|Hockey writers realize Zdeno Chara is still one of the best in the game||04.25.11 at 1:27 pm ET|
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.
|Claude Julien, Bruins know what Canucks are going through||04.25.11 at 1:09 pm ET|
Entering this season, the Bruins were known as the team that choked away a 3-0 series lead en route to being eliminated by the Flyers in the playoffs. Now, the Canucks are helping people forget that.
Vancouver held a 3-0 series lead against the No. 8 Blackhawks in their Western Conference quarterfinals series, but Chicago has come storming back. Sunday night, they tied the series at three games apiece with an overtime victory.
“I think I understand what they’re going through,” Claude Julien said of the Canucks Monday. “We lived through it. You watch those games and you see how another team can grab momentum pretty quick and confidence and belief. It’s there again this year and there’s an opportunity again to create what happened last year to our team for another team. Whether that’s a trend that’s going that way now, I don’t know. But it certainly shows that there’s parity in this league and nothing is over until it’s over.”
|Hard for Bruins to get ahead of themselves considering how close it’s been||04.25.11 at 1:00 pm ET|
One team won two games in a row. Then the other rattled off three straight. For series that has seen such stretches of wins, it’s quite surprising that neither run has exactly featured dominance. It’s been close the whole way.
Looking at the Bruins/Canadiens Eastern Conference quarterfinals series, neither team has necessarily outperformed one another to the point of it being noteworthy. Both teams have scored 12 goals in the series, and neither has won by more than two goals (something that’s only occurred twice). The Bruins, who hold a 3-2 series lead, have a chance to close it out Tuesday, and it’s just how close it’s been that has let them keep the right perspective.
“The last two games have been in overtime and could have gone either way, right? It could have been a totally different series,” Gregory Campbell said of the Bruins’ victories in Games 4 and 5. “Even the first three games were tight as well. We had a lot of chances in the first two games, and in Game 3, they had the lead on us.”
Given their awareness of just how close it’s been, there is no chatter of desired second-round opponents. The B’s know that if they let up even the tiniest bit, the Habs can put their backs to the wall.
“It hasn’t been the case, where you look at other series, and there’s been some games where a team has dominated the other team. That’s not been the case in this series,” Chris Kelly said. “Every game’s been close, and a hard-fought battle right to the end of the game. We don’t expect anything different tomorrow night, and I don’t think they would either.”
With all that having been said, there’s obviously the added factor of desperation. The Habs are playing for their playoff lives, but the Bruins are also taking the must-win approach. That can be a good thing and a bad thing, depending on the way you approach it.
“You don’t want to ever categorize a game where it kind of takes you off your game and makes us tense. You feel everything’s got to be done in the first period and think, ‘we have to get the first goal,'” Campbell said. “I mean, We have to play our game. We have to play like we’ve been playing the last three games. That has included being desperate, that’s included making plays, getting a lot of chances and scoring goals. That’s what we’re going to do tomorrow night.”
|Six things the Bruins need in Game 6 vs. Canadiens||04.25.11 at 10:42 am ET|
The Bruins are one win away from advancing to the Eastern Conference semifinals for the third time in as many seasons. Momentum would appear to be on their side, as they have won the last three games of this quarterfinal series vs. the Habs, including the last two in overtime. In order to close it out and move on, they’ll need to win either Tuesday at the Bell Centre (their first trip to Montreal since Bird Gate), or Wednesday in Boston. Here are six things they might need in Game 6:
1. Never underestimate a desperate team
If the Bruins have trouble with this one, perhaps they didn’t learn anything from a certain series last year. The Habs want nothing more than to force a Game 7 in Boston Wednesday, and given that the teams won’t have a day off before the decisive final game, the B’s wouldn’t want to give the Habs that momentum.
2. Get even a fraction of the Tim Thomas they got in Game 5
Thomas has established himself as one of the better goaltenders in the league since making it to the show with the Bruins. In his six-plus seasons in Boston, he’s done some incredible things. He won a Vezina a couple of years ago and figures to win another for this season’s performance. He broke the single-season save percentage record. He’s even racked up 26 shutouts with the Bruins.
Amidst all the great showings the 37-year-old has turned in, Thomas’ performance in Game 5 had people wondering whether, despite it not being a shutout, they were seeing some version of Tim Thomas that is generally saved for special occasions. Thomas’ save on Brian Gionta when the Habs captain and Travis Moen were on a 2-on-1 was sensational, as he didn’t cheat towards Gionta in anticipation of the pass, but was still able to get over in time to make the highlight-reel stop after it. If the B’s can get that type of performance Tuesday, they’ll certainly be hard to beat.
3. Make the power play an actual advantage
This one’s almost like the free space in Bingo. It just goes without saying, so it’s almost cheap to include this among the six. Even if it does go without saying, the power play has gone without scoring for too long. The 0-for-15 mark it’s posted in the playoffs might make one wonder if the team ever scores on the power play. Such questions can be answered with the reassuring stat of the seven goals they’ve had on 80 power plays since acquiring Tomas Kaberle.
4. Watch out for that pesky blue line
The two teams combined for 10 offsides calls in Game 5. While it is perhaps a goaltender’s second-best friend, there’s no better way to disrupt an offense. This is certainly an area in which both teams would like to see less calls.
5. Get the Chris Kelly line the B’s got in Game 4
The Kelly line with Michael Ryder and Rich Peverley was the biggest one for the Bruins in their Game 4 overtime win. While Ryder made two very big non-offensive plays (a nice save and a nifty backcheck), the line’s output wasn’t nearly what it was when it pumped out three goals Thursday in Montreal. Ryder had three shots on goal Saturday, while Peverley had just one and Kelly had none. Kelly was one of only two Bruins players (Gregory Campbell) to have a negative rating on the night.
There has been no Bruin better than Patrice Bergeron in this series, and given the way Tim Thomas played Saturday, that’s saying something. Bergeron has six points over the last four games, and it seems his work has also elevated the play of Brad Marchand, who has four points over the last four.
Though the Bergeron line has been great, the David Krejci line has been hot and cold. The coldest link has certainly been Milan Lucic, who still has no goals and just one point through five games, though he was more involved Saturday night and led the Bruins with eight shots on goal in the double-overtime contest. If he can keep sending pucks Carey Price‘s way, he’ll be able to snap out of it.
|Andrew Ference on D&C: ‘The glove got stuck. I paid my fine’||04.25.11 at 10:06 am ET|
Bruins defenseman Andrew Ference joined the Dennis & Callahan show Monday morning to talk about the playoff series vs. the Canadiens. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.
Ference was fined $2,500 for giving the middle finger to the Canadiens crowd after scoring in Game 4. He still insists his glove got stuck and it was not intentional. “I’m standing by it,” he said. “It would be a lot more interesting if I didn’t. But I paid the fine for it. I’m glad it wasn’t on purpose or else I could get suspended. ‘¦ The glove got stuck. I paid my fine.”
Discussing the fact that there is so much violence on the ice and he got fined for something that did not hurt anyone physically, Ference said: “We’re a sport of contradictions. It kind of fits our little world that we live in. We have some crazy violence in our sport, but we’re also pretty easy guys to get along with, to go out for a beer with.”
Ference said he’s prepared for the Montreal crowd to boo him Tuesday night. “I’d much rather hear that than their cheering and their little song that they’ve got there,” he said, adding: “It’s fun. Honestly, it’s awesome. We go up there and it is a crazy place to play because they’re nuts about hockey and about their team. … Honestly, that’s pretty cool to play in front of. It’s great to play at home where everybody’s cheering you on, but to have that many people who really hate your team, it’s pretty cool. It’s fun.”
Injured Canadiens forward Max Pacioretty tweeted a joke about Bruins rookie Brad Marchand‘s big nose during Saturday night’s game (he later removed the tweet and apologized). Ference responded with sarcasm. “That’s way worse than the bird. That’s going after somebody’s physical appearance. We never bug Marchand about his nose. I didn’t even notice it was big. Is it big?” he said to laughs from the hosts.
Added Ference: “God forbid the time when we get that politically correct.”
Asked if it’s difficult to bounce back from an overtime loss ‘ or win ‘ and be ready to play right from the start in the next game, Ference said the veterans shouldn’t have any problem. “I think guys are pretty good about walking away from games and kind of hitting reset,” he said. “I don’t know ‘ everybody’s different. When you’re real young it’s harder to control your emotions. But when you get older or have been to the playoffs a couple of times, like most of our guys on our team have, it’s a lot easier to move past either one of [a win or a loss].”
Ference said the margin between winning or losing these tight games often is “dumb luck” and that he enjoys the extra sessions. “I actually like overtime better than the regular game because there’s no TV timeouts. You just go, and it really goes by fast,” he said. “If you can roll your lines and your defense pairs, you can get into a very good rhythm.
“I love overtime. Everybody in the stands is going crazy. Every shot, you’re kind of holding your breath, for and against. It’s great. It’s enjoyable. It’s fun to play in.”
|As Bruins power play struggles, Tomas Kaberle still trying to ‘prove why I’m here’||04.24.11 at 1:20 pm ET|
Tomas Kaberle was supposed to be the answer for Boston’s power play. So far, there’s just been more questions in what has been an ugly tryout for a new contract.
Seemingly destined to don the black and gold eventually, the Bruins finally acquired the heavily sought-after free agent-to-be 10 days prior to the trade deadline. Since then, the Bruins’ power play has been almost unfathomably unproductive. With just seven goals in 80 opportunities, the unit has been clicking just eight percent of the time. Even general manager Peter Chiarelli said recently that the team expected more out of the defenseman when they sent a first-round pick and highly touted prospect Joe Colborne to Toronto in exchange for the veteran defenseman. Chiarelli isn’t the only one hoping Kaberle can pick it up.
“I always put a lot of pressure on myself,” Kaberle said Sunday at TD Garden. “Hopefully I can prove why I’m here. I would like to help with every little thing I can do on the ice. Obviously, I am one of the guys on the PP, and it would be nice to be something going there.”
Kaberle had nine points for the Bruins in his 24 regular season contests since being acquired, but as the spotlight grew brighter with the arrival of the playoffs, the 33-year-old had an ugly showing. He reversed a puck too hard in the Bruins’ zone, making for an easy Scott Gomez pass to Brian Gionta to set up what would be the game-winning goal.
From there, things didn’t improve as much as they needed to. Kaberle had major struggles in Game 2, displaying an inability to keep the puck in the zone on routine plays, a suggestion that perhaps he may have been pressing. If a turnaround is to be made, perhaps the defenseman can build on the fact that things have at least been looking up statistically. He’s had an assist in each of the last two games, and with how bad things were in Games 1 and 2, it’s a starting point.
“I felt like the first couple of games I could have been better,” Kaberle admitted Sunday. “The last few games, I’ve felt a lot better, and I’m feeling better confidence-wise. I’ll take it from there.”
Right now, any signs of confidence from Kaberle should be a good thing, as his play — despite making the as-advertised passes — has not been a major game-changer for the B’s in the postseason. He still isn’t producing on the man advantage, and his now-infamous fakes on the power play aren’t fooling anybody. Fairly or unfairly, Chiarelli’s move to get Kaberle will be seen as a major steal by the Leafs unless the power play starts getting the results that have eluded them for too long. There’s no better way to do that than to get the power play going, but teammates won’t let all the responsibility fall on Kaberle.
“I’m sure he feels pressure just like all of us,” Dennis Seidenberg said Sunday. “It’s not just him that wants to do better. I think it’s everybody that wants to create and wants to get that advantage you’re supposed to get. Right now it’s just not working, and I’m sure he thinks as much as everybody else about it — what he can do, and what we should do improve it. I guess it’s a work in progress.”
A first-round pick and a former first-round center with as high a ceiling as Colborne’s is not something a team wants to give up for a player that can help the power play be a “work in progress.” That type of package is reserved for a star player, and that’s clearly what the Bruins thought they were getting. There’s still time for Kaberle to justify the move and prove that the trade for a puck-moving defenseman was more than an asset-moving blunder, but for now the waiting game continues.
|Claude Julien: Game 6 vs. Canadiens will be ‘toughest one’||04.24.11 at 1:00 pm ET|
The Bruins did not practice Sunday after their 2-1 victory in double-overtime over the Canadiens on Saturday night, though select members of the team and coach Claude Julien were at TD Garden to discuss the state of affairs with the team leading the Eastern Conference quarterfinals, 3-2.
The B’s, who found themselves in a hole after dropping the first two games of the season, have won three straight games, including the last two in overtime. Now one win away from going to the Eastern Conference semifinals for the third time in as many years, Julien said he does not anticipate an easy time as the B’s try to clinch the series in Montreal on Tuesday.
“I think we just have to turn the page here and understand there is another full game to be played,” Julien said Sunday. “When you win three in a row you should feel confident. But again, there is a lot of work to be done. We know this next game is going to be the toughest one. You have a team playing for their lives and they are plying in their home building. So it represents a pretty big challenge for us so we are going to have to be at our best.”