|With Canadiens’ elimination, Tim Thomas remains an exception to Vezina rule||05.13.15 at 5:01 pm ET|
The last time a goaltender seemed such a shoo-in for the Vezina Trophy was in 2011, when Tim Thomas turned in a record-setting regular-season performance. Similarly, Carey Price was so dominant this regular season that he is not only the favorite to win the Vezina, but the Hart Trophy as the NHL‘s most valuable player.
First, Price will have some down time in the month and a half between now and the NHL Awards. His season and the Canadiens’ season is done after being eliminated by the Lightning Tuesday night in Tampa.
Prior to the 2011 postseason, we took a look at whether having that season’s Vezina-winner meant raising the Cup. The answer then was no, and the fact that Thomas and the Bruins went on to win it all that year proved to be more the exception than the rule.
Since the league adopted the current criteria for the Vezina in the 1981-82 season (it used to go the starting goalie for the team with the fewest goals against), only four Vezina-winners have gone on to win the Stanley Cup in the same season: Billy Smith (1982 Islanders), Grant Fuhr (1988 Oilers), Martin Brodeur (2003 Devils) and Thomas (2011 Bruins).
As the following graphic shows, it’s actually relatively common for Vezina winners to end up with a longer offseasons than expected, as their teams are typically bounced in one of the first two rounds. Here are how the teams of Vezina-winners have fared in the postseason since 2000:
Notable there is that only three Vezina-winning goalies have even reached the conference finals since the 1999-2000 season, as Dominik Hasek and the Sabres won the Eastern Conference finals in 1999 before falling to the Stars in the Cup finals.
Price was not the reason the Canadiens were eliminated, but his .920 save percentage over 12 postseason games was a far cry from his league-best .933 clip in the regular season. What ultimately doomed Montreal was Michel Therrien’s anti-possession system, a lack of offensive depth and, though it hasn’t deterred past champions, a woefully unproductive power play.
With that, the league’s best goaltender can now hit the links, as they often can this time of year. Vezina-winners’ lack of postseason success confirms the single biggest fact about the Stanley Cup playoffs: It’s not about who has the best players, but whose players are at their best for the most critical two months.
|Carey Price is pretty sure Canadiens will see Bruins ‘again’ in playoffs||02.09.15 at 9:12 am ET|
Sooner or later, the Bruins will have to find a way to solve Carey Price.
On Sunday night, the league’s top goalie stonewalled the Bruins for a fourth time this season, stopping 34 of 35 shots in a 3-1 win over the Bruins that gave Montreal a clean sweep of the four-game season series. What does it mean to Price?
“That’s what they are. They’re a really good team, well-structured,” Price said. “They work hard. They’ve got all the characteristics of a good playoff team, and I don’t doubt that if we want to get to our ultimate goal, we’ll see them again.”
In those four games, Price has allowed just six goals, turning aside 113 of the 119 shots he’s faced. On Sunday, he admitted he was a little bit lucky to go along with being very good. The best example of that was in the second period when Loui Eriksson fired a shot on goal from the left circle after he left his crease. The puck hit his stick and popped straight up in the air and into his glove.
Then came his two saves in the same period on the tough-luck Daniel Paille. One was a kick save on Paille, who was right on the doorstep and took a pass from Torey Krug but could not finish. The other was a stick save on a shot from Paille from the right circle.
“Lucky. I don’t even think it was going in, to be honest,” Price said of the second Paille chance.
In the first period, Craig Cunningham had a chance in the low slot with Price again scrambling in the crease. But there was Michael Bournival there to get a piece of it before Price could get back in position.
“Absolutely, yeah. We had some guys bailing me out,” Price said. “That’s what it’s all about. We’re a committed team to blocking shots, and battling in that blue paint, and tonight it paid off in a close one.”
The flip side of this is alarming to the Bruins, especially coach Claude Julien.
“I don’t think we made Carey Price‘s night real hard,” Julien said. “He didn’t have to move much. He just stood there, stopped the shots, so those are areas that weren’t good enough, and in order to beat this team that really gets up for us our best players have to be our best players and we didn’t have that tonight.”
How do the Bruins go about making things tougher?
“Traffic,” captain Zdeno Chara said. “It’s pretty obvious I think. I don’t think there’s any goalie in the league that likes to have traffic in front of him. We didn’t do that probably consistently for the whole night.”
“Like every goalie you have to get in front,” added fellow blue liner Dennis Seidenberg. “If the goalie doesn’t see the puck he can’t stop them or he can’t make a save. There are going to loose pucks and we just have to get there in front of him and then get those second chance opportunities and that has been missing in the past.”
The Bruins have two months to find what’s been missing against Price.
|5 things we learned as Habs complete season series sweep of Bruins||02.08.15 at 10:20 pm ET|
It seems all of the encouraging play in the world isn’t enough to prepare the Bruins for the Canadiens.
Coming off a stretch of points in five of their last six games (4-1-1), the Bruins promptly gave the puck to always-opportunistic Habs and gave them a sweep of the regular-season series. Montreal’s 3-1 win over the B’s Sunday at TD Garden made the Habs winners in all four of teams’ meetings this season.
David Pastrnak scored Boston’s only goal, sending a puck just barely over the line on a rebound bid with less than five minutes to play. Though the Bruins did not pressure the Vezina favorite early, Price was outstanding when he had to be.
On paper, the Bruins should be able to contend with and beat the Canadiens. Of course, paper rarely takes into a consideration that one team is in the other’s head.
Here are four more things we learned Sunday:
BEST PLAYERS GO BUST
For as great a player as Price is, it isn’t like the Canadiens ice a dominant team in front of him. Dale Weise plays on their first line. Sergei Gonchar, who is actually the same person as former NHL star Sergei Gonchar, is on their second pairing.
While Boston’s roster needs improvements, their best players should have matched up well with Montreal’s and Carl Soderberg’s line should have feasted on the bottom of the Habs’ roster.
Instead, the opposite happened. Weise, who was a fourth-liner earlier in the season when he wasn’t a healthy scratch, slipped off of Bergeron in front of the net and took a pass from Max Pacioretty to score the Canadiens’ first goal. That came against Zdeno Chara‘s pairing.
In the third period, Chara knocked Dougie Hamilton over at the blue line in the offensive zone, resulting in Weise jumping on the puck and springing Pacioretty on a breakaway. Pacioretty beat Tuukka Rask to make it seemingly an insurmountable deficit for Boston.
|Bruins beat Canadiens in Game 5 to take 3-2 series lead||05.10.14 at 9:45 pm ET|
The Bruins’ third line struck again as the B’s took a 3-2 series lead over the Canadiens with a 4-2 Game 5 victory Saturday at TD Garden.
Carl Soderberg scored his first career playoff goal and had a pair of assists for the Bruins. He opened the game’s scoring, taking a pass from Loui Eriksson and a firing a shot stick-side high shot on Carey Price that went off the Montreal goaltender’s blocker and in at 12:30 of the first period. The first period saw eight penalties called between the two teams, with less than half of the period being played five-on-five.
The Bruins got a pair of power play goals in a span of 22 seconds in the second period, first with Reilly Smith redirecting a Dougie Hamilton shot and then with a wide open Jarome Iginla taking a feed from Torey Krug and beating Price to make it 3-0.
Tuukka Rask‘s shutout streak, which dated back to Dale Weise‘s breakaway goal in the second period of Game 3, ended when Tomas Plekanec fired a shot from the left circle during a Montreal penalty that went off Brendan Gallagher and in. Rask’s streak had lasted 1:22:06.
Loui Eriksson made it 4-1 at 14:12, getting to the puck in front after Matt Fraser fired a shot from the half wall that yielded a big rebound. P.K. Subban scored during six-on-four play with Matt Bartkowski in the box for his second holding penalty of the game at 2:29.
The Bruins will be able to close out the Habs as soon as Monday at the Bell Centre in Game 6. The B’s held a 3-2 lead in the teams’ 2011 postseason meeting but dropped Game 6 by a 2-1 score in Montreal before eventually winning the series in seven games.
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE BRUINS
– That’s now two straight games in which Soderberg’s line has cashed in with Montreal’s third pairing of Douglas Murray and Mike Weaver on the ice. Taking advantage with the ever slow Murray on the ice should be a key to victory as long as Michel Therrien keeps the veteran defenseman in his lineup.
– The Bruins finally scored on the power play, ending a drought that had seen them go 0-for-10 at the start of the series. The goal featured a beauty of a pass from Torey Krug that got past Brian Gionta to Iginla. There were obviously coverage issues for Montreal to have left Iginla that wide open, but Gionta should have been able to get a stick on the pass to break it up.
– The Canadiens have to be in how-do-we-solve-Rask mode at this point, which is a fine turn of events after much the first eight periods of the series suggested the Bruins would be hard-pressed to solve Price. Rask stopped Max Pacioretty on a partial breakaway in the first period and stopped David Desharnais after the Montreal center took a stretch pass off a line change.
Rask even had his very own Tim Thomas moment, as he punched Plekanec in the hard after the Montreal center went hard to the net for a centering feed from Brian Gionta. The Bruins goaltender was penalized earlier in the period for batting the puck over the glass.
– One of the first things you should know about Fraser is that he has one of the best shots in the entire organization. The B’s didn’t see much of Fraser putting the puck on net during his 14 NHL games this regular season, however. The 23-year-old only had one shot on goal in Game 5, but it did major damage in yielding the rebound that led to Eriksson’s goal. Fraser had an opportunity in the high slot earlier but fired it wide of the net.
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE BRUINS
– In a development that few could have seen coming entering the series, the Bruins are taking a bunch of penalties at home despite being penalized only once in each game played in Montreal. Boston gave Montreal four power plays through the first two periods, and it could have been worse had Marchand gotten something extra for taking a whack at Eller after his penalty was called.
Bartkowski took a pair of holding penalties in Game 5, which gives him four this series and five penalties this series.
In scoring during Marchand’s penalty and Bartkowski’s second, the Habs have now scored six power play goals at the Garden this series with no power play goals at the Bell Centre.
– There was a brief scare for Johnny Boychuk on Plekanec’s penalty, as the Montreal center’s stick appeared to hit Boychuk in the throat area as Boychuk went to hit him. Boychuk was holding his chin/throat area after the play, but he stayed in the game, with Iginla’s goal coming on Plekanec’s penalty.
– Smith hit another post for the Bruins in the first period, which, if you’ve been counting how many times the Bruins have done that this series, means you’ve counted to a high numbers. Posts and missed nets on non-redirected shots usually means you’re going up a good goalie and you have to pick your spots well to beat him.
|Matt Fraser on his Game 4 OT winner: ‘Words can’t even describe that feeling’||05.08.14 at 11:59 pm ET|
MONTREAL — Boston has a new humble hero and his name is Matt Fraser.
Just seven hours after joining the Bruins on a recall for Justin Florek, Fraser calmly stepped into the playoff fray between the B’s and the Canadiens, scoring the game-winning goal on a rebound from a Carl Soderberg shot just 79 seconds into overtime, giving the desperate Bruins a 1-0 win in Game 4 of the second-round series.
Trying to describe his emotions while recollecting the goal that pumped new life into the Bruins, Fraser sounded an extraordinarily genuine and humble tone.
“Words can’t even describe that feeling,” Fraser said. “I just watched the replay of it and, you know, I don’t even want to begin to try and explain that because that’s something I wish every kid could feel.”
What exactly does he remember about the game-winner?
“I wish I could remember,” he said. “It just happened in a blur. The puck got to the net and was bobbling around in front. I tried to sniff it out and knock it in.”
More specifically, it was Johnny Boychuk who fired a shot high off the stanchion behind the net. The puck ricocheted in front of Carey Price, who stopped all previous 34 shots. Soderberg collected the puck and put a shot on net in the low slot. Price couldn’t contain the rebound and Fraser was more than happy to jam at the puck, with some help from Canandiens defenseman Mike Weaver, and put it past Price to even the series, 2-2, heading back to Boston Saturday night for Game 5.
“As you can tell from my voice, it’s pretty exciting,” Fraser said. “I hardly slept today and I’m sure I’ll hardly sleep tonight. But at the same time, you have to keep it in perspective. This is one game. We’ve evened the series and now we have to go back to Boston and come with the same effort.
“I actually turned my phone off today. It’s just easier to focus on the game rather than talk to everyone. It’s most important that I talk to my parents. I always try to talk to them after the game. Hopefully, my dad was impressed with this one.”
|Shawn Thornton on D&C: ‘We plan on it being a long series’||05.07.14 at 11:12 am ET|
Bruins forward Shawn Thornton joined Dennis & Callahan on Wednesday to discuss Boston’s 4-2 loss to the Canadiens in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference semifinals. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.
The Bruins once again got off to a slow start in Game 3, as Boston trailed 3-0 before finally getting on the board with a little over two minutes remaining in the second period thanks to a goal from Patrice Bergeron.
“I think it’s just uncharacteristic,” Thornton said. “I know the one coming out of the power play, maybe you should be aware of the clock, but it looked like we were in control. Yelling from the bench, you actually can’t hear it, to be completely honest. That’s one of the home-ice advantages, I guess. It’s just a couple of plays that were maybe a little uncharacteristic of us and end up in the back of our net. Give them credit, they capitalized on the chances that we gave them.”
Bruins netminder Tukka Rask once again took the loss after stopping 21 of 24 shots on the night. Rask has allowed nine goals in three games during the series.
“He’ll be good. He’s done a good job. His whole career, he’s been a really good professional — just banking things, knowing it happened and then moving on to the next one,” Thornton said, adding: “He’s just one of the best team guys that I’ve seen as a goalie. He’ll be great today, he’ll be focused on tomorrow. It’s 2-1, it’s not the start we wanted, but we plan on it being a long series.”
Thornton said the team’s usual stout defense should once again be present on the ice in Game 4.
“It’s more about just playing our game. … We had some chances and we had some sustained pressure and all that, but we are very strong defensively and we don’t normally give up backdoor passes or two or three breakaways a game. That just doesn’t happen with us,” he said.
|Don Cherry on D&C: Bruins ‘just don’t seem to be ready’||at 9:25 am ET|
Legendary Hockey Night in Canada analyst Don Cherry checked in with Dennis & Callahan on Wednesday to discuss the Bruins’ disappointing 4-2 loss to the Canadiens in Game 3 of their Eastern Conference semifinals. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.
“That was not one of their better games. I don’t understand it,” the former Bruins coach said. “They spot teams a 3-0 lead and think they’re going to come back in the third period. It’s a dumb way to play.”
The Bruins were hurt by a couple of defensive breakdowns that led to early Canadiens goals, and Cherry said their failure to be prepared to play hard and focused from the opening faceoff is an issue that continues to haunt them.
“It’s funny, you can sit here and dissect it. You have to be behind the bench to realize that Montreal is going to come out flying,” Cherry said. “They have their favorite singer. You have to be ready for something like that. It’s easy to say. I’ve been there many times before.
“There’s so many mistakes made, even down to the one where [Tuukka] Rask doesn’t bang his stick on the breakaway. You’re taught in junior, in bantams, when you see a penalty near the end, you bang your stick to warn the guys. Here’s a guy that’s not ready. They just don’t seem to be ready. They think that they can come back all the time in the third period. They seem to be relying on that third period all the time. They don’t play desperate right now. I’m telling you, they better start, because they’re sky high, Montreal is sky high.”
Added Cherry: “You’ve got to play like [Brad] Marchand. Believe it or not, he was plus-2 last night. He is a guy that they’ve got to look to. He plays like that all the time, and that’s the way they’ve got to play. They were fast asleep the first two periods.”
The Bruins’ problems start in goal, where Rask has continued his career-long struggles against the Canadiens, while Carey Price has come up with some big saves at the other end.
“Rask is not playing the way Rask can play. … Price is outplaying him, that’s for sure,” Cherry said. “Rask is not playing like he did in the season for some reason. Montreal’s got — I don’t know if they’ve got his number or what. But he’s not the Rask that I know.
“But here’s the thing that bothers me, is the Bruins were out-hit last night. Imagine the Bruins being out-hit by those little midgets with Montreal. They’re just not ready. And if they’re not ready, it’s going to be a short series.”