|Milan Lucic and the postseason expectations of a 30-goal scorer||04.19.11 at 6:17 pm ET|
LAKE PLACID, N.Y. — The playoffs are a time when the top talent can take over a series. Teams know which guys to account for, and the big-time goal-scorers are at or near the top of the list of guys who can change a series.
When Milan Lucic scored 30 goals in the regular season, perhaps he entered that class of players expected to do big things in the postseason. Given that he also had nine points in each of the last two postseasons, Lucic also had high expectations for himself as the Eastern Conference quarterfinals began.
So far, Lucic is the only member of the Bruins’ top line without a goal in the playoffs, as David Krejci and Nathan Horton scored the B’s first two goals in Monday’s 4-2 victory in Game 3 at the Bell Centre.
Once a player reaches the 30-goal mark in the regular mark, does he suddenly feel a responsibility to be a reliable producer? Lucic said that everyone puts pressure on themselves come the postseason, but admitted Tuesday that this time around he does expect more of himself.
“For myself, I think the first two games, I put almost too much pressure on myself to go out there and score,” Lucic said Tuesday at Whiteface Lake Placid Olympic Center. “For myself, my game, if I just simplify it and just go out there and play and just focus on just straight lines and getting pucks in deep, everything tends to take care of itself.”
Lucic was a minus-1 in each of the series’ first two games. Things seemed to be getting worse Monday when he stole the puck from P.K. Subban in the neutral zone, but got barely anything on his shot on the breakaway that ensued. The Habs brought it down the ice after the play and got on the board thanks to Andrei Kostitsyn maneuvering around Zdeno Chara and beating Tim Thomas. Instead of potentially being 4-0, it was 3-1 and the crowd made its presence felt once again. Lucic’s play improved over the rest of the game, though, and given the way things seem to be trending with his linemates, coach Claude Julien hopes Lucic will begin seeing some statistical output.
“He was better last night. If his linemates are starting to roll, usually he follows up or vice versa,” Julien said. “When those guys start playing, usually the other guys catch up to them. I’m expecting him to get even better, and we’re going to need him to be better if he expect to win this series.”
|Nathan Horton learning to channel excitement as he becomes more comfortable in playoffs||04.19.11 at 5:40 pm ET|
LAKE PLACID, N.Y. — When Nathan Horton said he was excited for the playoffs, there were a couple of reasons to believe him. First of all, he’s Nathan Horton, so he’s excited about everything. Second of all, after playing six seasons in Florida, he had been chomping at the bit to get his first taste of postseason action.
So far, the excitement has been on display, but it hasn’t always been in the prettiest ways. Horton seemed to be going a million miles an hour in Game 2, playing a reckless style and only showing up on the stat sheet for a second-period roughing penalty.
Monday night, Horton saw his efforts pay off. On a heads-up play, he found Carey Price out of position after a Zdeno Chara shot missed the net and banked the puck off the back of the Montreal goaltender for his first career playoff goal. It was the second of the Bruins’ four goals in a 4-2 victory that brought them within a game of tying the series.
“It was nice. It’s always nice to contribute and help my team, but getting the win, that’s what feels good,” Horton said. “It’s nice to get back on the board in the win category.”
While it is rewarding for Horton to see that there is a payoff for his efforts (he also tied for the team lead with three shots of goal Monday — a low number for a team-high, but a team-high nonetheless), he understands that he may have been going a bit too hard at previous points in the series. Horton snapped his stick out of anger after a play in Game 2 and was later demoted to the third line for the third period. It was unclear whether his recklessness was the reason Claude Julien swapped him out for Rich Peverley, but he explained the play Tuesday at the Whiteface Lake Placid Olympic Center.
“It really wasn’t [frustration getting to me],” Horton said. “It probably looked like that, but my stick was broken on the play and I was in the corner digging for it. I was just upset because my stick was broken and I could have gotten the puck.”
While Horton doesn’t think he was getting too angry, he can recognize that he’s better when he can relax.
“I think you do want to finish your hits and you want to play hard, but there’s also a thing that you’ve got to take time and relax and play your game,” he said. “That’s a big thing.”
Just as unsurprising as Horton’s excitement is the review his small playoff sample has gotten from his linemate in Milan Lucic. The 22-year-old Lucic has long been a fan of Horton’s game, and he likes what he’s seen so far vs. the Habs. He also believes it’s going to get better.
“I think his game has gotten better as the series has gone on. I told him before, ‘You’ve just got to go in and enjoy it. It’s that time of year where you need to go out there and enjoy the experience,'” Lucic said. “It’s a first-time experience for him, so I think it’s a bit of a weight off his shoulders, being able to get his first playoff goal. I felt like we were able to play our game more last game, and we want to do whatever we can to be better going into Game 4.”
Through three playoff games, Horton has averaged 16:56 of playing time. He has a minus-2 rating and one point, which came in the form of Monday’s goal.
|Andrew Ference was cautious in dropping the gloves with Benoit Pouliot||04.19.11 at 4:34 pm ET|
Sporting stitches on his right cheek on Tuesday, Ference recalled the series of events, noting he was extra careful to avoid negating his team’s forthcoming power play.
“I waited for him to drop the gloves and throw a punch before I did anything,” Ference said. “I didn’t want to take an extra penalty. From what I saw, it looked like a really dangerous hit. A hit like that, especially on your partner or something like that, you want to at least have some answer for it. I didn’t want to drop the gloves without being 100 percent that he was going to as well, so you have to be aware of that in the playoffs for sure.”
Listening to Montreal sports radio this morning, it’s safe to say some of the fans dislike Pouliout just as much as Jack Edwards, as callers hoped the team would scratch the former fourth overall pick in Thursday’s Game 4.
The Pouliot hit on Boychuk, followed by the fight with Ference, is first up on this Edwards mega-mix put together by Yahoo! Sports hockey blogger Greg Wyshynski.
|Claude Julien not a believer in momentum||04.19.11 at 3:55 pm ET|
LAKE PLACID, N.Y. — If you think that momentum can change a series, there is at least one thing that you and Claude Julien do not have in common.
Speaking Tuesday at Whiteface Lake Placid Olympic Center, the Bruins coach said he wasn’t concerned about the Habs grabbing momentum in the first two games at TD Garden more than he was about getting the team’s first win of the postseason. The victory finally came Monday in 4-2 fashion.
“The thing is, we felt that we needed to win yesterday,” Julien said. “We never talked about them having momentum, we just needed to play better. That’s the way I see it as well. Everybody might see it differently. I’m not a big guy about momentum more than it’s game per game. You’ve got to come back next game and realize that you’re still down 2-1 in the series. You have to be ready, because they will.”
The Bruins will return to the Bell Centre Thursday for Game 4.
|Claude Julien sees Scott Gomez/Chris Kelly play as being similar to Zdeno Chara/Max Pacioretty incident||04.19.11 at 3:44 pm ET|
LAKE PLACID, N.Y. — In the first period of Monday night’s 4-2 win over the Canadiens at the Bell Centre, Rich Peverley missed with a shot on a 3-on-1 opportunity. While Peverley wasn’t able to hit the net, his linemate in Chris Kelly was thanks to a shove from Scott Gomez that sent him into Carey Price‘s goal.
Gomez was given a minor for interference on the play, and while it may have looked worse than it was, Claude Julien had an interesting comparison in addressing the perception of it.
“Well, he got a penalty for interference. I would say, to be honest with you, it’s a little bit of the Zdeno Chara hit on [Max] Pacioretty,” Julien said. “It’s a hit that turned out badly. I think in Kelly’s case, it was interference [on Gomez], but I don’t think he meant to push him in the net or [have him] go head-first into the post.”
Chara was tossed from the March 8 meeting between the Bruins and Habs when he hit Pacioretty into a stanchion. There was no punishment from the league, and Chara stressed that it was not his intention to hurt the Habs forward on what ended up being an interference call. Asked whether the Gomez play should warrant a second look from the league, Julien took the same stance Chara did last month.
“You’ve got to understand that there are parts of the game that the result of what happens is not necessarily the intention. Was it a penalty? Absolutely, but I don’t think there was any intent to injure there,” Julien said. “Thankfully, our player came out of it OK. It’s not something you like to see, and thank God he had a visor which certainly helped take the blow away a title bit. Still, it was a very dangerous play.”
|Bruins set up shop in Lake Placid||04.19.11 at 3:19 pm ET|
LAKE PLACID, N.Y. — Welcome to the site of the 1980 Olympics, as the Bruins will spend Tuesday and Wednesday in Lake Placid before returning to Montreal for Game 4 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals. The regulars did not skate Tuesday, though there was some media availability for the players while the scratches took the ice. Here are a couple of poorly taken pictures of the Whiteface Lake Placid Olympic Center, where the B’s will practice.
|Zdeno Chara: ‘I felt much better today’||04.19.11 at 1:17 am ET|
MONTREAL — Bruins captain Zdeno Chara made his return to the lineup Monday night, playing a team-high 26:20 in Boston’s 4-2 win in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals. The defenseman had missed Saturday’s Game 2 due to an illness that had hospitalized him Friday night.
Chara, who said he knew he Monday morning that he would “most likely” play in Game 3, was crossed up with Andrew Ference for a too-many-men penalty 1:08 into the game and was beating by Andrei Kostitsyn for the Habs’ first goal, though he picked up an assist on Nathan Horton’s first-period goal and posted an even rating on the night. The 6-foot-9 defenseman said he “felt pretty good,” but that the team’s performance and getting their first win of the series (Montreal leads, 2-1) was his biggest concern.
“We knew the importance of this game, and we approach it that way,” Chara said. “I was just happy with the result tonight, and we’ve got to get ready for the next one.”
Claude Julien said following the win that the team made the decision to play him following the warmup. Chara had attempted to play Saturday, but was scratched due to his illness.
“Obviously, I wasn’t feeling well,” Chara, who would not elaborate on what plagued him, said. “I tried to play [Saturday], and we decided not to. Obviously I had another 24 hours to recover, and all day today. I felt much better today.
“I wanted to play in the game before that, but obviously I knew it wouldn’t be a smart decision for the team, so I was really anxious to be in the lineup tonight.”
After holding off a surge by the Canadiens in the third period (the Habs held a 16-5 shots on goal advantage in the final 20 minutes), the Bruins will travel to Lake Placid for two days of practice. They will attempt to tie the series Thursday back at the Bell Centre.
“It’s only one win,” Chara said. “The next game is going to be an even bigger game.”
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