|B’s getting defensive about tonight||05.12.10 at 1:24 pm ET|
PHILADELPHIA — While Zdeno Chara wears the ‘C’ as captain, Mark Stuart’s return has been a steadying influence in the Bruins dressing room.
He missed the last two weeks of the regular season with an infection following surgery on his pinkie. And then he missed the opening round against Buffalo and the first three games against the Flyers. When he finally returned in Game 4 of this series against the Flyers, a quiet leader had returned to the Bruins dressing room.
That leadership was on full display on Wednesday morning when asked if he and his fellow defensemen need to get more offensive pressure on just-returning Flyers goalie Michael Leighton after getting just two shots on net in Monday’s 4-0 loss.
“Obviously, we want to get as many shots as we can,” Stuart said. “We didn’t do a great job of that last game. Tonight’s a new night here. If we can just forget about last game and quit talking about it and go play tonight.”
“Anybody who’s been out for a long time, it just doesn’t come back overnight,” Julien added. “What you need to see is a guy getting better and better and I think Mark was better in the second game than he was in the first and hopefully he’ll be better in the third than he was in the second so it’s like every player that comes back, you hope that they get better as they move on here.
“Mark, to me, was a much better player than he was in the first and hopefully, that continues.”
Just as obvious to the Bruins is the mission at hand tonight. They are hoping to avoid the pressure of a do-or-die Game 7 back in Boston on Friday night by beat the Philadelphia Flyers tonight at the Wachovia Center. The Bruins now lead the series, 3-2, after dropping the last two games while the Flyers have gained momentum with star Simon Gagne back in the lineup.
Stuart is not the only defenseman looking to pick up his game after not getting a shot on net. Matt Hunwick was also blanked on the shot chart.
“I think we just need to relax a little bit more and not hold the stick too tight and just play how we played the first three games,” Hunwick said. “We battled the first three games. They were tight, they were close but we found ways to win. I think we can look back on those efforts and we should do a little bit better tonight.”
As for the Bruins getting together for Kumbaya, Unbuntu or any other team-building the night before Game 6, Julien said there was no need.
“I don’t think there was anything special [Tuesday] night. We didn’t do a team dinner but I think our guys, in order to have success, we can’t be tense,” Julien said following this morning’s optional pre-game skate at the Wachovia Center. “Being relaxed is maybe not even the right word but in the right frame of mind and hopefully that’s what we show tonight when we start the game.”
The Flyers can become the first NHL team since 1976 to force a Game 7 after being down 3-0 with a win on home ice tonight and are looking to become the fourth major pro sports team to win a series after being in a 3-0 hole.
‘We haven’t talked about it much,’ admitted Flyers coach Peter Laviolette Wednesday. ‘Certainly everybody understands the difficult challenge that an 0-3 series presents. That’s part of the story you write through the course of the playoffs if you’re able to get through it, it’s part of the story. Our guys are well aware of it. Certainly they know not many teams get an opportunity at something like this. Any time you can put your name to a positive mark in history like that, it certainly would be a good thing.’
For the Flyers, head coach Peter Laviolette indicated that forward Claude Giroux would be ready for Game 6 after being held out of the third period on Monday after a hit to the boards from Steve Begin.
|Buckle down or buckle under for B’s||05.11.10 at 2:19 pm ET|
For the first three games of the series, the Bruins showed exactly what it takes to win playoff hockey games. Make the key play at the key moment while keeping your cool.
It paid off in Game 1 when the Flyers scored twice in the final eight minutes to force overtime. It paid off in Game 2 when Milan Lucic turned and fired a shot on an unsuspecting Brian Boucher for the game-winner. And it paid off in Game 3 when the Flyers scored to open the game in their building, only to have the Bruins score twice in the next five minutes to take command and not look back.
But all of a sudden, it’s the Flyers who have found the magic touch. They were the ones who were scored on in the final 31 seconds of regulation in Game 4 with the series on the line, only to net the game-winner off the stick of Simon Gagne in overtime.
Then Monday night, the Flyers scored in the opening seven minutes and got some lucky bounces to hold on to the lead while the Bruins were taking penalty after penalty, sapping them of any strength to come back as the Flyers prevailed, 4-0.
Now, with the Bruins’ lead down to 3-2, the stage is set for Game 6 in Philadelphia Wednesday night at 8 p.m. at the Wachovia Center.
“It’s buckling down and playing good hockey,” Bruins defenseman Andrew Ference said. “You know, both games that they’ve won now have been very deserved wins, so that’s what you’re going to get this time of this year. You’re not just going to show up, sneak by anybody, and get an easy win. I mean, the team that plays the best hockey will most of the time end up with a win, and that’s what’s happened.”
And if they don’t take care of business and ‘buckle down’ on Wednesday on Broad Street? Get ready to hear all about the about the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs, the 1975 New York Islanders and, of course, the 2004 Red Sox. They are the three teams that have come back in major professional sports from 3-0 deficits to win a best-of-seven playoff series.
Ference says the Bruins would be well advised to just take a deep breath.
“I think a lot of the breakdowns, going back early, was not making good plays, you know, good breakouts and good passes, and you know, just calming down and making good plays,” he said. “I mean, it’s something that when you do it well from us to the forwards, it makes us a much better team, But you know, we started turning over a lot of pucks and creating a lot of problems for ourselves on top of what they were creating themselves, so they played well and we also hurt ourselves by some of the stuff we did.”
This series started with the Flyers missing Simon Gagne, Jeff Carter and Ian Laperriere. But as hockey fate would have it, the Bruins lost Marco Sturm in Game 1 and David Krejci in Game 3 while the Flyers got Gagne back in Game 4 and could have Carter back for a Game 7 Friday in Boston.
“Of course we miss him,” Ference said of Krejci. “He’s a great player ‘ just as much as we missed Savvy [Marc Savard], and just as much as we missed Marco [Sturm] and Bergy [Patrice Bergeron]. You know, we’ve had great players for extended periods before and he’s left out of the lineup, but tough luck.
“That’s just the way it works and some other guys have to step up, so you know, the good teams that have won in the past, that’s always a storyline ‘ you know guys step into increased ice time and increased roles and make the most of it, so obviously that has to be a storyline for us if we’re going to have any success is somebody or a few guys stepping up and you know, trying to fill some of those points and fill some of those plays and that energy that he brings.”
|Better Leighton than never for Flyers||at 12:39 am ET|
When last Michael Leighton was playing hockey in Boston, he was walking out of Fenway Park, not TD Garden. And he was walking a stunned loser of a classic hockey contest, not the hero who came out of nowhere Monday night to rescue the Flyers and continue their season.
“We know we can,” Leighton said. “In my eyes we’ve outplayed this team most of the games. The first game we came out slow because we had a long break. We’ve been there every game it’s not like they’re blowing us out. So we’re confident as long as we come out and we’re ready to play every game that we can win each game. We’re just taking it game by game right now. We just have to brush this under the rug now and head back home and focus on that game.”
Leighton was cleared to play before the game after missing nearly two months with a high right ankle sprain but seemed unlikely to play with Brian Boucher taking over the goaltending responsibilities and the Flyers playing hard in front of him.
But then Boucher fell backwards very awkwardly in the opening five minutes of the second period, injuring both knees according to Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren.
“I just went up to him and I didn’t know the extent of the injury so I asked him how he was doing,” Leighton said. “He said great job to me, I said great job to him. He was playing great the first period and that added a little incentive.”
While Boucher was being gingerly helped to his skates and off the ice, Leighton made his first appearance for the Flyers since March 16, when he injured his knee in Nashville.
Maybe it’s only appropriate that, win or lose, the season comes down to Michael Leighton since he was the man who replaced Ray Emery and Brian Boucher at the beginning of the season. Then he was installed as the No. 1 even when Boucher returned.
“I actually couldn’t even believe it happened,” Leighton said of the Boucher injury. “Obviously Ray going down early and then [Brian Boucher] goes down then Ray comes back then I get hurt. It’s definitely been a roller coaster for the goalies this year but the team has done great playing in front of all of us. Ray’s a great goalie and we wish him back and Boucher obviously has done well for this team and he’s gotten us to the position we’re in.”
So why then does Leighton believe the Flyers can continue their roll?
“Because we’re a good team,” he said. “Look at our lineup. As long as we play well and we’re confident in the way we can play, we’re a good team and we’ve shown that. Throughout the season we’ve won the games we’ve needed to win, we’ve beaten some good teams. We’ve obviously lost to some teams that we should have beaten but we beat Detroit we beat Chicago, we beat the good teams. So confidence shouldn’t be a problem because we know we can play with those teams.”
|2nd Period summary: Bruins vs. Flyers Game 5||05.10.10 at 8:55 pm ET|
This is what it felt like for the Bruins against the Carolina Hurricanes in Game 2 of the same round last spring.
They were coming off a 4-1 rout of the Hurricanes in Game 1 and they had just blown away the Canadiens in four straight the round before.
Then Game 2 happened and the whole perspective of the series changed.
Fast forward to tonight and a 3-0 Flyers lead after two periods. The Bruins had just lost a heart-breaker in overtime in Philly but still had a commanding 3-1 series lead, needing just to win Game 5 on home ice to advance to the Eastern Conference finals for the first time since 1992.
But the Flyers came to play and fight for their lives, even when Brian Boucher went down in the opening five minutes of the second with what appeared to be a nasty lower body injury. Boucher made a save and then immediately grabbed his midsection. He could barely make it to his skates before being helped off by Chris Pronger.
Enter Michael Leighton, the same Michael Leighton who started at Fenway Park on Jan. 1 and the same Michael Leighton who hadn’t even been active in a game since suffering a high ankle sprain on March 16 in Nashville.
He was tested on a Bruins power play and then the Flyers rewarded him when Scott Hartnell finally got credit for a goal. Then the Bruins started taking undisciplined penalties and Simon Gagne finally made them pay with a power play goal on Philadelphia’s fifth chance of the night.
The Flyers will begin the third period with another power play as Andrew Ference was whistled for a cross-checking penalty.
|1st period Summary: Bruins vs. Flyers Game 5||at 7:52 pm ET|
The Flyers apparently brought their rabbit foots, horseshoes and other assorted good luck charms for Game 5 as they lead the Bruins, 1-0, after 20 minutes.
Villie Leino gave the Flyers the lead at 6:41 of the first period when Chris Pronger took a shot from the mid-slot that Tuukka Rask could not contain. The rebound came out to the left of Rask and Scott Hartnell was originally credited with the goal when it appeared he poked in the rebound for his first goal of the playoffs and first in 22 games. But a replay showed it was Leino and he was given his second of the playoffs.
The Flyers then had a golden opportunity to add to it when Vladimir Sobotka took a high sticking penalty on Hartnell. But the Bruins killed off 2 minutes, 37 seconds of it when the Flyers took a sloppy penalty on a line change for too many men on the ice.
Toward the end of the Bruins power play, Marc Savard had the puck on his stick and appeared to score, only to have the puck slip behind Boucher and through the crease.
Earlier in the first, Blake Wheeler was all alone in front of Boucher for a point-blank chance, only to have the puck roll off his stick before he could fire a shot. Then there was the shot from the right point that Milan Lucic and Miroslav Satan both appeared to get a piece of. The spotlight came on in front of Boucher, signaling a goal celebration.
One minor problem. The puck bounced straight up in the air and Boucher gloved it.
The Flyers outshot the Bruins, 10-8, in the first period and will start the second period with 33 seconds of power play time after Satan was called for a tripping late in the period.
|Melrose on D&C: B’s ‘playing a great brand of hockey’||05.07.10 at 9:05 am ET|
ESPN hockey analyst Barry Melrose joined Dennis & Callahan Friday morning to talk about the Bruins-Flyers series. To hear the interview, click on the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.
“I think Boston, of the eight teams left, are playing the best playoff hockey,” Melrose said. “They’re giving up nothing. They’re playing a great brand of hockey right now.”
Melrose said the Bruins’ discipline in coach Claude Julien’s system has been great to watch. “I love the way Boston’s playing,” he said. “When they give up a shot, it’s from the side. Tuukka Rask is playing great. No outnumbered chances — no 3-on-2s, 2-on-1s. Boston’s playing the system to a ‘T.’ But again, are they going to be able to score? [David] Krejci’s out, [Marco] Sturm’s out, [Marc] Savard’s probably about 75-80 percent. It’s been amazing how they’ve been able to score with all these guys out of the lineup.”
Melrose said that if the Bruins take command in this game the Flyers will focus on the physical aspect, but don’t expect any brawls. “It won’t get ugly like it did in the ’70s, but it will get chippy,” Melrose said. “Philly’s a chippy team anyways. They always take a lot of penalties. They’ve got some guys on the ice that will go a little stir crazy. But it will be nothing like the old days. There won’t be any fights or anything like that. There will be maybe a couple of pushing and shoving matches, a few scrums. The dark days of hockey are over. It will never be like those days. But it will get chippy if the game gets out of hand.”
If the Bruins can close out the Flyers, Melrose suggested B’s fans should pull for the Canadiens to upset the Penguins in the other Eastern Conference semifinal. “I think if Boston plays Montreal they can beat them,” he said. “I don’t think Boston can beat Pittsburgh.”
|Boychuk on D&H: Krejci ‘took a hit for the team’||05.06.10 at 1:35 pm ET|
Bruins defenseman Johnny Boychuk joined the Dale & Holley show Thursday afternoon to talk about the Bruins’ success in the Stanley Cup playoffs. To hear the interview, click on the Dale & Holley audio on demand page. Boychuck was asked if he felt capable of providing more offense to help make up for the loss of Marco Sturm and David Krejci to injuries. “I know I can do it for sure,” Boychuk said. “With those two guys out, everybody’s going to have to step up their game. I can’t really jump up in the rush at the wrong time, but when I see an opportunity to jump up in the rush, I’m going to make sure to do it and try to put the puck in the back of the net.”
On the hit from Flyers forward Mike Richards that injured Krejci Wednesday night, Bochuk said: “It actually looked like a clean hit to me. It was unfortunate that Krejci got hurt on it, but he made a play and we scored a pivotal goal in the game last night. He took a hit for the team, and we made sure to capitalize when it happened.”
Boychuk took some heat from Sabres fans for his hit that injured forward Thomas Vanek in the first round, but Boychuck said he doesn’t care if he’s the bad guy in Buffalo. “I don’t even think it was a cheap shot,” he said. “It was just a hockey-instinct play. It wasn’t like I was trying to hurt him. But they had to point the finger at somebody, so they had to point it at me, I guess. I just take it as it is. If they want to point the finger for their loss at me, then go ahead. That’s fine by me. It won’t bother me at all, and I’ll just keep playing the way I am.”
On the contributions of veteran forward Mark Recchi, Boycuk said, “I think we have to check his birth certificate, because he sure doesn’t play like a -year-old. He’s a great team leader, and he plays like he’s 25. Having him in the dressing room — just his presence in the dressing room helps our whole team out just by keep it calm, keeping it cool. He gets goals for us that we need and want.”
On goalie Tuukka Rask, Boychuck said, “He’s kind of like an ice man. Nothing really bothers him. He’s always focused and into the game. You can’t really get him off his game easy.”