|10.18.10 at 3:38 pm ET|
With the Bruins playing two games against the Washington Capitals this week, they will get their first regular season look of the year at all-galaxy scorer Alexander Ovechkin. The former top overall pick has scored at least 45 goals in each of his five seasons in the NHL, including 52 as a rookie in 2005-06 and a career-high 65 in 2007-08.
How does one defend against such a talent?
“Put Z out against him,” defenseman Matt Hunwick said on Monday. Realistically, everyone — including Zdeno Chara and the rest of the Bruins defensemen, needs to keep their eyes peeled when the Moscow native is on the ice. Here’s what players throughout the locker room had to say about Ovechkin on Monday.
– “He’s like a truck. He tried to hit me a couple of times and I kind of felt it. He can score and he can also make plays. You’ve just got to be aware when he’s on the ice.”
– “We all have to be on high alert. They’ve got a lot of offense, and we’ve just got to keep it simple and move the pucks up to the forwards.”
– “He’s a lot of work. He’s energy-intensive for a goalie to play against.”
– “They’re talented up and down their lineup, but you do have to be aware of when Ovechkin is on the ice. He’s a singular threat that’s different than most of the other threats.”
– “Even if he doesn’t hardly ever get a shot, he’s still going to make it a tough night for a goalie, because you’re going to be doing movement and you’re going to have to be focusing and concentrating. You have to be in perfect position to stop his shots, because you very rarely are going to be able to make a reflex save on him. If you’re going to make a save on him, it’s going to be because you had the correct positioning.”
– “They are [a fun team to watch]. I prefer to watch them on TV, but it’s a real fun challenge.”
– “He’s someone you’ve got to be aware of. Sometimes he lurks outside of the zone when his team’s on defense, and other times he kind of gets lost. That’s always dangerous when a guy can shoot the puck like that. He only needs half a second to get it off. You always have to be aware of where he is on the ice, and for our team on the road, we have to make good line changes and try to get the matchups that we want.”
|10.18.10 at 2:20 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — Perhaps the most controversial call in Saturday’s 4-1 victory over the Bruins was the first-period kneeing call against Brad Marchand on a play in which he hit Dainius Zubrus. As a small guy (Marchand is 5-foot-9) the 22-year-old forward can expect tough calls each time he hits a player low, but Claude Julien said on Monday that the team felt it was a clean hit and that such calls shouldn’t shake Marchand.
“I think it’s a situation where he’s got to play his game,” Julien said. “He went in, and to us, it seemed like a clean hit. If it’s perceived another way, you’re going to get some tough calls all year long. The good part about it is that, first of all, in our minds, it was a clean hit and a tough call for him. It was up to the rest of the team to bail him out, and they did.
“I’m not going to ask him to change his style. He’s doing what he does pretty well, and that’s why he’s in our lineup right now. We’re certainly not going to look at that as a negative more than, ‘keep playing your game, and hopefully the referees make the right calls.'”
|10.18.10 at 2:07 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — Here’s the video of Bruins head coach Claude Julien talking about getting ready for the Capitals, keeping opposing teams on their toes with their revolving door of defensive pairings, and whether Saturday’s kneeing call against Brad Marchand was a fair one.
|10.18.10 at 1:56 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas has flashed his Vezina form, stopping 60 of 61 shots he has faced in his first two games of the season, both Bruins victories. He’s got a 0.50 goals against average that, as one would expect based on the number, is tops in the league in the young season. He also leads the league in save percentage (.984), and in sitting atop both categories he is leading two columns that Tuukka Rask finished last season tops in.
One can think plenty of things about the Bruins’ goaltending situation based on the last two games, but just don’t think that Thomas is getting ahead of himself.
“Those kind of stats are going to tough to keep the same,” Thomas said with a grin following Monday’s practice at Ristuccia Arena. “No matter what, especially at this point of the year, it’s not about stats, but it’s about getting the wins.”
And Thomas, perhaps to the surprise of some, has been in net for both of the team’s wins through the first three games. Rask started the season-opener in Prague and fell victim to a very poor night from the guys skating in front of him. As a result, and staying consistent with the team’s plan of having the goalies split time, Thomas was given the start last Sunday and ran with it, shutting out the Coyotes in a 3-0 victory.
“It feels great. It’s been a great way to start the year. Now we’re starting to get into the meat of it where it’s game after game after game after game, so you’ve got to keep it going,” Thomas said. “You pat yourself on the back for what’s been accomplished so far, but we’ve got to go right back to work.”
So what are the differences between the Thomas who has gotten off to such a hot start and the Thomas who saw Rask emerge as the starting goalie down the stretch a season ago? Well, health for one. The 36-year-old had surgery on his hip following the playoffs, which saw Rask start each game in both rounds.
Now, Thomas has been able to play at 100 percent health, something he didn’t get to do a year ago, but he’s not too fond of the notion that his hip is the only reason he’s played well to this point.
“Yes, the surgery and the hip have helped a lot, don’t get me wrong, but it wasn’t like I stunk up the league last year,” Thomas said. “[However, with the surgery,] I can play a totally different game.”
Indeed, Thomas did not “stink up the league” in 2009-10. He posted a respectable 2.56 GAA, which despite ranking 16th in the league made it difficult to compile wins given that the Bruins scored an NHL-worst 2.39 goals per game. Even so, when the Bruins were eliminated from the playoffs in the second round by the Flyers, there was no doubt in Thomas’ mind that he had to get the surgery, even if setbacks hovered as a possibility.
“It was so bad that [it wasn’t even a choice]. They were pretty positive right from the start, Dr. Kelly and our doctor, they were very good right from the start with a very positive outlook,” Thomas said. “Yeah, it’s not an easy recovery, it’s a four-week recovery, but they were confident that it would go well and I would be better than ever.”
Thomas did intimate that he “had some idea as to how much [the hip] was holding me back, so to speak,” but that there was no way of totally telling how things would be once he was healthy. The Bruins have to like that they’ve seen so far.
Here’s a funny nugget from Thomas a few minutes after he talked about the hip: A reporter asked Thomas, who sits next to Rask in the locker room, what the similarities were between the two netminders.
“Well, we’re both-looking,” Thomas said.
Rask, sitting alone in front of his locker, smirked for a few moments before finally saying, “I like that.”
|10.18.10 at 11:33 am ET|
WILMINGTON — After taking Sunday off following Saturday night’s 4-1 victory over the Devils in Newark, the Bruins returned to Ristuccia Arena in Wilmington on Monday. No players were absent, with the lines and defensive pairings the same as they were in the Devils game:
Lucic – Krejci – Horton
Caron – Bergeron – Wheeler
Recchi – Seguin – Ryder
Marchand – Campbell – Thornton/McGrattan
The defensive pairings remain Chara/Boychuck, Stuart/Seidenberg, and Hunwick/Ference, with Adam McQuaid the extra D-man.
Check back following practice for more from the locker room and Claude Julien.
|10.17.10 at 10:34 am ET|
The Bruins went into Newark and beat the Devils with a well-balanced offensive attack and impressive goaltending from 36-year-old Tim Thomas in a 4-1 win. Each line contributed a goal — Milan Lucic, Jordan Caron, Michael Ryder, and Shawn Thornton represented lines one through four on the scoring sheet — and Thomas’ 31 saves helped him outduel Martin Brodeur in a battle of Vezina-winning netminders. Here’s a closer statistical look at the victory.
– Nathan Horton led the Bruins with five shots on goal, and after three games, Zdeno Chara has the most on the team with 13. Offensively, here’s how many shots on Brodeur each line produced (naturally, this stat doesn’t take into account special teams bids, but it still gives you a good idea. Defensemen are not included).
First line (11): Lucic (2, G) – Krejci (4, A) – Horton (5, A)
Second line (3): Caron (1, G) – Bergeron (2) – Wheeler (0)
Third line (6): Recchi (1, A) – Seguin (1, A) – Ryder (4, G)
Fourth line (6): Marchand (3, A) – Campbell (0, A) – Thornton (3, G)
The most alarming number that should come from this is that the fourth line had twice as many shots on goal as the second line. With his goose egg on Saturday, Blake Wheeler now has just two shots on goal in his last two games. His play throughout the preseason and to this point has been much improved from where it was a year ago, but he’ll need to focus more on putting pucks on net, as he did five times in the season-opener.
– After going 0-for-3 with a man advantage, the Bruins’ power play is now 1-for-11 on the season, good for a 9.1 power play percentage, which is 24th in the league. Killing off four penalties effectively helped the Bruins push their penalty kill percentage up 85.7, good for 13th in the NHL.
– The first line has been consistently productive on the young season, with Lucic, David Krejci, and Horton all registering points in each game. Horton leads with the team with three goals and Krejci leads the B’s with four assists.
– Not to overreact to a two-game sample size, but this is statistically the best start Thomas has gotten off to in such a short stretch. He leads the league in broth goals against average (0.50) and save percentage (.984). Fellow Hockey East product Jonathan Quick of the Kings (0.97) is the only other goalie in the league with a sub-1.00 GAA. The problem, of course, is that Thomas is splitting time with the guy who led both categories last season in Tuukka Rask.
– Caron’s minutes certainly appear to be on the upswing, as the rookie followed up last Sunday’s 9:42 of ice time with 13:01 on Saturday.
|10.17.10 at 3:13 am ET|
Classic Jack …