|Taking the edge off the Bruins||05.11.10 at 2:30 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — Somebody needs to take a little bit of an edge off these Bruins.
Captain Zdeno Chara made a half-admission after Game 5 on Monday night that the team may have been a touch nervous heading into what could have been a series-clinching victory.
I don’t know if we were maybe a little bit nervous. It’s hard to explain and really find words for it so for sure we didn’t play with the composure we were playing with,” Chara said Monday. “Maybe it wasn’t nervous, it was just’¦ we couldn’t make those plays we normally do, strong plays with the puck, plays that we are normally doing and all of the sudden it was tough for us to make those plays.”
In the grand world of hockey cliches, this is what is called “clutching the stick.” The Bruins need someone, be it Johnny Boychuk and his eccentric antics, Shawn Thornton and his smile and his wife’s cooking or Claude Julien putting “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” on repeat on the team plane.
“Everybody can keep it loose and there is no reason to tense up and grip the sticks too tight,” Boychuk said. “We know what we have to do and just go out there and do it. There are times to keep loose and times to focus and we know that and that is what we have been trying to do.”
Thornton was of the opinion that, heading into Game 5, the team was relatively loose and had a good energy level. For the most part the Bruins tend to be a loose team. Chara and Patrice Bergeron are serious with the media and on the ice but there are moments when you catch them joking around with the guys. Thornton thinks that everybody on the team has a role to play in taking the edge off. He would not name specific characters for fear of being labeled the jokester by the coaching staff.
“We have got a few guys who like to keep things loose. It wasn’t too tense today [Tuesday,” Thornton said. “We did a pretty good job of forgetting about losses and forgetting about wins and moving on. We learned some things today and move on to the next one. There is nothing you can do. There was only seven on the ice but before the game too, there was a lot of energy. I don’t know. We definitely didn’t play the game we wanted to but honestly I thought going into it that we felt pretty good.”
Coach Claude Julien agreed that everybody on the teams plays their part in keeping the room loose and said that, when it really come down to it, winning is what puts a smiles on everyone’s face.
“We all have a part to do in that. I am telling you right now that we have too put yesterday aside and learn from it,” Julien said. “That is what the players have to do and so do the coaches. You know, we have to take the same approach as a group and that is what we have done here. We have to focus as a group and do what we need to do tomorrow and hopefully those are good things and that we can come back with smiles on our faces.”
|Morning notes: Gagne a game-time decision||05.07.10 at 1:55 pm ET|
PHILADELPHIA — The Broad Street faithful are hoping to see one of their old friends on the ice at the Wachovia Center on Friday and hope that he will be able to continue their season, if only just a little bit longer.
Simon Gagne will be a game-time decision for Game 4 after having surgery on a broken toe on April 23 after the fourth game of the quarterfinals against the Devils. Gagne skated at the Flyers practice facility in Vorhees, NJ on Thursday but did not take part in Philadelphia’s morning Friday. He was the only Flyers player to [officially] address the media before Game 4 and said that he will take part in warmups and consult with the athletic trainer and doctors before making a decision on whether or not he will play.
“There is no need right now to go out there and skate. I am going to wait in my warmup and put all the chance on my side and decide from there,” Gagne said.
Gagne had an MRI on the toe on Thursday after practice to make sure it had not moved or been displaced during the skate. All results were OK and now it just seems like how much pain he can withstand and how much the injury will allow him to contribute.
“I am going to have to talk to the trainer after warmup and tell him how I feel and get the call from the doctor,” Gagne said. “I talked to him yesterday and we went and got that MRI and we talked a little bit about what I have to look for to be able to play. Do, like I said, I need to get ready for warmup and we will chat with Jimmy [McCrossin — athletic trainer] after warmup and then we will decide if we are good to go.”
Coach Peter Laviolette said in his morning news conference that the emotional benefit from getting a player back is fleeting when it comes to the work it takes to win a hockey game. He would talk nothing of assumptions concerning whether or not Gagne would play or what his minutes would be other than to say that he probably would not spend much time on the penalty kill.
“When the players return I think there has to be more than the bang that you might get in the first minute,” Laviolette said. “There is so much work that has to be done throughout the course of the game and even when a player, when he does return, I think it is important that they are contributing factors. Maybe you get a quick boost but there is a lot of work to be done. Boston won’t put a lot of stock into a player when he returns to the lineup.”
The Flyers are going to need all the help they can get if they want to climb back into this series. Gagne admitted that a Game 4 timetable was not on his mind, he figured, at best, Game 5, perhaps later in the series. A player has to do what a player has to do. It is playoff hockey.
“To be honest with you, I was looking toward Game 5 or maybe the end of the series, but I started to actually feel pretty good before Game 3,” Gagne said. “It is the playoffs and right now we are against the wall and we have to win and we are not allowed to lose any games. It is right there and if I feel good enough to play, I will be there.”
Laviolette expects the Flyers to play to win Friday night, regardless of the status of Simon Gagne. He went so far as to say that the pressure had shifted to the Bruins, which is not all that unreasonable. The fourth game is always the hardest to claim. Boston found that out in Game 5 of the quarterfinals against the Sabres.
“I would expect us to play a really good hockey game,” Laviolette said. “We had a good practice yesterday, had a good meeting. Our backs are up against the wall but the pressure really shifts to Boston at this point, not so much on us. I would think our guys are going to come out with one heck of an effort tonight.”
Morning notes — The Bruins had a full team practice while only a couple Flyers took part in the morning skate, reversed from the situation on Thursday we Philadelphia had a full team practice and the Boston had a workout day (in Bruins parlance, that means they played soccer in the hallway of the Wachovia center). Shawn Thornton did not skate for the Bruins and coach Claude Julien said that “he exercised his option” on whether to skate or not. An interesting choice for a player who does not have a contract after the season ends. Trent Whitfield is the probably replacement for David Krejci in the Bruins lineup as Julien likes the idea of having five true centermen in the lineup but the decision between him and Brad Marchand will be made after warmups.
|Thornton prefers playing: ‘Watching hockey sucks’||05.03.10 at 1:24 pm ET|
Shawn Thornton is not the type to sit and watch his team mates go up and down the ice in an intense playoff game. Yet, in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Flyers, Thornton found himself a healthy scratch watching from media Level 9 of TD Garden, his heart trying to escape his chest every scoring chance the Bruins had on Philadelphia goaltender Brian Boucher.
“I want to be in every series. It is the best time of year, what you work for all summer and all winter long to get to this point. Watching hockey sucks. I would rather be playing,” Thornton said after the morning skate on Monday before Game 2. “I watched the second and third. The first I was working out. I can’t stand it. I almost had a heart attack. It is way harder to watch than it is to play. When you are involved you are in the flow but when you are up top or in the back room watching the game, every chance your heart jumps out of your chest, so it is tough but it is exciting as well. As I said before, I would rather be playing and that is one of the reasons because it sucks to have to sit there.”
Thornton will likely be in the lineup for Game 2, but not under the circumstances that anybody would find ideal. With Marco Sturm going down for the rest of the season (and the beginning of next) with two torn ligaments in his right knee, Thornton will resume his spot on the checking line and get down to business against the bruising Flyers attack. Thornton is a good Bruins citizen. He is always accountable, always present and always wants to play. There are more talented skaters among the Bruins forwards but he brings a lot of heart to the dressing room and the rink. He cannot see himself in the lineup as any type of reward because another one of the standout clubhouse guys has to face surgery and months of rehabilitation.
“I wouldn’t use the word rewarded. A good friend, good team mate is down. It is tough. I don’t like how it happened with the injury but I am going to get in the lineup and try to play as well as I can,” Thornton said.
A lot of people scratched their heads when Thornton was the man to sit as opposed to a player like Blake Wheeler, who has been ineffective around the goal and prone to turnovers through the end of the season and the playoffs. The thought was that, since the Flyers are so physical and aggressive, that Boston would need a player of Thornton’s talents to help counterbalance Philadelphia’s style. Former Bruins player and coach and current NESN and NBC hockey analyst Mike Milbury said on the Dale and Holley show recently that sitting Thornton would be a crime.
‘I would shed a real tear if I were a Bruins fan, if that happens,’ Milbury said. ‘I don’t think his presence in the lineup is given enough importance by the people in management, frankly. I’ve seen him sort of get jerked around this year and I thought it was a mistake. If he doesn’t play tomorrow I think it is a mistake, and if he doesn’t play every game the rest of the way I think it’s a crime.’
Crime averted though it took a catastrophe to happen.
Unlike Milbury, Thornton is not suited to the media level. He joked around with reporters that they had it easy on Level 9 but ultimately, it is just not his style.
“The game is so much easier on the ninth level. That is why you guys [the media] make so much money, huh? I kind of prepare the same way I would for any other game. It is easier up there, you can see things happen before they happen. It is a lot quicker on ice level so I just come out and do what I do,” Thornton said.
|Bruins know what to expect from the Flyers||04.30.10 at 2:32 pm ET|
The Bruins are in for a physical series. It’s just the nature of Philadelphia sports — if you play there, you have to bring an edge. This group of Flyers is no exception, with bruising bodies including Chris Pronger and Braydon Coburn on the blue line and pesky, instigator forwards Daniel Carcillo and Scott Hartnell up front. Carcillo put up an impressive 207 penalty minutes during the regular season and then another 18 in five games against the Devils in the quarterfinals. A big part of the how the series swings will be how Boston manages the physical game and how well the B’s keep their tempers when the Flyers inevitably get under their its skin.
An interesting situation pops up with the Bruins as the return of Marc Savard from concussion causes a player to get bumped from the lineup. Indications from the last three days of practice are that nominal enforcer Shawn Thornton will sit, as Blake Wheeler may take his spot on the checking line. Coach Claude Julien warned not to assume that a decision had been made, but often this season what we have seen in practice is what we see come game time. Either way, Julien does not seem to see the loss of Thornton on the ice as a major concern.
“We are, I guess I would consider us ‘team tough.’ I don’t see any issues any way we go, and if there is, they will be addressed. It is as simple as that,” Julien said.
Thornton does not see himself as only a tough guy, to his credit because he does do other things well on the checking line. At the same time, he is always willing to ring the bell when his particular services are called upon.
“To tell the truth, I think I can play the game besides for that and be a factor in anything, not just the tough man. If that stuff happens, I am more than willing to take care of it. I think it is more that I play with a chip on my shoulder and don’t back down and showing through the last few that I don’t just want to play against the tough team but that I try to contribute in every game,” Thornton said.
Boston did well against the Sabres when it came to keeping net-crashers out of the way of Tuukka Rask, and the team is going to have to keep cutting the timber again to make sure that the goaltender can see where would-be goal-scorers are coming from.
“The less time you spend in the D-zone is for the best, but they are going to get their cracks and you just have to stay composed and stay where you are supposed to stay and just work in front of Tuukka, because if you let him see the puck he is going to stop the majority of things,” Wheeler said.
Rask, as per his normal demeanor, did not seem too concerned about the Flyers’ style of play. The Bruins have seen it before and they know what to expect.
“We know them and we played against them and their style. They like to get pucks in and crash the net. That is what a lot of teams do, but they have big forwards and really that is their style of play to get in front of the net and get pucks in,” Rask said. “I mean, guys block shots and get me a lane to see shots, and in the last series we did a great job with that. As a goalie it really helps when you can see the shooter and maybe one more thing and when you see the puck it becomes much easier.”
The Bruins also need to be aware that the Flyers have a history of the quick strike while on the penalty kill. They had just six short-handed strikes (same as the Bruins) in the 2009-10 regular season but led the league with 16 in 2008-09 and were near the top with 13 in 2007-08. Granted, without Jeff Carter and Simon Gagne for the series because of toe injuries (Gagne may return if the series goes the distance but Carter definitely is out), the Flyers’ short-handed capabilities are hindered, but that does not mean the Bruins should take the possibility lightly.
“Definitely, you have to be smart with the puck, even on the power play. You can’t make lazy passes, and if you find yourself turning the puck over it is going to be going the other way pretty quick,” Wheeler said. “Eliminate turnovers is probably first and foremost. I think they live on turning the puck over and going the other way, and if we eliminate those things I think we will give ourselves a great chance.”
|Second period summary: Bruins vs. Lightning||03.25.10 at 8:42 pm ET|
The Steven Stamkos show continued late in the second period as his power play blast beat Tuukka Rask for his 45th goal of the season. Not only did the goal with 25.8 seconds left in the period put Tampa Bay up, 4-2 after two periods, it tied the unsung star with Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin for the NHL lead.
Chara had a couple of bad giveaways in his own zone in the first period but scored Boston’s first goal with an aggressive pinch up the slot with 26.8 seconds left.
Then, in the second period, Boychuk lost control of the puck behind Tuukka Rask. It was stolen by Paul Szczechura, who put it past the unsuspecting Bruins netminder for a 3-1 Tampa lead.
But Boychuk, like Chara, redeemed himself with a nifty shot from the low right point. Boychuk used the screen in front of Antero Niittymaki beautifully and when the puck went through the five-hole, the Bruins had closed the gap again to one at the 10:22 mark.
In the opening two minutes, there was an ironic moment as Shawn Thornton took out Kurtis Foster on the corner boards to the right of Niittymaki. The check close to the head of Foster could be the first instance of discipline from the new NHL ‘Blindshot Headshot’ rule enacted earlier in the day.
Bruins are more-than-doubling up Tampa Bay on the shot clock, 31-15, after 40 minutes.
|First period summary: Bruins-Thrashers||03.23.10 at 7:41 pm ET|
Tuesday’s contest basically amounts to a playoff game between the Bruins and the Thrashers in Atlanta. The Thrashers start the night one point behind the Bruins for the final playoff and an outright win would see them jump Boston in the standings.
Boston is doing its best to make sure that does not happen.
After a slow start Boston broke for the first goal when a Bruins shot got caught in traffic through the crease in front of Thrashers’ goaltender Johan Hedberg. Blake Wheeler and Michael Ryder started banging around on the puck causing it to bounce to the far side of the crease where David Krejci snuck in from behind the goal line to pound it home for the goal advantage at 9:25.
After that the Bruins started gaining more opportunities and taking the momentum away from the Thrashers in their home at Phillips Arena. To try and stop that momentum the Thrashers forward Eric Boulton signaled Bruins enforcer Shawn Thornton for a fight at 11:00. Boulton got his arm caught in his sleeve to start the fight and Thornton got a couple of shots in before the pair skated at center ice in a draw before Thornton tugged Boulton’s sweater over his head to end it.
Overall the compete level for each team is relatively high, as it should be at this juncture in the season but Boston leads 1-0 heading into the second.
Shots through first:
Boston – 10
Atlanta – 7
|Shawn Thornton press conference, 3/18||03.18.10 at 10:12 pm ET|