|Julien: ‘We’re not there yet’||04.10.10 at 1:29 pm ET|
Bruins coach Claude Julien was cautioning against counting any playoff berths before they’re clinched prior to Saturday afternoon’s matinee with the Carolina Hurricanes at TD Garden. With a win, the Bruins clinch a playoff spot and no worse than a No. 7 seed in the East and avoid the Washington Capitals in the first round.
[Click here to listen to Julien’s pregame comments.]
“We’re not there yet,” Julien said. “This is an opportunity for us to control our own destiny. For me, we need to take care of business today. It’s as simple as that. We need to be ready to go. And hopefully we are.”
Meanwhile, Julien said defenseman Mark Stuart is still more than a few days away from returning to action after surgery to treat a finger infection. Tuukka Rask starts in net for the Bruins. Should the Bruins not clinch today, they finish up the season on Sunday afternoon in Washington against the Capitals.
|All eyes turn to New York||04.09.10 at 1:21 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — The equation has become pretty simple — The Bruins won on Thursday therefore any Rangers regulation loss guarantees Boston a playoff spot. There was a lot of talk yesterday about what type of scenarios would have to play out this weekend for Boston to make (or not make) the playoffs but it really just boils down to counting points. Boston has a three point lead over the ninth spot, the Rangers only have the potential to gain four points and start a home-and-home against the starting Friday.
The eyes of the Hub will be keenly attuned to Madison Square Garden tonight but there is more at stake for the Bruins than just a playoff birth this weekend. Head coach Claude Julien alluded to the fact after practice at Ristuccia Arena on Friday that the Bruins are also looking at playoff positioning as much as just making the tournament.
“It is a matter of sticking with it. Not just the fact that you get into the playoffs, but, where do you want to be in that situation?” Juliend said. “We’ve got an opportunity right now to be anywhere from sixth to ninth and we have to recognize that and we have to win as many games as we can.”
Practice was loose on Friday and the feeling around the Bruins is that they are really taking to the example set by veteran Mark Recchi when he says that being in the midst of an NHL playoff race should be fun. Players were whooping and hollering on the rink as they continually messed up one of Julien’s drills and gave a rousing applause when a unit got it right. Make no mistake about it though, the Bruins may be loose but the cord of tension that has been tightening around the team since the Olympic break is as tight as it has ever been.
“The biggest mistake is for [the sense of urgency] to be lessened,” coach Claude Julien said. “Two points guarantees us a playoff spot but those two games coming up, Carolina, I just watched them last night against Montreal, they are playing pretty well. They are playing loose and playing well and they got a pretty good goaltender that keeps them in the game. I don’t think that anything is a given but we have an opportunity to watch a game tonight that may, or may not give us the answer that we want.”
Miroslav Satan Putting It Together
Forward Miroslav Satan has come on for the Bruins of late, scoring the game-winning goal among his two strikes last Saturday against Toronto and tying the game on Thursday after teaming with David Krejci to create a turnover on the forecheck and marching straight in on Sabres’ goaltender Patrick Lalime.
Satan now has nine goals, three in the last week, in 36 games for the Bruins after missing the first half of the season before signing with Boston. He has gone stretches during his stay in the Hub where he has not been a factor but has proved to be good for the Bruins in the games that have mattered most.
“I think that was a good pickup by us,” Julien said. “For what he has given us he has certainly been good. You know, he has always had good hands and has been a guy who has scored a lot of goals in this league and you know, again, his experience yesterday when he just took it to the net, those are the things that we have been talking about a lot and he finds those holes and he finds ways to score goals in those situations.”
“I like what he has brought to our team. To me he has gotten better as he has played here and for a guy who didn’t play the first half of the year to have, I think it is nine goals right now is pretty good for a team challenged to score to start with,” Julien said.
The Bruins forecheck was active on Thursday and led to Satan and David Krejci breaking the puck loose off the half wall where Satan could take it straight to the net and the game-tying goal on a backhand. Since Julien changed the lines to give Krejci new wing mates the unit with Satan and Marco Sturm has been aggressive on the forecheck and has given the Bruins some scoring opportunities that may have not been present otherwise.
“The fact that we are aggressive creates turnovers and when players like Krejci and Satan create a turnover a turnover and are going in on net you are pretty comfortable because those guys are pretty crafty,” Julien said.
|Big minutes coming for the blueliners||04.07.10 at 12:39 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — What happens when the core disintegrates?
You could take the movie version like in that terrible version of a modern B movie “The Core” in which there are a lot of mysterious lightning storms that happen to strike over Rome as an example. Or maybe in the new blockbuster “2012” in which the world tears itself to shreds and humanity’s elite are forced to take refuge in the digital age version of the ark. Either way, it was not that pretty.
Perhaps not quite as dramatic, but the Bruins have relied on steady defense and goaltending this year to put themselves in position to make the playoffs despite their league-worst offense. Yet, in the last week, the Bruins have had two of their top three defensemen need to have surgery and their best blueliner and captain break his nose. Mark Stuart will miss about two weeks after having surgery for cellulitis in his finger and Dennis Seidenberg is out for the rest of the season (barring some miraculous playoff run) after having surgery to fix a lacerated flexor carpi radialis tendon in his left forearm that he sustained in the first period against Toronto on Saturday.
The Seidenberg surgery came more out of the blue because it seemed that he was all right on Tuesday after he talked to the media, giving no indication that an operation was imminent.
“I think in the morning he felt pain and obviously before the game we tried something with him and in the warmup he still felt pain,” coach Claude Julien said. “In the short time I have known him I think it is pretty obvious that he is a tough individual, so for him not to go something was obviously wrong and the diagnosis we got from Toronto was not the same diagnosis we got here.”
Add to that the perpetual mystery that is Andrew Ference (out for the regular season but being evaluated every day) and Boston has all of a sudden become very light on the back end.
Practice at Ristuccia on Wednesday looked a little more like training camp than a team preparing for its final three games in a season in a playoff race. Adam McQuaid and Andrew Bodnarchuk have been recalled to the Bruins from Providence, and the ways things are going they are up for longer than just the usual “emergency basis.” On the offensive side, Trent Whitfield and Brad Marchand are not exactly the players one would expect to see on the roster in early April, but so it goes. (To be fair, Marchand and Whitfield have earned their extended cups of coffee.)
|Ryder, Wheeler among prominent line changes||04.02.10 at 1:57 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — There was a little bit of a new look to the lines at Bruins practice at Ristuccia on Friday.
The normal line groupings by sweater color were blown up by coach Claude Julien. Instead of the normal David Krejci, Blake Wheeler, Michael Ryder line wearing grey, Krejci was joined by Marco Sturm and Miroslav Satan in white sweaters to make the All-European line. Wheeler still skated in grey just this time with Vladimir Sobotka and Brad Marchand. Milan Lucic took Sturm’s spot on the line with Patrice Bergeron and Mark Recchi.
Oh yeah. And Ryder.
“Whoever plays together I think we can definitely play together and get shots on net,” Ryder said by the way of a non-committal response when asked if he saw the red sweater as a demotion.
Julien admitted that the shake up was definitely part of a wake up call that the coaching staff is giving to certain players, like Ryder, Wheeler, Sturm and Lucic, who have been pretty stale of late.
“You saw it today, making some changes, we have got to find some ways of making consistency here,” Julien said. “There is a lot of stuff being done to get those guys going but at the same time we have to make changes on the ice. We are struggling to score goals and, you know, you got certain guys who just aren’t going while and you hope that making changes will either spark them, wake them up or at least give some different lines some better opportunities.”
The situation is getting serious for Ryder. He has one goal since Feb. 13 and has been held without a shot in three of his last four games. For a guy who is supposed to be the sniper, that is not the way things are supposed to work. He admitted that it was in his mind that the demotion to the red sweater could further lead to a demotion where he has no sweater, red, grey or Black and Gold.
“Definitely, it could happen,” Ryder said. “When you are looked at to score goals and you’re not scoring it is definitely in mind but I just have to keep working hard right now and step it up even another notch.”
For Ryder, he would have to step up a first notch before “stepping it up even another,” which he said twice in his five-minute scrum with reporters. He also said that he has been focused on battling though shooting the puck has not been his top priority.
“It makes a difference when everybody on your line is shooting the puck, getting chances and getting more opportunities you have a better chance of scoring,” Ryder said. “I was not thinking about shooting a lot. Sometimes you just have to pound those areas and if you get out of position you don’t get that shot. Now it is just about battling hard and trying to get to those areas and get pucks on net.”
Wheeler was also held without a shot last night and is now on a line with two young players who have been on the fringe of the roster (or in Providence) for most of the year.
“Well, you know, it is sometimes good, almost refreshing to see new faces, play with new guys. Changes like that are always welcome,” Wheeler said. “Anytime you go the majority of two games and zeroes goals, one at the end of the Devils game, change is probably a good thing.”
Wheeler had the Bruins best opportunity with a short-handed 2-on-1 break with Krejci as his trailer but let the opportunity fizzle out in front of him without putting the puck on net. He explained the play Friday morning.
“It is disappointing,” Wheeler said. “It was a play in the game that could have made it different and obviously you expect more out of yourself and I just didn’t make the play, that is all there is to it.”
After Recchi called out some of his teammates for not giving their best effort Thursday night and two games with only one goal, changes to the lines in some way or form were to be expected on Friday. In the dogfight that the Bruins find themselves, it will definitely take all 20 skaters to make sure their last five games are not their last of the season.
“In a way it is not that complicated, if guys work their butts off things will happen, no matter who they play with,” Julien said.
|Julien vs. Ryder: Two takes on same problem||at 11:33 am ET|
“There’s no doubt we have some players who could’ve been much better for us,” the Bruins coach said. “And a lot of those players are the players we need to help us get through this. You can’t stand here and say, ‘We were outstanding.’ We just lost the game. If everyone were as good as they could be, we would have won this game.”
And if punches equate to shots on net, Michael Ryder wasn’t throwing any.
And therein lies the fundamental problem Julien had with his team and the player he considers his best shooter on the team.
“Ryder is probably our best shooter and ends up with zero shots,” Julien said. “Those are the things we needed from those players.” Julien. “I thought Ryder played a much better game in New Jersey and we needed more out of him [Thursday] as well.
“He’s one of a few more that we needed more out of.”
But Julien made it a point to say that Ryder was hardly alone. There’s Blake Wheeler, without a goal in nine games.
“The chances… Wheeler goes on the 2-on-1 and doesn’t get shot.” Julien on Wheeler’s short-handed chance in third period.
But Ryder said the effort is still there.
“If I had an answer maybe we could figure it out,” Ryder said. “It’s definitely disappointing when you’re supposed to have the advantage at home and you can’t find a way to put wins together. We have one more game left here, I think, and it’s a big game. We have to make sure we get a win there. Right now every point counts and we are on the road for Toronto and Washington. Two big games and we have to find ways to put the puck in the net.”
Ryder has just one goal in his last 18 games.
“It has been a tough year overall for us scoring goals,” Ryder said. “We got that time of year where you have to find ways [to score]. It’s getting into the grind with only five games left. We need to start getting some wins and getting ourselves some space. But we did a lot of good things tonight that we can look at. It’s just a matter of us still throwing pucks at the net and maybe getting more traffic or maybe bearing down a little bit more.”
|Recchi doesn’t see everybody there||at 9:50 am ET|
“We have to find ways to win these games,” Recchi said. “We did in New Jersey because we had everyone in. Tonight, we didn’t have everybody there, so the results are there.”
Julien added that he was frustrated to see the team’s best shooter, Michael Ryder, finish with zero shots on goal. “There’s no doubt we have some players who could’ve been much better for us tonight,” Julien said. “Ryder is probably our best shooter and ends up with zero shots. Those are the things we needed from those players.”
After the game, Julien said the ‘push’ has to come from within the dressing room.
And at 42 years young, it was Recchi pushing the hardest.
“We had a lot of good chances and we just didn’t score,” Recchi said. “I mean, we can’t ask for much more, effort-wise. I still don’t think we had 20 guys tonight, but you know, the guys that were going were generating a lot of opportunities and you got to put those in. We need ‘ like I said, this time of year, you need 20 guys, regardless, so that’s a little bit of a disappointment, but we definitely controlled the game and played the right way and we should have won this one.”
Recchi saw a Florida Panthers team that, while not in the playoff chase, would come in and play a conservative, hard-checking style. And, when the visitors went up, 1-0, in the first period, that’s exactly what the Bruins got.
“They played hard,” Recchi said. “We knew they were going to play hard. I mean, we’ve had some tough games against them this year and, you know, if anybody watches the games and I don’t know, I’m not sure how many guys do, but they play hard. They compete. They haven’t quit. They’ve got some young players that want to play well and you know, they’ve got some, obviously some leaders over there who are not letting those young guys quit and I don’t know if we underestimated them or not, but this time of year, I don’t think you should underestimate anybody.
“I’ve been on the other end where you’re spoiling opportunities and there’s nothing more enjoyable when you know you’re five games away from the end of the season and if you can hurt somebody’s chances of making the playoffs, that’s what you play for and that’s what those guys are playing for right now.”
Recchi was trying so hard on the ice, he thought he was rewarded midway through the second period when he re-directed a shot and raised his stick a bit prematurely, almost willing the puck in the net when nothing else was working.
“Yeah, I thought it went in, but obviously, it didn’t, but yeah, I thought it went in,” Recchi admitted. “We had a lot of good opportunities. Their goalie [Scott Clemmensen] made some good saves. You’ve got to give him some credit too, but, you know, a lot of pucks ‘ he’s a big kid and he played big, and a lot of pucks hit him and we weren’t able to capitalize.”
But again, it comes down to having everyone in and Recchi made it clear Thursday night that, with just five games left, that’s something he expects.
“In a game like this, if you have 20 guys, we don’t lose, and we still miss,” he said. “[In] New Jersey, we had 20 guys, and we win. It’s no secret this time of year. The teams that have guys that are ‘ and we talked about this after the last game ‘ you might not feel good, but this time of year, chances are you don’t feel great but, you know, you have to dig deep down and do it for your teammates, do it for yourself. You have to find ways.
“If you’re a goal scorer and you’re not scoring goals, you got to be physical; and you got to play great defensively, and if you’re a physical guy, then you know, you got to chip in at times, so there’s a whole bunch of factors that play into this and I think we have to, with five games remaining, I think we shouldn’t have to be talking about it, but the results are there. [If] we don’t have 20 guys, we don’t win, and [if] we do, we win.”
|Only big games left for Bruins||04.01.10 at 12:56 pm ET|
At this point in the season there are no more trap games, no wake up games, no small games or revenge games.
They are just big games.
“A win is a win or a loss is a loss, no matter who you play,” coach Claude Julien said after Thursday’s morning skate. “Whether you are playing a top team in the league, it is going to be a tough competition, just like it was last game or whether you play a team that is out of the playoffs and is loose and they want to be spoilers. If you look at it, we just can’t afford to lose a game.”
With four teams bunched within two points for the final three playoff spots, the team that can get the hottest right now will be able to separate itself from the pack. If Boston wants to be that team, it has a even chance in front of it. Of the Bruins final six games, three come against also-rans (tonight against Florida, Saturday against the Leafs and April 10 against the Hurricanes) and three comes against the top two teams in the Eastern Conference, including two different trips to D.C. to visit the Capitals.
The Bruins have been playing to the level of their competition all year. For every dramatic 1-0 victory over the Devils there have been 5-3 disappointments against the Lightning. Looking back on the season, it has definitely been a roller coaster for fans of hockey in the Hub.
“You have to take advantage of the opportunities and you have to be ready to play,” Julien said. “We’ve got to be better, got to find ways to win and find some consistency.”
Florida has been in a funk of late as losers of their last four including a 6-2 in Buffalo on Wednesday where they were outshot 41-15 by the surging Sabres. Defenseman Dennis Seidenberg was a member of the Panthers the last time the Bruins played them (a 3-2 Bruins shootout win on in Sunrise, Fla on Feb. 13, the last game before the Olympic break). He is adjusting well to his new team and has started to contribute offensively with four points (two goals, two assists) and a plus-four rating in his last five games.
“Every time you play against your old team, it is different,” Seidenberg said. “You know all the guys you play against. But, in this case, you have to put it in the back of your mind and just concentrate on getting the points.”
Yes, the points are crucial and Boston does have a real opportunity to move up a couple of spots in the standings with a win on Thursday, but there are other franchise considerations at play around the league that are hard to not note.
For instance, there is a peculiar conundrum for the Bruins as a organization (though not for the players and coaches) in gaining two points at the expense of the Panthers. Florida currently sits three points ahead of the Maple Leafs (tied with the Islanders) for the third worst spot in the NHL. The significance, of course, is that Boston owns the Leafs first round pick this June and would love to see it be the No. 2 overall. The best way to ensure that would be to lose to the Panthers tonight and then beat the Leafs on Saturday. Nobody on the team would ever dare mention it as a course of action but the fans are well aware of where the Leafs are in the standings. If the playoffs are not in the near future for the Bruins they can still take solace in a lottery pick.
— Ference Watch: Day 7
A fair amount of Julien’s pregame presser centered around the healthy, and potential availability, of oft-injured defenseman Andrew Ference. The blue liner does need offseason surgery for a tear in his abductor muscle in his groin as well as a hernia, but that does not mean he is completely unavailable to the Bruins for the rest of the season. Julien said that the plan at the start of this week was to shut Ference down for the week and then take it day-by-day from there. Ference can play with the injury as there is no further health risk of what he can do to the injured area but that does not mean he would be in anyway effective on the ice. Even if Boston is able to bring him back next week, there is no telling how long he will last. Julien acknowledged this point.
“Exactly, I think that’s the situation. There is no guarantee. There is a guarantee that he will be back and he will be okay,” Julien said. “Now, how long he will last, that’s a gamble. When I say a gamble, there is no health risk to it, but it is a gamble we are willing to take. At least if one of our ‘D’s go down, at least there is someone with experience to step in. You look at Providence right now, [Adam] McQuaid is still out of the lineup, so you need some depth along the way and for him to at least give us that insurance is good for us.”
All other healthy skaters were present and accounted for at the morning skate.