|04.03.10 at 7:51 pm ET|
If there was ever a must-win game, Saturday at Air Canada Centre in Toronto is that kind of game for the Bruins.
The results will be twofold. Foremost, the Bruins are only a point ahead of the Thrashers and tied with Flyers for the final two playoff spots in the Eastern Conference. Secondly, if Boston wants to get a top two pick in the NHL Entry Draft this summer, they have to beat the team whose pick they own to keep them down in the standings.
So, you would think that the Bruins would be motivated and jump on the division rival Leafs early, right?
Not so much.
Toronto took the early lead at 5:10 into the game when Colton Orr, much more known for his bruising than goal scoring, pushed a rebound off a Dion Phaneuf shot pased Tuukka Rask to open the scoring.
Four minutes later the Leafs would have a big chance to make it a two-goal advantage when Michael Ryder went to the penalty box for hooking at 9:15. He was followed there 23-seconds later by Dennis Seidenberg who took a boarding call to set up 1:37 of two-man advantage ice time for Toronto.
The Bruins registered the kill and came back down the ice to put pressure on Leafs’ goaltender Jonas Gustavsson but a shot hit the cross bar and bounced back out of the crease to end the threat.
During Seidenberg’s penalty he had to leave the box with a cut on his forearm that needed medical attention. Defenseman Mark Stuart is not with the team after getting sent back to Boston with cellulitis, a skin infection, in his hand. Andrew Bodnarchuk has been recalled from Providence on an emergency basis.
Toronto has been the better team through the first 20 minutes and lead the Bruins in shots by nine, 14 to five.
|04.02.10 at 1:57 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — There was a little bit of a new look to the lines at Bruins practice at Ristuccia on Friday.
The normal line groupings by sweater color were blown up by coach Claude Julien. Instead of the normal David Krejci, Blake Wheeler, Michael Ryder line wearing grey, Krejci was joined by Marco Sturm and Miroslav Satan in white sweaters to make the All-European line. Wheeler still skated in grey just this time with Vladimir Sobotka and Brad Marchand. Milan Lucic took Sturm’s spot on the line with Patrice Bergeron and Mark Recchi.
Oh yeah. And Ryder.
“Whoever plays together I think we can definitely play together and get shots on net,” Ryder said by the way of a non-committal response when asked if he saw the red sweater as a demotion.
Julien admitted that the shake up was definitely part of a wake up call that the coaching staff is giving to certain players, like Ryder, Wheeler, Sturm and Lucic, who have been pretty stale of late.
“You saw it today, making some changes, we have got to find some ways of making consistency here,” Julien said. “There is a lot of stuff being done to get those guys going but at the same time we have to make changes on the ice. We are struggling to score goals and, you know, you got certain guys who just aren’t going while and you hope that making changes will either spark them, wake them up or at least give some different lines some better opportunities.”
The situation is getting serious for Ryder. He has one goal since Feb. 13 and has been held without a shot in three of his last four games. For a guy who is supposed to be the sniper, that is not the way things are supposed to work. He admitted that it was in his mind that the demotion to the red sweater could further lead to a demotion where he has no sweater, red, grey or Black and Gold.
“Definitely, it could happen,” Ryder said. “When you are looked at to score goals and you’re not scoring it is definitely in mind but I just have to keep working hard right now and step it up even another notch.”
For Ryder, he would have to step up a first notch before “stepping it up even another,” which he said twice in his five-minute scrum with reporters. He also said that he has been focused on battling though shooting the puck has not been his top priority.
“It makes a difference when everybody on your line is shooting the puck, getting chances and getting more opportunities you have a better chance of scoring,” Ryder said. “I was not thinking about shooting a lot. Sometimes you just have to pound those areas and if you get out of position you don’t get that shot. Now it is just about battling hard and trying to get to those areas and get pucks on net.”
Wheeler was also held without a shot last night and is now on a line with two young players who have been on the fringe of the roster (or in Providence) for most of the year.
“Well, you know, it is sometimes good, almost refreshing to see new faces, play with new guys. Changes like that are always welcome,” Wheeler said. “Anytime you go the majority of two games and zeroes goals, one at the end of the Devils game, change is probably a good thing.”
Wheeler had the Bruins best opportunity with a short-handed 2-on-1 break with Krejci as his trailer but let the opportunity fizzle out in front of him without putting the puck on net. He explained the play Friday morning.
“It is disappointing,” Wheeler said. “It was a play in the game that could have made it different and obviously you expect more out of yourself and I just didn’t make the play, that is all there is to it.”
After Recchi called out some of his teammates for not giving their best effort Thursday night and two games with only one goal, changes to the lines in some way or form were to be expected on Friday. In the dogfight that the Bruins find themselves, it will definitely take all 20 skaters to make sure their last five games are not their last of the season.
“In a way it is not that complicated, if guys work their butts off things will happen, no matter who they play with,” Julien said.
|04.02.10 at 11:33 am ET|
“There’s no doubt we have some players who could’ve been much better for us,” the Bruins coach said. “And a lot of those players are the players we need to help us get through this. You can’t stand here and say, ‘We were outstanding.’ We just lost the game. If everyone were as good as they could be, we would have won this game.”
And if punches equate to shots on net, Michael Ryder wasn’t throwing any.
And therein lies the fundamental problem Julien had with his team and the player he considers his best shooter on the team.
“Ryder is probably our best shooter and ends up with zero shots,” Julien said. “Those are the things we needed from those players.” Julien. “I thought Ryder played a much better game in New Jersey and we needed more out of him [Thursday] as well.
“He’s one of a few more that we needed more out of.”
But Julien made it a point to say that Ryder was hardly alone. There’s Blake Wheeler, without a goal in nine games.
“The chances… Wheeler goes on the 2-on-1 and doesn’t get shot.” Julien on Wheeler’s short-handed chance in third period.
But Ryder said the effort is still there.
“If I had an answer maybe we could figure it out,” Ryder said. “It’s definitely disappointing when you’re supposed to have the advantage at home and you can’t find a way to put wins together. We have one more game left here, I think, and it’s a big game. We have to make sure we get a win there. Right now every point counts and we are on the road for Toronto and Washington. Two big games and we have to find ways to put the puck in the net.”
Ryder has just one goal in his last 18 games.
“It has been a tough year overall for us scoring goals,” Ryder said. “We got that time of year where you have to find ways [to score]. It’s getting into the grind with only five games left. We need to start getting some wins and getting ourselves some space. But we did a lot of good things tonight that we can look at. It’s just a matter of us still throwing pucks at the net and maybe getting more traffic or maybe bearing down a little bit more.”
|04.02.10 at 11:09 am ET|
His season will end on the same weekend his alma mater will be looking for its second NCAA hockey championship in three years as the Boston College Eagles take on the Miami Redhawks in the national semifinals on Thursday in Detroit.
It was in 2001, Clemmensen’s senior year at the Heights, when he led the Eagles to their first NCAA hockey title in 52 years.
Drafted by the Devils in 1997, Clemmensen had a successful career at BC before becoming the first player born in Iowa to play in the NHL.
He played his first NHL game in 2004 and spent parts of several seasons with the Devils and Maple Leafs before signing on as a free agent last summer with Florida.
On Thursday night, he turned away all 36 Bruins shots for a 1-0 win, his first shutout of the season.
“I was hoping I got my first shut out before April,” Clemmensen quipped. “Better late than never.
“They came at us pretty good. We killed penalties really well. I got kind of lucky on some saves here and there. I know they are a little bit of a snake bitten team right now and that played to my advantage. A couple of those saves I got pretty lucky.”
To do what he did on Thursday took on added significance because of the building he was in.
“I will always have a special place in my heart for Boston,” he said. “I love this city and obviously BC alumni here in this building. I have a lot of good memories in this building as well. A couple bad ones too, so I am trying to stock pile as many as I can. While I’m still playing that is the time to do it.”
He even took time to look up in the rafters for some of the banners he’s responsible for.
“Absolutely. I looked at both sides of the scoreboard during the national anthem,” he said with a proud smile. “Both sides have it; Beanpot champs and Hockey East champs. I expect it every year really.”
As for the current edition of the Eagles, he’ll find time to pay attention next weekend.
“I hope BC wins it,” Clemmensen said. “I wish they played this weekend but they do not want to compete with basketball. We are going to have to wait and I wish coach [Jerry] York nothing but the best.”
|04.02.10 at 9:50 am ET|
“We have to find ways to win these games,” Recchi said. “We did in New Jersey because we had everyone in. Tonight, we didn’t have everybody there, so the results are there.”
Julien added that he was frustrated to see the team’s best shooter, Michael Ryder, finish with zero shots on goal. “There’s no doubt we have some players who could’ve been much better for us tonight,” Julien said. “Ryder is probably our best shooter and ends up with zero shots. Those are the things we needed from those players.”
After the game, Julien said the ‘push’ has to come from within the dressing room.
And at 42 years young, it was Recchi pushing the hardest.
“We had a lot of good chances and we just didn’t score,” Recchi said. “I mean, we can’t ask for much more, effort-wise. I still don’t think we had 20 guys tonight, but you know, the guys that were going were generating a lot of opportunities and you got to put those in. We need ‘ like I said, this time of year, you need 20 guys, regardless, so that’s a little bit of a disappointment, but we definitely controlled the game and played the right way and we should have won this one.”
Recchi saw a Florida Panthers team that, while not in the playoff chase, would come in and play a conservative, hard-checking style. And, when the visitors went up, 1-0, in the first period, that’s exactly what the Bruins got.
“They played hard,” Recchi said. “We knew they were going to play hard. I mean, we’ve had some tough games against them this year and, you know, if anybody watches the games and I don’t know, I’m not sure how many guys do, but they play hard. They compete. They haven’t quit. They’ve got some young players that want to play well and you know, they’ve got some, obviously some leaders over there who are not letting those young guys quit and I don’t know if we underestimated them or not, but this time of year, I don’t think you should underestimate anybody.
“I’ve been on the other end where you’re spoiling opportunities and there’s nothing more enjoyable when you know you’re five games away from the end of the season and if you can hurt somebody’s chances of making the playoffs, that’s what you play for and that’s what those guys are playing for right now.”
Recchi was trying so hard on the ice, he thought he was rewarded midway through the second period when he re-directed a shot and raised his stick a bit prematurely, almost willing the puck in the net when nothing else was working.
“Yeah, I thought it went in, but obviously, it didn’t, but yeah, I thought it went in,” Recchi admitted. “We had a lot of good opportunities. Their goalie [Scott Clemmensen] made some good saves. You’ve got to give him some credit too, but, you know, a lot of pucks ‘ he’s a big kid and he played big, and a lot of pucks hit him and we weren’t able to capitalize.”
But again, it comes down to having everyone in and Recchi made it clear Thursday night that, with just five games left, that’s something he expects.
“In a game like this, if you have 20 guys, we don’t lose, and we still miss,” he said. “[In] New Jersey, we had 20 guys, and we win. It’s no secret this time of year. The teams that have guys that are ‘ and we talked about this after the last game ‘ you might not feel good, but this time of year, chances are you don’t feel great but, you know, you have to dig deep down and do it for your teammates, do it for yourself. You have to find ways.
“If you’re a goal scorer and you’re not scoring goals, you got to be physical; and you got to play great defensively, and if you’re a physical guy, then you know, you got to chip in at times, so there’s a whole bunch of factors that play into this and I think we have to, with five games remaining, I think we shouldn’t have to be talking about it, but the results are there. [If] we don’t have 20 guys, we don’t win, and [if] we do, we win.”
|04.01.10 at 9:21 pm ET|
Summary — The Bruins had that familiar feeling on Thursday as they had trouble finishing chances against the Florida Panthers in a game they lost 1-0 at TD Garden. Tuukka Rask took the loss for Boston on the night with 19 saves while Scott Clemmensen got the shutout for the Panthers in turning away 36 Bruins shots and plethora of opportunities.
The Panthers got on the board in the first period when Keith Ballard pinched the slot with space in front of Rask and went underneath the goaltender’s pads to give Florida a 1-0 lead at 7:15 in the first period. The goal ended a 121:42 shutout streak by Rask over parts of four games.
Boston knocked on the door repeatedly in the second period with 17 shots and two power play opportunities but the Bruins could not beat Clemmensen as every puck that came close was turned away, inches wide or above the net and the game entered the third period with the Panthers still up by the lone goal. Both Milan Lucic and Mark Recchi thought at one point they had scored goals only to see the end result of the puck on the wrong side of the net.
One of Boston’s best chances to score was on a short-handed opportunity in the third period when Blake Wheeler found himself on a 2-on-1 break with David Krejci following him on the right wing. Wheeler ended up waiting too long to make the decision to shoot or pass and put and ineffective tip on the edge of the crease at 4:40.
Rask received the Bruins Seventh Player Award before the game as the player who “went above and beyond the call of duty and exceeded the expectations of Bruins fans during the season.”
Keith Ballard — The defenseman’s first period goal was the only scoring in the game. He also blocked a least a half dozen shots to help his goaltender keep the puck out of the net.
Scott Clemmensen — The former Boston College Eagle was good enough in net to keep the Bruins off the board and out of the win column with (#) saves.
Tuukka Rask — Even in a losing effort the Bruins net minder was solid in turning away the Panthers chances and keeping Boston in the game.
Turning Point — At 15:40 in the second penalty on a delayed penalty the Bruins Mark Recchi thought he had beat Clemmensen with a redirection. He went so far as to raise his hands and stick thinking that it went in but turned out to go wide right. Later in the period on the power play Milan Lucic did almost the same thing as he deflected a puck that went over the net, causing Clemmensen’s water bottle to stir in the process. Lucic raised his hands just as Recchi had but again the puck did not go into the net (though the officials did review Lucic’s tip).
Key Play – Keith Ballard pinched the slot in the first period after a Bruins flurry on the other end of the ice and caught the defense sleeping while the Boston forwards were not being aggressive on the back check. Given a few seconds right in front of a goaltender, most NHL players will take advantage of the situation and Ballard was no exception as he used Rask’s pads against him as he went up and underneath them for the first (and only) goal of the game.
|04.01.10 at 8:35 pm ET|
If the Bruins somehow miss the playoffs, it would be appropriate that they do so by one point.
After all, this has been the year of the near-miss for the Bruins offense. The Bruins trail 1-0 after 40 minutes on Keith Ballard’s first-period goal.
Just watching the second period, fans witnessed a microcosm of what has been missing this season – the finishing touch.
Twice in the second period, Bruins began to raise their sticks in expectation of a goal, only to discover their shots were near-misses. Mark Recchi re-directed a shot in front of Scott Clemmensen midway through the second and felt confident it was past the Florida netminder as he raised his stick. The puck deflected wide.
With just five minutes left in the period, Milan Lucic had an even better chance and wristed it just high and wide when he thought it was in. Lucic wasn’t the only one fooled as one of the on-ice officials saw the water bottle on the net behind Clemmensen twitch and thought the puck might have gone in and out.
At the next stoppage – several minutes later – the play was reviewed and it was revealed that Clemmenson’s stick handle was the culprit.
The Bruins applied constant pressure throughout the period, spending most of the period in the Florida zone and outshooting Florida, 17-10.
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