|05.19.09 at 9:47 am ET|
Boston Bruins coach Claude Julien, who guided the Boston Bruins to the top of the Eastern Conference standings this season, has been named NHL Coach of the Year by The Sporting News in a vote by 39 coaches and executives from throughout the league.
Julien, whose team posted a 53-19-10 record and 116 points in his second season at the B’s helm, molded the Bruins into a league power by instituting a more offensive style with his normal defensive system — and also impletemented an effective blueprint for dealing with players.
“When things are going well, he doesn’t mess them up,” goalie Tim Thomas said. “He knows how to step back and let go. But if he sees something he wants to do better, he also lets it be known.”
|05.18.09 at 6:14 pm ET|
The Bruins are Boston’s darlings once again. Even with the heartbreaking end in Game 7 against Carolina, these Bruins seemed to have captured the imagination of the blue-collar fan while casting in the average fan who heretofore has been preoccupied with the Red Sox, Celtics and Patriots.
“It was honestly one of the best (experiences),” 36-year-old defenseman Aaron Ward said on break-up Monday at the Garden. “I came in here two years ago towards the tail-end of the season and I don’t know if people even knew what the ‘B’ represented anymore. We didn’t have an identity. We didn’t have guys that you could associate with or to. You ask people who their favorite Boston Bruin was and they’d reach to yesteryear and it would be Cam Neely or Ray Bourque or Johnny Bucyk and now I think the game is revitalized.” Read the rest of this entry »
|05.18.09 at 2:05 pm ET|
The end of an NHL season is usually rife with announcements of assorted surgeries and full disclosure of injuries previously hidden to the media through the season and the ensuing playoffs.
It’s no different for the Bruins this morning as they conducted their break-up meetings for the season and announced that David Krejci (impingement in his right hip), Phil Kessel (torn left rotator cuff and labrum in his shoulder) and Andrew Ference (torn groin, hernia) are all scheduled to go under the knife for a bevy of hockey injuries.
In addition to the surgeries, Chuck Kobasew was playing with broken ribs, Zdeno Chara had shoulder, knee and groin woes, Mark Recchi had surgery to remove kidney stones between the Games 6 and 7 and Marc Savard had a sprained knee that will require a month of rest. Despite all of that, each of those players soldiered through and for that the Spoked B skaters certainly deserve credit.
|05.17.09 at 12:51 pm ET|
The Bruins season is kaput after a seven-game struggle against the Carolina Hurricanes that revealed a serious flaw or two on a Black and Gold team that cruised through the 82-game campaign.
The Big Bad B’s were the best team in the Eastern Conference during the regular season, and pumped up expectations ever so higher when they dispatched the hated Montreal Canadiens with four quick, short and sweet strokes of their collective hockey sticks.
It was a magical hockey ride that spiked fan expectations and had many firmly bracing for a full Stanley Cup run in Boston’s first year back on the hockey map. But the series against the Hurricanes revealed weaknesses on the B’s roster that must be addressed going forward in the brave new world of a potentially shrinking salary cap.
This isn’t just solely about player mistakes or flaws on the ice, however.
There were also miscues made by the front office during the season that affected Boston’s playoff run, and none was bigger than Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli’s mis-step at the NHL trade deadline.
|05.16.09 at 8:44 pm ET|
The Carolina Hurricanes released a sobering piece of news this morning following Scott Walker’s tumultuous series against the Boston Bruins that saw the scrappy Canes forward sucker-punch Aaron Ward in Game 5 and then pot the OT game-winner in Game 7. Walker’s wife, Julie, has cervical cancer, but the disease is treatable and she is expected to make a full recovery. Walker learned of his wife’s diagnosis during the seven-game series against the Bruins.
“My wife is an amazing person and we are looking forward to a positive outcome from this challenge,’ said Walker on Saturday afternoon. ‘I will address the situation with the media, but my family would appreciate its privacy going forward.’
|05.15.09 at 7:57 am ET|
There will be countless items that can be looked at and harped on when attempting to decipher exactly what went wrong for the Bruins during their 11-game playoff run.
So there’s that.
Blake Wheeler was a consistent performer during his rookie season and finished the regular season as a 20-goal scorer, but he was held scoreless and outplayed — and subsequently replaced in the lineup — by Byron Bitz during the playoffs.
The possibility that the Bruins underestimated their Carolina opponent is also a distinct reality.
But the real nuts and bolts reason for the demise of Boston’s season is pretty simple. The B’s couldn’t find a way to consistently, cleanly solve the Hurricanes forecheck for long stretches of their playoff series, and thus couldn’t get the puck out of their own zone and get their offense going. That problem lies squarely with the Bruins defenseman corps once you get past the top three of Zdeno Chara, Dennis Wideman and Aaron Ward.
“I think it took awhile to get going for sure. We can’t when we’ve got pressure…we’re throwing the puck through a lot of times,” said Marc Savard. “I don’t know if we ever really got that comfortable out there as a whole team. I mean it’s upsetting now. You know, we stuck together through thick and thin. But, like I said, for it to end like this, it’s tough.”
Steve Montador is an excellent person and a big supporter of Right To Play, but the well-traveled defenseman simply wasn’t good enough to fill a role as a puck-moving defenseman — and was a major liability while soaking up 29:30 minutes of ice time along Boston’s backline in the pivotal Game 7 loss. The veteran blueliner, in a move that didn’t exactly scream out playoff-style conservatism, pinched to keep a puck in the offensive zone during the second period.
But Montador couldn’t keep it in the zone and the old Russian pocket rocket made him pay.
The little move of offensive aggression was just enough space for Sergei Samsonov to get behind a covering Michael Ryder, and the heady Russian winger moved right toward the Boston cage. Joni Pitkanen slid a pass to the front of the net with Samsonov bearing down on Thomas, and he cleanly beat Ryder to the loose puck. With Montador lagging behind and away from the all-important cage, Samsonov flipped a puck past Thomas to give Carolina a 2-1 lead.
It’s easy to brush off the important rookie Matt Hunwick and veteran Andrew Ference, and their overall importance to the Boston hockey club. But the absence of their puck-moving, offensive skills left a huge void on the Spoked B defenseman corps once forechecking opponents really attacked behind the Boston cage. Anytime the Boston skaters were complimenting on Carolina’s great “team speed”, it was all about the tireless attackers that the Hurricanes just kept sending skaters behind the net on kamikaze missions.
Hunwick had nearly 30 points as a rookie with the Bruins this season, and was a speedy, energetic, offensive-minded difference-maker at the end of the regular season. He ended the season as the third-leading scorer amongst Boston defenseman during the regular campaign, and was sorely missed after he left the lineup with a ruptured spleen suffered against the Habs.
“Munch” even hopped on to the top power play unit as one of the points on the top unit toward the end of the year, and the move immediately paid dividends for a man advantage unit that struggled at the end of the regular season — just as they did in the playoffs against Carolina.
When Ference is healthy, he’s also another skater that can use his mobility, creativity and offensive instincts to make the opposition pay with good passes if they’re too aggressive with the forecheck. Instead, both Ference and Hunwick were gone with injuries and the B’s were left with far too many tentative, mistake-prone defenseman that simply couldn’t make the Canes pay for their aggressive forecheck.
Things could have been different had Hunwick and Ference been able to play. It’s a refrain you’ll no doubt hear quite a bit this summer as the Bruins get ready for golf season.
|05.14.09 at 10:52 pm ET|
19:28: A bad bounce almost ended Boston’s season. A bounding puck bounced off a Bruins stick and came bouncing toward Thomas. Eric Staal picked up the puck out of mid-air and connected on a baseball swing, but Thomas was able to block the shot.
15:12: Aaron Ward just completely leveled Tuomo Ruutu at the blue line while he was watching the play behind him. Big hit that left the crumpled by the boards.
14:35: Great shift by the Krejci, Bitz, Ryder line. Krejci had a point blank chance in the slot, but he caught too much of Ward’s pads waiting for the goalie to make a move.
9:54: Scott Walker had a great scoring opportunity for the Hurricanesl. He wheeled in from the sideboards and fired a puck from the left faceoff circle that Thomas was able to block and then fall on as he fumbled for control.
8:35: Chuck Kobasew fired a shot that Ward blocked but couldn’t control as he came into the zone with speed. Bergeron had the rebound at the right post and fired across the crease, but it bounced of Kaberle’s and away from the goal area. Close call for the Bruins.
6:35: A close call for the Canes. Ray Whitney blasted a shot with heavy traffic in front and Cole crashing into Thomas. Somehow Thomas made the save, but it looked as if Staal was about to pounce on the puck in the crease area. Both Lucic and Kessel dove at Staal and managed to shoo the puck away from the Canes sniper and over into the corner.
During every quiet moment, the crowd is erupting into spontaneous chants of “We Want it, we want it, we want it”. You could cut the tension with a knife.
3:04: The more I watch of this OT, the more I’m convinced that Tank isn’t going to let a goal through. He somehow got a toe on a Ruutu blast and then kicked away a Walker shot attempt on the follow in front. Thomas has been sensational tonight.
1:14: It’s all over. Wow. Scott Walker gets the game-winner on a follow-up rebound attempt in front. No kidding. The irony of that is off the charts.
The Hurricanes have taken the game in OT by a 3-2 score with 1:14 still remaining during the decisive Game 7 of the Stanley Cup semifinals. The season is over the B’s and a great ride has come ot a conclusion.
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