Archive for March, 2010

Bruins gain separation in playoff race by besting Rangers

Sunday, March 21st, 2010

Summary — In a battle that will go a long way in determining the bottom of the Eastern Conference’s playoff standings, the Bruins prevailed over the Rangers (2-0) in front of a sold out crowd at TD Garden on Sunday afternoon. Tuukka Rask got his 17th win for Boston by making 22 saves while Henrik Lundqvist was the loser for New York with 29 stops. The win puts Boston five points ahead of the Rangers for the eighth  and final playoff spot in the conference with 11 games (10 for the Rangers) to go in the regular season.

The teams played a contentious, though scoreless, majority of the first two periods. The first forty minutes of the game saw a combined 14 penalties for 36 minutes (eight for 21 for Boston, six for 15 by New York) as the teams that are jostling for the final spot in the Eastern Conference took their bumping and pushing to the ice. Bruins captain Zdeno Chara had eight penalty minutes, including a four-minute double minor for high-sticking in the second period.

Olli Jokinen, who took three penalties himself in the first two periods, nearly handed the Bruins a goal (or saved the Rangers, depending on your perspective) when he spun/tackled Boston forward Daniel Paille on a break at 16:13 in the second. Paille was awarded a penalty shot  and skated straight down on Lundqvist only to see his wrist shot from the slot turned away harmlessly by the goaltenders left pad.

Miroslav Satan broke 104:09 of scoreless ice time for the Bruins at 16:36 of the second period when he one-timed a through the crease from Andrew Ference. The defenseman skated down the left wing and centered the puck quickly enough to get it on Satan’s stick before Lundqvist could make the cross and Satan put it top shelf from one knee for the 1-0 lead.

Dennis Wideman made it a two-goal lead in the third period when he took a feed from Vladimir Sobotka and spun a nifty backhand wrist shot from the slot up over Lundqvist’s glove side at 10:20.

The Rangers cut the lead in half at 16:56 when defenseman Michael Del Zotta powered a slap shot from the point past Rask through traffic. The Bruins would hold on in the final three minutes for the win.

Three Stars

Miroslav Satan — The tall Slovak gave the Bruins the lead in the second period with his fifth goal as a Bruin.

Tuukka Rask — The most important penalty killer on the ice is often the goaltender and Rask was good behind his stout defense in holding the Rangers 0-6 on the man-advantage.

Dennis Wideman — The prettiest play of the day was Wideman’s backhand winner from the slot. It was kind of a spinning backhand wrist shot that he elevated off a pass from Vladimir Sobotka. The puck went high over Lundqvist’s glove for the two-goal advantage midway through the third period. It was Wideman’s fourth goal of the season with his last coming against the Rangers on Jan. 9, a span of 25 games.

Turning Point — With the game still scoreless in the second period the Rangers were given a great opportunity to take the lead when the Bruins captain, Zdeno Chara, took a double minor, high-sticking penalty at 8:30. With Boston’s top defender off the ice for an extended period of time it would have been the best time for New York to strike. The Bruins, who have the No. 1 penalty kill in the league, did not allow the Rangers to have a shot in the stretch and would not have a better power play opportunity for the rest of the game.

Key Play — Rask came up big in the early part of the third with a little help from Paille. Brandon Dubinsky looked like he had time and space to make an arcing cross in front of the Bruins netminder before Paille got in between the Rangers’ center and the puck to thwart a shot attempt. Dubinsky recovered and got the puck to Dan Girardi at the face off circle for a one-time chance point blank on Rask. The Boston goaltender left the crease to aggressively challenge the shot and caught it on the spoked-B of his sweater to retire the chance.

Second period summary: Bruins-Rangers

Sunday, March 21st, 2010

If there is one thing that the Bruins are good at, it is the penalty kill.

Boston’s captain, Zdeno Chara, is not doing his team any favors on Sunday afternoon. He has gone to the box three times through the first two periods with the most recent violation at four-minute high-sticking violation at 8:30 in the period.

The No. 1  penalty kill in the NHL took care of business though, and then some. The Rangers, who are almost as ineffective in the goal scoring department as the Bruins (23rd in league at 2.58), could not manage to register and official shot on Tuukka Rask.

The Bruins were given a chance at 16:13 when Artem Anisimov spun/tackled Daniel Paille on a breakaway at 16:13. Paille was awarded a rare  regular-time penalty shot and skated in on Henrik Lundqvist before taking s wrist shot from the slot that the Rangers’ goalie turned away with is left pad.

Boston was able to get on the board less than a minute later when Andrew Ference skated down the right wing and cross the puck across the crease to the waiting one-timing stick of Miroslav Satan camped on the other side of Lundqvist. Satan went high from one knee and the Bruins had their first goal (and lead) in 104:09 of ice time (last goal at the 12:27 mark in the third period Tuesday against Carolina).

In the final minute of the period Satan took an interference penalty when he hit former Boston University star Chris Drury coming out of the defensive zone at 19:33. Olli Jokinen gave the majority of the power play back with a roughing penalty after Steve Begin knock Vinny Prospal on his backside with seconds remaining in the period. Jokinen went to the box for roughing with 00.1 left on the clock and the teams will start the third on a 4-on-4.

End of second period: Boston 1 New York 0

Shots through second (total):

Bruins — 7 (19)

Rangers — 6 (15)

First period summary: Bruins-Rangers

Sunday, March 21st, 2010

This is a big one.

In terms of playoff situations, this Sunday’s matinee may be the most important game the Bruins have played this year. The Rangers sit three points behind Boston for the eighth playoff spot and a win would put the Bruins five points ahead with 11 games to play. A New York win would make it a one point lead and make for some very interesting situations in the final two weeks of the regular season.

Boston started the game with some pop and emotion against a Rangers team that is known to be a bit of a physical nuisance. Brandon Prust and Steve Begin got into a scuffle near mid-ice at at 2:40, which was more instigated by Prust than Begin as the Bruins had outshot New York 6-0 at that point.

Zdeno Chara went for a roughing penalty at 4:34 as perpetual instigator Sean Avery was in the area and engaged in a staring match with Vladimir Sobotka who had dropped his stick but Avery deigned to drop his gloves. Less than a minute later the Rangers’ Vinny Prospal hit Mark Stuart hard into the boards behind Tuukka Rask. The Bruins did not like the hit (which sent Prospal for boarding) and a scrum ensued which ultimately sent Stuart to the box as well for roughing.

The referees whistle was busy after that. Mark Recchi (charging — 12:05), Chara (roughing — 12:43), Olli Jokinen (roughing — 12:43), Dennis Wideman (hooking — 13:54) and Artem Anisimov (hooking — 15:29), Jokinen again (hooking — 18:07) all made the march to the timeout corner. Though it all a few scoring chances were generated by each team but neither significant threats and whatever danger that occured near the crease was erased by the two solid goaltenders in Rask and Henrik Lundqvist.

Scoreless after the first period at TD Garden.

Shots through one:

Boston — 12

New York — 9

Neely: ‘I was disappointed’

Saturday, March 20th, 2010

Appearing on The Big Show, Bruins vice president Cam Neely relayed his frustration regarding his team, coming right out of the gate by answering Glenn Ordway’s inquiry as to how he was doing by saying, “I’ve been better. … I was disappointed last night.”

Asked what went wrong in in the B’s 3-0 loss to Pittsburgh, Neely said, “I’ve been trying to figure that out all year, Glenn, to be honest with you. It’s been very, very disappointing just to see the way our team has performed with that lack of emotion, if you will. It’s something we try to instill here. I’ve said this for years, I said this when I played, I said this after I played, people expect their athletes to compete and show that they care, and if they don’t win they’re OK with that as long as they compete, show that they care and work hard. I’ve heard it too many times this year and I don’t blame our fans for complaining they don’t see that compete or passion that they want to see.”

Neely went to to say that one aspect of this season’s Bruins team that caught management off guard was the “loss of leadership and character in the locker room. … We honestly didn’t think it would be as big an issue as it turned out to be.” He pointed to the absence of players such as P.J. Axelsson as one of the biggest differences in this edition compared to last season.

As for the Bruins’ loss to Pittsburgh, Neely refused to buy into the notion that the flu some of the players were reportedly suffering from made a difference. “We just didn’t play with the type of passion that’s expected,” he said. “That’s what’s frustrating for me. … After the two-minute mark it was business as usual, as it has been. That’s what was frustrating for a lot of people and I don’t blame them for being frustrated.”

Neely said that he didn’t think Milan Lucic was fully recovered from his high ankle sprain, but that he also has to realize that his “bread and butter” is being physical. “That’s how he’s going to be successful in this league,” Neely said.

To listen to the entire interview with Ordway, Steve Buckley and Butch Stearns, click here.

Thornton on D&H: ‘I know people are pissed’

Friday, March 19th, 2010

Bruins forward Shawn Thornton joined Dale & Holley on Friday to discuss Thursday night’s game against the Penguins and his fight with Matt Cooke.

Thornton gave Bruins fans a rare exciting moment in an otherwise lackluster 3-0 loss, getting some revenge on Cooke for his vicious hit on Marc Savard by challenging the Pittsburgh winger six seconds after he hit the ice and winning the fight decisively. “I wish the fight had gone on a little longer and I could have knocked him out, but it didn’t happen unfortunately,” Thornton said. “But it was addressed and I think that was the biggest thing. He didn’t have to fight me and he did, and I think that put some water on the fire.”

Thornton talked about how he came to earn his reputation as a tough guy for the Bruins, starting with his role in juniors. “I’d played defense my whole life, but they said I had to play winger and play this role if you want to play on this team, and I would do whatever it takes,” he said.  “My first seasons as a pro it was kind of the same thing ‘€” be a seventh defenseman, extra forward ‘€” but you have to do whatever it takes. And look where I am now ‘€” a great city, a nice condo and playing in front of 17,000 people every night.”

He also addressed the fans’ reaction to the Bruins play. Those fans who were at TD Garden were not pleased about the outcome of the game vs. the Penguins and resorted to booing the Bruins. Thornton said that he had “no answer for the lack of energy” despite a pumped-up crowd, particularly after his fight. He also added that he understands the fans’ frustrations. “I understand it; I know people are pissed,” Thornton said. “I walk around Charlestown and people aren’t afraid to tell you, which is great that they are so passionate. I hope my teammates are aware of it. … You’d have to ask them [what they’ve heard], I’m really not sure.”

A full transcript of the interview is below. To listen, click here.

Fans were pretty upset last night, and I must say I don’t blame the ones that booed.

I don’t either. I really don’t.

Last night before the game we were all anticipating a fight with Matt Cooke. When did you know that was what you were going to do? When did you say to yourself, “This is my job.”

Ah, 13 years ago I guess. It’s kind of always been my job. Not saying that we don’t have other guys that are more than capable, but I kind of like to take the responsibility myself.

You guys have been called out the last few weeks for not doing anything at the time of the hit. Did you have a problem with the response to the initial hit in Pittsburgh?

Yeah. I think I’ve said that before and I think other people in the organization have said that too. I think the response had to be immediate. It couldn’t happen after the immediate hit because with the way the rules are set up now ‘€” instigators and all the fines and everything else ‘€” it would have to be right away. It happened very quickly and the refs got in there quick, and I don’t know how many guys got to see it. I didn’t see it and I was sitting on the bench, because I was following the puck. But it’s been addressed now. I tried to address it last night right away so we could try to move on and win the hockey game, but unfortunately that didn’t happen.

Have you ever had a teammate you wouldn’t fight for?

No. My team is my second family, so there has never been anyone I wouldn’t fight for.

Zdeno Chara challenged Mike Rupp to a fight. Right after he spoke to the bench, and he said after the game he was calling out his guys. Unfortunately, I didn’t see anyone respond.

I agree. And I’m not making excuses for anyone, but unfortunately we had a penalty 17 seconds later and that kind of  took the wind out of the sails for the momentum that Z tried to create. Usually I would be really pissed at the guy who took that penalty, but it is Mark Stuart, who has kind of been the heart and soul of our team for the last little bit. And it wasn’t intentional on his part and he works his tail off every single night and gives us everything he has. It was bad timing, but it definitely wasn’t intentional and it wasn’t on purpose for him to take away that momentum. But even after the penalty was killed ‘€” you can build off a penalty kill ‘€” but  Z was still in the box and we just didn’t bring the emotion or energy.

I thought last night the fans brought a tremendous amount of passion, energy and excitement. Why don’t you think the team able to take that and carry that into throughout the entire game?

I don’t know. In my opinion, after my fight it was probably the loudest the place has ever been other than Game 6 against Montreal a couple years ago. I have no answer for the lack of energy other than guys being sick, but that is not an excuse for anything ‘€” I’m just saying some guys were under the weather. But the guys who weren’t sick could have played better too.

Do you think Matt Cooke got off easily last night? You kicked his butt, but do you think he was able to skate a little freer than you and your teammates would’ve liked?

I think so. I don’t know how much he played last night, I think it was a little less than normal and he was sort of walking on egg shells the entire night. I didn’t see him finish too many checks like he usually does. I mean, hey, we all wanted to see blood but it doesn’t happen like that anymore. It’s not the ’70s. Sometimes I wish it was and I wish the fight had gone on a little longer and I could have knocked him out, but it didn’t happen unfortunately. But it was addressed and I think that was the biggest thing. He didn’t have to fight me and he did, and I think that put some water on the fire. I said that last night but I think it’s true.

I’m so glad you said that about the fight going on longer.

Yeah, if the refs hadn’t jumped in there it might have. But once they get in there it is hard to keep things going.

I have tremendous respect for people who do what you do for a living. I have zero respect for people who play like Matt Cooke does. But I will give him credit because I thought he would turtle when you challenged him and he did not.

No, and I think being on the other side with that whole Vancouver thing and seeing what can transpire if the person doesn’t step up with the right person. People can get hurt and there can be lawsuit and a lot of stuff nowadays. I’m with you, I don’t respect people that play the game the wrong way. I think that is probably evident from me throwing punches when he was down on his knees, because I don’t ever do that. I have to give him credit for stepping up and trying to take one on the side of the head for his team because it could have got a lot uglier for guys who probably didn’t deserve it.

Shawn, with 12 games left you have a three point lead over the New York Rangers. What have you seen from your team so far that would lead you to believe that if you get into the playoff you can make a run there?

The lack of consistency so far I suppose is concerning, but when we go in and play games like we did in Philly a week ago you see how good the team can be when everyone is going. We need everyone going. I think in the playoffs ‘€” if we get in the playoffs or when we get in the playoffs ‘€” I’m assuming everyone will come to play every night and we are a really good team when everyone comes to play.

Shawn, what was your plan if Matt Cooke hadn’t taken the bait for a fight?

You know, I didn’t really have any other plan. I didn’t know if I would be on the ice with him for the first shift, but it happened to work out that way. And I think it worked out for the best for everybody involved.

How did you get to the point where you had 179 fights? How did you get to the stage where you were the guy who is expected to fight? I’m sure you didn’t think, “This is why I am getting into professional hockey.”

No. I guess it started in junior. I didn’t want to go back to working in a steel mill. … I knew this was part of the game that kind of came naturally to me and I’ve always been the kind of guy who would stick up for my teammates even when I was younger and that wasn’t my role. I went to junior and that was kind of the role that was needed. I’d played defense my whole life but they said I had to play winger and play this role if you want to play on this team, and I would do whatever it takes. My first seasons as a pro it was kind of the same thing ‘€” be a seventh defenseman, extra forward’€”but you have to do whatever it takes. And look where I am now’€”a great city, a nice condo and playing in front of 17,000 people every night. Yeah, the job sucks some nights when you know you are going to get your head punched in, but in the grand scheme of things it is pretty good. So I’ve got no problem doing it.

How many times has your nose been broken?

I don’t know. I don’t even check anymore.

Too many to count?

Not that many, but I honestly couldn’t give you a legitimate number. I’m sure it has been broken a couple of times and I didn’t bother to get it checked.

What did you say to [Cooke], and how did he respond? Because it looked like you asked him if he wanted to take his helmet off.

Yeah, I did. We squared off and he said no, but that is OK. I understand that too. They put mandatory visors in the AHL and when I was down there for 15 games I think I fought five or six times and I had to take off my helmet those five or six times. Those visors aren’t a big deal as far as the fight goes. Those helmets come off and someone hits their head on the ice, that is a lot scarier than getting a hand in a visor. I really spoke out when I was in the AHL about not having visors for guys like me because I think it was a lot more dangerous when you are grabbing guys who are 6-foot-5, 240 pounds to hit your head on the ice than for him to hit his hand on your visor or me to hit it on his visor. It doesn’t really matter either way, I was just asking him what he wanted to do. I didn’t care either way. It is not hard to get the helmet off anyway when you are bigger than someone.

And you did.

Yes, I did.

Shawn, who is the best fighter you have seen at any level and who kind of taught you the tricks of the trade?

I had a couple of people along the way. When I was younger it was a guy named Lionel Engelton. There was a little bit of boxing and that kind of stuff, but it was more the mental aspect ‘€” being ready to go and not having to be so emotional to get involved. Just trying to convince yourself that if you are in better condition than most people you will be all set. The last few years in Boston I’ve been training at The Ring during the summers with a guy named Tom McInerney. I got in there two or three times a week and he does it all out of the goodness of his heart; he won’t even let me pay him. I think those two people have really helped me for off-ice condition. I try to train to be a hockey player to tell you the truth, the other stuff is just kind of fun. And like I said, I haven’t trained to be a fighter, it just kind of comes naturally to me. I knew what my role was and sometimes I had to think about it the day before if I knew what was going to happen. But I’ve always been really good at it.

You’ve elected to stay here almost year round. So you probably have a better grasp of the feelings of Bruins nation. Do you think your team understands how upset Bruins fans are right now?

I hope so. I really do. I love being here. I enjoy this city immensely and I feel pretty confident saying it is home now. I understand it; I know people are pissed. I walk around Charlestown and people aren’t afraid to tell you, which is great that they are so passionate. I hope my teammates are aware of it. You’d have to ask them, I’m really not sure.

What have you heard today?

Well, most people have just said good job for punching that guys lights out.

Well, it was the only reason to cheer last night. You did your job.

Yeah, I guess it is my job, but our line is playing OK minutes but we are not scoring. So, yes, my job is to protect my guy but I we could chip in a little more too and not rely on the same six guys to get us points every night. So, yeah, I did that part of my job but I think I could contribute a little bit more and our whole line could do a little more.

You said something to Cooke after the fight. Did you expect to be back on the ice with him later?

I did not say anything. He was talking, I was just looking. And one of their tough guys said, “It is over now, that’s it. Next time you have to fight me.” And then I just kind of skated off.

I’m guessing that was Rupp, and I kind of respect that, too.

Definitely. I’ve fought both of their tough guys a few times ‘€” Rupp just once but [Eric] Godard a few times. They are very respectful of the game and the code which people talk about every now and again. So, they are very honest players and they go about the game the right way, in my opinion.

Thornton on D&H: ‘I wish I had knocked him out’

Friday, March 19th, 2010

Bruins enforcer Shawn Thornton was a guest of the Dale & Holley show Friday morning (audio here) to talk about Thursday night’s game against the Penguins and his fight with Matt Cooke. “I tried to address it as best I could,” Thornton said. “I wish the fight would have went on a little longer, and I wish I had knocked him out. It didn’t happen, unfortunately. But it was addressed. I think that was the biggest thing. He didn’t have to fight me, and he did. I think that sort of put some water on the fire.”

Asked what he said to Cooke before they fought, Thornton said he suggested Cook remove his helmet, but the Penguins forward elected not to. “I was just asking what he wanted to do, I didn’t really care,” Thornton said. Thornton proceeded to remove Cooke’s helmet for him before landing a big right hand to the face.

Thornton said it was important that Cooke accepted Thornton’s challenge last night, for both teams’ sake. “I don’t respect people that play the game the wrong way. I think that’s probably evident by me throwing punches when he was down on his knees, because I don’t ever do that,” Thornton said. “I have to give him credit for stepping up and taking one in the head for his team, because it could have got a lot uglier for guys who probably didn’t deserve it to be ugly for if he didn’t do that.”

Like the fans who booed the Bruins’ effort Thursday night, Thornton was surprised by his team’s lackluster performance. “We just didn’t bring enough emotion or energy,” Thornton said. “I have no answer for the lack of energy, other than guys being sick, but that’s not an excuse for anything. I’m just saying some guys were under the weather. But the guys that aren’t could have played better, too.”

Thornton said he was impressed with the energy from the fans. “I know after my fight was maybe the loudest I’ve heard that place other than Game 6 against Montreal a couple of years ago,” he said.

The Bruins are battling for a playoff spot, but their disappearing acts ‘€” Thursday night’s included ‘€” do not inspire confidence. “The lack of consistency I suppose is concerning,” Thornton said. “We need everyone going. I think in the playoffs, everyone takes it up another level. I’m assuming that everyone, if we get in the playoffs, or when we get in the playoffs, everyone will come to play every night. We’re a really good team if everyone comes to play. We can’t have any passengers, myself included.”

Check back later for more from this interview.

Claude Julien press conference, 3/18

Thursday, March 18th, 2010

Claude Julien spoke to the media following the Bruins’ loss to the Penguins on Thursday night.