|10.20.10 at 4:08 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — What you’re about to read is pretty sad stuff. It’s another entry in the series of the Bruins’ rescue mission of saving a couple of Florida Panthers from a smaller fan base and a team that failed to make the playoffs during their tenures. Without further ado:
Nathan Horton and Gregory Campbell both played their entire careers in Florida prior to being acquired by the Bruins in June in the Dennis Wideman deal. It was as members of the Panthers that the two forwards learned the NHL game and established themselves in the league.
Though they saw a lot of things on the ice in Florida, looking above it and into the stands didn’t allow them to see much. In four of Horton’s six seasons in Florida, the Panthers finished 22nd or worse in attendance. As the Bruins prepare for their home opener on Thursday against the Capitals, it’s only natural that the Garden will be packed with die-hards donning their black and gold. After all, it goes without saying that the fans show up to see the home team, right?
Maybe not. Asked what types of games led to higher attendance in Florida, Horton noted that on games in which the opponent was a more popular team from the northeast, larger groups of that club’s fans would show up to root against the home team.
“[The attendance] went up when we played Canadian teams just because there were a lot of people from Quebec down there, but they were not cheering for the Panthers,” Horton said.
“It was,” Horton said. “Some nights you’d get no one. Some nights you’d get a lot of people when you were playing a good team like a Canadian team. It was just the way it worked, I guess.”
During the stretches in which attendance was low, the players took solace in using the crowds of other teams if they wanted to get a better sense of a fan base. If you think the low turnout for the Panthers tells the story of just how bad the situation was in Florida, an honest quote from Campbell just may push things over the edge.
“I actually always enjoyed playing on the road with Florida just because we could get that atmosphere,” Campbell said. “Not to say it wasn’t good to play at home, but [Horton] is right when he says that the bigger draws that we got were from the northeast teams and the Canadian teams. To play in front of a sold-out crowd and a crowd that’s really behind you is going to be pretty special.”
There are bad hockey towns, and there’s depressing. Neither player will say a negative word about the Panthers or their fans, a respectable move for something that undoubtedly must have been frustrating at times. But that’s in the past. The two players will now be playing for a home team that fans line up to see, and they’re glad the opportunity has finally come.
“It’s definitely nice [to be the team the fans are coming to see],” Horton said. “The crowd was so loud, even in preseason. They get so excited and it makes you want to win. It makes you push harder.”
|10.20.10 at 3:30 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — Statistically, the Bruins power play has been quite wretched. In 15 opportunities the team has scored just one goal on the man advantage, a third period tally from Nathan Horton in the season-opener.
“It’s probably the only thing right now that we feel that we’ve really got to get better at,” head coach Claude Julien said on Wednesday. “You put most of your best players on the ice and you expect them to do a little better than we’ve done. We’ve just got to keep working on that.
“I think shooting a little bit more is one thing, especially from the back end. We’ve still got to outwork the other team’s penalty kill, and I don’t see that happening all the time. Moving the puck wicker and more confidently will certainly help, but the only way you can get better at it when you don’t get results is to get back and work at it during practice.”
The team did just that on Wednesday, swapping out their color-coded jerseys which signify lines for just black, white, and grey for the power play units and penalty killers. Theunits in the practice consisted of Dennis Seidenberg, Mark Recchi, Milan Lucic, David Krejci, and Nathan Horton on one, with Johnny Boychuk, Patrice Bergeron, Michael Ryder, Tyler Seguin, and Blake Wheeler making up the other.
Sure, it’s only four games into the season, but for a guy who is tied for the team lead in goals and has the lone power play tally, does frustration begin to set in?
“Not when you’re winning,” Horton said. “We’ve gotten a lot of power plays and that gives you a great chance to win the game. Obviously, we need to get better. It’s still early, but if we just get pucks to the net and keep it simple, a lot of exciting things are created off that. We’ve still got a lot of time, and we’ve got so many good players. Our power play’s going to be fine.”
|10.20.10 at 2:35 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — An even-keeled Tuukka Rask sat at his locker following the Bruins’ practice on Wednesday with the same positive attitude teammates and reporters have come to expect from the young goaltender. Though Rask hasn’t seen game action in 11 days, he knows — just as the red-hot Tim Thomas does — that getting riled up over who’s in net each night does nobody good, and each netminder will gladly take their turn as it comes.
Yet when one guy gets three turns in a row through four, that’s the big story. Tim or Tuukka? It’s grabbed headlines for over a season now, and Rask wants it known that neither he nor Thomas sees what the big deal is.
“You guys do your jobs, you write [the stories],” Rask told WEEI.com on Wednesday. “We know where we stand. We know what the deal is. Obviously you guys try to create stories and people read you and stuff, but when you talk about goalie controversy, obviously we don’t feel that way. It kind of sucks, but there’s nothing we can do about it.”
Rask allowed four goals on 36 shots against the Coyotes in the season-opener in Prague, a game that was a classic example as to why stats don’t tell the whole story. The Finnish netminder was solid if not better in the game, responsible for really one of Phoenix’ goals in a game in which the rest of the team admittedly went on an unforced turnover-spree.
For Rask, just as there’s no use in wondering about playing time, there is no use in making excuses. Given how poorly the likes of Dennis Seidenberg, Zdeno Chara, Matt Hunwick and Daniel Paille (who still has yet to dress following the first game), among others, Rask would have every reason to note his own positive play. Like many in the B’s locker room, he takes the “win as a team, lose as a team” mentality.
“It was just one game out of 82. That’s just one of those games where as a team we didn’t play our best,” Rask said. “Those games happen. I happened to be in the net and we lost. It’s not frustrating, it’s just something that happens every now and then. We’ve just got to focus on the next game. It’s a good thing that we won the three after that.”
Thomas and Claude Julien have both spoken to how having two very capable, if not elite (which recent statistics would surely suggest) goaltenders is the last thing anyone should make a stink over. Julien himself said on Monday that having the two is problematic for opposing teams, not the Bruins. Rask agrees.
“I think it’s a great situation. Having two goalies, and hopefully both playing well, it’s going to help the team win some hockey games. I think that’s the best situation for our hockey club.”
|10.20.10 at 12:46 pm ET|
NESN and NBC hockey analyst Mike Milbury made his weekly appearance on the Dale & Holley show Wednesday. To hear the interview, go to the Dale & Holley audio on demand page.
“I’m a little surprised they went with [Thomas] three in a row given the fact that they had so much time off,” Milbury said. “Apparently they’re going to use Rask either Thursday or Saturday, but that’s a long layoff beteween starts. However, as you guys both know, it’s a pleasant dilemma to have when your goaltending is too deep. You can’t knock what Thomas has done in his three starts. He’s been terrific. Rask is going to have to wait his chance again.”
Asked if the Bruins might be showcasing Thomas for a possible trade, Milbury said, “No, I don’t think so, not at this stage. It may be a byproduct of him playing well, but I don’t think it’s intentional. I think Claude [Julien] is just going with a guy he thinks can win him a hockey game.”
Milbury said he didn’t understand the negative reaction to his comments from last week that Tyler Seguin will not be an impact player in his first season. “I was surprised, because it had nothing to do with an evaluation of Tyler Seguin as time goes on. It had to do with what is this guy going to being now,” Milbury said. “If you ask Peter Chiarelli or Cam Neely or Claude Julien, I don’t think any one of them thinks he’s going to be “an impact player” this season. I don’t think that’s the expectation. A contributor, yes, he can be. But I think it’s going to take him a couple of years [to be an impact player].”
Added Milbury: “Time will tell how good he is. But for anybody to think he should be an impact player in his first season hasn’t followed the game a lot.”
As for the Bruins’ 3-1 start, Milbury said: “I think they’ve had a pretty nice blend over the last three games of opening it up [offensively] when they’ve had to, and being able to shut it down at the same down when they’re responsible, as they usually are.”
Canucks center Rick Rypien aggressively pushed a fan on his way to the dressing room Tuesday night in Minnesota. Milbury, famous for his role in the Bruins’ brawl in the stands at Madison Square Garden in 1979, said Rypien’s actions were inexcusable, but there are things teams can do to make it a safer situation.
“Why they allow such immediate access to players is beyond me,” Milbury said, adding: “You really don’t want fans close enough so that if a guy is ticked off about something that he can react in the spur of the moment because he’s lost his cool. … Getting them away from the players as they exit and enter the arena to me seems like a pretty simple and sane idea.”
Added Milbury: I don’t know how severe the penalty will be, but they’ve got to do it. They have to keep that sanctity [where] player and fan has to be protected at all times. There’s no excuses, no matter what.”
|10.20.10 at 12:45 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — The Bruins took the ice at Ristuccia Arena on Wednesday morning after picking up their third straight win, a 3-1 victory over Alexander Ovechkin and the Capitals at the Verizon Center on Tuesday.
Zdeno Chara was not on the ice with teammates as they opened practice, though everyone else was accounted for. It was simply a day of rest for Chara, who played a game-high 29:05 on Tuesday. The Bruins were not donning their white, gold, grey, and merlot sweaters to signify lines, instead sticking to white, grey, and black as the Bruins worked on special teams.
The power play units in the practice consisted of Dennis Seidenberg, Mark Recchi, Milan Lucic, David Krejci, and Nathan Horton on one, with Johnny Boychuk, Patrice Bergeron, Michael Ryder, Tyler Seguin, and Blake Wheeler making up the other. The team is 1-for-15 on the power play through four games this season.
Marc Savard was at Ristuccia in the morning and took the ice for another skating session, according to a Bruins official. The rehabbing center skated for what was believed to be about 20-25 minutes.
|10.19.10 at 10:02 pm ET|
Zdeno Chara logged a game-high 29:05 of ice time and Tim Thomas continued his impressive stretch as the Bruins picked up their third straight win on Tuesday night, defeating the Capitals, 3-1, in Washington, D.C.
David Krejci, Milan Lucic, and Matt Hunwick contributed the goals for the Bruins, the first two of which came in the first period, with Hunwick’s coming at 2:08 of the third. Both Krecji and Hunwick’s tallies were their first of the season, and Lucic picked up his third goal in the last three games.
Thomas was stellar once again, stopping 35 of 36 shots he faced and picking up his third straight win. He has now allowed just two goals in his three games.
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE BRUINS
– A nice Gordie Howe hat trick for Milan Lucic. The 22-year-old left wing picked up a goal and an assist on David Krejci’s tally in the first period before dropping the gloves with Washington defenseman John Erskine in the third.
Lucic is now tied with Nathan Horton for the team lead in goals with three. All in all it’s hard not to be very impressed with the Lucic – Krejci – Horton line. The toughness is undoubtedly there, and the scoring touch the Bruins needed desperately entering the season is there.
– As bad as the power play has been for the Bruins, the penalty kill once again came up big, killing off an abbreviated 5-on-3 in the second period of a night in which the Bruins only found themselves shorthanded three times. Zdeno Chara was called for a very questionable tripping call late in the second period, so the penalties to Dennis Seidenberg and Mark Stuart that had the B’s down two men for a little more than half a minute very easily could have been the only two calls against the Bruins on the night.
– It’s hard to imagine Tuukka Rask sitting four games in a row, so while one should expect Rask to start the home opener on Thursday, Thomas once again proved capable of gettung more starts than many expected prior to the season.
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE BRUINS
– These should really start being called “What went wrong besides the power play for the Bruins.” Add another 0-for-4 for the Bruins to make it an even 1-15 on the season. The highlight of the team’s disappointing power play came when the B’s played hot potato with the puck for 53 seconds of a 5-on-3 in the second period. Let’s not even do the math on what the power play percentage would be until we’re confident it the number will be somewhat respectable.
– Not sure that third period goal can save Matt Hunwick from the “What went wrong” space. Some lackadaisical passing between he and Tyler Seguin behind Thomas’ net in the second period led to the Capital’s lone goal. Hunwick has seemed to play at extreme ends of the spectrum this season, following a horrid season-opener with an impressive two games between the Coyotes and Devils, respectively.
– That’s a lot of penalty minutes for Gregory Campbell, who took a high-sticking double-minor in the game’s final minutes. He had 11 penalty minutes on the night, including a five minute major for fighting in the first.
|10.19.10 at 9:07 pm ET|
The Capitals are on the board after the second period, but it may be more the doing of some bad bounces behind the net for Matt Hunwick and Tyler Seguin than it was a product of Capitals rookie Marcus Johansson. It was Johansson’s first career goal, and he potted it after gathering a puck that shot out to him as a result of the botched pass.
The Bruins’ power play woes continued, with the team being able to add 53 seconds of passing on a 5-on-3 to their man advantage resume. On the other hand, the B’s were able to kill off a 5-on-3 of their own, so an effective penalty kill can serve as the special teams’ saving grace.
Milan Lucic, Mark Recchi, and Johnny Boychuk each have a team-high three shots on goal for the Bruins, while Alexander Ovechkin has just one shot on Tim Thomas. The Bruins’ netminder has made 17 saves, with the Capitals outshooting the B’s, 18-16, through two periods.