|Wish granted: Bruins to play Canadiens in first round||04.09.11 at 9:53 pm ET|
The Bruins’ push for the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference may have been fun while it lasted, but it is over. The Flyers took care of business in a 6-4 win over the Islanders Saturday night, meaning they will have the second seed in the East after spending the last eight games in free-fall (2-4-2). The Bruins, winners of the Northeast Division, will be the No. 3 seed regardless of the outcome of Sunday’s regular-season finale against the Devils.
The B’s will face the No. 6 seed, which was secured by the Canadiens Saturday night via a 4-1 win over the Maple Leafs. It will be the third first-round meeting between the two teams in the last four years. The Canadiens defeated the Bruins in seven games in 2008, while the B’s swept the Habs in 2009. The Canadiens also eliminated the B’s in the first round in both 2002 and 2004.
This season, the Bruins have gone 2-3-1 against the Canadiens. In the most recent meeting between the two teams this season, the B’s beat the Habs, 7-0, behind a shutout from Tim Thomas. Canadiens goaltender Carey Price has allowed 13 goals over his last two starts at TD Garden.
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|Zdeno Chara, Mark Recchi to take Staycation as Tuukka Rask gets start vs. Devils||04.09.11 at 5:15 pm ET|
And then there were zero.
On Friday, the Bruins had three players who had played in each of the team’s games on the season: Zdeno Chara, Mark Recchi and Dennis Seidenberg. Claude Julien elected to give Seidenberg a day of rest on Saturday, and following the team’s 3-1 win over the Senators, announced that he’ll do the same for the other two.
|Tim Thomas on breaking ‘hero’ Dominik Hasek’s record: ‘That number is a team number’||04.09.11 at 5:04 pm ET|
Tim Thomas finally admitted after Saturday’s game that he had been thinking about the numbers, but with numbers like his, how could you blame him? Making his final start of the season Saturday, Thomas stopped 31 of 32 shots faced en route to breaking Dominik Hasek‘s single-season record for save percentage.
“To be completely honest, I had a hard time getting it off my mind over the past week or so,” Thomas said after the game. “Actually, I mentally prepared myself yesterday not to think about that and to play [so much], that I think I’m still in that mode a little bit. It hasn’t affected me. It hasn’t set in yet.”
It’s been a career year for the 36-year-old netminder, and to cap the regular season by surpassing Hasek’s mark from 1998-99 Vezina-winning campaign is only fitting. The two reckless goaltenders play similar styles, and Thomas remembers being inspired by Hasek.
Back when Hasek was racking up his .9366 mark, the best since the stat began being recorded in 1982-83, Thomas was spending his time both in Hamilton (AHL) and Finland. It was only a few years prior that the Michigan native was playing college hockey at Vermont.
“I certainly watched him when I was in college and was trying to pick things up off of him,” he said. “I didn’t try to emulate my style after him. I still have my own style. But I didn’t see some of the things that he does that I thought I could apply to my game and probably over the years it became part of my game too.
“I’ll be honest, Dominik Hasek was a hero of mine back when I was in college. A guy who played unconventional and had a ton of success. And even at college age I was already labeled as somebody with my style that I couldn’t do it at the next level. And so he was an inspiration. Actually, still seeing him, knowing that he’s playing, he won the Czech League, not this year, but the season before… I’m still impressed with what he’s been able to accomplish.”
Thomas knows his statistics like the back of his hand. He knows where he stands (upon being showed his .938155715074544 mark as a joke following the game, he responded by saying, “that’s what it went up to? Okay, because was it .9376 before. Yeah, well that’s great. That’s awesome.”) but he doesn’t feel he stands alone. He gave credit to his teammates, and more notably, captain Zdeno Chara.
“That number is a testament to the team in front of me and the way that they battled for me all year long, defensemen and forwards,” Thomas said. “It also reflects probably one of the best, if not the best defenseman in our world out there in front of me that I think should be getting a little bit more Norris talk than at least I’ve heard. Maybe he is, I don’t know. I don’t hear that much. He’s been stellar for us all year playing against the top players on every team, night in and night our and just doing a great job. So that number is the team number.”
|Bruins beat Senators, Tim Thomas breaks save percentage record||04.09.11 at 3:37 pm ET|
The Bruins held fan appreciation day at the Garden Saturday and made sure they delivered a win to the home crowd, beating the Senators, 3-1.
Claude Julien said following the game that Tuukka Rask would play in the regular-season finale Sunday, meaning Tim Thomas has set the NHL record for save percentage in a single season. By finishing the game with a .9381 mark, he surpassed Dominik Hasek’s .9366 save percentage in 1998-99. The stat first began being recorded in the 1982-83 season.
Marlborough native Bobby Butler scored the Senators’ only goal, beating Thomas at 18:27 of the first period.
With the win Saturday, the B’s are still alive to potentially take the second seed in the Eastern Conference, though they will need a combination of one or two points Sunday vs. the Devils and for the Penguins and Flyers to lose their final games in regulation or in overtime/shootout fashion.
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE BRUINS
– Thomas’ performance this season has been nothing short of magnificent, so it’s fitting that he be remembered for it in the record books. It was just months ago that Tuukka Rask was the obvious choice to begin the season as the B’s starter. Ever since Thomas was given the second start of the season in Prague, he’s taken the opportunity and run to what should be his second Vezina Trophy.
– Paille once again submitted a strong case to be in the lineup next week. His tally on Saturday was his fourth goal in the last eight games. Considering he had just two goals on the season prior to that stretch, it’s a good sign.
– Shawn Thornton can hold his head high knowing he produced an even 20-point season offensively for the Bruins. His apple on Paille’s goal gave him 10 on the season to match his total of goals. This season has now produced career-highs in goals, assists and points. Thornton had never scored more than six goals in a season, though he did have nine helpers a year ago.
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE BRUINS
– While everyone was glad to see Horton score his 26th goal of the season, there was reason for concern when he left the ice following his second-period fight with Zack Smith. He would end up returning to the ice, but the last thing the Bruins would want would be for the hot-scoring Horton (six goals over his last nine games) to go down with an injury before the playoffs.
– While Paille may have cemented his suspected playing status for the beginning of the playoffs, Tyler Seguin did not do anything to help his case. The rookie was placed in the lineup Saturday in place of Patrice Bergeron, but the game provided more cases of the 19-year-old shying away from contact. Seguin was a minus-1 on the day.
|Nathan Horton gives Bruins lead in second||04.09.11 at 2:44 pm ET|
Nathan Horton was the center of attention in the second period, scoring the go-ahead power play goal to give the B’s their 2-1 lead and leaving the ice after an entertaining bout.
Five seconds into a high-sticking double-minor on Ryan Shannon, Horton scored his 26th of the season when he backhanded one past Curtis McElhinney off a rebound from a Zdeno Chara blast from the point. After a solid fight with Zack Smith at 9:24, Horton left the ice and headed down the tunnel. He would end up returning to the ice with over five minutes remaining, so it seems the Bruins can breathe a sigh of relief.
In regards to the record watch, Tim Thomas stopped nineshots. His save percentage is now at .9377. Dominik Hasek’s record is .9366.
|Bruins, Senators tied after one||04.09.11 at 1:49 pm ET|
After Wednesday night’s game, should it be any surprise that the Bruins’ energy line is responsible for the B’s thus far? At any rate, it’s 1-1 after a period.
Gregory Campell hit Daniel Paille in front of the net, with Paille putting in his sixth goal of the season at 12:53. The tally was Paille’s fourth in his last eight games. Shawn Thornton picked up his 10th assist of the season on the play, bringing his career-high point total to 20.
Tim Thomas, who figures to be making his last start of the regular season, has stopped all nine of the 10 shots he has faced. UNH product Bobby Butler dented Thomas’ shot at a record with his 10th goal of the season late in the period. Thomas entered the game with a .938 save percentage, just .001 better better than Dominik Hasek‘s .937 mark in 1998-99 for the best since they began recording the stat in 1982-83.
|Bruins need at least three points to catch Flyers/Penguins||04.08.11 at 10:23 pm ET|
Thomas Vanek scored 1:16 into overtime to give the Sabres a 4-3 victory over the Flyers Friday. The Bruins probably wish he did it about 1:17 earlier.
With the Flyers picking up one point in the game, they improved to 104 on the season after 81 games. With one game remaining, they control their destiny as far as the No. 2 seed goes, though only a tie-breaker separates the Penguins (shootout win Friday, 104 total points) from snagging the Atlantic Division . A Flyers’ win over the Islanders Saturday means the second seed is all theirs. A loss or a tie, and the Bruins could still be in the picture. This, of course, is assuming the B’s can take care of business against the Senators.
With one game remaining for the Flyers and two left for the Bruins it all comes down to this: If the Bruins can finish the season with as many or more points than the Flyers and Penguins, they’ll be in via the tie-breaker (regulation and overtime wins). To spell it out even more, here are the scenarios:
FLYERS GET NO. 2 SEED IF:
– Flyers beat Islanders Saturday.
– Flyers lose in overtime/shootout Saturday AND Bruins lose or both remaining games.
– Flyers lose in overtime/shootout Saturday AND Bruins win one game and lose the other in overtime/shootout in the other.
PENGUINS GET NO. 2 SEED IF:
– Islanders beat Flyers in regulation or shootout/overtime Saturday AND Penguins beat Thrashers Sunday.
– Islanders beat Flyers in regulation Saturday AND Thrashers beat Penguins in overtime/shootout AND Bruins win one game and lose the other in overtime/shootout.
– Islanders beat Flyers in regulation Saturday AND Thrashers beat Penguins in overtime/shootout AND Bruins don’t win both both remaining games.
BRUINS GET NO. 2 SEED IF:
– Islanders beat Flyers in regulation or overtime Saturday AND Penguins lose in regulation or overtime AND Bruins beat Senators Saturday and Devils Sunday.
– Islanders beat Flyers in regulation Saturday AND Penguins lose in regulation AND Bruins win one game and lose the other in overtime/shootout.
Montreal and Buffalo each have 94 points through 81 games. Since Montreal has 40 regulation and overtime wins (ROW) to Buffalo’s 37, the Habs currently hold the sixth seed while the Sabres are in seventh.