|Bruins can only hope home ice is advantage it was in ’11||06.17.13 at 1:04 pm ET|
Two years ago, home-ice advantage was the second-biggest factor in the Stanley Cup finals, just behind having a sane goaltender.
After the Canucks took the first two games of the Stanley Cup finals with wins that were decided in the final seconds, the Bruins came back to Boston and blew Vancouver out by a combined score of 12-1. They won all three home games that series by a combined score of 17-3 before finally winning a road game in Vancouver in Game 7. Dennis Seidenberg remembers the atmosphere of the Garden being “crazy” for those games.
It obviously won’t be that way this time around. For starters, the first two games were split, although they did come down to the wire, just like Games 1 and 2 in Vancouver. The idea of the Bruins torching the Blackhawks in blowout wins like they did the Canucks now that they’re at home? You shouldn’t bet on that either. The Blackhawks are far too defensively sound a team for that to happen, so the Bruins should expect these games to remain close. Maybe they won’t go into overtime every night, but this series has been something of a stalemate.
“Who knows?” Seidenberg said of games being closer in this series than the last time they were in the Cup finals. “It’s tough to predict what’s going to happen tonight, but we have to focus on our game. We have to come out a little better than we did and we’ll see what happens.”
The argument can be made that it took Aaron Rome‘s hit on Nathan Horton to fire up the Bruins with them trailing by two games, as Game 3 was scoreless in the first period. Then Horton went down, and after the Bruins lifelessly struggled to get anything going on their five-minute power play, they came out after the intermission and scored 11 seconds into the second period.
The B’s can only hope that they don’t need an injury to get them into this game, as they were fortunate to escape Saturday’s Game 2 against the Blackhawks with a victory given that they weren’t into it early on.
|Claude Julien: Tuukka Rask ‘just as good’ as Tim Thomas in 2011 Cup run||06.16.13 at 3:18 pm ET|
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.
|Shawn Thornton on D&C: Nathan Horton ‘big, tough, scary guy when he wants to be’||06.14.13 at 11:30 am ET|
Shawn Thornton joined Dennis & Callahan on Friday morning, checking in the day before Game 2 of the Stanley Cup finals in Chicago. The Bruins forward stuck up for Torey Krug and was mum on the status of the injured Nathan Horton, saying he didn’t talk to the first-line winger Thursday.
‘I didn’t see him yesterday, so I don’t know the extent of it. I hope he’s in,’ Thornton said. ‘He’s such a good player for us. I’m sure if he’s in, he’s ready to go, so I’m not too worried about him. He’s a big, tough, scary guy when he wants to be. He can take care of himself.”
Although the Bruins officially call it an upper-body injury, Horton reportedly is suffering from a chronic shoulder injury, aggravated most recently during the B’s Game 1 loss. Nonetheless, Thornton wasn’t worried about the Blackhawks targeting the shoulder, should Horton be in the lineup.
‘It’s playoffs, so people are finishing their checks anyway,’ Thornton said.
When questioned on Krug’s momentum-changing, third-period turnover Wednesday, Thornton was careful not to speculate too much or make any lineup assumptions, admitting he doesn’t know what coach Claude Julien‘s thought process is when it comes to benching players.
Thornton did, however, give the defenseman a vote of confidence. Krug has been strong for much of the playoffs.
‘For the majority of the game last game, he was really good for us on the power play, he was really good for us getting up the ice and supporting the play. One mistake ‘¦ is not indicative of how he played,’ Thornton said. ‘Whoever is in or out of the lineup, it won’t be because of anything that happened ‘ I don’t think ‘ in the game previous. If an adjustment is made, it’s because he figures it gives us a better chance to match up in different situations on the other side and give us a better chance of winning.
‘I doubt anything’s going to happen, but I don’t know what’s going to happen.’
Thornton also hasn’t talked to Krug ‘ the players had Thursday off ‘ but anticipated the rookie being just fine mentally.
‘He’s a pretty special player, and a couple of breaks went the other way. It happens to the best of us,’ Thornton said. ‘It’s the same as the dynamic, thought process of the team: You can’t worry about what happened last game. Move on and get ready for Saturday.”
The hosts noted that the Bruins ‘ or Bruins fans ‘ don’t quite have a public enemy No. 1 for the finals as they did in series past. As far as Thornton is concerned, that’s OK. There are more important things going on.
‘When you don’t play all year, it’s tough to have that guy, that animosity with a non-rival,’ Thornton said. ‘I’m not sure if it’s necessary. We have to focus on winning games, not taking somebody’s head off. I hear what you’re saying ‘ sometimes it’s motivating when you dislike a certain individual, but this time of year you shouldn’t need an extra motivation.”
|Pierre McGuire on M&M: Bruins ‘played with the heart of a champion’||06.13.13 at 8:08 pm ET|
NBC hockey analyst Pierre McGuire joined Mut & Merloni on Thursday afternoon to discuss Wednesday’s Game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals and the ramifications of the Bruins’ marathon loss going forward.
Sure, the 4-3, triple-overtime loss was disappointing, McGuire said, but the Bruins don’t have much reason to be down on themselves going into Saturday’s Game 2.
‘Boston played with the heart of a champion, and I don’t expect it to be anything different [the rest of the series]. It could be a long, hard series,’ McGuire said. ‘I saw so many positive things from the Bruins. I saw a lot of positive things from the Blackhawks. These are the two best teams. There’s no Cinderella here. Both of these teams deserve to be in the Stanley Cup final.’
What will be interesting is when the series shifts back to Boston for Game 3 Monday and the Bruins get the last line change before the game time. McGuire suspects Claude Julien will match up Patrice Bergeron‘s line with that of Jonathan Toews, and David Krejci‘s unit with Michal Handzus.
Speaking of Bergeron’s line, McGuire also said Tyler Seguin is a likely candidate to play with Krejci and Milan Lucic should Nathan Horton be unable to play. Horton left Game 1 during the first overtime and did not return.
McGuire also expects Seguin, who has five points (one goal, four assists) and is a minus-2 in 17 playoff games, to break out soon.
‘He wants the puck. He wants to make a difference. His speed is very apparent, especially at ice level,’ McGuire said. ‘For those that weren’t at the morning skate [Wednesday], everything he shot went in. It was unbelievable watching him in practice. He was letter perfect with his passing and shooting. His skating is great. I just get the feeling he’s about the break out, I really do.”
McGuire gave much credit to goalies Tuukka Rask and Corey Crawford, even calling Crawford ‘superhuman’ in the first overtime,’ and said while Torey Krug‘s crucial, third-period turnover was quite unfortunate, the defenseman can bounce back, just as the Bruins can.
‘It’s a tough situation for a young player, an undrafted player, to go into the Stanley Cup finals,’ McGuire said. ‘It was an egregious turnover. Obviously it ends up in the back of the net. Nobody wants to see that.
‘But I thought he got better as the game went along. I know they weren’t afraid to use him in overtime, and he had some good chances. They used him on the power play, too, with [Dennis] Seidenberg. He’s a young player. He’s going to grow. I think he’ll be better off with the experience. Was it his best game? No. Was it a terrible game? No. He just made one bad mistake.”
NESN Bruins analyst Barry Pederson joined Dennis & Callahan on Thursday morning, and following the Bruins’ 4-3 triple-overtime loss to the Blackhawks in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals, Pederson pegged defenseman Torey Krug‘s third-period turnover that led to Chicago’s second goal as a turning point.
Krug’s cross-ice pass got intercepted by Andrew Shaw, who assisted Dave Bolland‘s goal to cut the Bruins’ lead to 3-2 midway through the third period.
‘The Bruins had complete control of this hockey game early in the third with that 3-1 lead. People I think are talking about the deflection, the bad break they got. But to me the turning point of the hockey game was the giveaway by Krug in his own end,’ Pederson said. ‘That’s one of those plays that’s a rookie mistake under pressure. You have the near-side wall is wide open. You either have to carry it up or make that play. As we’re taught as youngsters throughout your hockey career, there’s one play you don’t make in your own end, and that’s cross ice. That to me was the one that really changed things.”
It was that turnover ‘ and the ensuing ‘emotional letdown’ ‘ that did in the Bruins more than potential complacency up by two goals with about half a period to go, Pederson noted.
Despite the error, Pederson said he doesn’t think Claude Julien will bench Krug for Game 2 Saturday, nor does he think the rookie defenseman should be benched. Pederson noted that Krug’s ice time was lessened for much of the rest of the game, but he doesn’t expect that to carry over.
‘I would hope not,’ Pederson said, ‘because they really need him. He brings that element of speed and offense to the lineup, and I think he helps their power play as well.”
When the hosts expressed concern that the Bruins, particularly the older players, might be lagging come Saturday, Pederson said not to worry ‘ the Blackhawks are in the same position, after all.
The bigger concern should be replacing Nathan Horton, if needed, after the forward left with an upper-body injury in the first overtime. Pederson suggested moving Tyler Seguin up to replace Horton on the first line, as Julien played it the rest of Game 1.
Claude Julien doesn’t believe Thursday morning’s heartbreaking end to Game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals will have a lingering effect on his team. Julien pointed to the 2011 Cup finals when the Bruins lost the first two games in Vancouver before coming back to win the Cup.
Julien was asked if the veteran make-up of his roster will help in preventing hangover from the 4-3 loss to Chicago in triple overtime.
“Not really,” Julien said. “Last time we won the Cup, we lost the first two games to Vancouver. It never stopped us from coming back. This
“When you look at the game, it could have gone either way. I thought we had some real great looks in overtime. With a little bit of luck, we could have ended it before they did. But that’s the name of the game. They got a good break on their tying goal going off one of our skates. That’s the way the game goes. Some nights you get the break going your way, some nights you don’t. As far as I’m concerned, two good teams tonight that played extremely hard. Unfortunately there’s a loser and a winner.
“It’s never easy to lose a game when you’re in the third overtime period. I liked our first period. Second period was OK until those three penalties. Kind of gave them momentum and took it away from us. But, you know, I thought that in overtime we got better. We got a little stronger. We had some great looks, some great opportunities, we just didn’t bury them. Eventually somebody is going to score a goal as fatigue sets in. [I’m] not disappointed in our effort. There’s certain things you’re going to want to fix for next game. But as far as the game is concerned, it was a hard-fought game.”
Julien also had a good-natured jab at Andrew Shaw, who scored off a double deflection for the game-winner. Julien was asked how Shaw fits in on a Chicago team full of stars.
“Where does he fit in?” Julien asked the reporter. “I don’t think we do our game-planning around Mr. Shaw. Our game plan is against the Chicago Blackhawks. We know he’s an agitator. We know he’s good at embellishing, too, at times. We know all that stuff. We’ve done our research.”
|Matchups, smatchups: Claude Julien not worried about Blackhawks lines||06.12.13 at 2:14 pm ET|
CHICAGO — Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville appears set to keep Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane separated to begin the Stanley Cup finals, but the Bruins are confident they’ll be able to deal with the spread-out star power.
As Kane said Tuesday, the Blackhawks have a strong top six regardless of whether Toews and Kane are together. If they’re on different lines, that means Toews is playing with Marian Hossa, so the Bruins will have their hands full either way. Claude Julien is confident the B’s can match up with the Blackhawks no matter what Quenneville throws at them.
“It doesn’t,” Julien said when asked about how Quenneville’s new lines impacts their preparations. “We just have to react to it in a way whoever is on the ice. Whoever is on the ice has to be aware of the other team’s players on the ice.
“In our system, everybody knows our game without the puck is important. I think that’s what has gotten us this far, we’ve respected that, back’checked. Our numbers coming back have continued. Whether I have my fourth line out,you can talk about like [Chris] Kelly and [Daniel] Paille, I don’t think anybody is worried about their game defensively, and Shawn Thornton who has done a great job on that line as well. There’s a lot of trust in our coaching staff when those guys are out there, even when they put a top line on.”
The guess here is that Julien will counter the Sharp-Toews-Hossa line with the Zdeno Chara–Dennis Seidenberg pairing and the David Krejci line, while putting the Patrice Bergeron line and Andrew Ference–Johnny Boychuk pairing against the Bickell-Handzus-Kane line. Of course, look for Julien to find ways to get Chara out there against both lines whenever he can. Julien matches lines as well as anybody in the business, but at the end of the day it’s Chara who makes the biggest impact in matchups.
“That’s why I talk about the matchups up front. Not the end of the world,” Julien said. “You’ll probably see, as every other series, our back end matches up a little more aggressively than our front end.
“Joel already knows that, too, by the way.”