|Hockey writers realize Zdeno Chara is still one of the best in the game||04.25.11 at 1:27 pm ET|
Those who are not in “the room” may tend to take Zdeno Chara‘s skills for granted. But not the Bruins and certainly not Claude Julien.
On Monday, Chara was named one of three finalists for the Norris Trophy, given annually to the top defenseman in the NHL – the third time in four seasons that the Bruins captain has been so recognized.
Chara, who won the award in 2009, led the league with a plus-33 rating and recorded 44 points, including 14 goals and 30 assists.
“I think, obviously, he’s a well-deserving player,” Julien said. “There are a lot of reasons. I think everyone who knows him here knows he plays a lot of minutes. He also always plays against other team’s top lines. He’s utilized as a shutdown D against the top players on other teams. The stats at the end of the year, I think he’s a plus-30 something, plus-33, and I think that speaks for itself. And double digits in goals, and certainly, offensively, he’s contributed well.
“So, if you’re talking about the Norris and talking about a defenseman that brings a lot, he’s certainly. And I don’t think there are many players in this league who will raise their hand and say they really enjoy playing against him.”
Chara has bigger concerns on his plate right now, like closing out the Canadiens in Game 6 Tuesday night, but he did show sincere appreciation after Monday’s practice at TD Garden for being recognized.
“It’s obviously a big honor and I’m very humbled and very thankful, especially after you consider how many guys had such a great season – breakout seasons.” Chara said. “I’m just very thankful that people who did vote recognize the definition of the Norris Trophy award. And obviously, a big thank you goes to all the people who helped me get there, especially my teammates, all those in the organization, and obviously, my family and fans.
Chara consistently faces the opposing team’s top offensive line, something that makes him one of the most reliable players in black and gold.
“That’s something I take a lot of pride in,” Chara said. “I’m very competitive when it comes to defending the top lines and playing top lines. I know that it’s not an easy job, but I get up to it every night. You can’t think that it’s just you. Yeah, it’s a big motivation for me every night to face such skill and great players.”
Chara – who has climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro for fun – takes as much pride as anyone in his off-season training that year-in, year-out puts him among the finest conditioned athletes in not only hockey but the world. Monday, in the wake of another Norris nomination, he pointed to that training regiment as a big reason for his continued success.
“To me, the first priority is hard work,” Chara said. “I always like to work extremely hard on and off the ice. I’m very competitive, I’m very motivated to play against top lines and the best players every night. I take a lot of pride in that, and I just want to help the team as much as I can to win. That was always my first thing. I always want to put the team in front of egos or individual goals.
“To me, that’s the most important thing, and everything else will fall into place. I know I’m not the extremely skilled defenseman who’s going to put probably 70 points on the board every year. But I know that if I play my game, I give my team a good chance to win hockey games. That’s all I can do.”
Joining Chara as finalists are Detroit’s Nicklas Lidstrom and Nashville’s Shea Weber. The three were voted as finalists by the Professional Hockey Writers Association, and the names were released Monday by the league.
The winner will be announced June 22 during the 2011 NHL awards ceremony in Las Vegas.
|Claude Julien: We haven’t played ‘at all close to the way we can’||04.17.11 at 1:25 pm ET|
The most alarming part of Saturday’s no-show by the Bruins was their complete inability to pick up the emotional or physical slack left by the absence of Zdeno Chara. From the drop of the puck, the Bruins looked shell-shocked when Chara skated pregame but couldn’t go, leaving them without their best defenseman and captain.
“Well, number one you can’t every say that you didn’t miss him,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said. “He’s one of the best defensemen in the league and when you lose a guy like that it leaves you with a big hole. Having said that, I still think our Ds are capable of handling themselves and can definitely be better.
“And those costly goals are what we’re talking about. They have to make the other team earn their goals and I don’t think that was the case tonight. We certainly have to get better in regards to that and those kinds of mistakes and are type we can’t keep making.”
“Yeah, he’s our captain but at the same time, we all need to step up in here,” added Patrice Bergeron, the man who likely would be captain if not for Chara. “Yeah, it hurts missing “Z” but it’s playoffs and it’s adversity and it’s things we have to go through. We’re not the only team that’s missing key players. We have to find a way.”
And while Julien announced Sunday that Chara will be making the trip to Montreal for Monday’s Game 3, there’s still no guarantee he plays. Whether Chara is on the ice or not, the Bruins can’t afford to bumble and stumble like they did in the first two minutes Saturday night or their season will – for all intents and purposes – be over.
The trio of Tomas Kaberle, Johnny Boychuk and Dennis Seidenberg didn’t exactly cover themselves in glory. And neither did Tim Thomas in net. Did they all collectively press and try to do too much?
“I don’t know if it’s about making up for the loss,” Julien said. “We need to make some better decisions. We did the same thing in that first game as well. The two goals we gave up were, they are glaring mistakes, to our eyes anyway. And like I said after the first game, they’re uncharacteristic of our hockey club and we’re here talking about the same thing. So yeah, we have to correct that and we have to correct it starting next game. We have to make sure those things are eliminated from our game if we want to give ourselves a chance to win this series.”
Things like flipping the puck blindly up the middle of the neutral zone, leading to a turnover and an odd-man rush that ended in Yannick Webber‘s back-breaking goal late in the second, restoring Montreal’s two-goal cushion and crushing Boston’s comeback hopes.
“I was looking up ice,” said Seidenberg of his ill-fated transition attempt. “It seem like the boards were taken so I tried to hit Horty going through the middle. But their D stepped in front.”
Julien knows his team has one more shot Monday to redeem themselves before being put on life-support.
“It’s the best-of-seven,” Julien said. “We’ve lost the first two games. And, let’s be honest here, our team has not played at all close to the way we know we can. You can outshoot them, you can do a lot of things, but the mistakes that we have made in this series so far are very uncharacteristic of our hockey team, and we need to be better than that. If they’re going to score some goals, they need to earn them a lot more than they have. We had to work pretty hard tonight just to get that one goal, and I don’t think they had to work as hard to get theirs.
“And that’s basically the difference right now in the games, is the execution of one team, compared to the execution of the other one. I’m going to stand here and tell you that our execution isn’t good enough and it needs to be better. That’s what we have to do from here on in.”
|Brad Marchand: ‘I don’t think anyone expected us to sweep the series’||04.15.11 at 11:16 am ET|
For someone making his Stanley Cup playoff debut, Brad Marchand showed a lot of patience and poise after the Bruins’ 2-0 loss to the Canadiens in Game 1 of the Eastern quarterfinals Thursday night.
“It’s always frustrating when you lose the first game,” Marchand said. “But it happens. I don’t think anyone expected us to sweep the series. They’re coming very hard, they’re ready for they series and they were coming hard [Thursday].”
Marchand had a couple of point-blank chances early on Carey Price, including a backhander that he couldn’t cleanly handle and a first-period breakaway. He also had a semi-breakaway in the second. Still, no dice.
“You try to forget about it right way but it’s in the back of your mind, in case it happens again you want to do it a little differently,” Marchand said of the missed breakaway chance. “But it does definitely frustrate you a bit.
“You feel like you kind of let the team down. You had opportunities like that and you didn’t bury. You can say what if, but at the end of the day there is tomorrow and we have to be ready for that, focus on that and then be ready for the next game. We can’t hang our heads here, and can’t hold onto this. We have to let it go and be ready for the next game.”
Price stopped all 31 shots, including all six by Marchand, who led the Bruins in that category.
“We were frustrated that we didn’t get on the board there but I don’t think it’s going to change our confidence at all. Games go this way, sometimes a goalie makes a lot of big saves, sometimes they all find the back of the net. We just have to regroup in playoffs every game is a different story we have to make sure tomorrow we get more bodies in front and hopefully pucks go in.”
What was to blame for Marchand? Maybe it was simply a matter of speed.
“It was faster, a little more intense,” Marchand said of his first playoff game. “I don’t think the game changed a whole lot. Guys just seemed to keep it a little more simple and tried to stay away from turnovers. I think that was the biggest difference. In that way you can use more speed getting in the zone.
Marchand, who boldly predicted – and correctly so – he’d reach 20 goals and 20 assists in his first full season, isn’t lacking for confidence in himself or the team. So while everyone was suggesting different approaches and line changes for Game 2 Saturday, Marchand believes if the Bruins bring the same energy they showed in the second and third periods, they’ll come out on top.
“We have to play the exact same way we did,” Marchand said. “If we improved one more thing it would be get more bodies in front of the net, in front of Price to take his eyes away, but other than that I think we had a good game.”
|Is frustration already setting in for these Bruins?||at 10:33 am ET|
The Game 1 loss to the Canadiens had been in the books less than an hour when Bruins coach Claude Julien took to the podium to fulfill his obligation of addressing the media.
Naturally, he wasn’t in the best spirits after Carey Price shut down and shut out the Bruins, 2-0, in the opener of the Eastern quarterfinal series at TD Garden. He was asked all the questions you’d expect but there was one question asked repeatedly in different ways. How frustrating was it for your team – again with Stanley Cup aspirations – not to be able to find the back of the net?
They out-shot the Canadiens, 31-18 and dominated the second period by an 18-6 tally.
“I think that’s one thing that we had talked about—not getting frustrated with certain things,” Julien said. “But obviously we felt we should have came out with something better than we did in the second period and unfortunately we didn’t capitalize. We had some great opportunities, but I think there’s reasons for that. I don’t think we did a very good job of taking away his [Carey Price] vision. He saw a lot of shots tonight and he saw a lot of pucks. We definitely have to get better in that area if we plan on scoring some goals. We had some quality chances as well that we didn’t capitalize on and when you get those quality chances, you have to make sure you bury those.” Read the rest of this entry »
|Carey Price on the money playing ‘rope-a-dope’ with the Bruins||04.14.11 at 11:59 pm ET|
Before Thursday night’s 2-0 win over the Bruins in Game 1 of the Eastern quarterfinals, the last time Carey Price skated off the Garden ice it was to chants of “Carey, Carey!” as he let five goals go past him in 44 minutes of a 7-0 Bruins blowout on March 24.
Those chants came up again Thursday in the second period but they were more like a desperate plea from frustrated Bruins fans who couldn’t believe their forwards couldn’t put more pressure on Price.
So as it turns out, that blowout loss of at TD Garden pretty much had zero effect on Thursday.
“It is different in the playoffs,” Price said. “Things that happen in the regular season don’t necessarily happen in the playoffs because it costs a lot more. Teams are playing differently. We expected that type of game out of them and they definitely played physical but our guys didn’t back down.”
Backing down is exactly what everyone thought the Canadiens did in that March 24 embarrassment in Boston. Everyone expected the Canadiens to come out fired up in the first game since Max Pacioretty was hit by Zdeno Chara on March 8 at the Bell Centre, winding up with a concussion after smashing into the mid-ice turnbuckle.
Thanks mainly to Price and the blocked shots by his defense – backing down is exactly what the Canadiens didn’t do Thursday night. Even when they were being out-shot, 18-6, in the second period, the Canadiens and Price wouldn’t give in. How did they survive? By taking a page out of Muhammad Ali‘s book from the 1970s.
“I thought that we were sitting back a little bit in the second period,” Price said. “I thought our guys did a really good job of rope-a-doping it a little bit. They [Bruins] are a good hockey team and when they grab the momentum like that they definitely ran with it. Our guys just rallied, blocked shots, and kept it simple. We were fortunate to keep the puck out of the net.
“Our guys played excellent tonight. That’s it, our guys played great defense and we played a pretty perfect road game. If we were to write down on paper how we wanted to start the series that would be it right there.”
Now Price and company have stolen home ice in the very first game of the series.
“We came in here with a plan,” Price said. ” To come out with a good start to this game and a good start to the series. We did that exactly.”
|Milan Lucic: Bruins fans want ‘us to beat the hell out of’ the Habs – and vice versa||04.12.11 at 3:23 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — This is just Milan Lucic‘s fourth season in the NHL. But he’s been around long enough to know what Bruins and Canadiens fans expect once the series starts Thursday night at TD Garden.
“Our fans are going to want us to beat the hell out of them and their fans are going to want to see them to beat the hell out of us,” Lucic said. “We know the energy is going to be high in both buildings, and I think that’s what makes this rivalry so great, the fans are so pumped up about it. That’s what it makes it fun being a player, being a part of this rivalry.”
The Bruins are trying to advance past the Eastern Conference semifinals for the first time since 1992. They have lost in Game 7 in each of the last two seasons, including last year when they blew a 3-0 series lead and a 3-0 lead in Game 7 to the Flyers, dropping Game 7, 4-3, when the Bruins were called for too many men on the ice.
“It is the playoffs, and it can even come down to one little thing that makes a difference in winning or losing,” Lucic said. “For ourselves, we have to do a good job of managing our emotions and using it to our advantage and feeding off of it. We don’t have to change anything from how we played in the season.
“We still have to play with an edge and play that high-energy type game where we’re into the game emotionally but then again we have to manage it to the point where we’re not spending most of the time in the box.”
|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 »
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