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Bergeron’s goal gives Boston Game 3 04.19.10 at 9:37 pm ET
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Summary — The Bruins and Sabres shifted back to Boston on Monday for Game 3 in their quarterfinal Stanley Cup Playoff series, and Boston went up a game by beating the Sabres 2-1 in front of a sold-out crowd at TD Garden.

Patrice Bergeron got the game-winner for Boston at 12:57 of the third period to put the Bruins on top for good. Tuukka Rask won his second career playoff game 32 saves while Ryan Miller took the loss with 27 stops.

For the third straight game, the Sabres were the first to break the seal with a goal in the first 10 minutes of the first period. This time, forward Michael Grier was the perpetrator after Tim Kennedy pushed the puck forward to him through the neutral zone on the right wing. Grier took a took a snap shot from the top of the circle that Rask could not glove as it passed him far side for the 1-0 lead at 6:57.

Boston came back as the teams’ skated a 4-on-4 after Andrew Ference and Paul Gaustad had gone to their respective penalty boxes at 13:18 with matching roughing calls after a scrum in front of Rask’s net. Matt Hunwick hit center Vladimir Sobotka rushing down the right wing. Sobotka waited long enough to catch Dennis Wideman trailing the play enter the slot and hit him with a pass that the defenseman could one-time on the net to beat Miller stick side at 15:17 to tie the game heading into the second period.

The second period was a see-saw affair that featured 10 penalty minutes (four for Sabres, six for Bruins) and one giant hit by Boston defenseman Johnny Boychuk on Matt Ellis at the blue line that separated the Buffalo forward from the puck. Neither team could take advantage of the power play time and the game headed to the third still tied at one.

Three Stars

Patrice Bergeron — The Bruins center scored his first goal of the playoffs and recorded his second point of the playoffs with the game-winner in the third.

Tuukka Rask — Out-dueled Ryan Miller for the second straight game in stopping 32 shots for his second career playoff win.

Dennis Wideman — Had a hand in two Bruins goals as he tied the game in the first and had the secondary assist on Bergeron’s game-winner.

Turning Point – After about a period and a half of spinning wheels on each side, Boston took the lead in the third period. That’s when Mark Recchi retrieved a loose puck behind the goal line in the corner and snapped it back in front to the bottom of the circle where Bergeron was waiting with a one-timer that Miller had no chance at to send the Bruins towards the victory. On the Sabres next time down the ice, there was a scrum in front of Rask that led to a variety of fisticuffs with Sobotka and Andrej Sekera dropping the gloves. Andrew Ference and Raffi Torres each took 10-minute misconduct penalties while Dennis Wideman and Craig Rivet had matching roughing calls.

Key Play – Rask got pressure in the third and handled a loose puck in his leg pads by just laying on it in the series after the big penalty scrum to foil one of the last chances that the Sabres would get in the game. Rask also made a big save after Miller went to the bench for the extra attacker when Buffalo took a timeout with 44.7 seconds left.

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Second period summary: Bruins vs. Sabres – Game 3 04.19.10 at 8:45 pm ET
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Back and forth they go.

The Sabres got the first real power play of the game when Milan Lucic was called for a a drive-by high-sticking penalty when he caught the butt-end of his stick on the cheek of Craig Rivet while chasing the puck back out of his own offensive zone on the forecheck at 1:57. Buffalo entered Game 3 without a man-advantage strike through the first two contests, going 0 for 9 in the process. The Sabres worked on the power play through their entire morning skate, showing off two different formations that both featured a lot of movement to the net.

The Sabres may never find out how those sets work against the Bruins because the stout Boston penalty kill has consistently foiled any clean Buffalo entries into their zone and the Bruins were able to kill off their 10th in a row in the series.

Outside of Zdeno Chara dumping Tyler Ennis into Buffalo’s bench in Game 2, the biggest hit of the series came shortly after the power play when Buffalo forward Matt Ellis was trying to skate the puck clear of the Sabres’ offensive zone when he was met by their perpetual agitator in this series, Johnny Boychuk. The defenseman stood Ellis up and knocked him flat on his back, going from forward motion to the ice in a flash as he was separated from the puck.

Boston got its first crack at the power play when Paul Gaustad went to the box for interference at 12:18. The Bruins got a man-advantage strike from Mark Recchi in Game 1 but have not been able to tally in three other chances in the first two games. Despite decent puck movement in their the zone the Bruins were foiled on this attempt as well. Boston got another chance a few minutes later when Andrej Sekera took an interference call at 15:06 but the Sabres, who actually ranked higher than the Bruins in penalty killing during the regular season (second to third), battled through again to make Boston 1 for 6 on the series.

To punctuate the see-saw that was the second period, Boston took two penalties in the final three minutes. The first was to Marco Sturm, negating the last 17-seconds of Boston’s power play off the Sekera penalty. Once the Bruins killed that one off they had to start another as Andrew Ference took a tripping call at 18:51.

The Sabres wills start the third a man up and lead the Bruins in shots 21 to 20.

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First period summary: Bruins vs. Sabres – Game 3 04.19.10 at 7:46 pm ET
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That was not the start the Bruins were expecting in their first home playoff game in the series.

For the third consecutive game the Sabres jumped to a goal lead in the first ten minutes of the first period. This time it was Michael Grier on the rush after getting the puck pushed up to him on the left wing by Tim Kennedy through the neutral zone. Grier wound up and fired wide on Tuukka Rask and the skinny Finnish goaltender could not get his glove out far enough to reach the puck as it had eyes to the far side to give the Sabres a 1-0 lead at 6:57.

The teams played two minutes of 4-on-4 hockey starting at 13:18 after Rask had covered the puck in his crease and Sabres center Paul Gaustad went crashing hard into the net only to be pulled down and sat upon by Andrew Ference. Both Gaustad and Ference went to the box for roughing penalties.

Boston used the extra ice to its advantage. Defenseman Matt Hunwick hit Vladimir Sobotka down the right wing through the neutral zone time and space about him. Defenseman Dennis Wideman was the trailer through the slot and Sobotka waited long enough for Wideman to get halfway into the zone before feeding him a pass that he could perfectly one-time at Ryan Miller, beating the goalie stick side at 15:17 to tie the game.

The Sabres lead the shot parade through the first period 14 to 10 while Boston is outhitting Buffalo 16 to 14.

On to the second period with the score tied at one at TD Garden.

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Chara and his pest 04.19.10 at 2:01 pm ET
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There is no doubt that the Bruins captain Zdeno Chara can be a dominating player. He logs big minutes, neutralizes big forwards and, in the case of Game 2 against the Sabres, scores big goals. Everything about Chara is big. So, how do you stop that dominating force of nature especially when he is one of the key players in a playoff series?

By putting the smallest guy you can find on him, of course.

On the Buffalo roster that would be rookie Tyler Ennis. The 5-foot-9 forward gives a solid foot to the 6-foot-9 Chara but he is exactly the type of player that gives the towering Slovak blue liner problems — small and especially quick.

“You look at Boston, they got a big game out of Chara, he is one of their special players,” Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said. “We can’t let that happen again. He will try to make it happen, but we can’t. Maybe we will put Ennis on him and make sure that he doesn’t do it again.”

Is the task daunting for a rookie playing his 13th career NHL game, which includes three of the playoff variety (counting Game 3 on Monday night)? Probably a little more than Ennis lets on.

“It has been fun. He is a really good player and a big guy and a strong player,” Ennis said. “Myself, I have been trying to use my speed and just battle really hard. He is a lot stronger than I am and stuff and I just need to know when to use my speed and other stuff.”

Ennis got a rough hello from Chara in Game 2 when the defenseman checked Ennis hard, depositing him in the Sabres bench. Yet, Ennis has some pretty specific training when it comes to handling guys the size of Chara as he has gone through the minors as both teammates and opponents.

“I think he really is a unique player.I have never really seen a player like that big and that mobile and offensive and can shut you down,” Ennis said of Myers. “I played with [Myers] in the World Juniors and stuff and played against him in the Western League so it has helped getting used to that long reach and getting used to really tall players with long reach like that.”

The scouting report on Chara is the same for Myers — the quicker, the more of a nuisance.

“I find it with the smaller, really shiftier guys are the hardest to handle for me,” Myers said. “[Ennis] can really turn on a dime. It is really more containment for me than being physical. I don’t try to kill him in practice. But, a guy like that is very similar to [Martin] St. Louis — very shifty, very skilled. With those smaller skilled guys I think I contain more.”

The comparison to St. Louis may prove to be apt. The 20-year-old Ennis was named the American Hockey League Rookie of the Year after putting up 65 points (23 goals, 42 assists) in 69 games with the Portland Pirates this season. He was also selected to the AHL All-Rookie Team. He was recalled on March 27 and played 10 regular-season games with the Sabres with three goals and six assists. He is effectively taking the spot of injured Buffalo forward Jochen Hecht (21 goals, 21 assists in regular season) who will be out indefinitely after having finger surgery last week.

In other Monday morning news, Sabres forward Drew Stafford is expected to return to the lineup and participated in the morning skate at TD Garden. Stafford missed the first two games of the series with the a concussion sustained in the second-to-last game of the regular season.

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No intent to injure Vanek but significant benefit for B’s 04.19.10 at 1:18 pm ET
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Sabres coach Lindy Ruff knows that a team’s “special players” have to be the ones that carry a team through a playoff series. Yes, the team that works harder, the scheme that is more effective, the luck or misfortune inherent in the playoffs all are factors in determining which teams take a step closer to Lord Stanley’s Cup, but sometimes it is just about which team has more talent.

“Your special players can still win the game for you,” Ruff said. “I think that if your special players have good opportunities they have to make a difference for you and that will be the difference in the series.”

Yet, Ruff and the Sabres will be missing the player that gave them a significant talent edge over the Bruins in the form of Thomas Vanek. The Austrian forward went down in Game 2 on Saturday after Boston defenseman Johnny Boychuk chased him down on a partial break and slashed at his knee causing him to lose his edge and tumble into the end wall. Ruff told the media  on Sunday that he was pleasantly surprised about Vanek’s condition after initially fearing the worst but that he will still be out for Game 3 at TD Garden Monday evening.

“No step back but no progress,” Ruff said of Vanek’s status. “Same as yesterday.”

Boychuk has been getting some flack around the league for what some fans and media have called a vicious two-handed slash that was either over-aggressive or had the specific intent to injure. Boychuk was not having any of that.

“It wasn’t even that bad, I think,” Boychuk said. “He was basically almost on a breakaway and I was going to try and lift his stick on the left and I switched and hit his right leg instead of his left leg. I was trying to hit his stick to push the puck off, just so happens that I hit his leg and he fell down.”

Coach Claude Julien was also of the opinion that Boychuk’s slash was more of a “hockey move” than anything malicious.

“None of the above. I don’t think he was overaggressive. He did a hockey play. I think it’s pretty obvious, and I don’t want to dwell on this stuff, but Vanek got hurt going into the boards. It’s his left leg, not his right, so he got hurt that way,” Julien said.  ”I think it’s pretty obvious those are things that happen in the game of hockey. We all have injuries on every team, so let’s turn the page and move on, on that. I don’t think he’s overaggressive. He’s played well for us and I think that’s where we see Johnny Boychuk, a pretty good defenseman for us.”

Boychuk was adamant that there was no intent to injure.

“No, not a chance. Why would I want to harm the guy? It makes no sense,” Boychuk said.

Well, Mr. Boychuk, an injury to Vanek makes perfect sense if you have a rooting interest in the Bruins. Whatever the intent was, it is pretty obvious that Boychuk and Julien are sticking to their version of the incident. Boychuk will never admit to going after Vanek and to be fair the forward was closing in on goaltender Tuukka Rask with the puck on his stick. Boychuk was penalized for the slash and since the play was on the puck as much as the player their was no attempt to hide it away from the game action the way it sometimes happens in the NHL.

Ruff may be trying to paint a happy picture to the media with his “pleasantly surprised” comments but there have been whispers that the injury might be a high-ankle sprain, which would put him out of commission for most of the playoffs if Buffalo were to make a run at the Cup. Boston’s Milan Lucic had the same injury this year and it took him eight weeks to recover and said that he feels for Vanek if that is indeed the case.

“Ever since I got it I don’t wish that injury on anyone,” Lucic said. “It is definitely the toughest injury that I have gone through and I think everyone who has had it will tell you the same thing.”

The matchups in the series are such that players like Derek Roy, Tim Connolly for Buffalo and Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci for the Bruins effectively cancel each other out. Even the defensive pairings are similar with both teams having one of the tallest defensemen in NHL history with Zdeno Chara and rookie Tyler Myers. Vanek was the key for the Sabres though and Ruff knows it.

“I’m looking ahead. I am looking at tonight’s game. That’s my only focus. We need some guys to be better. When you say you have to work real hard, you can work as hard as you want but if the puck doesn’t go in the net, you don’t win the game,” Ruff said.

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Savard looking better, hopeful for playoff return 04.19.10 at 12:49 pm ET
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Bruins’ center Marc Savard skated at TD Garden Monday morning for the first time since sustaining a Grade 2 concussion after a hit from Pittsburgh’s Matt Cooke on March 7. Savard said that he cannot tell for sure when he will be able to return from the injury but he was much more animated than the previous times he has met with the media since the hit. He said that he has regained the weight he lost after the injury and has been able to do a little golf putting for exercise in the last week or so.

Here is the transcript from Savard’s morning press conference courtesy of the Boston Bruins media relations department:

On how long he skated this morning and what types of workouts he has been doing:

Well, today I was there for thirty minutes I think — first time I skated and I feel great. I felt great. Biggest thing was the last seven days, I had great days, you know. To be honest with you, you know, I talked to the doctor and I said, ‘Can I get out and putt or something?’ and she said, ‘yeah, go ahead.’ So I started on — I guess it was on Saturday — not this Saturday but the one before and I went out and putted for a half hour and went home, felt great, and then continued on Sunday, got out again and did a little more putting and hopefully I won’t have to use that putter for a while. So I just felt great all week and then I guess yesterday, I did that exertion test and everything felt great again last night, so today was my first day on the ice and I just feel normal again, so it’s nice.

On when he thinks he can practice with the team again:

Well, you know, tomorrow’s another big day, I guess. I got my neuro-psyche test that we have to go through and assuming I pass that, I’ll be cleared and it’s just a matter of getting back in shape. I haven’t done anything for, you know, six weeks at all, so I felt a little short-winded out there because of that, and it’s going to take some time and hopefully sooner rather than later, because I’m excited that I’m feeling good and it’s playoff time.

On if he envisions himself coming back in this series:

If you ask me, yeah, I’d love to play tonight, but you know, I got to be realistic here and take the proper steps and I’m hopeful, I’m hopeful. And I can’t see these next two games, that’s for sure, but down the road maybe, it’s going to come down to a coaches’ decision and a training decision and myself, so I think I’m still a little bit of ways away obviously, like I said, I haven’t done anything in six weeks, besides work the remote on the couch, so it’s going to take some time.

On if he regained the weight he lost:

Yeah, that came back quick. I wasn’t eating much for the first 3½, four weeks and then once I got the taste buds back, definitely ate some food, but the biggest thing is I’m just happy to feel like myself again and be around the guys, especially at this exciting time, especially watching the games on TV. You know, I couldn’t sit down the last couple of days, watching the games, running around the house and you know, there were some tense times, that’s for sure, and I’m excited.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Bruins glad to be home 04.18.10 at 8:35 pm ET
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Michael Ryder responded with two goals in Game 2. (AP)

The Bruins got what they needed in Buffalo.

Two wins would have been nice, but a split on the road is a nice consolation prize, and Bruins coach Claude Julien knows that Sunday’s 5-3 victory was a big one.

“Anytime you start off on the road you want to come back with at least a split,” Julien said after Bruins practice on Sunday afternoon. “We’ve done that, and now it’s our job to kind of maintain that home-ice advantage that we’ve acquired.”

Michael Ryder, who registered two goals in Sunday’s win, agreed.

“It’s definitely good to come back with the split up there in Buffalo, but it’s still a long series and we got to take advantage of that win and make sure we use our home-ice to our advantage,” said Ryder. “We know the fans are going to be behind us and it’s going to be pretty loud.”

Now, it’s up to the B’s to take advantage of the TD Garden ice, something that has been easier said than done this season. The Bruins were 18-17-6 this season on Causeway Street, but showed enough signs towards the end of the season that home woes may be a thing of the past.

“We won the last couple games, but the other games before that we lost we were dominant,” Julien said. “It’s not that we’ve played terrible here, it’s that we weren’t getting results here for a while. I think our team feels pretty confident in our home building.”

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Heavy traffic in front of Ryan Miller proved to be key in Game 2. Can the Bruins keep it up in Game 3? (AP)

Another thing the Bruins should feel confident about is their ability to knock a few past Ryan Miller in Game 2. The possible Vezina Trophy winner only allowed four or more goals seven times in 69 games played this season, and a big reason why the Bruins had success was Ryder.

Ryder was a constant nuisance for Miller in front of the net, and his first goal was a direct result of traffic in front of the net. Ryder said  the Bruins need to keep blocking Miller’s vision and causing havoc in front of the net to keep getting on the board.

“I don’t think we are going to score four goals on him too often, but we got to keep doing the same things,” said Ryder. “We got to keep throwing pucks at the net in traffic. When he sees that first puck he usually makes that first save. We just got to make sure we limit him to coming out and challenging and trying to take his vision away. If he sees the puck, he’s going to save it and we did a good job of getting traffic and using screens to our advantage.”

The Bruins’ winger was scoreless in his previous 12 games before putting home a pair on Saturday, and Julien said when Ryder scores, the rest of his game starts to pick up.

“It’s like all goal scorers, when you get a couple of goals you get your confidence back,” Julien said. “When he gets going and he gets his confidence other things come out of his game.”

Ryder added: “Sometimes when I hit or get my feet moving to the net and get a little more physical towards the game things tend to happen a little better. That’s what I’ve been trying to do the last few games and it seems to be working.”

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