|Bruins strike back and take third-period momentum||02.17.09 at 11:14 pm ET|
During the recent four-game losing binge that had some questioning just how good a hockey team they can be, the Bruins were uncharacteristically searching for answers and struggling in the third period. The irony is striking, given how much success the team enjoyed over the first half of the season in that very same third period. The Black and Gold were so good and so unstoppable while blowing people away in the final hockey stanza, and it was a formula that many thought would last the whole year through.
Funny how things can change so quickly.
The young Bruins skaters reclaimed the third period and then some when they potted three third-period goals Tuesday night en route to a closer-than-the-final-score 5-1 win over the Carolina Hurricanes at the RBC Center on Glen Wesley Night. The Black and Gold also used a victory over the Eastern Conference bottom-dwelling ‘Canes to notch their 40th win of the season ‘ the first NHL club to earn that distinction this season and just one win away from last year’s entire win total.
The B’s are second in the NHL with 70 goals scored in the third period in 58 NHL games this season (1.20 goals per game in the third period), and the final 20 minutes of regulation represent Boston’s most prolific period through the current season. But they’d suffered third-period collapses against both the Philadelphia Flyers and San Jose Sharks, and scored a grand total of two third-period goals in the last six B’s games leading into last night’s tilt.
Much of the third-period slowdown seemed to be right in line with the offensive swoon that a host of Boston’s younger players had suffered since the NHL All-Star break, but familiar names like Blake Wheeler, David Krejci and Patrice Bergeron ‘ among others ‘ seemed to have finally shaken free of the fatigue and are again fighting for more ice time and all-important points.
Phil Kessel was a buzzing, irritating threat while skating with new linemates Krejci and Vladimir Sobotka, and fired off three shots while showing some pretty good competition and grit levels looking for loose pucks all over the ice. Milan Lucic also rebounded from a so-so effort against the Nashville Predators on Saturday night, and Wheeler looked strong and energetic in the third period last night while drawing penalties, creating mismatches on the ice and appearing every bit the big, rangy, talent he appeared to be as he flashed on the scene in the early going.
Wheeler also seemed energized skating with Lucic and center Marc Savard on Boston’s top line, and each jiggling of the lines seemed to finally click in and start working for the Spoked B during the all-important third period. The biggest piece of credit obviously goes to Krejci, who is again playing good hockey as evidenced by his 17:20 of ice time, two points and a +2 for the evening and a team-high six shots on net for the Czech Republic prodigy.
Medical Ward: Several players were dinged up during the first two stops (P.J. Axelsson, Bergeron) on Boston’s southern road swing through Nashville and Carolina, but it didn’t appear that any of the injuries were significant.
Goat Horns: Dennis Wideman didn’t have any points and finished with a -1 on the night after getting turned into a turnstile by yet another hockey player recently. Wideman struggled a bit defensively and didn’t really have much to on offense as well, and Ray Whitney’s ability to speed right around Wideman set up Carolina’s only goal on the evening. That being said, it was a pretty strong all-around effort for the Black and Gold.
Player of the Game: The aforementioned Krejci really upped his tenacity, grit and compete levels along with his creative, finesse game — a pair of necessary elements needed along with the breathtaking skill out on the ice that’s made him such a bright major league prospect.
Turning Point in the Game: The game completely turned in favor of the Bruins when Bergeron collected the puck during the PK and threaded out a lark of a pass toward the neutral zone that sprang Krejci free. The nifty center outraced the Hurricanes defense, and skated in all alone on the Carolina net. Krejci grabbed himself a filthy backhander as the finishing touch — a deft hockey move that’s was the one-on-one equal of every great offensive player in the league. More efforts like this from Krejci and the Bruins will be right back on track for the playoffs.
|Former Bruin Glen Wesley enjoys number retirement||at 7:19 pm ET|
I remember him as “Foggy” and as an integral part of my experience with Sega Genesis NHL 93 when I used to ride former Bruins skaters Glen Wesley and Bobby Carpenter to ridiculous heights along the way to complete Black and Gold video game domination.
Some also remember Wesley as the guy that missed a wide open net in triple OT against the Edmonton Oilers in the Stanley Cup Finals way back in 1990, but why dredge that up on the day that the Carolina Hurricanes are retiring “Foggy’s” No. 2 and raising it up to the rafters at the RBC Center.
Here’s the release from the ‘Canes:
Glen Wesley Night: Originally drafted third overall in the 1987 NHL Entry Draft by the Boston Bruins, defenseman Glen Wesley completed his playing career ranked sixth on the NHL’s all-time list of games played by a defenseman, skating in 1,457 total games over 20 seasons with Boston, Hartford, Toronto and Carolina.
The Red Deer, Alb. native debuted with Boston straight out of junior hockey in his draft year, and was named to the NHL All-Rookie Team after earning 37 points (7g, 30a) and leading all rookies with a plus-21 plus/minus rating. Wesley played in the NHL All-Star Game in 1989, and completed his career with 128 goals, 409 assists (537 points) and 1,045 penalty minutes. He appeared in the Stanley Cup Finals four times, reaching the Finals with Boston in 1988 and 1990 and with Carolina in 2002 and 2006, capturing the Stanley Cup with the Hurricanes in 2006.
The Hartford Whalers acquired Wesley on Aug. 25, 1994, in exchange for first-round draft picks in 1995 (Kyle McLaren), 1996 (Jonathan Aitken) and 1997 (Sergei Samsonov). Wesley went on to play 13 seasons for the franchise, and is the only player to have played for the Hurricanes in every season (prior to 2008-09) since the team relocated to North Carolina in 1997. He played more games (913) for the Hurricanes franchise than any player in the history of the team other than Ron Francis, and his 728 games played for the Hurricanes are the most of any player in a Carolina uniform. Wesley totaled 227 points (51g, 176a) for the Whalers and Hurricanes, and ranks 10th in team history in assists (176).
Wesley completed his 13th season with the Hurricanes franchise in 2007-08, leading all Hurricanes skaters in blocked shots (110) and finishing the season with one goal and seven assists (8 points) in 78 games played. He was selected by the Carolina chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association as its nominee for the 2007-08 Masterton Trophy, which honors perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey.
|Strange days indeed for the Montreal Canadiens||at 6:25 pm ET|
Despite the shot in the arm that would normally accompany an NHL deadline deal for puck-moving blueliner Matthieu Schneider, the Montreal Canadiens are continuing to navigate through some choppy waters as they tumble through the Eastern Conference.
Watching wunderkind goalie Carey Price struggle through each and every game has been bad enough, but the epic struggles of Montreal’s power play have been downright incomprehensible after lighting it up on the PP one season ago. Meanwhile at Habs practice on Tuesday morning, things got even worse for Les Habitants as the other shoe finally dropped on underperforming forward Alex Kovalev.
According to the Gazette’s Habs Inside Out blog, the enigmatic Canadiens forward is being kept home for the next two games against Washington and Pittsburgh because he hasn’t displayed the proper emotion and passion out on the ice while skating for his floundering Canadiens. Canadiens GM Bob Gainey said that Kovalev hasn’t demanded a trade, so this looks like a strict punitive hockey measure designed to light a fire under a notoriously moody, tremendously talented scorer.
Given Kovalev’s aversion to discipline back to Claude Julien’s days as the Habs coach, it should be interesting hockey theater going forward and could signal serious trouble for Boston’s arch-rivals.
According to the blog: Montreal General Manager Bob Gainey said he told Kovalev the team has no need of Kovalev’s services the way he’s currently playing. He added that Kovalev was tired and wasn’t playing with any emotion. The GM said Kovalev’s situation would be re-evaluated at the end of the week but wouldn’t commit himself to saying that Kovalev would be back in the lineup for Saturday’s home game against Ottawa.
|Michael Ryder gets back on the ice with the Bruins||02.16.09 at 5:19 pm ET|
Injured Bruins winger Michael Ryder returned to the practice ice on Monday afternoon and took part in his first on-ice drills with the team since getting hit in the face with a high stick vs. the Ottawa Senators back on Feb. 5. Ryder suffered significant injuries to the nose and sinus areas of his face that ultimately required surgery. To protect himself during practice, Ryder skated with the team wearing a facial cage similar to the ones used by college hockey players and also confirmed that he’ll be wearing a protective visor for the rest of the season. The doctors described the facial injury as something akin to a “crushed egg-shell”.
Ryder estimated he is roughly 2-3 weeks away from returning to game action as he regains his “wind” following the inactivity. Ryder also said he’ll travel with the team through Carolina, Tampa and Florida and continue practicing with the team while he heals.
“It was good to be back on the ice with the team,” said Ryder, who said the cage would take some getting used to for breathing and sight purposes. “(The injury) felt good enough to get back out and skate. I was lucky that it wasn’t my eye. That was a major concern.
“You’ve seen a lot of guys get hit there and it can be really bad damage, so I’m just fortunate that it’s only a fracture and that it’s going to heal,” added Ryder.
|New Jersey Devils seem to have the B’s number||02.13.09 at 11:15 pm ET|
The biggest moral from last night’s 1-0 loss to the New Jersey Devils in the Garden State?
Be afraid. Be very afraid of facing this Devils squad in the playoffs. The skaters with the pointy tails and the hybrid pitchforks are big, skilled, experienced, gritty, strong to the puck and disciplined, and have a boatload of playoff experience. In the last two games against the Devils, who moved into sole possession of second place in the Eastern Conference with last night’s victory, the Bruins simply haven’t been able to find enough answers to eke out a win. Jersey’s skaters are clicking on all cylinders right now, and have won 9 of their last 11 in the middle of the NHL’s stretch run.
The Black and Gold had plenty to beam about, however, after suffering their third straight loss for the first time since late in October ‘ even more so when you consider the Bruins had a number of Providence Bruins players skating in prominent roles against a pretty healthy Devils unit. Martins Karsums and Vladimir Sobotka provided plenty of jump, and Patrice Bergeron played one of his best games this season ‘ and certainly his most physically involved game since coming back from his latest concussion. Bergeron finished the game with a team-high seven shots on net, and even laid a few hits on Devils players in an encouragng sign for the forward in the future.
Despite all that ‘ and some pretty good chemistry between Sobotka and linemates David Krejci and Blake Wheeler ‘ the Bruins outshot the Devils by nearly a 2-to-1 margin and still couldn’t solve the riddle of a determined and defensive-minded New Jersey outfit. The Devils have created mismatches with the Bruins all season due to their sheer physical size and strength around the net both offensively and defensively, and that was the case again last night when many of Boston’s shots originated from outside/perimeter spots in the attack zone.
Black and Gold fans have to hope that they can hold on to capture the Eastern Conference and the Devils remain in their current No. 2 spot when the season ends and seeding for the playoffs begins. A difficult matchup against New Jersey will get even trickier for the B’s when Martin Brodeur comes back from a detached biceps muscle in the next few weeks and gives the Devils their All-World goaltender along with the formidable lineup.
Medical Watch: The Bruins seemed to get through this game relatively unscathed, and may get Chuck Kobasew (lower body injury) back in time for Saturday night’s game against the Nashville Predators. Petteri Nokelainen is likely to stay in Boston while still recovering from the nasty eye injury he suffered from a high-stick Tuesday night.
Player of the Night: Got to give it to the former Boston College netminder Scott Clemmensen, who made 31 saves on the night and stood tall during a couple of good flurries by the Bruins in the second and third period. His save on a puck that skidded off Vladimir Sobotka’s skate secured the win for the Devils and handed him his second straight shutout aided by a gritty Jersey defense.
Goat Horns: Tim Thomas would be the first to admit he should have stopped the one and only goal of the night. It was a soft low liner of a wrist shot from the point by stay-at-home Jersey defenseman Bryce Salvador from the high point. The shot didn’t have a lot of body traffic in front of it, and the change up of a shot slipped right through the five hole between Thomas’s pads. You can count the number of goals like that on one hand that Thomas will surrender in any given season.
Turning Point in the Game: The Salvador goal was obviously the biggest turning point, but the play started with Boston’s best faceoff man, Patrice Bergeron, losing a draw to the grizzled, gritty John Madden in the defensive zone. Two quick mistakes for a team in their own zone are all it takes in a tight, playoff-style one goal game against an opponent like the Devils.
|Phil Kessel looking to put an end to “frustrating” scoring drought||02.11.09 at 7:37 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — Phil Kessel is quick to admit that he’s frustrated after going a season-high 10 long games without lighting the goal lamp.
For a 21-year-old that was on pace to score 50 goals during a white hot first half of the hockey season, it’s a pretty stunning cold stretch for a young sniper that had seemed to be putting it all together. During those aforementioned 10 games Kessel has managed only four assists and is sitting at a -1 amid a battlefield of hockey games against playoff teams across the Eastern and Western Conference.
It should be noted that Kessel — who missed a handful of January games with mononucleosis and has been mired in the goal-less stretch in games sandwiched around the illness — said he’s only felt 100 percent himself on the ice in the last few games. But it’s clear that Kessel has been among the stick-wielding culprits in a Boston offensive slowdown since the All-Star break that’s seen them average only 2.6 goals per game over their last eight games.
The B’s right winger has already set career highs in virtually every offensive category this year as he heads into restricted free agency, but that doesn’t stop this current slump from bugging the Bruin.
“Obviously you get a little frustrated, but you’ve got to go out there and keep doing your job until things change,” said Kessel, of the longest goal-scoring drought of what’s been a pretty charmed season for the third-year skater. “I’ve had some good opportunities, but they’re not going in. You’ve got to keep going and try to get back into it.
It’s gonna come…stuff changes,” added Kessel. “It’s a funny game like that. You go through little stretches and stuff won’t go in. You get a little frustrated, but things will turn.”
Some of it has been an inability to get to the spots and creases he found so plentiful in the first half of the season, and some of it has simply been getting back into the flow with linemates Marc Savard and Milan Lucic. Kessel has averaged 3.3 shots per game over the course of the season, but he’s dropped down to 2.4 shots per game since coming back from mono on Jan. 29.
Bruins coach Claude Julien pointed to some progress in Kessel’s game, but there’s still improvement to be made in getting to the grimy areas of the ice and “digging deeper” after the coaching staff went through video work with the young forward last week.
“He’s gotten some chances,” said Julien. “Sometimes you can work at creating more as well. But it’s never a one-sided thing. The fact that he’s getting some chances is a good sign, but you’ve also got to find a way to bury those and dig deeper to score goals. That’s what good goal scorers do.”
–B’s coach Claude Julien didn’t have anything to add to the conditions of injured players Petteri Nokelainen (eye) and Chuck Kobasew (upper body, lower body, knee), and said they will both be evaluated and perhaps an update will be available on Thursday. Kobasew was at the B’s practice rink to receive treatment on Wednesday morning, but didn’t get out on the ice.
|Sounds of the game… Sharks 5, Bruins 2||02.10.09 at 11:38 pm ET|
Maybe the Bruins needed that.
Maybe it was a wakeup call.
And maybe, just maybe, Joe Thornton is right.
When they’re on, no one can be the San Jose Sharks, not even the Black and Gold.
Thornton gave us all this little nugget afterward when he said no one can handle the Sharks.
Though for two periods on Tuesday night, they appeared ready to take the bite out of the Sharks, leading San Jose, 2-1.
But then they dropped the puck in the third and the Sharks circled and cycled and tore into the Bruins.
San Jose scored four times in the third period on their way to a 5-2 win, their 37th of the season, just two fewer than Boston and they drew to within four points of Boston’s 85 for top spot in the NHL.
Thornton did score in his return, making his comeback to Boston a pleasant one.
The Bruins could rely on just three lines because of injuries to Michael Ryder and a nasty eye injury late in the first period to Petteri Nokelainen.
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