|Bruins return to Garden for first time since kicking off hot streak||01.06.11 at 10:33 am ET|
The Bruins have begun to catch fire since pounding the Thrashers, 4-1, at the Garden on Dec. 23. They have points in each of their last six games, coming away with four wins in a stretch that’s seen them go 4-0-2. On Thursday, they face a Wild team that has won two in a row and is two points out of a playoff spot in the Western Conference.
WHERE IT’S AT
– The B’s haven’t played at the Garden since their statement game against the Thrashers, On the season, they are 9-6-3 at home, including their season-opening loss in Prague.
– The Wild are 3-1-1 in their last five away games. Their road record is identical to the Bruins’ home record at 9-6-3.
– It’s been a tale of two Tylers, so to speak, regarding Tyler Seguin and his production at home and on the road. Seguin has picked up just three of his 13 points in home games, and has scored just one goal at TD Garden. Here are his splits:
Home (17 games): 1 G, 2 A, 3 P, minus-5
Road (19 games): 5 G, 5 A, 10 P, plus-7
Milan Lucic is among the guys who have fared just about the same regardless of location. He’s split his 28 points right down the middle, picking up 14 at home and 14 on the road.
– The Bruins have gone 0-for-6 on the power play over their last three games, which suggests they could stand to draw a few more penalties and capitalize when they do so. The Wild have kill off 81.2 percent of their penalties this season, which puts them 19th in the league in penalty kill percentage.
– Minnesota winger Martin Havlat has four assists in his last four games and has totaled 27 this season. The numbers aren’t all pretty for Havlat, as he was a minus-four on Sunday against the Coyotes in a 6-5 overtime loss.
STORYLINES GOING IN
– Who will center the second line? Claude Julien gave Tyler Seguin a good deal of time between Patrice Bergeron and Mark Recchi in the Monday’s 2-1 victory over the Maple Leafs. The coach said Tuesday that he feels comfortable using the two interchangeably in the middle and on the left wing, as Bergeron got plenty of experience at wing early on in his career.
– The Lucic-Savard-Horton line looks as though it has finally gotten going, as it was able to produce goals from both Nathan Horton (his first in nine games) and Marc Savard on Monday. Horton finished the night with a pair of points.
– With the five-game road-trip in the mirror, this game kicks off a rather difficult stretch over the next eight games. Their coming opponents include the Canadiens, Penguins (twice), Flyers, and Hurricanes (twice).
|Tuukka Rask remains a cool customer in dealing with role||01.05.11 at 6:55 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — Right now Tuukka Rask is looking for a happy medium of sorts. Perhaps the most surprising backup goalie of the year, Rask has made just 11 starts this season after emerging as the starter down the stretch and into the playoffs in the 2009-10 campaign.
“It’s different, and I think everybody has to go through it at some point, Rask said Wednesday. “In my short career, I haven’t sat on the bench that much, and this is definitely the most I’ve ever sat. ‘¦ You can’t get satisfied sitting on the bench. You’ve got to work hard and try to find you game and get those wins the team needs.”
The opportunity to get those wins has not been presented to Rask nearly as much as many expected going into the season. Tim Thomas has been the man between the pipes for more than two-thirds of the Bruins’ games thus far, and Rask recently spent seven games straight games on the bench.
With his role so different from what he and a great number of people had anticipated, it’s no wonder that coach Claude Julien has expressed some sort of concern with making sure the goalie stays confident. The remedy for any confidence issues the 23-year-old could be battling is more frequent starts, and results when he does play.
“It’s funny how it goes, confidence-wise when you’re playing a lot and you’re in that groove and you’re feeling good about yourself, and then you don’t play that much,” Rask said. “You shouldn’t be feeling bad, but there’s nothing you can do about it because you haven’t played. You try to find that groove and get on it, but it’s challenging. Hopefully I can find it.”
With Rask’s starts on Saturday and Monday, the Finnish netminder received consecutive starts for the first time all season. Getting the start Monday seemed big for Rask, as he rebounded from a poor first-period showing in Buffalo to a performance in which he shut down the Leafs en route to a 2-1 victory. He said that he approached both games the same way, and that given the circumstances under which he was pulled against the Sabres, the Bruins’ weren’t in too bad of shape at the time of his exit.
“I was still up, 4-3, when I got pulled,” Rask said. “It wasn’t that tough for me to prepare mentally and then try to have that bounce-back feeling. Still, when you get pulled, you don’t want to get pulled twice in a row. You try to earn the trust and earn the win. That’s the only thinking I was thinking.”
Rask is 3-7-1 with a 2.63 goals against average this season. His .927 save percentage would be good for fourth in the NHL if he had enough minutes to qualify.
|Claude Julien defends goaltender switch, saying Bruins ‘needed some bigger saves’||01.01.11 at 10:37 pm ET|
Tuukka Rask, making his first start since Dec. 15, was pulled from the game after allowing three goals on 16 shots in the first period. The B’s led, 4-3, at the time, and went on to lose, 7-6, to the Sabres in a shootout.
Following the game, coach Claude Julien defended the decision in his post-game interview on NESN.
“We felt that we needed some bigger saves,” Julien said. “He hasn’t played in a while, but still, we needed to win this hockey game, so we thought it was important to make that change.”
Rask is 2-7-1 this season.
|With all eyes on them, Bruins can use this week as a turning point||12.23.10 at 2:10 pm ET|
After a lackluster effort on Monday night (a 3-0 loss to the Ducks at the Garden), the Bruins were given two days to figure things out. While the rest of the town (foolishly) talked about whether Claude Julien should begin frequenting Monster.com, the B’s buckled down and did what they deemed necessary to help them regain the promise shown at the beginning of the season. They did so with two gritty, high-energy, high-intensity practices, and as they prepare to face Atlanta on Thursday — a “must-win” game by multiple players’ accounts — they hope the hard work will have paid off.
“The last two days have been very good,” Patrice Bergeron. “Practice has been very hard with lot’s of battle and lots of emotion, and I think that’s what we need to bring in games.”
The B’s didn’t hold a morning skate on Thursday, but the players in the dressing room exuded a confidence that suggested they know they’ve put the work in, and now they need to put it to good use.
“As long as we learn from it — and we do — we’re fine,” Mark Recchi said Thursday of the team’s two days following perhaps their worst loss of the season. “We have a good group of guys who care and want to get better. The tempo was great in practice. ‘¦ We don’t get the opportunity to practice like that for a couple of days, especially with the schedule. To get that opportunity now is good.”
The Atlanta game is monumental for the young season for multiple reasons. In addition to the fact that the Thrashers beat the B’s, 4-1 last month, the Bruins will play five consecutive road games after Thursday. Given how much the team has struggled (1-3-1, 1.8 goals per game over their last five), the team also needs to show angry fans — who booed the team mightily on Monday — that the high expectations placed on them this offseason weren’t unwarranted.
A big part of the team’s struggles has been a difficulty to string 60-minute efforts together, with the forecheck and physically cutting in and out throughout the night. Recchi, who has spoken throughout the season of how difficult a team to play against the Bruins could be, knows the team has yet to reach that point, but that hope is not lost.
“We’re progressing. We’re getting there. We know when we do the right things, we’re a miserable team to play against, and we’re getting there, but it’s a process,” Recchi said. “It takes all year. … We’ve had our ups and downs, but I think the guys understand that it’s not easy being like that every night, but at the same time, it’s pretty rewarding.”
The Bruins can use Thursday, a game in which the town will be watching to see what the squad’s made of, to unveil new lines, and a new mindset for the B’s who with a win and a Canadiens loss could suddenly find themselves third in the Eastern conference. If they do, and the team does find a way to turn it around, this week could be one that’s looked back on as a turning point in the season.
“I think we needed some practices to get back on track and talk about our system a little bit more,” Bergeron said. “‘¦ I think it was good to re-focus and re-set ourselves to be back on track.”
|Mike Milbury on D&H: Bruins ‘need some passion’||12.22.10 at 1:02 pm ET|
NESN and NBC Sports hockey analyst Mike Milbury made his weekly appearance on the Dale & Holley show to give his opinions about the Bruins and the NHL. To hear the interview, go to the Dale & Holley audio on demand page.
Asked if the Bruins might consider a change behind the bench, Milbury said it’s too early for Claude Julien‘s job to be in jeopardy. “I don’t think so, no,” he said. “This team has shown remarkable resiliency. When they get down, you think that the wheels are falling of the wagon, they pull it together. And I think they’ll pull it together for Claude again.”
Added Milbury: “They need to loosen the screws a little bit offensively. Go after it, make some mistakes, try some things, do some things differently. Do I think they’re ready to knock on Claude Julien’s door? Absolutely not. I don’t think that’s a consideration right now. Tell me 10 games from now when they’ve won one, and it’s a different story.”
Milbury said there are plenty of other people who need to answer the critics before the coach. “[Marc] Savard hasn’t quite hit the plateau that he wants to be at,” he said. “[Patrice] Bergeron has not had a great year offensively. [Milan] Lucic is not doing what he’s supposed to do in terms of being an explosive chemistry set ‘ just get in there and create some mayhem. That’s important to that team, and it’s been lacking. I’m on [Blake] Wheeler and [Michael] Ryder all the time for that. These are pretty smart players and gifted players. But the games needs passion. And the Bruins more than anything right now need some passion.”
Milbury said there are individuals showing that passion, but the team’s marquee players need to step it up. “The guy that leads the most for me in terms of effort is Shawn Thornton,” he said. “And he does it on a regular basis. He’s a really important part of this team. [Zdeno] Chara needs to pick it up physically. Just because he’s playing 30 minutes [a game], it doesn’t mean he can’t whack and bang and play with some sort of Kevin Garnett-like attitude once in a while ‘ more in-your-face. All these guys. Savard, when he’s playing well, he’s a bouncy, in-your-face guy. Bergeron in his own quiet way will get there and be in the way and get in the way.
“I don’t know what’s ailing them, but I’m not going to pin it on young guys/old guys, I’m going to pin it on the team and the coach, that somehow have got to refocus their priorities ‘ not to forget about defense, but to make sure they know that the way they’re going to score goals is causing turnovers. And doing that means ‘ dammit, there’s not a better word than hustle.”
|Peter Chiarelli says Claude Julien’s job is safe||at 12:39 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — On Wednesday, Bruins coach Claude Julien addressed the swirling speculation over whether his job in Boston is safe. Fans have called for the team to fire him, while media outlets have also raised the question of whether a coaching change could be in the works.
“I don’t let that get to me. I come in, I’m going to coach the same way, and I’m going to do what I do the best I can,” Julien said after the team’s practice at Ristuccia Arena. “It’s as simple as that.
“It is what it is. Honestly, I just went out there today and yesterday very positive with the players and doing my job just like I would any other day. I hear what’s going out there, but certainly not listening or reading, because that’s certainly not helpful for me.”
Julien was given a vote of confidence by general manager Peter Chiarelli on Wednesday. Despite the team’s recent struggles, Chiarelli said “yes” when asked on CBS Radio Boston if he would say “unequivocally that Claude Julien’s job is not in danger.”
Chiarelli said such a decision ultimately would have to be made by a group of front office members, but that he feels the team is better off with Julien than without him.
“That’s my preference and that’s my recommendation,” Chiarelli said. “This is a collective thing that we do on these matters. But I have full confidence in Claude and the staff to figure it out.”
While he’s glad the organization has his back, Julien said that he isn’t going to let anything he sees or hears change the way he goes about his business.
“You always appreciate support. That’s important, but right now my job is coaching this hockey club. Whatever is being said out there and however it goes is out of my control,” Julien said. “I come in here every day with the same intentions and that’s to coach this hockey club and make them as successful as I can.”
Julien is in his fourth season as head coach of the Bruins. He has led the team to three straight playoff appearances, including two trips to the second round. This season, the B’s are in eighth place in the Eastern Conference with 38 points, though they trail the Canadiens by two points for the Northeast division lead.
|Claude Julien: Bruins need to contribute to Boston’s winning reputation||12.21.10 at 1:44 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — In addressing the Bruins’ recent woes, coach Claude Julien brought up the fans’ disappointment in the team, noting that given the recent championships of the area’s other sports teams, it’s up to the Bruins to add to Boston’s reputation.
“There’s expectations here from outside, the fans and the people,” Julien said. “There’s a lot of winning going around in this city, and if you want to be part of it, you have to show up and play hard every night.
“I think what the players realize is that people here expect their teams to win. They’re used to it, and you try to give them what they want. At the end of the day, that’s what you want to be. Not just for the fans, but you want to be that yourself.”
The Bruins have lost four of their last five. They will take on the Thrashers Thursday at TD Garden.