|Lucic’s winner give Bruins 2-0 series lead||05.03.10 at 9:45 pm ET|
Summary — The Flyers twice came back from a one-goal deficit before the Bruins reasserted their will in the third, paving the way for a 3-2 win and a 2-0 lead in the Eastern Conference semifinals. Milan Lucic scored the game-winner in the third to wrap up the victory for the Bruins. Tuukka Rask won his third straight playoff game with 24 saves, and once again out-dueled Brian Boucher, who took the loss by allowing three goals on 27 shots.
With the game tied at two heading into the final minutes of the third, David Krejci battled behind Boucher and sent a bouncing puck of a Flyers’ stick into the slot where Lucic settled it down and banged it home for the game-winner at 17:03.
After a strong start to the first period for the Flyers, the Bruins tampered the Philadelphia heat when Patrice Bergeron won a face off to the right of Boucher straight to the stick of defenseman Johnny Boychuk. Boychuk slipped a wrist shot with enough vigor on it through traffic to the top of the net and Boston had its second early lead of the series at 5:12.
Philadelphia came back late in the first when it used its aggressive two-man forecheck to break down the defensive pair of Matt Hunwick and Dennis Wideman coming out of the Bruins defensive zone. The trio of Ville Leino, Danny Briere broke down the exit and pushed the puck around the back of the net to Mike Richards who circled in from the circle to put the puck to the far side of Rask to make it 1-1 at 17:06.
Miroslav Satan continued his hot postseason in the second period when he put the Bruins back up at 9:31. The Flyers had been aggressively attacking the point of action on the puck to disrupt the Bruins flow in the offensive zone. Krejci was able to create a seem of space on the half wall and kick the puck to Wideman and then onto Blake Wheeler, who caught Satan on the dot on Boucher’s left and put a wrist shot into the net to make it 2-1.
Boston was guilty of one of hockey’s greatest pet peeves — allowing a goal in the last minute of a period. Leino and Briere rushed down the wing with a little give-and-go game that ended with the puck on Briere’s and a wrister above Rask to tie the game at two with 21.8 seconds left in the second.
Danny Briere — The feisty forward has pushed the Flyers attack through the first two games of the series and was instrumental in their first two goals with an assist in the first and a lamp-lighter in the second.
Miroslav Satan — Scored his fourth goal of the playoffs and extended his point streak to five games. Also had an assist on Lucic’s game-winner. The forward has nine points in the Bruins eight playoff games thus far.
Tuukka Rask — Solid when he needed to be in holding the Flyers to two goals and sending the series back to Philadelphia with the Bruins up two games.
Turning Point – Boston took control of the momentum in the second half of the third period when the Flyers took a couple of penalties to Arron Asham and Briere, as the Bruins turned the play around and held on after a fury of a Philadelphia attack through the late second period and beginning of the third.
Key Play — Lucic’s game-winner. The hulking forward scored his first of the playoffs in a big way when he settled the bouncing puck, turned and fired to beat Boucher low to his stick side.
|1st Period summary: Bruins vs. Flyers Game 2||at 7:53 pm ET|
This game already has a different feel than Game 1. Like Game 1 there were two goals in the opening period and the Bruins did take the lead. But the Flyers fought back to tie it, 1-1, at the first intermission.
Aside from generating a scrum and a shot on Brian Boucher in the opening 15 seconds, the Bruins didn’t have nearly the jump or energy they had in Game 1. Shawn Thornton made his series debut on a line with Steve Begin and Blake Wheeler and immediately made his presence known by crashing the net.
Still, the Bruins managed to break the ice on a great combination of a face-off win by Boston’s best on the draw and a good shot through a heavy screen.
Patrice Bergeron won his offensive zone draw cleanly to the right of the Flyers goalie and drew it back to Johnny Boychuk. The young B’s blueliner, just above the circle, fired a quick wrister through a screen that Boucher didn’t see till it was behind him, beating the Flyers netminder to the short side at 5:12 even strength.
The Flyers responded with a screen-goal of their own when Mike Richards pulled a Wayne Gretzky-esque move with puck behind Tuukka Rask. Richards skated from the end line out to the left dot curled around and used a nice screen from Danny Briere to beat Rask with just 2:54 left in the opening period.
The Flyers were 0-for-2 on the power play but spent a lot more time in the Bruins zone than the opening period Saturday.
The Flyers also outshot the Bruins, 10-7, in the opening 20 minutes.
|Bruins not smug about playoff success||04.30.10 at 11:32 am ET|
If the Bruins wanted to, they have every right to puff up their chests and say to every fan and media member in Boston: “Hey, how do you like us now?” After the whole Marc Savard-Matt Cooke situation (both the March 7 hit at the Igloo and the followup at TD Garden on March 18), everybody who pays attention to the B’s just wanted them to go away, fade into NHL playoff oblivion and take two high draft picks in June’s NHL Entry Draft. There was a 10-game losing streak, a record-breaking home losing streak, a paucity of goals and a general melancholy surrounding the so-called Big Bad Bruins that frustrated even the most casual of NHL fans.
So, is there any self-satisfaction being emitted from Bruins camp now that they are hosting an Eastern Conference semifinal series?
“Not at all,” forward Mark Recchi said. “We didn’t deserve it, we weren’t playing well. We weren’t competing like we should have and sure there are going to be some doubters but, you know, we have got a longs ways to go here. We can’t be complacent in that we won one series or that we had a good end of the regular season. We have got to want bigger and better things, and if you do that then good things will happen. If you are happy to just be in the second round, then you are not playing for the right reasons.”
At the other end of the spectrum, the hard times from January through March are one of the reasons the Bruins are in the situation in which they find themselves. To say that just about every game after the 3-0 clunker to the Penguins on March 18 was a playoff game is not much of an exaggeration. Milan Lucic said that it was not an easy time to go through but in retrospect the ire of the Hub helped the team get through the difficult stretch.
“I think that was probably a good thing for us where we hit some adversity like that where we hit such a low,” he said. “I mean, for us to overcome that and end up where we are now we found a way to come together and do that. It is what helps a lot of teams — to be successful is to go through some adversity and with everyone pegging us out, the media was all over us, the fans were all over us to just walk up to bat and do some good, it was just a good thing for us to see and pull through and stick up for each other.”
Did the fans and media really abandon the team? There was weird talk in March, and the buzz around Boston was that people would almost prefer the Bruins not make the playoffs. Fair-weather fans or true blood of black and gold, it is telling when a fan base would rather see a team go away than fight for a championship, no matter how remote the chances are. Yet, TD Garden was (officially if not in reality) sold out every night through the stretch run, with cheers raining from the rafters when the Bruins scored three short-handed goals in 64 seconds against the Hurricanes in the home finale, and boos pounded from the loge after they had been shut out by Panthers backup goaltender Scott Clemmensen a week earlier.
“Even though they may have booed us a couple of times we knew they were still behind us,” Johnny Boychuk said. “It is just one of those things that if we are that bad they are going to let us know, but they still want to see us win. Now that we are starting to do better they are behind us the entire way. Even if we are down a goal or two they are still behind us and we know that.”
Still, though, the frustrating times persisted, and Boston did not wrap up a playoff spot until the final weekend of the regular season (in the aforementioned Hurricanes game). Recchi believes that, for the most part, the team has played consistently, except for maybe the possible clincher in Game 5 in Buffalo.
“At the end [of the regular season] it was better, but there was still some, ‘What team is this?’ You know?” Recchi said. “But it got much better but in the playoffs, I don’t think in Game 5 we were at our best, but I think throughout the six games we were a good hockey club.”
The veteran has been through frustrating teams and disappointing playoffs before. But, based on what he saw last year and the talent in the dressing room through the 2009-10 season, there is no surprise that the team is poised for a second-round tilt with a more than decent chance of looking toward the Eastern Conference finals.
“I knew we had it in here but we just had to bring it out. I never had any doubts about the guys. You know, I just know what is in here,” Recchi said. “That was the frustrating part because you know what is in here and you know we can get it through a couple more notches and we just weren’t doing it consistently. We would do it some nights, but it wasn’t a consistent thing and that was our problem all year.”
|Sabres strike back, take Game 5||04.23.10 at 9:38 pm ET|
Summary – Buffalo cut into the Bruins series lead by taking Game 5 with a desperation effort 3-0 at HSBC Arena on Friday night. Ryan Miller took the win with 34 saves to keep the Sabres hopes alive while Tuukka Rask let in three goals on 32 shots in taking his second loss of his young playoff career.
For the fifth straight game in the series the Sabres scored the first goal within the first ten minutes of the first period. Adam Mair was the culprit this time when he took the puck behind Rask’s crease, turned and fired a whipcord wraparound that went to the far side of the net at 1:54 for the early lead.
Buffalo, desperate from the start, put up a two-goal advantage at 18:54 of the first when the Bruins could not clear the puck from their zone. Andrew Ference tried to skip it up the wall but hit Blake Wheeler with the puck instead. It bounced off Wheeler and Vladimir Sobotka could not track it down as it travelled to the high slot where Derek Roy rejoined the play and put the puck on Rask. Jason Pominville, in on the initial giveaway, beat Ference down the slot and scored on the rebound by putting the puck around Rask’s pads.
The Sabres ballooned their lead to three goals at 9:22 in the second when Paul Gaustad when a quick-snap face off on the right circle that went straight to the stick of Michael Grier who took a slap shot the beat Rask to the right side of his crease. It was the first three goal lead by either team in the series and Grier’s second of the playoffs.
Johnny Boychuk scored the Bruins lone goal with a power play slap shot at 17:30 in the third period to make it 3-1. Boston emptied Rask from the net immediately thereafter and the Sabres cleared the puck from their zone, bouncing at the wall at center ice and sliding to the Boston net. Rookie Tyler Ennis won race to the puck, dove and swept it in for the empty-netter to account for the final score.
Ryan Miller — He would not get burnt in the third period for the third time against Boston and was able to bring Buffalo back to within a game of the Bruins.
Adam Mair — The fourth line center had his first of the series to give the Sabres quick confidence with a lightning strike early in the first period.
Michael Grier — Not only did he score the third goal of the game, he threw his body around to the tune of five hits and three blocked shots including one that put him out of the game for a bit in the third period.
Turning Point – Pominville’s goal. The giveaway was the essence of the Bruins night at HSBC Arena. Wheeler could not get out the way of a clearing puck, Sobotka cannot track it down as it slides to the slot and Ference gets burned by Pominville as he crashes the net. The two-goal advantage would be all that Miller would need to put the Bruins away.
Key Play – All of the goals that Rask let in could have been avoided one way or another but the one that gave the Sabres the first three goal lead by either team in the series was more of the net minder’s fault than the first two. Gaustad won the face off and Grier shot. Simple enough. It was the type of goal that the Bruins hardly ever allow and could not afford to do so when trying to put the series away.
|Sabres staring down the barrel||04.20.10 at 2:59 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — The Sabres took to the ice at Ristuccia Arena on Tuesday looking for a bit of a rebound day after taking two consecutive tough losses to the Bruins in their quarterfinal Stanley Cup playoff series. Boston leads 2 to 1 heading into Wednesday’s Game 4 and the Sabres know that they need to start finishing chances, either on the power play or in front of the net, if the can hold the Bruins off and return to Buffalo for Game 5 with the series tied.
“It is not a must win, no. It is a must play well though. Must compete hard and must play hard,” Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said.
All registered healthy Sabres took part in Tuesday’s practice with the notable exception of Matt Ellis, who took a hit from the Bruins’ Johnny Boychuk in the second period of Game 3 that busted the forwards nose and sent him wobbling to the bench. Ruff said he gave Ellis a maintenance day on Tuesday and is pretty sure that the wing will be able to play in Game 4 but if he is not the Sabres would have to call a player up from AHL Portland.
“It is playoff hockey,” forward Matt Ellis said. “Obviously things have been pretty tight and there are things at the end of each night where you take a look at and reevaluate. We did that today and will be ready to go tomorrow.”
Part of Buffalo’s woes have been the inability to finish, the great oxymoron in this series as those issues have typically been associated with the Bruins throughout the year. Ruff was asked about how Paul Gaustad (12 goals, 10 assists through regular season, minus-two and four penalty minutes in the playoffs) has been in creating screens in front of the net, a place where Buffalo will have to look to score goals without their top threat Thomas Vanek.
“One area where we must remain strong is try to hold the front. Try to hold that area and try to get those second opportunities and that is where he has to use his big body,” Ruff said. “To be honest, no. I think he can play bigger, he can be stronger and I think that if you asked him he would say the same thing.”
But with no goals through 12 power play chances and only six goals through three games, Ruff knows that everybody on the team will have to step up. No single player is immune from criticism as long as the Sabres trail Boston in the series.
“I think any time you are down in a series, it applies to everybody,” Ruff said. “Don’t finish the game and wish you did something.”
— Ruff said there is no update on Vanek and at this point he will probably keep mum until Vanek shows up on the ice and he is forced to answer questions on the forwards health. He was seen in a walking boot in Wilmington and said that he has not given up on playing in Game 4. Jochen Hecht, who had finger surgery late in the season, did not skate either and was seen leaving Ristuccia with a cast on his hand.
On the Bruins end of things, the team seems loose and know that they are playing within Julien’s system and that if they compete the results will take care of themselves. All normal skaters participated in the practice and forward Marc Savard was worked out by trainer John Whitesides before the team workout.
Here is the Sabres practice participation by sweater color:
White: Tyler Ennis, Drew Stafford, Tim Connolly
Red: Jason Pominville, Derek Roy, Tim Kennedy
Grey: Paul Gaustad, Michael Grier, Raffi Torres
Yellow: Patrick Kaleta, Adam Mair, Chris Butler
Defensemen: Steve Montador, Toni Lydman, Tyler Myers, Henrik Tallinder, Andrej Sekera, Craig Rivet
Goaltenders: Patrick Lalime, Ryan Miller
|Second period summary: Bruins vs. Sabres – Game 3||04.19.10 at 8:45 pm ET|
Back and forth they go.
The Sabres got the first real power play of the game when Milan Lucic was called for a a drive-by high-sticking penalty when he caught the butt-end of his stick on the cheek of Craig Rivet while chasing the puck back out of his own offensive zone on the forecheck at 1:57. Buffalo entered Game 3 without a man-advantage strike through the first two contests, going 0 for 9 in the process. The Sabres worked on the power play through their entire morning skate, showing off two different formations that both featured a lot of movement to the net.
The Sabres may never find out how those sets work against the Bruins because the stout Boston penalty kill has consistently foiled any clean Buffalo entries into their zone and the Bruins were able to kill off their 10th in a row in the series.
Outside of Zdeno Chara dumping Tyler Ennis into Buffalo’s bench in Game 2, the biggest hit of the series came shortly after the power play when Buffalo forward Matt Ellis was trying to skate the puck clear of the Sabres’ offensive zone when he was met by their perpetual agitator in this series, Johnny Boychuk. The defenseman stood Ellis up and knocked him flat on his back, going from forward motion to the ice in a flash as he was separated from the puck.
Boston got its first crack at the power play when Paul Gaustad went to the box for interference at 12:18. The Bruins got a man-advantage strike from Mark Recchi in Game 1 but have not been able to tally in three other chances in the first two games. Despite decent puck movement in their the zone the Bruins were foiled on this attempt as well. Boston got another chance a few minutes later when Andrej Sekera took an interference call at 15:06 but the Sabres, who actually ranked higher than the Bruins in penalty killing during the regular season (second to third), battled through again to make Boston 1 for 6 on the series.
To punctuate the see-saw that was the second period, Boston took two penalties in the final three minutes. The first was to Marco Sturm, negating the last 17-seconds of Boston’s power play off the Sekera penalty. Once the Bruins killed that one off they had to start another as Andrew Ference took a tripping call at 18:51.
The Sabres wills start the third a man up and lead the Bruins in shots 21 to 20.
Sabres coach Lindy Ruff knows that a team’s “special players” have to be the ones that carry a team through a playoff series. Yes, the team that works harder, the scheme that is more effective, the luck or misfortune inherent in the playoffs all are factors in determining which teams take a step closer to Lord Stanley’s Cup, but sometimes it is just about which team has more talent.
“Your special players can still win the game for you,” Ruff said. “I think that if your special players have good opportunities they have to make a difference for you and that will be the difference in the series.”
Yet, Ruff and the Sabres will be missing the player that gave them a significant talent edge over the Bruins in the form of Thomas Vanek. The Austrian forward went down in Game 2 on Saturday after Boston defenseman Johnny Boychuk chased him down on a partial break and slashed at his knee causing him to lose his edge and tumble into the end wall. Ruff told the media on Sunday that he was pleasantly surprised about Vanek’s condition after initially fearing the worst but that he will still be out for Game 3 at TD Garden Monday evening.
“No step back but no progress,” Ruff said of Vanek’s status. “Same as yesterday.”
Boychuk has been getting some flack around the league for what some fans and media have called a vicious two-handed slash that was either over-aggressive or had the specific intent to injure. Boychuk was not having any of that.
“It wasn’t even that bad, I think,” Boychuk said. “He was basically almost on a breakaway and I was going to try and lift his stick on the left and I switched and hit his right leg instead of his left leg. I was trying to hit his stick to push the puck off, just so happens that I hit his leg and he fell down.”
Coach Claude Julien was also of the opinion that Boychuk’s slash was more of a “hockey move” than anything malicious.
“None of the above. I don’t think he was overaggressive. He did a hockey play. I think it’s pretty obvious, and I don’t want to dwell on this stuff, but Vanek got hurt going into the boards. It’s his left leg, not his right, so he got hurt that way,” Julien said. “I think it’s pretty obvious those are things that happen in the game of hockey. We all have injuries on every team, so let’s turn the page and move on, on that. I don’t think he’s overaggressive. He’s played well for us and I think that’s where we see Johnny Boychuk, a pretty good defenseman for us.”
Boychuk was adamant that there was no intent to injure.
“No, not a chance. Why would I want to harm the guy? It makes no sense,” Boychuk said.
Well, Mr. Boychuk, an injury to Vanek makes perfect sense if you have a rooting interest in the Bruins. Whatever the intent was, it is pretty obvious that Boychuk and Julien are sticking to their version of the incident. Boychuk will never admit to going after Vanek and to be fair the forward was closing in on goaltender Tuukka Rask with the puck on his stick. Boychuk was penalized for the slash and since the play was on the puck as much as the player their was no attempt to hide it away from the game action the way it sometimes happens in the NHL.
Ruff may be trying to paint a happy picture to the media with his “pleasantly surprised” comments but there have been whispers that the injury might be a high-ankle sprain, which would put him out of commission for most of the playoffs if Buffalo were to make a run at the Cup. Boston’s Milan Lucic had the same injury this year and it took him eight weeks to recover and said that he feels for Vanek if that is indeed the case.
“Ever since I got it I don’t wish that injury on anyone,” Lucic said. “It is definitely the toughest injury that I have gone through and I think everyone who has had it will tell you the same thing.”
The matchups in the series are such that players like Derek Roy, Tim Connolly for Buffalo and Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci for the Bruins effectively cancel each other out. Even the defensive pairings are similar with both teams having one of the tallest defensemen in NHL history with Zdeno Chara and rookie Tyler Myers. Vanek was the key for the Sabres though and Ruff knows it.
“I’m looking ahead. I am looking at tonight’s game. That’s my only focus. We need some guys to be better. When you say you have to work real hard, you can work as hard as you want but if the puck doesn’t go in the net, you don’t win the game,” Ruff said.
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