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Canadiens hope to ride success of third line 05.01.14 at 2:33 pm ET
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One of the most encouraging signs the Canadiens were able to take out of their first-round sweep of the Lightning was the play of Montreal’s third line. The trio of Lars Eller between Rene Bourque and Brian Gionta combined for six goals as the Habs cruised past Tampa.

The question now is what that line will do against stiffer competition and a starting goaltender. Ben Bishop missed the entire series for Tampa, which gave Montreal a bit of an easier path to scoring 16 goals.

Bourque in particular saw the biggest uptick in his game, contributing three goals after scoring just nine goals all regular season. The 32-year-old hasn’t produced at the pace he did in his Calgary days when he scored 27 goals in back-to-back seasons from 2009 to 2011, but he thinks he’s at a point now with the Habs where he’s contributing a deep offensive group that could give the Bruins problems.

“I think we match up great against them depth-wise,” Bourque said Thursday morning. “Obviously they’re a good team, but I think we can play with them.”

Should the third lines play against one another, Bourque will go up against a familiar opponent in Loui Eriksson. The two played against one another often in their days out West, as Bourque played for the Blackhawks and Flames while Eriksson played for the Stars.

Eriksson is one of Boston’s top two-way players, and he and fellow 200-foot skaters Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci were part of an offensive group that aided Boston’s defense tremendously in eliminating the speedy Red Wings in five games in the first round.

Bourque hopes that the Habs can use their speed to their advantage against the Bruins with better success. The aim is to chip pucks behind Boston’s defense and maximize on Montreal’s quickness down low, but Bourque knows it won’t be easy.

“I think every round’s going to get harder,” Bourque said. “Boston’s a big, physical team, especially in front of their net. It’s going to be tough for us to get in front there and get those second and third opportunities. I think we have to sacrifice our bodies and just get to the front of the net. We know they’re going to be physical on us, but that’s where we’re going to score our goals.”

It goes without saying that Montreal’s top line is its most dangerous. The trio of David Desharnais between Max Pacioretty and Thomas Vanek packs an offensive punch, but Bergeron’s line figures to match up against them in Boston. From there, Krejci’s line will likely get Tomas Plekanec‘s line with Brandon Prust and Brandon Gallagher.

Peter Chiarelli said before the first round that top-six forwards often cancel each other out in the playoffs. If that’s the case, it will be interesting to see how the two offensively deep teams fare in the battle for secondary production. After all, Eriksson’s line with center Carl Soderberg and Justin Florek had a superb series against the Red Wings.

“I think they probably are [better defensively than Tampa], but I think that’s what made our team successful the first round, is that every line chipped in with a goal here and there in every game,” Bourque said. “To be successful against Boston, that’s what we’re going to need again because they have a lot of depth up front, a lot of depth on the back end and a good goalie, so I think goals will be hard to be come by, but I think the same could be said for our team.”

Read More: Brian Gionta, Rene Bourque,
Bruins year in review: Save of the year 06.21.11 at 2:11 am ET
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Each day this week, WEEI.com will be taking a look back at the Bruins’€™ historic 2010-11 Stanley Cup Championship season. We started it off by looking at the goal of the year and fight of the year. Up today is save of the year, and it should be fresh enough in people’s minds to remember.

SAVE OF THE YEAR

Tim Thomas on Steve Downie, Game 5 vs. Tampa Bay

“I was thinking, ‘Thank God he saved it.’ We were up by one goal in Game 5, so that was possibly the turning point in the series. They could have scored, won, gained momentum and had a chance to go back home and win. I was happy, but there’s been a lot of moments like that when there’s just a sigh of relief that ‘there he goes again.’ As amazing as his saves are, I don’t think anybody in here is amazed that he makes them, because he’s so good.”

- Gregory Campbell

A shoo-in for the Vezina, Tim Thomas had enough candidates for this before Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals vs. the Lightning. Then he turned in what may be remembered as one of the greatest stick saves of all time when the stakes were just about as high as they could be.

With the series tied at two games apiece and the Bruins holding onto a 2-1 lead in the third period, Eric Brewer took a slapshot from the point that went wide of Thomas’ net. With Thomas at the top of the crease, it would seem that Steve Downie would be a fortunate man to have the puck bounce off the endboards and right to him next to the net. Downie went to put the put in the net to tie the game, but Thomas came to the rescue, knocking the puck down in mid-air with his stick despite hitting the post with his blade. No player had a better view of the play than Gregory Campbell, so his amazement with Thomas’ save should not be taken lightly.

The save yielded an insane reaction from the Garden crowd, and the Lightning would not get another opportunity like that for the rest of the game. Tampa would eventually pull Mike Smith for an extra attacker, and Rich Peverley would put the game away with an empty netter.

This was just one of the many outstanding saves Thomas made in a postseason in which he was the easy Conn Smythe winner. While his regular season was record-setting, his postseason was even better. There may be no better illustration of how Thomas stepped up than that save.

HONORABLE MENTION: Tim Thomas on Brian Gionta (Game 5 of quarterfinals), Tim Thomas on Francois Beauchemin (Dec. 4), Tuukka Rask on Kyle Brodziak (Jan. 6)

Read More: Brian Gionta, Bruins Year in Review, Steve Downie, Tim Thomas
P.K. Subban, Canadiens disappointed with loss to Bruins, but optimistic about the future 04.28.11 at 12:01 am ET
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Had the Bruins lost Wednesday’s Game 7 against the Canadiens, the backlash would’ve been severe. Bruins fans and Boston media would be calling for Claude Julien‘s head and the general feeling would be one of disgust and disbelief at the fact that the B’s fell short in a Game 7 once again.

If the reactions by Montreal players after the game are any indication, there will not be anywhere near that sort of outcry north of the border after it was the Canadiens who fell short in Game 7. The mood in the locker room was one of disappointment, obviously, but also one of optimism about the future of the Habs.

“You see the maturity of the team, and it’€™s going in the right direction,” said captain Brian Gionta. “We didn’€™t get the result we wanted this year, but you look at some of the guys who played and they really made great strides for this organization. Hopefully we can continue that and grow off that.”

One point of pride for the Canadiens was how they battled through injuries all season. They rarely had their full team healthy and playing, and that didn’t change in the playoffs. Andrei Markov and Josh Gorges, two of the team’s best defensemen, missed the entire series, as did forward Max Pacioretty. On top of that, forward David Desharnais and defenseman James Wisniewski both battled through injuries during the series and missed varying amounts of time.

“We’€™ve had young guys have to step in and play big minutes and play big roles and elevate their game,” said defenseman P.K. Subban. “This is how you build a franchise, when you give guys like that the opportunity. We were all given great opportunities here, and it just looks great for the franchise the next couple years. There’€™s a lot of young talent and a lot to look forward to. … If guys don’€™t step up, we don’€™t even have this opportunity to be in a Game 7, or even be in the playoffs.”

That said, there was still plenty of disappointment in the Montreal room. Although overcoming that kind of adversity can certainly be seen as a positive, they didn’t want to use an excuse for losing to the Bruins.

“Maybe the outside public can commend us for those sorts of things, and we definitely appreciate that, but it’€™s not something we dwell on very much,” Michael Cammalleri said. “Whoever’€™s next over the boards has to do their job. It really doesn’€™t do us any good dwelling on those things.”

Read More: 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Brian Gionta, Michael Cammalleri, P.K. Subban
With a little help from his teammates, that was the Tim Thomas everyone was expecting 04.24.11 at 1:28 am ET
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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 »

Read More: 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Boston Bruins, Brian Gionta, Montreal Canadiens
Brian Gionta, Andrei Kostitsyn among those missing from Habs morning skate 04.21.11 at 10:50 am ET
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MONTREAL — The Habs seemed to have held a semi-optional morning skate Thursday in anticipation of Game 4 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals vs. the Bruins. In addition to both goaltenders, nine forwards (Michael Cammalleri, Tomas Plekanec, Jeff Halpern, Ryan White, Benoit Pouliot, David Desharnais, Lars Eller and Tom Pyatt) and six defensemen (Jaroslav Spacek, Paul Mara, Brent Sopel, Yannick Weber, Hal Gill and P.K. Subban) took the ice.

Among the missing for the skate were Brian Gionta, Andrei Kostitsyn, James Wisniewski, Mathieu Darche and Roman Hamrlik.

Read More: 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Brian Gionta, Hal Gill Andrei Kostitsyn, Jeff Halpern
Nathan Gerbe is a ‘pest’ to the Bruins in his homecoming to Boston 01.21.11 at 12:05 pm ET
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The TD Garden ice has always been kind to Nathan Gerbe.

It was again on Thursday night as the list of former Boston College players coming back to Boston and providing nightmare after nightmare to the Bruins continues to grow.

There’s Brian Leetch with the Rangers. There’s David Emma, Brian Gionta and Bill Guerin with the Devils. There’s Patrick Eaves of the Hurricanes. Now, add Nathan Gerbe to that list.

With Bruins holding a precarious 2-1 lead midway through the second period, Gerbe fired a shot from the left circle past Tuukka Rask for the game-tying goal on the power play. It changed the momentum and set the stage for Thomas Vanek to take over the game in the third in Buffalo’s 4-2 win Thursday night at the Garden.

Gerbe – not lacking confidence despite his 5-foot-5 frame – was the latest from The Heights to make life miserable for the Bruins as he mixed it up with B’s captain Zdeno Chara and then lit the lamp.

“I’€™m a little frustrating player to play against,” Gerbe said. “I am a little pest there, so I just tried to get under their skin a little bit. It is all in fun. He is a big guy, and I don’€™t think I would win in a battle but it was definitely one to enjoy. I tired to hold my ground as much as possible. Just stand there and don’€™t fall. He is so strong and such a good D man. It is fun to compete against him.”

He certainly was a pest to the Black and Gold Thursday night.

“Those Boston College guys did a good job for us tonight,” Sabres coach Lindy Ruff added. “I thought [Tyler] Myers made a great play, great look to feed it to him. Nathan, on the heels of playing a real strong game for us the other night, playing a excellent game for us tonight.”

Gerbe, of course, was excellent during his three seasons at Boston College, capped off in 2008 when he scored five goals in the final two games of the Frozen Four, leading the Eagles to the national championship. He earned a place at the table as a Hobey Baker finalist as one of the very top players in all of college hockey with 68 points in 43 games. He led the Eagles to the Beapot and Hockey East titles that year, too – on the same Garden ice.

“Yeah you always get a lot of good memories here and a lot of good feelings,” Gerbe said. “You get chills up your body, but it is a different league and you try to do as well as you can every night.”

He scored last year in the playoffs against the Bruins in Game 6 but the Sabres lost, 4-3, as the Bruins moved onto the second round.

Now, he is helping to turn around a Sabres ship that was sinking just two weeks ago. The Sabres have beaten the two teams – Montreal and Boston – ahead of them in back-to-back games and are showing signs of moving up from 10th in the East.

‘Very, very satisfying to score here,” Gerbe said. “Even more satisfying to get the win and get the two points. It was huge for us. Hopefully we can keep rolling.”

Read More: Beanpot, Bill Guerin, Boston Bruins, Boston College
Bruins at Canadiens preview 12.16.10 at 4:57 pm ET
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The Bruins are in Montreal Thursday to take on the Canadiens for the second time this season. They were handed a 3-1 loss on Nov. 11 at the Garden in a game started by Tuukka Rask, but it appears Thursday will feature a dream matchup between two of the league’s best goalies.

Tim Thomas, who will man the pipes for the Bruins, is first in nearly every statistical category. He’s tops in save percentage (.954), goals against average (1.51) and is tied with Henrik Lundqvist with five shutouts. Carey Price, meanwhile, is tied with Jimmy Howard with 17 wins, the most in the NHL.

WHERE IT’S AT

- The Habs are 11-5-2 at home, most recently dropping a 5-3 decision to the to Flyers at the Bell Centre on Wednesday night.

- After the Bruins’ 3-2 loss to the Sabres in Buffalo on Wednesday, the team is now 9-4-1 on the road. The Bruins are 2-2-1 in their last five road contests.

NOTABLE NUMBERS

- Zdeno Chara had the Bruins’ lone goal the last time the B’s played the Habs. He hasn’t scored in the 16 games since, though he came close when he rang a shot off the post Wednesday in Buffalo.

With his four goals, Chara is on pace to pick up 11 this season. He scored seven goals last season after picking up a career-high 19 in 2008-09.

- After a slow start to the season, Habs captain and former Boston College standout Brian Gionta is tied for the team lead with 10 goals this season. He had eight shots on goal and scored one the Canadiens’ three goals in their loss to the Flyers on Wednesday.

- The Bruins lead the NHL is goals against (1.9 per game) while the Canadiens (2.1) are second in the league. If you’re a fan of goaltending duels, this is about as good as it gets.

STORYLINES GOING IN

- The Habs have struggled of late, as they’ve lost three in a row. Only the Islanders’ at six games have a longer current losing streak.

- This is a matchup of the top two teams in the Northeast division, as the Canadiens have 38 points to the Bruins’ 36. With a victory, the B’s can tie the Habs for the division lead despite having played two less games.

- Tyler Seguin could be handed his second consecutive healthy scratch and third straight game missed if he spends Thursday night in the press box with Doug Jarvis. It’s worth noting that Steven Stamkos was also a healthy scratch as a rookie and responded pretty well.

Habs defenseman P.K. Subban also missed three games as a healthy scratch this season. Bruins fans might remember him for scoring the first goal of the Nov. 3 game (and his career) by notching a power play tally against Tuukka Rask.

Read More: Brian Gionta, Carey Price, Tim Thomas,
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