|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.
|Tim Thomas blanks Blackhawks for ninth shutout||03.29.11 at 10:03 pm ET|
Thomas made 32 saves on the night, improving his record to 33-10-8.
After a scoreless first period, the B’s got second-period tallies from Zdeno Chara and Johnny Boychuk. Nathan Horton provided the Bruins with some extra breathing room in the third period when he beat Chicago goaltender Corey Crawford his 24th of the season.
The win brought the B’s within three points of the Capitals for second place in the Eastern Conference, as Washington lost in a shootout Tuesday. The B’s have played 76 games to the Capitals’ 77. Should the teams end up finishing the season with the same point total, the Bruins would likely hold the tie-breaker, as they currently have more wins in games determined in regulation.
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE BRUINS
- Mark Recchi now has 12th place on the list of career points all to himself. His assist on Johnny Boychuk’s goal gave him 1,532 points, breaking his tie with Paul Coffey. Recchi would need to play another season to get to Ray Bourque‘s 1579.
- Thomas was in danger of giving up the league lead in goals against average a couple of weeks ago, but his play of late has given him some separation from Nashville netminder Pekka Rinne. Thomas has allowed just one goal over his last three starts, the second time he has had such a three-game stretch. The Bruins did an excellent job of clearing loose pucks in front of the net from the get-go Tuesday, greatly helping Thomas’ cause.
- The interesting story line of Michael Ryder‘s healthy scratches could continue, as Paille has made good use of his spot in the lineup the last two games. Paille picked up a helper on Horton’s goal, getting the puck in front from behind the net.
- Don’t look now, but Johnny Boychuk has two goals in his last four games. Of course, he had just one goal on the season prior to his goal against the Canadiens last Thursday, so the chances anyone worries about his scoring touch aren’t very big.
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE BRUINS
- The Bruins did not have a power play the entire game. It was the eighth game that they have had one or zero power plays. Interestingly enough, they are 7-0-1 in those games.
- Shawn Thornton left the game in the second period after getting cut above the eye and did not return. Bleeding from the face, Thornton shoved referee Don VanMassenhoven as he was passing the Chicago bench on his way off the ice, seemingly because Blackhawks were chirping from the bench.
- Another night of solid play but no production from the third line. Tyler Seguin and Chris Kelly had an opportunity on Crawford in the first period, but Seguin’s pass in front of the net was just out of Kelly’s reach. Seguin has just one goal over his last 15 games.
|Brad Marchand lifts Bruins past Flyers, 2-1||03.27.11 at 9:44 pm ET|
Brad Marchand made his 20th goal of the season count, as he broke a late tie to give the Bruins a 2-1 lead over the Flyers in Philadelphia Sunday night. With the win, Boston clinches a playoff spot.
Marchand’s tally was his first in 13 games, as he banged home a rebound past Flyers netminder Brian Boucher on the power play at 16:17 of the third period. Both Bruins’ goals came on the man advantage, as Nathan Horton scored his 23rd goal of the season with the B’s on the power play in the second period. Kris Versteeg opened the game’s scoring with a tally for the Flyers in the first period.
Picking up the victory for the Bruins was Tim Thomas, who won his third game in a row and improved his record on the season to 32-10-8.
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