|Bruins’ top line gets going, nets winner in Game 5||04.24.11 at 12:38 am ET|
The struggles of the Bruins’ top line this series have been well-documented. Through four games, Milan Lucic was without a point while David Krejci and Nathan Horton had just one each. But even before Horton netted the game-winner in double overtime Saturday night, the line was beginning to show signs of turning it around.
The trio combined for 14 shots on goal in the game, including a game-high eight off the stick of Lucic. They went in hard on the forecheck and were able to create some quality chances around the Montreal net. And they were finally rewarded for their effort 9:03 into the second overtime when a good cycle led to an Andrew Ference shot from the point and a rebound tap-in for Horton.
“They were better and that was a good sign,” Claude Julien said of his top line. “Scoring that OT goal is hopefully going to give that line a real good boost. We all know that when you start thinking positively, things seem to be a lot easier. I think they were carrying some weight on them for not producing and wanting to be one of the lines that produced.”
Julien said the goal was particularly satisfying for Horton, who is playing in the first playoff series of his career.
“That goal for Nathan Horton in his first playoffs, to score that kind of goal, now he knows what it feels like,” Julien said. “He was a pretty happy man in the dressing room.”
Horton couldn’t help but let a giant grin form on his face as he sat in front of the media for his postgame press conference.
“It’s so nice. It feels so good,” Horton said. “It was an exciting game for both teams, but in the end, it felt good to get that. We knew it was going to be a greasy goal, and it sure was. It was a rebound, but they all count. That was a big goal for us.”
Horton said guys were obviously getting tired the longer the game went, but that you can’t dwell on that when you’re on the ice.
“You’re just pushing through it,” he said. “You put that in the back of your mind when you’re playing in double overtime, the first overtime, whatever. You put it in the back of your mind. You really focus on what you have to do to get the job done. That’s basically it.”
His line was able to exactly what it took to get the winner.
“You work hard, you go out and try to play the same style, and don’t turn the puck over,” Horton said. “That’s a huge part of our game. When we don’t turn it over and get it in deep, things happen. That’s what you see on that last goal. That’s what happened.”
Lucic, who had an assist on the decisive goal, said the key for his line moving forward is to build off the game-winner and not just be satisfied with it.
“It’s obviously great that were were able to create that goal, but you definitely don’t want to be satisfied,” Lucic said. “You want to keep pushing for more and contributing.”
|Milan Lucic remains positive in face of playoff struggles||04.23.11 at 1:09 pm ET|
To say Milan Lucic has struggled this series would be an understatement. After leading the Bruins in goals and tying for the team lead in points during the regular season, Lucic has no points and just five shots on goal through four playoff games. Lucic said he isn’t about to get down on himself, though.
“This is not the time to get frustrated and be negative and bring yourself down,” Lucic said. “Because when you’re bringing yourself down, you might bring someone else down with you. You don’t want to be doing that.
“At this time of year, the only thing that matters is wins and losses,” he added. “It’s tough to be negative and feel sorry about myself when we’ve won the last two games. Other guys have stepped up and obviously played well. Hopefully they can keep their play up, and I just want to do whatever I can to start playing like they are. For myself, all my focus is to elevate my game and play the way I know I can.”
With the series now even at two games apiece, Lucic said he’s not only looking at Saturday night’s Game 5 as a fresh start for both teams, but also as a fresh start for himself.
“As far as I’m concerned, it’s a fresh start,” Lucic sad. “It’s almost like 0-0 again. For myself, it’s obviously hopefully a chance to get myself back and get myself going and start doing the things I know I can do.”
Starting slow in the playoffs is nothing new for Lucic. He was held off the scoresheet for the first five games of last year’s opening round series against Buffalo before breaking through with two assists in Game 6. He went on to register five goals and two assists against Philadelphia in the next round. Lucic said the key then and the key now is to find a way to get that one bounce that gets things going.
“I think it was just getting a good bounce,” Lucic said when asked how he broke out of last year’s slump. “When you start thinking positive again, it’s almost like a weight gets lifted off your shoulders once you get that bounce. It seems like the bounces haven’t really been there [this year], but you have to find a way to battle through things and get those bounces again.”
|Mark Recchi opts out of morning skate; Habs mum on potential changes||04.23.11 at 12:26 pm ET|
All the Bruins were on the ice for Saturday’s morning skate except Mark Recchi, who opted not to take the ice. Recchi also opted out of Thursday’s morning skate before Game 4 in Montreal. The forward lines and defense pairings are expected to be the same as they were in Game 4.
The Canadiens had all hands on deck for their morning skate, but coach Jacques Martin hinted that there could be some changes to the lineup come 7 p.m. Saturday night. “We’ll decide on our lineup game time,” he said, adding that Montreal needs “more from certain people.”
|Bruins aren’t putting any stock in the home team not winning||04.22.11 at 2:14 pm ET|
So much for home ice advantage. The road team has won all four games in the Bruins’ first-round series against the Canadiens, but the B’s aren’t putting much stock in that as they return home for Game 5 on Saturday night.
“Because the away team scored more goals than the home team in all of those games,” Tim Thomas said, giving the most obvious explanation of why things have played out the way they have. “I don’t put too much thought into that.”
Thomas said that perhaps the home team just needs to play more of a “road game,” which he explained as a smarter, less flashy style of play.
“Play the type of game that you need to play to win,” he said. “Sometimes you’ve got to be safe, sometimes you take the chances. There is a tendency when you’re at home to try to put on a show for the home crowd, and sometimes that works against you over the course of a full 60-minute game.”
Andrew Ference said he doesn’t really believe in home-ice advantage anyway because everyone is just as comfortable on the road as they are at home.
“I don’t put a lot of stock into home-ice advantage, just because I think guys are very professional with the way we travel in the league,” Ference said. “We stay in good hotels and eat well. … We don’t feel like we’re behind the eight ball when we are on the road or anything like that. It’s just another hockey game.”
Claude Julien echoed his defenseman’s sentiments.
“I’m not worried about a team not winning at home,” Julien said. “I think what I’m more concerned about is making sure our team is ready to play tomorrow and hopefully build on that great win yesterday. We just have to keep getting better and not worry about where we’re playing, but how we’re playing.”
|Tim Thomas named Vezina Trophy finalist||04.22.11 at 1:40 pm ET|
In what was pretty much a foregone conclusion, Tim Thomas was named one of three finalists for the Vezina Trophy on Friday. Vancouver’s Roberto Luongo and Nashville’s Pekka Rinne are the other two finalists.
“Very happy to hear that, obviously,” Thomas said. “After last year, I wasn’t quite sure if I’d ever hear that again.”
Thomas, of course, is referring to his up-and-down 2009-10 campaign, in which he finished the season with a 17-18-8 record to go along with a 2.56 goals-against average and .915 save percentage. He ultimately ceded the starting job to Tuukka Rask by the playoffs.
Thomas bounced back in a big way this year, though. He went 35-11-9 and led the NHL in both goals-against average (2.00) and save percentage (.938). That .938 mark was good enough to break Dominik Hasek‘s single-season save percentage record.
“I definitely have more appreciation just for the fact that I have the opportunity to play,” Thomas said. “I waited a long time in my career just for the opportunity to play in any NHL games. I wanted to have the opportunity and wanted to be able to show what I could do. And so after last year, I think it’s made every game a little bit sweeter this year.”
Claude Julien said Thomas not only deserves the nomination, but that he also deserves to win the award.
“I think it’s pretty obvious to me that Tim is very deserving of that nomination,” Julien said. “Obviously I’m a big fan of what he’s done this year, and if you ask me, he certainly deserves it. I’m sure that I would get some arguments from other places, but I’m certainly going to support Tim for the season he’s had. Especially with what he went through last year, to bounce back this year and have that kind of season, he’s certainly very deserving. I wish him all the luck and I hope he wins what he deserves.”
Thomas said that although the nomination is great and he’s certainly happy about it, he’s focused on more pressing matters right now.
“Only if you make it,” Thomas said when asked if the nomination could be a distraction. “It’s weird timing that we happen to be in the middle of a very tough first-round series. … I could talk about it right now, but my focus will immediately go back to the playoff series. I won’t be thinking about the Vezina later today.”
|Andrew Ference OK with fine, maintains gesture was unintentional||04.22.11 at 1:18 pm ET|
Andrew Ference, who was fined $2,500 by the NHL Friday morning for his gesture after his goal Thursday night, said he was OK with the fine and understood why he was being punished.
“I talked with Mike Murphy of the NHL this morning and explained the same thing I told you guys last night,” Ference said. “He said the same thing, that it looks awful. Obviously with this series, the whole year, how it is between the Habs and the Bruins, a fine is acceptable. I had a good talk with him this morning.”
Ference stood by his claim that the gesture was unintentional. After the game, he said his glove might have gotten caught with the finger up, but that he wasn’t trying to do that.
“I was pumping my fist,” he said on Friday. “I’m not giving anybody the bird or anything like that. Like I told [the NHL], it was an unintentional bird. I obviously apologize for it. It wasn’t meant to insult anybody, especially a whole row of cameras in the Bell Centre and the fans sitting there.”
Claude Julien stood by his defenseman.
“With Andrew, I think he’s been pretty open with what he thinks of the situation,” Julien said. “His comments were pretty clear, and I’m going to support my player. That’s my job, is to support and believe your player, and that’s what I’m going to do. He’s a big boy, he’s capable of handling himself.”
|Canadiens continue to clog shooting lanes in Game 2||04.17.11 at 1:28 am ET|
The Bruins have gotten a lot of shots on goal in their series against the Canadiens — 66 through two games — but they’ve also had a lot blocked. Montreal has registered a staggering 47 blocks in its pair of wins, including 27 in Saturday night’s 3-1 triumph. By comparison, the Bruins have blocked just 21 shots in the series.
“We have some guys who are actually really good at it,” forward Michael Cammalleri said. “[Brent] Sopel and [Hal] Gill right away come to mind. Those guys are two premier shot-blockers in the NHL. They’re leading the way and other guys are feeding off that.”
Gill led all players with five blocks in Game 2, while Sopel’s seven in the two games combined are a series high. It’s not just those two, though. Fourteen of the 19 Canadiens who have dressed in the series have blocked at least one shot. At the other end of the ice, only seven Bruins have registered a block.
“That’s what it takes to win in the playoffs,” forward Mathieu Darche said. “It wasn’t only our third and fourth line guys or our D. It was everybody.”
Defenseman James Wisniewski said the Canadiens have to make sure they’re getting in shooting lanes because the Bruins are a hard team to clear away from the front of the net. If they don’t block shots, he said, there’s a chance the Bruins could tip them or prevent goalie Carey Price from seeing them.
“That’s the type of thing that’s huge for our team,” Wisniewski said. “We can’t outmuscle them in front of the net, so we have to make sure forwards get in the shooting lanes. And if it gets by our forwards, we can come out and front the puck and get the puck out of our zone.”
The Canadiens play a layered defense that has become more and more common at all levels of hockey, and that makes it even more difficult for their opponents to get shots through.
“It’s kind of a skill,” Wisniewski said. “You have to see what the forward is taking away, if he’s taking blocker or glove-side away. If he’s taking blocker, then you step out and take glove-side. So it’s kind of like a double block that we’re doing.”
Price said it requires almost constant communication between him and his defensemen and between the defensemen and the forwards to make sure guys are blocking shots and not just deflecting them or screening him.
“There’s a lot of talk on the ice,” Price said. “It’s not always easy with the noise in the building, but communication is really important.”
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