|04.29.09 at 12:48 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — The B’s routed the Hurricanes in four regular-season tilts this winter, and held Carolina sniper Erik Staal to a grand total of zero points and a -6 in those aforementioned four games.
Not bad at all, and a pretty big testament to the job that big defenseman Zdeno Chara did on the 40 goal scorer during the regular-season battles. But the Black and Gold also played a majority of those games against a Canes team that was simply treading water in the first half of the season. The B’s haven’t seen the hockey team formerly known as the Whale since a Feb. 17, 5-1 drubbing down at the RBC Center in Raleigh/Durham. The night was a tribute to Glen Wesley’s number getting raised to the rafters, and the Bruins proceeded to plaster Carolina all over the ice.
The Canes went 13-3-2 after March 1 while going down the stretch of the hockey season, and showed just how dangerous they can be in stunning Martin Brodeur and the slack-jawed Devils during the final 1:20 of Game 7 on Tuesday night.
“They’re definitely a dangerous team with a lot of offensive guys that are really quick,” said B’s blueliner Andrew Ference. “They don’t just run the same routes every time. They definitely switch it up and keep you thinking. It’s one of those teams you have to be on your toes against. You can compare them to Washington. Certain teams that don’t just do the same thing all the time. They catch teams off-guard because they have the weapons that can run those different routes, and have success. Catch you in the wrong spot every once in a while. It’s a team you’ve got to be mentally sharp against.”
B’s coach Claude Julien said to toss out the regular season numbers, and instead focus on a gritty, battle-hardened Carolina unit that has emerged here in the semifinals to face off against the top-seeded B’s in a seven-game semifinal series.
“(Devils/Hurricanes) was quite an ending. One that makes you go ‘Wow,’” said Julien. “The one thing that was in the back of my mind the whole time is that Carolina has always been very good at those last-minute rallies. To a certain extent, it didn’t really surprise me because they’ve been doing that a lot. Not just this year, but other years. You want to peak at the right time, and I think (the Hurricanes) have done that.
“They’ve played really well down the stretch, and that was after we had played them four times,” added Julien. “We really never saw them at their best, to be honest with you,” added Julien. “They’re a much different team than they were during the regular season, and we know that. They compete so hard, and they play well as a group. They believe in themselves, and their goaltending has been outstanding. We’re in for a good challenge and a good series here.”
–Julien indicated that Ference (lower body injury) appears to be closing in on a return to the lineup, and chances are good that he’ll be healthy enough to suit up for Game 1 on Friday at the Garden.
“I think he feels good,” said Julien. “We’ve talked to him, and it allows him everyday to practice with our team and compete at the level he needs to be when we start the series. Right now I’d put him more on the ‘Yes’ side than the ‘No’ side. Having said that, a decision hasn’t been made and we’ll have to wait until game day to make that decision.”
–Bruins players and Julien both pointed to the outstanding play between the pipes as a big reason for Carolina’s success as of late. Cam Ward came up huge as a fresh-faced 22-year-old rookie in Carolina’s run to the Stanley Cup during the 2005-06 season, and he’s been immense again during this playoff run: 2.11 goals against average and a .938 save percentage in seven playoff games and a solid 21-9-2 with a 2.30 goals against with a .921 save percentage after the NHL All-Star break this season.
–The Bruins players said they’ll be extra vigilant against any signs of rust in the first period of Friday night’s Game 1 against Carolina. Those first 20 minutes are probably the ‘Canes’ best chance — after only two days off following a tough seven-game set against the Devils – to catch Boston a little flat-footed in Game 1 after 9 days off, and potentially try and steal the first game of the series.
“Obviously the first period is probably the one that you worry about the most in the series because we haven’t played in a while,” said B’s center Marc Savard. “But as long as we keep short shifts, get our legs under us and got out and work hard, then we’ll be fine.”
|04.28.09 at 9:39 pm ET|
After the New York Rangers fell to the Washington Capitals by a 2-1 score in the early Game 7 on Tuesday night, the Carolina Hurricanes stunned the New Jersey Devils with two goals in the final two minutes of the third period to take a come-from-behind 4-3 victory in Game 7 at the Prudential Center. The sixth-seeded ‘Canes are the lowest remaining seed of the four Eastern Conference teams, so — by virtue of the NHL re-seeding after each round — the Bruins will take on the former Hartford Whalers in a seven-game series set to start this weekend in Boston.
The Bruins/Hurricanes series is set to begin with Game 1 on Friday night, and Game 2 will be Sunday. The B’s were a perfect 4-0 against the Hurricanes during the regular season, and outscored the ‘Canes by a big 18-6 margin in those four games. It should be noted, though, that the majority of Boston’s success against Carolina came in the first half of the season — a time when the Black and Gold were blowing out everybody. The ‘Canes, meanwhile, were a different team in the second half of the season and posted a solid 13-3-2 record after March 1 in a playoff push that impressed many.
That being said, Erik Staal was one of those Eastern Conference scorers that Zdeno Chara was able to intimidate and dominate during their regular season showdowns. Staal had no points and was a -6 in the four games against Boston this season while finishing with a 40 goal season and a +15 on the year for Carolina. That is impressive defensive work.
Here’s the full schedule:
Game 1 May 1st (7:30 pm) NESN, Versus
Game 2 May 3rd (7:30 pm) Versus
Game 3 May 6th (7:30 pm) NESN, Versus
Game 4 May 8th (7:30 pm) NESN Versus
Game 5 May 10th (7:30 pm)* NESN Versus
Game 6 May 12th (7 pm)* Versus
Game 7 May 14th (TBA)* NESN Versus
|04.28.09 at 1:12 pm ET|