Archive for May, 2011

Maxim Lapierre loves that he’s facing hated Bruins

Tuesday, May 31st, 2011

VANCOUVER — It’s a cliche to say that if one can’t get excited to play this time of year, that they had better check their pulse. Maxim Lapierre‘s pulse is probably berserk right about now.

The 26-year-old Quebec native is realizing a lifelong dream of not only playing in the Stanley Cup finals, but doing so against the Bruins. A childhood of rooting for the Canadiens and five years of playing for the Habs made it so Lapierre could never have anything but negative feelings for the Bruins.

“It’s pretty special,” Lapierre said of facing the Bruins. “Being from Montreal, all my life I was kind of raised to hate them, so it’s unreal. I can’t wait to play tomorrow. It’s going to be a great experience for everybody.”

Lapierre was traded from the Canadiens to the Ducks on Dec. 31 of this season. He didn’t stay there long, as he was dealt to the Canucks after playing 21 games for Anaheim.

Now, he finds himself four wins away from the Stanley Cup. His Canucks eliminated the Sharks in five games in the Western Conference finals, so Lapierre and his teammates had plenty of time to watch the Bruins and Lightning series play out. He admits that at least on some level, he hoped it would be the Bruins who would advance.

“A little bit,” Lapierre said. “It would make it special. It’s really special to play against this team. They’re a great team — well-coached, good players, they’re physical, so we’re going to have a real taste of the Stanley Cup finals.”

Lapierre has had more of a taste of facing the Bruins in the postseason. He was on the 2007-08 Habs team that eliminated the B’s in the first round in seven games, and he was with Montreal when the Bruins swept them the following year.

Though he’s scored some goals and racked up some penalty minutes in his 35 career games against the Bruins (including the playoffs), when it comes to the B’s, Lapierre may be best known for being the recipient of a cross-check to the head from Milan Lucic in Game 2 of the 2009 quarterfinals. Lucic received a match penalty and was suspended for Game 3 of the series.

“Tomorrow is a new day. It’s the playoffs. Everybody wants to play their role,” Lapierre said about facing Lucic in the postseason again. “We know Milan is a great player. He’s strong, he’s physical. He’s going to be in our face and he’s going to be ready to play, and so are we.

“That’s part of the game, and I understand that. He’s playing a great role for this team. He’s a good player, and he’s going to be there tomorrow like a warrior and the same thing for our guys. Everybody’s going to be ready. It’s the Stanley Cup finals.”

While Lapierre no longer dons a Canadiens jersey when he goes to work, his Montreal ties remain as strong as ever as he and the Canucks try to take down the Bruins. Lapierre knew he’d be getting support from his loved ones anyways, but when the Bruins are the opponent, it makes it even sweeter.

“A lot of people from Montreal are behind us now, but it won’t be easy at all,” Lapierre said. “This team is unreal. We’re going to have to be ready from the first shift to the last one.”

Unable to win in a uniform, Neely hopes to win Stanley Cup as an executive

Tuesday, May 31st, 2011

VANCOUVER — When it comes to the Bruins playing the Canucks in the Stanley Cup finals, there is a buzz throughout the entire organization. From players, to coaches, right on up to management, the excitement for the B’s to reach the highest level is clear.

One guy to whom this series may be even more special is team president and former player Cam Neely, who hails from British Columbia and began his career with the Canucks before being traded to the Bruins in 1986.

“I got to Maple Ridge in 1976 and became a huge Canuck fan,” Neely recalled. “… Unfortunately it  didn’t  work  out  well  for  me here, and things worked well in Boston.

“I certainly kept tabs on what happened to the Canucks over the years, of course except when they played us. But  it’s  home,  Boston  is  home as well. It’s fun to see what the Canucks have been able to accomplish, especially this year. They’ve got a great team. It’s going to be a pretty interesting series.”

Though Neely could not hoist the Cup in his playing days, he hopes to do so as an executive, something he spoke to Tuesday.

“It would  be  by  far  the next best thing, there’s no question,” Neely said. “Absolutely no question. I mean, when you’re a player, your goal is  to  make  the  NHL. Once you get into the league, you want to win the Stanley Cup. Unfortunately, I didn’t  have a chance to do it in a uniform, but hopefully can do it in a suit.”

Neely admitted that despite years in press box with the B’s, he still hasn’t totally settled into watching a game without the intensity that comes with being on the ice, saying it’s “much harder than playing,” and that he is “still getting used to it.”

While winning the Cup as a player would have been the ultimate prize for Neely, at least he can watch his team now knowing he’s watching a good product.

Bruins hold last regular practice before Stanley Cup finals

Tuesday, May 31st, 2011

VANCOUVER — Only extra defenseman Shane Hnidy was missing from Tuesday’s Bruins practice at Rogers Arena. The practice, which lasted about an hour, was the team’s final regular practice before the Stanley Cup finals begin Wednesday vs. the Canucks.

Rich Peverley skated with the second line again, donning the gold sweater along with Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and Mark Recchi. Peverley took shifts on the line in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals, spelling Recchi from time to time.

Manny Malhotra absent from Canucks practice

Tuesday, May 31st, 2011

VANCOUVER — The Canucks held their practice on Tuesday at Rogers Arena, part of the Stanley Cup finals media day. Center Manny Malhotra (eye), who was recently cleared for contact participated in Monday’s scrimmage, was not on the ice. According to a tweet from Vancouver Province Canucks writer Ben Kuzma, Malhotra missed the skate due to an eye appointment.

Defenseman Christian Ehrhoff, meanwhile, was once again on the ice for practice. He missed Games 4 and 5 of the Western Conference finals due to an upper body injury and is considered day-to-day. He was also on the ice Monday and said he feels good to go.

Gord Kluzak on D&C: Bruins ‘have surprised me’

Tuesday, May 31st, 2011

NESN Bruins analyst Gord Kluzak was a guest on the Dennis & Callahan show Tuesday morning and discussed the Stanley Cup finals that are set to start Wednesday evening. The former B’s defenseman began his talk about the differences between the Bruins and Canucks, with the highlight among those differences regarding of course penalties. With its power-play unit struggling in the postseason, there’s no surprise that Kluzak would think that the B’s would hope that the referees keep the whistles away from their mouths. (To hear the entire interview, head over to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.)

“Well, I think what the Bruins would want it to look like is very physical, sort of played in the corners and in the high traffic areas, certainly a five-on-five series,” Kluzak said. “I think what the Canucks would want it to look like is very end-to-end, very high-tempo, lots of penalties, lot of power plays on each ‘side. I think those are the two ways these teams are built.”

In fact, Kluzak went so far as to say that if the Bruins are going to be successful in the finals, they’ll need to reproduce their effort from the last game they played.

“I think the model for the Bruins and by far the best game they played was Game 7 against Tampa Bay,” he said. “That was as dominant of a 1-0 win as you’ll ever see. They had Tampa Bay completely stalled out. Even if they had chances, it was one and done. They just layered their defense so, so well, and all of that talent Tampa Bay had was totally squandered by the Bruins defensive schemes and intensity.” (more…)

Canucks preparing for a series’ worth of Zdeno Chara

Tuesday, May 31st, 2011

VANCOUVER — The Bruins know that they have plenty of guys who can create problems for other teams. Tim Thomas can be unbeatable, while David Krejci made things very hard for both the Flyers and Lightning in the last two rounds of the playoffs. Very high on (and perhaps at the top) of the list of players the Canucks might worry about is Zdeno Chara.

With the captain and Dennis Seidenberg providing Boston with an outstanding top pairing this postseason, Vancouver’s first line of the brothers Sedin and Alex Burrows.

As has been well-documented, the Sedins have not played to their usual point (or more) a game pace when facing the Bruins. Daniel Sedin has five points in 10 career games vs. Boston, while Henrik Sedin has four points in 11 games against the B’s. Not all of those have come against Chara, and ultimately the biggest thing Henrik feels he lacks going into the Stanley Cup matchup is experience against the 6-foot-9 defenseman.

“He was in Ottawa and we played him a couple times there,” Henrik said, “and Boston maybe once or twice [note: the Bruins have played the Canucks four times since signing Chara in 2006]. We played the Slovaks in the Olympics a couple of times, but that’s it.’€

The Sedins faced Chara three times when he played for the Senators. Each brother had one goal over those three games.

“I haven’t really seen him play in game action like for a lot of time,’€ Henrik admitted. ‘€œIt’s tough for me to [pick up] what his tendencies are. Like if you want to get close to him or if you want to try to move around him. I don’t know. We’ll see.”

The Sedins (and all of Vancouver’€™s forwards, for that matter) are not the only ones who have to worry about Boston’s captain. In an attempt to help a historically bad power play, Claude Julien finally moved Chara up front on the man advantage to create chaos for the goaltender. Roberto Luongo has taken notice, and said Monday that when the Bruins are on the power play, he hopes that Chara’s the only one in front.

“I think the key is not to get into battles in front of the net with him as far as our D men are concerned and things like that,” Luongo, a Vezina finalist, said. “For myself, I prefer to just leave him there by himself and it will be easier for me to pick up the puck than having one of our D men try to move him out of the way. I mean, I don’t know if we have anybody strong enough back there. Maybe [Aaron Rome], but apart from that, that’s it.”

Whether or not Chara has company in front, Luongo’€™s coach has faith that his netminder can deal with him.

‘€œRoberto has seen big bodies in front of him before,’€ Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said. ‘€œHe’s adapted his style to that this year. He’s staying in the blue paint to play his game. He’s been excellent all year, so it’s just another big body for him.’€

Chara is a finalist for the Norris Memorial Trophy, which is awarded to the league’€™s top defenseman. He won it back in 2009 with the B’€™s, and has been a frequent finalist.

This postseason, he leads all skaters with a plus-11 rating. He missed Game 2 of the first round due to illness, but his 28:17 average time on ice is second only to Seidenberg for the most among remaining players.

‘€œHe’s one of the best defensemen in the league,’€ Vigneault said. ‘€œHe’s strong 1-on-1, and without a doubt, he uses his size to his advantage. Obviously it’s a challenge for us offensively to try and generate when he’s on the ice.’€

The players might not be used to Chara, but they’€™ll have to get used to him in a hurry. With Seidenberg turning in a stellar postseason that was brought into the spotlight with his eight-block performance in Game 7 vs. the Lightning, they should be prepared for a difficult time. On the other hand, Henrik Sedin hopes the unfamiliarity is a two-way street.

“I’m hoping it’s going to help us that they haven’t seen us that much,” Henrik said. “But we’ll see. They’ve got to watch their video, we’ve got to watch ours, so it shouldn’t be a big difference.”

Roberto Luongo is no Tim Thomas, and he knows it

Monday, May 30th, 2011

VANCOUVER — Call Roberto Luongo and Tim Thomas polar opposites, but the truth is there was a time when the Canucks’ Vezina finalist seriously considered playing Thomas’ signature risk/reward, flopping style.

“I did when I was five and playing street hockey,” Luongo said with a laugh after Monday’s practice at Rogers Arena.

All kidding aside, Luongo made it pretty clear that he has a great amount of respect for Boston’s 37-year-old netminder. In the end, Luongo, along with Nashville’s Pekka Rinne, will fall short of Thomas when the Vezina is awarded this summer, so as unorthodox as Thomas plays, Luongo can appreciate what he’s doing.

“You’ve got to give him credit for the type of value that he has on the ice,” Luongo said. “When you play like that, you have to have tremendous reads and anticipation and things like that.”

Though their styles differ, both Thomas and Luongo share a 2.29 goals against average and have 12-6 records thus far in the postseason. Luongo was pulled twice and was even benched for a game in the first round against the Blackhawks, but since Game 7 of the quarterfinals has been sharp as a tack.

You won’t catch Luongo lunging to make save after save or using his stick to bat down game-tying goals, but just because he’s more of a conventional goalie does not mean he is fooled by Thomas’ tendency to be all over the place.

“I mean, he likes to make saves looking at the net. I like to look the other way,” Luongo said. “He’s a great goalie. He had a great year and he’s a guy that we can’t take for granted that just because maybe you think he’s out of position that we’re going to get a goal. We have to make sure that we bear down and bury it, because he’ll find a way to stop it.”