|Bruins’ young veterans ready to step up||04.13.10 at 1:09 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — The Bruins roster is dotted with young players within their first three years in the league. The last crop of Boston youngsters came of age on a Bruins team that was not very good and had little shot of making the playoffs, let alone begin to think about having some postseason success.
This group is different. Milan Lucic, David Krejci, Blake Wheeler and company have never been on a Bruins team that has not been to the postseason, while Krejci and Lucic were part of the memorable series in the spring of 2008 where the No. 8 seeded Bruins took the top seeded Canadiens to seven games before succumbing to their rivals.
“Well, that was a little bit of a different atmosphere,’ Lucic said about his first game against Montreal as opposed to his other playoff experiences. ‘They have got good fans in Buffalo. But Montreal with twenty-one-and-a-half thousand screaming fans, I have never heard a building so loud as I have heard that. So, that was a different feeling, for sure, but after your first couple shift, after your first period, everything tends to be more relaxed, you get the jitters out of you.’
Boston is hoping that the experience that the young players have gained in the past two to three seasons starts to pay off in this postseason allows them to play better to start the series this year around. Young players, by virtue of never having done it, have a tendency to choke up in their first few shifts or periods in the playoffs because it becomes a different style of game than they have ever seen. On Tuesday, Wheeler, Matt Hunwick and Johnny Boychuk (who is entering his first NHL playoff series but has been through several at the AHL level) said that it is an adjustment to start but then it is just a matter of getting the skates moving.
“Well, it is pretty simple. When you have had experience at it, you should be a better player going into the next one,” coach Claude Julien said. “I think those guys, Lucic is Lucic and this is Krejci’s third one and this is Wheeler’s second playoffs. At least there is experience for those guys so this year you would expect them to handle it even better.”
For Lucic, that is remembering how his physical play in the last two seasons spurred the Bruins in respective series. In 2008 against the Canadiens he was a pin ball around the rink and a disrupting nuisance to any Habitante who dared get in his way. Last year he ended up being suspended against the Canadiens for a Game 3 of the first round series after a dust up with Maxim LaPierre. Lucic serves that as a learning lesson but says that no matter the history, the playoffs are the time to be physical, consequences be what they will.
“I think a big reason we stuck in that Montreal series my first year in the playoffs where we were the complete underdogs and were supposed to lose in four was that we played physical and were able to kind of wear them down,” Lucic said. “We ended up losing the series but we wore them down where we were able to take three games. It just goes to show that it is a team effort.”
Wheeler struggled through the playoffs a touch last year, playing in eight of the team’s 11 games and being a healthy scratch to finish the Carolina series. At that point in the season Wheeler had hit the rookie wall and had been less effective through the latter half of the season and it came as a surprise to nobody that Julien was forced to put him on the bench. This year Wheeler feels good about the team headed into the postseason.
“I think we are pretty confident with the way we are playing right now and it might be a little bit of a change from last year, it is a little bit of change going into the playoffs,” Wheeler said. “Once you get through the first period it is more or less like the same game. Obviously there is a little bit more noise in the crowd and things are a bit more intense but once you get comfortable.”
Lucic often times has “Nuke LaLoosh Syndrome” where he gives the media a carefully crafted yet ultimately canned response to questions. Yet, when asked about what it takes to succeed in the playoffs, his voice picked up a little bit and there was a hint of a smile in his eyes. His response has been heard a thousand times by a thousand different reporters, but for the young, hulking forward, you could tell he meant it. After all, despite how professional athletes are viewed at times by the media as boring, they still have that driving passion to raise their game and to find glory.
“Obviously, you shouldn’t change you game man, you got to rise up to the occasion. You’ve got to take it on yourself. Do you want to be remembered as the guy who buckles under the pressure and can’t perform when you really need to or are you going to be a guy who plays with heart and steps up when a team counts on him,” Lucic said “That is basically what it is. You can’t be tense, you can’t squeeze the hell out of your stick, you can’t do all those things where you are going to make yourself nervous and not making the plays that you are supposed to be making. You just to relax and play your game and do you best and not worry about any thing else that is going on.”
|Shorthanded miracle clinches playoffs for Bruins||04.10.10 at 3:24 pm ET|
Summary — Boston used a miraculous shorthanded burst to start the second period to put away the Carolina Hurricanes 4-2 in a Saturday matinee game at TD Garden to finally earn a spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs. Tuukka Rask got the win for the Bruins with 33 saves while Cam Ward was solid for the entire game except the first two minutes of the second period to take the loss.
The Bruins scored three shorthanded goals on the same penalty kill to start the second period (Hunwick, hooking 19:42 of first) in a span of 1:04.l Daniel Paille was the first to crack the board when took the puck through Ward’s crease, pivot-turned and fired back on net at :32 to make it 1-0 Boston.
Blake Wheeler got in on the action next when he found a rebound off the stick of David Krejci in the slot in front Ward at 1:21. Wheeler banged it back into the net for the two-goal advantage. Paille’s fellow penalty killer, Steve Begin, decided that he would turn it into a troika 15-seconds later when he shot from the right face off circle with enough vigor that Ward could not contain it and it bounced off his chest pads, over his shoulder and into the net at 1:36.
It was the first time since 1985 and perhaps that Boston has had two goals on a penalty kill and perhaps the only time in history where they have done it three times. The 1:04 it took to score the goals was the fastest that it has been done all season and the fastest three goals for the Bruins since :52 on Dec. 20, 2001 against Montreal.
But the game was not done there just because the Bruins did something spectacular. Carolina clawed back to make it a contest, starting when Erik Cole picked up his 10th of the season by knocking down Rask’s door right in front of the crease at 14:30 in the second. Patrick Dwyer would make it a one-goal game three minutes later when he skated through the slot and went back against the grain on Rask with a wrist shot to make it 3-2 at 17:30.
Boston came out of the gates hot in the first period as they rained 10 shots on Ward in the first five minutes but were unable to crack the goaltender in the opening frame. The momentum see-sawed back to Carolina later in the period as the Canes took their chances on Rask to try and even the shot count and getting close at 18-14 at the start of the second.
Milan Lucic added an empty-net goal with a minute left for the final tally.
The game was an official sellout, the 24th consecutive official sellout for the team this year and 25th overall (counting the Winter Classic at Fenway). The last non-sellout for the Bruins was on Dec. 2, 2009 against Tampa Bay.
Daniel Paille — The forward has been Boston’s spark on the penalty kill all season and was rewarded during the last home game of the year as he and his fellow shorthanded mates broke through in spectacular fashion. In addition to scoring the first goal he added a secondary assist to Begin’s strike.
Steve Begin — In an ode to the Bruins great year of penalty killing, Begin earned his 100th NHL point with his goal and teamed with Paille to kill all the Hurricanes power play chances.
Blake Wheeler — The young forward broke out of a scoring slump for his 18th of the year. Wheeler had not scored since March 15 against the Devils.
Turning Point — Who would have thought that the Bruins would turn on a penalty AGAINST them? Matt Hunwick took a slashing call at the 19:42 mark of the first period, thus giving the Hurricanes a man-advantage to start the second. Boston then turned around and scored three goals to start the second for all the offense they would need to win the game and clinch a playoff spot.
Key Play — A Boston opportunity almost turned into a disaster in the third period. Carolina’s Jerome Samson was going to be called for a high-sticking penalty but the Hurricanes had not gained possession of the puck. The delayed penalty meant that the Bruins could pull Rask for an extra attacker, thus leaving the net empty. An errant back pass by the Bruins bounced off the wall in neutral zone and straight at the empty net, a goal that would be the game-tying striking if it crossed the plain. Patrice Bergeron gathered a head of steam and chased the puck down, catching it right as it as about to go across the line and whip-clearing it back down the left wing out of danger. The play was reviewed to make sure that the puck did not indeed cross the line and the verdict of no-goal was upheld.
|Second period summary: Bruins vs. Hurricanes||at 2:47 pm ET|
You do not see that everyday. Or, well, ever.
Boston came of the dressing room to start the second period and decided to just flat out set Cam Ward on fire. It scored three goals in 1:04, tallied by Daniel Paille, Blake Wheeler and Steve Begin, in that order at :32, 1:21 and 1:36.
Oh, and all of them came on the penalty kill.
Paille got the first on a hustle play when he found took a zone-clearing pass from Zdeno Chara and kept his legs moving down the right wing, marching straight to and through Ward’s crease, turning back and firing to give the animated TD Garden crowd something to cheer about. It was Paille’s 10th of the season.
Before the public address announcer could finish telling the crowd the details of Paille’s goal, Wheeler found a rebound in the slot off of a David Krejci shot that he banged back home to make it 2 -0. Steve Begin wanted in on the party after that and found the puck on the right circle and shot into Ward’s chest protector. The goaltender could not put it down and it bounced over his pads into the net to make an already jubilant crowd absolutely giddy.
A couple notes on the three shorted-handed goals:
3 — The total of short-handed goals that the Bruins had all season before three in the same penalty kill.
1:04 — Fastest the Bruins have scored three goals this season and fastest three goals the team has scored since :52 on Dec. 20, 2001 against the Canadiens. The fastest the Bruins have scored three this season was on Dec. 23 against Atlanta in 1:08.
25 – Years since it has been that Boston has scored multiple goals on the same penalty kill after scoring two against Toronto on Jan. 9, 1985.
Carolina went on the power play again at 12:18 when Milan Lucic went for a trip. Neither team was able to tally on this penalty though it did give Carolina some momentum as Erik Cole would be Tuukka Rask on the doorstep of his crease to make it 3-1 at 14:30.
The Canes then cut the lead to one at 17:06 when Patrick Dwyer put up his seventh of the season when he crossed through the slot and went back against the grain with a wrist shot to beat Rask far side and make the game a contest once again.
Boston had a power play at 17:20 when Carolina center Eric Staal took at slashing penalty. The Bruins can apparently score at will when they are a man down but are utterly impotent while a man up as yet another power play fizzled out. Boston is now 0 for its last 20 man-advantage opportunities and 3 for their last 46.
|Bruins foil Sabres, take step closer to playoffs||04.08.10 at 9:35 pm ET|
Summary — Boston took a big step towards the playoffs on Thursday with a 3-1 win over the Sabres at TD Garden. Boston now leads the idle Rangers by three points for the final playoff spot as each team has two games in the regular season.
Tuukka Rask got the start for the Bruins and was his usual solid self in turning away 31 shots for the victory. The Bruins may have thought they had dodged a bullet when Buffalo started backup goaltender Patrick Lalime over All-Star Ryan Miller but he backstop was solid and contributed to Boston’s goal-scoring frustration with a steady 31 saves in the loss.
Dennis Wideman got the game-winner for Boston at 1:59 in the third period with a blast from the point that had eyes through Lalime towards the back of the net. It was Wideman’s sixth of the year.
The Bruins found a familiar refrain at 11:00 in the first period. Wideman could not control the puck off the wall in neutral ice and lost it for a breakaway by Derek Roy. The defenseman could not recover and Roy had an easy time picking his spot, high glove side, against Rask for the opening goal of the game.
Boston came back early in the second. Miroslav Satan found himself in a small scrum on the half wall in the Bruins offensive zone against two Sabres and lost control of the puck but got enough stick on it to keep it live. David Krejci circled around from behind the goal line to keep the puck in play, hit a touch pass to back to Satan who skated into Lalime’s crease and put a backhander home at 2:15.
Zdeno Chara [Mark Recchi] gave the Bruins the breathing-room goal late in the third period on a one-time blast from the corner on a pass from Milan Lucic at the left point that deflected off of Recchi and overpowered Lalime at to make it 3-1 at 16:35.
Miroslav Satan — The veteran forward tied the game in the second period with his ninth of the season for the Bruins.
Derek Roy — The Sabres center was pesky presence all night and was rewarded for his efforts in the first period when he plundered Wideman and took his booty to the net to beat Rask for the opening goal of the game.
Tuukka Rask — the statistical league leading netminder did his thing in shutting down the Sabres to keep the Bruins in the game and give them a position to claim points to be applied to their playoff pursuit.
Turning Point — When Wideman redeemed himself early in the third. He stood up a little short of the right point and time his shot perfectly with the screening body of Blake Wheeler to catch Lalime in a blind moment for his sixth of the season and game-winning goal.
Key Play — A lot of good Rask saves to choose from. One of the most important was a point blank shot from Sabres’ forward Tyler Ennis that was unleashed two feet in front of the crease that Rask stoned cold with a little more than a minute to play in the second period. Had Ennis been able to score and Buffalo entered the third period with a goal lead, the dynamic of the final frame would have been much different as Boston would have had a more aggressive (riskier) offensive attack as opposed to playing tighter defense with the lead.
UPDATE — There was a scoring change on the Bruins third goal after the game with the tally being awarded to forward Mark Recchi on a deflection from Chara’s shot. The goal was Recchi’s 18th of the year.
|Ryder, Wheeler among prominent line changes||04.02.10 at 1:57 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — There was a little bit of a new look to the lines at Bruins practice at Ristuccia on Friday.
The normal line groupings by sweater color were blown up by coach Claude Julien. Instead of the normal David Krejci, Blake Wheeler, Michael Ryder line wearing grey, Krejci was joined by Marco Sturm and Miroslav Satan in white sweaters to make the All-European line. Wheeler still skated in grey just this time with Vladimir Sobotka and Brad Marchand. Milan Lucic took Sturm’s spot on the line with Patrice Bergeron and Mark Recchi.
Oh yeah. And Ryder.
“Whoever plays together I think we can definitely play together and get shots on net,” Ryder said by the way of a non-committal response when asked if he saw the red sweater as a demotion.
Julien admitted that the shake up was definitely part of a wake up call that the coaching staff is giving to certain players, like Ryder, Wheeler, Sturm and Lucic, who have been pretty stale of late.
“You saw it today, making some changes, we have got to find some ways of making consistency here,” Julien said. “There is a lot of stuff being done to get those guys going but at the same time we have to make changes on the ice. We are struggling to score goals and, you know, you got certain guys who just aren’t going while and you hope that making changes will either spark them, wake them up or at least give some different lines some better opportunities.”
The situation is getting serious for Ryder. He has one goal since Feb. 13 and has been held without a shot in three of his last four games. For a guy who is supposed to be the sniper, that is not the way things are supposed to work. He admitted that it was in his mind that the demotion to the red sweater could further lead to a demotion where he has no sweater, red, grey or Black and Gold.
“Definitely, it could happen,” Ryder said. “When you are looked at to score goals and you’re not scoring it is definitely in mind but I just have to keep working hard right now and step it up even another notch.”
For Ryder, he would have to step up a first notch before “stepping it up even another,” which he said twice in his five-minute scrum with reporters. He also said that he has been focused on battling though shooting the puck has not been his top priority.
“It makes a difference when everybody on your line is shooting the puck, getting chances and getting more opportunities you have a better chance of scoring,” Ryder said. “I was not thinking about shooting a lot. Sometimes you just have to pound those areas and if you get out of position you don’t get that shot. Now it is just about battling hard and trying to get to those areas and get pucks on net.”
Wheeler was also held without a shot last night and is now on a line with two young players who have been on the fringe of the roster (or in Providence) for most of the year.
“Well, you know, it is sometimes good, almost refreshing to see new faces, play with new guys. Changes like that are always welcome,” Wheeler said. “Anytime you go the majority of two games and zeroes goals, one at the end of the Devils game, change is probably a good thing.”
Wheeler had the Bruins best opportunity with a short-handed 2-on-1 break with Krejci as his trailer but let the opportunity fizzle out in front of him without putting the puck on net. He explained the play Friday morning.
“It is disappointing,” Wheeler said. “It was a play in the game that could have made it different and obviously you expect more out of yourself and I just didn’t make the play, that is all there is to it.”
After Recchi called out some of his teammates for not giving their best effort Thursday night and two games with only one goal, changes to the lines in some way or form were to be expected on Friday. In the dogfight that the Bruins find themselves, it will definitely take all 20 skaters to make sure their last five games are not their last of the season.
“In a way it is not that complicated, if guys work their butts off things will happen, no matter who they play with,” Julien said.
|Morning skate notes: Bruins-Lightning||03.25.10 at 12:33 pm ET|
Do not look now, but the Bruins are actually closer to the two teams in front of them in the playoff race than the teams behind. Has the focused shifted from just trying to hang onto to a spot in the tournament to gunning down the Flyers and Canadiens?
“That has been our focus all along, you know,” Blake Wheeler said. “Nobody has really separated themselves from that pack. We understand the importance of the games we just played but we thought it was more important to get those points to move ahead in the standings because we have an opportunity to move up each game and that is our focus, game to game.”
Boston now stands one point behind the free falling Flyers, two behind the Montreal and only five back of Ottawa for the seventh, sixth and fifth spots in the conference. If the Bruins could manage to jump up to the sixth slot they would likely face Buffalo (as the third division winner), a matchup that would be the most favorable of all the options circling the top of the Eastern Conference.
Moving up in the conference is contingent on one thing that has eluded the Bruins thus far in the season — consistency. Can the Bruins take the positive effort from the last two games and apply it to the Lightning Thursday then the Flames and Sabres on Saturday and Monday?
“It is always one of those situations the way our team has been this year that we haven’t been able to get the consistency that we wanted,” coach Claude Julien said. “These last two games have certainly been a step in the right direction but you have to build a little more momentum before you can make that assessment, I guess. There is another challenge for us tonight.”
Notes from the morning skate:
Vladimir Sobotka took a nasty hit into the boards from the Thrashers’ Evgeny Artyukhin on Tuesday and sustained a head/neck injury that Julien said was not a concussion but there was not date set for the center’s return.
“There is never a timetable for injuries like [Sobotka’s], but he is better today,” Julien said. “So hopefully we will know more about his situation by tomorrow.”
Veteran center Trent Whitfield has been recalled from Providence to step in the Sobotka’s place on the line with Milan Lucic and Miroslav Satan.
“I think that [Whitfield] is certainly a guy that can make plays and is a hard worker and, again, that is the way we put it this morning and we could change it tonight,” Julien said. “I though Steve Begin played one of his better games on Tuesday and he is another guy who can go in that spot if we need to and we will kind of feel our way through this one tonight.”
Whitfield just hopes he can continue on the good work that Sobotka had been doing in recent games before the injury.
“I just hope that I am not disruptive,” Whitfield said. “He had been playing pretty well the last few weeks and I just want to go out there and work hard and get them the puck and hopefully maybe we can score a goal and get play a good, solid game.”
There has been nothing fancy about the Sobotka line. Straight dump and chase, active on the forecheck and in the neutral zone type of hockey.
“That is my kind of line. I play a pretty straight up and down kind of game too,” Whitfield said. “Just get it in deep, get the puck to the net and get to the net. Get a couple ugly ones and maybe a nice one. Who knows?”
— Andrew Ference signed a three-year contract extension yesterday. Julien weighed in on what he thinks of keeping the blue liner around for the next few years.
“He has been a pretty reliable defenseman when he has played for us and it is good for him that he has come to an agreement,” Julien said. “He has good experience back there and he is also a good leader and again, barring injury he has been nothing but dependable.”
— Tuukka Rask was the first goaltender off the ice at TD Garden which will make him the probable starter on Thursday night. Matt Hunwick and Brad Marchand both skated for a little extra time than the rest of the team which is a good indicator that they will be healthy scratches come game time.
|Bruins cannot finish comeback against Habs||03.13.10 at 9:46 pm ET|
Summary — Two longtime Original Six rivals faced off for the last time during the regular season on Saturday as the Bruins and Canadiens went for a tilt at the Bell Centre in Montreal. With two points separating the teams for the final two playoffs spots in the Eastern Conference heading into the game the contest was an important one for both teams and (team) was able to prevail 3-2. Tuukka Rask got the start for Boston and made 24 saves in the loss. He was opposed by Jaroslav Halak who was sturdy in stopping 21 pucks in the winning effort.
The Habs jumped on top of the Bruins in the first period. The first goal came courtesy of the power play (Mark Stuart holding 5:02) when Andrei Markov let go of a wrist shot from the blue that had eyes through traffic in front of Rask and deflected off of defenseman Dennis Seidenberg for the opening score.
The Canadiens would strike again within the last minute of the period right after killing a penalty when Sergei Kostitsyn wrapped a backhand around the net to beat Rask at 19:40 for the two-goal advantage heading into the second period.
Boston cut the lead in half at 1:12 of the second period. Michael Ryder took a pass from David Krejci and rushed down the left wing on a break and sent a backhand centering pass to Blake Wheeler rushing down the middle lane. Wheeler just need to tap it through Halak to make it 2-1.
Kostisyn struck again early in the third when he took a puck that had an odd bounce off the back boards that came back onto his stick to catch Rask way out of position and leave an empty crease for the easy goal and a two-score advantage.
Boston would not go quietly. Milan Lucic made it a one-goal game at 11:46 in the third when he stick-handled on the half wall and into the slot to send a wrist shot on Halak that fell through the goaltenders pads and into the net to make it 3-2.
Sergei Kostitsyn — The perpetually pesky Montreal forward scored the Habs’ second and third goals of the game to put the Bruins away.
Andrei Markov — The Canadiens’ defenseman scored the first goal of the game and assisted on the second to propel Montreal’s early game attack.
Blake Wheeler — The sophomore forward scored his 16th of the year and second in two games with his second period strike.
Turning Point — The pivotal separation goal came at 1:41 in the third period when Kostitsyn threw the puck off the backboards and was the lucky recipient of an odd bounce that put the puck back on his stick while crashing the net without breaking his stride. Rask was caught on the edge of the crease following the puck which left Kostitsyn and empty net. With Lucic’s goal later in the third the strike proved to be the game winner.
Key Play — As the Bruins tried to come back in the last five minute of the game Halak stuffed a point-blank shot from Marco Sturm that would have been the equalizer. Boston would not seriously threaten the Canadiens lead again.