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Experience proves irrelevant for Bruins in first round of playoffs 04.26.12 at 2:14 am ET
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brightcove.createExperiences();

In the days leading up to the decisive Game 7 between the Bruins and Capitals, there was a plethora of talk about experience — mainly that the Bruins had it and were thus the favorites while the Capitals did not.

A quick look at the history books reflects that attitude. The Capitals were 1-3 in Game 7s since 2008 while the Bruins were 3-3, and the Bruins won all three of those Game 7s last season en route to their Stanley Cup championship. According to the history books, the Bruins had a better idea of how to win Game 7 than the Capitals did.

But even a cursory glance at the Bruins’€™ supposed experience revealed how much the Bruins were lacking in that area. In 2011, Nathan Horton had two of the Game 7 game-winning goals, and Patrice Bergeron had one. In 2012, Horton was not in the lineup, as he missed the playoffs with a concussion. Bergeron was limited in Game 7 by an undisclosed injury that prevented him from taking faceoffs and slowed him somewhat from the relatively healthy player he was in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals.

In the end, long-term experience did not benefit the Bruins, as they bowed out of the playoffs with a 2-1 overtime loss to the Capitals. Instead, it was more short-term experience, the experience gained from the other six games of the series and the games leading up to the playoffs, that provided a more accurate view of how Game 7 would go.

Throughout the series, the Capitals consistently beat the Bruins in blocked shots and faceoffs, small details that often reflect the strength of a team’€™s focus and desire. The Bruins outshot the Capitals, but the quality of each team’€™s scoring chances remained similar. Boston’€™s key players like David Krejci and Milan Lucic continued to be quiet while the load fell to players like Andrew Ference, who was 12th on the team in scoring during the regular season and the second-leading scorer in the postseason.

‘€œAt the end of the day when you look at your team, your team wasn’€™t playing its best hockey in this series,’€ Bruins coach Claude Julien said. ‘€œBefore this day started, you just hoped that you would get through this Game 7 and pick some momentum up as you moved forward in the playoffs.’€

The Capitals already had their momentum before the playoffs. Washington did not clinch a playoff spot until the penultimate game of the season, and it had to fight hard for every victory. The Capitals went 13-9 in their last 22 games of the regular season, and eight of those 22 games were decided in overtime or by a shootout while 16 of the 22 games were decided by two goals or less.

In contrast, the Bruins went 12-10 in their last 22 games. Four of those games were decided in overtime or by a shootout, equaling the total of overtime games in the first round series of the playoffs.

‘€œWe’€™ve felt like it was playoff hockey for the last 30 games to make sure we get in the playoffs,’€ Capitals forward Mike Knuble said. ‘€œIt wasn’€™t like we had to throw on a switch and start playing again in the playoffs, start playing a different way.’€

The Bruins did have to start playing differently in the playoffs. Like many teams, the Bruins rested key and injured players after clinching a berth in order to be fresh for the postseason.

The epitome of inexperience in the series was Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby, and he also proved that a lengthier resume does not always lead to success. With seven postseason starts, Holtby equaled the amount of starts he made during the season for the Capitals. Although the Bruins did not necessarily test him thoroughly, he still earned a .940 save percentage in the postseason, which was better than the very experienced Tim Thomas‘€™s .923 save percentage.

‘€œI was saying before we even came into the playoffs that it was good for this team to have a race to get into the playoffs,’€ Holtby said. ‘€œIt really made us buckle down and not take things for granted, and that was a big thing.’€

Now, perhaps because of that experience gained in the race to make the playoffs, it is the Capitals, not the Bruins, who have kept alive their hopes of winning the Stanley Cup.

Read More: Braden Holtby, David Krejci, Mike Knuble, Milan Lucic
Tim Thomas: ‘Our guys … are still champions’ at 1:28 am ET
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Just minutes after letting in the series-deciding goal three minutes into overtime, Bruins goalie Tim Thomas said he couldn’t believe the team’s chances at a repeat had ended so suddenly.

“I’€™d have to say I’€™m probably in shock,” Thomas said after Joel Ward tapped in Mike Knuble‘s rebound at 2:57 of overtime. “I really believed that we were going to win tonight. I thought that, I really had a deep feeling that this wasn’€™t the end of the road for us tonight, that this wasn’€™t going to be the last game of the season. And so that’€™s my first reaction.”

The Capitals broke out on a 2-on-1 on the game-winning rush when Benoit Pouliot couldn’t dump in the puck deep on an attempted Bruins’ line change.

“Well obviously you see Knuble coming down with the puck and coming to the net hard,” Thomas said. “He had himself in a position, he’€™s a big strong guy where it looked like to me where he could cut across the net or he could go both ways. So I had to play him straight up, and he got, when he got in closer to me it got stuck on his backhand there, so I was just trying to play him honest and wait for him to take the shot. I didn’€™t want to go down until after he took the, released the puck because I didn’€™t want him to be able to go up and over my pad.

“And then he threw, they he put it at the net backhand and his momentum continued into me. I’€™m not, I’€™m not calling sour grapes, but it’€™s reality and it pushed me out of the way just enough to open up the net for Ward to put it in. I didn’€™t even see [Joel] Ward put it in. I knew the rebound was going that way but I had guys, well my head was probably in about his stomach, right. I don’€™t have a picture of it in my head even because I couldn’€™t, so, it’€™s, you just hear the crowd and you see them going crazy so you know something happened.”

For the first time in Stanley Cup playoff history, all seven games were decided by one goal.

“I think both teams battled very hard,” Thomas said. “They stuck to their game plan. They made it very difficult for us to generate any offense or any momentum with the style that they played. What it says about our guys is that they’€™re battlers and they’€™re, well they’€™re still champions. And they gave everything they had to the bitter end. Unfortunately this is sports and they fell short this time.

“Well, it’€™s obviously a very difficult thing. That’€™s why nobody’€™s done it in a long time. But having said that, I thought we had a better chance than most. I thought that if we could get past this first round hurdle that we would pick up some energy and momentum. I mean, I had the picture in my head of holding the Cup again this year. And I thought, I believed in that this team still had what it took to get it done, even with that short summer and everything else.”

Read More: 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs, Boston Bruins, Tim Thomas, Washington Capitals
Bruins-Capitals Game 7 preview: Seven stats, players to watch and keys to victory 04.25.12 at 12:08 am ET
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It’s all about seven as the Bruins host the Capitals in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals. Here’s everything you need to know and more, with seven the central theme.

SEVEN STATS

‘€¢ According to some impressive research done by Brian McNally of the Washington Examiner, Jay Beagle has an incredible 61.6 success rate in the faceoff circle (53-for-86). Even more impressive is that he’s won 13-of-21 faceoffs against Patrice Bergeron, who led the league in faceoff wins during the regular season.

‘€¢ Tim Thomas‘ 14 goals allowed through the first six games of the series equals the total he allowed in the first six games of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals last season against the Canadiens. He faced only 12 more shots against the Habs through six than he has entering Wednesday’s Game 7.

‘€¢ Alexander Ovechkin has two goals and two assists for four points and a minus-1 rating in four career Game 7s. He and the Capitals have gone 1-3 in those games.

This series, Ovechkin is tied with Rich Peverley with five points.

‘€¢ Brad Marchand and Milan Lucic each have four career points in Game 7s to lead the Bruins. Lucic has three goals and an assist in six Game 7s while Marchand had two goals and two assists in three Game 7s last postseason.

‘€¢ This series is the only one in NHL history to have the first six games decided by one goal. Both teams have scored 14 goals apiece with no empty-netters.

‘€¢ Dennis Seidenberg has played in four Game 7s and won them all. He has four assists and plus-4 rating in those games, and has never had a negative rating in a Game 7.

‘€¢ The Bruins have scored on the power play in just one of their six Game 7s since 2008. That game was Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Flyers, a contest in which they scored two on the man advantage. Since 2008, the B’s are 2-for-13 on the power play in Game 7s.

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Read More: 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs, Alexander Ovechkin, Patrice Bergeron, Tim Thomas
A closer look at Bruins’ recent Game 7 history 04.24.12 at 9:14 pm ET
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Since the 2007-08 season, the Bruins have played six Game 7s, and until last season, they had lost all of them. In the 2011 playoffs, however, the Bruins won three Game 7s en route to winning the Stanley Cup. Two of those wins were by one goal, one of which was an overtime winner.

Milan Lucic and Brad Marchand lead the Bruins in scoring in those Game 7s with four points each. Lucic has scored three goals and recorded an assist in six Game 7s since 2008 while Marchand, in just three career Game 7s, has two goals and two assists. Both goals and one assist came in Game 7 of the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals against Vancouver, which the Bruins won, 4-0. Nathan Horton has two Game 7 goals, both of which were game-winners. He leads the Bruins in game-winning Game 7 goals since 2008, but is not playing in the playoffs this year because of a concussion.

Tim Thomas played in five of the six Game 7s, and he owns a 3-2 record with a .935 save percentage in Game 7. Thomas engineered the Bruins to two of their three Game 7 wins last season, pitching a shutout in the Eastern Conference finals and the Stanley Cup finals.

Here’s a further breakdown of how the Bruins have fared in Game 7 since 2008:

Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs, Brad Marchand, Milan Lucic, Tim Thomas
Tim Thomas stands on his head then tips cap to ‘coming of age’ goal by Tyler Seguin 04.22.12 at 8:13 pm ET
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There’s no one on the Bruins who has handled pressure over the last two years any better than Tim Thomas.

He did it again on Sunday and thanks to that – and an overtime goal from Tyler Seguin – the Bruins will play a Game 7 against the Capitals on Wednesday in Boston.

“Basically, believe that we can do it, that we’re going to come out on top. It only takes one shot and we’re heading back home for Game 7 to sum it up,” Thomas said after registering 36 saves in the 4-3 OT thriller at Verizon Center.

Thomas defines clutch in Boston sports right now. He is 9-2 in elimination games with a 2.01 goals against average. His last loss to end a season came in the double-overtime crusher of 2009 against the Hurricanes in the Eastern semifinals.

His latest clutch moment came in a 60-second span when he denied Marcus Johansson with his paddle, a la his classic save on Steve Downie in Game 7 of the Eastern finals against the Lightning last year, and then, less than a minute later, Thomas stoned Jay Beagle point blank.

“I pride myself on doing the best I can every night, and doing the best I can to help the team,” Thomas said Sunday. “Our backs are up against the wall so I was trying to help them out. Hopefully, I did, but they stepped up and helped themselves out, too. The whole team did.”

“You’ve got obviously Tyler Seguin, a coming-of-age goal there, an overtime goal. [David Krejci] getting his first goal of the series. [Milan Lucic], it may not have shown up on the scoreboard, but the fact he had that extra gear helped us out. [Rich Peverley] again. All of us were there today and that’s what it took to come out of here with a win, and even having said that, it was hard.”

As for overtime, Thomas needed only to turn away one shot, a 53-foot shot from Beagle just 2:23 into the extra period.

“I’m not really feeling pressure like that,” Thomas said. “Yeah, it crosses my mind but I do my best to block it out as soon as possible and get into that mindset that you get into while you play the game, which is very little talk in your head. So, having said that, in the quiet times you realize that one shot, and our season is over. By the time the puck’s dropped, you better make sure you get that out of your head and you’re ready to make the save. More than hoping not to get scored on, I think you have to be ready to make the save.”

Read More: 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs, Boston Bruins, Marcus Johansson, Tim Thomas
With the season on the line, Tim Thomas isn’t worried about one bad game at 9:29 am ET
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brightcove.createExperiences();

If there were ever a time to put a sub-par game in the past, today is the day for Tim Thomas.

It’s Game 6 in Washington, D.C. and Thomas is focused on keeping his Bruins in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

As for Saturday’s Game 5, sure there are a couple of shots he’d like to have back but has he said afterward, you can’t turn back the clock and get another chance to make a save.

Asked if he could’ve done a better job handling the rebound that led to Mike Knuble‘s goal to make it 3-2 or Troy Brouwer‘s game-winner on the power play, Thomas was philosophical. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs, Boston Bruins, Mike Knuble, Tim Thomas
Tuukka Rask doesn’t swear, but he explains why the Tim Thomas White House snub won’t be an issue 04.16.12 at 2:16 pm ET
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WASHINGTON — Everyone in the world wants to forget about the Tim Thomas/White House fiasco, and maybe they finally can after Monday night.

Game 3 will be Thomas’ second game at Verizon Center since the reigning Conn Smythe winner skipped the team’s White House visit in January. Fans in D.C. are being encouraged to wear Barack Obama masks as a way of taunting Thomas.

The Bruins are sick of answering questions about Thomas and the White House. Thomas has promised the media that he will end his sessions with reporters if the White House or his politics are mentioned. Both times it has happened since, Thomas has made good on his word and walked out.

Yet Tuukka Rask was happy to explain why he doesn’t think Thomas will be impacted by a Verizon Center full of fans who are angry with the two-time Vezina winner.

“I think everybody’s angry at him because he’s so good,” Rask said. “You guys know him almost as well as I do. He doesn’t give a’€¦ shoot about that stuff. It doesn’t bother him at all.”

Read More: 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs, Barack Obama, Tim Thomas, Tuukka Rask
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