|03.18.10 at 11:44 am ET|
There is blood in the water.
The Bruins know it. The fans know it. The media especially knows it. When Matt Cooke and the Penguins take the ice Thursday night at TD Garden, the entire NHL community will be watching to see how the Bruins respond. The situation has become serious to the point that NHL vice president of hockey operations Colin Campbell and director of officiating Terry Gregson will be in attendance at the game and will address both coaches before the puck drops.
The players are not saying all that much though. Really, there is not much they can say. The instigator rule and prevents them from saying that they are going to go out and take Cooke down and purposefully going after specific players for vigilante justice has become a sensitive topic in the league. Either way, the eyes of Boston will be on Shawn Thornton, Mark Stuart and Milan Lucic to step up against Cooke early and often.
Thornton knows there is hype coming in but he is just not buying it.
“You [the media] are the ones that keep hyping it,” Thornton said. “Obviously we are not happy with [Savard] being hurt but we need the two points, we are scraping for a playoff spot.”
Do not get Thornton wrong. He is an old school type of player and understands his role on the team. At the same time, he is not looking for his own suspension and is not a fan of the instigator rule though he understands why it is in place. The letter of the law (rule 47.11 in the NHL rulebook) defines an instigator with the following criteria — “distance traveled; gloves off first; first punch thrown; menacing attitude or posture; verbal instigation or threats; conduct in retaliation to a prior game (or season) incident; obvious retribution for a previous incident in the game or season.”
That last part would definitely apply in the case of Cooke v. Bruins.
“I am not a big believer in this [instigator] rule anyways,” Thornton said. “We also have guys in this league who aren’t as honest anyway so I understand why it is there.”
Every Bruin is more or less saying the same thing — we need the two points tonight because we are fighting for a playoff spot. That is the bottom line.
“The focus is on the game, we have to have two points,” Steve Begin said. “It is very close right now for the playoffs. That is all that matters, that is how we are thinking this morning. I don’t know what is going to happen, what he [Campbell] is going to talk about.”
The media dug at Begin and Thornton, asking about Cooke and the Penguins with variations of the same question (ie, what are you going to do tonight?) but the answer was just about always the same — we want the two points.
“We are just approaching this game as one where we need the two points,” Tim Thomas said after deflecting a question on how the Bruins dealt with instigators like Sean Avery last year. “We are on that border for the playoffs so the most important thing is the two points.”
The game in question from last year was against the Stars in early November. The Bruins, with Marc Savard leading the way against Avery, got into a brawl that ended up sparking the team on a run from November to February last season and was one of the defining moments of the year. Thursday’s game has a chance to be a defining moment for Boston if they can deal with the Cooke issue on the ice and register a convincing win against one of the top teams in the conference. At the same time, no one can plan a defining moment.
“Those type of games, you can’t plan them,” Thomas said. “If you plan them and try to make it into a game like that then it hardly ever works. So, it could be a big win for us to make sure that we are in the playoffs. Beyond that, who knows? You just have to play.”
On the other end of the aisle, the Penguins have their own problems to deal with. They are coming to Boston on the back end of a back-to-back after being dropped 5-2 by the Devils last night and are now tied with New Jersey at the top of the Atlantic division with 87 points.
“I don’t know, I am not on their side and I don’t know how they are going to react,” goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury said. “You never want to see a guy get injured like that, it is very sad. But hockey happens fast, everything happens fast and it sucks to see [Savard] go down like that and it looks like the rules are going to change a little bit and hopefully we can prevent stuff like that from happening.”
Cooke’s teammates know that he will be looking out for himself come game time.
“[Cooke] is going to come out and play the way he plays,” Eric Godard said. “He always shows up and plays the same way every night. So, I would not expect anything else tonight … [Cooke] always has his head up. He is more than able to take care of himself.
|03.18.10 at 8:31 am ET|
Andy Brickley, NESN analyst for Bruins games, checked in with the Dennis & Callahan show to talk about Thursday’s night’s game between the B’s and the Penguins. (For the audio, click on the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.)
Brickley said he has no doubt the Bruins will seek revenge on Penguin Matt Cooke for his hit on B’s center Marc Savard. “No question [the Bruins] need the points, given the situation that they’re in in the Eastern Conference, but that will be secondary tonight,” Brickley said. “This is an opportunity for the Bruins to respond, something they didn’t do at the time when Savard was hit by Matt Cooke, and they will take every opportunity to make sure their character is no longer in question.”
Brickley said he expects both teams will be eager for the confrontation to take place as soon as possible. “If I was Danny Bylsma, the coach of the Pittsburgh Penguins, I would make sure Matt Cooke starts tonight. Don’t give it a chance to continue to percolate. Wait for his first shift and allow the crowd and everybody else to get behind this. And I would expect Boston to line up guys like [Zdeno] Chara and [Milan] Lucic and [Mark] Stuart, and make sure it’s a very long night for Matt Cooke.
“You almost feel like don’t suspend this guy, make him have to play the full game, he can’t take any shifts off, he has to play the full 60 minutes. That might be the best retribution.”
Brickley said the Bruins need to go right up to Cooke and put him on the spot. “You call him out,” Brickley said. “It’s very plain and simple. You want to make it the longest night you can possibly make it for him.”
Asked about the possibility of Cooke refusing to engage a Bruins challenger, Brickley said: “That would not be the best course of action for Matt Cooke, and I don’t expect that to happen. I don’t think that will be allowed to happen. This is a guy that plays on the edge, he’s a repeat offender. If you took a look at the list of players that he’s fought in his career, it’s not a who’s who of the tough guys in the NHL, so I guess there’s that possibility, but I don’t think that’s going to happen.”
Brickley said he still is unable to understand the reasoning behing the league’s decision not to suspend Cooke. “They got it wrong,” Brickley said. “Plain and simple. Colin Campbell got this wrong. This was a blindside hit to a defenseless player in a position where he had no idea the hit was coming. It was predatory in nature, he targeted the head, and he’s a repeat offender. How can you not suspend this guy? I don’t understand the logic behind it. They had an opportunity to make the right call, the make a difference. … They dropped the ball.”
Added Brickley: “There’s no logic and there’s no reasoning sufficient for me to be able understand the rules that come down from the office in New York. Colin Campbell is going to be in attendance tonight. The two teams will be addressed. Warnings will be put out. They created this culture ‘ they created it, and now they want to manage it.”
As for the Bruins’ lack of a reaction in the game when the hit took place, Brickley said: “Nobody really got a real good look at it outside of Michael Ryder, so I will give them the benefit of the doubt. … Sometimes you just don’t see it when you’re out on the ice.”
|03.16.10 at 10:21 pm ET|
The Bruins apparently now get it.
They understand that the season hinges on every single game, every single shot and every single shift. On Tuesday night, with a 5-2 road win over Carolina in Raleigh, N.C., they showed just 24 hours after a slow start doomed them to a 3-2 loss to New Jersey they can bounce back and finish a season-long trip on a positive note.
And they showed their ultimate focus, while the hockey world is focused on Thursday’s potential “revenge” game against Matt Cooke and the Penguins at TD Garden. It’s a contest that fans have circled and highlighted since Marc Savard was lost to an elbow/shoulder from Cooke on March 7.
The Bruins have 74 points and solidified their hold on eighth place in the Eastern Conference. They have two huge home games coming up with the Penguins and then the Rangers at 12:30 p.m. Sunday on national television.
The Bruins wasted no time showing they meant business. We’ll do the same in breaking down a win that gave the Bruins a 3-3-1 road trip.
STARTING FAST, FINISHING STRONG
Dennis Seidenberg set the tempo of the game right out of the chute when his shot from the right point was redirected past Manny Legace by Patrice Bergeron just 23 seconds into the game. Seidenberg’s play was typical of the Bruins defensemen all night as they jumped into the play to jump-start the offense.
The starting fast theme continued two periods later when goalie Tuukka Rask stopped Jussi Jokinen and Eric Staal in the opening 30 seconds of the third as the Hurricanes were trying to convert a power play to tie the game. Instead, the Bruins came back with a rush of their own and capped it when Mark Recchi scored 45 seconds into the final period.
The Bruins twice had two-goal leads, at 2-0 and 3-1, and both times, Carolina cut it to one. But on this night, the Bruins found the finishing kick.
Michael Ryder took advantage of a horrendous turnover by the Canes and ripped off a one-timer that made it 4-2. David Krejci’s spin-o-rama job with 7:33 remaining put the game on ice and allowed the Bruins to finally look ahead to their grudge match with Cooke and the Penguins on Thursday at the Garden.
SPREADING THE WEALTH
The Bruins had five different goal-scorers on Tuesday night. Starting with Bergeron, and continuing with Johnny Boychuk, Mark Recchi, Michael Ryder and David Krejci, the Bruins spread it around on Tuesday. What was evident was that every line was skating hard. That, combined with the defensemen jumping into the play made for a formidable and productive combination.
Yes, the Bruins were again out to lunch on the power play, going 0-for-4. But that was offset by their five-on-five scoring chances.
FINGERS CROSSED FOR BERGY
With just under three minutes remaining in a game that was going entirely the way of the Bruins, they had a reminder of just how frustrating this season has been. Mark Stuart picked up a loose puck at the left point, just inside Carolina’s blue line, and rifled a shot toward the net. Patrice Bergeron, as he did on the game’s first goal, got in front of Legace to run interference. But unlike Seidenberg’s well-placed drive, Stuart’s blast elevated quickly and caught Bergeron on the inside of his right knee.
Fortunately, x-rays following the game on Bergeron’s leg were negative but the shot was sure to have left a mark just the way Bergeron has on the Bruins offense all season. Bergeron, as head coach Claude Julien has pointed out all season, has been the single-most consistent player on the roster and they can ill-afford to lose him and Savard coming down the stretch.
|03.16.10 at 8:29 pm ET|
Michael Ryder and Patrice Bergeron each scored their 16th goals of the season and Mark Recchi moved into a tie for 22nd on the NHL’s all-time goal scoring list with his 560th career goal as the Bruins ended their season-long seven-game road trip with a 5-2 win over the Carolina Hurricanes in Raleigh on Tuesday night.
Bergeron had to be helped from the ice with just under three minutes left after taking a Mark Stuart slap shot to the inside of the right knee.
The Bruins ended their trip seven-game road trip with a 3-3-1 record, seven out of a possible 14 points and now have 74 points, and still in the eighth and final spot in the Eastern Conference.
Patrice Bergeron: Before taking a shot to his right leg late in the third period, Bergeron was all over the ice offensively, setting the tempo from the first period on.
Tuukka Rask: The Bruins goalie, after turning away all 16 shots in the final 40 minutes on Monday in New Jersey, came up big when he had to. He turned away Jokinen and Eric Staal in the first 30 seconds of the third period on back-to-back chances, setting the stage for Mark Recchi to tie Guy Lafleur for 22nd on the all-time goal list with 560.
Johnny Boychuk: His end-to-end rush in the second period highlighted a great night for the Bruins defense. He, Matt Hunwick and Dennis Seidenberg anchored a good two-way performance by Bruins blueliners for 60 minutes.
Turning point: Mark Recchi’s historic goal. The Hurricanes began the third period with a power play. Tuukka Rask came up with a big save in the first 30 seconds and then just 45 seconds into the final period, Recchi talHilied his 15th of the season – and 560th career – to put Boston up, 3-1.
Key play: Game was over when Michael Ryder capitalized on a horrendous Carolina turnover in their own zone, intercepting a pass just inside the blue line and firing his 16th pass Manny Legace for a 4-2 lead.
|03.16.10 at 7:47 pm ET|
The two teams exchanged goals in the second period as the Bruins take a 2-1 lead over the Hurricanes after 40 minutes.
Boychuk hustled nicely in an end-to-end rush and was rewarded when Hunwick found Boychuk rushing up the right side. Boychuk scored his fourth of the season to make it 2-0.
The Hurricanes used the power play to get back into the game when Eric Cole picked up a rebound to the left of Rask and his put back made it 2-1. The Bruins hold a 32-16 advantage on face-offs and are outshooting Carolina 26-20 but again the alarming stat is Boston’s 0-for-4 on the power play.
|03.16.10 at 6:45 pm ET|
The Bruins couldn’t have scripted a better start to what could be considered a key – if not critical – conclusion to their season-long seven game road trip. And they took advantage of the early momentum to take a 1-0 lead after one.
Bruins outshot the Hurricanes, 18-7, in exerting their dominance.
The biggest concern, however, continues to be taking advantage of their momentum to build onto a lead, particularly on the power play as the Bruins couldn’t convert on a 5-on-3 power play and a more conventional 5-on-4 advantage.
Since their best playmaker Marc Savard went down with a concussion, the Bruins have scored just once in 11 tries on the power play and haven’t scored in their last nine tries.
|03.15.10 at 10:43 pm ET|
Before we go any further into the Bruins’ 3-2 loss to the Devils on Monday night, let’s get one thing straight: This wasn’t a Jacques Lemaire or Pat Burns-coached team that the Bruins fell to Monday night. It wasn’t a fall-behind-by-one-and-the-game’s-over scenario, as many who have followed the Bruins have grown accustomed to when it comes to playing the Devils. And while the Devils are a very viable Cup contender this year, this wasn’t a throwback to the mid-’90s-on torture that the black and gold have fallen victim to.
This was a struggling team going against a struggling team (the Devils, currently fourth in the conference, entered the evening 4-5-1 over their last 10 games) and struggling.
On Monday night we saw plenty of the Bruins’ flaws highlighted. Whether it was the painful uncertainty in net that led to Tim Thomas being yanked after 20 minutes of decent play accompanied by bad luck and big rebounds (for what it’s worth, only Zach Parise’s goal can be blamed on Thomas ‘ Scott Niedermayer’s was the result of a screen and David Clarkson’s a breakaway), a missed opportunity at physically setting the tone (Milan Lucic’s dasher to the face) or the lack of consistent offense, it was all there in a rough night for Claude Julien and the gang.
The Bruins are still hanging onto the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference by just one point, with their 72 points narrowly edging the Rangers’ 71. Still, in a prospective matchup with the top-seeded Capitals (who are 2-0 against Boston this year and have outscored the Bruins by a margin of 8-2 in their two meetings), the playoffs might just be a formality ‘ a quick stop on the way to yet another offseason filled with questions of how the Bruins can return to prominence for good.
It wasn’t all bad, though. The offense, aside from being snakebitten when it comes to getting multiple tallies in the third (see below), peppered New Jersey netminder Martin Brodeur with 15 shots in the final 20 minutes, and after being outshot 22-21 through two periods, ended the game having outshot the Devils, 36-28. Here is the hat trick of lessons learned in close-but-not-close-enough match at the Prudential Center.
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