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Tonight won’t be any ordinary God Bless America in Philadelphia 05.02.11 at 1:28 pm ET
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PHILADELPHIA — From the first moment Kate Smith‘s rendition of “God Bless America” replaced the national anthem at a Flyers’ home game on Dec. 11, 1969, the song has sent chills up the spines of everyone in attendance.

Tonight, it will reach a whole new level – and meaning – altogether. And, all of America and the world will be watching. With the news of Osama bin Laden‘s execution on Sunday night, Americans have been celebrating the news with the pledge of allegiance and singing “God Bless America.”

The Flyers still show a video of Smith – who died in 1986 – singing “God Bless America” in lieu of “The Star Spangled Banner” for good luck before important games. The video of her performance is now accompanied by Lauren Hart, daughter of the late Hockey Hall of Fame broadcaster, Gene Hart, the longtime voice of the Flyers.

Bruins coach Claude Julien is more than aware of what the atmosphere will be in the building come 7:30, in the moments before faceoff.

“That’s something that went though my mind this morning, no doubt about that,” Julien said. “When something major like that happens, I guess all the attention is drawn that way but our guys this morning seemed fine. In the morning skate, I like their focus, I liked everything else.

“There’s two teams. If one team’s going through it, I’m sure the other one is as well. I think our guys are very professional and capable of separating the things that are important when the time comes. Everybody was obviously very interested in hearing what’s happened in the last little while with that but at the same time, it’s important to be ready for the game and I think the guys understand that.”

The Flyers understand it, too, and may be under greater pressure to balance energy with emotion, especially at the start.

‘€œThe fans and the atmosphere should be great for that part of the game,’€ Flyers forward James van Riemsdyk told WEEI.com’s D.J. Bean. ‘€œIt’€™s a proud day in our history, you could say now, is the day that this guy was brought to justice. At that point last night, I know hockey was put on the back burner for a second there when you kind of think of all the things that have been affected and all the people close to you that maybe lost someone. It’€™s obviously a good thing that all this came to justice last night.’€

Bruins fans old enough to remember recall another special day when Smith performed in person.

Smith was called in to the Spectrum in front of a capacity crowd of 17,007 fans before Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals on May 19, 1974. That’s when B’s captain Phil Esposito infamously tried to jinx the Flyers’ good luck charm by presenting her with a bouquet of roses after her performance. It didn’t work. Bernie Parent blanked Espo, Bobby Orr and the B’s, 1-0, for the first of two straight Stanley Cups.

Including Saturday’s loss to the Bruins, the Flyers are 95-27-4 when trotting out the old standby.

So tonight, just before faceoff, turn up the TV and listen for Flyers public address announcer Lou Nolan to say, “Ladies and gentlemen, at this time, we ask that you please rise and remove your hats and salute to our flags and welcome the number 1 ranked anthemist in the NHL, Lauren Hart, as she sings God Bless America, accompanied by the great Kate Smith.”

And good luck hearing the duet from there.

Read More: 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Boston Bruins, Gene Hart, God Bless America
Peter Laviolette won’t take another shot at Brian Boucher 04.30.11 at 8:56 pm ET
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PHILADELPHIA — Flyers coach Peter Laviolette did something after his team’s 7-3 humiliation at the hands of the Bruins that his forwards and defensemen failed to do. He came to the aid of Brian Boucher.

For the fourth time in the last eight playoff games, Laviolette has resorted to the desperate move of pulling a goalie. That isn’t stunning. That is downright shocking for a team with Stanley Cup aspirations. Is he concerned that he’s had to do it so often?

‘€œCertainly you don’€™t want to do that but tonight I think that just based on the way we played in front of our goaltender, we as a team deserve all of the responsibility as far as that goes,” Laviolette said. “But, it certainly is not where you want to be.”

So what was the coverage problem? Was it being out of position, or effort in front of the net?

‘€œI’€™d say it was a combination of both,’€ he said. “It wasn’€™t very good tonight, the defensive play. Especially, you know, right in front of our goaltender. Too many easy goals, too many easy plays, we weren’€™t strong enough right in front of our goaltender.’€

The Flyers were coming off a 5-2 win over the Sabres in Game 7 Tuesday night and seemed to have rediscovered their mojo a bit – the same feeling that had them sitting on top of the Eastern Conference for most of the season until a late-season swoon that dropped them to second in the standings.

‘€œWell we weren’€™t very good tonight, you know,” Laviolette. “We come off one of our strongest performances in a while, come out and you know we don’€™t have a good game. That was not the way we need to play in order to be successful, so there’€™s lots of things that can change; actually everything’€™s got to change, everything’€™s got to improve. So, we’€™ll work on that.’€

The Flyers will have Sunday to figure it out. But if the Flyers don’t bring it with more intensity Monday night, the Bruins – including David Krejci will roll over them again.

Laviolette knows this. That’s why when he was asked after the game what made Krejci’s line so successful, he had a short but fair answer.

‘€œMost of their lines had success against us,’€ Laviolette said, before thanking everyone for showing up. He hopes his players do Monday night.

Read More: 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Boston Bruins, NHL, Peter Laviolette
David Krejci gets last laugh on the Flyers in Game 1 at 8:21 pm ET
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PHILADELPHIA — Maybe trash talking is all it took for David Krejci to rediscover his playoff mojo. That, and some really bad defense and goaltending.

While the Flyers were playing atrocious defense in front of Brian Boucher, they were also letting their big mouths do some talking, so said the Bruins forward, who got the scoring underway less than two minutes into Game 1 Saturday.

Krejci said the Flyers were reminding him that the last time he was in Philadelphia for a playoff game, he suffered an injury that changed the momentum of the series.

Krejci broke his wrist in Game 3 of the series last year, a game the Bruins won, 4-1. But Boston lost its top center – and momentum – as the Flyers came back to win four straight.

“The guys from the other team, they let me know in the first period about last year,” Krejci said. “But I tried to forget about those things. This is a new year, new season, new series. We have so many new players on our team. Half of the guys didn’t even experience it last year so we didn’t talk about it that much.

“This is a new season and we were just focused for tonight’s game.”

Krejci – who scored twice and added an assist in Saturday’s 7-3 romp over the Flyers- said he wasn’t thrown off by the comments.

“There was yapping back and forth, so they kind of let me know but you have stay focused and I think that’s what we did,” Krejci said.

But certainly the temptation is to think what might have been for all Bruins players, coaches, management, equipment personnel and anyone else who follows the spoked-B. If Krejci doesn’t take that hit at center ice, most believe the Bruins dispatch of the Flyers and it’s the B’s – not Philly – in the Cup finals against Chicago.

Was the thought in Krecji’s head and did it motivate him to come out and have a strong game in the opener?

‘€œI try not to think about what happened last year but it’€™s in the back of my head,” Krejci said. “You don’€™t forget these things that often but I try not to think about it almost at all. It’€™s hard but I just try to stay focused for the game and my teammates helped me out today.’€

The first shot Krejci took – the first shot any Bruin took – resulted in a goal on a shaken Boucher just 1:52 into the game.
Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Boston Bruins, David Krejci, NHL
Claude Julien: We don’t need to change ‘a ton’ for the Flyers 04.29.11 at 2:06 pm ET
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Before the team left Boston for Philadelphia Friday, Bruins head coach Claude Julien said the Flyers are a better match up for his team than the Canadiens were in the first round. The Bruins captured three of the four meetings in the regular season and were even able to score on the power play four times, something they failed to do in 21 tries in the opening round.

“We match up well against them and they’€™re always close in tight games and we got to go in there with some confidence and obviously some determination,” Julien said. “Playoffs is a different situation than the regular season, but again as I mentioned it’€™s just one of those things that we feel that we don’€™t have to change a ton of things. And if there’€™s adjustments to make along the way, we just have to be prepared to make them.”

The Flyers, however, did not have big defenseman Chris Pronger at their disposal in the last meeting on March 27 in Philadelphia as he was still healing from the effects of a broken hand.

“He’s an experienced guy, a guy who has got good size as well and has got a good shot,” Julien said. “I know he certainly hadn’€™t used it much when he’€™s come back now. Whether he’€™s 100 percent, we don’€™t know, and it really shouldn’€™t matter to us.

“But he’€™s been a big part of their power play and when you get a guy like that back, it’€™s no doubt that it’€™s a boost for their hockey club and certainly helps. So we’ve just got to continue I guess playing the way we have been against them for most of the year this year. I thought we played them well and we came out with three wins, and I think we had the overtime loss.”

The Bruins’ only loss to the Flyers came with three seconds left in overtime on Dec. 11 at TD Garden when Mike Richards beat Tim Thomas with a wrist shot. The Bruins also showed they can win all sorts of games against Philly, 3-0, in Philly on Dec. 1, 7-5 in a Garden shootout on Jan. 13 and 2-1 on Brad Marchand’s goal late on March 27. The Bruins also appear to have the clear advantage in goal with Thomas starting all seven games of their series against Montreal while Brian Boucher was one of three different Philadelphia netminders to see action against Buffalo. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Boston Bruins, Brian Boucher, Chris Pronger
Hockey writers realize Zdeno Chara is still one of the best in the game 04.25.11 at 1:27 pm ET
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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.

Read More: Boston Bruins, Claude Julien, NHL, Niklas Lidstrom
Claude Julien: We haven’t played ‘at all close to the way we can’ 04.17.11 at 1:25 pm ET
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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.”

Read More: 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Boston Bruins, Dennis Seindenberg, Montreal Canadiens
Brad Marchand: ‘I don’t think anyone expected us to sweep the series’ 04.15.11 at 11:16 am ET
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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.”

Read More: 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Boston Bruins, Brad Marchand, Montreal Canadiens
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