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Barry Melrose on D&C: Maple Leafs have to ‘be the Boston Bruins to be successful’ 05.02.13 at 12:33 pm ET
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Barry Melrose

ESPN NHL analyst Barry Melrose talked with Dennis & Callahan on Thursday to analyze the Bruins’ Game 1 victory over the Maple Leafs. Game 2 is Saturday in Boston, before the series shifts to Toronto on Monday.

After trailing 1-0 early in the first period, the Bruins quickly answered with two first-period goals and coasted to a 4-1 win.

“[The Bruins] were awesome after [Wade Redden's goal],” Melrose said. “They looked like the old Bruins after that. They were physical, their play in the neutral zone was great. I can probably think of 10 passes and plays intercepted by the Boston Bruins in the neutral zone. They attacked the net with ferocity. And [Tuukka] Rask, he didn’t get a lot of work, but I thought he made three or four key saves when the game was on the line. It was just what the doctor ordered if you’re a Bruins fan.”

Melrose also discussed the importance for the Maple Leafs to be more physical in the coming games, and the consequence of not doing so — a quick exit in the playoffs.

“They have to play more aggressive,” Melrose said. “They’ve got to do some hitting. Toronto’s got to play on the edge. They’ve got to be finishing checks, winning battles. They’ve got to be the Boston Bruins to be successful, and they weren’t last night. They were always retaliating, they were never initiating, and that’s got to change for the Toronto Maple Leafs. If it doesn’t, this will be a short series.”

The Maple Leafs’ top offensive weapon, Phil Kessel, was essentially neutralized by the Bruins in Game 1. This is becoming all to familiar for Kessel, as he has struggled in his career against his former team, due in large part to Zdeno Chara‘s stellar defense.

“Chara’s on the ice every time Kessel’s on the ice,” Melrose said. “That just shows how good Chara is. Year in and year out I would give Chara the Norris Trophy, he’s that good defensively and that’s what he did last night. He’s out there with that huge reach. He’s got that mean streak to him, and Kessel just has no open ice. Kessel needs room, Kessel needs some space to make plays and with Chara and that long stick and that huge reach, he just doesn’t have any time or space to make plays. Chara always eats Kessel up.”

The favorites out of the Eastern Conference are the top-seeded Penguins, who took care of the Islanders 5-0 in their playoff opener. However, as we saw last year with the Kings, anything is possible in the playoffs.

“We see that every year,” Melrose said. “We see LA last year make the eighth spot and win the Stanley Cup and win it easily. It’s about getting your game together, it’s about getting hot at the right time, it’s about great goaltending, it’s about your special team kicking in key goals at key times and stopping their power play. We see it all the time. A team that looks unbeatable at the start of the playoffs loses in four straight. So, without a doubt things can change and change very quickly.”

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Bruins swarm all over Maple Leafs in Game 1 win 05.01.13 at 9:44 pm ET
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If Wednesday’s Game 1 was any sort of indication as to how the Bruins-Maple Leafs series is going to go, you can expect this to be a quick one. The B’s swarmed the Leafs in an uncharacteristically relentless effort and took the opening game of the series at TD Garden, 4-1.

The Leafs took an early lead on a power play goal from James van Riemsdyk, but it was all Bruins from there. Wade Redden validated Claude Julien’s decision to put him in the lineup by tying the game on a slap shot that trickled past James Reimer, and it was Redden’s shot that was tipped past the Toronto goalie with 12 seconds remaining in the first to make it 2-1.

The B’s added second period goals from David Krejci and Johnny Boychuk to put the game out of reach, though Toronto coach Randy Carlyle stuck with Reimer the whole way. Both Redden and Krejci’s goals were stoppable, but the Leafs turned in a really poor effort in front of their goalie.

Tuukka Rask didn’t have a very tough night and was able to stop 19 of 20 shots he faced. Van Riemsdyk’s goal came from a rebound tap-in out in front.

The series will resume Saturday at TD Garden.

WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE BRUINS

- The Bergeron line was absolutely buzzing for the Bruins. Tyler Seguin and Brad Marchand had three shots on goal apiece in the first period alone, with Seguin finishing the night with a game-high seven shots on goal. Though the B’s didn’t get a goal from the line, they almost got two. Seguin hit the crossbar/left post corner in the second period on a goal that was waved off, and Bergeron crashed the net to knock in a puck that was ruled no-goal because it had been whistled dead. If the Bruins get performances like that out of the Bergeron line, they’ll be sitting pretty.

- Where was Phil Kessel? The former Bruin didn’t register a shot on goal until the third period. In 23 career games against the Bruins now, Kessel has three goals and six assists for nine points and a minus-22 rating.

- David Krejci was a slow starter in the last two postseasons, but he kicked off the 2013 postseason with much better production. Krejci, who had two goals and two assists for four points in 11 first-round games over the last two seasons, scored in the second period and had a helper on Horton’s goal, which gives him more points (two) than he had in the first round against the Canadiens two years ago in a seven-game series in which he only produced a goal.

The most comical part of Krejci’s goal was that it started out as a bad play by the center, but the Leafs gave him an easy opportunity to correct it. Entering the zone, Krejci sent an ill-advised pass to the swarmed Horton, and the pass was broken up in front. Krejci was able to step over, gain control of the puck and wheel around to beat Reimer, who didn’t seem to expect a shot on net.

- The Bruins had three goals in only one of their last nine games of the season, and that three-goal performance on April 21 included an empty-net goal. They were able to get to three goals in just over halfway through the game Wednesday. Yes, they were playing a team that allowed the second-most goals of the 16 playoff teams during the regular season, but they also stepped up their game big time. All that talk of “not being able to flip a switch”? It’s bogus.

- With his goal, Nathan Horton now has 18 points (nine goals, nine assists) in 22 career playoff games. Horton’s only other playoff experience came in the 2011 season, when he scored three game-winning goals and five others.

- The Bruins didn’t score on the power play against the Maple Leafs in the regular season (0-for-7), but Horton’s goal came on the power play. The tally came following a shorthanded bid from James van Riemsdyk in which the Toronto left wing hit the cross-bar. The goal was reviewed to see if Horton, who tipped it in, had his stick above the crossbar at the time.

WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE BRUINS

- While the top two lines were dominant for the Bruins, the third line was not. The trio of Chris Kelly between Kaspars Daugavins and Jaromir Jagr had just one shot on goal in the first period, and each member had one shot on goal apiece through the first 40 minutes.

- The Bruins really got away with one when Andrew Ference elbowed Mikhail Grabovski in the head with the Maple Leafs already on the power play. With both players coming from different directions into the corner, Ference threw a high elbow that knocked Grobovski to the ground. Watching it live, it seemed like Grabovski was fishing for a call, but replays showed that Ference got away with a dirty play. Here’s the video.

- JVR strikes again. He’s had some big games against the Bruins in the playoffs in the past, and he could have had a second goal Wednesday had he not hit the crossbar. Van Riemsdyk led the Bruins with five shots on goal.

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Barry Pederson on D&C: ‘Very important playoffs for Tuukka’ Rask 04.30.13 at 10:48 am ET
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NESN Bruins analyst Barry Pederson checked in with Dennis & Callahan on Tuesday to break down the B’s first-round playoff series against the Maple Leafs.

Tuukka Rask enters the playoffs looking to build on a strong regular season. (AP)

One of the potential question marks heading into this strike-shortened season for the B’s was goaltending. During the 2011 Stanley Cup run, Tim Thomas was a standout. Now Thomas’ former backup, Tuukka Rask, is the No. 1 netminder. Rask proved up to the task, finishing sixth in the NHL in goals-against average, third in save percentage and tied for first with five shutouts.

“This is going to be a very important playoffs for Tuukka,” Pederson said. “By most standards he had a very good season. I think he’ll be one of the finalists for the Vezina. He did not get enough support, especially through the power-play scoring and the offensive side. I expect the Bruins to have a little bit of an advantage over Toronto in the goaltending department, which is one of the reasons when we were doing our previews for the playoffs and who the Bruins would match up well against; I thought the Bruins would do much better on a matchup basis with Toronto and the Islanders vs. the Rangers and Ottawa. … The Bruins, when they’re successful, they attack. They come at you in waves. They forecheck, they put pressure on your defense, they have turnovers, they’re physical, they’re intense. Then they go to the dirty areas, that’s what I want to see.”

On offense, the Maple Leafs are led by former Bruin Phil Kessel. The 25-year-old led the team in goals (20), assists (32) and points (52), ranking eighth, ninth and sixth in the league in those categories, respectively.

[Kessel] is a very important player and the key guy there will be [Zdeno] Chara,” Pederson said. “It could also be [Dennis] Seidenberg if they’re going to go after them that way. So far, obviously the stats speak for themselves. Phil has had a tremendous offensive season except when he plays the Bruins, and there’s one reason for that. It’s Chara. He’s that good defensively.”

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Patrice Bergeron takes home the hardware in regular season finale 04.28.13 at 7:59 pm ET
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Patrice Bergeron. (AP)

The Bruins announced their regular season award winners before the regular season finale with the Senators Sunday night. Patrice Bergeron was the recipient of the Eddie Shore Award (exceptional hustle and determination, chosen by the “Gallery Gods”) as well as the Elizabeth Dufresne Trophy (outstanding performance during home games, determined by the Boston Chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers Association).

Gregory Campbell was selected for the John P. Bucyk Award (greatest off-ice charitable contributions, chosen by John Bucyk); and Tuukka Rask (First Star), Bergeron (Second Star) and Tyler Seguin (Third Star) were named the Bruins Three Stars (top performers at home over the course of the season).

Eddie Shore Award and Elizabeth Dufresne Trophy

Bergeron, the team’s alternate captain to Zdeno Chara, was also selected by the “Gallery Gods” as the Eddie Shore Award winner for demonstrating exceptional hustle and determination throughout the 2013 campaign. The reining Selke Trophy winner currently leads the Bruins with a +25 rating (5th NHL), is second in assists (22) and is tied for fourth in points with 32 (10-22). The Bruins centerman also leads the NHL in faceoff percentage, winning puck drops at a 61.9-percent clip.

In addition to the Eddie Shore Award, the BPHWA has selected Bergeron as the Elizabeth Dufresne Trophy recipient for his outstanding performance during Bruins home games this season. At TD Garden this year, Bergeron has notched eight goals and 13 assists for 21 points. The forward’s +20 rating and 66.8% (280/419) faceoff percentage in Boston, leads all Bruins players.

John P. Bucyk Award

Gregory Campbell has been an active participant in the Boston Bruins off-ice charitable events in this years condensed NHL season. Campbell has spent many of his rare off days making community visits throughout the Greater Boston area, including visits to the Charlestown Boys & Girls Club, Home for Little Wanderers and was a one of the team’s participants in their annual “Cuts for a Cause” event. Read the rest of this entry »

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Will the playoffs be the time for Tuukka Rask to shine? 04.26.13 at 4:58 pm ET
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The last time Tuukka Rask started a playoff game was one all Bruins fans would like to forget.

It was May 14, 2010. Rask was spotted a 3-0 lead in the first period of Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Flyers. The Bruins would lose the game on a power play goal by Simon Gagne when the Bruins were called for too many men on the ice.

The game marked Boston’s collapse after going up 3-0 in the series and three goals in the final game on home ice. Rask was thrown into the spotlight that season when Tim Thomas was nursing an injured hip that eventually required surgery. Rask was 7-6 in the playoffs that season with a 2.61 goals against and a .912 save percentage. Not bad but a lot of Bruins fans felt Rask was exposed.

Of course, that was all forgiven 12 months later as Thomas and the Bruins won their sixth Stanley Cup in history.

Now, Thomas is gone. It’s Tuukka’s time to shine, and shine is exactly what Rask has done this season. He has five shutouts, including a 2-0 blanking of the Lightning on Thursday in which he turned aside all 30 shots. He is a leading candidate for the Vezina Trophy awarded to the top goalie, sporting a 19-9-4 record with a sparkling 1.97 goals against and a .930 save percentage.

There’s no doubt he’s the goalie going into the playoffs. Still, there were questions about Rask and the Bruins in the last three weeks, as the team has struggled with consistency.

How important was Thursday night in terms of confidence? Even Rask isn’t sure it means all that much.

“I don’t know. I guess you always try to take the positives no matter how it goes, but the playoffs is a different season,” Rask said. “Everybody knows that. I just try to feel comfortable out there and play the game one at a time.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Claude Julien on bounceback win: ‘I’m not looking for perfection, I’m looking for reaction’ at 12:59 am ET
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After his team shut out the Lightning, 2-0, to clinch home ice in the first round of the playoffs, Bruins coach Claude Julien said he was happy with his team’s response to Tuesday night’s loss in Philadelphia.

“Like I said [Thursday] morning, we’re going to find out quickly if it was just a little bump in the road or whether it was a step back,” Julien said. “I thought our guys played hard tonight. I’m not looking for perfection, I’m looking for reaction.”

What kind of reaction?

“Reaction, to play with some emotion, play with some grit, desire, determination,” Julien added. “I saw all those things tonight. The identity of our team is as such, we’re a team that prides ourselves on being a physical team, a team that’s hard to play against. We have to create that, the rest of the game will come along. That’s what we’re looking to see from our guys for 60 minutes and I think they did a good job of playing a full 60 tonight.

Tuukka Rask was a big part of the reaction Thursday, turning back all 30 shots in recording his fifth shutout of the season.

“Overall, I thought we played hard, we moved the puck quickly, when there was a breakdown Tuukka was there to make the big saves. I was pretty happy with the game, I know that if we keep playing that way we’ll only get bet better.”

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Tuukka Rask, Bruins blank Lightning to lock up home ice in first round 04.25.13 at 10:05 pm ET
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Tuukka Rask makes one of 30 saves on the night for his 5th shutout of the season. (AP)

Tuukka Rask made all the timely saves a coach could ask for as the Bruins clinched home ice in the first round of the playoffs with a 2-0 win over the Lightning at home on Thursday.

Rask earned his fifth shutout of the season, tying a career high set in the 2009-10 season. Dennis Seidenberg chipped in with his third goal of the year, a slap shot through traffic from the point, and while the Bruins didn’t have a particularly inspiring start to the game, they finished strong, holding off a late Lightning onslaught for the win.

Here’s a look at what went right and wrong for the Bruins on Thursday.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

- Rask was sharp from the start and ultimately made 30 saves. Perhaps his most memorable stop came in the second, when he robbed Steven Stamkos on an odd-man rush for the Lightning, sliding across the crease to snatch Stamkos’ wrister out of the air. Shortly afterward, he drew chants of his name from the Garden crowd when he made two impressive kick saves in rapid succession.

Late in the third, with the Bruins maintaining a 2-0 lead, Rask shut down another Lightning rush, stopping Tampa leading scorer Martin St. Louis.

Rask also kept the Bruins in the game when they were being outshot and outworked early in the first period, stopping a number of quality chances from close range. He effectively put his brief but unspectacular outing in Philadelphia, in which he allowed three goals on 13 shots in relief of Anton Khudobin, behind him.

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