Archive for April, 2012

Looking back and ahead: Milan Lucic

Monday, April 30th, 2012

With the Bruins’ season in the books, WEEI.com will take a look at each player on the roster one-by-one to provide some perspective on what went wrong this season and what the future holds for the 2011 champions.

Milan Lucic

Age: 23

2011-12 stats: 81 games played, 26 goals, 35 assists (career-high), 61 points, plus-7

Contract status: $4.083 million cap hit in 2012-13, restricted free agent next summer

Looking back: In the regular season, Lucic was more or less the same regular-season player as he was in the 2010-11 season. His 61 points fell just short of his career-best 62 two seasons ago, and he once again stayed healthy for a full season (Lucic’s only game missed was due to suspension). Lucic was one of the Bruins’ six 20-goal scorers, and he did nothing during the regular season to suggest he isn’t one of the game’s best power forwards.

Then the playoffs happened. For the second straight postseason, Lucic was a ghost, and he finished the first round with three assists. Unlike last postseason, one in which he was dealing with a sinus infection and a broken toe, injury wasn’t an excuse this time.

Looking ahead: The last reputation a player wants to develop is that of a guy who disappears when it matters the most, especially when Lucic once showed he could do it (18 points in 23 postseason games from 2009-10). He’s entering the last year of his contract, and with David Krejci signed for big bucks ($5.25 million a year for the next three seasons), and guys like Brad Marchand and Tyler Seguin also coming up at the end of the next year, the team will need to assess whether he’ll be worth committing significant dollars to going forward.

One thing to watch with Lucic is that he’s certainly on the list of Bruins being watched by Brendan Shanahan. By the time Lucic received his first regular-season suspension, it seemed pretty clear that the act — a hit on Flyers’ forward Zac Rinaldo — wasn’t as bad as past indiscretions, but that his reputation had finally caught up to him.

A lot of what Lucic can do also depends on whether Nathan Horton is healthy. When Lucic and Horton are playing together, it makes for a very powerful line that wears defenders down. Without Horton, Lucic needs to make his presence felt even more from a physical standpoint in order to make the line as tough as it used to be.

Lucic has established himself as one of the best power forwards in the game, and the Bruins should be able to count on him for no less than 60 points a season as long as he remains healthy. What has haunted him of late has been the postseason, and with the team expected to make deep playoff runs each year, that’s something that needs to change.

Tuukka Rask wants to remain with Bruins, Peter Chiarelli ‘not inclined’ to trade Tim Thomas

Friday, April 27th, 2012

Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask said Friday that he hopes to sign a long term deal with the team this offseason. A restricted free agent, Rask could refuse to sign with the team and force his way out of town, but the 25-year-old netminder said his plan is to stay.

“I think you guys know the answer to that question,” he said. “I’ve always said that I like it here and I want to come back, so that’s about it.”

Furthermore, Rask said that he wouldn’t require the Bruins to give him the starting job in order for him to return. Asked whether he’d still sign if the team planned on keeping Tim Thomas as the starter, Rask said he would.

Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli, meanwhile, said that he is “not inclined” to trade either one of his goalies this offseason. Rask and the Bruins have yet to begin negotiating.

“I think there’s a clear plan,” Rask said. “I think everybody’s been talking about it for a long time. It’s not about the money, it’s more about what’s good for everybody. I’ve always said I like it here, and I think we have a great group of guys and the organization is great, so I don’t see why anyone wouldn’t want to be here. In my case, I love it here and we’ve just got to make things work.”

Bruins explain injuries to Patrice Bergeron, Adam McQuaid, Tyler Seguin

Friday, April 27th, 2012

Bruins center Patrice Bergeron had to play the final four games of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals with a strained oblique and a broken nose.

The oblique injury was suffered in Game 3 against the Capitals, and it got worse before eventually forcing him out of Game 5 in the third period. He played in Games 6 and 7, but only took one faceoff in each of the final two games.

Bergeron had a scoring opportunity in overtime against the Capitals in Game 7, but couldn’t control the puck and sent it wide of the net. Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli said Friday that the injury prevented him from making the play, noting that Bergeron “couldn’t stretch for it.”

Adam McQuaid did indeed have a concussion from the hit that he took from Capitals forward Jason Chimera on March 29. McQuaid suffered a cut above his eye, causing pain that he said may have masked his concussion symptoms at the time. He tried returning on April 5 against the Senators, but didn’t feel right and came out of the game in the second period.

In other injury news, Tyler Seguin might need surgery on a detached tendon in one of his knuckles on his left hand.

Capitals’ Joel Ward won’t let racist tweets ruin his moment in spotlight

Thursday, April 26th, 2012

Capitals forward Joel Ward had a career highlight Wednesday night when he scored in overtime to give the Capitals a 2-1 victory over the Bruins in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals.

However, much of the talk Thursday morning centered around a series of racist tweets from fans that went public shortly after Ward, one of the few black players in the NHL, scored his memorable goal. The tweets were vulgar and shockingly offensive, and the authors have been widely criticized around the web.

Ward, for his part, doesn’t seem interested in letting some poorly thought-out tweets ruin his moment.

“He’€™s put it in his back pocket so to speak,” Ward’s Boston-based agent, Peter Cooney, told Toronto’s Globe and Mail. “He knows he’€™s going to have interviews and people talking about it. He’€™s heard about it, but he said ‘€˜Peter, don’€™t worry — that stuff never bothered me.’ ”

Ward, 31, signed a four-year contract with the Capitals last offseason after shining in the postseason with the Predators. It capped his rise from going undrafted to playing college hockey at the University of Prince Edward Island to making it to the NHL at the age of 26.

Now, the son of Barbados emigrants who settled in Ontario — Ward’s father died of a stroke watching a 14-year-old Joel play hockey — Ward is a hero in Washington and in the middle of a controversy he did nothing to create.

“It’€™s appalling,” Cooney said. “Where we are in North America now, it’€™s hard to believe we still have that prejudice. It’€™s disturbing. It’€™s really disgraceful.”

Cooney said he doesn’t think the tweets are representative of Bruins fans.

“I think it’€™s a very small amount of people,” he said. “I’€™d like to think that, anyway. With [social media] these people get to have a platform that they can put this out there, and it’€™s too bad. I think if they knew Joel, they would not have this attitude.

“It’€™s very disappointing, but it doesn’€™t take any of the success that Joel’€™s had away.”

Zdeno Chara a finalist for Norris Trophy

Thursday, April 26th, 2012

Bruins captain Zdeno Chara was among the three finalists for the Norris Trophy, which is awarded to ‘€œto the defense player who demonstrates throughout the season the greatest all-round ability in the position.’€ The other finalists are Nashville’s Shea Weber and Ottawa’s Erik Karlsson.

Chara had a career-best 52 points (12 goals, 40 assists) during the regular season and his plus-33 rating was tops among all defensemen. This is his fourth nomination for the Norris, which he won in 2009.

Patrice Bergeron and Bruins powerless to stop Caps when it mattered most

Thursday, April 26th, 2012


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It was as if the hockey gods were sending a message to the Bruins.

Jason Chimera hugged Johnny Boychuk ever so briefly, as the two went to the ice in the Bruins defensive zone. Chimera was called for a highly suspect and questionable holding penalty with 2:26 left in regulation of a 1-1 contest in Game 7.

If the Bruins could muster simply one power play goal, they almost certainly would be headed on to the second round and have escaped a first-round scare like they did in 2011.

But all the Bruins could muster was a harmless shot from the high slot from Brian Rolston as the power play dwindled to a precious few seconds. As was the case for most of the series, the Bruins could even get the puck on the sticks of the playmakers to organize a threat.

One shot on the season’s most important power play chance. Scoreless in three chances in Game 7. Two goals in 23 power play chances in the series.

Even when the hockey gods tempted, the Bruins could not control their own fate.

No one felt the pain more than Patrice Bergeron, who was playing with an arm/shoulder injury so bad he couldn’t take faceoffs in Games 6 and 7.

“It’€™s obvious that we had to better on the power play and we didn’€™t do that and at least create some momentum out of it and I don’€™t think we did that,” Bergeron said. “But, more than that I think it’€™s about especially Game 7, you have to find ways.”

The Bruins were very, very lucky last year to win the Stanley Cup with an inept power play for three rounds. This year, it would be why they are eliminated after one round.

“When you talk about [the game], that’€™s probably the most frustrating part of our game, was that power play that could have ended the series and the game,” added Bruins coach Claude Julien. “But, I guess, when you look at the whole picture, I think it was more than that. At the end of the series, you look at their team, and you look at ours, and they were the better team. They had more guys going than we did, and they played us tough. It was unfortunate that we’€™ve got to look at this one incident because it did play a big role in, but a lot of the damage had been done before that as well.”

It was Bergeron who had the series-winning shot on his stick 40 seconds into overtime, only to have Karl Alzner come over and interrupt glory, knocking Bergeron and the puck off target.

“It kind of exploded ‘€“ just rolled on my stick and the puck was bouncing I just tried to go quick because obviously there wasn’€™t a lot of time and the puck wouldn’€™t settle,” Bergeron said.

“You look at all the overtime goals in this series, it’€™s always like that. It’€™s a tough break or a lucky bounce and the other team doesn’€™t get that and I think that’€™s what it is. It’€™s overtime, it’€™s one shot so yeah.”

Bergeron is captain material.

All you have to do is listen to him not address the seriousness of his arm injury following the toughest loss of the year to appreciate his leadership.

“I don’€™t want to use that [excuse],” Bergeron said. “I’€™ll let [media] know, I don’€™t want to talk about it right now if you guys don’€™t mind. Obviously on the checkout day so I’€™ll let you guys know.

“It’€™s there, it was a little better but not much better but like I said I don’€™t want to use that as an excuse right now. It’€™s a tough one to swallow and I really don’€™t want to put that on an injury. I’€™m not the only one that goes through that stuff.”

Experience proves irrelevant for Bruins in first round of playoffs

Thursday, April 26th, 2012


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In the days leading up to the decisive Game 7 between the Bruins and Capitals, there was a plethora of talk about experience — mainly that the Bruins had it and were thus the favorites while the Capitals did not.

A quick look at the history books reflects that attitude. The Capitals were 1-3 in Game 7s since 2008 while the Bruins were 3-3, and the Bruins won all three of those Game 7s last season en route to their Stanley Cup championship. According to the history books, the Bruins had a better idea of how to win Game 7 than the Capitals did.

But even a cursory glance at the Bruins’€™ supposed experience revealed how much the Bruins were lacking in that area. In 2011, Nathan Horton had two of the Game 7 game-winning goals, and Patrice Bergeron had one. In 2012, Horton was not in the lineup, as he missed the playoffs with a concussion. Bergeron was limited in Game 7 by an undisclosed injury that prevented him from taking faceoffs and slowed him somewhat from the relatively healthy player he was in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals.

In the end, long-term experience did not benefit the Bruins, as they bowed out of the playoffs with a 2-1 overtime loss to the Capitals. Instead, it was more short-term experience, the experience gained from the other six games of the series and the games leading up to the playoffs, that provided a more accurate view of how Game 7 would go.

Throughout the series, the Capitals consistently beat the Bruins in blocked shots and faceoffs, small details that often reflect the strength of a team’€™s focus and desire. The Bruins outshot the Capitals, but the quality of each team’€™s scoring chances remained similar. Boston’€™s key players like David Krejci and Milan Lucic continued to be quiet while the load fell to players like Andrew Ference, who was 12th on the team in scoring during the regular season and the second-leading scorer in the postseason.

‘€œAt the end of the day when you look at your team, your team wasn’€™t playing its best hockey in this series,’€ Bruins coach Claude Julien said. ‘€œBefore this day started, you just hoped that you would get through this Game 7 and pick some momentum up as you moved forward in the playoffs.’€

The Capitals already had their momentum before the playoffs. Washington did not clinch a playoff spot until the penultimate game of the season, and it had to fight hard for every victory. The Capitals went 13-9 in their last 22 games of the regular season, and eight of those 22 games were decided in overtime or by a shootout while 16 of the 22 games were decided by two goals or less.

In contrast, the Bruins went 12-10 in their last 22 games. Four of those games were decided in overtime or by a shootout, equaling the total of overtime games in the first round series of the playoffs.

‘€œWe’€™ve felt like it was playoff hockey for the last 30 games to make sure we get in the playoffs,’€ Capitals forward Mike Knuble said. ‘€œIt wasn’€™t like we had to throw on a switch and start playing again in the playoffs, start playing a different way.’€

The Bruins did have to start playing differently in the playoffs. Like many teams, the Bruins rested key and injured players after clinching a berth in order to be fresh for the postseason.

The epitome of inexperience in the series was Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby, and he also proved that a lengthier resume does not always lead to success. With seven postseason starts, Holtby equaled the amount of starts he made during the season for the Capitals. Although the Bruins did not necessarily test him thoroughly, he still earned a .940 save percentage in the postseason, which was better than the very experienced Tim Thomas‘€™s .923 save percentage.

‘€œI was saying before we even came into the playoffs that it was good for this team to have a race to get into the playoffs,’€ Holtby said. ‘€œIt really made us buckle down and not take things for granted, and that was a big thing.’€

Now, perhaps because of that experience gained in the race to make the playoffs, it is the Capitals, not the Bruins, who have kept alive their hopes of winning the Stanley Cup.