|Claude Julien: Bruins relish being a part of a fabulous final four ‘it’s pretty impressive’||05.30.13 at 5:39 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — As the Bruins wrap up preparations for Game 1 of the Eastern finals Saturday night in Pittsburgh, they are taking a very brief moment to relish what it’s like to be part of a little recent history.
The quartet of the Bruins, Penguins, Blackhawks and Kings isn’t just a made-for-TV dream for NBC, they represent the most successful franchises in hockey over the last four years, as measured by Stanley Cup banners.
Each team has lifted the Cup once in the previous four seasons, starting with the Penguins in 2009, the Blackhawks in 2010, the Bruins in 2011 and the newbies, the Kings, who won their first in franchise history last year.
“I think it’s pretty impressive, knowing about parity in the league and how hard it is to get back there,” Claude Julien said. “To know that somebody is going to win it twice in, at the most, four years is pretty impressive, I think. That’s what we have here. It’s an opportunity for all of us here to duplicate what we’ve wanted to duplicate here for a while.”
Tyler Seguin was a mere 19-year-old pup when the Bruins last made a deep run, as he was a rookie in 2011. But that doesn’t mean he can’t appreciate what the Bruins, Penguins, Blackhawks and Kings have all accomplished.
“It’s very cool,” Seguin said. “It’s great to be a part of it. I don’t know if that’s happened too often throughout history but it’s going to make for a great final finish. I think experience has always been huge, especially when it comes to playoffs. We have so much experience in our locker room we can face different types of adversity and I think when it comes to playoffs, teams that have experience are always going to have the edge. There’s always the underdogs or teams that surprise other teams but this year, I think it’s a little different because the last four winners are in the final four.
“I think chemistry can definitely be huge at times, especially when you’re making playoff runs of more than one in the last few years for all four of us. I think chemistry is big in those situations and experience goes a long way.”
Julien also appreciates the job his boss, GM Peter Chiarelli has done in keeping a young core together and in tact, ready to compete for a title, year-in and year-out.
“You know it becomes harder when you win,” Julien said after Thursday’s practice. “We won a couple years ago and he’s managed to keep the core and most of the players around. He’s done a great job. I’ve said it all along, to have an opportunity to coach a team that’s deep because of the players he’s provided us with. Thats’a credit to him and his group. The coach is as good as the people that surround him; that means the assistant coaches, but also means the players, and obviously management.
“That’s always been the case, it’s not something that’s new. It’s more about you have to realize what you have and we have a good group of people here, players, coaching staff, and then management. Everybody seems to be doing a good job at what they have to do and allows us the opportunity right now to be in the top four.”
“Maintenance, minimal maintenance,” the Bruins coach said as Krejci was given the day off.
Krejci was the only player not spotted on the sheet at Ristuccia Arena as the Bruins worked at a fast pace for 20 minutes with their power play and penalty kill units.
Andrew Ference, one of the team’s leading penalty killers, was back on the ice again and was paired with Aaron Johnson on one penalty kill unit. Julien said toward the end of his media briefing after practice that Ference has not yet been medically cleared by team doctors to play in games.
“I haven’t heard from the medical staff so I’d say the answer is ‘no,'” Julien said when asked about Ference’s medical standing as the defenseman attempts to come back from a left foot injury that sidelined him since Game 5 of the first-round series against Toronto.
Tyler Seguin took Krejci’s spot on the power play with Zdeno Chara, Jaromir Jagr, Patrice Bergeron and Milan Lucic but the units were mixed and matched throughout practice as the team worked more on power play and penalty kill drills than concentrating on specific special teams combinations.
The Bruins will practice one final time on Friday morning at 10:30 at Ristuccia before taking off for Pittsburgh afterward. The Bruins play the Penguins in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals Saturday night at 8 p.m. at the Consol Energy Center.
For more, including reports from Pittsburgh from DJ Bean, visit the Bruins team page at weei.com/bruins.
|Matt Bartkowski on going home to Pittsburgh: ‘Everyone’s calling in their favors’ for tickets||05.29.13 at 5:45 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — Going home again has its drawbacks. Just ask Matt Bartkowski.
The Bruins’ 24-year-old defenseman is headed back to where it all began for him and he couldn’t be more excited. But the homecoming for the native of nearby Mt. Lebanon, Pa., does have some obligations to fill.
“The last few years it’s been close [to] playing Pittsburgh in the playoffs and now it’s finally happening,” he said after practice on Wednesday. “I’m stoked up, pumped up and ready to go, and I’m sure the rest of these guys are. Everybody’s calling in their favors, this and that and all that crap. It just pumps us up and we’re ready to go.”
The homecoming was made possible the moment the Bruins beat the Rangers in Game 5 on Saturday, less than 24 hours after the Penguins eliminated the Senators, also in five games.
“You can’t believe how many times I’ve been asked that,” Bartkowski said of being asked about heading home. “It’s going to be awesome. I can’t think of any other way of it happening. Playing a role on the team now, and it’s playoff hockey. We’ve been looking at this match up for a while, especially me. It’s going to be awesome.”
When Bartkowski was growing up, his current teammate Jaromir Jagr was helping Mario Lemieux win back-to-back Cups in 1991 and ’92. The Penguins then went through a down period in the early 2000s before Sidney Crosby was drafted in 2005. Pittsburgh, home of the Steelers and Pirates, once again had the hockey bug.
“It died down for four years or so until Crosby got drafted,” Bartkowski said. “It’s the same thing with Jagr-Lemieux era. Now it’s the Crosby-Malkin era. Every time they get big players in Pittsburgh, it seems to jump-start all the little kids playing. It’s good for the area.
“With the Pirates doing [great], what do even you say about them? It’s pretty unfortunate. Every year they have a chance at the playoffs and then they kind of blow it. Once football season is over, it’s a hockey town. And especially with the talent they have now, it’s a hockey town once football season is over.”
His coach isn’t worried about Bartkowski being overwhelmed with it all.
“No, I don’t think so,” Claude Julien said. “I think it all depends how you approach it. He seems pretty excited, he’s looking forward to it. I think at the end of the day, he knows who he’s playing for. He wants to do well for his team. The better he does, the better he looks in everybody’s eyes, whether it’s his hometown that’s rooting for the other team or whether it’s us. I don’t see an issue with that; if anything, it’s a positive, it’s exciting. You know that he’s going to be ready to play.”
What’s interesting is that, as a defenseman, his idol didn’t play for the Penguins.
“Actually, it was [Scott Stevens] on the Devils,” Bartkowski recalled. “Any chance I got to watch a Devils game, I would. I remember in ’95, they played the Penguins in the playoffs.”
Reminded that it was Stevens who carved a reputation by laying out star players of other teams, like Eric Lindros in the 2000 playoffs, Bartkowski conceded, “Yeah, I don’t think you’d get away with those hits now. We talk about that sometimes.”
When Bartkowski, who was paired Wednesday with Dennis Seidenberg, gets on the ice, he won’t be worried about the fans, tickets or his hometown. The only names he’ll be concerned with are Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, James Neal, Jarome Iginla and the roster of the Penguins.
“I don’t know if many adjustments,” Bartkowski said. “Just making sure you’re hard on the puck and playing as physical as you can in every situation that you can. Don’t get yourself out of position but be as physical as you can.”
WILMINGTON — The Bruins are not consumed with exacting revenge on Matt Cooke.
As Brad Marchand reminded everyone on Wednesday after practice, the stakes now are way too high to get into revenge games for a hit that happened three seasons ago.
Of course, the hit that is etched in the mind of every Bruins fan when you mention the name Matt Cooke is the blindside hit he laid on the head of Marc Savard on March 7, 2010. That hit resulted in a Grade 2 concussion. After sitting out the first round of the playoffs, Savard scored the game-winner against the Flyers in overtime in Game 1.
Savard, however, was never the same player. After suffering another concussion 10 months later, he was shut down for the season and could not participate in the run to the Cup title.
How do the Bruins deal with their emotions on Cooke?
“Well, it depends what you mean by that,” Claude Julien said. “Are you talking about the Savard thing? Or are you talking about the way Matt Cooke plays. There’s different ways of answering that. At one point, you’ve got to move on from certain things. Just like the next question will be like [Jarome] Iginla. Stuff like that. We all know about that. The thing we have to focus on is finding a way to win the series. If you just want revenge on this guy or that guy. Is it really the right focus to have? The best way to get that satisfaction is by winning a series. So I think that’s where your focus has to be.”
Asked on Wednesday what he thought of Cooke, Marchand, a rookie in 2010, agreed with his coach, adding the Bruins can’t worry about exacting some measure of personal revenge.
“He’s playing well right now,” Marchand began, before offering a bit of backhanded compliment. “If you watched the Ottawa series, he’s running around a bit but he’s doing some things offensively, too. He’s doing good things for the team. We’re not going to focus on any single guy over there. They’ve got four lines that can do damage so he’s just another guy who’s on their team.
“It’s a completely different season. We’re not worried about that at all anymore. It’s a long time ago. There’s much bigger things at stake than that hit. It’s not even in our minds right now.”
“He’s doing a lot of good things right now, making a lot of plays,” Marchand said of Jagr. “He’s in the right spot a lot of the time. He’s getting a ton of opportunities. You really only have to start worrying when you don’t get any opportunities and that’s not the case for him. So hopefully, they’ll start going in for Jags.”
The other priority will be to keep a close eye on the Penguins‘ highly potent second line of Evgeni Malkin, Jarome Iginla and James Neal. Marchand said keeping the puck in the offensive zone will be a big part of Boston’s defensive attack when those three are on the ice.
“That’s definitely a big part of playing like a line against that,” Marchand said. “They want to play in the offensive zone, and if we can find a way to keep them down in the defensive end and work it down there, it limits their opportunity to score. We want to play in their end as much as possible, but it’s not an easy thing to do with the skill and talent they have over there.”
|Bruins Wednesday notes: D mix-and-match, Claude Julien gets shots in, tells players to soak in rays||at 3:09 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — It was another day of perfect attendance on Wednesday as the Bruins held their second day of practice in preparation for Game 1 of their Eastern Conference finals series in Pittsburgh Saturday night.
The news of the day was the minor juggling of the defensive pairings, as Dennis Seidenberg was moved to a pairing with Matt Bartkowski while Zdeno Chara was paired with Johnny Boychuk. Adam McQuaid remained paired with Torey Krug, Andrew Ference was with Aaron Johnson and Wade Redden remained with Dougie Hamilton.
The offensive lines were the same. Claude Julien downplayed the significance, saying he like what he saw in his team on Wednesday.
“It’s good,” Julien said. “You saw during the season, we mix and match. You guys kept asking a lot of questions about that and I said, ‘You know what? It’s important that we do that because at some point you’re all going to have to play with each other.’ Guys that can play right that are left shots and vice versa, or even playing with different players, knowing how to do that. During the game we mix and match pairs sometimes. It’s not necessarily set pairs that you see on the ice all the time. That’s not going to change.”
Julien also said Wednesday that he has really liked what he’s seen this week so far from his team in terms of focus and execution in practice.
“It’s basically what you’re seeing right now, the last couple of days we’ve had some good practices,” he told reporters in his post-practice media briefing. “It’s been good tempo, good jump, good focus. It’s about being able to handle yourselves at this time of year in these types of situations. What I mean by that, when you get to the rink it’s all about business. Leave the rink, relax, enjoy the nice weather that’s there for you. You know the sun gives you energy, and nothing wrong with being out.
“Really kind of relaxing and making sure you don’t waste your energy out there when you should be saving it for the game and the time on the ice. It’s about focusing on those little things. Our guys have done a good job of taking care of themselves, eating properly, getting their rest. Right now I have no issues with where our team is based on what I see in practice.”
Other Wednesday tidbits: Doug Houda spent time with the defensemen working on skating drills at center ice, spending particular attention on Andrew Ference, who is coming back from a left foot injury. It was the second straight day of practice and sixth day on the ice since he was cleared to resume skating. … Julien took a hands-on approach in drills with his forwards on one-timers, standing in a corner and feeding a group that included Rich Peverley, Shawn Thornton, Brad Marchand, Tyler Seguin and Chris Kelly. He then worked with the likes of Daniel Paille and Thornton on working on re-directs in front of the net. … Both practices this week have lasted approximately one hour. … The Bruins will be at it again at Ristuccia on Thursday before leaving on Friday for Saturday’s Game 1.
The Bruins will open the 2013 Eastern Conference finals in Pittsburgh against the Penguins on Saturday night at the Consol Energy Center. That will be followed by Game 2 in Pittsburgh on Monday. The series then shifts to Boston for Games 3 and 4 next Wednesday and Friday at TD Garden.
The first four games will face-off at 8 p.m. ET.
If necessary, Game 5 will be back in Pittsburgh on June 9. Game 6 would be back in Boston on June 11 and, as was the case in the first round, if the series goes the distance, Game 7 would be the next day back in Pittsburgh.
The NHL held off waiting on making an announcement until the winner was determined in the Kings-Sharks series Tuesday night. The defending Stanley Cup champs advance to the Western finals with a 2-1 win over San Jose. The Kings will face the winner of Wednesday’s Game 7 between the Blackhawks and Red Wings in Chicago.
|More ‘mature’ Bruins ready to handle time off before taking on Pens||05.28.13 at 6:15 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — The last time the Bruins had this much time off, they fared quite well.
Two years ago, the Bruins had eight days in between sweeping the Flyers in the Eastern Conference semifinals and opening their series against Tampa Bay. They, of course, edged the Tampa Bay Lightning, 4-3, on their way to the Stanley Cup finals.
They will have had at least six days off when they open the series against the Penguins this weekend at the Consol Energy Center in downtown Pittsburgh.
Time off hasn’t always worked for Claude Julien and his Bruins. Remember 2009? The Bruins avenged a heart-breaking seven-game loss to the Canadiens in 2008 with a first-round sweep. They had 11 days off before opening a second-round series against Carolina. The Hurricanes jumped out to a 3-1 series lead and eventually held on to win Game 7 in double-overtime at the Garden.
What has Julien learned over time about time off?
“I think our team has matured a lot more in regards to that,” Julien said Tuesday. “We had a long break, too, when we swept Philly [Philadelphia Flyers] in four straight a few years ago, and we handled it well. Based on today’s practice, I thought we practiced really well, lots of energy, worked hard. I think the focus is still there. I think those years that you’re talking about, I think we had almost 11 days off, it was closer to two weeks.
“That was a lot and somehow we felt like we slipped out of it and by the time we got back into it, we were in deep trouble because I think we were down 3-1 against Carolina. That was something that, hopefully, we learned from. Right now, I don’t sense that, to be honest with you. I think our guys, we’re pretty focused right now. Like I said, I liked our intensity and our focus and our jump in practice today.”
Julien admitted to being older and wiser as an NHL playoff coach and said Tuesday he is benefitting from that at a time like this.
“It’s like anything else, you get experience, you go through different things,” Julien added. “I’ve gone through a sweep, gone through being swept four straight after up three, different things. We talked about a few years ago, 11 days off. Those experience go a long ways as you move forward, because you’ve been through all these things. It certainly gives you a better idea of how to handle that, but let’s call it experience, not so much learning. Chalk it down as experience.”
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