|Andy Brickley on D&C: Bruins ‘the best team in the NHL’||12.21.11 at 12:14 pm ET|
NESN analyst Andy Brickley made his weekly appearance on the Dennis & Callahan show Wednesday morning with guest hosts Dale Arnold and Bob Ryan for his weekly discussion the Bruins.
The Bruins are the Eastern Conference leaders after winning 19 of their last 22 game. While they only hold a one point edge on the Flyers, the Bruins man handled the Flyers in a 6-0 win last Saturday, taking complete control over the East. The Bruins are in the middle of a five-day break right before the holiday season, giving Brickley and guest D&C hosts Bob Ryan and Dale, plenty to talk about before the Bruins get back in action against the Panthers on Friday. Brickley told the hosts that he thought the Bruins are currently playing better than any other Eastern Conference team.
“They certainly are right now, I don’t think there’s any question about it,” Brickley said. “You can point to all the statistics and numbers you want, but just give it the eyeball test and watch this team play. I guess the simplest way to look at it is as a collection of six defensemen, four lines, two goaltenders, the matchups that the Bruins get because of that depth and balance makes them the better team on most nights. And when you have that believability because you’re Stanley Cup champions — which was really the only element missing, I thought, from a pretty confident team over the last couple of years despite some serious playoff dramatic defeats — that once they became champions, that learning to win was embedded in them. And that’s how they play now. And if you combine those elements, yeah, they are the best team in the NHL, as we speak.”
Brickley chalked up the Bruins’ early season struggles as purely an emotional battle that veterans hadn’t dealt with before.
“They couldn’t get the emotional needle to where it needed to be,” Brickley said. “I think people were well aware of that within the organization, players included, that that was going to be the toughest task. I think you saw the younger players not have a problem with it as much as the older players, the established players, the guys that maybe had not won a Stanley Cup and now were finally champions. To understand where they needed to be emotionally game in and game out and to have to do it just a couple of months after doing it to the middle of June and try to do it in October was more difficult than anybody realized, myself included.
“I didn’t expect them to start 3-7. I thought at worst-case scenario maybe a .500 team through the first four or five weeks of the season, which would have been fine with me. But I got a little concerned at 3-7. When I heard players like Tim Thomas and Milan Lucic say, ‘You know, we’re not that far off,’ you look at the game tape and you break it down and you say maybe they’re right, what’s missing? And it was that emotion, that physical engagement that comes with the emotion of being involved in a game was the only thing that was lacking. And they found it.”
|Tim Thomas, Zdeno Chara lead B’s past Flyers||12.17.11 at 3:46 pm ET|
The Bruins ended the red-hot Flyers’ seven-game win streak in convincing fashion Saturday, chasing goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov and leaving Wells Fargo Center with a 6-0 victory.
Benoit Pouliot scored just 27 seconds into the game, driving to the net and cashing in off a pass from Rich Peverley. Daniel Paille then put a rebound off a Dennis Seidenberg shot past Bryzgalov at 2:50, with Chara and Milan Lucic scoring power-play goals later in the period, the latter of which came on a 5-on-3. Nathan Horton added his ninth of the season on the power play at 7:06 of the second period, giving the B’s three power play goals on the day. Tyler Seguin scored in the third period to make it 6-0.
Thomas stopped 31 shots, giving the Bruins their second shutout victory in their last three games. Tuukka Rask blanked the Kings on Tuesday.
The win, which was Claude Julien’s 200th in Boston, gave the B’s 43 points on the season through 31 games, making them first in the Eastern conference.
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE BRUINS
-Paille had six goals last season, and he matched that total Saturday with his first-period tally. Paille saw stretches as a healthy scratch last season, but the only thing that’s kept him out of the lineup this season has been injury. When he’s been in the lineup, the fourth-liner has put together an outstanding season, getting opportunity after opportunity offensively and still contributing as a key penalty killer. The former first-round pick of the Sabres now has three goals in his last two games, as he potted two in Ottawa on Wednesday.
– Zdeno Chara showed that he won’t be adjusting slowly as he returns from his leg injury. The Bruins’ captain pounded Jody Shelley 2:13 into the game, and in addition to scoring his seventh goal of the assists, had the primary assist on Horton’s goal. Chara got a low slapshot on the net through three bodies on the play, yielding a rebound that Horton flipped over the leg of Bryzgalov to end the HBO 24/7 star’s day early.
– Just so it isn’t only bad news regarding Seguin (see below) Seguin had six shots on goal.
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE BRUINS
– Claude Julien was giving Shawn Thornton shifts with different lines in the first period to reward the grinder’s play, but by the end of the second period, Seguin was taking regular shifts with Paille and Zach Hamill. Seguin got another look with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand in the third period, but Shawn Thornton skated in place of him on the line for a bit.
Seguin got a secondary assist on Lucic’s goal and still leads the B’s with 27 points (13 goals and 14 assists) this season, but his scoring has completely dropped off. His gaol was just his second in the last 10 games and 10th in his last 15 games.
– Textbook hit from behind from Milan Lucic on Zac Rinaldo in the Bruins’ zone late in the second period. Lucic was given a five-minute major and a game misconduct for the play, and he figures to hear from NHL disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan over it. While Adam McQuaid escaped punishment for kneeing earlier in the week, Lucic doesn’t have the squeaky-clean track record that McQuaid has. Lucic was not suspended for his hit on Ryan Miller this season, but he’s on Shanahan’s radar and might not get off as easy this time around.
|Tuukka Rask: ‘Just try to save every puck’||12.14.11 at 9:58 am ET|
There were several chances for Tuukka Rask to blink in the third period Tuesday and lose his first shutout of the season.
But the Bruins goalie, on the heels of replacing Tim Thomas on Saturday in Columbus, didn’t flinch. He turned away all 20 shots in the third period, and all 41 for the game as the Bruins beat the Kings, 3-0.
“I just tried to save every puck,” Rask said of his ninth career shutout. “You don’t want to think about shutouts because you might chase yourself but ‘ couple tough chances in the end but that was it.
“You just try to protect your lead and we hopefully get that third goal. They came out hard so got some pretty good chances but were able to keep them off the scoreboard and then Marchy [Brad Marchand] got a nice goal there to extend the lead so that was good to see.”
“[Brown] pretty much didn’t have anything else and just tried to shoot it upstairs, don’t know if he actually shot it low or something but it was some kind of misplay there and Johnny was just taking back door and he left the guy there for me and ‘ hit something,” Rask said.
Rask said he wasn’t looking at the shots accumulating on the scoreboard during the final 20 minutes.
“I don’t think you have time to watch the shot clock or anything but you definitely feel the momentum changing at times and today they had a lot of chances in the third,” he said. “And maybe we weren’t at our sharpest but they came at us pretty hard too.
So, on a night the Bruins didn’t have captain Zdeno Chara for the first time this season, the Bruins needed Rask to be the true last line of defense.
“Probably some part of that is Z missing but I think we also need to tighten up,” Rask said. “We weren’t that bad we didn’t give too many second chances and lots of shots came from the outside and stuff. But it’s just one of those games where you get lots of shots against and I don’t think it’s because of [Chara] missing.
“You need some luck to have some shutouts too. They had a couple of posts today. And I think it’s definitely tougher to have a shutout than to play one period.”
Now, Claude Julien has a decision to make. Will he ride the hot hand tonight in Ottawa with Rask or will he go back to his No. 1 in Tim Thomas? No matter the answer, Rask showed Tuesday that the Bruins now have two dependable netminders as they hit the road to take on the Senators and Flyers this week.
“He was good tonight, arguably our best player tonight,” Julien said. “He stood tall and they threw a lot of shots at him, certainly not easy shots to stop. There was a lot of traffic in front of the net’screens. He had the quick feet going, made the saves on close-range and was probably our best player. So he got better as the game went on and I thought he did a good job the other night coming in and kind of settling himself in in the third period and then he just carried that into tonight.”
|Tim Thomas shines as Bruins beat Penguins in Pittsburgh||12.05.11 at 9:43 pm ET|
If anyone was wondering how the Bruins measured up to the first-place Penguins, a convincing answer was given Monday night when the B’s beat the Penguins, 3-1, at CONSOL Energy Center.
Gregory Campbell got the B’s on the board in the second period with his second goal of the season, with Benoit Pouliot taking a feed from Rich Peverley and beating Marc-Andre Fleury to make it 2-0. Tyler Seguin scored 1:07 into the third period before Bruins nemesis Matt Cooke broke up Tim Thomas‘ shutout bid at 10:54 of the final period.
The game featured two fights, with Brad Marchand taking on Matt Niskanen after the pesky B’s forward slew-footed the Penguins defenseman in the second period. Gregory Campbell dropped the gloves with former Northeastern forward Joe Vitale in the third period after Vitale ran into Tim Thomas.
The B’s now have points in 15 straight games (14-0-1), and have 35 points. A win Tuesday in Winnipeg will put them in first place in the Eastern Conference for the first time this season.
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE BRUINS
– Benoit Pouliot had his best game as a Bruin. He drew a slashing penalty on Depres in the first period when the Pittsburgh defenseman knocked the stick out of his hands following a strong scoring opportunity from the third-line winger, and Pouliot was the only Bruins forward with more than one shot on goal (three) in the first period. Rich Peverley intercepted a pass from Brooks Orpik in the neutral zone in the second period to set up Pouliot’s fourth goal of the season, an absolutely sizzling wrester over Fleury’s right shoulder. Pouliot finished the night with four shots on goal, the most he’s had as a Bruin.
– The Bruins had to kill off two 5-on-3’s, one of which was an entire two minutes, and they silenced the Penguins both times. Because Chara was in the box, Bergeron, Dennis Seidenberg, Johnny Boychuk, Andrew Ference and Chris Kelly handled PK duties on the first 5-on-3, with Thomas making four saves. He stopped all three shots on the second two-man advantage.
– Seguin’s goal was just his second in his last 10 games, and if he gets going again, there’s no telling when this tear the Bruins are on will stop. Patrice Bergeron was masterful in maneuvering past Pittsburgh skaters and feeding Seguin, who sent the puck just inside the right post, past the right leg of Fleury.
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE BRUINS
– Blaming the refs is generally weak, but the B’s certainly found themselves getting the short end of the stick with the officiating. The call on Zdeno Chara that gave the Penguins their first two-man advantage of the night seemed a bit extreme, as it seemed Chara was simply clearing out traffic in front of Thomas’ net. James Neal also appeared to hold Peverley’s stick in the second period when the Bruins forward was sent off for hooking.
– The Penguins showed why they entered the night with the second-best penalty kill in the league right off the bat, though the B’s eventually broke through with Seguin’s power play goal in the third period. The B’s failed to get a single shot on goal in the two minutes that followed Pascal Dupuis’ holding penalty. The B’s were quiet on their next two power plays as well, but finished the night 1-for-5 on the man advantage.
– Paille learned that wearing a cage inconveniences more people than just him. The fourth line forward went to hit Evgeni Malkin, but his cage collided with Malkin’s face. A scrum ensued, but no penalties were assessed.
|Tim Thomas named NHL’s First Star of the Month for November||12.01.11 at 12:56 pm ET|
Goaltender Tim Thomas earned some national recognition for his no-loss November when he was named as the NHL’s First Star of the Month on Thursday. The two-time Vezina Trophy winner was 9-0-0 in November with a .941 save percentage and a 1.76 goals against average. Thomas recorded three shutouts in the month, the first of which came on Nov. 5 against the Maple Leafs while the other two came in back-to-back fashion against the Islanders on Nov. 19 and the Canadiens on Nov. 21.
Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews took home Second Star honors while the Maple Leafs’ Joffrey Lupul was the league’s Third Star. Toews finished the month with nine goals and nine assists via three multi-goal games and five multi-point games in the month. Chicago went 7-6-1 in November.
Lupul found his way onto the scoresheet in 12-of-14 games the Maple Leafs played in November. He started the month with a hat trick in a 5-3 win over the Devils and finished with a seven-game point-scoring streak. Toronto was 7-6-1 in November. This is the second time this season a Maple Leaf took home a monthly honor, as Phil Kessel finished as the league’s First Star in October.
|Andy Brickley D&C: Phil Kessel ‘was just a really immature kid’||11.30.11 at 9:42 am ET|
NESN analyst Andy Brickley joined Dennis & Callahan for his weekly appearance to discuss the Bruins’ upcoming two-game series with the Maple Leafs that starts on Wednesday night in Toronto. The teams will square off in Boston in the second game on Saturday.
The Leafs lead the Northeast division with 30 points, while the Bruins are right on their heels with 29 points in second place. Boston is already 2-0 against the Leafs this season, though, winning the latest game on Nov. 5 in blowout fashion, 7-0. Brickley explained that the Bruins match up well with the Maple Leafs.
“I like the match-ups. I think Boston matches up pretty good against Toronto,” Brickley said. “It’ll be a little bit more difficult here in Toronto because of the change situation so you’ll see a little bit of chess match tonight trying to get [Zdeno] Chara basically and his partner out there tonight against Phil Kessel and his line. I think that if you’re able to keep that line, especially Phil Kessel off the scoreboard, and then you match up the three forward lines against each other’s D-pairings, it favors Boston. That’s generally the way it goes and I think Boston has a huge advantage in goal.”
As Brickley pointed out, the Bruins will need to contain Kessel, who leads the NHL in both points (31) and goals (16). The former Bruin has flourished in Toronto since being traded from Boston in 2009, while the B’s drafted Tyler Seguin with one of the picks they received from the Leafs. Brickley said that Kessel had maturity issues during his team in Boston and that he wanted more money than the Bruins were willing to pay.
“I think he was just a really immature kid,” Brickley said. “He had some baggage, personal baggage when the Bruins first drafted him and they were well aware of that. The immaturity factor, expectation level, not only by the Bruins organization but from Phil himself. I don’t think he was prepared for that. Could not handle criticism. Could not handle you have to earn your ice time.
“When you add a breakout year when he scored a bunch of goals, you saw how much money everybody was making across the league. Based on those numbers, and he wanted that money right then and there, and the Bruins weren’t prepared to pay him.”
|Tim Thomas off first, expected to start vs. Jets||11.26.11 at 12:20 pm ET|
To the surprised of no one, Tim Thomas was the first goaltender off the ice in Saturday’s morning skate, indicating he will get the start against the Jets a day after Tuukka Rask manned the pipes against the Red Wings.
Saturday marks the Jets’ first trip to Boston since they were the Thrashers. Blake Wheeler and Mark Stuart, both of whom were traded to Atlanta last February in the Rich Peverley deal, will be in the lineup for Winnipeg. The Jets are fourth in the Southeast division with 22 points, but have picked up points in seven of their last 10 games (4-3-3).