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Bruins show that playoff glow in win over Philly

03.30.09 at 12:27 am ET
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In beating down the Flyers on Sunday night, the Bruins flashed a pretty solid glimpse of the playoff hockey team they can potentially be: tough as nails, ready to fight, intimidate and punish their opposition, skilled and dangerous on all four lines with quick strike ability and superior goaltending at the back end of their defense.

The B’s also showed that — with David Krejci again doing his playmaking thing while racking up three assists and creating countless scoring chances against the Flyers — they’re at the very least a quality playoff hockey team.

But the Spoked B could ascend to something much higher on the hockey food chain this spring if Krejci can channel his Sunday night effort and recapture the first-half magic that saw him on pace to score 100 points. 

In many ways Krejci is the key to what this team will ultimately accomplish once the “tournament” begins, and Sunday night was a giant stride in the right direction. There were plenty of right directions for Krejci and his Black and Gold teammates in a 4-3 playoff-style win over a motivated Flyers bunch at the Wachovia Center.

The B’s battled to plug up a multitude of leaks in their defense during Saturday night’s fast break win in Toronto, but managed to tighten things up in Philly despite allowing 48 shots to a physical Flyers bunch.

The biggest difference for the defense on Sunday night? The goaltending.

One night prior, those mistakes in the D-zone ended up in the back of Boston’s net and put a bold face on miscues that might have otherwise been covered up. Instead the offense did its job with a resurgent Krejci at the controls feeding pucks to Milan Lucic and Dennis Wideman, and Thomas was outstanding. Krejci notched his first three-point game since Jan. 10 and looked every bit the Bruins boy wonder. To put Sunday night in perspective, Krejci had four three-point games in the month of December, and then didn’t have one in all of February and most of March.

But the slick 22-year-old center from the Czech Republic had flirted with signs of busting out recently, and was only being held back by the typical maladies that gnaw away at a natural scorer during a snakebitten stretch: unforgiving posts, sprawling goaltenders and the occasional unfortunate bounce of the puck.

As superb as Krejci was dishing out goal-scoring opportunities in the offensive end, Tim Thomas was equally brilliant between the pipes after getting a rest on Saturday night in favor of Manny Fernandez. Thomas made a season-high 45 saves in a game that saw near-constant pressure from the Flyers’ skaters, and was at his best when Philly descended on a 5-on-3 advantage in the second period.

Mike Richards blasted away on a shot from the high point that whistled through Mike Knuble in front of the net, but Thomas was able to pull his Human Wall act in front of the net and knock the puck away. Scott Hartnell picked the puck up by the right post and spotted a wide open net to shoot for as he flicked in a sure power-play goal. But Thomas jumped right back into the play and essentially head-butted Harntell’s shot with his mask as he stretched and flopped back into position. Thomas’ mask went flying off after the “save” and a whistle immediately stopped the play dead.

The Flyers still had time left on the power play, but were essentially extinguished in their power play attempt following Thomas’ acrobatics.

Krejci, Thomas and the rest of the Bruins have seven games remaining in their regular season schedule, but last night was proof positive that the Black and Gold Bears are ready for the playoff battles to commence once things snap into place over the next two weeks.

Injury Ward:Marc Savard, Andrew Ference, and Dennis Wideman among others took heavy hits while making plays against a Flyers team looking to leave an impression on the Bruins, but everyone finished the game in one piece. There may be an uptick in Advil consumption among the skaters on Monday morning, however.

Players of the Game:Krejci and Thomas. Both players are unassailable keys to the Bruins fortunes when it comes to capturing the Cup, and there were encouraging signs all over the Wachovia Center frozen sheet on Sunday night. Krejci has scored in five of his last seven games and has a goal and seven assists over that seven game span. A good deal of the Flyers’ pressure came from the perimeter, but Thomas was spectacular when he had to be.

Goat Horns:The Bruins were rolling four lines and looked strong in the third period of back-t0-back games against the Leafs and Flyers. There weren’t any goats on a night when the Bruins battled for every last inch they gained during the game.

Turning Point:The Flyers took an early 1-0 lead and had a sellout crowd on their side during the first period in Philly, but Steve Montador stemmed some of tide after dropping the gloves with Flyers tough guy Daniel Carcillo. Carcillo got the better of Montador in the fisticuffs, but the Bruins weathered the emotional storm and got back on top later in the first period during a 5-on-3 advantage.

Good signs and goals aplenty in Toronto victory

03.28.09 at 10:23 pm ET
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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.

Limited playoff tix available for purchase on April 2

03.27.09 at 4:27 pm ET
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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.

The Boston Bruins announced today that a limited number of tickets for the club’€™s first two home playoff games of the 2009 Stanley Cup Playoffs will go on sale at 11:00 a.m. on Thursday, April 2.

Here’s the relase from the Bruins:

Tickets will be available for purchase at the TD Banknorth Garden Box Office, on www.bostonbruins.com, and via Ticketmaster.

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.

Boston will return to action this weekend when they travel to take on the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday and the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday.

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.

Kessel out this weekend with “undisclosed injury”

03.27.09 at 11:37 am ET
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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.

Read More: Claude Julien, Phil Kessel,

Chuck Kobasew quietly moving up the scoring charts

03.27.09 at 1:52 am ET
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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.

Phil Kessel or Michael Ryder? Nah. Both have had injuries and illness knock them off their normal scoring pace.

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.”

Chuck Kobasew returns to practice ice after “maintenance” days

03.26.09 at 11:01 am ET
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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.

Read More: Chuck Kobasew, David Krejci,

Some piping hot links for a slow hockey morning

03.26.09 at 9:08 am ET
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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.”

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