|B’s getting defensive about tonight||05.12.10 at 1:24 pm ET|
PHILADELPHIA — While Zdeno Chara wears the ‘C’ as captain, Mark Stuart’s return has been a steadying influence in the Bruins dressing room.
He missed the last two weeks of the regular season with an infection following surgery on his pinkie. And then he missed the opening round against Buffalo and the first three games against the Flyers. When he finally returned in Game 4 of this series against the Flyers, a quiet leader had returned to the Bruins dressing room.
That leadership was on full display on Wednesday morning when asked if he and his fellow defensemen need to get more offensive pressure on just-returning Flyers goalie Michael Leighton after getting just two shots on net in Monday’s 4-0 loss.
“Obviously, we want to get as many shots as we can,” Stuart said. “We didn’t do a great job of that last game. Tonight’s a new night here. If we can just forget about last game and quit talking about it and go play tonight.”
“Anybody who’s been out for a long time, it just doesn’t come back overnight,” Julien added. “What you need to see is a guy getting better and better and I think Mark was better in the second game than he was in the first and hopefully he’ll be better in the third than he was in the second so it’s like every player that comes back, you hope that they get better as they move on here.
“Mark, to me, was a much better player than he was in the first and hopefully, that continues.”
Just as obvious to the Bruins is the mission at hand tonight. They are hoping to avoid the pressure of a do-or-die Game 7 back in Boston on Friday night by beat the Philadelphia Flyers tonight at the Wachovia Center. The Bruins now lead the series, 3-2, after dropping the last two games while the Flyers have gained momentum with star Simon Gagne back in the lineup.
Stuart is not the only defenseman looking to pick up his game after not getting a shot on net. Matt Hunwick was also blanked on the shot chart.
“I think we just need to relax a little bit more and not hold the stick too tight and just play how we played the first three games,” Hunwick said. “We battled the first three games. They were tight, they were close but we found ways to win. I think we can look back on those efforts and we should do a little bit better tonight.”
As for the Bruins getting together for Kumbaya, Unbuntu or any other team-building the night before Game 6, Julien said there was no need.
“I don’t think there was anything special [Tuesday] night. We didn’t do a team dinner but I think our guys, in order to have success, we can’t be tense,” Julien said following this morning’s optional pre-game skate at the Wachovia Center. “Being relaxed is maybe not even the right word but in the right frame of mind and hopefully that’s what we show tonight when we start the game.”
The Flyers can become the first NHL team since 1976 to force a Game 7 after being down 3-0 with a win on home ice tonight and are looking to become the fourth major pro sports team to win a series after being in a 3-0 hole.
‘We haven’t talked about it much,’ admitted Flyers coach Peter Laviolette Wednesday. ‘Certainly everybody understands the difficult challenge that an 0-3 series presents. That’s part of the story you write through the course of the playoffs if you’re able to get through it, it’s part of the story. Our guys are well aware of it. Certainly they know not many teams get an opportunity at something like this. Any time you can put your name to a positive mark in history like that, it certainly would be a good thing.’
For the Flyers, head coach Peter Laviolette indicated that forward Claude Giroux would be ready for Game 6 after being held out of the third period on Monday after a hit to the boards from Steve Begin.
|Taking the edge off the Bruins||05.11.10 at 2:30 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — Somebody needs to take a little bit of an edge off these Bruins.
Captain Zdeno Chara made a half-admission after Game 5 on Monday night that the team may have been a touch nervous heading into what could have been a series-clinching victory.
I don’t know if we were maybe a little bit nervous. It’s hard to explain and really find words for it so for sure we didn’t play with the composure we were playing with,” Chara said Monday. “Maybe it wasn’t nervous, it was just’¦ we couldn’t make those plays we normally do, strong plays with the puck, plays that we are normally doing and all of the sudden it was tough for us to make those plays.”
In the grand world of hockey cliches, this is what is called “clutching the stick.” The Bruins need someone, be it Johnny Boychuk and his eccentric antics, Shawn Thornton and his smile and his wife’s cooking or Claude Julien putting “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” on repeat on the team plane.
“Everybody can keep it loose and there is no reason to tense up and grip the sticks too tight,” Boychuk said. “We know what we have to do and just go out there and do it. There are times to keep loose and times to focus and we know that and that is what we have been trying to do.”
Thornton was of the opinion that, heading into Game 5, the team was relatively loose and had a good energy level. For the most part the Bruins tend to be a loose team. Chara and Patrice Bergeron are serious with the media and on the ice but there are moments when you catch them joking around with the guys. Thornton thinks that everybody on the team has a role to play in taking the edge off. He would not name specific characters for fear of being labeled the jokester by the coaching staff.
“We have got a few guys who like to keep things loose. It wasn’t too tense today [Tuesday,” Thornton said. “We did a pretty good job of forgetting about losses and forgetting about wins and moving on. We learned some things today and move on to the next one. There is nothing you can do. There was only seven on the ice but before the game too, there was a lot of energy. I don’t know. We definitely didn’t play the game we wanted to but honestly I thought going into it that we felt pretty good.”
Coach Claude Julien agreed that everybody on the teams plays their part in keeping the room loose and said that, when it really come down to it, winning is what puts a smiles on everyone’s face.
“We all have a part to do in that. I am telling you right now that we have too put yesterday aside and learn from it,” Julien said. “That is what the players have to do and so do the coaches. You know, we have to take the same approach as a group and that is what we have done here. We have to focus as a group and do what we need to do tomorrow and hopefully those are good things and that we can come back with smiles on our faces.”
|Bergeron the stick that stirs Bruins offense||05.10.10 at 12:30 pm ET|
For all the talk about Miroslav Satan, his hands and his legions or Mark Recchi and how he is the remarkable ageless one during these 2010 Stanley Cup playoffs, it is Patrice Bergeron who actually leads the Bruins in points this postseason.
Bergeron has four goals and seven assists through the first 11 games of the playoffs and he has been a difference-maker on both sides of the blue line. One has to wonder, though, if a guy like Bergeron, known especially to be a great defensive forward who is strong on the faceoff, purposely started to ramp up his offensive production. It seems in the nature of a guy like Bergeron, quiet yet with a developed sense of responsibility, to take it upon himself to create more offense for a team that struggled to light the lamp throughout the year.
“If you play defensively sound and it starts for a good offense. You know, I have always done that and it has been going well,” Bergeron said. “I think right now, I don’t think I am doing anything different, it is just going in. Obviously we needed it in the playoffs and everyone wants to chip in anyway possible and you know, right now, I am just happy that it is going the way it and and I just want it to keep on going.”
Bergeron leads the team in playoff shots at 33 (two more than Michael Ryder, four more Satan and six more than the nearest defensemen, Zdeno Chara and Johnny Boychuk at 27). He is second in assists (Dennis Wideman leads with nine) and has been dominant on the faceoff dot against the likes of Flyers captain Mike Richards or Sabres center Derek Roy. He posted his first sub-50 percent faceoff game of the playoffs on Friday in Game 4 but his numbers in the circle have been closer to 60 and 70 percent for most games this postseason.
“I think in Game 4 we didn’t do as good on the faceoff that we would have liked to so, it is huge to get the puck back and work with the puck and play a puck possession game and we have done a great job of that,” Bergeron said. “So, obviously we want to start with the puck more often to start with the puck as much as we can.”
It is not like Bergeron has all of a sudden flipped a switch in terms of offensive efficiency. He led the Bruins in point at 52 this year, which is not a lot in consideration with the NHL points leaders but still not a paltry sum. But, as the Bruins offense has come awake during the playoffs, either by good fortune that was not present during the regular season or increased efforts by guys like Recchi and Satan in the offensive zone, Bergeron by been the swizzle in the Bruins coffee.
Bruins coach Claude Julien knows that it is the responsibility of his players to play a good two-way game, such as the standard is Bergeron. The center was chosen for the Canadian Olympic team because of his defensive prowess and responsibility. For the Bruins, that approach has also turned into points on the scoreboard.
“We expect everybody to play a good two-way game. We always encourage our guys to be proactive offensively and we want them to be responsible defensively that is what you want in a well rounded team,” Juliens said. “That is what we have encouraged all year, whether is has happened or not, the way we like it, that is a different story. But, to have those guys do that it just makes us a better hockey team and certainly we encourage our guys to be more proactive.”
|Sunday notes: Pressure? What pressure for Game 5?||05.09.10 at 3:18 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — Pressure?
There has been a lot of talk in this Eastern Conference semifinals series about where the pressure lays. Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said that the pressure is on the Bruins before Game 4, Mark Recchi said afterward that he does not see where Laviolette gets that notion. Really though, we are talking about pressure. It is like talking about “character” — some esoteric notion that you know exists and it effects how a team plays and is perceived but it cannot be quantitated or examined until well after the point of pressure and high anxiety has passed.
“I feel that every game there has got to be a sense of urgency and that is the way we have approached it,” coach Claude Julien said. “Some people call it pressure some people call it something else. You put the pressure on yourself to do well because we want to do well. I think pressure is something that, if you handle well, is a great thing to have on your side. If you can’t handle it well it is certainly something that can be detrimental to your team.”
Part of the reason the Bruins may have been playing so well through the playoffs is that their definition of “pressure” may have worn off. The ultimate embarrassment for Boston would have been to not qualify for the playoffs at all a season after having the best record in the Eastern Conference and starting the year as one of the Stanley Cup favorites. In that regard there was more pressure through the end of March into April than there has been during the playoffs.
“Well, we have been better for quite a while. We did it when we got into the playoffs. This is a better team and you move on from there,” Julien said. “There was a sense of urgency or whatever you want to call it before the playoffs started so, we have gone through that and are adjusting to it right now. I find we are very focused team right now. We just have to keep that in the right direction and for us, everybody game is a must-win. So, no matter what, every game is a must win, we take that approach and it has served us well.”
After making the tournament and getting out of the first round, the fear of embarrassment or failure, which might be a good definition of pressure, has not been present. They are able to go out and play hard and have fun while working hard. It is the playoffs, it is supposed to be fun because, after all, hockey is just a game.
“You can’t play this game and not have fun. You guys can’t do your job and not enjoy it. Otherwise, might as well changed your job right?” Julien said. “It is the same thing for players. You have to go out and love this time of year. There’s a bunch of teams right now watching us play that would love to be where we are and that is fun. We have to take that approach and we have taken that approach. We have come into the dressing room after a period either down a couple of goals or tied or whatever and say ‘guys, lets just go out there and win this game and have fun doing it.’ And the guys have taken that approach and it has worked well for us.”
Notes: The full compliment of healthy Bruins skaters were present at Ristuccia with Adam McQuaid the only player who might have been a possibility missing. He is still out with a “lower-body injury” and remains doubtful for Monday’s Game 5. It is not likely that McQuaid would play either as Mark Stuart has come back to the lineup and, after a poor Game 4, feels that he will be able to get back up to mental and physical speed in his second playoff game of the year.
“Yeah, it was a little different actually, I felt like I was crashing the party,” Stuart said. “I thought my emotion level would be there because of the playoffs and it definitely was because of the situation and the intensity is way up and everything is faster. I think I will be up to speed tomorrow.”
Dennis Seidenberg skated on the Ristuccia ice after the rest of the team had completed its practice and was worked out by trainer John Whitesides. Seidenberg has been on the ice for two days in a row now as he battles back from a lacerated tendon suffered in Toronto on April 3. He had a hard cast taken off the left forearm last Monday to reveal a long, horizontal scar five inches up from his wrist. He is not expected to be back until at least eight weeks after the surgery but Julien said that it has been encouraging to gets guys back into the lineup even as big performers (Marco Sturm, David Krejci) have hit the infirmary.
“Any time you see that kind of thing around your team it is a positive,” Julien said. “We have been hit this week with some big injuries but then you look at the other side and you see some other guys start to come around. So, hopefully we continue to win hockey games to give those guys and opportunity to come back.”
|Morning notes: Gagne a game-time decision||05.07.10 at 1:55 pm ET|
PHILADELPHIA — The Broad Street faithful are hoping to see one of their old friends on the ice at the Wachovia Center on Friday and hope that he will be able to continue their season, if only just a little bit longer.
Simon Gagne will be a game-time decision for Game 4 after having surgery on a broken toe on April 23 after the fourth game of the quarterfinals against the Devils. Gagne skated at the Flyers practice facility in Vorhees, NJ on Thursday but did not take part in Philadelphia’s morning Friday. He was the only Flyers player to [officially] address the media before Game 4 and said that he will take part in warmups and consult with the athletic trainer and doctors before making a decision on whether or not he will play.
“There is no need right now to go out there and skate. I am going to wait in my warmup and put all the chance on my side and decide from there,” Gagne said.
Gagne had an MRI on the toe on Thursday after practice to make sure it had not moved or been displaced during the skate. All results were OK and now it just seems like how much pain he can withstand and how much the injury will allow him to contribute.
“I am going to have to talk to the trainer after warmup and tell him how I feel and get the call from the doctor,” Gagne said. “I talked to him yesterday and we went and got that MRI and we talked a little bit about what I have to look for to be able to play. Do, like I said, I need to get ready for warmup and we will chat with Jimmy [McCrossin — athletic trainer] after warmup and then we will decide if we are good to go.”
Coach Peter Laviolette said in his morning news conference that the emotional benefit from getting a player back is fleeting when it comes to the work it takes to win a hockey game. He would talk nothing of assumptions concerning whether or not Gagne would play or what his minutes would be other than to say that he probably would not spend much time on the penalty kill.
“When the players return I think there has to be more than the bang that you might get in the first minute,” Laviolette said. “There is so much work that has to be done throughout the course of the game and even when a player, when he does return, I think it is important that they are contributing factors. Maybe you get a quick boost but there is a lot of work to be done. Boston won’t put a lot of stock into a player when he returns to the lineup.”
The Flyers are going to need all the help they can get if they want to climb back into this series. Gagne admitted that a Game 4 timetable was not on his mind, he figured, at best, Game 5, perhaps later in the series. A player has to do what a player has to do. It is playoff hockey.
“To be honest with you, I was looking toward Game 5 or maybe the end of the series, but I started to actually feel pretty good before Game 3,” Gagne said. “It is the playoffs and right now we are against the wall and we have to win and we are not allowed to lose any games. It is right there and if I feel good enough to play, I will be there.”
Laviolette expects the Flyers to play to win Friday night, regardless of the status of Simon Gagne. He went so far as to say that the pressure had shifted to the Bruins, which is not all that unreasonable. The fourth game is always the hardest to claim. Boston found that out in Game 5 of the quarterfinals against the Sabres.
“I would expect us to play a really good hockey game,” Laviolette said. “We had a good practice yesterday, had a good meeting. Our backs are up against the wall but the pressure really shifts to Boston at this point, not so much on us. I would think our guys are going to come out with one heck of an effort tonight.”
Morning notes — The Bruins had a full team practice while only a couple Flyers took part in the morning skate, reversed from the situation on Thursday we Philadelphia had a full team practice and the Boston had a workout day (in Bruins parlance, that means they played soccer in the hallway of the Wachovia center). Shawn Thornton did not skate for the Bruins and coach Claude Julien said that “he exercised his option” on whether to skate or not. An interesting choice for a player who does not have a contract after the season ends. Trent Whitfield is the probably replacement for David Krejci in the Bruins lineup as Julien likes the idea of having five true centermen in the lineup but the decision between him and Brad Marchand will be made after warmups.
|Julien has to make decisions for Game 4||05.06.10 at 3:34 pm ET|
PHILADELPHIA — The Bruins are focused.
It could be sensed on Wednesday which team is walking the concentrated, confident path and which one a little bit lost in the dark. The Bruins have the swagger, the Flyers need a flashlight.
So, when it comes to the loss of a key guy like David Krejci, the collective Boston dressing room bucks up and comes together to continue down the road. It is a key loss, for sure, but it is not like these Bruins have not been dealing with it all season. They lost Marc Savard to a Grade 2 concussion for two months and have been without two of their top for defenders in Mark Stuart and Dennis Seidenberg throughout the playoffs. Yet, here they are, one game away from the Eastern Conference finals.
“It is never easy to lose guys like that. We’ve got two guys in our top four ‘D’s’ who are out of our lineup still,” coach Claude Julien said. “It is part of the game. It is one that you can’t dwell on because it takes away your focus on what you need to do to succeed so as a coach you look at what you got there and you have to make the best of what you got.”
Julien has not yet made a decision on who will replace Krejci in the lineup, it will be either Trent Whitfield or Brad Marchand but the coach also has to figure out who will take rookie defenseman Adam McQuaid’s spot as well. The blue liner was lost for the rest of Game 3 after being hit behind the net in the first period on Wednesday and tallied three shifts for 1:49 of ice time. Julien said on Thursday that he had a “lower-body injury” and is “very doubtful” for Game 4. His options in the cupboard are either Andy Wozniewski, Andrew Bodnarchuk, Jeff Penner or maybe, just maybe, Stuart.
“He suffered what we would call a ‘lower body injury,’ in the playoffs. Basically, very doubtful for tomorrow but then will be a day-to-day situation,” Julien said of McQuaid.
There is still no word on medical clearance for Stuart coming back from a cellulitis infection in his left pinky. He has been skating and practicing but has not been fully cleared to get into a game. McQuaid going down will not speed up the timetable for Stuart and Julien reserves the right to make the decision on if the defender is ready when he does get clearance.
“No, we are not going to accelerate [Stuart],” Julien said. “If [Stuart] ever plays it is because he is ready to play and he is also a guy who, when I say re-evaluted, we haven’t gotten clearance from the medical staff yet but he has been cleared for full practice so all we need now is full clearance. If we do have that tomorrow, whether we get it or not, then it will be our decision.”
Stuart has been practicing with an IV cast that he moves around his arms and is still on antibiotics until May 25th. He feels he has good conditioning and has repeatedly stated the desire to get into the playoffs as soon as he is cleared. On Thursday he skated with Penner, Wozniewski, Bodnarchuk, Whitfield and Marchand along with goaltenders Tim Thomas and Dany Sabourin. Outside of the net minders, pluck two players from that list, perhaps Bodnarchuk and Whitfield as a first guess, and insert them into the Bruins lineup for Game 4 on Friday.
“I think we have a lot of guys who have been around our team for a while now and we will keep that decision probably for tomorrow,” Julien said. “I still got a whole day to sort things out here and we have a lot of guys capable of jumping in and doing the job here. It is a matter of picking and choosing who we want. So, there are still a couple of question marks. We talk about Stuart, we talk about the other ‘D’s’ available, we are definitely going to need a guy there and definitely going to need another forward. So, there will be two new additions in our lineup tomorrow.”
On a separate injury related note, Seidenberg had his hard cast removed from his left forearm on Monday to reveal a two to three inch scar from where he suffered a tendon laceration. He wears a splint over it and has been working out though not yet able to take the ice. He is about four weeks through the eight weeks of expected recovery time which might make him available if the Bruins go to the Stanley Cup Finals.
|A little rest for the heavy hitters||05.04.10 at 1:42 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — It is easy to forget through the first two rounds of the playoffs that the Bruins are still operating without some significant depth on the blue line. Mark Stuart started skating this week, coming back from surgery for cellulitis, and Dennis Seidenberg has been a regular press box presence at TD Garden, but otherwise the injured players are in the forgotten man ether that comes with the disabled list. The de facto top four defensemen — Zdeno Chara, Johnny Boychuk, Dennis Wideman and Matt Hunwick — have logged big minutes since the last week of the regular season and even though coach Claude Julien has stepped off the throttle with them a little bit as Andrew Ference has contributed and rookie Adam McQuaid has settled down, the top two pairs are still the oxen pulling the cart.
Hence, all four blueliners got the day off on Tuesday at Ristuccia Arena between Games 3 and 4 of the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Flyers. Julien dresssed six the three Black Aces the Bruins have up with the team — Andy Wozniewski, Jeff Penner and Andrew Bodnarchuk, along with Stuart, Ference and McQuaid.
“I think it is just a matter of giving a few guys some days off here and doing something different,” Julien said. “We can still get them on the ice before the game tomorrow morning. It is just about managing that stuff.”
The other heavy hitters in the Bruins lineup got to sit Tuesday as well including Patrice Bergeron, Mark Recchi and Tuukka Rask. A minor reward for carrying the team to a 6-2 record through eight games but nothing major. The rest of the team only skated for a half-hour or so as it has a quite turnaround for a 1:30 p.m. flight to Philadelphia.
In terms of Stuart, the defenseman is not yet ready to make the jump back to the lineup. He has been skating for the last week and only with the full team a couple of times as of yet. He said on Tuesday that he is still on antiobiotics (until May 25) and still wears an IV cast like thing on his right arm. With him around the team people cannot help but ask if he will be ready for Game 3 but the situation is not as simple as a workout or practice. He will not be on the ice Wednesday night and the team still has to wait for medical clearance as well as for Stuart to get back to a level where he can contribute.
“Definitely no … He is not playing tomorrow, he is not ready for that yet,”Julien said. “It is a situation where he has to be medically cleared and what he has got is a bone infection. He can practice now is what we have been told, he can do some things but before we can ever consider him he has to be medically cleared and feel that he is ready to go as well.”
Stuart sees a defensive unit that has been playing well through the playoffs and knows he will have to be ready to contribute when he does finally make his return to the ice.
“It is not like we don’t have six D-men playing their best right now, cause we do,” Stuart said. “It is not going to help to play a guy who hasn’t done anything for two months just to rush him back. So, I feel good out there though and obviously I want to play but it is going to be a coaches decision when they feel like I can contribute and they feel like they need me and I will just be ready whenever that comes.”
Here are the lines from Tuesday’s skate:
Red — Begin, Shawn Thornton, Vladimir Sobotka
Defense — Wozniewski, Penner, Bodnarchuk, Ference, McQuaid, Stuart
Goaltenders — Tim Thomas, Dany Sabourin
Out — Chara, Boychuk, Wideman, Hunwick, Bergeron, Recchi, Rask
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