|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.
|Sounds of the game… Flyers 4, Bruins 3, OT||02.07.09 at 9:04 pm ET|
The Bruins under Claude Julien rarely blow leads at home. They almost NEVER blow two-goal leads.
Saturday they did both to the very hungry Philadelphia Flyers.
After beating Philadelphia, 3-1, on Wednesday with an extremely sound game and a nearly perfect third period, the Bruins looked very tired once they went up by two with their fastest two goals since Barry Pederson and Norman Leveille scored eight seconds apart on Dec. 20, 1981.
But the Flyers were the better and more desperate team for the last 43 minutes of this one, and you’ll get no argument from the Black and Gold on that point.
Yes, they could’ve won when the Flyers’ Antero Niittymaki inexplicably knocked the puck up and over the boards for a delay of game penalty in the final 90 seconds.
Yes, they could’ve won it when Dennis WIdeman’s shot from the left point and rang off the right post in overtime.
It was Jones who hit Patrice Bergeron from behind on Oct. 27, 2007 at the Garden, causing Bergeron to miss the rest of the season with a grade three concussion.
|B’s talked about signing Shanahan||01.29.09 at 2:58 pm ET|
According to several hockey sources, the Bruins and current New Jersey Devils forward Brendan Shanahan discussed a potential one-year deal during the first few months of the hockey season — but both sides ultimately opted to go in different directions. The B’s decided to stick with the exciting young talent that’s performed so very well for them this season, and the right-handed shooting Shanahan inked a one-year $800,000 deal with the Devils. Shanahan and his Atlantic Division-leading Devils will be taking on the B’s at the TD Banknorth Garden (7 p.m.) tonight.
It’s been well-documented that the Bruins have been actively looking for a big, left-handed shot to A) replace the lefty shot they’re currently missing with Marco Sturm gone for the season and B) add another southpaw shot to an overabundance of right-handed shooters (Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Blake Wheeler, Michael Ryder, Chuck Kobasew) on the Black and Gold roster.
The 40-year-old Shanahan has the grit, size and the power play skills that could have made for a potent addition to Boston’s playoff roster, but the veteran winger ultimately didn’t fit the left-handed shooting mold listed in the Bruins’ want ad for a “have shot, will travel” kind of player.
To his credit, Shanahan wasn’t talking about specifics this morning with any of the teams involved in the pre-signing sweepstakes, but the Bruins clearly fit the 20-year veteran’s criteria: a northeast location and a competitive situation.
“There were a lot of teams in the mix, but I don’t think it’s appropriate to talk about other teams right now,” said Shanahan, who has two goals in three games since signing with the Devils on Jan. 15. “I’d be lying if I said there weren’t other teams in the mix that I was obviously interested in and curious about.”
|Healthy bodies add up to B’s victory||01.27.09 at 11:59 pm ET|
Prior to Tuesday night’s 3-2 overtime win over the Capitals, there were several Bruins players that warned of the hazards inherent in adding several new, or returning, players to an established hockey mix.
Andrew Ference hadn’t taken a D-man shift since before Thanksgiving. Patrice Bergeron hadn’t played wing in an NHL game since his rookie season in 2003-04, when he did so alongside a who’s who of anonymous B’s teammates like the immortal Rob Zamuner, Michael Grosek and Carl Corazzini. On top of that, Bergeron was coming back from the second significant concussion in his last 15 months of hockey. Milan Lucic hadn’t thrown one of his patented teeth-chattering body checks during a live game in nearly a month, and hadn’t skated on the top line with Marc Savard since the merry month of December.
So it might have been both excusable and a bit expected if the Black and Gold dropped a game to an explosive Capitals bunch that has seemingly owned Boston’s number over the course of this year. It appeared early that the freshly minted skating combinations for the B’s were a little bit out of sorts and a lot of bit out of position. Throughout the game, the B’s never looked particularly crisp in their breakouts or razor-sharp in their execution. Despite those limitations, Boston still found a way to net the win.
As the game progressed the trio of returning players inched its way into the energetic pace of a playoff-style hockey game, and the healthy bodies allowed the Bruins to start resembling their recognizable first-half selves: a team that was in each and every one of their 47 pre-All Star break games from beginning to end. The Bruins again resembled a plucky puck squad that never lost a game by more than a two-goal margin, and that could brazenly skate against style employed by their opponent.
“It has been a while. I thought that all those guys handled their game fairly well tonight,” said coach Claude Julien. “I thought Bergeron, for being out that long and having to play on the wing, I thought he played well. Looch [Milan Lucic] threw some good hits out there, and Andrew [Ference] is such a smart player and he moves the puck well.”
Ference skated 22 shifts and ate up 18:43 chunk of ice time, and — more importantly – supplied the B’s with another puck-moving defenseman to allow Julien to pull back the reins on the rest of his fellow blueliners: Dennis Wideman, Mark Stuart and Shane Hnidy.
Lucic wasn’t quite in midseason bone-crunching form, but he still laid the lumber on four official hits and got back to his role of creating space for center Marc Savard to pull off magic tricks with the puck.
Bergeron was perhaps the most impressive player in his transition back to the ice as he skated five-on-five as well as on both the power play and penalty kill unit — and displayed a streak of fearlessness that led to Boston’s game-tying goal in the second period. In his first game back after missing 15 with a concussion, Bergeron was working the right point on the power play when he saw a puck headed out of the offensive zone and instinctively dove to retain possession.
“Bergy was amazing tonight,” said Shawn Thornton. “Obviously, he played the wing, and he did a great job there. It looked like it was Brian Rolston giving him the puck four years ago. He was great on the wall and all over the ice. It didn’t look like he had missed a beat out there.”
Claude Julien, in a delightful bit of coaching hindsight, shuddered at what might have happened had Bergeron lost the puck and allowed a short-handed odd man rush up the ice, but instead the youngster did something he hadn’t had a chance to do in over a month: he made a play. Bergeron quickly rose to his feet with the puck by the side wall, and reversed a cross-ice pass to a wide open Marc Savard at the right faceoff dot. Savard did a little stutter-step fake and then ripped a wrist shot past Jose Theodore to tie it up at 2-2. It was a big goal and a big play by Bergeron.
“You know, I went for it. I knew it was kind of a risky play, but I mean, if you don’t try sometimes you don’t get any results so it worked,” said Bergeron. “As soon as I got up, I knew (Savard) was going to be there and I saw him coming from the side a little bit so I just threw the pass and he made a great play, a lot of patience and he put it in.”
The power play struggled noticeably in the games immediately following Bergeron’s concussion, and one quick instinctual play illustrated exactly what the youngster contributes beyond the cold, hard hockey numbers along his stat sheet. Bergeron is one of Julien’s most trusted penalty killers and should get a huge slice of the credit along with fellow killers Blake Wheeler (5:01 of ice time on the PK unit), Zdeno Chara, Dennis Wideman, David Krejci, Mark Stuart and Stephane Yelle. The Bruins were short-handed six times and didn’t allow a single power play goal to a Caps team that is sixth in the NHL with a 22 percent success rate on the man advantage.
The lines were certainly a bit jumbled and the on-ice chemistry wasn’t always popping with the normal verve the Black and Gold have shown this season, but last night was the first step in a long journey toward getting their entire team back. It couldn’t have happened at a better time.
Bring on the role players
Tim Thomas obviously made some huge saves in the victory — including a game-saver on Nicklas Backstrom’s rebound bid of an Ovechkin shot in overtime — and David Krejci nabbed the game-winner in OT, but a huge debt for the win goes to the unsung guys in the B’s trenches.
Any good playoff-style victory needs a strong helping of role players filling out their puck destiny, and there was plenty of that on Tuesday night. Rookie Matt Hunwick would have normally played the role of seventh defenseman relegated to watching in the press box, but instead took shifts at a forward spot and skated with Petteri Nokelainen and Byron Bitz on the fourth line. Speaking of Bitz, the big, brawny winger earned huge verbal bouquets in the form of good-natured F-bombs from Shawn Thornton following the game — an appropriate tribute for a young hockey player who stuck his neck out and tangled with one of the NHL’s toughest guys in Donald Brashear.
“(Expletive) awesome. He was awesome. (Bitz) did a hell of a job. He [Donald Brashear] is one of the top three tough guys in the league. He did a great job. It shows about his character,” said Thornton. “I know the guys love having him in the room; love having him on the team.
“I know I love playing with him, when I was playing with him for a few games. I can’t say enough about that kid. He has great character; he’s a good person. He just did a hell of a job.”
Thornton rounded out the role players’ roll call when he scored Boston’s first goal of the night by dangling through a Capitals defender and lifting a nifty backhanded bid that actually knocked Jose Theodore’s water bottle from its nestled spot above the goal.
“Are you surprised?” asked Thornton. “I don’t score unless they are highlight reel (goals).”
|Sounds of the game… Bruins 3, Capitals 2 OT||at 11:19 pm ET|
It was an ugly game between two of the best teams in the Eastern Conference.
And appropriately, the contest featured a bizarre ending.
David Krejci’s shot ricocheted off Shaone Morrisonn’s leg and past Jose Theodore for a power play goal at 1:55 of overtime as the Bruins finally found a way to beat the Washington Captials, 3-2, in overtime. It was their first win over Washington in three tries.
Significant, if only because both teams felt afterward they could be seeing each other again come the spring in the NHL playoffs.
The game was also symbolic to the Bruins because of the return of three key components to their early-season success.
Defenseman Andrew Ference came back after a 31-game absence due to a fractured right leg. Milan Lucic was out seven games with a bum shoulder. And Patrice Bergeron returned after missing 15 games with a concussion.
|Bergeron-to-Savard make it a 2-2 game||at 8:21 pm ET|
In his first game back since suffering a concussion on Dec. 20, Patrice Bergeron made a tremendous individual play to set up Boston’s tying score. Bergeron, manning the right point on the power play, made a head-first diving play to keep the puck in the offensive zone, quickly rose from the ice and fed a nifty cross-ice dish to a wide open Marc Savard. The B’s center ripped a wrist shot from the right faceoff circle that rocketed past Jose Theodore to make it a 2-2 game between the Caps and Bruins.
Prior to the game, the Bruins mentioned some trepidation about inserting a group of healthy players back into the lineup all at once, and that appears to be the issue in the early going. Milan Lucic hooking on with top line skaters Chuck Kobasew and Marc Savard, and Patrice Bergeron jumping in with David Krejci and Blake Wheeler have made play a little ragged at times through the first two periods.
|Patrice Bergeron cleared by doctors, ready to play||at 12:18 pm ET|
Patrice Bergeron was cleared by his team of doctors yesterday afternoon following practice, and he will be manning the right wing alongside David Krejci and Blake Wheeler tonight against the Washington Capitals (7 p.m.) at the TD Banknorth Garden. Bergeron missed 15 games after suffering a concussion against the Carolina Hurricanes back on Dec. 20, and said it was a mixture of both relief and excitement to hear he was hopping back into live games.
“I’ve been practicing for a while and I don’t think I’m going to get any more contact in practice,” said Bergeron. “It’s a relief. To have that talk with the doctors and get cleared to play, it’s a good feeling.”
Bruins coach Claude Julien said that it was simply a matter of time after getting clearance from Bruins team doctors and noted Mass General neurologist Dr. Robert Cantu, and the time had rapidly arrived to put the 23-year-old back on Boston’s active roster. Bergeron began practicing with the team again back on Jan. 11, and since then he’d skated several different times at the wing position.
“That’s fine,” said Bergeron. “I already told Claude that I’d play wherever. I played wing in my first year and I felt good. Obviously it’s an adjustment but I’ve been able to do it. Playing in the middle … that’s fine too. It really doesn’t matter where I play, but wherever it is I’ll be happy with it.”
Bruins winger Michael Ryder is likely out with the flu tonight, which opened up the spot for Bergeron to slide in and take his place on Boston’s best and most consistent line over the balance of the current hockey season.
With the doctor’s note firmly in hand, the Bruins forward will be among several returning Bruins for the first game post-All-Star break along with defenseman Andrew Ference (leg) and winger Milan Lucic (shoulder).
“We’re glad to have him back, and under the circumstances this is really positive and great news for our hockey club,” said Julien. “Concussions are what they are and we really just hoped for the best. And the best is what has really happened. I don’t think — when it happened — that too many people thought he would be back this quick.”
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