|Bruins respond to ‘ludicrous’ accusations from Dale Hunter||04.18.12 at 3:27 pm ET|
ARLINGTON, Va. — Responses are usually saved for the ice in hockey, but on Wednesday the Bruins had to answer to something pretty serious.
On Tuesday, Washington coach Dale Hunter suggested the Boston players had been targeting the head of Nicklas Backstrom, who missed 40 games during the regular season with a concussion.
Backstrom was suspended for Game 4 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals for cross-checking Bruins forward Rich Peverley in the face after the Bruins’ 4-3 victory in Game 3. Hunter said on Tuesday that because of how the Bruins had been playing against him, Backstrom had to “protect himself.”
“That doesn’t make sense,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said after Wednesday’s practice at Kettler Capitals Iceplex. “I don’t know any coach that would tell his team to go after somebody’s head. It speaks for itself.”
Added Julien: “It’s ludicrous. It’s ridiculous. There’s always going to be emotions in games, and there’s things that are happening. Like I said [after Game 3], there was three cross-checks. They penalized one and they suspended one. We’re not whining about the refs and we need to win the series and what’s going on here. That’s where are focus is on. That’s what it should be.”
Bruins center Patrice Bergeron has returned from two major concussions in his day, and last season missed two playoff games with a concussion. He said he hasn’t gotten a sense that players target the heads of players returning from head injuries, and certainly hopes that id doesn’t happen on any team.
“I think we’re just playing playoff hockey,” Bergeron said. “We’re not worrying about who’s out there. I certainly would be the last guy to do something like that. I’ve been through it, so I don’t really worry about that, to be honest with you.”
Shawn Thornton doesn’t pay attention to other teams, whether it be their place in the standings, the scores of their games or the words that they say. One thing Thornton is sure of, however, is that Hunter’s accusation had nothing to do with a mere fourth-liner.
“I’m not on the ice against that guy anyway,” Thornton said of Backstrom, who once had 101 points in a season, “so I really don’t have to worry about it.”
Capitals center Keith Aucoin joined the Dennis & Callahan show Wednesday morning to discuss his team’s series against the Bruins and his experience growing up in the Boston area.
Aucoin may have grown up playing hockey in Waltham and Chelmsford, but now he plays on an enemy line as far as Bruins fans are concerned as the B’s and Capitals square off in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. Aucoin and the Capitals returned home with the series tied heading into Game 3, but the Bruins were able to snag a victory, something that Aucoin said was because the Bruins simplified their game.
“I think they kept the game a lot more simple,” Aucoin said. “They were a lot more physical than they were in Game 1 and 2, and I think they kind of wore us down a bit toward the end of the game. They turned the puck over, which is what they key on.
“They got us off our game a little bit, and after the whistles stopped there was a lot of extracurricular activity. We have to make sure we stay away from that and that’s what we did in Games 1 and 2.”
When asked if the physical play of Game 3 was a sign of things to come, if the series may take an ugly turn as it has in many series around the NHL, Aucoin said that these kinds of actions are what happen when two teams have prolonged exposure to each other in such a condensed period of time.
“I think that’s what happens in a series,” Aucoin said. “[In] Game 1 there wasn’t much at all, and Game 2 a little bit more and Game 3 a little bit more. As the games go on, you get sick of each other and you grow tired of each other. You never know what can happen. You could see the hate going in Game 3.”
The Capitals suffered a tough setback to their hopes to rebound from their Game 3 loss when it was announced that Nicklas Backstrom would be suspended for Game 4 for his cross-check on Rich Peverley at the end of the game. Though Backstrom’s absence will certainly make things tougher for the Capitals, Aucoin said that the team can possibly rally around it.
” I think the guys have to rally around each other and go out there and figure out a way to win,” Aucoin said. “Tomorrow’s a must-win game for us, so we can’t feel sorry for ourselves. We have to go out there and somebody’s got to step up.
“[For] the last month and a half before the playoffs started we’ve been playing playoff hockey. We have to figure out a way to do it again and rally. We’re a team that’s rallied around each other all year and it’s been fun to be a part of.”
|Dale Hunter thinks Bruins are targeting Nicklas Backstrom’s head||04.17.12 at 1:32 pm ET|
Backstrom, of course, missed 40 games this season due to a concussion, so the suggestion that the B’s are going after his head is pretty heavy.
‘Every scrum, Nicky comes out with no helmet on, he gets blockered to the head by [Tim] Thomas the game before. He’s protecting his head,’ Hunter told reporters Tuesday. ‘He just came out for 40 games. You have to protect your head. With his stick being in his face like that, it was a dangerous play on his part.’’
Backstrom has a hearing with the league on Wednesday for his cross-check to the face of Rich Peverley at the end of Game 3. Hunter said he doesn’t think Backstrom will be suspended because Peverley’s stick was “up in his face first.”
“He’s got to protect himself,” Hunter said of Backstrom. “If you get a second concussion, you’re out a long time. If it wasn’t there, if a stick wasn’t in his face, Nicky Backstrom’s not that kind of player. He doesn’t just cross-check somebody in the face. He’s not like that. Because of the stick was there, he protected himself.’
|Milan Lucic is fully prepared for Dale Hunter and his ‘underachieving’ Capitals||04.11.12 at 9:22 am ET|
It was on April 28 that year when Hunter laid out Pierre Turgeon, after Turgeon had just scored the clinching goal for the Islanders late in the third period of the decisive Game 6 of their opening playoff round against Hunter’s Capitals.
Hunter was understandably ticked. But he inexplicably checked Turgeon from behind and into the side boards, separating his shoulder and knocking him out of the next round against the defending champion Penguins.
Hunter received a then-record 21 game suspension for the hit. Turgeon returned for the semi-finals against the eventual champion Canadiens after missing seven games.
Fast forward 19 years and Hunter is now coaching the Capitals in the first-round series against the defending champion Bruins. The Capitals – who finished with the best record in the NHL two seasons ago – were 42-32-8 but had to struggle to get into the playoffs this season in the final week, finishing as the No. 7 seed. That’s quite a change for a team that fired Bruce Boudreau early on this year because they were 12-9-1 and underachieving with names like Alex Ovechkin and Alexander Semin.
“You can say the Capitals have probably underachieved a bit this year,” Lucic said of the Capitals, who actually won the season series against the Bruins this year, 3-1. “They have a lot of great players over there that can definitely do some damage. They’ve had some success against us this year. Season success and playoff success are two different things, which we’ve found out in the past. We know that they’re a great team and have a lot of great weapons and a lot of great players who can step up and be an impact in this series and I think that’s what’s going to make this a real challenging and hard-fought series for us.”
Hunter instilled a new dedication to physical play and no doubt realizes his finesse-laiden Capitals need to channel at least some of his toughness against the new Big Bad Bruins in order to have a chance.
“Especially playing under Dale Hunter, I’m sure they’re going to be real physical,” Lucic said. “They have some forwards that definitely will get in there and get dirty. Even a guy like Ovechkin is not afraid of the physical play and likes to use his body. It’s a way that they have success. For us, we have to do whatever we can to be physical and I think that’s what’s going to make it even a better series because both teams are going to go after each other.
“Part of our identity and part of our success is being physical, regardless of who we play so we have a game plan and we have a type of way we’re going to play and playing physical is one of the ways. We’re going to do everything we can to establish a forecheck and finish our checks and it’s important for us to do that.”
Lucic insisted the Bruins aren’t about to take the Capitals lightly and certainly place no significance on their No. 7 position in the conference.
“I think you definitely learn a lot,” Lucic said. “You can take from what you’ve done in the past and kind of use that experience, hopefully to your advantage. One thing that we did [this season] was that we never took anyone or any opponent for granted. Just because we’re second and they’re seventh doesn’t mean a thing right now. What happened last year is last year. This is a new year, new playoff. Everyone starts off at 0-0. It’s important for us to have a good start, come out strong and hopefully have a good game in Game 1.”