|Andy Brickley on M&M: Tuukka Rask was a better goalie than Henrik Lundqvist this year||05.08.13 at 2:15 pm ET|
NESN’s Andy Brickley talked with Mut & Merloni on Wednesday about the Bruins’ top two lines, his thoughts on Tuukka Rask being passed over for a Vezina nomination, and what he’s seen from the Leafs’ top scoring threats so far.
Brickley said he was surprised and disappointed that Rask wasn’t nominated for the Vezina Trophy as the league’s best goalie (Henrik Lundqvist, Antti Niemi and Sergei Bobrovsky are the nominees). He said he thought Lundqvist only edged Rask because the Bruins were a stronger defensive team than the Rangers, making Rask’s achievements look less impressive to some.
“Why don’t you compare defensive systems to defensive systems and not have that be part of it — just have the eyeball test and say, who were the top three goalies in the league this year?” Brickley said. “And I would not put Lundqvist ahead of Rask even if the numbers were that similar. Rask was a better goalie than Lundqvist this year.”
With Game 3 in Toronto under the Bruins’ belts and Game 4 coming up tonight, Brickley said he’s been impressed by the Leafs’ home atmosphere.
“It reminded me a lot of what Montreal can bring in the postseason, but this one had a different feel because they hadn’t had a playoff game in eight or nine years,” he said. “It was almost as if it had a similar atmosphere to the finals in 2011 in Vancouver. That’s how much they wanted something special to happen in Game 3. But the Bruins would not allow it to happen — they played a real smart game, something they didn’t do in Game 2.”
Part of the Bruins’ success has been the performance of David Krejci‘s line with Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton. Brickley said it’s no surprise to see Krejci play well in the postseason, but that his linemates’ improved play has helped him stand out as well.
“He was dealing with a couple of guys that were underperforming on his line, basically,” Brickley said. “Now he has Milan Lucic on top of his game, doing the things that he does best. Nathan Horton was still trying to find his way, he wasn’t making any plays, he was mishandling the puck, and now he’s doing what he does best, and that’s score goals. David Krejci’s history and resume suggested that he would be a really good player in the postseason and now he has these two weapons with him playing up to their capabilities.”
|Happy Milan Lucic Appreciation Day||05.08.13 at 1:47 pm ET|
TORONTO — Wednesday morning was Milan Lucic Appreciation Day at Air Canada Centre, with the power forward’s resurgence a big topic among the media (for those keeping track, Tuesday was Jaromir Jagr is Still Getting It Done At His Age Day). Here’s a gem from Shawn Thornton when asked what Lucic has that he wish he did:
“Everything. He skates better than me, he’s got a better shot than me, hits better than me, he’s a lot younger than me,” Thornton said. “He’s definitely a combination you don’t see too often, but that’s why he’s getting six sheets next year. It’s not like you can find those guys everywhere. He gets paid accordingly.”
The “six sheets” line refers to the $6 million Lucic will average over the next three seasons, when the $18 million extension he inked prior to the lockout will begin. Lucic had just seven goals and 20 assists during the regular season, but he’s stepped it up in the playoffs. His six points (all assists) through three games are more points than he had over his final 12 games of the regular season.
As a former 30-goal-scorer, Lucic is there to put pucks in the net. Though he still hasn’t scored this postseason, the fact that he’s been able to contribute as much as he has (Claude Julien said Wednesday that Lucic has been arguably Boston’s best forward this postseason) speaks to what David Krejci says is an under-appreciated ability to make plays.
“Definitely I would say his passing ability is underrated,” David Krejci said. “I’ve been playing with him for a long time, a few years now, so I know what he can bring to the table. He’s not only about hitting the guys and putting the puck in the net and fighting. He can do more things and he’s shown it in the playoffs so far, with three games and six assists that he can help the team in the other part of the game, too.”
|Shawn Thornton ‘can’t believe’ Tuukka Rask not a Vezina finalist||05.08.13 at 1:15 pm ET|
TORONTO — The three finalists for the Vezina Trophy were revealed Wednesday and the Bruins were surprised to hear that Tuukka Rask was not one of them.
Rask, who finished third in the league with a .929 save percentage and was tied for first with five shutouts in 36 games this season, was beat out by favorite Sergei Bobrovsky of the Blue Jackets as well as San Jose’s Antti Niemi and Rangers netminder Henrik Lundqvist. Rask’s 2.00 goals-against average ranked sixth in the NHL this season, while he played seven games less than both Niemi and Lundqvist.
While the Bruins say they’re focused more on the postseason than any individual awards, some admitted to being confused as to why Rask wasn’t a finalist for the award, which is voted on by the league’s general managers.
“I can’t believe he’s not nominated,” Shawn Thornton said. “I don’t know what the reason is. It’s the same as three years ago, when he started with us. If I’m not mistaken, he had the best save percentage, the best goals against in the league and he wasn’t even a question mark for the Calder or the Vezina.”
Rask’s numbers during the regular season are very similar to his stats from the aforementioned 2009-10 season, when, as Thornton pointed out, his 1.97 GAA and .931 save percentage were tops in the league. Thornton thought he deserved more recognition then just like he thinks he deserves it now, and though he said that Rask “definitely” flies under the radar because Boston is known for being such a strong defensive team, he still thinks Rask’s numbers tell a lot of the story of Boston’s success. He isn’t alone in that line of thinking, either.
“From the first game this year, Tuukka has been the guy to go. He’s won some games for us in the season,” David Krejci said. “He’s been great for us in the playoffs. He had 47 shots against the last game and he kept us in the game last game and the first two games as well. It’s great to have somebody back there that you can rely on. He’s been so good for us the whole year. I just hope that he’s going to keep playing the way he is.”
Rask’s backup, Anton Khudobin, said he was surprised that Rask wasn’t a finalist either, saying the 26-year-old “put up good numbers and had a lot of shutouts.” While he understands that people may associate the Bruins as being a great defensive team because of players like Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg, he doesn’t think that’s a reason for people to discount numbers like Rask’s.
“I don’t think any goalie has an easy job in this league,” Khudobin said. “I don’t think so. Of course we have great defensemen, there’s no doubt. Plus it’s a team sport, to win something, every piece has to be good.”
Thornton and Claude Julien both said that they don’t think Rask will lose too much sleep over being excluded, a quality they like about their netminder.
“I don’t know what the reason is,” he said. “I’m just glad we have him on our team. I know that the type of person he is, he doesn’t need the recognition. He’s going to continue to play no matter what, but it’s unfortunate because both years he’s been our starter he’s been unbelievable.”
On a less surprising note, Chara was not one of the top three vote-getters from writers for the Norris Trophy. The three finalists for the award are P.K. Subban, Ryan Suter and Kris Letang.
|Brad Marchand: ‘Toronto Stronger’ sign ‘very disrespectful’||05.07.13 at 6:19 pm ET|
TORONTO — On Tuesday, Maple Leafs players stayed away from questions about the “Toronto Stronger” sign that was held up — complete with blue and white ribbon — by a fan prior to and during the Bruins’ Game 3 victory in Toronto. The players said they hadn’t seen the sign, though James van Riemsdyk (a New Jersey native who played college hockey at UNH) said that it isn’t “the best idea” to make a joke about such an issue as sensitive as the Boston Marathon bombings.
Brad Marchand has made a career of saying things that get under players’ skin, but he felt that the sign crossed the line, as it didn’t hurt the Bruins, but a city that has been through a lot.
“I think sometimes fans overreact with things and sometimes go places maybe they don’t need to go. Obviously it’s a very tragic thing that happened. I don’t think anyone should ever take it lightly or make a joke out of it,” Marchand said. “Obviously, people can be very disrespectful, but Boston went though a lot and you saw the respect that every team that we played against after that gave to our city. It’s not about going about going after our guys, our team and putting the team down. It’s more about the city and the people. Everyone reacted the right way about it and gave their respect. If fans want to go the other way then that’s up to them, but it’s not really necessary.”
Claude Julien also found the sign insensitive but pointed out that fans can be that way during the playoffs, noting that a fan in a Leafs jersey was knocked out at TD Garden after Toronto’s Game 2 win.
“Playoffs bring a lot of passion to the fans and rightfully so, and those things are things that happen,” Julien said. “There was an incident in Boston that unfortunately happened to a Leaf fan, and last night’s sign, to me, had nothing to do with hockey. ‘Boston Strong’ is about something that struck our city, not our team and maybe it’s a little sensitive for the Boston people. Those kind of things happen in the playoffs and the best and sometimes the worst comes out of the passion of our game. That’s all I can say about that situation. It’s maybe a little sensitive for the city of Boston more than it is for our hockey club.”
For more on the Bruins, visit weei.com/bruins.
|Randy Carlyle, Claude Julien squabbling over faceoffs||05.07.13 at 4:04 pm ET|
TORONTO — It came a little earlier than it did two years ago, but the coaches have officially begun a war of words through the media. In 2011, it was then-Lightning coach Guy Boucher and Claude Julien going back and forth regarding penalties being called. This year, it’s Leafs coach Randy Carlyle and Julien over who’s doing what on faceoffs.
The Maple Leafs and center Tyler Bozak (who went 7-for-23 on Monday) vented their frustrations with the how often Leafs players were getting tossed from the faceoff circle, also claiming that Bruins centers didn’t put their stick down first, as the road team should. Carlyle said the team has watched video of the faceoffs and feel the B’s have an unfair advantage.
“Faceoffs are always a big part of any hockey game,” Carlyle said. “When you’re at home, you think you would be afforded some of the staples of the opposition having to be down first and stop. In our review, there were things going on out there that we don’t agree with.
“It’s supposed to be visitor down, home team down, puck down. That clearly was not happening as per video.”
The Bruins held a 45-30 edge on faceoffs Monday, thanks largely to having one of the better faceoff men in the league in Patrice Bergeron (who won 12 of 20) and having third-liners Rich Peverley and Chris Kelly combine to go 22-of-26. Julien responded to Carlyle’s comments by saying the Leafs are looking for calls from the officials in Game 4, a cry he hopes isn’t heard.
“I’ve heard a lot about the faceoff issue,” Julien said. “I’ve looked at the video too and it is what it is — guys getting kicked out, not getting kicked out. When you lobby for something it’s because you’re looking for a bit of a break next game and that’s what Randy’s doing right now. He’s lobbying for some breaks on the faceoffs.
“It’s going to be interesting to see whether the referees and the linesmen just do their job next game and not worry about who’s crying wolf.”
For more on the Bruins, visit weei.com/bruins.
|Phil Kessel told Brad Marchand he’d fight him ‘any time’||05.07.13 at 3:22 pm ET|
TORONTO – Brad Marchand dropped one glove when he was tied up with Maple Leafs forward Phil Kessel in the third period of Boston’s 5-2 Game 3 win, and he said Tuesday that he it was to gauge whether Kessel would stick to his word.
“We kind of came together there and I wasn’t really sure what was going on,” Marchand explained. “He was shoving and he told me before he’d go with me any time, so I wasn’t really sure what was going to happen, but I just wanted to be prepared.”
Kessel has one career fight in the NHL, which came against Columbus’ Kris Russell during the 2009-10 season. Marchand has four in his career, with his lone fight this season coming against Washington’s Mike Ribeiro.
Asked Tuesday about the scuffle, which landed both players in the box in an exchange the B’s would gladly take, Kessel said he doesn’t feel Marchand is getting him off his game or drawing him into anything that would put the Leafs in a tight spot.
“I don’t think it’s a big deal,” Kessel said, adding: “It’s just battling hard out there, and it gets heated.”
Added Kessel: “I mean, he’s a good hockey player and he battles hard out there.”
The good news for Kessel is that he’s finally finding some offensive success against the Bruins. After scoring just three goals in his first 22 career games against his former club, Kessel has two goals in three games this series. If he’s happy about that, he sure isn’t showing it.
“It doesn’t really matter when you’re not winning games,” Kessel said. “Obviously last night we didn’t win, and we’re going to have to come out harder Wednesday.”
For more on the Bruins, visit weei.com/bruins.
|Don Cherry on M&M: ‘You’re going to see a different Toronto Maple Leafs’ in Game 4||05.07.13 at 12:21 pm ET|
Legendary Hockey Night in Canada commentator and former Bruins coach Don Cherry joined Mut & Merloni on Tuesday morning to talk about the Stanley Cup playoffs.
The Bruins took a 2-1 lead on the Maple Leafs in their first-round series with a 5-2 victory in Toronto on Monday night, but Cherry said now that the Leafs have gotten past the first home game, they should be more comfortable.
“I think for the first half of the game they had the jitters,” Cherry said. “You couldn’t believe the crowd outside. There was about 10,000 people with a monstrous [TV] screen in a square here. It was unbelievable. This is the first time they’ve been in the playoffs in nine years. And what I think happened was they were very, very nervous. The kids were very, very nervous the first half of the game, anyhow. Then they said, Hey, what the heck, we’ve got to turn it on. And they did. So, I said the opening game [that] last night you’re going to see a different Bruins. I’m going to predict you’re going to see a different Toronto Maple Leafs tomorrow night.”
Tyler Seguin has no points in the Bruins’ three playoff games, but Cherry predicts the young forward will break through at some point.
“Maybe he’s just a little frustrated right now, but he’s going to come through,” Cherry said.
Cherry, no stranger to controversy, recently came under fire when he offered support for Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith after Keith made a condescending comment to a female reporter. Cherry, who is credited with being the first NHL coach to allow a female reporter in the locker room (while coaching the Bruins in 1975), explained his view.
Said Cherry: “It’s not that I don’t think they’re qualified, it’s not that I think they shouldn’t do the interviews. I just don’t think they should be subject to some of the guys, the way they act. The guys take advantage of it. That’s what I meant. Again, it was taken all out of context.”
Cherry also touched on his relationship with former Bruins general manager and president Harry Sinden. The two had a falling out after Cherry was not retained as B’s coach in 1979, but Cherry said they’re finally back on speaking terms.
“Harry and I have [made up],” Cherry said. “We’ve been awful enemies for some reason. I don’t know what happened — something. But in the last hurrah, Harry and I shook hands. It was me that started the whole thing, I think. I was a little vindictive, because I didn’t want to leave the Bruins and all that sort of stuff. But Harry and I have made up, and good for it, because life’s too short to go through with arguments all the time.”
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