|What history can teach the Bruins in the the next week||04.24.11 at 12:26 pm ET|
History can be a funny thing in sports.
It can be a teacher. It can be a guide. It can provide motivation.
If you’re the Boston Bruins, the next two days, it’s going to be all of the above.
The Bruins want to close out the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday night in Game 6 because if they don’t they are going to hear about 2010 again. No, it’s not like they were up 3-0 against the Habs like they were against the Flyers in the Eastern semis last year but they are going to be asked about how hard it is for them to close a team out.
Just ask their coach.
“I think we’ve experienced that last year, right?” Claude Julien asked rhetorically in the afterglow of Game 5 Saturday night. “We don’t want to bring that up, but unfortunately it is what it is. That last win is a tough one, we recognize that. We need to go to Montreal with the intentions of winning that game and playing to win that game. We need to understand it’s probably going to be the toughest game of the series. When teams are playing for their lives they come out with their best effort. And we have to be ready for that.”
Then again, experience is what you make it – like Brad Marchand and Nathan Horton who are playing in their first playoffs. Marchand scored the first goal Saturday and Horton put in the game-winner in double-overtime.
“It was a huge goal for him,” Julien said of Horton. “I wasn’t worried about the fact he hasn’t played in the playoffs because he is a guy that competes all the time. That is one reason why he wanted to come to Boston was to be on an Original Six playoff team. I’m sure he is pretty happy. That has got to be his biggest goal but I think he has been great for us.”
Before the meltdown against Philly last year, there was the stunning Game 7 overtime loss to the Hurricanes in the Eastern semis in 2009 that kept a 53-win team on the sidelines as the NHL held its own final four party.
But having faced those pressure situations in past playoffs may finally be paying dividends. In Games 4 and 5, the Bruins have shown tremendous poise, to go along with great goaltending from Tim Thomas, Michael Ryder and Zdeno Chara.
“We’ve been through a lot the last few years and this was something different,” said Milan Lucic, the player who scored twice in Game 7 last year against Philly before the lights went out on the B’s offense. “Obviously this year going down the first two games at home and having to go to a building where we haven’t won all year and try to even up the series.
“But I think our focus so far is after those first two games wasn’t on the big picture like it was on the first two games. After we were down, the focus was just on, okay, forget about what’s going to happen. Let’s just worry about what we need to do next and what we’re going to do that next shift and that’s what is getting us in a bit of a groove here.”
The Bruins need to make sure the music doesn’t suddenly stop in Montreal Tuesday night.
|Bruins aren’t putting any stock in the home team not winning||04.22.11 at 2:14 pm ET|
So much for home ice advantage. The road team has won all four games in the Bruins’ first-round series against the Canadiens, but the B’s aren’t putting much stock in that as they return home for Game 5 on Saturday night.
“Because the away team scored more goals than the home team in all of those games,” Tim Thomas said, giving the most obvious explanation of why things have played out the way they have. “I don’t put too much thought into that.”
Thomas said that perhaps the home team just needs to play more of a “road game,” which he explained as a smarter, less flashy style of play.
“Play the type of game that you need to play to win,” he said. “Sometimes you’ve got to be safe, sometimes you take the chances. There is a tendency when you’re at home to try to put on a show for the home crowd, and sometimes that works against you over the course of a full 60-minute game.”
Andrew Ference said he doesn’t really believe in home-ice advantage anyway because everyone is just as comfortable on the road as they are at home.
“I don’t put a lot of stock into home-ice advantage, just because I think guys are very professional with the way we travel in the league,” Ference said. “We stay in good hotels and eat well. … We don’t feel like we’re behind the eight ball when we are on the road or anything like that. It’s just another hockey game.”
Claude Julien echoed his defenseman’s sentiments.
“I’m not worried about a team not winning at home,” Julien said. “I think what I’m more concerned about is making sure our team is ready to play tomorrow and hopefully build on that great win yesterday. We just have to keep getting better and not worry about where we’re playing, but how we’re playing.”
|Tim Thomas named Vezina Trophy finalist||at 1:40 pm ET|
In what was pretty much a foregone conclusion, Tim Thomas was named one of three finalists for the Vezina Trophy on Friday. Vancouver’s Roberto Luongo and Nashville’s Pekka Rinne are the other two finalists.
“Very happy to hear that, obviously,” Thomas said. “After last year, I wasn’t quite sure if I’d ever hear that again.”
Thomas, of course, is referring to his up-and-down 2009-10 campaign, in which he finished the season with a 17-18-8 record to go along with a 2.56 goals-against average and .915 save percentage. He ultimately ceded the starting job to Tuukka Rask by the playoffs.
Thomas bounced back in a big way this year, though. He went 35-11-9 and led the NHL in both goals-against average (2.00) and save percentage (.938). That .938 mark was good enough to break Dominik Hasek‘s single-season save percentage record.
“I definitely have more appreciation just for the fact that I have the opportunity to play,” Thomas said. “I waited a long time in my career just for the opportunity to play in any NHL games. I wanted to have the opportunity and wanted to be able to show what I could do. And so after last year, I think it’s made every game a little bit sweeter this year.”
Claude Julien said Thomas not only deserves the nomination, but that he also deserves to win the award.
“I think it’s pretty obvious to me that Tim is very deserving of that nomination,” Julien said. “Obviously I’m a big fan of what he’s done this year, and if you ask me, he certainly deserves it. I’m sure that I would get some arguments from other places, but I’m certainly going to support Tim for the season he’s had. Especially with what he went through last year, to bounce back this year and have that kind of season, he’s certainly very deserving. I wish him all the luck and I hope he wins what he deserves.”
Thomas said that although the nomination is great and he’s certainly happy about it, he’s focused on more pressing matters right now.
“Only if you make it,” Thomas said when asked if the nomination could be a distraction. “It’s weird timing that we happen to be in the middle of a very tough first-round series. … I could talk about it right now, but my focus will immediately go back to the playoff series. I won’t be thinking about the Vezina later today.”
“I talked with Mike Murphy of the NHL this morning and explained the same thing I told you guys last night,” Ference said. “He said the same thing, that it looks awful. Obviously with this series, the whole year, how it is between the Habs and the Bruins, a fine is acceptable. I had a good talk with him this morning.”
Ference stood by his claim that the gesture was unintentional. After the game, he said his glove might have gotten caught with the finger up, but that he wasn’t trying to do that.
“I was pumping my fist,” he said on Friday. “I’m not giving anybody the bird or anything like that. Like I told [the NHL], it was an unintentional bird. I obviously apologize for it. It wasn’t meant to insult anybody, especially a whole row of cameras in the Bell Centre and the fans sitting there.”
Claude Julien stood by his defenseman.
“With Andrew, I think he’s been pretty open with what he thinks of the situation,” Julien said. “His comments were pretty clear, and I’m going to support my player. That’s my job, is to support and believe your player, and that’s what I’m going to do. He’s a big boy, he’s capable of handling himself.”
MONTREAL — To say that Michael Ryder has been the whipping boy of Bruins fans is an understatement. The $4 million man was far from that for too long after the Bruins’ Feb. 9 win over the Canadiens. The free-agent-to-be totaled just two goals over his final 25 games, and was even a healthy scratch three times.
Since the playoffs began, fans and some media members have lobbied for Ryder to watch them from the press box in order to make room for Tyler Seguin in the lineup.
On Thursday, Ryder showed that Claude Julien‘s decision to stick with him was the right one, ending his lengthy disappearing act with a pair of goals in Game 5 against the Canadiens, including the game-winner in overtime. Julien has coached Ryder everywhere from juniors to the AHL to Montreal to Boston, so it was only fitting that Ryder prove Julien right at Bell Centre.
‘I’ve been with him for a while,’ Ryder said of Julien. ‘Just for him to give me the ice time and give me the confidence, for me, it just gives me that extra boost to show people that I can still play and still got it.’
Ryder’s big night began when he tied the game at one in the second period, beating Habs netminder Carey Price with a wrist shot after taking a pass from Tomas Kaberle. From there, the weight was finally off the struggling winger’s shoulders.
‘You always get a little frustrated when you don’t score and you don’t get that many opportunities, but it was definitely a confidence boost,’ Ryder said. ‘Hopefully now our line keeps generating stuff, helping to do whatever we can to help this team.’
He would go on to assist Chris Kelly‘s game-tying goal at 13:42 of the third period, which marked the third time in the game that the B’s came back to tie it up. They actually never led in the game until Ryder beat Price for the game-winner just 119 seconds into overtime.
‘I’m happy for Rydes,’ Shawn Thornton said of the winger. ‘A couple of guys talked about it before, he usually plays pretty well in this building,’ Shawn Thornton said of the former Canadien. ‘I’m happy his hard work paid off. Maybe some people in Boston will lay off him now. He’s a good guy.’
|Andrew Ference denies giving Canadiens fans ‘the finger’||04.21.11 at 11:02 pm ET|
MONTREAL — Following their Game 4 win over the Canadiens, Bruins defenseman Andrew Ference denied any intention of making an obscene gesture at Habs fans following his second-period goal. Following his tally, which at the time made it a 3-2 game, the veteran was caught on camera giving the middle finger to the crowd.
‘Coach just showed me it, and it looks awful,’ Ference said following the win. ‘I just saw it and I can assure you that’s not part of my repertoire. I don’t know if my glove got caught up. I can assure you, that’s not part of who I am or what I ever have been. So it looks awful, I admit it, I completely apologize to how it looks. You guys have covered me long enough to know that that’s not part of my repertoire.
‘I was putting my fist in the air,’ he added. ‘I’m sorry it does look awful. I just saw it.’
Ference can be fined up to $2,500 for the gesture.
‘Honestly, I have no idea,’ he said of whether he’ll pay for it. ‘It looks really bad, but all I can do is tell you the truth and that’s the truth.’
Coach Claude Julien said in his postgame press conference that he had not seen the play.
MONTREAL — Claude Julien doesn’t like to share certain things in press conferences. Questions about the lineup or goaltending are generally met with something along the lines of a short, “I guess we’ll see tonight.” On Thursday, however, Julien decided to share his sense of humor.
Following the Bruins’ morning skate, a reporter asked Julien if he saw a difference in the overall mindset of the team following their trip to Lake Placid this week. The usually serious Julien saw the opportunity and took it.
“Yeah, I saw a miracle, in case you’re looking for that word,” Julien said, referencing the 1980 Miracle on Ice and causing an eruption of laughter from the packed room of reporters and cameramen.
“No,” he continued. “I think we just went there and wanted to go and relax and have some quality practices. We weren’t looking for any miracles, we just thought that was a good place for the team to be. We went out on the ice and skated the same way we skated the last time we were here.”
“Thanks,” the reporter said, to which an amused Julien shot back, “you’re welcome.”
“We all got our quote,” another reporter mused. “We can leave now.”