|Peter Chiarelli likes how Bruins match up vs. Canucks in Stanley Cup Finals||05.28.11 at 5:35 pm ET|
Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli did a pretty honest job Saturday in breaking down how he feels his team matches up with the semi-heavy-favorite Canucks in the Stanley Cup finals, which are set to begin Wednesday in Vancouver.
Chiarelli liked the way the Bruins stuck to their game plan for 60 minutes against the Lightning in Game 7, using disciplined defensive play and a strong forecheck to chip away at the Lightning in what became a 1-0 win after Nathan Horton beat the Tampa defense to tap in a pass from David Krejci with 7:33 remaining. It’s the type of game that the B’s brought Friday that makes him like his team’s chances with Vancouver.
“I think we match up size-wise, like you saw in the game last night,” Chiarelli said. “As the game went on — and I could feel this too — as the game went on, you got the sense that you were going to wear them down and something good was going to happen if you just kept kind of them same process, the same system, the same approach. Pucks deep, get behind the D. And I think the same can apply to these guys. Without giving away completely our game plan, that’s how I see us matching up.”
There is no shortage of star power on the Canucks, as Vancouver’s roster boasts the likes of Henrik Sedin, who leads all playoff skaters with 21 points and 19 assists, and identical twin brother Daniel Sedin, whose 104 regular season points led the NHL. Daniel Sedin and Ryan Kesler each had 41 goals in the regular season, whereas the Bruins’ only 30-goal scorer was Milan Lucic.
“Obviously they’ve got the Sedins,” Chiarelli said. “And they’ve played a lot below the goal line, and I think we match up well in that sense because we’re strong defensively. We’ve got some big bodies on defense. And we cover well below the goal line. Now they’re magical sometimes those guys so they’re always dangerous.”
“Their D is strong, I don’t know who they’re getting back. I know [Christian] Ehrhoff has been hurt. And the last pair was, I think it was [Christopher] Tanev and [Keith] Ballard, their five-six pair. But historically throughout the year, their D has been the strength of their team. From the puck-moving perspective, you’ve got the [Alexander] Edlers, the [Kevin] Bieksas, the [Sami] Salos. They can all move the puck and shoot a puck. And of course Ryan Kesler has had a terrific playoffs. He is a similar player to Patrice [Bergeron]. So there’s a lot of similarities. Obviously you’ve got the goalies. There’s a lot of similarities.”
One area in which Chiarelli feels Vancouver has an edge (duh) is special teams. The Bruins have just five power play goals this postseason, while the Canucks were able to knock that out over Games 2 and 3 vs. the Sharks. Vancouver has 16 power play goals this postseason.
“Obviously their special teams are better,” Chiarelli said. “Their power play is better and they throw it around pretty good.
Wednesday’s Game 1 will not be the first meeting between the two teams this season, as the B’s defeated the Canucks, 3-1, on Feb. 26 in Vancouver. For the Bruins, it was the team’s fourth victory in a seven-game win streak, while the Canucks had taken turns winning and losing their eight previous games (4-4-0) entering the contest.
“That game was one of the best games I’ve seen, the game that we played against them, one of the best games that we’ve played throughout the year,” Chiarelli said. “For them, I think they were in a bit of a funk. I had seen them the game before up there and it’s all relative. Their funk is a top twenty-five percent team, top quartile team.”
|Nathan Horton ready to face old ‘rivals’ with stakes raised||05.10.11 at 8:40 pm ET|
Back during the preseason, Nathan Horton, who had come to the Bruins after playing the first six years of his career in Florida, was gearing up for his first game against the Canadiens. Sure, it was an exhibition, but it was a big deal for a player who never felt he played in a major rivalry.
Yet it wasn’t his first rivalry, it was just his first major rivalry. In asking Peter Chiarelli about it for a story, the general manager said “the Florida-Tampa rivalry, when it was going, actually there were some good games.”
It was tough for it to be seen as a major rivalry for Horton given that the stakes weren’t nearly as high. In his last three years in Florida, neither team made the playoffs, or even finished better than third in the Southeast Division. Horton had identified the in-state battle as being the closest thing he had to preparation for Bruins-Habs, saying he had “a little rivalry with Tampa Bay in Florida, but not really.”
What a difference a year makes.
Last season, only three points separated the fourth-place Lightning from the last-place Panthers in the cellar of their division. A year later, Horton is finally up to face the Lightning, though it’s taken relocation for him and major changes to Tampa Bay’s organization and roster to make it possible.
With a new general manager in Steve Yzerman, a new coach in Guy Boucher and a revamped roster, the Lightning are ready to storm into Boston this weekend with the intention of grabbing a lead in the Eastern Conference finals. Horton, still in his first postseason, is looking for a different result, and when it comes to him facing the lightning, the stakes are finally high.
“It’s weird,” Horton said Tuesday. “I mean, I’ve played them so many times in my career from when I played [in Florida]. They’ve been great this year. They’ve changed a lot from when I was there. They’ve gotten a lot better. Different faces, a new coaching staff. They’re a real talented team, but it’s definitely weird to be playing them.”
For Horton, it’s simply a sign of what change can do. For a player who wanted out of Florida, he’s enjoyed every second (his smile would suggest he’s even enjoyed the struggles) of his time in Boston. Change has been good for him, and it’s been good for the Lightning.
“It changes so quickly,” Horton said. “It’s going to be fun to go back there, and hopefully we can win some games.”
In four games against Tampa Bay this year, Horton has three assists.
|Claude Julien: Adam McQuaid ‘should be back’ for Game 1 vs. Lightning||05.08.11 at 12:42 pm ET|
Though the Bruins are going to be without center Patrice Bergeron (concussion) for at least the beginning of their Eastern Conference finals matchup with the Lightning, they will likely see one player return from injury. On Sunday, coach Claude Julien echoed general manager Peter Chiarelli‘s comments from a day earlier, telling reporters that the team expects to have Adam McQuaid back in the lineup.
“McQuaid should be back for the start of the series,” Julien told reporters. “Things are looking really good for him.”
McQuaid has been out for the Bruins since leaving Game 2 of the conference semifinals in the first period. The rookie defenseman went head-first into the boards after tripping over his stick on an attempted hit on Flyers forward Mike Richards.
|Peter Chiarelli: Patrice Bergeron has ‘mild concussion’, likely to miss start of Eastern finals||05.07.11 at 11:25 am ET|
Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli confirmed Saturday morning that Patrice Bergeron is dealing with the effects of another concussion.
Bergeron, who missed nearly a full year after a severe concussion when hit by former Philadelphia defenseman Randy Jones in October 2007, collided with Claude Giroux with 17:30 remaining in the third period of Friday’s Game 4 win over the Flyers. He did not return, and Chiarelli indicated he is likely to miss the start of the Eastern Conference finals against Tampa Bay, with rookie Tyler Seguin getting the chance to take his spot on the roster.
“Patrice suffered a mild concussion,” Chiarelli said on Saturday, before adding that he thought the Giroux hit was “a shade late.”
While the Bruins didn’t release any information on the particulars of the injury, it appeared that Giroux’s shoulder made contact with Bergeron’s head. Bergeron slowly skated off the ice on his own power to finish his shift but didn’t return. The Boston Globe initially reported Saturday morning that Bergeron had sustained a concussion.
Chris Kelly stepped up from his third-line role to center the line with Mark Recchi and Brad Marchand. Bergeron leads the Bruins with 12 points in 11 playoff games. The Bruins will play Games 1 and 2 at home this week against Tampa Bay, with the series possibly starting Tuesday or Thursday at TD Garden.
|Marc Savard texting Claude Julien pointers from afar||05.01.11 at 3:11 pm ET|
PHILADELPHIA — There’s been no sign of Marc Savard since he sat at a podium, choked up, as general manager Peter Chiarelli announced the center’s season was finished on Feb. 7 at TD Garden. The 33-year-old returned to his home in Peterborough, Ontario, and since then, neither Bruins fans nor the media have heard a peep from the center. They’ve heard about him, as he reportedly has dealt with memory issues, but have gotten nothing from the horse’s mouth.
On Sunday, Claude Julien touched on the contact that he’s had with Savard since he was shut down due to post-concussion syndrome. Text-messaging has kept the two in touch, with Savard even trying to help his boss call the shots at times.
“I’ve been texting back and forth with Marc, no doubt. For me personally, there’s the player and then there’s the individual. I care for him as an individual and I really hope that he gets better for the ask of his personal life,” Julien said after Sunday’s practice. “I’ve been texting to see how he’s doing, and every once in a while I’ve said, ‘I thought you were going to text me to give me some tips on certain parts of our game.’ As soon as I opened that door, he took advantage of it. I’ve gotten a few tips from him.”
One area in which Savard should be instructing Julien is the power play. The B’s are 0-for-26 thus far in the postseason, and Julien admitted Sunday that the unit’s performance might not be so bleak if they still had a healthy Savard.
“He was a guy that did such a good job on the power play,” Julien said. “We definitely miss him there, and that’s not a big secret. The way he was just poised and playing those areas, where to move the puck, it certainly created some awareness for the other team. They knew how dangerous he was. That’s a part where, yeah, we lost that part when we lost Marc Savard. It’s not a part that’s easily replaceable.
“Somehow we’ve got to find a way to improve our power play without Marc Savard. It’s been a challenge, but even Marc this year was not as good a player as he was before that major injury of his, and I still remember the first few years I had him. You couldn’t have asked for a better power play guy. When you lose a guy like that, you’re losing a real good player and a real good piece of your power play.”
|No suspension for Andrew Ference after hit on Jeff Halpern||04.28.11 at 12:49 pm ET|
Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli told reporters Thursday that defenseman Andrew Ference will not be suspended for his collision with Canadiens forward Jeff Halpern in the third period of Boston’s 4-3 overtime win over Montreal Wednesday.
Halpern went down hard after hitting the shoulder of Ference in the Bruins’ zone, and it was reported following the game that Ference would have a phone hearing with the league at 11 a.m. on Thursday.
Ference had two hearings with the league during the series. He was fined $2,500 for giving Canadiens fans the middle finger after scoring in Game 4.
|As Bruins power play struggles, Tomas Kaberle still trying to ‘prove why I’m here’||04.24.11 at 1:20 pm ET|
Tomas Kaberle was supposed to be the answer for Boston’s power play. So far, there’s just been more questions in what has been an ugly tryout for a new contract.
Seemingly destined to don the black and gold eventually, the Bruins finally acquired the heavily sought-after free agent-to-be 10 days prior to the trade deadline. Since then, the Bruins’ power play has been almost unfathomably unproductive. With just seven goals in 80 opportunities, the unit has been clicking just eight percent of the time. Even general manager Peter Chiarelli said recently that the team expected more out of the defenseman when they sent a first-round pick and highly touted prospect Joe Colborne to Toronto in exchange for the veteran defenseman. Chiarelli isn’t the only one hoping Kaberle can pick it up.
“I always put a lot of pressure on myself,” Kaberle said Sunday at TD Garden. “Hopefully I can prove why I’m here. I would like to help with every little thing I can do on the ice. Obviously, I am one of the guys on the PP, and it would be nice to be something going there.”
Kaberle had nine points for the Bruins in his 24 regular season contests since being acquired, but as the spotlight grew brighter with the arrival of the playoffs, the 33-year-old had an ugly showing. He reversed a puck too hard in the Bruins’ zone, making for an easy Scott Gomez pass to Brian Gionta to set up what would be the game-winning goal.
From there, things didn’t improve as much as they needed to. Kaberle had major struggles in Game 2, displaying an inability to keep the puck in the zone on routine plays, a suggestion that perhaps he may have been pressing. If a turnaround is to be made, perhaps the defenseman can build on the fact that things have at least been looking up statistically. He’s had an assist in each of the last two games, and with how bad things were in Games 1 and 2, it’s a starting point.
“I felt like the first couple of games I could have been better,” Kaberle admitted Sunday. “The last few games, I’ve felt a lot better, and I’m feeling better confidence-wise. I’ll take it from there.”
Right now, any signs of confidence from Kaberle should be a good thing, as his play — despite making the as-advertised passes — has not been a major game-changer for the B’s in the postseason. He still isn’t producing on the man advantage, and his now-infamous fakes on the power play aren’t fooling anybody. Fairly or unfairly, Chiarelli’s move to get Kaberle will be seen as a major steal by the Leafs unless the power play starts getting the results that have eluded them for too long. There’s no better way to do that than to get the power play going, but teammates won’t let all the responsibility fall on Kaberle.
“I’m sure he feels pressure just like all of us,” Dennis Seidenberg said Sunday. “It’s not just him that wants to do better. I think it’s everybody that wants to create and wants to get that advantage you’re supposed to get. Right now it’s just not working, and I’m sure he thinks as much as everybody else about it — what he can do, and what we should do improve it. I guess it’s a work in progress.”
A first-round pick and a former first-round center with as high a ceiling as Colborne’s is not something a team wants to give up for a player that can help the power play be a “work in progress.” That type of package is reserved for a star player, and that’s clearly what the Bruins thought they were getting. There’s still time for Kaberle to justify the move and prove that the trade for a puck-moving defenseman was more than an asset-moving blunder, but for now the waiting game continues.
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