|Five things the Bruins must do to win Game 5 vs. Canadiens||04.22.11 at 10:55 pm ET|
The Bruins are coming off one of the more exciting victories they have had in recent memory, as they came back three times to beat the Habs in overtime on a Michael Ryder goal less than two minutes into overtime in Game 4. With the B’s having tied the series at two games apiece, they can prove that there is such thing as a home ice advantage by beating the Habs in Game 5 Saturday night. Here’s what they’ll need to do in order to grab the series lead Saturday at TD Garden.
1. Believe in momentum
Claude Julien thinks that momentum is overrated, but if the B’s can keep Game 4 fresh in their minds, they should be able to go with a full head of steam. Coming from behind the way the Bruins did at the Bell Centre is no easy task, and it was a rather embarrassing game for the Habs to lose given that they blew three leads in their own building. The B’s confidence combined with whatever the slipping Canadiens are feeling is probably a good thing for Boston.
2. Find Milan Lucic
The Bruins are still waiting for their leading goal-scorer from the regular season to pick up his first postseason point. So far, he’s been kept off the scoring sheet and has compiled a minus-2 rating. An indication that he probably isn’t working his way out of it is that he has had one or zero shots on goal in three of the four games thus far in the series. He is definitely off for some reason, but if he can get more involved in the play and show signs of life, the Boston’s top line may actually resemble a top line.
3. Pepper Carey Price early
The Bruins have had nine shots on goal or less in the first period of three of the series’ first four games. That’s no way of finding out whether they can get to Price, and it has shown. Aside from the two pucks they were able to get past Price on nine shots in the first period of Game 3, the Bruins haven’t scored on Price until the second period. Here’s a breakdown of the B’s shots on goal and goals per period in this series:
Patrice Bergeron leads the Bruins with 16 shots on goal this series.
4. Remember March 24
This series has been all about the road team thus far. The got the two goals in both Games 1 and 2 and sat back with the lead en route to big road victories. The Bruins scored a pair of first-period goals Monday and mounted a terrific comeback victory on Thursday. For whatever reason, the home team just can’t seem to win.
If the Bruins can think back to their March 24 win, they can change that trend. Johnny Boychuk scored 1:01 into the game, and the Canadiens seemed to give up at TD Garden from there, with the B’s grabbing a lopsided 7-0 win. The game was also Tim Thomas‘ lone shutout vs. the Habs, and though he’s looked fantastic at stretches during games this postseason, he has yet to dominate for 60 minutes.
5. Limit the turnovers
When the Canadiens have scored this series, it has often been because of uncharacteristic turnovers by the Bruins. It started when Tomas Kaberle put too much zip on a reverse in Game 1, and it has continued throughout the series. The B’s still have yet to play the type of game they need to, though the last half of Thursday night’s contest displayed guts like no other.
So much for home ice advantage. The road team has won all four games in the Bruins’ first-round series against the Canadiens, but the B’s aren’t putting much stock in that as they return home for Game 5 on Saturday night.
“Because the away team scored more goals than the home team in all of those games,” Tim Thomas said, giving the most obvious explanation of why things have played out the way they have. “I don’t put too much thought into that.”
Thomas said that perhaps the home team just needs to play more of a “road game,” which he explained as a smarter, less flashy style of play.
“Play the type of game that you need to play to win,” he said. “Sometimes you’ve got to be safe, sometimes you take the chances. There is a tendency when you’re at home to try to put on a show for the home crowd, and sometimes that works against you over the course of a full 60-minute game.”
Andrew Ference said he doesn’t really believe in home-ice advantage anyway because everyone is just as comfortable on the road as they are at home.
“I don’t put a lot of stock into home-ice advantage, just because I think guys are very professional with the way we travel in the league,” Ference said. “We stay in good hotels and eat well. … We don’t feel like we’re behind the eight ball when we are on the road or anything like that. It’s just another hockey game.”
Claude Julien echoed his defenseman’s sentiments.
“I’m not worried about a team not winning at home,” Julien said. “I think what I’m more concerned about is making sure our team is ready to play tomorrow and hopefully build on that great win yesterday. We just have to keep getting better and not worry about where we’re playing, but how we’re playing.”
|Tim Thomas named Vezina Trophy finalist||at 1:40 pm ET|
In what was pretty much a foregone conclusion, Tim Thomas was named one of three finalists for the Vezina Trophy on Friday. Vancouver’s Roberto Luongo and Nashville’s Pekka Rinne are the other two finalists.
“Very happy to hear that, obviously,” Thomas said. “After last year, I wasn’t quite sure if I’d ever hear that again.”
Thomas, of course, is referring to his up-and-down 2009-10 campaign, in which he finished the season with a 17-18-8 record to go along with a 2.56 goals-against average and .915 save percentage. He ultimately ceded the starting job to Tuukka Rask by the playoffs.
Thomas bounced back in a big way this year, though. He went 35-11-9 and led the NHL in both goals-against average (2.00) and save percentage (.938). That .938 mark was good enough to break Dominik Hasek‘s single-season save percentage record.
“I definitely have more appreciation just for the fact that I have the opportunity to play,” Thomas said. “I waited a long time in my career just for the opportunity to play in any NHL games. I wanted to have the opportunity and wanted to be able to show what I could do. And so after last year, I think it’s made every game a little bit sweeter this year.”
Claude Julien said Thomas not only deserves the nomination, but that he also deserves to win the award.
“I think it’s pretty obvious to me that Tim is very deserving of that nomination,” Julien said. “Obviously I’m a big fan of what he’s done this year, and if you ask me, he certainly deserves it. I’m sure that I would get some arguments from other places, but I’m certainly going to support Tim for the season he’s had. Especially with what he went through last year, to bounce back this year and have that kind of season, he’s certainly very deserving. I wish him all the luck and I hope he wins what he deserves.”
Thomas said that although the nomination is great and he’s certainly happy about it, he’s focused on more pressing matters right now.
“Only if you make it,” Thomas said when asked if the nomination could be a distraction. “It’s weird timing that we happen to be in the middle of a very tough first-round series. … I could talk about it right now, but my focus will immediately go back to the playoff series. I won’t be thinking about the Vezina later today.”
|Game 4 another must-win for Bruins||04.21.11 at 7:48 am ET|
MONTREAL — The truth is that every playoff game is important. The stakes are always high, and every loss brings a team one game closer to elimination. Yet if Bruins fans can’t help but place a bit more emphasis on Game 4, it wouldn’t be so irrational.
Take a look at Wednesday night, and a game that put the Rangers in a real hole. As Jason Chimera tapped the game-winning goal past Henrik Lundqvist in the second overtime, the Rangers had to have known that they blew it.
Leading 3-0 earlier in the game (sound familiar?) the Rangers let the Capitals get back into it, and three quick tallies in the third period suddenly made it 3-3.
To lose such a game (especially on your own ice) in that sort of fashion is a tough pill to swallow, but the Rangers’ No. 1 concern should be with the fact that they have spotted the Capitals a 3-1 lead in the series. A 3-1 deficit, while not insurmountable, is obviously far from ideal, and the Bruins, despite being able to return home for Game 5, should be viewing it as such. Game 4 is every bit as much a must-win as Monday’s Game 3 victory was.
Unless a team has won the first three, that’s generally the nature of Game 4. Thursday night, the rest of the series could begin to look a bit clearer. Easily the most interesting non-elimination game of a series, the Bruins can tie it with two of the three remaining games to be played at TD Garden, while the Habs are looking to put the Bruins just one loss away from failing to advance to the second round for the first time in three years.
A 3-1 deficit in a series is far from impossible to overcome (Bruins fans of course know that a 3-0 deficit in a series is not impossible to overcome thanks to the Flyers), and the Flyers weren’t the only team to do it last season. The other team to come back from being down three games to one? The very Canadiens that will host the B’s Thursday night. Two of eight teams in such a position last postseason were able to come back and win the series, though the Bruins would just as soon skip out on that discussion altogether by grabbing a road win in Game 4.
One could suggest the B’s have momentum on their side after taking Monday’s Game 3 by a 4-2 score. Claude Julien wouldn’t agree with that logic, but if it’s something that is going to motivate the Bruins at the Bell Centre Thursday, he’ll probably take it. Whether or not the B’s are feeling that momentum and whether the Habs are feeling any added pressure remains to be seen.
One thing the Bruins can expect on Thursday, aside from the possible return of Jeff Halpern to the lineup and the removal of Benoit Pouliot, is for the Habs to come out flying. Given the way they turned it on for the final 30 minutes of Game 3, the Habs have to know that if they can start better and take advantage of the early breaks (such as the two penalties the Bruins took in the first eight minutes of the game), they have a far better chance of playing the third period with a lead rather than bombarding Tim Thomas with shots in a desperate attempt to tie it late.
If the Bruins can get a full game of what Thomas brought on Thursday night, even a great 60 minutes from the Habs might not matter. This has not been the prettiest series for the Vezina shoo-in, but he dominated late in Game 3, and if he can do so for all three periods Thursday, perhaps the series will return to Boston with the home team having yet to win through four games.
The Bell Centre is a loud and hostile environment. The Bruins were able to hang on to send the fans home hanging their heads Monday, but if they want to leave Montreal Thursday knowing they will return for a Game 6, they’ll need to block out the deafening boos for Zdeno Chara and notch the ever-important Game 4 win. If they lose, it could be a hole too big to come back from. A win and they are suddenly favorites once again to win the series. They’ll need more than they brought Monday night, but if they get it, they can breathe just a bit easier.
|Bruins finish their work in Lake Placid||04.20.11 at 1:48 pm ET|
LAKE PLACID, N.Y. — The Bruins’ time in Lake Placid is done, as they will return to Montreal Wednesday in anticipation of Thursday’s Game 4 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals vs. the Canadiens. The B’s held practice Wednesday after most of the regulars were given Tuesday off.
Here’s what some of the players had to say about Lake Placid and its history:
“I already had some inkling that I wanted to be a goalie, but those Olympics and Jim Craig, that sealed the deal. That’s why I became a goalie, and my goal from age five until really probably 20 was to play in the Olympics, not the NHL. Not that I didn’t want to play in the NHL, but the main goal was the Olympics.”
“It was funny. The movie ['Miracle'] was filmed in Vancouver in the Agrodome, where I actually started playing hockey. You come and you see this, and it’s actually two very similar rinks. It’s cool to come see this. Obviously, they were big-time underdogs, and they were able to win the Olympic Gold. It’s cool to see what it was like last year in Vancouver, and the differences between the two cities, but it’s definitely cool to see both ends of it.”
“We’ve done the retreats at the start of the year to Vermont, to kind of just get away. I think whether it’s Montreal or any other city, the playoffs are pretty, well look around. Even in Lake Placid you get a pretty good showing of media. I don’t think you ever escape anything. I think it’s just more of being relaxed in a setting like this.”
|Tim Thomas: ‘We’ll see how we respond’||04.17.11 at 12:47 am ET|
After posting the best regular-season save percentage in NHL history, Tim Thomas is having a nightmarish playoff series against the Canadiens. He allowed three goals on Saturday night, two of which came after he allowed bad rebounds in front of the net. But after Saturday’s 3-1 loss, Thomas said there is still time to salvage the series and his season with a great performance on Monday night in Game 3 at the Bell Centre, with the Bruins trailing the Eastern quarterfinal series, 2-0.
“The proof will be in the pudding,” Thomas said, adding he’s not worried about the team’s confidence. “I’m so focused on just trying to do what my job is that I’m not really thinking about that.”
Asked if the hostile crowd in Montreal will be hard to handle, Thomas said the Bruins can use it to their advantage if they can score early in Game 3.
“Well, there’s a lot of energy,” Thomas said. “If you can grab that energy and focus it in the right way it can actually help you. Winning four out of the next five games. It’s pretty simple, that’s the biggest challenge.”
Just 43 seconds into Saturday’s Game 2, the challenge got a lot harder after news that their captain wouldn’t be about to make a go of it. But Thomas said he didn’t sense panic.
“I don’t know,” Thomas said. “I’m not on the bench, I’m in goal. So I don’t really, I don’t know. I didn’t pick up that mood from the locker room, and I’m not on the bench.”
Then there were the questions about the rebounds he gave up on the second and third Montreal goals.
“Well the first one, I kicked out the perfect rebound,” Thomas said. “The second one, it went off Seidenberg’s shin pad, it was just bad luck. It just changed the angle by about three or four inches and that’s the difference between controlling the rebound easily and having there be a rebound.”
Thomas faced questions about his rough night on the rebound but also acknowledged the whole team needs to be better if they are to have a shot Monday.
“Yeah,” Thomas said. “Straight up down the line, you know? It’s easy to accept because it is. It is what it is. We’ve got our backs against the wall, and we’ll see how we respond.”
As for the one goal of offensive support in the first two games, Thomas said that’s pretty self-explanatory.
“We need to score more. We know that,” Thomas said. “You take a step back and start focusing on Monday. You don’t feel sorry for yourself, because no one else is going to feel sorry for you.”
|Bruins drop Game 2 to Canadiens||04.16.11 at 9:47 pm ET|
By DJ Bean and Scott McLaughlin
If the Bruins weren’t feeling the pressure before Game 2 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals, they should be now. A 3-1 loss to the Canadiens gives the Habs a 2-0 series lead and means the Bruins suddenly have to show they can win at the Bell Centre.
Playing without Zdeno Chara (dehydration), the B’s saw the Habs jump out to a 2-0 lead in the game’s first 2:20. Michael Cammallari put a rebound off a James Wisniewski shot past Tim Thomas 43 seconds into the game, while Mathieu Darche struck on the power play shortly after.
The Bruins did get on the board in the second period with a Patrice Bergeron tally that injected some life into the building, but after two games the B’s have been able to put just one puck past Carey Price through two games.
The Bruins played a more physical game than they did Thursday night, but were reckless at times. After a no-show from the top line in Game 1 and not enough of what Claude Julien wanted in the first two period, Claude Julien broke up the Milan Lucic - David Krejci – Nathan Horton trio by sending Horton to the third line in favor of Rich Peverley.
The B’s will play Game 3 in Montreal on Monday night. They need to get a win at the Bell Centre (where they went 0-2-1 in the regular season) either Monday or Thursday to bring the series back to Boston for a fifth game.
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE BRUINS
- For much of the game, the Bruins’ puck-movement appeared to be that of strangers in a pickup game. They repeatedly made passes that were either off the mark, intended for a player who wasn’t looking or easily intercepted by a Canadien. Boston looked particularly shaky in its own end, as the defensemen struggled to retrieve pucks in the corners and start clean breakouts. Montreal’s second goal came as the direct result of a bad Andrew Ference pass behind the net.
- Speaking of passes — and hindsight is 20/20 — but maybe the B’s should have passed on the Tomas Kaberle deal. Aside from a shot hitting the post on the power play in the second period, there was nothing encouraging about Kaberle’s night, and that’s been a pretty common occurrence. He had issues keeping the puck in the offensive zone on routine plays, but the icing on the cake came when Krejci and P.K. Subban were getting rough behind the net in the first period. With Price out of his net, Krejci sent the puck back to the point. Before any whistles were blown of Kaberle knew the play was dead, he actually passed the puck to Johnny Boychuk with a clean look (if he looked) at an empty net.
In Kaberle’s defense, he looked much better on the the power play when Subban went off for tripping Daniel Paille in the third period. Still, you really have to wonder whether the B’s will re-sign him for the money he commands after such a bad run.
- This was not Thomas’ most impressive showing. Though he came up with a big stop on a Tomas Plekanec on a second-period breakaway, the goals from Cammalleri and Weber came as the result of big rebounds. Further evidence that having the best goaltender in the playoffs doesn’t guarantee success. Thomas is human, as is Price, though the latter has two wins.
- Bad night for Dennis Seidenberg. The 29-year-old was a minus-2 on the night, while his interference penalty at 2:14 of the first gave the Habs the power play on which Darche scored.
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE BRUINS
- For at least the middle portion of the second period, the Bruins did a better job going to the net and making things difficult for Price. That culminated in their first goal of the series when Bergeron charged down the middle and tipped home a centering pass from Brad Marchand. For the next few minutes, the Bruins got traffic in front, battled for position and weren’t afraid to jam away at rebounds and harass the Montreal netminder. Had the Bruins played like that for the whole game, it might be a different story heading to Montreal for Game 3.
- Shane Hnidy fighting Wisniewski in the second period following the Habs defenseman’s charging call was brilliant. At that point in the game, Hnidy had played 2:58 to Wisniewski’s 10:00. The Bruins will send their reserve blueliner to the box any day of the week if it means a top-four defenseman on the other team is doing the same.
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