|04.30.10 at 11:32 am ET|
If the Bruins wanted to, they have every right to puff up their chests and say to every fan and media member in Boston: “Hey, how do you like us now?” After the whole Marc Savard-Matt Cooke situation (both the March 7 hit at the Igloo and the followup at TD Garden on March 18), everybody who pays attention to the B’s just wanted them to go away, fade into NHL playoff oblivion and take two high draft picks in June’s NHL Entry Draft. There was a 10-game losing streak, a record-breaking home losing streak, a paucity of goals and a general melancholy surrounding the so-called Big Bad Bruins that frustrated even the most casual of NHL fans.
So, is there any self-satisfaction being emitted from Bruins camp now that they are hosting an Eastern Conference semifinal series?
“Not at all,” forward Mark Recchi said. “We didn’t deserve it, we weren’t playing well. We weren’t competing like we should have and sure there are going to be some doubters but, you know, we have got a longs ways to go here. We can’t be complacent in that we won one series or that we had a good end of the regular season. We have got to want bigger and better things, and if you do that then good things will happen. If you are happy to just be in the second round, then you are not playing for the right reasons.”
At the other end of the spectrum, the hard times from January through March are one of the reasons the Bruins are in the situation in which they find themselves. To say that just about every game after the 3-0 clunker to the Penguins on March 18 was a playoff game is not much of an exaggeration. Milan Lucic said that it was not an easy time to go through but in retrospect the ire of the Hub helped the team get through the difficult stretch.
“I think that was probably a good thing for us where we hit some adversity like that where we hit such a low,” he said. “I mean, for us to overcome that and end up where we are now we found a way to come together and do that. It is what helps a lot of teams — to be successful is to go through some adversity and with everyone pegging us out, the media was all over us, the fans were all over us to just walk up to bat and do some good, it was just a good thing for us to see and pull through and stick up for each other.”
Did the fans and media really abandon the team? There was weird talk in March, and the buzz around Boston was that people would almost prefer the Bruins not make the playoffs. Fair-weather fans or true blood of black and gold, it is telling when a fan base would rather see a team go away than fight for a championship, no matter how remote the chances are. Yet, TD Garden was (officially if not in reality) sold out every night through the stretch run, with cheers raining from the rafters when the Bruins scored three short-handed goals in 64 seconds against the Hurricanes in the home finale, and boos pounded from the loge after they had been shut out by Panthers backup goaltender Scott Clemmensen a week earlier.
“Even though they may have booed us a couple of times we knew they were still behind us,” Johnny Boychuk said. “It is just one of those things that if we are that bad they are going to let us know, but they still want to see us win. Now that we are starting to do better they are behind us the entire way. Even if we are down a goal or two they are still behind us and we know that.”
Still, though, the frustrating times persisted, and Boston did not wrap up a playoff spot until the final weekend of the regular season (in the aforementioned Hurricanes game). Recchi believes that, for the most part, the team has played consistently, except for maybe the possible clincher in Game 5 in Buffalo.
“At the end [of the regular season] it was better, but there was still some, ‘What team is this?’ You know?” Recchi said. “But it got much better but in the playoffs, I don’t think in Game 5 we were at our best, but I think throughout the six games we were a good hockey club.”
The veteran has been through frustrating teams and disappointing playoffs before. But, based on what he saw last year and the talent in the dressing room through the 2009-10 season, there is no surprise that the team is poised for a second-round tilt with a more than decent chance of looking toward the Eastern Conference finals.
“I knew we had it in here but we just had to bring it out. I never had any doubts about the guys. You know, I just know what is in here,” Recchi said. “That was the frustrating part because you know what is in here and you know we can get it through a couple more notches and we just weren’t doing it consistently. We would do it some nights, but it wasn’t a consistent thing and that was our problem all year.”
|04.29.10 at 12:20 pm ET|
Bruins captain Zdeno Chara joined the Dale & Holley show Thursday morning to talk about the Stanley Cup playoffs. Chara said he watched Wednesday night’s Montreal-Washington Game 7, in which the eighth-seeded Canadiens upset the top-seeded Capitals 2-1 to win their first-round series behind a solid performance from Chara’s Slovakian Olympic teammate, goalie Jaroslav Halak. “It was a crazy game,” Chara said. “I obviously was a little surprised by how well defensively Montreal played. I knew Halak would have an outstanding game, but I never thought that [Washington] would have such a tough game to really put the puck in the net.”
Looking back at the Bruins’ first-round series win over the Sabres, Chara said: “I think the special teams were really big and obviously Tuukka [Rask] played really big for us. When you really look at it, every game somebody really made a difference, somebody stepped up.”
Added Chara about Rask: “We have confidence in both of our goalies, and obviously Tuukka is playing extremely well since the second half of the season. For such a young goalie, he’s playing with a lot of passion, and he’s got a lot of patience in his game, too, and he’s just making the right saves at the right time.”
Chara was asked about the Bruins’ response to the Penguins after Marc Savard was injured by a check from Pittsburgh forward Matt Cooke. “We all felt that we would like to have had a better response in that game. There’s no question about that,” Chara said. “When you really look at it, to see one of your best playmakers go down, you want to respond, you want to react, but that the same time, it was a one-goal game. Those two points could have made a huge difference in the end, which we know that it was so close that they probably would have made a big difference.” Added Chara: “When they came in our building I think we responded well. We took care of business.”
As for Savard’s return to the team, Chara indicated he’s excited to see what the center can do. “To have him healthy now and ready for the second round is a big boost,” Chara said. “We all know what he can bring to the game. He’s an extremely good puck-handler. He can make plays that only a few guys in the league can make, and passes he can make. To have him with that skill, adding to our lineup right now, is big.”
To hear the interview, check the Dale & Holley audio on demand page.
|04.29.10 at 11:18 am ET|
WILMINGTON — Bruins coach Claude Julien either does not want anybody to know exactly what his plans are with returning center Marc Savard or he just does not know what to do with Vladimir Sobotka. On Thursday Julien switched up his white-sweater line from what he had on Tuesday, flipping wing Daniel Paille from the fourth line in a red sweater to riding shotgun in white with Savard and Michael Ryder.
Sobotka, who, it appeared, had been forced from his center position on the third line to the wing with Savard, was bumped down to the fourth line where he presumably would play center as Steve Begin gets bumped to the wing with Blake Wheeler (in red for second day in a row) and Shawn Thornton gets bumped down to the fifth line with Brad Marchand and Trent Whitfield. Wheeler skated with Sobotka on a penalty-killing unit for multiple drills at Ristuccia.
The Bruins added a defenseman from their pool of Black Aces to bring them to nine total as Andy Wozniewski joined the team at the practice facility. That gives the Bruins three Providence blueliners, with Jeffrey Penner and Andrew Bodnarchuk still with the team after being call-ups late in the regular season.
The Bruins also announced on Thursday that they have signed defenseman Matt Bartkowski to an entry-level contract. The 21-year-old skated in 39 games for Ohio State this past season, registering six goals and 12 assists. The 2008 seventh-round draft pick (190th overall) was acquired by the Bruins at the trade deadline along with Dennis Seidenberg from the Florida Panthers.
|04.29.10 at 9:52 am ET|
Bruins center Marc Savard joined the Dennis & Callahan show Thursday morning to talk about his comeback (Click here to listen to the entire interview). Savard has been out since suffering a concussion in a game against the Penguins March 7, but this week he was cleared to play in the Bruins’ second-round playoff series against the Flyers that begins Saturday. “I’m feeling good on the ice right now,” Savard said.
He said he understands his presence will be an emotional lift for the home crowd Saturday. “Hopefully everybody is inspired, too, and even myself, and I bring a lot of emotion and adrenaline and energy to the team,” he said. “I’m going to try to do that with my play.”
Savard said he feared his season was over when he couldn’t seem to shake the effects of the concussion. “The first three or four weeks of this concussion I had, they were miserable days, days when I thought how long this might go on for the summer, or how long is this thing going to last. Things got better really quickly after the fifth week, going into the sixth, and so on. Then I felt great. I’m just happy to be normal again and playing hockey.”
Asked if he’s viewed clips of the hit from Pittsburgh’s Matt Cooke, Savard said: “I’ve seen it quite a bit. It’s something that hopefully the new rule that they put in right away takes care of that stuff because we don’t need it in our game anymore.”
The Bruins received a firestorm of criticism for failing to respond to Cooke in the game, and much of the anger was directed at Michael Ryder, who appeared to be the only player on the ice who had a clear view of the play. Savard said no one on his team should be blamed. “It’s part of the game,” he said. “If you watch the hit again, Cooke kind of skates away quickly, and they try to get at him in the corner. I’m not mad at Michael Ryder. He’s a good friend of mine. It’s not just his fault or anybody’s fault. It was a bad hit, a bad play. I’ve got no problems with anything that went on. Had it been me, maybe ‘ it’s different demeanors for different guys. I’m not the strongest guy or the toughest guy in the world. Would I have jumped somebody? Maybe, but that’s just different guys.”
|04.28.10 at 9:54 pm ET|
With the Canadiens completing their shocking comeback against the top-seeded Capitals with a 2-1 victory in Game 7 Wednesday night in Washington, the Bruins now know their second-round opponent in the Stanley Cup playoffs. The sixth-seeded B’s will meet the seventh-seeded Flyers, opening the conference semifinal series with the first two games at TD Garden. This will mark the first playoff matchup between Boston and Philadelphia since 1978.
Here is the schedule for the series:
Game 1: Saturday, May 1, at Boston, 12:30 p.m.
Game 2: Monday, May 3, at Boston, 7 p.m.
Game 3: Wednesday, May 5, at Philadelphia, 7 p.m.
Game 4: Friday, May 7, at Philadelphia, 7 p.m.
*Game 5: Monday, May 10, at Boston, 7 p.m.
*Game 6: Wednesday, May 12, at Philadelphia, TBD
*Game 7: Friday, May 14, at Boston, 7 p.m.
* if necessary
Eighth-seeded Montreal trailed in its series three games to one but held the high-scoring Caps to one goal in each of the last three games behind stellar goaltending from Jaroslav Halak to pull off the upset. The Canadiens advance to play the defending Stanley Cup champion Penguins in Round 2.
|04.28.10 at 3:05 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — Marc Savard held a press conference at the Bruins practice facility, Ristuccia Arena, on Wednesday afternoon after his first full practice since being cleared by doctors to rejoin the team after missing the end of the regular season and the quarterfinals playoff series against the Sabres. Savard touched on a variety of topics, from his role on the team in the upcoming conference semifinal series and his thoughts about getting back at the Penguins, the team he sustained his concussion against.
Here is the transcript of the press conference:
On how he feels:
I am feeling great, I am excited. Obviously I am really happy about the way the guys played and you know I was able to get a couple more days right now. So, it was a good plan all along.
On his conditioning to this point:
Today was my last kind of test. Kind of felt like the Boston Marathon on Heartbreak Hill so they made it pretty tough today but I got through it and they made it pretty hard in practice too and I gave it everything I had. It was a good test and yeah, I am feeling great and really excited to get the opportunity to play in the playoffs again.
On his role:
“I imagine that I will be eased in, for sure. I probably won’t be getting the 19 or 20 minutes that I usually get right off the top, but we’ll see how things go. I am excited and I am going to play with [Sobotka] and [Ryder], it looks like. I love the way those guys have been playing in the playoffs, especially [Sobotka], the way he has been going, so I am excited to play between those guys and create some results to help the team.”
Yeah, I think the first couple of days I was out there I was like, ‘Jesus, this is going to take awhile.’ I am not going to be a savior or anything and go out, you know, and get three goals in the first game. I would like to but I don’t think that it is going to happen.
I am just going to try and work myself in. Just keep on doing what the guys have been doing and be a part of the team and I don’t think it will be a problem. I look at it like my first playoffs here when, with eight games left, I broke my back. You know, I eased myself in and I ended up having a pretty good playoffs even though we didn’t get where we wanted to go but I felt good. I feel it is the same situation and I am going to go out there and work hard for no matter how many minutes I play and that is the thing. I am sure that I will see power-play time and I would like to contribute there also.
|04.28.10 at 2:01 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — Milan Lucic and the Bruins are in the Eastern Conference semifinals for the second year in a row, and this time around they want to make sure they leave their mark, no matter which team they end up facing. If Washington beats Montreal Wednesday night, the Bruins will start the playoffs on Friday in Pittsburgh and play Game 2 on Sunday at Mellon Arena. If the Canadiens can pull off the upset, the Flyers will travel to Boston this weekend, though the official schedule has not been announced for that potential matchup.
Last year the Bruins had 10 days off between their first-round sweep of the Canadiens and the start of the semifinals against the Hurricanes. Coach Claude Julien admitted on Wednesday that Boston had definitely lost its playoff frame of mind and it took until basically Game 5 after the Bruins had fallen behind in the series 3-1 to get the edge back.
“There is no doubt that that will obviously help but what I mean by that is that we allowed ourselves to slip out of the playoff mode because we had so much time off and as hard as we might have tried as a coaching staff to give some days off and some practice,” Julien said. “It is almost the frame of mind has to be there and everybody’s mind needs to be in the right place. Ten days is a lot, no matter who you are, so it took us a while to get our game back and it was a little too late, obviously. We had to scramble back from it so, hopefully this short break is just the right time and from what I see our players are still enthusiastic and get excited about going on to the next round.”
Defenseman Dennis Wideman agreed that the Bruins did not deal with the long layoff as well as they could have.
“I think last year we had so much time off that we got into a mode that we lost some intensity and we didn’t carry over the intensity and the drive from the first round into the second because we just didn’t deal with the layoff well,” he said.
Yet last year the Bruins almost seemed like they could be a team of destiny. They rolled through the regular season with the No. 1 seed in the conference and Lucic said the team was guilty of the biggest of playoff sins — looking ahead.
“I think you can’t look too far ahead of yourself,” Lucic said. “Last year we were thinking too much ‘Stanley Cup finals, Stanley Cup finals, Eastern Conference finals,’ you know. Last year we kind of looked past the second round and the Carolina Hurricanes, and we will not make that same mistake again.”
Center Patrice Bergeron, who has grown into a definitive, if quiet, leader of the Bruins over the past year or so, said that since the Bruins did not face much adversity through the regular season and first round of the playoffs last year that perhaps they did not handle the tough times as well as they could have against Carolina.
“I guess it has changed that we have to work for every inch just a little bit more, and last year everything was going right in the regular season that when we faced a little adversity, maybe we weren’t expecting it as much,” Bergeron said. “I think we have faced a enough this year that we can handle it a little bit better maybe.”
Bergeron said that there are even lessons to be learned from the Buffalo series this year, as Boston had a 3-1 series advantage and the Sabres came out and won Game 5 decisively to send it back to Boston with a chance to force a Game 7 back in Buffalo. Last year the Bruins rolled over Montreal. Yes, it was a physical and emotional series (especially considering the seven-game drama in the quarterfinals in 2008) but the Bruins were never in doubt of losing that series whereas there were times against the Sabres when it looked like they were dancing on the edge of a knife.
“Well, we have experience,” Bergeron said. “This will be my second time in the second round and we are aware of the intensity increasing more again. You can see from the first round of the playoffs that it gets harder, and now that it is the second round it is even higher and it is not over until that fourth game is won. Like in the last series we were up 3-1 and they came up with a big win.”
Lucic has been the type of player who comes up big on the biggest of stages. When he was in juniors he played on two Canadian Hockey League Memorial Cup teams with the Vancouver Giants, and he said that the pressure from being on that big stage at a young age was not incredibly different from what he has faced in the NHL playoffs.
“Obviously with it being a higher level it goes up another notch,” he said. “Playing in the Memorial Cup a couple of times, that is a lot of pressure to deal with at a young age. It is similar, pretty much the same as that, for sure. I was lucky enough to win two championships in juniors and learn and have that experience a little bit in junior to know what it takes to win. Like I said, you don’t look too far ahead and that you just take everything one game at a time, and that is the approach that I always have taken from my first NHL playoff game to the next one coming up.”