|From the stat truck: Do Bruins make good first impressions vs. opponents?||03.15.11 at 12:27 am ET|
With the stretch run upon the Bruins, Claude Julien‘s club obviously has an undesirable streak to snap. Winless over their last four, the B’s need to show that their 0-2-2 slump won’t continue at a part of the season in which each point is placed under a microscope.
There are multiple issues facing the team as they return to the road, like the sudden tendency to blow multi-goal leads, as was the case when they saw both the Sabres and Islanders come back in games in which the Bruins led by two. It will be focused on heavily, but it isn’t the only thing to keep an eye on.
Despite having just 14 games remaining in the regular season, this week will also be all about making a good first impression. Both Tuesday and Thursday’s games will come against opponents the B’s have yet to face this season in the Blue Jackets and Thrashers, respectively.
To this point of the season, the Bruins have fared decently against teams when facing them for the first time. Per the good ol’ WEEI.com stat truck, they have a 14-10-2 records in such games. For the sake of comparison, the results have been worse than the Flyers’ 16-6-6 mark and better than the Canadiens’ 12-9-2.
Looking at things more recently, the B’s have fared well of late in their first meetings with teams. Since Jan. 22, the B’s have played seven opponents for the first time this season (all of whom, unsurprisingly, were Western Conference teams). The Bruins went 5-2-0 against those clubs, losing to only the Red Wings and Sharks, who are currently second and third in the Western Conference, respectively. They beat the Flames, Presidents’ Trophy-favorite Canucks and Oilers, three teams they hadn’t seen previously this season, in succession Feb. 22-27.
To both snap their winless streak and continue their successful stretch against unfamiliar faces, the B’s will have to bounce back against a Columbus team that has been nothing short of bad lately. The Blue Jackets are just 1-4-3 over their last eight games, with the win coming Saturday against the Hurricanes. While the Blue Jackets have had their fair share of struggles of late, looking at how they’ve fared in their first meetings with clubs might suggest they shouldn’t be taken lightly. In facing 26 teams for the first time this season (as many as the Bruins have entering Tuesday), Columbus has gone 15-8-3.
To round things out, the Predators are 13-8-5 when seeing a team for the first time this season, losing their last two such contests. Of course, those losses came against the top two teams in the NHL in the Canucks and Flyers, and the Predators have gotten points in six of their last seven games (4-1-2).
These stats aren’t everything, and when it comes down to it, execution, consistency and holding onto leads will likely be the biggest factors this week for the Bruins. Still, it will be interesting to see if the Bruins’ recent string of success when seeing a team for the first time continues, or whether the funk they’ve been in over their last four games will persist.
After Thursday’s game in Nashville, the Bruins will have faced 28 of the other 29 teams in the league thus far this season, missing only the Blackhawks, whom they’ll see March 29 at the Garden.
|What Zdeno Chara and the Bruins learned Saturday night||03.07.11 at 10:11 am ET|
One loss following a very impressive seven-game winning streak is hardly cause for alarm. And that’s especially true since the Bruins managed a point Saturday night when they didn’t play their best game and found a way to tie it with 32.5 seconds left in regulation.
But there was a lesson to be learned. Just asked Zdeno Chara. If you don’t skate hard against a hungry team, you’ll likely wind up on the losing end.
The captain gave the Bruins the lead, 1-0, just under eight minutes into the second period. But from then on, the B’s seem to take a collective breath and relax as the Pens picked up their intensity and took it to them in every way.
They took more shots, delivered more hits and until the final 33 seconds, scored more goals.
“We didn’t have our best game, that’s for sure,” Chara said. “We were just, we had heavy legs, we didn’t skate well, we didn’t move the puck well. On the other side Pittsburgh played extremely well. They put a lot of pressure on us. They took away space and time and we couldn’t create much.”
All of this from a Penguins team that came in losing 6-of-7 and had lost in overtime 24 hours earlier in New Jersey.
“I think it was mostly us, we weren’t moving our feet at all,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said. “We were second to the puck. At the same time, you couldn’t establish a physical game because you never got there on time. So they were on the puck and we were doing a lot of watching, I thought in the second period and they just took the game away from us at that point.”
“They even they had back to back games,” Chara added. “They had pretty good jump and energy. It almost felt like we were the team who played last night. But it’s going to happen. You’re going to have games like this where we were just slow and not moving the puck as well as we used to. But we worked extremely hard in the third and earned that point. That’s the positive. Obviously we’d like to get two but it happens.”
But now, following the end of the winning streak, the Bruins know they have to pick it back up with a big division game Tuesday night in Montreal. The Canadiens have won four straight and 5-of-6. They trail the Bruins by just five points in the Northeast.
No reason for the Bruins not to have their legs under them for this one.
|Pens show Bruins they’re a lot more than just Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin||03.05.11 at 11:10 pm ET|
Without superstars Sidney Crosby [concussion] and Evgeni Malkin [right knee], the Penguins got two goals from HBO “24/7″ star Dustin Jeffrey, including the game winner less than two minutes into overtime to come away with a 3-2 win over the Bruins, snapping Boston’s seven-game winning streak.
Crosby or no Crosby, Malkin or no Malkin, the Penguins played exactly the kind of hockey that wins in the playoffs. It’s not superstar hockey, it’s team hockey. What exactly is that?
“They’re a lot more hard-working,” Bruins defenseman Johnny Boychuk said. “Their hard work takes over [for] their skill. When they have those other guys in, there’s a lot of skill in there and they still work hard, but they try to make different plays than they would if they had those guys in the lineup. They just got the [puck] in deep and just tried to keep as much time in our zone as possible.”
B’s coach Claude Julien had his own take.
“Obviously, they’re missing some star players,” Julien noted. “We thought one of our best forwards tonight was missing, too. You have to adjust to those kinds of things and what it boils down to is the team play. And that’s what they did tonight, they played a good team game.
“They were forechecking hard, they were on top of us. Even when we got the puck in the neutral zone, they didn’t give us much time. They really skated hard and took away our time and space and they did a good job of that. I think that’s where their success came from tonight. When you work hard enough, eventually you get rewarded, and they got a break there at the end and were able to score in OT.”
|Pre-game notes: Shawn Thornton says cool it with the 1972 comparisons||03.03.11 at 1:18 pm ET|
No time for celebration, as the Bruins, fresh off a 6-0-0 road trip, are back at the Garden for a huge game with the Lightning on Thursday. The teams are tied with 81 points apiece through 63 games, with the B’s holding the tie-breaker for second place given that they’ve won less games via shootout.
It will be Tim Thomas between the pipes, as he’ll put his 28-8-6 record on the line after last playing Saturday night in Vancouver. Tuukka Rask started the Bruins’ last two, earning victories over the Oilers and Senators.
Thomas is 2-0-0 in two starts against Tampa Bay, allowing four goals with a .944 save percentage.
While the Bruins have won their last six, the Lightning have gone 3-2-1 in the same span. They lost a 2-1 contest to the red-hot Devils on Wednesday.
Here are some pre-game notes:
– Comparisons are nice, but even Roger Clemens would say people are beating references to 1972’s perfect six-game road trip with a dead horse.
“I don’t look at it at all,” Shawn Thornton said after the morning skate. “I honestly don’t. It’s purely a coincidence as far as I’m concerned.
“We’ve got a six game thing going here, and it doesn’t matter about anything else. We’re just trying to get seven in a row and then eight in a row. We’ll take it one at time here.”
“He got examined yesterday by our doctors and things are going extremely well for him,” Julien said. “We hope to see him back on the ice the beginning of next week. That could be as early as Sunday if things keep going well.”
– No Vincent Lecavalier for the Lightning. He’s out with a mid-body injury on which the Lightning haven’t elaborated much.
– The three new guys in Tomas Kaberle, Rich Peverley and Chris Kelly will play in the Garden as Bruins for the first time Thursday. Kaberle and Kelly have played five games for the B’s since being acquired via trade, while Peverley has four under his belt.
While Bruins fans will welcome all three to the Garden, the focus will likely be on Kaberle, who was the big fish of trade season. Neither of the newcomers have lost a game as a member of the Bruins, and after years of limited team success in Toronto, that’s something Kaberle welcomes.
“My first six years I played in the playoffs every year. The last five, it wasn’t there. It’s tough to always answer the questions to the media of ‘why not,'” Kaberle said after the morning skate. “Hopefully we’ll have a good rest of the season and prepare for the playoffs.”
Kaberle said he is feeling more and more comfortable as he familiarizes himself with the Bruins way.
“I feel good. Obviously it’s a great team. Every line’s got something on the ice, and everybody can score. It’s nice to see that, and with two goalies behind us, we feel pretty comfortable.”
– Kaberle is undoubtedly the biggest name the team added when the moves were made, but Kelly and Peverley are fitting in very nicely on the third line. Both were among the leagues better faceoff men at the time they were acquired, and having both taking draws and killing penalties is something Julien likes to see.
“Right now, you’ve got to be extremely pleased with first of all [Peverley’s] faceoffs, how dominant he’s been on draws,” Julien said. “With that line you’ve got a guy taking him on the strong side, and Kelly, a lefty and a righty, so you’ve got to be comfortable with that situation.”
“At the same time I think both Kelly and Peverley have seemed to have built some pretty quick chemistry there on the penalty kill as well. They seem to read off each other extremely well.”
– Thornton doesn’t want the new guys’ ability to come in and contribute immediately to go unnoticed. All three players have wound up on the scoring sheet since joining the B’s.
“They’re a big part of it too. These guys came in and stepped in seamlessly,” Thornton said. “It’s been a really easy transition for us and them.”
– How about this one from the stat truck? Over the last 10 games, Tyler Seguin has more goals than Steven Stamkos. Take that, development.
Well, not exactly. By Stamkos’ standards, the Tampa Bay star is in a slump as far as goals go. He has just two over the last 10 games (Seguin has three), but continues to lead the league with 41. Seguin has no points over his last four games.
|Rich Peverley: ‘I want to get better’||02.20.11 at 1:33 pm ET|
Newly acquired Bruins forward Rich Peverley put on a Bruins sweater for the first time Sunday as he practiced with his teammates at Ristuccia Arena. After the skate, he reflected on the trade.
“It was a bit of a surprise, but [Thrashers coach] Craig Ramsey told me this was a team that has a chance to win,” Peverley said. “It’s a big thrill to be a part of a really historic organization and come into a team that has a chance to go pretty far in the playoffs.”
Coach Claude Julien said after practice that he will try the 28-year-old at wing on a line centered by Chris Kelly with Michael Ryder on the other wing. Peverley said he is more comfortable at center, but that he has no problem playing anywhere.
“That’s for the coach to decide. I could play either or,” Peverley said. “I’ve been playing center most of my career. I can play the wing, it’s not a problem. I played it in Nashville and Atlanta. Wherever he wants me to fit in, I’ll try to do that. There’s a lot of good offensive players here with tremendous talent, so I’m just going to try to work and create some chemistry with somebody.”
Peverley had 14 goals and 20 assists for 34 points with Atlanta prior to the trade. With the way he spoke of his season to this point, he figures to hold higher hopes for his days in Boston.
“I was OK,” he said. “To be honest, it was kind of an up and down year. I wasn’t too pleased with my overall production on both ends of the rink. I was kind of hoping that the team would do a little bit better, but I’ve moved on and I’m glad to be here now.
“You always want to get better. You never want to cap yourself or put a ceiling [on your production]. I want to get better, and I’m looking at this as an opportunity to get better. Hopefully I can build on past years.”
Peverley wore No. 47 in Atlanta, but will wear No. 49 with the Bruins. He said he did not approach Steven Kampfer about the rookie potentially giving him his number.
“I’m not going to try to steal any numbers from anybody,” Peverley said. “I’m the new guy coming in. I just want to fit in.”
|Claude Julien: We still need Tuukka Rask||02.11.11 at 10:28 pm ET|
But to be honest, he didn’t exactly need to be The Amazing Kreskin to figure out what the Bruins coach was thinking when he yanked Rask after the second period of Friday’s 6-1 dud against the Red Wings before a displeased Garden crowd.
“I’m not going to start analyzing that,” Rask said. “I thought I deserved to get pulled. I didn’t play to my level today.”
That’s one way of putting it.
Rask admitted he did not have one of his finer performances of the year and that he deserved to get pulled after allowing five goals on 18 shots in two periods. Rask, who fell to 5-11-1, said he had no criticism of coach Julien, who started Tim Thomas in goal to start the third.
Julien said he has not lost confidence in Rask, who allowed goals on the first two shots he faced as the Bruins fell behind 2-0 in the first three minutes and never recovered. The last time Rask was pulled was on New Year’s Day in Buffalo when Rask allowed three in the first, despite the Bruins leading, 4-3.
Julien started him in the next game and Rask was very good in a 2-1 at Toronto.
“We didn’t feel he was as sharp as we needed him to be, that was number one,” Julien said of Rask. “He still made some good saves. I don’t think we didn’t recognize that as well, but he just wasn’t as sharp tonight and after discussing the situation, we just felt that the right thing to do was to give Timmy the third period.” Read the rest of this entry »
|Chara: Bruins need to do ‘everything’ better Sunday||at 10:19 pm ET|
It isn’t surprising that after the 6-1 beatdown the B’s took from the Red Wings on Friday, they’re expecting a little more on Sunday when they face Detroit for the second time in three days. Coach Claude Julien understandably didn’t like what he saw from his team, as the Bruins came out flat against a highly skilled Detroit club with great puck-moving ability, and the Wings dominated throughout the night as a result.
“We weren’t skating tonight. We were second on the puck. Even when they had the puck, I just felt they had lots of time to make plays,” Julien said, adding, “it just seemed that nothing was going to go our way.”
The game left Julien looking to see what type of effort the B’s can give against the Red Wings Sunday in Detroit. The Bruins have won four of their last six games, but it’s games against top teams like the Red Wings (second place in the Western Conference) that will show whether the Bruins can hang with the best the league has to offer.
“We’re a much better team than we showed,” Julien said. “We have another shot and we can see where we stand with teams like Detroit.”
When it comes to tailoring their approach, captain Zdeno Chara says the difference on Sunday will have to be sticking to their game-plan, something that went out the window in the first 1:10 of the game on Todd Bertuzzi‘s first goal of the night.
“I think overall our game has to be better [Sunday],” Chara said. “Everything about it. We were losing battles, we didn’t skate with them, pretty much everything. We were just flat all around.”
The B’s will face the Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena Sunday 12:30 p.m. on Sunday.