|05.14.11 at 12:57 pm ET|
Simon Gagne should be used to facing the Bruins in the playoffs by now. A season ago, he was arguably the man that sunk them in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
With the Bruins holding a 3-0 series lead over Philadelphia, Gagne, then a Flyer, returned to the lineup for Game 4 after a broken toe suffered in the first round vs. the Devils kept him out of the beginning of the series. Gagne scored the game-winning goal in overtime to keep the Flyers alive in the series, and added a pair of goals three days later in a 4-0 Phialdelphia win in Game 5. His most crucial goal of the series would come in Game 7, when he notched the go-ahead tally in the third period following a costly too-many-ice penalty taken by the Bruins. The goal was the game-winner, and it capped the Flyers’ comeback from trailing, 3-0, in both the series and Game 7.
Now, Gagne is once again returning from a playoff absence (this time a head injury suffered in the second round) to face the Bruins, but it’s as a member of the Lightning following an offseason trade. Gagne watched the last series between his old mates and the Bruins, and he said Saturday that he sees a difference from a season ago.
“It’s a different team from last year,” Gagne said. “They got some new guys, Thomas is in net now, so it’s a different team than last year. It looks like this year, they’re on a mission, and that’s the way it felt when I saw them play against Philly. Philly’s a good team, and they beat them in four games. That means they’re a really good team.”
Including guys who played sparingly last year in rookies Brad Marchand and Adam McQuaid, eight of the Bruins’ regulars as they enter Game 1 of the conference finals were newcomers to the lineup this year. Yet while the emergence of guys like Marchand and the addition of Nathan Horton have been massive for the B’s, the biggest change for them involves a guy who was around last year in Thomas. At least that’s the way Gagne sees it.
“Last year, Tuukka Rask was actually playing really, really good for them,” Gagne said of the youngster who started every game between the pipes for the Bruins last postseason. “Everybody thought that he was going to be the goalie for the future for Boston. I think he’s still their goalie of the future — I don’t think he’s going to go anywhere — but to see Thomas coming back after a tough season last year with injuries, to see him play like that surprised a lot of people, but at the same time, he was good before he got hurt. It shouldn’t be a surprise to see him playing that good.”
The Bruins and Thomas will hope to continue their “mission” Saturday night, while Gagne just hopes he can continue to feed his reputation of postseason Bruins-killer.
|05.14.11 at 11:51 am ET|
The Bruins to not have expect to have Marc Savard in the house for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals, though coach Claude Julien confirmed Saturday that the center, who is recovering from post-concussion syndrome, is expected to make the trip to Boston during the series.
“I think he’s supposed to be coming down at some point,” Julien said after Saturday’s morning skate. “I’m not quite sure exactly what day or which game, but he’s supposed to come down. He might be here on the weekend for all I know. I heard something about it a while back, and I can’t say I remember exactly the date.
“No doubt, he’s a part of our hockey club. He’s always welcomed here any time he wants to come down. I know he’s trying to get over a concussion that’s really set him back, and we’ve given him that space and that time. Being around the family is a good way to help yourself through that also. He’s always been welcomed here whenever he needs to see doctors or he wants co tome around the team, he’s welcome to do that.”
Since suffering his most recent concussion in late January and being shut down for the season, Savard has spent his time back home in Peterborough, Ontario.
|05.14.11 at 11:39 am ET|
Bruins center Patrice Bergeron skated prior to the team’s morning skate Saturday, marking the first time the team’s postseason points leader has taken the ice since suffering a concussion in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference semifinals vs. the Flyers.
“He went out and just had a light skate this morning,” coach Claude Julien said following the team’s morning skate in anticipation of Game 1 of the conference finals vs. the Lightning. “That’s where he’s at now, just a light skate on his own.
“This is something that’s just protocol, that he’s going through the normal stuff,” the coach added. “Today was a light skate on his own, and he just got off the ice when we went on. I don’t think there’s much more that we can give you except that it can go either way. We’re certainly not going to comment on that kind of stuff and just hope that he keeps getting better.”
While Bergeron will miss at least the beginning of the series, Julien said that defenseman Adam McQuaid, who sprained his neck in Game 2 of the conference semifinals in Philadelphia, will be in the lineup for Game 1. McQuaid has three points (all assists) and a plus-4 rating thus far in the playoffs.
|05.13.11 at 8:49 pm ET|
Tim Thomas dominated the Tampa Bay Lightning during the regular season much in the same way he dominated the rest of the NHL. So, maybe nobody should’ve been shocked when their head coach admitted Friday that the Bruins goalie is in their heads.
Thomas was a perfect 3-0-0 this season against the Lightning, with 1.67 goal against, allowing just five goals in the three games.
“Well, I’m sure we’re no different than any other team or any other coaches,” Tampa Bay coach Guy Boucher said Friday. “We do study the other goaltender. I’m sure they studied ours. There’s tendencies and things you want to focus on.
“But I think the players play the game, everything is done in fractions of seconds. It’s quite difficult to all of a sudden change their ways. We do want to focus on a few things. But the reality is, whatever we plan against Tim Thomas, he’s probably going to find a way to counter that. I think you want to watch out and not focus too much on the other team’s goaltender.” Read the rest of this entry »
|05.13.11 at 3:52 pm ET|
Goaltending is the one position on the ice where age and experience may mean the most.
Just ask Tim Thomas, Dwayne Roloson and their respective teams as they get ready for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals Saturday night at TD Garden.
Roloson leads all NHL playoff goalies with a 2.01 goals against in 11 games, posting an 8-3 record.
Thomas is right behind him at 2.03, with an identical 8-3 mark.
Thomas just turned 37 on April 15 while Roloson turns 42 this October.
“I think if age is a factor in any way, it’s actually a benefit to both of us,” Thomas said. “The experiences that we’ve been through just to get to these points in our career, they actually do help. They do help in these playoff-type atmosphere. If anything, I’d say that the age works to our advantage.
“But in this case we’re so close and we’re both in the higher age category for this business that I don’t think it’s really an advantage either way.”
“When it comes to goaltending, I think experience is a big factor,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said. “You can have a good young goaltender, but if he doesn’t have experience of pressure in playoffs, you see what happens. Those guys are old enough, have enough experience, been through the grinds, the ups and downs, they’ve been able to handle it well.
“Certainly physically they got to battle. As a team you try to make it as easy as possible on those guys, clearing rebounds, not giving second shots, not giving poor-angle shots, try to make their job as easy as you can.”
Lightning coach Guy Boucher is well aware of how dominating Thomas was against Philadelphia and that he’s capable of repeating it again this round.
“Reality is whatever we have planned for Tim Thomas he’s probably going to figure it out,” Boucher said Friday. “It’s in our heads. Make no mistake.”
It should surprise no one that the two have formed a bond over the years. And even more to the point, their careers actually linked going all the way back to when Thomas was thinking of going to U-Mass Lowell, only to choose Vermont since Roloson was already the goalie in Lowell.
|05.13.11 at 1:59 pm ET|
David Krejci deserves high praise for the way he has played of late, as he led the Bruins with eight points in the team’s four-game sweep of the Flyers in the second round. Still, the VS. coverage team for Thursday’s Game 7 between the Red Wings and Sharks may have gotten a little carried away when Pierre McGuire said that Krejci is “Boston’s version of Pavel Datsyuk.”
The differences between the two players can be seen on the stat sheet, of course. Datsyuk has had four seasons with at least 87 points in his nine-year career, while Krejci’s career-high in points came when he notched 73 in 2008-09.
Krejci was watching the game, but said he didn’t hear the “obviously” flattering remark.
“The guys told me about that,” Krejci said Friday. “I didn’t hear it on TV, but I don’t know what to say.”
Krejci himself had some kind words for the Detroit center, noting that he believes Datsyuk is the best hockey player in the world.
“I think he’s a little different player than I am,” the 25-year-old said. “He’s got great hands. I don’t think there is another player like him. He’s the best player in the world with his skills, with the puck moves. He’s just unbelievable. It’s just good to watch him. There is no one like him and there will never be.”
Krejci had difficulty comparing his game to that of Datsyuk’s, but had no problem comparing the B’s to the Wings, who were eliminated Thursday.
“I don’t know,” Krejci said when asked to compare himself to Datsyuk. “I don’t really care. I’m in the third round, and he’s done. It’s not just about skill players or about star players. You’ve got to have a good team, and I think that’s what we have. We have a better team than they do because we’re in the third round. We have a chance to go to the Stanley Cup final. They are done, so it’s different between me and him right now.”
|05.13.11 at 1:57 pm ET|
Not only do Claude Julien and the team have confidence in Tim Thomas, the Bruins goalie said Friday he believes this Bruins team has already proven in two playoff series wins they have what it take to hoist the Stanley Cup in June.
“I think it was a confidence that grew throughout the year,” Thomas said of the that won the Northeast Division and entered the playoffs as the No. 3 seed in the East. “Till you get to the playoffs, you don’t really know that for sure what you have as a group. I think that the first round against Montreal was a testing ground for us. We started it out right way from some adversity, getting down in the series, 2-0. We started to find out what we were made of.
“Come to find out, we’re made of some pretty stern stuff. We have a lot of the things that it takes to win a championship, hopefully all of them.”
The 37-year-old Thomas will square off against 41-year-old goalie Dwayne Roloson and the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday night in Game 1. Roloson and Thomas enter the Eastern Conference finals with identical 8-3 playoff marks this spring and nearly identical goals against averages.