|Bruins-Canucks Game 4 preview: 4 keys, stats and players to watch||06.08.11 at 2:20 am ET|
The Bruins, coming off an 8-1 win over the Canucks in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup finals, have a chance to tie the series up Wednesday in Boston. Thus far in the playoffs, the Bruins have followed up their first win of a series with another one the next day. Here is a preview of Game 4:
FOUR THINGS THE BRUINS NEED TO DO
– Figure out life after Nathan Horton, and fast: At the very least, David Krejci and Milan Lucic will be playing with someone they haven’t played with much this season, so they’ll need to click fast. Michael Ryder and Rich Peverley seem to be the best options.
– Beat them physically, but watch out: The refs are going to be on extra lookout for extra curricular stuff. The Canucks might want to entice the Bruins, but the B’s have to keep in mind that the other guys aren’t interested in fighting as much as they are in drawing penalties. As for the finger stuff, there probably aren’t many players who want to be the one that ends up costing his team a goal because he stuck his fingers in another players’ mouth.
– Keep the pedal to the metal on the power play: The Bruins have now scored power play goals in back-to-back games for just he second time this postseason. The other time occurred in Games 3 and 4 of the conference semifinals vs. the Flyers.
– Treat it as a must-win: The Bruins can either tie the series or end up going to Vancouver down three games to one. It would be hard to imagine the B’s overcoming such a deficit, so the level of desperation has to be high on Wednesday night.
– The Canucks outshot the Bruins, 41-38, in Game 3. The B’s are now 10-4 in games in which they’ve been outshot. They had a 6-0 mark in such games through the first two rounds, and have gone 4-4 when being outshot the last two rounds.
– Tim Thomas allowed five goals in the team’s Game 6 loss to the Lightning. Since then, he’s allowed five goals over four games.
– Former Boston College and Bruins defenseman Andrew Alberts has had a negative rating in four of the five games he’s played this postseason. The 16:28 he played in Game 3 made for a postseason high. Part of that is a result of the team having five defensemen for all but five minutes of the game.
– Chris Kelly‘s goal in Game 3 was his first since removing the full cage from his helmet. Kelly had four goals while wearing the cage, but had gone 11 straight games without a goal, nine of which were cageless. Now, the curse of the cageless Kelly can be laid to rest.
FOUR PLAYERS TO KEEP AN EYE ON
– Tyler Seguin: The rookie hasn’t registered a point since Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals, and he hasn’t played particularly well since Game 3 of that series. Now his scoring ability is more of a need for the Bruins than a luxury with Horton out.
– Roberto Luongo: Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault didn’t want to pull Luongo, and Luongo didn’t want his coach to pull him on a night in which the floodgates opened wide. Now it’s a matter of how he bounces back. There’s no history to guide this one, as he had never allowed eight goals before, and the only time in which he allowed seven was Game 6 against the Blackhawks last year in the second round, a contest in which Vancouver was eliminated.
– Henrik and Daniel Sedin: It has to have dawned on the Sedin twins that they haven’t been their dominant selves this series. Aside from a two-point performance in Game 2 from Daniel, the Sedin twins have been kept off the scoring sheet. Daniel has an even rating this series, while Henrik has only a minus-1 rating and a big hit from Thomas in Game 3 to show for himself.
|Only one game? Bruins’ first-liners feel slighted||06.03.11 at 7:22 pm ET|
VANCOUVER — The Bruins are three days into the Stanley Cup finals, and they’re already sick of the way it’s being perceived.
After losing Game 1 in a contest that was scoreless for all but 18.5 seconds, a couple of members of the Bruins’ first line made it clear Friday at the University of British Columbia that the press might not be giving them a fair enough shake.
“You know, it’s clear that you guys aren’t giving us much of a chance,” Milan Lucic said. “We’ve just got to do whatever we can to prove people wrong.”
The B’s top line has played against the Canucks’ second line of Ryan Kesler between Mason Raymond and Christopher Higgins. How the Bruins will deal with Kesler, a 41-goal-scorer in the regular season, has been a popular topic in the series. The series may be young, but Krejci is already sick of hearing about Kesler.
“He’s the best player in the world, right? That’s what it looks like,” Krejci said when asked about playing against Kesler. “That’s why everybody’s asking me about him. It’s not about him. Obviously, he’s a great player. He’s a really good player, but my game is to focus on my game and what I have to do, and not about other guys.”
Kesler poked a puck past Johnny Boychuk at the blue line Wednesday and hit Jannik Hansen with a pass, who then set up an easy Raffi Torres goal with Tim Thomas respecting Hansen’s shot. Krejci noted that for all the attention the second line receives, Kesler was playing with third-liners (the team was in the midst of a line change) on the game-winning goal, and that it was a closer game than he feels people are remembering.
“It was a zero-zero game all the way,” Krejci said. “You guys are making such a big deal that we lost. I mean, it could have gone either way. His line, I know he got an apple, but he was with the two other guys from another line.”
Krejci and Nathan Horton each had five shots on goal in Game 1, which tied for tops on the Bruins. Many of those shots came on the power play, but the play of the line in general was a strong point for the B’s on a night in which nobody could beat Roberto Luongo.
“It’s still good,” Krejci said. “We’d like to have over 10 shots every game, but I feel like we can maybe bring a little more to our game, especially create some chances. I don’t think we had that many great scoring chances the last game.”
Due to concerts at Rogers Arena, the home of the Canucks, the teams have had to deal with a two-day gap between Games 1 and 2. Lucic noted that he’s blocked out any chatter in that time and is focused on giving the media something positive to talk about after Saturday’s Game 2.
“Obviously we can’t control what you guys say,” Lucic said. “That’s why we try not to watch or read too much of what you guys say. For us, it’s definitely a big opportunity going into Game 2. We know we have to play better. We need to play better. We need to play the way we did prior coming into this series to give ourselves a chance to win.
“They finished first in the league, in the standings, for a reason,” he said of the Canucks. “They beat the three teams before us to get here for a reason. They’re a really good team. They beat us in Game 1 because they played better than us.”
Whether or not the media has actually been hard on the B’s, it looks like the two days off have the Bruins itching to get back on the ice in Game 2 and show that they can hang with the Canucks. For 49 minutes and just over 17 seconds, they did on Wednesday.
|Dan Hamhuis day-to-day||06.02.11 at 4:32 pm ET|
VANCOUVER — One day after Canucks defenseman Dan Hamhuis left Game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals in the second period due to injury, Vancouver coach said Thursday at the University of British Columbia that the defenseman is “day-to-day.”
Hamhuis hip-checked Bruins left wing Milan Lucic and was cross-checked immediately following the play by B’s center David Krejci. He headed down the tunnel and did not return to the game. The former 12th overall pick has averaged 24:50 of ice time this postseason, which is third on the Canucks.
|Brian Leetch on M&M: Bruins ‘don’t feel an underdog’||06.01.11 at 12:09 pm ET|
Hall of Fame defenseman Brian Leetch joined the Mut & Merloni show Wednesday morning to talk about the Stanley Cup finals, which get under way Wednesday night in Vancouver. To hear the interview, go the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.
Leetch, who grew up in Connecticut and played collegiately at Boston College, was asked about the Bruins being underdogs in this series.
“I know they don’t feel an underdog,” he said. “When you have two good teams playing, sometimes it’s just an easier pick to pick the team with more points during the regular season, or they had a couple of better stats. But you look at their stats up and down, these teams ‘ we’ve almost gotten to 100 games now ‘ are almost identical. Right through the playoffs and the regular season, there’s not much that separates them. The goaltending is both excellent, their top players, their depth.”
Asked about the Bruins being physical while avoiding penalties, Leetch said: “I think when we talk about the Bruins playing physical, it kind of gets taken a little out of context, of them going outside of their game or playing some different style. Really, their game is to get the puck in, is to finish their checks. It’s not to physically intimidate a team or to injure or to get a different style of play going.
“It’s their strength. It’s the way they play. And that doesn’t mean taking the extra run, it doesn’t mean going out of your way. It means getting he pucks int eh areas where you can get in on the forecheck, where you can take the body, where you can play physical. And the Bruins know as a team, you’ll hear it come out of each guy’s mouth, that we’re at our best when we play that way. We’re at our best when we finish checks, we’re moving our feet, we’re involved physically. So, I don’t think it does anything to take them out of a comfort zone or to run around. It’s just emphasis on playing the game the right way, which for the Bruins means playing physical.”
|Andrew Ference: Bruins have been waiting for that goal setup all series||05.28.11 at 12:42 am ET|
During Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals, defense partners Andrew Ference and Johnny Boychuk and assistant coach Doug Houda talked about a play they thought would break the Lightning’s 1-3-1 neutral zone setup. Instead of gathering speed through the neutral zone to win the race to a dump-in, they discussed using that speed to make short passes and skate the puck into the offensive zone.
The Bruins used that plan to varying amounts of success throughout the series, but it never really worked out well enough to result in a goal… until the third period of Game 7.
The play started with all three forwards circling back toward the defense to pick up some speed as Ference walked the puck into the neutral zone. Then Ference made a quick pass to David Krejci that sprung the speedy center clear through Tampa’s three-man front at center ice.
“I’ve been waiting for that all series,” Ference said. “All series, we’ve talked about that. I talked about that play with Doug Houda, I think Game 1. Johnny and I, we’ve been in that situation, I don’t know, 50, 60 times this series where we bring up the puck into the forecheck that they have. Game 1, we drew that play up and said, ‘Boys, look for this play. It’s gonna work, it’s gonna work.’ We tried it a couple times, but tonight was the first time it really just worked perfect, the timing and everything. Krejci came through with the perfect timing and obviously the finish was sick.”
That finish was a criss-cross by Krejci and winger Nathan Horton once they entered the zone, a quick pull-up by Krejci in the left circle, and a crisp centering pass that Horton tipped home from the top of the crease.
“We knew we wanted to come back and get some speed,” Horton said. “You want to have speed to get going through the zone and we kind of did that. We had a little bit more than they probably thought, so it worked out well. That’s what you want. You want Dave coming over the blue line with the puck. I just tried to give him some space and he made an unbelievable pass to me.”
Claude Julien said that play gave the Bruins a nice second option on entries, allowing them to keep the Lightning on their toes.
“I liked the way our guys made some decisions tonight as far as knowing when to run it in because we have guys going with speed,” Julien said. “I think that was a great play where you walk the puck in, and obviously Dave made a great play hanging onto it and Horts went to the net.”
|Ed Olczyk on M&M: Put Patrice Bergeron on top power play instead of Tomas Kaberle||05.27.11 at 1:05 pm ET|
Versus NHL analyst and former NHL center Ed Olczyk joined the Mut & Merloni show Friday to talk about the Eastern Conference finals Game 7 showdown between the Bruins and Lightning. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.
Olczyk made a comment during the Game 6 broadcast on Versus about Bruins coach Claude Julien needing to mix up the lines to get more consistent offense. While he acknowledged Friday, “I think Claude has pushed a lot of the right buttons,” he stood by his analysis.
“If you look at the [David] Krejci line, with them having the majority of the success at even strength, I just kind of felt at that time, when you look up at the shot [totals] and there’s not a lot of generating going on, you look to try to change it up,” he said. “You look to add a little spark somewhere.”
Olczyk also suggested making a change on the Bruins’ power play, which has struggled all postseason.
“If you are struggling ‘ and I think at times the Bruins have done all the right things, they just haven’t been able to score,” he said. “So, the issue is, the check and balance is, do you drastically change your personnel and load up? I think for me, I think at some point if you’re going to play Big Z [Zdeno Chara] in front of the net, I think you’ve got to put Patrice Bergeron on a point on the power play if you’re not going to play him down low because you’ve got Krejci and [Nathan] Horton and Chara down there and you’ve got [Dennis] Seidenberg and [Tomas] Kaberle. I think you load up. I think you put Patrice Bergeron on a point on the power play with Dennis Seidenberg ‘ if that’s my first unit.”
Added Olczyk: “I would suggest loading up your first-power-play unit. And Patrice Bergeron’s got to be on that first power-play unit. I just think he has that ability. He had a quiet game [Wednesday]. I think he’s been terrific since he’s come back, but he was very quiet, probably a little too quiet in Game 6. But for me, I would put Bergeron on a point with Seidenberg. I would put Kaberle on the second unit. And I would load up with Chara, Krejci and Horton on that first power-play unit. If you’re going to go down, go down with your best guys. Go down swinging.
|Claude Julien: ‘Our team needs to be positive’||at 12:58 pm ET|
There were plenty of negatives for the Bruins in their Game 6 loss. From a team perspective, giving up three power-play goals obviously stands out. And from an individual perspective, you would have to start with Johnny Boychuk, who was on the ice for all five of the Lightning’s goal.
But with Game 7 mere hours away now, Claude Julien isn’t dwelling on any of the negatives.
“This is Game 7, and sorry not to answer your question, but this is not a day or a time for me to question,” Julien said when asked about Boychuk. “I’m going to [abstain] from doing that today because I think our team needs to be positive, and we believe in everybody in our hockey club. So we’re going to stick with that motto for today.”
-One of the positives the Bruins can take from Game 6 is the play of David Krejci. The first-line center notched the first playoff hat trick by a Bruin since Cam Neely in 1991. Julien said the coaches have been encouraging Krejci to shoot more all season, and that Wednesday night was a perfect example of why.
“David, in his mind, is a pass-first kind of player and he always looks to pass first and foremost,” Julien said. “And we’ve encouraged him to shoot more because there’s times when he’s in a real good shooting position. Marc Savard was the same way. Marc had a real good shot and a lot of times he’d look to pass instead of shooting.
“But that’s a natural thing that those guys normally do, from Adam Oates back in the day — they’re guys that that’s the strength of their game. So you don’t want them to lose that strength, but you also want them to be able to make the difference between, ‘Am I in a good shooting area or a scoring area here, where I should take the shot versus passing?’ ”
-One guy Julien (and B’s fans) would still like to see shoot more is Tomas Kaberle. The veteran defenseman had one of his best games of the playoffs Wednesday night, assisting on two goals, registering a plus-1 rating and logging 19:46 of ice time, his highest total since Game 5 against Montreal. But there were still times, especially on the power play, when he passed up what appeared to be an open shot.
“The only thing you’ve always heard about Tomas is you’d like to see him shoot the puck more,” Julien said. “And there are times on the power play where, if he has that shooting lane, with Zdeno [Chara] in front, you have to shoot. It doesn’t have to be a big shot. It can be a wrist shot, it can be anything.”