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Thomas: The answer kept coming back Boston 04.04.09 at 9:53 am ET
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The Bruins made it official on Saturday morning by announcing a four-year contract extension for goaltender Tim Thomas, worth a reported $20 million.

Thomas (left) and Chiarelli announce new deal for Bruins netminder.

Thomas (left) and Chiarelli announce new deal for Bruins netminder.

“I’m very happy to be staying in Boston for the next four years knowing that with free agency coming up potentially this summer, you have to think about would you rather go somewhere else or would you rather stay in Boston and after thinking things over, the answer kept coming back, Boston,” Thomas said.

The news conference was held at TD Banknorth Garden, some four hours before Boston’s scheduled matinee with the New York Rangers. If the Bruins win, they clinch the number one seed in the Eastern Conference for the upcoming Stanley Cup playoffs.

More from Thomas, as he expressed satisfaction while wanting to maintain focus on the season.

“To a certain extent there is,” Thomas said of the satisfaction factor. “To another extent, we’re in the middle of the season, we have a game at one o’clock today so I haven’t really let it sink in. To a certain extent, I’m just going to focus on day-by-day and game-by-game who we’re playing. I think that’s the way to approach this.

“I don’t this is anytime to sit back and pat yourself too much on the back. I think it’s more, ‘Hey, we have a lot more to accomplish that we could accomplish this year.’ And I’m looking forward to making a push at achieving those accomplishments,” he added.

General manager Peter Chiarelli decided to invest a reported $20 million over four years in his goaltender, who
could wind up winning the Vezina Trophy for top netminder in the league.

“What sometimes gets lost in the translation is the uncanny ability to stop the puck,” Chiarelli said of Thomas’ 2.11 goals against and .932 save percentage this season, both of which lead the NHL. “And Tim has shown that with all the other things and that’s why we’ve extended him for a long time and we’re excited to have him on board.

“When we talk about the Tim Thomas story, we talk about perseverance over a long period time, we talk about a long journey and we talk about an unorthodox and hybrid style, so to speak.”

Part of the journey for Thomas includes sacrifice, like giving back half of his signing bonus or $75,000 to the Edmonton Oilers back in 1998 so he could play in Europe, before returning to the NHL and the Bruins for the 2002-03 season.

“That’s a good investment, though,” chimed in Chiarelli. “The rate of return on that is pretty good.”

Read More: Boston Bruins, NHL, Tim Thomas,
Sounds of the game… Bruins 2, Senators 1 04.02.09 at 10:32 pm ET
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The Bruins have won 50 games in an NHL season for the first time since the 1992-93 season, when Cam Neely, Ray Bourque and Adam Oates led them to 51 wins and 109 points.

“Everybody’s different,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said. “I’m not big on those things.  It’s great.  I’m not saying anything negative about it, just that it’s a win tonight, and another step towards hopefully clinching the conference.”

Maybe the reason for Julien’s cautious approach is what every hockey coach of a high seed fears at this time of year. The team that gets a hot goalie and rides them to a first-round shocking upset. Oh, say, like the 1993 Buffalo Sabres.

What Bruins fans don’t want to remember about that campaign but can’t forget is how it ended — a shocking first-round four-game sweep at the hands of the Sabres. Done in four after a glorious regular season. But still, that didn’t keep some of the key Bruins from reflecting on how far this team has come after missing the playoffs in consecutive seasons in ’05-’06 and ’06-’07.

Julien took over for the 2007-08 season and suddenly things changed on Causeway.

“You’re walking into a situation where it had been a tough year the year before, and there had been a lot of changes made, and our goal was to bring in some young players and give them a chance to blend in and build around the core veterans that we had,” Julien said. “We knew there would be some growing pains, but again, I don’t think anybody probably thought that we would be in this position this quickly, but we’ll certainly take it.” Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Boston Bruins, NHL, Ottawa Senators,
Sounds of the game… Bruins 3, Lightning 1 03.31.09 at 10:28 pm ET
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Maybe the most important aspect of Tuesday’s win over the Tampa Bay Lightning was that it wasn’t pretty.

After all, in two weeks, style points are going to mean even less than they do now.

The Bruins have won four straight and are 6-1-1 in their last eight, and their coach can already see an improvement in the way they’re approaching the game.

“I think we’re starting to get back to that so-called North-South type of game,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said after the win. “We’re going in direct lines and our speed is much better coming out of our own end as a unit instead of being all spread out. That part of our game is slowing coming back.”

Manny Fernandez looked much better between the pipes on Tuesday night, after surviving a 7-5 win in Toronto on Saturday night.

“We sat down and we’ve talked to each other and looked each other in the eyes and I think from here on out we let the personal stats take a hike and what’s important is the two points every night,” Fernandez said. “There won’t be any easy ones from here on out.”

And that will be especially true after the regular season finale on Easter Sunday, April 12. The Stanley Cup playoffs will begin several days later and captain Zdeno Chara will be one of the key players the Black and Gold will look to for leadership.

They certainly didn’t have to wait long to see it on Tuesday when he got into it with Evgeny Artyukhin eight minutes into the game. The fight set the tone and the Bruins followed in step.

The punch of the night was delivered by Cam Neely-reincarnated Milan Lucic. His right cross to the face of Tampa Bay blue liner Josef Melichar with 12 seconds remaining in the second showed that the Bruins hadn’t fallen asleep in this one. Melichar turtled but the Bruins didn’t.

But Julien reminded everyone that he would like to see his team finish with more of a killer instinct as the Bruins allowed the Lightning hope when they made it a two-goal game with 12 minutes into the third. A long shot from the top of the slot got by Fernandez only to ring off the post behind him and keep the B’s ahead 3-1.

“It almost seems like we’re afraid to run up the score and all of sudden there’s times where we’re starting to make those cute plays again and those are the things that you can’t have once you get into the playoffs,” Julien said.

“We can’t be looking at who we play,” said Chara, who netted two goals on the night. “We just have to be playing our way and bring the intensity and determination from every game now on.”

Read More: Boston Bruins, Claude Julien, Milan Lucic, Zdeno Chara
Sounds of the game… Bruins 4, Devils 1 03.22.09 at 6:14 pm ET
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It was quite simply the biggest game of the regular season.

And the urgency that coach Claude Julien has been preaching and begging his players to show was on full display on Sunday time at the best time against the one of the best goalies in NHL history.

On this Sunday afternoon at the Garden, the Bruins made Martin Brodeur look human, while avoiding being tagged victim No. 554.

That’s called answering the bell – or in the Bruins’ case – the deafening foghorn that sounded four times in a win that clinched the Bruins first Northeast Divsion title since 2003-04. For those who don’t remember, that was the last season before the 2004-05 lockout that wiped out an entire season.

But listen to Julien and you get the sense there was much less excitement in clinching the division title than Garden P.A. announcer Jim Martin had in announcing it to the fans.

“It wasn’t even mentioned once,” Julien said. “I didn’t talk about it. I didn’t hear any players talk about it. Everything tonight was put on the way we needed to play. Nothing else was talked about. I didn’t talk about the division title, I didn’t talk about the importance of the win. I just talked about our play. To me, it just showed to me how important that is to me, to do the things you have to do to win.”

“I didn’t even know about it until I heard it being announced to the crowd after the game,” Bruins goalie Tim Thomas added afterward.

Of course, in the bigger picture is the Eastern Conference, which the Bruins now lead Jersey by five points (102-97) with nine games remaining for Boston while Jersey has 10.

“I think what happened tonight is something, definitely not everything,” Julien said. “It was certainly something where we took a step in the right direction. It was a big game for both teams. We found a way to win that. There’s still nine games left. Jersey has some games in hand and they’re playing extremely well.”

The Bruins found a way to protect a 2-0 lead by making it 3-0, something they couldn’t do on Jan. 29 against these same Devils on the same Garden ice. They lost in overtime, 4-3.

Mark Recchi wasn’t in Boston then. He was on Sunday and he helped by assisting on the first two goals.

Recchi said the Bruins played the right way and didn’t let up.

Marc Savard called it the biggest game of the year.

Read More: Boston Bruins, Claude Julien, NHL,
Sounds of the game… Kings 3, Bruins 2 OT 03.19.09 at 10:29 pm ET
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One could make the case that the Bruins didn’t see Thursday night’s self-destruction coming.

But talk to the players themselves following a 3-2 overtime loss to the Los Angeles Kings at the Garden and they will tell you that if they didn’t see the writing on the wall, they certainly felt the trembling beneath their skates.

Earlier in the season, a two-goal lead heading into the third period was money in the bank. The Bruins are quickly turning into AIG. Entering Thursday night, they were 32-2-2 when leading after two periods. Even more impressively, they were 19-1-2 with a 2-0 lead.

But the Bruins had two golden opportunities to make it 3-0 and couldn’t on two power plays midway through the second.

The Kings scored early in the third and all of sudden things began to change.

Tim Thomas, though, said afterward that while Michael Handzus’ goal on the power play was big at 9:50 of the third period, it was the inability to put that third marker on the board that came back to haunt the Bruins.

“When they scored the first one, it changed even more. But I think the momentum had changed even before that,” Thomas said. “We left them in the game and kind of made believers out of them.”

But Thomas’ next statement about protecting a third period lead is FAR more telling about the state of mind the Bruins have right now and what they need to address come playoff time.

“Earlier this season we just knew we were going to win when were in that situation,” Thomas said. “I think now we still believe we’re going to win but it’s not like a 100 percent like it was earlier this year. It’s not 100 percent confidence.”

Then there’s their head coach. Claude Julien hasn’t minced words or treaded lightly all season. He wasn’t about to start after this loss.

“We’re going to have to start outworking the other team and our best players are going to have to start finding their game,” Julien said. “Our power play was totally flat tonight. If anything, our (penalty kill) had better chances tonight.”

Ouch.

Read More: Boston Bruins, Kings, NHL, Tim Thomas
Sounds of the Game… Bruins 5, Senators 3 03.12.09 at 10:27 pm ET
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Claude Julien had a message for his team prior to its showdown with the Ottawa Senators – start playing like you’re playing for something.

Julien is more than aware that his team has sewn up a top three seed by virtue of their cakewalk over the Montreal Canadiens in the Northeast Division of the Eastern Conference. What he’s looking for is something more.

“We’ve got to give ourselves something to motivate us and aim for,” Julien said. “As I told them, ‘Why Not Us?’ Why shouldn’t we be giving ourselves a goal and maybe that’ll help us focus on those games coming up and not allow us to get into a comfort zone and say, ‘Well it doesn’t matter if we play .500 we’re going to be in a playoff position.’”

The 2009 Bruins taking a page out of the 2004 Red Sox’ bag of tricks.

“We want to try and be the best we can and that’s one way of motivating ourselves,” Julien added.

Specifically, there’s the Presidents’ Trophy, awarded to the team that finishes first overall in the NHL point standings. The Bruins entered Thursday one point behind Detroit and San Jose for first overall in the league.

So when the Bruins jumped out to a 3-0 first period lead, and later 4-1, it certainly appeared like they got the message.

“We want to start having some fun around here again and the only way to do that is to start getting some wins,” Marc Savard said. “We know there’s 13 games left. We talked about it as a group. We have a chance to do something special here. We know we want to win the Stanley Cup and that’s the ultimate goal but the Presidents’ Cup is nice, too. We’ve got to want to play for something right now and we had a good chat about that. The way we started, we realized that and we went out and did something about it.”

But the Bruins had to hold on for dear life as the Senators cut the lead to one, 4-3. But the Black and Gold, thanks to an empty-netter by Phil Kessel, managed to skate away with a 5-3 win and now stand just three points shy of 100 for the season. Our man Joe Haggerty has insight on the re-emergence of Kessel and David Krejci and why they are key to Boston’s playoff hopes this spring.

Zdeno Chara said every night is going to be tough from here on out.

Tim Thomas won the game in net but said the Bruins can play better.

Aaron Ward said Thursday was still not a satisfactory win.

Ward on his first career short-handed goal.

Read More: Boston Bruins, Claude Julien, Presidents' Trophy,
Sounds of the game… Coyotes 2, Bruins 1 03.06.09 at 12:03 am ET
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Well, a home ice loss to the 14th-best team in the Western conference was not exactly what Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli and coach Claude Julien had in mind when the Bruins dealt for Mark Recchi and Steve Montador on Wednesday at the NHL trade deadline.

The Bruins came out and laid a massive egg against the overhauled roster of the Phoenix Coyotes and fell 2-1 at TD Banknorth Garden.

There are a number of reasons this loss is troubling. First, it comes on the heels of a 4-2 loss to Philadelphia on Tuesday night. Second it comes just a day after the team made two big deals for the stretch run. Third, the return of Milan Lucic to the lineup was expected to give the Bruins a little extra jump. That never materialized.

And finally, the New Jersey Devils are coming fast and this is another loss that brings the No. 2 seed a bit closer to being able to overtake the No. 1 Bruins, who are stuck on 93 points, just six ahead of Jersey.

It’s looking more and more like when the Bruins host the Devils on March 22 at the Garden, first place in the East could be on the line.

But before looking ahead, the Bruins must look back on what was a painful Thursday night on Causeway. And you could sense the frustration, starting with head coach Claude Julien.

Julien said his team, all of sudden, can’t finish on scoring chances.

Julien said when it comes to playing a full 60 minutes, talk is cheap.

Marc Savard said the Bruins were a little too cute on the ice with the puck.

Milan Lucic said the Bruins have to find a way to play 60 minutes.

Even as a newcomer, Steve Montador knows to expect boos when the team isn’t playing well.

Montador said the team is trying to look ahead and gain momentum.

Aaron Ward summed up the Bruins problems.

Phoenix coach Wayne Gretzky said his Coyotes put forth a good team effort.

Gretzky said his team had a good road effort in Boston.

Read More: Boston Bruins, Milan Lucic, Phoenix Coyotes, Steve Montador
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