Archive for May, 2013

Andrew Ference: ‘It’s a matter of trainers and coaches figuring out’ return

Friday, May 31st, 2013

WILMINGTON — Andrew Ference is close to playing. How close? Well, that depends on whom you ask and when.

Ference, himself, said that he’s had a very good and productive week of practice as he comes off a left foot injury that sidelined him for the last two games of the first round series against Toronto and all five games against the Rangers.

“I’ve had some really good practices. I think it’s a matter of trainers and coaches figuring out that,” Ference said after Friday’s practice. “The only thing I can do is skate and do what I have to do to make myself ready. But, at a certain point, it’s in other people’s hands as well.”

“We’re certainly not going to tip our hands,” Julien said when asked about possible maneuvering with defensive pairings. “If Ference is cleared, we have to consider that.”

Ference was skating for a fourth straight day with Aaron Johnson. As it stands now, Zdeno Chara and Johnny Boychuk would start the series as the top D pair, followed by Dennis Seidenberg and Matt Bartkowski and then Adam McQuaid and Torey Krug. Given Krug’s firepower on the power play, Bartkowski figures to be the odd man out when Ference is cleared.

“I feel good. I feel good,” Ference repeated moments later. “Good practices. I was able to take part in everything. It was nice to be at full speed with the guys. Feeling great. I think everybody is excited to get going here. We’ve done a lot of watching of the other series over the last few days. [Good to] get back to the real deal.”

The other major theme regarding Ference is his return to Pittsburgh. The Bruins are playing the Penguins in the playoffs for the first time since Ference began his career in Pittsburgh in the 1999-2000 season, after being an eighth-round pick in 1997.

“As far as going back to Pittsburgh, I’m actually surprised this is the first time our teams have met up in the past few years. Obviously, we’ve both had success. Should be great hockey. Obviously, good for the game to have those good, big markets left over here,” Ference said.

Ference broke in on a team that included Jaromir Jagr, Martin Straka, Mario Lemieux, Kevin Stevens and Alexei Kovalev. That team made it to the Eastern Conference finals in 2001 before bowing out to the Devils in five games.

(more…)

Pierre McGuire on M&M: Bruins need to goad Penguins ‘into a street fight’

Friday, May 31st, 2013

NBC Sports hockey analyst Pierre McGuire joined Mut & Merloni on Friday to talk about Saturday’s Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals.

McGuire agreed with a suggestion from studio guest Lyndon Byers that the Bruins should try to take the Penguins out of their game by being physical.

“Absolutely, if I were Boston that’s all I’d be talking about, it turning it into a street fight early,” McGuire said. “I would take a page out of what Philadelphia did to Pittsburgh last year. They didn’t play nice with Pittsburgh, and Pittsburgh decided that they didn’t want to play nice and it got them out of their offense and their free flow and their attack game. It got them thinking more about retribution than about scoring goals.

“If I were Boston, that’s exactly what I’d try to do. Because that’s the one thing they have — Boston, that is — that a lot of teams in the league don’t have. They have four lines that can play. They have four lines that can bring some physical dimension. And they have four lines that can contribute offensively. But the one through four physical part is huge.”

Added McGuire: “If Boston can play a nasty game without taking penalties and goad Pittsburgh into getting off their game, that’s huge. And if Pittsburgh doesn’t retaliate and Boston gets a lot of penalties called against them and their power play is as good as we’ve seen, Boston’s going to be trouble.”

Looking at the line matchups, McGuire said he expects the Patrice Bergeron line to go up against the Sidney Crosby line in a matchup of longtime friends.

“If I were betting money, I’d say Bergeron against Crosby,” McGuire said. “They’re real good friends. It goes back to the ’05 World Junior. Crosby played on a line with Corey Perry and Patrice Bergeron. It goes back to the World Championships; they played together. They played in the Quebec Major Junior League against one another.

“A lot of people don’t know this: These guys are so close, they went on snowmobiling trips together in the winter during All-Star breaks when they weren’t playing in the All-Star Game, or during the lockout. Just so you have an idea how close these guys are. They’re extremely, extremely close.”

To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page. For more Bruins news, visit the team page at weei.com/bruins.

Bruins Friday practice notes: David Krejci returns, all accounted for

Friday, May 31st, 2013

WILMINGTON — David Krejci returned Friday morning from his “minimal maintenance” day on Thursday, as Claude Julien termed it. The Bruins skated for just about an hour before packing up at Ristuccia Arena and leaving immediately for Pittsburgh and Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals Saturday night at the Consol Energy Center. All Bruins were on the ice and accounted for as the team worked out in Wilmington for a fourth straight day.

After working almost exclusively on power-play and penalty-kill drills on Thursday, the Bruins returned to a more conventional practice on Friday.

The lines remained the same, but of note on the defensive pairing side, Zdeno Chara was paired with Johnny Boychuk while Dennis Seidenberg was teamed with Matt Bartkowski. Andrew Ference was still working with Aaron Johnson, an indication that Ference likely won’t be activated for Saturday’s game.

Adam McQuaid was with Torey Krug while Wade Redden was skating with Dougie Hamilton.

Another significant sign was the amount of drills in the corners as the coaching staff had the top four lines work on winning puck battles in the corners, an area that several players and Julien have said will be key if the Bruins are to have a chance of winning the series.

For more, including reports from DJ Bean in Pittsburgh, visit the Bruins team page at weei.com/bruins.

Poll: Who wins Bruins-Penguins series?

Friday, May 31st, 2013

After a week off, the Bruins and Penguins finally will take to the ice Saturday night in Pittsburgh to begin the Eastern Conference finals.

Our readers correctly predicted the Bruins would beat the Rangers in the conference semifinals, although the top choice, with 33 percent of the 282 respondents, was “Bruins in seven,” followed closely by “Bruins in six.” “Bruins in five,” which was the way the series played out, was fourth with 7 percent, behind “Rangers in six.”

Tell us what you think will happen in this series.

Who will win the Bruins-Penguins Eastern Conference finals series?

  • Bruins in seven (33%, 138 Votes)
  • Bruins in six (32%, 135 Votes)
  • Penguins in six (20%, 82 Votes)
  • Penguins in seven (7%, 29 Votes)
  • Penguins in five (5%, 22 Votes)
  • Bruins in four (2%, 7 Votes)
  • Bruins in five (0%, 2 Votes)
  • Penguins in four (1%, 2 Votes)

Total Voters: 417

Loading ... Loading ...

Claude Julien: Bruins relish being a part of a fabulous final four ‘it’s pretty impressive’

Thursday, May 30th, 2013

WILMINGTON — As the Bruins wrap up preparations for Game 1 of the Eastern finals Saturday night in Pittsburgh, they are taking a very brief moment to relish what it’s like to be part of a little recent history.

The quartet of the Bruins, Penguins, Blackhawks and Kings isn’t just a made-for-TV dream for NBC, they represent the most successful franchises in hockey over the last four years, as measured by Stanley Cup banners.

Each team has lifted the Cup once in the previous four seasons, starting with the Penguins in 2009, the Blackhawks in 2010, the Bruins in 2011 and the newbies, the Kings, who won their first in franchise history last year.

“I think it’€™s pretty impressive, knowing about parity in the league and how hard it is to get back there,” Claude Julien said. “To know that somebody is going to win it twice in, at the most, four years is pretty impressive, I think. That’€™s what we have here. It’€™s an opportunity for all of us here to duplicate what we’€™ve wanted to duplicate here for a while.”

Tyler Seguin was a mere 19-year-old pup when the Bruins last made a deep run, as he was a rookie in 2011. But that doesn’t mean he can’t appreciate what the Bruins, Penguins, Blackhawks and Kings have all accomplished.

“It’s very cool,” Seguin said. “It’s great to be a part of it. I don’t know if that’s happened too often throughout history but it’s going to make for a great final finish. I think experience has always been huge, especially when it comes to playoffs. We have so much experience in our locker room we can face different types of adversity and I think when it comes to playoffs, teams that have experience are always going to have the edge. There’s always the underdogs or teams that surprise other teams but this year, I think it’s a little different because the last four winners are in the final four.

“I think chemistry can definitely be huge at times, especially when you’re making playoff runs of more than one in the last few years for all four of us. I think chemistry is big in those situations and experience goes a long way.”

Julien also appreciates the job his boss, GM Peter Chiarelli has done in keeping a young core together and in tact, ready to compete for a title, year-in and year-out.

“You know it becomes harder when you win,” Julien said after Thursday’s practice. “We won a couple years ago and he’€™s managed to keep the core and most of the players around. He’€™s done a great job. I’€™ve said it all along, to have an opportunity to coach a team that’€™s deep because of the players he’€™s provided us with. Thats’€™a credit to him and his group. The coach is as good as the people that surround him; that means the assistant coaches, but also means the players, and obviously management.

“That’€™s always been the case, it’€™s not something that’€™s new. It’€™s more about you have to realize what you have and we have a good group of people here, players, coaching staff, and then management. Everybody seems to be doing a good job at what they have to do and allows us the opportunity right now to be in the top four.”

(more…)

Preparing for Torey Krug an unusual challenge for Penguins

Thursday, May 30th, 2013

PITTSBURGH — Torey Krug: X-factor?

That could indeed be the case. Think about it: The Bruins’ biggest source of scoring the last round is a guy the Penguins have only seen once when he was right out of college last season. Furthermore, they don’t have extensive video to go off of because prior to the Rangers’ series, he’d only played three career NHL games.

Yet in that Rangers series, he became a difference-maker. Playing only because the Bruins had three injuries on their blue line, Krug became an offensive weapon with four goals in five games (becoming the first defenseman in NHL history to score four goals in his first five playoff contests), three of which came on the power play.

The Penguins aren’t used to Krug, and they aren’t used to the Bruins having a weapon like that on the power play. So what do they do?

“Don’t take penalties, I guess,” Penguins defenseman and penalty-killer Brooks Orpik said after Thursday’s practice.

The Penguins have one of the best offensive defensemen in the game in Kris Letang, but they haven’t seen anyone bring that type of skill set to Boston’s blue line in quite a while. That makes preparing for the B’s that much harder, because they’ve seen plenty of this Bruins team over the years and know what it is: Well-rounded, tough, defensively sound with strong goaltending. But at the same time, it’s a team that’s been generally wretched on the power play since Marc Savard went down. Now they have Krug, and they can’t use their experience to prepare for him.

“In preparation and looking at their team, I’ve looked back at things from not only this year, but last year — how they play, tendencies, face-offs — so you think you have a good feeling about the Boston Bruins and their team and how they play and players on the team, but that’s the one element you don’t have much of an idea of at all,” Dan Bylsma said. “We’ve watched him play, we’ve watched the tape, but he adds an element to the team that really hasn’t been an element for the Boston Bruins over the last couple of years, even going back to their Stanley Cup year.

“They’ve won a lot of hockey games and that hasn’t really been an element, so you can watch him, you can do video tape on him, but the element for him skating for his team in the neutral zone that he’s added the last series, him at the blue line, his mobility across the blue line, his shot, that’s something we haven’t quite seen. [He's] really kind of a variable we have to insert with our video and compare him to other players and what other players do for teams, but it’s going to be the first time we see him really on the ice when we get to Game 1.”

The Bruins’ power play finished 26th in the league with a 14.8 percent success rate in the regular season, though they were more successful against Pittsburgh with a 2-for-8 showing in their three meetings this season. None of those games featured Krug, as he only played in one regular season game this year, which was against the Canadiens.

Pittsburgh’s penalty kill has the third-best success rate this postseason (second among remaining teams, with Chicago leading the way), as the Penguins have kept their opponent from scoring on 89.7 percent of their opponents’ advantages. They hope to keep that up against the Bruins’ power play, no matter who’s out there.

“Obviously with [Zdeno] Chara and Krug and [Johnny] Boychuk, they’ve got some big shooters,” Orpik said. “You look at the talent level they have, they can go in spurts. They can be down for a while and they can be really hot for a while, so just like any other series, I think discipline is the biggest thing. If you give power plays enough opportunities, eventually they’re going to burn you.”

Penguins not buying Bruins’ underdog talk

Thursday, May 30th, 2013

PITTSBURGH — The “B” on the Bruins’ jerseys should stand for “Boucher,” because the Bruins are taking a Guy Boucher-like approach to the Eastern Conference finals against the Penguins.

Two years ago, the then-Lightning coach played the underdog card strongly against the Bruins, saying that the Lightning would be hard-pressed to “solve” the “enigma” that was Tim Thomas. Now, it’s the Bruins who are volunteering just what an uphill climb they face, with Brad Marchand telling reporters Wednesday that the Bruins are “in over our heads” vs. the offensively loaded Penguins.

The Penguins aren’t buying it.

“I wouldn’t read into that too much at this point,” Sidney Crosby said after Thursday’s practice. “It doesn’t really matter who’s favored or who’s not. Two pretty good hockey teams who have gotten to this point and want the same thing, so all the other stuff doesn’t really matter.”

While the Penguins don’t have a problem with being labeled as favorites, they can appreciate that a team labeling itself the underdog is simply a means of trying to gain an us-against-the-world mentality.

“I think we’re pretty focused on just preparing ourselves,” Brooks Orpik said. “If that motivates them, then great for them. I think we have plenty of ways to motivate ourselves in here. Each team can motivate themselves however they want. That’s out of our control.”