|Series keys: Clogged lanes and blocked shots||04.14.10 at 1:19 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — Remember the end of the 2006 NFL regular season? Nobody thought that the Colts would be able to do anything in the playoffs because their defense could not stop the run to saves its life that year. Then Indianapolis got safety Bob Sanders back, dominated both phases of defense through the postseason and won the Super Bowl over the Bears in February.
With the two best statistical goaltenders in the league between the pipes for the Bruins and Sabres series, do not expect a Colts like turnaround for Boston’s offense. At the same time that does not mean it will be completely incapable of putting the puck in the net. The Sabres are known as a team with some good scorers (Thomas Vanek and Tim Connolly come to mind) who also crash the net and clog the lanes in the offensive zone with all five skaters.
The Bruins have been focusing on crashing the net, especially in the latter part of the season when it seemed that was the only way they could score, though have also specialized the last couple of years in coach Claude Julien’s system in making sure that their goaltenders have the best sight lines possible.
“They can complain all they want about not getting goal scoring but they have the talent,” Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller told Mike Harrington of the Buffalo news earlier this week. “From our side we have to defend against the talent. Its the playoffs. Everything goes to zeroes. There are no stats established right now.”
That being said, the keys to this series fall within the lanes. The Sabres are known as a team that likes to send five guys towards the net, clog the shooting and passing lanes enough that it is hard for the goaltender to see the puck. This type of game, growing more prevalent in the NHL, leads to shots having eyes through traffic, deflections, tip-ins and rebounds as the primary mode of scoring.
“Well, I think everybody in the league, and I think this is no secret, is that they attack at least four and at times will have five guys by the time that they get to the goal at the top of the circle,” Julien said on Tuesday. “Rightfully so, because they are so confident about the guy between the pipes [Miller] that they feel they can bail him out.”
The Bruins have one of the forefathers of this style of play on their team in the form of veteran Mark Recchi who offered his wisdom on what the series is going to look like and how teams go about defending it.
“It is all about blocking shots, basically,” Recchi said. “It is a little harder to do things than you wanted too. You used to be able to do whatever you wanted to in front. But now there are so many people blocking and making sure that pucks don’t get to the front of the net, basically that is how you control something like that. We have to make sure that our defensemen get pucks on the net so we can create some problems.”
Recchi knows that that particular style of play will be dominant in the series and the team that controls the front of the net will have the advantage. In that regard, both the Bruins and Sabres have a lynchpin at the center of defensive cores that know how to clear the way in front of the goaltenders. For Boston that is the big man, captain Zdeno Chara. Not to be overlooked though is the fact that Buffalo has a bit of a Chara clone in the form of 6-foot 8-inch 20-year-old defenseman Tyler Myers. Which team wins that battle, experience or youth?
“He is a key player on their team,” Milan Lucic said of Myers. “It is like every team. They have a standout defenseman that you have to get after early and often. It is no secret that they are going to be getting after [Chara] early and often and try to wear him down. He is a key part of their team and we have to do everything in our power to try and shut him down.”
After Chara and Myers, the rest of the defensemen on each squad will do their best to make sure that pucks do not even make it to the net. As the Bruins stretch run of tight games running up to the playoffs have had win-or-go-home circumstances, there have been a lot of of Black and Gold bodies flying towards the point to impede impending slap shots. Dennis Seidenberg was particularly effective in that department for Boston (he led the league in blocked shots between the Panthers and Bruins) but without him, the Bruins have other players who have been willing to sacrifice their bodies. Patrice Bergeron has been known to dive in front of pucks, so has Dennis Wideman.
“Both teams are trying to do that. Both teams defensively block a lot of shots and get it lanes and that is the key to most teams actually now. You know, shot blocking is a big thing now and that is going to be a big factor in a lot of ways,” Recchi said. ”Well, they try to block you out of the lane, not let you get to the front of the net. When you do get to the front they try to get in front of you and block you out that way, so basically they are trying to avoid you getting there and blocking out and not letting the goaltender see it. What they do is step in front of you and they try to block the puck inside.”
|Seidenberg hopes to remain a Bruin next season||04.08.10 at 12:51 pm ET|
Just when things were starting to go so well on the ice for Dennis Seidenberg an odd injury forces him to watch the rest of the season from the press box.
Seidenberg will miss eight weeks with a lacerated flexor carpi radialis tendon in his left forearm which he had surgery to fix on Tuesday and expressed disappointment that his time with in Boston may be coming to a premature end. The defenseman was picked up by the Bruins on the March 3 NHL Trade Deadline from Florida along with Matt Bartowski for Craig Weller, Byron Bitz and a second round draft pick and played in 17 games with two goals and seven assists. Seidenberg’s 215 blocked shots between the Panthers and Boston lead the NHL.
Seidenberg cut the tendon in his forearm last Saturday in the first period against Toronto at Air Canada Centre. Initially he did not think the cut was that bad but after skating on Tuesday morning at Ristuccia realized that something was definitely wrong with the area and went to see a doctor. The news of a torn tendon came as a surprise.
“Well, I went through knowing something was wrong because it was really painful, I wasn’t just going there in passing,” Seidenberg said. “I was expecting something to be wrong with it but not expecting for the tendon to be torn and to have surgery was even more surprising so it was disappointing and tough to hear.”
Seidenberg does not expect the rehabilitation to be all that strenuous and sounded like a man who had been through similar injuries before. His arm was in a cast on Thursday and he said that it will stay there for four weeks before starting exercises to regain his range of motion.
“Usually a tendon takes four weeks to heal and after that you just get the motion back and get the strength back and everything. It is an easy rehabbing process,” Seidenberg said. “It could be worse. It is just a regular tendon tear and the rehab should be easy.”
Now that his time in Boston has just about come to and end, Seidenberg was asked what he thought about his time in the Hub and if he wanted to stay. Since arriving he has played exclusively as the No. 2 defenseman paired with captain Zdeno Chara and has been a solidifying presence on the blue line in lieu of Derek Morris who was traded to Phoenix the day Seidenberg was acquired. He said that he has not yet been approached by Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli but that he would hope to hear from him soon to start discussing a possible future with the team.
“No, it has been pretty quiet. The last couple of days have been about finding out about my wrist and so hopefully soon something will start to happen,” Seidenberg said. “It has been good. I am playing lots and I couldn’t ask for anything more. I think I fit in nicely and I hope I stay here.”
|Big minutes coming for the blueliners||04.07.10 at 12:39 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — What happens when the core disintegrates?
You could take the movie version like in that terrible version of a modern B movie “The Core” in which there are a lot of mysterious lightning storms that happen to strike over Rome as an example. Or maybe in the new blockbuster “2012″ in which the world tears itself to shreds and humanity’s elite are forced to take refuge in the digital age version of the ark. Either way, it was not that pretty.
Perhaps not quite as dramatic, but the Bruins have relied on steady defense and goaltending this year to put themselves in position to make the playoffs despite their league-worst offense. Yet, in the last week, the Bruins have had two of their top three defensemen need to have surgery and their best blueliner and captain break his nose. Mark Stuart will miss about two weeks after having surgery for cellulitis in his finger and Dennis Seidenberg is out for the rest of the season (barring some miraculous playoff run) after having surgery to fix a lacerated flexor carpi radialis tendon in his left forearm that he sustained in the first period against Toronto on Saturday.
The Seidenberg surgery came more out of the blue because it seemed that he was all right on Tuesday after he talked to the media, giving no indication that an operation was imminent.
“I think in the morning he felt pain and obviously before the game we tried something with him and in the warmup he still felt pain,” coach Claude Julien said. “In the short time I have known him I think it is pretty obvious that he is a tough individual, so for him not to go something was obviously wrong and the diagnosis we got from Toronto was not the same diagnosis we got here.”
Add to that the perpetual mystery that is Andrew Ference (out for the regular season but being evaluated every day) and Boston has all of a sudden become very light on the back end.
Practice at Ristuccia on Wednesday looked a little more like training camp than a team preparing for its final three games in a season in a playoff race. Adam McQuaid and Andrew Bodnarchuk have been recalled to the Bruins from Providence, and the ways things are going they are up for longer than just the usual “emergency basis.” On the offensive side, Trent Whitfield and Brad Marchand are not exactly the players one would expect to see on the roster in early April, but so it goes. (To be fair, Marchand and Whitfield have earned their extended cups of coffee.)
|Seidenberg out 8 weeks after surgery||at 10:31 am ET|
The Bruins announced that defenseman Dennis Seidenberg had successful surgery to repair a lacerated flexor carpi radialis tendon in his left forearm and is expected to sidelined for eight weeks. Seidenberg suffered the injury during the first period of the Bruins’ game vs. the Maple Leafs on Saturday in Toronto.
Seidenberg has played in 17 games for the Bruins since being acquired from the Florida Panthers at the trade deadline on March 3. He has two goals, seven assists and a plus-9 rating.
|Second period summary: Bruins vs. Maple Leafs||04.03.10 at 8:45 pm ET|
Giving David Krejci some new wingmen has paid off, for a period at least.
Boston got back into the game with its first goal in 88:01 of game play. Captain Zdeno Chara started a break out when he hit the open Krejci in the neutral zone going down the left wing. Krejci broke through the zone and got to the top of the face off circle before torquing his body and throwing a backhand wrist shot on Gustavsson that rebounded through the crease to Miroslav Satan perfectly positioned on the other side for the bang back score.
An opportunity came for Boston via the power play when Christian Hansen took an interference call at 10:45. The Bruins had good puck control on the man-advantage (which has not always been the case this season) though the Leafs penalty kill blocked a series of shots including two by Rickard Wallin on consecutive Chara shots from the point to kill off the penalty.
Dennis Seidenberg did not return after cutting his arm in the first period and are now quite shorthanded on defense combined with the loss of Mark Stuart to cellulitis. Regardless, Boston played much better in the second period and outshot the Leafs nine to eight and trail the game in the category 22 to 14.
|First period summary: Bruins vs. Maple Leafs||at 7:51 pm ET|
If there was ever a must-win game, Saturday at Air Canada Centre in Toronto is that kind of game for the Bruins.
The results will be twofold. Foremost, the Bruins are only a point ahead of the Thrashers and tied with Flyers for the final two playoff spots in the Eastern Conference. Secondly, if Boston wants to get a top two pick in the NHL Entry Draft this summer, they have to beat the team whose pick they own to keep them down in the standings.
So, you would think that the Bruins would be motivated and jump on the division rival Leafs early, right?
Not so much.
Toronto took the early lead at 5:10 into the game when Colton Orr, much more known for his bruising than goal scoring, pushed a rebound off a Dion Phaneuf shot pased Tuukka Rask to open the scoring.
Four minutes later the Leafs would have a big chance to make it a two-goal advantage when Michael Ryder went to the penalty box for hooking at 9:15. He was followed there 23-seconds later by Dennis Seidenberg who took a boarding call to set up 1:37 of two-man advantage ice time for Toronto.
The Bruins registered the kill and came back down the ice to put pressure on Leafs’ goaltender Jonas Gustavsson but a shot hit the cross bar and bounced back out of the crease to end the threat.
During Seidenberg’s penalty he had to leave the box with a cut on his forearm that needed medical attention. Defenseman Mark Stuart is not with the team after getting sent back to Boston with cellulitis, a skin infection, in his hand. Andrew Bodnarchuk has been recalled from Providence on an emergency basis.
Toronto has been the better team through the first 20 minutes and lead the Bruins in shots by nine, 14 to five.
|Only big games left for Bruins||04.01.10 at 12:56 pm ET|
At this point in the season there are no more trap games, no wake up games, no small games or revenge games.
They are just big games.
“A win is a win or a loss is a loss, no matter who you play,” coach Claude Julien said after Thursday’s morning skate. “Whether you are playing a top team in the league, it is going to be a tough competition, just like it was last game or whether you play a team that is out of the playoffs and is loose and they want to be spoilers. If you look at it, we just can’t afford to lose a game.”
With four teams bunched within two points for the final three playoff spots, the team that can get the hottest right now will be able to separate itself from the pack. If Boston wants to be that team, it has a even chance in front of it. Of the Bruins final six games, three come against also-rans (tonight against Florida, Saturday against the Leafs and April 10 against the Hurricanes) and three comes against the top two teams in the Eastern Conference, including two different trips to D.C. to visit the Capitals.
The Bruins have been playing to the level of their competition all year. For every dramatic 1-0 victory over the Devils there have been 5-3 disappointments against the Lightning. Looking back on the season, it has definitely been a roller coaster for fans of hockey in the Hub.
“You have to take advantage of the opportunities and you have to be ready to play,” Julien said. “We’ve got to be better, got to find ways to win and find some consistency.”
Florida has been in a funk of late as losers of their last four including a 6-2 in Buffalo on Wednesday where they were outshot 41-15 by the surging Sabres. Defenseman Dennis Seidenberg was a member of the Panthers the last time the Bruins played them (a 3-2 Bruins shootout win on in Sunrise, Fla on Feb. 13, the last game before the Olympic break). He is adjusting well to his new team and has started to contribute offensively with four points (two goals, two assists) and a plus-four rating in his last five games.
“Every time you play against your old team, it is different,” Seidenberg said. “You know all the guys you play against. But, in this case, you have to put it in the back of your mind and just concentrate on getting the points.”
Yes, the points are crucial and Boston does have a real opportunity to move up a couple of spots in the standings with a win on Thursday, but there are other franchise considerations at play around the league that are hard to not note.
For instance, there is a peculiar conundrum for the Bruins as a organization (though not for the players and coaches) in gaining two points at the expense of the Panthers. Florida currently sits three points ahead of the Maple Leafs (tied with the Islanders) for the third worst spot in the NHL. The significance, of course, is that Boston owns the Leafs first round pick this June and would love to see it be the No. 2 overall. The best way to ensure that would be to lose to the Panthers tonight and then beat the Leafs on Saturday. Nobody on the team would ever dare mention it as a course of action but the fans are well aware of where the Leafs are in the standings. If the playoffs are not in the near future for the Bruins they can still take solace in a lottery pick.
– Ference Watch: Day 7
A fair amount of Julien’s pregame presser centered around the healthy, and potential availability, of oft-injured defenseman Andrew Ference. The blue liner does need offseason surgery for a tear in his abductor muscle in his groin as well as a hernia, but that does not mean he is completely unavailable to the Bruins for the rest of the season. Julien said that the plan at the start of this week was to shut Ference down for the week and then take it day-by-day from there. Ference can play with the injury as there is no further health risk of what he can do to the injured area but that does not mean he would be in anyway effective on the ice. Even if Boston is able to bring him back next week, there is no telling how long he will last. Julien acknowledged this point.
“Exactly, I think that's the situation. There is no guarantee. There is a guarantee that he will be back and he will be okay,” Julien said. “Now, how long he will last, that's a gamble. When I say a gamble, there is no health risk to it, but it is a gamble we are willing to take. At least if one of our 'D's go down, at least there is someone with experience to step in. You look at Providence right now, [Adam] McQuaid is still out of the lineup, so you need some depth along the way and for him to at least give us that insurance is good for us.”
All other healthy skaters were present and accounted for at the morning skate.