|Nathan Horton learning to channel excitement as he becomes more comfortable in playoffs||04.19.11 at 5:40 pm ET|
LAKE PLACID, N.Y. — When Nathan Horton said he was excited for the playoffs, there were a couple of reasons to believe him. First of all, he’s Nathan Horton, so he’s excited about everything. Second of all, after playing six seasons in Florida, he had been chomping at the bit to get his first taste of postseason action.
So far, the excitement has been on display, but it hasn’t always been in the prettiest ways. Horton seemed to be going a million miles an hour in Game 2, playing a reckless style and only showing up on the stat sheet for a second-period roughing penalty.
Monday night, Horton saw his efforts pay off. On a heads-up play, he found Carey Price out of position after a Zdeno Chara shot missed the net and banked the puck off the back of the Montreal goaltender for his first career playoff goal. It was the second of the Bruins’ four goals in a 4-2 victory that brought them within a game of tying the series.
“It was nice. It’s always nice to contribute and help my team, but getting the win, that’s what feels good,” Horton said. “It’s nice to get back on the board in the win category.”
While it is rewarding for Horton to see that there is a payoff for his efforts (he also tied for the team lead with three shots of goal Monday — a low number for a team-high, but a team-high nonetheless), he understands that he may have been going a bit too hard at previous points in the series. Horton snapped his stick out of anger after a play in Game 2 and was later demoted to the third line for the third period. It was unclear whether his recklessness was the reason Claude Julien swapped him out for Rich Peverley, but he explained the play Tuesday at the Whiteface Lake Placid Olympic Center.
“It really wasn’t [frustration getting to me],” Horton said. “It probably looked like that, but my stick was broken on the play and I was in the corner digging for it. I was just upset because my stick was broken and I could have gotten the puck.”
While Horton doesn’t think he was getting too angry, he can recognize that he’s better when he can relax.
“I think you do want to finish your hits and you want to play hard, but there’s also a thing that you’ve got to take time and relax and play your game,” he said. “That’s a big thing.”
Just as unsurprising as Horton’s excitement is the review his small playoff sample has gotten from his linemate in Milan Lucic. The 22-year-old Lucic has long been a fan of Horton’s game, and he likes what he’s seen so far vs. the Habs. He also believes it’s going to get better.
“I think his game has gotten better as the series has gone on. I told him before, ‘You’ve just got to go in and enjoy it. It’s that time of year where you need to go out there and enjoy the experience,’” Lucic said. “It’s a first-time experience for him, so I think it’s a bit of a weight off his shoulders, being able to get his first playoff goal. I felt like we were able to play our game more last game, and we want to do whatever we can to be better going into Game 4.”
Through three playoff games, Horton has averaged 16:56 of playing time. He has a minus-2 rating and one point, which came in the form of Monday’s goal.
|Milan Lucic: ‘We’re in trouble right now’||04.17.11 at 1:53 pm ET|
The Bruins did not hold practice on Sunday following their Game 2 loss to the Canadiens. The B’s will travel to Montreal down two games to none, and speaking at TD Garden Sunday, forward Milan Lucic did not sugar-coat the team’s situation.
“It’s no secret now… We’re in trouble right now and we need to find a way to rally and get our heads around it,” Lucic said. “Everyone needs to step up and play the way we know we can.”
The Bruins have not been able to score the first or second goal in either game, playing from behind for 116:23 of the 120 minutes the teams have played in thus far in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals.
“It all starts with a good start. That’s what our focus is going to be on, is getting out there and trying to establish that first goal, trying to establish a good first shift,” the 22-year-old said. “That’s what’s lacked in the first two games, especially the last game.
“You give up a goal in the first 43 seconds, you’re not giving yourself a good chance to win when you’re doing that. We need everyone to step up and rise to the occasion to have a good start going into Game 3.”
A year ago, the sixth-seeded Bruins were able to upset the No. 3 Sabres in the first round. Once favored to eliminate the Habs, the B’s will need a pretty big comeback in order to avoid missing the conference semifinals for the first time in three years. To even bring the series back to Boston for a fifth game, the B’s will need to beat the Canadiens at the Bell Centre, an arena in which they lost all three of their meetings in the regular season.
“We’re definitely the underdogs for the rest of the series, but we’re not thinking about that at all,” Lucic said. “We’re just thinking about what we need to do to get ourselves back in this series.”
The Habs have cashed in on turnovers and converted them into goals. Lucic is among a handful of B’s who have seen blunders with the puck result in Montreal tallies, and he knows that if they are going to right the ship, they had better do it soon.
“The main thing is, we’re fighting the puck, and it’s almost like we’re shooting ourselves in the foot,” he said. “That’s the most upsetting part, but we need to put that aside and we need to put our rally caps on and figure something out quick, because we’re definitely running out of time.”
The B’s and Canadiens will play Game 3 in Montreal on Monday night.
|Shawn Thornton doesn’t think Bruins should be feeling pressure||04.16.11 at 3:37 pm ET|
The Bruins certainly don’t want to fall down two games to the Canadiens as they hit the road for Montreal Sunday, but they still haven’t strayed from their calm, optimistic view on what they face. One would think they might be facing pressure, but Shawn Thornton doesn’t see it that way.
“I think pressure is five kids and no job,” he said. “This is just a game. This is fun.”
The Bruins were blanked by Carey Price in Game 1, as they got 20 shots blocked and saw their top line produce just one shot on goal through the first two periods.
“There’s always pressure,” Milan Lucic said. “Game 1 was a big game, and Game 2 is an even bigger game. They’re going about it the same way we are. It’s a big game for us. We want to get ourselves a split here at home, and we’re going to do everything we can to have the preparation and focus to get the result that we want.
“For myself, I obviously played just OK last game,” he later added. “For myself, I’m definitely going to do whatever I can to raise my game to another level and see what happens.”
|Claude Julien: Net-front presence is a ‘mind-set’||04.15.11 at 1:25 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — Bruins coach Claude Julien did not have trouble identifying one of the main reasons the Bruins lost Game 1 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals. The team struggled to establish a presence in front of Carey Price throughout the 2-0 loss, as the Habs’ defense tightened up and power forwards such as Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton failed to make an impact.
“We spent most of the night with the puck, but at the end of the night, we didn’t get the results. That’s probably the thing that sticks out the most. We just have to make some adjustments and understand that if we’re going to score goals, we’ve got to pay the price a little bit better around the net.
“We’ve got to be a little better down low, and stronger on the puck,” Julien said after Friday’s practice. “Part of it was that, but part of it was that we know we have to be a little bit more involved. Some of the net-front presence is not necessarily something you have to practice more than it is a mind-set. If we commit ourselves to going there, we’ll get there. Sometimes you have to work through it because they’re doing a pretty good job of boxing us out.”
The B’s did not appear to be down on themselves on Friday despite the loss. Many players pointed to positives of Thursday’s game both after the contest and after Friday’s practice. Julien sees the reasons for optimism, but he expects more from all of his skaters.
“I think we all know that although we played a decent game, we can all be a little better. As a team, we feel that we can be a little better. That’s basically it, and that’s to a man.”
Price made 31 saves in the shutout victory, while the Habs blocked 20 shots.
|P.J. Stock on D&C: Bruins need to pick up the physical play||at 11:01 am ET|
Former Bruin and current CBC NHL analyst P.J. Stock appeared on the Dennis & Callahan Show Friday morning to talk about the Bruins’ Game 1 loss to the Canadiens and the rest of the series. To hear the interview, visit the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.
Stock said he thought the Bruins played well for the most part, but that they needed to be more physical and not play the finesse style that Montreal likes.
“I’m a big fan of Milan Lucic and this is a series where he has to dominate, be like Dustin Byfuglien in last year’s playoffs,” Stock said. “The Canadiens are not a physical team, so it’s very easy to get out of a physical game. ‘They’re not going to hit me, so I’m not going to hit them. I’m going to start playing their game.’
“I think the Bruins tried to play their game last night instead of getting the puck deep and hitting bodies. [Lucic’s] play isn’t trying to deke around at the blue line. It’s shoot the puck past them, run them over and get it deep. He didn’t do it last night and it cost them a couple goals. But it’s one night and I’m looking for him to rebound tremendously on Saturday.”
Asked about balancing that physical play with staying out of the box, Stock said avoiding penalties isn’t entirely necessary as long as you avoid weak penalties.
“No, you can take penalties, but take good penalties,” he said. “If you’re going to take two minutes, I don’t expect a one-handed hooking penalty. If you’re going to take two minutes, take it because you just ran Tomas Plekanec. He was great last night. You want to take an elbowing penalty on Tomas Plekanec. You want to run him over. You want to punch him in the back of the head. You want to get him off his game. That’s a penalty that will help you out in the long run. The Bruins took a couple hooking penalties last night, which are not good penalties.”
Echoing the sentiments of many of the Bruins after the game, Stock said Boston has to do a better job creating traffic and chaos in front of Canadiens goalie Carey Price.
“And they have to bump into him,” Stock said. “Don’t by shy about it. I was watching the Philadelphia Flyers play Buffalo last night and they were bumping the goalie. Carey’s their best player, hands down. You take Carey away and they’re not the same team.
“Every time the Bruins had momentum, he was able to see the puck and stop the puck. The thing I thought really helped the Canadiens and hurt the Bruins was he didn’t give up any rebounds. It was a momentum killer. … One of the things you’re going to have to do better is get in the face of Carey Price.”
Stock said he still expects the Bruins to win the series. “For sure. It’s Game 1,” he said. “The Canadiens have to beat the Bruins three more times. It’s a tall task. But now all the pressure shifts to Boston. They have to win the next game.”
|Video: Inside the Bruins locker Room, Game 1||04.14.11 at 11:02 pm ET|
|Bruins vs. Canadiens: keys to the first round||at 1:35 am ET|
Finally, after plenty of hype, the Bruins and Canadiens are a matter of hours away from beginning their best-of-seven first-round series.
While one group of fans (and both will be present at TD Garden) chants “Ole” and the other chants “USA” (Bruins fans must really like Tim Thomas, as chanting “USA” applies to only one player on the team), there will be hockey to be played. The Bruins-Canadiens rivalry is the circus of all circuses, but if either team gets caught up in it, they could slip. Here are the things that will actually matter in this series:
DICTATING THE TEMPO EARLY
The first game of a playoff series is a big one, but the first 20 minutes of this series might be even more important. The Bruins are capable of overpowering the Canadiens with their style of play, but there were multiple instances in which the B’s sat back early and waited until the Canadiens had already established their presence. The two teams were split, 3-3, in the first-goal department, and in the four instances that a team got on the board in the game’s first 10 minutes, that team won.
The Habs certainly gave their netminder plenty of work this season, as price finished second to only Cam Ward in games played among goaltenders with 72. That’s a heavy workload, but Price handled it well, and it will be interesting to see whether the 23-year-old wears down in the postseason.
While Price was very good for the Canadiens this season, TD Garden was far from good to him. After allowing one goal in a 3-1 Canadiens win back on Nov. 11, his other two trips to Boston this season provided Habs fans with reason to worry. He gave up 13 goals over two losses at TD Garden in 2011 and was yanked from the the March 24 game less than five minutes into the third period.
The mystery of how Price can handle this series is very intriguing. His eight shutouts this season suggests he should be considered capable of taking over a playoff series, and if he does, it could be a classic goaltending matchup. If not, the Habs could be in trouble.
MILAN LUCIC AND NATHAN HORTON
The Bruins are the better team in this series, so they need their best players to be relentless. It’s no secret that Horton can disappear in games and struggled with consistency at points of the regular season, but it’s unknown whether he’s susceptible to drop-offs in the playoffs. Horton had a pair of forgettable games in his first two contests against the Canadiens (zero points and just one shot on goal over a pair of losses), but came up big in the other three (three goals, four assists).
Lucic, meanwhile, enjoys being known as a playoff player, and his 18 points over the last two postseasons speak for that. Lucic stepped up his game big-time this season but after scoring his 30th goal failed to strike again in the final 10 games. Will he also take his postseason play to a new level, or will his goal-less streak spill over into the playoffs?
The Bruins couldn’t buy a power play goal down the stretch, and with special teams always playing an important role in the postseason, they’ll have to find a way to convert against a very good Montreal penalty kill. The Bruins were just 3-for-24 against the Canadiens on the power play this season, while the Habs were 9-for-28.
THE BELL CENTRE
The reason this series might not be a short one is because the Bruins could struggle playing at the Bell Centre, as they did during the regular season (0-2-1). The difficulty they’ve encountered winning games in Montreal will make the B’s home games even more important. The Habs are capable of stealing one or two on the road, and the B’s need to prove they’re capable of doing the same.
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