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The Hat Trick: Bruins can’t save the work for the third 03.15.10 at 10:43 pm ET
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Blake Wheeler is checked by Bryce Salvador while setting up in front of goalie Martin Brodeur during the Bruins' loss to the Devils Monday night. (AP)

Blake Wheeler is checked by Bryce Salvador while setting up in front of goalie Martin Brodeur during the Bruins' loss to the Devils Monday night. (AP)

Before we go any further into the Bruins’ 3-2 loss to the Devils on Monday night, let’s get one thing straight: This wasn’t a Jacques Lemaire or Pat Burns-coached team that the Bruins fell to Monday night. It wasn’t a fall-behind-by-one-and-the-game’s-over scenario, as many who have followed the Bruins have grown accustomed to when it comes to playing the Devils. And while the Devils are a very viable Cup contender this year, this wasn’t a throwback to the mid-’90s-on torture that the black and gold have fallen victim to.

This was a struggling team going against a struggling team (the Devils, currently fourth in the conference, entered the evening 4-5-1 over their last 10 games) and struggling.

On Monday night we saw plenty of the Bruins’ flaws highlighted. Whether it was the painful uncertainty in net that led to Tim Thomas being yanked after 20 minutes of decent play accompanied by bad luck and big rebounds (for what it’s worth, only Zach Parise’s goal can be blamed on Thomas — Scott Niedermayer’s was the result of a screen and David Clarkson’s a breakaway), a missed opportunity at physically setting the tone (Milan Lucic’s dasher to the face) or the lack of consistent offense, it was all there in a rough night for Claude Julien and the gang.

The Bruins are still hanging onto the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference by just one point, with their 72 points narrowly edging the Rangers’ 71. Still, in a prospective matchup with the top-seeded Capitals (who are 2-0 against Boston this year and have outscored the Bruins by a margin of 8-2 in their two meetings), the playoffs might just be a formality —  a quick stop on the way to yet another offseason filled with questions of how the Bruins can return to prominence for good.

It wasn’t all bad, though. The offense, aside from being snakebitten when it comes to getting multiple tallies in the third (see below), peppered New Jersey netminder Martin Brodeur with 15 shots in the final 20 minutes, and after being outshot 22-21 through two periods, ended the game having outshot the Devils, 36-28. Here is the hat trick of lessons learned in close-but-not-close-enough match at the Prudential Center.

Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Boston Bruins, Milan Lucic, New Jersey Devils, Tim Thomas
Bruins cannot finish comeback against Habs 03.13.10 at 9:46 pm ET
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Summary — Two longtime Original Six rivals faced off for the last time during the regular season on Saturday as the Bruins and Canadiens went for a tilt at the Bell Centre in Montreal. With two points separating the teams for the final two playoffs spots in the Eastern Conference heading into the game the contest was an important one for both teams and (team) was able to prevail 3-2. Tuukka Rask got the start for Boston and made 24 saves in the loss. He was opposed by Jaroslav Halak who was sturdy in stopping 21 pucks in the winning effort.

The Habs jumped on top of the Bruins in the first period. The first goal came courtesy of the power play (Mark Stuart holding 5:02) when Andrei Markov let go of a wrist shot from the blue that had eyes through traffic in front of Rask and deflected off of defenseman Dennis Seidenberg for the opening score.

The Canadiens would strike again within the last minute of the period right after killing a penalty when Sergei Kostitsyn wrapped a backhand around the net to beat Rask at 19:40 for the two-goal advantage heading into the second period.

Boston cut the lead in half at 1:12 of the second period. Michael Ryder took a pass from David Krejci and rushed down the left wing on a break and sent a backhand centering pass to Blake Wheeler rushing down the middle lane. Wheeler just need to tap it through Halak to make it 2-1.

Kostisyn struck again early in the third when he took a puck that had an odd bounce off the back boards that came back onto his stick to catch Rask way out of position and leave an empty crease for the easy goal and a two-score advantage.

Boston would not go quietly. Milan Lucic made it a one-goal game at 11:46 in the third when he stick-handled on the half wall and into the slot to send a wrist shot on Halak that fell through the goaltenders pads and into the net to make it 3-2.

Three Stars

Sergei Kostitsyn — The perpetually pesky Montreal forward scored the Habs’ second and third goals of the game to put the Bruins away.

Andrei Markov — The Canadiens’ defenseman scored the first goal of the game and assisted on the second to propel Montreal’s early game attack.

Blake Wheeler — The sophomore forward scored his 16th of the year and second in two games with his second period strike.

Turning Point — The pivotal separation goal came at 1:41 in the third period when Kostitsyn threw the puck off the backboards and was the lucky recipient of an odd bounce that put the puck back on his stick while crashing the net without breaking his stride. Rask was caught on the edge of the crease following the puck which left Kostitsyn and empty net. With Lucic’s goal later in the third the strike proved to be the game winner.

Key Play — As the Bruins tried to come back in the last five minute of the game Halak stuffed a point-blank shot from Marco Sturm that would have been the equalizer. Boston would not seriously threaten the Canadiens lead again.

Read More: Andrei Markov, Blake Wheeler, Jaroslav Halak, Milan Lucic
Second period summary: Bruins-Canadiens at 8:50 pm ET
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The second period started off much better for fans of the Black and Gold.

The Bruins cut the 2-0 lead in half within the first two minutes of the frame. David Krejci started an odd-man break by feeding a rushing Michael Ryder who flew down the left wing and waited just long enough on his way to the goal line to that when he sent a backhand pass back at the crease that Blake Wheeler got an easy tip passed Jaroslav Halak to make it 2-1 at 1:12.

The Bruins did their best to give the Habs back the momentum with two penalties through through eight-minutes of the period. Marco Sturm took the first at 3:40 with an inadvertent elbow to the head right in front of the Boston bench. The next penalty was an interference call on Mark Stuart, his second penalty of the game, with an interference call at 9:32. Unlike Stuart’s first penalty, the Habs were not able to score due to some quality goaltending by Tuukka Rask and the smart killing of forwards Daniel Paille and Steve Begin.

The teams played two minutes of 4-on-4 after Canadiens’ forward Andrei Kostitsyn had an interference penalty with a little bit of late hit that Milan Lucic took exception to and went after Kostitsyn after the play, washing a glove in his face to take a roughing penalty at 2:36. With nine-seconds left in the 4-on-4 the Habs Josh Gorges took a hooking penalty against Vladimir Sobotka on the rush. It was not much of a penalty but tempers started to rise late in the period between the longtime rivals and the refs look to keep control.

Shots through second (total):

Boston — 5 (11)

Montreal — 9 (16)

Read More: Andrei Kostitsyn, Blake Wheeler, Jaroslav Halak, Michael Ryder
Thornton on D&C: No one should ‘push us around’ 03.10.10 at 9:40 am ET
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UPDATED AT 1:30 WITH MORE FROM INTERVIEW

Bruins tough guy Shawn Thornton made an appearance on the Dennis & Callahan show Wednesday morning (listen to the interview here) to talk about the Marc Savard situation and explain why none of his teammates responded when the center was felled by a hit to the head from Pittsburgh’s Matt Cooke on Sunday.

Asked why no one had Savard’s back after he got knocked cold, Thornton said: “That’s a great question. I think when the incident happened, I don’t think a lot of people knew it happened, because it happened late, and I think everyone was focused on the puck. That being said, though, when you see your star player on the ice, the response I feel should be immediate by somebody that’s on the ice.” Added Thornton: “I don’t want to take anything away from my teammates or bad-mouth anyone at all, [but] I’m pretty positive if I was on the ice something different might have happened, though.”

Thornton said he was on the bench and did not see the hit when it happened as it was behind the play. “I think the hit was a couple of seconds late — that probably being the dirtiest part of it,” Thornton said. “I was focused on the puck, also. But I did see Savvy laying there, and I wasn’t very happy about it.”

Thornton explained why no one went after Cooke later in the game. “That happened with about 5:30 to go in the game, I think. [Cooke] had one more shift. The rules being the way they are nowadays, it’s tough to go and rectify a situation with under five minutes. I think it’s a $10,000 fine for the team and a $5,000 fine for the coach and then a suspension or a fine for the player, too. So, it’s tough to do it at that point of the game, especially when it’s 2-1 and you’re trying to win, too. But I agree, something should have happened. When someone turned around and saw Savvy laying there, I think it should have been addressed, too.”

Added Thornton: “I know guys that were on the ice were very upset after the game. We have a good bunch of guys here. Everything happened in a split-second. You’ve got to realize the refs get in there really quick sometimes. I’d have to see the replay to really know the exact details of it. When you see a teammate laying there, we care about each other, and I’m sure it might have been a little bit different [in retrospect].”

Thornton warned not to expect someone to jump Cooke if the Penguins forward is on the ice when the teams meet again March 18 at TD Garden. “There’s not much you can do, the way the league is,” Thornton said. “You wait and see what [league disciplinarian Colin Campbell] does with the decision, I suppose, and that’s about all you can do. The way the game is, it’s not like it was 10, 20 years ago, where you could just go put five guys out on the ice the next time he comes into town and beat the snot out of him, because you’ll end up getting a bigger suspension than he did for hitting him. The game’s changed a bit that way. Do I agree with it? No, I’m kind of old school. I’m more an eye-for-an-eye guy on the ice. That’s the way it is nowadays. So, I guess you just come back and play and put it in the back of your mind. I don’t know. You take care of it when you can. But I doubt it will be a retaliation right away like people expect, because you just can’t get away with that anymore, unfortunately.”

Thornton also noted that Cooke isn’t likely to accept an invitation to fight. “He has a track record of doing things and then not backing them up,” Thornton said. “So, I think it’s a little easier said than done. I would have no problem grabbing him and defending my teammate, but I think he would just fall to the ground and the refs would get in there and nothing would get accomplished anyways.”

Asked about comments from Mike Milbury on Tuesday’s Dale & Holley show that the Bruins are soft, Thornton was caught off guard. “I id not hear that. I don’t know what to say, because I just heard it two seconds ago. I don’t agree with him, obviously. I think that when we have everyone healthy and everyone in the lineup I think we’re probably one of the toughest teams in the league,” he said.

Thornton also didn’t agree with critical comments from Don Cherry after Milan Lucic had his nose broken in a fight with Toronto’s Colton Orr last week. Cherry implied that Lucic wanted the refs to bail him out. “I wasn’t a big fan of that [analysis],” Thornton said. “I thought it was a good fight. They both let go of each other and I thought the refs did a good job of getting in there at the right time. I watched the fight over to see … what he was getting at, and I honestly didn’t see it.”

Asked if the B’s lack of response should send any kind of message to the rest of the league, Thornton replied: “It better not. I’ll go on the record and say that nobody should be coming into our building trying to push us around. I don’t have [any] time for that.”

Thornton responded to an audio clip of NHL disciplinarian Colin Campbell saying Matt Cooke’s hit on Marc Savard appeared to be legal, meaning that Cooke likely will be in the lineup when Pittsburgh comes to TD Garden on March 18th.

“Well, I thought he would be anyway,” Thornton said. “It was very similar to the [Mike] Richards hit on [David] Booth and I know Richards didn’t have the priors that Matt Cooke did. I know that the decision is going to come down today, but I assumed he wasn’t going to be getting the 20-game suspension that would put him out of their lineup for the rest of the year anyway.

When asked about what such a reaction means for the league, particularly since general managers are meeting and discussing hits to the head, Thornton said that he sees them trying to change the game. “I guess they are trying to turn the page on the way the game used to be,” he said. “I understand it; it’s tough. I guess his elbow didn’t come up — I thought it was a little bit late personally — but if it is a shoulder to the head, there technically isn’t a rule for that now. I guess that is what they are discussing and they should be.

“But at the end of the day I think it has to come down to the players in the league,” he added. “I’m a big believer in finishing your check and playing as hard as you can, but going out with the intent to injure someone, I think that says something about us internally. Yeah, we are on different teams, but when you think about it, there are 800-something guys in this league and we are supposed to all be on the same page. Trying to go out and hurt guys for the sake of hurting them, I don’t agree with that.”

Thornton was also asked if he thinks that coach Claude Julien might tell his players to leave Cooke alone when the two teams meet. He said that he is “going to assume nothing is said. I won’t know until we get closer, obviously, but I think nowadays when you are at this level, you are supposed to know what to do and you don’t need to be told what to do or you would probably be back in the minors, where I was for the first 600 games.”

The issue of the Bruins’ lack of response to the play has been a hot topic, but Thornton said he does not believe that it will cause problems in the locker room upon Savard’s return. “I think that is a little overstated. Everyone here has the best intentions, and sometimes things happen quickly and you can’t change it,” he said. “There is no point in dwelling on it, and Savvy is not that type of guy. He knows we are all in this together and he is a great guy, so I don’t think there is any tension at all in this locker room.”

Thornton was asked about whether he thought about trying to get revenge in Tuesday night’s game on the Maple Leaf’s Colton Orr for the broken nose he gave Milan Lucic. Thornton said the thought had crossed his mind.

“[Orr] is their tough guy and I’m ours,” he said. “That being said though, Lucic is 6-foot-4 and 230 pounds and can handle himself with the best of them. It crossed my mind, but at the end of the day I didn’t think it was necessary. I think Looch challenged him or he challenged Looch and at the end of the day I thought it was a great fight. Looch got a busted nose out of it, but if you had to exact revenge every time someone got a busted nose there would be a fight every game. I’ve had mine busted a few times, too. So it was a good fight — two tough guys going at it — so I had no problem with that.

Read More: Bruins, Don Cherry, Marc Savard, Matt Cooke
First period summary: Bruins-Leafs 03.09.10 at 7:40 pm ET
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Without two of their best players the Bruins look . . .

Pretty good.

The forecheck looks good, the penalty kill is clicking right along and even the offense chipped in.

Boston is without Marc Savard (concussion) and Zdeno Chara (lower body injury) but so far it has controlled the pace and tempo against the Maple Leafs in Toronto. Granted, the Leafs have the second-to-last record in the league, but positive signs are encouraging nonetheless.

Mark Recchi Patrice Bergeron got the Bruins offense going right off the bat. Dennis Seidenberg hit a heavy slap shot from the point that banged off of Leafs’ goaltender Jonas Gustavsson chest protector directly back in front of the net while Gustavvsson was pulled to the left of the crease leaving the net wide open for Recchi to come in and sweep the puck in for the early lead at 2:47.

Boston then gave the Leafs a great chance to get that goal back when first Blake Wheeler (hooking) then Mark Stuart (tripping) went to the penalty box to give Toronto a 50-second two-man advantage. The Bruins have the best penalty kill in the league but without Zdeno Chara for the game (lower body injury), penalties could be problematic.

Or not.

The Maple Leafs only managed one official shot with the two consecutive penalties and the Bruins recovered to dominate the on both ends of the ice throughout the period.

Boston gave the Leafs another opportunity on the power play when Milan Lucic went for hooking at 16:14 but the Bruins were able to kill it. Toronto is now 0-17 on the man-advantage against Boston this season.

Shots through the first period:

Boston — 10

Toronto — 5

UPDATE — There has been a scoring change and Patrice Bergeron will get credit for the goal as opposed to Recchi. Both players were right in front to bang on it and got to the puck at the same time. Recchi picks up an assist.

Read More: Blake Wheeler, Dennis Seidenberg, Mark Recchi, Mark Stuart
Is Lucic really up to full speed? 02.27.10 at 12:42 pm ET
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WILMINGTON — With 22 games left and a playoff spot up for grabs, the Bruins would like to know that they finally have everyone on their roster healthy and ready to contribute to the grind.

For Milan Lucic, that may not exactly be the case.

The Bruins were running 2-on-1 drills midway through practice on Saturday. Lucic was paired with Michael Ryder who backhanded a pass from behind the baseline that deflected off of the blade of Lucic’s skate. It must have buzzed through his bad ankle and his leg because the hulking left winger winced momentarily before resuming his spot in the drill.

“It was all good,” Lucic said. “That type of stuff happens all the time. It feels good, better since before the break. That is what is seems what the break was good for.”

Lucic still keeps the ankle pretty heavily taped but says that it is a precautionary measure.

“You kind of have to because it is so easy to re-injure that you want to be safe,” Lucic said. “I don’t like being taped before every game and every practice. It is a little different, a little annoying but it is something that you got to do to get through this.”

Coach Claude Julien more or less agreed with his forward and said that if Lucic thinks he is fine, Julien is not going to second-guess him.

“You have to take his word for what he is saying,” Julien said. “I am not going to second-guess him but an ankle injury is an ankle injury. Those things don’t totally disappear but I haven’t heard him complain about it and it is effecting him. Our trainers seem to think he is good. I think what you are seeing is more of a guy who has had so many setbacks this year that it is going to take him a while to catch up. I think that is what we talked about when he came back.”

Baseball players will tell you that wrist injuries are some of the hardest to really recover from because they tend to linger. Baseball players use their wrists for just about everything they do and every year you will see a plethora of hamate bone breaks and sheath tendon tears (Dustin Pedroia had the former, David Ortiz the latter). In hockey, the ankle is a similar type of malignant injury because it is hard to come back from considering all the stopping and starting skating requires.

The Bruins company line right now is that Lucic’s ankle is fine, yet it is easy to wonder how fine it actually is. Even after the initial buzz from Ryder’s pass that Lucic said “happens all the time” he still looked like he may have been favoring it at the end of the practice, especially after a puck battle drill in center ice. The battle went back and forth (kind of a “keep away” type of drill) and the pair broke towards the goal and Lucic slipped in the offensive zone. He came up wincing after and did not look like he wanted to put too much weight on the ankle.

No matter how well the ankle is actually feeling, do not look for the young wingman to miss any time unless another dramatic injury occurs. For now the ankle is well enough to play on and Lucic do so, no matter if it is slowing him down or not.

– The practice lines were the same they have been the last two days.

Saturday participation by sweater color:

White — Daniel Paille, Marc Savard, Mark Recchi

Grey — Blake Wheeler, Vladimir Sobotka, Michael Ryder

Red — Byron Bitz, Steve Begin, Lucic, Shawn Thornton

Defensemen — Dennis Wideman, Andrew Ference, Mark Stuart, Matt Hunwick, Derek Morris, Johnny Boychuk

Goaltenders — Tuukka Rask, Matt Dalton

Read More: Milan Lucic,
Recchi leads by example 02.26.10 at 1:11 pm ET
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WILMINGTON — It was your typical late-season practice at Ristuccia Arena on Friday. The Bruins did some battle drills, some rebound drills, shooting drills with the foam pads. For the most part it is a matter of getting their work in, back to full speed after a week-and-a-half watching the Olympics.

Towards the end of the session the Bruins forwards worked on rebound drills in front of the net. Veteran Mark Recchi looked to be taking the lead in the drill, as well he should. With 1550 career NHL games and 557 goals, Recchi knows how what it takes to make a living in the crease.

“Yeah, you look at what he does and since the first day that he was here, the thing he does so well is he stands and he is a good screener in front of the net and gets a good tip in front of the net. What he does is he stands right in front of the goaltender and he is right in front of the goalie’s face and you always give yourself a good chance to score when you do that.”

With all his experience, Recchi is the perfect type of tutor for the younger players on the roster learning the nuances of what it takes for a good screen. Recchi, for his part, is not all that vocal as a mentor. He trusts that the younger guys will see what he does and mimic the veteran’s movements.

“You don’t even really have to ask him, you just look and see what he is doing and that is why he has as many goals as he does,” Lucic said. “I think he has told me and [Wheeler] and other guys how he does it and it is kind of nice to learn from someone like him to see how it is done.”

Recchi agrees that he is more of a leader by example than a vocal presence.

“They come and work at it,” Recchi said. “It is not so much talking but a matter of working. You have to be willing to go there and they actually have been unbelievable at it and have gotten a lot of those little goals because of it.”

Recchi said the trick to being successful in front of the net is developing a lack of fear.

“Yeah, you can’t be afraid,” Recchi said. “You are going to get hit with pucks, whatever. We got got great defensemen who try to hit it smart. Sometimes you are going to get slashed or cross-checked. You have to be willing to pay the price to go there. A lot of the time it is not even creating tips. It is rebounds, creating traffic, creating some other opportunities for other guys. That is one thing you have to think about. It is not about you it is also about all the other guys.”

Coach Claude Julien sees the work that Recchi puts in with the younger guys and appreciates having a veteran like that on the roster.

“That is what you hope to see,” Julien said. “You hope that your veteran players, especially a guy like Mark who has been around the block not once, but probably a few times, you know. He has been good with the kids. He is willing to share his knowledge and he is willing to share also what he would have wanted to know when he was that age and I think that has really helped our young players to be a little more hungry and willing to learn the things that sometimes you don’t always want to learn.”

Standing in front of the net is not an easy job in the NHL but Recchi has a way about him that proves contagious to the rest of the players.

“Coaches will always say, you know, when you can get your team to do some things that they may not like doing but they know will make us better, that is when you know you have your team going in the right direction,” Julien said. “I think that is part of what Mark does with some of those guys. It is like ‘hey, it is not fun to stand in front of the net and you may not like it, but if that is what is going to give you success then you should be willing to do it.’ That is what he has done and he has shared those tidbits with the players and it has been good.”

Does Lucic see a career as a coach in Recchi’s future?

“Yeah, I definitely think so,” Lucic said. “He knows the game, he is smart and, you know, he has played in every situation so he knows what it is like. I think definitely he could make a pretty good coach some day.”

For his part, Recchi has no interest in being a coach on the professional level. He owns 12.5 percent of the Kamloops Blazers in his native British Columbia and partners with other NHL players such as Jerome Iginla. Coaching may not be in Recchi’s future but that does not mean he will leave hockey behind.

“No coach,” Recchi said. “Maybe my kid. My boys is eight and maybe I would coach him. I like the management part more than I like the coaching part. I would like to build a team more than [coaching] them. I am part owner of the Kamloops Blazers so, I am able to watch it and be part of something like that, be part of some of the juniors teams. So, you know, we will see. I would like to get involved in organization at some point and kind of see where it goes from there. Before that I want to take time and see my kids and my family and see where it goes from there and figure it out. It intrigues me and something that I would really like to do but it is also very time consuming.”

Friday participation by sweater color:

White — Daniel Paille, Marc Savard, Mark Recchi

Grey — Blake Wheeler, Vladimir Sobotka, Michael Ryder

Red — Byron Bitz, Steve Begin, Milan Lucic, Shawn Thornton

Defensemen — Dennis Wideman, Andrew Ference, Mark Stuart, Matt Hunwick, Derek Morris, Johnny Boychuk

Goaltenders — Tuukka Rask, Matt Dalton

Read More: Blake Wheeler, Mark Recchi, Milan Lucic,
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