Archive for February, 2010

Sabres claw back to tie it in second

Tuesday, February 9th, 2010

It was a wild first five minutes of the second period in Buffalo. The Sabres came out with more aggression than they showed in the first which was immediately evident when their captain, Craig Rivet, decided it was time to throw down with Bruins enforcer Shawn Thornton at 2:54. The fight started at the same time that a penalty whistle was blown to send Bruins forward Milan Lucic to the box for a hooking call. The Sabres were then given a golden chance to get back into the game when Steve Begin took a holding penalty 54-seconds later to give Buffalo 1:08 of 5-on-3 hockey at 3:46.

The Sabres would not need all of it to get on the board. At 4:35 Buffalo center Derek Roy found himself in the middle slot facing down Tuukka Rask with time and space. Roy let go a wily wrist shot that beat Rask glove side to cut the Bruins lead to 2-1.

Boston got its first chance on the power play when Paul Gaustad tried to throw down with Zdeno Chara at 9:52. The towering Bruins captain cannot fight though because he tore most of the ligaments in his pinky the first time the Bruins played in Buffalo on Nov. 20. The finger looks pretty ugly as it is bent at a 90-degree angle and Chara has to wear a split on it during practice and games. Per NHL rules, a player cannot fight with any outside material on his hands, hence Chara cannot fight for fear of a suspension or injuring the finger more seriously than it already is. Gaustad went to the box for a two-minute unsportsmanlike yet the Bruins could not break down Ryan Miller’s door.

With the Sabres putting steady pressure on the Bruins through the period, Boston’s best chance came near the 18:30 mark when the puck got loose in the crease in front of Ryan Miller. Boston forward Mark Recchi dove for it but it was cleared and skipped through the neutral zone off the center wall to defenseman Tyler Myers. Bruins defenseman Adam McQuaid missed on the loose puck and  Myers picked it up and let go of a sneaky wrist shot that surprised Rask on his glove side the Buffalo tied the game at two at 18:35.

Shots through second period (total):

Bruins — 11 (22).

Sabres — 14 (31).

Paille nets two in first period against former team

Tuesday, February 9th, 2010

The Bruins look a lot crisper than the Sabres in the first period at HSBC Arena in Buffalo. Boston is taking advantage of a plethora of Sabres turnovers to put pressure on star goaltender Ryan Miller and take a 2-0 lead into the second period. It is the fourth straight game where Boston has held a 2-0 lead and the Bruins are 1-0-2 in those games.

Daniel Paille is comfortable playing in Buffalo. The Sabres drafted him in the first round of the 2002 draft (20th overall) and he made his NHL debut with them in the 2005-06 season and played 195 career games with 35 goals before being traded to the Bruins on Oct. 20 for a third and a conditional fourth round picks. Paille beat Miller by picking the puck up in the trapezoid and wrapping it around at 4:51 for the early Bruins advantage.

Then he did it again.

Paille started the sequence by digging the puck out of the corner and cycling it back around the net to Derek Morris who crossed it across the blue line to captain Zdeno Chara. The big defenseman wound up and fired a shot towards Miller. Paille, who cycled along with the puck, crossed in front of Miller at the same time as the puck and got a piece of it for his second goal of the period that gave the Bruins a 2-0 lead.

Tuukka Rask has blanked the Sabres through the first. Buffalo has generated shots but not a lot of chances.

Shots through first period:

Boston — 11

Buffalo — 17

Bruins look to continue Sabres woes

Tuesday, February 9th, 2010

Tuesday night, the Bruins are on the road in Buffalo to take on the Sabres at HSBC Arena for the second time in the last seven games. Last time the Boston visited Buffalo, it suffered a 2-1 regulation defeat which served as the sixth of ten straight losses the Bruins endured during the month of January into February.

Well, the streak is over, courtesy of a 3-0 blanking of the Canadiens on Sunday at the Bell Centre in Montreal. The Bears are looking to put a couple more points up before the Olympic break with games against Tampa and Florida on Thursday and Saturday, respectively.

The Bruins currently sit at ninth in the Eastern Conference with 59 points, but are only two points from the seventh and eighth seeds and three from the sixth spot. The Sabres lead the Northeast Division with 71 points (one ahead of Ottawa), and would be the third seed if the playoffs started today.

Good things for the Bruins that they do not. The Eastern Conference is a logjam of mediocre teams playing inconsistently. Little streaks by teams have big effects on the standings. Take Ottawa and Buffalo for instance — the Sens have been as hot as anybody can be recently, and have jumped from below the playoff demarcation line to pushing Buffalo for the division lead. Ottawa’s stretch has coincided with a fall for the Sabres, who lost four in a row last week and sound very much like a team struggling to put pucks in the net.

“We’ve got to believe we’re a good team here,” Sabres goaltender Patrick Lalime told the Buffalo News last week. “We had been playing great. A lot of teams go through stretches like that. It’s how you respond, how you get back out of it. We had a good meeting [Saturday]. We have to believe in here.”

Sound familiar, Bruins faithful?

When it comes down to it though, the Bruins are not in that bad of shape. According to the Simple Ratings System (SRS) used by hockey-reference.com, the Bruins are the seventh-strongest team in the Eastern Conference. The rating system works on a score aggregate that takes in baseline performance and then factors in the performance of all a teams competitors to arrive at a number that represents how much better or worse a team is in terms of predicated outcome against an average. (An average team in the SRS system is 0.) Right now, the Bruins are at -.18, which puts them ahead of the Canadiens (-.19), Rangers (-.22), Thrashers (-.26), Panthers (-.30) and Lightning (-.38), all of whom are clustered around the Bruins in the standings.

On the flip side, there is a definite disparity to the upper and lower halves of the Eastern Conference. Buffalo doubles the Bruins SRS score at .18, New Jersey is second at .30 and the Capitals blow everybody in the NHL away with 1.11.

Yet, if you looked at those rankings a couple of weeks ago, Ottawa would have been lower than its current -.07 and the Bruins would have ranked significantly higher (among other fluctuations). The Sabres’ four-game losing streak where they have had trouble getting goals has definitely lowered their SRS rank. Overall though, the system is a good indicator of the strength of a team and where it stands in contrast to the rest of the league. It is worth mentioning the Bruins current number in the ranking does indicate that they are a below average team, and in the system, they are ranked 19th overall in the NHL. That is what a ten-game losing streak does.

It will be important for the Bruins to jump on Buffalo early tonight and find a way to hold Tim Connolly and company off the board. Sabres netminder Ryan Miller may be the best goaltender in the league but, like fellow Olympian Tim Thomas, has had a few struggles of late. Hence the four-game slide.

Tuesday night’s game is the fourth in the six-game series between the division opponents. The Bruins lead the series 2-1-0 after two wins against the Sabres in November.

Boston knows all too well recently that losing streaks are a slippery slope. When things are going bad, they tend to go all bad at once. The Bruins, for a change, have the chance to continue the Sabres slide and grab themselves two points in the process.

Julien: Krejci looking good for Tuesday

Monday, February 8th, 2010

Bruins coach Claude Julien addressed various issues after an optional practice in Buffalo Monday afternoon. The first issue was the status of center David Krejci for Tuesday’s contest against the Sabres. Krejci left Sunday’s 3-0 victory in Montreal in the first period and did not return.

“I think it’s looking good,” said Julien of Krejci’s availability Tuesday.”It’s getting better. We’ll see tomorrow when he skates. It’s the leg obviously.”

Julien was then asked about the play of Andrew Ference in his return after a 14-game absence with a groin injury.

“He handled himself really, really, well,” Julien said. “I felt he really stabilized our [defense] back there. He was an experienced guy coming in, he definitely stabilized and gave our back end some confidence.”

In addition, Julien was favorably impressed with Blake Wheeler dropping the gloves and tangling with Montreal defenseman Ryan O’Byrne.

“He took on a guy who does it every once in awhile, he didn’t hesitate,” Julien said. “The thing I like about it was that it showed players were willing to get out of their comfort zone and was going to show everybody they were willing to do something like that to turn things around. It was the intention for me that was impressive.”

Bruins end losing streak

Sunday, February 7th, 2010

Marco Sturm had two goals, Adam McQuaid scored his first NHL goal and Tuukka Rask made 36 saves as the Bruins ended a ten-game losing streak with a 3-0 win in Montreal Sunday. Patrice Bergeron had two assists for the Bruins, who won for the first time since taking a 2-1 shootout win in San Jose on Jan. 14.

After McQuaid gave the Bruins the lead with 2:28 left in the opening period, Sturm pushed the B’s to a 2-0 advantage with just four seconds left in the first. He added an insurance goal midway though the third period. Center David Krejci was injured in the first period and did not return.

Three Stars

1. Tuukka Rask

Never let the Canadiens grab any momentum.

2. Marco Sturm

Scores twice to provide the Bruins a lead they would not relinquish.

3. Marc Savard

Sharp pass to set up McQuaid’s goal while skating with jump all over the ice.

Turning Point

With the clock winding down in the first period Sturm jumps on a rebound of a Zdeno Chara shot whisking it past Jaroslav Halak for a 2-0 Bruins advantage.

Key Play

As the Canadiens picked up their attack in the third period, Sturm beats Halak to put things out of reach.

Bruins cannot catch a break

Saturday, February 6th, 2010

When things are going bad there is a no such thing as catching a break. Sometimes the break catches you.

The Bruins were skating to what was looking like a 2-1 win against Vancouver on Saturday afternoon when Canucks defenseman Sami Salo broke his stick trying to send a blast on Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask. The puck idled off the shot and was over-skated in a clearing attempt by Milan Lucic before Tanner Glass came in and found it in the high slot to send it back on Rask. Vancouver forward Pavol Demitra was in the perfect place to redirect it with the shaft of his stick to tie the game at two. Vancouver went on to win in a shootout.

“Bad luck, story of my season, [expletive deleted], nothing can go right. What can you do?” Lucic said.

Rask saw the play develop in front of him but the odd deflection was enough to get it passed him in his second straight start and second straight shootout loss.

“I saw it, I saw it,” Rask said. “But the guy tipped it in front of me and you can’t just stand there and wait for the tip. I try to be square for the puck and he just happened to make kind of a weird tip and he tipped it over my shoulder. That’s the kind of luck we haven’t gotten in the past couple of games. Just got to stick with it, and it’s coming.”

It is those type of plays that are really starting to wear on the Bruins patience. For three straight games Boston has played well only to see a seemingly innocuous play turn into the deciding factor in the game. On Thursday it was the Matt Hunwick’s penalty that led to the first on Montreal’s two goals in the final minutes of the second period that turned the game around. On Tuesday against the Capitals it was Blake Wheeler and David Krejci not being able to get the puck past Jose Theodore on a wide-open net and then watch as Washington comes storming back minutes later. Good games by the Bruins are turning into losses on a dime.

“It is disheartening. You guys watched that last goal. A guy breaks his stick, [Lucic] should be off on a break away, 2-on-1, and it just kind of flubs through his legs and skate and the guy turns and fires it away,” Savard said. “It is not even a clean tip, it hits his shaft and skips up in the top corner. It is just disheartening, like I said. We go through overtime trying to get the win but no break.”

The Bruins were good in the third period against Vancouver. They did not sit back and wait to lose the game, they were active in trying to put a third goal passed Luongo. The Canuck stoned them which allowed his team enough of an opportunity to catch the break that the Bruins have not been able to in their 10 game skid.

“I still thought we played well in the third with that 2-1 lead and then that mistake and that turned into a goal and that is the end of it,” coach Claude Julien said. “I really thought that we were playing well enough in the third that we could have won that game 2-1. When [Lucic] over-skated that puck and they just threw it at the net, those are the type of things where you say ‘you’ve got to be kidding me, give me a break here’ . . . right now it is just the way it is.”

So it is. The Bruins 10th straight loss turned on a broken stick, a breakaway that wasn’t and a tip off the shaft of Demitra’s stick. With all the breaks, it is a wonder that the Bruins cannot catch one. That is just how things work when a team is in the skids.

Bruins lose 10th straight to Vancouver

Saturday, February 6th, 2010

Summary — Boston scored two first period goals but could not hold onto the lead as Vancouver came back to tie the game in the third period and win it in a shootout 3-2 at a sold out TD Garden. Tuukka Rask took the loss in his second straight start for the Bruins with 29 saves in a duel with Roberto Luongo who made 41 in the decision. Pavol Demitra had the game-deciding goal in the shootout which the Canucks won 1-0.

The Bruins used to the power play to their advantage to go up two goals in the first period. Captain Zdeno Chara got the first on a perfect pinch play at 1:56 after Marc Savard cycled the puck to Marco Sturm in the corner and found Chara crashing to the net to beat Luongo. The second goal came also came courtesy of the power play at 14:20 when Savard sent a wrist shot on net that was redirected by Michael Ryder’s stick. It was the 10th time this season that Boston has had multiple goals on the power play.

Vancouver cut into the lead at 8:51 on an even-strength strike by Mason Raymond at 8:51 in the second period. Ryan Kesler won the puck from Milan Lucic off the back wall and fed it in front to Raymond who took to steps left and beat Rask on the stick side.

The game-tying goal came courtesy of Demitra at 15:18 in the third period. Demitra screened Rask and redirected a shot from defenseman Sami Salo. The score was Demitra’s first goal of the season.

Three Stars

Roberto Luongo — The star goaltender made 41 saves on the day and shut the Bruins out in the shootout for the victory.

Marc Savard — The Bruins center had two assists in the first period to give him five in the last five contests. It was his sixth multiple-point game of the season and he now now has 27 points through 33 games on the year.

Zdeno Chara — The captain scored his fifth of the season in the first period and was very active in all phases of the game. The towering defenseman was instrumental in shutting down the explosive Sedin brothers and bottling up the Canucks attack.

Turning point

Canucks defenseman Sami Salo had a slap shot from the point late in the third period that forward Pavol Demitra was able to get just enough of a piece of in front of the net to redirect it passed Rask for the game-tying goal at 15:18. The goal was Demintra’s first of the season in his 10th game of the year with Vancouver.

Key play

Demitra circled wide to the right in the shootout before attacking Rask on his glove side. Demitra was the only player to score in the shootout as Blake Wheeler, Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci were shutout. Over the last two games the Bruins have missed six straight shootout chances.