Archive for April, 2013

Nathan Horton, Jaromir Jagr expected to play Game 1, though Jagr ‘feels like [expletive]‘

Tuesday, April 30th, 2013

Jaromir Jagr

Bruins forward Nathan Horton said he fully expects to play Wednesday night in Game 1 against the Maple Leafs. Horton missed the final five games of the regular season with an upper-body injury suffered in a fight against Penguins forward Jarome Iginla on April 20, but Tuesday marked the first time he practiced with his teammates after beginning skating last week.

Claude Julien said after player availability that Horton’s status would be determined Wednesday, but given that he skated on the first line and the fact that Horton said he expects to play, it would appear that the veteran right wing will indeed be in the lineup.

“I’m — I think I’m playing tomorrow,” Horton said. “Unless he says I’m not, I’m ready.”

That’s the good news for the B’s. The bad news is that Jaromir Jagr, who missed the last two games of the season with the flu, still isn’t feeling well.

“I feel like [expletive], man,” Jagr said after practicing on the third line with Chris Kelly and Kaspars Daugavins.

Jagr said that he didn’t feel well heading into last Tuesday’s game against the Flyers, but that he wanted to play against his former team. He then played against the Lightning on Thursday before being kept out of the lineup Saturday and Sunday.

“It’s the strongest flu I’ve ever had,” he said. “I couldn’t do anything.”

The 41-year-old said he wishes the the playoffs would begin on Thursday, but that he’s hoping to feel better by Wednesday night. He’s still expected to be in the lineup for Game 1 against the Maple Leafs.

For more on the Bruins, visit weei.com/bruins.

Nathan Horton practices; Rich Peverley skates with B’s healthy scratches

Tuesday, April 30th, 2013

Nathan Horton

The Bruins held their first practice of the postseason Tuesday at TD Garden, and the lines featured the return of Nathan Horton and some evidence that Rich Peverley could be in line for a healthy scratch in Game 1 against the Maple Leafs.

Horton has been skating since last week but has been out of game action since suffering an upper-body injury in a fight against Jarome Iginla on April 20. He skated on his normal line with David Krejci and Milan Lucic on Tuesday.

Peverley, meanwhile, practiced in a green jersey, which is worn by players not skating on the top four lines. The lines were as follows:

Lucic – Krejci – Horton
Marchand – Bergeron – Seguin
Daugavins – Kelly – Jagr
Paille – Campbell – Thornton

Extra forwards: Peverley, Soderberg, Pandolfo

Following the practice, Claude Julien said that the lines from Tuesday’s skate are no sure thing to be the lines for Game 1 on Wednesday night.

“That doesn’t mean that’s my lineup, just so you guys know,” he said. “I put some lines together today, but my lineup has not been done yet. It will get finalized tomorrow.”

Barry Pederson on D&C: ‘Very important playoffs for Tuukka’ Rask

Tuesday, April 30th, 2013

NESN Bruins analyst Barry Pederson checked in with Dennis & Callahan on Tuesday to break down the B’s first-round playoff series against the Maple Leafs.

Tuukka Rask enters the playoffs looking to build on a strong regular season. (AP)

One of the potential question marks heading into this strike-shortened season for the B’s was goaltending. During the 2011 Stanley Cup run, Tim Thomas was a standout. Now Thomas’ former backup, Tuukka Rask, is the No. 1 netminder. Rask proved up to the task, finishing sixth in the NHL in goals-against average, third in save percentage and tied for first with five shutouts.

“This is going to be a very important playoffs for Tuukka,” Pederson said. “By most standards he had a very good season. I think he’ll be one of the finalists for the Vezina. He did not get enough support, especially through the power-play scoring and the offensive side. I expect the Bruins to have a little bit of an advantage over Toronto in the goaltending department, which is one of the reasons when we were doing our previews for the playoffs and who the Bruins would match up well against; I thought the Bruins would do much better on a matchup basis with Toronto and the Islanders vs. the Rangers and Ottawa. … The Bruins, when they’re successful, they attack. They come at you in waves. They forecheck, they put pressure on your defense, they have turnovers, they’re physical, they’re intense. Then they go to the dirty areas, that’s what I want to see.”

On offense, the Maple Leafs are led by former Bruin Phil Kessel. The 25-year-old led the team in goals (20), assists (32) and points (52), ranking eighth, ninth and sixth in the league in those categories, respectively.

[Kessel] is a very important player and the key guy there will be [Zdeno] Chara,” Pederson said. “It could also be [Dennis] Seidenberg if they’re going to go after them that way. So far, obviously the stats speak for themselves. Phil has had a tremendous offensive season except when he plays the Bruins, and there’s one reason for that. It’s Chara. He’s that good defensively.”

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Peter Chiarelli says Bruins underachieved down the stretch

Monday, April 29th, 2013

Peter Chiarelli

Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli said on a conference call Monday that the B’s are going to need to turn in better play than they did over the last two months of the season if they want to be successful in the postseason.

After starting out strong (8-1-1 in their first 10 games), the B’s struggled down the stretch and went 3-5-2 over their final 10 games of the 48-game season. It ended Sunday with the B’s failing to secure the Northeast Division by losing to the Senators in the regular-season finale. As the No. 4 seed, the B’s will play the No. 5 Maple Leafs in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals.

“I’m not going to offer any excuses. We didn’t perform to the level we were capable of performing on a number of different fronts,” Chiarelli said. “It was good that we had a strong front and were able to finish where we finished. If I’m going to judge our team on the latter half of the year, I’m going to have to say that we’re going to have to really step up our performance to have success in the playoffs.”

Chiarelli compared a season to a dam with holes to fill, noting that “there just seems to be more holes this year.” Asked where the team’s confidence level is at this point of the season, he said it has been “average” over the last month.

For more on the Bruins, visit weei.com/bruins.

Bruins were second best in Northeast Division

Monday, April 29th, 2013

The Canadiens won the Northeast Division despite not being projected to contend. (AP)

When all was said and done with the regular season, the Bruins were the second-best team in the Northeast Division, both on paper and on the ice.

The same Bruins who had all those returning players, with all that familiarity. The same Bruins who were going to have a leg up on the rest of the league because they had 12 players play during the lockout. The same Bruins who were expected to run away with the division.

It’s only socially acceptable to quote yourself when pointing out a funny tweet of yours that you’re afraid someone might have missed, but this calls for it anyway. From Jan. 18, the day before the season started:

Anything can happen in a short season, and a strong 10, 15, 20-game run can put any team in good position to make the playoffs, but the safe bet is that the Bruins are the only serious Cup contenders in their division.

The Senators or Sabres – both of whom will play the B’s five times — figure to be the Bruins’ biggest competition, with Ottawa coming off an eighth-seed finish last season and the Sabres toughening up with the additions of Steve Ott and John Scott.

Though the Sabres might be better-equipped to drop the gloves with the B’s, they still can’t hang with them. Buffallo finished in the bottom half of the league in scoring, goals against, power play and penalty kill.

Then there’s the Maple Leafs and the Canadiens. The Leafs weakened their blue line in trading Luke Schenn for James van Riemsdyk, and though van Riemsdyk is one of the most talented players in the league, that’s an awfully risky move for a team with suspect goaltending.

The Habs, on the other hand, definitely have the goaltending, but they have a new coach with a new system to go with a team coming off a brutal season. Then there’s the fact that they didn’t sign restricted free agent P.K. Subban during training camp. Even if that team eventually hits its stride, it could take quite a while.

Take that with a grain of salt because the writer’s a hack, but nothing about it seemed wrong at the time. The Bruins appeared to be the only big boys in the division, and it was supposed to take Michel Therrien longer than it did for him to straighten things out in Montreal.

He obviously straightened things out pretty quickly, and the Bruins had two good months before they stopped looking like a great team. The Canadiens won the Northeast Division by a point, which is fitting because every game between the teams this year were one-goal games, but it has been apparent for some time now that the Canadiens have been the class of the division.

As consistent as the Habs were for the majority of the season, they even gave the B’s the opportunity to take the division late in the season. They went 4-7-0 over an 11-stretch from April 3-April 23 and the Bruins didn’t take advantage. The Habs went 4-6-0 over their last 10, and the Bruins went 3-5-2.

So perhaps it isn’t too surprising that when the B’s entered this weekend tied in points with the Canadiens with two games left to Montreal’s one, they didn’t emerge with the division title. The Canadiens won their game Saturday by beating the Maple Leafs by three goals, and the Bruins blew a two-goal lead and lost to the Capitals in overtime before falling to the Senators at home in regulation Sunday.

So despite the intimidation factor, recent Stanley Cup and preseason expectations, the Bruins will enter the postseason as the No. 4 seed. They weren’t at their best in the regular season, so the postseason will be a good time to change their level of play.

Bruins-Maple Leafs to begin Wednesday

Sunday, April 28th, 2013

The NHL announced the first-round schedule on Sunday night. Here’s how the Bruins’ and Maple Leafs series, which begins Wednesday at the Garden, looks:

Game 1 at Boston: Wednesday, May 1, 7 p.m.
Game 2 at Boston: Saturday, May 4, 7 p.m.
Game 3 at Toronto: Monday, May 6, 7 p.m.
Game 4 at Toronto: Wednesday, May 8, 7 p.m.
Game 5 at Boston (if necessary): Friday, May 10, 7 p.m.
Game 6 at Toronto (if necessary): Sunday, May 12
Game 7 at Boston (if necessary): Monday, May 13

Bruins plagued by missed chances to beat Sens, wrap up division title

Sunday, April 28th, 2013

The phrase “missed opportunities” has been swirling around the Bruins of late: missed opportunities to wrap up the Northeast Division title over the last few weeks, and, on Sunday, missed opportunities to beat Ottawa goalie Robin Lehner and squeak into the second seed in the Eastern Conference.

The Bruins had 36 shots on Sunday – 29 through the first two periods – but the shots they missed, or failed to take, stood out. Both Tyler Seguin and Dennis Seidenberg shot high on promising rushes, and Seguin also waited too long to shoot on a previous chance, allowing Ottawa’s defense to get back in position against him. When they did get the puck on net, Lehner or his defensemen usually took care of the rebounds before the Bruins got there for second chances.

“Lots of scoring chances, and when you don’t bury them, eventually the other team comes in and scores,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said. “We let them hang around for too long, and when I say hang around, even when we had a 2-2 game, before that, in the first period, we had lots of good scoring chances and didn’t capitalize.”

Sunday’s game mirrored the last few weeks in a way: the Bruins also let the Canadiens hang around too long in the standings. Despite a 4-6-0 showing in their last 10 games, Montreal eventually finished with 63 points to the Bruins’ 62, wrapping up the second seed in the East while the Bruins finished fourth.

The Bruins went 3-5-2 in their last 10 games, with those only three wins coming against non-playoff teams: the Devils, the Lightning and the Panthers. While the end of the regular season doesn’t always have much bearing on the postseason, the Bruins’ last game before the playoffs certainly reflected some larger issues.

Julien attributed the Bruins’ failure to finish on Sunday to a possible lack of focus. After a game where they didn’t follow through on many rebounds, he also noted that the B’s would have to work harder close to the net to succeed.

“It’s pretty simple. You’ve got to get your nose a little dirtier, and you’ve got to have the confidence to shoot,” Julien said. “We all know that teams that want to get their nose dirty in front of the net during the playoffs are going to get rewarded, so we have the guys that have the ability to do that, and now we’ve got to get them to do it.”

Across the Bruins’ locker room, the refrain on Sunday was that they were happy with the game they played, just not the results they got. Shawn Thornton said he thought the Bruins’ failure to bury the chances they created was a mixture of bad luck and offensive issues, and joked about an unconventional way to turn their fortunes around.

“Probably a bit of both,” Thornton said. “I think there’s been some second opportunities where we maybe didn’t bear down as hard as we could. There’s also some posts and some pucks hopping and some of that stuff too. So I don’t want to dwell on it too much. We’re just going to probably sacrifice a chicken or something.”