and everything is faster. I think I will be up to speed tomorrow.”

Dennis Seidenberg skated on the Ristuccia ice after the rest of the team had completed its practice and was worked out by trainer John Whitesides. Seidenberg has been on the ice for two days in a row now as he battles back from a lacerated tendon suffered in Toronto on April 3. He had a hard cast taken off the left forearm last Monday to reveal a long, horizontal scar five inches up from his wrist. He is not expected to be back until at least eight weeks after the surgery but Julien said that it has been encouraging to gets guys back into the lineup even as big performers (Marco Sturm, David Krejci) have hit the infirmary.

“Any time you see that kind of thing around your team it is a positive,” Julien said. “We have been hit this week with some big injuries but then you look at the other side and you see some other guys start to come around. So, hopefully we continue to win hockey games to give those guys and opportunity to come back.”

Read More: Adam McQuaid, Claude Julien, Mark Stuart, Peter Laviolette

Flyers stay alive with Game 4 OT victory

05.07.10 at 10:12 pm ET
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PHILADELPHIA – The Flyers kept their season alive and got a digit in the win column in the Eastern Conference semifinals as they beat Boston 5-4 in overtime of Game 4 at the Wachovia Center on Friday evening. Simon Gagne scored the game-winner in the extra frame to keep Philadelphia’s Stanley Cup hopes alive. Brian Boucher got his first win of the series and stopped Tuukka Rask’s four-game playoff winning streak in the process to force a Game 5 in Boston on Monday.

The Flyers were up by a goal by Ville Leino late in the third period and looked like they would squeak out the win after Boston came back from a two-goal deficit to tie it a three but Mark Recchi scored an empty-net goal with 31.5 seconds left in the game to send it to overtime.

Boston took the early lead for the third time in the four games as Mark Recchi recorded his fifth strike of the playoffs at 15:37 in the first period. The play was set up by strong play from Dennis Wideman and Daniel Paille through the netural zone that set up center Patrice Bergeron on a partial break on Boucher. Bergeron got off a weak shot but Boucher had committed on the ice and was forced to deflect the puck back into the slot with his side while laying on his side. Recchi was following Bergeron on the play and flipped it high for the 1-0 advantage.

The Flyers came back on during a 4-on-4 after Scott Hartnell and Vladimir Sobotka went to the box with matching roughing penalties at 18:06 in the first. Defenseman Matt Carle rushed down the left wing and slipped the puck through the high slot to the stick of Claude Giroux who was skating on a parallel line with Danny Briere. Giroux slowed up and tapped the puck to Briere who sent a snap shot on Rask that found its way to the back of the net to tie it at 19:06.

The Flyers took the lead with two goals in the second period, the first time in the series that they have had a two-goal advantage over the Bruins. Chris Pronger scored the first when he took a slap shot from the high slot that deflected off of defenseman Mark Stuart’s skate and zipped passed Rask at 4:28 to make it 2-1. Giroux made it 3-1 when he crashed the net as Scott Hartnell was battling on the elbow of the crease to dislodge the puck from a tie-up against the post. Hartnell was able to kick it through the crease and Giroux slammed it home at 8:35.

Boston got back to within a goal at 10:56. Michael Ryder took a slap shot from the high slot that went wide of Boucher’s net and rebounded off the end wall back to the corner of the crease. Boucher went to cover but Vladimir Sobotka crashed the goalie and hit the glove to dislodge the puck and squirt it through Boucher’s legs to get Boston back with a goal.

The Bruins would tie it back up at three early in the third on the power play. Dennis Wideman took a wrist shot from the left point that he elevated to Milan Lucic’s hip as the forward was camped in the slot in front of Boucher. Lucic got an eek of a tip on the puck to deflect it through the crease at 3:49.

Three Stars

Chris Pronger — Had a goal and a big assist on the game-winner to keep his team playing hockey in the month of May.

Claude Giroux — The sophomore forward helped the Flyers create offense with a goal and an assist to give him nine points through the playoffs.

Mark Recchi — The game-tying goal was simply amazing as the veteran and future Hall of Famer added another chapter to his legacy.

Turning Point – Lucic’s tip was set up by a Flyers penalty to Ville Leino for hooking at 2:59 in the third period. The Flyers had held the Bruins scoreless through their first two power play attempts of the game but Boston was able to settle the puck in its third attempt and cycle it to the point where Wideman could wind up and fire. Lucic was in decent position in the slot and shot the shaft of his stick on it, enough to get it passed Boucher. The goal made the game competitive again until late in the Recchi sent it to overtime.

Key Play – Recchi’s game-tying goal will be one of those moments that goes down in NHL playoff lore. He could have one-timed the shot off the stick of Patrice Bergeron but stopped, held it for a moment, let Boucher get out of position and flipped it top shelf to send the game to an extra frame.

Read More: Brian Boucher, Chris Pronger, Danny Briere, Mark Recchi

Second period summary: Bruins vs. Flyers – Game 4

05.07.10 at 8:39 pm ET
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PHILADELPHIA — It looks like the Flyers want to continue to play hockey in the spring of 2010. They scored two goals to take a 3-2 lead into the third, the first time in the series where they have had a lead entering the deciding period.

The Bruins got a power play opportunity early when Danny Briere pinched Dennis Wideman on the half wall and got his stick up just a bit too high and whacked Wideman in the face for Boston’s first man-advantage of the game. Boston was able to get a couple shots off but did not break through Brian Boucher and the chance slipped by.

Chris Pronger then gave the Flyers a rare thing for them in the series — a lead. He had a slap shot from the high slot that deflected off of defenseman Mark Stuart’s skate on its way through Tuukka Rask to make it 2-1 at 4:28.

It looked like Boston would be able to grab the momentum right back when Daniel Carcillo went to the box for cross-checking at 5:26 but the Philadelphia penalty kill was again on top of its game as Boston got off another couple shots before it was killed.

Philadelphia then had a series first for it when it took a two-goal lead at 8:35. Forward Scott Hartnell was in a scrum at the very corner of the net and kicked the puck through the crease where a crashing Claude Giroux made it 3-1 as he slammed it home passed Rask.

Boston got a goal back at 10:56. Michael Ryder had a shot from the slot go wide of Boucher but bounced off the end wall back to the side of the crease. Boucher went to cover the puck but Vladimir Sobotka crashed the net and hit Boucher’s glove, dislodging the puck and sending it through the pads into the net to make it 3-2.

Read More: Brian Boucher, Chris Pronger, Claude Giroux, Daniel Carcillo

First period summary: Bruins vs. Flyers – Game 4

05.07.10 at 7:50 pm ET
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PHILADELPHIA — The Wachovia Center feels much more alive on Friday than it did on Wednesday for Game 3. The theme music from the Rocky music led the Flyers on to the ice (noticeably absent from Game 3) and a couple early Philadelphia chances got the crowd in the game.

Milan Lucic took the first penalty of the game as the Flyers went on the power play for high sticking at 8:24. But, as it has been all series long, Philadelphia got the Rask treatment as he blocked both shots that were sent on him during the man-advantage and Boston continued its strong penalty kill that has not allowed a power play goal since Game 1 with 10 kills in the last two games into the the start of Game 4.

Boston got on the board first when Mark Recchi added his fifth goal of the playoffs after Patrice Bergeron got on a partial break set up by Dennis Wideman and Daniel Paille through the neutral zone. Bergeron had a weak shot on Brian Boucher but the goaltender laid out and deflected the puck back into the slot with his stick where Recchi, following the play, flipped it to the top of the net at 15:37 for the third opening goal by the Bruins in the four games.

A dustup between Vladimir Sobotka, Scott Hartnell and Arron Asham in front of the Flyers bench at 18:04 sent Sobotka and Hartnell to the box for matching roughing penalties at 18:04. Philadelphia used the extra ice space to its advantage as Matt Carle came down the left wing on the rush rush and crossed the puck through the high slot to Claude Giroux who tapped it aside to Danny Briere who sent a wrist shot from the top of the dot on Rask that had eyes and the game was tied at one at 19:06.

The Bruins lead in the shot department heading into the second with a 10 to nine advantage.

Read More: Brian Boucher, Claude Giroux, Danny Briere, Mark Recchi

Morning notes: Gagne a game-time decision

05.07.10 at 1:55 pm ET
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PHILADELPHIA — The Broad Street faithful are hoping to see one of their old friends on the ice at the Wachovia Center on Friday and hope that he will be able to continue their season, if only just a little bit longer.

Simon Gagne will be a game-time decision for Game 4 after having surgery on a broken toe on April 23 after the fourth game of the quarterfinals against the Devils. Gagne skated at the Flyers practice facility in Vorhees, NJ on Thursday but did not take part in Philadelphia’s morning Friday. He was the only Flyers player to [officially] address the media before Game 4 and said that he will take part in warmups and consult with the athletic trainer and doctors before making a decision on whether or not he will play.

“There is no need right now to go out there and skate. I am going to wait in my warmup and put all the chance on my side and decide from there,” Gagne said.

Gagne had an MRI on the toe on Thursday after practice to make sure it had not moved or been displaced during the skate. All results were OK and now it just seems like how much pain he can withstand and how much the injury will allow him to contribute.

“I am going to have to talk to the trainer after warmup and tell him how I feel and get the call from the doctor,” Gagne said. “I talked to him yesterday and we went and got that MRI and we talked a little bit about what I have to look for to be able to play. Do, like I said, I need to get ready for warmup and we will chat with Jimmy [McCrossin -- athletic trainer] after warmup and then we will decide if we are good to go.”

Coach Peter Laviolette said in his morning news conference that the emotional benefit from getting a player back is fleeting when it comes to the work it takes to win a hockey game. He would talk nothing of assumptions concerning whether or not Gagne would play or what his minutes would be other than to say that he probably would not spend much time on the penalty kill.

“When the players return I think there has to be more than the bang that you might get in the first minute,” Laviolette said. “There is so much work that has to be done throughout the course of the game and even when a player, when he does return, I think it is important that they are contributing factors. Maybe you get a quick boost but there is a lot of work to be done. Boston won’t put a lot of stock into a player when he returns to the lineup.”

The Flyers are going to need all the help they can get if they want to climb back into this series. Gagne admitted that a Game 4 timetable was not on his mind, he figured, at best, Game 5, perhaps later in the series. A player has to do what a player has to do. It is playoff hockey.

“To be honest with you, I was looking toward Game 5 or maybe the end of the series, but I started to actually feel pretty good before Game 3,” Gagne said. “It is the playoffs and right now we are against the wall and we have to win and we are not allowed to lose any games. It is right there and if I feel good enough to play, I will be there.”

Laviolette expects the Flyers to play to win Friday night, regardless of the status of Simon Gagne. He went so far as to say that the pressure had shifted to the Bruins, which is not all that unreasonable. The fourth game is always the hardest to claim. Boston found that out in Game 5 of the quarterfinals against the Sabres.

“I would expect us to play a really good hockey game,” Laviolette said. “We had a good practice yesterday, had a good meeting. Our backs are up against the wall but the pressure really shifts to Boston at this point, not so much on us. I would think our guys are going to come out with one heck of an effort tonight.”

Morning notes — The Bruins had a full team practice while only a couple Flyers took part in the morning skate, reversed from the situation on Thursday we Philadelphia had a full team practice and the Boston had a workout day (in Bruins parlance, that means they played soccer in the hallway of the Wachovia center). Shawn Thornton did not skate for the Bruins and coach Claude Julien said that “he exercised his option” on whether to skate or not. An interesting choice for a player who does not have a contract after the season ends. Trent Whitfield is the probably replacement for David Krejci in the Bruins lineup as Julien likes the idea of having five true centermen in the lineup but the decision between him and Brad Marchand will be made after warmups.

Read More: Brad Marchand, Claude Julien, Peter Laviolette, Philadelphia Flyers

Stuart medically cleared, game-time decision for Game 4

05.07.10 at 12:54 pm ET
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PHILADELPHIA — The revolving door continues.

Defenseman Adam McQuaid goes down in the first period of Game 3 with a lower body injury and all of a sudden Mark Stuart is medically cleared to play coming back from cellulitis in his left hand. It has been the way the Bruins have rolled this year — a deep roster of capable players mixed with a little serendipity.

“Yeah, still a game-time decision but if they call my name I am ready to go,” Stuart said. “Yeah, it is just me and the other guys to see who is going. For now it [the decisions] is in warmups, after warmups, something like that.”

The other decisions of which Stuart speaks would be between him, Andrew Bodnarchuk, Andy Wozniewski and Jeffrey Penner. It is hard to imagine that coach Claude Julien would take one of the two rookies (Bodnarchuk, Penner) or lifetime AHL blue liner Wozniewski over a relatively healthy Stuart. Even if McQuaid was not injured, Stuart still should get the nod coming back. He is a solid top-four NHL defenseman and when he is playing well, the Bruins defensive corps is deep and that much tougher to crack. Stuart said that it is a little bit different coming back for the playoffs — the intensity is must higher — but it would be the same for him as the other defenseman who have been sitting all playoffs.

“Yeah, a little bit. It usually comes back pretty quick. You try to get your mental game going as quick as you can and hope that the physical part catches up. I have been on the ice and it feels good but now it is just a matter in getting in some games,” Stuart said.

Stuart’s injury is a bit of an odd one as there is actually nothing structurally wrong with him. Cellulitis is a bone infection and he has been on antibiotics treating it. The biggest fear would be to contaminate the infection, there is a lot of other people’s sweat and potentially blood in a hockey game. Yet, if the staff has medically cleared him, there should be no reason not to suit him up. He has been skating and working hard to come back for the last week and it seems that he is ready to make a go of it.

“It has been quite a bit in a short time. I would not say rushing it but like I said before I have the luxury of the guys playing so well and getting some wins,” Stuart said. “I don’t know if it will be harder or easier, actually. It is playoffs, it is fun. You kind of get into the intensity early. I have not played in the games but watching them and being around the guys you definitely feel the energy.”

Read More: Mark Stuart,
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