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Jimmy Howard admits Red Wings were ‘pretty lucky’ to beat Bruins 04.18.14 at 11:20 pm ET
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It was the key moment of Game 1.

Jarome Iginla fired a centering pass from the right side boards to Milan Lucic with just over three minutes left in regulation. Lucic got a clean piece of the puck for a redirect on Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard. It appeared to be the perfect pass and perfect chance in a game that had precious few of each.

But instead of the puck finding it’s way past Howard, the Detroit goalie got just enough to flick the puck wide of the goal mouth and out of harm’s way.

“It was a fortunate save,” Howard said. “It was pretty lucky. [Lucic] stuck his stick out and got a lot on it and it sort of just spun off my glove and I was able to get just enough on it. I was pretty lucky.”

The momentum swing didn’t end there. The pendulum, as it often does in a game like Friday night, swung completely the other way leading to a Red Wings rush up the ice. Wings veteran forward Pavel Datsyuk came across the Bruins blue line and, using the collision of Justin Abdelkader and Bruins defenseman Dougie Hamilton as a screen, fired a shot that beat Tuukka Rask on the far side for the game’s only goal and a 1-0 Detroit win.

“He was by himself there so I’m just thinking a shot there and then he drags it across and releases from our D’s legs so you just try to get the puck in your eyes and I couldn’t,” Rask said of Datsyuk’s shot. “It squeaked by me. Usually he tries to make a pass but I thought he was by himself there. I just couldn’t see it.

“It still went through me so I thought I should have it. But I didn’t see it.”

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Torey Krug and Bruins embrace high expectations: ‘I wouldn’t call it pressure’ at 2:00 pm ET
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Pressure is what you make it.

As the Stanley Cup playoffs begin, the Bruins are making it nothing more than chance to fulfill their own expectations.

According to the Vegas line provided by Bodog.com, the Bruins are 7-2 favorites to win their second Stanley Cup in four years by the time late June rolls around, and for good reason. They are relatively healthy heading into the playoffs, though nursing injuries to Daniel Paille and Chris Kelly while battling a flu bug.

“Well, we never get comfortable,” Claude Julien said before Friday’s Game 1 with the Red Wings. “We’€™ve always talked about that. No matter what we’€™ve accomplished, we always know that the good things happen from hard work, so the minute we stop working hard and focusing on the areas we need to focus on, things can change. So that’€™s always been our approach.”

But it’s not the flu or injuries to Paille or Kelly that are of primary concern – it’s the parity in the Stanley Cup playoffs that present the biggest obstacle. Julien reminded everyone Friday that there’s nothing to be taken for granted when a team like the Bruins take on a club like the Red Wings, a difference of 24 points in the season standings.

“Not with parity,” Julien said. “I don’€™t think that exists anymore. I’€™ve been mentioning that for the last couple of days, about the percentage of upsets in the first round over the last couple of years. So it just goes to prove to you that anything can happen in the playoffs. We’€™ve seen it many times before and I don’€™t expect that to change this year also.”

Bruins defenseman Torey Krug says he learned a lot from his first experience in the playoffs last year. That experience, he says, will help as he and the Bruins open the 2014 Stanley Cup playoffs against the Detroit Red Wings at TD Garden.

“Pressure is whatever you put on yourself,” Krug said. “This team has high expectations of itself. I wouldn’t call it pressure. We’re going to respond well to whatever it is. We’re excited to get things going.”

Krug broke onto the scene in the 2014 playoffs as a power play weapon and an offensive force.

“You have to play like that,” Krug contined. “If you’re scared to make mistakes, the puck is going to end up in the back of your own net. You have to make sure you play with confidence. That’s the same message the coaching staff was preaching today. It’s the same thing as last summer. Just eager to get going. It’s an exciting time.”

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Patrice Bergeron: ‘I’m not rooting for anyone except us right now’ at 11:59 am ET
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Every Stanley Cup playoff series got a head start on the Bruins and Red Wings. Now, on Friday night, Patrice Bergeron and the Bruins get their chance to show how ready they are after a league-best 117 points in the regular season.

“It was great to have those games and get in the mode of playoff hockey and watching it all helps to get a focus,” Bergeron said Friday morning after participating in a light optional skate before Friday’s Game 1 at TD Garden. “I was getting antsy just watching, for sure. You want to get out there, you want to get going. It’s nice that it’s finally tonight.

“I’m not rooting for anyone except us right now, so I’m just watching games and, like I said, it helps me getting focused just by watching it and being ready for tonight.”

The biggest break for the Bruins and the Red Wings is that they’ve had a full four days off since the regular season ended on Sunday.

“I think it’s good for everyone, just with the schedule we’ve had after the [Olympic] break,” Bergeron said. “It was pretty crazy so it was good everyone to get ready and now we’re looking forward to it.”

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Andy Brickley on M&M: ‘I just totally don’t expect’ Dennis Seidenberg to return 04.16.14 at 1:11 pm ET
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Andy Brickley

Andy Brickley

NESN Bruins analyst Andy Brickley made his weekly appearance with Mut & Merloni on Wednesday to talk about Dennis Seidenberg and the upcoming playoff series against the Red Wings. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.

When Seidenberg tore his ACL last December, most assumed he was done for the season. But with Seidenberg back on the practice rink, some have speculated that he could be back at some point, including Peter Chiarelli. Brickley said if Seidenberg is going to come back, he has to come back at full strength.

“He’€™s just such an incredibly strong athlete that if he can look like he’€™s able to play and actually get up to speed and be a productive player then that would be a tough decision, but a good decision to have to make,” Brickley said. “That being said, I’€™m still in the camp that I just totally don’€™t expect it.”

Added Brickley: “€œI think if he’€™s back he’€™s going to play regular minutes. And I don’€™t think they want him in a 10-15-minute range. … If he’€™s in the lineup and he’€™s playing, he needs to be able to handle similar minutes.”

Red Wings coach Mike Babcock was the coach of the Canadian team for the Winter Olympics in Sochi, with Claude Julien his assistant. While the two shared coaching ideas and strategies during that time, Brickley doesn’t see it as an advantage for either coach.

“I don’t think we’re at any point of the season now where there are any secrets, with all the video pre-scouting that you do, with all the actual scouts that represent Detroit that have been following the Bruins over the last month or two,”€ Brickley said. “Everybody is well aware of how the Bruins play and everybody is well aware of how Detroit defends as well. Usually Claude Julien gets the checkmark when it comes to who’s got the better coaching when you’€™re comparing two teams, but this one is a pretty even matchup when it comes down to that.”

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Claude Julien isn’t overly worried about the speed of Red Wings: ‘We’ve played fast teams before’ 04.15.14 at 10:59 pm ET
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The Detroit Red Wings present plenty of problems for the top team in the East. But Claude Julien isn’t worried about his Bruins being overwhelmed with the many challenges they’ll see from Detroit starting Friday at TD Garden.

The one characteristic that will be brought up often this week will be the speed of the Red Wings, namely Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, David Legwand, Daniel Alfredsson and Johan Franzen.

“We’ve played fast teams before,” Julien said, referring clearly to teams like Montreal and Ottawa. “And again, we can look at their record whichever way we want and see us 1-3. I look at the games we played against them and there was one game, the first one in Detroit that we didn’€™t play very well. The other three, we could have won the two that we lost, I mean, we had the lead in that last one.”

Julien brought up the three regular season losses because he is more than aware that there are those who think this is the worst possible first-round match for his team that finished with an NHL-best 117 points. But then Julien offered perspective, specifically that it’s the Red Wings who have to be worried about containing the weapons of a team that won 54 games.

“So I don’€™t think that it is going to be that big of an issue as much as we may be an issue for them,” Julien said. “Teams have strengths and it’€™s how you counter those things. I think our team can certainly skate, I don’€™t think we’€™re a slow team whether people underrate our skating or now, I don’€™t know. But we’€™ve shown that we can skate with these guys but certainly close the gap quick on those guys too. And that’€™s what you have to do, you have to make sure you don’€™t give those guys too much room because they will make plays and they will take the ice that you give them.”

With a team like the Red Wings loaded with offensive firepower, Julien was asked if he sees similarities to his young team that fought the 2007-08 Canadiens team tooth and nail before losing in seven games.

“I don’€™t know, they’€™re not all that young,” Julien said. “They have some young players but so do we. I’€™m not sure that that’€™s the same situation to be honest with you. You know, you have the [Pavel] Datsyuks and [Todd] Bertuzzi will be in there, they have some veteran players. And I know the [Gustav] Nyquists and [Tomas] Tatars, those kinds of guys have carried their team when they needed it the most but I think our young Ds have done a pretty good job the same way when a guy like [Dennis] Seidenberg went down.

“I think there are a lot of similarities there and I don’€™t think they’€™re as young or that much younger than we are, I haven’€™t done the math yet when it comes to the age of both teams because that’€™s not the important thing to me. But again, like I said, I don’€™t think that is going to be comparable to what we went through against Montreal. We had some real key players who had to grind it out, you just have to look at our roster now and look at where those guys are, a lot of them aren’€™t seen any more. So it was just one of those years where, to us, talent was fairly low for whatever talent we had was extremely young. But we had a really good work ethic.”

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Andy Brickley on M&M: ‘I have no problem with tinkering with lines right now’ 04.02.14 at 12:32 pm ET
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Andy Brickley

Andy Brickley

NESN Bruins analyst Andy Brickley made his weekly appearance with Mut & Merloni on Wednesday to talk about the Bruins’ final stretch of games in April before the playoffs begin. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.

With the season winding down, Claude Julien may change some of the lineups to see how different players play together and give rest to others.

“€œI have no problem with tinkering with lines right now,”€ Brickley said. “€œIf I expect a few guys, like [Patrice] Bergeron or even a David Krejci, get a night off between now and the final game against Jersey, the regular season, then you’re going to be forced to have different combinations. And if you choose to break up some lines in order to see what something look likes, now is the time to do it.”

The Bruins went 15-0-2 in the month of March, playing in multiple back-to-backs on their way to securing a division title. According to Brickley, the third and fourth lines were a big reason they were able to do that.

“That third line along with the fourth line and their ability to play and handle significant minutes during that month when you’€™re playing 17 games really sets this Bruins team apart from the rank and file,”€ Brickley said.

Brickley sees two distinct views when it comes to projecting the first opponent of a team during the playoffs.

“€œDo you want to start out with a team that you know you can pretty much handle, and then you want to gradually increase that emotion and adrenaline to keep you getting in the postseason?”€ Brickley said. “Or do you want someone really meaningful right off the bat, get that emotion where it needs to be in the postseason? I’€™m of the school of thought that it doesn’t matter. You’ve got to beat three really good teams to get to the final. You’ve got to beat four unbelievable teams to win a Stanley Cup.”

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Claude Julien: ‘We’re really struggling with our finish lately’ 10.15.13 at 10:19 am ET
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Claude Julien is trying to fire up his team to find the scoring touch. (AP)

Claude Julien is trying to fire up his team to find the scoring touch. (AP)

Claude Julien isn’t about to panic about his team’s lack of finish to start the season.

After all, the Bruins have been through this before in the last several seasons and eventually found their touch when it mattered most late in the season.

Still, Monday’s 3-2 loss to the Red Wings stung because the Bruins not only have five power play chances but a 5-on-3 for nearly a full two minutes and had good puck possession time in the offensive end but couldn’t get one past Jonas Gustavsson. The Bruins have just 12 goals in five games. Only Buffalo and Ottawa have scored fewer in the new eight-team Atlantic Division.

“We’re really struggling with our finish lately,” Julien said. “It looks like we’re feeling the pressure of scoring goals and they’re not coming easy. So it’s been like that. Even the game in Columbus, took us a while to get going there, obviously Colorado. So I think our goal scoring confidence is probably not where we’d like it to be right now but you have to work through those things.”

As for the experience of having gone through this before, Julien says there are similar tendencies he seen over the years.

“We go through that it seems like every year at some point,” Julien added. “You’re seeing guys either fanning or shooting over the net. There were some scrambles there today where everybody thought the puck was going in the net and whether the goalie stops it or pucks are bouncing it doesn’t matter; the confidence isn’t there right now. So wait on that when the confidence comes back; you’re going to see us score some goals because we feel we have some guys that can score goals on this team.”

The only player who seems to be gripping the stick tighter than anyone right now – by his own admission – is Jarome Iginla. The star forward is still looking for his first goal in a Bruins uniform. He had five more shots on goal on Monday and 19 for the season in five games and still nothing.

“I had some great looks,” Iginla said. “I’ve had great looks for a few games. And pretty much I’ve been getting more chances and you get to a five on three you get chances like that you want to score. I think I missed the net on a couple goals, I think it’s probably just being a little too anxious. Just lifting my head up and you want to get that goal for the team and just get one and get feeling it. At times you squeeze a little too hard, its all those clichés, sayings you hear, you try to swing a little too hard and lift my head a little bit. And just not in a grove there where you just want to kind of will it in the net as opposed to let it happen.”

“I think he can shoot the puck a lot better than we’ve seen him because we know he’s a good shooter,” Julien said. “So, whether that’s pressing or whether that’s circumstances I don’t know. But he’s been around the league long enough, he’s going to find his way and he’s going to score some goals for us and he’s going to be the player that we thought he would be for our hockey club. So right now it just isn’t there and I see maybe a little hesitation in shooting where, when a player has confidence, their release is a little quicker too.”

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