|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.
|What history can teach the Bruins in the the next week||04.24.11 at 12:26 pm ET|
History can be a funny thing in sports.
It can be a teacher. It can be a guide. It can provide motivation.
If you’re the Boston Bruins, the next two days, it’s going to be all of the above.
The Bruins want to close out the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday night in Game 6 because if they don’t they are going to hear about 2010 again. No, it’s not like they were up 3-0 against the Habs like they were against the Flyers in the Eastern semis last year but they are going to be asked about how hard it is for them to close a team out.
Just ask their coach.
“I think we’ve experienced that last year, right?” Claude Julien asked rhetorically in the afterglow of Game 5 Saturday night. “We don’t want to bring that up, but unfortunately it is what it is. That last win is a tough one, we recognize that. We need to go to Montreal with the intentions of winning that game and playing to win that game. We need to understand it’s probably going to be the toughest game of the series. When teams are playing for their lives they come out with their best effort. And we have to be ready for that.”
Then again, experience is what you make it – like Brad Marchand and Nathan Horton who are playing in their first playoffs. Marchand scored the first goal Saturday and Horton put in the game-winner in double-overtime.
“It was a huge goal for him,” Julien said of Horton. “I wasn’t worried about the fact he hasn’t played in the playoffs because he is a guy that competes all the time. That is one reason why he wanted to come to Boston was to be on an Original Six playoff team. I’m sure he is pretty happy. That has got to be his biggest goal but I think he has been great for us.”
Before the meltdown against Philly last year, there was the stunning Game 7 overtime loss to the Hurricanes in the Eastern semis in 2009 that kept a 53-win team on the sidelines as the NHL held its own final four party.
But having faced those pressure situations in past playoffs may finally be paying dividends. In Games 4 and 5, the Bruins have shown tremendous poise, to go along with great goaltending from Tim Thomas, Michael Ryder and Zdeno Chara.
“We’ve been through a lot the last few years and this was something different,” said Milan Lucic, the player who scored twice in Game 7 last year against Philly before the lights went out on the B’s offense. “Obviously this year going down the first two games at home and having to go to a building where we haven’t won all year and try to even up the series.
“But I think our focus so far is after those first two games wasn’t on the big picture like it was on the first two games. After we were down, the focus was just on, okay, forget about what’s going to happen. Let’s just worry about what we need to do next and what we’re going to do that next shift and that’s what is getting us in a bit of a groove here.”
The Bruins need to make sure the music doesn’t suddenly stop in Montreal Tuesday night.
Tim Thomas wasn’t just big Saturday night. He was – as they say in hockey – HUGE.
And his most monumental moment set up the game winner minutes later by Nathan Horton. If Thomas doesn’t stop Brian Gionta coming down the right wing and in on net for a clear shot with just over 13 minutes left in the double-overtime, the series has a totally different – and certainly desperate – feel for the Bruins.
“When it started I actually came out and was playing it as if [Travis] Moen would have a breakaway, because that’s what it looked like, a break, right off the start,” Thomas said of his stonewall job on Gionta. “And then I realized my D was going to get back and make it a two-on’one, and I was out pretty far so I had to make sure I started to get my backward momentum going so I could play both the shot and the pass. And I was just barely had enough speed to be able to make that push over on the pass. And I was just fortunate enough to get a leg out and cover that part of the net.”
Was the save on Gionta that helped the Bruins take a 3-2 series lead the biggest save of his career?
“No, I mean I don’t have a list like that,” Thomas said at first before reconsidering the question. “I do have a couple that stick out from the past and stuff and I’m sure I haven’t had much time to think about it. Yeah, probably because it ended up being such an important save. And I’ll have to watch it to get a better picture of exactly what happened because it was the second overtime and thing happen fast and I was just playing goalie.”
Thomas also had some help, like in the first period when Michael Ryder slid down to stop Tomas Plekanec as Thomas was out of the crease.
“That was awesome,” Thomas said. “And I was actually turned around, I got to watch it pretty good. That was a huge save and in this type of game that’s a game-breaker.”
Is Thomas capable of appreciating what an epic game it was? Read the rest of this entry »
|Claude Julien: We haven’t played ‘at all close to the way we can’||04.17.11 at 1:25 pm ET|
The most alarming part of Saturday’s no-show by the Bruins was their complete inability to pick up the emotional or physical slack left by the absence of Zdeno Chara. From the drop of the puck, the Bruins looked shell-shocked when Chara skated pregame but couldn’t go, leaving them without their best defenseman and captain.
“Well, number one you can’t every say that you didn’t miss him,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said. “He’s one of the best defensemen in the league and when you lose a guy like that it leaves you with a big hole. Having said that, I still think our Ds are capable of handling themselves and can definitely be better.
“And those costly goals are what we’re talking about. They have to make the other team earn their goals and I don’t think that was the case tonight. We certainly have to get better in regards to that and those kinds of mistakes and are type we can’t keep making.”
“Yeah, he’s our captain but at the same time, we all need to step up in here,” added Patrice Bergeron, the man who likely would be captain if not for Chara. “Yeah, it hurts missing “Z” but it’s playoffs and it’s adversity and it’s things we have to go through. We’re not the only team that’s missing key players. We have to find a way.”
And while Julien announced Sunday that Chara will be making the trip to Montreal for Monday’s Game 3, there’s still no guarantee he plays. Whether Chara is on the ice or not, the Bruins can’t afford to bumble and stumble like they did in the first two minutes Saturday night or their season will – for all intents and purposes – be over.
“I don’t know if it’s about making up for the loss,” Julien said. “We need to make some better decisions. We did the same thing in that first game as well. The two goals we gave up were, they are glaring mistakes, to our eyes anyway. And like I said after the first game, they’re uncharacteristic of our hockey club and we’re here talking about the same thing. So yeah, we have to correct that and we have to correct it starting next game. We have to make sure those things are eliminated from our game if we want to give ourselves a chance to win this series.”
Things like flipping the puck blindly up the middle of the neutral zone, leading to a turnover and an odd-man rush that ended in Yannick Webber‘s back-breaking goal late in the second, restoring Montreal’s two-goal cushion and crushing Boston’s comeback hopes.
“I was looking up ice,” said Seidenberg of his ill-fated transition attempt. “It seem like the boards were taken so I tried to hit Horty going through the middle. But their D stepped in front.”
Julien knows his team has one more shot Monday to redeem themselves before being put on life-support.
“It’s the best-of-seven,” Julien said. “We’ve lost the first two games. And, let’s be honest here, our team has not played at all close to the way we know we can. You can outshoot them, you can do a lot of things, but the mistakes that we have made in this series so far are very uncharacteristic of our hockey team, and we need to be better than that. If they’re going to score some goals, they need to earn them a lot more than they have. We had to work pretty hard tonight just to get that one goal, and I don’t think they had to work as hard to get theirs.
“And that’s basically the difference right now in the games, is the execution of one team, compared to the execution of the other one. I’m going to stand here and tell you that our execution isn’t good enough and it needs to be better. That’s what we have to do from here on in.”
|Tim Thomas: ‘We’ll see how we respond’||at 12:47 am ET|
After posting the best regular-season save percentage in NHL history, Tim Thomas is having a nightmarish playoff series against the Canadiens. He allowed three goals on Saturday night, two of which came after he allowed bad rebounds in front of the net. But after Saturday’s 3-1 loss, Thomas said there is still time to salvage the series and his season with a great performance on Monday night in Game 3 at the Bell Centre, with the Bruins trailing the Eastern quarterfinal series, 2-0.
“The proof will be in the pudding,” Thomas said, adding he’s not worried about the team’s confidence. “I’m so focused on just trying to do what my job is that I’m not really thinking about that.”
Asked if the hostile crowd in Montreal will be hard to handle, Thomas said the Bruins can use it to their advantage if they can score early in Game 3.
“Well, there’s a lot of energy,” Thomas said. “If you can grab that energy and focus it in the right way it can actually help you. Winning four out of the next five games. It’s pretty simple, that’s the biggest challenge.”
Just 43 seconds into Saturday’s Game 2, the challenge got a lot harder after news that their captain wouldn’t be about to make a go of it. But Thomas said he didn’t sense panic.
“I don’t know,” Thomas said. “I’m not on the bench, I’m in goal. So I don’t really, I don’t know. I didn’t pick up that mood from the locker room, and I’m not on the bench.”
Then there were the questions about the rebounds he gave up on the second and third Montreal goals.
“Well the first one, I kicked out the perfect rebound,” Thomas said. “The second one, it went off Seidenberg’s shin pad, it was just bad luck. It just changed the angle by about three or four inches and that’s the difference between controlling the rebound easily and having there be a rebound.”
Thomas faced questions about his rough night on the rebound but also acknowledged the whole team needs to be better if they are to have a shot Monday.
“Yeah,” Thomas said. “Straight up down the line, you know? It’s easy to accept because it is. It is what it is. We’ve got our backs against the wall, and we’ll see how we respond.”
As for the one goal of offensive support in the first two games, Thomas said that’s pretty self-explanatory.
“We need to score more. We know that,” Thomas said. “You take a step back and start focusing on Monday. You don’t feel sorry for yourself, because no one else is going to feel sorry for you.”
|Brad Marchand: ‘I don’t think anyone expected us to sweep the series’||04.15.11 at 11:16 am ET|
“It’s always frustrating when you lose the first game,” Marchand said. “But it happens. I don’t think anyone expected us to sweep the series. They’re coming very hard, they’re ready for they series and they were coming hard [Thursday].”
Marchand had a couple of point-blank chances early on Carey Price, including a backhander that he couldn’t cleanly handle and a first-period breakaway. He also had a semi-breakaway in the second. Still, no dice.
“You try to forget about it right way but it’s in the back of your mind, in case it happens again you want to do it a little differently,” Marchand said of the missed breakaway chance. “But it does definitely frustrate you a bit.
“You feel like you kind of let the team down. You had opportunities like that and you didn’t bury. You can say what if, but at the end of the day there is tomorrow and we have to be ready for that, focus on that and then be ready for the next game. We can’t hang our heads here, and can’t hold onto this. We have to let it go and be ready for the next game.”
Price stopped all 31 shots, including all six by Marchand, who led the Bruins in that category.
“We were frustrated that we didn’t get on the board there but I don’t think it’s going to change our confidence at all. Games go this way, sometimes a goalie makes a lot of big saves, sometimes they all find the back of the net. We just have to regroup in playoffs every game is a different story we have to make sure tomorrow we get more bodies in front and hopefully pucks go in.”
What was to blame for Marchand? Maybe it was simply a matter of speed.
“It was faster, a little more intense,” Marchand said of his first playoff game. “I don’t think the game changed a whole lot. Guys just seemed to keep it a little more simple and tried to stay away from turnovers. I think that was the biggest difference. In that way you can use more speed getting in the zone.
Marchand, who boldly predicted – and correctly so – he’d reach 20 goals and 20 assists in his first full season, isn’t lacking for confidence in himself or the team. So while everyone was suggesting different approaches and line changes for Game 2 Saturday, Marchand believes if the Bruins bring the same energy they showed in the second and third periods, they’ll come out on top.
“We have to play the exact same way we did,” Marchand said. “If we improved one more thing it would be get more bodies in front of the net, in front of Price to take his eyes away, but other than that I think we had a good game.”
|Is frustration already setting in for these Bruins?||at 10:33 am ET|
The Game 1 loss to the Canadiens had been in the books less than an hour when Bruins coach Claude Julien took to the podium to fulfill his obligation of addressing the media.
Naturally, he wasn’t in the best spirits after Carey Price shut down and shut out the Bruins, 2-0, in the opener of the Eastern quarterfinal series at TD Garden. He was asked all the questions you’d expect but there was one question asked repeatedly in different ways. How frustrating was it for your team – again with Stanley Cup aspirations – not to be able to find the back of the net?
They out-shot the Canadiens, 31-18 and dominated the second period by an 18-6 tally.
“I think that’s one thing that we had talked about’not getting frustrated with certain things,” Julien said. “But obviously we felt we should have came out with something better than we did in the second period and unfortunately we didn’t capitalize. We had some great opportunities, but I think there’s reasons for that. I don’t think we did a very good job of taking away his [Carey Price] vision. He saw a lot of shots tonight and he saw a lot of pucks. We definitely have to get better in that area if we plan on scoring some goals. We had some quality chances as well that we didn’t capitalize on and when you get those quality chances, you have to make sure you bury those.” Read the rest of this entry »