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Think the Bruins are looking forward to a rematch with the Flyers? You bet 04.28.11 at 1:58 am ET
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Don’t be fooled by Cam Neely.

The Bruins finally get their chance at revenge on the Flyers – and they want it badly.

“This probably gives you guys more to write about I’m sure,” Neely said with a grin following Boston’s 4-3 overtime over the Candiens in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals Wednesday. “We don’t have the same team as we did last year, and Philly doesn’t have the exact same team either. That’s certainly going to be mentioned a lot and talked a lot about, but first and foremost we’ve got to concern ourselves [with] how we play in that first game.”

At least Neely would recognize their next round opponent. The same could not be said for Tim Thomas.

“I told you, I have at least until midnight before I have to think about that,” Thomas said when asked repeatedly about the second-round series that opens Saturday afternoon at Wells Fargo Center.

Yes, the teams have tweaked their rosters, but they still have two of the most identifiable logos on the crests of their sweaters. Claude Julien wanted to focus on the fact that his team just beat another franchise with a pretty famous logo on its sweater – and did so in historic fashion.

“I mean, it is what it is and the fact is we got ourselves down two nothing in this series,” Julien said of overcoming the 0-2 hole against Montreal. “I think it was important for ourselves to get back into this series. There was a lot at stake in this series as well. We understand the rivalry between Montreal and Boston and it’s been there many times. And we also know the statistics of the winning percentages of both teams when they play each other.”

Then came Julien’s acknowledgment of the next opponent.

“It was a big deal for us and we really focused on that and there is no doubt that tonight, we knew winning this game would give us another opportunity to play Philly. If anything I think it’s going to make it interesting. I think a lot of people are going to be watching this to see how it develops, and we’re excited to have that opportunity.”

First round hero Nathan Horton wasn’t even on the Bruins team that couldn’t close out last year against the Flyers, but he senses the pain and the desire for redemption.

“Well, this is huge, and definitely with what happened last year, we can put that in the past now,” Horton said. “It’s a new year. We’ve gone through it. Anything can happen in the playoffs. You’re up three-nothing, or down two-nothing, and things can turn. You’ve just got to work through it, and be prepared to always continue to work until you get that fourth win, because like everyone says, it’s the hardest one to get.”

Now, if they can just repeat it three more times.

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Nathan Horton doubles his pleasure while doubling the fun for the Bruins 04.28.11 at 12:40 am ET
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Nathan Horton isn’t about to complain about being dragged to the postgame press conference room in full uniform like he was Wednesday night to talk about his series-winning goal. After all, he’s getting to be a real pro at taking the stage to discuss such heroics.

Four nights after winning Game 5 in double-overtime, Horton won the game and the series with a bomb of a shot that Carey Price never saw with 14:17 left in overtime to capture Game 7 for the Bruins and avoid the worst kind of heartbreak for Bruins fans.

It also sent the B’s onto a second-round rematch with the Flyers starting this weekend in Philadelphia.

“Yeah, it was pretty nice,” said a smiling Horton. “I mean, it felt pretty good. I don’t remember too much. I remember Looch [Milan Lucic] coming up with the puck and I just tried to get open, and I tried putting the puck towards the net. Luckily it got deflected off someone and it went straight in. That’s all I remember. It was pretty special, again, it doesn’t get any better.”

The goal also saved the Bruins from the devastating heartbreak of blowing a 3-2 lead with less than two minutes left in regulation, when P.K. Subban scored on the power play to force overtime.

“When you have the lead it feels good, but when you give it up, it’s tough, especially in Game 7, late in the third, and we battled,” Horton said. “We battled all year, when times have been tough, and we’ve come together and it seems like we get stronger and we just start pressing, and that’s the way it’s been all year. On if it’s safe to say he’s enjoying the playoffs… I’m really enjoying it. Every day is exciting. Every day is a new day, but it feels good, definitely, to get used to this, continue winning. That’s what it’s all about.”

Horton was the Bruins player who started off like a house on fire this season, with eight goals in his first 15 games. Then he cooled off before finishing with 26 on the season, just four behind Milan Lucic for the team lead. Safe to say he’s caught fire again at the very best time. Read the rest of this entry »

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Powerless: B’s aren’t about to complain about officiating on the eve of Game 7 04.27.11 at 12:15 am ET
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After getting what many observers clearly felt was the raw end of the deal from the men in striped shirts Tuesday night, the Bruins still were not about to take a page out of the book of Mike Gillis.

He is the Vancouver Canucks general manager who lambasted the NHL and its officiating crew on Monday, just about 24 hours before its Game 7 Tuesday against the defending Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks Tuesday night.

Yes, the Bruins were put on not one but TWO 5-on-3 disadvantages and the Canadiens scored both times in a 2-1 win to force Game 7 less than 24 hours later in Boston. Yes, the major penalty to Milan Lucic for boarding seemed harsh, even if Jaroslav Spacek was bleeding from the head. And yes, the Bruins can’t really complain about the power play since they yet to convert a single one of 19 chances in the series.

But these Bruins know they still have Game 7 ahead. They figure that eventually the breaks have to even out – with the whistles and on the scoresheet, right?

But still it was a crushing blow to lose your top scorer with more than half the game remaining in a 1-1 contest in Game 6. But that’s what happened when Lucic was shown the gate when Spacek showed the officials blood from the hit just under five minutes into the second period – and just moments after the Bruins had tied it.

“Well, I’m not going to comment on it, and simply not for not getting any information, but I haven’t had any chance to really look at it closely,” Julien said cleverly. “And you see quick replays here and there but it’s something that I need to see here before I’m able to comment on that.”

“I can’t comment because I heard it but haven’t seen a replay at all,” added Mark Recchi. “Strange game and a lot of strange things happened out there but it’s part of it. I think 5-on-5 we were a very good hockey team tonight and we have to take that positive and go home and have our home crowd. We’ve been in this before. We have to stay focused, stay relaxed, stay positive and go from there.

“I’m not going to focus too much on what happened. It’s over now. We have to worry about [Wednesday] and can’t dwell on it and have to embrace what’s coming up [in Game 7].”

Added Patrice Bergeron, “I didn’t get a good look at it so I can’t comment on it but obviously, losing Looch, he means a lot.”

Then there was this from Tim Thomas that summed up the Bruins’ frustration.

“It was no harder than any other game,” Thomas said with a wry smile. “Obviously, when it’s 5-on-3, it’s harder to keep the puck out of the net. I’m not a forward. I don’t make or take those type of hits. I’ve already heard from some of the guys on their take on it but I don’t have one. I’m just a goalie.”

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Mark Recchi with the cold, hard truth: Bruins’ power play ‘needs to be a lot better than that’ 04.26.11 at 11:02 pm ET
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MONTREAL — Moments after losing Game 6 to the Canadiens, 2-1, on a pair of 5-on-3 goals, Bruins veteran Mark Recchi admitted he and his teammates need to do a better job of cashing in on their power play chances. While the Canadiens scored a pair of two-man advantage goals, the Bruins were 0-for-4 on the power play, making them scoreless in 19 chances during the series.

“We had opportunities but it wasn’t good enough for power play on our end,” Recchi said. “Five-on-five, we were terrific. They got a couple of 5-on-3 goals. We have to be a lot better, obviously. We’re not getting any sustained pressure to top it off. We’re getting one shot and it’s getting blocked half the time. We’re not getting pucks on net and so it’s one-and-out kind of thing. You have to find your way back in [the offensive zone] and then one-and-out again. We have to sustain pressure. Our power play hasn’t been that bad all year and then for right now, it hasn’t been good in this series. We get the opportunity [Wednesday], we have to step up.”

Recchi was on the Bruins last year when the team lost its last Game 7 on home ice to the Flyers, 4-3. He and the Bruins have a chance at redemption with a win on Wednesday. If they beat the Canadiens, they will again draw the Flyers in the Eastern semis starting this weekend in Philadelphia.

“It’s a big one [Wednesday],” Recchi said. “We’ll go get some rest and be ready. If we play like that 5-on-5 and if we get opportunities on the power play [in Game 7], we have to be a lot better than that.”

Recchi actually has the chance to do something about it on the ice. Claude Julien can only watch from behind the bench as the team continues to look totally out of kilter.

“Well, let’s put it this way, our power play is struggling,” Julien said. “I think we’ve talked about that every day so far. They scored two goals five-on-three. Five-on-four they weren’t a threat and neither were we. Five-on-five I thought we were obviously a team that held most of the control if the game and that’s what we have to do. We have to stay disciplined, stay away from the penalty box like we talked about at the beginning of the series.

“But I would have liked to have a five-on-three, maybe our power play would have scored as well. But it wasn’t the case and again, it’s one of those games where we tried, we worked hard, we had our chances and we weren’t able to bury them. But certainly not down or disappointed in our game except for the fact those five-on-threes ended up costing us the game.”

Now, it’s Game 7 – the ultimate test in hockey that the Bruins haven’t won since beating Montreal’s Patrick Roy and his case of appendicitis in 1994 at the old Boston Garden. They have lost their last four attempts, including home games in 2010 vs. the Flyers and 2009 vs. the Hurricanes.

“Just focus on getting ready,” Recchi said. “You’ve gotta relax and you’ve got to get ready to play a one-game series now. We worked all year to get home ice and we’re going home and we’ll go get a lot of rest, and focus on what we have to do, make little adjustments but for the most part we’ll just save our energy and get ready.”

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Claude Julien says the Canadiens aren’t about to mess with these big, bad Bruins 04.25.11 at 5:43 pm ET
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Before taking his team north for a Game 6 showdown with the Canadiens Tuesday night at Bell Centre, Bruins coach Claude Julien said he is fairly condifident that the Canadiens won’t engage the Bruins in a physical battle because they would likely lose that kind of game.

“I think both teams realize that discipline is a big factor in this series,” Julien said. “And when you look at last game, I think again, both teams had 30-plus hits. And it’s not like it’s not a hitting series, but it’s not a dirty one. And I think there is a lot of hate probably between the two teams but there is also a lot of respect. And we know that we respect their offense and their power play and we certainly don’t want to give them that advantage. And I think that they respect that if they get into a physical situation with us, they are probably not going to win that one.”

The Bruins lead the best-of-7 Eastern quarterfinal series, 3-2, needing just one more win to advance to the second round for the third straight year. Julien said the key Tuesday night is for the Bruins to match the Canadiens’ desperation with determination.

“I think that’s been something we’ve had to really adjust to in this series, is making sure we don’t give them an early lead,” Julien said. “But when they are in that situation I think they are playing out of desperation, they are playing for their lives, you have to play that game with determination and that’s the difference. For us it’s about determination, for them it’s about desperation and you have to hope that the determination is better than their desperation. It’s as simple as that.”

If the Bruins lose Tuesday, they will have one final chance on Wednesday in Game 7 at TD Garden to close out the Canadiens.

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Hockey writers realize Zdeno Chara is still one of the best in the game 04.25.11 at 1:27 pm ET
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Those who are not in “the room” may tend to take Zdeno Chara‘s skills for granted. But not the Bruins and certainly not Claude Julien.

On Monday, Chara was named one of three finalists for the Norris Trophy, given annually to the top defenseman in the NHL – the third time in four seasons that the Bruins captain has been so recognized.

Chara, who won the award in 2009, led the league with a plus-33 rating and recorded 44 points, including 14 goals and 30 assists.

“I think, obviously, he’s a well-deserving player,” Julien said. “There are a lot of reasons. I think everyone who knows him here knows he plays a lot of minutes. He also always plays against other team’s top lines. He’s utilized as a shutdown D against the top players on other teams. The stats at the end of the year, I think he’s a plus-30 something, plus-33, and I think that speaks for itself. And double digits in goals, and certainly, offensively, he’s contributed well.

“So, if you’re talking about the Norris and talking about a defenseman that brings a lot, he’s certainly. And I don’t think there are many players in this league who will raise their hand and say they really enjoy playing against him.”

Chara has bigger concerns on his plate right now, like closing out the Canadiens in Game 6 Tuesday night, but he did show sincere appreciation after Monday’s practice at TD Garden for being recognized.

“It’s obviously a big honor and I’m very humbled and very thankful, especially after you consider how many guys had such a great season – breakout seasons.” Chara said. “I’m just very thankful that people who did vote recognize the definition of the Norris Trophy award. And obviously, a big thank you goes to all the people who helped me get there, especially my teammates, all those in the organization, and obviously, my family and fans.

Chara consistently faces the opposing team’s top offensive line, something that makes him one of the most reliable players in black and gold.

“That’s something I take a lot of pride in,” Chara said. “I’m very competitive when it comes to defending the top lines and playing top lines. I know that it’s not an easy job, but I get up to it every night. You can’t think that it’s just you. Yeah, it’s a big motivation for me every night to face such skill and great players.”

Chara – who has climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro for fun – takes as much pride as anyone in his off-season training that year-in, year-out puts him among the finest conditioned athletes in not only hockey but the world. Monday, in the wake of another Norris nomination, he pointed to that training regiment as a big reason for his continued success.

“To me, the first priority is hard work,” Chara said. “I always like to work extremely hard on and off the ice. I’m very competitive, I’m very motivated to play against top lines and the best players every night. I take a lot of pride in that, and I just want to help the team as much as I can to win. That was always my first thing. I always want to put the team in front of egos or individual goals.

“To me, that’s the most important thing, and everything else will fall into place. I know I’m not the extremely skilled defenseman who’s going to put probably 70 points on the board every year. But I know that if I play my game, I give my team a good chance to win hockey games. That’s all I can do.”

Joining Chara as finalists are Detroit’s Nicklas Lidstrom and Nashville’s Shea Weber. The three were voted as finalists by the Professional Hockey Writers Association, and the names were released Monday by the league.

The winner will be announced June 22 during the 2011 NHL awards ceremony in Las Vegas.

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What history can teach the Bruins in the the next week 04.24.11 at 12:26 pm ET
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History can be a funny thing in sports.

It can be a teacher. It can be a guide. It can provide motivation.

If you’re the Boston Bruins, the next two days, it’s going to be all of the above.

The Bruins want to close out the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday night in Game 6 because if they don’t they are going to hear about 2010 again. No, it’s not like they were up 3-0 against the Habs like they were against the Flyers in the Eastern semis last year but they are going to be asked about how hard it is for them to close a team out.

Just ask their coach.

“I think we’ve experienced that last year, right?” Claude Julien asked rhetorically in the afterglow of Game 5 Saturday night. “We don’t want to bring that up, but unfortunately it is what it is. That last win is a tough one, we recognize that. We need to go to Montreal with the intentions of winning that game and playing to win that game. We need to understand it’s probably going to be the toughest game of the series. When teams are playing for their lives they come out with their best effort. And we have to be ready for that.”

Then again, experience is what you make it – like Brad Marchand and Nathan Horton who are playing in their first playoffs. Marchand scored the first goal Saturday and Horton put in the game-winner in double-overtime.

“It was a huge goal for him,” Julien said of Horton. “I wasn’t worried about the fact he hasn’t played in the playoffs because he is a guy that competes all the time. That is one reason why he wanted to come to Boston was to be on an Original Six playoff team. I’m sure he is pretty happy. That has got to be his biggest goal but I think he has been great for us.”

Before the meltdown against Philly last year, there was the stunning Game 7 overtime loss to the Hurricanes in the Eastern semis in 2009 that kept a 53-win team on the sidelines as the NHL held its own final four party.

But having faced those pressure situations in past playoffs may finally be paying dividends. In Games 4 and 5, the Bruins have shown tremendous poise, to go along with great goaltending from Tim Thomas, Michael Ryder and Zdeno Chara.

“We’ve been through a lot the last few years and this was something different,” said Milan Lucic, the player who scored twice in Game 7 last year against Philly before the lights went out on the B’s offense. “Obviously this year going down the first two games at home and having to go to a building where we haven’t won all year and try to even up the series.

“But I think our focus so far is after those first two games wasn’t on the big picture like it was on the first two games. After we were down, the focus was just on, okay, forget about what’s going to happen. Let’s just worry about what we need to do next and what we’re going to do that next shift and that’s what is getting us in a bit of a groove here.”

The Bruins need to make sure the music doesn’t suddenly stop in Montreal Tuesday night.

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