|As penalties go, Bruins hope for Bell Centre results at TD Garden||05.10.14 at 1:58 pm ET|
Going into the second round against the Canadiens, it was probably natural for Bruins fans to fear the Bell Centre, where it seemed the Bruins would inevitably fall victim to home-ice calls and see the Habs take advantage of power-play goals.
With two games played in each Boston and Montreal, it turns out TD Garden has been the bigger problem for the B’s in that regard.
The Canadiens had nine power plays in Games 1 and 2 in Boston and capitalized with four power-play goals, but the Bruins surprisingly took just one penalty in each game in Montreal for Games 3 and 4.
“That’s how it should be,” Loui Eriksson said Saturday morning. “It’s always a tough game out there. Everyone is playing hard, but we’ve played pretty good that way. We were disciplined that game. I think that’s what we need to do: not take too much penalties. I think if we play five-on-five, we’re in good shape.”
The Canadiens got calls early on in the series by feeding into their reputation for embellishing, as Dale Weise drew a Matt Bartkowski trip in Game 1 and Alexei Emelin drew a trip from Caron in the next game by going down with minimal contact. After Game 2, Claude Julien said that the Bruins won the game despite putting up with a lot of “crap.” Going into Game 5, he was singing a different tune.
“You can say what you want; I have no complaints about the refereeing,” Julien said. “In this series, I think they’ve done a wonderful job of letting both teams play. So at the end of the night, for the most part, the better team has won.”
Told of Julien’s approval of the officiating now that there are less calls, Michel Therrien laughed and said, “I’m sure he said that.”
Weird laughing from Therrien aside, special teams naturally can be expected to be a factor going forward. After only having three power plays themselves in Montreal, the Bruins still have yet to score a power-play goal on eight opportunities. The B’s were third in the league in power-play efficiency in the regular season, so they can only hope they can take better advantage while their No. 8-ranked penalty kill does a better job of silencing guys like P.K. Subban when the Habs have a man advantage.
“We haven’t scored on a power play yet,” Julien said. “We hit a crossbar last game, we hit a post at some point. You have to look at all those different things, but we haven’t scored.
“Their power play has been good, so maybe people seem to think the advantage is to them if there are more special teams [scenarios], but overall, our special teams were fairly good this year. It just happens to be, as I mentioned, in the playoffs. It’s so important to be disciplined and both teams are trying to be disciplined.”
|Bruins, Canadiens running out of time for first lines to produce||05.10.14 at 1:37 pm ET|
The Bruins are still awaiting the arrival of David Krejci‘s production in the second round, but first-line silence hasn’t been a one way street. On the other side, Montreal is still awaiting Max Pacioretty‘s first goal of the series after the Connecticut native put up 39 goals during the regular season.
Both Pacioretty and David Desharnais, who make up two thirds of Montreal’s top line with either Thomas Vanek or Brendan Gallagher, have just one point — each an assist — apiece through four games thus far.
“Playing here in this environment, I’ve got to be relied upon, I’ve got to be relied upon to score important goals and I haven’t done that yet,” Pacioretty said after the Habs’ morning skate Saturday. “I’ve just got to keep playing the way I have been and maybe just calm down a bit.”
It isn’t just that Pacioretty isn’t showing up, but rather the fact that he has to play against the best defenseman in the league. Pacioretty admitted that Zdeno Chara has gotten the better of him so far in the series, as Chara and Dougie Hamilton haven’t allowed anything to that top line in five-on-five play.
“That’s priority No. 1 I think,” Hamilton said Saturday of keeping Pacioretty quiet. “For me, I’m just trying to shut down their top lines and play physical on them and limit them. We’ve just got to keep trying to do that. I think all our D have done a good job of that, just trying to stay aware and limit our mistakes.”
Said Pacioretty: “It’s obvious that they want to pair certain guys against us. It’s not an excuse; it’s a good challenge. We haven’t risen to that challenge yet. Myself personally, I’ve got to do a better job of being able to overcome that adversity.”
Krejci and friends don’t have to worry about going up against a player like Chara, but Montreal has taken away their space. Boston’s first line created a ton of chances in Game 1 of the series but failed to score, and the line has yet to play that well since the series opened. Milan Lucic scored an empty netter that Krejci assisted and Jarome Iginla scored a 6-on-5 goal by tipping an Andrej Meszaros shot in the final minutes of Game 3, but the trio has yet to produce a five-on-five goal this series.
With it now a three-game series, the question becomes which top line will step up first or which team is better suited to win a series without getting anything from its first line. The Canadiens are a deeper opponent offensively than the Red Wings were, and their third line of Lars Eller between Brian Gionta and Rene Bourque has gotten chances throughout the series.
The same goes for Boston’s third line, which produced the only goal of Game 4 when Matt Fraser scored the game-winner in overtime. Especially against Montreal’s third pairing of Douglas Murray and Mike Weaver, that line has gotten chance after chance but hasn’t capitalized enough. Daniel Paille scored the third line’s other goal in Game 2 when he was playing with Soderberg and Loui Eriksson.
Should Michel Therrien keep Weaver and Murray together, Soderberg and friends should be champing at the bit to continue to take advantage of that matchup, but with more production. The first lines are often expected to cancel each other out in the postseason, but when neither teams’ first lines are doing anything, even more responsibility falls on everyone else.
“I think our team is built like that,” Eriksson said. “Everyone can score on every line. I thought the last game we had some really good chances, our line, and we finally got one. That’s something we want to do to try to help the team as much as we can and score those goals.”
Neither the Bruins nor the Canadiens should be satisfied with the performance they’ve gotten out of their best forwards. Within days, one team will undoubtedly view it as a reason as to why their season was ended.
“It’s a three-game series now, and we’re in a very good position,” Pacioretty said. “We had a great first round, four games into this we’re tied up. I like where our team’s standing right now.”
|Bruins prepare for Game 5 vs. Canadiens||05.10.14 at 11:40 am ET|
Milan Lucic was the only absence from the Bruins’ morning skate Saturday, though different players have been kept off the ice for practices and morning skates throughout the postseason for rest’s sake.
Lucic skated Friday and was spotted in the Bruins’ dressing room after Saturday’s skate, so it’s best to assume that the player was simply taking his option, as Carl Soderberg did Thursday before playing in Game 4.
All other players were on the ice for the B’s, including Dennis Seidenberg. The veteran defenseman has still yet to take contact as he tries to work his way back from a torn ACL/MCL.
Game 5 of the second round against the Canadiens will be played Saturday night at TD Garden. The series is tied, 2-2.
|Matt Bartkowski: ‘I know when I play well; I know when I play bad’||05.10.14 at 12:22 am ET|
If the Bruins advance past this round, the chatter about Dennis Seidenberg will inevitably grow louder and louder. Until Seidenberg does come back — if that ever happens this postseason — the Bruins will make due with either Matt Bartkowski or Andrej Meszaros in their lineup. Both have been given their shot at points this postseason, and both have struggled to establish a stranglehold on the position.
All things considered, Bartkowski is a superior player to Meszaros. He skates better and he’s stronger, but he’s struggled since returning to the lineup after missing the first two games of the first round with the flu.
Bartkowski had rough showings in Games 4 and 5 of that series, and a Game 1 performance against the Canadiens that saw him take two penalties (the first of which was on a Dale Weise dive, the second of which was a penalty he took in double overtime), Claude Julien opted to play Meszaros over him in Games 2 and 3. Meszaros predictably struggled and saw a blocked shot of his end up going the other way for the game-winning goal in Game 3, so Bartkowski was put back in for Thursday’s Game 4.
Back and forth, in and out, and still looking to regain the form he had before he was sick. Despite being the class clown of Boston’s blueline when it comes to his sense of humor, Bartkowski is generally pretty blunt when it comes to assessing his work. As such, he doesn’t fret about whether he’ll be in the lineup from game to game.
“I mean, I kind of know if I’m going to be in or not,” Bartkowski said. “I know when I play well; I know when I play bad.”
So what did he think of Game 1?
“I don’t know,” he said. “I don’t even remember, to be honest.”
Earlier in the week, Peter Chiarelli suggested that Bartkowski had “got out of sync a little bit” after returning from the flu, but the player says he doesn’t want to use his early postseason illness as an excuse for his play of late. Since he’s been in, Bartowski said, he’s been fine physically.
“I just wasn’t playing to my potential,” he said of his play.
If he’s OK physically, he still needs to bring a sharper game to the ice. He’s been caught out of position and he’s struggled to knock guys off of pucks. At points, Bartkowski’s been more prone to taking himself out of the play than the player he’s defending.
Though neither he nor Meszaros are slam-dunks, it’s worth remembering that Bartkowski was a hesitant player early on in his NHL career because he didn’t want to make mistakes in his brief NHL stints. Knowing a bad performance means a trip to the press box might add some of those jitters Bartkowski used to face. Then again, it’s been three seasons since he’s gotten his first taste of the NHL and he has since established himself as someone who would be a regular NHL blueliner on most teams, so there’s a good enough chance he’s outgrown all of that.
Remember, it was just a year ago that Bartkowski had scored in Game 7 of the first round and went on to perform well in the second round against the Rangers with Boston’s blue line banged up. Bartkowski has shown in the past that he can play in the postseason, but the Bruins could use a reminder.
|Matt Fraser the OT hero as Bruins even series||05.08.14 at 10:33 pm ET|
MONTREAL — Matt Fraser proved Claude Julien right for putting him in the lineup, as he scored the only goal of Game 4 to help the Bruins even their second-round series against the Canadiens with a 1-0 overtime win Thursday at the Bell Centre.
Despite struggling to find space and going 0-for-2 on the power play, the Bruins got their chances throughout the night, but continued to hit posts. Carl Soderberg and Reilly Smith both fell victim to the iron, with Soderberg hitting the crossbar at the end of the first period and Smith hitting the left post during Boston’s third-period power play.
In the lineup for the B’s were Matt Bartowski and Fraser, the latter of whom was recalled on Wednesday and skated on Boston’s third line. Jordan Caron and Andrej Meszaros were both healthy scratches after playing Game 3.
Game 5 will be played Saturday night at TD Garden.
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE BRUINS
– Rask was big for the Bruins through the first two periods. The Vezina favorite was particularly cruel to Michael Bournvial, who had numerous chances Thursday. Bournival’s best bid came in the first period off a Brad Marchand turnover in the Bruins zone, but Rask stopped that, as well as a shot from the Montreal forward in the second period and a high shot in the third.
That wasn’t all. After the Bruins dominated the first five minutes of the second period, the B’s netminder came up with a big save on a Lars Eller tip. Later in that shift, Brian Gionta missed the puck on the doorstep off a rebound of an Eller shot. Read the rest of this entry »
|Matt Bartkowski, Matt Fraser in Bruins lineup for Game 4 vs. Canadiens||05.08.14 at 7:27 pm ET|
MONTREAL – Matt Bartkowski is back in the lineup for Game 4 of the second round against the Canadiens. Andrej Meszaros was made a healthy scratch after he played in place of Bartkowski in Games 2 and 3.
Matt Fraser also entered the lineup after being recalled Wednesday night. He skated on the third line in warmups, with Daniel Paille moving back to the Merlot Line. Jordan Caron is a healthy scratch. The anticipated lineup is as follows:
Lucic – Krejci – Iginla
Marchand – Bergeron – Smith
Fraser – Soderberg – Eriksson
Paille – Campbell – Thornton
Chara – Hamilton
Bartkowski – Boychuk
Krug – Miller
For more Bruins coverage, visit weei.com/bruins.
|Matt Fraser hopes to make most of his shot in playoffs||05.08.14 at 2:16 pm ET|
MONTREAL — Last postseason, the Bruins got their money’s worth on a couple of call-ups from Providence during the playoffs, as Matt Bartkowski and Torey Krug solidified themselves as NHL players after starting the postseason with Providence. Matt Fraser can only hope he has the same experience now.
Recalled Wednesday night, Fraser could get his first taste of the NHL playoffs as early as Thursday night’s Game 4 against the Canadiens. A left wing with a terrific shot, Fraser spent most of his first season in the Bruins organization (he joined the Stars as an undrafted free went in 2011 and was traded to Boston in the Tyler Seguin deal) in Providence. He played 14 games for Boston this year after getting 12 NHL games in last season with the Stars, and after plenty of success at the AHL level (he had 70 goals over his first two seasons with the Texas Stars), he just wants to stick in the NHL for good.
“If you’re going north or south on the 95, it can really make your day a lot better or a lot worse,” Fraser said Thursday. “This is definitely where you want to be. Different players take different time in the American League. You take it as a blessing in disguise and just work on your game and do what you can to get back here.”
Fraser was having lunch in Providence as he and the P-Bruins were preparing for the second round of the Calder Cup playoffs against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton when he got the call from B’s assistant general manager Don Sweeney. The message was to get on the next flight to Montreal, as the B’s were recalling Fraser and returning Justin Florek to Providence.
“I think as a kid you play for the Stanley Cup a thousand times on the streets and the outdoor rink and stuff like that, but not in this environment,” Florek said. “It’s exciting obviously for sure. I’m not trying to downplay that at all, but at the same time, once you get out there, you’ve got to find your room and just play your game.”
It’s the “play your game” part that is most intriguing. The 6-foot-2, 204-pounder’s biggest asset is his shot, but the Canadiens have been blocking shots left and right — they led the league in the regular season and blocked 29 shots in Game 3 — and Carey Price is in stop-everything-he-sees mode.
“He’s obviously a world-class goalie. He’s who he is, he’s developed that. You’ve got to find a way to get it through,” Fraser said. “It’s playoff hockey. There’s not going to be a lot of opportunities, so you’ve got to make sure when you have one, you put your best behind it.”
Added Fraser: “You always try and find your spots and get it off as quickly as you can. And you know it’s probably even harder now with how tight the playoffs are and everything like that, but you’ve got to have confidence in yourself to hold onto that puck for that extra second and make sure that you can make that extra play, when you get the chance and let it go.”
The other question is where Fraser will play if he is in Boston’s lineup. Fraser played 11 of his 14 games in Boston on the third line with Carl Soderberg, but that was when Soderberg was playing the wing, while Ryan Spooner was center. Whatever role Fraser serves, assuming he plays, will involve some uncharted territory with high stakes.
“I’m not going to be picky wherever they put me, that’s for sure,” Fraser said. “Again, I don’t know if I’m in, I don’t know if I’m out. All these guys in this dressing room are so good, everyone, they’re such a good NHL player that it’s pretty seamlessly you can fit in.”
Just don’t ask Claude Julien where Fraser will play.
“We’re going to make some game-time decisions as far as our roster’s concerned, guys,” the coach said.
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