|Meet the Canucks: Five things you should know about the Bruins’ Stanley Cup opponent||05.28.11 at 4:57 pm ET|
The start of the Stanley Cup finals is still four days away, but it’s never too early to start studying up on the Bruins’ opponent. The Canucks finished the regular season with the best record in the NHL (54-19-9), the best offense (3.15 goals per game), the best defense (2.20 goals against per game) and the best power play (24.4 percent).
They nearly blew a 3-0 series lead to the Blackhawks in the first round of the playoffs, but they bounced back to win Game 7 in overtime to avoid suffering the same disastrous fate that befell the Bruins last year. From there, the Canucks won a tight-checking series against the Predators in six games, only one of which was decided by more than a goal.
They then punched their ticket to the Stanley Cup finals by knocking off the Sharks in five games. The Canucks were badly outshot in each of the last two games — 35-13 in Game 4 and 56-34 in Game 5 — but they managed to come away with a pair of wins thanks to some great goaltending, an opportunistic offense and a lucky bounce in double overtime of the final game.
Here are five more things you should know about the Canucks, along with what the Bruins can do to counter them. Read the rest of this entry »
|Patrice Bergeron: ‘It’s a great feeling’ to share this with Boston||05.28.11 at 2:34 am ET|
Because he’s still only 25, it can be easy to overlook the fact that Patrice Bergeron is the longest-tenured Bruin. Bergeron, who was just 18 in his rookie season of 2003-04, is in his seventh season with the club — eighth if you count the lockout year he spent with the Providence Bruins.
As a result, Bergeron knows the ups and downs that the Bruins and their fans have gone through — starting with blowing a 3-1 series lead to the Canadiens in 2004 — better than anyone else on the team. After earning a berth in the Stanley Cup finals Friday night, Bergeron said it felt great to finally be able to reward those fans like this.
“It’s unbelievable. It’s a great feeling, just to have the chance to share that with the city,” Bergeron said. “I call Boston my second home now. I love it here. That’s why I got my extension [before this season]. The feeling is amazing. I’ve been here for the highs and lows. Just to have a chance to do that here and share that, we could feel that the whole city was behind us all along.”
Bergeron had his own highs and lows to deal with in the Eastern Conference finals, as he missed the first two games with a mild concussion suffered in Game 4 of the second round. He had perhaps his best game of this series in Game 4, as he registered a pair of goals in a losing effort. Then in Game 5, he assisted on Brad Marchand‘s goal that proved to be the game-winner. And of course, he was his usual stellar self on faceoffs, winning 58.1 percent of his draws in the series.
Marchand called Bergeron’s return to the lineup the “turning point” of the series, but Bergeron was quick to deflect any and all credit to his teammates.
“I don’t know. I just want to go out there and play my game,” Bergeron said when asked about Marchand’s comments. “Obviously I’m not gonna be the one standing here and saying yes. As soon as I got back on the ice, I felt good. I was just trying to help the team as much as I could night in, night out. We got the job done as a team. It’s not about one person. That’s why we’re here. It’s about everyone.”
|For Milan Lucic, Stanley Cup finals will be ‘extra special’||05.28.11 at 1:55 am ET|
You thought Milan Lucic playing in his hometown of Vancouver was special back in February? Well now he gets to go home and play in the Stanley Cup finals there.
“I mean, that makes it extra special,” Lucic said. “A lot of good things have happened to me in Vancouver.”
They sure have. Lucic, who was born and raised in Vancouver, got the chance to play junior hockey there for three seasons with the Vancouver Giants of the Western Hockey League. He helped lead the Giants to a Memorial Cup title in 2007, and when the Bruins visited Vancouver earlier this season, the Giants held a “Milan Lucic Night” and inducted him into the club’s Ring of Honour. That trip was made even more memorable when Lucic scored what proved to be the game-winner in a 3-1 Bruins win.
Lucic said it will be great to play in front of friends and family in the finals, but that he might have some work to do when it comes to convincing them to root for his team.
“I know I am going to have to convert a lot of my, well my family is already converted, but a lot of my friends into Bruins fans,” Lucic said. “So that is going to be a little tough to do.”
|Andrew Ference: Bruins have been waiting for that goal setup all series||05.28.11 at 12:42 am ET|
During Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals, defense partners Andrew Ference and Johnny Boychuk and assistant coach Doug Houda talked about a play they thought would break the Lightning’s 1-3-1 neutral zone setup. Instead of gathering speed through the neutral zone to win the race to a dump-in, they discussed using that speed to make short passes and skate the puck into the offensive zone.
The Bruins used that plan to varying amounts of success throughout the series, but it never really worked out well enough to result in a goal… until the third period of Game 7.
The play started with all three forwards circling back toward the defense to pick up some speed as Ference walked the puck into the neutral zone. Then Ference made a quick pass to David Krejci that sprung the speedy center clear through Tampa’s three-man front at center ice.
“I’ve been waiting for that all series,” Ference said. “All series, we’ve talked about that. I talked about that play with Doug Houda, I think Game 1. Johnny and I, we’ve been in that situation, I don’t know, 50, 60 times this series where we bring up the puck into the forecheck that they have. Game 1, we drew that play up and said, ‘Boys, look for this play. It’s gonna work, it’s gonna work.’ We tried it a couple times, but tonight was the first time it really just worked perfect, the timing and everything. Krejci came through with the perfect timing and obviously the finish was sick.”
That finish was a criss-cross by Krejci and winger Nathan Horton once they entered the zone, a quick pull-up by Krejci in the left circle, and a crisp centering pass that Horton tipped home from the top of the crease.
“We knew we wanted to come back and get some speed,” Horton said. “You want to have speed to get going through the zone and we kind of did that. We had a little bit more than they probably thought, so it worked out well. That’s what you want. You want Dave coming over the blue line with the puck. I just tried to give him some space and he made an unbelievable pass to me.”
Claude Julien said that play gave the Bruins a nice second option on entries, allowing them to keep the Lightning on their toes.
“I liked the way our guys made some decisions tonight as far as knowing when to run it in because we have guys going with speed,” Julien said. “I think that was a great play where you walk the puck in, and obviously Dave made a great play hanging onto it and Horts went to the net.”
|Bruins and Lightning taking different approaches on day of Game 7||05.27.11 at 1:33 pm ET|
There are plenty of ways a team could treat a game of Friday night’s magnitude, and the Bruins and Lightning are taking two different approaches. Claude Julien said on Thursday that he wanted his players to be excited and he wanted them to fully realize the opportunity that was in front of them. He reiterated that Friday morning.
“Our guys just have to enjoy this whole process,” Julien said. “As I mentioned yesterday, there’s 27 teams right now that would love to have the opportunity that we have in the playoffs right now. This is one of those days where I think if you don’t enjoy the moment, you’re wasting a pretty precious day. You take advantage of it today, you get ready, you get excited about it, you come out tonight and you leave it all out there on the ice. Simple as that. Anything less than that is a waste of a day.”
The Lightning are taking a slightly different approach. Guy Boucher is trying to rein in his team’s emotions and not get caught up in the magnitude of the game.
“I think that’s the challenge is to be able to control these emotions,” Boucher said. “We didn’t want our players or ourselves playing the game last night or this morning or this afternoon. It’s our job to make sure that we stay focused on what we’ve got to to do, not the hype of everything else that this game means.”
It will be interesting to see if one approach pays off more than the other, or if either approach even has an effect on the game. Players often say that everything goes out the window once you get into the flow of the game anyway, so it’s entirely possible that neither team’s game-day mindset will mean anything once the puck is dropped.
|Claude Julien: ‘Our team needs to be positive’||05.27.11 at 12:58 pm ET|
There were plenty of negatives for the Bruins in their Game 6 loss. From a team perspective, giving up three power-play goals obviously stands out. And from an individual perspective, you would have to start with Johnny Boychuk, who was on the ice for all five of the Lightning’s goal.
But with Game 7 mere hours away now, Claude Julien isn’t dwelling on any of the negatives.
“This is Game 7, and sorry not to answer your question, but this is not a day or a time for me to question,” Julien said when asked about Boychuk. “I’m going to [abstain] from doing that today because I think our team needs to be positive, and we believe in everybody in our hockey club. So we’re going to stick with that motto for today.”
-One of the positives the Bruins can take from Game 6 is the play of David Krejci. The first-line center notched the first playoff hat trick by a Bruin since Cam Neely in 1991. Julien said the coaches have been encouraging Krejci to shoot more all season, and that Wednesday night was a perfect example of why.
“David, in his mind, is a pass-first kind of player and he always looks to pass first and foremost,” Julien said. “And we’ve encouraged him to shoot more because there’s times when he’s in a real good shooting position. Marc Savard was the same way. Marc had a real good shot and a lot of times he’d look to pass instead of shooting.
“But that’s a natural thing that those guys normally do, from Adam Oates back in the day — they’re guys that that’s the strength of their game. So you don’t want them to lose that strength, but you also want them to be able to make the difference between, ‘Am I in a good shooting area or a scoring area here, where I should take the shot versus passing?’ ”
-One guy Julien (and B’s fans) would still like to see shoot more is Tomas Kaberle. The veteran defenseman had one of his best games of the playoffs Wednesday night, assisting on two goals, registering a plus-1 rating and logging 19:46 of ice time, his highest total since Game 5 against Montreal. But there were still times, especially on the power play, when he passed up what appeared to be an open shot.
“The only thing you’ve always heard about Tomas is you’d like to see him shoot the puck more,” Julien said. “And there are times on the power play where, if he has that shooting lane, with Zdeno [Chara] in front, you have to shoot. It doesn’t have to be a big shot. It can be a wrist shot, it can be anything.”
|Bruins can draw on Game 7 vs. Canadiens, but only to a certain extent||05.26.11 at 6:07 pm ET|
The Bruins have experience winning a Game 7 at home, having done so against the Canadiens in the first round. But how much can they actually draw from that come Friday night? Players say at least a little.
“We got some confidence,” David Krejci said Thursday. “We know we’ve been there before, so it’s nothing new to us. Hopefully we can use our experience to our advantage tomorrow.”
Perhaps that will be the case, but there a few flaws in the theory that the Game 7 against Montreal will give Boston any sort of an advantage Friday. First, the Bruins didn’t look nervous at all to start that game. They jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first 5:33, which is an anomaly for a team that has surrendered seven goals in the opening three minutes of games this postseason. So you can’t really make the argument that they’ll be less nervous.
Second, and more importantly, the Lightning aren’t new to this whole Game 7 thing either. They beat the Penguins on the road in Game 7 in the first round, so no one should expect them to be overwhelmed by the atmosphere and magnitude of the game.
“Obviously we have played in a Game 7, but so have they,” Chris Kelly said. “You can kind of look back and realize how you approached it, but at the end of the day, it’s two new teams, a new situation and a new experience.”
Kelly hit the nail on the head with that last line. A Game 7 in the first round is one thing. A Game 7 in the conference finals with a berth in the Stanley Cup finals on the line is another.
Claude Julien said his team realizes that and that he hopes his players are excited about it.
“Why shouldn’t we be excited? This is what playoffs is all about,” Julien said. “If you had told us at the beginning of the year that we had to win one game to go to the Stanley Cup finals, we would be excited about it. And that’s where we’re at right now.”
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