|Claude Julien on motivating his team for playoffs: ‘I’m only a coach’||04.07.11 at 11:58 am ET|
This is a very, very difficult time of the year for NHL coaches who know their teams are already in the Stanley Cup playoffs. They have to balance fighting for playoff position with fighting complacency.
Sometimes, the task can become quite frustrating, if not overwhelming, to manage.
Just ask Claude Julien. With his team already assured of home ice in the first round by virtue of their Northeast Division crown, Julien watched on Monday night as his team blew a 3-0 lead to the Rangers at Madison Square Garden in an ugly 5-3 loss.
Then on Wednesday, at home to the lowly Islanders, he watched his top two lines go through the motions, only to get great games from his “energy line” in a 3-2 escape at TD Garden. Shawn Thornton had a goal in his return and Gregory Campbell had a goal and an assist.
Afterward, a reporter at Julien’s press conference opened by asking if that’s the kind of effort he was looking for after the Monday meltdown in New York.
“Are you serious with that question?” Julien chirped. “No, certainly not the kind of game you want to see from your team and I think the execution wasn’t very good tonight. We weren’t very sharp. Our best players certainly didn’t make a difference and who made a difference was our fourth line and the Campbell line was very good for us tonight and the goaltender made some good saves for us.
“But, it’s one of those games where you try and motivate your team to play hard and play well and I think there’s a challenge there. You know, you can say what you want and you can preach what you want, but there’s a lot of players I think that are looking forward to the next season and so those are the challenges that we have at this time of year.” Read the rest of this entry »
|Tim Thomas: ‘It’s time to start righting the ship’||11.15.10 at 11:40 pm ET|
Tim Thomas was happy to admit that his fourth shutout of the season was a collective effort. Thanks to the blocked shots of Dennis Seidenberg and captain Zdeno Chara effectively rubbing out Ilya Kovalchuk and Patrick Elias, Thomas faced just 28 shots and stopped them all in a 3-0 win over the Devils Monday night at TD Garden.
But that wasn’t the biggest story. The Bruins managed to put three pucks behind future Hall of Famer Martin Brodeur, one more than they scored during an unlikely three-game home ice losing skid.
“There was definitely a little urgency but it was a controlled urgency,” Thomas said. “It wasn’t a panicked urgency. It was more like, ‘Hey, it’s time to start righting the ship and tonight’s a good place to start.'”
The Bruins were just 2-4-1 on home ice this season.
“I personally approached it as a must-win and I think the team did too,” Thomas said. “We need to get back on track; we need to show some urgency. We faced a team that’s been playing better but has struggled this year, and we needed to come out with the win so that we could start building and getting back to the game that we were playing when we were having success.”
Thomas did face pressure at times, like late in the second period when the Devils fired the last six shots of the period.
“Yeah, that and the first couple minutes of the game there,” Thomas said. “Elias was very, very patient. You know, there was some times where we really controlled the play for long periods of time and there were other times where they made a push and I just had to be on my toes and the team had to be on their toes for the rebounds.”
The way it played out, Thomas weathered the storm at the start, and had pretty much clear sailing the rest of the way.
“I don’t know, well, you could look at it either way. Yeah, it could be tough, or looking back, it actually could help get me into the game,” Thomas said. “And it happened so quick that I didn’t have time to think about it. I didn’t have time to think, ‘Is this really happening in the first minute of the game?’ It was just like, ‘I got to find some way to stop this thing.’
“It’s a similar feeling to how I felt against Washington, probably early this year was the closest that I kind of felt like that. I just felt like they weren’t going to find a way to score.”
As the minutes wound down, he could sense he was closing in on his 21st career shutout, just 91 shy of his counterpart Monday night.
“The last several minutes you start to put some emphasis because you don’t want to work that hard and not get it,” Thomas said. “I used to not care about shutouts and I still don’t for the most part, but that was 21 and 25 is a milestone that few people reach in the NHL.”
|The Hat Trick: Bruins can’t save the work for the third||03.15.10 at 10:43 pm ET|
Before we go any further into the Bruins’ 3-2 loss to the Devils on Monday night, let’s get one thing straight: This wasn’t a Jacques Lemaire or Pat Burns-coached team that the Bruins fell to Monday night. It wasn’t a fall-behind-by-one-and-the-game’s-over scenario, as many who have followed the Bruins have grown accustomed to when it comes to playing the Devils. And while the Devils are a very viable Cup contender this year, this wasn’t a throwback to the mid-’90s-on torture that the black and gold have fallen victim to.
This was a struggling team going against a struggling team (the Devils, currently fourth in the conference, entered the evening 4-5-1 over their last 10 games) and struggling.
On Monday night we saw plenty of the Bruins’ flaws highlighted. Whether it was the painful uncertainty in net that led to Tim Thomas being yanked after 20 minutes of decent play accompanied by bad luck and big rebounds (for what it’s worth, only Zach Parise’s goal can be blamed on Thomas ‘ Scott Niedermayer’s was the result of a screen and David Clarkson’s a breakaway), a missed opportunity at physically setting the tone (Milan Lucic’s dasher to the face) or the lack of consistent offense, it was all there in a rough night for Claude Julien and the gang.
The Bruins are still hanging onto the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference by just one point, with their 72 points narrowly edging the Rangers’ 71. Still, in a prospective matchup with the top-seeded Capitals (who are 2-0 against Boston this year and have outscored the Bruins by a margin of 8-2 in their two meetings), the playoffs might just be a formality ‘ a quick stop on the way to yet another offseason filled with questions of how the Bruins can return to prominence for good.
It wasn’t all bad, though. The offense, aside from being snakebitten when it comes to getting multiple tallies in the third (see below), peppered New Jersey netminder Martin Brodeur with 15 shots in the final 20 minutes, and after being outshot 22-21 through two periods, ended the game having outshot the Devils, 36-28. Here is the hat trick of lessons learned in close-but-not-close-enough match at the Prudential Center.
|Second period summary: Bruins-Devils||at 7:45 pm ET|
The presence of Tuuka Rask changed the tone of the game Monday night. That, of course, and the presence of scoring.
Mark Stuart, pinching in the offensive zone, threw the puck on net at an odd angle that was tipped by Blake Wheeler and slipped past the leg of Martin Brodeur just 43 seconds into the second period to bring the Bruins within two goals in a 3-1 game.
Stuart nearly had one of his own on the following drive when his shot from the point lanced off of Brodeur’s glove.
A close call came at 8:53 when Rob Neidermayer, positioned in front of Rask, redirected a shot from the point past Rask for what appeared to be the Devils’ fourth goal. The goal was waved off immediately and was confirmed seconds later.
Shawn Thornton and Pierre-Luc Letornee-Leblond participated in somewhat of a balet recital at 2:47 in a fight that never really got off the ground. Still, with the highly anticipated bout with the Penguins on tap, Bruins fans may be willing to take any sneak preview they can get.
A troubling play came when Milan Lucic, following a biffed attempt at hitting Andy Green, went face-first into the dasher in the middle of the period. He left for the locker room following the play but later returned.
The Bruins kept up the pressure late in the second period, including a drive that featured a couple of close plays involving Dennis Seidenberg. A 3-on-1 in the period’s last minute also looked promising but went for naught. Even so, the Bruins wrapped up the period playing with far more energy than they ever were in the first period.
Each team had 10 shots and through two the Devils are outshooting the Bruins, 22-21.
|First period summary: Bruins-Devils||at 6:57 pm ET|
One would think that one team outshooting the other by just one might dictate a close game. Not tonight, as the rout may be on early in Newark, with the Devils leading the Bruins 3-0 after the first period.
After a run of eight consectuive shots from the Bruins, the Devils applied a ton of pressure in the period’s 10th minute that culminated in a goal from Rob Neidermayer at 9:58. The goal came as a result of a tip from a David Clarkson shot. Patrik Elias likely would have made it 2-0 seconds later were it not for his wrister going wide of Thomas’ net. Though the stat sheet would be filled with penalty minutes for much of of the time after, smart goaltending got the Devils back on the board.
David Clarkson took a long pass from Martin Brodeur at center ice and raced up the ice untouched for a breakaway goal at 17:23. It was Brodeur’s third assist of the season.
Seconds later, Parise took a rebound from a Mike Mottau shot and put it past Thomas to give the Devils a 3-0 lead.
But enough about the Bruins’ inability to compete at the moment. With the Penguins in town Thursday, much of the focus is on the physical aspect. After Blake Wheeler went off just 52 seconds into the game for hooking, the Bruins’ penalty kill, which entered the night third in the NHL, went to work and effectively killed off a Devils power play that consisted of two shots. The highlight of the penalty kill came when Tim Thomas made a nice save through a screen on a shot from the stick of Travis Zajac.
A few minutes later, Dennis Seidenberg stapled Zach Parise in the corner and was retaliated upon by Jamie Langenbrunner, who went off for unsportsmanlike conduct at 5:34. After a shorthanded bid from the Devils, poor puckwork deraliled what dew opportunities the Bruins were able to muster on the power play.
Shortly thereafter Vladimir Sobotka has one of the best opportunities of the period when he was stuffed by Martin Brodeur on a wraparound.
Mark Stuart crushed Jamie Langenbrunner with about six and a half minutes remaining in the period and seconds later was squaring off with Rod Pelley at the blue line. Both went off for fighting at 13:50.
The Devils outshot the Bruins 12-11.
|New Jersey Devils seem to have the B’s number||02.13.09 at 11:15 pm ET|
The biggest moral from last night’s 1-0 loss to the New Jersey Devils in the Garden State?
Be afraid. Be very afraid of facing this Devils squad in the playoffs. The skaters with the pointy tails and the hybrid pitchforks are big, skilled, experienced, gritty, strong to the puck and disciplined, and have a boatload of playoff experience. In the last two games against the Devils, who moved into sole possession of second place in the Eastern Conference with last night’s victory, the Bruins simply haven’t been able to find enough answers to eke out a win. Jersey’s skaters are clicking on all cylinders right now, and have won 9 of their last 11 in the middle of the NHL’s stretch run.
The Black and Gold had plenty to beam about, however, after suffering their third straight loss for the first time since late in October ‘ even more so when you consider the Bruins had a number of Providence Bruins players skating in prominent roles against a pretty healthy Devils unit. Martins Karsums and Vladimir Sobotka provided plenty of jump, and Patrice Bergeron played one of his best games this season ‘ and certainly his most physically involved game since coming back from his latest concussion. Bergeron finished the game with a team-high seven shots on net, and even laid a few hits on Devils players in an encouragng sign for the forward in the future.
Despite all that ‘ and some pretty good chemistry between Sobotka and linemates David Krejci and Blake Wheeler ‘ the Bruins outshot the Devils by nearly a 2-to-1 margin and still couldn’t solve the riddle of a determined and defensive-minded New Jersey outfit. The Devils have created mismatches with the Bruins all season due to their sheer physical size and strength around the net both offensively and defensively, and that was the case again last night when many of Boston’s shots originated from outside/perimeter spots in the attack zone.
Black and Gold fans have to hope that they can hold on to capture the Eastern Conference and the Devils remain in their current No. 2 spot when the season ends and seeding for the playoffs begins. A difficult matchup against New Jersey will get even trickier for the B’s when Martin Brodeur comes back from a detached biceps muscle in the next few weeks and gives the Devils their All-World goaltender along with the formidable lineup.
Medical Watch: The Bruins seemed to get through this game relatively unscathed, and may get Chuck Kobasew (lower body injury) back in time for Saturday night’s game against the Nashville Predators. Petteri Nokelainen is likely to stay in Boston while still recovering from the nasty eye injury he suffered from a high-stick Tuesday night.
Player of the Night: Got to give it to the former Boston College netminder Scott Clemmensen, who made 31 saves on the night and stood tall during a couple of good flurries by the Bruins in the second and third period. His save on a puck that skidded off Vladimir Sobotka’s skate secured the win for the Devils and handed him his second straight shutout aided by a gritty Jersey defense.
Goat Horns: Tim Thomas would be the first to admit he should have stopped the one and only goal of the night. It was a soft low liner of a wrist shot from the point by stay-at-home Jersey defenseman Bryce Salvador from the high point. The shot didn’t have a lot of body traffic in front of it, and the change up of a shot slipped right through the five hole between Thomas’s pads. You can count the number of goals like that on one hand that Thomas will surrender in any given season.
Turning Point in the Game: The Salvador goal was obviously the biggest turning point, but the play started with Boston’s best faceoff man, Patrice Bergeron, losing a draw to the grizzled, gritty John Madden in the defensive zone. Two quick mistakes for a team in their own zone are all it takes in a tight, playoff-style one goal game against an opponent like the Devils.
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