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Big minutes coming for the blueliners

04.07.10 at 12:39 pm ET
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WILMINGTON — What happens when the core disintegrates?

You could take the movie version like in that terrible version of a modern B movie “The Core” in which there are a lot of mysterious lightning storms that happen to strike over Rome as an example. Or maybe in the new blockbuster “2012″ in which the world tears itself to shreds and humanity’s elite are forced to take refuge in the digital age version of the ark. Either way, it was not that pretty.

Perhaps not quite as dramatic, but the Bruins have relied on steady defense and goaltending this year to put themselves in position to make the playoffs despite their league-worst offense. Yet, in the last week, the Bruins have had two of their top three defensemen need to have surgery and their best blueliner and captain break his nose. Mark Stuart will miss about two weeks after having surgery for cellulitis in his finger and Dennis Seidenberg is out for the rest of the season (barring some miraculous playoff run) after having surgery to fix a lacerated flexor carpi radialis tendon in his left forearm that he sustained in the first period against Toronto on Saturday.

The Seidenberg surgery came more out of the blue because it seemed that he was all right on Tuesday after he talked to the media, giving no indication that an operation was imminent.

“I think in the morning he felt pain and obviously before the game we tried something with him and in the warmup he still felt pain,” coach Claude Julien said. “In the short time I have known him I think it is pretty obvious that he is a tough individual, so for him not to go something was obviously wrong and the diagnosis we got from Toronto was not the same diagnosis we got here.”

Add to that the perpetual mystery that is Andrew Ference (out for the regular season but being evaluated every day) and Boston has all of a sudden become very light on the back end.

Practice at Ristuccia on Wednesday looked a little more like training camp than a team preparing for its final three games in a season in a playoff race. Adam McQuaid and Andrew Bodnarchuk have been recalled to the Bruins from Providence, and the ways things are going they are up for longer than just the usual “emergency basis.” On the offensive side, Trent Whitfield and Brad Marchand are not exactly the players one would expect to see on the roster in early April, but so it goes. (To be fair, Marchand and Whitfield have earned their extended cups of coffee.)

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Read More: Adam McQuaid, Andrew Ference, Claude Julien, Dennis Seidenberg

Seidenberg out 8 weeks after surgery

04.07.10 at 10:31 am ET
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The Bruins announced that defenseman Dennis Seidenberg had successful surgery to repair a lacerated flexor carpi radialis tendon in his left forearm and is expected to sidelined for eight weeks. Seidenberg suffered the injury during the first period of the Bruins’ game vs. the Maple Leafs on Saturday in Toronto.

Seidenberg has played in 17 games for the Bruins since being acquired from the Florida Panthers at the trade deadline on March 3. He has two goals, seven assists and a plus-9 rating.

Read More: Bruins, Dennis Seidenberg,

Getting behind the Rask

04.06.10 at 1:54 pm ET
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WILMINGTON — The Bruins had a light practice at Ristuccia Arena on Tuesday after returning from Washington the night before. Everything seems copacetic around the team in this final week of the season — the B’s are three points above the playoff demarcation line with three games to play and have a distinct advantage over the free-falling eighth-place Flyers — goaltending.

Tuukka Rask has been the most valuable player for the Bruins since the Olympic break (with apologies to Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci) and one of the best, if not the best, goaltenders in the NHL this season. There probably will be no Vezina Trophy for Rask considering how much time he has split with Tim Thomas this season, or even a Calder Trophy for the league’s best rookie. It does not seem to matter to Rask, who does not let the talk faze him or the pressure of his first playoff race affect him.

“Try not to let the pressure get on you and play the game,” Rask said. “Try not to let too many outside things get into my head. It has been my approach since day one and do my best out there.”

Rask leads the league in goals-against average at 1.99 and save percentage at .930, both ahead of Buffalo’s Ryan Miller, the goaltender who has garnered the most buzz this year especially after leading the U.S. Olympic team to a silver medal in Vancouver. A lot of professional athletes will say that they do not care about the statistics that fans and reporters pore over every day, but then you see them in the dressing room staring at the same stat sheet that everybody else is handed after the game. With Rask’s easygoing demeanor, when he says that he does not really pay attention to the stats, it is easy to believe him.

“It’s just stats. I think people like to look at them more than the players,” Rask said. “You know, it is funny when goalies play good and a lot of people talk about them and then suddenly you are the man and and then you don’t play so good and you are not the man anymore. I just try to do my job and have fun out there.”

When asked if how he felt about his progression through the season, Rask just shrugged as if his entire rookie season was not all that important. At least not until it is actually over.

“It has been a good year,” Rask said. “I have done the things that I wanted to do but I don’t think it is time to look back on the season right now. We’ve still got three games left in the regular season and the playoffs and we can talk about it after the season.”

Ference skates, no timetable for return

Defenseman Andrew Ference skated on Tuesday morning though he is still not quite sure when, or if, he will be able to get into a game before the season (including the playoffs) ends. He is struggling with an odd tango that comes with groin/hernia injuries because it is very much a “one step forward, one step back” type of process. Ference said that he is trying to get the swelling in the area down with treatment that includes alternating trips between the cold and hot tubs, massage and some light activity (including skating). The goal for Ference is to be able to come back and play more than a few games and be healthy enough to be a productive member of the team.

“When the guys were away we tried to get a lot of the swelling out,” Ference said. “It is kind of deja vu progress and try to get all the swelling and blood out of there so that I can skate properly and try to, obviously, get to a point where I can help somewhere down the line.”

Ference has come to accept the injury ward. As a veteran he understands that it is an inescapable part of the game and there is really no use being frustrated.

“It is part of the game. If I was 20 years old and hadn’t been around that long I would probably be more frustrated,” Ference said. “But, you get a little better mindset about it when you are older because it is not something that you can control. So you deal with it, suck it up and get better. I am not going to sit and pout about it.”

Spoken like a true veteran of countless hours of physical therapy.

Read More: Andrew Ference, Tuukka Rask,

Hat trick: A point made in loss

04.06.10 at 12:18 am ET
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All season long the Bruins have had their doubters, especially when it concerned matters of the heart. Specifically, do they have the intestinal fortitude to get the job done when the odds are against them?

On Monday night, during a 3-2 overtime loss to Washington (click here for the full recap) ‘€” the most dominant team in the NHL this season ‘€” the Bruins may have shown they do want to play into the second season.

With Adam McQuaid playing nine minutes and Andrew Bodnarchuk playing just six, and their regular rotation of defensemen shortened to four because of 15 stitches in Dennis Seidenberg’s left wrist, the Bruins managed to hang punch-for-punch with Alex Ovechkin, Alexander Semin and the team that has the President’s Trophy wrapped up.

Here are three things we learned:

THE BRUINS SHOW HEART

When Niklas Backstrom’s shot trickled by Tuukka Rask at 7:36 of the first period, the Bruins had to wait nearly seven minutes through a painfully slow video review, only to have the goal upheld.

But following that goal, the Bruins picked up their skating and forechecking.

The scoring chances were again plentiful for Boston, and it seemed for the first 19 minutes, 58.4 seconds of the opening period, they would be frustrated again.

While the Bruins were frustrated on the power play again ‘€” going 0-for-3 ‘€” they did their best to put pressure on Theodore.

Maybe most importantly, the Bruins showed they weren’t intimidated by the Captials, even when they fell behind 1-0 on Backstrom’s goal. If the two teams meet in the first round, the Bruins coaching staff is likely to show the team a tape of this game and show them why and how they can win.

DENNIS WIDEMAN PICKS UP HIS PLAY

It’s no secret that Dennis Wideman has been the whipping boy for all that ails the Bruins this year. Every time there has seemed to be a critical turnover or penalty, it’s been Wideman at the center of the storm.

And true to form, Wideman was again in the middle of things when he was whistled for a high sticking penalty 24 seconds into overtime. The Capitals made the Bruins pay with the game-winning goal off the stick of Brooks Laich 20 seconds later.

But long before that, Wideman had been doing his best to help the cause.

Just before Backstrom’s shot slipped by Rask at 7:36 of the first period. Wideman came to the rescue but just a half-second late as the puck was ruled to have cleared the goal line for a 1-0 Capitals lead. Alex Ovechkin fed Backstrom across the slot to set up the score.

The Capitals had carried the pace of play. But with 1.6 seconds left, it was Wideman of all people, who blasted a slap shot past Jose Theodore to tie the game and shift the momentum.

EYE ON THE BOTTOM LINE

As a result of Monday night’s outcome, the Bruins gained a point, giving them 85 and a one-point leg up on the Flyers for seventh in the East. Boston is now just one point behind Montreal for sixth. Monday was the game-in-hand the Bruins had on the Flyers and Canadiens. The Rangers are just two points behind the Flyers, and those two teams play each other in a home-and-home on Friday and Saturday.

Now, the Bruins play Buffalo and Carolina at home on Thursday and Saturday before returning to Washington on Sunday with the season possibly on the line against the best team in the NHL.

But if the Bruins win on Thursday and Saturday, they could make life a lot easier on themselves.

Read More: Boston Bruins, Dennis Wideman, NHL, Washington Capitals

Capitals turn out Laich on Bruins

04.05.10 at 10:12 pm ET
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Summary ‘€“ Brooks Laich poked in a loose rebound just 44 seconds into overtime as the Washington Capitals claimed a 3-2 overtime win against the Bruins at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C. Monday night.

The game-winning goal came on the power play as Dennis Wideman was whistled for a high-sticking penalty just 24 seconds into the five-minute overtime.

Alex Ovechkin assisted on the power play score, as the Bruins moved just one point ahead of the eighth-place Philadelphia Flyers in the Eastern Conference.

The Bruins had to play the game without defenseman Dennis Seidenberg, who skated in pre-game but couldn’t make a go of it after taking 15 stitches to close a gash in his left wrist on Saturday in Toronto.

Considering the Bruins faced the top-scoring team in the NHL on their home ice and without a top-four defenseman, their effort was as much about courage as it was execution.

And they were just mere millimeters away from a one-goal lead after a 20 minutes.

Niklas Backstrom’s shot trickled by Tuukka Rask at 7:36 of the first period. Wideman came to the rescue but just a half-second late as the puck was ruled to have cleared the goal line for a 1-0 Capitals lead. Alex Ovechkin fed Backstrom across the slot to set up the score.

The scoring chances were again plentiful for the Bruins and it seemed for the first 19 minutes, 58.4 seconds of the opening period, they would be frustrated again.

But with 1.6 seconds left, it was Wideman of all people, who blasted a slap shot past Jose Theodore to tie the game.

Prior to that goal, the Bruins spent the final 60 seconds of the first period in the Washington zone, peppering Theodore.

And just after Backstrom’s goal, Michael Ryder had three great chances from close in but couldn’t finish.

The Bruins picked themselves up off the mat with 1.6 seconds left in the first period to tie the game going into intermission with some valuable momentum.

This time – with 28.8 seconds to go in the second – the Caps took that momentum away with a goal from Mike Knuble, who crashed Tuukka Rask. For Knuble, it was his 47th of the season for the Capitals, making it 2-2 after two periods.

The goal was originally credited to Knuble then changed to Ovechkin and then back to Knuble. Ovechkin has two assists tonight.

Since Wideman scored late in the first, the Bruins appeared to be energized. That was apparent when Patrice Bergeron and Milan Lucic crashed Jose Theodore, with Bergeron stuffing one past the Washington goalie for his 19th of the season.

Three Stars

Alex Ovechkin ‘€“ One of the most skilled players in the world showed why you don’t have to score to dominate. Ovechkin did precisely that by commanding extra defensive attention on a depleted team that could ill afford the luxury. He made them pay by assisting on all three goals.

Patrice Bergeron ‘€“ He, along with linemate Milan Lucic seemed re-energized since Michael Ryder was placed on the checking line. Both rushed the net frequently, putting pressure on Jose Theodore, getting rewarded in the second when Bergeron scored his 19th to give Boston a 2-1 lead.

Dennis Wideman ‘€“ Yes, he was called for an overtime high-stick that was embellished with theatrics that led to the game-winner by Laich, but Wideman all night seemed to be in the right place, if not the right time. His cannon of a shot past Theodore with 1.6 seconds left in first period, tied the game.

Key play ‘€“ Brook Laich’s game-winner. Alexander Semin, who escaped a high-sticking call on Zdeno Chara in the second period, took a shot from the left circle. But Rask couldn’t contain and Laich was there to put it back and give Washington a remarkable 116 points on the season.

Turning point ‘€“ David Krejci’s near miss in final minute. The forward fired wide on Theodore who was late to slide over, otherwise it’s the Bruins who skate out of the national capital with their most satisfying win of the season.

Read More: Bruins, Capitals, NHL, NHL power rankings

Second period summary: Bruins vs. Capitals

04.05.10 at 8:53 pm ET
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The Bruins picked themselves up off the mat with 1.6 seconds left in the first period to tie the game going into intermission with some valuable momentum.

This time – with 28.8 seconds to go in the second – the Caps took that momentum away with a goal from Mike Knuble, who crashed Tuukka Rask. For Knuble, it was his 47th of the season for the Capitals, making it 2-2 after two periods.

The goal was originally credited to Knuble then changed to Alex Ovechkin and then back to Knuble. Ovechkin has two assists tonight.

Since Dennis Wideman scored late in the first, the Bruins appeared to be energized. That was apparent when Patrice Bergeron and Milan Lucic crashed Jose Theodore, with Bergeron stuffing one past the Washington goalie for his 19th of the season.

The Bruins had taken command, carrying play throughout the period, even though the Capitals outshot the Bruins, 11-6, in the period.

Read More: Alex Ovechkin, Bruins, Captials, NHL

First period summary: Bruins vs. Captials

04.05.10 at 7:53 pm ET
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Considering the Bruins are facing the top-scoring team in the NHL on their home ice and without a top-four defenseman, being tied, 1-1, with Washington is not all bad. As a matter of fact, it’s downright remarkable.

And they were just mere millimeters away from a one-goal lead after a 20 minutes.

Niklas Backstrom’s shot trickled by Tuukka Rask at 7:36 of the first period. Dennis Wideman came to the rescue but just a half-second late as the puck was ruled to have cleared the goal line for a 1-0 Capitals lead. Alex Ovechkin fed Backstrom across the slot to set up the score.

Before that, the Bruins had managed to contain the high-powered Caps without defenseman Dennis Seidenberg, who skated before the game but could not play after suffering a gash in his left wrist that required 15 stitches.

The scoring chances were again plentiful for the Bruins and it seemed for the first 19 minutes, 58.4 seconds of the opening period, they would be frustrated again.

But with 1.6 seconds left, it was Wideman of all people, who blasted a slap shot past Jose Theodore to tie the game.

Prior to that goal, the Bruins spent the final 60 seconds of the first period in the Washington zone, peppering Theodore.

And just after Backstrom’s goal, Michael Ryder had three great chances from close in but couldn’t finish.

The Bruins outshot the Caps, 12-7.

Read More: Bruins, Captials, Dennis Wideman, Jose Theodore
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