|Shawn Thornton on D&C: ‘You never really expect to sweep a [Penguins] team with that much firepower’||06.10.13 at 10:13 am ET|
The Bruins open the Stanley Cup finals on Wednesday in Chicago against the Blackhawks, who led the league with 77 points in the abbreviated regular season.
Thornton spent five years in the Chicago organization and made his NHL debut with the Blackhawks in the 2002-03 season, so he has some familiarity with a few of the current Blackhawks.
“I think their back end is as mobile as anybody’s in the NHL,” Thornton said. “I think that they’re a puck-possession team. If you give them their opportunities, if you turn that puck over they get going the other way in a hurry. They have some really, really crafty forwards up front also with [Patrick] Kane and [Jonathan] Toews and [Marian] Hossa. You definitely have to be careful.
“They’re similar in that way with the Penguins. But it’s kind of tough to compare them; we haven’t played against them this year. I only know from playing with those guys years back. I don’t really watch a whole lot of hockey.”
The Bruins are coming off a surprising four-game sweep of the top-seeded Penguins in the Eastern Conference finals. The B’s shut down Pittsburgh’s heralded offensive stars and limited the Penguins to two goals in four games.
“I honestly did not think we’d be able to shut those guys down for a whole series. Sweep was a little surprising, too,” Thornton said. “I liked the feeling in our room after we were up 2-0. I liked the feeling in our room after we were up 3-0 and going into Game 4. But you never really expect to sweep a team with that much firepower.”
Added Thornton: “Our D did an unbelievable job. The forwards helped out, but you’ve got to give the D and Tuukka [Rask] a lot of credit. And our penalty-killers. A lot of blocked shots. A lot of being in the right position. A lot of layers. A lot of hard work defensively. Definitely not easy. They had their chances, too. They hit a few posts and stuff like that. But I think for the most part we did as good a job as can be done against those guys.”
|David Krejci: ‘We might have the best team in the world’||06.07.13 at 11:58 pm ET|
“We don’t have the superstars on this team. We don’t have the best player in the world. But we might have the best team in the world,” said Krejci. “We play as a team.”
This isn’t the first time we’ve heard Krejci talk about the “best players in the world.” After a 3-0 Game 1 victory, Krejci compared the Penguins to the Bruins.
‘Those guys, I think they’re the best players in the world at this moment. There’s no one like those guys. On the other hand, we don’t have guys like that. We have a team. We all play as a team,’ Krejci said at the time.
The Bruins forward is the team leader in points, goals, and assists this postseason, but has stressed a team-first mentality throughout.
“In the playoffs you need everyone to step up at one point,” answered Krejci. “Tuukka [Rask] has been doing it, defensemen have been doing it, and forwards have been doing it. If you want to go far in the playoffs you need more than just one or two lines to score goals.”
Fifteen different Bruins players have scored goals so far this playoffs.
Andy Brickley, the color commentator for the Bruins on NESN, called into Mut & Merloni on Friday afternoon, and he wholeheartedly agreed with Claude Julien‘s apparent decision to play Kaspars Daugavins Friday night after Gregory Campbell broke his leg in Wednesday’s double-overtime win.
“You have to look at it this way: What players are available in the absence of Gregory Campbell? And what are we losing in Gregory Campell?” Brickley said. “You’re losing an energy guy, a real good faceoff guy, a penalty-killer, reliable, accountable ‘ all those things that you want in your role-playing centerman.”
Brickley said once Julien split up Rich Peverley and Chris Kelly to center the bottom two lines, Daugavins makes the most sense of the options, including Jay Pandolfo, Carl Soderberg and Jordan Caron.
“Which player has the most trust of the coaching staff, and which player gives your team the greater flexibility and versatility if you have to shorten the bench or you get into a special teams game?” Brickley asked. “Daugavins is probably your best bet.”
Brickley, like many, many others the last two days, lauded Campbell for sticking it out for the rest of his shift after breaking his leg while blocking a shot during Wednesday’s marathon Game 3. He said the effort exemplified “the [hockey] culture, how these guys grew up,” and Campbell finishing his shift was a high-risk, high-reward situation.
“I know there was some discussion whether he should’ve just lied down and writhed in pain in order to get the whistle — but I don’t think it would have come — so he did what he had to do,” Brickley said. “The impact that that can have if you survive that penalty-killing situation, but then get yourself to the bench, the message received by the players [about] how committed you are.”
|Bobby Orr on D&C: Bruins ‘a better team than they were in ’11’||06.06.13 at 9:11 am ET|
“This team, you go back to the Toronto series, is this the same team? What did they do? Absolutely amazing,” Orr said. “They didn’t play great against Toronto. The 10 minutes of the last game, an unbelievable comeback. They played a little better against the Rangers. But in this series, they’re playing as well now as they did in ’11. They’ve completely dominated Pittsburgh. ‘¦ They’re playing their big guys against their big guys, and the Bruin guys that are supposed to score are scoring, Tuukka [Rask] has been unbelievable. I don’t know what happened. But Claude [Julien] and the coaching staff got them playing great. Very impressive. Very impressive.”
Added Orr: “This is team is playing unbelievable hockey. And people are going to say, ‘Well, Pittsburgh’s not playing very well.’ Well, the Bruins aren’t letting them play. They’re all over them, they’re not giving them any room. And when they get those chances, Tuukka’s coming up huge for that team. It’s a team effort.”
“I don’t agree with that at all, about him being overrated and this guy not doing da-da-da-da,” Orr said. “Let’s look at what the Bruins are doing. they’re not giving them one inch. You want to play tough? The Bruins are there. Finesse? Every player that’s supposed to — whatever the players’ strength is, that player is playing to his full strength. It’s wonderful to watch. And they’re defense, wow. Defensively they’re very, very strong.”
Gregory Campbell took a slap shot off his leg late in the second period but showed toughness by getting back to his feet and struggling to help the B’s penalty kill for almost a minute until the puck was cleared and he had a chance to get to the bench.
“What that kid did last night — I mean, they’re reporting he may have a broken leg. He obviously he was in pain, and he hung in there,” Orr said. “That’s the team. That’s the team right there. That’s what they are right now. We saw what they’re made of. This team has a ton of character. A ton of character.”
Added Orr: “What he did was incredible. Certainly it gave the team a great lift. Certainly the fans appreciated what Gregory did.”
|Tuukka Rask: ‘It was definitely a grind’||at 2:53 am ET|
Of all the great performances Tuukka Rask has had in these 2013 playoffs, Wednesday night was certainly the most grueling.
He stopped 53 shots in 95 minutes and 19 seconds, allowing only a Chris Kunitz goal in the second period as the Bruins prevailed, 2-1, in double-overtime in Game 3 of the Eastern finals at TD Garden.
“Yeah, it was definitely a grind,” Rask said. “Both teams played pretty good. That second period was the worst one for us, but we battled and going into double overtime it’s anybody’s game.
“It’s five periods. So I imagine everybody gets tired. It’s more of a mental challenge I think. I wasn’t cramping up today or anything. So that was positive.”
Is he wiped out?
“Yeah, a little bit. I mean, it’s I don’t know 12:30 or something, five periods of hockey. Not the freshest feeling, but I think the win makes it a little easier,” he said with a smile. “I don’t think you feel that physical fatigue-ness at that point. It’s just trying to keep your head, and not thinking that you’re tired. It’s just a nice little challenge ‘ you know if you think you’re tired you’re tired, and if you don’t you don’t.”
Tired or not, the numbers don’t lie. Rask is putting up even better stats to this point of the playoffs than Tim Thomas – the Conn Smythe winner – did in 2011 on the way to the Cup.
Thomas was 11-4 through 15 games with a goals against of 2.28. He had two shutouts, facing 521 shots with a save percentage of .931. Rask is also 11-4 through 15 games, with a 1.85 goals against, one shutout, facing 501 shots and a .940 save percentage.
“I feel good. I mean, I don’t feel any better than I’ve felt throughout the playoffs,” Rask said. “I think our team is helping me out a lot. Although obviously you let in two goals in three games you’re making some good saves too. But we’re blocking shots and taking care of those rebounds pretty well. So they’re helping my job a lot.”
Rask made several big saves and was helped out by a pair of posts, including a shot by Sidney Crosby in the first period. But the biggest save may have come from Gregory Campbell, who blocked a slap shot from Evgeni Malkin in the second period during a Penguins power play.
“I saw it, yeah. A guy had a lane and he sacrificed his body,” Rask said. “It was a great thing, just bad thing he got hurt. He blocks a lot of shots, he took one for the team there, and we really wanted to win this for him.”
|A fired-up and not-so ‘normal’ Tuukka Rask leads Bruins into Game 3||06.05.13 at 1:49 pm ET|
Tuukka Rask was on a razor’s edge Wednesday morning before Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals.
The mild-mannered “normal” goalie who can turn on a dime if he doesn’t play well or someone ticks him off on the ice, reached that boiling point Wednesday.
First came an innocent enough flick of a rebound into the net when Rask wasn’t ready from a teammate near the corner boards. Rask was focusing on 2-on-1 drills and had the puck stopped but the teammate just figured he’d fire it into the empty net.
As the video below shows, Rask angrily turned around reached into the net and faked firing it back but thought better of it.
But that was nothing compared to what happened about 15 minutes later. Shawn Thornton came in and snapped a shot that appeared to catch Rask in the right collarbone area. He fell to the ice in obvious pain and then yelled. He skated past Thornton who appeared to want to see if he was OK.
Rask stormed to the bench area and slammed his stick against the boards in front of the Bruins bench. He rested and recovered for less than a minute before returning to drills.
Coach Claude Julien‘s reaction?
“He’s fine,” Julien said. “Just didn’t want him falling in front of that door when he went out of his crease. I told him, ‘You’re making me look bad.’ I said, ‘I told everybody you were normal.’ But I said, ‘I did tell them you had a temper.’ So I said, ‘You’re okay.’ No issues.”
Whatever has motivated Rask so far in the series has certainly worked. He has stopped 55-of-56 shots and has allowed only a Brandon Sutter perfectly placed wrist shot to beat him in the first period of Game 2. Rask is 10-4 in these playoffs so far with a 1.99 goals against and a .935 save percentage.
Defense wins championships. It’s a cliche nearly as old as the Stanley Cup. But it’s true. Keep your opponent from scoring and your chances of winning in the playoffs increases dramatically. And, according to Claude Julien, it’s been the secret to success for the Bruins in the first two games against the Penguins as the Boston forwards have shown a commitment to coming back and playing defense while the Penguins, not so much.
“It’s been good for us,” Julien said Wednesday morning before Game 3. “I think, when you look at our team, it’s built that way. We take pride in that part of our game, and that part of our game’s also given us the opportunity to be better offensively; turn that puck over quick and then everybody comes back, then we go back up the ice as a unit. That’s been a big part of our game and when it’s good, it provides us with some good offense.”
Julien was told that some in the Bruins dressing room Wednesday – like Daniel Paille – said that’s it’s not as simple as it looks to play a defensive system like the Bruins employ. Julien begged to differ.
“It’s not complicated, so I’m going to have to have a talk with Dan,” Julien said half-jokingly. “It really isn’t. What we try and do is eliminate the gray areas, make it black and white. It really is easy. He probably said complicated because he doesn’t want to tell you what it is. But it isn’t. This game shouldn’t be a complicated one.
“Guys have skills, you try to put some structure together, but the one thing you don’t take away is their ability to use their imagination and their skill and their hockey sense to make plays. Defensively, is where you’re extremely structured, and you want to make sure that you have layers and guys come back to where they should be positionally. When it comes to offense, a couple of rules, but the rest is about letting them do their job and letting them use their creativity.”
Julien again reminded everyone that his team is taking a level-headed approach in the hours before Game 3, knowing the Penguins figure to be hungry after losing Games 1 and 2 on home ice.
“It doesn’t matter what situation it is, I think our guys our mature enough to understand that whatever we went through, whatever the situation is right now, we have to be a good team in order to win at this stage of the season,” Julien said. “We can’t afford to let our guard down, whether it’s the respect for a team you’re playing, and the ability of that team to take advantage of you if you’re not ready, or whether it’s just from within our group to want to be a good team every night. That’s what’s important right now, thats we stay focused on the present and don’t live in the past, don’t look in the future. I’ve said that before, we’ve been good when we’ve kept our eye on what’s going on right now. That’s what we’ve got to do.”
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