|What Tim Thomas did – and didn’t – see on the Capitals’ game-winner||04.14.12 at 9:29 pm ET|
There’s an old hockey adage that was proven very true Saturday as the Capitals tied the Bruins at a game apiece in their Eastern Conference quarterfinal series – you can’t stop what you can’t see.
When Marcus Johansson outworked Johnny Boychuk for the loose puck in the defensive cornerboards, the Swede fed his native countryman Nicklas Backstrom to nearly the exact same spot Chris Kelly won Game 1.
Only difference this time was that there was a lot more traffic in front of the goalie. And in this case, Tim Thomas practically had no chance, unless he was lucky enough to have the puck hit him. No such luck.
“I just had time to yell ‘screen’ and then I think I picked it up about halfway to me, but it was one of those knuckle [shots],” Thomas said. “You can’t get a read on exactly where it’s going. It is what it was.”
Asked if the shot dipped on him or just fluttered, Thomas again couldn’t describe what he couldn’t see.
“I didn’t see it enough to tell you,” Thomas added.
It was a bizarre kind of game for Thomas, who thought he was going to smother a puck that fluttered in on him in the second period. But out of nowhere Greg Zanon collided with him as he was trying to cover and Troy Brouwer was on the spot to find it, and flip a backhander between his legs while he was on the ground trying to get on it. Read the rest of this entry »
|When it mattered most, Tim Thomas turned back the clock to 2011||04.13.12 at 8:25 am ET|
For two periods, rookie goalie Braden Holtby stole the show.
Then Tim Thomas reminded him, the Capitals and everyone else that he is still one of the best clutch goalies in the game.
For two periods, Tim Thomas saw a grand total of seven shots. The second period was especially dull. He didn’t face a shot on net for the first 10 minutes of the period as the Bruins outshot the Caps, 17-2, for the stanza.
But then the Capitals came out for the third. They were a different group, intent on showing they can actually get a shot on net.
“More often than not, when your team outshoots the other team heavily for a couple of periods, whether you score or not, there’s usually a time period in the game where the tables turn, and I knew they were going to get their bursts sooner or later. So I was mentally prepared for that going into the third period.”
Just four minutes in, Thomas had to be ready as the Capitals were on a power play and Alex Ovechkin was in the low left circle when he skated in and fired a wrister on Thomas.
“It was a toe save,” Thomas said of his left foot save. “I know he likes that spot, generally, over there, but he’s been changing it up and going to different spots. I didn’t even think about Ovechkin until the pass happened. I was focusing on who made the pass, the left-handed guy who made the pass. I was trying to get to my angle to make sure that he couldn’t score. But when I did see the pass released in that direction, I very quickly realized where it was going and who it was going to, so I’d better get over there very fast, and fortunately it hit my toe.”
“When a goaltender doesn’t get a ton of shots, it becomes a challenge for him to mentally stay in the game, and even physically,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said. “You know, you don’t want to stiffen up; you want to stay warmed up, and sometimes goaltenders thrive on the more shots they get, the more they’re into the game. So I thought Tim did a great job of staying focused and staying sharp, and when he had to make those big saves, he made them, and that was nice to see, and that’s Tim. With the experience he’s had over the course of his career now, those things are starting to really show, and I thought he did a great job. It wasn’t an easy task for him tonight, and the shutout, although he had 17 shots, was well deserved because he stayed focused through the whole game.”
Then came his biggest save. Naturally, it came in overtime where any little mistake means game over. Just about a minute in, Marcus Johansson came down the left wing with only defenseman Greg Zanon in position to defend. Zanon did his job, giving Thomas a chance to see Johansson and make the game-saving stop. Read the rest of this entry »
|Claude Julien and the Bruins can joke about the power play – for now||04.13.12 at 12:58 am ET|
Maybe Claude Julien thought he was going to get out of the 10-minute post-game session with reporters in the press area without being asked the question that hounded the Bruins like a hungry bear last spring.
But then it happened.
How concerned is the Bruins coach about going 0-for-4 on the power play?
“You’re right, it was asked a lot,” Julien joked, responding to the reporter who prefaced the situation in the 2011 playoffs. “So, uh, probably a little bit too much.”
Julien, of course, is referring to the fact the Bruins actually found a way to win the Stanley Cup with an anemic power play for three rounds before actually producing against the Canucks in the finals.
But Thursday, it was back to old – and bad – habits.
The Bruins had six consecutive minutes of power play at the end of the first and beginning of the second. Yes, they got eight shots on Braden Holtby but really no sustained pressure in terms of scoring chances. Jay Beagle took a double-minor for high sticking and Troy Brouwer was called for delay of game.
Fortunately, the Bruins scored the only goal of the game or the second-guessers would be out in force.
“We talked about that,” Julien said. “Our guys weren’t seeing much tonight. There was some openings we could have used, and we were dusting the puck a little bit too much versus shooting it, and, you know, when we made some of those passes, some of those guys should have ripped a shot right way, and instead, we stopped and we started looking for another play.
“You know, it’s unfortunate, because at practice this week, I thought our guys were moving the puck well, and they were finding the openings that we didn’t find tonight. So, we’ll keep working on that and hopefully make it a better situation because there’s no doubt, if we don’t win the game tonight, we’d be talking a lot about that being the reason that we lost. We found a way to win it. We turn the page and work on the things you need to work on.”
|Bruins need to do the dirty work to score in these playoffs||04.12.12 at 12:23 pm ET|
As much as Tim Thomas was amazing under pressure, justifiably winning the Conn Smythe trophy as the MVP of the 2011 Stanley Cup playoffs, the Bruins offense was as explosive as any team in the playoffs last season.
The Bruins scored 81 goals in 25 playoff games, including games of eight, seven and six tallies as they scored when they needed to when Thomas wasn’t – well – Thomas. By comparison, the high-flying Canucks in their 25 playoff games scored just 58.
David Krejci scored 12 goals. Brad Marchand set a Bruins rookie playoff record with 11. Nathan Horton and Michael Ryder had eight apiece. Chris Kelly, Milan Lucic and Mark Recchi each had five. Count them up and that’s 21 of the 81 goals the Bruins scored that are missing to start these playoffs.
“I think it’s just playing the system properly,” Kelly said. “The minute you start thinking about scoring goals and lots of goals, that doesn’t happen. We capitalized on our opportunities last year, and hopefully we do the same this year. But by no means are we heading into these playoffs we’re going to be a big-scoring team. We take care of our own end first and work our way out.”
Funny thing, it didn’t start that well for the Bruins as they scored just once in losing their first two games at home to Montreal. Read the rest of this entry »
|Why the Bruins still fear Dennis Wideman||04.12.12 at 12:15 pm ET|
Every Bruins fan remembers how ugly it ended for Dennis Wideman in Boston. Certainly, the talented defenseman does.
He was one of the scapegoats of the collapse against the Flyers in 2010 Eastern Conference semifinals.
He was the player fans came to the Garden to boo, expecting turnover after turnover, leading to scoring chance after scoring chance for the opposition. It wasn’t all bad as Wideman had back-to-back 13-goal seasons for the Bruins in 2008 and ’09, registering an impressive plus-32 on-ice rating in ’09. But the wheels fell off the next season. He had only six goals in 76 games and a minus-14. Things got even worse after a trade to Florida. He was minus-26 with nine goals in 61 games.
But look further and you see that Wideman can still do one thing – score on the power play. Eight of his nine goals with the Panthers came on the power play. In his two biggest productive years in Boston, he was instrumental on the power play with Zdeno Chara, scoring 15 goals.
But he’s been rejuvenated in Washington. He played in all 82 games this season for the Caps, with 11 goals and 35 assists and is on the No. 1 power play unit with Alex Ovechkin, Alexander Semin and Mike Green. This year, he scored four of Washington’s 41 goals on the power play, accounting for 10 percent of the production.
So now, the offensive defenseman is in a fascinating position for revenge on all those who unleashed their venom on him. Wideman returns as one of the key cogs of the Capitals’ power play as Washington takes on Boston in the 2012 Eastern Conference quarterfinals.
“You would hope that when the player was here, we worked on making him a better player,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said. “He is a good player. I think he’s been a good player for years now. I know he had a tough outing here near the end but we still felt that when Dennis still here, we felt he was our best puck-moving defenseman at the time.”
As for his nightmarish 2010 end in Boston?
“He had a bit of tough year and all of sudden fans turned on him a little bit and it got a little bit out of control but he’s still a good player,” Julien said. “You just have to look at his stats this year and look what he does on their power play. He’s a still puck-mover, still a great offensive defenseman that has a lot of qualities to his game.”
Washington comes in after finishing 18th out of 30 teams on the power play this season, converting at a 16.7 percent clip.
“There’s got to be an element of respect there when you look at the players that they have on their power play. Now, Backstrom being back, who’s actually a pretty good playmaker, will certainly help their power play get better,” Julien said. “But they have the shooters, you know, Green and Wideman can shoot the puck well. Ovechkin as we know, Semin ‘ they’ve got a lot of guys that can shoot the puck on that power play. We just need to respect that and continue to take our penalty kill as serious as we have in the past playoffs and continue to do a good job.”
|David Krejci: Nathan Horton concussion news ‘kind of sucks’||04.11.12 at 1:24 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — No one on the Bruins feels worse than David Krejci about Wednesday’s news that Nathan Horton will be out for the entire playoffs with the lingering effects of his second concussion in 12 months.
It was Krejci who was just beginning to get into a groove on the second line with Horton again when he had a setback in February, a setback that ended Wednesday with the news that Horton needed more time to fully heal.
“I was hoping he was going to be back for first or second round, but now we know he won’t,” Krejci said. “It kind of sucks but that’s how it goes sometimes. This is still his life and he’s got to take care of his own body. He shouldn’t be pushing it. If he doesn’t feel well, there’s nothing he can do.”
Krejci not only played on the same line with Horton, he can relate fully with what Horton is going through.
“I had a concussion two times so I know how it is,” Krejci said. “This is not an easy situation. Hopefully, he’s going to do well over the next couple months and he’s going to be ready for next season.”
Now, with Rich Peverley replacing Horton on the second line, Krejci and Milan Lucic have had to adjust. It’s an adjustment the Bruins made masterfully last year in the Stanley Cup finals as Peverley added a speed element that wasn’t there with Horton.
“One thing is you can’t replace Horty,” Krejci said. He’s just a great player and I love playing with him but the other side is we played without him for  games so we know how to win games without him. We still have a good team. We have lots of depth. Hopefully we can do it.
“I think we started putting the puck in the net more often, especially the last few games of the season. So, I feel pretty good. This is kind of new season. Everybody starts from the beginning. We’re just going to have to go out there and do it again.”
Brad Marchand is one of those players who picked up the scoring slack for Horton in the finals, scoring twice in Game 7 in Vancouver.
“We’re going to try,” Marchand said. “We want to play for him like we did last year in the finals. It’s obviously tough with him not being here so we want to definitely want to use that to an advantage and play for him.
“It’s big for him and the team. We’re not going to always be wondering and hoping if he’s going to come back and save us. The fact that we know now that we have to do it within the room and we can’t rely on him to come back and help us out. Different guys are going to have to realize they’re going to have to step up. For him, it relieves the pressure that he has to rush back and continue to progress every single day to try and rush back to playoffs. Now, he can take his time and worry about getting better mentally and hopefully come back for next year.”
|Milan Lucic is fully prepared for Dale Hunter and his ‘underachieving’ Capitals||04.11.12 at 9:22 am ET|
It was on April 28 that year when Hunter laid out Pierre Turgeon, after Turgeon had just scored the clinching goal for the Islanders late in the third period of the decisive Game 6 of their opening playoff round against Hunter’s Capitals.
Hunter was understandably ticked. But he inexplicably checked Turgeon from behind and into the side boards, separating his shoulder and knocking him out of the next round against the defending champion Penguins.
Hunter received a then-record 21 game suspension for the hit. Turgeon returned for the semi-finals against the eventual champion Canadiens after missing seven games.
Fast forward 19 years and Hunter is now coaching the Capitals in the first-round series against the defending champion Bruins. The Capitals – who finished with the best record in the NHL two seasons ago – were 42-32-8 but had to struggle to get into the playoffs this season in the final week, finishing as the No. 7 seed. That’s quite a change for a team that fired Bruce Boudreau early on this year because they were 12-9-1 and underachieving with names like Alex Ovechkin and Alexander Semin.
“You can say the Capitals have probably underachieved a bit this year,” Lucic said of the Capitals, who actually won the season series against the Bruins this year, 3-1. “They have a lot of great players over there that can definitely do some damage. They’ve had some success against us this year. Season success and playoff success are two different things, which we’ve found out in the past. We know that they’re a great team and have a lot of great weapons and a lot of great players who can step up and be an impact in this series and I think that’s what’s going to make this a real challenging and hard-fought series for us.”
Hunter instilled a new dedication to physical play and no doubt realizes his finesse-laiden Capitals need to channel at least some of his toughness against the new Big Bad Bruins in order to have a chance.
“Especially playing under Dale Hunter, I’m sure they’re going to be real physical,” Lucic said. “They have some forwards that definitely will get in there and get dirty. Even a guy like Ovechkin is not afraid of the physical play and likes to use his body. It’s a way that they have success. For us, we have to do whatever we can to be physical and I think that’s what’s going to make it even a better series because both teams are going to go after each other.
“Part of our identity and part of our success is being physical, regardless of who we play so we have a game plan and we have a type of way we’re going to play and playing physical is one of the ways. We’re going to do everything we can to establish a forecheck and finish our checks and it’s important for us to do that.”
Lucic insisted the Bruins aren’t about to take the Capitals lightly and certainly place no significance on their No. 7 position in the conference.
“I think you definitely learn a lot,” Lucic said. “You can take from what you’ve done in the past and kind of use that experience, hopefully to your advantage. One thing that we did [this season] was that we never took anyone or any opponent for granted. Just because we’re second and they’re seventh doesn’t mean a thing right now. What happened last year is last year. This is a new year, new playoff. Everyone starts off at 0-0. It’s important for us to have a good start, come out strong and hopefully have a good game in Game 1.”