|Bruins vs. Ducks preview||12.20.10 at 10:39 am ET|
Two teams with 38 points will face off on Monday when the Bruins (17-10-4) take on the Ducks (17-15-4). The B’s will see an Anaheim team that aside from a six-game win streak to begin November has struggled to find consistency. The Ducks enter Monday night having lost two straight, while the Bruins broke a three-game skid on Saturday by beating the Capitals, 3-2. It wasn’t the prettiest of wins, as the B’s had to fend off a swarming Washington offense in the third period after holding a 3-0 lead in the first.
WHERE IT’S AT
- The Bruins are 8-4-3 at the Garden (8-5-3 in home games including the Prague opener) and have turned their luck at the Garden around since entering December as a 4-4-2 home team. The Bruins have come away with a point in all five home contests this month, posting a 4-0-1 record.
- The Ducks have been a fine home team, but their 6-9-3 road record is what finds them in third place in in the Pacific division despite having played three more games than the first-place Stars (43 points) and second-place Sharks (39). The Ducks have lost their last two games, both of which were on the road, and are 2-2-1 in their last five road contests.
- Blake Wheeler has points in consecutive games for just the third time this season, while he has scored in back-to-back contests for the first time all year. Things are starting to pick up production-wise between the 24-year-old winger and linemate Patrice Bergeron (four points in the last two games), so whether the second line can keep up their new-found means of success is worth keeping an eye on.
- The number of shots allowed recently has been alarming. Tim Thomas saw 40 or more shots just once in 15 starts through the first two months of the season. This month, however, Thomas has seen at least 40 in four of his seven starts.
Saturday was the most blatant case of the shots-on-goal problem. The B’s were outshot 26-2 in the third period. Those 26 shots for the Capitals in the final 20 minutes were five more than the 21 the B’s had all game.
- Anaheim right wing Corey Perry enters Monday night’s game fifth in the NHL with 38 points. The 25-year-old has eight points in his last four games, including an impressive showing Dec. 12 against the Wild in which he picked up his first hat trick and tied a career-high with five points.
Ryan Getzlaf also finds himself top 10 in the league in points with 35. The former first-rounder scored both of Anaheim’s goals in Saturday night’s 4-2 loss to the Hurricanes.
STORYLINES GOING IN
- The Bruins may have broken their losing streak, but their struggles are still evident. Fortunately for them, they are no longer the woeful home team they were last season and for the majority of this season. This seems to be the right setting for them to get the convincing win they haven’t had since perhaps the Tampa Bay game or the Buffalo contest. Wins over the Islanders don’t count.
- Despite the sub-par play over their last four games, the B’s, currently with 12 points in December, are a win away from tying the 14 points they had in November, their most successful month this season. Including Monday, the Bruins have five games let this month.
- The inconsistency for Nathan Horton is back, and with three shots on goal (and zero points) in his last three games, he’s got to shoot more and be more physical to avoid confirming the reputation he had coming in as a player who disappears.
|Tim Thomas saved the sleepwalking Bruins||12.19.10 at 1:21 am ET|
There was a great deal of irony in the words of Tim Thomas following his latest Houdini act on Saturday night at TD Garden.
The Bruins held on for a 3-2 win over the slumping Capitals, a win that snapped Boston’s three-game losing streak while extending Washington’s to an almost unbelievable eight.
But that hardly tells the story.
Thomas noticed early on the Capitals were asleep at the wheel. But it was the Bruins who nearly blew the game by sleepwalking through the final 20 minutes.
The Bruins ran the Capitals off the ice in the opening 20 minutes. They got goals from Patrice Bergeron, Andrew Ference and Blake Wheeler and Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau was in the midst of another breakdown for HBO’s “24/7 The Road to the NHL Winter Classic.” But Thomas figured it was too good to last.
“I didn't know what we were going to get,” Thomas said. “They turned it up for a while in the second there and then they kind of went back to sleep a little bit and I didn't know if… They looked like a tired team for the first two periods and I was hoping that was the case, but it turned out not to be.” Read the rest of this entry »
|Patrice Bergeron, Andrew Ference and Blake Wheeler contribute to early Bruins lead||12.18.10 at 7:44 pm ET|
On a 2-on-2, Wheeler attracted the attention of both Washington defenders and dropped the puck off to Bergeron, who beat Michal Neuvirth at 3:27 for his sixth goal of the season. Ference then scored his first goal in 99 games by sending one past Neuvirth from the point.
Bergeron returned the favor in setting up Wheeler’s eighth of the season, and suddenly that second line is looking awfully good of late.
Following the Ference goal. Matt Bradley tried to swing the momentum in Washington’s favor by dropping the gloves with Adam McQuaid. Unfortunately for Bradley, the Garden only got louder as McQuaid unequivocally pummeled the Capitals winger.
Tim Thomas saw only five shots, stopping them all.
|Post-morning skate odds and ends||at 12:07 pm ET|
Tim Thomas was first off the ice for the Bruins following their morning skate, an indication that he’ll be in net when the B’s face the Capitals tonight. In three starts against the Capitals this season, Thomas is 2-0-0 with five goals allowed and a shutout. He was pulled from the team’s 5-3 loss on Nov. 5 after allowing three goals through two periods.
The Capitals aren’t exactly jonesing to face the early Vezina favorite in Thomas. Coach Bruce Boudreau said Saturday that “you just have to play really perfect hockey to beat [the Bruins] and then you have to play more perfect hockey to beat Thomas.
- If you’re surprised by how many minutes Steven Kampfer has been getting, you’re not along. Asked if he expected to play as much as he has, Kampfer honestly replied, “Uh, no. I definitely didn’t think I’d be getting that many, but I’m just trying to play well, trying to play simple and help the team get a couple of wins here.”
Kampfer said patience has been the biggest thing he’s picked up at the NHL level, which is quite interesting and a good explanation as to why he’s handled the callup and the minutes so well. Young players often try to counter the quick pace of the NHL game by hurrying things more than they need to, but it hasn’t seemed to be the case with Kampfer — at least not much.
- Claude Julien knows the Capitals have been winless over their last seven, but he’s worried about his own guys, who have gone three without a W. Julien addressed the slump by saying “we’ve got to show some determination and resilience.”
- The Capitals have been followed by HBO cameras for the NHL 24/7 show that’s sweeping the nation. Have to admit I haven’t been able to see it (or this season of Eastbound and Down) due to my lack of owning HBO, but the hockey world has been going nuts over this show. One of the draws of the show is the prolific use of a four-letter word beginning in “F” by Boudreau.
“That goes on in every dressing room, in every team, in every sport at this level,” Boudreau said, noting that the team is so comfortable with having the camera around that it has become “second nature.”
Boudreau is by no means taking pride in the language aspect of it, but he said such talk “just comes out of your mouth when you’re mad,” adding, “my mom talked to me about it, so I’ll be OK.”
- Stay tuned for what came of an interesting chat with Tyler Seguin about Christmas, being a healthy scratch, and once again having something in common with Steven Stamkos. More to come later.
|Bruins at Canadiens preview||12.16.10 at 4:57 pm ET|
The Bruins are in Montreal Thursday to take on the Canadiens for the second time this season. They were handed a 3-1 loss on Nov. 11 at the Garden in a game started by Tuukka Rask, but it appears Thursday will feature a dream matchup between two of the league’s best goalies.
Tim Thomas, who will man the pipes for the Bruins, is first in nearly every statistical category. He’s tops in save percentage (.954), goals against average (1.51) and is tied with Henrik Lundqvist with five shutouts. Carey Price, meanwhile, is tied with Jimmy Howard with 17 wins, the most in the NHL.
WHERE IT’S AT
- The Habs are 11-5-2 at home, most recently dropping a 5-3 decision to the to Flyers at the Bell Centre on Wednesday night.
- After the Bruins’ 3-2 loss to the Sabres in Buffalo on Wednesday, the team is now 9-4-1 on the road. The Bruins are 2-2-1 in their last five road contests.
- Zdeno Chara had the Bruins’ lone goal the last time the B’s played the Habs. He hasn’t scored in the 16 games since, though he came close when he rang a shot off the post Wednesday in Buffalo.
With his four goals, Chara is on pace to pick up 11 this season. He scored seven goals last season after picking up a career-high 19 in 2008-09.
- After a slow start to the season, Habs captain and former Boston College standout Brian Gionta is tied for the team lead with 10 goals this season. He had eight shots on goal and scored one the Canadiens’ three goals in their loss to the Flyers on Wednesday.
- The Bruins lead the NHL is goals against (1.9 per game) while the Canadiens (2.1) are second in the league. If you’re a fan of goaltending duels, this is about as good as it gets.
STORYLINES GOING IN
- The Habs have struggled of late, as they’ve lost three in a row. Only the Islanders’ at six games have a longer current losing streak.
- This is a matchup of the top two teams in the Northeast division, as the Canadiens have 38 points to the Bruins’ 36. With a victory, the B’s can tie the Habs for the division lead despite having played two less games.
- Tyler Seguin could be handed his second consecutive healthy scratch and third straight game missed if he spends Thursday night in the press box with Doug Jarvis. It’s worth noting that Steven Stamkos was also a healthy scratch as a rookie and responded pretty well.
Habs defenseman P.K. Subban also missed three games as a healthy scratch this season. Bruins fans might remember him for scoring the first goal of the Nov. 3 game (and his career) by notching a power play tally against Tuukka Rask.
|Bruins at Sabres preview||12.15.10 at 12:14 am ET|
The Bruins will take on the Sabres for the third time this season as the two teams face off in Buffalo on Wednesday night. The Bruins have points in their last six games (4-0-2) and have taken both of their meetings with the Sabres. Their most recent win over Buffalo came last Tuesday when Mark Recchi tipped a Dennis Seidenberg shot past Ryan Miller to give the B’s a 3-2 win in overtime.
Tuukka Rask was first off the ice for the Bruins, an indication he’ll be between the pipes come game time.
WHERE IT’S AT
- The Sabres are a sub-.500 hockey team (12-14-4) because of their struggles at home. Nine of their 14 losses this season have come in Buffalo, as they’ve posted a 6-9-1 record at HSBC Arena. They are 3-3-0 in their last six home games.
- The Bruins remain a more dangerous team when playing away from TD Garden. They’ve posted a 9-3-1 road record. They took a shootout loss to the Maple Leafs in their last road game.
- Fighting majors aside, the Bruins have been avoiding the penalty box as of late. They had just one penalty in both Saturday’s game and last Tuesday’s Buffalo game, both of which contests went into overtime. The B’s are 15th in the league in penalty minutes per game (12.9), though that is helped by their 26 majors, a number that puts them fifth in the league despite tying seven teams for playing the least amount of games.
- Milan Lucic is on pace for 44 goals. Does anybody truly see him as a 40-goal-scorer? Variables such as empty netters and a couple softies have been on his side thus far, so while he may eventually slow down, he still figures the finish the season as the team’s top goal-scorer if he remains healthy.
- David Krejci has three points (all assists) against the Sabres this year. He’s only had three points against one other club, and he knocked that out in one game when he scored two goals and tallied an assist in the team’s 8-1 win over the Lightning. Krejci is also on a three-game point steak that began with his two assists last Saturday against the Sabres.
- Marc Savard and Tyler Seguin have combined for just two points — an assist apiece — since Savard made his return to the lineup on Dec. 2. One would have to assume the two will get going and that Seguin will eventually be big asset for Savard, but it simply hasn’t happened yet.
Savard’s ice time has generally been anywhere from 13:15 to 16:26, and he’s averaged 15:01 per night.
- Here’s a totally useless and hardly telling stat from the good ol’ WEEI.com stat truck: The Bruins have won the first game of a three-in-four stretch every time this year. In those games, they’ve grabbed wins in Buffalo (5-2 on Nov. 3), Pittsburgh (7-4 on Nov. 10), New York (3-2 over the Rangers on Nov. 17), and Philadelphia (3-0 on Dec. 1).
STORYLINES GOING IN
- Tim Thomas has started and won both of the team’s games against the Sabres thus far. It’s quite remarkable that Tuukka Rask is on pace for just 26 starts this season, but he’ll get his first crack at the Sabres Wednesday.
- Miller was dealing with a groin injury when the Bruins beat up on Jhonas Enroth and Patrick Lalime on Nov. 3, but he manned the pipes last Tuesday vs. the B’s. It wasn’t his best showing, as he allowed a bit of a softie to Lucic — letting a shot from a tough angle just sneak between his leg and the left post.
Miller is coming off a rough loss to the Penguins on Saturday. He allowed four goals on just 23 shots.
- It is up in the air whether the B’s will dress Tyler Seguin or Daniel Paille. Seguin didn’t play Saturday with what the team called flu-like symptoms, and Paille played well. Claude Julien told reporters that it would be a game-time decision.
- Adam McQuaid, who could have been badly injured on Jody Shelley‘s cheap shot Saturday, is also fine. Both players practiced Tuesday.
|Mike Milbury on D&H: B’s should consider trading Tim Thomas||12.08.10 at 12:56 pm ET|
NESN and NBC Sports hockey analyst Mike Milbury made his weekly appearance on the Dale & Holley show Wednesday to talk about the Bruins and the NHL. To hear the interview, go to the Dale & Holley audio on demand page.
Asked about the aborted Marco Sturm trade, Milbury speculated that the Kings must not have been aware of Sturm’s injury situation when they apparently agreed to the deal. “Why would you trade for a guy that’s still six weeks from being ready and pay him for that long a time when he’s making, what, $3 1/2 [million], $4 million, whatever he’s making?” Milbury said. “It didn’t make any sense to me at the time that they were picking him up them, unless the compensation was impacted by Los Angeles’ pickup of the money.
“I just think the ball got dropped on Sturm’s ability to come back and play, and that’s going to hold it up. I still think it’s a possibility, but all bets are off for now, anyway.”
Milbury noted that he has a positive opinion of Sturm. “I think he’s a solid player,” he said. “He’s sort of a ‘tweener, second and third line, for me. On a great team, he’s a wonderful third-line player. But he can certainly play up to the second line. I don’t think he’s a top-three forward on any really good team, but a very useful guy who can play in all sorts of situations. Nice to have his versatility. A little bit prone to injury, but it’s a tough sport.”
Touching on the Bruins’ goalie situation, Milbury continued to push for Tuukka Rask to get more of a chance, while acknowledging how well Tim Thomas has played. “[Thomas has] been spectacular,” Milbury said. “The numbers are what they are. The save percentage, astounding. The goals-against, astounding. The win-loss record, everything’s wonderful. He’s still, what is he, 37 [actually 36]? The future is now for Thomas, and I mean right now.
“I think Tuukka Rask is going to be a wonderful goaltender. I’m worried for the first time that he may be impacted psychologically over this thing, as down to earth as he is. There are a lot of people out there that wonder what they could get if they traded Tim Thomas. Now, wouldn’t that be gutsy? But it’s a thought. But it would be really hard to do right now.
“Tim Thomas is not going to be this good three years from now. That’s just the biological clock speaking. Yeah, he’s the No.1 guy now, you can’t deny it. It’s a wonderful story for Tim Thomas. And I think the Bruins count their blessings that they have a guy of the caliber of Tuukka Rask sitting on the bench. I worry for him that he gets discouraged at some point. That would really be a crime. Because 10 years from now, when he’s in his early 30s and his prime ' he’s not even close to his prime right now, and he had a spectacular season last year.
“It is what it is, and I can understand it. But there’s a part of me that says, particularly in the salary cap world, can you afford to do that? Can you afford to have two primo assets in that position, and should they think about trading one? And the only one that they could possibly trade, for me, is Thomas. I know right now that’s sacrilegious speaking.”
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