|Bruins Game 5 Live Blog: B’s, Habs head to overtime||04.23.11 at 6:29 pm ET|
Join DJ Bean, Mike Petraglia and others at the TD Garden for Game 5 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals.
<a href=”http://www.coveritlive.com/mobile.php/option=com_mobile/task=viewaltcast/altcast_code=544866eb6c” mce_href=”http://www.coveritlive.com/mobile.php/option=com_mobile/task=viewaltcast/altcast_code=544866eb6c” >WEEI.com Bruins Game 5 Live Blog</a>
|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.
|Bruins win Game 3 in Zdeno Chara’s return||04.18.11 at 10:09 pm ET|
MONTREAL — It was far more of a nail-biter than the Bruins probably expected after jumping out to a 3-0 lead, but the B’s finally got their first win of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals, beating the Canadiens, 4-2, at the Bell Centre Monday night. The Canadiens lead the series, 2-1.
The Bruins got first-period goals from David Krejci and Nathan Horton, the second of which came in flukey fashion when Horton put it off the back of Habs goaltender Carey Price. Rich Peverley made it 3-0 off another lucky bounce 2:02 into the second, but the Canadiens came roaring back, with goals from Andrei Kostitstyn and Tomas Plekanec in the second and third periods, respectively.
Zdeno Chara made his return to the lineup after missing Game 2 due to illness, leading the team in time on ice and posting an even rating.
The Bruins will travel to Lake Placid for practice Tuesday and Wednesday before returning to Montreal for Thursday’s Game 4.
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE BRUINS
- Not only did the Bruins score, but they scored four times. Not only did they score four times, but none of the goals came after they were already trailing by two goals. With the way the Habs came back in the third period period, the scoring the first two didn’t hold up, but the B’s can consider themselves on the right side of the fact that the team with the first goal has won all three games thus far.
- It wasn’t exactly the rope-a-dope game the Habs played in Games 1 and 2, but the Bruins did an excellent job of making sure pucks did not reach their intended destination through the first two periods. The B’s managed to get a stick on a ton of pucks in their own zone, breaking up plays and eliminating second and third chances.
- Peverley had a couple of big opportunities in the first period, so it seemed only a matter of time before he would be celebrating at Price’s expense. Peverley kept the puck on a 3-on-1 in the first but missed the net, and later in the period he intercepted an ill-advised clearing attempt by Price only to see a Habs stick whack it away on its way into the empty net. Peverley made good the third time around.
- Major kudos to the members of the Bruins’ fourth line. Gregory Campbell had two great chances in the first period, and he and Daniel Paille were instrumental in killing off two early penalties that the B’s took. Shawn Thornton nearly made it 4-2 in the third in one of the B’s rare scoring chances late in the game.
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE BRUINS
- The Canadiens absolutely dominated the final 20 minutes of play. Keeping the Bell Centre crowd out of it for an entire game is one thing, but the B’s will need more of a 60-minute effort in Game 4.
- The Bruins did want they wanted to do on the scoreboard early, but two penalties in the first 7:27 probably wasn’t what Claude Julien had drawn up in the game plan. The B’s were whistled for too many men on the ice (a playoff favorite) at 1:08, perhaps due to just how loud it was as the fans were booing Chara. After killing off the early penalty, the B’s were once again short-handed when Krejci hooked Kostitsyn at 7:27. If it weren’t for the B’s getting their first lead of the series in between the two penalties, things would have looked grim momentum-wise.
- Speaking of Kostitsyn, it was a happy return for the Habs winger, and he got his revenge on the very man who kept him out of Saturday’s Game 2. Kostitsyn couldn’t play Saturday due to a foot injury suffered blocking a slap shot from Chara in Game 1, so being able to go around Chara for his first playoff tally must have felt a heck of a lot better than blocking that shot.
- While Kostitsyn’s second-period goal made it a 3-1 game, it could have very easily been 4-0 seconds earlier. Milan Lucic looked indifferent on a breakaway, making for an easy save for Price, and the Habs marching it down the ice put them on the board.
|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.
|Finally, Gregory Campbell gets a taste of NHL Playoffs||04.14.11 at 1:54 pm ET|
The anticipation for the playoffs has been great enough for the Bruins, but “anticipation” might not even be say it all when it comes to Gregory Campbell.
The Bruins’ fourth-line center/unsung hero has been dependable for the B’s since being acquired in the Nathan Horton deal last June, and now he will finally be rewarded with his first playoff appearance since being drafted as a second-round pick in 2002. Six seasons in Florida yielded no opportunities to chase the Stanley Cup, so it’s safe to say Campbell is happy to be where he is.
“When you first start out in the league, it’s just a pleasure to be here and play in the league, but as you go further on into your career, I feel like winning becomes more important, and there’s a lesser chance of that,” Campbell said Thursday. “I’m fortunate enough to be here in Boston and have this chance to play in the postseason.”
Campbell tied a career-high with 13 goals this season and was a rock for the Bruins over 80 games this season. He hopes to extend that success into the playoffs, and he doesn’t seem to mind all of the heightened expectations.
“Playing hockey is fun enough, but when the games really matter is in the playoffs, and that’s what I’m looking forward to most, is playing games that actually matter,” he said. “Already you can tell, it’s just a different feeling. It’s been a while since I’ve had this, and I can’t wait to get started.”
Perhaps it’s no surprise that Campbell and Horton got head-starts on their playoff beards. The wait for the playoffs has been long enough for those two, as neither one has seen the postseason since their junior hockey days.
“It’s been six, seven, eight years since we’ve been able to grow one,” Campbell said with a laugh. “I’ve been champing at the bit. The last time I grew one, I was 19.”
For that reason, Campbell can actually identify with rookie Tyler Seguin. The 19-year-old’s playoff beard isn’t nearly as noticeable as some of his teammates’, but Campbell knows what it’s like.
“I give him credit for trying,” he said with a smile.
|Bruins vs. Canadiens: keys to the first round||at 1:35 am ET|
Finally, after plenty of hype, the Bruins and Canadiens are a matter of hours away from beginning their best-of-seven first-round series.
While one group of fans (and both will be present at TD Garden) chants “Ole” and the other chants “USA” (Bruins fans must really like Tim Thomas, as chanting “USA” applies to only one player on the team), there will be hockey to be played. The Bruins-Canadiens rivalry is the circus of all circuses, but if either team gets caught up in it, they could slip. Here are the things that will actually matter in this series:
DICTATING THE TEMPO EARLY
The first game of a playoff series is a big one, but the first 20 minutes of this series might be even more important. The Bruins are capable of overpowering the Canadiens with their style of play, but there were multiple instances in which the B’s sat back early and waited until the Canadiens had already established their presence. The two teams were split, 3-3, in the first-goal department, and in the four instances that a team got on the board in the game’s first 10 minutes, that team won.
The Habs certainly gave their netminder plenty of work this season, as price finished second to only Cam Ward in games played among goaltenders with 72. That’s a heavy workload, but Price handled it well, and it will be interesting to see whether the 23-year-old wears down in the postseason.
While Price was very good for the Canadiens this season, TD Garden was far from good to him. After allowing one goal in a 3-1 Canadiens win back on Nov. 11, his other two trips to Boston this season provided Habs fans with reason to worry. He gave up 13 goals over two losses at TD Garden in 2011 and was yanked from the the March 24 game less than five minutes into the third period.
The mystery of how Price can handle this series is very intriguing. His eight shutouts this season suggests he should be considered capable of taking over a playoff series, and if he does, it could be a classic goaltending matchup. If not, the Habs could be in trouble.
MILAN LUCIC AND NATHAN HORTON
The Bruins are the better team in this series, so they need their best players to be relentless. It’s no secret that Horton can disappear in games and struggled with consistency at points of the regular season, but it’s unknown whether he’s susceptible to drop-offs in the playoffs. Horton had a pair of forgettable games in his first two contests against the Canadiens (zero points and just one shot on goal over a pair of losses), but came up big in the other three (three goals, four assists).
Lucic, meanwhile, enjoys being known as a playoff player, and his 18 points over the last two postseasons speak for that. Lucic stepped up his game big-time this season but after scoring his 30th goal failed to strike again in the final 10 games. Will he also take his postseason play to a new level, or will his goal-less streak spill over into the playoffs?
The Bruins couldn’t buy a power play goal down the stretch, and with special teams always playing an important role in the postseason, they’ll have to find a way to convert against a very good Montreal penalty kill. The Bruins were just 3-for-24 against the Canadiens on the power play this season, while the Habs were 9-for-28.
THE BELL CENTRE
The reason this series might not be a short one is because the Bruins could struggle playing at the Bell Centre, as they did during the regular season (0-2-1). The difficulty they’ve encountered winning games in Montreal will make the B’s home games even more important. The Habs are capable of stealing one or two on the road, and the B’s need to prove they’re capable of doing the same.
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