|04.25.10 at 1:36 pm ET|
Sabres head coach Lindy Ruff made some tweaks to his lineup before Game 5 that ended up working out well for Buffalo. To the bench went Raffi Torres, who has yet to score a goal for the Sabres after being a deadline acquisition with the express intent of providing some scoring pop. Up came Cody McCormick and former Boston College star Nathan Gerbe and Ruff put them on a line with Paul Gaustad in Game 5 to good results.
The Bruins probably do not need to do something as drastic as a roster move the likes of bringing Gerbe up from Portland but Sunday’s practice at TD Garden did give a different look from what has been seen in this series.
Coach Claude Julien flipped Marco Sturm back to his old line with Patrice Bergeron and Mark Recchi while Milan Lucic join Miroslav Satan and David Krejci. It is the third line change of the series for Lucic after riding the wing with Krejci and on the fourth line with Steve Begin and Daniel Paille.
“I think, obviously, playing with new guys, I haven’t played up to my potential or the caliber of hockey that I know I can play,” Lucic said. “Maybe third time’s a charm. Third different line in the playoffs but hopefully they can get me going and I think I would like to find a way to get myself going with more of an edge, for sure. If I do play with an edge I am helping out the team a lot more and so I just got to do whatever I can to find it in me.”
Julien said not to think too much into the new lines. He is right. Monday will be Game 88 of the Bruins’ season through the regular season and playoffs. Just about everybody on the team has played with everybody else so there should not be a great adjustment.
“There is not much to talk about as far as those guys have played together before. We’ve moved guys around all year. There is not a ton of reasons behind it. I just felt that it was time to try that out for today and we will see what we have tomorrow,” Julien said.
Sturm is the latest of the Bruins so-called scoring forwards to go completely absent from the goal column. He has had one goal and one assist since March 11, with the goal coming in the last game of the season against the Capitals.
“I was trying to get involved a bit more and be aggressive. We had some good battles in their end and I think it was better,” Sturm said. “I know where I am going to be and I he is going to be on the puck and Recchi, like I played it in the past. Relax and have fun.”
It is now time for the daily update on Marc Savard.
The center skated on Sunday with the team. He stayed on the ice longer than most other players doing conditioning and working on starting and stopping along with sustained skating. Savard said that he has another test tomorrow after the morning skate at the hospital to determine where is in the recovery process. Depending on the results, Savard may be cleared to play or maybe just to receive permission to do fuller contact drills in practice.
“I felt great out there and I was controlling the puck good,” Savard said. “I still have one more test tomorrow. I don’t know what the situation is, we have’t talked much about it so at this point it is not looking good right now.”
Julien kept to the party line when asked about Savard — wait for the doctors and get him in shape.
“He is certainly coming around, no doubt but that is all I can tell you right now because that is all we have. We have not yet been told by the medical staff that he is has been cleared so there is nothing more we can do besides keep working with him and get him in shape,” Julien said.
Tickets still available
The Bruins just announced that an extra ticket hold of approximately 500 seats will be released for purchase at 2 p.m. on Sunday.
|04.24.10 at 2:01 pm ET|
The Bruins were never concerned that they would be without their big man for Game 6 on Monday. In their eyes the real instigator in the mini-brawl as time expired on Game 5 was Paul Gaustad and his slashing stick that set captain Zdeno Chara off and he began punching Gaustad and any other Sabre in the immediate vicinity.
That was just about every other Sabre on the ice. Nathan Gerbe and Cody McCormick entered the fray and the three of them toppled Chara like and Oregonian red wood. Even Ryan Miller got into the act as the pile on Chara thickened with both Sabres and Bruins as the goaltender came in and tried to pull Miroslav Satan out of it only to get tangled in it himself.
“To me I wasn’t even worried because I could not see it [a suspension] happening,” coach Claude Julien said. “It did not take long for them to rescind that stuff and it just didn’t make any sense, you know, a guy gets slashed behind the leg with a two-hander and he just turns around and takes a pop and three guys jump him. Where does all this stuff come from? I don’t know. It is just common sense and I just felt he didn’t deserve it.”
The Bruins players made available to the media Saturday morning at TD Garden were instantly dismissive of the notion that Chara would ultimately receive the instigator-within-five-minutes-of-the-end-of-a-game suspension. Andrew Ference did not even think it was a real fight even though Chara took a five-minute fighting major though Gaustad did not.
“That wasn’t even a fight, an instigator is when there is a fight and that wasn’t a fight,” Ference said. “The guy clearly slashed in in the ankle on the ice, if you really want to talk instigator so, but there was no fight so it was not an issue.”
Did Gaustad think he could have gotten away with the slash because the clock was expiring? Maybe he was thinking it would be a tit-for-tat move after Johnny Boychuk took out the Sabres best player, Thomas Vanek, with a slash in Game 2. The difference in the situations of the hits is clear. Boychuk was defending a partial breakaway in a one goal game. Chara was skating towards the bench areas after the Sabres had cleared the puck out of their zone with second remaining in a game that his team had already won.
“We stand up for ourselves too. It is about doing it at the right time. Sometimes a guy takes a cheap shot at you at the time of the game it gives you a power play and you say well ‘OK, I know who it is and it is a long game.’ But the game is over there. Obviously it was a cheap shot and it was unwarranted, the two-hander and he responded so I don’t think there is any damage there this time except listen, we will turn the cheek when it is time to and there’s times when you have to stand up for yourselves and he stood up for himself,” Julien said.
|04.23.10 at 9:38 pm ET|
Summary — Buffalo cut into the Bruins series lead by taking Game 5 with a desperation effort 3-0 at HSBC Arena on Friday night. Ryan Miller took the win with 34 saves to keep the Sabres hopes alive while Tuukka Rask let in three goals on 32 shots in taking his second loss of his young playoff career.
For the fifth straight game in the series the Sabres scored the first goal within the first ten minutes of the first period. Adam Mair was the culprit this time when he took the puck behind Rask’s crease, turned and fired a whipcord wraparound that went to the far side of the net at 1:54 for the early lead.
Buffalo, desperate from the start, put up a two-goal advantage at 18:54 of the first when the Bruins could not clear the puck from their zone. Andrew Ference tried to skip it up the wall but hit Blake Wheeler with the puck instead. It bounced off Wheeler and Vladimir Sobotka could not track it down as it travelled to the high slot where Derek Roy rejoined the play and put the puck on Rask. Jason Pominville, in on the initial giveaway, beat Ference down the slot and scored on the rebound by putting the puck around Rask’s pads.
The Sabres ballooned their lead to three goals at 9:22 in the second when Paul Gaustad when a quick-snap face off on the right circle that went straight to the stick of Michael Grier who took a slap shot the beat Rask to the right side of his crease. It was the first three goal lead by either team in the series and Grier’s second of the playoffs.
Johnny Boychuk scored the Bruins lone goal with a power play slap shot at 17:30 in the third period to make it 3-1. Boston emptied Rask from the net immediately thereafter and the Sabres cleared the puck from their zone, bouncing at the wall at center ice and sliding to the Boston net. Rookie Tyler Ennis won race to the puck, dove and swept it in for the empty-netter to account for the final score.
Ryan Miller — He would not get burnt in the third period for the third time against Boston and was able to bring Buffalo back to within a game of the Bruins.
Adam Mair — The fourth line center had his first of the series to give the Sabres quick confidence with a lightning strike early in the first period.
Michael Grier — Not only did he score the third goal of the game, he threw his body around to the tune of five hits and three blocked shots including one that put him out of the game for a bit in the third period.
Turning Point — Pominville’s goal. The giveaway was the essence of the Bruins night at HSBC Arena. Wheeler could not get out the way of a clearing puck, Sobotka cannot track it down as it slides to the slot and Ference gets burned by Pominville as he crashes the net. The two-goal advantage would be all that Miller would need to put the Bruins away.
Key Play — All of the goals that Rask let in could have been avoided one way or another but the one that gave the Sabres the first three goal lead by either team in the series was more of the net minder’s fault than the first two. Gaustad won the face off and Grier shot. Simple enough. It was the type of goal that the Bruins hardly ever allow and could not afford to do so when trying to put the series away.
|04.23.10 at 8:41 pm ET|
In classic hockey statistics (no advanced metrics here) the blocked shot could be considered the “desperation meter” stat.
In that regard, the Sabres are all over Boston through the first two periods. The actual shot total (those that got all the way to the goaltender or net) is 27 to 13, indicating the Sabres total dominance of the first 40 minutes but Buffalo also leads in blocked shots by a double digit margin. Boston has gone to their desperation mode as they try to climb back into the contest. The Sabres have been throwing themselves around everywhere, much like they did in taking a 2-0 lead in the first two periods Game 4 at TD Garden before the Bruins came back to tie it in the third and win it in double overtime.
It has added up to some prime time frustration for the Bruins attack and some extra time with the puck for the Sabres. The Boston defensive corps is not having its best effort of the series with turnovers and bad exit passes from its own zone and Buffalo has capitalized all game. The first three goal lead that has been seen at anytime in this series came at 9:22 in the second when Michael Grier scored his second of the series with a slap shot off a face off won by Paul Gaustad on the circle to the left of Rask.
The Sabres are 31-2-0 this season, including playoffs, when taking a lead into the third period. The only positive thing for Boston? Those two Sabres’ losses came Game 2 and Game 4 of this series.
|04.23.10 at 7:48 pm ET|
The Bruins have to be thinking this a positive trend at this point in the series.
For the fifth straight game the Sabres scored the first goal of the game within the first ten minutes of the first period. The goals have been getting gradually earlier with Tim Kennedy’s opener in Game 4 at 2:12 and now Game 5 Adam Mair’s at 1:54.
Buffalo worked hard on the half-wall and Mair won the puck and skated hard around the back of Tuukka Rask’s net and emerged a couple feet out of the goal line. He turned with a whipcord and fired the puck across Rask to the far side of the net for the 1-0 lead.
The Sabres got the first chance on the power play but it was the same result as it has been all series – futility and frustration setting up the offense because the Bruins will not allow a clean entry into the zone. The kill make it 15 consecutive scoreless chances for Buffalo on the man-advantage through the series.
Boston has faired better when a man up, converting 25 percent of its chances in the series which has more or less proved the be the difference between the teams. It got a chance to tie the game when the Sabres top blue liner, rookie Tyler Myers, took a cross-checking penalty at 11:23. The difference between the Bruins and Buffalo’s power play is that Boston has been able to set up its system in the zone with Patrice Bergeron winning face offs and getting the puck to the triangle on the blue line to set up either a shot from the point or high slot or get it to the corners where Berergon or David Krejci can operate off the half walls.
The Bruins did just that and put pressure on Ryan Miller but a few shots were blocked before they ever got to the goaltender and ultimately the penalty was killed.
Boston’s best chance of the period came when Krejci rushed down the right wing and centered through the crease to a crashing Marco Sturm. The German forward was now able to get enough stick nor skate on it to push it into the open net with Miller out of position and it bounced harmlessly to the left of the crease.
Buffalo would make it 2-0 for the second straight game at 18:54. Boston could not clear the puck and essentially added a couple of assists to Jason Pominville in the process as Vladimir Sobotka and Andrew Ference could not get untangled from the puck on the point coming out of the zone. Sobotka had the giveaway to Derek Roy on the blue line and he shot with Pominville crashing for the rebound around Rask’s pads for the two-goal advantage.
As expected, the Sabres have come out with desperation and are putting the Bruins in their place, up by two goals and outshooting Boston 12 to 5 heading into the second period.
|04.22.10 at 1:55 pm ET|
Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask joined the Dale & Holley show Thursday afternoon and talked about his heroics in Game 4 of the B’s first-round series vs. the Sabres. Rask made a diving save on Mike Grier midway through the third period to keep the game tied at 2, stretching across the crease to stop Grier’s one-timer. “I just gave it everything I had there on that shot and I think he kind of fanned on it and it ended up hitting my blocker,” Rask said. “That’s one of those saves [where] sometimes it hits you, sometimes it doesn’t. That time I got lucky there.”
Here’s the video of the save:
Rask already has a reputation as a goalie who does not get rattled easily, and even Wednesday’s double-overtime thriller didn’t leave him worried.. Said Rask: “You can’t be too nervous when you’re playing, but I talked to people who were at the game and they said they were pretty nervous about that game.”
That said, Rask noted that no one should confuse his levelheadedness with a lack of fire. Said Rask: “When the time comes to be competitive, I will be competitive. But my game is to be calm and not get too emotional.”
Rask said he likes playing every other day, and it hasn’t taken its toll on him yet. “It’s good when you’re playing good, and it’s good when you’re playing bad because the next game’s coming so fast,” he said. “I guess at some point it’s going to catch up and I’ll be tired, but it’s been great so far.”
Rask said he’s been impressed with the play of his counterpart, Buffalo’s Ryan Miller. “He’s been rock solid throughout the year and it’s the same in the playoffs. ‘¦ It’s fun to watch him, and it’s fun to beat him, too,” Rask said, adding: “You try not to pay too much attention to the other goalie. You just try to do the best job you can.”
Rask said he’s been aided by his defense, which has blocked a number of shots, especially Johnny Boychuk. “I buy him dinner every now and then so he likes to block those shots,” Rask joked of his minor league and NHL teammate. “He’s great at it. It really helps me a lot when guys like that block shots.”
To hear the interview, click on the Dale & Holley audio on demand page.
|04.22.10 at 1:39 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — The Bruins had a meeting and workout day at Ristuccia Arena on Thursday before heading to Buffalo for Game 5 on Friday night. Players who did not play in Wednesday’s double overtime Game 4 worked out on the ice, including Marc Savard as he makes his way back from a Grade 2 concussion.
“Same as normal, skated with the guys a little bit and tomorrow I will be skating with the guys again so it is positive, for sure,” Savard said.
Savard had a doctor’s appointment this morning to determine if he was ready for contact but said in the locker room that he had not heard back from about his status. Regardless, Savard will not be taking many hits when he does return to the full team practice as battle drills are typically suspended in the playoffs to keep players as fresh as possible.
“I hope to know this afternoon. There is not going to be much bumping in practice from here on in,” Savard said. “You know, tomorrow I think I am cleared to start doing some of that stuff. Some little bumps and stuff and gradually getting back into it.”
An interesting question has arisen with the daily Savard Watch — which center gets bumped from the rotation in Savard’s eventual return? It probably will not be against Buffalo but if the Bruins can put away the Sabres the reality that Boston has five good centers for four spots.
Bergeron and David Krejci are going to continue to man their respective lines. Vladimir Sobotka has been a spark plugged since getting regular time starting at the beginning of March and has really helped the games of the struggling Blake Wheeler and Michael Ryder since he was paired with them in the final weeks of the regular season. With Savard coming back the natural thing would be to put Sobotka on the fourth line and sit either Steve Begin or Shawn Thornton. If Thornton sits, which would be likely in that situation, Begin would go to the wing and Sobotka would be the center but the fourth line would mean reduced minutes for the center and Boston benefits from having him on the ice.
It is a good problem to have but one that will need to be addressed when (if) Savard comes back.
Outside of Savard, there was not much else cooking around the Bruins in Wilmington. A couple meetings and a few players wandering in and out of the dressing room. Patrice Bergeron and Zdeno Chara both gave the “one game at a time” routine and how hard it will be to close out the Sabres in Game 5 at HSBC Arena.
“It is always tough to play in Buffalo. The fans really get into it and they are really going to be going hard, we all know that so we have to be focusing on our game and be ready,” Chara said.
Boston was on the opposite end of the three games to one playoff spectrum last year after winning the first and dropping the next three to Carolina in the conference.
“We’ve been in their situation before so we know how hard it is to win that fourth game,” Chara said.