|Now healthy, Milan Lucic has to step up this postseason with Nathan Horton out||04.11.12 at 2:13 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — It became official Wednesday that David Krejci and Milan Lucic will not play with Nathan Horton this postseason, but could the Bruins’ first (depending on who you ask) line be even better than it was a season ago?
It’s a tough act to follow, to be certain. Krejci led all postseason players with 12 goals and 23 points, while Horton’s eight goals tied for third on the team.
The line will obviously be different in that Rich Peverley will be skating in Horton’s place as he did in Games 3-7 of the Cup finals, but the biggest difference should be Lucic.
After leading the team with 30 goals in the regular season last year, Lucic struggled through a sinus infection and, later, a broken toe. He finished the playoffs with 12 points (five goals, seven assists), which tied for eighth on the team. The Bruins won the Cup, and he assisted two of Horton’s overtime goals against the Canadiens (including the series-clinching Game 7 tally), but Lucic didn’t look right. People wondered whether he was playing through pain.
As it turned out, he was. He’d had the sinus infection throughout the postseason, and he had his big toe shattered by a Tyler Seguin slap shot in practice between Games 1 and 2 of the Eastern Conference finals against Tampa Bay.
Now, Lucic is healthy, and he’s ready to not only produce more offensively, but help in the other areas where Horton will be missed. When Horton is on that line, it’s a trio that features two big power forwards, making it a very physical and tough group to deal with. Peverley adds speed, but the extra bruising play will have to be provided by Lucic.
“I think I definitely have to play physical no matter what, but [Horton] definitely makes it easier, I’m not going to lie, because he is a big body and he’s got such great speed and we all know about his scoring touch,” Lucic said. “For myself, I feel like I’ve been playing pretty well the last 10 games, and using my body well all season long and I’ve been skating well. Being physical is a big part of my game, and I have to bring that in the playoffs.”
There’s no positive way of spinning of the loss of Horton, but Lucic can recognize that the situation heading into the postseason will be easier than it was the last time the B’s last Horton. Krejci had centered Lucic and Horton for the vast majority of the season, and the trio had built up a pretty strong rapport.
One Aaron Rome hit later, Krejci and Lucic found themselves with a new linemate while still four victories away from the Stanley Cup. There was no time for adjustment then, but they now have experience with Peverley based on the Cup finals and recent weeks.
“Yeah it does, definitely,” Lucic said when asked whether the familiarity with Peverley makes it easier this time around. “You go from playing a whole year with the exact same two guys, and then the last four games, Peverley jumps in the mix. This time, we’ve definitely played a lot more games together, and in these last couple of days of practice have gotten the feel of each other a lot more having practiced with each other. We’re excited for this series to get going, and we’re excited to get back into playoff mode. We want to be a big part of our team moving forward and having success.”
Peverley returned from a knee injury on March 25 and had four points (two goals, two assists), over the final eight games of the regular season. He brings a different skill set with a speedier game, but he showed he was capable of performing in the playoffs last season by matching Lucic’s 12 points despite playing most of the playoffs on the third line.
Ultimately, the Bruins are better with Nathan Horton without him, but the Krejci line should still be poised for success without him. Peverley had four points in five games in place of Horton last June, and Krejci has been known to elevate his game in the playoffs. At the end of the day, though, don’t be surprised if Lucic ends up being the real difference on that line this year. He wasn’t healthy enough to be a consistent force in the playoffs like Horton was a season ago, but there are plenty of reasons to believe he could be this time around.
WILMINGTON — No one on the Bruins feels worse than David Krejci about Wednesday’s news that Nathan Horton will be out for the entire playoffs with the lingering effects of his second concussion in 12 months.
It was Krejci who was just beginning to get into a groove on the second line with Horton again when he had a setback in February, a setback that ended Wednesday with the news that Horton needed more time to fully heal.
“I was hoping he was going to be back for first or second round, but now we know he won’t,” Krejci said. “It kind of sucks but that’s how it goes sometimes. This is still his life and he’s got to take care of his own body. He shouldn’t be pushing it. If he doesn’t feel well, there’s nothing he can do.”
Krejci not only played on the same line with Horton, he can relate fully with what Horton is going through.
“I had a concussion two times so I know how it is,” Krejci said. “This is not an easy situation. Hopefully, he’s going to do well over the next couple months and he’s going to be ready for next season.”
Now, with Rich Peverley replacing Horton on the second line, Krejci and Milan Lucic have had to adjust. It’s an adjustment the Bruins made masterfully last year in the Stanley Cup finals as Peverley added a speed element that wasn’t there with Horton.
“One thing is you can’t replace Horty,” Krejci said. He’s just a great player and I love playing with him but the other side is we played without him for  games so we know how to win games without him. We still have a good team. We have lots of depth. Hopefully we can do it.
“I think we started putting the puck in the net more often, especially the last few games of the season. So, I feel pretty good. This is kind of new season. Everybody starts from the beginning. We’re just going to have to go out there and do it again.”
Brad Marchand is one of those players who picked up the scoring slack for Horton in the finals, scoring twice in Game 7 in Vancouver.
“We’re going to try,” Marchand said. “We want to play for him like we did last year in the finals. It’s obviously tough with him not being here so we want to definitely want to use that to an advantage and play for him.
“It’s big for him and the team. We’re not going to always be wondering and hoping if he’s going to come back and save us. The fact that we know now that we have to do it within the room and we can’t rely on him to come back and help us out. Different guys are going to have to realize they’re going to have to step up. For him, it relieves the pressure that he has to rush back and continue to progress every single day to try and rush back to playoffs. Now, he can take his time and worry about getting better mentally and hopefully come back for next year.”
|Desperate Capitals stand in Bruins’ way of clinching playoff spot||03.29.12 at 12:46 pm ET|
At this point of the season, it’s somewhat of a cliche to say that every game will have a “playoff intensity,” but when you look at the Bruins’ remaining schedule, you can understand why.
Of the Bruins’ remaining six games, only Saturday’s tilt with the Islanders is against an opponent not in or fighting for the playoffs. Some teams, like the Bruins themselves, will be looking to nail down their divisions, while other teams such as the Capitals, will be trying to squeeze into the postseason picture.
That’s why Thursday’s game between the B’s and Capitals should be worth the price of admission. With a victory, the Bruins will clinch a playoff spot, while the ninth-place Capitals would take over eighth place in the conference with a win Thursday.
“Every single team in the league, they’re playing playoff hockey right now,” David Krejci said after Thursday’s morning skate. “It’s a good preparation, that’s for sure, but there’s so much to play for right now. We’re battling for home ice advantage, for second place in our conference, and Washington is battling for a playoff spot, so it should be a really interesting game tonight.”
The Capitals, who are coming off a 5-1 loss to the very Sabres team they’re fighting for the eighth spot with, will have to bring the fire they lacked Tuesday against Buffalo. Washington is still playing without center Nicklas Backstrom, who is working his way back from a concussion, but given their situation and the fact that the Capitals have taken two of three meetings between the teams so far this season, the Bruins see enough talent and desperation to make Thursday’s opponent a tough one.
“They’re battling for a playoff spot right now, and we’re going to obviously expect their best,” Adam McQuaid said. “They’ve played us hard this year, and even without Backstrom, they have a lot of offensive firepower. We’ve got to make sure we’re on our toes.”
As for the Bruins’ situation, the team knows that it needs a pair of points to go in, but their main focus is continuing to build on their improved play of late. The team has won three games in a row, something they hadn’t done over their previous 41 games, but playing well for the remainder of the season and going to the playoffs confident is more important to them than clinching a spot a spot and feeling accomplished.
“It would be nice, but I think our main focus is on playing well and making sure that we’re being consistent and going into the playoffs feeling good about ourselves and about our game,” McQuaid said of clinching. “I guess it would be a bonus to be able to clinch as soon as possible, but at the end of the day, we just have to worry about playing good hockey.”
Added McQuaid: “It’s only the beginning of where we want to get to. You have to make the playoffs in order to give yourself a chance to win the Cup. ‘¦ [We can] get that first step, and then shift our focus to what we’re really working towards.”
|Brad Marchand on M&M: ‘We definitely built a lot of momentum’ with West Coast trip||03.28.12 at 2:41 pm ET|
Marchand and the Bruins are riding a three-game win streak and are winners of five of their last six games. Two of those wins came on a three-game West Coast road trip in which the team beat the Kings and Ducks and lost to the Sharks. Marchand said that the swing of games in California helped to galvanize the Bruins.
“Anytime you go on a road trip and play the way we did, it’s good for your team,” Marchand said. “We definitely built a lot of momentum when you can go into other teams’ buildings and win a couple of games on a long road trip like that. It’s great for us and we can definitely build a lot of momentum off of that.”
With the team having rebounded and returned to playing some of its best hockey, Marchand said that the Bruins are now focused on maintaining that form heading into the playoffs.
“We know that this is the time where you want to play your best hockey,” Marchand said. “We just talked about how we, if we even want to make the playoffs, have to buckle down and start playing well. If you don’t play good hockey come playoff time, you usually get out pretty quickly.
“We don’t want to be in that situation. We just have to make sure to put our best effort on the ice every night.”
With Peverley now back from injury, Marchand said that the team’s newest addition has been an immediate help for the Bruins.
“It balances the lines a little more, it fills holes in different parts of the lineup,” Marchand said. “When you get a guy like Peverley back, he’s a very, very strong player and played very well for our team last year. We missed him and we’re very happy to have him back.”
When asked about Thomas and if his improved play has been a factor in the Bruins’ recent success, Marchand said that while Thomas was never actually playing poorly, his play the last several games has been instrumental to the team’s hot streak.
“During the season, you go through ups and downs, every player does,” Marchand said. “Even if you want to call it down, by no means was it his fault. As a team, as a whole, we weren’t playing very well.
“We’ve played great now for the last few games and he’s been on the ball. It definitely makes it a lot easier for us out there when he’s playing the way he is right now.”
|Bruins taking ‘baby steps’ in right direction toward playoffs||03.09.12 at 11:49 am ET|
The mere suggestion by the toughest Bruin evokes laughter.
But when Shawn Thornton said the Bruins are starting to take “baby steps” in the right direction following the team’s 3-1 win over the Sabres Thursday night, he was making no joke.
“I’m more concerned about how we are playing,” Thornton said. “I think that Rangers game we could have very easily won. I think the way we have been playing for the last week or so is the style of play you’re used to seeing from us. As long as we keep putting up efforts and everyone is showing up every night, the wins will come with those performances.”
The inability to win back-to-back games had become a sort of unintentional comedic relief for the Bruins as they grind toward the playoffs, wondering how they’re going to cope without Tuukka Rask for at least a month and how they’re going to position themselves as they get ready for a title defense.
“It seems to be for a lot of people, and I think it’s the same for us,” Claude Julien said after the 3-1 win over the Sabres, giving the Bruins consecutive wins for the first time since early January. “We’ve been obviously battling with our consistency, and even though this is our first back-to-back win in a long time, I think the fact I was encouraged by our play in New York and it’s just kept coming along in the next game.
“Obviously winning, and then again tonight a pretty decent effort. I think that’s what we’re looking for now as more a consistent effort and hopefully they turn into wins. When you got the amount of injuries you have, you take every win for what they are and [Thursday] was a good win for us.”
Now, with the playoff race in the East tightening, the Bruins realize they need to stop messing around and get in playoff mode.
“Well, we have to, right? We’ve been forced into it by apparently not winning back-to-back games since January 10th through 12th, or whatever it was, and also, just the standings are getting tighter so we’re getting forced into a playoff mode, which is probably a good thing for us,” Bruins goalie Tim Thomas said.
The Bruins have 83 points, which is good for first in the Northeast. But, consider that point total would tie them for third in the Atlantic with No. 5 seed Philadelphia and you see Thomas’ point. Ottawa, which has played three more games, is only three points behind. Win the division and the Bruins almost certainly will be the No. 2 seed behind the Rangers. Finish second and the B’s could wind up anywhere from fifth through seventh.
“It is a baby step, for sure,” David Krejci said of Thursday’s win. “We finally won two in a row. It’s been a while. It feels good. I feel like, especially the last three games, it started in New York, we played really good hockey. We keep playing the way we have, the wins will come.”
|Bruins finally win two in a row, defeat Sabres||03.08.12 at 9:29 pm ET|
It took the Bruins long enough, but they finally won their second game in a row thanks to Thursday’s 3-1 win over the Sabres. The victory marked the first time in 26 games that the B’s have won back-to-back contests.
Jason Pominville gave the Sabres the lead in the first period when he beat Tim Thomas with a rocket over the veteran netminder’s glove. Gregory Campbell tied the game in the second, redirecting a Shawn Thornton slap shot past Buffalo starter Jhonas Enroth. Johnny Boychuk gave the B’s the lead in the third period with his fourth goal of the season, with David Krejci providing insurance at 15:52.
Thomas made 19 saves on 20 shots faced. The game was the seventh consecutive contest in which Thomas has played.
The Bruins will host the Capitals Saturday as they go for their — get this — third straight win.
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE BRUINS
— Claude Julien called for more secondary scoring after Saturday’s loss to the Islanders, and for the third straight game since, he got it. After Jordan Caron dominated Sunday and Tuesday as a third-liner (three goals, two assists over the two games), it was the fourth line that chipped in with the equalizer in the second period. A Buffalo turnover left the puck waiting for Thornton to fire on not, and Campbell got a piece of it to tie the game. The goal was Campbell’s seventh of the season.
— Speaking of Caron, Julien switched Caron and Brian Rolston, putting Caron with Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron on the second line and Rolston with Chris Kelly and Benoit Pouliot. Rolston hasn’t made enough of a statement to earn top-six minutes since coming over in a trade from the Islanders last week, and it’s good for Julien to reward Caron for his improved play of late.
In picking up the assist on Boychuk’s goal, Caron extended his point streak to three games. The 21-year-old has three goals and three assists over his last three contests.
— The B’s new top line of David Krejci, Milan Lucic and Tyler Seguin has produced at least one goal in all five games since Julien put the trio together. Krejci has five goals over the last five games, while Seguin has four and Lucic has one. Some quick arithmetic shows that the members of the line have totaled 10 goals over their last five contests.
— The Bruins outscored their opponent in the second period for the third consecutive game. As has been well-documented, the Bruins have not been a good second-period team over the difficult stretch they’ve found themselves in since mid-January, but they have outscored their opponents 6-2 in the second over the last three games.
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE BRUINS
— Greg Zanon was made a healthy scratch for the first time since debuting with the B’s last week. Julien spoke highly of Zanon Thursday morning, calling him “sturdy” for the Bruins in his first four games with the Bruins, but the truth is that Zanon’s had a rough go of it since his debut. Zanon impressed in his first game with the B’s last Thursday, handling everything that was thrown his way and adapting to new partners as the team twice went to a five-man rotation. Since then, he’s had a rough time for the Bruins, having multiple flubs in front of Tim Thomas‘ net, knocking a puck in and posting a minus-4 rating over his last three games. He was one of just two Bruins (Thornton being the other) to have a minus rating (minus-1) in Tuesday’s 5-4 win over the Maple Leafs.
Mike Mottau played in Zanon’s place, skating on pairing with Adam McQuaid.
— Bergeron and Marchand have both gone the last six games without a goal. The second line is one that’s effective for its prowess in all three zones, but the B’s need two of their better forwards in Bergeron and Marchand to get going.
|Andrew Ference on D&C: David Krejci ‘a completely different player when he’s feeling good’||03.02.12 at 10:56 am ET|
Bruins defenseman Andrew Ference checked in with the Dennis & Callahan show Friday morning to discuss Thursday night’s overtime victory over the Devils and his take on the dynamics of the team as the result of moves before the trade deadline.
“It’s pretty tough to break them up after that,” Ference said. “The good thing about that — you’re happy to see anybody score and get some goals going, but especially Dave. He’s a completely different player when he’s feeling good, got that confidence going. It transforms him when he’s got a smile on his face, when he’s not as frustrated when he’s not scoring.”
Ference took only three shifts in the third period Thursday after suffering what Julien referred to as a lower-body injury. Despite his injury, Ference kept a positive attitude, praising the team’s efforts, especially goalie Tim Thomas, for pulling out the win. Asked if credit for the team’s success belongs more to Thomas or the defense, Ference said it’s a combination of the two.
“It’s like when last year, we talked about winning. No one guy could have won without the other; we’re not that kind of team,” Ference said. “Obviously Timmy was unbelievable, but without our system and without the way we play, we don’t win and vice versa. I think we have a great system and all that, but without Timmy playing the way he does, we don’t get it.”
“I like what we did,” Ference said. “Obviously you can see there’s injuries at this time of year and you need those guys that have that experience to step in, instead of just throwing a rookie to the wolves that’s never played before, then expect him to just jump in at this time of year is pretty tough.”
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