|What will Anton Khudobin’s role with the Bruins be?||04.03.12 at 12:58 pm ET|
Anton Khudobin has been through the playoffs with the Bruins before, but after being called up by the team Monday, the possibility exists that he could actually dress this time.
Khudobin (pronounced hoo-DOE-bin) served as one of Boston’s black aces, or practice players, for the postseason last year. He was on the ice with them both in practice and after Game 7 in Vancouver, hoisting the Stanley Cup with the other Bruins and black aces.
“It was good for experience,” Khudobin said. “How you prepare before the games, especially in the playoffs. Playoffs is a big hard run, so just how to get ready before the game and be helpful all the time, be with energy all the time and be focused in the game, every game, every shift, every minute.”
Given the uncertainty of Tuukka Rask‘s situation, Khudobin could actually be on the team’s roster when the playoffs open next Thursday. Rask is still recovering from an abdomen strain/groin strain, and though he is expected to begin skating this week, he might not be ready for the start of the postseason. Marty Turco cannot be on the playoff roster because he was signed after the trade deadline.
“We’ve got to see where Tuukka is” Claude Julien said Tuesday of whether Khudobin will dress in the playoffs. “If Tuukka isn’t ready, then Anton’s got to be ready because Marty can’t play in the playoffs. That’s clear to us, that’s clear to him and the way Tuukka’s going right now, he’s heading in the right direction. Where are going to be in a week and a half from now? I really don’t know.”
Said Khudobin: “Right now, it’s not a question for that. Tuukka maybe is getting ready to play, maybe not. I’m going to do my job right now, practicing every day. Today I had practice, game, tomorrow [another] practice. I’m just living every day.”
The 25-year-old Khudobin has six games of NHL experience, all of which came over the last two seasons as a member of the Wild. In 44 games with Providence this season, he has a 21-19-3 record with a 2.61 goals-against average and a .919 save percentage.
At the time of Rask’s injury, Khudobin was out with a wrist injury he suffered on Feb. 25 while shooting in a game against Bridgeport. The injury likely played a part in the B’s having to sign Turco, but Khudobin expressed no frustration that his injury likely cost him some time at the NHL level.
“Sometimes it happens in hockey,” he said. “[Maybe they would have] called me up, but I was hurt too. I just tried to keep moving forward, and finally the time to come up was yesterday.”
Since returning to action on March 23, Khudobin has played in four games for Providence, compiling a 2-2-0 record while allowing 11 goals.
“I’m feeling pretty well. I’m feeling pretty good. I’ve played four games [since] and I feel ready to go,” Khudobin said, adding that he is ready to practice “100 percent.”
One interesting note that Khudobin brought up is that his callups over the years have often come before games against the Penguins. A good friend of Penguins star and former World Juniors Evgeni Malkin, Khudobin caught up with Malkin over dinner Monday night. While he has often been called up for games against the Penguins, Khudobin says he still hasn’t played against the Russian forward yet.
“This is the funny part. I never played against him,” Khudobin said of Malkin, who is second in the NHL with 48 goals this season. “I don’t know, hopefully — maybe some time I will get a chance to play against him.”
That chance will not come Tuesday unless Turco, who is getting the start, falters. Khudobin will serve as the backup, while Tim Thomas will not dress.
|Pens show Bruins they’re a lot more than just Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin||03.05.11 at 11:10 pm ET|
Without superstars Sidney Crosby [concussion] and Evgeni Malkin [right knee], the Penguins got two goals from HBO “24/7″ star Dustin Jeffrey, including the game winner less than two minutes into overtime to come away with a 3-2 win over the Bruins, snapping Boston’s seven-game winning streak.
Crosby or no Crosby, Malkin or no Malkin, the Penguins played exactly the kind of hockey that wins in the playoffs. It’s not superstar hockey, it’s team hockey. What exactly is that?
“They’re a lot more hard-working,” Bruins defenseman Johnny Boychuk said. “Their hard work takes over [for] their skill. When they have those other guys in, there’s a lot of skill in there and they still work hard, but they try to make different plays than they would if they had those guys in the lineup. They just got the [puck] in deep and just tried to keep as much time in our zone as possible.”
B’s coach Claude Julien had his own take.
“Obviously, they’re missing some star players,” Julien noted. “We thought one of our best forwards tonight was missing, too. You have to adjust to those kinds of things and what it boils down to is the team play. And that’s what they did tonight, they played a good team game.
“They were forechecking hard, they were on top of us. Even when we got the puck in the neutral zone, they didn’t give us much time. They really skated hard and took away our time and space and they did a good job of that. I think that’s where their success came from tonight. When you work hard enough, eventually you get rewarded, and they got a break there at the end and were able to score in OT.”
|Bruins road win streak halted by Penguins||03.07.10 at 5:40 pm ET|
Summary — For the last time ever in the regular season the Bruins travelled to Pittsburgh to play in Mellon Arena against the Penguins and came away losers by a 2-1 score in a Sunday matinee. Tim Thomas got his third straight start for Boston and took the loss with 27 of saves. The Penguins Marc-Andre Fleury took the decision with 15 stops. The loss snaps the Bruins five-game road winning streak.
The Penguins jumped all over Boston in the third but Thomas stood tall in the losing effort after getting peppered through most of the period. Thomas did give up the game-winner early in the final frame to superstar Evgeni Malkin on a dump shot through a screen down the right wing.
After a scoreless first period the Bruins struck first on the power play when Blake Wheeler was able to sweep a loose puck out from under Fleury at 3:12 in the second. The Penguins came back about five minutes later when Pascal Dupuis put the puck in a scrum in the crease in front of Thomas and banged on it until it trickled passed for the equalizer at 8:57.
Bruins’ center Marc Savard took a hit and elbow to the head late in the third period by Penguins’ forward Matt Cooke. He was carted off the ice on a stretcher. No word on the type or severity of the injury but a concussion would seem likely. Cooke was not issued a penalty for the hit.
Patrice Bergeron played his first game since the Olympic break after sitting the previous three with a groin injury. Tuukka Rask is still listed as day-to-day with a minor knee injury and did not dress.
Marc-Andre Fleury — The Penguins goaltender picked up his 31st win of the year with steady play and a solid defensive effort in front of him.
Evgeni Malkin — The “other” superstar in Pittsburgh scored the go-ahead goal for his 23rd strike of the year early in the third period.
Blake Wheeler — The sophomore forward scored the first goal of the game for only his second strike in 17 games when he tallied on the power play in the second period. The goal was his 14th of the year.
Turning Point — The start of the third period was where the Penguins turned on the heat. Malkin scored the go-ahead goal early in the period and the Bruins could not slow Pittsburgh down the rest of the game as the Penguins dominated the positional play in the final frame.
Key Play — The Penguins new addition of Alexei Ponikarovsky at Wednesday’s trade deadline paid dividends in the third period. Malkin came down the right wing on the rush and threw a dump shot on Thomas that passed through a moving screen by Ponikarovsky on its way to the back of the net. Pittsburgh turned on the heat after that and pressured the Bruins for the rest of the third on its way to the victory.
|Second period summary: Bruins-Penguins||at 4:35 pm ET|
With the Penguins handing the Bruins multiple opportunities with penalties, it was just a matter of time before Boston broke through.
Evgeni Malkin won the dubious distinction of being the man who committed the penalty (hooking – 2:15) that helped get the Bruins on the board. David Krejci put the puck in the crease and banged on it to the point that Marc-Andre Fleury fell flat on his stomach though not quite on top of the puck. Blake Wheeler then snuck in and swept the puck out from under the goaltender for his 14th goal of the season that gave Boston a 1-0 lead at 3:12.
The Penguins came back in 5-0n-5 at 8:57 in a similar scenario to Wheeler’s goal. Pascal Dupuis swept around the goal only to be semi-stuffed by Tim Thomas but the forward stayed on the puck and it trickled passed Thomas to tie the game at one apiece.
Michael Ryder took a slashing penalty at 3:43 in the period but Boston was able to kill it off. In the middle of the period the teams played two-minutes of 4-on-4 as Ruslan Fedotenko and Mark Stuart got in a tangle in the crease in front of Thomas that led to matching roughing penalties.
Shots in period (total):
Boston — 8 (11)
Pittsburgh — 11 (21)
|Handicapping the race for Boston’s next opponent||04.27.09 at 10:01 am ET|
After an action-packed weekend of playoff hockey, nothing has been decided about the opponent that the Boston Bruins await after dispatching the Montreal Canadiens in a cool four games last week. The Black and Gold will have had more than a week of off-time before the next round begins (I keep hearing that Friday and Sunday will be the days for Game 1 and Game 2 of the Eastern Conference semifinals at the TD Banknorth Garden), and there could be a real dangerous scenario that a sharp hockey team — fresh off a Game 7 — might steal a Game 1 from the idle B’s when things get going again. With the reseeding in effect, it won’t be the New Jersey Devils or the Washington Capitals until the Eastern Conference finals — which leaves three potential teams for Boston to tangle with in the semifinals.
“You try to pick up on certain things if you’re playing certain teams, but right now we’re talking about the possibility of three teams,” said B’s Claude Julien. “It’s hard to pinpoint one team and say ‘This is what we’ve got to do’ because obviously each style is totally different from the other (teams).”
With that in mind, let’s take each squad still alive by the order of likelihood that they’ll be Boston’s final opponent when the ice chips settle on a pair of Game 7’s scheduled for Tuesday night:
Pittsburgh Penguins (2 to 1 odds that it’s the Pens): This is the team that the Bruins would least like to see in a second round series after watching Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin (four goals apiece in the first round vs. Philadelphia) alternate taking over portions of their opening round series against a tough Philadelphia Flyers squad. The Chris Kunitz-Sidney Crosby-Bill Guerin line has been electric since both wingers were brought in at the NHL trade deadline, and — truth be told — the Pens have been a different team since the trades and a healthy Sergei Gonchar fortified the blueline half-way through the season. There’s still a chance that it won’t be Pittsburgh if a road team can come through with a Game 7 upset, but this could potentially be the toughest conference series that the Black and Gold will face in their run for the Cup. Counting the playoffs, the Penguins are a red-hot 18-4-3 since the beginning of March.
Bonus points to any NHL conspiracy theorists out there that already assume the NHL is trying to maneuver for a Sid the Kid vs Alex the Great conference finals, and that the Bruins will have a wake of questionable calls in their path through Pittsburgh. Not saying that it’s going to happen, but the greatest wishes of the hockey networks and league have got to be in the back of anybody’s minds going forward.
Carolina Hurricanes (5 to 1 odds that it’s the Hurricanes):The ‘Canes are 3-0 in Game 7’s since shipping down from Hartford, so don’t underestimate their ability to take down the New Jersey Devils in Tuesday night’s in Newark. Carolina has plenty of players with Cup experience and Cam Ward is very capable of rising to the occasion as attested by the one goal that the Devils have scored in the last two playoff games against the Hurricanes. Carolina put Ray Whitney and Erik Staal on the same line prior to Game 6 and that seemed to spark a team that — to be truthful — couldn’t beat the Bruins during the regular season in four attempts. David Krejci led all B’s scorers with 7 points in those four games against the ‘Canes, but most of those games came in the first half of the season — and this Carolina team is a much better version of that hockey squad.
New York Rangers (50 to 1 that it’s the Rangers):This is the opponent that the Bruins wanted to host, but it doesn’t appear that it’s going to happen after everyone assumed it to be manifest puck destiny. Concord native John Tortorella made the egregious mistake of trying to be “The Show” as head coach and benched Sean Avery for disciplinary infractions with the team firmly in control of the series and up 3-1 after Game 4. The Rangers got spanked in the next game which again proved the “If it ain’t broke then don’t fix it” theory to full effect, and then Tortorella compounded his blunder by engaging in the ultimate undisciplined action: throwing a water bottle at unruly Washington Capitals fans behind the Rangers bench. Tortorella ended up with a one-game suspension for his actions in Game 6 at Madison Square Garden on Sunday where the Blueshirts should have been closing out the Caps. Instead hockey fans were treated to a this cockamamie excuse for the “disciplinarian” tossing a water bottle off a woman’s forehead. Can you imagine Claude Julien using this as a reason for losing his mind on the Boston bench? The mess that is the New York Rangers is exactly why Boston wanted the Rags in the next round, but it appears that their shot has gone by the board after they had two golden opportunities to go for the kill against the Capitals.
‘According to Rangers trainer Jim Ramsay, one patron was screaming at the team, in graphic language, about whether defensemen Dan Girardi and Marc Staal have a sexual relationship,’ Sather wrote in his letter to Bettman. ‘This was within earshot of several children seated nearby. Several other fans also made repeated homophobic remarks’¦ Washington’s failure to respond to what its personnel knew’and were specifically warned’was a potentially dangerous situation contributed significantly to this unfortunate incident.’
It should have been the Rangers vs. Bruins in the second round, but I give them a zero percent chance of beating the Capitals in DC on Monday night. Blame it on “Torts” when the Penguins come to town for a surefire seven game series at the end of this week.
For those that missed it, here’s a pretty clear look at Tortorella gunning the water bottle off a fan’s head behind the New York bench before it bounces away and hits another woman sitting to the right of the unruly fan.
|Bruins back to basics for 10th straight win||01.01.09 at 9:55 pm ET|
If the Boston Bruins aren’t too careful they’re going to start entering exalted hockey territory here in the city of Boston. With their tenth win in row last night, by a 4-2 score over the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Boston Bruins have matched the 1971 Bobby Orr-led, Stanley Cup Champion-era B’s in terms of a regular season win streak. For nearly everyone involved with the team, it’s the most impressive regular season that they’ve enjoyed in the NHL and something they’re not at all taking for granted.
“I’d have to go all the way back to my last year of junior hockey, I think,” said B’s defenseman Dennis Wideman, when asked the last time he’s been on a team that won 10 games in a row. “I think I’ve been on some [NHL] teams that have lost 10 in a row, and this definitely feels a lot better.”
With the home-and-home sweep of the still-dangerous Pens, the Bruins have seized sole ownership of the point lead in the NHL while continuing to put distance between themselves and the wild packs of Rangers, Capitals and Canadiens roaming in the Eastern Conference.
Almost as amazing is the fact that the current 10-game stretch has A) taken place while the B’s were admittedly not playing as well as they have through much of the season B) transpired largely during a long road swing sandwiched around the holiday break and C) overshadowed a simultaneous 14-game home winning streak before burgeoning crowds at the Garden.
Dressing room leader Aaron Ward said that the B’s have realized the error of their ways during the tough stretches of the streaks, and corrected things to again get to the type of Bruins hockey that put them in first place to begin with.
“[We] preach in this locker room that the whole season is a marathon. You can play one month and you understand if you are going to lead long enough that there will be some highs and some lows; capitalize on your highs,” said Ward. “We started to fall off, the minute we step into this locker room we knew in the last five or six games that the effort wasn’t there. We were going into games and you start to get complacent and you figure that well your skill will just take care or it or it will just work itself out.
“The National Hockey League doesn’t work itself out. You got to match your opponents’ level of effort with level of emotions and we lacked both. Sometimes both, sometimes one, you just can’t have your nights off we had creeping into our game.
The B’s crowds traditionally become livelier and more plentiful after Jan. 1, and the Patriots’ rare regular season exit insures that the Garden will be rockin’ straight through the rest of the season. The love affair between the sellout crowds and the gritty, hard-hitting hockey team should only continue as Black and Gold skaters like vladimir Sobotka put third period exclamation points like this one last night.
With that mid-ice big boom in mind, here’ s a few things that stuck out from last night’s impressive victory over a motivated Penguins team:
Big Z in shutdown mode
One of the biggest observations/factors during the back-to-back wins over the Penguins was the outstanding defensive shutdown work executed by Zdeno Chara and Aaron Ward on Pittsburgh center Evgeni Malkin’s line over the course of two games. In the home-and-home matchup, the jumbo-sized and ridiculously-skilled Malkin was held to a -2 and managed only a single assist in last night’s loss after coach Claude Julien sicked a frothy Chara on the Penguins’ scorer as much as possible.
“I think [Chara] actually loves it,” said Julien. “He’s taken a lot of pride in doing it and I think he is being recognized, more and more, for being able to do those things. Not every team, and not too many teams, have those kind of defensemen and can match them against top players and be capable of shutting them down night after night.”
Chara has always prided himself on being the tall, tough, intimidating defensive stopper at the blue line and — after a slow first month — seems to have again reached that elite level of defenseman play that few can match around the NHL.
As impressive as Big Z was, however, perhaps Ward was even more so in his first two games back from an ankle injury that hampered him throughout December. Ward managed to keep himself in some semblance of shape while healing up and came up big last night with his specialty — a cringe-inducing, surely painful blocked shot in the waning minutes of the third period on Pittsburgh’s final power play — to help secure the big victory for the Bruins.
It was exactly the kind of thing that the B’s have missed while he was out, despite the best efforts of guys like Dennis Wideman and Matt Hunwick to step up.
“You have to give credit to Aaron Ward, who nobody talks about, he did a good job with Z back there and near the end there he made a big block, blocked a big shot,” said Julien. “Those kind of things can kind of go unnoticed.”
Extra bonus points to the aforementioned pairing of Hunwick and Wideman, who likewise managed to clamp down the defensive vice grips on Sidney Crosby’s line as well. Sid the Kid managed a single measly assist in Tuesday night’s loss at the Igloo, and was a -3 in the two-game sweep. There were many moments during last night’s win when the purported best hockey player in the world was invisible. Credit the Bruins’ defense for pulling off the nearly impossible NHL magic trick: making the two-man gang of both Crosby and Malkin disappear into the thin wintry air.
Back in the Scoresheet Saddle
It might be time for Bruins Nation to get used to the current line pairings that have P.J. Axelsson spending time on the first power play unit because Julien has liked what he’s seen over the last two games. Axelsson has helped spark the first line and scored his first non-empty net goal of the season — along with an assist –in last night’s win and totaled a pair of helpers in Tuesday night’s win in Pittsburgh.
“I was looking for a response from lines,” said Julien. “I know people keep asking about Lucic, well, yeah Lucic and Savard and Kessel, I thought weren’t playing as well as they could and neither was the Yelle, Axelsson and Kobasew line. And I was kind of talking about all six of those guys, three of them on units.”
“I didn’t think they were generating much, so with Looch, with that hard-working line, I think it certainly helped him find his identity again, as far as being a grinder and being a grinder doesn’t stop you from scoring as you could see tonight,” added Julien. “[Lucic and Axelsson] have brought something different to both those lines that, not just made them successful [as individuals], but also made those lines better, as well.”
Julien believes that Axelsson has added a certain Je Ne Cest Q’uoi to the games of both Marc Savard (2 goals, 3 assists and a +2 in two games) and Phil Kessel (1 goal and 13 shots on net in two games) while Milan Lucic has blended right in with the hard-working, lunch pail games of third liners Chuck Kobasew and Stephane Yelle. Looch has also potted a pair of goals since the much-publicized move down to the third line. Julien said that the swap wasn’t designed to simply get Lucic and Axelsson going as much as it was supposed to breath life in both lines.
“I think obviously things weren’t going my way,” said Lucic. “I just want to get back to doing simple things and it paid off today with the goal. Like I said we just have to keep getting better.
“I think everyone is comfortable playing with anyone. We are just going out there and focusing on what we have to do, sticking to the game plan,” added Lucic. “It is not by accident that we have won ten straight. The little things that we do we got away from a little bit. I think this home and home against the Penguins was good for us to get back to working hard and doing the simple things.”
So don’t expect any big line shake-ups in the near future with things again appearing to gel in Coach Julien’s neighborhood. Count me among the people that scratched their heads when Axelsson was moved to the top scoring line and the number one power play unit, but the B’s bench boss has once again proven he knows a lot more about the frozen puck game than yours truly.
The Beat Goes On
With all of the success that the Bruins have enjoyed thus far this season, there has been plenty of streaking that hasn’t involved Frank the Tank in the least. While the biggest slice of the attention pie is given to the current team winning streak or the 14-straight wins on the Garden’s frozen sheet, magic man center David Krejci is also riding a 10-game point streak after potting a goal in the first period of last night’s win.
Perhaps Krejci is a big Christmas fan because he’s gone supersonic with the puck over the last month, notching 7 goals and 15 assists in 14 games during the merry, merry month. While Julien has reconfigured each of the other two lines, the veteran coach has smartly left the trio of Krejci, Blake Wheeler and Michael Ryder together as they continue to produce offense and responsible defense on a nightly basis.