|Hey Tim Thomas, what do you think of your Cup chances after another loss to Leafs?||03.31.11 at 11:44 pm ET|
Before the reporter could even get the question out of his mouth, you could see the smirk on the face of the man who will likely win the Vezina Trophy this year.
The question to Bruins goalie Tim Thomas? Seems like Toronto (now 4-2-0 against Boston this season) has a done pretty good job of handling you guys. How do you feel your [playoff] chances are going forward?
“They’re terrible. We have no chance in the playoffs, we lost to the Toronto Maple Leafs at home,” Thomas said, with sarcasm showing his playoff-ready intensity.
It wasn’t the best of nights for Thomas, who had his shutout streak snapped at 122 minutes, 21 seconds when Luke Schenn scored just over seven minutes into the game. And yes, the Bruins did lose for just the third time this season in 31 games when leading after two periods. And yes, they also fell to 2-6 this year in shootouts.
But after his brush with sarcasm, Thomas gave a more direct and heartfelt response.
“I mean Toronto has definitely had our number and they’ve played better than us when we’ve played against them this year. But they have a good team with a lot of speed and a lot of talent. I don’t get to watch them all year long, but if they played the same way every game this year like they played against us, I’d expect them to be in a better spot.”
Hmmmm. That could be taken two different ways. Toronto – with players like Joffrey Lupul and Phil Kessel – is talented. But they also have 82 points now, and still on the outside, looking in on the race for the eighth and final playoff spot. Which brings us to the Bruins.
How important is it for the Bruins to get that momentum heading into the NHL’s second – and most important – season?
“I think it’s pretty good to take the same theory that you’re going to have to take in the playoffs, which is the same theory that you should have in the regular season, which is not too high and not too low. We’ve had some big wins here recently, beating Montreal, Philadelphia, Chicago, and now it’s kind of a tough loss to take. But in either case it should be not too high, not too low. Don’t think you’re too good if you get that win and don’t think you’re too bad if you get that loss.”
As for the goals the Leafs scored, Thomas said they were pretty similar to the ones they’ve scored all season against the Bruins.
“They’re typical Toronto goals,” Thomas said. “They’ve had a lot of those against us this year. Montreal had the same at one point, just seems to be the way it’s worked out.”
But to Thomas, it means nothing going foward.
|Bruins lose to Maple Leafs in shootout||at 9:53 pm ET|
The Bruins fell to the Maple Leafs, 4-3, in a shootout Thursday night at TD Garden.
The Bruins got goals from Brad Marchand, David Krejci and Andrew Ference. All three Bruins goals came in the second period. Tim Thomas made 32 saves in regulation, and made the save of the game in stopping Mikhail Grabovski on a penalty shot in overtime.
However, the Bruins blew two leads in the game. Joffrey Lupul struck for two goals for Toronto ‘ both of the Toronto forward’s tallies were of game-tying variety, as his second period power-play goal knotted the game at two, and his third-period goal made it 3-3. Lupul went off for slashing Tomas Kaberle with 1:05 remaining in overtime.
The Capitals defeated the Blue Jackets Thursday, so the Bruins are now four points behind Washington. Bruins will wrap up their three-game home-stand on Saturday when they host the Thrashers in a matinee.
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE BRUINS
– Milan Lucic became the 10th player in the post-lockout NHL to have 30 goals, 30 assists and 100 penalty minutes in a season when he assisted Krejci’s second-period goal. Lucic later added to his penalty minute total by fighting Jay Rosehill.
– With Marchand’s shorthanded goal, he moved into a three-way tie for second in the NHL. It also gave him points in three straight games, and he now has five points (2 G, 3 A) over his last five contests.
– Krejci’s goal preserved the high level at which the B’s center has produced. Since Jan. 11, Krejci has not gone more than two consecutive games without a point. He has five (1 G, 4 A) over his last five games.
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE BRUINS
– Zdeno Chara went missing for a bit. After his shift with 2:46 remaining in the second period, the Bruins captain was not on the bench, and he was nowhere to be seen as the third period began. He ended up returning to the at 3:05 and playing the third period without appearing hindered, so the B’s seem to have dodged a bullet after a scare to one of their most important players.
– Toronto initially got on the board because a puck deflected off former Leaf Tomas Kaberle. The tally was credited to Luke Schenn. The goal also gave Schenn goals against Thomas in the last two meetings between the two clubs. Not bad for Schenn considering he’s scored just three other times this season.
– Schenn’s first-period tally broke up Thomas’ shutout streak at 1:22:21. For a while it seemed it would take a flukey goal to end the streak, and it did.
– Bruins fans seemed to dislike hearing a Phil Kessel assist being announced more than they did seeing a Toronto goal scored. The former Bruin picked up helpers on both of Lupul’s goals.
|Phil Kessel, Mikhail Grabovski sink Bruins||02.15.11 at 9:36 pm ET|
Kessel ‘ who entered Tuesday riding a streak of 14 straight games without a goal ‘ scored twice on the power play for the Leafs, while Grabovski had two of his own.
Paille, who was playing in his first game since being suspended four games for a blindside hit on Stars forward Raymond Sawada, opened the scoring 8:04 into the first period thanks to an odd bounce off Mike Komisarek. The Leafs responded in the first period when Kessel batted a rebound past Tim Thomas with Zdeno Chara in the penalty box for boarding.
Toronto took a 2-1 lead in the second thanks to Grabovski’s strike, though the B’s came back with a power-play tally from Campbell and went ahead on Bergeron’s 20th goal of the season in the third period. Grabovski put the Leafs up for good at 18:59 with a wrist shot that beat Thomas.
With the loss, Thomas fell to 26-8-6 and has now allowed 15 goals in his last 10 periods. James Reimer got the win for the Leafs, improving to 7-4-1.
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE BRUINS
— Not only did Kessel score for the first time in 14 games, but he scored his first and second goals against his old team. Not counting Kessel’s shootout tally against the B’s on Dec. 4 (which does not count as an actual goal in the player’s stats), Kessel went without a goal in his first nine games against the Bruins since being traded to the Maple Leafs in September of 2009.
Both of Kessel’s goals came on the power play, so he was still a minus-2 on the night given that he was out there for Paille and Bergeron’s goals.
Turns out there will not be a 15th game of Phil Kessel’s goal-less streak, as he scored with 2:38 remaining in the first period to tie the game Tuesday night. After one, the B’s and Leafs are tied, 1-1.
Mikhail Grabovski took a hard hit into the boards from Zdeno Chara and was slow to get up late in the period. Chara went off for boarding, with Kessel tipping a pick past Tim Thomas on the power play. The Leafs finished the period 1-for-2 on the man advantage, while there were no Toronto penalties.
After one, the Bruins are outshooting the Leafs, 14-12.
|Brian Burke: Leafs ‘not done’ dealing||at 2:00 pm ET|
Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke spoke Tuesday about his team’s recent activity and what Toronto’s plan is going forward. All of that is directly tied to the Bruins, as the B’s have the Leafs’ first-round draft pick this year from the Phil Kessel trade.
The Leafs traded former Bruins prospect Kris Versteeg to the Flyers on Monday night in exchange for first-and-third-round draft picks. Unsurprisingly, Burke, who willingly traded three picks ‘ two of which were first-rounders ‘ to the B’s in the Kessel deal, is not set on keeping the Flyers’ compensation.
“We put the third-round pick in play last night,” he said. “As soon as we had it, we put it in play to try to get a forward back. We’re not throwing in the towel here, and we’re not done yet, either.”
Asked whether the scouts are happy that he has 10 picks in the coming draft, Burke said the less picks he has on draft day, the happier he’ll be.
“We’re not going with 10 if I have my way. We’re going to try and do something with some of those picks,” he said. “Most draft picks, you don’t see the player for three years, and if we can do something shorter term, we’re going to do it.”
As for the decision to trade Versteeg when he did, Burke said that he likes to “get out in front of the trade deadline” before the “aisles become crowded.” He likened the days leading up to Feb. 28 to a “cattle stampede” and said he has heard that the Versteeg deal caused other teams to ramp up their efforts to get deals done.
“I know from talking to a couple other GMs that our trade set off a big surge of phone activity last night,” he said. “There’s only so many quality players available at the deadline, and I know there was a frantic response to this trade, but we’ve been busy on the phones now for a while.”
Perhaps the most interesting response from Burke came when he was asked about the decision to trade Versteeg. The team had acquired the winger in the offseason and he had 14 goals and 21 assists for 35 points.
“I remember when I was a rookie GM, I asked Harry Sinden back in ’92. I said, ‘Any advice?’ He said, ‘Yeah, when you get a player that’s not working out, fix it.’ Kris just didn’t mesh here,” Burke said. “It’s no fault of his. He’s a good player and he’s a good guy, and he worked hard. We felt this was a good price tag for him, and we made the trade.”
The Maple Leafs have 52 points on the season, which is the fifth-lowest total in the NHL.
|Phil Kessel on undesirable combination of slump and Bruins fans: ‘It doesn’t bother me’||at 1:02 pm ET|
Phil Kessel is bringing the second-worst scoring slump of his NHL career with him as he and the Maple Leafs take on the Bruins Tuesday night at TD Garden. A popular target among fans given the trade that sent him Toronto prior to the 2009-10 season, Kessel said he isn’t worried about entering a hostile environment riding streak of 14 straight games without a goal.
“No,” Kessel said when asked about it. “Like I said before, it doesn’t bother me very much. It’s been a year and a half now, so I don’t think it’s that big a deal.
“I just get over it,” he added about how he is treated by Bruins fans. “Obviously, I loved my time here in Boston. I’ve got nothing but good things to say about the city, the team and the players over there. I loved playing here.”
Kessel, 23, last scored on Jan. 11, and he has not gone 15 straight games without a goal since his rookie season. He has been placed on a new line with Joffrey Lupul and Tyler Bozak.
“It’s been tough, obviously, but I think it’s happened to everyone in this league,” he said. “We’ve just got to keep going. I’m getting a lot of chances, to tell you the truth. I just can’t figure out a way to put it in the net.”
While many will be focused on the former fifth overall pick’s latest return to Boston, Kessel, who scored 36 goals in his final season as a Bruin, is hoping he can help the Maple Leafs pick up the pace a day after the trade of forward (and Kessel’s roommate) Kris Versteeg.
“He’s a great player. We’ve got to keep going here, right? We’re 10 points out, so we’ve got to fight here,” Kessel said. “If we win a couple of games and get right back in this. Hopefully that’s what we can do.”
|Wrong place, wrong time for Phil Kessel as he brings slump to Boston||02.14.11 at 11:38 pm ET|
When it comes to Phil Kessel, “draft” is a popular word. The fifth overall draft pick in 2006, Kessel was traded for critical draft picks in September 2009 and, in his second season in Toronto, was the last pick of the NHL All-Star fantasy draft.
Selections aside, it’s hard to imagine anyone could have drafted such a lousy script for the 23-year-old of late. The former 36-goal scorer for the Bruins has been freezing for the Maple Leafs over the last month, racking up a grand total of zero goals in his last 14 games.
With Kessel’s luck, he is ‘ of course ‘ going to be in town Tuesday to potentially extend that streak to 15 games, the longest stretch of games without a goal for Kessel since his rookie year in Boston. In that 2006-07 campaign, Kessel failed to score from Jan. 18 to Feb. 20, though the combination of adjusting to the league as a rookie and coming off surgery for cancer is probably the toughest thing a player could face.
Incidentally, he also went 14 games without a goal during the 2008-09 season, and that stretch also occurred around the same part of the season, lasting from Jan. 6 to Feb. 21. The months of January and February have not been nice to Kessel, and as he’ll surely be reminded of Tuesday, neither has the Garden crowd when he and his Maple Leafs have rolled into town.
While Bruins scorers have also had their slumps (Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton have had goal-less streaks of 12 and 10, respectively, at points this season, while Blake Wheeler‘s 14-game goal slump matches Kessel’s), here’s a fun stat to play off of Kessel’s current drought: Entering Tuesday, only one Bruins player has a longer streak of games without a goal than Kessel ‘ defenseman Andrew Ference, who has gone 16 games. Not surprisingly, nobody will be getting on the blueliner any time soon for that.
While Bruins fans will enjoy every moment of Kessel’s struggles (especially if Tyler Seguin scores, which will be the cue for a certain chant), Toronto fans have been nearly as relentless in their treatment of the player their team traded three high picks to acquire. Check out this picture from Puck Daddy, a great hockey blog on Yahoo! Sports:
That’s just cruel. Kessel will be at TD Garden on Tuesday, but whether he is once again ‘missing’ for the Maple Leafs remains to be seen. Things haven’t been rosy for Kessel and the Leafs, as the team has 52 points (fifth-worst in the NHL as of Monday night) and said earlier in his drought that it “might not be working out here” before backpedaling. Kessel will be skating on a line with Joffrey Lupul and Tyler Bozak.
NAME THAT QUOTE
As noted above, the Bruins and Leafs have each had their scorers face slumps this season. Below are two quotes, one of which is Claude Julien on a Bruins player at some point this season. The other is Leafs coach Ron Wilson on Kessel.
‘There’s been a lot of talk about [player] not scoring goals. Well, I can stand here tonight and when I see the effort that [player] puts in the game, I can live with that. Obviously I would like to see him score and I think everybody would. You’ve got to recognize when a guy is not scoring goals, but you also have to recognize some of the good things he does.”
‘[He] is the one who has to work his way out of this. There is only so much you can do to help him in terms of playing with different people. He has to go earn his chances and dig in and help in other ways until the puck goes in the net.’