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Aaron Ward on D&C: ‘It is a complete joke’ 05.14.09 at 12:01 pm ET
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Aaron Ward went on the Dennis & Callahan Show this morning to discuss the advantage of home ice in Game 7 of the second-round playoff series against the Carolina Hurricanes, the Capitals’ failure to show up in Game 7 against the Pittsburgh Penguins and, of course, to discuss the punch by Scott Walker that left him with a black eye and potential for a broken bone in his face.

“It is a complete joke,” Ward said of the failure to suspend Walker. “If this happened to Sidney Crosby or someone of high value (there would have been a suspension), I’€™m a plumber in this whole situation, it’€™s easier to sweep it under the rug.”

Here are some excerpts from the interview, which can be heard by clicking here:

Q: What do you know for sure about Game 7 tonight?

A: I make it a practice to never notify the media that I listen to them so I was listening to you guys on the way in and you guys had some interesting theories.

It’€™s imperative that you get home ice and you keep home ice throughout the playoffs because you always need that added ingredient to your confidence and psyche. You’€™re more composed, you feel as if you have the masses behind you and for some reason, it adds to your confidence on the ice. I can’€™t explain why but it’€™s just a fact of life, as an athlete, when you have a rowdy crowd, it can be uplifting for your team.

Q: Can the ‘€œus against the world’€ idea work for a team?

A: I honestly think at this stage in the playoffs, the game is played out there and the crowd has an effect on the game. That’€™s pretty good in the first round but come the second round, I’€™m not so sure that works anymore.

Q: How’€™s the shiner looking this morning?

A: I’€™ve got one. It’€™s not looking too bad. He got the outside of my eye. Seems like it’€™s fine right now. If I start putting makeup on the ice, we’€™ve got bigger issues.

Q: Is there any fracture there?

A: In the playoffs, we aren’€™t allowed to reveal what is going on so I’€™ll tell you what I have is a lower body injury.

Q: Did you consider wearing a visor?

A: Back in 1993 I took it off when I was in college and I vowed I would never wear it again. I wore it for two months but I can’€™t stand it. It’€™s just the way you’€™ve been and you’€™re not willing to change.

Q: To what extent will injuries affect you guys?

A: I think it goes with the game; it’€™s a badge of honor. You expect to get injured. If you’€™re not getting injured in a distorted way it means you’€™re not getting into the corners and getting dirty. That’€™s more or less the mantra of this team. Zdeno, just by nature. He’€™s not a guy who shies away from contact. He’€™s naturally going to have it happen. It’€™s a war of attrition out there with us and that’€™s where your medical staff comes into play.

Q: Was going up 2-0 in Game 6 both a blessing and a curse?

A: For us, getting up 2-0, it quelled the crowd. They’€™re now sitting down. But on the other hand, it’€™s tough as a road team to go into an opponent’€™s building and not sit back and protect. Something about it is human nature to try and sit back and protect and I don’€™t know why it is. You have to fight it. Shift by shift on the bench, players talking to each other insuring that something’€™s got to change. If someone told me I was going to have a 2-0 lead in Carolina, I would’€™ve taken the drink out of his hand.

Q: Any reasonable explanation as to why Walker did not get suspended?

A: Have I gotten reasonable explanation? No. My inkling is that sometimes it’€™s out of convenience, fellas. If you don’€™t want to do anything about it, then you can find a reasonable explanation and just accept it. I try not to be sour grapes. My biggest retribution of this whole situation is to shake someone’€™s hand and tell them, ‘€œHave a good summer.’€ I would love to shake hands and know that I’€™m going to go on and play the Pittsburgh Penguins in the near future. We were able to exercise the way we wanted to play in that game and it was frustrating for them.

Q: He implied in his statement that there was some exchange between you two.

A: It was kind of an intimidating experience to stand there in front of 70 media members and tell them that it’€™s a joke. I called the media sheep because if you can look at that video and see anything that I said, the only thing I did with Walker was to brush off his punch with my left arm. How I became the instigator or the symbolic idiot in this situation baffles me. I represent everything that has gone wrong in this series for the ‘€˜Canes. We’€™re a pretty gritty team. It is a complete joke.

I said nothing, he knows I said nothing, management knows I said nothing. If this happened to Sidney Crosby or someone of high value, I’€™m a plumber in this whole situation, it’€™s easier to sweep it under the rug.

Q: Blowout or close game tonight?

A: My Game 7 experiences usually get out of hand. I think someone forgot to tell Washington yesterday that the game was going on. Ovechkin was baffled and that guy can only carry the team so far.

Q: What went wrong in the second and third game for you guys?

A: It’€™s the playoffs. Nothing went wrong. It’€™s the playoffs. That’€™s why they make it a seven-game series. It is truly a war of wits amongst the coaches, players playing the system properly, we couldn’€™t find our momentum and now we’€™ve found it.

Read More: Aaron Ward, Boston Bruins, Scott Walker,
Wheeler is the scratch for the Bruins again in Game 6 05.12.09 at 7:00 pm ET
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RALEIGH, N.C. — For the second straight game rookie winger Blake Wheeler is the scratch for the Boston Bruins — along with Andrew Ference and Matt Hunwick — and Byron Bitz is again in the lineup and skating with David Krejci and Michael Ryder.

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Bruins need speed burners for Game 6 05.11.09 at 6:14 pm ET
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WILMINGTON -With so much focus on the intensity and nastiness that has been cranked up as the result of Game 5 between the Bruins and Hurricanes, one small detail is getting overshadowed.

The Bruins finally found a way on Sunday to contain the speed of Carolina’s attack. Their reward was a plane flight Monday afternoon bound for Raleigh, where they play Game 6 on Tuesday night.

Duplicate Sunday’s effort on Tuesday and the Bruins will bring the series to a Game 7 back in Boston on Thursday night.

“I think our backs are still against the wall,” Milan Lucic said on Monday at the team’s practice facility at Ristuccia Arena. “They’re still up 3-2 going into their barn. There’s pressure in every game of the playoffs, it doesn’t matter what side of the fence you’re on. We’re the ones with our backs against it.” Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Boston Bruins, Carolina Hurricanes, Milan Lucic, Shawn Thornton
Walker facing suspension after “sucker punch” incident at 10:19 am ET
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The hibernating Bears woke up on Sunday night, and there shouldn’t be too much worry about any more hockey naps in the remaining two games of the semifinal series against the Carolina Hurricanes. The big question is why the Carolina Hurricanes chose to poke the proverbial Bear in the Cage during a Game 5 blowout, and never was that more evident than Scott Walker’s sucker punch of Aaron with less than five minutes to go in the third period.

Ward and Canes forward Matt Cullen were engaging in the exact kind of pushing and shoving that was evident through the entire game, and Walker came out of nowhere to jump into the fray as the third man in. Walker and Ward both threw quick gloved shots at each other, and then Walker crossed over the line with an overhand right at Ward’s face while the Bruins defenseman still had his gloves on.

It was clear Ward wasn’t going to fight, and Walker took that as open invitation to slam his unprotected face. Walker was tossed from the game with a misconduct, fighting penalty and instigator penalty and — according to section 47.22 of the NHL rule book — the Hurricanes is automatically suspended for a game pending review after drawing an instigator penalty in the final five minutes of regulation. 

Bruins coach Claude Julien indicated after the game that team doctors believe that Ward may have a broken orbital bone as a result of the incident — and that the veteran defenseman could be lost to the Bruins for at least a few games as a result of the injury.

Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas, who got a clear view of the incident as it happened right in front of the Boston net, essentially said it was a bush league move during a postgame interview with Versus following the third period incident: “That’s one of the worst sucker punches I’ve ever seen. That is something I haven’t seen since I was in the AHL.”

It will be interesting to see how far NHL disciplinarian Colin Campbell takes the punishment with an incident like this, which he’ll already be reviewing given the instigator penalty rule. The NHL has an unwritten rule that they come down much harder on infractions when an injury results, and that appears to be the case with Ward’s injury. If Ward is out, the Black and Gold will be forced to dip into their supply of Black Aces at Providence and perhaps tap Johnny Boychuk for defenseman duty after only a handful of NHL games this season.

Here’s the youtube footage of the Walker “sucker punch” with an assist to www.hockeyfights.com:

Read More: Aaron Ward, Boston Bruins, Scott Walker,
Bruins are looking to retain shaprness with the time off 04.28.09 at 1:12 pm ET
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WILMINGTON — It feels like a big holding pattern is taking place here at Ristuccia Arena on Tuesday morning as the Bruins await the identity of their next opponent. That identity will be learned after both of tonight’s Eastern Conference Game 7’s between Carolina/New Jersey and New York/Washington have been decided.

The B’s skaters went through a spirited scrimmage for a large portion of practice with plenty of hard skating and fast-paced hockey designed to keep the hockey club as sharp as possible following a potential 9 day layoff. That would be the amount of time between games if the second round series doesn’t begin until Saturday night — following a potential Game 7 between the Celtics and the Bulls at the TD Banknorth Garden.

With that in mind “game situations” was the buzzword of the day with the Bruins following practice.

The players have all been attempting different methods to stay sharp during the long layoff period — with goaltender Tim Thomas harkening back to the big breaks that the Finnish Elite League took during the season for Olympic competition and youngsters like 20-year-old Milan Lucic drawing on the junior hockey experience of sometimes going an entire week without games. But there is some unknown territory as to how much rust will be present when the Black and Gold skaters again suit up this weekend. There could be some level of rust in a Game 1 against a team that hasn’t had much more than five or six days off leading into the upcoming series.

Defenseman Aaron Ward enjoyed the time off, and had friends up from Carolina for the weekend while taking in all three of the Red Sox/Yankees games at Fenway Park — including a stint in the NESN booth with Don Orsillo and Jerry Remy on Friday night. Ward has also watched every playoff game while he’s been at home, and derives a similar adrenaline rush watching playoff hockey as he does playing in it. Getting that rumble in the pit of his stomach allows the veteran to feel like he’s taking a “shot” of game adrenaline — and retaining some sharpness — during the long layoff between series.

“I won’t purposely take time out of my day to watch regular season games unless there’s some underlying theme to it — rivalry, there’s going to be a fight or some magical theme to it — but in the playoffs I’ll watch any game I can possibly find,” said Ward. “Last night I was watching San Jose/Anaheim and watching Calgary even though they’re Western Conference (teams) and we could only possibly play one of them.

“They mean something and it keeps you sharp,” added Ward. “We’ve got ten days off and it kind of incites that feeling in you where you get nervous even though you’re thousands of miles away and you’re not playing. You still get the stomach turning and the butterflies going because you know what kind of pressure (those players) are under.”

The B’s are instead focusing on the positive, and the good health that has returned to many of their players. Patrice Bergeron was allowed to rest a sore foot after taking a shot off the skate during the final regular season brawl-a-thon against the Montreal Canadiens. Bergeron endured through the first round of the playoffs in some level of pain, but has had ample time to heal leading into round two.

Defenseman Andrew Ference is back skating with the team after missing all of the first round with an undisclosed injury, and he’s expected to be healthy entering the Stanley Cup semi-finals. Any injuries and minor ailments that have slipped under the all-knowing, all-powerful scope of the Bruins media corps should be healed up, and ready for a war against whichever squad wins the three-legged puck race.

“It’s important that we don’t let ourselves slip,” said B’s bench boss Claude Julien. “We’re trying to stay on top of our game. (The layoff) is a tough challenge right now. We all know that, but it’s a challenge we have to face. There are no excuses at this time of year. You just have to do it.

“What’s going to help is by (Tuesday) night we’ll know who we’re playing, so by tomorrow there is something to look forward to and you’re preparing against a specific team,” added Julien, who jokingly said he’ll be watching two TVs tonight. “Right now you’re sitting there and talking about three teams. Tomorrow we’ll know it’s one team, and we’ll start preparing accordingly. No doubt that’ll help the focus of the team.”

The return to health is the silver lining, and the Bruins are intent to make the most of it.

“(The time off) is a privilege we earned by winning four straight,” said Julien. “We have to take advantage of it. With everything you get, there’s always challenges. I think the fact that we’ve got an opportunity to rest and heal is all positive. The only challenge is to try and remain sharp. I think we’re doing a decent job of that. We’re going to slowly crank it up, so that by the time the first puck drops we’re going to be ready.” 

–Congrats to Zdeno Chara, who gave birth to a bouncing baby girl on Monday night: Elliz Victoria Chara. The baby girl was 7 pounds, 12 ounces at the time of birth at around 7 p.m. last night. On Tuesday morning at practice, Chara called the birth of Elliz “the best day of my life”.

–Point of clarification: I had a link up two days ago to a story from a Bruins blogger about the “Stay Hungry” apparel that the team is wearing, and the story mentioned that Julien came up with the slogan. Julien approached me at practice on Monday, and said that the idea behind the hats and shorts was all Marco Sturm’s idea along with the Canadian Ironhead company that produced the clothing.

The hat and shorts feature a Flinstones-style steak as a Logo along with the “Stay Hungry” slogan on the side of the hat, and most of the players are sporting the hats in the postgame dressing room.

“That was all Sturmy,” said Julien. “I had nothing to do with that. Didn’t want to take credit for something that was Marco’s idea.”

Read More: Aaron Ward, Boston Bruins, Zdeno Chara,
Julien: Game 1 for Bruins won’t be on Thursday 04.27.09 at 12:33 pm ET
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WILMINGTON — According to Bruins coach Claude Julien, the date for Game 1 against a yet-to-be-determined opponent hasn’t been finalized — and can’t be until the two games on Tuesday determine the lowest suriving seed of the Penguins, Hurricanes and Rangers — but it doesn’t look like it’s going to be a Thursday night drop of the puck at the Garden. It could be a Friday and Sunday start for Games 1 and 2, or perhaps even Saturday and Monday if the Boston Celtics have to be factored in over next weekend. As of right now, the Celtics are scheduled to host a potential Game 7 against the Chicago Bulls in their opening round of playoffs on Saturday at the TD Banknorth Garden.

“I can’t tell you when we’re starting, but I can probably tell you that it’s not going to be Thursday,” said Julien.

Stay tuned on this one.

–In other practice news, a personal day off from practice at Ristuccia Arena for Bruins blueliner and Norris Trophy Finalist Zdeno Chara, who — to my knowledge — is still expecting the birth of his first child. Perhaps today is the blessed day that a Little Z is born into the world.

Read More: Boston Bruins, Claude Julien, Stanley Cup Playoffs,
Tim Thomas named a finalist for Vezina Trophy at 12:18 pm ET
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WILMINGTON — In another high point during an already-inspiring run with the Boston Bruins, goaltender Tim Thomas of the Boston Bruins are the three finalists for the 2008-09 Vezina Trophy, which is awarded ‘€œto the goalkeeper adjudged to be the best at his position,’€ the National Hockey League announced today.

“He’s obviously earned it, I think he deserves it and I hope he gets it,” said B’s coach Claude Julien. “It’s one of those things that he’s done enough for this team, and he certainly deserves the recognition. Hopefully people that vote will see this way.”

The one thing that stands out in Julien’s mind when asked about the rise of Thomas over the years: a story from practice last season when the goal-challenged B’s were looking for a little confidence. Julien was running three-on-zero breakaway rushes where the same line keeps skating and shooting until they score.

The problems were twofold: the B’s couldn’t put the puck in the ocean and Thomas wasn’t taking it easy during the practice. Thomas’ teammates have come to learn that the 35-year-old netminder never takes it easy in practice, and that’s why he’s the odds-on favorite to win the Vezina Trophy this season.

“I know that what really stood out to me in the first month I was here (at practice) and we’re running 3-on-0’s and most of the time the goaltender will make a save, but then they end up putting the empty,” added Julien. “I still remember that one day (last season) when we were trying to get the team to score more, and we did those 3-on-0’s and you had to stay till you scored. At one point I had to blow the whistle because Timmy wasn’t letting them score. I called uncle and we had the next three guys going, but that just showed me his competitiveness. He was diving everywhere and he was determined not to let them score.”
 
The general managers of the 30 NHL clubs submitted ballots for the Vezina Trophy at the conclusion of the regular season, with the top three vote-getters designated as finalists. The winner will be announced Thursday, June 18, during the 2009 NHL Awards that will be broadcast live from the Pearl Concert Theater inside the Palms Hotel Las Vegas on VERSUS in the United States and on CBC in Canada.
 
Following are the finalists for the Vezina Trophy, in alphabetical order:
 
Niklas Backstrom, Minnesota Wild
After nine seasons honing his craft in Europe and two earning increased playing time in the NHL, Backstrom established himself as the Wild’€™s go-to goalie this season, appearing in 71 games. He ranked among the League’€™s top five goaltenders in goals against average (2.33, third), save percentage (.923, fourth) and shutouts (eight, third) and his 37 wins were a franchise record in addition to being the NHL’€™s fifth-highest total. Backstrom established a club record with 149:19 of consecutive shutout goaltending Dec. 31-Jan. 8.
 
Steve Mason, Columbus Blue Jackets
Mason began his NHL career by winning his first three starts, Nov. 5, 7 and 8, seizing the Blue Jackets’€™ No. 1 goaltender role. Named the NHL’€™s Rookie of the Month for both November and December, he posted a club-record three straight shutouts in late December. Mason finished strong, going 8-2-4 from Mar. 7-Apr.8 as Columbus captured the first playoff berth in franchise history. His 10 shutouts led the League and his 2.29 goals against average ranked second to Tim Thomas’€™ 2.10 for Boston.
 
Tim Thomas, Boston Bruins
Thomas took his game to a different level this season while backstopping the Bruins to their highest victory (53) and points (116) totals since 1971-72. He led the NHL in goals against average (2.10) and save percentage (.933) while posting a career-high 36 wins. He won a career-best seven straight decisions from Dec. 4-30 and closed the regular season by winning his last six starts. Thomas and Boston teammate Manny Fernandez are the winners of the William Jennings Trophy as the Bruins allowed a League-low 196 goals this season.
 
 
History
Leo Dandurand, Louis Letourneau and Joe Cattarinich, former owners of the Montreal Canadiens, presented the trophy to the National Hockey League in 1926-27 in memory of Georges Vezina, the outstanding Canadiens goaltender who collapsed during an NHL game on Nov. 28, 1925, and died of tuberculosis a few months later. Until the 1981-82 season, the goaltender(s) of the team allowing the fewest number of goals during the regular season were awarded the Vezina Trophy.
 
Announcement Schedule
 The NHL will announce the three finalists for each of its awards daily. The remaining announcement schedule:
 Tue., April 28:           Frank J. Selke Trophy (top defensive forward)
Wed., Apr. 29:          Hart Memorial Trophy (MVP)
Thur., Apr. 30:          Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy (perseverance and dedication to hockey)
Fri., May 1                Jack Adams Award (Coach of the Year)
Mon., May 4              NHL Foundation Player Award(contributions to charitable causes)
 
 
Previously Announced Trophy Finalists
Calder Trophy (outstanding rookie):
Steve Mason, Columbus Blue Jackets
Bobby Ryan, Anaheim Ducks
Kris Versteeg, Chicago Blackhawks
 
Norris Trophy (outstanding defenseman):
Zdeno Chara, Boston Bruins
Mike Green, Washington Capitals
Nicklas Lidstrom, Detroit Red Wings
 
Lady Byng Trophy (skill, sportsmanship):
Pavel Datsyuk, Detroit Red Wings
Zach Parise, New Jersey Devils
Martin St. Louis, Tampa Bay Lightning

Read More: Boston Bruins, Claude Julien, Tim Thomas,

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