|05.10.10 at 8:55 pm ET|
This is what it felt like for the Bruins against the Carolina Hurricanes in Game 2 of the same round last spring.
They were coming off a 4-1 rout of the Hurricanes in Game 1 and they had just blown away the Canadiens in four straight the round before.
Then Game 2 happened and the whole perspective of the series changed.
Fast forward to tonight and a 3-0 Flyers lead after two periods. The Bruins had just lost a heart-breaker in overtime in Philly but still had a commanding 3-1 series lead, needing just to win Game 5 on home ice to advance to the Eastern Conference finals for the first time since 1992.
But the Flyers came to play and fight for their lives, even when Brian Boucher went down in the opening five minutes of the second with what appeared to be a nasty lower body injury. Boucher made a save and then immediately grabbed his midsection. He could barely make it to his skates before being helped off by Chris Pronger.
Enter Michael Leighton, the same Michael Leighton who started at Fenway Park on Jan. 1 and the same Michael Leighton who hadn’t even been active in a game since suffering a high ankle sprain on March 16 in Nashville.
He was tested on a Bruins power play and then the Flyers rewarded him when Scott Hartnell finally got credit for a goal. Then the Bruins started taking undisciplined penalties and Simon Gagne finally made them pay with a power play goal on Philadelphia’s fifth chance of the night.
The Flyers will begin the third period with another power play as Andrew Ference was whistled for a cross-checking penalty.
|05.10.10 at 7:52 pm ET|
The Flyers apparently brought their rabbit foots, horseshoes and other assorted good luck charms for Game 5 as they lead the Bruins, 1-0, after 20 minutes.
Villie Leino gave the Flyers the lead at 6:41 of the first period when Chris Pronger took a shot from the mid-slot that Tuukka Rask could not contain. The rebound came out to the left of Rask and Scott Hartnell was originally credited with the goal when it appeared he poked in the rebound for his first goal of the playoffs and first in 22 games. But a replay showed it was Leino and he was given his second of the playoffs.
The Flyers then had a golden opportunity to add to it when Vladimir Sobotka took a high sticking penalty on Hartnell. But the Bruins killed off 2 minutes, 37 seconds of it when the Flyers took a sloppy penalty on a line change for too many men on the ice.
Toward the end of the Bruins power play, Marc Savard had the puck on his stick and appeared to score, only to have the puck slip behind Boucher and through the crease.
Earlier in the first, Blake Wheeler was all alone in front of Boucher for a point-blank chance, only to have the puck roll off his stick before he could fire a shot. Then there was the shot from the right point that Milan Lucic and Miroslav Satan both appeared to get a piece of. The spotlight came on in front of Boucher, signaling a goal celebration.
One minor problem. The puck bounced straight up in the air and Boucher gloved it.
The Flyers outshot the Bruins, 10-8, in the first period and will start the second period with 33 seconds of power play time after Satan was called for a tripping late in the period.
|05.10.10 at 5:56 pm ET|
It is easy to forget that Brian Boucher is actually the third choice for the Flyers between the crease. The first was Ray Emery, lost for the season with a hip injury and the second was Michael Leighton who went down with a high ankle-sprain in early March.
The recovery time for a high-ankle sprain is supposed to be about eight weeks and then perhaps another couple for a skater to get back into optimal game condition. The Bruins Milan Lucic had a high-ankle sprain and has said repeatedly that it was the worst injury that anybody could go through and that he wishes it on nobody. Leighton admitted on Monday before Game 5 against the Bruins that it was definitely the worst injury of his career.
“You can strengthen all the muscles around it but that muscle just takes time to heal,” Leighton said. “You are still going to feel a little bit of pain for a while and it takes a long time to go away. It is a tough injury and I have never had it before and people tell me its the worst and so far it has been the worst of my career.”
Leighton said that he has been pushing for the playoffs because he has never actually played in an NHL playoff game through parts of nine seasons as a backup with 103 games under his belt since 2001. He has 27 games for Philadelphia with a 16-5-2 record, .918 save percentage and 2.48 goals against average. Outstanding numbers if he were able to replicate them through an entire season but up to this point in his career (he turns 29 in nine days) he has not been given the opportunity for full time status.
Now that Boucher has led the Flyers passed the New Jersey Devils in the quarterfinals, it probably does not matter how healthy Leighton is for the rest of series even if Boucher falls off a cliff coach Peter Laviolette will probably not put him in the net.
“He has just recently caught some good practices and we haven’t practiced a lot as a team due to the schedule so he has gotten some opportunities in practice where he has looked good, but I think there is always something to that game situation that you are talking about,” Laviolette said. “As far as the lineup goes tonight, Brian Boucher has played excellent for us. He looked really sharp this morning and I would expect a great game from not only our goaltenders, but everybody that plays the ice in front of them. You don’t have crystal balls to see how a game will pan out but Bouch [Brian Boucher] has been outstanding for us and he has put us in the position where we are today.”
For Leighton’s part, he seems frustrated and ready to usurp Boucher at first possible opportunity.
“I feel good. It has been about seven weeks and have been doing a lot of work and probably ready to play. Tuesday will be eight weeks so I want to get back into the lineup,” Leighton said. “Getting into the butterfly too start was the worst. I was doing a lot of stuff off ice the but the butterfly was the hardest thing to do for the first five or six weeks. I was able to push off it while I was in the butterfly, so, everything feels good now.”
|05.10.10 at 3:17 pm ET|
It is funny how the 40th anniversary season of the Bruins 1970 Stanley Cup Championship has worked out. Every time the team has planned to bring back the luminaries from that team — Bobby Orr, Derek Sanderson, Johnny Bucyk — the Bruins were about to play their biggest game of the season.
The first time the Bruins brought back the alumni was for an on-ice celebration of the 1970 team on March 18 — the day awaited by Bruins fans as the day that the team could get back at Matt Cooke and the Pittsburgh Penguins for Cooke’s hit on center Marc Savard that gave him a Grade 2 concussion and almost immediately elicited a change in NHL rules regarding hits to the head from behind. Orr and company were gracious to Cooke and the Bruins amidst a stretch where Boston was not playing its best hockey and Bruins fans were clamoring for blood. The game registered NESN’s highest regular season rating for a Bruins game in history.
On Monday the Bruins unveiled a statue at the west entrance to TD Garden of Orr’s “The Goal” — the game-winner that won the 1970 Stanley Cup Championship over St. Louis. It just so happens that the Bruins once again are playing their biggest game of the season — Game 5 of the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Flyers with a chance to clinch the series and move to the conference finals.
“The Broad Street Bullies? I have a lot of memories of playing against them,” Orr said. “That was a tough team, a hard working team. They were well coached with Freddy Shero, Bernie Parent in goal. All-star goalie. They had skill, they had top defensemen. Even their tougher guys could play the game.”
In a ceremony to unveil the statue the associated Bruins alum were present along with other Boston personalities such as Tim Wakefield and David Ortiz as well as the team’s owner Jeremy Jacobs and Jacob Wentzell, President of TD Garden.
The statue looks almost implausible as it stands with Orr flying through the air with no support for the bronze, is 110 percent life size and was sculpted by Harry Weber.
“It is cantilevered, which just means that means that it is sticking out from that one toe,” Weber said of the construction. “The reason we were able to do that is that stainless steal goes all the way down from the base of the ground up through that spray of ice, all the way through his foot, all the way through him, all the way up to the stick. It is like a giant jungle gym all the way up through the statue otherwise bronze wouldn’t carry the weight.”
After the ceremony Jacobs was asked about Orr’s departure from the Bruins, which has caused the owner’s name to have been dragged through the mud since he purchased the team in 1975. Orr left the Bruins despite a lucrative contract offer from the team after agent Alan Eagleson allegedly told the star defenseman that the Chicago Blackhawks had a better deal. Jacobs was mum, as he has been for the last 35 years, on the specifics that led one of the greatest hockey players of all time away from Boston.
“I am not going there. That was back then. If I knew what I know now then it would have been a different story,” Jacobs said. “It was a snapshot in a time warp. I was young, he was young. It just didn’t unfold the way it should have. He came back here, maybe not as a player, but he came back here as a personality that is so important to this whole community. Let’s face it, it didn’t happen like it should have. He had issues, a young man following a dream and his advisors and it didn’t work out. But that was then.”
|05.10.10 at 12:30 pm ET|
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.”
|05.09.10 at 3:18 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — Pressure?
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.”
|05.07.10 at 10:12 pm ET|
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.
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.
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