|Milan Lucic and the postseason expectations of a 30-goal scorer||04.19.11 at 6:17 pm ET|
LAKE PLACID, N.Y. — The playoffs are a time when the top talent can take over a series. Teams know which guys to account for, and the big-time goal-scorers are at or near the top of the list of guys who can change a series.
When Milan Lucic scored 30 goals in the regular season, perhaps he entered that class of players expected to do big things in the postseason. Given that he also had nine points in each of the last two postseasons, Lucic also had high expectations for himself as the Eastern Conference quarterfinals began.
So far, Lucic is the only member of the Bruins’ top line without a goal in the playoffs, as David Krejci and Nathan Horton scored the B’s first two goals in Monday’s 4-2 victory in Game 3 at the Bell Centre.
Once a player reaches the 30-goal mark in the regular mark, does he suddenly feel a responsibility to be a reliable producer? Lucic said that everyone puts pressure on themselves come the postseason, but admitted Tuesday that this time around he does expect more of himself.
“For myself, I think the first two games, I put almost too much pressure on myself to go out there and score,” Lucic said Tuesday at Whiteface Lake Placid Olympic Center. “For myself, my game, if I just simplify it and just go out there and play and just focus on just straight lines and getting pucks in deep, everything tends to take care of itself.”
Lucic was a minus-1 in each of the series’ first two games. Things seemed to be getting worse Monday when he stole the puck from P.K. Subban in the neutral zone, but got barely anything on his shot on the breakaway that ensued. The Habs brought it down the ice after the play and got on the board thanks to Andrei Kostitsyn maneuvering around Zdeno Chara and beating Tim Thomas. Instead of potentially being 4-0, it was 3-1 and the crowd made its presence felt once again. Lucic’s play improved over the rest of the game, though, and given the way things seem to be trending with his linemates, coach Claude Julien hopes Lucic will begin seeing some statistical output.
“He was better last night. If his linemates are starting to roll, usually he follows up or vice versa,” Julien said. “When those guys start playing, usually the other guys catch up to them. I’m expecting him to get even better, and we’re going to need him to be better if he expect to win this series.”
|Nathan Horton learning to channel excitement as he becomes more comfortable in playoffs||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|
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