|03.23.10 at 8:36 pm ET|
Boston is taking its own fate into its hands.
Maxim Afinogenov went to the penalty box at 1:29 in the second period for holding the stick of Dennis Seidenberg to give the Bruins the first power play of the game for either team. Though, like it has been since Marc Savard went down on March 7, Boston could not spur any offense on the man-advantage, mustering one shot in the process. After the Thrashers’s kill Boston was 1 for 20 on the power play since Savard was injured.
Despite the inefficiencies on the power play, Boston’s 5-on-5 play, a facet of the team’s game that has not exactly been a strength this year, came through for the Bruins at 7:29. David Krejci fed Milan Lucic with time and space in the mid-slot that allowed Lucic to unload a wrist shot that beat Hedberg over his glove side to make it 2-0.
The Thrashers had a chance late in the period when Colby Armstrong snuck into the Bruins zone and took a pass with a head of steam to march right in on Tuukka Rask for the point blank opportunity. Dennis Wideman, burnt by Armstrong coming down the wing, had to reach in for a hooking penalty to stop Armstrong’s opportunity. Though, instead of awarding the power play the referees decided to give Atlanta a penalty shot, the second in as many games (Daniel Paille had one against the Rangers on Sunday). Rask turned Armstrong’s shot away with his glove as the shot was headed wide anyway.
Boston struck again right at the end of the period. Patrice Bergeron won a face off and sent the puck back to Zdeno Chara on the point through traffic that may or may not have touched Miroslav Satan’s stick on its way passed Hebberg for the 3-0 lead with one skate already heading to the locker room.
Shots through second (total):
Bruins: 12 (22)
Thrashers: 10 (17)
|03.23.10 at 7:41 pm ET|
Tuesday’s contest basically amounts to a playoff game between the Bruins and the Thrashers in Atlanta. The Thrashers start the night one point behind the Bruins for the final playoff and an outright win would see them jump Boston in the standings.
Boston is doing its best to make sure that does not happen.
After a slow start Boston broke for the first goal when a Bruins shot got caught in traffic through the crease in front of Thrashers’ goaltender Johan Hedberg. Blake Wheeler and Michael Ryder started banging around on the puck causing it to bounce to the far side of the crease where David Krejci snuck in from behind the goal line to pound it home for the goal advantage at 9:25.
After that the Bruins started gaining more opportunities and taking the momentum away from the Thrashers in their home at Phillips Arena. To try and stop that momentum the Thrashers forward Eric Boulton signaled Bruins enforcer Shawn Thornton for a fight at 11:00. Boulton got his arm caught in his sleeve to start the fight and Thornton got a couple of shots in before the pair skated at center ice in a draw before Thornton tugged Boulton’s sweater over his head to end it.
Overall the compete level for each team is relatively high, as it should be at this juncture in the season but Boston leads 1-0 heading into the second.
Shots through first:
Boston – 10
Atlanta – 7
|03.22.10 at 1:42 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — Question: Where the heck did the Thrashers come from?
All of a sudden the hockey team from Atlanta is a point behind the Bruins for the eighth playoff spot in the Eastern Conference with a chance to jump Boston if it can win on home ice Tuesday night. This from a team that just about everybody had counted out after they traded one of the best goal scorers in the league in the form of Ilya Kovalchuk to the Devils on Feb. 4.
“Well they picked up some pretty good players along the way,” coach Claude Julien said. “[Clark] Macarthur from Buffalo and obviously in the New Jersey deal they got a pretty good defenseman out of it (Johnny Oduya) who I think is underrated. They have got a pretty good team, they are getting good goaltender right now and I thin they are pretty confident. It is a good challenge for us tomorrow … we know that when we play well and how we can, we are capable of beating any team.”
After losing five our of six to start the month of March, the Thrashers have caught fire of late with four straight wins over Phoenix, Buffalo, Ottawa and Philadelphia. One could say that the Trashers wins over the Flyers and Senators were favors to the Bruins (both teams are three points ahead of Boston with 79 points) but it is a paradox that fans in the Hub would preferably not explore — have a team behind them get hot and take points from the teams ahead only to come and steal their playoff spot.
The win over the Rangers was good for the psyche of the Bruins. Their practice on Monday morning was lively and boisterous, which has not always been the case at Ristuccia in 2010. That being said, New York is not exactly a team burning down the barn.
“Atlanta is more dangerous because Atlanta is playing good,” Tim Thomas said. “New York is just hanging in there and Atlanta has been charging from behind. I think Atlanta will be the bigger test. It is always in our hands we just got to get timely goals like we did against New York and try to keep them off the board as much as possible.”
The Bruins looked like a much different team on Sunday against the Rangers than they did last Thursday in the grudge match verse the Penguins. The mood around the team was quite different from game to game whereas Boston seemed a little tight with all the scrutiny around the Pittsburgh game that was not as present against New York.
“I think Pittsburgh was a little bit of a wake up call,” Johnny Boychuk said. “You got to come out and play. You can’t take any day off especially since we are battling for the playoffs. Last night everybody came to play and we battled and stood up for each other. We just wanted it. That was the difference between both games.”
Thomas admitted that the flu bug was a problem on Thursday and Boychuk said that it had a tough 24-hour effect on a bunch of members of the team.
“We knew they were both important games and we came up big in one and not in the other,” Thomas said. “We had a lot of guys sick against Pittsburgh. You hate to say that plays into it, but it does. Let’s face it, Pittsburgh and New York are two different teams.”
— Patrice Bergeron is going out of his way to get in touch with Matt Brown, the Norwood High hockey player who broke his neck in a hockey game in January. Brown is in Atlanta at the Shepard Center for Rehabilitation undergoing treatment.
“I have been through similar stuff and I know it is tough to sometimes stay positive,” Bergeron said. “You get frustrated. It is something that I want to share with him and I am excited to go see him, him and his family. We prepared a little bag of stuff to remind him about Boston a little bit. Some movies, some stuff different professional teams in Boston, some clam chowder and stuff like that. I hope he is going to like it and it is going to be fun to first meet him and see how he is doing.”
Here is the practice participation by sweater color:
White — Milan Lucic, Miroslav Satan, Vladimir Sobotka
Goaltenders — Tuukka Rask, Tim Thomas
|03.21.10 at 2:08 pm ET|
Summary — In a battle that will go a long way in determining the bottom of the Eastern Conference’s playoff standings, the Bruins prevailed over the Rangers (2-0) in front of a sold out crowd at TD Garden on Sunday afternoon. Tuukka Rask got his 17th win for Boston by making 22 saves while Henrik Lundqvist was the loser for New York with 29 stops. The win puts Boston five points ahead of the Rangers for the eighth and final playoff spot in the conference with 11 games (10 for the Rangers) to go in the regular season.
The teams played a contentious, though scoreless, majority of the first two periods. The first forty minutes of the game saw a combined 14 penalties for 36 minutes (eight for 21 for Boston, six for 15 by New York) as the teams that are jostling for the final spot in the Eastern Conference took their bumping and pushing to the ice. Bruins captain Zdeno Chara had eight penalty minutes, including a four-minute double minor for high-sticking in the second period.
Olli Jokinen, who took three penalties himself in the first two periods, nearly handed the Bruins a goal (or saved the Rangers, depending on your perspective) when he spun/tackled Boston forward Daniel Paille on a break at 16:13 in the second. Paille was awarded a penalty shot and skated straight down on Lundqvist only to see his wrist shot from the slot turned away harmlessly by the goaltenders left pad.
Miroslav Satan broke 104:09 of scoreless ice time for the Bruins at 16:36 of the second period when he one-timed a through the crease from Andrew Ference. The defenseman skated down the left wing and centered the puck quickly enough to get it on Satan’s stick before Lundqvist could make the cross and Satan put it top shelf from one knee for the 1-0 lead.
Dennis Wideman made it a two-goal lead in the third period when he took a feed from Vladimir Sobotka and spun a nifty backhand wrist shot from the slot up over Lundqvist’s glove side at 10:20.
The Rangers cut the lead in half at 16:56 when defenseman Michael Del Zotta powered a slap shot from the point past Rask through traffic. The Bruins would hold on in the final three minutes for the win.
Miroslav Satan — The tall Slovak gave the Bruins the lead in the second period with his fifth goal as a Bruin.
Tuukka Rask — The most important penalty killer on the ice is often the goaltender and Rask was good behind his stout defense in holding the Rangers 0-6 on the man-advantage.
Dennis Wideman — The prettiest play of the day was Wideman’s backhand winner from the slot. It was kind of a spinning backhand wrist shot that he elevated off a pass from Vladimir Sobotka. The puck went high over Lundqvist’s glove for the two-goal advantage midway through the third period. It was Wideman’s fourth goal of the season with his last coming against the Rangers on Jan. 9, a span of 25 games.
Turning Point — With the game still scoreless in the second period the Rangers were given a great opportunity to take the lead when the Bruins captain, Zdeno Chara, took a double minor, high-sticking penalty at 8:30. With Boston’s top defender off the ice for an extended period of time it would have been the best time for New York to strike. The Bruins, who have the No. 1 penalty kill in the league, did not allow the Rangers to have a shot in the stretch and would not have a better power play opportunity for the rest of the game.
Key Play — Rask came up big in the early part of the third with a little help from Paille. Brandon Dubinsky looked like he had time and space to make an arcing cross in front of the Bruins netminder before Paille got in between the Rangers’ center and the puck to thwart a shot attempt. Dubinsky recovered and got the puck to Dan Girardi at the face off circle for a one-time chance point blank on Rask. The Boston goaltender left the crease to aggressively challenge the shot and caught it on the spoked-B of his sweater to retire the chance.
|03.21.10 at 1:17 pm ET|
If there is one thing that the Bruins are good at, it is the penalty kill.
Boston’s captain, Zdeno Chara, is not doing his team any favors on Sunday afternoon. He has gone to the box three times through the first two periods with the most recent violation at four-minute high-sticking violation at 8:30 in the period.
The No. 1 penalty kill in the NHL took care of business though, and then some. The Rangers, who are almost as ineffective in the goal scoring department as the Bruins (23rd in league at 2.58), could not manage to register and official shot on Tuukka Rask.
The Bruins were given a chance at 16:13 when Artem Anisimov spun/tackled Daniel Paille on a breakaway at 16:13. Paille was awarded a rare regular-time penalty shot and skated in on Henrik Lundqvist before taking s wrist shot from the slot that the Rangers’ goalie turned away with is left pad.
Boston was able to get on the board less than a minute later when Andrew Ference skated down the right wing and cross the puck across the crease to the waiting one-timing stick of Miroslav Satan camped on the other side of Lundqvist. Satan went high from one knee and the Bruins had their first goal (and lead) in 104:09 of ice time (last goal at the 12:27 mark in the third period Tuesday against Carolina).
In the final minute of the period Satan took an interference penalty when he hit former Boston University star Chris Drury coming out of the defensive zone at 19:33. Olli Jokinen gave the majority of the power play back with a roughing penalty after Steve Begin knock Vinny Prospal on his backside with seconds remaining in the period. Jokinen went to the box for roughing with 00.1 left on the clock and the teams will start the third on a 4-on-4.
End of second period: Boston 1 New York 0
Shots through second (total):
Bruins — 7 (19)
Rangers — 6 (15)
|03.21.10 at 12:18 pm ET|
This is a big one.
In terms of playoff situations, this Sunday’s matinee may be the most important game the Bruins have played this year. The Rangers sit three points behind Boston for the eighth playoff spot and a win would put the Bruins five points ahead with 11 games to play. A New York win would make it a one point lead and make for some very interesting situations in the final two weeks of the regular season.
Boston started the game with some pop and emotion against a Rangers team that is known to be a bit of a physical nuisance. Brandon Prust and Steve Begin got into a scuffle near mid-ice at at 2:40, which was more instigated by Prust than Begin as the Bruins had outshot New York 6-0 at that point.
Zdeno Chara went for a roughing penalty at 4:34 as perpetual instigator Sean Avery was in the area and engaged in a staring match with Vladimir Sobotka who had dropped his stick but Avery deigned to drop his gloves. Less than a minute later the Rangers’ Vinny Prospal hit Mark Stuart hard into the boards behind Tuukka Rask. The Bruins did not like the hit (which sent Prospal for boarding) and a scrum ensued which ultimately sent Stuart to the box as well for roughing.
The referees whistle was busy after that. Mark Recchi (charging — 12:05), Chara (roughing — 12:43), Olli Jokinen (roughing — 12:43), Dennis Wideman (hooking — 13:54) and Artem Anisimov (hooking — 15:29), Jokinen again (hooking — 18:07) all made the march to the timeout corner. Though it all a few scoring chances were generated by each team but neither significant threats and whatever danger that occured near the crease was erased by the two solid goaltenders in Rask and Henrik Lundqvist.
Scoreless after the first period at TD Garden.
Shots through one:
Boston — 12
New York — 9
|03.20.10 at 10:20 am ET|
Appearing on The Big Show, Bruins vice president Cam Neely relayed his frustration regarding his team, coming right out of the gate by answering Glenn Ordway’s inquiry as to how he was doing by saying, “I’ve been better. … I was disappointed last night.”
Asked what went wrong in in the B’s 3-0 loss to Pittsburgh, Neely said, “I’ve been trying to figure that out all year, Glenn, to be honest with you. It’s been very, very disappointing just to see the way our team has performed with that lack of emotion, if you will. It’s something we try to instill here. I’ve said this for years, I said this when I played, I said this after I played, people expect their athletes to compete and show that they care, and if they don’t win they’re OK with that as long as they compete, show that they care and work hard. I’ve heard it too many times this year and I don’t blame our fans for complaining they don’t see that compete or passion that they want to see.”
Neely went to to say that one aspect of this season’s Bruins team that caught management off guard was the “loss of leadership and character in the locker room. … We honestly didn’t think it would be as big an issue as it turned out to be.” He pointed to the absence of players such as P.J. Axelsson as one of the biggest differences in this edition compared to last season.
As for the Bruins’ loss to Pittsburgh, Neely refused to buy into the notion that the flu some of the players were reportedly suffering from made a difference. “We just didn’t play with the type of passion that’s expected,” he said. “That’s what’s frustrating for me. … After the two-minute mark it was business as usual, as it has been. That’s what was frustrating for a lot of people and I don’t blame them for being frustrated.”
Neely said that he didn’t think Milan Lucic was fully recovered from his high ankle sprain, but that he also has to realize that his “bread and butter” is being physical. “That’s how he’s going to be successful in this league,” Neely said.
To listen to the entire interview with Ordway, Steve Buckley and Butch Stearns, click here.
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