|Tough act to follow: Bruins eliminated in first round by Capitals||04.25.12 at 10:24 pm ET|
The Bruins’ season ended in disappointing fashion Wednesday night, as they fell to the Capitals, 2-1, in overtime to decide Game 7 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals.
The loss marks the first time in four years that the B’s have failed to make it out of the first round.
The series was the closest in the history of the NHL, as no other series have had each game decided by one goal. Joel Ward‘s overtime goal made the difference in the game and the series, as Washington outscored the B’s, 16-15, in the series. Four of the seven games in the series were decided in overtime.
The Capitals got on the board in the first period when a Milan Lucic turnover led to a John Carlson wrist shot that Matt Hendricks redirected in. The goal ended Tim Thomas‘ Game 7 shutout streak at 139:03, as he had blanked both the Lightning and the Canucks in Game 7s last postseason.
Tim Thomas stopped 24 of the 25 shots he saw in regulation, while Braden Holtby made 30 saves on 31 Boston shots prior to overtime.
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE BRUINS
– Jason Chimera, who has been a villain around these parts since his hit on Adam McQuaid late in the season, chose a pretty bad time to put the Bruins on the power play. The Capitals forward took Boychuk down when the two were chasing a puck in the Bruins’ zone, resulting in a holding call. The Bruins wouldn’t be able to take advantage.
Boston also had a perfect opportunity to take the lead in the third period when Roman Hamrlik went off for holding the stick at 1:18. Unfortunately for the B’s, the power play of Games 1-4 showed up and the Bruins weren’t able to muster any production. The Bruins finished the first round 2-for-23 on the man advantage.
– In games as close as the ones this series had, playing mistake-free hockey is key, and that means limiting turnovers. Unfortunately for the Bruins, they were rather prone to them, and the Capitals got their first-period goal after Lucic overstated a puck along the half wall in the Bruins zone. The Capitals gained possession, and Carlson fired a wrist shot on net that Hendricks redirected past Thomas. In the second period, Boychuk and Andrew Ference had turnovers in their own zone on convective shifts.
– The first period was Braden Holtby’s series in a nutshell. The B’s outshot the Capitals, 11-5, but only a Rich Peverley bid late in the period challenged the rookie goaltender. The Capitals successfully play their 1-4 neutral zone trap to made it tough for the B’s to get good rushes, and when they broke into the zone their shots were often from outside the perimeter. Holtby continued to give up big rebounds, but the Bruins had trouble capitalizing on them. For example, Benoit Pouliot ant a puck to Brian Rolston in front after a first-period blast from Zdeno Chara yielded a big rebound, but Rolston couldn’t get to it.
– The playoffs aren’t a time for one to lose their cool, and that nearly happened with the one of the last players from whom you’d expect to see foul play. Rich Peverley was sandwiched between Holtby and Carlson in front of the net late in the second period. Holtby shoved Peverley to the ice, and when the B’s forward got up he started to slash Holtby up high. He held up before skating away, but he could have put the Bruins in a real tight spot entering the third period had he followed through.
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE BRUINS
– Seguin generally avoids contact at all costs, but he really played a grown-up shift when it was most needed. Seguin had to lunge at multiple bodies and take contact in order to put that puck in, and he did so instinctively. The Bruins need Seguin to continue to roll up his sleeves like that.
– The Bruins did an admirable job of killing off a third-period Patrice Bergeron penalty with nine minutes remaining. The Capitals were applying pressure heavily, and the odds were further stacked against the B’s when Dennis Seidenberg broke his stick. The B’s still managed, as Thomas juggled a save on Ovechkin and lost the puck behind the net before eventually covering to get a whistle.
|Bruins-Capitals Game 7 Live Blog: Jordan Caron in, Shawn Thornton out||04.25.12 at 7:26 pm ET|
|Will Bruins go with Jordan Caron or Shawn Thornton in Game 7?||04.25.12 at 1:28 pm ET|
Shawn Thornton or Jordan Caron?
That’s the question that Bruins coach Claude Julien faces going into the most important game of the season. Caron played in his first career postseason game Sunday when Julien called his number for Game 6.
“I was waiting for that for a little while, so I was pretty happy when Claude told me I was going to play,” Caron said. “It went well, so I was pretty happy with it.”
Julien had been saying throughout the series that he was keeping Caron in mind when it came to Boston’s lineup. When Patrice Bergeron had to leave Game 5 but was healthy enough to go in Game 6, the B’s went with Caron, presumably because he could play on the second line if anything were to happen to the Selke finalist.
On Wednesday, Bergeron was on the ice for morning skate but did not take faceoffs. That means that he’s still banged up a little bit, something that could have been assumed when No. 37 wasn’t on the ice in Tuesday’s practice.
Julien has confirmed multiple times that Bergeron will be in the lineup in Game 7, but if his status is still even the least bit shaky, the team could elect to keep Caron in and Thornton out. Another option is to play Thornton anyway, and if anything happens to Bergeron the team could explore putting Brian Rolston on right wing of the line with Rich Peverley at center.
With Caron unsure of his status, he’s had to do something he’s done a lot of over the last two seasons: prepare as though he’s playing and hope for the best.
“I think a lot of it is mentally. You just need to prepare,” he said. “You don’t know if you’re playing or not, so I think you’ve just got to be ready to jump in and do your job.”
Said Julien: “We talked to him before the series started, because I thought if anything, he was a real good player for us in that last stretch of the regular season. It was tough to take him out [before the playoffs] but we went with some experienced guys, first and foremost. The one thing that we said to him ‘ we said you’ve got to stay ready because there’s going to come a point where we’re going to need you and obviously we did last game.”
|Quick notes from morning skate: No faceoffs for Patrice Bergeron||04.25.12 at 12:15 pm ET|
The Bruins held what may have been their last morning skate of the season Wednesday, and everyone (except the injured Adam McQuaid) was present for it.
Patrice Bergeron skated Wednesday after taking Tuesday off, but he was a notable nonparticipant during faceoff drills. That means you can expect Rich Peverley to handle those duties again after doing so in Game 6.
With Bergeron skating on the second line, Jordan Caron took turns skating with the Merlot Line. It’s unknown whether Caron or Shawn Thornton will be the healthy scratch in Game 7 Wednesday night against the Capitals.
After the skate, Julien reiterated for a third time that Bergeron is in the lineup. In fact, he opened his press conference by asking, “Anybody want to know if Bergeron’s playing?”
For the Capitals, it appears Jeff Schultz will indeed go back into the lineup in place of John Erskine.
Here are the Bruins’ lines:
Greg Zanon ‘ Mike Mottau
|Bruins-Capitals Game 7 preview: Seven stats, players to watch and keys to victory||04.25.12 at 12:08 am ET|
It’s all about seven as the Bruins host the Capitals in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals. Here’s everything you need to know and more, with seven the central theme.
‘¢ According to some impressive research done by Brian McNally of the Washington Examiner, Jay Beagle has an incredible 61.6 success rate in the faceoff circle (53-for-86). Even more impressive is that he’s won 13-of-21 faceoffs against Patrice Bergeron, who led the league in faceoff wins during the regular season.
‘¢ Tim Thomas‘ 14 goals allowed through the first six games of the series equals the total he allowed in the first six games of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals last season against the Canadiens. He faced only 12 more shots against the Habs through six than he has entering Wednesday’s Game 7.
‘¢ Alexander Ovechkin has two goals and two assists for four points and a minus-1 rating in four career Game 7s. He and the Capitals have gone 1-3 in those games.
This series, Ovechkin is tied with Rich Peverley with five points.
‘¢ Brad Marchand and Milan Lucic each have four career points in Game 7s to lead the Bruins. Lucic has three goals and an assist in six Game 7s while Marchand had two goals and two assists in three Game 7s last postseason.
‘¢ This series is the only one in NHL history to have the first six games decided by one goal. Both teams have scored 14 goals apiece with no empty-netters.
‘¢ Dennis Seidenberg has played in four Game 7s and won them all. He has four assists and plus-4 rating in those games, and has never had a negative rating in a Game 7.
‘¢ The Bruins have scored on the power play in just one of their six Game 7s since 2008. That game was Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Flyers, a contest in which they scored two on the man advantage. Since 2008, the B’s are 2-for-13 on the power play in Game 7s.
|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.”