|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.”
|Bruins-Lightning Game 7: 7 odds and ends||at 1:43 am ET|
With Game 7 just hours away, we’re getting carried away with the number seven. Here are seven stats/tidbits entering the game:
– Tampa has scored in the first 69 seconds of three different games this series, and have won only one of those contests. The B’s have gone on to take the lead in all three games.
– After scoring in the first period of Game 6, Milan Lucic now has six goals in the last six games in which the B’s could eliminate an opponent. In fact, all three of his goals this postseason have come in such games. He had two in Game 4 vs. the Flyers in the second round.
– The Bruins are 10-10 all-time in Game 7’s.
– Friday’s Game 7 will be Boston’s 100th game of the season.
– Tomas Kaberle has four points over the last two games, which ties him with Krejci for most among the B’s in Game 5 and 6. Kaberle’s eight points this postseason put him in a tie with Dennis Seidenberg for most among Bruins defensemen.
– The Bruins have outshot their opponent just once in their last 11 games.
– The only Bruins player with a multi-point game in the team’s Game 7 against the Canadiens this postseason was Andrew Ference, who had two assists.
|Bruins can draw on Game 7 vs. Canadiens, but only to a certain extent||05.26.11 at 6:07 pm ET|
The Bruins have experience winning a Game 7 at home, having done so against the Canadiens in the first round. But how much can they actually draw from that come Friday night? Players say at least a little.
“We got some confidence,” David Krejci said Thursday. “We know we’ve been there before, so it’s nothing new to us. Hopefully we can use our experience to our advantage tomorrow.”
Perhaps that will be the case, but there a few flaws in the theory that the Game 7 against Montreal will give Boston any sort of an advantage Friday. First, the Bruins didn’t look nervous at all to start that game. They jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first 5:33, which is an anomaly for a team that has surrendered seven goals in the opening three minutes of games this postseason. So you can’t really make the argument that they’ll be less nervous.
Second, and more importantly, the Lightning aren’t new to this whole Game 7 thing either. They beat the Penguins on the road in Game 7 in the first round, so no one should expect them to be overwhelmed by the atmosphere and magnitude of the game.
“Obviously we have played in a Game 7, but so have they,” Chris Kelly said. “You can kind of look back and realize how you approached it, but at the end of the day, it’s two new teams, a new situation and a new experience.”
Kelly hit the nail on the head with that last line. A Game 7 in the first round is one thing. A Game 7 in the conference finals with a berth in the Stanley Cup finals on the line is another.
Claude Julien said his team realizes that and that he hopes his players are excited about it.
“Why shouldn’t we be excited? This is what playoffs is all about,” Julien said. “If you had told us at the beginning of the year that we had to win one game to go to the Stanley Cup finals, we would be excited about it. And that’s where we’re at right now.”
NBC and Versus play-by-play man Mike “Doc” Emrick joined the Mut & Merloni show on Thursday to discuss the Lightning-Bruins series and preview Friday night’s Game 7 at TD Garden.
“The whole series has been [unusual], nothing [predictable] about what we’ll get tomorrow based on what we’ve seen so far,” Emrick said. “We know they are both good defensive teams, but try proving it.”
Emrick noted that Games 7’s are entirely unpredictable.
“Weird things that can happen in a seventh game we remember more because they were seventh games and not Games 4, 5 or 6’s,” he said. “Anybody can beat anybody in a Game 7. You get the right penalty call at the right time, you get a fluky bounce. ‘¦. If you care who wins you go, ‘Shoot, this is torture.'”
To hear the entire interview, visit the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.
Here are more highlights from the interview:
On the Bruins’ struggles on the power play: “It’s a very unusual squad because its only happened a couple of times in history. It’s never happened before that a team didn’t get one power play goal and won a series, which they did in seven games against Montreal.
“The power play did strike late [in Game 6] and that certainly helped, but overall it was as flawed on the night as Tampa Bay’s was strong. Special teams made a big difference in this game, and they tend to make a big difference in games, but when you have a Bruins team that has got this far without much of a power play you have to say, ‘Well the ultimate seventh game might it not mean anything.'”
On the Bruins adjustments, including Zdeno Chara to the front of the net on the power play: “I think that confused [Dwayne Roloson], [Chara] had a deflection once, he got tangled with him once. Some of the things they were doing didn’t work but [Claude Julien] is more of a status quo coach than [Guy] Boucher is, but the thing is they have both had success they way that they do.”
On the Tampa Bay power play: We talked earlier in the series about how [David] Krejci, [Milan] Lucic and [Nathan] Horton had a lot of pressure because they weren’t producing well it was that same thing with the star power for Tampa Bay because [Vinny] Lecavalier and [Steve] Stamkos haven’t aligned in recent games. They came to the floor last night.
“It may have been not so much the Bruins penalty kill, but the fact there was heat on these guys, the ultimate heat on these guys, that if they don’t perform last night they aren’t performing anymore till October. They rose to the occasion.”
On Tyler Seguin’s ice time: “I am not sure what kind of difference he would have made. You have to remember that the game he had the four points in and tied a record, it wound up being a wacky wide open game that set up perfect for him.
“People say Seguin should get more time, and I understand that, but who will you take it away from? Maybe people would have people hand-picked to take time away from, but I can’t think of anyone. I know you mentioned [Mark] Recchi and thought he was out there too much, but there’s savvy and skill for a seventh game in particular that Mark Recchi has.”
On his Game 7 prediction: “This is going to be low scoring, and something bizarre will happen later on, but if I wake up two mornings from now and pick up the paper and realize the score was 7-6 I won’t be shocked.”