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Bruins withstand third period attack and take 4-1 victory

03.22.09 at 3:56 pm ET
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15:37: As expected, the Devils are coming at the B’s with everything they’ve got in the third, but so far the D and Tim Thomas are holding their end of the bargain up. Little extended shoving match between Andrew Ference and Jamie Langenbruner after the last whistle.

The Bruins keep piling it on in the third. Brian Gionta hit the side of the net with a snipe when Thomas lost sight of the puck on a Devils’ rush.

9:57: Zdeno Chara sent to the box for two minutes for a roughing penalty after throwing a quick punch at Bobby Holik behind the Bruins bench. Chara and Holik have been going at it all game long.

The Bruins survived a frantic Devils attack in the third period that saw them outshot by a 17-3 margin, and take a huge 4-1 win over New Jersey. The win clinches the Northeast Division crown for the Bruins, and pushes the Devils back to five points behind the Black and Gold.

Kobasew, Savard, Lucic goals give the Bruins a three-goal lead

03.22.09 at 3:01 pm ET
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Scoring change: The Bruins media relations guru Eric Tosi just announced that the B’s goal has been changed from Mark Recchi to Michael Ryder. I’m a little mystifed considering Ryder never touched the puck, and the goal clearly went off Martin’s skate, so stay tuned on that one.

18:08: Great wheeling, backhanded bid by Chuck Kobasew from behind the net that slid past Brodeur to the far side of the post to give Boston a 2-0 lead. The 18th goal of the season for Kobasew.

13:41: Another power play score for the Bruins. Marc Savard gets a fortunate bounce of the puck from a left point shot by Matt Hunwick, collects the puck at the right faceoff and unloads a bullet into the open net to give the B’s a 3-0 lead. The B’s are doing everything right at this point, and turning hard work and hustle into good bounces. It’s Savard’s 23rd goal of the season.

9:42: Great glove save by Brodeur on a Dennis Wideman hot shot from the high point with Ryder and Recchi both bearing down on him. Superb puck movement by the Bruins on their power plays today.

7:16: Devils get one back on a nice tip by defenseman Andy Greene, who stormed down the middle of the ice and redirected a Jamie Langenbruner pass up and over Tim Thomas.

5:29: A pair of solid stops by Thomas on Zach Parise in close, as he blocked a shot from the high slot and then somehow absorbed the other shot between his legs while sitting down on the ice.

2:34: Milan Lucic strikes with a pretty backhanded bid, as he controlled the puck in the right corner and looked pass to Stephane Yelle storming down the slot. Instead he surprised Brodeur by flicking a nifty little backhander that may have hit Yelle or Zach Parise before going through the goaltender’s pads for Boston’s fourth goal.

The Bruins are beating the Devils by a 4-1 score after two complete periods at the TD Banknorth Garden.

Mark Recchi power play score puts Boston up in the first

03.22.09 at 2:15 pm ET
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18:00: Claude Julien opens the game up with a bit of a surprise and puts P.J. Axelsson on the top line with Marc Savard and Phil Kessel, after Blake Wheeler had been most recently skating with Savard and Kessel. I will reiterate again that I’m not a big fan of PJ on the top line. This moves seems a bit conservative for my tastes, but maybe that’s just me.

16:45: Good little one-on-one move by P.J. Axelsson that Martin Brodeur makes the juggling save on.

13:57: Near miss by the Devils when Tim Thomas mishandled a dump in, and Brian Gionta picked the loose puck up and fed it to Brian Rolston in front as Thomas scrambled back into the net. Thomas made it back between the pipes in time, but Rolston missed wide right with the shot from the right faceoff circle.

9:03: Big glove save by Brodeur on a Phil Kessel bid from the slot from a nice Savard feed off the sideboards. Brodeur simply got a glove on it and deflected it near the corner.

8:04: Kessel with another good chance, misses wide left with a wrist shot coming down the slot. A lot of jump from Savard and Kessel in the early going today.

Good job by the Bruins defenseman of finding a seam and get their point shots through traffic toward the New Jersey net. Brodeur has looked pretty damned solid in the early going, however.

3:38: Mark Recchi continues to play dividends. The veteran winger took a shot from the right faceoff circle that bounced off defenseman Paul Martin’s right skate and went right on past Brodeur for a power play score. It’s Recchi’s fifth goal since coming to the B’s.

0:00: Slash by Bobby Holik on Aaron Ward behind the Bruins net as the horn expired in the first period. Ward tried to catch up to Holik and have a “word”, but the refs got in between the two and headed the veteran defenseman off at the pass.

The Bruins lead the Devils 1-0 after one full period at the TD Banknorth Garden.

Bruins need a Sunday rebound from past-Sharks hangover

03.22.09 at 12:23 pm ET
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I selfishly refuse to give WEEI flash guy — and puck enthusiast — Pete Sheppard any credit after swiping his “psychologically damaged” theory and applying it to the Bruins’ play over the last two months.

But I truly believe what I wrote about weeks ago and said again during a segment with Mike Giardi on NECN’s “Sports Late Night” Saturday night.

The Black and Gold haven’t been the same confident, brash, bad to the bone hockey bunch since the San Jose Sharks stormed into Boston for a nationally-hyped “Best vs. the Best” game in early February and simply dropped the Bruins in the dust during an eye-opening third period. The game certainly didn’t provide a blue print to beat the Bruins because A) there aren’t many other teams with the personnel that the Sharks employ to exploit a team like the Bruins and B) there isn’t a lot of credence in “figuring out” a team’s system and beating them because of it.

It’s not about the systems — as it might be in football — but it’s more about the players’ talent level, their willingness to buy into said system and their adherence to disciplined hockey while also utilizing the requisite amount of blood and guts passion. It’s something Bruins fans haven’t seen much of lately as the B’s were treading water in February (6-4-3) and have really stumbled in the merry month of March (3-5-1).

Following that Sharks tilt on Feb. 10, the Bruins have sputtered to a 6-8-3 record and haven’t been able to capture their past puck mojo for more than a game or two at a time. There were — at points — a couple of back-to-back blowout wins that seemed to signal the Big Bad B’s were back, but they haven’t been able to sustain it. 

Perhaps the stunning defeat to the Sharks caused some of the young players to start questioning their respective games, and caused them to wonder just how good this hockey team really is — a pair of questions that everyone will have much clearer answers to following this afternoon’s tilt vs. Martin Brodeur and the New Jersey Devils.

The Bruins need to start putting the fear back into opponents looking to get the upper hand against a squad that Boston enforcer Shawn Thornton has called “team tough” throughout the hockey season — a fear and intimidation factor that’s now clearly missing when teams like the Coyotes and Kings are able to pull out victories during an…ahem…March playoff drive.

“I’ve said it all along that adversity is something we had to go through during the year, and it’s just a matter of how we get out of it,” said Patrice Bergeron. “We need to get our focus back by staying sharp and alert — and then we need to bring our passion back. (Sunday’s game against the Devils) is a game that everybody knows what is at stake, and how good they’re playing. It’s a challenge and we’ve been answering the bell all year. I think we’re ready for this one, and we know exactly what we’re up against.”

With your moment of hockey zen from Bergeron over with, here’s Saturday Night Hockey Talk with Mike Giardi. It’s not quite Coach’s Corner with Don Cherry, but I can go pick up some fabric from the curtain store, fashion myself a pin-striped zuit suit and try to channel Grapes again next time I’m on the air:

Tuukka Rask goes ballistic after losing shootout at Providence

03.21.09 at 2:03 pm ET
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Fantastic meltdown by Providence Bruins goaltender, and 22-year-old wonderboy Bruins prospect, Tuukka Rask after losing a 1-0 shootout to the Albany River Rats at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Providence last night. Rask had an issue with a pair of goals during the shootout session, and proceeded to slam his paddle against the crossbar and the boards before tossing a crate in a fit of pique out onto the ice in exasperation.

The first appears to be a shot that he had saved and play had stopped before the Albany skater popped the puck into the net, and the second shot appeared to ring off the post — but was also called a goal by the AHL officials.

We’ve heard — and seen — strong evidence of Tim Thomas and famous competitive temper when things don’t go his way in the game of hockey, but Rask had seemed like a pretty mild-mannered netminder. Until last night, that is, courtesy of footage from www.abc6.comvia youtube.

Read More: Providence Bruins, Tim Thomas, Tuukka Rask,

Chiarelli: Firing Julien is “100 percent not possible”

03.20.09 at 12:49 pm ET
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WILMINGTON — Bruins General Manager Peter Chiarelli said that B’s coach Claude Julien’s job is safe under no uncertain terms despite the hockey team’s recent struggles. The Black and Gold are 3-5-1 during a miserable month of March, and have watched as teams like the Washington Capitals and New Jersey Devils have both closed to within five points of their Eastern Conference lead.

Despite some lackluster play — and the fact that Julien was given the gate just before the playoffs during his last job coaching the Devils in 2006-07 — the B’s bench boss isn’t going anywhere, and Chiarelli indicated that   

“(Julien getting fired) is 100 percent not possible,” said Chiarelli, speaking while his team practiced at Ristuccia Arena in Wilmington this afternoon. “That’s not possible.

“It’s really about work ethic and winning puck battles,” added Chiarelli. “That’s been a trademark of our team, but it definitely hasn’t been there in the last 15-20 games. There’s nothing magic to it. There has to be a better work ethic and we have to grind our way through it. We know that we can play at a level that will produce great results in this league, and we’ve got to get back to it. There’s an element of complacency with the players. It may be that they’re 98 percent ready to go, and there’s only 2 percent. But you have to be at 100 percent.”

Julien, however, stepped back a bit from hisearlier charge that his hockey club was routinely getting outworked and both coach and GM pointed toward a mental/confidence component to their game — many players simply aren’t as aggressive as they were in the first half of the year. The defenseman are playing too much East-West hockey rather than moving the puck North-South and straight up the ice, and there’s a tightness in the locker room that Julien and his staff are looking to alleviate.

Julien,  rather than putting his team through a bag skate, ran a scrimmage and shootout drill that he said was more competitive and better-played than the Thursday night game against the LA Kings.

“We’re going through a situation as a coaching staff where we’ve got to figure it out and help (the players) find their game,” said Julien. “We felt that our guys were wound up pretty tight. Our goal today was to loosen them up a little bit, and help them get their energy back. To tell you the truth, I thought our scrimmage today was better than our game (last night) and that tells me a lot.

“Certainly those guys, looking at it this morning, they’re feeling the pressure from everything and everybody around them,” added Julien. “They’re putting a lot of pressure on themselves to perform.  It’s not from lack of caring or a lack of wanting to do well. You can see it with our players. Our best players have to be our best players, and if they’re pressing then it just isn’t going to happen. At the same time, in order to outwork other teams you have to have fun and be relaxed. If you have that, you have the energy. Right now, we’re wound up so tight and it drains all the energy out of you.”

–Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli confirmed that Carl Soderberg won’t be coming to New England from his Swedish League team, Malmo, to get a taste of North American professional hockey with the Providence Bruins this spring. Bruins officials had hoped the 23-year-old forward Swedish Mystery Man might come over at end of the AHL season and participate in the playoffs — a development that have allowed the club to take a gander at the prospect they received in dealing Hannu Toivonen to the St. Louis Blues.

But no dice from Soderberg, who continues to seem very reluctant to leave his hometown of Malmo and appears much more interested in taking part in World Championship tryouts for the Swedish team.

It might be time to start sounding the alarms on these B’s

03.19.09 at 10:58 pm ET
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Sound the alarms. Blare the horns. It’s time to wake Bob Lobel up from his winter slumber and get a hold of his big red “Panic” button.

Things are going terribly awry for the hockey team on Causeway Street, and Exhibit F in a continuing stream of evidence was on display last night. The Black and Gold warriors blew a two-goal lead in the final 20 minutes of play and coughed the game up in the extra session en route to dropping a 3-2 OT decision to the LA Kings at the TD Banknorth Garden.

It’s the kind of game where a hockey team should almost be embarrassed to take credit for the point in getting to overtime.

“Enough’€™s enough here,” said Mark Stuart simply following another demoralizing defeat. “We’€™ve got to start figuring it out, I think.”

The real kicker, you ask?

The Bruins were two points away from clinching a playoff spot headed into Thursday night’s game against the Kings, and couldn’t even close that deal with the proper authority.

As NECN’s Mike Giardi would say “Oh mama…it was ugly.”

Troubled waters and potential icebergs might be right ahead for Boston’s favorite hockey club if they don’t find their Big Bad work ethic and quite a bit of snarl in the next two weeks. The worst thing that could happen to this franchise would be a one-and-out in the playoffs, and that looks more and more like a possibility when a young Kings team marooned in playoff Siberia shows more desire, grit and jump than a Bruins squad with serious Stanley Cup aspirations.

Bruins coach Claude Julien didn’t seem to have any strategical answers or complex reasons why, once again, the Bruins were left shaking their heads and picking up the puck pieces after another blown lead. Instead the B’s bench boss pointed to the work ethic that put them in the Eastern Conference catbird seat.

The work ethic that’s been missing for almost two months now on a consistent basis, and Julien seemed to be considering sending a search posse out for his first power play unit. The man advantage went 0-for-4 and didn’t exactly light up the ice with Grade A opportunities.

“A couple things have to happen.  This is basically all I have to say, is that we’€™re going to have to start out-working other teams from start to finish, like we were earlier in the season,” said Julien. “Your best players are going to have to find their game and be the best they can be in order for us to get out of it. And I’€™m not telling you anything that anybody here doesn’€™t know. That’€™s basically what we need to do.

“We’€™re telling them to go out there and out-work the other team.  It’€™s a commitment that you have to make, so whether they’€™re nervous or not, if it is…it’€™s of their own doing,” added Julien. “We’€™re encouraging them to go out there, play hard, and out-work the other team, and when you win races, you win battles, most of the time you win games.”

Things seemed to be following the normal script of late as the B’s skaters built up a 2-0 lead after two periods of play, but couldn’t capitalize on a pair of  keyPP chances in the second period. The Bruins never quite stepped on the throat of the temporarily dethroned Kings, and instead the hockey royalty rocked them in the third period.

It’s a malady that’s been all-too constant for the Bruins of late: an early lead gives way as Boston’s opponents clearly aren’t scared or intimidated by a sputtering Boston team anymore, and the ensuing lack of confidence strikes the B’s at the most inopportune times.

“Teams are playing with confidence against us,” said B’s goaltender Tim Thomas, who played brilliantly for much of the game in making 35 saves. “It seems to me that teams, whether we’€™re on the road or at home, teams are coming up against us and it’€™s almost like they’€™ve got the upper hand already because they’€™re the more confident team. That’€™s what it seems like anyways.”

It makes one wonder whether this team was ever really as good as the hockey club that dominated other clubs over the first half of the season, or if that was merely a mirage-like run that’s now ancient hockey history with only 10 games remaining to straighten things out.

“We know that things are not going that good for us right now and we have to find our way to get out of it,” B’s winger Michael Ryder. “It’€™s getting to that time of year where we can’€™t be looking for our game.  We have to make sure to get it back on track as soon as possible.”

The Bruins next face an opponent that could and should snap them out of their prolonged funk: the New Jersey Devils. The Devils are only five points behind the Black and Gold entering Friday, but could potentially pull within one point with victories on Friday vs. the Wild and Sunday afternoon against the shaken-but-not-stirred ‘B’.

The Bruins will have a long six day reprieve between games following Sunday’s matinee, and a big victory coupled with a week to heal mentally and physically could be just what the doctor ordered for this stricken team. At least that’s what the players — and the Bruins Faithful that have begun watching the second half with fingers covering their eyes — are hoping.

Injury Ward: Stephane Yelle returned from an upper body injury and played 13:07 total minutes and 2:06 of penalty kill time. Other than Yelle, everyone else appeared to escape the loss healthy.

Player of the Game: Chuck Kobasew and Matt Hunwick were two players that hustled, played physical Bruins hockey and then watched the hockey gods smile on them with good fortune. A solid forecheck by Kobasew set up Mark Recchi’s goal that made it a 2-o hockey game, and Hunwick continues to contribute as a puck-moving offensive defenseman capable of skating, stepping up in the offensive zone and making plays. With a first period goal and a +2 for the evening, Hunny might have earned himself more playing time with his performance on Thursday night.

Goat Horns: Julien called out his best players following the loss, and it’s hard not to notice that Phil Kessel didn’t register a single shot and the Marc Savard-led first power play unit was a dud all night. Tough to win when you don’t get  solid all-around games from that duo. It doesn’t just end there, however. Where were the tough to play against Bruins on Thursday night? Ivanans crunched Andrew Ference from behind into the boards, earned himself a boarding penalty and never had to pay the ferryman for his transgressions. That kind of thing never would have happened earlier in the season, and it shouldn’t happen to a team brimming with playoff grit.

Turning Point: The Bruins had two power play opportunities in the second period thanks to the thuggish ways of Raitis Ivanans, but couldn’t cash in with either chance. That allowed the Kings some room to breathe in a 2-0 hockey game, and left the door ajar for the third period comeback.

Read More: Chuck Kobasew, Claude Julien, Marc Savard,
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