|Bruins Thursday notes: Nathan Horton OK, David Krejci loves being ‘unpredictable’ and Tuukka Rask ‘in the zone’||05.09.13 at 3:46 pm ET|
The Bruins held an optional skate on Thursday at TD Garden, with optional being the key word. David Krejci and Dougie Hamilton were among several Bruins in the tunnel outside their dressing room playing soccer but other than that there was no on-ice activity as the Bruins rest after their Game 4 victory over the Leafs that leaves them one win from the second round.
Coach Claude Julien confirmed that Nathan Horton is OK after taking a vicious body blow on a forecheck from Dion Phaneuf that led to Krejci’s game-winner in overtime Wednesday night. Horton is expected to be ready and play Game 5 Friday night at TD Garden.
Julien covered a number of topics on Thursday, including the play of Krejci, the nerves of steel of Tuukka Rask and what makes the Bruins so much fun to coach at this time of year.
Here were his answers in Thursday’s Q & A with reporters at TD Garden.
On if after the game he realized how good of a game last night was: “Yes, I do. I said it [Wednesday] night, I said it this morning to the guys. It shouldn’t be looked at who’s an experience team, who’s a young team, who’s this, who’s that; it should be viewed as two teams playing really good hockey right now. There’s a lot of teams that Leafs squad would have beat playing the way they did and we’re, when I say fortunate, that we played well enough and found a way to score that overtime goal to get that win, because it was a real good game that could have gone either way.”
On the mentality heading into a possible clinching game: “You’ve got to play your best game because we know how hard it to close. That’s the thing you hope your players realize extremely well after all the experiences we’ve had throughout the years. We now know how hard it is to close and no reason for us to come out tomorrow and not play as hard, if not harder, than we did last night.
On how important it is to come out hard and set a tone Friday night: “No matter what, we came out, I thought we came out well last night and we were down 2-0. It wasn’t because we didn’t have a good period, it was circumstances that one was a bit of a missed assignment, but a nice good goal on their part. The other one was just an unfortunate break on our part because Tuukka [Rask] was screened until the last second. I really felt we played well enough and came out in the second and regained ourselves and got ourselves back in the game.
“It’s just a matter of making sure you’re ready, you know how hard to start. Everybody says, ‘Well, you’ve got to come out hard,’ both teams have to come out hard. The most important thing is you’ve got to be ready to play, not just a period, or have a good start, but play the whole
game, not just in a physical way, but a mental way.”
On if the other lines are way behind the David Krejci line right now: “I think it’s pretty obvious that that the line is leading the way right now. Bergy [Patrice Bergeron] scores a goal last night, it as on the power play. I think Bergy’s played well, I thought Tyler [Seguin] played extremely well here in Boston and that line was actually good, but I don’t think Tyler played his best, and neither did Brad [Marchand], in Toronto. They’ve got a chance to redeem themselves here, but the other lines have, at some point, produced, as well. But Krejci’s line is, no doubt, the dominant line, I think that’s the biggest thing. We saw that ‘ I feel like I’m repeating myself ‘ a few years back when I thought [Chris] Kelly, [Rich] Peverley, and [Michael] Ryder were a dominant in the Montreal series, and then other lines picked it up afterwards. At the end of the day, it’s a matter of always having somebody doing something to help us win hockey games and, so far, that’s what’s been happening.”
On what changes occur in Krejci’s game when the postseason comes around: “Well, some people like playing in these situations and we’ve seen those in the past from other players on other teams. He’s a playoff performer, he loves the intensity, the excitement of it. He comes up big in those kinds of situations. It’s always nice to have those kinds of players on your team and, so far, David’s always been a good playoff performer for us. It’s a good thing he’s on our team.”
On what it is about Tuukka Rask’s temperament that allows him to shine in situations like overtime: “Well, I think right now that Tuukka is calm, he’s in the zone, he’s not getting too high, not getting too low. All he wants to do is stop the puck. He’s been pretty good and he is temperamental at times, we’ve seen that side of it, too, when he’s not happy with either a situation or himself. But at the same time, right now, he understands how important it is to stay focused and he’s done a great job of that.”
On how much more dangerous Krejci is when he is shooting the puck: “It makes him unpredictable. When he’s not shooting and he’s not, maybe, at the top of his game, often you’ll see him looking to pass, now he’s taking whatever is given to him; sometimes it’s a pass, sometimes it’s a shot. He’s confident. Right now, everything about David is good; he’s been good on draws, he’s been good at scoring goals, he’s making great plays, he’s involved in the gritty areas, he’s been physical, he’s been all around such a great player. That’s what makes him good. Maybe, everybody would like to see him do that for 82 games, unfortunately, that’s not the case.” Read the rest of this entry »
Bruins defenseman Adam McQuaid checked in with Mut & Merloni on Thursday afternoon to talk about Wednesday’s night’s overtime victory over the Maple Leafs that gave the B’s a 3-1 series lead.
The intensity in this series hit a new high in Game 4, a back-and-forth game that featured plenty of hard hitting. Although Toronto doesn’t have the obvious villains like some of the Bruins’ more fierce rivals, McQuaid said it’s not difficult to develop some animosity toward the skaters in blue and white.
“We’re playing for the Stanley Cup, and the guy across from you is the one that’s trying to prevent you from getting that, so it’s pretty easy to dislike who you’re playing against. They’re trying to take something away from you,” McQuaid said. “You kind of know who you’re playing against. At the same time, we’re kind of trying to focus on ourselves and make sure that we’re playing hard.”
“He’s got a lot of speed. He’s a great offensive talent,” McQuaid said. “He’s got a quick shot, so he doesn’t need much time to get a good opportunity. So, you have to do your best to try and limit his opportunities and be aware when he’s on the ice.”
Tuukka Rask had a big game Wednesday, the same day the league announced the finalists for the Vezina Trophy as the NHL’s top goaltender. Despite posting stats that put him at the top of the list, Rask is not one of the three finalists.
“We know how valuable he is to our team and what he brings to our team,” McQuaid said. “We let him know in our eyes that he deserved to be there. Some guys are joking around that he’s just going to have to be better next year. ‘¦ We know how important he is to our team and how good he is. There was a little bit of surprise that he wasn’t nominated. But like I said, his value within our team, we know how important he is.”
McQuaid has been paired in this series with Wade Redden, the veteran who spent two years in the minors before returning to the NHL this season and being acquired by the Bruins from the Blues at the trade deadline in April.
“He’s a guy that has a ton of experience,” McQuaid said. “Him going through what he went through the last couple of years I think speaks volumes to the type of person he is. To persevere through that. I was just happy to see him have the success that he’s had. I feel pretty fortunate to have a D partner like that.
|Andy Brickley on M&M: Tuukka Rask was a better goalie than Henrik Lundqvist this year||05.08.13 at 2:15 pm ET|
NESN’s Andy Brickley talked with Mut & Merloni on Wednesday about the Bruins’ top two lines, his thoughts on Tuukka Rask being passed over for a Vezina nomination, and what he’s seen from the Leafs’ top scoring threats so far.
Brickley said he was surprised and disappointed that Rask wasn’t nominated for the Vezina Trophy as the league’s best goalie (Henrik Lundqvist, Antti Niemi and Sergei Bobrovsky are the nominees). He said he thought Lundqvist only edged Rask because the Bruins were a stronger defensive team than the Rangers, making Rask’s achievements look less impressive to some.
“Why don’t you compare defensive systems to defensive systems and not have that be part of it — just have the eyeball test and say, who were the top three goalies in the league this year?” Brickley said. “And I would not put Lundqvist ahead of Rask even if the numbers were that similar. Rask was a better goalie than Lundqvist this year.”
With Game 3 in Toronto under the Bruins’ belts and Game 4 coming up tonight, Brickley said he’s been impressed by the Leafs’ home atmosphere.
“It reminded me a lot of what Montreal can bring in the postseason, but this one had a different feel because they hadn’t had a playoff game in eight or nine years,” he said. “It was almost as if it had a similar atmosphere to the finals in 2011 in Vancouver. That’s how much they wanted something special to happen in Game 3. But the Bruins would not allow it to happen — they played a real smart game, something they didn’t do in Game 2.”
Part of the Bruins’ success has been the performance of David Krejci‘s line with Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton. Brickley said it’s no surprise to see Krejci play well in the postseason, but that his linemates’ improved play has helped him stand out as well.
“He was dealing with a couple of guys that were underperforming on his line, basically,” Brickley said. “Now he has Milan Lucic on top of his game, doing the things that he does best. Nathan Horton was still trying to find his way, he wasn’t making any plays, he was mishandling the puck, and now he’s doing what he does best, and that’s score goals. David Krejci’s history and resume suggested that he would be a really good player in the postseason and now he has these two weapons with him playing up to their capabilities.”
TORONTO — The three finalists for the Vezina Trophy were revealed Wednesday and the Bruins were surprised to hear that Tuukka Rask was not one of them.
Rask, who finished third in the league with a .929 save percentage and was tied for first with five shutouts in 36 games this season, was beat out by favorite Sergei Bobrovsky of the Blue Jackets as well as San Jose’s Antti Niemi and Rangers netminder Henrik Lundqvist. Rask’s 2.00 goals-against average ranked sixth in the NHL this season, while he played seven games less than both Niemi and Lundqvist.
While the Bruins say they’re focused more on the postseason than any individual awards, some admitted to being confused as to why Rask wasn’t a finalist for the award, which is voted on by the league’s general managers.
“I can’t believe he’s not nominated,” Shawn Thornton said. “I don’t know what the reason is. It’s the same as three years ago, when he started with us. If I’m not mistaken, he had the best save percentage, the best goals against in the league and he wasn’t even a question mark for the Calder or the Vezina.”
Rask’s numbers during the regular season are very similar to his stats from the aforementioned 2009-10 season, when, as Thornton pointed out, his 1.97 GAA and .931 save percentage were tops in the league. Thornton thought he deserved more recognition then just like he thinks he deserves it now, and though he said that Rask “definitely” flies under the radar because Boston is known for being such a strong defensive team, he still thinks Rask’s numbers tell a lot of the story of Boston’s success. He isn’t alone in that line of thinking, either.
“From the first game this year, Tuukka has been the guy to go. He’s won some games for us in the season,” David Krejci said. “He’s been great for us in the playoffs. He had 47 shots against the last game and he kept us in the game last game and the first two games as well. It’s great to have somebody back there that you can rely on. He’s been so good for us the whole year. I just hope that he’s going to keep playing the way he is.”
Rask’s backup, Anton Khudobin, said he was surprised that Rask wasn’t a finalist either, saying the 26-year-old “put up good numbers and had a lot of shutouts.” While he understands that people may associate the Bruins as being a great defensive team because of players like Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg, he doesn’t think that’s a reason for people to discount numbers like Rask’s.
“I don’t think any goalie has an easy job in this league,” Khudobin said. “I don’t think so. Of course we have great defensemen, there’s no doubt. Plus it’s a team sport, to win something, every piece has to be good.”
Thornton and Claude Julien both said that they don’t think Rask will lose too much sleep over being excluded, a quality they like about their netminder.
“I don’t know what the reason is,” he said. “I’m just glad we have him on our team. I know that the type of person he is, he doesn’t need the recognition. He’s going to continue to play no matter what, but it’s unfortunate because both years he’s been our starter he’s been unbelievable.”
On a less surprising note, Chara was not one of the top three vote-getters from writers for the Norris Trophy. The three finalists for the award are P.K. Subban, Ryan Suter and Kris Letang.
|Big night from top line helps Bruins past Maple Leafs in Game 3||05.06.13 at 9:49 pm ET|
TORONTO — The Air Canada Centre crowd didn’t have as much energy as was expected Monday night — and neither did the Maple Leafs — as the B’s beat Toronto, 5-2, in Game 3 to take a 2-1 series lead in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals.
Adam McQuaid got the Bruins on the board at 13:42 of the first period with a slap shot from the point, giving the Bruins four goals from defensemen this series. The Bruins expanded their lead when Rich Peverley scored the third line’s first goal of the series in the second to make it 2-0 after a nice steal by Jaromir Jagr, but a Jake Gardiner power-play goal following a Tyler Seguin tripping penalty brought the Leafs to within one.
Nathan Horton scored his third goal in as many games, and Daniel Paille scored a shorthanded breakaway goal to make it 4-1. Phil Kessel scored his second goal of the postseason to make it a two-goal game, but Tuukka Rask kept the door closed from there, with David Krejci tallying an empty-netter to finish it off.
The B’s and Leafs will play Game 4 on Wednesday night, with the series returning to Boston on Friday for Game 5.
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE BRUINS
‘¢ For a line that rightfully was surrounded by questions heading into the postseason, the Bruins’ top line has been very good for the B’s thus far. Krejci’s goal was the seventh goal this series the Krejci line has been on the ice for, and how about this for a stat: Milan Lucic has more points (six) in three postseason games this year than he had over his final 12 games of the regular season.
‘¢ Speaking of that line, Horton now has a goal in each game this postseason. In 24 career playoff games, Horton has 11 goals and nine assists for 20 points. It’s safe to say he’s a playoff performer, and safer to say that he’s helping his cause as he nears free agency.
‘¢ If the NHL kept track of shorthanded scoring opportunities, you’d probably see Paille’s name near the top of the list. Paille’s smarts and speed make him a huge asset on the penalty kill, and it showed again when he picked off Kessel’s pass and turned it into a breakaway. The issue with Paille has always been finishing, but he finished beautifully with a backhander to beat James Reimer.
|Barry Melrose on D&C: Maple Leafs have to ‘be the Boston Bruins to be successful’||05.02.13 at 12:33 pm ET|
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.”
|Bruins swarm all over Maple Leafs in Game 1 win||05.01.13 at 9:44 pm ET|
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.