|05.07.10 at 7:50 pm ET|
PHILADELPHIA — The Wachovia Center feels much more alive on Friday than it did on Wednesday for Game 3. The theme music from the Rocky music led the Flyers on to the ice (noticeably absent from Game 3) and a couple early Philadelphia chances got the crowd in the game.
Milan Lucic took the first penalty of the game as the Flyers went on the power play for high sticking at 8:24. But, as it has been all series long, Philadelphia got the Rask treatment as he blocked both shots that were sent on him during the man-advantage and Boston continued its strong penalty kill that has not allowed a power play goal since Game 1 with 10 kills in the last two games into the the start of Game 4.
Boston got on the board first when Mark Recchi added his fifth goal of the playoffs after Patrice Bergeron got on a partial break set up by Dennis Wideman and Daniel Paille through the neutral zone. Bergeron had a weak shot on Brian Boucher but the goaltender laid out and deflected the puck back into the slot with his stick where Recchi, following the play, flipped it to the top of the net at 15:37 for the third opening goal by the Bruins in the four games.
A dustup between Vladimir Sobotka, Scott Hartnell and Arron Asham in front of the Flyers bench at 18:04 sent Sobotka and Hartnell to the box for matching roughing penalties at 18:04. Philadelphia used the extra ice space to its advantage as Matt Carle came down the left wing on the rush rush and crossed the puck through the high slot to Claude Giroux who tapped it aside to Danny Briere who sent a wrist shot from the top of the dot on Rask that had eyes and the game was tied at one at 19:06.
The Bruins lead in the shot department heading into the second with a 10 to nine advantage.
|05.07.10 at 1:55 pm ET|
PHILADELPHIA — The Broad Street faithful are hoping to see one of their old friends on the ice at the Wachovia Center on Friday and hope that he will be able to continue their season, if only just a little bit longer.
Simon Gagne will be a game-time decision for Game 4 after having surgery on a broken toe on April 23 after the fourth game of the quarterfinals against the Devils. Gagne skated at the Flyers practice facility in Vorhees, NJ on Thursday but did not take part in Philadelphia’s morning Friday. He was the only Flyers player to [officially] address the media before Game 4 and said that he will take part in warmups and consult with the athletic trainer and doctors before making a decision on whether or not he will play.
“There is no need right now to go out there and skate. I am going to wait in my warmup and put all the chance on my side and decide from there,” Gagne said.
Gagne had an MRI on the toe on Thursday after practice to make sure it had not moved or been displaced during the skate. All results were OK and now it just seems like how much pain he can withstand and how much the injury will allow him to contribute.
“I am going to have to talk to the trainer after warmup and tell him how I feel and get the call from the doctor,” Gagne said. “I talked to him yesterday and we went and got that MRI and we talked a little bit about what I have to look for to be able to play. Do, like I said, I need to get ready for warmup and we will chat with Jimmy [McCrossin — athletic trainer] after warmup and then we will decide if we are good to go.”
Coach Peter Laviolette said in his morning news conference that the emotional benefit from getting a player back is fleeting when it comes to the work it takes to win a hockey game. He would talk nothing of assumptions concerning whether or not Gagne would play or what his minutes would be other than to say that he probably would not spend much time on the penalty kill.
“When the players return I think there has to be more than the bang that you might get in the first minute,” Laviolette said. “There is so much work that has to be done throughout the course of the game and even when a player, when he does return, I think it is important that they are contributing factors. Maybe you get a quick boost but there is a lot of work to be done. Boston won’t put a lot of stock into a player when he returns to the lineup.”
The Flyers are going to need all the help they can get if they want to climb back into this series. Gagne admitted that a Game 4 timetable was not on his mind, he figured, at best, Game 5, perhaps later in the series. A player has to do what a player has to do. It is playoff hockey.
“To be honest with you, I was looking toward Game 5 or maybe the end of the series, but I started to actually feel pretty good before Game 3,” Gagne said. “It is the playoffs and right now we are against the wall and we have to win and we are not allowed to lose any games. It is right there and if I feel good enough to play, I will be there.”
Laviolette expects the Flyers to play to win Friday night, regardless of the status of Simon Gagne. He went so far as to say that the pressure had shifted to the Bruins, which is not all that unreasonable. The fourth game is always the hardest to claim. Boston found that out in Game 5 of the quarterfinals against the Sabres.
“I would expect us to play a really good hockey game,” Laviolette said. “We had a good practice yesterday, had a good meeting. Our backs are up against the wall but the pressure really shifts to Boston at this point, not so much on us. I would think our guys are going to come out with one heck of an effort tonight.”
Morning notes — The Bruins had a full team practice while only a couple Flyers took part in the morning skate, reversed from the situation on Thursday we Philadelphia had a full team practice and the Boston had a workout day (in Bruins parlance, that means they played soccer in the hallway of the Wachovia center). Shawn Thornton did not skate for the Bruins and coach Claude Julien said that “he exercised his option” on whether to skate or not. An interesting choice for a player who does not have a contract after the season ends. Trent Whitfield is the probably replacement for David Krejci in the Bruins lineup as Julien likes the idea of having five true centermen in the lineup but the decision between him and Brad Marchand will be made after warmups.
|05.07.10 at 12:54 pm ET|
PHILADELPHIA — The revolving door continues.
Defenseman Adam McQuaid goes down in the first period of Game 3 with a lower body injury and all of a sudden Mark Stuart is medically cleared to play coming back from cellulitis in his left hand. It has been the way the Bruins have rolled this year — a deep roster of capable players mixed with a little serendipity.
“Yeah, still a game-time decision but if they call my name I am ready to go,” Stuart said. “Yeah, it is just me and the other guys to see who is going. For now it [the decisions] is in warmups, after warmups, something like that.”
The other decisions of which Stuart speaks would be between him, Andrew Bodnarchuk, Andy Wozniewski and Jeffrey Penner. It is hard to imagine that coach Claude Julien would take one of the two rookies (Bodnarchuk, Penner) or lifetime AHL blue liner Wozniewski over a relatively healthy Stuart. Even if McQuaid was not injured, Stuart still should get the nod coming back. He is a solid top-four NHL defenseman and when he is playing well, the Bruins defensive corps is deep and that much tougher to crack. Stuart said that it is a little bit different coming back for the playoffs — the intensity is must higher — but it would be the same for him as the other defenseman who have been sitting all playoffs.
“Yeah, a little bit. It usually comes back pretty quick. You try to get your mental game going as quick as you can and hope that the physical part catches up. I have been on the ice and it feels good but now it is just a matter in getting in some games,” Stuart said.
Stuart’s injury is a bit of an odd one as there is actually nothing structurally wrong with him. Cellulitis is a bone infection and he has been on antibiotics treating it. The biggest fear would be to contaminate the infection, there is a lot of other people’s sweat and potentially blood in a hockey game. Yet, if the staff has medically cleared him, there should be no reason not to suit him up. He has been skating and working hard to come back for the last week and it seems that he is ready to make a go of it.
“It has been quite a bit in a short time. I would not say rushing it but like I said before I have the luxury of the guys playing so well and getting some wins,” Stuart said. “I don’t know if it will be harder or easier, actually. It is playoffs, it is fun. You kind of get into the intensity early. I have not played in the games but watching them and being around the guys you definitely feel the energy.”
|05.07.10 at 9:05 am ET|
ESPN hockey analyst Barry Melrose joined Dennis & Callahan Friday morning to talk about the Bruins-Flyers series. To hear the interview, click on the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.
“I think Boston, of the eight teams left, are playing the best playoff hockey,” Melrose said. “They’re giving up nothing. They’re playing a great brand of hockey right now.”
Melrose said the Bruins’ discipline in coach Claude Julien’s system has been great to watch. “I love the way Boston’s playing,” he said. “When they give up a shot, it’s from the side. Tuukka Rask is playing great. No outnumbered chances — no 3-on-2s, 2-on-1s. Boston’s playing the system to a ‘T.’ But again, are they going to be able to score? [David] Krejci’s out, [Marco] Sturm’s out, [Marc] Savard’s probably about 75-80 percent. It’s been amazing how they’ve been able to score with all these guys out of the lineup.”
Melrose said that if the Bruins take command in this game the Flyers will focus on the physical aspect, but don’t expect any brawls. “It won’t get ugly like it did in the ’70s, but it will get chippy,” Melrose said. “Philly’s a chippy team anyways. They always take a lot of penalties. They’ve got some guys on the ice that will go a little stir crazy. But it will be nothing like the old days. There won’t be any fights or anything like that. There will be maybe a couple of pushing and shoving matches, a few scrums. The dark days of hockey are over. It will never be like those days. But it will get chippy if the game gets out of hand.”
If the Bruins can close out the Flyers, Melrose suggested B’s fans should pull for the Canadiens to upset the Penguins in the other Eastern Conference semifinal. “I think if Boston plays Montreal they can beat them,” he said. “I don’t think Boston can beat Pittsburgh.”
|05.06.10 at 3:34 pm ET|
PHILADELPHIA — The Bruins are focused.
It could be sensed on Wednesday which team is walking the concentrated, confident path and which one a little bit lost in the dark. The Bruins have the swagger, the Flyers need a flashlight.
So, when it comes to the loss of a key guy like David Krejci, the collective Boston dressing room bucks up and comes together to continue down the road. It is a key loss, for sure, but it is not like these Bruins have not been dealing with it all season. They lost Marc Savard to a Grade 2 concussion for two months and have been without two of their top for defenders in Mark Stuart and Dennis Seidenberg throughout the playoffs. Yet, here they are, one game away from the Eastern Conference finals.
“It is never easy to lose guys like that. We’ve got two guys in our top four ‘D’s’ who are out of our lineup still,” coach Claude Julien said. “It is part of the game. It is one that you can’t dwell on because it takes away your focus on what you need to do to succeed so as a coach you look at what you got there and you have to make the best of what you got.”
Julien has not yet made a decision on who will replace Krejci in the lineup, it will be either Trent Whitfield or Brad Marchand but the coach also has to figure out who will take rookie defenseman Adam McQuaid’s spot as well. The blue liner was lost for the rest of Game 3 after being hit behind the net in the first period on Wednesday and tallied three shifts for 1:49 of ice time. Julien said on Thursday that he had a “lower-body injury” and is “very doubtful” for Game 4. His options in the cupboard are either Andy Wozniewski, Andrew Bodnarchuk, Jeff Penner or maybe, just maybe, Stuart.
“He suffered what we would call a ‘lower body injury,’ in the playoffs. Basically, very doubtful for tomorrow but then will be a day-to-day situation,” Julien said of McQuaid.
There is still no word on medical clearance for Stuart coming back from a cellulitis infection in his left pinky. He has been skating and practicing but has not been fully cleared to get into a game. McQuaid going down will not speed up the timetable for Stuart and Julien reserves the right to make the decision on if the defender is ready when he does get clearance.
“No, we are not going to accelerate [Stuart],” Julien said. “If [Stuart] ever plays it is because he is ready to play and he is also a guy who, when I say re-evaluted, we haven’t gotten clearance from the medical staff yet but he has been cleared for full practice so all we need now is full clearance. If we do have that tomorrow, whether we get it or not, then it will be our decision.”
Stuart has been practicing with an IV cast that he moves around his arms and is still on antibiotics until May 25th. He feels he has good conditioning and has repeatedly stated the desire to get into the playoffs as soon as he is cleared. On Thursday he skated with Penner, Wozniewski, Bodnarchuk, Whitfield and Marchand along with goaltenders Tim Thomas and Dany Sabourin. Outside of the net minders, pluck two players from that list, perhaps Bodnarchuk and Whitfield as a first guess, and insert them into the Bruins lineup for Game 4 on Friday.
“I think we have a lot of guys who have been around our team for a while now and we will keep that decision probably for tomorrow,” Julien said. “I still got a whole day to sort things out here and we have a lot of guys capable of jumping in and doing the job here. It is a matter of picking and choosing who we want. So, there are still a couple of question marks. We talk about Stuart, we talk about the other ‘D’s’ available, we are definitely going to need a guy there and definitely going to need another forward. So, there will be two new additions in our lineup tomorrow.”
On a separate injury related note, Seidenberg had his hard cast removed from his left forearm on Monday to reveal a two to three inch scar from where he suffered a tendon laceration. He wears a splint over it and has been working out though not yet able to take the ice. He is about four weeks through the eight weeks of expected recovery time which might make him available if the Bruins go to the Stanley Cup Finals.
|05.06.10 at 1:35 pm ET|
Bruins defenseman Johnny Boychuk joined the Dale & Holley show Thursday afternoon to talk about the Bruins’ success in the Stanley Cup playoffs. To hear the interview, click on the Dale & Holley audio on demand page. Boychuck was asked if he felt capable of providing more offense to help make up for the loss of Marco Sturm and David Krejci to injuries. “I know I can do it for sure,” Boychuk said. “With those two guys out, everybody’s going to have to step up their game. I can’t really jump up in the rush at the wrong time, but when I see an opportunity to jump up in the rush, I’m going to make sure to do it and try to put the puck in the back of the net.”
On the hit from Flyers forward Mike Richards that injured Krejci Wednesday night, Bochuk said: “It actually looked like a clean hit to me. It was unfortunate that Krejci got hurt on it, but he made a play and we scored a pivotal goal in the game last night. He took a hit for the team, and we made sure to capitalize when it happened.”
Boychuk took some heat from Sabres fans for his hit that injured forward Thomas Vanek in the first round, but Boychuck said he doesn’t care if he’s the bad guy in Buffalo. “I don’t even think it was a cheap shot,” he said. “It was just a hockey-instinct play. It wasn’t like I was trying to hurt him. But they had to point the finger at somebody, so they had to point it at me, I guess. I just take it as it is. If they want to point the finger for their loss at me, then go ahead. That’s fine by me. It won’t bother me at all, and I’ll just keep playing the way I am.”
On the contributions of veteran forward Mark Recchi, Boycuk said, “I think we have to check his birth certificate, because he sure doesn’t play like a -year-old. He’s a great team leader, and he plays like he’s 25. Having him in the dressing room — just his presence in the dressing room helps our whole team out just by keep it calm, keeping it cool. He gets goals for us that we need and want.”
On goalie Tuukka Rask, Boychuck said, “He’s kind of like an ice man. Nothing really bothers him. He’s always focused and into the game. You can’t really get him off his game easy.”
|05.06.10 at 10:42 am ET|
PHILADELPHIA — All of a sudden the Bruins are missing 89 points of production out of their lineup.
This is not a team that has all that much production to lose, let alone almost 100 points. Marco Sturm (22 goals, 15 assists) may not be seen as a huge loss for Boston, as he had not scored a goal in the playoffs and only had two strikes since March 13, but the loss of David Krejci (17 goals, 35 assists) to a reportedly broken wrist after a hit from Flyers captain Mike Richards in Game 3 is a huge blow.
Krejci was the key player to spur the Bruins to their late-season run and has been instrumental in their playoff success. It took the young Czech center a while to get going this year coming off of offseason hip surgery but he has been near the top of his game since the Olympic break, constantly creating chances around the net and showing that he has the potential to be a top-tier offensive talent in the league. He can be a joy to watch as he breaks down would-be defenders, like he did in Game 2 against the Flyers when eluding pressure on the half wall before sending the puck to the other side of the rink where Dennis Wideman and Blake Wheeler ended up assisting Miroslav Satan (who else?) on a goal.
Fact of the matter is, without Krejci, this magical playoff run the Bruins are on will probably come to and end. Center is the deepest position on the Bruins between Krejci, Patrice Bergeron, Marc Savard, Vladimir Sobotka and Steve Begin but Sobotka is not the type of guy who can step up his game to the point of coming anywhere near being able to replace Krejci. Sobotka is a high-effort guy, concerned enough with just keeping his spot on the roster, let alone turning in to an offense-first NHL centerman.
So, sans Krejci, Boston just does not have another guy like that who can extend their roster. Savard, Bergeron and Krejci are supposed to complement each other, not replace each other. If Savard could have started ramping up his production coming off a Grade 2 concussion, you would have to like the Bruins chances against anybody in the NHL with their skill down the middle. There are no forwards on the roster who, without some extraordinary breakout playoff hysterics, can pick up that production. If you look at the Bruins roster they are strong on defense (and about to get stronger if Mark Stuart can come back soon), great in goal with Tuukka Rask or even Tim Thomas (because, yes, Thomas can still be a great goaltender) and deep down center. Forward is the lacking position and [potential No. 2 overall pick] Taylor Hall would be quite a welcome addition to the team come training camp next fall.
But that does not help the Bruins right now. With or without Krejci, there is almost no way that the Flyers are going to beat Rask four straight to take the series, but the production and roster-lengthening effect of Krejci cannot be replaced. This is especially pertinent if the Bruins end up playing the Penguins who are perhaps the deepest team at center in the entire league with Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Jordan Staal.
Either way, it is a sad day for the wily Czech. Knowing his quiet intensity, it will be difficult for him to watch his teammates continue to battle for Lord Stanley’s Cup from the press box.
UPDATED — Now with correct math.
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