|Tim Thomas honored to be an All-Star, willing to shut down Zdeno Chara if opportunity arises||01.11.11 at 5:21 pm ET|
The Bruins received perhaps the least surprising news they could get on Tuesday when they were informed that Tim Thomas was named an All-Star. Thomas is putting together the best year of any goaltender over the last five years, and as such, it is no shock that he’s earned the honor of joining the league’s best for the third time in his career.
“It’s always an honor,” Thomas said of the distinction prior to the B’s game against the Senators on Tuesday. “It’s a feather in your cap, so I’m very happy.”
Thomas has played in 29 of the Bruins’ first 41 games, compiling an 18-4-6 record and leading the league with a 1.84 goals against average and a .944 save percentage. His five shutouts tie his career-high and put him in a tie for the league lead.
Yet given all the time he’s played, it is expected that the Bruins could use Tuukka Rask a bit more just to keep Thomas from being overworked. The same line of thinking might apply when wondering whether the 36-year-old could use the All-Star to get some rest rather than work more. Thomas’ reaction to that idea is simle.
“Everybody wants down time, but having said that, for most people — myself included — you don’t make the All-Star [game] that often,” Thomas said. “It’s an honor worth giving up a couple of days rest for.”
Thomas will join teammates Zdeno Chara and Tyler Seguin in Raleigh, N.C., for the All-Star festivities, as Chara also earned the distinction, while Seguin will participate in the rookie skills competition a day prior to the game.
Because of the new fantasy draft used to determine the All-Star teams, Thomas and Chara won’t necessarily be teammates in the game, as it is no longer a contest of the Eastern conference vs. the Western conference. As odd it would be to see Chara go up against his own goaltender, Thomas was quick in predicting what would happen in such a scenario.
“I win, he loses.”
|Bruins, Penguins scoreless after one||01.10.11 at 8:16 pm ET|
The Bruins and Penguins skated to a scoreless first period on Monday night, with the B’s getting only six shots on Penguins netminder Marc-Andre Fleury. The Penguins have managed to get 14 shots on Tuukka Rask.
After an 0-for-2 showing on the man advantage, the Bruins have now gone 16 periods without a power play goal. Their last power play goal came on Dec. 28 against the Lightning.
Marc Savard was the only Bruin sent to the box in the period, as he went off at 18:41 for slashing Evgeni Malkin. The Penguins will begin the second period a man up.
Tyler Seguin led the Bruins with two shots on goal in the period.
|Bruins and Canadiens square off with first place on the line||01.08.11 at 8:52 am ET|
First place in the Northeast division is on the line as the Bruins (21-12-6) take on the Canadiens (22-16-3) at the Bell Centre on Saturday night. The Habs have taken both of the contests between the rival teams thus far this season, with Tuukka Rask and Tim Thomas taking losses on Nov. 11 and Dec. 16, respectively.
The Bruins are coming off a 3-1 loss to the Wild at the Garden on Thursday. It was their first regulation loss since being blanked by the Ducks on Dec. 20.
WHERE IT’S AT
– The Canadiens are 13-5-3 at the Bell Centre, and their 29 home points are second only to the Capitals’ 33 in the Eastern conference. Following their Dec. 16 4-3 win over the B’s, they spent seven games on the road and have returned to Montreal with an overtime loss to the Thrashers on Sunday and a shootout win over the Penguins on Thursday.
– While this game features one of the league’s best home teams, it also features one of the best road teams in the Bruins. The B’s 12-5-3 road mark is among the best in the conference, as only the Flyers and Rangers have more points (29 apiece) on the road this season.
– New Habs defenseman James Wisniewski has five points — two goals and three assists — in four games since joining the Canadiens. He was a minus-18 with the Islanders this season, but playing for a winning team has changed that a bit. Wisniewski hasn’t posted a negative rating in any of his games with Montreal since being acquired from New York for second and fifth-round picks.
– Who would have thought that Steven Kampfer would be the hottest Bruins scorer over the last five games? The rookie defenseman has scored the first three goals of his career over the span, including a second-period tally against the Wild in which he sent a rebound from a Patrice Bergeron shot past Jose Theodore.
STORYLINES GOING IN
– There’s no bigger story than what this game means in the standings. The B’s have been in first place since beating the Panthers back on Dec. 27. Since then, they have opened a three-point lead in the Northeast and seen it shrink to one point. The the Bruins have played have played multiple games less than most of the other teams in the Eastern conference, the fact that their division-leading 48 points is worse than those of six other teams in the conference should be eye-opening enough to illustrate how important winning the division is to being in a good spot when the playoffs roll around.
[UPDATE: Horton is not expected to play, as Julien told reporters Saturday that he is “very unlikely” to go.]
If Horton plays, it seems he will do so on a new line. Julien flip-flopped Horton and Michael Ryder, meaning Horton is with Blake Wheeler and David Krejci, while Ryder will play with Milan Lucic on a line centered by Marc Savard.
– Though he has battled his way in and out of the lineup as a healthy scratch this season, Habs rookie defenseman P.K. Subban has been a pain in the Bruins’ you-know-what. The 21-year-old Toronto native scored his first career goal back on Nov. 11 at the Garden and most recently laid a crushing hit on Brad Marchand that led to the winger leaving the following game vs. Washington and then missing the next three.
(You can brush up on your French with the feed.)
– This is a bear of a stretch for the B’s, as their four games following Saturday includes two games against the Penguins and one against the Flyers. It’s one their schedule’s toughest stretches of the season (they’ve got another one coming up in February that includes games against the Stars, Sharks, Habs, and Red Wings) and a good test of how far this team has come since snapping out of its mid-December funk.
|Why the Bruins feel so bad for Tuukka Rask||01.06.11 at 11:54 pm ET|
Thornton called out the rest of the team for non-support of goalie Tuukka Rask. The Bruins netminder made several athletic saves, including a spectacular one on Martin Havlat to keep the Bruins tied. But the save was for naught as the Bruins fell, 3-1, Thursday night to the Minnesota Wild.
“Tuukka was awesome again,” Thornton said. “I think its awful that that kid plays so good for us all the time and we don’t get the wins for him its’¦we care about him and we should probably show it in a better way, he stood on his head for us pretty much every night and I don’t know his save percentage is .940 or something stupid like that.
“That should be good enough to win a lot of hockey games so we have to look ourselves in the mirror as far as that goes.”
Not that anyone is nit-picking at this point, but his save percentage is .928 after stopping 31-of-33 shots he faced, not including the empty-netter by Mikko Koivu with less than a minute to go that sealed Boston’s fate.
“It has been disappointing for him all season,” B’s benched center Marc Savard added. “He comes in and gives us a solid effort. We can’t seem to score at all when he is in there. I feel bad for him. He is one of the best goaltenders in the league.”
What about the man himself?
“I always try to have a good feeling, you know?” Rask said. “We definitely’¦ we talked about playing better after the second period and, you know, digging deep but, an awful’¦ an awful mistake there went in and cost us the game. I don’t even know what happened, it’s just, I guess we just lost our focus.”
As frustrated as he gets, Rask said he is doing everything in his power to stay upbeat – though the stat sheet shows otherwise, at least in terms of wins and losses.
“Yeah, you know I try to feel good about myself everyday and think positive, and you know, the past couple games have been solid,” Rask said. “Tough to lose like this, it’s kind of frustrating but you always try to feel good about yourself, but the last three games have been a step in the right direction.”
Rask has stopped 67-of-70 shots in his last two games, showing Claude Julien that he might just be ready to pick it up for the second half of the season. There was no better example of that than his save on Martin Havlat late in the second period to keep the game tied, 1-1. From his stomach, he put his left hand up at the last moment to rob the man who already had beaten Rask for the first goal of the game.
“I saw him at the last second, and I just dove there, and I guess the puck was bouncing a bit for him too, and he didn’t get enough wood on it,” Rask said. “But, you know, it’s’¦ you got to be lucky to make those saves, too, but, I guess, half luck, half skill.”
In just his 13th game – and 12th start – Rask fell to 3-8-1 despite a 2.58 goals against average, a record neither Thornton nor their coach – Julien feels Rask even remotely deserves.
“This is a goaltender tonight that was outstanding for us, deserving a better fate and gave us a chance to win,” Julien lamented. “And so I feel bad for him because he deserves probably to be in the win column tonight, not in the loss column.”
|Steven Kampfer scores, Bruins and Wild tied after two||at 8:38 pm ET|
Bad refereeing, a sprawling save, and a pair of goals made it an interesting second period, and after two, the Bruins and Wild are tied at one.
Shawn Thornton was called for a phantom hook on Brent Burns in front of the Wild net. Thornton actually made a nice play in getting possession of the puck after Burns lost an edge. Thornton’s stick appeared to lightly tap off one of Burns’ skates prior to him losing an edge, but the penalty was called nonetheless, with a clearly irate Thornton screaming in the penalty box. Four second into the penalty, Martin Havlat beat Tuukka Rask from low in the circle for his ninth goal of the season.
Later in the period, Patrice Bergeron fired a shot on net from the dot, and with Tyler Seguin in the slot awaiting the rebound, Jose Theodore seemed too concerned with one rookie to turn his attention to the other in time. Steven Kampfer raced in to grab the rebound and fire it in for his third goal in the last five games. Seguin and Bergeron picked up assists on the play, though it was unclear at full speed whether Seguin got a stick on the puck.
Late in the period, Rask was treated to a Garden-wide “Tuukka” chant after he robbed Martin Havlat with a diving save. Through two, the Wild are outshooting the B’s, 25-23.
|Tuukka Rask to start for Bruins vs. Wild||at 6:58 pm ET|
Tuukka Rask will make his third consecutive start when the Bruins take on the Wild Thursday night at TD Garden. Rask, who hadn’t started two games in a row this season until Monday’s 2-1 win over the Maple Leafs, is 3-7-1 with a 2.63 goals against average and .927 save percentage.
Due to the emergence of Tim Thomas as the league’s top netminder this season, Rask, who led the NHL in both GAA and save percentage last season, has had to deal with a backup role to the surprise of many. After being pulled following three first-period goals against the Sabres on Saturday, Rask came back to stop 36 shots against the Leafs.
|Post-(optional) morning skate notes: Tuukka Rask first off the ice, for what it’s worth||at 12:19 pm ET|
The Bruins held an optional morning skate in anticipation of Thursday night’s tilt with the Wild at TD Garden. The following players participated:
Rask was first off the ice for the B’s in the skate, though given the combination of the fact that it was an optional skate and the trickery these guys have pulled in the past, it isn’t worth putting too much stock into. Rask made 36 saves in the B’s 3-1 victory over the Maple Leafs on Monday, while Thomas played in eight straight games prior to getting the night off in Toronto.
Here are a few notes from after the skate:
– Claude Julien isn’t happy with the way the power play has been performing of late. The team has been on the man advantage only six times over the last three games and hasn’t scored on any of them.
“I think it’s got to get better,” Julien said. “We talked about that this morning and again the month of December actually was a decent month for our power play, but so far in January … it hasn’t been good enough for us and needs to generate some goals. So it’s a challenge for a power play right now to kind of turn that around and bring it up a notch.”
– Given that the Bruins are coming off a successful road trip (3-0-2) and are gearing up for a tough stretch that includes games against the Canadiens, Penguins, and Flyers, a home game against Minnesota is a pretty good candidate for a potential trap game. That’s not the way Julien sees it.
“I don’t know if I’ll call it a trap game, but it’s certainly a game that is going to represent a challenge for us, and most games do anyways,” Julien said. “I think it’s important for us to be well prepared and focus properly and come up with a solid effort tonight and give yourselves a chance to win a hockey game and build yourself up in a positive way for this next segment.
– Former Boston College and Bruins forward Chuck Kobasew is back in Boston for the first time since being traded to Minnesota seven games into last season. In parts of four seasons (158 games) with the Bruins, Kobasew had 44 goals and 39 assists.
This season, Kobasew has six goals and an assist in 25 games for the Wild. His former coach had nothing but nice things to say about him.
“Chuck, to me, was always a true professional,” Julien said of Kobasew. “He came in and I mean that in the sense where everything he did was related to the game, he came in and it was all business when it was at the rink. Very good individual, good person, and it wasn’t easy to let him go.”
“I don’t think anybody’s looking ahead here,” he added. “We’re at a stage of the season where every game means a lot, and you really have to focus on the game that’s in front of you, not the ones that are a few days away, or a week away. I think our guys are pretty focused on the task at hand.”
– Tyler Seguin‘s mother and sisters will be in attendance tonight, as they’re in town visiting the 18-year-old. Seguin’s mother was at the home-opener vs. the Capitals on Oct. 21, and though his sisters haven’t seen him play in Boston, this isn’t their first trip to the Garden. The Seguin family took in the Celtics game last night before going back to watch World Junior Championship final between Canada and Russia, a game Russia took, 5-3, via five unanswered goals.