|04.17.11 at 2:51 pm ET|
The Bruins know they were a good road team in the regular season. They strung together that perfect 6-0-0 road trip beginning back on Feb. 17, and their 53 road points were good for fifth in the NHL over the 82-game campaign.
After dropping the first two games of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals to the Canadiens at TD Garden, they had better hope that they can play Monday night’s Game 3 and Thursday’s Game 4 like they did in many of the regular-season’s road games. The only problem is that while they have been fantastic in many buildings, the Bell Centre is most certainly not one of them.
The B’s took a 4-3 loss to the Habs on Dec. 16, and in their second meeting in Montreal, they blew a 2-0 lead in the final 2:22 en route to taking an embarrassing 3-2 loss in overtime on Jan. 8. While the March 8 game in Bell Centre was ugly enough as a result of the Max Pacioretty/Zdeno Chara mess, the B’s play in a 4-1 loss wasn’t much prettier. With the Habs winning all three games of their meetings at the Bell Centre, they could conceivably be licking their chops at the prospect of sweeping the B’s in front of their home crowd. They’re not thinking about it, but the Bruins are thinking about finding a way to turn into the team that grabbed 24 road wins.
“That’s hopefully something that can help us get back in the series, and that’s going to be up to us to have that same approach as we’ve had most of the year on the road,” Claude Julien said Sunday. “We’ve been a good road team, we’ve done the things better, and for some reason on the road you seem to want to keep your game a little simpler than you do at home. That’s something that’s going to have to happen. Keep it simple, but keep it efficient and maybe if we do that we’ll make less mistakes.”
|04.17.11 at 1:53 pm ET|
The Bruins did not hold practice on Sunday following their Game 2 loss to the Canadiens. The B’s will travel to Montreal down two games to none, and speaking at TD Garden Sunday, forward Milan Lucic did not sugar-coat the team’s situation.
“It’s no secret now’¦ We’re in trouble right now and we need to find a way to rally and get our heads around it,” Lucic said. “Everyone needs to step up and play the way we know we can.”
The Bruins have not been able to score the first or second goal in either game, playing from behind for 116:23 of the 120 minutes the teams have played in thus far in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals.
“It all starts with a good start. That’s what our focus is going to be on, is getting out there and trying to establish that first goal, trying to establish a good first shift,” the 22-year-old said. “That’s what’s lacked in the first two games, especially the last game.
“You give up a goal in the first 43 seconds, you’re not giving yourself a good chance to win when you’re doing that. We need everyone to step up and rise to the occasion to have a good start going into Game 3.”
A year ago, the sixth-seeded Bruins were able to upset the No. 3 Sabres in the first round. Once favored to eliminate the Habs, the B’s will need a pretty big comeback in order to avoid missing the conference semifinals for the first time in three years. To even bring the series back to Boston for a fifth game, the B’s will need to beat the Canadiens at the Bell Centre, an arena in which they lost all three of their meetings in the regular season.
“We’re definitely the underdogs for the rest of the series, but we’re not thinking about that at all,” Lucic said. “We’re just thinking about what we need to do to get ourselves back in this series.”
The Habs have cashed in on turnovers and converted them into goals. Lucic is among a handful of B’s who have seen blunders with the puck result in Montreal tallies, and he knows that if they are going to right the ship, they had better do it soon.
“The main thing is, we’re fighting the puck, and it’s almost like we’re shooting ourselves in the foot,” he said. “That’s the most upsetting part, but we need to put that aside and we need to put our rally caps on and figure something out quick, because we’re definitely running out of time.”
The B’s and Canadiens will play Game 3 in Montreal on Monday night.
|04.17.11 at 1:45 pm ET|
Not exactly earth-shattering news, but Claude Julien said Sunday that Zdeno Chara will travel with the Bruins to Montreal for Games 3 and 4 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals. Chara sat out the team’s 3-1 loss in Game 2 due to an illness that included dehydration. His status for Game 3 is uncertain.
|04.17.11 at 1:25 pm ET|
The most alarming part of Saturday’s no-show by the Bruins was their complete inability to pick up the emotional or physical slack left by the absence of Zdeno Chara. From the drop of the puck, the Bruins looked shell-shocked when Chara skated pregame but couldn’t go, leaving them without their best defenseman and captain.
“Well, number one you can’t every say that you didn’t miss him,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said. “He’s one of the best defensemen in the league and when you lose a guy like that it leaves you with a big hole. Having said that, I still think our Ds are capable of handling themselves and can definitely be better.
“And those costly goals are what we’re talking about. They have to make the other team earn their goals and I don’t think that was the case tonight. We certainly have to get better in regards to that and those kinds of mistakes and are type we can’t keep making.”
“Yeah, he’s our captain but at the same time, we all need to step up in here,” added Patrice Bergeron, the man who likely would be captain if not for Chara. “Yeah, it hurts missing “Z” but it’s playoffs and it’s adversity and it’s things we have to go through. We’re not the only team that’s missing key players. We have to find a way.”
And while Julien announced Sunday that Chara will be making the trip to Montreal for Monday’s Game 3, there’s still no guarantee he plays. Whether Chara is on the ice or not, the Bruins can’t afford to bumble and stumble like they did in the first two minutes Saturday night or their season will – for all intents and purposes – be over.
“I don’t know if it’s about making up for the loss,” Julien said. “We need to make some better decisions. We did the same thing in that first game as well. The two goals we gave up were, they are glaring mistakes, to our eyes anyway. And like I said after the first game, they’re uncharacteristic of our hockey club and we’re here talking about the same thing. So yeah, we have to correct that and we have to correct it starting next game. We have to make sure those things are eliminated from our game if we want to give ourselves a chance to win this series.”
Things like flipping the puck blindly up the middle of the neutral zone, leading to a turnover and an odd-man rush that ended in Yannick Webber‘s back-breaking goal late in the second, restoring Montreal’s two-goal cushion and crushing Boston’s comeback hopes.
“I was looking up ice,” said Seidenberg of his ill-fated transition attempt. “It seem like the boards were taken so I tried to hit Horty going through the middle. But their D stepped in front.”
Julien knows his team has one more shot Monday to redeem themselves before being put on life-support.
“It’s the best-of-seven,” Julien said. “We’ve lost the first two games. And, let’s be honest here, our team has not played at all close to the way we know we can. You can outshoot them, you can do a lot of things, but the mistakes that we have made in this series so far are very uncharacteristic of our hockey team, and we need to be better than that. If they’re going to score some goals, they need to earn them a lot more than they have. We had to work pretty hard tonight just to get that one goal, and I don’t think they had to work as hard to get theirs.
“And that’s basically the difference right now in the games, is the execution of one team, compared to the execution of the other one. I’m going to stand here and tell you that our execution isn’t good enough and it needs to be better. That’s what we have to do from here on in.”
|04.17.11 at 1:28 am ET|
The Bruins have gotten a lot of shots on goal in their series against the Canadiens — 66 through two games — but they’ve also had a lot blocked. Montreal has registered a staggering 47 blocks in its pair of wins, including 27 in Saturday night’s 3-1 triumph. By comparison, the Bruins have blocked just 21 shots in the series.
‘We have some guys who are actually really good at it,’ forward Michael Cammalleri said. ‘[Brent] Sopel and [Hal] Gill right away come to mind. Those guys are two premier shot-blockers in the NHL. They’re leading the way and other guys are feeding off that.’
Gill led all players with five blocks in Game 2, while Sopel’s seven in the two games combined are a series high. It’s not just those two, though. Fourteen of the 19 Canadiens who have dressed in the series have blocked at least one shot. At the other end of the ice, only seven Bruins have registered a block.
‘That’s what it takes to win in the playoffs,’ forward Mathieu Darche said. ‘It wasn’t only our third and fourth line guys or our D. It was everybody.’
Defenseman James Wisniewski said the Canadiens have to make sure they’re getting in shooting lanes because the Bruins are a hard team to clear away from the front of the net. If they don’t block shots, he said, there’s a chance the Bruins could tip them or prevent goalie Carey Price from seeing them.
‘That’s the type of thing that’s huge for our team,’ Wisniewski said. ‘We can’t outmuscle them in front of the net, so we have to make sure forwards get in the shooting lanes. And if it gets by our forwards, we can come out and front the puck and get the puck out of our zone.’
The Canadiens play a layered defense that has become more and more common at all levels of hockey, and that makes it even more difficult for their opponents to get shots through.
‘It’s kind of a skill,’ Wisniewski said. ‘You have to see what the forward is taking away, if he’s taking blocker or glove-side away. If he’s taking blocker, then you step out and take glove-side. So it’s kind of like a double block that we’re doing.’
Price said it requires almost constant communication between him and his defensemen and between the defensemen and the forwards to make sure guys are blocking shots and not just deflecting them or screening him.
‘There’s a lot of talk on the ice,’ Price said. ‘It’s not always easy with the noise in the building, but communication is really important.’
|04.17.11 at 12:47 am ET|
After posting the best regular-season save percentage in NHL history, Tim Thomas is having a nightmarish playoff series against the Canadiens. He allowed three goals on Saturday night, two of which came after he allowed bad rebounds in front of the net. But after Saturday’s 3-1 loss, Thomas said there is still time to salvage the series and his season with a great performance on Monday night in Game 3 at the Bell Centre, with the Bruins trailing the Eastern quarterfinal series, 2-0.
“The proof will be in the pudding,” Thomas said, adding he’s not worried about the team’s confidence. “I’m so focused on just trying to do what my job is that I’m not really thinking about that.”
Asked if the hostile crowd in Montreal will be hard to handle, Thomas said the Bruins can use it to their advantage if they can score early in Game 3.
“Well, there’s a lot of energy,” Thomas said. “If you can grab that energy and focus it in the right way it can actually help you. Winning four out of the next five games. It’s pretty simple, that’s the biggest challenge.”
Just 43 seconds into Saturday’s Game 2, the challenge got a lot harder after news that their captain wouldn’t be about to make a go of it. But Thomas said he didn’t sense panic.
“I don’t know,” Thomas said. “I’m not on the bench, I’m in goal. So I don’t really, I don’t know. I didn’t pick up that mood from the locker room, and I’m not on the bench.”
Then there were the questions about the rebounds he gave up on the second and third Montreal goals.
“Well the first one, I kicked out the perfect rebound,” Thomas said. “The second one, it went off Seidenberg’s shin pad, it was just bad luck. It just changed the angle by about three or four inches and that’s the difference between controlling the rebound easily and having there be a rebound.”
Thomas faced questions about his rough night on the rebound but also acknowledged the whole team needs to be better if they are to have a shot Monday.
“Yeah,” Thomas said. “Straight up down the line, you know? It’s easy to accept because it is. It is what it is. We’ve got our backs against the wall, and we’ll see how we respond.”
As for the one goal of offensive support in the first two games, Thomas said that’s pretty self-explanatory.
“We need to score more. We know that,” Thomas said. “You take a step back and start focusing on Monday. You don’t feel sorry for yourself, because no one else is going to feel sorry for you.”
|04.16.11 at 11:50 pm ET|
After winning Games 1 and 2 in Boston, the Canadiens have a chance to close out the series in front of their own fans if they can defend home ice and win the next two games at the Bell Centre, where they went 3-0 against the Bruins in the regular season. Just don’t expect them to be looking ahead to Game 4 and the possibility of a sweep.
‘We’re not concerned about the second game or coming back here,’ said Canadiens goalie Carey Price. ‘All we’re worried about is the next game. It’s a clichÃ©, but that’s really all we’re looking forward to, is the next day and the next game.’
Don’t expect them to spend any time celebrating their two straight road victories over their rivals, either.
‘I’ve got no time for that,’ Michael Cammalleri said. ‘Seriously. If we’re sitting here happy about that and celebrating, then we’re making a crucial mistake. The fans can be happy and our parents and our families can be happy, and good for them, but I’m dead serious. We have no time to be happy right now.’
The Canadiens know the Bruins are capable of playing better than they have in the first two games and they’re not taking anything for granted or expecting anything to come easy.
‘We’re happy with those two games, but we really can’t be satisfied,’ Mathieu Darche said. ‘It’s just going to get tougher. They’ll come to Montreal with a vengeance. We know they’re going to be better, and we’ll have to be better also.’
Price said the Canadiens also can’t get caught up in the excitement of the crowd or get down if something goes wrong.
‘We’re going to have to really maintain our composure,’ Price said. ‘I think that’s going to be the biggest thing. The crowd’s behind us and obviously there’s going to a lot of adrenaline, so we have to make sure everybody stays composed.’
The Bruins, meanwhile, aren’t getting down on themselves. They know they’ve been a good road team all season — their 24-12-5 record on the road was fifth-best in the NHL — and even though they’re down 0-2 and haven’t won in Montreal this season, they remain confident.
‘It might be a good thing for us to get there and really simplify things and get more composed than we are right now,’ Mark Recchi said. ‘We’ll be fine as long as we regroup here and as long as we embrace it and get ready for a big situation on Monday. The pressure is on us now. I believe in this group of guys and we’re going to have to go show them on Monday.’