|The Hat Trick: Should B’s stick with Tim?||03.06.10 at 6:31 pm ET|
The Bruins came out flying against the Islanders Saturday at Nassau Coliseum, and though they ended up beating the East’s third-worst team by just one goal, Claude Julien will take it. Considering the team has won six of their last seven, yet at 69 points could be two losses (and two Rangers/Canadiens wins) away from going from seventh to out of the playoffs, he’ll take anything he can get.
The 3-2 win wasn’t necessarily pretty, and, as evidenced by Marc Savard‘s disgustingly lucky second-period goal and Michael Ryder‘s game misconduct, neither was the scoring sheet. Still, on a day where the Islanders swarmed Tim Thomas for the final two periods but still couldn’t break the Bruins’ impressive penalty kill, there was enough good to go around in the Bruins win.
There was plenty to take away from a win that the team will need to build upon if they want any chance at defeating Sidney Crosby and the Penguins on Sunday. For starters, the dynamic between Miroslav Satan and David Krejci truly is a beautiful thing to watch. After his second period goal Krejci told NESN that the two Europeans complement each other so well because the similarities in their style of play lead to a predictability as to what the other will do. They certainly kept if from Dwaye Roloson well.
Also, the Bruins continued to show their nack for scoring the first goal. Milan Lucic‘s goal at 18:26 of the first, his sixth of the season, marked the ninth time in the Bruins’ last 10 games that they scored the game’s first goal.
Here are the other intriguing storylines that stemmed from the victory:
WHO’S IN NET?
Two days after leading the Bruins to a shootout victory against the Maple Leafs, Tim Thomas made 37 saves to secure the victory in Saturday’s matinee. All of this, of course, has taken place while Tuukka Rask has been nursing a knee injury.
So how quick should Claude Julien be to dust off the Vezina and give most of the remaining starts to Thomas? After all, with the Bruins having won six of their last seven, Rask was between the pipes for the first four (and perhaps the only real difficult opponent in Buffalo).
The statistical edge would go to the 22-year old Rask, who has just eight losses on the season and has the lower GAA (a league-best 2.14) and save percentage (.926). He’s also lost just eight games to Thomas’ 15, though that will happen when you play around 400 minutes less than the other guy.
Still, even with the numbers leaning in the Rask’s favor, the last time the Bruins went into the playoffs riding the regular-season success of a young goaltender, they failed to escape the first round behind Calder Trophy-winning Andrew Raycroft.
Whoever the Bruins, who with 162 goals against have given up the third-least amount of goals in the East, elect to go with as their No. 1 goaltender, time is running out to settle on who the man will potentially be come the playoffs. In order for the Bruins to avoid the fate of the Flyers with Hextall/Snow, Wild with Fernandez/Roloson, and other teams whose goaltending carousel failed their playoff expectations, Julien needs to make up his mind.
SAVARD’S SCORING TOUCH IS BACK, KIND OF
It had been 18 games since Marc Savard had scored for the Bruins, and he used an oddity of Nassau Coliseum to his advantage to finally do so on Saturday. A goal’s a goal any way you slice it, and nobody said they have to be pretty. And if what happened Saturday will help him make up for missed time with a little more scoring, that’s just fine.
A missed slapshot from Patrice Bergeron while the Bruins were on the power play in the second period seemed harmless enough to Islanders goaltender and Rick-Depietro-replacement-of-the-year Dwane Roloson, but the funny bounce it took off of the glass to the right of the Islanders net helped it squirt back in front to Savard, who seemed to be the only one on the ice still following the puck. He used his skate to kick it over to his stick and effortlessly backhanded it into the empty net for his tenth goal of the season.
Again: pretty? Certainly not. Game-winning goal and maybe a momentum-shifter? Sure, why not? The Bruins have had a need for more scoring all season, so who is anyone to turn their nose at any added (albeit ugly) offensive output from their high-profile playmaker?
PENALTY KILL BENDS BUT WON’T BREAK
While the Bruins await word from the NHL regarding whether they will have Michael Ryder in their lineup in future games, the five minutes following his frightening hit from behind on Islanders winger Blake Comeau is what kept the Bruins from losing their grip on against the Islanders on Saturday.
The five-minute major came in a second period during which the Islanders fired 22 shots on Tim Thomas, so the idea of being shorthanded when the Islanders had found more life than they had perhaps in the entire game was certainly not an appetizing thought for the Bruins. Especially with the added bonus that they would open the third period down a man.
Though the Bruins allowed a rare power-play goal to Josh Bailey at 2:18 earlier in the period, it was what they did on the five-minute major that sent the message. With a 2-1 lead Tim Thomas and the Bruins stopped the Islanders and their six shots, reminding Scott Gordon and the rest of the league that though they certainly have their flaws, the Bruins are perhaps at their best when down a man.
The Bruins remain the league’s best penalty-killing team and it clearly gave them an edge in which they were unexpectedly peppered for the second and third periods. With the goaltending starting to take better shape with the improved play of Thomas and the eventual return of Rask, it will be a huge asset should the Bruins secure a playoff spot.
|Bruins top Islanders, 3-2||at 4:55 pm ET|
Summary — The Bruins began their seven-game road trip in fine fashion, beating the Islanders, 3-2, at Nassau Coliseum on Saturday afternoon.
Shots came early and often from the Bruins, and by the time the Islanders caught up to (and eventually surpassed) their pace, it was Tim Thomas who proved to be heroic once again for the Bruins.
Marc Savard scored for the first time in 19 games and it wouldn’t have come without some help. After a Patrice Bergeron slapshot from the point missed Dwayne Roloson’s net stickside, the puck took a funny bounce while Roloson was out of position. Savard corraled it and slid it in on the backhand for the powerplay goal. It was the Bruins’ final goal of the game and proved to be the game-winner.
Though the Bruins came out on top and scored two of their three goals after the first period, the balance of the game changed dramatically in the second period. After outscoring the Islanders, 15-4, in the first period, Claude Julien’s club added just 19 more shots the rest of the game while the Islanders had 34 shots in the final two periods.
Things were so lopsided in the first period that it appeared that the Bruins could fall victim of a low-scoring game despite tons of offensive pressure applied. That changed when Milan Lucic scored his sixth of the season from the circle at 18:26. David Krejci added his 12th goal of the season at 14:56 of the second period.
The Bruins needed to put the league’s best penalty kill after a scary moment late in teh second period. With 3:54 remaining Michael Ryder was given a five-minute major and game misconduct for hitting Blake Comeau from behind in the corner. Comeau remained on the ice as Ryder skated to the locker room, and after the Islanders winger returned to his feet the Bruins killed the penalty, which carried over into the third period.
Tim Thomas — Though it appeared the Bruins goaltender could have used an iPod in an uneventful first period, he survived 39 Islanders shots and secured the win by allowing only two past him.
Mark Stuart — The defenseman was a +2 and helped orchestrate the Krejci goal.
Matt Moulson — Were it not for Daniel Seidenberg, Moulson would have had two goals. Still, his third-period tally made it a game again.
Turning point — Ryder’s five-minute major led to an effective penalty right as the Islanders were hitting their stride offensively. Though they were able to get on the board in the third period, the Bruins were able to silence a buzzing Islanders offense when they were pestering Thomas the most they had all game.
Key Play — Savard’s goal in the second period. It proved to mean more than just a tally on the scoreboard when Josh Bailey was stopped by Thomas on a very similar play in the final minute of the second period. The two plays gave evidence to the fact that on where shots were abundant, the Bruins got the bounces that the Islanders didn’t get.
|Second period summary: Bruins-Islanders||at 3:48 pm ET|
With Patrice Bergeron in the box, Mark Streit, off a feed from Kyle Okposo, sent a shot in on Thomas from the circle. Thomas, unsure of there the puck was, satyed totally still as Josh Bailey knocked it in at 17:42 to tie the game at one goal apiece.
After failing to put either of their two shots from their first powerplay past Dwayne Roloson, a Dylan Reese interfence penalty gave the Bruins a shot at redemption. They made good with a little help from Nassau Colliseum.
A slapshot from Patrice Bergeron took an odd bounce off the glass to the right of Dwayne Roloson and shot back to the right of the Islanders goaltender. Marc Savard took control of it with with his foot and backhanded it into the empty net for his 10th goal of the season.
Scary moment with 3:54 remaining when Michael Ryder crushed Blake Comeau and left him motionless for a few minutes in the corner. Comeau got up and skated off the ice and Ryder was given a five-minute major for hitting from behind in addition to a game misconduct.
After the Bruins dominated offensively in the first period, the Islanders outshot the B’s in the second, 22-12, to bring the total shots on goal to 28-26 in favor of Boston.
|First period summary: Bruins-Islanders||at 2:50 pm ET|
The Bruins seem to have gotten a shot of energy with the return of Patrice Bergeron, and Islanders netminder Dwayne Roloson is taking the brunt of it.
After dominating offensively in a period in which they would outshoot the Islanders by a margin of 16-4, Milan Lucic took a feed from Shawn Thornton of a Dennis Wideman shot and beat Dwayne Roloson from the top of the circle at 18:26. It was the period’s only goal, but minutes earlier the Islanders came close.
With just over seven minutes remaining, an Islanders shot from the point led to a sprawling Tim Thomas giving up a juicy rebound for winger Matt Moulson. Daniel Seidenberg came to the rescue and cleared it out to prevent the Islanders from taking the lead.
Aside from the aforementioned bid, it was a pretty uneventful affair around Thomas’ net, though the Islanders did increase their offensive output in the second half of the period.
Jon Sim went off for tripping at 1:27, the only penalty of the game thus far.
|Boychuk admits ‘Oh, no’ feeling first game back||03.05.10 at 3:52 pm ET|
It’s rare when a hockey player admits the slightest amount of fear on the ice. It’s that lack of fear that separates those in the sport from many others.
But on Thursday at TD Garden, Bruins defenseman Johnny Boychuk acknowledged that he had a few scary flashbacks to Feb. 6 on the same ice when Mikael Samuelsson’s slapshot hit him just to the side of his left eye, causing him to miss the final four games before the Olympic break and Tuesday’s game with Montreal.
But those fears were calmed somewhat when he let loose one of his own booming slapshots in the second period, beating J-S Giguere and giving the Bruins a 2-1 lead over Toronto.
“If felt good, actually,” Boychuk said of his return. “There was a couple of times where I just have to get back into things, I guess. Just little things, I guess, but overall it felt great.”
“It felt better if there was a slap shot coming from the point that I had a visor on. There were a couple of times when somebody wound up and I was like, ‘Oh, no’ and a flashback of that shot hitting me in the eye or side of the head so it’s just nice having that little extra protection.”
Boychuk said the piece of mind was more than worth the minor inconvenience of extra eye protection.
“I just have to wipe it down every once and a while from all the sweat,” he said. “That’s about it.”
It was that cannon of a slapper that earned Boychuk a place on the Bruins roster and possible future offensive force on the B’s blueline.
|Thomas proves he’s ‘ready for everything’||03.04.10 at 11:24 pm ET|
Tim Thomas admitted he felt a little rusty at first. After all, it had been seven games with the Bruins and six Olympic contests that he had served as a back-up.
But aside from a short-side goal off the stick of Viktor Stalberg in the first period, Thomas looked like the Vezina Trophy winner he was last season in helping the Bruins to a 3-2 shootout win over Toronto Thursday night at TD Garden.
“My confidence going into it was pretty good,” Thomas said. “I felt real good in practice. There’s a couple of things that happen in games that you can’t really practice. That put me on my heels a couple of different times. You’ve got to be ready for everything as a goalie, anything that’s thrown your way.”
Thomas stopped Phil Kessel not once, not twice but three times on point-blank chances, including a breakaway in the first and in the shootout.
“At the Olympics, at the end of the practice over the past two weeks, I probably took 400 breakaways after practice and 40 of them were against Phil,” Thomas said. “I didn’t know exactly where he was going to shoot because he can shoot anywhere. I was just trying to do the best I could and I was fortunate enough to be the one that ended up on top today.”
“Outstanding,” raved coach Claude Julien. “For a guy that hadn’t played in a month, for him to come in and do the job he did tonight, we needed him. There’s no doubt. He deserves a lot of credit for this win tonight.”
|Second period summary: Bruins-Maple Leafs||at 8:44 pm ET|
Johnny Boychuk celebrated his first game back with a booming slap shot from the right point that gave the Bruins a 2-1 lead after two periods.
Boychuk took a puck to the face on Feb. 6 against Vancouver, suffering a fractured orbital bone. He missed Boston’s previous five games before returning against the Leafs sporting a visor.
His shot from the right point beat J-S Giguere five-hole and gave Boston the lead at 15:24 of the period.
The Bruins penalty kill has been big, killing all four Toronto power play chances. The Bruins are 0-for-2 on the man-advantage.
Tim Thomas was again big in net as he stopped his second breakaway threat in as many periods when Nikolai Kulemin skated down the slot after Dennis Wideman was whistled for holding. Thomas, who is 0-4-2 in his previous six starts, has stopped 13 of 14 shots.
Thomas’ last win was on Jan. 14 in San Jose when he made a season-high 41 saves and four in the shootout.
The Bruins out-shot Toronto, 11-6, and lead the Leafs in that category, 20-14, for the game.
Once again, Bruins are just 20 minutes from ending their drought at home, now at 10 games. Maple Leafs have lost all 33 games this season when trailing after two periods, going 0-27-6.
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