|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.”
David Krejci knew full well what his February was like. Like his whole season to this point, it had been very up and down and inconsistent.
That all changed Thursday when the calendar flipped to March. The center-turned-winger was back at center and he netted his second career hat trick, finishing it off with an overtime goal that propelled the Bruins past the Devils, 4-3, in overtime.
Krejci had been in a huge slump coming in, just 13 goals, including two in 13 games in the month of February. His assist totals are also way off. He hasn’t had a helper since Jan. 31 and has 28 for the season, one reason why Julien moved him from center to wing.
But Thursday night with Tyler Seguin on his wing, Krejci was back at center. He looked reenergized and fresh, and most importantly, ready to contribute in a big way down the stretch as the Bruins try to regain their momentum for another spring title run.
“Yeah, I wasn’t thinking about it, I had two goals in the month of February,” Krejci said of his struggles in February. “But, you know, I just take it game by game. I want to do my best every game and I was feeling really good before the game and I got Segs on my line so I was excited about it. We click well together with Looch [Milan Lucic] and him and it was a good game for us. I know we had a little sloppy second period but we came back hard in the third and won the game. That was the most important thing.”
His coach has noticed an improvement of late.
“I think he’s really, he looks more comfortable right now,” Claude Julien said of Krejci. “As I’ve often said, he puts a lot of pressure on himself. He’s probably his worst enemy when things aren’t going well, and because of that, it doesn’t help him in the long run. You try and take some of that pressure off and say, ‘Listen, you’ve just got to go out there and play.’ So, when he feels good about his game, you see a big difference, and that’s what we’ve seen here.”
Like his previous two goals, his overtime goal came as the result of finding space in front of Martin Brodeur. And like his first two goals of the night his timing and positioning in front paid off.
“A little lucky that one, I guess. I was at the end of my shift, I was tired and, you know, Bergy [Patrice Bergeron] made a good play,” he said. “I kind of sensed it that he was going to throw it in front of the net and Z [Zdeno Chara] tried to jam it and I was just at the right time at the right place. I saw Brodeur was down so first thought was go upstairs and it worked that time.” Read the rest of this entry »
|David Krejci’s hat trick leads Bruins past Devils in overtime||03.01.12 at 9:37 pm ET|
David Krejci chose the best time of all to seal his hat trick Thursday, scoring his third goal of the night 2:59 into overtime to give the Bruins a 4-3 win over the Devils at TD Garden.
The Bruins blew a two-goal lead in the second period, but came back to tie the game in the third before eventually winning it on Krejci’s 16th of the season.
Claude Julien shuffled the team’s lines, and it paid off early for the Bruins. Centering Milan Lucic and Tyler Seguin, Krejci scored his 14th goal of the season 1:13 into the game when Seguin flew down the right wing and fed Krejci in front of the net. The same line produced another goal just under seven minutes later when Milan Lucic came down along the boards and shook off Mark Fayne before sending a pass to Seguin, who beat Martin Brodeur with a wrist shot. The goal was Seguin’s 21st of the season.
Then, as has been the case often this season, things went south for the B’s in the second period. The Devils scored three unanswered goals, getting tallies from Zach Parise, Patrik Elias and David Clarkson to wipe out the Bruins’ lead.
The Bruins woke back up in the third, as Krejci batted a rebound out of mid air at 5:30 to tie the game and give him his second goal of the night.
Tim Thomas made 26 saves on 29 shots in regulation, while Brodeur stopped 21 of the 24 shots he faced in the first three periods.
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE BRUINS
– Greg Zanon looked good in his Bruins debut. Paired with Adam McQuaid to begin the game, Zanon had a shot on goal, a pair of blocked shots and a big hit on Clarkson. Zanon finished the night with a team-high three hits for the B’s. Hits and blocked shots are both specialties of Zanon, who is a safer defenseman with less offensive prowess. Zanon also contributed on the penalty kill when Zdeno Chara went off for high-sticking Adam Henrique in the third period.
– That new line of Krejci between Seguin and Lucic sure looked good. All three players had multi-point nights, as Krejci had a pair of goals, while Seguin had a goal and an assist and Lucic had a pair of helpers.
– Tim Thomas picked up his first assist of the season and sixth helper of his career when he got the secondary apple on Seguin’s goal. Of course, it took Thomas a little longer to get his first assist this season than it did last season, as he assisted Seguin’s first career goal in his first start of the season in Prague against the Coyotes.
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE BRUINS
– Joe Corvo‘s horrid night cost him. He had his latest bad turnover in a Bruins sweater, making a blind backhanded pass into the neutral zone from the Bruins’ blue line in the second period, and Ilya Kovalchuk picked it off easily before feeding Zach Parise to make it 2-1. Corvo is fighting to stay in the lineup once Johnny Boychuk is healthy, and if he winds up as a healthy scratch, it will be because of the turnovers. He was also on the ice for Elias’ goal and was benched afterwards. He didn’t return to the ice until the start of the Bruins’ third-period power play at 5:45.
– After buzzing around the Devils’ zone for the first 20 minutes, the Bruins got off to a quiet start in the second period. The B’s didn’t get their first shot of the period until 9:11, when Seguin was stopped by Brodeur. The second period has been a killer for the Bruins for quite some time, and they were outscored, 2-0, and lost their lead in the second Thursday night.
– The Bruins’ lead could have been much greater than it was, and Brodeur had a lot to do with that. The four-time Vezina-winner came up with some some saves, including one on David Krejci in the first period. With the Devils on the power play, a save from Thomas on David Clarkson quickly turned into a breakaway for Krejci, but Brodeur stopped him with his blocker on an acrobatic save.
– Andrew Ference did not take another shift after his third of the period, which ended 5:30 into the period. He may have been injured on a hit he took from Alexei Ponikarovsky earlier in the period, though he had initially returned to the ice following the hit.
– Shawn Thornton was also missing for a few minutes after fighting frequent dance partner Eric Boulton 2:11 into the first period. After disappearing from the bench, he returned to take his second shift of the night at 15:35.
– Claude Julien sure does trust Brian Rolston already, as the B’s coach put Rolston on Patrice Bergeron’s line with Marchand. Rolston took his second tripping penalty in as many games, and through two games looks like he’d be better suited for bottom-six minutes than playing on that second line over someone like Chris Kelly or Benoit Pouliot. Julien eventually played Kelly on the line in Rolston’s place in the third period.