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Julien: Time for Bruins to show some determination

10.02.09 at 2:28 pm ET
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WILMINGTON — Back to work for the Bruins at Ristuccia Arena Friday afternoon following a lackluster ice-breaker against the Washington Capitals on Thursday night.

Plenty of talk about the power play unit, and the definite lack of mightiness after going 0-for-5 with only a single shot on net during over five minutes of 5-on-4 action in Thursday’s defeat. But in Claude Julien’s mind, the power play’s lack of bite went back to a surprising lack of determination and will displayed all over the ice after the opening 10 minutes.

Heading into the season the Bruins talked about weathering opposing team’s best punches in the frenzied opening minutes of games, and then slowly winning the game’s tide over through three periods. That seemed to work in exact reverse in their first game as the Black and Gold skaters had nothing in the tank after an opening flurry against Washington that ultimately didn’t bear any fruit.

“I wouldn’t pinpoint it as [power play trouble],” said Julien. “There was a lot more than that going on [against the Caps] in my book. Your best players have to be your hardest workers, and yesterday we were getting outworked on the power play and losing battles.

The power play breakouts and set-ups were sound, but there wasn’t enough gritty desire to keep the puck in the zone or create the dynamic puck movement that the Capitals confidently called upon on the other side of the ice. Combine the misfiring power play squad with Andrew Ference, David Krejci, Matt Hunwick and Marco Sturm all coming back from summer rehab programs amid an abbreviated preseason schedule, and there was a perfect storm of disappointment against a Caps team looking in mid-season form.

“A lot of it is we have to understand that our work ethic has to get better, and that’s a starting point for us turning it around,” said Julien. “We have a lot of challenges that are a little bit out of our control. We have a lot of guys that maybe aren’t in synch right now, and as a whole it certainly makes it challenging for our team.

“But we have to take a step back and maybe concentrate on our work ethic, and then maybe we’re giving ourselves a chance. The rest should follow. I have to push those guys to want to work harder, and they have to want to work harder. And they do it on their own as well. It’s a push from all of us, and it’s what we have to do to at least get back on the right track. ”

–The Bruins were licking their opening night wounds Friday morning, but also readying for a Saturday night date with a Carolina Hurricanes squad that ended their season in a Game 7 overtime heart-breaker last spring. Claude Julien admitted that he’s never watched a full replay of the Game 7 film after the fact, but has endured more than enough replays of Scott Walker’s OT winner in the last three months.

Shawn Thornton stayed in touch with Canes defenseman Aaron Ward following his trade to Carolina, and pleasantries will be exchanged before the hate starts flowing on the ice.  Thornton and his teammates remember exactly what happened during last year’s semi-finals after taking the Canes a bit too lightly, and that isn’t going to happen again after a soggy opening night.

“It happens all the time and it won’t be that weird because I’ve seen [Ward] in that jersey before. The tough part of the game is when guys get moved, but he’s home and it looks like he’s happy,” said Thornton. “I’ve talked to him a couple of times, but he’s not my teammate anymore and whatever happens out there, he’s on the other team.

“Obviously we haven’t forgotten that they knocked us out three months ago, so we have to bottle it up and use it in the right way. We’re not going to go out there running around like crazy and getting away from our game. But having a little bit of an edge and a little bit of nastiness to our game against the team that ended our season might be all right.” 

Dennis Wideman talked about the “too many men on the ice” penalty that started the ball rolling for Washington in the first period Thursday night.  It was one of those instances where the puck-moving defenseman wanted to pull his pass back as soon as it left the blade of his stick, but that isn’t possible without Doc Brown and a time-traveling Delorean. Instead the 26-year-old defenseman threw the puck toward the Bruins bench at exactly the wrong time during a shift change, and Brooks Laich made Boston pay with their first power play strike of the game.

“A lot of times I’m making those passes when I see the black sweater out of the corner of my eye and then make the pass without really looking,” said Wideman. “After I passed it and looked over, I saw we were in the midst of a line change. I should have looked before I made the pass over, and that’s basically what happened. I kind of put it in a spot where he didn’t know whether to take it or just leave the puck. It’s one of those instances where I should have taken a look before I snapped the puck over there.”

Read More: Claude Julien, Dennis Wideman, Shawn Thornton,

All eyes on Ovie

10.02.09 at 1:32 am ET
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Capitals center Brooks Laich is a lucky man. Not only did he score a pair of power-play goals on Thursday night to help spoil the season-opener for the Bruins in a 4-1 Capitals win at the Garden, he gets to play with one of the best players in the world in the best possible situation.

Laich is on the Washington power-play unit with Alex Ovechkin. And as everyone saw on Thursday night, while so many on the ice and in the stands paid attention to No. 8, Laich was left alone several times in front of a helpless Tim Thomas.

And give Laich credit for this ‘€” he admitted the biggest reason for his success was because all eyes were on Ovechkin, a superstar who had 56 goals and 54 assists last season.

“You’ve got four or five sets of eyes looking at Alex, so you’re able to slip in behind guys,” Laich said. “With Alex, you know the puck is going to come to the net, eventually somehow it’s going to come to the net. I know what my role is on the power play and it’s to go into the paint and go around the net and look for loose pucks, and we were able to score a couple like that tonight.” Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Bruins, Capitals, Ovechkin,

Turn up the volume: O-V burns the B’s

10.01.09 at 11:06 pm ET
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The fact that Alex Ovechkin scored two goals in the Capitals’ 4-1 win over the Bruins on Thursday night at TD Garden hardly comes as a shock.

The fact that the Bruins appeared to be outworked for most of the night in their own building, in the season opener and against one of their challengers for supremacy in the Eastern Conference should serve as a wake-up call right out of the 2009-10 gate.

The Bruins and Capitals both spoke after the season lid-lifter for both and here’s what it sounded like.

Bruins head coach Claude Julien said his best players played at their worst.

Julien said they gave Ovechkin way too many chances.

Julien said the Bruins weren’t focused for 60 minutes.

Tim Thomas said Ovechkin is so talented he gets lucky breaks.

Thomas said the Bruins were outworked.

Patrice Bergeron said the Bruins can’t give talented teams like the Caps those breaks.

Alex Ovechkin said his Capitals played great.

Ovechkin said the Capitals wanted to be the Bruins in their building.

Brooks Laich, with two goals, loves playing on the PP with Ovechkin.

Laich said the Caps scouted the Bruins penalty kill very well.

Read More: Bruins, Capitals, Ovechkin,

Bruins powerless in 4-1 loss to the Capitals

10.01.09 at 9:24 pm ET
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Claude Julien said he before Thursday night’€™s opener that his Bruins are going to have to ‘€œgrind out’€ their first few games this season, and that was readily apparent after watching a 4-1 loss to Alexander Ovechkin and the Capitals.
It wasn’€™t a sterling defensive night by the Caps or a spectacular goaltending master class put on by Jose Theodore. Instead it was simply a sloppy first game of the NHL season for Boston with turnovers, unnecessary penalties and a rink-full of missed offensive opportunities.

“It was a night where we had too many good players at their worst,” said Julien following the loss. “You have to be focused for 60 minutes in this game and we weren’t. We had a lot of good players who weren’t very good tonight.”

Julien knew there would be some period of adjustment skating Marco Sturm on a top line with Marc Savard and Milan Lucic while the German forward shakes rust off, and throwing David Krejci out on the second line after missing the entire preseason could have ended up with some sloppy moments on the ice. But last year’s Jack Adams Award winner certainly didn’€™t know it was going to be this putrid. Following a pretty solid 10 minutes of Bruins-style pressure and poise with the puck in the first period, things devolved into an error-filled, disorganized, panicky performance with a bevy of neutral zone turnovers.

This was not last year’s Bruins. Not by the longest shot in the history of long shots.

This was clearly a more slipshod brand of hockey than the B’€™s coaching staff anticipated, and revealed Washington to be the better team at this point early in the NHL season. It can ‘€“ and likely will ‘€“ be different when the B’€™s start clicking again on all cylinders later this month, but there wasn’€™t much room for encouragement in the first 60 minutes of Bruins hockey.

You’€™re the best around, and nothing will ever keep you down:  Alexander Ovechkin showed exactly why he’€™s the best thing on skates in the NHL with his mix of electric, breath-taking skill and bullish on-ice physicality. Ovie showed off his ice vision with a sweet cross-ice pass that set up the Caps’€™ first power play goal, played the trailer and ripped a sizzling top-shelf sniper shot for Washington’€™s second goal and then dumped Mark Recchi in the final seconds of the second period in a signature crunching hit.

He added another goal in the third period and finished a plus-two with five shots on net just for good measure. Ovie was all over the ice, and Claude Julien and the B’€™s might want to sand-blast the drawing board the next time Boston plays the Czar of hockey and his linemates on Feb. 2.

Goat Horns:  The entire offense was nothing to write home about after the first 10 minutes of the game. No one player ‘€“ aside from Patrice Bergeron‘€™s goal-scoring rush in the third period — was able to put finish on anything in the offensive zone. But the game’€™s tone was set by Dennis Wideman‘€™s errant pass to the Boston bench that resulted in a ‘€œtoo many men on the ice’€ penalty in the first period.

Washington’€™s high-wattage PP unit hopped on the ice and did exactly what they do best: tic-tac passing followed by a Brooks Laich goal right at the right post. Wideman finished a minus-1 on the evening and had three of his shots blocked by a condensed Caps defense. Not a good night for the sometimes trick-or-treat blueliner.

Transcript: Claude Julien On Dale & Holley

10.01.09 at 3:45 pm ET
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Boston Bruins head coach Claude Julien joined Dale and Holley at noon to discuss the season opener, the loss of Phil Kessel and plans for the upcoming season. Check out the transcript below.

Click here for the full audio.

Will David Krejci play tonight against the Washington Capitals?

Yes he will. He feels really good and he is excited about getting back in the lineup. I like what I saw from him this morning so there is no reason to hold him back.

Did last year’€™s deeper run into the playoffs help this team?

Well obviously, we are still hungry again. That is the one thing that we are and what’€™s unfortunate is that we talk about a Game 7 and overtime loss and also realized what that one goal could have done had it gone our way, who knows how far it would have brought us. We hopefully learned from that and came back obviously hungry. Expectations are a little higher for our club this year because of what he accomplished last year. But, the challegene is still there, I think the hungriness of trying to better is still there and I think it is up to us to go out there and show it.

 The team won the Jennings Trophy for fewest goals allowed last year on the strength of Tim Thomas and your defensive philosophy. Is the team buying into the defensive philosophy this year as well?

 Well it has been hard to assess that. Based on our training camp we never were able to get our team together. We had three games in three nights which made us carry about 35 players. I think we will get a better view of that now that our team is together and that starts tonight. I know for a fact that the players like it and they are very comfortable with it. It really eliminates a lot of grey areas. They were really proud of us being able to allow the fewest goals last year. So, what is it called, it’€™s the defense first approach. But the defense first approach means you do it well defensively, you recover the puck quicker and hopefully it results in a great offense, which it did last year for our hockey club.

Is it difficult to integrate new players, such as Derek Morris, into your system?

 I wouldn’€™t say it is difficult but it is still an adjustment. You know, because in hockey, maybe a lot of people don’€™t see it, there is a very aggressive style of defense then there is a defense that tries that, I guess, keep teams to the outside. That’€™s what we do, try to keep teams to the outside and we that if we do that our goaltender is good enough that he will stop those shots. So, basically, it is sometimes about being a little more patient than about being aggressive. That’€™s what it has to be to adjust for a player like Derek Morris whose been used to playing a little bit more aggressive style. But, it is not a difficult one, but it is more of an adjustment.

We will see more defensemen getting in on the offensive act like we did last year? It seems to fit into the strengths of the defensemen this year.

Yeah it does and adding Derek Morris, who is probably a little bit more of an offensive defenseman if you compare him to Aaron Ward who was a stay at home defenseman who liked to block shots. Derek is a great puck moving defenseman who we will see on the power play as well. That will be one of it. The other part that we want to do better is our forechecks, sustaining it in the offensive zone and not retreating as quickly as we did last year and I think that’€™s what we got to do here is be a little bit more aggressive and stay on top of the puck more in the offensive zone and hopefully that will create a little bit or scoring chances for us as well.

Did you start to plan with life without Phil Kessel even before the trade was official, based on the information you had at the time?

Well I did and I will tell you why I did though, probably not for the reasons that you are talking about. We knew that if Phil Kessel had been here, he wasn’€™t going to be available to us till November. Even though David Krejci was ahead of the curve, Kessel wasn’€™t. He was basically a guy that was going to be ready when he was told he was going to be ready. So, we would have had to start without him for at least a month, maybe more. So, this was something that I had already planned on, preparing with our team without Phil Kessel in it.

Reading between the lines last year it seemed like there was tension with Kessel. Is that new to you, dealing with something like that in your career?

You would deal with that through your whole career. Players you have to convince to do stuff like that. But you know guys, it has maybe been blown out of proportion a little bit because it really wasn’€™t that big of an issue. I don’€™t think Phil and I butted heads last year. But then again, how could you when a guy is scoring 36 goals. I think he couldn’€™t have been happier, he went from 19 to 36. I think if there was a little bit of head butting it would have been the year before and the year before Phil was in a learning curve and we really wanted to mold him into a great player. I guess we had to earn his trust and really understand that we were trying to help him and not trying to punish him. And when he understood that concept I think that last year was much better and it has played out that way in the media and that is fine with me but I don’€™t think there were any issues with Phil. I don’€™t even remember bringing him into my office and having to read him the riot act, if that is what people are expecting to hear. But, he had a great season and he was a great player for us but unfortunately, like you said, he was one player we couldn’€™t afford anymore or he didn’€™t want to be here either and that was the front office’€™s decision and that is one I respect.

What are the strengths of David Krejci’€™s game and what is his upside?

David Krejci has got a lot of upside and part of that is he is a great playmaker. You know, we talked about Marc Savard being able to make some of those great plays well, David Krejci is in that area as well. I think he has great vision, he has got good hands, not only that but he is going to put points up on the board. He’€™s one of those guys that competes hard, he’€™s not afraid to get his nose dirty, as we call it in hockey. But, what I have seen from this player is that he keeps on getting better and better. He’€™s maturing and understanding the game more and more. What it takes to be a good pro and I think that’€™s what out organization liked about him.

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Chara, Bruins are ready for Ovechkin’s Capitals

10.01.09 at 12:21 pm ET
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It’s clear by the circumstances surrounding the Bruins season opener against the Washington Capitals that things have changed demonstrably for Boston in one season’s time. Big time.

The fact that the Black and Gold merit a national TV audience on Versus is one clue, and the marquee match-up against Alexander Ovechkin and the electric Caps is quite another. Milan Lucic was among the excited grouping of B’s forwards anxious to get things going in the B’s dressing room Thursday morning, and seemed poised to make a statement about Boston’s worthiness in the Eastern Conference scheme of things with millions of hockey eyeballs ready to bear witness.

“Everyone seems ready to go, and is pretty anxious for the puck to drop. Everybody can feel it in the air, and I think we’re all pretty excited to get things going,” said Lucic. “I see that we’re on Versus, so it’s big across the US and we want to start the season off right.

“When is the last time the Bruins had a chance to start at home? We’re excited to do that. We’ve obviously set the bar high for ourselves and we’re focused on being one of the top teams in the East this year. We need to just focus on ourselves and what we can do to get there this year.”

–The B’s have a couple of new mantras written on the walls within the Bruins dressing room that gives some insight into their goals for the upcoming season. Above the doorway from the dressing room to the hallway reads the painted slogan “Knowing is Not Enough: We Must Apply. Willing is Not Enough: We Must Do.” and above the lockers of goaltenders Tim Thomas and Tuukka Rask reads a second painted sign that says: “We are What We Repeatedly Do. Excellence, Therefore, is Not an Act, But a Habit.”

–Confirmed with newly resigned B’s assistant general manager Jim Benning that Vladimir Sobotka does not have to clear through NHL waivers to rejoin Boston this season. Since the 22-year-old Czech Republic forward has been signed for less than three full years, he is exempt from re-entry waivers. It’s apparently an either/or scenario with the three years of service time or maximum of 70 games played as the ceiling, and Sobotka doesn’t have to fit into both criteria.

Zdeno Chara always gets excited for the defensive challenge presented by high-powered offenses and NHL superstars like Alex Ovechkin, and the scoring threats don’t get any bigger than reigning Hart Trophy-winner Alexander the Great. The 32-year-old defenseman has learned not to get lulled into the one-on-one matchups against big time players like Ovechkin, but takes it as a personal challenge to bottle up the entire explosive Washington unit including Ovechkin, Mike Knuble, Alexander Semin and Mike Green among others.

“We know that [the Caps] have a skilled team and we have to be on top of our game. But it’s a team game and we have to play that way,” said Chara. “If you’re watching just one guy, then everybody else is getting the room. You have to play against them together as a team, and we know that we have to be disciplined as a unit especially when that first unit is on the ice.

“It’s good to have that challenging competition. You have to be on your best game, otherwise they’ll take advantage. That always brings the best out of me and the team. It’s not just me against Ovie, it’s our line against their line on the ice.” 

Claude Julien indicated that Steve Begin, Marco Sturm and David Krejci are all at full health for Thursday’s opener against the Caps and all will play — a scenario that became obvious when the B’s sent Vladimir Sobotka down to Providence on Wednesday afternoon. Begin will center a fouth line of Shawn Thornton and Byron Bitz, Krejci will center his customary line with Blake Wheeler and Michael Ryder, and Sturm will ride the right wing on Boston’s top line alongside Marc Savard and Milan Lucic. No shock that any of the three are playing as they’ve been skating over the last three days leading up to Thursday afternoon.

Read More: Alexander Ovechkin, Milan Lucic, Zdeno Chara,

Benning signs multi-year extension with B’s

09.30.09 at 5:53 pm ET
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B’s GM Peter Chiarelli announced Wednesday afternoon that Bruins assistant general manager Jim Benning has agreed to a multi-year extension with the club. Benning is entering his fourth year with the B’s — and third season as assistant GM — after departing the Buffalo Sabres organization following a 12-year run in their front office. Don Sweeney was also named an assistant general manager of the Bruins last week, and both Sweeney and Benning will share the far-ranging hockey duties encompassed by the role.

‘€œJim plays a critical role in our management group,’€ said Chiarelli. ‘€œHe takes a very aggressive and proactive approach in his recommendations and assessments underscoring his tremendous management ability and experience.  His player evaluation is amongst the tops in the industry and his business acumen supplements our group greatly.  We were very fortunate as an organization to hire him in 2006 and we are even more fortunate to secure him for the long term.’€

Benning and Chiarelli will hold a Thursday morning press conference at the TD Garden to further discuss the deal and the assistant GM’s role within the organization.

Read More: Don Sweeney, Jim Benning, Peter Chiarelli,
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