|Bruins-killer Simon Gagne: ‘They’re on a mission’||05.14.11 at 12:57 pm ET|
Simon Gagne should be used to facing the Bruins in the playoffs by now. A season ago, he was arguably the man that sunk them in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
With the Bruins holding a 3-0 series lead over Philadelphia, Gagne, then a Flyer, returned to the lineup for Game 4 after a broken toe suffered in the first round vs. the Devils kept him out of the beginning of the series. Gagne scored the game-winning goal in overtime to keep the Flyers alive in the series, and added a pair of goals three days later in a 4-0 Phialdelphia win in Game 5. His most crucial goal of the series would come in Game 7, when he notched the go-ahead tally in the third period following a costly too-many-ice penalty taken by the Bruins. The goal was the game-winner, and it capped the Flyers’ comeback from trailing, 3-0, in both the series and Game 7.
Now, Gagne is once again returning from a playoff absence (this time a head injury suffered in the second round) to face the Bruins, but it’s as a member of the Lightning following an offseason trade. Gagne watched the last series between his old mates and the Bruins, and he said Saturday that he sees a difference from a season ago.
“It’s a different team from last year,” Gagne said. “They got some new guys, Thomas is in net now, so it’s a different team than last year. It looks like this year, they’re on a mission, and that’s the way it felt when I saw them play against Philly. Philly’s a good team, and they beat them in four games. That means they’re a really good team.”
Including guys who played sparingly last year in rookies Brad Marchand and Adam McQuaid, eight of the Bruins’ regulars as they enter Game 1 of the conference finals were newcomers to the lineup this year. Yet while the emergence of guys like Marchand and the addition of Nathan Horton have been massive for the B’s, the biggest change for them involves a guy who was around last year in Thomas. At least that’s the way Gagne sees it.
“Last year, Tuukka Rask was actually playing really, really good for them,” Gagne said of the youngster who started every game between the pipes for the Bruins last postseason. “Everybody thought that he was going to be the goalie for the future for Boston. I think he’s still their goalie of the future — I don’t think he’s going to go anywhere — but to see Thomas coming back after a tough season last year with injuries, to see him play like that surprised a lot of people, but at the same time, he was good before he got hurt. It shouldn’t be a surprise to see him playing that good.”
The Bruins and Thomas will hope to continue their “mission” Saturday night, while Gagne just hopes he can continue to feed his reputation of postseason Bruins-killer.
|Lightning coach Guy Boucher: Tim Thomas is in ‘everybody’s head’||05.13.11 at 8:49 pm ET|
Tim Thomas dominated the Tampa Bay Lightning during the regular season much in the same way he dominated the rest of the NHL. So, maybe nobody should’ve been shocked when their head coach admitted Friday that the Bruins goalie is in their heads.
Thomas was a perfect 3-0-0 this season against the Lightning, with 1.67 goal against, allowing just five goals in the three games.
“Well, I’m sure we’re no different than any other team or any other coaches,” Tampa Bay coach Guy Boucher said Friday. “We do study the other goaltender. I’m sure they studied ours. There’s tendencies and things you want to focus on.
“But I think the players play the game, everything is done in fractions of seconds. It’s quite difficult to all of a sudden change their ways. We do want to focus on a few things. But the reality is, whatever we plan against Tim Thomas, he’s probably going to find a way to counter that. I think you want to watch out and not focus too much on the other team’s goaltender.” Read the rest of this entry »
|Tim Thomas and Dwayne Roloson stand the test of time||at 3:52 pm ET|
Goaltending is the one position on the ice where age and experience may mean the most.
Just ask Tim Thomas, Dwayne Roloson and their respective teams as they get ready for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals Saturday night at TD Garden.
Roloson leads all NHL playoff goalies with a 2.01 goals against in 11 games, posting an 8-3 record.
Thomas is right behind him at 2.03, with an identical 8-3 mark.
Thomas just turned 37 on April 15 while Roloson turns 42 this October.
“I think if age is a factor in any way, it’s actually a benefit to both of us,” Thomas said. “The experiences that we’ve been through just to get to these points in our career, they actually do help. They do help in these playoff-type atmosphere. If anything, I’d say that the age works to our advantage.
“But in this case we’re so close and we’re both in the higher age category for this business that I don’t think it’s really an advantage either way.”
“When it comes to goaltending, I think experience is a big factor,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said. “You can have a good young goaltender, but if he doesn’t have experience of pressure in playoffs, you see what happens. Those guys are old enough, have enough experience, been through the grinds, the ups and downs, they’ve been able to handle it well.
“Certainly physically they got to battle. As a team you try to make it as easy as possible on those guys, clearing rebounds, not giving second shots, not giving poor-angle shots, try to make their job as easy as you can.”
Lightning coach Guy Boucher is well aware of how dominating Thomas was against Philadelphia and that he’s capable of repeating it again this round.
“Reality is whatever we have planned for Tim Thomas he’s probably going to figure it out,” Boucher said Friday. “It’s in our heads. Make no mistake.”
It should surprise no one that the two have formed a bond over the years. And even more to the point, their careers actually linked going all the way back to when Thomas was thinking of going to U-Mass Lowell, only to choose Vermont since Roloson was already the goalie in Lowell.
Not only do Claude Julien and the team have confidence in Tim Thomas, the Bruins goalie said Friday he believes this Bruins team has already proven in two playoff series wins they have what it take to hoist the Stanley Cup in June.
“I think it was a confidence that grew throughout the year,” Thomas said of the that won the Northeast Division and entered the playoffs as the No. 3 seed in the East. “Till you get to the playoffs, you don’t really know that for sure what you have as a group. I think that the first round against Montreal was a testing ground for us. We started it out right way from some adversity, getting down in the series, 2-0. We started to find out what we were made of.
“Come to find out, we’re made of some pretty stern stuff. We have a lot of the things that it takes to win a championship, hopefully all of them.”
The 37-year-old Thomas will square off against 41-year-old goalie Dwayne Roloson and the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday night in Game 1. Roloson and Thomas enter the Eastern Conference finals with identical 8-3 playoff marks this spring and nearly identical goals against averages.
|Claude Julien is really, really confident in Tim Thomas||at 1:30 pm ET|
Bruins coach Claude Julien has no doubt that his goaltender is capable of picking up where he left off when the Eastern Conference finals begin Saturday night at TD Garden. Thomas enters the series with a 2.03 goals against, just .02 behind Tampa Bay’s Dwayne Roloson for best among all goaltenders in these Stanley Cup playoffs.
“I think Timmy right now is in the zone, like he’s very, very focused,” Julien said following Friday’s practice at TD Garden. “He’s also calm. Watching him today in practice, he’s very confident and that’s what it’s all about when it comes to goaltending. When a guy is feeling good about his game and confident, he can do almost anything, and Tim is there right now.”
Thomas will face three of the eight top scorers in the playoffs in Vincent Lecavalier, Martin St. Louis and Steve Downie when the Lightning visit for Game 1 Saturday night. Tampa Bay arrived in Boston Friday for the start of the series, which continues next Tuesday with Game 2 at the Garden.
|Tim Thomas sent the right message to Bruins between periods||05.07.11 at 4:18 am ET|
The Bruins were able to break a 1-1 tie in the third period in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference semifinals thanks to a snapshot from Johnny Boychuk, Milan Lucic‘s second goal of the game, and a couple of empty net goals courtesy of Brad Marchand and Daniel Paille en rout to sweeping the Flyers Friday night.
The win was just the latest example of what has been a season-wide trend for the Bruins. The Bruins’ 94 third-period goals in the regular season ranked second in the NHL, while they had a league-best 57 goals against in the final 20 minutes. The biggest case in the regular season was their five-goal showing to come from behind in the third against the Penguins back in November, but the most recent, and now most important, one came Friday. Tim Thomas knew the B’s had it in them, so between the second and third period, he spoke up and said so.
“It was an actual comment that I made to the team, was ‘third periods are ours,'” Thomas recalled after the game. “I just said that to reinforce and to remind guys that that’s the way it had been all year and hopefully help their confidence.”
It sure looked like it helped their confidence. After the Flyers got momentum in the second period on Kris Versteeg‘s goal, the Bruins were able to come out and make it a 2-1 game 2:42 into the third on Boychuk’s blast.
“Well, the result was great,” Thomas said. “We played a really good third period, but you did see a little bit of the fatigue set in because we weren’t getting pucks deep there a few times at the far blue line. It was just a couple of mistakes that we don’t normally make and stuff, but I think guys battled through it and just made sure to be even safer.”
|Lightning doesn’t strike twice, but it awaits: Bruins sweep Flyers||05.06.11 at 10:42 pm ET|
By DJ Bean and Scott McLaughlin
The Bruins finished off the Flyers with a 5-1 win, sweeping the Eastern Conference semifinals in four games and advancing to the conference finals for the first time since 1992. The Bruins will next face the Lightning, who also swept their semifinals series vs. the Capitals.
Johnny Boychuk sent a blast from the point over the glove of Sergei Bobrovsky at 2:42 of the third period to break a 1-1 tie. It was Boychuk’s second goal of the playoffs, both of which have come in series-clinching games this postseason.
Milan Lucic had two goals for Boston in the win. With Daniel Carcillo in the box for cross-checking, Lucic put the Bruins on the board at 12:02, scoring his first goal of the playoffs and giving Boston its first 5-on-4 goal this postseason. The Flyers would apply minimal pressure throughout the rest of the first period, but got on the board thanks to a goal from deadline acquisition Kris Versteeg. Lucic added his second of the night on a breakaway in the third period. Brad Marchand and Daniel Paille added empty netters.
Tim Thomas made 22 saves in the winning effort. It was the second straight game in which he allowed just one goal.
The Bruins will host the Lightning in Games 1 of 2 of the conference finals. The schedule of the series is currently unknown, though it may depend on when the Western Conference finals are set. San Jose and Vancouver hold 3-1 series leads over the Red Wings and Predators, respectively.
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE BRUINS
– Lucic finally broke out of what was statistically a postseason-long scoring slump by picking up his first goal since March 22. He had played much better in this series than in a pedestrian first-round vs. the Canadiens, so it was fitting that he be rewarded with a big goal on the score sheet before the second round was over. Going forward, the B’s will need more like that from their 30-goal-scorer.
– The Bruins could let out the smallest of sighs of relief after their 5-on-3 goal in Game 3, but getting their first 5-on-4 goal didn’t come until Lucic killed two birds with one stone. Nathan Horton hit Lucic with a pass on the doorstep to end the 5-on-4 drought and give Boston its second power play goal in the last two games (and of the playoffs).
– The Flyers turned up the pressure once the Bruins took a 2-1 lead, but the B’s responded to the challenge by getting in shooting lanes and preventing Philly from getting pucks to the front of the net. The Flyers tried to get shots from the point with traffic in front, but the Boston forwards did an excellent job of getting right on top of the Philly defensemen and not giving them anything to shoot at. Chris Kelly led the effort with with three blocks.
– Another game vs. Philadelphia, another point for David Krejci. Boston’s first-line center has 18 points (five goals, 13 assists) over his last 13 games vs. Philadelphia. Krejci picked up a helper on Lucic’s first-period goal.
– The Bruins drew three penalties in the first by just moving their feet and attacking on offense. James van Riemsdyk went off for a hook when he couldn’t catch up to Lucic, who was driving hard to the net in search of a centering pass. Then Gregory Campbell forced his way to the front of the net from below the goal line and drew a cross check on Daniel Carcillo. A few minutes later, Claude Giroux went to the box for a trip after Tomas Kaberle cut inside him on an aggressive entry into the offensive zone. The power play resulting from Carcillo’s infraction ended with the Bruins’ second power-play goal in as many games.
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE BRUINS
– The B’s had an injury scare for just one of th least guys they could stand to lose. A hit from Claude Giroux in the third period sent Patrice Bergeron downb the tunnel for the B’s, and he would not return to the game. Bergeron leads the Bruins with 12 points this postseason.
– Bad turnover by Brad Marchand in the Flyers’ zone to create a 2-on-0 for the Flyers, and it cost the B’s. Kris Versteeg beat Tim Thomas for his first goal of the playoffs. Versteeg was once property of the B’s, but was traded for Brandon Bochenski in 2007.
-The Bruins obviously want and need Zdeno Chara to be physical, but with eight seconds left in the first, he took it a little too far. When Scott Hartnell took exception to Chara trying to clear out the front of the Boston net, Chara responded by dropping his gloves and then dropping Hartnell with one punch. Unfortunately for Chara, Hartnell never dropped his gloves and Chara got a double minor to put the Flyers on the power play. Two minutes without Hartnell in exchange for four minutes without Chara is a deal the Flyers will take 11 times out of 10.