|Bruins, Canucks disagree over legality of Aaron Rome’s hit on Nathan Horton||06.07.11 at 2:20 am ET|
Almost as big a story as the game itself is Aaron Rome‘s first-period hit on Nathan Horton. After Horton dished a pass off to Milan Lucic, Rome stepped up and landed a late hit to the head that left Horton lying motionless on the ice for several minutes before being carried off on a stretcher.
After the game, players and coaches on both sides agreed that the primary concern was for Horton’s well-being. What they didn’t agree on, however, was how dirty or clean the hit actually was.
“I think what I would call it is it was a blindside hit that we’ve talked about taking out of the game,” Claude Julien said. “[Horton] made the pass. It was late. [Rome] came from the blindside. Whether it’s through the motion of the hit, it appeared he left his feet a little bit.”
Canucks coach Alain Vigneault disagreed with the assessment that it was the kind of hit the NHL is trying to get rid of.
“That hit was a head-on hit,” Vigneault said. “[Horton] was looking at his pass. It was a little bit late, but I don’t think that’s the type of hit that the league’s trying to take out.”
On replay, it appears that Horton was following the play more than anything — something any player would do while entering the zone on an offensive rush. Vigneault also conveniently ignored the fact that it was a hit to the head, regardless of what Horton was looking at. He wasn’t the only one in the Vancouver dressing room to defend the hit, though.
“I thought it was a very clean hit,” center Manny Malhotra said. “The timing was maybe a fraction off, but all in all, you see those hits on a daily basis.”
Malhotra’s assessment seems even more misguided than his coach’s. If it was “very clean,” Rome wouldn’t have been ejected from the game and he wouldn’t have a disciplinary hearing with the NHL Tuesday morning. And Malhotra must be playing in a different league than everyone else if he sees hits like that every day.
No one on the Bruins called Rome a dirty player, but they did say it was a bad hit.
“I played with him and from what I know of him, he is an honest player,” Shawn Thornton said. “But that doesn’t take away from the fact that it was a lateral hit to the head, and that’s what that rule was set into place for as far as I’m concerned.
“Aaron Rome is a good person. I played with him. We played together in Portland [Maine] and Anaheim. I’m not saying he’s a bad person. I’m just saying those are the hits – as players – we have to take out of the game.”
Whether or not NHL disciplinarian Mike Murphy decides to take Rome out of Game 4 and perhaps beyond remains to be seen. The Bruins didn’t directly say they think Rome should be suspended, but they certainly hinted at it by saying it’s the type of hit the league is trying to eliminate.
“I’ll say what I always say: let the league take care of it,” Julien said. “We’re trying to clean that out. Let’s see where they go with that.”
|Just like in Montreal series, Bruins aren’t panicking down 0-2||06.06.11 at 1:48 pm ET|
If Bruins fans are looking for a reason to remain optimistic, they don’t have to look any further than the first round, when the Bruins overcame an 0-2 series deficit to knock off the Canadiens. Sure, it was against a six-seed rather than the Presidents’ Trophy winner, but the Bruins say they can still draw from the experience.
“Obviously you want to look back at lessons that you’ve learned throughout the season, throughout the playoffs, and look back on experiences that you’ve had,” Chris Kelly said. “I think it’s good that we have experienced this situation before. We’re used to it. It’s nothing new. Obviously it’s not a situation we want to be in, but we are. We know we have to come out and play well.”
That said, Kelly warned against relying on that first-round comeback too much. He said the team recognizes how tough the road ahead is.
“We can’t rely on, ‘Well, we’ve been here before and we managed to pull it off,’ ” he said. “This is a new team, new challenge, and we need to come out with our best effort.”
Claude Julien‘s message to his team now is the same as it’s been all season — stay even-keeled. Julien and the Bruins were praised during the first round for remaining calm and poised after dropping the first two games, and Julien said that needs to happen again.
“You ask your team not to get too high when things are going extremely well and not too low when there’s challenges,” Julien said. “That’s something we’ve been doing throughout the playoffs. It’s helped us through some tough times.”
Julien said that from everything he’s seen, his team is doing just that.
“If you had a chance to go in the dressing room, you noticed that those guys are in pretty good spirits,” Julien said. “We’ve been through it. You always have to find the bright side of things. The bright side of things is we’re down to two teams and we’re one of the two. We’re fortunate and happy to be here. For us to look at it any differently and then come today hanging our heads is ridiculous.
“There’s a lot of time to get back in this series,” he added. “We believe in it. The only thing left is to go out there and show it. That’s what we’re getting ready for, is a big tilt tonight that we think is an important game for us and will hopefully turn this series around.”
|Claude Julien: Maxim Lapierre’s taunt ‘wouldn’t be acceptable on our end’||06.06.11 at 1:11 pm ET|
There may not have been any biting in Game 2, but there was still plenty going on after the whistle. While Claude Julien and the Bruins players downplayed the significance of the league’s decision to not suspend Alexandre Burrows, Canucks forward Maxim Lapierre chose to mock the whole incident by sticking his fingers in Patrice Bergeron‘s face after a whistle and appearing to offer him a bite.
When asked about the incident on Monday, Julien initially said he wasn’t going to say much about it, but then he went on to say quite a bit.
“If it’s acceptable for them [to do that], then so be it,” Julien said. “It certainly wouldn’t be acceptable on our end of it. I think you know me enough to know that. … The NHL rules on something. If they decide to make a mockery of it, that’s totally up to them. If that’s their way of handling things, so be it.”
When asked to respond to Julien’s comments, Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault denied having any knowledge of the incident.
“If that happened in between whistles, I didn’t see it,” Vigneault said. “I focus on the play that’s going on between whistles, so I can’t really comment on that.”
Lapierre also took the easy way out by giving a “no comment” when asked about the incident.
In the Bruins’ room, Chris Kelly said everyone has pretty much come to expect that kind of behavior from Lapierre.
“That’s nothing new with him,” Kelly said. “We know what type of player he is. It is what it is.”
Taunting opponents might be unacceptable to Julien, but getting caught up in it or worrying about getting revenge would be just as bad, according to Julien.
“We can’t waste our time on that kind of stuff,” Julien said. “We really have to focus on what we have to do. The last time I looked, we’re down two games to none. All our energy has to go towards that.”
|Dennis Seidenberg is looking forward to defending the Sedins||05.30.11 at 5:26 pm ET|
Dennis Seidenberg knows what the main assignment for him and Zdeno Chara is going to be in the Stanley Cup finals — contain Daniel and Henrik Sedin. It certainly isn’t going to be easy, but Seidenberg said he’s looking forward to the test.
“I love shutting down those guys, trying to at least,” Seidenberg said. “There’s nothing better than having a big challenge ahead of you.”
The Sedins can make their opponent look like a JV team with their ability to possess the puck for entire shifts at a time. They always know where the other is, and the two of them make no-look and indirect passes seem easy. Eventually, they wear their opponent down to the point where someone ends up open in a quality scoring area.
Seidenberg said the key in defending the Sedins is to not get caught chasing them around.
“You want to try to not be over-aggressive, because once you do that, they spin off of you,” Seidenberg said. “They’re really good at finding each other with the give-and-gos and the blind pass behind the back. So that’s a real challenge for us, to be aggressive without being stupid about it. We have to be smart in our defensive play.”
|Rich Peverley is being shuffled all around the line chart, and he’s perfectly OK with it||05.30.11 at 4:52 pm ET|
For the entire first two rounds of the playoffs, Rich Peverley played on a line with Chris Kelly and Michael Ryder. It was the same line — with some guest appearances by Tyler Seguin — that he had played on since coming to Boston in mid-February.
In Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals, however, Peverley was dropped down to the fourth line. Patrice Bergeron‘s absence in the first two games had opened the door for Seguin to assert himself as a top-nine forward, and once Bergeron returned, Peverley found himself as the odd man out of the top three lines.
The problem for Claude Julien — one any coach would love to have — was that Peverley was simply too good to keep on the fourth line. He is solid defensively and he kills penalties. He has the speed and vision to create chances on offense. And he has been the Bruins’ second-best faceoff man behind Bergeron, having ranked 13th in the NHL in the regular season with a 55.9-percent success rate.
So in Game 7 against the Lightning, Julien got Peverley on the ice any way he could. He slid him onto other lines throughout the game, both giving Peverley more ice time and giving some other guys more rest in the process. In fact, Peverley had played on all four lines by the end of the first period.
“I’m all over the place,” Peverley said Monday. “But I enjoy getting minutes. I just try to play my game and use my speed. I’m lucky I’m used in all situations. … Whichever way the minutes come, it really doesn’t matter to me as long as I continue to play my game.”
The only concern with moving Peverley around so much would be that there wouldn’t be much chemistry. Peverley said that isn’t an issue, though, because everyone knows how everyone else plays by this point in the season.
“You don’t want to change too much,” he said. “You want to try and play your game, and hopefully guys will adapt to you, also. … I think everybody I’ve played with so far, I had a chance to play with them even before last game. So you already know what guys are doing, and that helps.”
Whether or not Julien continues to bounce Peverley up and down the line chart against the Canucks remains to be seen, but Peverley said he’s ready to play with anyone.
“Yeah, I think so, just being out there in different situations,” Peverley said when asked if he expects to be used in a similar role. “Claude relies on me a little bit for faceoffs, so sometimes I stay out there, sometimes I change. Just being able to play with everybody, I think that’s good for me, too, because it gets me a little more ice time.”
|Shawn Thornton advises teammates on how to deal with time change||05.30.11 at 2:25 pm ET|
One advantage the Canucks could have over the Bruins is that they’re more comfortable traveling through time zones. Given that the entire Eastern Conference is located in the Eastern time zone, the Bruins rarely have to deal with changing time zones. The Canucks, meanwhile, are one of just four teams located in the Pacific time zone, so they do it on a weekly basis. In fact, the Canucks have already played two opponents in the Central time zone (a two-hour difference) in these playoffs — Chicago and Nashville.
The biggest adjustment for the Bruins will be getting on their normal sleep schedules while losing three hours during the flight to Vancouver. Shawn Thornton, who played on the West Coast with the Ducks in 2006-07, said he gave his teammates some advice on how to deal with that change.
“You’re going to be tired, but you try and force yourself to stay up the first night,” Thornton said. “In my experience, it’s stay up until midnight if you can, then go to bed, and hopefully you’ll wake up around 7 in the morning. If you go to bed too early, you’re going to stay on the same schedule. I’ve seen so many people come out to visit me when I was in Anaheim that would make that mistake. They’d be exhausted by 9:30, go to bed, and be up by 4 in the morning, twiddling their thumbs until everyone else was up. I think you have to try and stay up and that should get you back on schedule.”
Thornton didn’t dress for the last five games of the Eastern Conference finals, but his veteran leadership continues to be a valuable asset for the Bruins. He is one of just two Bruins (along with Mark Recchi) who has won a Stanley Cup, having done so with Anaheim in 2007.
“Embrace it. Enjoy it,” Thornton said when asked what he told his teammates about being on this stage. “You got to take the positive out of everything that’s going on. Just sit back and enjoy it, drink it in.”
Claude Julien said it’s important to have that sort of experience in the locker room.
“Those guys are always valuable in the dressing room,” Julien said of Recchi and Thornton. “They’ve been through it. They’ve seen what’s happened. They can tell a player, ‘Listen, if you thought there was a lot of pressure, there’s going to be even more in the finals, and the intensity just goes up another notch.’ So they’re just giving guys words of wisdom.
“And we also have a coach in Doug Jarvis who’s won as a player, who’s won as a coach. He’s also been a valuable influence on a lot of young players who have talked to him about that stuff. So it’s good to have those people around. They become really important elements of your team at this time of year and we’re happy to have them.”
|Canucks’ Manny Malhotra cleared to play in Stanley Cup finals||05.28.11 at 6:00 pm ET|
Canucks center Manny Malhotra, who has been out since March 16 with a serious eye injury, has been cleared to play, coach Alain Vigneault said Saturday. Vigneault said Malhotra is “basically on a day-to-day basis” and wouldn’t confirm his status for Game 1 Wednesday night.
Malhotra, who served as the Canucks’ third-line center and had 30 points in 72 games this season, has undergone several surgeries since being hit in the left eye with a deflected pass in a game against the Avalanche. There were concerns about his vision and on March 21, the Canucks announced that he was done for the season. His recovery has gone better than expected, though. He started skating with the team on May 12 and he was cleared for contact on Friday.
“It’s a very exciting prospect for me at this point,” Malhotra said Saturday. “Coming from where I was two months ago, making the statement the season was over, to potentially having a possibility to play in the NHL Stanley Cup final is incredibility exciting for me.”
Beyond giving the Canucks some offensive depth, Malhotra’s return would also give them their best faceoff man. He ranked second in the NHL this season with a 61.7-percent success rate on draws.
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