|Last chance: Bruins must expose Braden Holtby in Game 7||04.24.12 at 6:37 pm ET|
The Bruins have one more chance to get to Braden Holtby. If they do it, they should be able to advance to the Eastern Conference semifinals against either Ottawa, Florida or Philadelphia. If they don’t, they’ll be bounced in the first round for the first time in four years.
For the B’s, two of their three losses to Washington have been products of the team not being able to get clean looks against the Washington rookie. They’ve struggled to get legitimate shots by the shot-blocking Capitals and through to the net, so their bids either haven’t made it to Holtby, or he’s been able to see them perfectly.
In recent games, the Bruins have fared better. Though they dropped Game 5 at home, they got a goal on a rush (Dennis Seidenberg from Milan Lucic), a hard drive to the net (Brad Marchand) and missile from the point (Johnny Boychuk). In Game 6, the B’s put four pucks past Holtby, the last of which came on a rush in the form of Tyler Seguin’s game-winner.
“It definitely took us a while, but you’ve got to give it to him,” Marchand said of Holtby. “He’s been playing great hockey and making a lot of big saves, but we’re doing a pretty good job of getting bodies in front now and finding different ways to score on him. We’re going to have to try and do the same thing tomorrow.”
Holtby has had an impressive .935 save percentage in the series, but his numbers have been helped by the fact that he’s had performances such as Game 2 (43 saves) and Game 4 (44 saves) in which he faced a large total of shots but faced few legitimate scoring chances. Many of the shots Holtby stopped in those games came from outside the perimeter due to Washington’s excellent shot-blocking and overall defensive play.
Now, having seen enough of Holtby, the B’s hope they break through and have a high-scoring affair for once (no team has scored more than four goals in a game this series, and each game has been decided by one goal). One thing to watch is whether the B’s, if given the opportunity, take advantage of Holtby’s agressive style. In two overtime plays Sunday — Zdeno Chara‘s early bid and Seguin’s game-winner — the Bruins were careful to hold onto the puck until the last possible second in an attempt to get the goaltender to challenge them. It didn’t work for Chara, but Seguin kept Boston’s playoff chances alive by doing it.
David Krejci, who scored on the power play in Sunday’s Game 6 victory, agrees that the B’s have gotten progressively better looks against Holtby. Krejci was notably frustrated after Game 4 at his inability to produce, but he feels that he and the offense as a whole have worked harder to make the 22-year-old goalie’s job difficult.
“I think we had a tougher start, but the last couple of games, it was getting along,” Krejci said. “We’ve just got to keep it going. It’s a Game 7. We’ve all been there before, so we’ve just got to go out there, do our best and try to get a win.”
|Shawn Thornton contributes to Bruins whether or not he’s playing||04.24.12 at 4:13 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — Shawn Thornton embodies what the Bruins are all about in so many ways, but will he be in the lineup in the biggest game of the season?
Boston had to scratch Thornton in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals due to Patrice Bergeron‘s situation. With Bergeron clearly not 100 percent, Claude Julien had to insert Jordan Caron — a good two-way forward with some experience as a top-six guy — into the lineup in case anything happened to Bergeron during the game. That meant, as was the case when Tyler Seguin heated up in the third round against the Lightning, that Thornton had to sit.
Now, with Bergeron definitely in the Bruins’ lineup for Wednesday’s Game 7, it is unknown whether he will be healthy enough for the B’s to run the risk of going without Caron. Thornton doesn’t know his status, but the veteran isn’t complaining.
“This is my 15th year,” Thornton said. “I’ve been through this a number of times. I don’t know how many playoff games, but I will stay ready for when I’m called upon, whether it’s next game, or whenever it may be. If it’s not next game, then I’ll do whatever I can to support my teammates.”
Last year, a concussion to Bergeron led to Seguin jumping into the lineup after being a healthy scratch for the first two rounds. Seguin scored three goals in the two games the team was without Bergeron, so he remained in the lineup and Thornton was scratched. Seguin looks back on it all and remembers Thornton remaining supportive of him even after the rookie took the veteran leader’s spot in the lineup.
“Thorty’s a great team guy,” Seguin said. “He was the guy that definitely helped me align the way all last year. It doesn’t matter what role he’s doing for the team, he’s always going to be doing whatever he can to help the team out and help us be successful.”
If Thornton’s in the lineup for Wednesday, the B’s will know what they’re getting from the energetic forward. After all, it was a shift by the fourth line — Thornton, Gregory Campbell and Daniel Paille — that started to swing the momentum for the Bruins in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals last June after the Canucks took it to the B’s in the early going.
Should Thornton not play, the team will still rely on what he brings in the dressing room as a vocal leader. Regardless of whether he’s in the lineup, he always has something to give the Bruins.
” We appreciate him as a player first and foremost and as a person, but what he does when he drops the gloves is something that is part of his strength,” Julien said. “Sometimes a coach has to make decisions. It’s nothing personal, it’s nothing about necessarily the player’s [experience], it’s what we need for this certain game and that’s all it was.
“He understands that stuff. He’s been through it many times, even before he came here. He’s all about the team and whatever we need to do he’s going to support us. He’s as happy as today as he was the day before he got pulled out of the lineup.”
|Brad Marchand responds to accusations of diving||04.24.12 at 1:54 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — Brad Marchand is a man of many names.
There’s his given name, Bradley. There’s Marshy. There’s “The Little Ball of Hate,” as he was called by President Obama. There’s The Brat, The Rat, The Baseball Bat (not really) and probably a dozen other things Marchand’s been called.
Marchand doesn’t care what you call him, just so long as you don’t call him a diver.
The 23-year-old pest has been critical of diving in the past, such as last year when he called out the Canadiens, but recently, it’s been Marchand who’s been accused of diving.
Marchand has been accused of trying to sell calls at points during the Bruins’ series with the Capitals’ series, such as in Game 3 after an elbow from Karl Alzner and in Game 6, when minimal contact was made between he and Jason Chimera in the Washington zone. Marchand fell to the ice, grabbing his face and Chimera went down the other end and scored. Replays showed that Marchand got himself in the face with his stick as he was going down, but the play drew heavy criticism of the second-year player.
“You don’t see the guy coming and you get clipped,” Marchand said Tuesday. “For them to judge what knocks you down, they don’t know your balance or whatnot on the play. They’re sitting at home watching on TV. I don’t really care what they say. They have no impact on my game, my life. They mean nothing.”
Marchand explained the play, which led the to Caps tying the game in the second period.
“I just got caught off guard, and I wasn’t really ready,” he said of why he stayed down. “I got hit in the mouth, and by the time I got up and I was getting back, they scored.”
The lesson may have been learned on Marchand’s part. Though there’s been inconsistency on the referees’ end when players have remained down during the series, Marchand says everyone needs to be prepared to finish the play if at all possible.
“In a situation like that, blowing down a play can result in a team scoring or not scoring,” he said. “At this point in the playoffs, the refs seem to let a lot go. The further you go, they let more and more go. You have to realize that and jet try to continue with the play.”
Marchand expressed no frustration with the fact that he didn’t get a whistle before Chimera scored. Though the Capitals got whistles earlier in the series when their players went down, the Bruins had seen enough proof — such as Zdeno Chara staying down late in the first period of Game 5 — that team’s can’t bank on those calls.
“There are different refs every night, depending on the game,” Marchand said. “You can’t really blame the inconsistency on the refs. They’re all different. Maybe if you had the same one every night, but that’s not the case. We just have to try to find out how the refs are calling it and play within the rules.”
In Wednesday night’s Game 7, it goes without saying that there will be little-to-no margin for error. If a guy stays down on the ice, not only may he cost his team a goal, but the chances may be slimmer that he even gets a call. If the two defensive-minded teams are playing as tight and carefully as they’d like, the refs may be less inclined to influence the game with penalties.
“You see it every year,” Marchand said. “Last year against Tampa, I don’t think there was one penalty all game. You never really know how it’s going to get called. There could be a bunch and there could be none. We just have to play between the whistles hard and leave your best effort on the ice.”
|Claude Julien can’t stress enough that Patrice Bergeron will play in Game 7||04.24.12 at 1:04 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — After Patrice Bergeron missed the Bruins’ practice at Ristuccia Arena, B’s coach Claude Julien was adamant that the banged-up center will be in the lineup in Wednesday’s Game 7 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals against the Capitals.
“None at all,” Julien said when asked if there was any doubt that Bergeron would play.
Added Julien: “He’s playing next game. ‘¦ I don’t know how much clearer I can get. He’s in.”
Bergeron suffered an injury in the third period of Saturday’s Game 5 loss. He played in Game 6, but was unable to take faceoffs, as the only draw he took came late in the third period.
|Patrice Bergeron absent from Bruins practice||04.24.12 at 11:47 am ET|
WILMINGTON — The Bruins took the ice at Ristuccia Arena Tuesday for what may be their last practice of the season. All players were present with the exception 0f Patrice Bergeron and Adam McQuaid, the latter of whom remains out after not practicing yet this postseason. The B’s will host the Capitals in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals on Wednesday night.
With Bergeron not on the ice, Jordan Caron wore a gold sweater and skated on the second line. Joe Corvo (lower-body) skated after missing Sunday’s Game 6, but didn’t appear to be among the Bruins’ top six defensemen in practice. The lines were as follows:
Greg Zanon – Mike Mottau
(Andrew Bodnarchuk – Joe Corvo)
|Patrice Bergeron named finalist for Selke Trophy||04.23.12 at 11:36 am ET|
Will this be the year for Patrice Bergeron?
The Bruins center was named one of the three finalists for this year’s Frank J. Selke Trophy Monday, awarded annually to the forward “who best excels in the defensive aspects of the game.” The other finalists are three-time winner Pavel Datsyuk and St. Louis’ David Backes.
During the regular season, Bergeron led the NHL in plus/minus (plus-36) and was second in faceoff percentage (59.3). He has never won the Selke in his career.
Only three players have won the award over the last six seasons: Rod Brind’Amour twice, Datsyuk in three straight seasons and Ryan Kesler last season.
Though the fraternity of Selke winners such a small and exclusive club, it seemed throughout the 2011 postseason and this regular season that Bergeron would finally begin to get the national recognition that has somehow eluded the quiet center throughout his career.
Bergeron matches up against the other teams’ top lines, so for him to post a plus-36 (and have linemate Tyler Seguin, an extremely gifted scorer whose defensive game is nothing to write home about, finish with a plus-34) is nothing short of outstanding.
Many writers from different markets seemed to jump on the Bergeron-for-Selke, trying to correct what has been somewhat of an injustice for the Bruins’ top forward. Bergeron finished the regular season with 64 points, which was second to Tyler Seguin.
|Healthy or not, here comes Patrice Bergeron||04.22.12 at 7:54 pm ET|
WASHINGTON — Patrice Bergeron wasn’t 100 percent healthy on Sunday, and it was (we’ll go without the “painfully” pun) obvious.
The best faceoff man in the league during the regular season was unable to take draws on Sunday, and in his place, Rich Peverley handled faceoffs and most of the day at center while Bergeron played wing.
Bergeron was hurt in the third period of Game 5 on Saturday, as he left the game after three third-period shifts. The Bruins didn’t say what his injury was, and Bergeron didn’t prepare as if it would keep him out.
“Ah, no,” Bergeron said when asked whether he doubted he would be able to play on Sunday.
Added Bergeron: “I [knew] was playing yesterday.”
Though Bergeron was banged up and took two offensive zone penalties, he still came through with a big game for the B’s. He assisted on Peverley’s first-period goal and nearly ended the game in overtime before Tyler Seguin got the chance. Just 2:16 into overtime — 1:01 before Seguin’s goal — Bergeron redirected a shot that beat Braden Holtby but hit the crossbar.
Perhaps the defining moment of Bergeron’s game, though, came late in regulation. The Bruins iced the puck with 1:02 left in a 3-3 game. The faceoff was coming in the Bruins’ zone, and a Capitals goal — they had scored earlier in the period off a faceoff win — would have likely ended the series.
To Bergeron’s left? Brad Marchand. To his right? Brian Rolston. No Peverley, no other center out there to take the draw. Rather than trusting the most important faceoff of the season to a winger, Bergeron broke protocol and took the draw. He won.
“Well, I kind of had to right?” Bergeron said when asked if he made the call to take the faceoff. “It was on that side and Pevs was not on the ice.
Finally, he took credit.
“Yeah, I made the call,” he said.
Bergeron will have two days to rest up and get healthy for Game 7 Wednesday at the Garden.