|Bruins know what to expect from the Flyers||04.30.10 at 2:32 pm ET|
The Bruins are in for a physical series. It’s just the nature of Philadelphia sports — if you play there, you have to bring an edge. This group of Flyers is no exception, with bruising bodies including Chris Pronger and Braydon Coburn on the blue line and pesky, instigator forwards Daniel Carcillo and Scott Hartnell up front. Carcillo put up an impressive 207 penalty minutes during the regular season and then another 18 in five games against the Devils in the quarterfinals. A big part of the how the series swings will be how Boston manages the physical game and how well the B’s keep their tempers when the Flyers inevitably get under their its skin.
An interesting situation pops up with the Bruins as the return of Marc Savard from concussion causes a player to get bumped from the lineup. Indications from the last three days of practice are that nominal enforcer Shawn Thornton will sit, as Blake Wheeler may take his spot on the checking line. Coach Claude Julien warned not to assume that a decision had been made, but often this season what we have seen in practice is what we see come game time. Either way, Julien does not seem to see the loss of Thornton on the ice as a major concern.
“We are, I guess I would consider us ‘team tough.’ I don’t see any issues any way we go, and if there is, they will be addressed. It is as simple as that,” Julien said.
Thornton does not see himself as only a tough guy, to his credit because he does do other things well on the checking line. At the same time, he is always willing to ring the bell when his particular services are called upon.
“To tell the truth, I think I can play the game besides for that and be a factor in anything, not just the tough man. If that stuff happens, I am more than willing to take care of it. I think it is more that I play with a chip on my shoulder and don’t back down and showing through the last few that I don’t just want to play against the tough team but that I try to contribute in every game,” Thornton said.
Boston did well against the Sabres when it came to keeping net-crashers out of the way of Tuukka Rask, and the team is going to have to keep cutting the timber again to make sure that the goaltender can see where would-be goal-scorers are coming from.
“The less time you spend in the D-zone is for the best, but they are going to get their cracks and you just have to stay composed and stay where you are supposed to stay and just work in front of Tuukka, because if you let him see the puck he is going to stop the majority of things,” Wheeler said.
Rask, as per his normal demeanor, did not seem too concerned about the Flyers’ style of play. The Bruins have seen it before and they know what to expect.
“We know them and we played against them and their style. They like to get pucks in and crash the net. That is what a lot of teams do, but they have big forwards and really that is their style of play to get in front of the net and get pucks in,” Rask said. “I mean, guys block shots and get me a lane to see shots, and in the last series we did a great job with that. As a goalie it really helps when you can see the shooter and maybe one more thing and when you see the puck it becomes much easier.”
The Bruins also need to be aware that the Flyers have a history of the quick strike while on the penalty kill. They had just six short-handed strikes (same as the Bruins) in the 2009-10 regular season but led the league with 16 in 2008-09 and were near the top with 13 in 2007-08. Granted, without Jeff Carter and Simon Gagne for the series because of toe injuries (Gagne may return if the series goes the distance but Carter definitely is out), the Flyers’ short-handed capabilities are hindered, but that does not mean the Bruins should take the possibility lightly.
“Definitely, you have to be smart with the puck, even on the power play. You can’t make lazy passes, and if you find yourself turning the puck over it is going to be going the other way pretty quick,” Wheeler said. “Eliminate turnovers is probably first and foremost. I think they live on turning the puck over and going the other way, and if we eliminate those things I think we will give ourselves a great chance.”
|Stuart gets back into the mix||04.30.10 at 1:19 pm ET|
Bruins defenseman Mark Stuart was back on the ice for a second day on in a row on Friday as he resumes hockey activities after being grounded with cellulitis in his right forearm since the beginning of April. Cellulitis is an infection of the deepest layers of the skin and can spread throughout the blood stream and the lymph system with sometimes fatal consequences. Stuart has been held away from the team and from doing any type of exercise because he was not allowed to get sweat near the spot of the infection, and he wears a cast-like IV over the spot for the time being. Stuart had surgery on the area earlier this month and knows that this type of injury can be extremely serious.
“Yeah, it can be very serious. You have to take care of it. It is very serious and, you know, they did a good job of going in there and cleaning it out and now it is up to me to watch it and make sure that I am taking the meds the right way and, yeah, you have to take care of it,” Stuart said. “I think the doctors did a great job and a lot of the responsibility is on me.”
Stuart got the infection after a cut on his arm swelled up badly and quickly got worse. The Bruins initially thought that he would be missing in action for two weeks or so, but the first round of antibiotics did not take to the infection and doctors had to take time to figure out which medication was right to treat the injury.
“It swelled up badly and the infection was bad and got worse and it escalated pretty quickly, so I got on the meds and it was kind of trial and error a the beginning to find out which meds were the right ones because there is different types of bacteria, different types of infection. So, I am on the right one right now and we go from there,” Stuart said.
Unlike Marc Savard, who understandably was in a mental daze for weeks after his concussion, Stuart has been cognizant during his time away from the team — though, like Savard, not allowed to do any physical activity. Talking to Stuart, one got the sense that he has been extremely bored for the last month and has been ready to run for weeks. He was allowed to get on a training bike three days ago.
“Just going out and skating, just jumping on the bike three days ago is huge for me. Just to start doing stuff. The worst part is not only just playing but not being able to do anything and really sweat, so I think it is just nice to get out there again and we will work on trying to get back playing,” Stuart said.
Coach Claude Julien said that the recent news on Stuart is encouraging and that, if all things go well, he is on the day-to-day list in terms of practicing with the team. Having Stuart on the horizon is a good safety net for Boston because Andrew Ference has been playing with a torn adductor and hernia and, even though he made it through the Buffalo series, is a ticking time bomb as to how long he can stay on the ice, as even he has admitted.
“Well, it is because what he has gone through is unpredictable as far as the length of time that he would miss and, you know, we were told something at the beginning and obviously it didn’t respond as well,” Julien said. “We got bad news in his case and things were looking worse and now things are looking much better. That’s what happens with the type of injury that he has suffered and the infection that has gotten into it, so it is nice to see him on the ice. It is nice to have good news, and he is a day-to-day situation in terms of how he is doing, and we will go with that. If everything goes well, hopefully we will see him practicing with the rest of the guys here soon.”
A few people who saw Stuart yesterday noted that, of all the players on the team, he has the best playoff beard of all of them. Really, nobody comes close. Perhaps it is just Stuart’s manly nature, but maybe, just maybe, he had a trick up his sleeve.
“Yeah, I cheated,” he said. “This was an injury, I started this when I got surgery, so I got a couple of weeks on them.”
|Bruins not smug about playoff success||04.30.10 at 11:32 am ET|
If the Bruins wanted to, they have every right to puff up their chests and say to every fan and media member in Boston: “Hey, how do you like us now?” After the whole Marc Savard-Matt Cooke situation (both the March 7 hit at the Igloo and the followup at TD Garden on March 18), everybody who pays attention to the B’s just wanted them to go away, fade into NHL playoff oblivion and take two high draft picks in June’s NHL Entry Draft. There was a 10-game losing streak, a record-breaking home losing streak, a paucity of goals and a general melancholy surrounding the so-called Big Bad Bruins that frustrated even the most casual of NHL fans.
So, is there any self-satisfaction being emitted from Bruins camp now that they are hosting an Eastern Conference semifinal series?
“Not at all,” forward Mark Recchi said. “We didn’t deserve it, we weren’t playing well. We weren’t competing like we should have and sure there are going to be some doubters but, you know, we have got a longs ways to go here. We can’t be complacent in that we won one series or that we had a good end of the regular season. We have got to want bigger and better things, and if you do that then good things will happen. If you are happy to just be in the second round, then you are not playing for the right reasons.”
At the other end of the spectrum, the hard times from January through March are one of the reasons the Bruins are in the situation in which they find themselves. To say that just about every game after the 3-0 clunker to the Penguins on March 18 was a playoff game is not much of an exaggeration. Milan Lucic said that it was not an easy time to go through but in retrospect the ire of the Hub helped the team get through the difficult stretch.
“I think that was probably a good thing for us where we hit some adversity like that where we hit such a low,” he said. “I mean, for us to overcome that and end up where we are now we found a way to come together and do that. It is what helps a lot of teams — to be successful is to go through some adversity and with everyone pegging us out, the media was all over us, the fans were all over us to just walk up to bat and do some good, it was just a good thing for us to see and pull through and stick up for each other.”
Did the fans and media really abandon the team? There was weird talk in March, and the buzz around Boston was that people would almost prefer the Bruins not make the playoffs. Fair-weather fans or true blood of black and gold, it is telling when a fan base would rather see a team go away than fight for a championship, no matter how remote the chances are. Yet, TD Garden was (officially if not in reality) sold out every night through the stretch run, with cheers raining from the rafters when the Bruins scored three short-handed goals in 64 seconds against the Hurricanes in the home finale, and boos pounded from the loge after they had been shut out by Panthers backup goaltender Scott Clemmensen a week earlier.
“Even though they may have booed us a couple of times we knew they were still behind us,” Johnny Boychuk said. “It is just one of those things that if we are that bad they are going to let us know, but they still want to see us win. Now that we are starting to do better they are behind us the entire way. Even if we are down a goal or two they are still behind us and we know that.”
Still, though, the frustrating times persisted, and Boston did not wrap up a playoff spot until the final weekend of the regular season (in the aforementioned Hurricanes game). Recchi believes that, for the most part, the team has played consistently, except for maybe the possible clincher in Game 5 in Buffalo.
“At the end [of the regular season] it was better, but there was still some, ‘What team is this?’ You know?” Recchi said. “But it got much better but in the playoffs, I don’t think in Game 5 we were at our best, but I think throughout the six games we were a good hockey club.”
The veteran has been through frustrating teams and disappointing playoffs before. But, based on what he saw last year and the talent in the dressing room through the 2009-10 season, there is no surprise that the team is poised for a second-round tilt with a more than decent chance of looking toward the Eastern Conference finals.
“I knew we had it in here but we just had to bring it out. I never had any doubts about the guys. You know, I just know what is in here,” Recchi said. “That was the frustrating part because you know what is in here and you know we can get it through a couple more notches and we just weren’t doing it consistently. We would do it some nights, but it wasn’t a consistent thing and that was our problem all year.”
|Paille joins Savard, Ryder||04.29.10 at 11:18 am ET|
WILMINGTON — Bruins coach Claude Julien either does not want anybody to know exactly what his plans are with returning center Marc Savard or he just does not know what to do with Vladimir Sobotka. On Thursday Julien switched up his white-sweater line from what he had on Tuesday, flipping wing Daniel Paille from the fourth line in a red sweater to riding shotgun in white with Savard and Michael Ryder.
Sobotka, who, it appeared, had been forced from his center position on the third line to the wing with Savard, was bumped down to the fourth line where he presumably would play center as Steve Begin gets bumped to the wing with Blake Wheeler (in red for second day in a row) and Shawn Thornton gets bumped down to the fifth line with Brad Marchand and Trent Whitfield. Wheeler skated with Sobotka on a penalty-killing unit for multiple drills at Ristuccia.
The Bruins added a defenseman from their pool of Black Aces to bring them to nine total as Andy Wozniewski joined the team at the practice facility. That gives the Bruins three Providence blueliners, with Jeffrey Penner and Andrew Bodnarchuk still with the team after being call-ups late in the regular season.
The Bruins also announced on Thursday that they have signed defenseman Matt Bartkowski to an entry-level contract. The 21-year-old skated in 39 games for Ohio State this past season, registering six goals and 12 assists. The 2008 seventh-round draft pick (190th overall) was acquired by the Bruins at the trade deadline along with Dennis Seidenberg from the Florida Panthers.
|Savard wants to ease in, knows he is no savior||04.28.10 at 3:05 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — Marc Savard held a press conference at the Bruins practice facility, Ristuccia Arena, on Wednesday afternoon after his first full practice since being cleared by doctors to rejoin the team after missing the end of the regular season and the quarterfinals playoff series against the Sabres. Savard touched on a variety of topics, from his role on the team in the upcoming conference semifinal series and his thoughts about getting back at the Penguins, the team he sustained his concussion against.
Here is the transcript of the press conference:
On how he feels:
I am feeling great, I am excited. Obviously I am really happy about the way the guys played and you know I was able to get a couple more days right now. So, it was a good plan all along.
On his conditioning to this point:
Today was my last kind of test. Kind of felt like the Boston Marathon on Heartbreak Hill so they made it pretty tough today but I got through it and they made it pretty hard in practice too and I gave it everything I had. It was a good test and yeah, I am feeling great and really excited to get the opportunity to play in the playoffs again.
On his role:
“I imagine that I will be eased in, for sure. I probably won’t be getting the 19 or 20 minutes that I usually get right off the top, but we’ll see how things go. I am excited and I am going to play with [Sobotka] and [Ryder], it looks like. I love the way those guys have been playing in the playoffs, especially [Sobotka], the way he has been going, so I am excited to play between those guys and create some results to help the team.”
Yeah, I think the first couple of days I was out there I was like, ‘Jesus, this is going to take awhile.’ I am not going to be a savior or anything and go out, you know, and get three goals in the first game. I would like to but I don’t think that it is going to happen.
I am just going to try and work myself in. Just keep on doing what the guys have been doing and be a part of the team and I don’t think it will be a problem. I look at it like my first playoffs here when, with eight games left, I broke my back. You know, I eased myself in and I ended up having a pretty good playoffs even though we didn’t get where we wanted to go but I felt good. I feel it is the same situation and I am going to go out there and work hard for no matter how many minutes I play and that is the thing. I am sure that I will see power-play time and I would like to contribute there also.
|Lucic: ‘Last year we kind of looked past the second round’||04.28.10 at 2:01 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — Milan Lucic and the Bruins are in the Eastern Conference semifinals for the second year in a row, and this time around they want to make sure they leave their mark, no matter which team they end up facing. If Washington beats Montreal Wednesday night, the Bruins will start the playoffs on Friday in Pittsburgh and play Game 2 on Sunday at Mellon Arena. If the Canadiens can pull off the upset, the Flyers will travel to Boston this weekend, though the official schedule has not been announced for that potential matchup.
Last year the Bruins had 10 days off between their first-round sweep of the Canadiens and the start of the semifinals against the Hurricanes. Coach Claude Julien admitted on Wednesday that Boston had definitely lost its playoff frame of mind and it took until basically Game 5 after the Bruins had fallen behind in the series 3-1 to get the edge back.
“There is no doubt that that will obviously help but what I mean by that is that we allowed ourselves to slip out of the playoff mode because we had so much time off and as hard as we might have tried as a coaching staff to give some days off and some practice,” Julien said. “It is almost the frame of mind has to be there and everybody’s mind needs to be in the right place. Ten days is a lot, no matter who you are, so it took us a while to get our game back and it was a little too late, obviously. We had to scramble back from it so, hopefully this short break is just the right time and from what I see our players are still enthusiastic and get excited about going on to the next round.”
Defenseman Dennis Wideman agreed that the Bruins did not deal with the long layoff as well as they could have.
“I think last year we had so much time off that we got into a mode that we lost some intensity and we didn’t carry over the intensity and the drive from the first round into the second because we just didn’t deal with the layoff well,” he said.
Yet last year the Bruins almost seemed like they could be a team of destiny. They rolled through the regular season with the No. 1 seed in the conference and Lucic said the team was guilty of the biggest of playoff sins — looking ahead.
“I think you can’t look too far ahead of yourself,” Lucic said. “Last year we were thinking too much ‘Stanley Cup finals, Stanley Cup finals, Eastern Conference finals,’ you know. Last year we kind of looked past the second round and the Carolina Hurricanes, and we will not make that same mistake again.”
Center Patrice Bergeron, who has grown into a definitive, if quiet, leader of the Bruins over the past year or so, said that since the Bruins did not face much adversity through the regular season and first round of the playoffs last year that perhaps they did not handle the tough times as well as they could have against Carolina.
“I guess it has changed that we have to work for every inch just a little bit more, and last year everything was going right in the regular season that when we faced a little adversity, maybe we weren’t expecting it as much,” Bergeron said. “I think we have faced a enough this year that we can handle it a little bit better maybe.”
Bergeron said that there are even lessons to be learned from the Buffalo series this year, as Boston had a 3-1 series advantage and the Sabres came out and won Game 5 decisively to send it back to Boston with a chance to force a Game 7 back in Buffalo. Last year the Bruins rolled over Montreal. Yes, it was a physical and emotional series (especially considering the seven-game drama in the quarterfinals in 2008) but the Bruins were never in doubt of losing that series whereas there were times against the Sabres when it looked like they were dancing on the edge of a knife.
“Well, we have experience,” Bergeron said. “This will be my second time in the second round and we are aware of the intensity increasing more again. You can see from the first round of the playoffs that it gets harder, and now that it is the second round it is even higher and it is not over until that fourth game is won. Like in the last series we were up 3-1 and they came up with a big win.”
Lucic has been the type of player who comes up big on the biggest of stages. When he was in juniors he played on two Canadian Hockey League Memorial Cup teams with the Vancouver Giants, and he said that the pressure from being on that big stage at a young age was not incredibly different from what he has faced in the NHL playoffs.
“Obviously with it being a higher level it goes up another notch,” he said. “Playing in the Memorial Cup a couple of times, that is a lot of pressure to deal with at a young age. It is similar, pretty much the same as that, for sure. I was lucky enough to win two championships in juniors and learn and have that experience a little bit in junior to know what it takes to win. Like I said, you don’t look too far ahead and that you just take everything one game at a time, and that is the approach that I always have taken from my first NHL playoff game to the next one coming up.”
|Savard on line with Sobotka, Ryder||04.28.10 at 11:09 am ET|
WILMINGTON — The question as to which line Marc Savard would play on upon his return from a Grade 2 concussion has been at least partially answered from the practice lines coach Claude Julien put out at Ristuccia Arena on Wednesday morning. Savard was wearing a white sweater along with Vladimir Sobotka and Michael Ryder. From these initial lines it looks like Sobotka has been taken from the center position to the wing with Savard, although, as always, lines are subject to change.
Patrice Bergeron was wearing yellow along with Mark Recchi and Marco Sturm while David Krejci was in gray with Milan Lucic and Miroslav Satan. The brick-colored sweaters were occupied by Blake Wheeler, Steve Begin, Daniel Paille, Trent Whitfield, Brad Marchand and Shawn Thornton. The red sweater represents a line demotion for Wheeler, who registered two assists in Game 2 of the quarterfinals against the Sabres and was minus-1 in the six games. The groupings among the red have Begin with Wheeler and Paille and Whitfield, Marchand and Thornton occupying what could be called a “fifth” line.
The defensive pairings have Zdeno Chara with Johnny Boychuk, Matt Hunwick with Dennis Wideman, Andrew Ference with Adam McQuaid and Jeffrey Penner with Andrew Bodnarchuk. Tim Thomas and Tuukka Rask are on the ice while Dany Sabourin is still with the team as a third goaltender.