|11.11.09 at 7:18 am ET|
It was sort of a frozen version of the tortoise and the hare.
While the Bruins meandered through the early season looking to build something resembling momentum, the Penguins swiftly began defense of their Stanley Cup championship by winning 11 of their first 13 games.
As the Bruins struggled to score goals and secure victories, the Pens were clicking and posting seven straight road wins to start the season.
But which team seems to be heading in the right direction now?
The Bruins’ 3-0 victory over the defending Cup champs Tuesday night marked the seventh straight game Boston has held the opposition to two goals or less.
With Tim Thomas making 27 saves ‘ and his teammates blocking 22 more Pittsburgh shots ‘ Boston was able to build on Saturday’s 4-2 win over Buffalo by shutting out the Penguins and securing its first back-to-back wins this season.
‘It’s too bad it happened for the first time after 18 games, but tonight we showed if we play like we are right now, we can play extremely well,’ said captain Zdeno Chara.
|11.10.09 at 9:31 pm ET|
Armed with a mission to win two games in a row for the first time after more than a month of hockey, the Bruins parlayed tight defensive hockey, good goaltending and some opportunism all the way to victory.
That it came with a 3-0 win over the Eastern Conference-leading Pittsburgh Penguins only added extra icing to the hockey cake for the Black and Gold. The B’s will now attempt to parlay their winning ways into a multi-game win streak to get a little momentum going into a final stretch of games before names like Milan Lucic and Marc Savard begin appearing in the lineup.
A big heap of credit goes to the Patrice Bergeron/Marco Sturm/Mark Recchi line for not only applying offensive pressure, but also putting the wraps on Sidney Crosby. Sid the Kid managed only one shot on net and wasn’t much of a factor in a Penguins attack that clearly misses Sergei Gonchar, Kris Letang and Evgeni Malkin, and had to make due without Brooks Orpik when he went down with a lower body injury in the first period.
Boston’s only goal came in the second period as a byproduct of a Matt Hunwick rush into the offensive zone that finished with a shot at the Pittsburgh net. Steve Begin caught the deflected puck in front of the net and made good with a rebound attempt, and Hunwick again found the puck by the left post and fired a backhander under the crossbar.
The puck immediately caromed right back out of the net, and played resumed with a goal call from the refs despite the goal horn sounding once. Minutes later Vladimir Sobotka pressured for a whistle and replays clearly showed the puck whistle under the crossbar before hitting the net and shooting back toward the ice.
Bill McCreary got the goal call from Toronto and the Bruins had their slim lead.
A Daniel Paille breakaway goal in the third period gave the Bruins an insurance marker and sealed Pittsburgh’s fate. The whole score was set up when Derek Morris dropped to his belly on the ice and blocked a shot that set the breakaway in motion.
PLAYER OF THE GAME: Matt Hunwick scored the only goal, but Tim Thomas was stellar in net when he had to be and solid throughout the game. The victory over the Pens marked Thomas’ first win since he backstopped the B’s to a comeback victory over the Senators on Oct. 24. In total the Tank stopped 29 shots, but 14 of those attempts came in the third period. Thomas was at his best in the third period when he turned away tight rebound attempts by Jordan Staal and Bill Guerin just before Boston scored their second goal.
TIME TO STEP IT UP: Blake Wheeler had a shot on net and was skating hard, but there was zero physical presence to his game and several times he carelessly tossed away pucks when he couldn’t make connections with teammates. One turnover lead to a Penguins going the other way when it appeared Boston might be poised to score a second goal.
BY THE NUMBERS: 900 ‘ The number of career assists for Mark Recchi after setting up Daniel Paille’s first career goal as a Boston Bruins in the second period. It was a beauty of a pass that freed up Paille for a breakaway and caught the Penguins defenders ‘ Alex Goligoski and Jay McKee, take a bow ‘ with their hockey pants down.
|11.10.09 at 9:31 pm ET|
Matt Hunwick gathered a rebound of his own shot after sharply cutting to the net from the right point to give the Bruins a 1-0 lead early in the second period.
The goal was Hunwick’s fourth of the season, but just his first point in seven games. Fellow defender Dennis Wideman picked up his first point in over a month, assisting on the goal.
Mark Recchi earned his 900th career assist, sending Daniel Paille in on a breakaway 3:34 into the third period. Paille gave Boston a 2-0 advantage, beating Pens goalie Marc-Andre Fleury stick side for his first goal and first point of the season.
The defending Stanley Cup champs look like they are ready to get home. After opening the season with seven straight road wins, Pittsburgh suffered a 5-2 loss in LA last Thursday and a 5-0 drubbing by San Jose Saturday. The Pens, who are skating without Evgeni Malkin, Maxime Talbot, and Sergei Gonchar, finished the first period with two shots, a season low for a Bruins opponent.
Penguins forward Chris Bourque, the 23-year-old son of Bruins legend Ray Bourque, is skating at the TD Garden for first time in a regular season NHL game. The third-year NHL forward has generated just one assist in nine games in his first season with Pittsburgh. He has played NHL preseason contests in Boston before.
Star of the Game ‘ Still looking for players to step up offensively, Matt Hunwick launched an impromptu offensive attack in the second period. Bolting from the right point with little hesitation, Hunwick got the Bruins offense in gear.
Turning Point ‘ The Penguins has started to gather momentum and appeared poised to tie contest when Marc Recci hit Daniel Paille with a breakaway pass setting up an insurance goal for Boston in the third period.
|11.10.09 at 7:35 pm ET|
Penguins forward Chris Bourque, the 23-year-old son of Bruins legend Ray Bourque, is skating at the TD Garden for first time in a regular season NHL game. The third-year NHL forward has generated just one assist in nine games in his first season with Pittsburgh. He has played NHL preseason contests in Boston before while with the Capitals.
|11.10.09 at 7:22 pm ET|
|11.10.09 at 6:41 pm ET|
Center David Krejci is taking part in warmups and is expected to make his return after missing the last two games with H1N1 virus.
After missing practice on Monday, Michael Ryder is available tonight for the B’s.
|11.09.09 at 2:09 pm ET|
WILMINGTON, Mass. ‘ David Krejci returned to practice Monday morning at Ristuccia Arena, but it appears that right wing Michael Ryder has taken the center’s place in Boston’s revolving sick bay unit.
B’s coach Claude Julien termed Ryder, who missed practice and had Vladimir Sobotka instead skating in his place with Krejci and winger Blake Wheeler, as ‘under the weather’. Julien also added that he didn’t anticipate Ryder’s illness being another B’s player succumbing to the N1N1 virus, though the B’s coach also clearly didn’t stay in a Holiday Inn Express last night.
‘He’s a little under the weather,’ said Julien. ‘There are no H1N1 symptoms if that’s the thing that people want to know. But then again I’m not a doctor. Every time somebody is under the weather we’re going to play it safe and get it checked out. But there’s nothing indicating that it’s got anything to do with [swine flu].’
With Ryder out for precautionary reasons on Monday, it’s too early to determine whether Ryder might be out for Tuesday night’s big game against Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins. Ryder has been battling through a cold streak on the ice as well, and hasn’t cracked the score sheet in eight games with only one goal in his last 11 games.
Wheeler said that there was minimal adjustment time to get used to Sobotka on the wing rather than skating beside him at center, and they’d be perfectly comfortable as a trio should Ryder be unable to answer the bell against the Pens.
‘It’s all the same. As long as you are comfortable playing with players, it doesn’t even really matter where they are out on the ice,’ said Wheeler. ‘How many times in a game do you actually end on the right side of the ice? Where you are on the back check is where you’re going to end up on the ice.
‘As long as you have a comfort level with the guys on the ice it shouldn’t matter, and Vladdy and I have had a comfort level for a bit. It’s also great to have Krejci back.’
–Krejci was diagnosed with the H1N1 virus last Thursday, and he’s back on the ice practicing with his teammates this morning after a full recovery from the swine flu. He’s taking part in all battle drills after missing three days of games or practices with the illness, and appears to be ready for game action Tuesday night against the Eastern Conference-leading Penguins.
Krejci was paired Wheeler on the left side and obotka on the right, and Michael Ryder appears to be missing from practice.
Here are the forward lines from practice: