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Pierre McGuire on M&M: Red Wings’ Mike Babcock ‘the most creative coach in the NHL’ 04.18.14 at 2:33 pm ET
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Pierre McGuire

Pierre McGuire

NBC Sports hockey analyst Pierre McGuire joined Mut & Merloni on Friday to discuss the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.

For McGuire, Friday night’s matchup against the Red Wings is the toughest scenario the Bruins could have faced.

“The only reason I say that is the creativity of Mike Babcock, [Detroit's] coach,” McGuire said. “I think most people know on paper the rosters don’t compare. Boston’s roster is better on paper than Detroit’s just because of the veteran experience and the fact that most of the players on the Bruins roster have been part of a Stanley Cup run to the final and/or won a Stanley Cup.

“A lot of these Detroit players really haven’t been a part of that. It’s really been a huge turnover in their roster — some because of injury, some because of retirement and some just because they had no other choice. The one thing I will say about this Detroit roster is a lot of the younger players you’€™ll see won an American [Hockey] League championship last year in Grand Rapids.”

One of the main concerns for the Bruins is the Red Wings’ speed.

“œThat’s going to be the No. 1 thing to watch early on,” McGuire said. “Watch what they do when they’re attacking Zdeno Chara. Watch what they do when they’re attacking Johnny Boychuk – two of the bigger, more important defensemen for the Bruins just because of the shutdown capabilities. Let’s see if they play chip-and-chase hockey or if they really try to stretch them out and create huge seams.

“You won’€™t know until the game starts, but this is going back to my point about Mike Babcock — to me he is the most creative coach in the NHL. Doesn’t mean he’€™s the best — although he’s getting one of my votes for Coach of the Year. I think he’€™s the most creative coach in the National Hockey League and we’€™ll see how he breaks down the Bruins defense because the Bruins defense, as we know, is extremely good.”

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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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B’s are too legit to quit 11.29.08 at 6:11 pm ET
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Proving that they’re completely undaunted by the Four Stanley Cup titles captured since 1997, the Bruins weathered the first period storm by the Red Wings and came away with a decisive 4-1 victory over the reigning champs from the Motor City.

The Bruins coaching staff and players stressed before the game that it was important not to stray too distantly from their system — whether they’re playing a gritty, dump-and-chase Eastern Conference also-ran like the New York Islanders or a roster full of puck possession players with otherworldly skills like the Detroit Red Wings — and that the name-of-the-game is to make teams adjust to the Black and Gold Way.

Not the other way around.

The 21st Century Big, Bad B’s can drop the gloves and pound away with the strongest and most ruthless goon-filled opponents; they can play the speed and precision passing games with the European-style teams that favor puck possession and dangle over simply duking it out; and they can be effective against any other style of hockey in between those disparate puck poles. The Bruins finished the month of November with an 11-1-1 record and 23 points, which marks their best month of hockey since they piled up 24 points in December of 1978 with an 11-2-2 record for that month. That, my friends, is the return of Old Time Hockey in Boston.

“It was a great challenge for us, that’s for sure,” said Zdeno Chara. “We know that they’re one of the best teams on the West side and that this would be a good measuring stick for us. We want to play our game, we want to play hard and we did that for most of the game.”

What did Big Z learn about his Bruins team tonight as he wore the Captain’s ‘C’ in the intimidating Back-in-Black third jersey, collected his 7th assist of the season and laid out a pair of hits while constantly reinforcing a pounding, physical presence around the skilled, dainty Wings playmakers?

“That we can beat anybody in this league, and that we can play anybody in this league,” said Chara. “We haven’t done anything and we’ve just beat a few teams. We need to keep pushing forward and we can’t get satisfied with the results we have. We need to keep playing our game and the results will take care of themselves.

“The most important thing for us is that the other team is adjusting to us rather than our team adjusting to them,” added Chara. “Sometimes in a game you make small adjustments, but most of the game we’re playing the system and not changing a whole lot. It’s just a matter of being disciplined and playing your game.”

Above and beyond the time-honored system chatter, the Bruins offense has also become Public Enemy Number One in the upside-down world of goaltending, as they’ve banished two straight starting goaltenders (Joey MacDonald, Ty Conklin) from their comfortable crease during blowout victories at the Garden.

What does that mean?

It means that the Bruins finally proved last night that this nice little 24-game run to start the season isn’t a phase, a hot streak or anything temporary — this edition of the Black and Gold is deep, dangerous and deadly and, barring any injuries, is likely to keep scoring wins and hockey TKOs this season. Having both Andrew Ference and potentially Aaron Ward out with injuries – in addition to post-concussion difficulties that currently have Marco Sturm on the shelf – are certainly posing a legit test of the Bruins and their impressive depth, but it’s hard to imagine anything derailing this hockey train headed for good things. 

They’re Deep and they’re spectacular

Once again the scoresheet was dotted with seven players that enjoyed multiple point games, and featured another banner game from the trio of Michael Ryder, David Krejci and Blake Wheeler.

Ryder showed determination, strength on the puck and plain old offensive chutzpah when he dangled through a pair of defenders with the puck, blazed down the right side of the ice and slid a pass back to a wide open Blake Wheeler for Boston’s initial score. The entire left half of the net was wide open and Wheeler buried a shot in the top left corner for the eighth goal of a banner rookie campaign. The two helpers give Ryder four points in two games since joining up with Krejci and Wheeler — a trend that will likely keep the forwards together if things stay bountiful for the B’s.

“[Ryder] just won two battles, and that’s the name of the game: winning battles,” said Wheeler. “He gave us a 2-on-1 and that’s how you score goals in this league…by winning battles. The last two games Rydes has been awesome and hopefully for the rest of the season this is the guy that you see. Because he’s been really, really, really good.”

Each member of the Krejci/Ryder/Wheeler combo finished the night with a +2 and once again proved that any of the Bruins’ top three lines can strike at any time. Apparently Ryder will have to do some work to make more of an impression on Wings head coach Mike Babcock, however, as the Wings bench boss couldn’t remember the oh-so-anonymous guy that finished with a pair of assists and a +2 against his club when all the ice chips had settled. 

“[The Bruins] have good players.  I think they are starting to come of age.  They have been drafting high for a long time and it starts to show after a period of time,” said Babcock. “That Kessel kid can really fly.  Savard is more committed than he has been in the past.  Lucic is a big body and really skates. 

“I thought that the Krejci line with Wheeler and who was the other guy there on the line tonight?  It doesn’t matter any way I thought they were effective against us tonight.  Bergeron is a great two-way player, with Axelsson.  Oh and Ryder was with them mostly.  That’s three good lines.”

The single hottest Bruins’ offensive player doesn’t reside on that red-hot line, however. That honor goes to Phil Kessel, who scored Boston’s second goal on a screaming wrist shot from the top of the point in the first period, and marked his ninth consecutive game with at least one point.

That gives Kessel the longest active streak currently going in the NHL, and marks the third-longest point streak in the league this season. Kessel was on a pace to finish with 41 goals and 24 assists before heading into Saturday night’s statement victory, and the lightning-legged youngster continues to give Boston the sniper they’ve longed for since rigor mortis set in on Glen Murray.

Making due without Ward

The Bruins have displayed a breathtaking show of depth over the16-4-4 start, and that’s going to have to continue holding true after another injury hit Saturday night.  Veteran defenseman Aaron Ward exited the game with a leg injury after only three shifts and 3:43 of ice time in the first period. Ward had skated in hard and laid a physical check on Detroit defenseman Derek Meech, and he didn’t return after immediately skating off the ice.

“It’s a leg injury,” said Julien. “You guys all saw when he hit the boards there that he came out limping. There’s not much we can do here. He’ll be evaluated tomorrow and hopefully when we practice on Monday we can give you a better assessment of his injury.”

Ward’s injury forced the Bruins blueline corps to play Iron Man hockey for roughly the last 50 minutes of the hockey game, and — in the words of Dennis Wideman — Claude Julien was basically pairing ‘D’ according to “who was sucking the least amount of wind on the bench.”

It’s too early to speculate on the seriousness of Ward’s leg problem, but another Matt Lashoff call-up seems almost automatic after practicing with the team and acting as a healthy scratch up until last Thursday. With Andrew Ference out with a broken right tibia and now Ward potentially gone with a leg injury, the B’s backliners will have to each step up and fill the shot-blocking bravery, physical persona and off-ice leadership that Ward provides on a daily basis.

“[Ward] eats a lot of minutes up and he plays against the other team’s top line,” said Dennis Wideman, who played a Herculean 28:36 of ice time in the win over the cooked Wings. “He’s a good defender and he’s a guy that shuts teams down. He finishes a lot of checks in his own zone and he blocks a ton of shots, and he’s tough to play against. He does a really good job of shutting other team’s down, so obviously somebody else is going to have to step up and do that.

“Of course there’s a challenge if we’re down another D,” added Wideman. “Somebody will be coming up from the minors. Last year we had a lot of injury problems on defense, and Providence does a really good job of getting guys ready to come up here. There’s a lot of skill, and just like when [Matt] Hunwick stepped in when Ference got hurt and did a great job…we expect whoever they call up will do the same.

Manny, Manny, Manny

It seemed somewhat out of place to hear the “Manny, Manny, Manny” chants cascading through the sellout crowd of 17, 565 at the Garden on Saturday night, but Bruins goaltender Manny Fernandez is beginning to feel the same kind of fan affection that’s been showered on Tim Thomas over the last three years. Fernandez made 29 saves and won both ends of back-to-back games — the first time this season that the veteran netminder has been entrusted with both ends of a back-to-backer.

Julien noted how well Fernandez has been playing in giving the former Minnesota Wild ‘tender the start against the Red Wings, but the Boston bench jockey also wanted to give Thomas some time to recover from an illness that bothered him this week. 

“Well me personally, again my teammates the way they’ve been playing, I can’t say enough- the way they’ve been putting it in the net, getting the outside shot, I mean anyone who gets to play on a team like that – it’s amazing it’s an easy game to play,” said Fernandez. ”You just concentrate on the first shot and they clear the rebounds and they’ve been really effective and they came out really strong tonight.”

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