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Bruins know ‘how bad they want it’ 05.11.09 at 12:45 am ET
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We want it as bad as you. It’s been the slogan of these Boston Bruins all season.

On Sunday night, the Bruins showed their electrified fans how badly they want to become the first team in franchise history to come all the way back from a 3-1 series hole.

Sunday night’s 4-0 shellacking of the Carolina Hurricanes was Step 1 in what they hope is a three-step journey to history.

“You can over systems as much as you want to but it really comes down to, ‘How bad do you want it?’ You’ve got to give Carolina credit,” Bruins hitman Milan Lucic said. “They’ve just shown all series long that they’ve wanted it real bad and, especially Games 2,3 and 4, they really didn’t give us nothing and were on us like crazy. Today we did a better job of keeping our composure and having that will to win.” Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Bruins, Hurricanes, Marc Savard, Milan Lucic
Lucic suspended by NHL for ‘reckless and forceful blow’ 04.19.09 at 6:02 pm ET
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Bruins winger Milan Lucic has been suspended by the NHL for Monday’s Game 3 of the best-of-seven series after delivering a blow to the head of Canadiens forward Maxim Lapierre in the third period of Game 2 on Saturday night. Lucic was assessed a match high-sticking penalty following the hit.

The Bruins contended Lucic hit Lapierre with his glove in self-defense as Lapierre approached him in front of the Canadiens’ net, but NHL disciplinarian Colin Campbell ruled that Lucic’s hit was a “reckless and forceful blow” that merited both a match penalty and a one-game suspension.

“While it is unclear whether Lucic’s glove or stick makes contact with Lapierre, what is clear is that he delivered a reckless and forceful blow to the head of his opponent,” said NHL Senior Executive Vice President of Hockey Operations Colin Campbell.

It’s expected that big forward Byron Bitz will take Lucic’s spot in the lineup for Monday night’s Game 3 at the Bell Centre.

Read More: Byron Bitz, Milan Lucic,
Lucic gets match penalty, facing suspension pending review at 1:52 am ET
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Following an incident in front of the Montreal net in the third period of Saturday night’s Game 2 victory, B’s winger Milan Lucic is facing a “suspension pending review” by the NHL after earning a “match” penalty. Lucic was wrapped in a physical altercation with Mathieu Schneider in front of the Canadiens net, and then raised both his stick and fist at the face of Maxim Lapierre as he approached Lucic. The B’s contend that Lucic hit Lapierre in the face area with his glove rather than the stick, but he was assessed a cross-checking minor, fighting major and game misconduct for his actions.

“(Lucic) might have lost his composure a little bit in that area, but what you have to remember is that he got elbowed in the head and then high-sticking by Schneider. Then Lapierre comes in and Lapierre’s been an instigator through the whole series and even during the regular season,” said Bruins coach Claude Julien. “What Looch did was react to (Lapierre) coming at him. It wasn’t premeditated, and in reviewing it (Lucic) hit him with his glove. He had the stick in his hands, but the glove hit (Lapierre) in the helmet. Had the stick hit him in the head then Lapierre would have been down, but Lapierre stayed up and kept going at Looch. If there’s one thing, we all know that it wasn’t premeditated.”

Was it a glove or a stick that Lucic used to hit the rushing Lapierre in the face as he approached the B’s forward? Were the Looch’s actions a suspendable, particularly after the NHL’s disciplinarian Grand Poobah Colin Campbell basically condoned Montreal’s actions at the end of  Game 1?

All these questions and more should probably be answered on Sunday. Either way it should be a pretty interesting Game 3 up at the Bell Centre on Monday night.

Read More: Claude Julien, Maxim Lapierre, Milan Lucic,
Sounds of the game… Bruins 3, Lightning 1 03.31.09 at 10:28 pm ET
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Maybe the most important aspect of Tuesday’s win over the Tampa Bay Lightning was that it wasn’t pretty.

After all, in two weeks, style points are going to mean even less than they do now.

The Bruins have won four straight and are 6-1-1 in their last eight, and their coach can already see an improvement in the way they’re approaching the game.

“I think we’re starting to get back to that so-called North-South type of game,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said after the win. “We’re going in direct lines and our speed is much better coming out of our own end as a unit instead of being all spread out. That part of our game is slowing coming back.”

Manny Fernandez looked much better between the pipes on Tuesday night, after surviving a 7-5 win in Toronto on Saturday night.

“We sat down and we’ve talked to each other and looked each other in the eyes and I think from here on out we let the personal stats take a hike and what’s important is the two points every night,” Fernandez said. “There won’t be any easy ones from here on out.”

And that will be especially true after the regular season finale on Easter Sunday, April 12. The Stanley Cup playoffs will begin several days later and captain Zdeno Chara will be one of the key players the Black and Gold will look to for leadership.

They certainly didn’t have to wait long to see it on Tuesday when he got into it with Evgeny Artyukhin eight minutes into the game. The fight set the tone and the Bruins followed in step.

The punch of the night was delivered by Cam Neely-reincarnated Milan Lucic. His right cross to the face of Tampa Bay blue liner Josef Melichar with 12 seconds remaining in the second showed that the Bruins hadn’t fallen asleep in this one. Melichar turtled but the Bruins didn’t.

But Julien reminded everyone that he would like to see his team finish with more of a killer instinct as the Bruins allowed the Lightning hope when they made it a two-goal game with 12 minutes into the third. A long shot from the top of the slot got by Fernandez only to ring off the post behind him and keep the B’s ahead 3-1.

“It almost seems like we’re afraid to run up the score and all of sudden there’s times where we’re starting to make those cute plays again and those are the things that you can’t have once you get into the playoffs,” Julien said.

“We can’t be looking at who we play,” said Chara, who netted two goals on the night. “We just have to be playing our way and bring the intensity and determination from every game now on.”

Read More: Boston Bruins, Claude Julien, Milan Lucic, Zdeno Chara
Bye week gives Bruins a unique opportunity going forward 03.25.09 at 12:17 pm ET
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WILMINGTON — The Bruins took a spirited approach to practice for the second consecutive day while working on the forecheck, and keeping sharp during their current five day stretch without any actual hockey games. There’s almost a bye week feel to the practices at Ristucca Arena this week, but Claude Julien and his staff are doing what they can to keep the compete level on a high note.

The interesting dynamic is how the break of five days off — and only two total games played in 12 days — will affect each individual player heading into the final nine game of the regular season in a grand total of 16 days. Call it the final stretch run for a team that has enjoyed nearly wire-to-wire dominance at the top of the Eastern Conference.

Milan Lucic, for example, is only a couple of years removed from junior hockey where a squad might have only played weekend games and then taken a 5-7 day span of practice before their next actual game.  At 20 years-old Lucic can still recover quickly after a particularly violent, physical game like Sunday’s grudge match with the New Jersey Devils.

“After a great effort like (Sunday) you want to keep things going, but you can’t complain really having a break like this either at this time of the season,” said Lucic. “It’s a good time to step, re-energize the batteries, refocus and then get back to work Saturday. This is just like juniors (for me), Usually you played a three in three on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday and then you wouldn’t play again until the next Friday or Saturday.

“It’s the same sort of thing,” added Lucic. “I think if you asked (the veterans) they’re not going to complain about it. They battle hard and it’s not the same when you’re 20 as compared to what you are when you’re 30. They’re using it to the full advantage.”

For older veterans it’s a time to a time to heal some of the wounds incurred over a long season of hockey, and almost enjoy something akin to a bye week in the NFL leading up to the final push before the playoffs begin. While certain injuries aren’t enough to keep a battle-hardened older player out of the lineup, aches and pains can gnaw away at the player’s overall effectiveness. Maybe it’s an aching knee that’s affecting skating speed, or a sore shoulder that’s taken the bite away from a player’s shot. The week of rest can replenish these skaters as much as possible before one final rush up the ice. 

 The key, according to Ward, is the ability to keep the team’s game at a razor-sharp edge and play with the same brand of team-wide intensity that characterized last Sunday’s win over the Devils, while reaping the benefits of some off-time.  

“It presents a great opportunity to rest, but it also worsens the capacity that you can mentally get away from the game,” said Ward. “Too far away from it. You’ve got to simulate the game as much as possible and really try to raise that intensity level in practice and keep your preparation level sharp.

“I don’t know,” added Ward. “I’m a little worried about it. The good thing is that we’re going to Toronto, which is a divisional foe that should be enough on the game that we’re going to show up come game time. I’ll definitely be practiced out by the end of this week.”

Chuck Kobasew had a second consecutive day off the ice on Wednesday morning, but Julien said that it was just scheduled time off the ice rather than a serious injury issue for the scrappy winger. Kobasew leads the Bruins with 10 goals scored since the All-Star break, and has clearly upped his scrappy/skill game down the stretch.

“He’s alright,” said Julien. “He’ll be on (ice) tomorrow. There’s no hidden agendas. Everybody is good, and they’re all maintenance things.”

–Julien noted that the pressure has noticeably alleviated from the Black and Gold dressing room following Sunday’s win over the Devils, and the smiles were coming a little easier to players’ faces after temporarily beating back their closest rival last weekend.

“The win did us a lot of good, but the way we won did us even more good,” said Julien. “The guys remembered those types of feelings coming in after a game and knowing that you’d really performed well, worked hard and did the right things.

“The pride that came with that was just as important as the win was.”

–Congratulations to the Ference Family and the Ward Family for the new additions over the weekend. Both Andrew Ference and Aaron Ward became fathers again on Sunday. Ference’€™s wife Krista gave birth to a second girl ‘€” Stella Haliday James Ference, and Ward’€™s wife Kelly gave birth to the couple’€™s second daughter and third child ‘€” Phoebe Grace Ward. Both babies were happy and healthy, and both dads were back on the practice ice Wednesday morning following the blessed events.

–Julien said, according to team stats, that Patrice Bergeron has been the B’s best faceoff man all year, and “he’s a good 4-5 percent better than the rest of the centerman when it comes to faceoffs.” The faceoff success is a good example of the intangible-type skills that Bergeron has brought to the table all season, but now his offensive game is rounding up to form as well.

The Bruins will be back to work at Ristucca Arena tomorrow morning, but it may not a full bore skating practice.

Read More: Chuck Kobasew, Milan Lucic, Patrice Bergeron,
Bruins have cooled down following the All-Star Break 03.24.09 at 2:02 am ET
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Had an exercise on the blog in the first half where I listed out the scoring pace that each member of the Bruins was on — a set of figures that actually gave a pretty good glimpse at the kind of seasons the B’s were having.

Players have settled in, injuries have occurred and rookies have slowed down a bit since the glory days of January, so here’s a bit of a rundown of each player’s production since the All-Star break. Hide the women and the children for this because some of these numbers are downright grisly for a hockey club that was on a record-breaking pace earlier this season.

Marc Savard: 7 goals and 15 assists in 26 games. .085 points per game since the ASB. Not up to the 1.19 points per game he averaged in the first half, but he got a lot more of the defense’s attention once guys like Phil Kessel and David Krejci cooled off. Savard is also playing at a -4 since the All-Star break.

David Krejci: 4 goals and 8 assists in 26 games. That’s 12 points in the last two months of hockey. Wow, didn’t see this coming. Krejci has clearly been pressing lately, and should start capitalizing on some of the opportunities he’s had around the net recently. The 22-year-old could really use a big game soon. Has gone from 1.11 points per game in the first half to 0.46 PPG in the second half. Krejci is +9 since the All-Star break, which speaks to me about how the young player has continued playing responsibly despite the down tick in his offense.

Phil Kessel: 7 goals and 6 assists in 25 games. Kessel really struggled coming back from mono following the All-Star break, but has heated up as of late. A 35-goal season and 60 overall points would be a pretty successful season for the 21-year-old Kessel, who was on pace for 50 goals after the season’s first few months. Went from 0.98 PPG in the first half to 0.52 PPG in the second half.

Michael Ryder: 7 goals and 6 assists in 18 games. 10 power play goals for Ryder, who may begin getting things going with a tip that he turned into a power play goal against the Devils.

Dennis Wideman: 3 goals and 10 assists in 26 games. For all the Wideman bashers out there, he’s also gone from +26 to a +32 over the second half of the season.

Blake Wheeler: 4 goals and 6 assists in 25 games. Wheeler is also a +9 in the second half along with Krejci, but has watched his scoring really slow down. Wheeler really looked a step behind the action for a long multiple week stretch — and is still taking ill-advised penalties — but he’s looked much better as of late.

Zdeno Chara: 5 goals and 9 assists in 26 games. Big Z is +2 since the All-Star break, but has appeared to slow and out of position at times in the second half. He was at his best against the Devils on Sunday, but is only a +2 since the All-Star break.

Milan Lucic: 3 goals and 7 assists in 23 games. Looch isn’t expected to provide as much offense as Krejci and Kessel, but he’ll likely finish with a 40-point season and close to the 20 goals he’d targeted for himself before the season started. Not bad for a 20-year-old kid from Vancouver still finding his way in the rough and tumble NHL. Lucic is a -4 since the All-Star break.

Chuck Kobasew: 10 goals and 4 assists in 24 games. Kobasew has the most goals of any Bruins skater since the All-Star break and is the kind of player that every playoff hockey team could use. The fearless winger is willing and able to bang his body, but also blessed with enough skill to score some points.

Patrice Bergeron: 3 goals and 13 assists in 26 games. The 23-year-old Bergeron has started showing his phsyical spark and flashing his offensive abilities over the last few weeks. Bergeron has played even hockey over the second half.

P.J. Axelsson: 2 goals and 5 assists in 26 games. P.J. wasn’t around the PP unit or and first line much in recent games, but he did pop up again on the top line with Kessel and Savard on Sunday. So stay tuned on this one, but I’m not a fan of Axelsson heading the B’s top line despite his defensive inclinations.

Matt Hunwick: 3 goals and 3 assists in 26 games and a +3 during that time. Seems to make things happen each and every game he’s out there playing, and affects the game with his skating speed. Impressive. Most impressive.

I could put Montador and Shane Hnidy up here as well, but let’s face it: there isn’t a whole lot to break down on the scoresheet. Guys like Mark Stuart are judged almost completely by hitting, toughness and defensive abilities rather than gaudy goal totals. This shows some interesting trends: Krejci and Wheeler have obviously taken a step down, but Kobasew has rallied for 10 goals since the ASB and both Savard and Lucic are playing minus hockey during the second half.

Read More: Chuck Kobasew, Marc Savard, Milan Lucic,
Yelle still in question for Thursday night vs. Kings 03.18.09 at 5:14 pm ET
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WILMINGTON — A few notes after another competitive practice by the Bruins with the Los Angeles Kings and New Jersey Devils on tap for the rest of the week.

Veteran center Stephane Yelle again practiced, but is still in question for Thursday night’s tilt against the Los Angeles Kings with the ever-mysterious “upper body injury”.

“It’s a day to day process,” said Julien of Yelle’s condition. “It’s certainly looking better, and I think we’ll probably find out more about it tomorrow at the game day (skate). We’ll see if he’s ready to go.”

If Yelle can’t go, it’s likely that the Bruins will once again place Byron Bitz in the middle between Shawn Thornton and P.J. Axelsson. Bitz, by the way, spent a good 5-10 minutes at the end of practice in front of an empty net taking all manner of shots aimed directly at him while he practiced tipping and redirecting pucks in front of the high traffic area.

If the rest of the Bruins team is looking for a player that’s proving he’s willing to pay the price on a daily basis, it was Bitz as he was taking direct hits to his feet and body while searching for the perfect tip.

–Odd Julien comment when the line of questioning moved toward Manny Fernandez and whether the B’s bench boss still has confidence in the second portion of his goaltending duo. Fernandez hasn’t played in a game since his famous pirouette move during a 4-3 loss to the New York Rangers nearly two weeks ago, and has coughed up four goals in four of his five games since returning from a lower back injury.

“There are no issues there. What people see on the outside and what’s happening on the inside are two different things. We talk. He knows exactly what’s going on,” said Julien. “There are things that not everybody needs to know about. We’ll leave it at that.”

–A bit of good-natured ribbing for Big, Bad Milan Lucic, who told his teammates that his girlfriend dragged him to go see the Britney Spears concert at the TD Banknorth Garden on Monday night. Looch said he was a fan of Spears’ early work when he was in the sixth or seventh grade, but the hulking left winger was more than a little surprised when he found out that Spears lip-synchs throughout her entire concert.

Looch was the only B’s player that admitted taking in the Circus Show at the Garden, but several Bruins players wondered if Marc Savard might have also made it over to Causeway Street for a rousing rendition of “Womanizer”. According to Bruins blueliner Andrew Ference, Savvy is an actual “Britney Fan.”

“It was so funny because (Lucic) came in here the next day (after the concert) and Looch was like ‘You wouldn’t believe it…she lip synchs.” said a laughing Ference. “I was like ‘No (expletive)’. What do you think that she did? He was like … surprised or devastated. I don’t know what.”

It was a busy week for Lucic, who also took in the Dropkick Murphy’s St. Patrick Day show on Wednesday night at the House of Blues.

–Marc Savard wasn’t ducking any criticism after Julien touched upon the center’s giveaway at the end of Penguins game on Sunday afternoon — a turnover that led to the Penguins banking the empty net goal and really salting away a hotly contested hockey game.

“I’m out there trying to make plays, and I just need to make them stronger ones at times. That’s part of the game. I’m going to continue to try to make plays. That’s what I do, and that’s my game. I just need to make smarter plays at times. Unfortunately when things aren’t going well it goes in your net. And that’s what has happened on a couple of occasions.”

Read More: Marc Savard, Milan Lucic, Stephane Yelle,
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