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Bruins-killer Simon Gagne: ‘They’re on a mission’ 05.14.11 at 12:57 pm ET
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Simon Gagne should be used to facing the Bruins in the playoffs by now. A season ago, he was arguably the man that sunk them in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

With the Bruins holding a 3-0 series lead over Philadelphia, Gagne, then a Flyer, returned to the lineup for Game 4 after a broken toe suffered in the first round vs. the Devils kept him out of the beginning of the series. Gagne scored the game-winning goal in overtime to keep the Flyers alive in the series, and added a pair of goals three days later in a 4-0 Phialdelphia win in Game 5. His most crucial goal of the series would come in Game 7, when he notched the go-ahead tally in the third period following a costly too-many-ice penalty taken by the Bruins. The goal was the game-winner, and it capped the Flyers’ comeback from trailing, 3-0, in both the series and Game 7.

Now, Gagne is once again returning from a playoff absence (this time a head injury suffered in the second round) to face the Bruins, but it’s as a member of the Lightning following an offseason trade. Gagne watched the last series between his old mates and the Bruins, and he said Saturday that he sees a difference from a season ago.

“It’s a different team from last year,” Gagne said. “They got some new guys, Thomas is in net now, so it’s a different team than last year. It looks like this year, they’re on a mission, and that’s the way it felt when I saw them play against Philly. Philly’s a good team, and they beat them in four games. That means they’re a really good team.”

Including guys who played sparingly last year in rookies Brad Marchand and Adam McQuaid, eight of the Bruins’ regulars as they enter Game 1 of the conference finals were newcomers to the lineup this year. Yet while the emergence of guys like Marchand and the addition of Nathan Horton have been massive for the B’s, the biggest change for them involves a guy who was around last year in Thomas. At least that’s the way Gagne sees it.

“Last year, Tuukka Rask was actually playing really, really good for them,” Gagne said of the youngster who started every game between the pipes for the Bruins last postseason. “Everybody thought that he was going to be the goalie for the future for Boston. I think he’s still their goalie of the future — I don’t think he’s going to go anywhere — but to see Thomas coming back after a tough season last year with injuries, to see him play like that surprised a lot of people, but at the same time, he was good before he got hurt. It shouldn’t be a surprise to see him playing that good.”

The Bruins and Thomas will hope to continue their “mission” Saturday night, while Gagne just hopes he can continue to feed his reputation of postseason Bruins-killer.

Read More: 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Simon Gagne, Tim Thomas, Tuukka Rask
Bruins hope Marc Savard makes it to Boston during Conference Finals 05.14.11 at 11:51 am ET
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The Bruins to not have expect to have Marc Savard in the house for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals, though coach Claude Julien confirmed Saturday that the center, who is recovering from post-concussion syndrome, is expected to make the trip to Boston during the series.

“I think he’s supposed to be coming down at some point,” Julien said after Saturday’s morning skate. “I’m not quite sure exactly what day or which game, but he’s supposed to come down. He might be here on the weekend for all I know. I heard something about it a while back, and I can’t say I remember exactly the date.

“No doubt, he’s a part of our hockey club. He’s always welcomed here any time he wants to come down. I know he’s trying to get over a concussion that’s really set him back, and we’ve given him that space and that time. Being around the family is a good way to help yourself through that also. He’s always been welcomed here whenever he needs to see doctors or he wants co tome around the team, he’s welcome to do that.”

Since suffering his most recent concussion in late January and being shut down for the season, Savard has spent his time back home in Peterborough, Ontario.

Read More: 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Claude Julien, Marc Savard,
Patrice Bergeron skates, Adam McQuaid in for Bruins in Game 1 05.14.11 at 11:39 am ET
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Bruins center Patrice Bergeron skated prior to the team’s morning skate Saturday, marking the first time the team’s postseason points leader has taken the ice since suffering a concussion in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference semifinals vs. the Flyers.

“He went out and just had a light skate this morning,” coach Claude Julien said following the team’s morning skate in anticipation of Game 1 of the conference finals vs. the Lightning. “That’s where he’s at now, just a light skate on his own.

“This is something that’s just protocol, that he’s going through the normal stuff,” the coach added. “Today was a light skate on his own, and he just got off the ice when we went on. I don’t think there’s much more that we can give you except that it can go either way. We’re certainly not going to comment on that kind of stuff and just hope that he keeps getting better.”

While Bergeron will miss at least the beginning of the series, Julien said that defenseman Adam McQuaid, who sprained his neck in Game 2 of the conference semifinals in Philadelphia, will be in the lineup for Game 1. McQuaid has three points (all assists) and a plus-4 rating thus far in the playoffs.

Read More: 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Adam McQuaid, Claude Julien, Patrice Bergeron
David Krejci on ‘best player in the world’ Pavel Datsyuk: ‘I’m in the third round, and he’s done’ 05.13.11 at 1:59 pm ET
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David Krejci deserves high praise for the way he has played of late, as he led the Bruins with eight points in the team’s four-game sweep of the Flyers in the second round. Still, the VS. coverage team for Thursday’s Game 7 between the Red Wings and Sharks may have gotten a little carried away when Pierre McGuire said that Krejci is “Boston’s version of Pavel Datsyuk.”

The differences between the two players can be seen on the stat sheet, of course. Datsyuk has had four seasons with at least 87 points in his nine-year career, while Krejci’s career-high in points came when he notched 73 in 2008-09.

Krejci was watching the game, but said he didn’t hear the “obviously” flattering remark.

“The guys told me about that,” Krejci said Friday. “I didn’t hear it on TV, but I don’t know what to say.”

Krejci himself had some kind words for the Detroit center, noting that he believes Datsyuk is the best hockey player in the world.

“I think he’s a little different player than I am,” the 25-year-old said. “He’s got great hands. I don’t think there is another player like him. He’s the best player in the world with his skills, with the puck moves. He’s just unbelievable. It’s just good to watch him. There is no one like him and there will never be.”

Krejci had difficulty comparing his game to that of Datsyuk’s, but had no problem comparing the B’s to the Wings, who were eliminated Thursday.

“I don’t know,” Krejci said when asked to compare himself to Datsyuk. “I don’t really care. I’m in the third round, and he’s done. It’s not just about skill players or about star players. You’ve got to have a good team, and I think that’s what we have. We have a better team than they do because we’re in the third round. We have a chance to go to the Stanley Cup final. They are done, so it’s different between me and him right now.”

Read More: 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs, David Krejci, Pavel Datsyuk,
Claude Julien: Bruins ‘optimistic’ about Patrice Bergeron 05.13.11 at 1:23 pm ET
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Bruins coach Claude Julien has been asked about the status of Patrice Bergeron ever since the 25-year-old went down with a concussion in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference semifinals, and he has yet to offer any update aside from that Bergeron is feeling better. Friday was no different, though Julien did share a laugh with the media.

“Well I think, I don’€™t know if you guys share a conference before I get here and say who’€™s asking the question today, but I am getting that question asked everyday,” Julien said. “I think he’€™s improving — he really is improving. We’€™re optimistic about him. As Peter [Chiarelli] said, we knew he was going to miss the start of the series and how much he is going to miss, I can’€™t tell you right now. But he is on the right track and we’€™re staying positive.

“Again, I say that every day. I’€™m not going to say much more because when it comes to concussions you have good news and you have setbacks and you have all kinds of things that can happen. I’€™m not going to stand here and change my tune every day except to tell you that right now that’€™s going in the right direction.”

Through 11 games, Bergeron leads the B’s with 12 points this postseason. Julien offered on Thursday that the center had not been doing any sort of workouts.

Read More: 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Claude Julien, Patrice Bergeron,
With playoff layoff, Bruins making the most of their time 05.12.11 at 2:06 pm ET
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In just two days, fans will be able to see something they haven’t seen in a while: a Bruins hockey game.

Sure, this time of year, the wait is generally longer for the next Bruins game (something in the neighborhood of five months), but it still been quite a while for these B’s. When the puck is dropped Saturday in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals, it will be Boston’s first game in eight days, as they have had penalty of time on their hands since sweeping away the Flyers in the semifinals last Friday.

After the Philadelphia series, the team took the weekend off from skating, returning to practice for Monday and Tuesday before staying off the ice on Wednesday. Thursday, they held their third practice of the extra-long layoff period, and it certainly belonged in the “high intensity” category. Claude Julien reached into his bag of tricks for an interesting drill which featured two goals in the corner, with a short area of space to play in between. It kept things physical, and for a team that’s gone so long without playing actual games, it kept the energy up.

“We have to find the best drills for similar-to-game situations and prepare ourselves for that same intensity like we’ve been playing,” captain Zdeno Chara, who took Tuesday off, said after Thursday’s skate. “We’re having good practices.”

One player who could certainly benefit from such a drill is Tyler Seguin. Physicality is an area in which the No. 2 overall pick’s game is lacking, and as he makes his playoff debut, being able to give and take more contact could come a long way. The rookie noted that it was only the second time the team had done the drill this season. The other came just before a very big win for the team.

“We actually did it once in Vancouver,” Seguin said. “Just going against big teams, you’ve got to be strong on the battles. We were just touching up on that in tight areas.”

By comparison, the B’s had two days off between their seven-game quarterfinal series with the Canadiens and their semifinal showdown vs. Philadelphia. Yet this time, they haven’t had to do a bit or traveling since their Game 4 win on home ice, and while they can appreciate the time off, they know they can’t let up.

“We’ve got to have tough practices,” Seguin said. “We’re going to get our rest and our breaks, but we’ve got to get back to work here. We had a tough practice today, and [we'll have] another one tomorrow to get ready for Saturday.”

Four wins away from a chance at the Stanley Cup, the B’s are having little trouble staying motivated between the series. It’s the farthest they’ve been since 1992, but it’s not as far as they want.

“It’s been nice to have the time off,” center Chris Kelly said. “It has not been difficult at all. We know that there’s still lots of work to be done.”

Read More: 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Chris Kelly, Claude Julien, Tyler Seguin
Nathan Horton ready to face old ‘rivals’ with stakes raised 05.10.11 at 8:40 pm ET
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Back during the preseason, Nathan Horton, who had come to the Bruins after playing the first six years of his career in Florida, was gearing up for his first game against the Canadiens. Sure, it was an exhibition, but it was a big deal for a player who never felt he played in a major rivalry.

Yet it wasn’t his first rivalry, it was just his first major rivalry. In asking Peter Chiarelli about it for a story, the general manager said “the Florida-Tampa rivalry, when it was going, actually there were some good games.”

It was tough for it to be seen as a major rivalry for Horton given that the stakes weren’t nearly as high. In his last three years in Florida, neither team made the playoffs, or even finished better than third in the Southeast Division. Horton had identified the in-state battle as being the closest thing he had to preparation for Bruins-Habs, saying he had “a little rivalry with Tampa Bay in Florida, but not really.”

What a difference a year makes.

Last season, only three points separated the fourth-place Lightning from the last-place Panthers in the cellar of their division. A year later, Horton is finally up to face the Lightning, though it’s taken relocation for him and major changes to Tampa Bay’s organization and roster to make it possible.

With a new general manager in Steve Yzerman, a new coach in Guy Boucher and a revamped roster, the Lightning are ready to storm into Boston this weekend with the intention of grabbing a lead in the Eastern Conference finals. Horton, still in his first postseason, is looking for a different result, and when it comes to him facing the lightning, the stakes are finally high.

“It’s weird,” Horton said Tuesday. “I mean, I’ve played them so many times in my career from when I played [in Florida]. They’ve been great this year. They’ve changed a lot from when I was there. They’ve gotten a lot better. Different faces, a new coaching staff. They’re a real talented team, but it’s definitely weird to be playing them.”

For Horton, it’s simply a sign of what change can do. For a player who wanted out of Florida, he’s enjoyed every second (his smile would suggest he’s even enjoyed the struggles) of his time in Boston. Change has been good for him, and it’s been good for the Lightning.

“It changes so quickly,” Horton said. “It’s going to be fun to go back there, and hopefully we can win some games.”

In four games against Tampa Bay this year, Horton has three assists.

Read More: 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Guy Boucher, Nathan Horton, Peter Chiarelli
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