|Stuart medically cleared, game-time decision for Game 4||05.07.10 at 12:54 pm ET|
PHILADELPHIA — The revolving door continues.
Defenseman Adam McQuaid goes down in the first period of Game 3 with a lower body injury and all of a sudden Mark Stuart is medically cleared to play coming back from cellulitis in his left hand. It has been the way the Bruins have rolled this year — a deep roster of capable players mixed with a little serendipity.
“Yeah, still a game-time decision but if they call my name I am ready to go,” Stuart said. “Yeah, it is just me and the other guys to see who is going. For now it [the decisions] is in warmups, after warmups, something like that.”
The other decisions of which Stuart speaks would be between him, Andrew Bodnarchuk, Andy Wozniewski and Jeffrey Penner. It is hard to imagine that coach Claude Julien would take one of the two rookies (Bodnarchuk, Penner) or lifetime AHL blue liner Wozniewski over a relatively healthy Stuart. Even if McQuaid was not injured, Stuart still should get the nod coming back. He is a solid top-four NHL defenseman and when he is playing well, the Bruins defensive corps is deep and that much tougher to crack. Stuart said that it is a little bit different coming back for the playoffs — the intensity is must higher — but it would be the same for him as the other defenseman who have been sitting all playoffs.
“Yeah, a little bit. It usually comes back pretty quick. You try to get your mental game going as quick as you can and hope that the physical part catches up. I have been on the ice and it feels good but now it is just a matter in getting in some games,” Stuart said.
Stuart’s injury is a bit of an odd one as there is actually nothing structurally wrong with him. Cellulitis is a bone infection and he has been on antibiotics treating it. The biggest fear would be to contaminate the infection, there is a lot of other people’s sweat and potentially blood in a hockey game. Yet, if the staff has medically cleared him, there should be no reason not to suit him up. He has been skating and working hard to come back for the last week and it seems that he is ready to make a go of it.
“It has been quite a bit in a short time. I would not say rushing it but like I said before I have the luxury of the guys playing so well and getting some wins,” Stuart said. “I don’t know if it will be harder or easier, actually. It is playoffs, it is fun. You kind of get into the intensity early. I have not played in the games but watching them and being around the guys you definitely feel the energy.”
|Julien has to make decisions for Game 4||05.06.10 at 3:34 pm ET|
PHILADELPHIA — The Bruins are focused.
It could be sensed on Wednesday which team is walking the concentrated, confident path and which one a little bit lost in the dark. The Bruins have the swagger, the Flyers need a flashlight.
So, when it comes to the loss of a key guy like David Krejci, the collective Boston dressing room bucks up and comes together to continue down the road. It is a key loss, for sure, but it is not like these Bruins have not been dealing with it all season. They lost Marc Savard to a Grade 2 concussion for two months and have been without two of their top for defenders in Mark Stuart and Dennis Seidenberg throughout the playoffs. Yet, here they are, one game away from the Eastern Conference finals.
“It is never easy to lose guys like that. We’ve got two guys in our top four ‘D’s’ who are out of our lineup still,” coach Claude Julien said. “It is part of the game. It is one that you can’t dwell on because it takes away your focus on what you need to do to succeed so as a coach you look at what you got there and you have to make the best of what you got.”
Julien has not yet made a decision on who will replace Krejci in the lineup, it will be either Trent Whitfield or Brad Marchand but the coach also has to figure out who will take rookie defenseman Adam McQuaid’s spot as well. The blue liner was lost for the rest of Game 3 after being hit behind the net in the first period on Wednesday and tallied three shifts for 1:49 of ice time. Julien said on Thursday that he had a “lower-body injury” and is “very doubtful” for Game 4. His options in the cupboard are either Andy Wozniewski, Andrew Bodnarchuk, Jeff Penner or maybe, just maybe, Stuart.
“He suffered what we would call a ‘lower body injury,’ in the playoffs. Basically, very doubtful for tomorrow but then will be a day-to-day situation,” Julien said of McQuaid.
There is still no word on medical clearance for Stuart coming back from a cellulitis infection in his left pinky. He has been skating and practicing but has not been fully cleared to get into a game. McQuaid going down will not speed up the timetable for Stuart and Julien reserves the right to make the decision on if the defender is ready when he does get clearance.
“No, we are not going to accelerate [Stuart],” Julien said. “If [Stuart] ever plays it is because he is ready to play and he is also a guy who, when I say re-evaluted, we haven’t gotten clearance from the medical staff yet but he has been cleared for full practice so all we need now is full clearance. If we do have that tomorrow, whether we get it or not, then it will be our decision.”
Stuart has been practicing with an IV cast that he moves around his arms and is still on antibiotics until May 25th. He feels he has good conditioning and has repeatedly stated the desire to get into the playoffs as soon as he is cleared. On Thursday he skated with Penner, Wozniewski, Bodnarchuk, Whitfield and Marchand along with goaltenders Tim Thomas and Dany Sabourin. Outside of the net minders, pluck two players from that list, perhaps Bodnarchuk and Whitfield as a first guess, and insert them into the Bruins lineup for Game 4 on Friday.
“I think we have a lot of guys who have been around our team for a while now and we will keep that decision probably for tomorrow,” Julien said. “I still got a whole day to sort things out here and we have a lot of guys capable of jumping in and doing the job here. It is a matter of picking and choosing who we want. So, there are still a couple of question marks. We talk about Stuart, we talk about the other ‘D’s’ available, we are definitely going to need a guy there and definitely going to need another forward. So, there will be two new additions in our lineup tomorrow.”
On a separate injury related note, Seidenberg had his hard cast removed from his left forearm on Monday to reveal a two to three inch scar from where he suffered a tendon laceration. He wears a splint over it and has been working out though not yet able to take the ice. He is about four weeks through the eight weeks of expected recovery time which might make him available if the Bruins go to the Stanley Cup Finals.
|No Krejci could mean no Cup||05.06.10 at 10:42 am ET|
PHILADELPHIA — All of a sudden the Bruins are missing 89 points of production out of their lineup.
This is not a team that has all that much production to lose, let alone almost 100 points. Marco Sturm (22 goals, 15 assists) may not be seen as a huge loss for Boston, as he had not scored a goal in the playoffs and only had two strikes since March 13, but the loss of David Krejci (17 goals, 35 assists) to a reportedly broken wrist after a hit from Flyers captain Mike Richards in Game 3 is a huge blow.
Krejci was the key player to spur the Bruins to their late-season run and has been instrumental in their playoff success. It took the young Czech center a while to get going this year coming off of offseason hip surgery but he has been near the top of his game since the Olympic break, constantly creating chances around the net and showing that he has the potential to be a top-tier offensive talent in the league. He can be a joy to watch as he breaks down would-be defenders, like he did in Game 2 against the Flyers when eluding pressure on the half wall before sending the puck to the other side of the rink where Dennis Wideman and Blake Wheeler ended up assisting Miroslav Satan (who else?) on a goal.
Fact of the matter is, without Krejci, this magical playoff run the Bruins are on will probably come to and end. Center is the deepest position on the Bruins between Krejci, Patrice Bergeron, Marc Savard, Vladimir Sobotka and Steve Begin but Sobotka is not the type of guy who can step up his game to the point of coming anywhere near being able to replace Krejci. Sobotka is a high-effort guy, concerned enough with just keeping his spot on the roster, let alone turning in to an offense-first NHL centerman.
So, sans Krejci, Boston just does not have another guy like that who can extend their roster. Savard, Bergeron and Krejci are supposed to complement each other, not replace each other. If Savard could have started ramping up his production coming off a Grade 2 concussion, you would have to like the Bruins chances against anybody in the NHL with their skill down the middle. There are no forwards on the roster who, without some extraordinary breakout playoff hysterics, can pick up that production. If you look at the Bruins roster they are strong on defense (and about to get stronger if Mark Stuart can come back soon), great in goal with Tuukka Rask or even Tim Thomas (because, yes, Thomas can still be a great goaltender) and deep down center. Forward is the lacking position and [potential No. 2 overall pick] Taylor Hall would be quite a welcome addition to the team come training camp next fall.
But that does not help the Bruins right now. With or without Krejci, there is almost no way that the Flyers are going to beat Rask four straight to take the series, but the production and roster-lengthening effect of Krejci cannot be replaced. This is especially pertinent if the Bruins end up playing the Penguins who are perhaps the deepest team at center in the entire league with Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Jordan Staal.
Either way, it is a sad day for the wily Czech. Knowing his quiet intensity, it will be difficult for him to watch his teammates continue to battle for Lord Stanley’s Cup from the press box.
UPDATED — Now with correct math.
|Bruins ready to bury Flyers with Game 3 victory||05.05.10 at 9:31 pm ET|
PHILADELPHIA ‘ The Bruins took a big step toward the Eastern Conference finals Wednesday night, taking a Game 3 win over the Flyers at the Wachovia Center. Boston put Philadelphia down 3-0 in the best-of-seven series with a 4-1 victory and will look to sweep away the Flyers in Game 4 on Friday. Tuukka Rask continued his solid playoff play and won his seventh game of the postseason, while Brian Boucher has fallen from his high perch coming out of the Flyers’ quarterfinals series and took the loss by allowing three goals on 19 Boston shots.
Philadelphia put a digit on the board first for the first time in the series when Arron Asham struck 2:32 into the game. The play was set up when Bruins rookie defenseman Adam McQuaid turned the puck over to center Blair Betts at the blue line to start a 2-on-1 the other way with Claude Giroux and Asham. Giroux waited long enough down the left wing to put the puck on Asham’s stick for a flip across the crease on Rask for the early advantage.
Boston came storming back. Blake Wheeler scored the first playoff goal of his career (in his 17th postseason game) when he tipped a Matt Hunwick shot from the left point through the crease to tie the game at 4:11 in the first. A minute later, the Bruins took the lead when Flyers center Mike Richards was over-aggressive in hitting David Krejci as the Bruins center made his way out of the zone and sent the puck sliding through the neutral zone to Milan Lucic making the entry on the blue line. Lucic flipped to Miroslav Satan rushing down the seam and the Slovakian forward made an up fake with his stick and went around a diving Boucher’s glove to make it 2-1 at 5:15. Krejci would not return to the game after the hit.
Mark Recchi made it 3-1 at 2:30 of the third period on the power play when he was able to slam home a bouncing puck off a shot from Zdeno Chara in the high slot was blocked to the ice by Wheeler. It was Recchi’s fourth of the playoffs and the 54th playoff goal of his career. Patrice Bergeron added an empty-netter at 18:02 to put the exclamation point on the victory.
Miroslav Satan — Scored the Bruins second goal and continues to lead his legions in playoff scoring with 10 points through nine games (5 goals, 5 assists).
Tuukka Rask — The Finnish rookie withstood the storm to emerge dry on the other side as the Flyers put up the most shots they had through the series.
Blake Wheeler — Scored his first career playoff goal and assisted on Recchi’s in the third for his second career playoff multi-point night (second of playoffs).
Turning Point — Asham took a tripping penalty at the 50-second mark of the third period that was a touch of a questionable call as Matt Hunwick had lost an edge on the end boards on the sub-optimal Wachovia Center ice. The Bruins would take advantage on the power play when Chara slipped into the high slot and sent a screamer to the crease that Wheeler blocked down to the ice with his chest, straight to the stick of Recchi waiting for it to fall and bang home for the two-goal lead at 2:30.
Key Play — The Flyers had a great chance to tie the game at two around 14:52 of the second period when Asham put a ricochet rebound of Rask’s pads back on the goaltender. Rask could not corral the rebound and Asham flipped it back to the far side, as Rask was out of the crease attacking the point of attack. But the forwards attempt hit the post and the Bruins were able to clear it out of the zone and protect their lead in a period where they were outshot 15-9.
|Flyers looking for good ole home cooking||05.05.10 at 12:58 pm ET|
PHILADELPHIA — Centermen think they are so clever.
Faceoffs. Simple science or mischievous underworld of cheats and chicanery? A sub-theme to the Bruins and Flyers series that developed during Game 2 and is carrying into Game 3 in Philadelphia on Wednesday has been the Boston’s dominance on the dot. Flyers captain Mike Richards did not fare well on Monday against Patrice Bergeron in the circle and he is hoping that being home in the Wachovia Center will help take away the Bruins advantage.
“They are good faceoff guys and they used the home ice to their advantage,” Richards said. “He [Bergeron], is strong, I think he has a enough respect where he is allowed to cheat a little bit more. I am not sure what else but faceoffs are all about who can cheat the most and in the long run it is a lot easier taking face offs at home than it is on the road.”
Boston centerman David Krejci said after Game 2 that “every center has his tricks” and then refused to elaborate on exactly what tricks he has up his sleeve. It is like every center in the NHL is part of a little fraternity and each unit has their own secret handshake when it comes to gaining the advantage on the dot.
“Every one cheats on faceoffs, it is just about who does it the best,” Richards said. “Home ice I think it is a lot easier to take faceoffs than it is on the road and obviously is better to play with the puck so we will use that to our advantage tonight.”
What Bergeron does so well in the circle is get his shoulder down, quick stick and box out. Some guys do not come to a full stop when skating in for the drop, giving them more momentum in getting that shoulder down and the other center off the puck.
“I do it too. I do it all the time, everybody does,” Richards said. “Just look for the edge to win the faceoffs and I think the refs have been doing a great job of letting us pause a little bit.”
Richards mentioned multiple times that “it is easier to win faceoffs on home ice.” What he is basically saying is that is when teams have the last change they can craft their matchups to their benefit. For instance, Richards never touched the ice in the first two games without Bergeron and Zdeno Chara on his back. Flyers coach Peter Laviolette would double shift Richards and Chara would double shift as well. Laviolette has been scrounging around for trios and pairs that can break down the Bruins.
“I don’t think there was as much line juggling as you guys would call it,” Laviolette said. “It is more of trying to get somebody away from somebody cause we can get different matchups. It will be easier at home where we can start where we want and play from there. We are double shifting some guys in the lineup so that is a cause (of the line juggling) as well. Just with opportunities when we have been behind, we need to get guys out on the ice so we have some guys who we will shift them a little bit more with the guys out of the lineup.”
Laviolette is, of course, referring to Jeff Carter and Simon Gagne as the guys out of the lineup. Richards was Laviolette’s primary center during the regular season and took 1373 faceoffs at 50.7 percent success rate. Carter was the next guy on the list with 1314 at 52. 4 percent and both were about 500 ahead of the next guy on the team, Blair Betts at 855.
“We have to do a better job of doing being ready on the face offs,” Laviolette said. “I thought there were some faceoffs that we won and they picked it up and therefore it looked like their win. We have to be ready as a group. The centermen have to do a good job but our wingers have to do a good job as well.”
Can the Flyers change their fortunes around in this series with the simple advantages that come with being on home ice? Creating matchups for the purpose of forechecking and winning face offs is definitely an important part of the game but, as Laviolette points out, the Flyers still have to execute.
|A little rest for the heavy hitters||05.04.10 at 1:42 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — It is easy to forget through the first two rounds of the playoffs that the Bruins are still operating without some significant depth on the blue line. Mark Stuart started skating this week, coming back from surgery for cellulitis, and Dennis Seidenberg has been a regular press box presence at TD Garden, but otherwise the injured players are in the forgotten man ether that comes with the disabled list. The de facto top four defensemen — Zdeno Chara, Johnny Boychuk, Dennis Wideman and Matt Hunwick — have logged big minutes since the last week of the regular season and even though coach Claude Julien has stepped off the throttle with them a little bit as Andrew Ference has contributed and rookie Adam McQuaid has settled down, the top two pairs are still the oxen pulling the cart.
Hence, all four blueliners got the day off on Tuesday at Ristuccia Arena between Games 3 and 4 of the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Flyers. Julien dresssed six the three Black Aces the Bruins have up with the team — Andy Wozniewski, Jeff Penner and Andrew Bodnarchuk, along with Stuart, Ference and McQuaid.
“I think it is just a matter of giving a few guys some days off here and doing something different,” Julien said. “We can still get them on the ice before the game tomorrow morning. It is just about managing that stuff.”
The other heavy hitters in the Bruins lineup got to sit Tuesday as well including Patrice Bergeron, Mark Recchi and Tuukka Rask. A minor reward for carrying the team to a 6-2 record through eight games but nothing major. The rest of the team only skated for a half-hour or so as it has a quite turnaround for a 1:30 p.m. flight to Philadelphia.
In terms of Stuart, the defenseman is not yet ready to make the jump back to the lineup. He has been skating for the last week and only with the full team a couple of times as of yet. He said on Tuesday that he is still on antiobiotics (until May 25) and still wears an IV cast like thing on his right arm. With him around the team people cannot help but ask if he will be ready for Game 3 but the situation is not as simple as a workout or practice. He will not be on the ice Wednesday night and the team still has to wait for medical clearance as well as for Stuart to get back to a level where he can contribute.
“Definitely no … He is not playing tomorrow, he is not ready for that yet,”Julien said. “It is a situation where he has to be medically cleared and what he has got is a bone infection. He can practice now is what we have been told, he can do some things but before we can ever consider him he has to be medically cleared and feel that he is ready to go as well.”
Stuart sees a defensive unit that has been playing well through the playoffs and knows he will have to be ready to contribute when he does finally make his return to the ice.
“It is not like we don’t have six D-men playing their best right now, cause we do,” Stuart said. “It is not going to help to play a guy who hasn’t done anything for two months just to rush him back. So, I feel good out there though and obviously I want to play but it is going to be a coaches decision when they feel like I can contribute and they feel like they need me and I will just be ready whenever that comes.”
Here are the lines from Tuesday’s skate:
Red — Begin, Shawn Thornton, Vladimir Sobotka
Defense — Wozniewski, Penner, Bodnarchuk, Ference, McQuaid, Stuart
Goaltenders — Tim Thomas, Dany Sabourin
Out — Chara, Boychuk, Wideman, Hunwick, Bergeron, Recchi, Rask
|Bruins consider Carcillo a non-factor||05.04.10 at 1:19 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — When it comes to instigators, the Bruins have upgraded from series to series.
Patrick Kaleta of the Sabres is one type of player — chippy and irritating — but Daniel Carcillo is another entirely. He accused Marc Savard of biting him in a scrum started when he and Kimmo Timonen jumped Savard after the Bruins center took a whack (and a subsequent slashing penalty) at the glove of Brian Boucher after a glove save. Earlier, Carcillo had a dust up with forward Steve Begin in which Carcillo easily could have taken an interference or a charging penalty or maybe even two for diving when Begin pushed him to the ice. The amazing thing through Game 2 was that Carcillo never actually went to the penalty box. Savard and Begin did.
“You saw the play, I got hit and I just wanted to push him and he went down,” Begin said. “I think he could have taken two for diving, but, he didn’t get one. Oh, it wasn’t a hard push,” Begin said. “We play hard too. We go out there, we play hard, we hit, we try to make things happen. You can’t get away from your game for players like that. He wants to draw penalties, so you have to be smart and just keep playing and make sure nothing bad happens.”
Carcillo is a character, to say the least. Self-assured with a chip on his shoulder, he adds only a touch of offense to the usually stacked Flyers lines (12 goals, 10 assists in 76 games this year) but racks up the penalty minutes by the by the fistful — 207 in total through the regular season. He is missing his two front teeth and speaks his mind, whether it is the entire truth or some exaggeration of the truth. Overall, his play and antics can be quite amusing.
The Bruins do not think so. Savard insisted that Carcillo put his hand in his mouth during the scrum and repeated early and often that the forward embellishes on just about everything he does. Coach Claude Julien did not think much of the Begin-Carcillo dustup, chalking it up to playoff hockey and a player known for theatrics.
“Those [penalties] most of the time you end up killing,” Julien said. “I think, you know, he took a pretty good run at him. It was deemed a clean hit and I don’t really disagree with that either but it was borderline charging and it basically just him [Begin] saying listen, that he crossed a line and I sent a message. I don’t think there are any issues with that either way from either team. If our player did that and threw a legal hit and it was borderline and did something about it, I wouldn’t mind that. It is playoff hockey guys, we worry about every little thing that happens but that is part of the game and we live with it.” Read the rest of this entry »