|Three things learned from B’s win over Senators||10.25.09 at 9:29 am ET|
When things are all said and done this season for the Bruins, there will be a series of hard-fought, memorable character wins deposited in the bank if the Black and Gold hockey club hopes to find glory and success on the frozen sheet. The kind of accomplishment that followed them until it came to an abrupt end against the Carolina Hurricanes during the semi-finals of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Saturday night’s 4-3 shootout win over the Ottawa Senators in Boston’s first divisional game of the season should still register in their collective minds months later. When the Spoked B team is jostling for playoff position and drawing upon the confidence-building moments that make up a successful season, their amazing two-game comeback with less than 90 seconds remaining will be the benchmark by which all others are measured. The victory will also be used as reassuring proof that good things do, in fact, happen to a hockey team when they simply, obstinately refuse to give quarter.
Twice the B’s pulled goaltender Tim Thomas – who was brilliant in making 27 saves during a typically frenetic victorious effort – in the final 1:28 of the game and the valiant Bruins twice scored goals to erase a 3-1 deficit and force an overtime session.
It seems that the Spoked B skating club has finally found some of the puck mojo and groovy hockey vibes that smiled kindly on them nearly all of last season, and the results have been impressive without key movers and shakers like Milan Lucic and Marc Savard.
In fact, one could argue that the injuries and difficulty is exactly what snapped the Bruins out of their extended autumnal hibernation and pushed them into their current fight or flight state of mind. That development of adversity has allowed the Bruins to push two straight games into overtime against solid playoff-level Eastern Conference teams, take five of a possible six points in their last three games and begin to reveal some of the players that have opted to step up in the team’s time of dire need.
Mark Recchi performed the hockey ecquivalent of CPR back into a flagging bench when he simply did what he’s done hundreds of time throughout the 1500 games that make up his NHL career. Recchi stepped into the danger area in front of the Sens net, and tipped a Derek Morris shot with less than 90 seconds to go in the third period to make it a one-goal game. It was pure “Wrecking Ball” type stuff as he jostled with Ottawa defenseman Anton Volchenkov for prime position right in front of the painted area and simply flicked his wrist – with stick in hand – to reposition a Morris blast from well beyond the faceoff circles.
Morris also stepped up and again set up the game-tying goal with only 22 seconds left when he again threw a puck toward the net from his left point position. This time Morris read the seams and openings within the Senators defense perfectly and found David Krejci perched at the backdoor of the Ottawa cage. Krejci simply poked a pop-fly shot over Sens goaltender Brian Elliot as he attempted to smother the shot, and scored his first goal in 10 games with the Bruins. It was the perfect moment for Krejci to get in touch with his scoring abilities.
After standing tall with 27 saves between the Boston pipes, Thomas was perhaps the biggest player that stepped up his hockey game and made a series of show-stopping saves through the first 58 minutes of the game. Thomas’ heroics and acrobatics allowed the B’s to loiter within two goals of the Sens, and made the third period heart-stopper a possibility. No save was better than Thomas’ seemingly prototypical leaping, flopping headfirst dive at a seemingly certain Daniel Alfredsson goal at the end of the second period.
The Swedish forward got behind the B’s last layer of defense on a shorthanded attempt – the second straight game that the Boston power play unit has allowed a dangerous offensive sniper to waltz in on an odd-man rush – but Thomas literally took the challenge head on and threw himself head-first at the high-scoring forward shooting at the far post. The puck glanced off Thomas’ body, darted in the other direction and disaster was averted. The B’s reigning Vezina Trophy, perhaps more than anybody, is the player that has no choice but to elevate his game if the Bruins hope to stay afloat without 2/3 of their top line healthy until December.
Thomas did it on Saturday night with more than a little help from Morris, Recchi and Krejci among others – and is going to need plenty more assistance along the way until the B’s cavalry comes through. With things seemingly beginning to come together for the Black and Gold, here are three things we learned in Saturday night’s compelling comeback triumph over the Ottawa Senators.
ZDENO CHARA IS BEGINNING TO MAKE HIS PRESENCE FELT
The reigning Norris Trophy winner has been off to something off a slow start considering the ridiculously high level of play set for himself, but the 6-foot-9 defenseman is another key factor in “Operation Stay Afloat in the Eastern Conference.” Chara didn’t step into Saturday night’s scoresheet and has experienced difficulty getting his wind-up boomer through the pile of shot-blocking bodies in the early going, but he was the presence that Boston needed when it mattered.
Chara played a season-high 28:04 of ice time, finished at a +2, fired three shots on net and finished with three registered hits while forming with a rock-solid Morris to form the defenseman tandem that Claude Julien and Peter Chiarelli envisioned when they inked Morris to a $3.3 million contract. Chara has five assists and sits at a +3 for the season, and appears to be turning the corner when it comes back to regaining his form.
THE OLD DOG STILL HAS A FEW MORE TRICKS
Recchi is the oldest player in the NHL this season at 41 years old, but he’s far from a hockey relic and proved it on Tuesday night. Recchi played in his 1,500th NHL game on Saturday night and has enjoyed a career that spans seven teams and a pair of Stanley Cup winning squads atop his crowded pro hockey resume.
The winger actually leads an incredible list of active games played leaders as he stands in front of Rod Brind’Amour (1413 games played), Mike Modano (1401 games played) and Nicklas Lidstrom (1338 games played) in terms of NHL seniority, and there’s no replacement for places Recchi has been and the things that Recchi has seen.
Recchi sits first in active career points, assists and games played while continuing to ply his trade for the Spoked B, and he’s second in active goals scored after potting his 547th career goal at the 1:28 mark of the third period. The Bruins defenseman have experienced a difficult time getting shots through traffic in the early going, which has nullified some of Recchi’s ability to tip and redirect pucks from the “courage areas” around the enemy cage.
But that all changed in the final seconds of Saturday night’s game when Morris found a little daylight, and gave Recchi the kind of juicy, lead point shot he’s been looking for all season. That goal stemmed the tide of momentum rising against the B’s and reversed it Boston’s way while making a comeback possible for the never say die Bruins.
With so many older, veteran players like P.J. Axelsson, Stephane Yelle, Aaron Ward, Shane Hnidy and Chuck Kobasew now picking up hockey paychecks at new addresses this season, Recchi becomes an important force of leadership and experience for a largely young Boston hockey club. Veterans step up when things look bleakest and times are the most trying, and Recchi is most definitely stepping forward at this early juncture of the season.
SOBOTKA IS BACK TO HIS GRITTY, CONFIDENT SELF
After a strong preseason and a demotion to Providence to start the year, it took Vladimir Sobotka a bit of time to regain his bearings in Boston – but it appears the acclimation process is close to over for the talented young Czech Republic native.
Sobotka set up Boston’s first goal when he teamed with Daniel Paille to win puck battles and keep possession in the offensive zone. Sobotka followed that bit of gritty tenacity with a nifty little drop pass to Blake Wheeler at the left faceoff dot, and Wheeler ripped a quick-release shot past Elliot for a goal that gave Boston a 1-1 tie in the second period. Sobotka was hustling all over the ice and playing with pants on fire intensity while registering a game-high seven hits in only 12:23 of ice time Saturday night.
The combination of skill and board-rattling toughness is exactly what Sobotka brings to the table when things are going in the right direction for the 22-year-old, and that was the case Saturday night. Sobotka also appears to be forging some pretty good chemistry with Wheeler during their week skating together, and that bodes well for the foreseeable future with both players skating together.
|B’s solid despite shootout defeat in Philly||10.22.09 at 9:58 pm ET|
The Boston Bruins hadn’t been able to put two solid games together this season, but they finally snapped that spell of inconsistency Thursday night in the normally unfriendly City of Brotherly Love. The B’s put together an imperfectly solid road game at the Wachovia Center and earned a point by getting to overtime before dropping the shootout decision in a 4-3 loss to the Flyers.
Young center Claude Giroux scored as the final of the three Philly shooters in the overtime shootout, and Michael Ryder rang iron on the left pipe with a high slot shot attempt to give the Flyers eventual victory.
The two Northeast sports havens have been building up a heated, hated rivalry over the last three seasons, and that bad blood spilled over into some pretty entertaining, intense hockey Thursday night. It seems that a little enmity draws some pretty solid play out of both teams, and Boston impressed despite their seemingly rag tag roster. Tuukka Rask was outstanding in goal with 36 saves overall, and never better than on a stunning stone-job on Jeff Carter when the Flyers sniper broke in short-handed in the final minute of play.
It wasn’t perfect, but there were plenty of positives with both Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci playing at a considerably high level in the absence of Marc Savard, and Matt Hunwick, Steve Begin and Derek Morris factoring into the regulation scoring. Perhaps the best trait out of the Black and Gold was the resiliency to come back three different times in the game — a characteristic that’s been a big part of the B’s units under coach Claude Julien. The B’s power play even got into the act early in the game when Morris scored on a bomb from the deep point area after Boston was held without a shot on the man advantage the night before.
With the loss, the Bruins fail to get over .500 for the first time this season, but can take perhaps a morsel of satisfaction that things finally seem to be spinning in the right direction for the Spoked B with a gritty, even road effort.
YOU’RE THE BEST AROUND AND NOTHING’S EVER GONNA GET YOU DOWN:Tuukka Rask made a game-saving stop on Jeff Carter during a shorthanded breakaway, but he was solid throughout with each of the 36 saves he made in the shootout victory. The 22-year-old fresh-faced rook was Cool Hand Tuuk when it mattered most in the pressure-packed minutes at the end of the game, and made a great stop with his right leg pad when Carter opted for the backhand flip. One could envision Rask being a heck of a playoff goalie after watching the job between the pipes against the Flyers.
GOAT HORNS:Mark Stuart was saddled with a -3 for the night and struggled at times when things began looking like a Chinese Fire Drill in Boston’s defensive zone. Adding injury to insult, Stuart took a Steve Begin stick to the chops on the Flyers’ second goal of the night and feel like a ton of bricks in front of the net just before Darroll Powe popped the goal past Rask. Not a banner night for Stuart, but clearly not all of it was of his own doing.
|Recchi named to NHLPA investigative committee||10.22.09 at 6:39 pm ET|
Bruins forward Mark Recchi has been one of the players vocal about the process behind the dispatching of NHLPA Executive Director Paul Kelly last summer, according to a TSN report, and now he’ll be a member of a four-player committee set to conduct an investigation of the union’s internal operations.
In addition to the 41-year-old Recchi, the player reps voted by a 25-5 margin to conduct an internal investigation of the Kelly firing and the B’s forward will be joined by Chris Chelios, Rob Blake and Nicklas Lidstrom on the investigative committee. The four-player committee include interviews with current PA employees, discussions with former PA executives Paul Kelly and Glenn Healy, plus the possibility of an extensive look at email correspondence over the past several months.
|Lefebvre recalled from Providence Bruins||10.22.09 at 10:30 am ET|
Big winger Guillaume Lefebvre was recalled by the Boston Bruins on Thursday morning and is expected to be available for Thursday night’s game against the Philadelphia Flyers. Lefebvre played for the B’s against the Phoenix Coyotes last weekend on an emergency basis while replacing the injured Milan Lucic, but was sent back down to the Providence Bruins following that game.
Lefebvre had one assist and 42 penalty minutes in five games with the P-Bruins this season and didn’t register anything on the stat line during his one game with Boston last weekend. “Banged up” winger Shawn Thornton was going on the two-game trip with the team through Philadelphia and Ottawa, but Lefebvre’s recall might be a sign that Thornton isn’t quite ready to play.
Lefebvre has two goals and 4 assists along with 13 penalty minutes in 39 games for the Flyers, Penguins and the Bruins through his pro hockey career.
|Bruins get the points in a much-needed victory||10.21.09 at 9:25 pm ET|
It wasn’t a puck masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination, but the Bruins managed to get two points in a 3-2 win they most definitely needed Wednesday night. With games against higher caliber competition coming Thursday night against the Flyers and Saturday night against the Ottawa Senators, a victory over the lowly, offensively challenged Preds — last in the NHL in scoring with 10 goals coming into the game – was a virtual must.
“We have to realize we have lots of room for improvement,” B’s coach Claude Julien said. “Our confidence isn’t where it should be right now, but I thought we gained in confidence as the game went on. We were better period by period.”
The B’s trailed through nearly the entire game before pulling ahead midway through the third period when the fourth line once again proved to be the dirty-faced savior. Steve Begin battled to keep the puck in the zone and then was rewarded when Daniel Paille wheeled around the net and found him wide open in the high slot. Begin put the hammer down on a one-timer past Preds goalie Dan Ellis, and the Bruins finally had sweet victory in their grasp. It was Begin’s first goal as a Bruin after thoroughly impressing everyone with his high-effort style through the team’s first eight games.
Things didn’t start out all that well as the Bruins didn’t pose even a threat in the first period while the new skaters settled in a collection of four reconfigured lines. The Predators took advantage of Boston’s transition phase in the first period, and Jerred Smithson scored Nashville’s first goal on pure grit and persistence around the Boston cage.
After a lifeless first 20 minutes, the B’s jumped on the Preds in the second and scored 26 seconds into the period. Rookie Brad Marchand, playing in his first NHL game, made a great tip pass to Michael Ryder on a 2-on-1 hustle play and Ryder flipped a backhanded bid top shelf for Boston’s first score.
Former BU skater Colin Wilson struck back for Nashville and potted his first career NHL goal to once again give the Preds a lead, but Boston fought back and finally showed a little ferocity. This time it was Patrice Bergeron. The 24-year-old center battled through traffic to attack the rebound of a Zdeno Chara blast, and his third effort finally squirted pads Ellis’ pads for the tying score. The line of Bergeron-Marchand-Ryder was clearly Boston’s best of the night and put consistent pressure on the Preds.
YOU’RE THE BEST AROUND AND NOTHING’S EVER GONNA KEEP YOU DOWN: Brad Marchand didn’t show a lot of his infamous rabble-rousing style in his debut, but he helped spark the Bruins by setting up Boston’s first goal of the game after a dreadful first period. It was appropriate that Marchand picked up a point in his first career NHL game, and his line was the most effective all night long for Julien. This also was the line that finished the night out for the Bruins during a frenetic final minute — the ultimate reward from the coaching staff for a job well done.
GOAT HORNS: The B’s power play. Still no life and not a ton of quality scoring chances for Bruins during their few attempts on the man-advantage. In fact, there were none. Zero shots on net in four minutes worth of power play time for the B’s in the win over the Predators. Why hasn’t Mark Recchi shown up much on the power play this season after being very effective last year?
|Bruins lines against the Predators||10.21.09 at 6:41 pm ET|
According to the pregame skate, the Bruins lines for Wednesday night’s game against the Nashville Predators should be as follows:
|Savard to miss 4-6 weeks with broken foot||10.21.09 at 12:13 pm ET|
The news just keeps getting worse for the Bruins, who announced Wednesday morning that top scorer Marc Savard was being placed on long-term injured reserve with a broken left foot. The injury is expected to keep Savard out for 4-6 weeks and leaves the team without two of its top-line skaters from the opening night lineup – Milan Lucic is out with a broken right index finger — for at least the next month.
“When he’s on his game, he’s good offensively and good defensively,” B’s coach Claude Julien said. “That’s why we use him on the penalty kill. He anticipates well and he reads the game pretty well. That’s why he excels when he’s on top of his game. That’s why I’ve always said he’s much more than a point-producer when he sets his mind to it.”
Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli revealed that Savard originally injured the foot blocking a shot during training camp, but managed to play through the injury until aggravating it in practice Tuesday morning at Ristuccia Arena. It was a seemingly harmless hit on the sensitive spot for Savard, and he spent the better part of Tuesday getting MRIs and CAT scans that determined he was playing through the early portion of the season with a broken left foot.
“It wasn’t hurting that much,” said Savard, who will be in a protective boot for the next two weeks. “I just re-aggravated it yesterday. We took some MRIs and it was broken. The best thing now is to shut it down for a couple weeks here and let it heal.”
The 32-year-old Savard was Boston’s leading scorer with seven points (4 goals, 3 assists) through the team’s first seven games, and this leaves Boston with a gaping hole on its first line and top power-play unit along with its scuffling PK squad.
The team’s core has been through injuries like these before — in 2007-08 the B’s lost Patrice Bergeron for the balance of the season and Savard for the last month — and Julien stressed that they’ll absorb the loss as a team. All that being said, the pressure drops heavily onto the shoulders of 23-year-old David Krejci. The slick, young, playmaking center will be expected to shoulder the scoring and power-play burden just as he did when Savard went down with a broken bone in his back at the end of the 2007-08 season.
“I think you have to lean on everybody when it comes to [filling in for Savard],” Julien said. “Is David a part of that equation? Absolutely. I think that to say that David Krejci has to replace Savard — I don’t know that you’d want to do that because first of all David Krejci just has to play like David Krejci. He was injured and got operated on over the course of the summer and has already played seven games, so it’s up to him to find his game.
“I don’t think he needs to replace Savvy as he just needs to play his game. If [Krejci] plays his game, then that will help us immensely.”
• Shawn Thornton is a “big question mark” and “very doubtful” for Wednesday night’s game against the Nashville Predators with an undisclosed injury, but the B’s coach said that he’s rapidly improving and could potentially be available come game-time.
“We put him on the ice early this morning and he skated on his own this morning. He’s very doubtful for tonight unless the trainers tell us that he’s ready to go when he gets here tonight,” Julien said. “That just goes to show you that he is a day-to-day player because morning to night time he could actually improve that much. He could be available anytime.”
• Dennis Wideman will play for the B’s in Wednesday night’s game against after missing the weekend road games against Dallas and Phoenix with an injured left shoulder.
“He felt good all week in both practices, and there’s no issues,” Julien said. “So he should be ready to go.”
• Expect to see Daniel Paille on Boston’s struggling penalty kill (a 69.7 percent success rate thus far this season) after he filled that role for the Sabres during his career in Buffalo. The B’s certainly are in need of some grit and experience in that particular area of special teams, and Boston is hopeful that Paille can provide it.
“He’s got speed. Obviously he’s got some grit, and it’s a job he did really well in Buffalo,” Julien said. “It’s something he really takes some pride in he should help us in that area. We certainly plan on giving him an opportunity to fill that role on our team.”
• Tim Thomas is expected to start in net for the Bruins for the third straight game.
Here’s an educated guess for the forward lines against the Predators assuming that Thornton can’t answer the bell:
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