|Thomas Vanek on why he dominates Bruins: ‘You want to play your best against the best teams’||03.11.14 at 1:41 pm ET|
MONTREAL — The fact that Thomas Vanek has produced big-time against the Bruins in his career isn’t exactly a secret. Frequently referred to as a “Bruins-killer,” the 30-year-old winger has 30 goals and 31 assists for 61 points against the Bruins in 53 career games.
When that type of offense was being put up with the Sabres and Islanders (he had a goal and three assists in three games against Boston in his four-month stint with the Islanders), he was a nuisance for the Bruins. Now that he’s with the Canadiens after a deadline-day shocker, he could be a big problem.
On Tuesday, Vanek participated in his first practice with the Canadiens after playing in two games for them (zero points, minus-1 rating). After it, he downplayed his dominance against the B’s.
“I think numbers are numbers. Sometimes they’re overblown,” he said. “For me, I don’t prepare any different. It’s just another game, really. They’re a good team and you’ve got to be ready.”
While he shrugged off his statistics, Vanek did venture a guess as to why he always seems to have big games against Boston.
“The last four or five years, to me, Boston has been one of the better teams in the league,” he said. “You want to play your best against the best teams, but again, I think sometimes just the numbers are the numbers. I can’t really tell you why that is, but I can tell you that it’s a big game, it’s a great team and you want to play in big games.”
Vanek isn’t the only Canadien who performs well against the Bruins, as Montreal has taken both of the teams’ meetings this season and has won its last five games against Boston dating back to last season.
That doesn’t mean the Habs will take the B’s lightly, as the Bruins are a point out of first place in the Eastern Conference and are 7-0-3 in their last 10 road games.
‘First of all, the Bruins, this is a good hockey team,” Habs coach Michel Therrien said. “They are battling with Pittsburgh right now for first place in the conference and every game is a new challenge. Tomorrow is no different and it’s a huge challenge for us.’
Vanek has played mostly with Tomas Plekanec and Brian Gionta in his two games for Montreal. Therrien really wants Vanek to be a fit with Plekanec, one of the better two-way centers in the league, so he intends to keep him on that line for as long as it takes for the trio to work.
With a pair of games for the Canadiens under his belt, Vanek is still looking for his first goal with the Canadiens. Wednesday night, in his first home game with the team and against the team he’s long dominated, would seem to be a pretty strong candidate.
Whether or not he gets that first goal Wednesday, the addition of Vanek has certainly changed the look of the Eastern Conference and has added more fuel to an already-intense rivalry.
|Canadiens trade for Bruins-killer Thomas Vanek||03.05.14 at 3:37 pm ET|
While the Bruins’ top competition in the East had a relatively quiet trade deadline, it was the Canadiens who made the biggest splash Wednesday, reportedly acquiring Bruins-killer Thomas Vanek from the Islanders.
According to multiple reports, the Canadiens parted with a second-round pick and a prospect in exchange for Vanek, a 6-foot-2, 205-pound winger with 61 points (30 goals, 31 assists) in 53 career games against the B’s. The 30-year-old, who had played his entire career for the Sabres prior to being moved to the Islanders earlier in the season, has 21 goals and 32 assists this season for 53 points.
Earlier in the day, the Penguins traded a pair of draft picks to Florida for center Marcel Goc. Pittsburgh leads the Eastern Conference with 86 points, while the Atlantic-leading Bruins are second in the East with 83 points. Montreal has 75 points and sits second in the Atlantic Division, though the Habs have played 63 games to Boston’s 61.
For more on the Bruins, visit weei.com/bruins.
|Wild and wooly: Sabres hand Bruins first regulation defeat||01.31.13 at 9:32 pm ET|
Thomas Vanek scored a hat trick and Ryan Miller stopped 38 of 42 shots on the night as the Sabres handed the Bruins their first regulation loss of the season, 7-4, Thursday night at TD Garden. The Bruins were denied matching their best seven-game start in franchise history and fell to 5-1-1 on the season. Vanek now has 54 points in 46 career games against Boston.
The only significant action of the first period was a fight 2:53 into the game that had John Scott taking down Shawn Thornton in stunningly fast fashion with several rights to the face and head of the Bruins enforcer. Both men served their fighting majors and then Thornton headed immediately down the Boston tunnel to the dressing room and did not return. The Bruins did not reveal the nature of the injury before announcing early in the second period that he would not return.
After a scoreless first period, the two teams combined for six goals in the second, with the division rivals splitting the difference for a 3-3 score after 40 minutes. The Sabres took the first lead of the game when Vanek one-timed a shot past Tuukka Rask 1:38 into the second.
The Bruins then answered with a dominating 10-minute stretch. Rich Peverley scored his first on a Daniel Paille rebound from the edge of the right circle at 5:12 to tie the game. Brad Marchand then scored his fourth and fifth goals of the season just 3:11 apart, putting Boston up, 3-1 and capping a three-goal flurry in five minutes, 42 seconds.
But the game turned on two Bruins penalties called simultaneously as Milan Lucic was whistled for boarding and Zdeno Chara was called for holding, giving Buffalo a 5-on-3 power play for a full two minutes. The Bruins controlled the kill early but Vanek scored his second of the night and fifth of the season 60 seconds into the power play, making it 3-2. The Bruins killed off the final 60 seconds with Lucic still in the box. But the Sabres used the power play for valuable momentum, earning the equalizer when Tyler Ennis was left all alone on the right post in front of Rask. Vanek fed a perfect pass across the slot and Ennis didn’t miss. Read the rest of this entry »
|Bruins-Sabres Live Blog: Marc-Andre Gragnani makes it 6-2||11.12.11 at 6:56 pm ET|
|Vanek to be game-time decision||04.21.10 at 2:09 pm ET|
Injured Sabres forward Thomas Vanek participated in Buffalo’s morning skate prior to Game 4 against the Bruins at TD Garden on Wednesday night. Vanek was injured in Game 2 at HSBC Arena after taking a slash to his right knee from Boston defenseman Johnny Boychuk and sliding into the end boards. He has been seen wearing a boot on his left leg, and coach Lindy Ruff has not given any significant updates on his leading scorer’s status or availability. Vanek told reporters Tuesday that he would try to play in Game 4 and Ruff said on Wednesday that he would be a game-time decision.
“That will be a game-time decision on whether he plays. We’re just trying to get him a little extra ice time to see what he looks like,” Ruff said.
Vanek was not available to the media but was overheard talking to an assistant coach on the bench saying “I just don’t want to do anything to make it worse” shortly after the Sabres’ workout had ended.
Ruff also said that forward Matt Ellis would not play on Wednesday after suffering a broken nose and just generally being banged up after a second-period Boychuk hit in Game 3. Cody McCormick was recalled from AHL Portland and will skate in Game 4.
“Because he is playing very well. He is a guy that has played 16-20 minutes a game down there [Portland],” Ruff said. “He is a big body that can get to the front of the net. I think he can win battles down low. Without [Jochen] Hecht, without Vanek, without some bigger bodies, some of the battles have gone the other way and I think a big guy that will be able to win some battles will be important for us. He is thought very highly of by Portland, and if we can get 16-17 minutes out of him, I think he will be able to bring us a lot tonight.”
That would be a lot of minutes considering that Ellis averaged 10:13 in Game 1 and 2 before Boychuk’s hit limited him to sporadic minutes for the rest of Game 3. McCormick is a veteran of 190 NHL games, all with Colorado from 2003-09, and signed with the Sabres last summer and spent the entire season with the Pirates. He recorded 12 goals and 17 assists with Portland and a team-high 168 penalty minutes. For his NHL career, the forward has 30 points and 250 penalty minutes.
It will be interesting to see exactly what type of role Ruff has McCormick play Wednesday evening, either as an agitator to get under the Bruins’ collective skin or more as a forward to win battles in front of the net.
|No intent to injure Vanek but significant benefit for B’s||04.19.10 at 1:18 pm ET|
Sabres coach Lindy Ruff knows that a team’s “special players” have to be the ones that carry a team through a playoff series. Yes, the team that works harder, the scheme that is more effective, the luck or misfortune inherent in the playoffs all are factors in determining which teams take a step closer to Lord Stanley’s Cup, but sometimes it is just about which team has more talent.
“Your special players can still win the game for you,” Ruff said. “I think that if your special players have good opportunities they have to make a difference for you and that will be the difference in the series.”
Yet, Ruff and the Sabres will be missing the player that gave them a significant talent edge over the Bruins in the form of Thomas Vanek. The Austrian forward went down in Game 2 on Saturday after Boston defenseman Johnny Boychuk chased him down on a partial break and slashed at his knee causing him to lose his edge and tumble into the end wall. Ruff told the media on Sunday that he was pleasantly surprised about Vanek’s condition after initially fearing the worst but that he will still be out for Game 3 at TD Garden Monday evening.
“No step back but no progress,” Ruff said of Vanek’s status. “Same as yesterday.”
Boychuk has been getting some flack around the league for what some fans and media have called a vicious two-handed slash that was either over-aggressive or had the specific intent to injure. Boychuk was not having any of that.
“It wasn’t even that bad, I think,” Boychuk said. “He was basically almost on a breakaway and I was going to try and lift his stick on the left and I switched and hit his right leg instead of his left leg. I was trying to hit his stick to push the puck off, just so happens that I hit his leg and he fell down.”
Coach Claude Julien was also of the opinion that Boychuk’s slash was more of a “hockey move” than anything malicious.
“None of the above. I don’t think he was overaggressive. He did a hockey play. I think it’s pretty obvious, and I don’t want to dwell on this stuff, but Vanek got hurt going into the boards. It’s his left leg, not his right, so he got hurt that way,” Julien said. “I think it’s pretty obvious those are things that happen in the game of hockey. We all have injuries on every team, so let’s turn the page and move on, on that. I don’t think he’s overaggressive. He’s played well for us and I think that’s where we see Johnny Boychuk, a pretty good defenseman for us.”
Boychuk was adamant that there was no intent to injure.
“No, not a chance. Why would I want to harm the guy? It makes no sense,” Boychuk said.
Well, Mr. Boychuk, an injury to Vanek makes perfect sense if you have a rooting interest in the Bruins. Whatever the intent was, it is pretty obvious that Boychuk and Julien are sticking to their version of the incident. Boychuk will never admit to going after Vanek and to be fair the forward was closing in on goaltender Tuukka Rask with the puck on his stick. Boychuk was penalized for the slash and since the play was on the puck as much as the player their was no attempt to hide it away from the game action the way it sometimes happens in the NHL.
Ruff may be trying to paint a happy picture to the media with his “pleasantly surprised” comments but there have been whispers that the injury might be a high-ankle sprain, which would put him out of commission for most of the playoffs if Buffalo were to make a run at the Cup. Boston’s Milan Lucic had the same injury this year and it took him eight weeks to recover and said that he feels for Vanek if that is indeed the case.
“Ever since I got it I don’t wish that injury on anyone,” Lucic said. “It is definitely the toughest injury that I have gone through and I think everyone who has had it will tell you the same thing.”
The matchups in the series are such that players like Derek Roy, Tim Connolly for Buffalo and Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci for the Bruins effectively cancel each other out. Even the defensive pairings are similar with both teams having one of the tallest defensemen in NHL history with Zdeno Chara and rookie Tyler Myers. Vanek was the key for the Sabres though and Ruff knows it.
“I’m looking ahead. I am looking at tonight’s game. That’s my only focus. We need some guys to be better. When you say you have to work real hard, you can work as hard as you want but if the puck doesn’t go in the net, you don’t win the game,” Ruff said.
|Miller and Sabres claim Game 1||04.15.10 at 9:43 pm ET|
Summary — Playoff hockey is a different animal than its regular-season cousin. The Bruins and Sabres proved that on Thursday in Game 1 of their quarterfinal Eastern Conference matchup that was won by Buffalo 2-1 at HSBC Arena in Buffalo. (Recap.)
Thomas Vanek gave Buffalo the early lead at 4:52 in the first period. He was set up by Sabres center Derek Roy, who won the puck coming out of the Buffalo defensive zone and started a break down the right wing. After making the entry, he skated to the top of the faceoff circle and laid the puck up for Vanek, who chose his spot (far side high) on Rask and buried it for the 1-0 lead.
Mark Recchi got the Bruins back into it during a second period in which his team rarely let the puck out of the Buffalo zone. In the second 20 minutes, Boston outshot the Sabres, 24-8. Recchi tied it on a power play (Toni Lydman – cross check, 8:44) when he found the puck bouncing in the slot after a booming one-timer from the point by Zdeno Chara that had been set up off the stick of Matt Hunwick. Patrice Bergeron tangled enough in front of the net to let the puck pass back through traffic on the rebound, and Recchi swept in to put it back on the top shelf at 9:30.
The tie would not last long. Boston was caught sleeping once in the second period, just long enough for Craig Rivet to beat Rask with a slap shot from the top of the right circle for the game-winner. Tim Kennedy set up Rivet with a back pass from the goal line as the Sabres captain came down the wing with a full head of steam at 14:10.
The victory gave the Sabres a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven series. Game 2 is scheduled in Buffalo for Saturday.
Ryan Miller — The likely 2009-10 Vezina Trophy winner and MVP candidate stood tall for Buffalo, especially in the second period, when the Bruins set a record with 24 shots, the most the Sabres have ever allowed in a period in the playoffs.
Mark Recchi – The veteran scored on the power play in the second period for his 51st career postseason goal, good for a tie for second among active NHL players.
Tim Kennedy — The Sabres forward was a pest on the ice all night and totaled a plus-two with an assist on Rivet’s second-period goal.
Turning Point – In the midst of withstanding a 24-shot period by the Bruins, Rivet was able to find enough time (which the Sabres had very little of as Boston controlled the puck all period) and space on the right wing to let loose a slap shot after a back feed by Kennedy. The goal stopped Boston’s momentum just enough to allow the Sabres to catch their breath to finish the period with the lead.
Key Play — With Boston trying to claw back in the game towards the end of the third period, two consecutive hard-luck penalties that sapped any momentum it could have gained. The first was on what looked to be a phantom tripping call on Dennis Wideman when Roy went to the ice with hardly a touch at 13:20. Right after the Bruins killed that penalty, Miroslav Satan accidentally flipped the puck over the boards into the crowd for a delay of game at 15:40 that put Boston on the kill for half of the remaining four minutes.
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