|03.28.09 at 10:23 pm ET|
It wasn’t the sleekest defensive performance of the season, but there were more than few things reminiscent of the first half Bruins in Saturday night’s win over the Leafs.
The skilled and scrappy Bruins offense poured it on with seven goals and tagged on a couple of fighting majors for good measure in a 7-5 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Air Canada Centre that was high on entertainment value and short on goaltending and suffocating D.
A few things stand out after the ice chips settled on Boston’s 47th win of the season — a point in puck time that means the B’s are officially in the final two week sprint toward the NHL regular season finish line:
–A lot of people, including this humble hockey scribe, recently praised Mark Recchi for his ability to stand in the danger areas close to the goal posts and use his phenomenal hands to tip and redirect pucks, and it was in evidence again Saturday night. Big time.
Recchi had a pair of goals in the win, and both were the residue of Recchi’s trademark courage and optimal positioning in front of the net. The first was a redirected Matt Hunwick shot and the second was a beautiful tip of a Marc Savard shot from directly in front of the right post. The scores give Recchi six goals since arriving in Boston, and he has truly worked out exactly as Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli could have hoped.
–Matt Hunwick picked up three more assists in another solid night at the D position, and he seems to getting more and more comfortable with each passing day. In several instances Hunwick pinched and rushed up into the offensive zone to keep the puck embedded deep in Toronto’s zone while maintaining pressure on a scuffling Maple Leafs defense. “Munch” has a goal and four assists in his last three games and is a +4 during that time period. A quick little flip pass from the right point set up Shawn Thornton’s goal from the high slot in the second period.
–Manny Fernandez survived a horrific first period to get his first win since the beginning of January, but the game did keep a string intact that Fernandez would like to snap. The B’s goaltender has allowed four or more goals in five of his six games since coming back from a back injury in early February, and appears to be battling a crippling lack of confidence between the pipes. After consulting with a pair of pretty knowledgeable goaltending experts during the game, Fernandez was simply backing way too far back into the net during the first period and wasn’t challenging shooters early in the contest until it was too late. Man-Fern did get better as the game went along, and B’s coach Claude Julien ultimately made the right call in what many considered a risky coaching move placing Fernandez back in net.
–David Krejci and Blake Wheeler both showed up on the scoresheet and contributed mightily to the win, a requirement given the absence of Phil Kessel from the lineup due to an unspecified injury. Both young forwards played hard, simple games with their respective lines, which is exactly what Julien was preaching over the last week of practice. Krejci finished with a goal and an assist on Saturday night, and enjoyed his first multi-point night since he scored two points against the Carolina Hurricanes back on Feb. 17.
Injury Ward: With Kessel back in Boston getting looked at for what’s believed to be a left shoulder injury, the Bruins pushed Steve Montador up to a forward spot and had him skate with Shawn Thornton and Stephane Yelle on the fouth line. Dennis Wideman took a painful shot off the chest during the game, but returned for his next shift without incident.
Player of the Game: With Kessel out of the lineup, somebody had to step up and fill the offensive void. Recchi made the big splash with two courage goals in front of the cage, and both Wideman and Hunwick added three assists apiece while keeping the puck moving through all three zones. Hunwick, in particular, is impressing with his all-around performance at this late point in the season. The rookie is third among Bruins defenseman in scoring this season, an amazing jump from a training camp where he was the last blueliner cut before the season. After making some adjustments to the PP – including inserting Hunwick and Wideman on the top unit — Boston’s special teams are taking off.
Goat Horns: Aaron Ward logged 22:06 of ice time, but he didn’t have a very good night in his own end with five official giveaways — including one that led directly to a Maple Leafs score in the second period. Ward finished with a -2, and won’t be putting this one on his Greatest Hits compilation tape.
Turning Point: Alexei Ponikarovsky scored first in the second period to give Toronto a 4-3 lead, but the Bruins struck back with four unanswered goals in the final 11 minutes of the period. Recchi started with a power play goal to tie it, and then Thornton, Krejci and Wheeler finished things off for the Spoked B.
|03.27.09 at 4:27 pm ET|
Got a few email requests asking when Bruins home playoff tix were going on sale. Ask Pucks with Haggs/Big Bad Blog, and ye shall receive.
Here’s the relase from the Bruins:
Given the limited number and high demand for tickets, the Boston Bruins and TD Banknorth Garden encourage fans to purchase tickets through www.bostonbruins.com and Ticketmaster. The Bruins and TD Banknorth Garden will release the procedure for purchasing tickets at the TD Banknorth Garden Box Office early next week.
The dates and times for the two games will be determined by the National Hockey League once the final seeding for the Stanley Cup Playoffs are set.
The Bruins have already clinched the Northeast Division title, and are currently atop the Eastern Conference standings with nine games remaining in the 2008-2009 regular season.
Fans interested in learning more about Boston Bruins players, or ticket options, should visit the team website at www.bostonbruins.com or call 617.624.BEAR.
|03.27.09 at 11:37 am ET|
WILMINGTON — Just when it seemed that the Bruins were enjoying a full complement of healthy, productive skaters, winger Phil Kessel will be out for this weekend’s two games against the Toronto Maple Leafs and Philadelphia Flyers with “an undisclosed injury”.
“He’s not going to play this weekend,” said B’s coach Claude Julien, who wouldn’t answer questions as to whether this is an ongoing injury or something the 21-year-old would play through in the upcoming playoffs. “We’re going to assess it as an undisclosed injury that will be reassessed next week. We feel at this stage it’s better to be cautious rather than reckless and we’re going to give him the weekend off.”
Kessel took a big hit against the boards courtesy of Columbus defender Jan Hejda back in a March 10 loss that appeared to hurt his shoulder, but Kessel returned to that game in the third period and hadn’t missed any games since the Blue Jackets game. It’s unknown if this “undisclosed injury” has anything to do with that particular hit or with his shoulder. Kessel had scored 4 goals and 2 assists in the five games since that night against the Blue Jackets, so it wouldn’t appear that the right shoulder was bothering him.
|03.27.09 at 1:52 am ET|
WILMINGTON — Take a guess at the Bruins player with the most goals since everybody’s favorite NHL All-Star weekend in Old Montreal back in late January.
Marc Savard? The B’s playmaking center has been remarkably consistent and seems again on pace for a 90 plus point season, but again that would be an incorrect answer.
The rookie wonder twins of Blake Wheeler and David Krejci? Once again the answer is no. Both Krejci and Wheeler have tailed off over the last few months amid the long grind of an 82 game season, but have showed serious signs of regaining their games in recent weeks.
The answer is the gritty, gutty Chuck Kobasew, who has banged home 10 goals over the team’s last 24 games and has 18 goals and 19 assists on the season. Kobasew is just a handful of points behind both Wheeler and Zdeno Chara despite the fact that both played have appeared in 13 more games than Kobasew, who missed significant time at the beginning of the year after an errant shot broke a bone in his leg.
“Koby does those kinds of things quietly,” said B’s bench boss Claude Julien. “He competes hard, he bangs and crashes and then he slides that goal in here and there. It’s almost like people don’t take notice as much for his goals as they will for the Kessels and the Ryders, but he quietly racks up the points. You notice him as much for his grit and determination as you do for anything on the scoresheet.”
The 26-year-0ld winger, for his part, is just to happy to have meshed with linemates Mark Recchi and Patrice Bergeron, and together the trio has really stepped up and taken on some needed offensive responsibility.
“For me it’s never been about the goals or about anything related to numbers,” said Kobasew, who practiced on Thursday afternoon following two “maintenance days” spent off the ice. “I’m out there to play a physical game and to do whatever this team needs to win games and get into the playoffs. That’s what it is all about for me.”
Kobasew, perhaps more than any other player in a Spoked B sweater, perfectly meshes the frenetic physical style of a kamikaze pilot with enough scoring tough around the net. Add that to the other two elements on Kobasew’s line, and you have a trio that Julien has been more than happy throw out against another team’s top scoring line — while also coming to expect some offensive production as well.
“Bergie’s game is getting better and better in the last month-and-a-half or so, and you can see he’s really finding his groove again,” said Julien. “I really like his two-way game right and he’s becoming the reliable Bergie that we all watched until his injury. Koby is just a strong competitor and Recchi has really added some valuable experience to that line.”
|03.26.09 at 11:01 am ET|
WILMINGTON — Chuck Kobasew was back on the practice ice, and taking part along with Byron Bitz, Manny Fernandez, Tim Thomas, Dennis Wideman and David Krejci (who skated on Wednesday) in a limited ice at Ristucca Arena. Kobasew had missed the last two days of practice with “maintenance” issues, but was back on the ice and ready to go this morning. Kobasew leads the team with 10 goals scored since the All-Star break and has been a gritty contributor to the B’s stretch drive.
The Bruins have one more practice day tomorrow before heading on the road for a weekend return to game mode in Toronto (Saturday) and Philadelphia (Sunday) before heading back to Boston.
|03.26.09 at 9:08 am ET|
On the way out the door to Ristucca Arena, but wanted to share a few links before heading out to the Deep Freeze in Wilmington.
–Many Bruins fans are hoping that there will be need to be some serious editing done to the Bruins entry in the Urban Dictionary. Seems a little dated when the most current B’s name referenced in it is the Razor, Andrew Raycroft, and it may soon be revision time. Here’s my personal favorite definition complete with self-fulfilling Doomsday prophecy for B’s fans.
|3.||bruins||27 up, 17 down|
bostons hockey team that cant get out of the first round
bruins fan: the bruins went 82-0
bruins fan2: it doesnt matter man they’ll be gone in the first round
–Four goals in the last 18 games and a whopping -9 for Vinny Lecavalier coming down the stretch here, and now he needs a kick in the pants at the Bell Centre to get him going. Just imagine the heaping amounts of catcalls and abuse this puck “savior” would have endured in Boston if the B’s brain trust had offered up the farm for My Center Vinny, and then he performed like he is right now. Lecavalier is trending downward, and can we all finally admit this might have been a No Show Joe-type disaster if he’d come to the Hub.
–Raise your hand if you’re shocked — or even mildly surprised — that Hal Gill has been spotted wearing a sky blue snuggie around the Pittsburgh Penguins’ dressing room, and he’s actually admitting it. What, no hands raised? “I have to wear (the snuggie) now,” said Gill to a Pittsburgh radio station. “This team is pretty superstitious and they’re going to make sure I’m wearing it.”
|03.25.09 at 12:17 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — The Bruins took a spirited approach to practice for the second consecutive day while working on the forecheck, and keeping sharp during their current five day stretch without any actual hockey games. There’s almost a bye week feel to the practices at Ristucca Arena this week, but Claude Julien and his staff are doing what they can to keep the compete level on a high note.
The interesting dynamic is how the break of five days off — and only two total games played in 12 days — will affect each individual player heading into the final nine game of the regular season in a grand total of 16 days. Call it the final stretch run for a team that has enjoyed nearly wire-to-wire dominance at the top of the Eastern Conference.
Milan Lucic, for example, is only a couple of years removed from junior hockey where a squad might have only played weekend games and then taken a 5-7 day span of practice before their next actual game. At 20 years-old Lucic can still recover quickly after a particularly violent, physical game like Sunday’s grudge match with the New Jersey Devils.
“After a great effort like (Sunday) you want to keep things going, but you can’t complain really having a break like this either at this time of the season,” said Lucic. “It’s a good time to step, re-energize the batteries, refocus and then get back to work Saturday. This is just like juniors (for me), Usually you played a three in three on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday and then you wouldn’t play again until the next Friday or Saturday.
“It’s the same sort of thing,” added Lucic. “I think if you asked (the veterans) they’re not going to complain about it. They battle hard and it’s not the same when you’re 20 as compared to what you are when you’re 30. They’re using it to the full advantage.”
For older veterans it’s a time to a time to heal some of the wounds incurred over a long season of hockey, and almost enjoy something akin to a bye week in the NFL leading up to the final push before the playoffs begin. While certain injuries aren’t enough to keep a battle-hardened older player out of the lineup, aches and pains can gnaw away at the player’s overall effectiveness. Maybe it’s an aching knee that’s affecting skating speed, or a sore shoulder that’s taken the bite away from a player’s shot. The week of rest can replenish these skaters as much as possible before one final rush up the ice.
The key, according to Ward, is the ability to keep the team’s game at a razor-sharp edge and play with the same brand of team-wide intensity that characterized last Sunday’s win over the Devils, while reaping the benefits of some off-time.
“It presents a great opportunity to rest, but it also worsens the capacity that you can mentally get away from the game,” said Ward. “Too far away from it. You’ve got to simulate the game as much as possible and really try to raise that intensity level in practice and keep your preparation level sharp.
“I don’t know,” added Ward. “I’m a little worried about it. The good thing is that we’re going to Toronto, which is a divisional foe that should be enough on the game that we’re going to show up come game time. I’ll definitely be practiced out by the end of this week.”
–Chuck Kobasew had a second consecutive day off the ice on Wednesday morning, but Julien said that it was just scheduled time off the ice rather than a serious injury issue for the scrappy winger. Kobasew leads the Bruins with 10 goals scored since the All-Star break, and has clearly upped his scrappy/skill game down the stretch.
“He’s alright,” said Julien. “He’ll be on (ice) tomorrow. There’s no hidden agendas. Everybody is good, and they’re all maintenance things.”
–Julien noted that the pressure has noticeably alleviated from the Black and Gold dressing room following Sunday’s win over the Devils, and the smiles were coming a little easier to players’ faces after temporarily beating back their closest rival last weekend.
“The win did us a lot of good, but the way we won did us even more good,” said Julien. “The guys remembered those types of feelings coming in after a game and knowing that you’d really performed well, worked hard and did the right things.
“The pride that came with that was just as important as the win was.”
–Congratulations to the Ference Family and the Ward Family for the new additions over the weekend. Both Andrew Ference and Aaron Ward became fathers again on Sunday. Ference’s wife Krista gave birth to a second girl ‘ Stella Haliday James Ference, and Ward’s wife Kelly gave birth to the couple’s second daughter and third child ‘ Phoebe Grace Ward. Both babies were happy and healthy, and both dads were back on the practice ice Wednesday morning following the blessed events.
–Julien said, according to team stats, that Patrice Bergeron has been the B’s best faceoff man all year, and “he’s a good 4-5 percent better than the rest of the centerman when it comes to faceoffs.” The faceoff success is a good example of the intangible-type skills that Bergeron has brought to the table all season, but now his offensive game is rounding up to form as well.
The Bruins will be back to work at Ristucca Arena tomorrow morning, but it may not a full bore skating practice.
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