|Inept Chicago power play better for Bruins than Blackhawks in Game 3||06.18.13 at 2:18 am ET|
Twice in the third period of Game 3 on Monday, the Blackhawks got to send some of the game’s most talented scorers out on the power play in a game the Bruins led by just two goals. And twice in that period – just like the three previous times in the first two periods – they came up empty-handed.
In five power-play opportunities on Monday, the Hawks managed just four shots and gave up at least that many shorthanded chances to the Bruins. They’ve been woeful on the power play this postseason, converting just 11.3 percent of the time, and running into a strong Bruins penalty kill certainly hasn’t helped them settle in with the man advantage.
“They box you out,” Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said of the Bruins. “They’ve got big bodies. They blocked shots. I think we had some chances to get some pucks through the net. We didn’t. Our entries weren’t great. That’s something you want to look at.”
Entering the zone was indeed a problem for Chicago, although they also struggled at times to hold the puck in at the blue line once they had gained the zone. Several times on their first two power plays of the game, a defenseman lost the puck at the point (granted, the subpar condition of the ice might have had something to do with that) and had to waste valuable seconds chasing it down.
Slumping on the power play is one thing, but giving up three prime shorthanded chances within two minutes is another problem entirely. With Shawn Thornton in the box late in the first period, the Bruins took advantage of the Hawks’ sloppy puck control, requiring Corey Crawford to bail his teammates out again and again.
First, Rich Peverley chased down a puck in Chicago’s defensive zone and came within inches of stuffing it past Crawford on a second-chance attempt. Then Daniel Paille forced Crawford to come out near the right face-off dot to knock a loose puck away from him, in the absence of any Chicago defenders.
Finally, Brad Marchand broke free of the Chicago defense, bolted through center ice and was only foiled at the last second when the puck slid off his stick too early in front of the net (possibly another product of the bad ice).
As hard as the crew inside TD Garden tried Monday, the ice was hardly suitable for two of the best hockey teams in the world to do battle. But battle they did.
There were bouncing pucks all night. There were players like Brad Marchand losing control on what appeared to be a certain shorthanded breakaway. There were pucks jumping over defensemen’s sticks as they tried to keep the puck in the offensive zone.
In short, this is what happens when you play on a humid 80-degree day in mid-June in Boston. The Garden is typically an ice-box in the winter because there is no in-house dehumidifier in the building. As they did in 2011, TD Garden tried to fix the humidity issue by bringing in high-tech dehumidifiers beginning with the Penguins series. On Monday, they didn’t do much good as far as the ice was concerned.
Asked if he thought the conditions were “crappy,” Dennis Seidenberg tried to be as kind as possible but couldn’t help but state the obvious.
“It is pretty bad,” Seidenberg said. “When you try to shoot, try to swing your blade on the ice, it feels like it’s sandpaper. It’s really rough. When you try to pass, the puck bounces. That’s why you have to keep the game simple, like I said. If there’s a play to be made, you have to make sure it’s an easy one. If not, you rather choose to go over the wall and out.
“Again, there was breakdowns today, but we seemed to cover them up a little bit better than the other side.”
It’s similar to when infielders complain about the dirt at Fenway Park, a common occurrence in the 1960s and 70s and, to a lesser degree, today.
Then there’s the perspective of the goalie. Tuukka Rask has already had one episode on the sketchy ice of Madison Square Garden – leading to the “butt stumble” in Game 4 of the Eastern semis that the Rangers won in overtime. Monday, Rask avoided an embarrassing repeat, no thanks to the ice conditions.
“The ice was pretty good in the start of the periods,” Rask said. “Then pretty quickly it got really chippy. It’s tough to get the read off of shots when it’s really a mess out there with the ice. You just got to be extra careful with the crazy bounces and stuff. You don’t want to make any stupid mistakes playing the puck either. You just got to be extra careful.”
|Marian Hossa’s late scratch shakes up Blackhawks’ offense||at 12:52 am ET|
In Game 2 of the Stanley Cup finals, Marian Hossa was one of the most visible Blackhawks on the ice as they dominated the Bruins early on. Before Game 3, he disappeared from the lineup at the last minute with what was later classified as an upper-body injury.
Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said he knew earlier in the day that Hossa was likely to miss the game, even though he wasn’t announced as a scratch until after pregame warmups. However, Quennevile emphasized that the problem didn’t arise in warmups, despite some initial reports to the contrary. He didn’t expand on when the injury might have occurred.
“We’ll say day-to-day,” Quenneville said of Hossa’s status. “We’re hopeful he’ll be ready for the next game. It was a game-time decision after the warm-up there. That’s when we made the call, after warm-up.”
Hossa’s absence, and Ben Smith‘s insertion in his place, led to some shakeups in Chicago’s lines. Jonathan Toews started out skating between Marcus Kruger and Michael Frolik, and while he led the team with five shots, he didn’t get the kind of offensive support from his linemates that he’s used to getting with Hossa.
Meanwhile, Smith, who had played just one regular-season game and no playoff games for the Blackhawks this year, jumped into a bottom-six role. Quenneville continued shuffling the lines throughout the night, but no combination seemed to click.
As Tuukka Rask continued to stymie the Hawks’ celebrated offense, it could certainly be argued that they missed Hossa, who is tied for the team lead in points in the playoffs and ranks third on the team with 65 shots.
Bruins coach Claude Julien said he didn’t know Hossa would be out any earlier than anyone else outside the Hawks’ organization, but that it didn’t affect his outlook on the game.
“Just found out when I received the game sheet,” Julien said. “I was as surprised as anybody else. But to be honest with you, there wasn’t any changes in our game. As I mentioned the other day when I was asked about another player, we don’t make our game plan based on an individual. I can definitely tell you they lost a pretty important player on their roster, but that doesn’t mean we change our game. I think it’s important we stick with what we believe in.”
|Claude Julien on Gregory Campbell: ‘He’s part of our family’||06.17.13 at 2:22 pm ET|
On Monday, part of the drama of the Bruins returning home to play Game 3 of the Stanley Cup final at TD Garden will be Campbell in attendance to watch his team play in person. He was unable to make it to Chicago for Games 1 and 2 because of surgery to repair the leg.
“It’s nice to see him,” coach Claude Julien said Monday. “There’s no doubt. Obviously he can’t play. We miss him. He’s a good player for us. But just to be around our team, it’s nice to have him back. He’s part of our family. That’s how we look at things in that dressing room. If he could have, he would have been in Chicago. It was too early after surgery. From here on in, he’s good to go, going to be with us the whole way.”
Campbell, who drew huge cheers during an appearance on the video board in Game 4 against the Penguins, was with the team Monday morning as they prepared for Game 3 Monday night.
Julien has juggled the lines often since the injury to Campbell in Game 3 of the Eastern finals against Pittsburgh. Shawn Thornton has watched his playing time decrease somewhat but in Julien’s eyes he still remains an integral part of the fourth line.
“Let’s not confuse something here,” Julien said. “He’s not in the lineup because of what he brings in the dressing room. We got a lot of guys that do that. He’s in our lineup even though his minutes go down because he deserves to be there. He’s great on the forecheck. He’s actually a lot smarter of a player than a lot of people give him credit for. He reads plays well, doesn’t get himself in trouble much, gets the puck out of our end.
“Certainly his presence makes our team better. We’ve seen that at times when we’ve had to pull him out. There’s no doubt our team is more comfortable with him in our lineup for all the right reasons.”
WIth Daniel Paille jumping up to join Tyler Seguin and Chris Kelly on the third line, the fourth line has been a work-in-progress. With the home team having the last change, Julien figures to have a distinct advantage in getting more time for Thornton and the fourth line.
“There’s no doubt it makes it a little bit easier,” Julien said. “Doesn’t mean it’s going to happen all the time, but it certainly is a lot easier. Joel’s a pretty good coach, smart coach. When he senses something, he’ll take advantage of it. I had to be extra careful in Chicago with that. But, again, tonight hopefully it’s a little easier. Nonetheless, we’re in the Final here, you got to do what you got to do. Sometimes you may play guys a little bit more, but they’re capable of handling the ice time. You’re right, that last change will hopefully give me a little bit of an easier change.”
Brad Marchand has been called a lot of things in his brief NHL career.
Antagonizer. Spark plug. Skillful finisher. Intense.
But the one thing he maintains is he plays within the rules. He doesn’t, for a second, consider himself a dirty player. The “dirty” tag came up again in an interview with ESPN Boston on Monday when Don Cherry said Marchand “is not a pest. He’s a hockey player that plays dirty.”
“When you’re getting suspensions and stuff like that, that’s playing dirty,” Marchand said Monday morning before Game 3. “You play hard, a lot of things happen in a game but I don’t think anybody is out there trying to injure guys.”
During the Eastern Conference finals, Cherry first told WEEI’s Mut & Merloni that Marchand is no pest.
As a matter of fact, Marchand maintains he hasn’t even tried to get under the skin of the Blackhawks so far in this Stanley Cup final.
“I haven’t really tried to do a whole lot,” he said. “I’m just trying to play the game. Everyone is so caught up in trying to antagonize guys and stuff like that, it just doesn’t happen like that. It comes with the game and you have to react to different situations.”
One thing is for sure, Marchand has plenty of respect for a Chicago team that has just as much speed and skill as the Bruins.
“They’re a great team,” Marchand said. “They come with a ton of speed which is always tough to play against. They don’t just throw pucks away. Every time they have the puck they make a play, which makes it tough out there. I think that’s the biggest thing I’ve noticed is just that they don’t ever seem to throw pucks away. Everything is right on the tape. If they don’t have anything, they just seem to swing back so they’re a great team. There’s no doubt about that.”
Still, Marchand was asked if he thought the Blackhawks hate him yet?
“I have no idea. You have to ask them,” he said.
The Bruins are 3-0 in Game 3s so far in these Stanley Cup playoffs while the Blackhawks are 0-3. Meaningful heading into Game 3 of the Cup final?
“It means nothing right now,” Marchand said. “It’s a completely different series and a completely different time.”
|Claude Julien on sticking with Torey Krug: ‘He didn’t lose any confidence’||06.16.13 at 5:58 pm ET|
There were plenty of sideline coaches suggesting Torey Krug sit Game 2 out after his gaffe in Game 1 that led to Chicago’s second goal and gave the Blackhawks momentum to begin their comeback.
But not Claude Julien.
He stuck with his talented rookie defenseman. And all the justification he needed from Krug was provided early in Game 2.
“Extremely well,” Julien said when asked how he thought Krug handled Game 2. “He didn’t lose any confidence. Again, you look at last night, he pushed the puck up the middle again, was able to come back, nothing came out of it. But, you know, his game continued to go in the right direction.”
“I thought I did play my game pretty well in Game 2, jumping up on the ice when I could, clearing the puck a little bit better,” Krug said. “Basically, there are still some things I can fix but I felt very confident, especially in overtime. We were up in the offensive zone a little bit more than we were the whole game. I felt a lot better.”
The irony is that Krug didn’t lean on a fellow defenseman for support after Game 1. It came from Patrice Bergeron, a forward, and given his propensity for offense, maybe that’s appropriate.
“He’s got the same routine every game,” Krug said. “I have never seen him play a bad game, but if he is having a bad game, I don't think he changes anything up so that's important in being a professional. He always goes about his business. He is an unbelievable leader and he does the little things that's what's amazing about him. Read the rest of this entry »
The comparison has been obvious since the second round of this Bruins playoff run.
In the eyes of Bruins coach Claude Julien, there’s no doubt.
“I think it’s just as good, no doubt,” Julien said of Rask, who is now 13-5 in the playoffs, a 1.73 goals against and a .944 save percentage. All of those numbers better the performance of Thomas when he won the Conn Smythe as playoff MVP. “Tim has been a great goaltender for us. When you lose a guy like that, there’s always that fear that you’re not going to be able to replace him.
“Tuukka’s done an outstanding job. To me, he’s been as much of a contributor to our team as Tim was two years ago.”
Rask gave his take on Sunday morning.
“For myself, that was the best I’ve ever seen, obviously,” Rask said of Thomas’ 16-9 record, with a 1.98 GAA and a .940 save percentage in the 2011 playoffs. “I’d never been that deep in the playoffs before and for me, as a spectator, that was the best stretch of goaltending I’d ever seen.”
The only area where Thomas has Rask beat right now is in shutouts (4-2), that and a Conn Smythe trophy, for now.
Rask did admit one thing Sunday – this is the best goaltending he’s played in his career.
“Probably, yeah,” Rask said.
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