|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.”
|Tim Thomas: ‘We just need everybody to be as good as they can be’||04.10.12 at 6:17 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — Tim Thomas won the Conn Smythe Award for the most outstanding player of the Bruins’ 2011 Stanley Cup title run. He was the man between the pipes as Boston became the first team ever to win three Game 7s en route to a Stanley Cup championship.
The man knows the pressure that comes with playoff hockey.
So, what’s the key to handling it?
For the answer, Thomas looked back to the 25th and final game of the team’s memorable run last spring in Vancouver.
“Before Game 7, when we were talking in the locker room, one of things we were saying as a team was, everybody was tired by that point,” Thomas recalled Tuesday, two days before he opens defense in Game 1 against the Capitals. “It’s a long playoffs. Everyone’s got bumps and bruises and more than bumps and bruises, and they’re tired.
“Instead of putting pressure on ourselves to come out and think we needed in Game 7 the best game of our lives, as a group we made a decision that we don’t need everybody to be better than they’ve ever been in lives before. We just need everybody to be as good as they can be and that will be enough to make us come out on top. So, that’s probably the same type of attitude we need to take this year.”
He thinks this team is talented enough to make a legitimate run at it again.”
|Claude Julien on Tyler Seguin: ‘He knows everybody on his team has his back’||04.10.12 at 2:01 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — Moments after captain Zdeno Chara was pointing with his stick and barking at Tyler Seguin Tuesday morning on a power play drill, coach Claude Julien and assistant coach Doug Jarvis came over and had a heart-to-heart with the Bruins’ leading goal scorer this season.
They were simply reminding him to play hard on the power play and play with a “heavy stick” – Julien’s way of saying scoring on the power play and scoring in general, requires more will power in the playoffs than in the regular season.
“Playoffs, a lot of times, it’s all about little details and that’s why we’re going over video,” Seguin said Tuesday. “Even on the ice, obviously, coaches see stuff that they want you to improve on or little details they want you to fix and sometimes, as a player, you see something different. You just compare notes without crossing the line and just get prepared.”
Julien knows that Seguin – with his 29 goals – will be a marked man by Dale Hunter‘s Washington Capitals much more than he was at the start of the Stanley Cup championship run 12 months ago. Julien and Chara just want Seguin to be ready for that hunt beginning Thursday night in Game 1 at the Garden.
“I think he knows everybody on his team has his back, and all he has to do is go out there and compete and be ready to face that kind of challenge,” Julien said. “If we want him to be a better player, he has to be able to face those kind of challenges and face them with a positive result. He has to be able to work his way through and we expect him to be able to do that.”
For his part, Seguin downplayed being a focal point of Washington’s defensive game plan.
“I don’t really know about that. If you look at our team, there wasn’t exactly much gap between [players],” Seguin said. “We’re pretty close. We had [six] 20-goal scorers. That’s what makes our team pretty dangerous.”
“I don’t think he’s been bad at that this year whenever things were a little tough,” Julien added. “We’ve always kept a close eye on him. He’s a young prospect that we want to make sure that he continues to go in the right direction so we’ve taken time to bring him in and talk to him. Players have done the same thing. When it comes to a situation where you haven’t scored in a while or you’re a little frustrated, you go back to basics, and you stop looking at the big picture and just take a step back and keep your game maybe a little simpler but more efficient, and eventually, things come back.
“We’ve done a good job with him as far as the whole coaching staff, the players, to help him through those things. And he likes his teammates, he likes our coaching staff, he has a lot of trust in all of us where he’s not afraid to come up and say, ‘Listen, this is what’s happening here.’ Or whenever we suggest something, it’s nice to see a guy with that much talent and skill be so open to suggestions and help, as well.”
|Claude Julien sounds quietly confident as his Bruins begin their quest for a repeat||04.08.12 at 9:24 am ET|
Claude Julien didn’t hide the fact that after Saturday’s press conference following a 4-3 shootout win over the Sabres in the regular season finale that he was headed to watch more hockey. He knew the Bruins were either going to be playing the Senators or the Capitals starting Thursday at TD Garden.
But first, he did allow time to look back on what was the toughest – albeit rewarding – grind of his coaching career, including falling very temporarily to the No. 7 seed in the East before rebounding to win four of their last five and salt away the division and the No. 2 spot.
“I don’t think we liked seeing ourselves in the seventh spot, but the one thing that really helped us through it is, I think we started sensing the playoffs were getting close, and we knew that we had to play better to be a good playoff team,” Julien said. “As I said numerous times, I think it was more of a mental struggle this year than anything else. Our guys are in — these guys are well-conditioned athletes, so physically, it’s never an issue, but the mental part. If your mind tells you you’re tired, you’re going to look tired. If your mind tells you you’re not, you’re going to perform with better energy, and I think right now it’s a big mental obstacle that we had to overcome this year because our guys, at one point, we looked tired because, in our minds, we felt tired, and I think once the excitement of the playoffs started getting closer, we started seeing the playoffs around the corner, all of a sudden, we started getting excited again.
“And you say, ‘Oh, look, they don’t look like they’re tired. They look like they’ve got a lot of energy.’ Well, I gave them days off, but those days off alone wouldn’t have been enough, so I think the part right now is our psyche, and if we’re excited to go into the playoffs, then we’re going to be just as good as any other team.”
Julien said he and his staff would pretty much begin their preparations immediately for their first-round opponent (the Washington Capitals) was determined.
“I’ll do it [Sunday],” Julien said after the win over the Sabres. “I mean, we’re off [Sunday] — that’s the players, not the coaching staff. The minute we find out our opponents, we start doing the video work and cutting, which we’ve already done some of it, but depending on some changes along the way. Obviously there’s two teams. It’s either Ottawa or Wash [Washington], so we’ve got a lot of that work done, and when it’s solidified, then we’re going to start, we’re going to finish it up, and by Monday, we should be on top of things.”
Asked about his team’s chances of repeating now that they’re back to the playoffs, Julien said his team is looking ahead to the first round, no further.
“That’s still a long ways away,” he said. “It’s one of those things where, they finished the season. Our number one goal is the same it’s been every year, and that’s to make the playoffs. And, I always keep saying the same thing over and over, that making the playoffs is a tough thing to do on a consistent basis. We’ve seen teams that have won the Cup and failed to make the playoffs the next year, we’ve seen teams win the Cup and just barely make it in.
“For us to win our division and get another season of over 100 points, I think it’s a credit to those guys in there because it was a tough grind. We had ups and downs, but now we start that new season that everybody gets excited about, and we’ve got as good a chance as anybody else to win, and even though it’s hard to, as they say, repeat nowadays, and it hasn’t been done in a long time, we’re certainly going to challenge that.”
|Bruins know Cup defense is all about them, not the opponent||04.07.12 at 8:30 pm ET|
Through all the number crunching and scenario possibilities Saturday afternoon, the Bruins knew one thing – it doesn’t matter who they’re playing, they are focused on themselves.
And they like what they’re seeing in the mirror right now.
“Well it helps, it definitely helps,” Milan Lucic said of Saturday’s 4-3 shootout win, giving them four wins in their final five games. “Obviously, there was a bit of a worry I guess when we couldn’t even put two wins together. We were winning one, losing one. Winning one, losing two, winning one. So, you know the fact that we were able to kind of regroup and get things going in is definitely more of a confident feeling and we’re looking forward to the challenge that’s coming up ahead.
“It doesn’t matter at all,” Lucic said when asked if he was planning to pay close attention to Saturday’s night games to see if they’re playing Washington or Ottawa.
“There’s a good saying, ‘In order to be the best, you have to beat the best.’ So, you know, it doesn’t matter who you play or who’s on the other side. It’s about who’s in this room and how we’re going to play so we’re committed to that, and that’s our main focus right now.”
The Bruins are happy with where they’re at following a shootout win against the Sabres that left them with 102 points and the No. 2 spot in the East. They’ll be opening with the Capitals on Thursday at TD Garden, as the Capitals won Saturday night in New York while the Panthers clinched the Southeast Division with a win over Carolina, clinching the No. 3 seed in the East. The Capitals wound up as the No. 7 seed while the Senators – who will play the Rangers – finished as the No. 8 seed.
“I got the app that shows you all the scores on the old iPhone so obviously I’m going to take a look by the end of the night and see who we’re up against,” Lucic said afterward. “It’s going to be a hard-fought battle no matter who we play… We’re looking forward to the challenge.”
Added Claude Julien, “That’s the feel that there should be in the dressing room. Anybody who decides who they want as an opponent, whether it’s, you know, saying, ‘Oh, I’d rather play this team than that team,’ or plays to pick their own opponents don’t deserve to win.
“That’s the way — this is a game. This is not wrestling, it’s not a fake sport, you don’t go out there and pretend to play and make sure you lose because you want a certain team to play against, because karma’s a pretty powerful thing, and I believe in doing the things right. And if we’re going to win, we’re going to have to beat every team that comes in our way, and that’s the way we’ve approached it.”