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Shawn Thornton: Let up on the letdown theory 03.26.11 at 4:57 pm ET
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One look at the line score from Saturday’s snoozefest at the Garden would suggest the Bruins went through a pretty typical letdown game in a 1-0 loss to the Rangers, less than 48 hours after lighting up the Canadiens, 7-zip.

Not so fast, says Shawn Thornton.

“No, I wouldn’t put too much into it,” Thornton said. “I wouldn’t look too much into Thursday’s game and then tonight’s. This one could have went either way, it wasn’t like we laid an egg tonight. I thought for the most part we worked hard. I don’t look at shots too much, but anytime you outshoot a team 12-1 in the third period, you’d think that maybe you’d get rewarded with one. But they did a good job blocking shots, they did a good job of cleaning stuff out in front of the net. [Henrik Lundqvist] did a good job stopping the puck.”

Thornton makes a good point. The Bruins, who were outshot 9-0 to open the second, were hellbent on putting on a late rush on Lundqvist but to no avail.

Claude Julien agreed with Thornton’s assessment. A letdown explanation would be pretty lame.

“I think that would be a weak excuse,” Julien said. “We’re certainly not going to use that as an excuse. This is the time our year where you got to make sure that you’re able to push those games aside. There’s a lot of emotional games coming up in the future here, in the near future, and we’ve got to be able to respond night after night.

“It was more our team maybe not as good as the other team tonight as far as the will to win those battles early on and being heavy on the stick,” Julien said. “It’s unfortunate that the only goal that was scored may be a little bit of a controversial goal, but we had lots of opportunities to make up for it.”

It was also unfortunate Tuukka Rask allowed just one controversial goal and it ended up costing the Bruins.

“It’s disappointing to lose, obviously,” Rask said. “But I thought we put up a pretty good effort. Maybe it wasn’t a solid sixty-minute game, but we definitely came out hard in the third and got our chances, battled hard. A 1-0 loss is always tough to take when you don’t score a goal after you score seven. But it’s just a game and we just have to battle back [Sunday vs. Philadelphia].”

“Obviously, it sucks,” captain Zdeno Chara said. “We didn’t score a goal and we didn’t play our best.

Speaking of the Flyers, the fourth and final rematch of last year’s epic Eastern Conference semis is on the docket Sunday in Philly.

“That’s often a good thing,” Julien said. “We don’t have time to dwell on this one here. You got to turn the page. You win the big game tomorrow in Philadelphia, and you’ve had a pretty tough week against some pretty good hockey clubs. If you can come out of the there 3-1, with the week, it’s been a pretty good week. So that’s what we’ve got to focus on. Let’s turn the page on this one here and hopefully be a better team [Sunday].”

Read More: Claude Julien, New York Rangers, NHL, Philadelphia Flyers
Claude Julien has reason to believe Milan Lucic will continue to ‘come up big’ 01.26.11 at 10:46 pm ET
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Milan Lucic scored his 20th goal Wednesday night in the Bruins’ 2-1 win over Florida, and his coach is hoping to see more of that from the power forward in the post-All Star break portion of their schedule.

“I think what we’ve seen in the first half is what he’s capable of doing for us as we move on,” Claude Julien said. “He’s also one of those players that I think has always come up big in the big games, such as playoffs and all that stuff. He’s one of those guys who always rises to the occasion and you hope that continues as well.”

Lucic made it clear from Day 1 of camp that he had every intention of scoring at least 20 goals this season. Now that he’s reached the goal before the break, bigger and better things should be ahead.

“It’s obviously something that I talked about coming in, and that was a goal for myself and [to] reach it as quickly as I did, it’s a good step for me,” Lucic said. “I couldn’t be happier right now, but definitely not satisfied.”

Last season, the expectations for the 21-year-old star on the rise were the same but the results were not. He scored nine goals in 50 games during an injury-riddled season, with a plus-minus rating of minus-7.

“Yeah, a lot more, definitely,” Lucic said when asked if he might be enjoying this season a little more. “It was real tough going through what I went through. Being out for so long, and especially even when I came back, that high ankle sprain was still bugging me so to work as hard as I did this summer and to get rewarded for it thus far throughout the season is great. And definitely like I said before, I can’t stop here. I’ve got to keep pushing for more.”

A year later, he’s 22 and he’s already surpassed his career-best goal total from 2009 when he potted 17 and had 25 assists, raising those expectations that were there last season. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Boston Bruins, Claude Julien, Milan Lucic, NHL
Flyers help Bruins make dubious history 05.14.10 at 9:33 pm ET
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Summary — The Flyers became just the third team in the history of the National Hockey League to come back from a 3-0 series deficit and win a seven-game series, in the process coming back from a 3-0 first-period hole to score four straight goals to advance to the Eastern Conference finals with a 4-3 win over the Bruins at TD Garden on Friday night.

Tuukka Rask was the loser for Boston, allowing the four Flyers goals on 27 shots. Michael Leighton overcame a shaky first period to put the clamps down on the Bruins season with 25 saves. Simon Gagne scored the game-winner at 12:52 in the third period on the power play after the B’s were whistled for too many men on the ice.

The Bruins struck first (and, for that matter, second and third), jumping to an early lead eight seconds into a power play after Scott Hartnell went to the box for a high sticking call on Matt Hunwick in the neutral zone at 5:18 in the first period. Boston wasted no time, controlling the puck on the face off and getting a couple attempts on Leighton. The second — of the stick of Zdeno Chara — rebounded down to the right dot, where Michael Ryder sent it right back on the crease past a hopping Mark Recchi and the Bruins were off and running at 5:27.

Boston made it 2-0, again on the power play, at 9:02 when a broken rush through the neutral zone ended up in a reset by Dennis Wideman, who decided to take it all the way down the right wing into the corner and send it back towards the crease where Milan Lucic timed his crash perfectly to bang it past Leighton for the two-goal advantage before the first period was halfway over.

Leighton would let in a third straight Boston goal at at 14:10 as Lucic struck again when he turned a giveaway into a lamplighter when he rushed all the way down the right wing and let off a snap shot by the right faceoff dot that went five-hole and made TD Garden erupt.

But the Flyers, remarkably, refused to concede defeat. James Van Riemsdyk fought hard to the right of Rask, leveling Wideman and getting a broken-play dribbler under the net minder’s left pad for a soft goal that made it 3-1 at 17:12 in the first. It was Van Riemsdyk’s first career playoff goal in his second professional season (first in the NHL) coming out of the University of New Hampshire.

The Flyers made it a one-goal game early in the second period on an even strength play where Danny Briere was able to penetrate the Rask’s crease after Ville Leino put the puck deep. Briere did a spin-o-rama and put the puck across the crease, where Andrew Ference could not put a stick on it at the goal line and Scott Hartnell flipped it back over Rask at 2:49.

The comeback was complete when Briere struck on his own, this time with the assist from Hartnell at 8:39 of the second period. Briere came back down around the net and did a wrap-around on Rask that rattled through the net and back out the other side to tie the game at three. The play was reviewed but it was conclusive that Briere had put the puck in the net and Boston had relinquished another 3-0 lead in the series.

Three Stars

Simon Gagne — His Game 4 return from a broken toe made all the difference for the Flyers in this series as he scored his second game-winner of the series to complete the series comeback.

Danny Briere — Perpetual thorn in the Bruins side was instrumental in getting the Flyers back in the game as his goal and assist in the second period were the answer Philadelphia was looking for after it went down 3-0 in the first.

Milan Lucic — Two first period goals got TD Garden pumping as the Boston forward set the stage for the excitement that was to come.

Turning Point – When Briere and Hartnell teamed up to take over in the second period. The pair was able to bring the Flyers back from the brink as the Bruins went soft in front of Rask. The wily center and his large wingman were able to get deep into the crease twice to tie the game and give the Flyers a chance to win it in the third period.

Key Play — The Bruins took a too-many-men-on-the-ice penalty at 11:10 of the third period, which set the Flyers up to score the go-ahead goal by Gagne when he found the puck on the right dot in front of Rask for the wrist shot top shelf to bury Boston and its Stanley Cup dreams once and for all.

Read More: Danny Briere, Game 7, James Van Riemsdyk, Michael Leighton
Laviolette: ‘The question remains the same’ at 12:50 pm ET
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The Flyers had a light, optional morning skate before Friday night’s Game 7 against the Bruins in the Eastern Conference semifinals. Philadelphia coach Peter Laviolette insisted that nothing changes for his team heading into the biggest game of the season and that they are used to the pressure that this point playing “our fifth Game 7,” referring to the string of elimination games the Flyers have faced in coming back from a three games to none series deficit to force the ultimate game at TD Garden.

“We are in a familiar spot. It really is our fifth time that we have been faced with elimination and we are ready for this. The message hasn’t changed since Day 1 since I have been here to right now,” Laviolette said. “Everything stays the same, the meetings stay the same, the message is the same. What is expected is the same. It is important that we go our and do what we have been doing because, since Christmas time is has brought us a lot of success.”

Laviolette stressed that to win Game 7 the Flyers will need to have a good team effort in addition to the continued solid play of their stars like Chris Pronger, Mike Richards and Danny Briere. Pronger is a +1 with six points for the series, Briere is +2 with four goals and four assists and Richards has three goals and five assists at a -1.

“I feel like we are still here today because of what is in our room. A guy like Chris Pronger, not only has he proven it in the past, like you are talking about, but he has proven it already here,” Laviolette said. “Our team has been in survival mode. Mike Richards, a guy like Danny Briere steps up. Chris Pronger has played all those minutes. Guys who have proven they can get there and handle the pressure of an elimination game and not only handle it but excel in it.”

Yet, through the last three games some of the “grittier” player on the Flyers have stepped up such as Ville Leino (two goals and an assist) and Scott Hartnell (goal and an assist) who are a combined +7 as Philadelphia has made its comeback in the last three games.

“This morning we talked about how our entire team needs to be successful,” Laviolette said. “We rely on each other and it will be a team effort. If we go out and play the way we need to play to be sucessful tonight then the thing we will be talking about tomorrow morning is ‘what a terrific team effort that was.’ That is how we will find success tonight. It won’t be because of one player. Somebody has to score the winning goal. Somebody has to make the big save or block a big shot but in the end our best chance of success is through our entire group, the gritty guys.”

In the end, the question remains the same for these Flyers and Laviolette summed it up best when talking about the approach that Philadelphia has taken  to force the deciding Game 7.

“We really methodically went very slow. One game. Game 4 and here we are at Game 7 and the question still remains the same ‘do we think we can beat the Boston Bruins tonight?’” Laviolette said. “And, there is a belief in our room that our team is a good hockey team and we can win.”

Read More: Game 7, Peter Laviolette, Philadelphia Flyers,
Bruins choose to skip Game 7 morning skate at 11:43 am ET
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On the morning of the biggest game of the season, Bruins coach Claude Julien decided to let his players have the morning off as opposed to coming to TD Garden for a morning skate prior to Game 7 against the Flyers on Friday night. Julien said that since the Bruins had a late night in Philadelphia on Wednesday and practiced at Ristuccia Arena in Wilmington on Thursday, that it was appropriate to give his players the day to rest.

“First thing that I think you have to remember is that we had a late game the other night and didn’t get in until the morning. We practiced yesterday and did all the things that we needed to do to prepare for tonight. So, give our guys an opportunity to get some rest, simple as that,” Julien said. “We have done it before, sometimes in back-to-backs. Stay home and come to the rink. That was our idea behind this is that our guys need to rest and basically we have played these guys or we are going to play these guys seven times in a row. There is not much we don’t already know about the other team. So, come ready to play.”

It is the first time of the playoffs that the Bruins have completely skipped the morning skate through they have had optional skates and days off between games where only players receiving treatment have been required to report.

“Both teams are going to be reay,” Julien said. “Anytime you play a Game 7 where the winner moves on you have to be ready. For us it is a matter of not bogging them down with what has happened the last few games but focus on what we have to do tonight. The bottom line is, if you win tonight you move on and that is forgotten. But that is what we have got to do here is stay focused and stay prepared and I think that our guys are up to the task.”

As per usual, Julien declined to give any indication of what his roster would look like on Friday night but there was speculation after practice on Thursday that rookie center/forward Brad Marchand might get into the game after dressing in a grey practice sweater, normally reserved for the second line, as opposed to a red sweater that indicates the checking line and “fifth” line.

“Big players have to come up big in big games but at the same time I have also seen unsung heroes do that same thing,” Julien said in response to how Zdeno Chara could play on Friday. “In those kind of games you go in there and hope that somebody will make a difference and I don’t care if it is your best players or your role players. I just care that somebody comes up big and does something good for us and that is what you try to challenge your whole team to do. If you challenge only your key players then you are telling your other players you don’t care what they do. You want everybody to be difference makers, or go in with that intent anyway.”

Read More: Claude Julien, Game 7, Philadelphia Flyers,
Notes: Game 7 by the numbers 05.13.10 at 3:48 pm ET
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WILMINGTON — The Bruins are about to play in their 19th Game 7 in team history on Friday night against the Flyers. It will be the 15th Game 7 on home ice and the second time they have been taken to a Game 7 after leading a series three games to none (1939 against the Rangers was the last time). It is the fourth time they have been taken to a Game 7 after holding a three games to one advantage (1939 Rangers, 1992 Sabres, 2004 Canadiens).

The Bruins hold a 9-9 record overall in Game 7s and are 9-5 at home. They are 2-2 when the game is decided in overtime, such as last season in the semifinals against Carolina. The Bruins have lost three straight Game 7s after winning their previous six and this will be the first time they face the Flyers in an ultimate game.

Coach Claude Julien is 1-2 lifetime in Game 7s while Flyers coach Peter Laviolette is 2-1. Julien’s lone win came over the Bruins when he was the coach of Montreal in 2004. Steve Begin (2-0), Mark Recchi (4-3) and Dennis Seidenberg (2-1) are the only Bruins players to have winning records in Game 7s while captain Zdeno Chara is 0-4.

The Flyers will be playing their 14th Game 7 and their sixth on the road where they are 2-3 in their history. This is the first time they have forced a Game 7 after being down three games to none or one. Philadelphia is 7-6 all-time in ultimate games. Chris Pronger has a 1-5 record in Game 7s, Simon Gagne is 1-2 and Ian Lapiererre is 0-3.

Thursday quote — From Brad Marchand, who wore a grey practice sweater and may be in the game for the Bruins tomorrow night:

“It is definitely harder watching. You want to go out and help as much as you can. I would be very happy, very excited. I have been staying in shape and stuff and if I get the call, I will be ready,” Marchand said.

Marchand was asked if he could play the pesky, instigating role that he showed at times during the regular season.

“Well, you know, it is always part of the playoffs. The trouble with that is that sometimes you get dumb penalties and I know that is something we want to stay away from. We kind of let them do that and not focus on that tomorrow. We just want to play our game and if we do that we will be better off,” Marchand said.

Read More: Brad Marchand, Game 7, Philadelphia Flyers,
Flyers shut down Bruins to force Game 7 05.12.10 at 10:37 pm ET
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Summary — The Flyers became only the sixth team in NHL history to come back from a 3-0 series deficit to force a Game 7 as they beat Boston 2-1 at Wachovia Center in Game 6 of their Stanley Cup semifinal series. Michael Leighton got his first career playoff start and made 30 saves as the Bruins could not end their sudden scoring woes. Tuukka Rask was not up to the task to close out the Flyers for the third straight game as he allowed two goals on 27 Philadelphia shots.

The Flyers continued their charge with their sixth consecutive goal in the series as they opened the scoring at 6:58 in the first period. Simon Gagne put the puck on Rask who made the initial save, but Daniel Carcillo crashed the crease and prevented Johnny Boychuk from clearing the rebound. The puck squirted into the slot where Mike Richards was there to clean up the mess and Philadelphia had an early lead once again.

Danny Briere put the Flyers up by two goals at 16:20 in the second period on the power play as the Flyers had a 4-on-3 advantage with Marc Savard, Daniel Paille in the box for the Bruins and Chris Pronger for Philadelphia. Briere crossed through the slot and let a wrist shot off that Rask got a piece of with his chest and arm but still got through to make it 2-0 heading into the third period.

With Rask on the bench in the final two minutes of play the Bruins pressed the 6-on-5 advantage and Milan Lucic banged home a rebound with 1:00 remaining on the clock to make the final minute of play tense but Leighton was able to hold on. The goal snapped 134:12 of scoreless play from the Bruins as they had not scored since the final minute of Game 4 when Mark Recchi forced overtime.

Three Stars

Mike Richards — Scored the opening goal and assisted on the second to pace the Flyers attack.

Michael Leighton — Withstood the Bruins second period pressure and delivered a win to Philadelphia to push the Bruins to a Game 7.

Matt Carle — The oft-overlooked defenseman paired with Chris Pronger had six blocked shots to keep the puck from getting to Leighton’s crease. Carle also has a plus-6 rating for the series.

Turning Point – Briere’s goal. The Bruins spent most of the second period in the Flyers zone but started taking penalties starting a high-stick by Savard at 15:15 and then a Paille elbow at 15:49. Pronger checked Zdeno Chara at the top of the crease and went for interference and the Flyers wasted no time in the 4-0n-3 as Briere used Rask as a pinball flipper to stop any momentum the Bruins had gained.

Key Play – Leighton made a save on a Mark Stuart shot early in the third period off his shoulder and Miroslav Satan crashed the net but was unable to slam the puck through the crease and a chance for the Bruins to make it a one-goal game was snuffed out. Boston would go on the power play a few minutes later when Matt Carle went for tripping at 5:15 but could muster nothing as the Flyers were aggressive at the point of attack to thwart the chance.

Read More: Danny Briere, Matt Carle, Michael Leighton, Mike Richards
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