|Bruins’ young veterans ready to step up||04.13.10 at 1:09 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — The Bruins roster is dotted with young players within their first three years in the league. The last crop of Boston youngsters came of age on a Bruins team that was not very good and had little shot of making the playoffs, let alone begin to think about having some postseason success.
This group is different. Milan Lucic, David Krejci, Blake Wheeler and company have never been on a Bruins team that has not been to the postseason, while Krejci and Lucic were part of the memorable series in the spring of 2008 where the No. 8 seeded Bruins took the top seeded Canadiens to seven games before succumbing to their rivals.
“Well, that was a little bit of a different atmosphere,’ Lucic said about his first game against Montreal as opposed to his other playoff experiences. ‘They have got good fans in Buffalo. But Montreal with twenty-one-and-a-half thousand screaming fans, I have never heard a building so loud as I have heard that. So, that was a different feeling, for sure, but after your first couple shift, after your first period, everything tends to be more relaxed, you get the jitters out of you.’
Boston is hoping that the experience that the young players have gained in the past two to three seasons starts to pay off in this postseason allows them to play better to start the series this year around. Young players, by virtue of never having done it, have a tendency to choke up in their first few shifts or periods in the playoffs because it becomes a different style of game than they have ever seen. On Tuesday, Wheeler, Matt Hunwick and Johnny Boychuk (who is entering his first NHL playoff series but has been through several at the AHL level) said that it is an adjustment to start but then it is just a matter of getting the skates moving.
“Well, it is pretty simple. When you have had experience at it, you should be a better player going into the next one,” coach Claude Julien said. “I think those guys, Lucic is Lucic and this is Krejci’s third one and this is Wheeler’s second playoffs. At least there is experience for those guys so this year you would expect them to handle it even better.”
For Lucic, that is remembering how his physical play in the last two seasons spurred the Bruins in respective series. In 2008 against the Canadiens he was a pin ball around the rink and a disrupting nuisance to any Habitante who dared get in his way. Last year he ended up being suspended against the Canadiens for a Game 3 of the first round series after a dust up with Maxim LaPierre. Lucic serves that as a learning lesson but says that no matter the history, the playoffs are the time to be physical, consequences be what they will.
“I think a big reason we stuck in that Montreal series my first year in the playoffs where we were the complete underdogs and were supposed to lose in four was that we played physical and were able to kind of wear them down,” Lucic said. “We ended up losing the series but we wore them down where we were able to take three games. It just goes to show that it is a team effort.”
Wheeler struggled through the playoffs a touch last year, playing in eight of the team’s 11 games and being a healthy scratch to finish the Carolina series. At that point in the season Wheeler had hit the rookie wall and had been less effective through the latter half of the season and it came as a surprise to nobody that Julien was forced to put him on the bench. This year Wheeler feels good about the team headed into the postseason.
“I think we are pretty confident with the way we are playing right now and it might be a little bit of a change from last year, it is a little bit of change going into the playoffs,” Wheeler said. “Once you get through the first period it is more or less like the same game. Obviously there is a little bit more noise in the crowd and things are a bit more intense but once you get comfortable.”
Lucic often times has “Nuke LaLoosh Syndrome” where he gives the media a carefully crafted yet ultimately canned response to questions. Yet, when asked about what it takes to succeed in the playoffs, his voice picked up a little bit and there was a hint of a smile in his eyes. His response has been heard a thousand times by a thousand different reporters, but for the young, hulking forward, you could tell he meant it. After all, despite how professional athletes are viewed at times by the media as boring, they still have that driving passion to raise their game and to find glory.
“Obviously, you shouldn’t change you game man, you got to rise up to the occasion. You’ve got to take it on yourself. Do you want to be remembered as the guy who buckles under the pressure and can’t perform when you really need to or are you going to be a guy who plays with heart and steps up when a team counts on him,” Lucic said “That is basically what it is. You can’t be tense, you can’t squeeze the hell out of your stick, you can’t do all those things where you are going to make yourself nervous and not making the plays that you are supposed to be making. You just to relax and play your game and do you best and not worry about any thing else that is going on.”
|First period summary: Bruins vs. Capitals||04.11.10 at 12:44 pm ET|
They are playing for pride in this one.
Neither the Bruins or the Capitals can improve their playoff positioning in the regular season finale on Sunday. Washington wrapped up the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference long ago while the Bruins are stuck in the sixth slot with 89 points after the Canadiens lost in overtime to the Maple Leafs on Saturday night.
But the game will still be played and Boston is looking to not get swept by Washington this season, having dropped the first three games in the series with a combined score of 11-4.
It did not look promising early for the Bruins as Alexander Semin beat Tim Thomas at 2:23 with a snap shot that the reigning Vezina Trophy winner could not corral to give the Caps the early 1-0 lead.
Boston came back at 5:29 when Milan Lucic fought hard for the puck for the behind Washington goaltender Semyon Varlamov and backhanded a pretty pass in front to the stick of Michael Ryder who went back across Varlamov for his 17th goal of the year. Zach Hamill, Boston’s first round pick (No. 8 overall), who is making his NHL debut, got the secondary assist on the goal for his first NHL point.
Ryder, who had not scored since March 16 against Carolina, broke another bad Bruins streak when he snapped their scoreless power play funk at 0 for 22 at 14:55 after Alexander Ovechkin went to the box for high sticking at 14:27.
The Bruins could not hold the lead for long though as the Capitals came back with a goal 19-seconds later when Eric Belanger beat Thomas with a wrist shot at 15:14 to tie the game at two.
That is where it stands heading into the second. Washington leads the Bruins in shots by the slimmest of margins, 9-8.
|Shorthanded miracle clinches playoffs for Bruins||04.10.10 at 3:24 pm ET|
Summary — Boston used a miraculous shorthanded burst to start the second period to put away the Carolina Hurricanes 4-2 in a Saturday matinee game at TD Garden to finally earn a spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs. Tuukka Rask got the win for the Bruins with 33 saves while Cam Ward was solid for the entire game except the first two minutes of the second period to take the loss.
The Bruins scored three shorthanded goals on the same penalty kill to start the second period (Hunwick, hooking 19:42 of first) in a span of 1:04.l Daniel Paille was the first to crack the board when took the puck through Ward’s crease, pivot-turned and fired back on net at :32 to make it 1-0 Boston.
Blake Wheeler got in on the action next when he found a rebound off the stick of David Krejci in the slot in front Ward at 1:21. Wheeler banged it back into the net for the two-goal advantage. Paille’s fellow penalty killer, Steve Begin, decided that he would turn it into a troika 15-seconds later when he shot from the right face off circle with enough vigor that Ward could not contain it and it bounced off his chest pads, over his shoulder and into the net at 1:36.
It was the first time since 1985 and perhaps that Boston has had two goals on a penalty kill and perhaps the only time in history where they have done it three times. The 1:04 it took to score the goals was the fastest that it has been done all season and the fastest three goals for the Bruins since :52 on Dec. 20, 2001 against Montreal.
But the game was not done there just because the Bruins did something spectacular. Carolina clawed back to make it a contest, starting when Erik Cole picked up his 10th of the season by knocking down Rask’s door right in front of the crease at 14:30 in the second. Patrick Dwyer would make it a one-goal game three minutes later when he skated through the slot and went back against the grain on Rask with a wrist shot to make it 3-2 at 17:30.
Boston came out of the gates hot in the first period as they rained 10 shots on Ward in the first five minutes but were unable to crack the goaltender in the opening frame. The momentum see-sawed back to Carolina later in the period as the Canes took their chances on Rask to try and even the shot count and getting close at 18-14 at the start of the second.
Milan Lucic added an empty-net goal with a minute left for the final tally.
The game was an official sellout, the 24th consecutive official sellout for the team this year and 25th overall (counting the Winter Classic at Fenway). The last non-sellout for the Bruins was on Dec. 2, 2009 against Tampa Bay.
Daniel Paille — The forward has been Boston’s spark on the penalty kill all season and was rewarded during the last home game of the year as he and his fellow shorthanded mates broke through in spectacular fashion. In addition to scoring the first goal he added a secondary assist to Begin’s strike.
Steve Begin — In an ode to the Bruins great year of penalty killing, Begin earned his 100th NHL point with his goal and teamed with Paille to kill all the Hurricanes power play chances.
Blake Wheeler — The young forward broke out of a scoring slump for his 18th of the year. Wheeler had not scored since March 15 against the Devils.
Turning Point — Who would have thought that the Bruins would turn on a penalty AGAINST them? Matt Hunwick took a slashing call at the 19:42 mark of the first period, thus giving the Hurricanes a man-advantage to start the second. Boston then turned around and scored three goals to start the second for all the offense they would need to win the game and clinch a playoff spot.
Key Play — A Boston opportunity almost turned into a disaster in the third period. Carolina’s Jerome Samson was going to be called for a high-sticking penalty but the Hurricanes had not gained possession of the puck. The delayed penalty meant that the Bruins could pull Rask for an extra attacker, thus leaving the net empty. An errant back pass by the Bruins bounced off the wall in neutral zone and straight at the empty net, a goal that would be the game-tying striking if it crossed the plain. Patrice Bergeron gathered a head of steam and chased the puck down, catching it right as it as about to go across the line and whip-clearing it back down the left wing out of danger. The play was reviewed to make sure that the puck did not indeed cross the line and the verdict of no-goal was upheld.
|Ryder, Wheeler among prominent line changes||04.02.10 at 1:57 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — There was a little bit of a new look to the lines at Bruins practice at Ristuccia on Friday.
The normal line groupings by sweater color were blown up by coach Claude Julien. Instead of the normal David Krejci, Blake Wheeler, Michael Ryder line wearing grey, Krejci was joined by Marco Sturm and Miroslav Satan in white sweaters to make the All-European line. Wheeler still skated in grey just this time with Vladimir Sobotka and Brad Marchand. Milan Lucic took Sturm’s spot on the line with Patrice Bergeron and Mark Recchi.
Oh yeah. And Ryder.
“Whoever plays together I think we can definitely play together and get shots on net,” Ryder said by the way of a non-committal response when asked if he saw the red sweater as a demotion.
Julien admitted that the shake up was definitely part of a wake up call that the coaching staff is giving to certain players, like Ryder, Wheeler, Sturm and Lucic, who have been pretty stale of late.
“You saw it today, making some changes, we have got to find some ways of making consistency here,” Julien said. “There is a lot of stuff being done to get those guys going but at the same time we have to make changes on the ice. We are struggling to score goals and, you know, you got certain guys who just aren’t going while and you hope that making changes will either spark them, wake them up or at least give some different lines some better opportunities.”
The situation is getting serious for Ryder. He has one goal since Feb. 13 and has been held without a shot in three of his last four games. For a guy who is supposed to be the sniper, that is not the way things are supposed to work. He admitted that it was in his mind that the demotion to the red sweater could further lead to a demotion where he has no sweater, red, grey or Black and Gold.
“Definitely, it could happen,” Ryder said. “When you are looked at to score goals and you’re not scoring it is definitely in mind but I just have to keep working hard right now and step it up even another notch.”
For Ryder, he would have to step up a first notch before “stepping it up even another,” which he said twice in his five-minute scrum with reporters. He also said that he has been focused on battling though shooting the puck has not been his top priority.
“It makes a difference when everybody on your line is shooting the puck, getting chances and getting more opportunities you have a better chance of scoring,” Ryder said. “I was not thinking about shooting a lot. Sometimes you just have to pound those areas and if you get out of position you don’t get that shot. Now it is just about battling hard and trying to get to those areas and get pucks on net.”
Wheeler was also held without a shot last night and is now on a line with two young players who have been on the fringe of the roster (or in Providence) for most of the year.
“Well, you know, it is sometimes good, almost refreshing to see new faces, play with new guys. Changes like that are always welcome,” Wheeler said. “Anytime you go the majority of two games and zeroes goals, one at the end of the Devils game, change is probably a good thing.”
Wheeler had the Bruins best opportunity with a short-handed 2-on-1 break with Krejci as his trailer but let the opportunity fizzle out in front of him without putting the puck on net. He explained the play Friday morning.
“It is disappointing,” Wheeler said. “It was a play in the game that could have made it different and obviously you expect more out of yourself and I just didn’t make the play, that is all there is to it.”
After Recchi called out some of his teammates for not giving their best effort Thursday night and two games with only one goal, changes to the lines in some way or form were to be expected on Friday. In the dogfight that the Bruins find themselves, it will definitely take all 20 skaters to make sure their last five games are not their last of the season.
“In a way it is not that complicated, if guys work their butts off things will happen, no matter who they play with,” Julien said.
|Bruins fall flat in loss to Panthers||04.01.10 at 9:21 pm ET|
Summary — The Bruins had that familiar feeling on Thursday as they had trouble finishing chances against the Florida Panthers in a game they lost 1-0 at TD Garden. Tuukka Rask took the loss for Boston on the night with 19 saves while Scott Clemmensen got the shutout for the Panthers in turning away 36 Bruins shots and plethora of opportunities.
The Panthers got on the board in the first period when Keith Ballard pinched the slot with space in front of Rask and went underneath the goaltender’s pads to give Florida a 1-0 lead at 7:15 in the first period. The goal ended a 121:42 shutout streak by Rask over parts of four games.
Boston knocked on the door repeatedly in the second period with 17 shots and two power play opportunities but the Bruins could not beat Clemmensen as every puck that came close was turned away, inches wide or above the net and the game entered the third period with the Panthers still up by the lone goal. Both Milan Lucic and Mark Recchi thought at one point they had scored goals only to see the end result of the puck on the wrong side of the net.
One of Boston’s best chances to score was on a short-handed opportunity in the third period when Blake Wheeler found himself on a 2-on-1 break with David Krejci following him on the right wing. Wheeler ended up waiting too long to make the decision to shoot or pass and put and ineffective tip on the edge of the crease at 4:40.
Rask received the Bruins Seventh Player Award before the game as the player who “went above and beyond the call of duty and exceeded the expectations of Bruins fans during the season.”
Keith Ballard — The defenseman’s first period goal was the only scoring in the game. He also blocked a least a half dozen shots to help his goaltender keep the puck out of the net.
Scott Clemmensen — The former Boston College Eagle was good enough in net to keep the Bruins off the board and out of the win column with (#) saves.
Tuukka Rask — Even in a losing effort the Bruins net minder was solid in turning away the Panthers chances and keeping Boston in the game.
Turning Point – At 15:40 in the second penalty on a delayed penalty the Bruins Mark Recchi thought he had beat Clemmensen with a redirection. He went so far as to raise his hands and stick thinking that it went in but turned out to go wide right. Later in the period on the power play Milan Lucic did almost the same thing as he deflected a puck that went over the net, causing Clemmensen’s water bottle to stir in the process. Lucic raised his hands just as Recchi had but again the puck did not go into the net (though the officials did review Lucic’s tip).
Key Play – Keith Ballard pinched the slot in the first period after a Bruins flurry on the other end of the ice and caught the defense sleeping while the Boston forwards were not being aggressive on the back check. Given a few seconds right in front of a goaltender, most NHL players will take advantage of the situation and Ballard was no exception as he used Rask’s pads against him as he went up and underneath them for the first (and only) goal of the game.
|Sobotka cleared to return||03.27.10 at 11:18 am ET|
After missing Thursday’s game with a neck strain and mild concussion, Vladimir Sobotka said Saturday morning he was cleared to return to action against the Calgary Flames. The center suffered the injury when he was hit during the game in Atlanta on Tuesday night.
“It’s been evident in the last couple of games, we’ve been successful just being hard on the puck and getting there on the forecheck,” linemate Milan Lucic said. “Having him back, he’s a fast player and he’s really strong on the puck, he’s going to help being back in the lineup.”
|Bruins trash Thrashers, look towards spring hockey||03.23.10 at 9:28 pm ET|
Summary — In what was essentially a playoff game the Bruins trounced the Thrashers 4-0 at Phillips Arena in Atlanta. The Thrashers started the night one point behind the Bruins and could have jumped them for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference with a regulation time win but Tuukka Rask came up big to blank Atlanta with 27 saves. Johan Hedberg could not do his team the same favor as he allowed four goals on 33 shots in the loss.
The Bruins struck first. Michael Ryder took a wrist shot from right in front of Hedberg that the goaltender could not corral and the bouncing puck made its way through the crease to where David Krejci could sneak in from the back side to tap it on through into the net at 9:25 in the first period.
Boston would add to the lead in the second when Milan Lucic tallied his eighth of the season. Lucic took a pass from David Krejci off the wing in the middle slot and let out a wrist shot that beat Hedberg glove side high to give the Bruins a 2-0 lead.
With time expiring in the second period the Thrashers were caught with one skate heading towards the locker room when Patrice Bergeron won a face off after an Atlanta icing and sent the puck back to Zdeno Chara who hit a one-time slap shot on goal that was tipped by Miroslav Satan to give the Bruins a three goal lead that they would not relinquish.
Steve Begin got in on the scoring party in the third period when Milan Lucic took a long shot from the blue line off a face off that Hedberg could not control leading to a wide open net on his stick side that Begin was able to blast the puck into for the Bruins fourth unanswered score. It was Begin’s first goal in 28 games and fourth of the season.
Three Stars –
David Krejci — Scored the opening goal of the game for this 15th of the season and set up Lucic for the second, separating goal with a pass off the end boards that ended up on Lucic’s stick.
Tuukka Rask — The Bruins emerging goaltender won his 18th of the year in a game where he was never seriously challenged to put the Thrashers away.
Milan Lucic — The hulking forward has been taking big strides in recent games as he returns to pre-injury form. He scored the second goal of the game and assisted on the fourth.
Turning Point – Satan’s goal at the very end of the second period was a psyche breaker for a Thrashers team that had billed this game as the “biggest in franchise history.” It was the type of goal that coaches cannot stand as it was a quick face off turn slap shot turn goal with mere seconds left in the period.
Key Play — Lucic was expected to make big strides in his third year with the Bruins but has been hampered by injuries and inconsistency throughout the year as he has dealt with a bum ankle. His second period goal gave the Bruins separation from the Thrashers and proved that Lucic is finally rounding back into form as he has played two very solid games in a row for Boston.
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