|Bruins need to quickly brush off Senators loss||04.07.09 at 10:46 pm ET|
The “good” Bruins team has shown up so many times over the last few weeks on the road to clinching the East. With that in mind, it was difficult to recognize the Boston hockey club that showed up Tuesday night at Scotiabank Place, because it was far from the “Good” Bruins team.
The B’s kept it close with a pair of second-period goals, but didn’t really bring their “A” game with them in a 3-2 loss to the Ottawa Senators at the Sens home rink in Canada’s Capital City. There wasn’t a great deal of surliness or heart-stopping jump in Boston’s game on this night, and the vaunted power play — a weapon that was again striking fear in the hearts of their opponents during their just-finished six-game winning streak — sprung a few leaks in the face of a speedy Sens attack.
So there may not be many moments from the listless loss that are going to make it into the season’s Greatest Hits reel.
It’s easy to chalk this up as a hockey team missing a few key players from their regular rotation — with blueliner Andrew Ference now gone for the rest of the regular season due to an undisclosed injury, and certainly now a question mark for the beginning of the playoffs. And perhaps the Big Bad B’s were missing a bit of their edge without much to play for after wrapping up the Eastern Conference while giving Sean Avery and the Rangers a Saturday afternoon beatdown. The President’s Cup seems like it’s out the door now with the San Jose Sharks three points ahead of the B’s — a situation that could have been a whole lot closer if the Bruins could have at least pushed last night’s effort into overtime.
But OT simply wasn’t meant to be.
It’s imperative, though, that the Black and Gold doesn’t drift too far away from the blue-collar tendencies and smash mouth work ethic that got them back on the winning track in the first place. The bone-rattling, board-shattering hits were at a bare minimum, and there wasn’t even a hint of the gloves being dropped.
The regular season has only three games left in it, and the B’s will be dropped right into the playoff pressure cooker little more than a week from today.
With Zdeno Chara and Patrice Bergeron manning the points due to injuries to both Ference and Dennis Wideman — after the B’s had enjoyed so much success with No. 37 down low by the post in recent weeks — things seemed a bit off on the PP unit and led to a short-handed goal as well as a 3-on-1 in the third period. The odd man rush in the third would have led to another score if not for a quick Manny Fernandez glove save that saved the PP unit’s bacon.
Things will need to tighten up when the Rangers — or the suddenly reeling and injury-plagued Canadiens — come calling in mid-April.
Injury Ward: Phil Kessel, Shawn Thornton and Aaron Ward all returned to the lineup Tuesday night after missing assorted time with injuries, but the B’s might be without Ference for a while. Claude Julien said before the game that the B’s veteran blueliner and key team leader will sit out of the final four regular season games with an undisclosed injury. Ference will be reevaluated prior to the playoffs, but that’s not a reassuring sign for a hard-working player that’s had his share of tough luck over the last few seasons.
Player of the Game: Stephane Yelle managed to total four official hits and won 6 of his 9 faceoffs in little more than 10 minutes of ice time, and put together another heady and solid veteran game manning the pivot between Shawn Thornton and Byron Bitz.
Goat Horns: The power play. The Bruins did manage a power play score in the waning seconds of the second period when a Chara bomb from the right point smacked up against Alex Auld’s water bottle, but the PP unit made way too many sloppy mistakes. A playoff-ready and responsible team can’t give up multiple odd-man rushes during a power play, as they did on the Mike Fisher goal in the first period and again in the third period on a 3-on-1 where Bergeron was the only player to make it back on D.
Turning Point: The Bruins put 10 shots on net in the third period and really upped the pressure on Auld and the Senators’ defense over the final 20 minutes, and Mark Recchi and Chuck Kobasew both had golden chances they couldn’t quite put home for the Bruins. It was simply too little, too late for the Black and Gold.
|Rangers are one of many improved teams in the East||03.08.09 at 4:03 pm ET|
The Bruins pulled the trigger on some prudent hockey transactions to address their needs during this past week’s trade deadline, but unfortunately the Causeway Street Warriors weren’t the only Eastern Conference squad to give themselves a helping hand last Wednesday.
New York Rangers forward Sean Avery made an impact in his first game this season as a member of the Blueshirts, and newly acquired forward Nik Antropov potted his first score in a Rangers sweater during a frustrating 4-3 Sunday afternoon B’s loss to the Rangers at Madison Square Garden. Former Coyotes defenseman Derek Morris also notched an assist for the new-look Rangers, who appear to have a bit more offensive firepower with their new skaters.
Watching Avery skate around for 60 minutes of hockey and incite Marc Savard, Milan Lucic and Mark Recchi into reacting and observing Antropov utilizing his big 6-foot-6 body to create space and opportunities in front of the net brought one big thought to the puck forefront: nearly every Bruins competitor helped themselves at the NHL trade deadline and just made the road that much tougher for the Black and Gold going forward this spring.
The sagging Montreal Canadiens acquired puck-moving defender Mathieu Schneider well before the trade deadline. The Pittsburgh Penguins finally recognized they were missing the grit of last year’s Stanley Cup Finals club, and recruited both Chris Kunitz and Bill Guerin into the fold in time for their final stretch run. The sandpaper-scrappy Daniel Carcillo was shipped to the Philadelphia Flyers after racking up more than 300 penalty minutes and 13 goals for the Coyotes last season.
The Devils watched Martin Brodeur get healthy enough to come back, and got even deeper along the blueline with Niclas Havelid. Even the Florida Panthers, who seemed to be locked in a Hamlet-like struggle to decide whether they were a legitimate playoff contender, scooped up defenseman Steve Eminger for their first serious playoff drive.
In other words, nearly everyone in the East potentially improved themselves right along with the Big, Bad B’s and it’s unclear how things will eventually shake out with the roster additions up and down the standings.
As has been the case in several of the B’s most recent losses, the Bruins found themselves scrambling madly in the last few moments of the game to tie up the Rangers and lock another point into the seasonal account. But the Bruins just couldn’t get that last push to force the game into overtime, and vulture a lonely point.
That’s a quality that countless veteran NHL hockey teams have an uncanny knack for in a close game where they find themselves down in the waning moments. Somehow, some way a team will simply shove their way into OT before eventually succumbing to their opponent, but the B’s haven’t been one of those teams recently.
In the last month the B’s have dropped one-goal games to the Rangers, Coyotes, Devils and Lightning at a portion of the season when the Devils and Capitals remained within 10 points of the Spoked B in the East — with important games in hand for each club. The Bruins clearly could have used additional points to pile on to their first place cushion.
With some additional grit and firepower in Boston’s “new” and largely healthy lineup, the young and hungry Bruins must find a way to will themselves into overtime in some of those “close but no cigar” one goal losses that have been all too common lately.
Injury Ward: Both Stephane Yelle (undisclosed injury after falling backwards and banging his neck and shoulder into the boards) and Steve Montador (flu) missed the game for the B’s, and it’s still unclear whether Yelle will meet the team in Columbus tomorrow or Tuesday. Byron Bitz and Blake Wheeler both played a bit of center in Yelle’s absence.
Player of the Game: Chuck Kobasew scored a goal on a sweet backhanded move that tied the game at 1-1 in the second period, and laid out five hits for the Bruins on the day. It was the perfect example of the skill and scowl that Kobasew brings to the table with his fearless bumper car style on a regular basis.
Goat Horns: Manny Fernandez hasn’t looked good in his last two starts, and has allowed four goals in four of his last five appearances since coming back from a midseason back injury. Man-Fern, after losing track of the puck, was a technical mess on the Ryan Callahan tap-in goal in the second period that gave the Rangers a commanding 3-1 lead. With points at a premium, it’s going to be difficult to give Fernandez a chance to play into getting his groove back.
Turning Point: For the second time in a big, playoff-style game against an Eastern Conference foe, a flukey play proved to be the difference in the game when an odd carom off the back boards came right back out in front of the B’s net. Nikolai Zherdev took advantage of some “right place in the right time” mojo and banged in the game-winner past Fernandez with less than seven minutes to go in the game.
|Sounds of the game… Flyers 4, Bruins 3, OT||02.07.09 at 9:04 pm ET|
The Bruins under Claude Julien rarely blow leads at home. They almost NEVER blow two-goal leads.
Saturday they did both to the very hungry Philadelphia Flyers.
After beating Philadelphia, 3-1, on Wednesday with an extremely sound game and a nearly perfect third period, the Bruins looked very tired once they went up by two with their fastest two goals since Barry Pederson and Norman Leveille scored eight seconds apart on Dec. 20, 1981.
But the Flyers were the better and more desperate team for the last 43 minutes of this one, and you’ll get no argument from the Black and Gold on that point.
Yes, they could’ve won when the Flyers’ Antero Niittymaki inexplicably knocked the puck up and over the boards for a delay of game penalty in the final 90 seconds.
Yes, they could’ve won it when Dennis WIdeman’s shot from the left point and rang off the right post in overtime.
It was Jones who hit Patrice Bergeron from behind on Oct. 27, 2007 at the Garden, causing Bergeron to miss the rest of the season with a grade three concussion.
|Ryder out indefinitely with facial fracture||at 12:06 pm ET|
The injury bug has hit the Bruins again, and this time Michael Ryder is the victim after suffering a high-stick against the Ottawa Senators on Thursday night. According to B’s coach Claude Julien, Ryder is out indefinitely with a facial fracture to the nose/eye area and team doctors haven’t ruled out surgery as a possibility to repair the damaged area.
The latest news is a pretty big reversal from the last few days when it was expected that Ryder had his nasty nose gash stitched up and he would be ready to go.
“Ryder is not going today; we got some bad news on his situation,” said Julien, who said Ryder will be evaluated again on Monday. “It’s a small fracture, so he’s out indefinitely. It needs to be determined whether he can play with a shield, or how far it needs to be looked into.
“It’s a shame,” added Julien. “When you say indefinitely you hope it’s shorter than longer. There’s a fresh fracture and you really can’t let him go now. There’s a possibility of (surgery).”
Julien indicated that Ryder’s eyesight is “okay” and has not been affected by the injury, but further testing will be required next week.
In other news for pregame against the Philadelphia Flyers in yet another Saturday matinee at the Garden: Milan Lucic will play with a bruised up and purple left foot after taking a shot off it on Wednesday night, but Aaron Ward will not be in the lineup after battling the flu over the last few days.
Manny Fernandez gets his first start between the pipes since the beginning of January when he took to the ice Jan. 8 against the Ottawa Senators.
|Bruised left foot for Milan Lucic||02.06.09 at 2:20 pm ET|
Bruins left winger Milan Lucic was back at practice this afternoon and declared himself ready to play in tomorrow’s matinee against the Philadelphia Flyers. Looch suffered a bruised left foot when he took a shot off his big dog in last Wednesday night’s tilt versus the Flyers in Philly. According to the hulking forward, he’s got a colorful and healthy bruise and some “purple toes” after taking a shot off the left foot near the skate’s lacing.
Lucic was trying to get a tip on a shot in front of the net at the time of the injury, but he missed the puck with his trusty blade and instead caught the speeding rubber biscuit flush off the front of his left foot.
“It’s good news,” said Lucic, who missed Thursday night’s game against the Senators with the injury. “I think we treated it right (Thursday) and today, and it looks like I’m going to be ready to play tomorrow.
“It’s the game of hockey; stuff like that happens all the time and you just have to be mentally strong and battle through it,” added Lucic. “I’ve got some nice purple toes. It looks funny right now, but it made a lot of progress from yesterday morning to last night.”
In other tidbits from practice:
—Dennis Wideman obviously isn’t a big listener to WEEI during the late morning and early afternoon hours, if at all. When I told him that he should tell Holley that he was a big fan of his “Holley Hockey Minute” when he gets on the air, Wideman replied without missing a beat: “Oh…you mean Holley isn’t a girl? That’s good to know.”
—Aaron Ward was down with the flu that’s been traveling around the Bruins club — and the Celtics for that matter over the last week — and wasn’t at practice. Chuck Kobasew was also given a maintenance day away from the ice by coach Claude Julien. Michael Ryder was also given the day off after a high stick caught him in the face and cut him open during last night’s shootout win against Ottawa.
Julien and Manny Fernandez also both revealed that physically he’s ready to jump back into game action, but it’s more a matter of getting a certain feel in net between the pipes after three weeks of inactivity.
“He’s feeling good and physically I think he’s 100 percent,” said Julien. “I think we made the right decision in doing what we did and letting him heal his aching back. That’s the main thing right now, so it’s just a matter now of spotting him in a situation when we feel that he feels he’s ready.”
It was a pretty good showing at practice this afternoon at the TD Banknorth Garden given that B’s Media Relations maestro Matt Chmura estimated that the team finally got into Boston around 2:30 a.m. Friday morning.
|Fresh Thomas locks Islanders down||01.15.09 at 11:24 pm ET|
Tim Thomas didn’t earn the shutout last night when he coughed up a goal off David Krejci’s skate late in the third period, but he looked as fresh as he has all season in the 2-1 win over the Islanders.
There’s a good reason for that.
B’s coach Claude Julien has done a masterful job of sharing the workload between his two thirtysomething goalies, and it’s allowed them to become the best goaltending tandem in the NHL this season. In season’s past, the energetic and athletic style employed by Thomas would cause him to wear down over the grind of a long season — a situation worsened without a ton notch partner between the pipes.
The 34-year-old appeared in 66 games during the 06-07 season when injuries and the stunning collapse of the SS Raycroft pushed him into an extreme workload, and it was something that even Thomas himself acknowledges might have been a few too many games jammed into one regular season. Last year’s brief Manny Fernandez appearance along with some great support work done by Alex Auld allowed Thomas to scale back nine games and — coupled with an excellent defensive system installed by Claude Julien and his coaching staff — resulted in career-highs in save percentage and GAA.
At this point last season Thomas had appeared in 29 games and the B’s have slackened that pace even more this season with Man-Fern in the wings — as last night was his 25th appearance of the season. The fresh-as-a-daisy tender turned away 40 shots on a night when the Black and Gold clearly weren’t at their best against the mucking, scrapping Isles, and is on pace to appear in 47 games this season — the lowest games played total for him since surfacing from the Providence Baby B’s to play in 36 games way back in 2005-05.
“I’ve been fortunate enough over the years to have had good relationships with lots of goaltenders that I played with. I’ve actually played kind of in tandem like this with Raycroft in Providence, where we both pretty much played half and half,” said Thomas during a recent NHL conference call. “I did get used to it then. For a few years I haven’t played in a goaltending tandem like that.
“Last year we had Alex Auld. He was great, took a lot of the pressure off of me. But I still played more games percentage-wise than I’m playing this year,” added Thomas. “The good thing about playing with Manny this year is we’re pretty much the same age with pretty much the same experience level. We’ve been able to help each other out. Through a season, players don’t always have their A games. When that happens, I think as goaltenders we can see it in each other. We either settle each other down if that needs to be or kind of try to fire each other up if that’s what needs to happen. I think we’ve done a pretty good job of that this year.”
|NHL Call with Tim Thomas||01.13.09 at 1:56 pm ET|
Here’s a transcript from an NHL-sponsored Conference Call that the league held with Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas in anticipation of the NHL All-Star Game next weekend in Montreal. Thomas tackles a number of subjects including his long and storied path toward NHL stardom as well as the match-up against the Canadiens looming tonight.
It should be noted that — as he has all season — Thomas deflected questions about his contract status and progress he may or may not be making on a contract extension with the Black and Gold. It should also be noted that TT gives a great shout-out to New Bedford Standard Times hockey writer and FOH (Friend of Haggs) in the last few questions of call. Here’s Timmy:
Q. I’m sure nothing can compare to your first selection, but the success of the team this year, does that give you any more satisfaction to go this time?
TIM THOMAS: Yeah, it does. First of all, the selection is nice, too. Like last year I was kind of a replacement, so this one is nice because I was picked outright. But second of all, you know, when you can go there and you’re the team that everyone’s looking up to this year, that everybody’s chasing, it definitely gives you a little bit of inner confidence.
Q. You were a late replacement last year. I know that affected some family vacation plans. Did it knock out anything this time?
TIM THOMAS: No, no. Nope, I didn’t plan anything this year just in case. Was just going to kind of take it as it went.
Q. Regarding the Canadiens, you had a couple of big wins close together earlier this season. They’ve been coming on lately, getting their game together. This seems like old times now with you and them. I’m wondering about your perspective toward playing MontrÃ©al when both teams are hot right now.
TIM THOMAS: Well, I don’t know. At this point of the year I think you kind of have to treat every game the same as you would any other game. Now, having said that, you know it’s MontrÃ©al, and we do have a history. They’re exciting games and stuff.
But I think as much as possible, I think the mood in the locker room, you have to be ready to show up and do the same things you’ve been having success with all year long, and the things you’ve been having success with against the MontrÃ©al Canadiens this year also.
Q. Is that amplified by the fact when you guys had such a bad time with MontrÃ©al last season, a lot of it was because you just saved up your worst for them?
TIM THOMAS: Maybe we were a little bit too nervous, and then we got sick of it and we actually tried too hard. Then we got mad, and we got so mad that we took too many penalties. I think that’s more what I’m referring to, is that we made the game into too big of a deal possibly last year.
Yes, it’s an important game, but it shouldn’t be so important that it takes you out of your style of game. We should play them the same way we played against the Red Wings, the same way we’ve played the MontrÃ©al Canadiens twice this year. I think the playoff series helped a lot.
Q. Last year was your first full year with the Bruins. Before that you had sort of shuttled back and forth between Boston and Providence.
TIM THOMAS: It was my second full year. This year is my third full year.
Q. I’m saying last year was your first year that you spent the full year with the Bruins.
TIM THOMAS: No, it was the year before. I played 66 games the year before.
Q. Where have you come from? What are some of the things that are going well for you now?
TIM THOMAS: Well, I think I’ve said this before, but it isn’t like I’ve appeared out of nowhere. The whole time I was hiding in plain sight. I mean, I was a two-time All-American in college. I won a championship in Finland at age 23. I’ve had a really good record in the AHL.
During the lockout year in Finland with at least five other NHL goalies in the league, I was the No. 1 goalie in the league that year in Finland with 15 shutouts out of 54 games played. In my mind it isn’t like I’m playing better than I played in my whole career. It’s kind of me continuing. Now, do I think I’ve gotten a little bit better in the past few years, of course.
But I’ve tried to get better every year in my career. It wasn’t like I went from a guy who couldn’t play street hockey to playing in the NHL. That’s my point. I’ve just kind of been there all along, plugging along. Just with goalies, for you to get your chance it’s much harder because there’s much fewer positions. It just took me a long time to get my chance.
Q. How has Claude Julien’s system sort of helped you out? How have you benefited from the system he put in?
TIM THOMAS: Well, I think playing with the same team for a couple years in a row, now this is the second year with the coach, but even last year, he just comes in and he lets everybody know what they’re supposed to be doing. It sounds like such a simple thing, but it’s overlooked.
You’d be surprised at how many systems there are, hockey systems, where the players really don’t know what they’re supposed to be doing. He’s made that very clear, what it is that each individual on the ice is supposed to be doing. That makes it much easier for a goaltender because I know where my D are supposed to be, I know which guy is supposed to be going to get that guy. It’s not perfect; it’s hockey.
Something may happen to where it doesn’t always work out as planned and then we have to improvise. Knowing in my zone on the ice where all of my guys are supposed to be, it helps out a goalie. I know kind of where most of the chances are going to be coming from.
Q. You just talked about the system. Let’s talk about the people plugged into the system. Aaron Ward, excellent defenseman. Andrew Ference, same thing. Matt Hunwick, Shane Hnidy did a great job. Can you talk about the kind of depth on the team, what kind of confidence booster that is?
TIM THOMAS: Well, not just the defense, but at forward we’ve had incredible depth. When people have gotten down, other people have gotten the chance and they’ve stepped up and did a great job. I mean, as a team I think we’re fortunate those guys have stepped up and been able to play such key roles. I think that’s a credit to Matt Hunwick and Shane Hnidy, and Matt Lashoff has gotten his chance.
Q. Next year is an Olympic year. I saw where you played in World Championships in ’93, ’99, ’05 and ’08.
TIM THOMAS: There’s one other, too. ’01 or something. Five times.
Q. You can look at yourself right now in the statistics page of NHL.com and see you’re right there at the top of All-American goalies and nearly all goalies in the world. What would it mean for you to have a chance to play for the United States in Vancouver next year?
TIM THOMAS: It would be awesome. I mean, my dream since I was five years old wasn’t to play in the NHL, it was to play in the Olympics. The 1980 Olympics was the end of my five years old, I would have been turning six right afterwards. It made a huge impression on my life.
Jim Craig was basically the reason I started to play goalie or certainly cemented the fact that I wanted to play goalie, from watching him at those Olympics. I mean, it’s something I’ve been thinking about since age five when I was playing street hockey or pond hockey. I was thinking about the Olympics really, not the NHL, because in Michigan we didn’t get all that much coverage of the NHL. It would be huge. It would be a huge honor. I hope I get the chance.
Q.Part of playing in the All-Star Game isn’t all that serious. It’s fun to be there, fun to be honored. Sometimes these scores get into the double-digits. What is it like to be a goalie in the All-Star Game when you have matador defense, all kinds of great passing.
TIM THOMAS: Well, you got to keep in mind that they’re gonna score. These are the best scorers in the world. Actually, you know, they’re some of the best D in the world there, too. They’re probably not going to be blocking as many shots and stuff like that. Having been there, playing in the third period, I happened to get in during a tight part of game.
I think actually I was fortunate enough to have a little bit better defense than a couple of the other goalies had, the way it worked out. But it’s still fun. It’s even more of a challenge. Last year I think I was a little bit nervous. I had a great time, enjoyed myself. But I was a little bit nervous being on that stage. I think this year I’ll enjoy it probably even more because I think I’ll be able to relax a little bit more, soak it in a little bit better.
Q. How has Manny being around for the full season helped or changed your approach or mindset, both in terms of maybe knowing you don’t have to carry the load for 70 games and also him not just being the type of guy who goes in every four or five games to provide a rest, that he’s sort of a better caliber goalie than that?
TIM THOMAS: Well, I’ve been fortunate enough over the years to have had good relationships with lots of goaltenders that I played with. I’ve actually played kind of in tandem like this with Raycroft like this in Providence, where we both pretty much played half and half.
I did get used to it then. For a few years I haven’t played in a goaltending tandem like that. Last year we had Alex Auld. He was great, took a lot of the pressure off of me. But I still played more games percentage-wise than I’m playing this year. What I’m saying is I have had experience playing in a tandem like this before. B
ut the good thing about playing with Manny this year is we’re pretty much the same age with pretty much the same experience level. We’ve been able to help each other out, ’cause through a season, players don’t always have their A games. When that happens, I think as goaltenders we can see it in each other. We either settle each other down if that needs to be or kind of try to fire each other up if that’s what needs to happen. I think we’ve done a pretty good job of that this year.
Q.I know you’re sort of focused on the here and now, but have there been any talks with your representatives and the Bruins specifically wanting to stay in Boston versus there’s probably going to be a few teams out there who would want to give you a big raise this summer when you become a free agent?
TIM THOMAS: Mick Colageo, he was on the conference call earlier. He can attest to this. Basically this whole year I’ve been going on a blanket no statement on anything relating to that area. Sorry.
Q. You said earlier that you need to treat tomorrow’s game as if it was any other game. Since the Canadiens are your northeast rival, do you see that game as a four-point game or is it too early to think about a northeast title or an Eastern Conference title?
TIM THOMAS: We always look at people we’re playing in our division as four-point games. That hasn’t specifically been brought up against MontrÃ©al this time, but it might be mentioned in the coaches meeting in the morning.
We definitely look at it this way because it’s just the way it works out. It’s different than playing, say, a Western Conference team because the points mean more. Maybe I should have said we got to treat it like any other division game. Maybe that would have been better.