|Claude Julien after Game 3 win: ‘The commitment is totally there’||06.18.13 at 3:43 am ET|
No more Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde from these Bruins, at least not in the eyes of their coach.
After the Bruins dominated Game 3 in nearly every aspect, including a 40-16 edge on faceoffs, Claude Julien heaped praise on the effort level of his team after the 2-0 win that leaves them two victories shy of their second Stanley Cup in three years and seventh in franchise history.
“I think it’s the energy in the game, the effort,” Julien said. “You see our guys, like I said, they’re backchecking, having layers, so when somebody makes a mistake, you have somebody covering up.”
Even several stitches above the eye of Zdeno Chara wasn’t going to keep the commitment level down for the Bruins. Chara said he “lost an edge” during pregame skate Monday night.
“All he did is he slipped, had a little gash over his eye,” Julien said. “I haven’t even seen it. Just by slipping, he got hit just above the eye. Nothing serious.”
The Bruins blocked another 17 shots Monday — to seven for Chicago. Dennis Seidenberg had six by himself.
“We’re blocking a lot of shots,” Julien continued. “The commitment is totally there. Throughout a whole season, it’s not easy to have that full commitment. But I think when you get to this stage, players start feeling it. They go above and beyond. That’s what you’re seeing from our team right now.”
Julien famously lashed out at his team in the first-round series with Toronto, calling the B’s a “Jekyll and Hyde” team when they blew a 3-1 series lead only to grab a dramatic Game 7 win to extend their playoff season.
But that certainly hasn’t been the case since. After the Game 6 loss to the Leafs, the Bruins are 11-2 in these playoffs. And the penalty kill — another area of effort and execution — is a big reason why. With five more kills on Monday, the Bruins have killed off 27 straight penalties.
“It’s our backcheck,” Julien explained. “Our guys are understanding one thing: This is a team, when it attacks, it attacks with four, never three. They’ve got such great skaters back there on the fence that if we don’t do what we’re doing right now, we don’t stand a chance. Our guys, like I’ve said, they’ve committed to that. They realize how important it is to come back. We’re trying to support each other that way and trying to keep it as tight as possible.”
As hard as the crew inside TD Garden tried Monday, the ice was hardly suitable for two of the best hockey teams in the world to do battle. But battle they did.
There were bouncing pucks all night. There were players like Brad Marchand losing control on what appeared to be a certain shorthanded breakaway. There were pucks jumping over defensemen’s sticks as they tried to keep the puck in the offensive zone.
In short, this is what happens when you play on a humid 80-degree day in mid-June in Boston. The Garden is typically an ice-box in the winter because there is no in-house dehumidifier in the building. As they did in 2011, TD Garden tried to fix the humidity issue by bringing in high-tech dehumidifiers beginning with the Penguins series. On Monday, they didn’t do much good as far as the ice was concerned.
Asked if he thought the conditions were “crappy,” Dennis Seidenberg tried to be as kind as possible but couldn’t help but state the obvious.
“It is pretty bad,” Seidenberg said. “When you try to shoot, try to swing your blade on the ice, it feels like it’s sandpaper. It’s really rough. When you try to pass, the puck bounces. That’s why you have to keep the game simple, like I said. If there’s a play to be made, you have to make sure it’s an easy one. If not, you rather choose to go over the wall and out.
“Again, there was breakdowns today, but we seemed to cover them up a little bit better than the other side.”
It’s similar to when infielders complain about the dirt at Fenway Park, a common occurrence in the 1960s and 70s and, to a lesser degree, today.
Then there’s the perspective of the goalie. Tuukka Rask has already had one episode on the sketchy ice of Madison Square Garden – leading to the “butt stumble” in Game 4 of the Eastern semis that the Rangers won in overtime. Monday, Rask avoided an embarrassing repeat, no thanks to the ice conditions.
“The ice was pretty good in the start of the periods,” Rask said. “Then pretty quickly it got really chippy. It’s tough to get the read off of shots when it’s really a mess out there with the ice. You just got to be extra careful with the crazy bounces and stuff. You don’t want to make any stupid mistakes playing the puck either. You just got to be extra careful.”
|Bruins can only hope home ice is advantage it was in ’11||06.17.13 at 1:04 pm ET|
Two years ago, home-ice advantage was the second-biggest factor in the Stanley Cup finals, just behind having a sane goaltender.
After the Canucks took the first two games of the Stanley Cup finals with wins that were decided in the final seconds, the Bruins came back to Boston and blew Vancouver out by a combined score of 12-1. They won all three home games that series by a combined score of 17-3 before finally winning a road game in Vancouver in Game 7. Dennis Seidenberg remembers the atmosphere of the Garden being “crazy” for those games.
It obviously won’t be that way this time around. For starters, the first two games were split, although they did come down to the wire, just like Games 1 and 2 in Vancouver. The idea of the Bruins torching the Blackhawks in blowout wins like they did the Canucks now that they’re at home? You shouldn’t bet on that either. The Blackhawks are far too defensively sound a team for that to happen, so the Bruins should expect these games to remain close. Maybe they won’t go into overtime every night, but this series has been something of a stalemate.
“Who knows?” Seidenberg said of games being closer in this series than the last time they were in the Cup finals. “It’s tough to predict what’s going to happen tonight, but we have to focus on our game. We have to come out a little better than we did and we’ll see what happens.”
The argument can be made that it took Aaron Rome‘s hit on Nathan Horton to fire up the Bruins with them trailing by two games, as Game 3 was scoreless in the first period. Then Horton went down, and after the Bruins lifelessly struggled to get anything going on their five-minute power play, they came out after the intermission and scored 11 seconds into the second period.
The B’s can only hope that they don’t need an injury to get them into this game, as they were fortunate to escape Saturday’s Game 2 against the Blackhawks with a victory given that they weren’t into it early on.
|Tuukka Rask, Zdeno Chara finish fifth in respective awards||06.15.13 at 7:54 pm ET|
CHICAGO — Everyone knew Tuukka Rask and Zdeno Chara weren’t going to win their positions’ awards this season when neither of them were announced as finalists after the regular season, but it was interesting to see where they finished.
Montreal defenseman P.K. Subban was the winner of the Norris Trophy for the league’s top defenseman, getting 66 first-place votes (one more than runner-up Ryan Suter) from the Pro Hockey Writers Association and finishing with 1266 points to Suter’s 1230. Kris Letang (914) and Francois Beauchemin (290) also finished ahead of Chara, who was fifth with 289 points. Chara, who won the Norris in 2009, received 10 first-place votes. Also represented in Norris voting was Dennis Seidenberg, who was 21st in voting with four points (one fourth-place vote and a fifth-place vote).
Rask, meanwhile, was a rather surprising fifth-place finisher for the Vezina Trophy, which is voted on by general managers and given to the league’s top goalie. Rask received no first-place votes, getting three second place votes and three third-place votes. Blue Jackets’ net minder Sergei Bobrovsky won the Vezina with 110 points. Hernik Lundqvist, Antti Niemi and Craig Anderson also finished ahead for Rask.
Alexander Ovechkin took home the Hart Trophy for the most valuable player. Patrice Bergeron was the only Bruin to receive a vote, as he got a fourth-place vote and finished 17th in voting. Bergeron was named the winner of the King Clancy Trophy as the player who “best exemplifies leadership qualities on and off the ice and who has made a significant humanitarian contribution to his community.”
|Morning skate report: Zdeno Chara-Dennis Seidenberg together, Andrew Ference hopes to return||06.01.13 at 12:53 pm ET|
PITTSBURGH — The Bruins will play a hockey game for the first time in a week when they finally open the Eastern Conference finals against the Penguins at CONSOL Energy Center. From the looks of it, there will be no changes to their lineup, although Andrew Ference could be a possibility to return.
Both Ference and Matt Bartkowski took rushes with Johnny Boychuk on Boston’s second pairing in the morning skate, with Bartkowski taking the majority of them. After the skate, Claude Julien declined to tip his hand regarding Ference’s status for the game, with Ference saying he wants to play but that the decision is up to the coaches.
Another notable takeaway from the morning skate was that it appears the Zdeno Chara–Dennis Seidenberg pairing will be kept together, presumably to play against the Penguins‘ top line of Evgeni Malkin between James Neal and Jarome Iginla.
The Bruins’ lineup looked as follows in the morning skate:
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|Claude Julien on Andrew Ference decision: ‘We’re not there yet’||05.28.13 at 5:50 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — Andrew Ference skated for a fifth day on Tuesday at Ristuccia Arena, but for the first time with this teammates as he looks to come back from a left foot injury.
Ference was spotted walking with a walking boot on his left foot last Saturday during Game 5 of the series against the Rangers. But according to Ference, he had already been testing the health of the foot on the ice before then.
Ference injured the foot in Game 5 of the opening round against the Maple Leafs on May 10. He has not played in a game since.
“There’s no schedule,” Ference said after Tuesday’s skate, in which he was paired with defenseman Aaron Johnson. “It’s just a matter of go when you can go. I don’t think everything was ever put on a calendar. I think it was day-to-day the whole time, wasn’t it? That’s the way I’ve always viewed it.
“The last couple of days I had great skates. Today was the fifth day on the ice so it’s been really good. Obviously, it’s different when you get other guys on the ice and can actually practice. But to have four days completely on your own to do ‘Hockey School’, it’s nice, it really is. It’s kind of actually rare to get that kind of ice time to do exactly what you need. It’s beneficial.”
Ference said he’s been in a good position since he hasn’t felt rushed to return to a situation where he might not be 100 percent.
“You have help from other people when you’re dealing with something but at the end of the day, nobody knows who you feel except you. You’re not going to put yourself in a position you’re not ready for,” Ference said.
As for coach Claude Julien, he sidestepped questions about whether Ference, a leading penalty-killer for the Bruins, would earn his spot back when declared healthy and ready to go. Ference would likely nab the spot of Matt Bartkowski at this point, with Dennis Seidenberg already supplanting Dougie Hamilton last Saturday in Game 5 against the Rangers.
“You know what? We’re not there yet and until we’re there, I’m not answering those questions,” Julien said Tuesday. “It’s like we’re trying to get ahead of everything here. We’re not even close to starting a series. We’ll let him skate a little bit with us and see how he does. When the times comes, I’ll be more than happy to make that tough decision.
“It’s a good sign that he’s practicing with us. I don’t know. Again, it’s a medical issue that unless the trainers say it’s a go ‘ sometimes he may be ready, but could be a risky kind of ready. We’ll wait and see what our trainers say and how Andrew [Ference] feels, as well, before we make any decision on him.”
|Dennis Seidenberg returns for Game 5, Dougie Hamilton out||05.25.13 at 5:30 pm ET|
Dennis Seidenberg is back in the Bruins’ lineup for Game 5 of the Eastern Conference semifinals after being out since the first period of Game 7 of the first round with a lower-body injury.