|Canadiens clearly ‘mean’ business||04.16.09 at 10:28 pm ET|
Long before they took exception to Milan Lucic passing to a wide open Phil Kessel for an empty net goal, Kessel’s second of the night, the No. 8 seed Montreal Canadiens showed they were not going to be a pushover in this opening round best-of-7 series, despite losing 4-2 to the Bruins at TD Banknorth Garden.
“That’s the playoffs,” said Marc Savard, who set-up Zdeno Chara’s go-ahead strike midway through the third. “There’s going to be some bad blood. Obviously, throughout the game, we tried to get away from that. There’s some bad blood but that’s the way playoffs are. We’re going to have to be ready Saturday night.”
Saturday night at 8 o’clock there figures to be more tension when the two rivals take the ice for Game 2 at the Garden.
“Obviously, Looch makes a great play like he does and then he’ s unselfish and decides to go to Kess like that, maybe there’s a little animosity on the other side,” Savard said.
The animosity, and hard-hitting, began early in the first period when Montreal enforcer Georges Laraque drilled Zdeno Chara along the corner boards in the Boston defensive zone followed up by a neutral zone hit on Milan Lucic. But it was the one against Chara that made the most noise.
“I want to play hard minutes,” Laraque said. “That’s what you do with every shift. You have to do this for the first couple of games and eventually it will turn around and make it easier for our skilled guys to play against him.”
Those two hits were no mistake. The Canadiens were clearly targeting the two toughest and biggest Bruins in an effort to show that they are not intimidated by the top-seeded Bruins, even on their home ice.
The hard hitting continued in the second period when the Canadiens managed to wipe out what was once a two-goal Boston lead when Alex Kovalev scored. The goal with 2:23 remaining in the middle frame reinforced to the Bruins that these Canadiens, even without Andrei Markhov and a limited Mathieu Schneider, mean business. Read the rest of this entry »
|Chara blast gives the B’s a 4-2 win in Game One||at 8:17 pm ET|
Big apologies for the moderate-to-serious Internet difficulties taking place here at the TD Banknorth Garden, but it took until the beginning of the third period to actually land a signal. I’m calling it “JJ Strikes Back” until I can fine a more appropriate term for the wireless outage.
It’s been a pretty entertaining game through two periods, and has played out as so many hockey games have before it. The B’s stormed out to a 2-0 lead midway through the first period and it appeared the Black and Gold were going to sweep the Canadiens right off the ice. David Krejci scored one of the two goals on a nifty roofed backhander, and the B’s were 19-0-2 during the regular season when the young center light the lamp. So all seemed well in the world.
But the Habs fought back in the following two periods and tied it with less than three minutes to go when Russian sniper Alex Kovalev roofed a short-side wrist shot past Tim Thomas‘ left shoulder.
10:12: Cross-checking call on Josh Gorges. PP for the Bruins.
8:45: Goal. Big Z from the point. Power play score and the yellow towels are flying proud everywhere.
7:05: Things just got a nasty in front of the net with Mathieu Schneider taking a big right-handed swipe at Chuck Kobasew after the whistle had blown in front of the Montreal cage. The crowd is chanting “Carey, Carey, Carey” in the familiar sing-song mocking tone.
2:40: Great recovery by Tim Thomas after playing a puck behind the net and then scrambling when Maxim Lapierre gained possession and attempted a wraparound from the right post. Thomas deflected the puck and averted any further damage. Thomas has been very solid here in Game One.
00:31: Great Thomas save on Andrei Kostitsyn during a scramble in front of the Boston net.
13.4: Empty net score for Boston’s Phil Kessel, and the pushing and shoving between these two hated rivals continues. Saku Koivu and Marc Savard were really getting into it in the corner. Habs players went straight for Kessel after he scored. Milan Lucic made a nice little saucer pass to Kessel at the right faceoff circle with Carey Price vacated from the net.
The B’s beat the Habs by a 4-2 score in a Game One that Boston really needed to win if they didn’t want “The Questions” to start popping up.
|Bear beware||04.15.09 at 1:44 pm ET|
Thomas heads into this series knowing full well all eyes will be on him and how he handles the anticipated traffic in front as Montreal tries to disrupt him. He also knows the the history of the Stanley Cup playoffs when a No. 1 can go down in flames when a No. 8 team gets hot — like last year, when the Bruins nearly pulled it off against the Habs.
It happened in 1982 when Wayne Gretzky and the Edmonton Oilers were beaten by the Los Angeles Kings in round 1 in the Miracle on Manchester. And it happened in 2000 when the St. Louis Blues, with 114 points, were ousted by San Jose. And while the Bruins were a No. 2 seed in 2004, they lost to the underdog Canadiens in seven games.
“A lot of it is because teams are so close,” Thomas said in offering his explanation. “The difference between one and eight in this league isn’t very much. The difference between five and 11 isn’t very much. There are no easy teams on any given night, depending on how teams are playing and how the momentum has been going for that team, any team can beat any other team and I think that’s why you see the results you see.”
What’s even more intriguing is listening to Thomas talk about the intensity level of this series, and what he learned from last year’s seven-game battle that ended in heartbreak for the B’s in Montreal.
“I had the NHL playoffs described to me before the playoffs last year and I was thinking to myself, ‘Okay, I’ve been to the (Frozen) Four in college, I’ve won a championship in Finland, I’ve been to the World Championships, it can’t be that much different than anything I’ve experienced.’ And I was wrong. It was all more emotional and adrenaline-rushed than anything I could have imagined,” said Thomas, who played at Vermont and went to the Frozen Four in 1996, losing in double-OT to Colorado College.
Thomas doesn’t have to go back that far to remember last week’s hour-long second period, where the Bruins-Canadiens resembled a UFC steel-cage death match.
“I think it’ll increase, if anything,” Thomas said of the intensity. “I’m expecting both teams to obviously be more disciplined. But as far as that type of game, with all-out competing, every man competing up and down the bench, yeah, that’s what I expect.”
|Julien: Hopefully we can make this one last||at 12:48 pm ET|
Asked what this time of year means him, Bruins coach Claude Julien turned poet-philosopher.
“From the weather outside, walking outside into the rink, it’s a great feeling,” Julien said Wednesday. “I know the guys enjoy it, we as a coaching staff are the same. I know I look forward to it every year. Hopefully, we can make this one last.”
One of the more commonly asked questions this week has been how the Bruins plan to ride the fine line of playing with emotion yet staying out of the penalty box.
But, Julien acknowledged that clearly, there is a nervous energy that everyone plays with at this time of year.
“I’ll tell you what, if you don’t have a pulse when it comes down to playoffs, you have a serious problem,” Julien said. “I think it’s the most exciting time of the year. Everybody looks forward to it. You feel sorry for those guys who are done because we all know what playoffs mean to us.”
“I’m excited,” Wheeler said. “You’re going to be a little nervous, obviously, too. That’s a part of it but you just kind of want to harness it and use it to the positive way instead of being timid or scared out there. You just want to use it in a way that can help your team be successful.”
Wheeler has won a state high school championship in hockey-crazed Minnesota and played with Phil Kessel at the University of Minnesota. So, even at 22, he knows a thing or two about playing on the big stage.
“Anytime you play on a big stage with a lot on the line, it’s going to definitely train you how to react in those situations but it’s definitely going to be amped up quite a bit,” Wheeler said. “It’s going to be a little bit different level, a little more intensity. You just have to embrace it and respond.”
Mark Recchi has been on Stanley Cup Champions, including in 1991 with Pittsburgh and 2006 with Carolina. How he handles this time of season will be on display for players like Wheeler to observe.
“There’s not a lot you can say to them right now,” Recchi said. “They’ve got to get a taste of it right away and get a taste of it first-hand and then they’ll know right away. I don’t think anything you say can help them prepare for it. It’s how you react to things they’ll watch. I think if you stay composed, it will help them.
“The younger guys will watch how I react, and the guys in this league who have been successful and won in this league, Aaron (Ward) and Stephane (Yelle), they’ll watch them,” Recchi added. “I just have to play the game and do what I’ve done for 20 years.”
|Still no Ference||at 10:08 am ET|
WILMINGTON — Defenseman Andrew Ference was again the lone player missing from practice on Wednesday morning in Wilmington as the Bruins held their second practice of the week in preparation for Game 1 with Montreal on Thursday night at TD Banknorth Garden.
Ference has been out since suffering an undisclosed injury against the Rangers on April 4.
B’s head coach Claude Julien, who took part in the warmup skate on Wednesday morning and took his shots at Manny Fernandez, said on Tuesday that there was no update and that Ference continues to be “day-to-day.”
“I think when you see him on the ice for the first time, that’ll be a good sign,” Julien said.
The team began practice shortly after 11 a.m.
|Julien: Fear factor ‘a lot of BS’||04.14.09 at 4:40 pm ET|
One of the great things about the Stanley Cup playoffs is the fact that you start to see real personality come out in players – and coaches.
Just listen to Claude Julien when he was asked about his team’s approach to the playoffs this season as the No. 1 seed as opposed to 12 months ago when his eighth-seeded Bruins nearly shocked the hockey world by forcing a Game 7 in the first round after falling behind 3 games to 1.
He’s not about to let his team believe that Montreal ‘fears’ the No. 1 seed Bruins, a team that beat Montreal five times in six meetings, quite the role reversal from Montreal’s 13-game winning streak heading into Game 3 last spring.
“I’m not big on stats,” Julien said at Tuesday’s practice at Ristuccia Arena in Wilmington. “To me, it’s a lot of BS. What’s going to count is what happens on the ice. I hear all this stuff, history between the two organizations, No. 1 seeds, everybody has to write something but we don’t listen to it. We just have to go out there and play. Honestly, I’ve never put a lot of thought into that stuff.” Read the rest of this entry »
|Bergy… No holding back this year||at 3:27 pm ET|
The star center was on the cusp of returning from a grade 3 concussion suffered on Oct. 27, 2007 when Philadelphia’s Randy Jones drilled him into the corner boards at the Garden. He battled all winter with severe headaches and pain generally associated with that type of serious concussion.
Bergeron had returned to the Ristuccia Center ice and was skating with his teammates, even taking some hits in practice. But head coach Claude Julien and general manager Peter Chiarelli were not about to risk the long term future for short-term gain, even if it meant conceding a huge piece of depth along the front line.
“There’s no doubt that had we had him last year, and even Chuck Kobasew who missed the playoffs, we might have gotten past the first round,” said Julien, who watched his team come from 3-1 down only to succumb in seven heart-stopping games in the first round. “Those are sometimes the little details that you’re missing at times. But our young guys had a chance to develop because of the absence of those guys.”
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