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Brickley on D&C: ‘Believe in your system’ 04.27.10 at 2:17 pm ET
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Andy Brickley, who handles analysis for Bruins games on NESN, appeared on the Dennis & Callahan show Tuesday morning to talk about the B’s first-round playoff victory over the Sabres.

Just as an overview, what did the Bruins learn about themselves in this first-round win? What did we learn about the Bruins?

That you can win without some of your top players if you have a system and you believe in your system and you get great goaltending, and guys step up in crunch time, and I think that’s the greatest lesson that they learned. And they might have learned that down the stretch, when you think about what Boston did over the last 12 games. There were certainly some low points during the regular season — 10-game winless streak, their .500 record at home, especially with such high expectations coming into the year. The whole Pittsburgh-[Matt] Cooke-[Marc] Savard incident, and the lack of response not only in the game when it happened, but then the home game with just the one [Shawn] Thornton fight.

But what they were able to do to come together as a group over the last 12 games, and take a look at the teams that they beat during that stretch — they had the Rangers and the Thrashers, right behind them, one point back, they had to hold their position, they were able to win those games. They beat divisional leaders like Buffalo, like New Jersey, like Washington, all the while without [Dennis] Seidenberg, without [Mark] Stuart, without [Andrew] Ference, no Marc Savard, [Marco] Sturm, [Blake] Wheeler and [Michael] Ryder not scoring goals — how did they win? They had to be getting good coaching, and they had to have a good system and they had to have quality goaltending in order to amass enough points to climb to sixth, and that carried through, I think, through the first round.

Are you encouraged by them winning despite not scoring the first goal very often. Or are you discouraged by them not hitting the ice hard?

Somewhere in between. Going into last night, it had to be one of the keys to the game that they got the lead in game six, at home, took advantage of the crowd. You’re playing with fire obviously if you get behind a team that has Ryan Miller in goal. Buffalo is so aggressive on their forecheck, their defensive pinch, they love playing with the lead. Boston needed to establish themselves in the first period. They had to get the lead, they had to cash in on one or two of their early chances in the hockey game. I think that gave them the best chance, first of all psychologically to feel good about their game, and to know that they didn’t have to come from behind, and there was a little less pressure. And if you watch the game, after they scored that goal on the power-play by [David] Krecji in the first period, it almost looked like they relaxed, because Buffalo was all over them the next three or four shifts, and they had to realize, “Whoa, we’re back in a hockey game here. We’re glad to score first, but we had to get back to our game plan.”

What is the point of the regular season? New Jersey out, Buffalo out, why do they play the 80 games in the regular season?

Well, this is the league. This is a business. It’s all about the money. If you’re ever looking for answers, always follow the money trail. Ideally though, in my opinion, I wouldn’t mind a little contraction in this league, if you really want to talk about dollars and cents. A few less teams a few less games, a few less players, might make for a better product.

Maybe one less round in the playoffs?

I kind of like it. 16 out of 30 teams getting in — I kind of like those numbers. I know there are some owners pushing for more teams to get into the postseason, but I think that would make it more diluted.

What if Washington loses, will Bettman take hostages at that point without [Alex] Ovechkin in the postseason?

Obviously they would love for that to happen, and I would like to see that happen as well. There’s no way I could ever, in any situation I guess, maybe in a very limited field, that I could root for the Montreal Canadiens. But I would like to see Washington move on, I like to see the best players in the game in the playoffs, and they’re having some problems, obviously, with the Canadiens. And anything can happen in a Game 7 — Washington is very nervous right now. They’re in a similar situation to Boston in the sense that they need to get the lead on home ice in Game 7 or they’re in trouble. Both teams are such a contrast in style. Because you had questions about Washington and their goaltending situation. They’ve already played both guys. I couldn’t believe Montreal went to [Carey] Price in this series, because [Jaroslav] Halak is clearly the better goaltender, and they finally realized that, and he is a dangerous guy right now as far as stopping the Caps.

Which would you prefer, the Flyers or the Penguins in the next round, athletically vs. artistically?

Well, I think if they drew the Flyers, obviously they’d get home ice, I don’t know if that’s good or bad for Boston, I think I’d prefer to see them start on the road to be honest with you, despite how great the fans have been. I like going on the road, I like trying to get that split away from the Garden. But Philly, it’s a contrast of styles, the Flyers are more powerful, they’re more physical, I think Boston was the more physical team than Buffalo certainly in the games that they won, so maybe that’s a real interesting matchup. I love the fact that Philly has a huge question in goal, although I thought the Flyers would handle New Jersey because Jersey doesn’t score enough. Jersey did not impress me when I saw them this year, so the Flyers’ win over New Jersey did not surprise me at all. But I would like to see Pittsburgh, just from a personal, selfish standpoint — I like watching great players, [Sidney] Crosby, [Evgeni] Malkin, they’re great down the middle, [Jordan] Staal as your third-line center is impressive, [Sergei] Gonchar’s good at the back end.

Plus, you’d like to play Oakmont in your off days.

Well, I did get a number of texts last night after the 4-2 win from down in Pittsburgh. I’d like to go to Pittsburgh, I’d like to see them, I’d like to see the Bruins knock off the Penguins.

Will the Bruins play up that revenge theme? What about when Savard takes the ice?

An iso-cam on Cooke wouldn’t be a bad thing. No, I think that would be part of the equation, I don’t think it would be a great percentage of what would go on between those two teams, but certainly a little bit of a revenge factor, up that emotional wheel early in the series would not be a bad thing.

Michael Ryder has to be thinking that, regretting not doing anything.

It would be great if he had the opportunity, certainly, but I think they’ve moved beyond that, I think. All that negativity that was well deserved for the Bruins really helped galvanize this team a little bit in those 12 teams we talked about early in the conversation. For Michael Ryder to get an opportunity to do something at the right time, well-placed, and done within the rules enough that you’re not hurting your team in the long run, as far as like I said, that’s not a bad situation to have.

My guess is that Claude Julien will use Savard in a sort of picking-your-spots way. Is there an advantage to that? As an emotional lift?

I think so, and I think that would be the game plan, I think, depending on how many days they have to practice, because at this time of year you don’t practice a whole lot, and when you’re an injured guy, you need practice, and you need to as best you can simulate game situations. So for Savard, he needs to practice at high pace with the potential of body contact. He needs to simulate that in practice. Can you do that in the playoffs? Very difficult to do. And they need to gauge where he is as far as conditioning, timing, his ability to handle the pace of the playoffs and how physical it can be.

All that being said, I like the way you think. I think that’s the way they tried to use Thomas Vanek last night, and I think you really have to concentrate and watch and see how Savard is reacting, how he’s handling it. Is he able to take the body contact, spin off, does he anticipate where the contact is coming from, is he effective in his ability to move the puck and make plays which is his strength. And maybe you ease him into that situation, maybe you start him on the fourth line, maybe you work him in if maybe there’s an offensive-zone faceoff, and I think that’s the way you have to coach Marc Savard, unless he just absolutely wows you in practice, and you say, “This kid’s back.”

I can’t imagine another sport where it would be harder than being a center in hockey, to come back after sitting out for this long.

Yeah, if he wasn’t such a high-end elite player, I would have more concerns about those type of things. But he’s just so gifted, he’s one of those guys that he can miss 9-10 games in a row, come back, and it looks like he hasn’t missed a day as far as his puck-handling skills. That being said, it’s just a different animal in the postseason, the pace of the game, I can’t emphasize it enough, and how physical it can be, obviously limits your time and space and your ability to read the play. But he’s just such an elite player, and a guy that knows exactly what he wants to do before he gets the puck and what his options are, and the subtleties of his game, to change the angle of the pass with the slightest of moves, whether it’s his hands or the position of the puck on the blade of his stick, he’s that good, so my concerns are somewhat lessened because of Marc Savard’s talents.

Did the two giveaways last night, bad ones, that led to Buffalo goals. Does that worry you going forward?

They worried me last night, I’ll tell you that. The Bruins had control of the hockey game, and Dennis Wideman, and I know he’s taken a lot of criticism this year, and it has been warranted, but there are times where I feel like sitting down with people and saying, “Let’s watch an entire game here in the last month of the season where Dennis Wideman does eight real good things to two bad things.” It’s the two bad things that jump off the screen at you, or if you’re at the rink screams “What a mistake,” but the other eight things kind of get glossed over.

That being said, all of a sudden Dennis wants to start passing pucks through people when he doesn’t have to. He has a simple and high-percentage play, but he has so much confidence in his own ability to make those type of plays, but they’re just poor decisions. So that turnover, the Michael Ryder turnover, he was well positioned, down low in his own zone, just mishandled the puck, laid it out front for [Nathan] Gerbe to score. The good news is that those are fixable mistakes.

I was concerned last night because I wanted the series to end, nobody wanted to go back to Buffalo for a Game 7, they had the lead, they were playing the way they should, and to have gift-wrapped, unforced turnovers, those generally kill you. So, yeah, you need your goalie to bail you out on a number of occasions, and [Tuukka] Rask certainly did that. And it’s amazing how good Tuukka Rask is, for such a young goaltender, because he’s unflappable, and he’s that athletic and that good, you can afford, at times, to make mistakes like that.

When you watch regular-season hockey, you see how difficult it is, and then you watch playoff hockey, and it gets ratcheted up a notch. Do hockey players point at baseball players who complain about a stiff neck, and laugh their ass off.

Maybe, after a round of golf late in the day, and you’ve been sitting around at the 19th hole for a while, you might share a chuckle or two about some situations like that. But I think hockey players in general have a high regard for all professional athletes and whatever obstacles they have to fight through, it’s such a different animal, that long season, 162 games, as far as baseball is concerned. But sure, they know — they’re humbled, but they know how difficult it is to play playoff hockey, and the injuries, and the discomfort that you have to play through in order to be successful. And despite that, that respect that they have to their fellow athletes, they know what it takes to play hockey, and they know what they have to deal with. And  it’s what you signed up for, and you agreed to it, and it’s what you want to do, and you wouldn’t trade it for anything.

But how many hockey players did you know, when you played, that complained and scratched out because of a stiff neck?

That would be zero.

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Brickley on D&C: Cooke will be dealt with 03.18.10 at 3:07 pm ET
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When Penguins forward Matt Cooke hit Marc Savard on March 7, he took Boston’s top playmaker out for the remainder of the 2009-10 season. But there was no response to Cooke from the B’s players on the ice.

NESN Bruins analyst Andy Brickley said he thinks the Penguins won’t be so lucky tonight.

“I’m around this team all the time, they have good conviction, they do stand up for one another, and when they play physical and when they play tough, they’re a good team, and they still have some skill that makes them a threat in the Eastern Conference.”

Brickley caught up with the guys on Dennis & Callahan to hit on all things Savard and Cooke, addressing how he thinks the Bruins will respond, when they’ll respond, and why, as a team, they have to respond.

“Well, [if they don’t respond], it says that they wouldn’t be a team, that they don’t have each others’ backs. That we’re a weak team, and we’re very vulnerable, and teams like that don’t exist, they don’t last very long.”

Read below for a transcript. To hear the interview, click here.

Is it more important for the Bruins to make a point tonight to the league or score some points against the Penguins?

Well, no question they need points, given the situation they’re in, in the Eastern Conference. But that will be secondary tonight, this is an opportunity to respond, something they didn’t do at the time, when Marc Savard was hit by Matt Cooke, and they will take every opportunity to make sure their character is no longer in question.

Will this just be the Bruins taking the body all night tonight, or will there be a line of Boston tough guys lining up to drop the gloves with this guy?

My expectation is that, and if I was Danny Bylsma the coach of the Pittsburgh Penguins, I would make sure Matt Cooke starts tonight. Don’t give it a chance to continue to percolate, wait for this first shift, and allow the crowd and everybody else to get behind this. I would start him, put him on the first shift, and I would expect Boston to line up guys like [Zdeno] Chara and [Milan] Lucic and [Mark] Stuart, and make sure it’s a very long night for Matt Cooke. You almost feel like, don’t suspend this guy, make him have to play the whole game, he can’t take any shifts off, he has to play the full 60 minutes, that might be the best retribution that you can put on the ice.

So what happens after the puck drops — or will it even drop before something happens?

Well, this is all speculation, but I think, first of all the puck has to drop, or you get in more problems with the league. But, yeah, you call him out. It’s very plain and simple. Whoever lines up against him, you want to make it the longest night possible for him. The analogy is the whole Mike Richards hit on David Booth, that is the lightening rod that has been all the discussion with hits to the head all year long after that hit. What happened after that hit? Did Florida respond, was there a five-on-five brawl, was that frontier justice, to steal a line from Jack Edwards, in play — that didn’t happen. But it was the ensuing game when things needed to be addressed. And they were addressed. And Mike Richards went out on the ice, expected to be challenged, was challenged, and once he stood up for himself, and once they got through that and things were settled, everybody was pleased with how it was handled.

Any chance we sit here tomorrow and say boy, nothing happened last night?

No, I don’t think we’ll have that conversation tomorrow.

What if he chooses not to fight?

I’m not sure. That would not be the best course of action for Matt Cooke, and I don’t expect that to happen, and I don’t think that will be allowed to happen. This is a guy that plays on the edge, he’s a repeat offender, if you take a look at the list of guys that he’s fought in his career, its not a who’s who list of tough guys in the NHL, but I don’t think that’s going to happen.

Do the Bruins feel bad about their lack of response on the night it happened?

I think so. I think so, if you go back to that night in Pittsburgh, I know Jack didn’t see it, I saw it out of the corner of my eye because we were following the puck. I talked to other people that were broadcasting the game, they didn’t see it.

Michael Ryder saw it.

Michael did see it. And he did go over and try to do what he did to Matt Cooke, but if you talk to the players on the ice, it was one of those situations, one-goal game, they need the points, nobody got a real good look at it outside of Michael Ryder, so I will give them the benefit of the doubt that it didn’t happen, there was no immediate response. I brought up the Florida and Philadelphia situation for that reason. Sometimes you just don’t see it if you’re on the ice, I know in the old days, well, contact, your player goes down, there was an immediate response, that’s the way the game was, it’s not like that anymore.

So the self-policing rules have changed a bit since you used to play?

Oh absolutely. And they have to revisit this whole instigator penalty, until they change that, nothing will change. And the league has some black eyes they have to address, and this is definitely one of them. Hopefully they will, because they got it wrong, plain and simple. This was a blind-side hit to a defenseless player in a position where he had no idea the hit was coming. It was predatory in nature, he targeted the head, and he’s a repeat offender — how can you not suspend this guy? And I don’t understand the logic behind it, they had an opportunity to make a difference, to make the right call, and they didn’t do it. Again, I will reference the Richards hit on Booth, when that happened, they said we have to take a look at this. And there’s been hits to the head after that, where there’s been no penalties on the play, no priors, I’ll use Curtis Glencross’s hit on Chris Drury, no priors, yet they suspended him because it was a hit to the head, something they have to address. Now, they have a chance to really lay the law and change the rule, say this was intent to injure, and they drop the ball.

But the irony would be if Michael Ryder had done something about it, he might get suspended instead. That’s sick.

Yeah, that’s true. You know, that’s why I said, this is, and I’ll steal another line from Jack Edwards, dartboard justice, there’s no logic, and there’s no reasoning sufficient for me to be able to understand the rules that come down from the office in New York. And Colin Campbell is going to be in attendance tonight, and the two teams will be addressed, and there will be warnings put out, they created this culture. They created it. And now they want to manage it, and I think it’s up to the Bruins to handle it themselves.

Is there any chance Sidney Crosby or [Evgeni] Malkin pays the price for this?

That’s the other layer of this. We’ve already talked about the five-on-five brawl that might have ensued years ago. I know, when I broke into the league back in the early ’80s, when your good players were targeted, OK, you might want to go after the guys that targeted your good guys, but you went after their skill guys — that’s the way it works. And, I think that’s part of the message that needs to be sent in Pittsburgh. That if Matt Cooke isn’t going to be suspended, and everybody wants to focus their attention on Matt Cooke, the other layer is then lets focus on their skill guys. Apparently it’s OK to go predatory in nature and target head hits on skill guys because the league’s saying it’s OK.

When Savard walks into the locker room again, will there be a chill between him and Michael Ryder?

Nothing will change there, they’ll still be very good teammates, they will understand the situation, that will not be a problem. I think if the situation just goes away tonight and there’s no response by Boston as a team, then you would have a problem, but that won’t happen.

If the Bruins chose to do nothing tonight, that sends a message — what is that message?

Well, it says that they wouldn’t be a team, that they don’t have each others’ backs. That we’re a weak team, and we’re very vulnerable, and teams like that don’t exist, they don’t last very long. They don’t make playoffs, they don’t have deep playoff runs. I’m playing along, but that’s not going to happen. I’m around this team all the time, they have good conviction, they do stand up for one another, and when they play physical and when they play tough, they’re a good team, and they still have some skill that makes them a threat in the Eastern Conference. I know there’s been a lot of talk about the Dallas game last year and how much that brought that group together when things got a little nasty out there with Avery, but this is an opportunity for them tonight, and they will seize it.

So if he fights, who does he fight?

Who will relish the opportunity? Certainly Milan Lucic is on the roster, Mark Stuart is in the mix, Zdeno Chara is along there — you look at your leaders and your tough guys and guys that can handle the situation to be at the top of the list, but it could be anybody, it’s the ultimate team sport. There’s 20 guys in the lineup.

Claude Julian was uncomfortably calm after this incident, is he that way behind closed doors?

No. You try to know your audience, you try to get certain results depending on who you’re talking to. You know, what do I need out of this situation and what’s my best tact, he’s very smart that way. You definitely know who’s boss over there, he has a firm hand, he knows when the team needs a good, swift kick, and at that time, he tried to control his emotions. And he did hope, as did I, as did everybody, that the league would handle it properly, and they didn’t. So, my anticipation is that Claude will have no problem with his teams’ emotions tonight.

So what he said in public might not be what they’re saying in the locker room — does that go for Lucic when he said, “Right now we’re in a dog-fight to stay in a playoff position, right now that’s what’s on our minds. Savvy would be a lot happier if we just got a win against Pittsburgh.”

Well I think that’s been the message coming from inside the locker room ever since the Pittsburgh game.

Tell me he doesn’t mean it, though.

Well, you know, read between the lines, and I think actions speak a whole lot louder than words. And I can appreciate that sentiment coming from the Bruins, saying that it’s all about points and wins will be retribution enough, but I think we know better.

Does this start to unfold drop of the puck, first shift, first period?

I’m hopeful Matt Cooke starts the game, I think it’s the smartest move that Pittsburgh can make, I think that’s what Dan Bylsma will do. That is my expectation, that it will happen early, they’ll want to try to get it out of the way, not let it build into a frenzy. Pittsburgh, you know lost last night against New Jersey, they’re slipping in the standings, and I think this situation has also been on their radar ever since the Cooke hit on Savard.

Milan Lucic on D&H 11.24.09 at 2:44 pm ET
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Bruins forward Milan Lucic, who returned to the ice last week after missing roughly a month with a broken finger, joined the Dale & Holley Show on Tuesday afternoon to discuss the recent improved play of the Bruins, the impact of Marc Savard’s return and his decision to sign a long-term deal to stay in Boston.

A transcript of highlights is below. To listen to the complete interview, click here.

The Bruins are starting to look a little better. Are you guys happy with the effort the last few games?

Yeah, definitely. We were able to get on a little bit of a roll here, especially on the road, it’s a lot tougher winning on the road than it is winning at home, so for myself it’s just nice to get back in the lineup, get some wins, and move up in the standings a bit.

When you guys were struggling, did it ever cross your mind that effort was a problem? Would you simplify it and say yes, we just weren’t trying hard enough, was that the issue?

I think it was a consistency and ever since I’ve been back here the last few games I think that’s what we’ve improved on, giving a consistent work ethic throughout the game. We’ve been able to apply a full 60 minutes of playing hard, and sticking to the game plan, I think that’s what’s made us successful, and that’s what made us get the ball rolling again and get some wins.

How hard is it to come back off a long term injury and how long it takes to knock the rust off? Savard admitted he was a little rusty last night, you slipped right back into scoring goals when you came back into the lineup. Did you feel rusty?

I felt pretty good when I came back in. Me and Savard, our injuries were a little bit different. I was still able to skate, I had the broken finger there so my conditioning was still good and all that type of stuff. They did a really good job keeping me in shape – the trainers, and whoever I was working with – so when I came back, my conditioning wouldn’t be a problem. I’ve been able to fit back in nicely with that, and for myself when you’re not in the lineup for a long time, you’re just really excited and anxious to get back and I think that’s what I’m doing, playing with a lot of excitement and having a lot of fun.

Anybody who has ever played with Marc Savard is usually very happy about it, those numbers go up when Marc Savard is on your side. What does he do that maybe a lot of us don’t see or that you have to know by playing with him?

Firstly, he wants the puck. He’s a guy that’s a puck possession guy and he wants it all the time. So he’s a guy that’s very demanding of himself and his line-mates that he wants results and he wants to go out there and contribute every night getting goals and assists, and the thing about him is he’s got eyes all around his head, it’s funny if you get open for him, he’ll find you even when you’re not looking at him. That’s what makes him such a great player, and for myself I was happy to play with him and have such a successful year with him last year.

Is it kind of like that off the ice too? If you’re walking somewhere and Savard is not looking, do you always feel like he cans see you? Does he always have that kind of vision?

Yeah, he’s always aware of his surroundings, that’s for sure.

This year was the last year of your entry level contract, and you made a commitment to this team. You signed a three-year contract extension with the Bruins through 2012-2013, why was it important to you to make the commitment and stay here?

It was an easy decision for me, I really wanted to stick around in Boston, I really liked how things were going and I really did like the organization and all the people around it. It’s a great city, it’s a great sports town and the fans are really another huge reason why I wanted to stay. They’ve been real great to us and to me since I’ve been with the Bruins, and it was just an easy decision to want to stay in Boston.

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