|Jonathan Toews: ‘We treated it as a Game 7. We weren’t going to be denied’||06.20.13 at 1:19 am ET|
The captain of the Chicago Blackhawks knew what was at stake Wednesday night in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup finals against the Bruins. Jonathan Toews also knew that coming in, he had no points in the series so far.
When he scored 6:33 into the second period, the Blackhawks had a 2-1 lead and he was finally off the schneid. This was significant because just hours earlier he said he — as captain — needed to be more accountable. He was able to laugh about the irony and the foreshadowing of his comments when teammate Brent Seabrook ended the game at 9:51 of overtime, giving Chicago a 6-5 win and evening the series, 2-2.
“Absolutely, I think it makes a world of difference for you when you finally see one go in,” Toews said. “I’ve got to say this, the last couple days Seabrook has been coming up to me, asking me what I’m thinking about. You know, I have to give him the right answer. I’m thinking about scoring a goal (smiling).
“He’s been trying to help me out, make me think a little bit better, have those positive thoughts. You work hard, eventually you’re going to find a way. Tonight was one of those games, we treated it as a Game 7. We weren’t going to be denied.”
Toews said he felt the same about his offense.
“It’s time to put all those other games behind us, the games where we struggled to score, forget about it, just find a way to do what you do. It was fun to see the puck go in as often as it did tonight.”
Toews was so relieved he forgot what game of the series came next.
“We know we can be better defensively. But we’ll use that confidence and try our best to pounce on them in Game 6 here — Game 5, sorry. Getting ahead of myself (laughter).
As for Seabrook, this was the second huge overtime game-winning goal, as he ended the Western semis series against Detroit with a Game 7 OT goal.
“I mean, we just want to win games. At this point of the season, it’s down to best-of-three. We want to win games, find a way to win ‘em any way we can. Obviously, we like when we’re playing with speed, trying to play a puck-possession game, get down low, create chances. That’s when we’re playing at our best.
“Both these guys have been saying we got to be better defensively, as well. We’ve got to be prepared to win a game 1-0 or 2-1. That’s what it’s got to come down to. Boston is a great team. They play a solid style of play. We’re going to have to shore up our D zone and be better at that.”
|Brad Marchand says Bruins have finally learned their lesson: ‘We’re doing a lot more things right’||06.18.13 at 5:49 pm ET|
Ask the players, and that is high praise indeed. The players know how much they played with fire late in the regular season and how much that spilled over into the first round. They were almost burned against Toronto.
The Bruins can sense the difference in consistency. That is to say, it’s there every night, compared to the beginning of the playoffs.
“Yeah, especially against Toronto,” Brad Marchand said, referring to the “Jekyll and Hyde” phase the team was going through. “Guys are way more focused and determined to do the little things right. I think after going through what we went through against Toronto, it kind of opened guys eyes to realize we need to all bear down and be better if we’re going to have shot at winning. I think after that series we all bared down and we’re doing a lot more things right.”
Obviously, for the Bruins to reach their goal, they need to do even more of those things in the next week and manage two more wins, something Marchand is fully convinced he and his teammates are capable of accomplishing.
“I think there’s still areas where we can improve, but for the most part we played a pretty good game,” Marchand said. “We’re doing some things right, there’s still lapses in our game where we need to get a little bit better. Hopefully we can clean that up going down the stretch.”
No more Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde from these Bruins, at least not in the eyes of their coach.
After the Bruins dominated Game 3 in nearly every aspect, including a 40-16 edge on faceoffs, Claude Julien heaped praise on the effort level of his team after the 2-0 win that leaves them two victories shy of their second Stanley Cup in three years and seventh in franchise history.
“I think it’s the energy in the game, the effort,” Julien said. “You see our guys, like I said, they’re backchecking, having layers, so when somebody makes a mistake, you have somebody covering up.”
Even several stitches above the eye of Zdeno Chara wasn’t going to keep the commitment level down for the Bruins. Chara said he “lost an edge” during pregame skate Monday night.
“All he did is he slipped, had a little gash over his eye,” Julien said. “I haven’t even seen it. Just by slipping, he got hit just above the eye. Nothing serious.”
The Bruins blocked another 17 shots Monday — to seven for Chicago. Dennis Seidenberg had six by himself.
“We’re blocking a lot of shots,” Julien continued. “The commitment is totally there. Throughout a whole season, it’s not easy to have that full commitment. But I think when you get to this stage, players start feeling it. They go above and beyond. That’s what you’re seeing from our team right now.”
Julien famously lashed out at his team in the first-round series with Toronto, calling the B’s a “Jekyll and Hyde” team when they blew a 3-1 series lead only to grab a dramatic Game 7 win to extend their playoff season.
But that certainly hasn’t been the case since. After the Game 6 loss to the Leafs, the Bruins are 11-2 in these playoffs. And the penalty kill — another area of effort and execution — is a big reason why. With five more kills on Monday, the Bruins have killed off 27 straight penalties.
“It’s our backcheck,” Julien explained. “Our guys are understanding one thing: This is a team, when it attacks, it attacks with four, never three. They’ve got such great skaters back there on the fence that if we don’t do what we’re doing right now, we don’t stand a chance. Our guys, like I’ve said, they’ve committed to that. They realize how important it is to come back. We’re trying to support each other that way and trying to keep it as tight as possible.”
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.”
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