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Savard and Ryder give Bruins a 3-1 lead in second period

05.01.09 at 7:36 pm ET
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Got to say before this period starts that this building is a whole lot deader than it was in the first round series against the Canadiens. Probably inevitable, but still true.

16:25: Joni Pitkanen just got to meet the Bruins up close and personal. Milan Lucic crunched him into the sideboards as he released the puck in the defensive end, and then Shawn Thornton nailed him behind the net when he was corraling a puck seconds later.

14:42: Pitkanen rifled a shot at Thomas from the left faceoff circle that he was able to gather between his pads with Chad LaRose and old friend Sergei Samsonov loitering out in front of Boston’s cage.

13:44: Showy glove save by Thomas on a Joe Corve blistering slapper from that very-same left faceoff circle.

13:07: Another long shot from Corvo with bodies whizzing by the front of the net. That clearly seems to be the plan of attack for this Carolina team. Just send as many big, brave bodies at Thomas as possible.

12:15: Marc Savard backhanded a long rebound of a Kessel shot from the slot and the B’s are again in the lead.  Savard looked appropriately fired up after scoring the goal. It appeared that Kessel took a hit earlier in the shift while digging a puck out of the corner, and was wincing in quite a bit of pain. But he got off the ice and fired the shot that Savard scored on.

9:08: Kessel back out there, but he just whiffed on a nifty little Savard set up from the corner. Looks like he’s okay besides the whole swearing at his stick thing.

Best sign of the night in the stands: “Montreal Happy 100th.” We’re such good sports as winners here in Boston, aren’t we?

7:22: The crowd starts chanting “Here we go Bruins…Here we go”, and on cue Michael Ryder steals a puck from Tuomo Ruute, flies into the offensive zone and picks off a shot at the top right corner of the net. That was just a great individual play.

5:06: A quick little drive to the net by Erik Cole turns into a pushing and shoving match between Cole and Zdeno Chara near the left post of Boston’s goal. Chara grabbed Cole and shoved him down toward the ice after the whistle, and both players will serve two minutes for roughing.

3:02: Mark Stuart just dropped Ray Whitney at mid-ice in the nuetral zone with a serious “Take a Seat” type hit. It’s a wonder that, given his great physical strength, that Stuart doesn’t deliver more statement body checks like that on a regular basis.

1:55: Great save by Thomas on Bayda as he came screaming toward the Boston net and redirected a Scott Walker pass from the right side.

They just showed US Senator John Kerry on the Jumbotron during a TV timeout, and the clearly partisan crowd at the Garden gave the former Presidential candidate a pretty sound booing.

The B’s lead the Hurricanes by a 3-1 score after two full periods during Game 1 at the TD Banknorth Garden.

Jokinen ties things up for the Canes in Game 1

05.01.09 at 6:45 pm ET
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18:26: How poetic. Ward scores on Ward. Aaron Ward fires a long bomb from the right point that sails through a group of bodies in front of the net, hits David Krejci’s stick in front and then goes right on past Cam Ward. Just like that it’s 1-0.

16:46: Pretty good breakout up the ice by Krejci, who held on to the puck and set up a Dennis Wideman blast that Ward was able to block with his body. Krejci has a lot of jump in his legs tonight.

13:53: Good wraparound bid by Eric Staal, but he was immediately pounded down to the ice by Zdeno Chara before he could follow up his shot. Expect to see a  great deal of that throughout the series.

13:40: First PP goes to Boston. Penalty on Carolina’s Ray Whitney. The B’s were 4-for-12 on the PP during the series sweep of the Habs.

13:05: Good glove save by Ward on a Wideman blast from the high point. PP unit is moving the puck really smoothly when they get into the zone. Not a lot of rust so far.

11:18: Great save by Thomas and a painful looking smash into the crossbar for Tuomo Ruutu off a great pass from the left wing by Erik Cole. Ruutu came crashing in with a lot of speed and basically got clotheslined by the crossbar after Thomas shifted to his right to make the save.

The Hurricanes have eight shots for the period, but a good deal of them have been testers from the outside faceoff circles — the exact kind of shots that the Boston defense is trying to force. Thomas can get a clear look at the puck, and if he’s an unobstructed look then he’s going to almost always stop it.

7:51: Marc Savard reacted is he were hit with a high stick to the face in the offensive zone, but no call from the refs.

6:03: Good open-ice hit by Shawn Thornton on Ryan Bayda that knocked the Canes winger on his keister.

4:25: Great self pass off the boards by Phil Kessel after beating the Carolina D. The speedy Kessel flicked a shot on net that Ward saved, and P.J. Axelsson couldn’t get to the rebound.

3:43: Good 2-on-1 rush by the Bruins with Kessel flipping a saucer pass to a rushing Steve Montador. Ward stoned Montador on backhand bid up close at the Carolina cage.

2:01: Weird bounce by a Joe Corvo dump attempt from beyond center ice that handcuffed Thomas a bit. A little reminiscent of that Washington long bomb that somehow squeezed by Thomas in OT.

1:10: All tied. Jussi Jokinen — a great pickup by Carolina on waivers — beat Thomas with a wrister from the high slot with Bayda bearing down on Thomas and eventually crashing into him. Goal counts for Carolina, and they also picked up a goaltender interference call after the score.

The Bruins and Hurricanes are tied at a 1-1 score after one full period of play during Game 1 at the TD Banknorth Garden.

A few pregame notes from Game 1 at the Garden

05.01.09 at 6:42 pm ET
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A few quick tidbits before the game starts:

–Carolina head coach Paul Maurice has decided to keep the top line of Ray Whitney, Eric Staal and Chad LaRose together after many thought he would break them up to avoid a complete line shutdown by Zdeno Chara.

Andrew Ference is in the lineup after missing the first round series vs. Montreal with a lower body injury. Shane Hnidy was the healthy scratch for the Bruins.

Claude Julien named finalist for Jack Adams Award

05.01.09 at 12:14 pm ET
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WILMINGTON — Boston Bruins coach Claude Julien has been named one of the three finalists for the Jack Adams Award after leading the B’s to the best record in the Eastern Conference this season. Julien has led the B’s to playoff appearances in each of his two years at the Boston helm, and joins San Jose Sharks coach Todd McLellan and St. Louis Blues coach Andy Murray as the three finalists for the NHL award recognizing the coach of the year.

If selected, Julien would join previous Bruins’ Jack Adams Award winners Don Cherry in 1976 and Pat Burns in 1998. The 2009 NHL Awards will be broadcast live from the Pearl Concert Theater inside the Palms Hotel Las Vegas on June 18.

Julien jumped into the Boston fray after the B’s endured a horrendous season under head coach Dave Lewis during a lost 2006-07 season, and the former Habs and Devils coach brought with him a strict, disciplined defensive system that’s become the bulwark of Boston’s accomplishments this winter. While suffocating defense is the hallmark of Julien’s overall coaching system, the B’s bench boss and his staff helped elevate Boston to another level this season by encouraging their talented younger players to open things up offensively.

Perhaps Julien’s defining moment from this season was in the days following a fairly devastating 3-2 overtime loss to the Los Angeles Kings in the middle of Boston’s late season “swoon”. The B’s blew a lead in the third period against a Kings team that was already polishing up the golf clubs in mid-March, and most of the B’s skaters expected an angry hockey coach with whip in hand the following morning. After a good deal of thought and contemplation about where his hockey team’s psyche stood, Julien and his assistant coaches — Craig Ramsay, Doug Houda, Geoff Ward and Bob Essensa — opted for scrimmages and competitive drills designed to lighten the dour mood.

Instead of playing the role of Herb Brooks-style ice drill sergeant with whistle firmly planted in mouth, Julien reminded his team that the game of hockey should be fun at its core — even for a bunch of professionals with jobs and expectations on the line. It surprised most of the players that were expecting a punitive, punishing practice after a sloppy loss, and it paved the way for an 8-2 finish to the regular season. 

The March example of the kind of coaching brinkmanship that Julien has engaged in over the last two years in Boston: he’s demanding and holds players accountable if they’re not giving everything they have, but he’s also managed to keep from crossing the line that so many other hockey coaches can and do to squeeze maximum production out of their players.

With a less-disciplined group or without the veteran leadership shown by guys like Zdeno Chara, Andrew Ference, Stephane Yelle, Aaron Ward, Tim Thomas and Patrice Bergeron, Julien’s mutual respect coaching style might not be possible. But he’s been the right coach in the right place at the right time for the Boston Bruins, and for that he’s deserving of the Jack Adams Trophy. 

“Well, compared to some of the other (coaches) that I’ve had, (Julien) is tremendous,” said Bruins defenseman Andrew Ference, who arrived in Boston at the end of Dave Lewis’ tenure. “I’ve had good coaches that are completely different that taught the game well and really developed the skill, but, when it came time to game-time the attitude surrounding a losing streak or a winning streak for that matter, there was a lack of control in certain situations.

“He walks the line so as far as having respect for the players while demanding respect for what he’s trying to teach,” added Ference. “It’s a really hard line to walk with so many different attitudes and so many different personalities. It’s hard enough to get the most out of them without crossing over the line of being offensive. It’s tough. It’s not easy. But he’s done that so well and he really maximizes your game. Look at Savvy and Kess and how much more complete their games are. That doesn’t happen on it’s own. That comes from coaching. He should win and drag up the assistant coaches with him. As much as we play as a team, the support staff around us has been tremendous.”

Read More: Andrew Ference, Claude Julien, Zdeno Chara,

“It’s about time” for playoff-ready Bruins

04.30.09 at 12:43 pm ET
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WILMINGTON — With nine days off headed into Friday night’s Game 1 against the Carolina Hurricanes, B’s coach Claude Julien is just as anxious as anybody else to get this puck show going again. Once again the B’s scrimmaged for roughly 45 minutes on Thursday morning with plenty of vigorous skating in preparation for a speedy, hard forechecking Canes unit looking to try and force Boston’s defense into mistakes.

“As they say ‘It’s about time,” said Julien. “I think everybody feels that way and the guys are pretty excited about tomorrow. There’s new life in the room and some excitement, which is what you want. Now it’s time to do our job and produce.”

The Canes fast and furious style should be a pretty good challenge for a Boston hockey club that’s been gathering rust and barnacles since finishing off the Canadiens in Montreal last Wednesday. The layoff combined with the swift Carolina personnel and elite goaltending will make things a far tougher this time around.

“We’ve worked hard all week and I can’t see any reason why we wouldn’t be ready to play tomorrow,” added Julien. “These are the cards that we’ve been dealt. This is the opportunity that we’ve earned: to get some rest and get our players back to 100 percent. Let’s take advantage of it. We haven’t played in nine days, and they’ve had two days off from a seven-game series. There are pros and cons to both. They haven’t had a chance to rest, but they’re also in the groove. Will a long series pay off for us or pay off for them? There’s so much that plays into it.”

–Bruins blueliner Andrew Ference missed the entire first round of the playoffs with a “lower body injury”, but will be a game-day decision for the Bruins against the Carolina Hurricanes in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup semifinals. Ference hasn’t played since an April 4 win against the New York Rangers, and has missed Boston’s last eight games.

“We’re going to make a game-day decision with (Ference),” said B’s coach Claude Julien. “There’s no reason to say ‘yeah’ or ‘nay’ now. We’re going to give him another day and come in at 100 percent, and nothing less. We’ve got a healthy crew and he seems pretty good. If he’s 100 percent tomorrow then he’s going to be in.”

–Many will try to make the Bruins/Canes series into a contest of elite goaltenders at both ends of the ice. Tim Thomas is a Vezina Trophy favorite while Cam Ward boasts a ridiculously overstuffed puck resume at the ripe old age of 25 years old — a body of hockey work that includes a Conn-Smythe Trophy following Carolina’s run to the Cup in 2005-06. The man teammates call “Tank” doesn’t look at it as a feat of goaltending strength, however, and says he learned that lesson early in his career after sometimes measuring his own play against the opposing goaltender.

In 30 playoff games in his young career, Ward is 19-10-1 with three shutouts, a 2.13 goals against average and a .925 save percentage – and his last time in the postseason was the magical Conn-Smythe-worthy rookie season. Thomas isn’t about to get caught up in trying to go save-for-save with the Hurricanes youngster. 

“I don’t do that. I play against the other team because I have to,” said Thomas. “The contest I have with myself is to see if I can play to the best of my ability. Any time I did it when I was younger it didn’t work to my advantage. I found that wasn’t the way that I should approach it.”

–Erik Staal was held scoreless in four games and finished with a bogus -6 against the Boston Bruins this season. Considering that he was a 40-goal scorer this year and a 100-point scorer in the 2005-06 Stanley Cup season for the Hurricanes, that’s a pretty good lockdown job by Zdeno Chara and the rest of the B’s defense. Staal had Chara and Co. on the mind today when he met with the media on Thursday morning.

“I don’t think I played my best games against them this year,” said Staal. “I’ve had success against Boston in the past. I like playing in their building. It’s about being ready to play in this series. That’s what it’s about now. The regular season doesn’t really matter at this time of year. We’ll be ready to go.

“It’s a challenge,” added Staal. “He’s a big man. He’s obviously got a great reach and is real strong in the corners. I’ve got to make sure I rely on my speed and my legs. Try and get him turning and twisting and doing thing he’s not comfortable with. Rely on maybe a little more quickness than power. Keep it simple. It’s going to be competitive. He’s a competitive guy. So am I. I’m looking forward to the challenge.”

Read More: Andrew Ference, Tim Thomas, Zdeno Chara,

Bruins talking about the story of the Hurricanes

04.29.09 at 12:48 pm ET
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WILMINGTON — The B’s routed the Hurricanes in four regular-season tilts this winter, and held Carolina sniper Erik Staal to a grand total of zero points and a -6 in those aforementioned four games.

Not bad at all, and a pretty big testament to the job that big defenseman Zdeno Chara did on the 40 goal scorer during the regular-season battles. But the Black and Gold also played a majority of those games against a Canes team that was simply treading water in the first half of the season. The B’s haven’t seen the hockey team formerly known as the Whale since a Feb. 17, 5-1 drubbing down at the RBC Center in Raleigh/Durham. The night was a tribute to Glen Wesley’s number getting raised to the rafters, and the Bruins proceeded to plaster Carolina all over the ice.

The Canes went 13-3-2 after March 1 while going down the stretch of the hockey season, and showed just how dangerous they can be in stunning Martin Brodeur and the slack-jawed Devils during the final 1:20 of Game 7 on Tuesday night.

“They’re definitely a dangerous team with a lot of offensive guys that are really quick,” said B’s blueliner Andrew Ference. “They don’t just run the same routes every time. They definitely switch it up and keep you thinking. It’s one of those teams you have to be on your toes against. You can compare them to Washington. Certain teams that don’t just do the same thing all the time. They catch teams off-guard because they have the weapons that can run those different routes, and have success. Catch you in the wrong spot every once in a while. It’s a team you’ve got to be mentally sharp against.”

B’s coach Claude Julien said to toss out the regular season numbers, and instead focus on a gritty, battle-hardened Carolina unit that has emerged here in the semifinals to face off against the top-seeded B’s in a seven-game semifinal series.

“(Devils/Hurricanes) was quite an ending. One that makes you go ‘Wow,’” said Julien. “The one thing that was in the back of my mind the whole time is that Carolina has always been very good at those last-minute rallies. To a certain extent, it didn’t really surprise me because they’ve been doing that a lot. Not just this year, but other years. You want to peak at the right time, and I think (the Hurricanes) have done that.

“They’ve played really well down the stretch, and that was after we had played them four times,” added Julien. “We really never saw them at their best, to be honest with you,” added Julien. “They’re a much different team than they were during the regular season, and we know that. They compete so hard, and they play well as a group. They believe in themselves, and their goaltending has been outstanding. We’re in for a good challenge and a good series here.”

–Julien indicated that Ference (lower body injury) appears to be closing in on a return to the lineup, and chances are good that he’ll be healthy enough to suit up for Game 1 on Friday at the Garden.

“I think he feels good,” said Julien. “We’ve talked to him, and it allows him everyday to practice with our team and compete at the level he needs to be when we start the series. Right now I’d put him more on the ‘Yes’ side than the ‘No’ side. Having said that, a decision hasn’t been made and we’ll have to wait until game day to make that decision.”

–Bruins players and Julien both pointed to the outstanding play between the pipes as a big reason for Carolina’s success as of late. Cam Ward came up huge as a fresh-faced 22-year-old rookie in Carolina’s run to the Stanley Cup during the 2005-06 season, and he’s been immense again during this playoff run: 2.11 goals against average and a .938 save percentage in seven playoff games and a solid 21-9-2 with a 2.30 goals against with a .921 save percentage after the NHL All-Star break this season.

–The Bruins players said they’ll be extra vigilant against any signs of rust in the first period of Friday night’s Game 1 against Carolina. Those first 20 minutes are probably the ‘Canes’ best chance — after only two days off following a tough seven-game set against the Devils – to catch Boston a little flat-footed in Game 1 after 9 days off, and potentially try and steal the first game of the series.

“Obviously the first period is probably the one that you worry about the most in the series because we haven’t played in a while,” said B’s center Marc Savard. “But as long as we keep short shifts, get our legs under us and got out and work hard, then we’ll be fine.”

Read More: Andrew Ference, Marc Savard, Zdeno Chara,

Bruins will face Hurricanes in semifinals, Game 1 on Friday

04.28.09 at 9:39 pm ET
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After the New York Rangers fell to the Washington Capitals by a 2-1 score in the early Game 7 on Tuesday night, the Carolina Hurricanes stunned the New Jersey Devils with two goals in the final two minutes of the third period to take a come-from-behind 4-3 victory in Game 7 at the Prudential Center. The sixth-seeded ‘Canes are the lowest remaining seed of the four Eastern Conference teams, so — by virtue of the NHL re-seeding after each round — the Bruins will take on the former Hartford Whalers in a seven-game series set to start this weekend in Boston.

The Bruins/Hurricanes series is set to begin with Game 1 on Friday night, and Game 2 will be Sunday. The B’s were a perfect 4-0 against the Hurricanes during the regular season, and outscored the ‘Canes by a big 18-6 margin in those four games. It should be noted, though, that the majority of Boston’s success against Carolina came in the first half of the season — a time when the Black and Gold were blowing out everybody. The ‘Canes, meanwhile, were a different team in the second half of the season and posted a solid 13-3-2 record after March 1 in a playoff push that impressed many.

That being said, Erik Staal was one of those Eastern Conference scorers that Zdeno Chara was able to intimidate and dominate during their regular season showdowns. Staal had no points and was a -6 in the four games against Boston this season while finishing with a 40 goal season and a +15 on the year for Carolina. That is impressive defensive work.

Here’s the full schedule:

Game 1 May 1st (7:30 pm) NESN, Versus
Game 2 May 3rd (7:30 pm) Versus
Game 3 May 6th (7:30 pm) NESN, Versus
Game 4 May 8th (7:30 pm) NESN Versus
Game 5 May 10th (7:30 pm)* NESN Versus
Game 6 May 12th (7 pm)* Versus
Game 7 May 14th (TBA)* NESN Versus

*if necessary

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