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Hey Tim Thomas, what do you think of your Cup chances after another loss to Leafs? 03.31.11 at 11:44 pm ET
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Before the reporter could even get the question out of his mouth, you could see the smirk on the face of the man who will likely win the Vezina Trophy this year.

The question to Bruins goalie Tim Thomas? Seems like Toronto (now 4-2-0 against Boston this season) has a done pretty good job of handling you guys. How do you feel your [playoff] chances are going forward?

“They’re terrible. We have no chance in the playoffs, we lost to the Toronto Maple Leafs at home,” Thomas said, with sarcasm showing his playoff-ready intensity.

It wasn’t the best of nights for Thomas, who had his shutout streak snapped at 122 minutes, 21 seconds when Luke Schenn scored just over seven minutes into the game. And yes, the Bruins did lose for just the third time this season in 31 games when leading after two periods. And yes, they also fell to 2-6 this year in shootouts.

But after his brush with sarcasm, Thomas gave a more direct and heartfelt response.

“I mean Toronto has definitely had our number and they’ve played better than us when we’ve played against them this year. But they have a good team with a lot of speed and a lot of talent. I don’t get to watch them all year long, but if they played the same way every game this year like they played against us, I’d expect them to be in a better spot.”

Hmmmm. That could be taken two different ways. Toronto – with players like Joffrey Lupul and Phil Kessel – is talented. But they also have 82 points now, and still on the outside, looking in on the race for the eighth and final playoff spot. Which brings us to the Bruins.

How important is it for the Bruins to get that momentum heading into the NHL’s second – and most important – season?

“I think it’s pretty good to take the same theory that you’re going to have to take in the playoffs, which is the same theory that you should have in the regular season, which is not too high and not too low. We’ve had some big wins here recently, beating Montreal, Philadelphia, Chicago, and now it’s kind of a tough loss to take. But in either case it should be not too high, not too low. Don’t think you’re too good if you get that win and don’t think you’re too bad if you get that loss.”

As for the goals the Leafs scored, Thomas said they were pretty similar to the ones they’ve scored all season against the Bruins.

“They’re typical Toronto goals,” Thomas said. “They’ve had a lot of those against us this year. Montreal had the same at one point, just seems to be the way it’s worked out.”

But to Thomas, it means nothing going foward.

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Are the Bruins this year’s Blackhawks? The Blackhawks can see the signs 03.30.11 at 10:54 am ET
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After a game like Tuesday’s, there is most certainly a temptation to look ahead to how far this Bruins team could be going in the Stanley Cup playoffs. It’s especially tempting when you consider the Bruins dismantled the team that won the Cup last June.

But Tim Thomas isn’t biting, not even after stopping all 32 shots in a 3-0 win over the Blackhawks.

“Haven’t thought about it at all, to be honest with you,” Thomas said after his career-best ninth shutout this season and 26th career. “I’m just focusing on each game-to-game, and even during the game just trying to play the same way for the whole 60 minutes no matter what the situation. We’re pretty good about not think about that kind of stuff lately, so I’d prefer not to start now, if you don’t mind.

“This was a good challenge for us. Chicago is a good team, I know they’re battling for a playoff spot in the Western Conference. But that’s a good thing because you know they’re going to bring their ‘A’ game, because those points mean a lot to them. It was a big test, and we responded very well. They’re a very fast team and we had our legs going right from the beginning of the game and were able to match them stride for stride.”

If the Bruins are headed for a deep run this spring, Thomas will be a good reason. He turned away every scoring chance in the first period, discouraging the defending Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks so much that even their coach felt his team — battling for its playoff life — was discouraged.

“They were the harder working team tonight,” Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said. “They play hard. First 10 minutes, we are on our heels. We got back in the game and we didn’t do much after they scored first.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Shawn Thornton will handle the Blackhawks ‘chirping’ his own way after nasty injury at 12:12 am ET
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The sight of his own blood was bad enough. So was the feeling as he was falling to the ice that he was about to go face-first into the back of the skate blade of Fernando Pisani and suffer 40 stitches on his forehead above his right eye.

But to have the opposition taunt you as you’re going off the ice was too much for even tough guy Shawn Thornton to take Tuesday night.

How bad was it? So bad that even referee Don Van Massenhoven was yelling at the Chicago bench to shut up as he was ushering Thornton off the ice to the Bruins’ bench and eventually dressing room.

“If I ever find who it was, I’ll deal with it my own way,” Thornton said. “Yeah something was said. Obviously I can’t swear when I talk to you guys. There was some stuff said that I am not happy about.”

Cameras showed Thornton shoving and nearly punching Van Massenhoven, who was actually trying to stand between Thornton and the Chicago bench.

“He heard it and he was [ticked],” Thornton said. “He was [ticked] too. He didn’t know who it was either. He actually yelled at their bench. I appreciate it. Those guys on their team chirp a lot. I don’t know if it is right when someone’s face is half across the other side of their face.

“But it is a tough game and people have to live with their actions. If you guys ever find out who it is don’t be afraid to send me a Christmas card.”

Thornton said he was prepared to return to the game with a visor but because the medical staff was concerned about a concussion and the 40 stitches opening up, he was held back and not permitted to return.

“I am fine,” Thornton said. “I guess I was lucky. It could have been worse. It could have been on eye. No headache, no concussion, no nothing. It was just throbbing a little bit from getting some stitches but nothing bad.”

Thornton said he was given great treatment immediately by the Bruins medical staff, led by Lars Richardson, who administered so many stitches he lost count.

“I didn’t ask,” Thornton said. “Someone else did and they said around 40. I don’t know, they lost count. I was told that was the reason I couldn’t come back. They had some fine stitches inside and they didn’t want those to pop out or I might look deformed afterwards.”

As for the play itself in the second period, Thornton nearly scored a great pass from Daniel Paille before heading back down ice to back check. He was chasing Pisani when he lost his balance.

“I went to go finish my hit,” Thornton said. “I don’t know if I tripped over a stick or some feet or whatever and fell on the back on his skate blade. It was accidental. It was something that happens when the game is moving so fast. If I had scored the goal right before that none of this would have happened. We would have been lining up at center.”

He could see the injury coming, which made it all the more gruesome in his mind.

“I kind of slowed down,” Thornton said. “I was fortunate to see it coming after I fell. It is easy to say now but I knew it was a bad cut. I didn’t see how bad it was they wouldn’t let me go look at it. I knew nothing else was hit other than my forehead.

“It had happened to me before and it doesn’t really hurt when it happens like that it just feels like you got banged in the head. I know how lucky I am. It could have been a little lower and I could have been in a lot of trouble.”

As for Thursday for Toronto, it’s wait-and-see for Thornton.

“I don’t know,” Thornton said. “I don’t think so but the doctors will look over it the next couple of days and make sure everything is where it needs to be. The good news is, I don’t know what is going to happen, we are in good position and if need be we have some extra bodies around anyways.”

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Shawn Thornton: Let up on the letdown theory 03.26.11 at 4:57 pm ET
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One look at the line score from Saturday’s snoozefest at the Garden would suggest the Bruins went through a pretty typical letdown game in a 1-0 loss to the Rangers, less than 48 hours after lighting up the Canadiens, 7-zip.

Not so fast, says Shawn Thornton.

“No, I wouldn’t put too much into it,” Thornton said. “I wouldn’t look too much into Thursday’s game and then tonight’s. This one could have went either way, it wasn’t like we laid an egg tonight. I thought for the most part we worked hard. I don’t look at shots too much, but anytime you outshoot a team 12-1 in the third period, you’d think that maybe you’d get rewarded with one. But they did a good job blocking shots, they did a good job of cleaning stuff out in front of the net. [Henrik Lundqvist] did a good job stopping the puck.”

Thornton makes a good point. The Bruins, who were outshot 9-0 to open the second, were hellbent on putting on a late rush on Lundqvist but to no avail.

Claude Julien agreed with Thornton’s assessment. A letdown explanation would be pretty lame.

“I think that would be a weak excuse,” Julien said. “We’re certainly not going to use that as an excuse. This is the time our year where you got to make sure that you’re able to push those games aside. There’s a lot of emotional games coming up in the future here, in the near future, and we’ve got to be able to respond night after night.

“It was more our team maybe not as good as the other team tonight as far as the will to win those battles early on and being heavy on the stick,” Julien said. “It’s unfortunate that the only goal that was scored may be a little bit of a controversial goal, but we had lots of opportunities to make up for it.”

It was also unfortunate Tuukka Rask allowed just one controversial goal and it ended up costing the Bruins.

“It’s disappointing to lose, obviously,” Rask said. “But I thought we put up a pretty good effort. Maybe it wasn’t a solid sixty-minute game, but we definitely came out hard in the third and got our chances, battled hard. A 1-0 loss is always tough to take when you don’t score a goal after you score seven. But it’s just a game and we just have to battle back [Sunday vs. Philadelphia].”

“Obviously, it sucks,” captain Zdeno Chara said. “We didn’t score a goal and we didn’t play our best.

Speaking of the Flyers, the fourth and final rematch of last year’s epic Eastern Conference semis is on the docket Sunday in Philly.

“That’s often a good thing,” Julien said. “We don’t have time to dwell on this one here. You got to turn the page. You win the big game tomorrow in Philadelphia, and you’ve had a pretty tough week against some pretty good hockey clubs. If you can come out of the there 3-1, with the week, it’s been a pretty good week. So that’s what we’ve got to focus on. Let’s turn the page on this one here and hopefully be a better team [Sunday].”

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Zdeno Chara proved he can still focus better than anyone 03.25.11 at 8:35 am ET
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It would’ve been completely understandable if Zdeno Chara didn’t look himself Thursday night.

There had been so much said and written about his hit on Max Pacioretty on March 8. There were so many league eyes on the rematch between the two rivals. And the Canadiens had every reason to come out and hit Chara and the Bruins hard.

The Bruins, however, weren’t biting and neither was Chara. And the result was a clinic on how to dismantle your opponent.

“We wanted to have a good, strong performance,” Chara said of the battle against the Canadiens, who came in just three points behind the B’s in the Northeast Division. “Montreal is playing well and obviously they’re a good team. But our focus was obviously on our game.

“We tried to obviously play our game and stay focused in our game plan. And every time you get away from that against a team like that, they’re going to make you pay. So like I said, we really tried to stay focused and tried to establish our game plan and play strong. And obviously we got ahead in the first twenty and from that point I thought we handled and controlled the game pretty well.”

Scoring in the first 61 seconds also did a great deal to take the edge off. So did leading 3-0 after 20 minutes. The Bruins systematically took apart the Canadiens on this night in a 7-0 rout.

“I think that just happens when you score obviously early goals,” Chara said of Johnny Boychuk‘s goal at 1:01, the first of three Chara would assist on during the blowout. “In the first 20 [minutes], we got a good lead but we never sat on it. We never tried to just protect the lead. We were obviously going after it and tried to score more goals and continue to play the game we were playing in the first 20 and second 20 and then, the third 20.

As for being tested mentally, Chara knew the Canadiens would hit him. And they did when Mathieu Darche belted Chara in the first period. But Chara took his time and only hit when it was appropriate. And when he did, it was devastatingly effective. Moments after the Darche hit, Chara dumped Travis Moen on the ice with a solid back check that sent the Bruins on a rush the other way.

“I don’t exactly remember the play, but like I said I’m not going to change,” Chara said. “I’m going to still play a physical game. That’s my game. And it’s part of the game to be hitting each other.”

Now, for the time being, Chara and the Bruins can move past the Canadiens and focus on a key stretch of three games coming up – Saturday against the Rangers, Sunday on the road against the Flyers and Tuesday back home against the defending Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks.

“That was the first step forward from the previous games,” Chara said. “And obviously now we have two games with a good solid effort. And obviously we know that next opponents we have, Rangers, Flyers, Chicago, is going to be a good challenge for us. So we just got to stay focused and not get too high or too low. We just got to stay nice and humble and get ready for next games.”

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Turns out Claude Julien knew ‘exactly’ what Mark Recchi was doing … and saying 03.24.11 at 11:09 pm ET
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You can count on one hand the number of times in his career Zdeno Chara has needed someone to stand up for him against the opposition.

But a 43-year-old winger who runs about foot shorter than the Bruins 6-foot-9 captain did just that this week and it paid huge dividends in a 7-0 Bruins rout of the Canadiens on Thursday at TD Garden. And he didn’t need to throw a punch, finish a check or swing a stick. Just open his mouth.

Mark Recchi acknowleged he made comments this week critical of Canandiens management and their medical staff to take pressure off Chara. Recchi told a Boston radio station Wednesday that the Canadiens “embellished a little bit” the hit on Max Pacioretty on Mar. 8 that resulted in a concussion for Pacioretty but no suspension for Chara.

“I have to be honest with you guys. I wanted to take the heat off Zee for a day and I’m a big boy,” Recchi said after the game. “I think anyone who knows me, knows that I have great respect for the Montreal organization, I played five years there. I have great respect for Doctor [David] Mulder, the medical staff there. … In 22 years, I’ve respected all my teammates, all the players I play against. My record has shown that.

“I have nothing but great things to say about the Montreal organization, I had five great years there. And it’s still an unfortunate situation it all happened. We all hope Max [Pacioretty] gets a full recovery here soon and we know he’s well on his way. And like I said, this is something that I believe in twenty-two years I’ve been very respectful to players and opponents throughout. So that should be the end of it really.”

Maybe in Boston but not Montreal, where the questions from the media kept coming.

“I’m a big boy and like I said, I’m sorry if it hurt some people, but at the same time, I think everyone knows my reputation for 22 years,” Recchi repeated. “I’m very respectful of teammates, players, organizations and that is not going to change. I felt a need to protect our captain and it’s important. That will be the end of it and you won’t hear anything said by me anymore.

“I took pressure off my captain for one day,” Recchi added. “He deserved it. He earned it.”

Chara certainly appreciated the gesture.

“I obviously don’t know exactly all the comments,” Chara said of Recchi’s radio comments. “But he’s such a great teammate and such a respected guy and leader. It’s a thrill to have him. We all learned so much from him. He’s obviously the next hall-of-famer and such a classy guy. Like I said, I can’t thank him enough to be my teammate and be part of this team, and helping all of us to be better.”

Recchi’s teammates all knew how important Thursday was to Chara.

“It’s been hard for us to sit here and see Zee,” said Gregory Campbell, who got into the only scrape of the night with Paul Mara. “Zee takes things personally, and he’s a good person. He doesn’t like to see anybody get injured. Behind the scenes, it’s a hard thing to handle, and he’s handled it extremely well.”

Bruins coach Claude Julien said he wasn’t surprised since he knows Recchi is a veteran and knows exactly what he’s doing.

“It says a lot because I know what kind of player he is,” Julien said. “I knew exactly what he was doing. You don’t have to speak. He’s 43 years old, he’s a big boy. He can answer for himself. I don’t think I need to coach him on any of that stuff.

“When you see a guy with that kind of experience say something like that, you know what he’s doing. So, there was nothing to be said. Their focus was on the game. He had to say what he had to say for whatever reason. That was something where I didn’t need to ask him that question because I knew exactly what he was doing.”

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Johnny Boychuk and the Bruins know it’ll be a bruising fight to the finish 03.11.11 at 11:59 am ET
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One look at the face of Johnny Boychuk tells you all you need to know about what kind ending is in store for the Bruins in the last month of the regular season.

A fight to the finish to be sure.

While all the focus was on Zdeno Chara and the firestorm of controversy over his hit on Max Pacioretty, Boychuk was playing his first game since suffering quite the shiner below his left eye in a fight with Montreal’s Ryan White a period earlier. Boychuk echoed the sentiment of the Bruins when he said he was happy to see Chara drill Jason Pominville with a clean hit early in the first period.

“He’s not going to change the way he’s going to play,” Boychuk said. “He’s a big man and he’s our team leader. You wouldn’t want him to change his game because I like seeing the physicalness in his game.”

On Thursday, Boychuk and the Bruins found themselves in a different sort of battle – one with the officials.

The Bruins killed off the first four penalties against them but Buffalo capitalized on two of the next three to help erase a 2-0 Bruins lead early.

“It’s kind of tough to give a 60-minute effort when we’re always killing penalties like that,” Boychuk said. “I don’t know if they’re good calls or bad calls but it definitely takes a toll on some guys in the dressing room when you’ve got guys killing penalties all the time. And some of those guys are also play power play so they’re going to be out there more than others and by the end of the game, they’re going to be tired.”

The other concern of late – during the three-game losing streak – is the lack of discipline and focus over 60 minutes.

“I think that we had that when we were on that winning streak,” fellow B’s blueliner Adam McQuaid said. “For the most part we had sixty-minute effort. The last few games there have been very highs and very lows, so I think the biggest thing is to get back to that sixty- minute effort.”

Seven different minor penalties were called on the B’s, including two with the Bruins already a man down that created 5-on-3 chances for the Sabres. The Bruins killed off the first but weren’t so lucky the second time in the third period as the Sabres tied the game and won it in overtime.

Boychuk knew going into the game with the Sabres Thursday night that they would be facing a desperate team.

“We did play them in the playoffs last year and they’re fighting for their playoff spot so we didn’t expect them to roll over and die on us,” Boychuk said.

That will be the same approach the Bruins can expect from just about every team they play from here on out.

Even the Islanders, who are out of the playoff picture in the East, could play spoiler when they take on the Bruins tonight in Nassau County on Long Island.

Before dropping their third straight Thursday, the Bruins started their seven-game win streak against the Islanders on Feb. 17 on Long Island.

“Might as well start another one,” Boychuk said. “Why not?”

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