|With playoff layoff, Bruins making the most of their time||05.12.11 at 2:06 pm ET|
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.”
|Nathan Horton ready to face old ‘rivals’ with stakes raised||05.10.11 at 8:40 pm ET|
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.
|Fun while it lasted: Chris Kelly’s caged days are over||05.10.11 at 3:51 pm ET|
Bruins center Chris Kelly couldn’t wait to get rid of his full cage, and he finally did just that on Tuesday.
Kelly, who had to wear the cage after hitting his face on the post in Game 3 of the quarterfinals vs. the Canadiens, was asked time and time again whether he feared losing the cage given the success it seemingly brought him. Kelly had just six points in his first 27 games with the Bruins, but since donning the cage in Game 4 of the quarterfinals, he has had six points in eight games. Now ready to take Patrice Bergeron‘s spot on the second line until the concussed center returns, Kelly will wear an extended visor, which he said “feels a lot better.”
Kelly said that as much as he grew tired of the cage’s popularity, he did not bury or burn it, but he is officially done with it.
“I didn’t bury it. I don’t know what they did with it,” he said with a relieved grin. “Obviously you guys love it, rightfully so, but it was time to move forward, and this was a great alternative.”
|Patrice Bergeron at the Garden, Claude Julien says concussed center is ‘doing better’||05.10.11 at 1:44 pm ET|
Bruins center Patrice Bergeron was at TD Garden Tuesday, and while he did not practice with his teammates, his mere presence is something the team is taking as a positive sign for the concussed the25-year-old.
“He’s doing better,” coach Claude Julien said. “He’s here and he’s doing better, so again, he’s dealing with the concussion symptoms and everything else, the protocol of it. He’s here today because he’s feeling better. I think we’re getting some positive feedback from him.”
Bergeron suffered a mild concussion in the third period of the Bruins’ 5-1 win in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference semifinals over the Flyers. He leads the B’s with 12 points this postseason and is expected to miss the beginning of the conference finals vs. the Lightning.
|Fun with 1-3-1: How the Lightning beat teams in the neutral zone||05.09.11 at 3:56 pm ET|
WILMINGTON ‘ It’s spoken about as though it’s legend: the vaunted Tampa Bay 1-3- 1. It’s the key to Guy Boucher‘s success, and the reason why the Lightning are in the Eastern Conference finals. It can make opposing teams crumble ‘ just ask the Capitals. It sure is something.
But, um, what is it?
Since it seems it will be a matter of days before the Lightning and Bruins actually meet in the conference finals, there’s plenty of time to explain.
The 1-3-1 is a neutral zone scheme employed by the Lightning, and it seems to be a variation of the popular ‘trap’ system. Teams that play a trap style put one man on the puck, backed by essentially two guys behind him, and two defensemen back. Think of it as a 1-2-2 for the sake of understanding the differences.
In the 1-3-1, there is only one man hanging back, with three guys between the guy playing the puck and the last defenseman. For a fantastically in-depth look at Tampa’s 1-3-1, check out this lesson from the Japer’s Rink blog in DC.
The purpose of the 1-3-1 is to push the play toward the boards. If the first guy can do that, the three skaters in front of the man back (or ‘free safety’ as the blog likens it to), can make it very difficult for the team bringing it through the neutral zone to find seams. If turnovers can be created as a result, suddenly the team bringing the puck through the neutral zone is in big trouble.
‘If you get caught flat-footed I think you are playing into their strength,’ Claude Julien said after Monday’s practice. ‘If you create turnovers you are obviously going to pay for it so those are two of the main things you have to be careful about when they play that system.
‘When I say we saw Montreal sit back, but I think they sit back even more. And they are even deeper so the one thing they do is once they turn that puck over they counter quickly. It’s going to be really important that we minimize those and obviously you have to create some speed through the neutral zone because standing still you’re a dead duck.’
We’ll have more on the 1-3-1 and which Bruin could be instrumental in the 1-3-1.
|Chris Kelly: Patrice Bergeron is ‘irreplaceable’||05.09.11 at 1:03 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — Bruins center Chris Kelly skated in Patrice Bergeron‘s place on the second line Monday at Ristuccia Arena, centering a line with Brad Marchand and Mark Recchi. Kelly, who has seven points since Game 2 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals, hopes to find success on the second line, but recognized after Monday’s practice that he can’t simply replace the concussed Bergeron.
“Everything,” Kelly said when asked what the team will miss with Bergeron out. “Obviously you can’t replace Bergy. He does every little thing that maybe goes unnoticed by a lot of people, but not by us. He does all the big things that [everybody] notices, as well. You can’t replace him. He’s irreplaceable, and hopefully he’s good to go.”
Bergeron is expected to miss the beginning of the team’s upcoming series with the Lightning due to a concussion suffered in the third period of Friday’s Game 4 win over the Flyers. As a result, Kelly will be given an increased role with the assistant captain out, but his biggest hope is that Bergeron can return quickly.
“I would love not to play with them,” Kelly said of his new line. “We’ll see what happens and go forward from there.”
|Chris Kelly moves up as Bruins hold first practice in anticipation of Lightning||05.09.11 at 11:05 am ET|
WILMINGTON — After being the weekend off, the Bruins returned to practice Monday for their first skate in anticipation of their Eastern Conference finals meeting with the Lightning. Given that they’ll be without Patrice Bergeron (concussion), the color-coded lines had a different look at Ristuccia Arena. Chris Kelly is on the second line, while Tyler Seguin is wearing gray to signify the third line. The lines are as follows:
Trent Whitfield, Jamie Arniel and Jordan Caron were donning green jerseys. Adam McQuaid was on the ice, though Steven Kampfer was not. Check back for more following practice.
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