Archive for April, 2010

Milbury on D&H: Sitting Thornton would be ‘a crime’

Friday, April 30th, 2010

NESN and NBC hockey analyst Mike Milbury joined Dale & Holley Friday afternoon to discuss the Bruins-Flyers Eastern Conference semifinal series and the rest of the matchups in the NHL playoffs.

With the likely return of Marc Savard for Game 1 tomorrow at TD Garden, it will have to come at the expense of another player on the roster. That looks like it might be Shawn Thornton, and Milbury said that that move would be a mistake. “I would shed a real tear if I were a Bruins fan, if that happens,” he said. “I don’t think his presence in the lineup is given enough importance by the people in management, frankly. I’ve seen him sort of get jerked around this year and I thought it was a mistake. If he doesn’t play tomorrow I think it is a mistake, and if he doesn’t play every game the rest of the way I think it’s a crime.”

Milbury agreed with the hosts that sitting Blake Wheeler would be a better option for the Bruins. “Why would they not sit Blake Wheeler? … I know there isn’t a lot of choices there, but when it comes to a guy you want to count on every game or you want to count on somebody in the last minute to get the puck out from along the wall, I sure as heck would count on Shawn Thornton. And if you are looking for a goal right now, picking Thornton over Wheeler is a 50-50 bet.”

Though he is not so high on the performance of Wheeler, Milbury said that he has been impressed by Tuukka Rask. When asked which goaltender remaining in the playoffs he would prefer, Milbury didn’t hesitate. “I don’t think for the age or the money, but just based on performance I don’t think you’d want to go with anybody but Tuukka Rask right now.

“I don’t know how much better he is going to get, but some of these games he has been absolutely terrific,” he said.

As for the B’s opponent, Milbury said the Flyers are in the second round thanks to the play of Boucher. “Philadelphia’s surprise for me is that they found a goaltender when they needed it the most, and it is a recycled goaltender at that,” he said. “Without him to lean on I don’t know how they get any further. There were moments when was shaky, but in the end I thought he played real well.”

To listen, click on the Dale & Holley audio on demand page. A full transcript is below.

Give me three reasons why the Bruins lose or win this series.

I hate making predictions because usually it is the kiss of death for my favorite time. But I’m going to pick the Bruins. “I’ll pick Tuukka Rask, because he’s a better goaltender than Brian Boucher. He’s got the composure to play at this level, at this stage without missing a beat. I have that much confidence in him. Second would be the return of Marc Savard. I know there is a little bit of Vegas gambling going on with him,  but I think his presence in the lineup, on the power play, is going to be a major factor, maybe the tipping point in the series. And the third one is that the Bruins have somehow found a way to bounce back after a turbulent year. I think they really put themselves in a position where they have the mental toughness to win this series. I don’t think anybody expected Philadelphia to be there. People probably didn’t expect the Bruins to be there. They match up pretty evenly. But I think what the Bruins have gone through gives them a little bit of an edge.

The third one I had was that the Flyers are so beat up, I think that will be for them to overcome.

If I put my other shoe on here I would be picking Philadelphia because Boucher has figured it out, their defense is probably deeper with the absence of  [Mark] Stuart and [Dennis] Seidenberg and up front despite the fact that [Jeff] Carter is not there and they lost [Ian] Laperriere and [Simon] Gagne, they’ve still got some pretty good weapons in Mike Richards and Danny Briere. It is a pretty good matchup and this could go the distance I think.

There is a great piece from John Powers in the Globe today about young goaltenders and you are quoted talking about Mike Moffat. He was thrown in there and it might have killed his career.

He was not equipped to handle it. I mean he said, ‘I can’t do it. I can’t go out there.’ And Gerry [Cheevers] said, ‘Put your mask on and go out there. And he wound up throwing up in his mask. He went out there and he was absolutely brilliant in that entire series. We lost in seven games to Quebec that year on a lousy floater goal from the point. It was a heck of a run and Moffat was a huge part of it, but he couldn’t summon that kind of energy for every game in his career and eventually he decided it wasn’t for him.

Why is the list so small of rookie goaltenders who have been a part of championship teams?

Well, it is the most challenging emotionally in terms of a position. I don’t get the mentality of who wants to be a goalie. It is OK when you are stopping tennis balls in the street instead of a hard rubber disk going about 100 mph. Your mind has got to be of a different sort. It usually takes a goaltender awhile, and by awhile I mean if you go back and look at it usually they are about 25 or 26. That is the time frame for most goaltenders. However, you are seeing all these guys come into the league at 18, 19 or 20 and they are making an impact and I would suspect that goaltenders are not far behind. The training is so much better, the preparation is so much better. They are playing on big stages at 14 and 15 and I would suspect that goaltenders sooner or later will be in that ballpark. (more…)

Bruins know what to expect from the Flyers

Friday, April 30th, 2010

The Bruins are in for a physical series. It’s just the nature of Philadelphia sports — if you play there, you have to bring an edge. This group of Flyers is no exception, with bruising bodies including Chris Pronger and Braydon Coburn on the blue line and pesky, instigator forwards Daniel Carcillo and Scott Hartnell up front. Carcillo put up an impressive 207 penalty minutes during the regular season and then another 18 in five games against the Devils in the quarterfinals. A big part of the how the series swings will be how Boston manages the physical game and how well the B’s keep their tempers when the Flyers inevitably get under their its skin.

An interesting situation pops up with the Bruins as the return of Marc Savard from concussion causes a player to get bumped from the lineup. Indications from the last three days of practice are that nominal enforcer Shawn Thornton will sit, as Blake Wheeler may take his spot on the checking line. Coach Claude Julien warned not to assume that a decision had been made, but often this season what we have seen in practice is what we see come game time. Either way, Julien does not seem to see the loss of Thornton on the ice as a major concern.

“We are, I guess I would consider us ‘team tough.’ I don’t see any issues any way we go, and if there is, they will be addressed. It is as simple as that,” Julien said.

Thornton does not see himself as only a tough guy, to his credit because he does do other things well on the checking line. At the same time, he is always willing to ring the bell when his particular services are called upon.

“To tell the truth, I think I can play the game besides for that and be a factor in anything, not just the tough man. If that stuff happens, I am more than willing to take care of it. I think it is more that I play with a chip on my shoulder and don’t back down and showing through the last few that I don’t just want to play against the tough team but that I try to contribute in every game,” Thornton said.

Boston did well against the Sabres when it came to keeping net-crashers out of the way of Tuukka Rask, and the team is going to have to keep cutting the timber again to make sure that the goaltender can see where would-be goal-scorers are coming from.

“The less time you spend in the D-zone is for the best, but they are going to get their cracks and you just have to stay composed and stay where you are supposed to stay and just work in front of Tuukka, because if you let him see the puck he is going to stop the majority of things,” Wheeler said.

Rask, as per his normal demeanor, did not seem too concerned about the Flyers’ style of play. The Bruins have seen it before and they know what to expect.

“We know them and we played against them and their style. They like to get pucks in and crash the net. That is what a lot of teams do, but they have big forwards and really that is their style of play to get in front of the net and get pucks in,” Rask said. “I mean, guys block shots and get me a lane to see shots, and in the last series we did a great job with that. As a goalie it really helps when you can see the shooter and maybe one more thing and when you see the puck it becomes much easier.”

The Bruins also need to be aware that the Flyers have a history of the quick strike while on the penalty kill. They had just six short-handed strikes (same as the Bruins) in the 2009-10 regular season but led the league with 16 in 2008-09 and were near the top with 13 in 2007-08. Granted, without Jeff Carter and Simon Gagne for the series because of toe injuries (Gagne may return if the series goes the distance but Carter definitely is out), the Flyers’ short-handed capabilities are hindered, but that does not mean the Bruins should take the possibility lightly.

“Definitely, you have to be smart with the puck, even on the power play. You can’t make lazy passes, and if you find yourself turning the puck over it is going to be going the other way pretty quick,” Wheeler said. “Eliminate turnovers is probably first and foremost. I think they live on turning the puck over and going the other way, and if we eliminate those things I think we will give ourselves a great chance.”

Stuart gets back into the mix

Friday, April 30th, 2010

Bruins defenseman Mark Stuart was back on the ice for a second day on in a row on Friday as he resumes hockey activities after being grounded with cellulitis in his right forearm since the beginning of April. Cellulitis is an infection of the deepest layers of the skin and can spread throughout the blood stream and the lymph system with sometimes fatal consequences. Stuart has been held away from the team and from doing any type of exercise because he was not allowed to get sweat near the spot of the infection, and he wears a cast-like IV over the spot for the time being. Stuart had surgery on the area earlier this month and knows that this type of injury can be extremely serious.

“Yeah, it can be very serious. You have to take care of it. It is very serious and, you know, they did a good job of going in there and cleaning it out and now it is up to me to watch it and make sure that I am taking the meds the right way and, yeah, you have to take care of it,” Stuart said. “I think the doctors did a great job and a lot of the responsibility is on me.”

Stuart got the infection after a cut on his arm swelled up badly and quickly got worse. The Bruins initially thought that he would be missing in action for two weeks or so, but the first round of antibiotics did not take to the infection and doctors had to take time to figure out which medication was right to treat the injury.

“It swelled up badly and the infection was bad and got worse and it escalated pretty quickly, so I got on the meds and it was kind of trial and error a the beginning to find out which meds were the right ones because there is different types of bacteria, different types of infection. So, I am on the right one right now and we go from there,” Stuart said.

Unlike Marc Savard, who understandably was in a mental daze for weeks after his concussion, Stuart has been cognizant during his time away from the team — though, like Savard, not allowed to do any physical activity. Talking to Stuart, one got the sense that he has been extremely bored for the last month and has been ready to run for weeks. He was allowed to get on a training bike three days ago.

“Just going out and skating, just jumping on the bike three days ago is huge for me. Just to start doing stuff. The worst part is not only just playing but not being able to do anything and really sweat, so I think it is just nice to get out there again and we will work on trying to get back playing,” Stuart said.

Coach Claude Julien said that the recent news on Stuart is encouraging and that, if all things go well, he is on the day-to-day list in terms of practicing with the team. Having Stuart on the horizon is a good safety net for Boston because Andrew Ference has been playing with a torn adductor and hernia and, even though he made it through the Buffalo series, is a ticking time bomb as to how long he can stay on the ice, as even he has admitted.

“Well, it is because what he has gone through is unpredictable as far as the length of time that he would miss and, you know, we were told something at the beginning and obviously it didn’t respond as well,” Julien said. “We got bad news in his case and things were looking worse and now things are looking much better. That’s what happens with the type of injury that he has suffered and the infection that has gotten into it, so it is nice to see him on the ice. It is nice to have good news, and he is a day-to-day situation in terms of how he is doing, and we will go with that. If everything goes well, hopefully we will see him practicing with the rest of the guys here soon.”

A few people who saw Stuart yesterday noted that, of all the players on the team, he has the best playoff beard of all of them. Really, nobody comes close. Perhaps it is just Stuart’s manly nature, but maybe, just maybe, he had a trick up his sleeve.

“Yeah, I cheated,” he said. “This was an injury, I started this when I got surgery, so I got a couple of weeks on them.”

Bruins not smug about playoff success

Friday, April 30th, 2010

If the Bruins wanted to, they have every right to puff up their chests and say to every fan and media member in Boston: “Hey, how do you like us now?” After the whole Marc Savard-Matt Cooke situation (both the March 7 hit at the Igloo and the followup at TD Garden on March 18), everybody who pays attention to the B’s just wanted them to go away, fade into NHL playoff oblivion and take two high draft picks in June’s NHL Entry Draft. There was a 10-game losing streak, a record-breaking home losing streak, a paucity of goals and a general melancholy surrounding the so-called Big Bad Bruins that frustrated even the most casual of NHL fans.

So, is there any self-satisfaction being emitted from Bruins camp now that they are hosting an Eastern Conference semifinal series?

“Not at all,” forward Mark Recchi said. “We didn’t deserve it, we weren’t playing well. We weren’t competing like we should have and sure there are going to be some doubters but, you know, we have got a longs ways to go here. We can’t be complacent in that we won one series or that we had a good end of the regular season. We have got to want bigger and better things, and if you do that then good things will happen. If you are happy to just be in the second round, then you are not playing for the right reasons.”

At the other end of the spectrum, the hard times from January through March are one of the reasons the Bruins are in the situation in which they find themselves. To say that just about every game after the 3-0 clunker to the Penguins on March 18 was a playoff game is not much of an exaggeration. Milan Lucic said that it was not an easy time to go through but in retrospect the ire of the Hub helped the team get through the difficult stretch.

“I think that was probably a good thing for us where we hit some adversity like that where we hit such a low,” he said. “I mean, for us to overcome that and end up where we are now we found a way to come together and do that. It is what helps a lot of teams — to be successful is to go through some adversity and with everyone pegging us out, the media was all over us, the fans were all over us to just walk up to bat and do some good, it was just a good thing for us to see and pull through and stick up for each other.”

Did the fans and media really abandon the team? There was weird talk in March, and the buzz around Boston was that people would almost prefer the Bruins not make the playoffs. Fair-weather fans or true blood of black and gold, it is telling when a fan base would rather see a team go away than fight for a championship, no matter how remote the chances are. Yet, TD Garden was (officially if not in reality) sold out every night through the stretch run, with cheers raining from the rafters when the Bruins scored three short-handed goals in 64 seconds against the Hurricanes in the home finale, and boos pounded from the loge after they had been shut out by Panthers backup goaltender Scott Clemmensen a week earlier.

“Even though they may have booed us a couple of times we knew they were still behind us,” Johnny Boychuk said. “It is just one of those things that if we are that bad they are going to let us know, but they still want to see us win. Now that we are starting to do better they are behind us the entire way. Even if we are down a goal or two they are still behind us and we know that.”

Still, though, the frustrating times persisted, and Boston did not wrap up a playoff spot until the final weekend of the regular season (in the aforementioned Hurricanes game). Recchi believes that, for the most part, the team has played consistently, except for maybe the possible clincher in Game 5 in Buffalo.

“At the end [of the regular season] it was better, but there was still some, ‘What team is this?’ You know?” Recchi said. “But it got much better but in the playoffs, I don’t think in Game 5 we were at our best, but I think throughout the six games we were a good hockey club.”

The veteran has been through frustrating teams and disappointing playoffs before. But, based on what he saw last year and the talent in the dressing room through the 2009-10 season, there is no surprise that the team is poised for a second-round tilt with a more than decent chance of looking toward the Eastern Conference finals.

“I knew we had it in here but we just had to bring it out. I never had any doubts about the guys. You know, I just know what is in here,” Recchi said. “That was the frustrating part because you know what is in here and you know we can get it through a couple more notches and we just weren’t doing it consistently. We would do it some nights, but it wasn’t a consistent thing and that was our problem all year.”

Chara on D&H: Savard’s return ‘a big boost’

Thursday, April 29th, 2010

Bruins captain Zdeno Chara joined the Dale & Holley show Thursday morning to talk about the Stanley Cup playoffs. Chara said he watched Wednesday night’s Montreal-Washington Game 7, in which the eighth-seeded Canadiens upset the top-seeded Capitals 2-1 to win their first-round series behind a solid performance from Chara’s Slovakian Olympic teammate, goalie Jaroslav Halak. “It was a crazy game,” Chara said. “I obviously was a little surprised by how well defensively Montreal played. I knew Halak would have an outstanding game, but I never thought that [Washington] would have such a tough game to really put the puck in the net.”

Looking back at the Bruins’ first-round series win over the Sabres, Chara said: “I think the special teams were really big and obviously Tuukka [Rask] played really big for us. When you really look at it, every game somebody really made a difference, somebody stepped up.”

Added Chara about Rask: “We have confidence in both of our goalies, and obviously Tuukka is playing extremely well since the second half of the season. For such a young goalie, he’s playing with a lot of passion, and he’s got a lot of patience in his game, too, and he’s just making the right saves at the right time.”

Chara was asked about the Bruins’ response to the Penguins after Marc Savard was injured by a check from Pittsburgh forward Matt Cooke. “We all felt that we would like to have had a better response in that game. There’s no question about that,” Chara said. “When you really look at it, to see one of your best playmakers go down, you want to respond, you want to react, but that the same time, it was a one-goal game. Those two points could have made a huge difference in the end, which we know that it was so close that they probably would have made a big difference.” Added Chara: “When they came in our building I think we responded well. We took care of business.”

As for Savard’s return to the team, Chara indicated he’s excited to see what the center can do. “To have him healthy now and ready for the second round is a big boost,” Chara said. “We all know what he can bring to the game. He’s an extremely good puck-handler. He can make plays that only a few guys in the league can make, and passes he can make. To have him with that skill, adding to our lineup right now, is big.”

To hear the interview, check the Dale & Holley audio on demand page.

Paille joins Savard, Ryder

Thursday, April 29th, 2010

WILMINGTON — Bruins coach Claude Julien either does not want anybody to know exactly what his plans are with returning center Marc Savard or he just does not know what to do with Vladimir Sobotka. On Thursday Julien switched up his white-sweater line from what he had on Tuesday, flipping wing Daniel Paille from the fourth line in a red sweater to riding shotgun in white with Savard and Michael Ryder.

Sobotka, who, it appeared, had been forced from his center position on the third line to the wing with Savard, was bumped down to the fourth line where he presumably would play center as Steve Begin gets bumped to the wing with Blake Wheeler (in red for second day in a row) and Shawn Thornton gets bumped down to the fifth line with Brad Marchand and Trent Whitfield. Wheeler skated with Sobotka on a penalty-killing unit for multiple drills at Ristuccia.

The Bruins added a defenseman from their pool of Black Aces to bring them to nine total as Andy Wozniewski joined the team at the practice facility. That gives the Bruins three Providence blueliners, with Jeffrey Penner and Andrew Bodnarchuk still with the team after being call-ups late in the regular season.

The Bruins also announced on Thursday that they have signed defenseman Matt Bartkowski to an entry-level contract. The 21-year-old skated in 39 games for Ohio State this past season, registering six goals and 12 assists. The 2008 seventh-round draft pick (190th overall) was acquired by the Bruins at the trade deadline along with Dennis Seidenberg from the Florida Panthers.

Savard on D&C: ‘I’m not mad at Michael Ryder’

Thursday, April 29th, 2010

Bruins center Marc Savard joined the Dennis & Callahan show Thursday morning to talk about his comeback (Click here to listen to the entire interview). Savard has been out since suffering a concussion in a game against the Penguins March 7, but this week he was cleared to play in the Bruins’ second-round playoff series against the Flyers that begins Saturday. “I’m feeling good on the ice right now,” Savard said.

He said he understands his presence will be an emotional lift for the home crowd Saturday. “Hopefully everybody is inspired, too, and even myself, and I bring a lot of emotion and adrenaline and energy to the team,” he said. “I’m going to try to do that with my play.”

Savard said he feared his season was over when he couldn’t seem to shake the effects of the concussion. “The first three or four weeks of this concussion I had, they were miserable days, days when I thought how long this might go on for the summer, or how long is this thing going to last. Things got better really quickly after the fifth week, going into the sixth, and so on. Then I felt great. I’m just happy to be normal again and playing hockey.”

Asked if he’s viewed clips of the hit from Pittsburgh’s Matt Cooke, Savard said: “I’ve seen it quite a bit. It’s something that hopefully the new rule that they put in right away takes care of that stuff because we don’t need it in our game anymore.”

The Bruins received a firestorm of criticism for failing to respond to Cooke in the game, and much of the anger was directed at Michael Ryder, who appeared to be the only player on the ice who had a clear view of the play. Savard said no one on his team should be blamed. “It’s part of the game,” he said. “If you watch the hit again, Cooke kind of skates away quickly, and they try to get at him in the corner. I’m not mad at Michael Ryder. He’s a good friend of mine. It’s not just his fault or anybody’s fault. It was a bad hit, a bad play. I’ve got no problems with anything that went on. Had it been me, maybe ‘€” it’s different demeanors for different guys. I’m not the strongest guy or the toughest guy in the world. Would I have jumped somebody? Maybe, but that’s just different guys.”