|Nathan Horton learning to channel excitement as he becomes more comfortable in playoffs||04.19.11 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.
|Bruins beat Senators, Tim Thomas breaks save percentage record||04.09.11 at 3:37 pm ET|
The Bruins held fan appreciation day at the Garden Saturday and made sure they delivered a win to the home crowd, beating the Senators, 3-1.
Claude Julien said following the game that Tuukka Rask would play in the regular-season finale Sunday, meaning Tim Thomas has set the NHL record for save percentage in a single season. By finishing the game with a .9381 mark, he surpassed Dominik Hasek’s .9366 save percentage in 1998-99. The stat first began being recorded in the 1982-83 season.
Marlborough native Bobby Butler scored the Senators’ only goal, beating Thomas at 18:27 of the first period.
With the win Saturday, the B’s are still alive to potentially take the second seed in the Eastern Conference, though they will need a combination of one or two points Sunday vs. the Devils and for the Penguins and Flyers to lose their final games in regulation or in overtime/shootout fashion.
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE BRUINS
– Thomas’ performance this season has been nothing short of magnificent, so it’s fitting that he be remembered for it in the record books. It was just months ago that Tuukka Rask was the obvious choice to begin the season as the B’s starter. Ever since Thomas was given the second start of the season in Prague, he’s taken the opportunity and run to what should be his second Vezina Trophy.
– Paille once again submitted a strong case to be in the lineup next week. His tally on Saturday was his fourth goal in the last eight games. Considering he had just two goals on the season prior to that stretch, it’s a good sign.
– Shawn Thornton can hold his head high knowing he produced an even 20-point season offensively for the Bruins. His apple on Paille’s goal gave him 10 on the season to match his total of goals. This season has now produced career-highs in goals, assists and points. Thornton had never scored more than six goals in a season, though he did have nine helpers a year ago.
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE BRUINS
– While everyone was glad to see Horton score his 26th goal of the season, there was reason for concern when he left the ice following his second-period fight with Zack Smith. He would end up returning to the ice, but the last thing the Bruins would want would be for the hot-scoring Horton (six goals over his last nine games) to go down with an injury before the playoffs.
– While Paille may have cemented his suspected playing status for the beginning of the playoffs, Tyler Seguin did not do anything to help his case. The rookie was placed in the lineup Saturday in place of Patrice Bergeron, but the game provided more cases of the 19-year-old shying away from contact. Seguin was a minus-1 on the day.
|Bruins blow 3-0 lead, fall to Rangers||04.04.11 at 9:57 pm ET|
The Bruins blew a three-goal lead Monday night at Madison Square Garden, falling victim to two late goals within 51 seconds to drop a 5-3 decision to the Rangers.
The Bruins jumped out to a 3-0 lead, as first-period goals from Daniel Paille and Nathan Horton were followed by Chris Kelly’s first goal as a Bruin at 10:32 of the second. The Rangers would quickly climb their way back into the game, getting a pair of second-period tallies from Vaclav Prospal, with Wojtek Wolski picking up assists on each goal. Brandon Dubinsky and Michael Sauer scored at 16:12 and 17:03, respectively, to tie it and take the lead in the third. Derek Stepan sealed it with an empty-netter.
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE BRUINS
– The Bruins knew the Rangers were a team desperate for a pair of points, and though they came out the stronger team, they took a nap after Kelly’s goal. All in all, the B’s ended up with just four shots on Lundqvist in the second period after putting 19 on net in the first period. The Rangers were playing a playoff game, and when the B’s are doing the same next week, they’ll need more of a 60-minute effort.
– The four goals allowed by Thomas were the most he’s given up since March 19, a span of six starts. Thomas didn’t seem to have it even before the Rangers opened it up, but their opportunities were so scarce early on that it seemed it could be smooth sailing for the Bruins’ netminder.
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE BRUINS
– How do you sit Paille when Shawn Thornton returns? Tyler Seguin has shown at certain points recently that he deserves to be in the lineup come playoff time, but Paille is producing. The former first-round pick had a season-high four shots on goal.
– With Horton’s goal, he now has seven points over his last seven games. Twenty-five wasn’t the number that people had in mind when he came over here (a prediction of 30 would have been considered conservative before the season), but if he produces the way he has of late and not the way he did in the middle of the season, the Bruins won’t be able to complain.
– Kelly hasn’t exactly a statistical monster since being acquired in February (two points in 20 games; zero in his last 16), so his first goal with the B’s is both a welcomed and overdue sight.
– The B’s may not have gotten many shots on Lundqvist in the second period (see below), but they didn’t deal with as many blocked shots as they could have expected based on March 26. The last time the two teams met, the Rangers blocked 29 shots, 18 of which came in the third period.