|More ‘mature’ Bruins ready to handle time off before taking on Pens||05.28.13 at 6:15 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — The last time the Bruins had this much time off, they fared quite well.
Two years ago, the Bruins had eight days in between sweeping the Flyers in the Eastern Conference semifinals and opening their series against Tampa Bay. They, of course, edged the Tampa Bay Lightning, 4-3, on their way to the Stanley Cup finals.
They will have had at least six days off when they open the series against the Penguins this weekend at the Consol Energy Center in downtown Pittsburgh.
Time off hasn’t always worked for Claude Julien and his Bruins. Remember 2009? The Bruins avenged a heart-breaking seven-game loss to the Canadiens in 2008 with a first-round sweep. They had 11 days off before opening a second-round series against Carolina. The Hurricanes jumped out to a 3-1 series lead and eventually held on to win Game 7 in double-overtime at the Garden.
What has Julien learned over time about time off?
“I think our team has matured a lot more in regards to that,” Julien said Tuesday. “We had a long break, too, when we swept Philly [Philadelphia Flyers] in four straight a few years ago, and we handled it well. Based on today’s practice, I thought we practiced really well, lots of energy, worked hard. I think the focus is still there. I think those years that you’re talking about, I think we had almost 11 days off, it was closer to two weeks.
“That was a lot and somehow we felt like we slipped out of it and by the time we got back into it, we were in deep trouble because I think we were down 3-1 against Carolina. That was something that, hopefully, we learned from. Right now, I don’t sense that, to be honest with you. I think our guys, we’re pretty focused right now. Like I said, I liked our intensity and our focus and our jump in practice today.”
Julien admitted to being older and wiser as an NHL playoff coach and said Tuesday he is benefitting from that at a time like this.
“It’s like anything else, you get experience, you go through different things,” Julien added. “I’ve gone through a sweep, gone through being swept four straight after up three, different things. We talked about a few years ago, 11 days off. Those experience go a long ways as you move forward, because you’ve been through all these things. It certainly gives you a better idea of how to handle that, but let’s call it experience, not so much learning. Chalk it down as experience.”
WILMINGTON — Andrew Ference skated for a fifth day on Tuesday at Ristuccia Arena, but for the first time with this teammates as he looks to come back from a left foot injury.
Ference was spotted walking with a walking boot on his left foot last Saturday during Game 5 of the series against the Rangers. But according to Ference, he had already been testing the health of the foot on the ice before then.
Ference injured the foot in Game 5 of the opening round against the Maple Leafs on May 10. He has not played in a game since.
“There’s no schedule,” Ference said after Tuesday’s skate, in which he was paired with defenseman Aaron Johnson. “It’s just a matter of go when you can go. I don’t think everything was ever put on a calendar. I think it was day-to-day the whole time, wasn’t it? That’s the way I’ve always viewed it.
“The last couple of days I had great skates. Today was the fifth day on the ice so it’s been really good. Obviously, it’s different when you get other guys on the ice and can actually practice. But to have four days completely on your own to do ‘Hockey School’, it’s nice, it really is. It’s kind of actually rare to get that kind of ice time to do exactly what you need. It’s beneficial.”
Ference said he’s been in a good position since he hasn’t felt rushed to return to a situation where he might not be 100 percent.
“You have help from other people when you’re dealing with something but at the end of the day, nobody knows who you feel except you. You’re not going to put yourself in a position you’re not ready for,” Ference said.
As for coach Claude Julien, he sidestepped questions about whether Ference, a leading penalty-killer for the Bruins, would earn his spot back when declared healthy and ready to go. Ference would likely nab the spot of Matt Bartkowski at this point, with Dennis Seidenberg already supplanting Dougie Hamilton last Saturday in Game 5 against the Rangers.
“You know what? We’re not there yet and until we’re there, I’m not answering those questions,” Julien said Tuesday. “It’s like we’re trying to get ahead of everything here. We’re not even close to starting a series. We’ll let him skate a little bit with us and see how he does. When the times comes, I’ll be more than happy to make that tough decision.
“It’s a good sign that he’s practicing with us. I don’t know. Again, it’s a medical issue that unless the trainers say it’s a go ‘ sometimes he may be ready, but could be a risky kind of ready. We’ll wait and see what our trainers say and how Andrew [Ference] feels, as well, before we make any decision on him.”
WILMINGTON — Claude Julien has instilled a certain attitude with his Bruins.
Play fearless hockey in the playoffs and see what happens.
Rask said that he expects to carry a big load and always goes into a series thinking he is the best goalie. That attitude also matches what the experts are saying. If the Bruins are going to have a chance of upsetting the Penguins, Rask will need to play to his level and maybe above.
Rask is considered by all experts as the superior netminder in this series, far and above the likes of Tomas Vokoun and Marc-Andre Fleury.
“I think he answered it right because I’m one of those guys where you have to relish the challenges,” Julien said Tuesday as the Bruins returned to the ice as a team for the first time since eliminating the Rangers on Saturday evening. “You can’t fear them. Bring it on. And that’s what he’s telling you right now, ‘Bring it on. I’m ready for it.’ That’s what our whole team’s demeanor is going to be is like, ‘Hey, we know it’s a big challenge. Bring it on.’ We’re ready for it. We’ll give it everything we have and hopefully, that’ll be enough to win a series.
“I think there’s two teams here that know what’s at stake. They’re going to bring their best at us, and we’re hopefully going to do the same thing to them. And we know how we play and we know how they play and it’s going to be a matter of just seeing how it pans out.”
Bruins forward Shawn Thornton joined Dennis & Callahan on Tuesday morning and previewed the B’s Eastern Conference finals series against the Penguins, talked up “underhyped” goalie Tuukka Rask and revealed that he received a congratulatory text message from former teammate Tim Thomas after Game 3 vs. the Rangers.
The Bruins return to practice Tuesday following two days off since dispatching the Rangers in Game 5 on Saturday night, preparing for what is expected to be a much tougher test from the top-seeded Penguins.
“They’re a pretty deep group up front, that’s for sure,” Thornton said. “They’ve got guys like Brenden Morrow on their fourth line. That’s some pretty good players back there. So, yeah, they’re a force to be reckoned with up front.”
Added Thornton: “I know there’s a lot of hype with the guys we’re playing against, and rightfully so, they’re great players. It’s always kind of the Sidney Crosby show wherever he goes. He’s the face of the league and he’s probably the best player in the game. You can’t get caught looking at that. We have to worry about what’s going on in our locker room, like we did last series with the Rangers and the series before with Toronto. You can’t really worry about what’s going on outside. We’ve got to play our game if we want to be successful. ‘¦ You get caught just trying to react to what they’re doing, you’ll get caught with your pants down. They’re a dangerous team.”
Asked if Crosby is the best player he’s played against, Thornton said: “Yeah, I’d say, all-around. There’s not much he doesn’t do well. He competes hard. Not only how skilled he is, his compete level is right up there. He never seems to take a night off. I think that’s part of the reason why he’s so good. ”
Thornton said there are no hard feelings toward Jarome Iginla after the veteran forward chose Pittsburgh over Boston at the trade deadline.
“No, I don’t care,” Thornton said. “He made a decision based on his personal opinion. He has a no-trade, he’s entitled to that. He earned it. He played a lot of great years in Calgary for that right. As a player, you can’t really fault him for it.”
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|Claude Julien gives Tuukka Rask green light to ‘start laughing’ about Game 4 miscue||05.26.13 at 1:30 am ET|
For all the great saves Henrik Lundqvist made on the Bruins throughout Game 5 Saturday at TD Garden, the one save that will be remembered the longest is the one made by Tuukka Rask on Rangers captain Ryan Callahan on a breakaway with just over 11 minutes left in the third period.
The Bruins were clinging to a 2-1 lead as Callahan was fed on a break through the neutral zone and had a clear path toward Rask. The Bruins goalie made the save, and Boston’s lead stood up in a 3-1 win over the Rangers in the clinching Game 5.
“Well, our goalie coach [Bob Essensa] told me after, I think it was Game 1 when he scored on that breakaway, that he never goes backhand,” Rask said. “So I was banking on him shooting and keeping it on the forehand. But he went backhand, and I just extended my leg and blocker there and made the save.”
Rask had faced just 17 shots through two periods before facing 12 in the third, including Callahan’s.
“That’s just staying mentally sharp,” Rask said. “But you have to know something is going to happen, and they’re going to throw everything they could at you and going to try to get that change to tie the game. You know, today it happened to be a breakaway and I just wanted to make one or two big saves in the third and hopefully keep that lead. And today we succeeded.”
Now the road gets a lot tougher.
The Bruins enter the Eastern Conference finals against the Penguins as decided underdogs. The Bruins might have the better goalie in Tuukka Rask and may have won the Cup more recently (2011) than the Penguins (2009). But the Penguins have their version of the Big Three in Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Jarome Iginla, reminding one player on the Bruins of a powerhouse in the NBA.
“Well, no doubt they’re a great hockey club,” Milan Lucic said after Saturday’s series-clinching 3-1 win over the Rangers at TD Garden. “In my mind, they’re almost like the Miami Heat of the NHL with all the star power they’ve got. Probably the two best players in the world and a 40-goal scorer and the former 50-goal scorer, a future Hall of Famer and a Norris Trophy candidate on their team.
“So, they definitely have a lot of weapons, and in saying all that, I think what makes them successful is they play real well as a team and I think that’s what you’re going to probably see going into this next series, is two well-rounded teams going at it, and for us we’ve got to be ready and excited for the challenge.”
“It was big for us,” Lucic said. “I think the mindset in this room was that we didn’t want to be denied and we knew that he was going to be the best player on their team, and he was in this series for them and he kept a couple of games closer. He stopped me four good times here tonight, but he’s a great goaltender for a reason and he played well and like I said we did whatever we could to try to get to him and we were able to do that.”
What will be the key to beating the Penguins?
“We just got to play a strong team game and play to our strengths,” Lucic said. “We’re a team that plays in-your-face-type of hockey and I think what worked for us this series was we were able to establish our forecheck, and we’ve got to keep doing that, and they’re a team that you don’t want to turn the puck over against because they have more than enough weapons to make you pay for it. So, puck management is going to be huge for us, and in saying all that, I think tonight and tomorrow we need to enjoy what we accomplished so far in the playoffs.”
“I’m not going to talk about the Penguins tonight, we just finished against the Rangers. I’ll stick to that, if you don’t mind,” Julien said.
John Tortorella has no such problems giving his opinion about Boston’s chances.
“I think Boston has a really good chance,” Tortorella said. “I think Claude and that staff has done a heck of a job with their club. I can’t believe some of the people, how they second-guess him, just being in the city for a few days, and the type of job he’s done here. That’s a good team. They’re very well-coached, and they’re seasoned. They’ve been through it before, and I give them a lot of credit, as far as what they’ve done with their club. They’re a good hockey team.”
|Claude Julien happy with his power play: ‘Especially [considering] the lack of them’||05.24.13 at 4:29 pm ET|
Claude Julien has been happy with his power play unit in this series, that is when the Bruins actually get a power play.
He made that much perfectly clear on Friday after practice as his team prepares for another chance to wrap up the series against the Rangers in Game 5 at TD Garden Saturday evening.
The Bruins were 2-for-4 on the power play Thursday in the Game 4 loss to the Rangers, with one of the two misses actually resulting in a goal as Tyler Seguin scored his first goal this postseason as a penalty was expiring in the third period. The Bruins didn’t get a single power play in Game 3 and had only one in Game 2. Boston is 3-for-9 in this playoff series while the Rangers are now 1-for-14 on the man-advantage.
With Nathan Horton and Torey Krug scoring on the power play Thursday night, is Julien pleased that his power play is making the most of its chances?
“Well, yeah especially the lack of them that we’ve had in this series,” Julien said. “It was nice to see us score a couple of goals. It’s been tough. It’s a good thing we’re a good five on five team and that we’ve managed to win hockey games, but last night two for four, and certainly it could have been three for four I guess two seconds after the power play ended, so our power play did a good job of producing and whenever you can count on that it’s always a bonus.
Other notes from Friday’s practice:
The Bruins skated hard for 30 minutes in an up-tempo, early afternoon practice on the TD Garden ice. All players were present and accounted for except for Andrew Ference, who is still nursing a lower body injury that has kept him out since Game 5 in the first round. Dennis Seidenberg and Wade Redden were the fourth defensive pairs to skate in drills Friday. Julien kept his defensive pairings the same, with Zdeno Chara and Dougie Hamilton leading the way, followed by Johnny Boychuk and Matt Bartkowski and then Adam McQuaid and Torey Krug. There were no changes on the lines either as Tyler Seguin remains on the third line with Chris Kelly and Rich Peverley.
“I think it was one of those practices today where you wanted to get a good sweat, knowing it’s an early game tomorrow, or afternoon game,” Julien said of the odd 5:30 p.m. start time on Saturday afternoon. “And we just want to make sure we’re ready for tomorrow.”
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