|05.09.09 at 1:42 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — Greetings from the Ristuccia Arena practice ice where the Boston Bruins may be having their final on-ice run through of a mostly magical 2008-09 hockey season.
–It appears that veteran B’s forward Mark Recchi — along with Andrew Ference and Matt Hunwick — isn’t on the ice with his Bruins teammates for this go-round. Don’t remember seeing anything really violent that took place with the 41-year-old during the Game 4 disaster at the RBC Center, but he isn’t practicing with the team today. Blake Wheeler has taken his place alongside Patrice Bergeron and Chuck Kobasew, and Byron Bitz is skating with David Krejci and Michael Ryder.
UPDATE: B’s coach Claude Julien said after practice that Recchi was “banged up” in Friday night’s loss, but that the 41-year-old should be able to answer the bell for Sunday night’s do-or-die Game 5.
“We still have Ference that’s doubtful,” said Julien. “Recchi is banged up today, but I don’t see any reason why he shouldn’t be back with us (Sunday) as we speak. Those are going to have to be some decisions that are made tomorrow.”
–Julien believes that a lot of the problems have become mental with his B’s skaters. So many young players without deep playoff experience combined with a veteran corps with few Cup veterans have turned into the B’s into mere shadows of their former selves. Now is the time, according to Julien, for the team to simplify their games, conquer their frustration and anger and transform all of this puck angst back into Bruins hockey.
If they don’t, then the season end beckons in one of the next few hockey contests.
“A lot of it has to be mental,” said Julien. “When you lost three games in a row the way we’ve played, and the way we’ve played in the past, mentally it takes its toll and mentally we have to get our heads around it. We have to go out and play the game that we’ve played all year.
“We need to look at tomorrow’s game as the only obstacle to overcome. It’s the only thing we should be thinking of, it’s the only thing we should be worried. We shouldn’t think of anything else but that, and that’s how you simplify things. Some of the reasons we’re in the situation we’re in right now is because we’re doing things that we haven’t done the whole year. I think some of the players mentioned that it’s the effort or the will to want to do it. We’ve got to get our heads around it play our game. That’s what is costing us.”
|05.08.09 at 9:31 pm ET|
RALEIGH — 18:53: Zdeno Chara in the box for hooking Erik Staal. Not a very strong penalty right there.
18:29: Good Thomas save with Staal flinging a puck at him from the right faceoff dot with Cole hanging around in front of the net.
17:08: Jussi Jokinen again for the Canes. Rod Brind’Amour picked up a loose puck behind the net and slid it through to Jokinen waiting in front. He loaded the gun and buried it past a diving Thomas.
15:57: Joe Corvo and Staal rushed up the ice on an odd man rush. Nice blocker save by Thomas on a Corvo blast from the left faceoff circle.
13:52: Marc Savard had a puck behind the Carolina net. Flipped the puck out front and there was nobody home. The Canes and Sergie Samsonov took advantage flipping the puck up to Cole behind the Boston D. Steve Montador tried to recover, but ended up taking a hooking penalty trying to break Cole up from behind. PP for the Hurricanes.
11:45: Give Chara credit. He’s making any Canes forwards play that come at Thomas and crash the net. He just drove Matt Cullen to the ice and kept shoving his glove into his face after he tried to come in and whack a puck loose underneath Thomas’ pads.
9:16: A couple of shifty moves by Krejci, who looks as if he’s finally getting his legs underneath him. He flipped a nifty saucer pass to Michael Ryder in the high slot, and Ryder blasted away. Right pad save by Ward on the shot.
6:29: Samsonov strikes again with a wicked backhander after Dennis Wideman slipped while trying to stay with the speedy Russian winger.
4:19: Goal. Eric Staal. His ninth of the playoffs. After getting shut down during the regular season, the 24-year-old is taking over this series against the Bruins.
The Canes took a 4-1 decision over the Bruins in Game 4 at the RBC Center in Raleigh, NC.
|05.08.09 at 8:39 pm ET|
RALEIGH — 17:51: Good veteran move by Sheriff Shane Hnidy, who sold a holding call on Tuomo Ruutu. Second PP for the Bruins on the evening.
17:23: Bruins tie it up on PP. Mark Recchi came in toward the net with the puck, Cam Ward poked it away right on to Marc Savard’s stick. Savard lifted a wrist shot from the side of the net, and Boston’s spell of PP futility is broken. That snaps the 0-for-17 Bruins power play drought with a big, big score.
12:55: Good shift by the Bergeron, Recchi and Kobasew line. Physical forechecking a little bit of tenacity kept the Canes hemmed into their zone, and Mark Stuart finished things off with a punishing hit on Tuomo Ruutu on the sideboards. It appears the Bruins are creeping closer to Bruins hockey after a forgettable first period.
12:22: Erik Cole just basically threw Aaron Ward into the crossbar with Ray Whitney holding the puck at the right faceoff circle. Ward has blocked a shot and now this. He’s taking a beating tonight, but still skating.
Typical play that’s hampering the Bruins right now. Rather than dump the puck in deep, Blake Wheeler crosses over the blue line and straight into two defenders and then loses posession of the puck. That isn’t simple, effective hockey, and it’s part of the reason I thought he might have been a healthy scratch tonight rather than Thornton.
7:24: Near score for the Bruins. Zdeno Chara wound up with a shot from inside the blue line that Micheal Ryder tipped in the slot. Blake Wheeler crashed down on the Carolina net as the shot was released, but Ward was able to squeeze the glove hand tight.
5:50: Holding penatly on Chuck Kobasew with a good thespian effort by the Canes on the call.
5:26: Dangerous play in front after Staal threw the puck at the net, and it landed between the skates of Cole camped in front. Cole couldn’t find it, however, and Thomas jumped on the puck.
2:11: Good knuckleball bid by Kessel that wobbled toward Ward and he managed to deflect. The Bruins have really started to settle down and control the action.
Much, much better period from the Black and Gold.
The Canes and Bruins are tied at a 1-1 score after two full periods during Game 4 at the RBC Center in Raleigh, NC.
|05.08.09 at 7:43 pm ET|
RALEIGH, NC — Dropping the puck in the first period:
18:17: Sergei Samsonov in the penalty box with a hook. The B’s are putting good pressure on in the early going.
17:09: Phil Kessel just hit the right post on a curl and drag move from the left sideboards during the PP.
16:43: David Krejci just took a penalty after dumping Jussi Jokinen following a token swat at a puck that Tim Thomas had covered up.
15:25: What a flurry of action. P.J. Axelsson poked a puck away from Joe Corvo during the power play and was denied on a strong glove by Cam Ward on the backhand.
15:06: The Canes comes right back on their PP, attack the net and Eric Staal beats Tim Thomas with a blocker-side wrist shot.
13:43: The Bruins need to calm things down. Joni Pitkanen just knifed through the entire Boston defense and leveled a shot that Thomas was able to absorb. The B’s started out well, but resorted to again tossing the puck up the boards as the Canes dialed up the pressure following their score.
12:36: Good pad save by Thomas on a Ray Whitney bid from the slot.
9:33: Zdeno Chara just hit another post for Boston when he blasted a shot from the left point that rang off the right post before bouncing back out to the sideboards.
It looks like there’s a lot of jawing going on down on the ice tonight. The Bruins are definitely trying to raise the emotional level. It’ll be interesting to see if it works.
8:06: Another Chara giveaway in his own end to Staal results in a Ray Whitney blast from the left faceoff circle. Thomas makes the save and holds for the faceoff.
6:35: A quick little give-and-go with Lucic and Kessel forces a save by Ward and a faceoff in Carolina’s end.
6:23: Erik Cole to Whitney for a one-timer that Thomas somehow got a save on, and then Thomas makes another miraculous save on a Whitney forehand for the slot 20 seconds later.
3:01: All hell just broke lose on the Canes and Bruins over by the Boston bench. It appeared that Milan Lucic and Dennis Seidenberg tangled over by the Boston bench, and it quickly turned into a donnybrook with Marc Savard and Eric Cole jumping into a team-wide brawl. Savard and Lucic are in the bin for Boston while Cole and Seidenberg are in for roughing as well.
1:38: Great glove save by Thomas on a bid from Cullen at the right faceoff circle off a feed by Pitkanen. Thomas has been solid in this first 20 minutes.
Canes outshot the Bruins 12-4 for the period, and the score would be a lot worse without Tim Thomas standing on his Vezina head over the first 20 minutes.
The Canes have taken a 1-0 lead after one full period of play during Game 4 at the RBC Center in Raleigh, North Carolina.
|05.08.09 at 7:39 pm ET|
RALEIGH, NC — A few quick pregame notes:
–Shawn Thornton is a healthy scratch for the Boston Bruins, and Byron Bitz is in on the fourth line tonight. Interesting move by coach Claude Julien, as there might have been a different option or two that could have been chosen.
–NC State head coach Sidney Lowe was the guest siren cranker for the Hurricanes prior to the game starting. The NASCAR crowd looks fired up and ready to go on the Friday night at the old ice rink — this should be an interesting one.
|05.08.09 at 1:15 pm ET|
RALEIGH, N.C. – The Bruins need to wake up. And they need to do it right now.
That was the message expressed by the B’s veteran leadership group in several players-only meetings held during Thursday’s off-day. The meetings were designed to snap Boston out of a series-long puck malaise that has them looking at a 2-1 deficit in the best-of-seven showdown against a surprisingly strong Carolina Hurricanes team. Another defeat at the hands of the Canes would have the Bruins hanging on the precipice of season elimination with virtually no room for error.
The B’s skaters were — to steal a phrase from that master motivator Pete Carroll – - jacked and pumped to play a clearly inferior Montreal Canadiens team in the opening round of the postseason, and blasted them right off the ice and straight into playoff oblivion. It’s plainly obvious to veteran performers like Mark Recchi, Aaron Ward and Zdeno that the Bruins haven’t brandished the same emotional intensity and fiery focus mustered up against the Habs — and during a handful of regular season rivalry games sprinkled throughout the year.
“I think it’s a little bit of hesitation or a lack of expressing the emotions,” said Chara. “We need to bring that (emotion) more and show it. Don’t get me wrong, we try to play in a way that we don’t take bad penalties. In the series against Montreal and during the series against the Rangers and rivals like Philadelphia, we were more intense and emotionally involved. We need to take that part of our (game) and bring it to another level.
“I think when we play with that edge, then we’re playing much better (hockey).”
In many ways the first three games of this Carolina/Boston series has been “nice guy hockey” played by two of the least-penalized teams in the entire NHL during the regular season, and there isn’t a natural agitator on the Canes roster that’s going to invoke the fury out of B’s bruisers like Milan Lucic. There’s no Mike Komisarek figure twirling his mustache or Sean Avery wannabee lining somebody up from behind in the treacherous corner.
The biggest infractions have consistent of nudging goaltenders, which every team worth their salt is going to attempt/follow through on in the playoffs when they’re playing a hot goalie. In essence, the Black and Gold Bears descended into hibernation after eight days off between the Montreal sweep and their current set against the Hurricanes, and they were never shaken awake by a squeaky-clean Canes bunch.
It’s high time that the Bruins awoke from the slumber even if nobody is poking the bear in the cage — and that was the exact message expressed by several members of the B’s during Friday morning’s pregame skate at the RBC Center.
“We’ve been sleeping,” said Recchi. “To say the least. I think we understand that now. (The Canes) want us to sleep, number one. We’ve just let it happen. But the great thing about it is that it’s only 2-1 (in the series) and we have an opportunity to make it 2-2. If we had lost the series and you were thinking about it you’d be pretty pissed off if you were done and you said ‘(expletive), we didn’t give it our best shot.’
“I think that’s what the guys were all talking about (on the off-day) is that we need to give it our best shot. We need to play the way we’re capable of playing, and if we do that then we’re going to be a handful. We need to make players (into) factors that should be factors because we haven’t been playing the way we’re capable of playing. I think it’s very important that we start that (on Friday).”
B’s GM Peter Chiarelli was pleased to hear his players took the initiative to meet on Thursday and address some of the things lacking (emotion, work ethic, poise with the puck, puck cycling, dumping pucks in deep) during the first three games of the series. Now it’s imperative that the team make the meetings meaningful by transforming all of the talk out onto the ice in a critical Game 4 setting against a sky-high Hurricanes squad.
“It’s a critical game and we expect performance out of our best players,” said Chiarelli. “The work ethic thing is something we haven’t had in the first three games. We just haven’t.
“I know that the players met a couple of times. We’ve come along this far in the season, so we don’t have to browbeat somebody. We know what we have to do. The (meetings) happen a lot at times like this, and it’s encouraging. But it doesn’t always work.”
It’s incumbent on the still-bright future of this hockey season that all of the hockey talk does develop into results when the Bruins take the ice tonight for a pivotal Game 4 in their semi-final series.
|05.07.09 at 1:32 pm ET|
RALEIGH — Expect perhaps some different line combos or perhaps an eye brow-raising scratch when the Bruins hit the ice for Game 4 at the RBC Center on Friday night. Bruins coach Claude Julien gave his team a complete day off to step away from the scene of Wednesday night’s Game 3 crime, but the bench boss also admitted that there will be “adjustments” to Boston’s game headed into Game 3.
Phil Kessel has been held scoreless in each of the last two games — both losses — after riding a five-game point streak during Boston’s five game postseason winning streak, and the David Krejci/Blake Wheeler/Michael Ryder line has been ineffective in the last two games for Boston. Wheeler could be out of the Boston lineup on Friday night after blocking a shot in Game 3, and any scratches up front would obviously give big forward Byron Bitz his second taste of the NHL playoffs after suiting up for Game 3 of the Montreal series.
Andrew Ference left Game 3 in the second period with an undisclosed injury, and it’s likely that Shane Hnidy will be inserted into the lineup for Boston should Ference be unable to recover by Friday night. With the players having a day off, here’s Claude Julien during a Thursday morning press briefing at the Raleigh Renaissance hotel:
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