|Bruins not smug about playoff success||04.30.10 at 11:32 am ET|
If the Bruins wanted to, they have every right to puff up their chests and say to every fan and media member in Boston: “Hey, how do you like us now?” After the whole Marc Savard-Matt Cooke situation (both the March 7 hit at the Igloo and the followup at TD Garden on March 18), everybody who pays attention to the B’s just wanted them to go away, fade into NHL playoff oblivion and take two high draft picks in June’s NHL Entry Draft. There was a 10-game losing streak, a record-breaking home losing streak, a paucity of goals and a general melancholy surrounding the so-called Big Bad Bruins that frustrated even the most casual of NHL fans.
So, is there any self-satisfaction being emitted from Bruins camp now that they are hosting an Eastern Conference semifinal series?
“Not at all,” forward Mark Recchi said. “We didn’t deserve it, we weren’t playing well. We weren’t competing like we should have and sure there are going to be some doubters but, you know, we have got a longs ways to go here. We can’t be complacent in that we won one series or that we had a good end of the regular season. We have got to want bigger and better things, and if you do that then good things will happen. If you are happy to just be in the second round, then you are not playing for the right reasons.”
At the other end of the spectrum, the hard times from January through March are one of the reasons the Bruins are in the situation in which they find themselves. To say that just about every game after the 3-0 clunker to the Penguins on March 18 was a playoff game is not much of an exaggeration. Milan Lucic said that it was not an easy time to go through but in retrospect the ire of the Hub helped the team get through the difficult stretch.
“I think that was probably a good thing for us where we hit some adversity like that where we hit such a low,” he said. “I mean, for us to overcome that and end up where we are now we found a way to come together and do that. It is what helps a lot of teams — to be successful is to go through some adversity and with everyone pegging us out, the media was all over us, the fans were all over us to just walk up to bat and do some good, it was just a good thing for us to see and pull through and stick up for each other.”
Did the fans and media really abandon the team? There was weird talk in March, and the buzz around Boston was that people would almost prefer the Bruins not make the playoffs. Fair-weather fans or true blood of black and gold, it is telling when a fan base would rather see a team go away than fight for a championship, no matter how remote the chances are. Yet, TD Garden was (officially if not in reality) sold out every night through the stretch run, with cheers raining from the rafters when the Bruins scored three short-handed goals in 64 seconds against the Hurricanes in the home finale, and boos pounded from the loge after they had been shut out by Panthers backup goaltender Scott Clemmensen a week earlier.
“Even though they may have booed us a couple of times we knew they were still behind us,” Johnny Boychuk said. “It is just one of those things that if we are that bad they are going to let us know, but they still want to see us win. Now that we are starting to do better they are behind us the entire way. Even if we are down a goal or two they are still behind us and we know that.”
Still, though, the frustrating times persisted, and Boston did not wrap up a playoff spot until the final weekend of the regular season (in the aforementioned Hurricanes game). Recchi believes that, for the most part, the team has played consistently, except for maybe the possible clincher in Game 5 in Buffalo.
“At the end [of the regular season] it was better, but there was still some, ‘What team is this?’ You know?” Recchi said. “But it got much better but in the playoffs, I don’t think in Game 5 we were at our best, but I think throughout the six games we were a good hockey club.”
The veteran has been through frustrating teams and disappointing playoffs before. But, based on what he saw last year and the talent in the dressing room through the 2009-10 season, there is no surprise that the team is poised for a second-round tilt with a more than decent chance of looking toward the Eastern Conference finals.
“I knew we had it in here but we just had to bring it out. I never had any doubts about the guys. You know, I just know what is in here,” Recchi said. “That was the frustrating part because you know what is in here and you know we can get it through a couple more notches and we just weren’t doing it consistently. We would do it some nights, but it wasn’t a consistent thing and that was our problem all year.”
|Lucic: ‘Last year we kind of looked past the second round’||04.28.10 at 2:01 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — Milan Lucic and the Bruins are in the Eastern Conference semifinals for the second year in a row, and this time around they want to make sure they leave their mark, no matter which team they end up facing. If Washington beats Montreal Wednesday night, the Bruins will start the playoffs on Friday in Pittsburgh and play Game 2 on Sunday at Mellon Arena. If the Canadiens can pull off the upset, the Flyers will travel to Boston this weekend, though the official schedule has not been announced for that potential matchup.
Last year the Bruins had 10 days off between their first-round sweep of the Canadiens and the start of the semifinals against the Hurricanes. Coach Claude Julien admitted on Wednesday that Boston had definitely lost its playoff frame of mind and it took until basically Game 5 after the Bruins had fallen behind in the series 3-1 to get the edge back.
“There is no doubt that that will obviously help but what I mean by that is that we allowed ourselves to slip out of the playoff mode because we had so much time off and as hard as we might have tried as a coaching staff to give some days off and some practice,” Julien said. “It is almost the frame of mind has to be there and everybody’s mind needs to be in the right place. Ten days is a lot, no matter who you are, so it took us a while to get our game back and it was a little too late, obviously. We had to scramble back from it so, hopefully this short break is just the right time and from what I see our players are still enthusiastic and get excited about going on to the next round.”
Defenseman Dennis Wideman agreed that the Bruins did not deal with the long layoff as well as they could have.
“I think last year we had so much time off that we got into a mode that we lost some intensity and we didn’t carry over the intensity and the drive from the first round into the second because we just didn’t deal with the layoff well,” he said.
Yet last year the Bruins almost seemed like they could be a team of destiny. They rolled through the regular season with the No. 1 seed in the conference and Lucic said the team was guilty of the biggest of playoff sins — looking ahead.
“I think you can’t look too far ahead of yourself,” Lucic said. “Last year we were thinking too much ‘Stanley Cup finals, Stanley Cup finals, Eastern Conference finals,’ you know. Last year we kind of looked past the second round and the Carolina Hurricanes, and we will not make that same mistake again.”
Center Patrice Bergeron, who has grown into a definitive, if quiet, leader of the Bruins over the past year or so, said that since the Bruins did not face much adversity through the regular season and first round of the playoffs last year that perhaps they did not handle the tough times as well as they could have against Carolina.
“I guess it has changed that we have to work for every inch just a little bit more, and last year everything was going right in the regular season that when we faced a little adversity, maybe we weren’t expecting it as much,” Bergeron said. “I think we have faced a enough this year that we can handle it a little bit better maybe.”
Bergeron said that there are even lessons to be learned from the Buffalo series this year, as Boston had a 3-1 series advantage and the Sabres came out and won Game 5 decisively to send it back to Boston with a chance to force a Game 7 back in Buffalo. Last year the Bruins rolled over Montreal. Yes, it was a physical and emotional series (especially considering the seven-game drama in the quarterfinals in 2008) but the Bruins were never in doubt of losing that series whereas there were times against the Sabres when it looked like they were dancing on the edge of a knife.
“Well, we have experience,” Bergeron said. “This will be my second time in the second round and we are aware of the intensity increasing more again. You can see from the first round of the playoffs that it gets harder, and now that it is the second round it is even higher and it is not over until that fourth game is won. Like in the last series we were up 3-1 and they came up with a big win.”
Lucic has been the type of player who comes up big on the biggest of stages. When he was in juniors he played on two Canadian Hockey League Memorial Cup teams with the Vancouver Giants, and he said that the pressure from being on that big stage at a young age was not incredibly different from what he has faced in the NHL playoffs.
“Obviously with it being a higher level it goes up another notch,” he said. “Playing in the Memorial Cup a couple of times, that is a lot of pressure to deal with at a young age. It is similar, pretty much the same as that, for sure. I was lucky enough to win two championships in juniors and learn and have that experience a little bit in junior to know what it takes to win. Like I said, you don’t look too far ahead and that you just take everything one game at a time, and that is the approach that I always have taken from my first NHL playoff game to the next one coming up.”
|Inside the Bruins locker room||04.27.10 at 3:27 am ET|
The Bruins react to their quarterfinal series victory over the Buffalo Sabres.
|Bruins slam the door on the Sabres||04.26.10 at 9:40 pm ET|
Summary — For the second straight season the Boston Bruins are headed to the Eastern Conference semifinals as they closed out their series against the Sabres with a 4-3 win at TD Garden on Monday night. Tuukka Rask earned the first series-clinching victory of his young career with 27 of saves while Ryan Miller was the loser, allowing four goals on 32 Boston shots.
The Bruins got on the board first with their fifth power play strike of the series. Mark Recchi shot from the right wing with David Krejci in the slot, slightly off-center from Miller. Krejci got enough stick on the puck to change its direction ever so slightly but enough to get it into the net for his second of the series at 13:39. It was the first time in the series that Boston scored the first goal of the game and entered the second period with a lead.
The Bruins took a two-goal lead early in the second period, again on the power play, this time a 4-on-3 with Zdeno Chara, Tim Connolly and Henrik Tallinder in the box. Krejci and Recchi were the culprits again, this time switched around as Krejci used the extra space to pick apart the Sabres triangle defense with a cross through the slot to Recchi on Miller’s doorstep for the pop in goal at 1:01.
The Sabres got one back in second period when an aggressive forecheck led to a couple snap passes to Patrick Kaleta wide open in front of Rask. Kaleta flipped it up and Rask had no chance to make it a 2-1 game at 6:34. The strike was Kaleta’s first of the series.
The teams traded goals within a minute of each other midway through the third period. The first was scored by Krejci on a snap shot to the side of Miller’s crease after receiving the puck from behind the goal line at 7:18. Former Boston College product Nathan Gerbe kept Buffalo’s playoff dream alive by bringing the Sabres back within a goal at 7:40 for his first career playoff strike.
Miroslav Satan got the goal back at 14:49 with his second of the playoffs when he beat Miller off a centering pass from Dennis Wideman that deflected off Milan Lucic as he passed through the crease. Thomas Vanek then brought the Sabres back yet again as Buffalo operated for the last two minutes with an empty net. He beat Rask at 18:47 to push the action to the final seconds of the game.
David Krejci — Opened the scoring with a tip goal passed Miller and put the helped on the second with a zip pass to set up Recchi. He added the game-winner in the third to cap his three-point night.
Mark Recchi — The veteran forward registered his 75th career postseason assist in the first period and scored his third goal of the series in the second. The strike was the 53rd of his playoff career.
Milan Lucic — Got two big assists in the third period for his first playoff points of the year in the Bruins biggest game of the year.
Turning Point — Krejci’s second goal of the game gave the Bruins a cushion that would prove essential as Gerbe brought the Sabres back within a goal 22-seconds later. The puck was pushed from behind the goal line by Milan Lucic to Krejci on the elbow of Miller’s crease for the snap shot goal at 7:18. Gerbe’s goal was unassisted after taking the puck off the half wall and turning with a whipcord to go far side on Rask to keep the Sabres playoff hopes alive.
Key Play — Satan’s goal sealed it as he crashed the net to put a Dennis Wideman centering pass into the net at 14:41 of the third. Lucic had cleared the way for the puck as he passed through the crease moments before and deflected the pass slightly to earn the primary assist on the play, his second of the period.
|Minor tweaks on line for Game 6||04.25.10 at 1:36 pm ET|
Sabres head coach Lindy Ruff made some tweaks to his lineup before Game 5 that ended up working out well for Buffalo. To the bench went Raffi Torres, who has yet to score a goal for the Sabres after being a deadline acquisition with the express intent of providing some scoring pop. Up came Cody McCormick and former Boston College star Nathan Gerbe and Ruff put them on a line with Paul Gaustad in Game 5 to good results.
The Bruins probably do not need to do something as drastic as a roster move the likes of bringing Gerbe up from Portland but Sunday’s practice at TD Garden did give a different look from what has been seen in this series.
Coach Claude Julien flipped Marco Sturm back to his old line with Patrice Bergeron and Mark Recchi while Milan Lucic join Miroslav Satan and David Krejci. It is the third line change of the series for Lucic after riding the wing with Krejci and on the fourth line with Steve Begin and Daniel Paille.
“I think, obviously, playing with new guys, I haven’t played up to my potential or the caliber of hockey that I know I can play,” Lucic said. “Maybe third time’s a charm. Third different line in the playoffs but hopefully they can get me going and I think I would like to find a way to get myself going with more of an edge, for sure. If I do play with an edge I am helping out the team a lot more and so I just got to do whatever I can to find it in me.”
Julien said not to think too much into the new lines. He is right. Monday will be Game 88 of the Bruins’ season through the regular season and playoffs. Just about everybody on the team has played with everybody else so there should not be a great adjustment.
“There is not much to talk about as far as those guys have played together before. We’ve moved guys around all year. There is not a ton of reasons behind it. I just felt that it was time to try that out for today and we will see what we have tomorrow,” Julien said.
Sturm is the latest of the Bruins so-called scoring forwards to go completely absent from the goal column. He has had one goal and one assist since March 11, with the goal coming in the last game of the season against the Capitals.
“I was trying to get involved a bit more and be aggressive. We had some good battles in their end and I think it was better,” Sturm said. “I know where I am going to be and I he is going to be on the puck and Recchi, like I played it in the past. Relax and have fun.”
It is now time for the daily update on Marc Savard.
The center skated on Sunday with the team. He stayed on the ice longer than most other players doing conditioning and working on starting and stopping along with sustained skating. Savard said that he has another test tomorrow after the morning skate at the hospital to determine where is in the recovery process. Depending on the results, Savard may be cleared to play or maybe just to receive permission to do fuller contact drills in practice.
“I felt great out there and I was controlling the puck good,” Savard said. “I still have one more test tomorrow. I don’t know what the situation is, we have’t talked much about it so at this point it is not looking good right now.”
Julien kept to the party line when asked about Savard — wait for the doctors and get him in shape.
“He is certainly coming around, no doubt but that is all I can tell you right now because that is all we have. We have not yet been told by the medical staff that he is has been cleared so there is nothing more we can do besides keep working with him and get him in shape,” Julien said.
Tickets still available
The Bruins just announced that an extra ticket hold of approximately 500 seats will be released for purchase at 2 p.m. on Sunday.
|Second period summary: Bruins vs. Sabres – Game 4||04.21.10 at 8:42 pm ET|
With all the face washing that Milan Lucic has been doling out this series, it was about time that one of the Sabres officially dropped the gloves for a traditional hockey fight against the hulking young forward.
It was captain Craig Rivet that did it for the Sabres, getting tangled with Lucic on top of the right circle in Buffalo’s defensive zone. It was not one of the fights that either will write home about but a couple good punches were thrown and sweaters were clutched but no take down was registered as the officials broke it up after the pair had floated the the far side of the zone.
Just like in Game 2, the Sabres would take a 2-0 lead though this time around the second goal game in the second period. Former Bruin Steve Montador lined up a shot from the right point that had eyes through to the net that was helped along by an especially good screen by Paul Gaustad and a deflection off a Bruin defenseman at 6:59.
Boston’s best chance to cut into the lead came when Mark Recchi and Lucic found themselves on a breakaway with only defenseman Toni Lydman in near of them in before Ryan Miller. Recchi skated down the slot and was tripped by Lydman but was still able to get the puck on net while sliding down the ice, giving Lucic a chance for the rebound. Miller stood like a brick wall and stopped it all and Lydman was sent to the box.
Boston could not convert anything on the man-advantage and are 0 for 3 on the game on the power play.
After initially outshooting Boston seven to three after 10 minutes in the period, Boston came back to tie the game again at 16 shots apiece heading into the third.
|First period summary: Bruins vs. Sabres – Game 4||at 7:52 pm ET|
Well, it did not take too long for Cody McCormick to make his presence felt in this series.
Tim Kennedy scored 2:12 into the game to make it the fourth straight contest in which the Sabres have scored the first goal. The strike came on a broken play after a Johnny Boychuk ht behind Tuukka Rask’s net knocked the puck loose which touched Tyler Ennis on its way to bouncing loose and free in the slot where Kennedy rushed in for a quick one-timer that Rask had no chance at for the 1-0 lead. McCormick was in on the play and got the secondary assist in his first shift of the playoffs for the Sabres.
The Bruins got the first power play of the game at 12:33 after Vladimir Sobotka leveled a big hit on Tim Kennedy on the half wall to the left of Rask that Kennedy did not take kindly to. Kennedy got in Sobotka’s face and delivered a horizontal stick to the center’s mouth that the officials did not think was all that friendly and Kennedy went for the two-minute timeout at 12:33.
Boston battled itself through much of the first period, losing face offs and battles for the puck and the man-advantage was no different as the set plays could not lead to shots that got through traffic to Ryan Miller and were cleared numerous times to help the Sabres kill.
The second Boston power play of the night was not efficient either after Andrej Sekera made a two-line back pass turnover through the neutral zone that Blake Wheeler tracked down on a mini break down the left wing, closing in on Miller. Buffalo’s Craig Rivet had no choice but to hold Wheeler and went to the box for his indiscretion.
Milan Lucic negated the last 24-second of that power play when he smushed defenseman Henrik Tallinder into the boards at 16:51 which would in turn lead to the Sabres first man-advantage of the night. With each team’s penalty killing units (or corresponding ineffective power plays), the Bruins killed it.
The man-advantages stopped the momentum from completely shifting in favor of the Sabres in the first and ultimately led to an equal distribution of shots in the contest as the teams are tied at eight heading into the second period.