|Bruins lose opener, 5-2||10.09.10 at 2:38 pm ET|
PRAGUE — The Bruins are, quite clearly, one of the NHL’s elite teams on paper. They did everything they could for the first two periods of Saturday’s season-opener to suggest otherwise, and the glimpses of promise they did show in the third period proved to be too little, too late. The team showed all sorts of offensive and defensive weaknesses as they dropped the opener in Prague, 5-2, to the Coyotes.
Though he did allow four goals in the game, Tuukka Rask didn’t exactly struggle, as one of Phoenix’ goals came on the flukiest of plays and another came on a breakaway caused by a Daniel Paille gaffe.
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE BRUINS
– Matt Hunwick. To those on twitter during the game, the poor guy was the subject of about 80 percent of the tweets from either Bruins or fans, and for good reason. Beginning the game paired with Dennis Seidenberg, Hunwick was on the ice for all of the Coyotes’ first three tallies of the game, giving him a headstart on a terrible plus/minus.
– General sloppy play was the norm from the Bruins in all three areas on Saturday. Players up and down the roster, from Hunwick, to Blake Wheeler, to Paille, to newly re-signed captain Zdeno Chara, killed chances at offensive opportunities by either squandering the puck or holding onto it too long.
– The power play was unproductive, but when a team gets shut out it’s to be expected that they didn’t produce on the man advantage. At any rate, the team went 0-3 on the power play through the first two periods (they’d later get Nathan Horton’s second goal of the game on a man advantage in the third) and gave up a couple of real scoring opportunities to the shorthanded Coyotes.
The team, as is well documented, was the worst in the league when it came to burying the biscuit (2.39 goals per game), and their power play wasn’t much better. The Bruins finished the season with a 16.6 power play percentage, good for 23rd in the NHL. The additions of Seguin and Horton should improve both categories, but there wasn’t much from the team on the night to suggest it.
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE BRUINS
– These are going to be a bit redundant because Nathan Horton was so clearly the Bruins’ most valuable player for the Bruins on Saturday. Here’s the separate one dedicated just to Horton: He can’t be beat from in front of the net. He missed early on in the game by firing one wide at the gloveside of Ilya Bryzgalov, but beat the Phoenix goaltender with his lethal wrist shot on the next two chances. He tried to downplay the possibility of him being a 40-goal-scorer this year, but he’s the complete package.
– The first line showed what it’s made of. In addition to Milan Lucic’s physicality and David Krejci’s craftiness (he embarrassed Adrian Aucoin early in the third period at the blueline with a move that dropped the defenseman to the ice based on pure confusion), but Nathan Horton was allowed to do what he does best: fire off a wrister from the hashmark. Lucic hit him from behind the net to set up the team’s only goal of the game at 3:33 of the game.
– Gregory Campbell is going to be a difficult player for Bruins fans not to like. Following Horton’s first goal, he gave the Bruins a little more momentum in the third period by dropping the gloves with Coyotes center Vernon Fiddler. He took a bad slashing penalty with less than 10 minutes to go and his team trailing by two, but aside from that he came as advertised — a solid bottom-six forward who despite not having major strengths, has no major weaknesses.
|Bruins react to an honest scare||10.02.10 at 5:53 pm ET|
BELFAST — The Bruins went into Belfast, beat the best squad the Elite League could put together by a four-goal margin (5-1), and Boston fans have two more Tyler Seguin goals to ogle over. So what’s the problem?
The problem is that they didn’t beat the Giants select team as handily as the score might suggest, as the Belfast squad played them very tight through the first period and and half. Though the team reacted to falling behind, 1-0, in the second period by firing off three quick goals and adding two more in the third, they admittedly were given a run for their money on Saturday night.
So what went into the jittery play out of the gate? For starters, the Odyssey Arena crowd — which holds 7,100 people — may have given the TD Garden (17,565) a run for its money when it came to decibles before the game. When the Bruins — scratch that, “Legendary Boston Bruins” — were announced, the place went nuts, and the fans seemed to know their stuff. The biggest cheers went to Zdeno Chara and Mark Recchi, but all of the players were showered with support.
“It was really loud,” Milan Lucic, who scored the Bruins’ fourth goal, said after the game. “I got a little bit of goosebumps there at the start of the game. I’ll be honest, it was a little nerve-racking to start the game.”
And did that carry over once the puck was dropped?
“It kind of looked like we were nervous, too. It almost looked like we were trying to do too much and they were just playing simple and kind of just getting the puck out every chance they got,” he said. “Obviously, they gave us a little scare by scoring that first goal, but I think it was a good finish to that second period and we were able to play more consistent in the third period.”
At the end of the first period, it seemed almost comical that the Bruins could find themselves in such a tight game with an opponent of such a lesser league. The Giants, who got their lone goal in the second period from Jade Galbraith, actually had the two best scoring opportunities of the period.
“They did, for sure,” Tuukka Rask said of the Giants having solid opportunities on him. “Right in front, but you could tell that they didn’t have the patience that maybe the NHL guys would have to hold onto that puck and find the extra corner to put the puck in. They definitely had some chances, and they really deserved them too.”
Once the Bruins got things going — it all started with Seguin and Michael Ryder crashing the net to produce the rookie’s first of the game — there was no looking back. It was clear they were the better team, and even when the Giants outplayed them for stretches early, the clear difference in talent remained apparent. Even so, it seemed to take the Belfast goal being scored to act as the splash of water to the face that the Bruins needed.
“I try to just keep the game tight all the time, and I think the guys woke up after their first goal and realized that we can’t afford to lose this game, because the skill level should be on our side for us to win that game,” Rask said. “They got the first goal, got some energy, but then the skill level came up. We scored three goals in like a minute or so, but give credit to them. They really battled and they wanted to win that game.”
All in all, the Bruins made no lie about what they ended up going against, whether or not they were expecting it. Shawn Thornton, who had two helpers in the game, didn’t see why the Giants wouldn’t have played as well as they did.
“This isn’t taking anything away from them, but a lot of those guys have never had the chance to play in the NHL or get an NHL game, and this is probably as close as they’re going to get, so I knew they’d be giving it all they had,” Thornton said. “I’ve played with a number of those guys, I’ve played against them and I know they character of them. A few years ago I was in the same shoes as them, not thinking I’d ever get a game. When you get a chance to show what you have, you’re definitely going to show what you have.”
Nobody should be surprised with how hard the Giants came out playing on Saturday night. From Claude Julien to every player asked about it in the locker room, the Bruins have said time and time again that they were expecting the best game of the Elite League players’ lives. Even so, it sure was interesting to see it last as long as it did.
|Video: Tim Thomas hopes to see game action Wednesday||09.28.10 at 5:23 pm ET|
Claude Julien said on Tuesday that Tim Thomas, recovering from offseason hip surgery, could see game action on Wednesday at TD Garden against the Capitals. It will be the team’s final North American preseason game before the Bruins (and the Big Bad Blog — keep it tuned) head to Belfast and Prague, where they will play two exhibitions and open the regular season with two tilts with the Coyotes.
“There’s a good possibility that we’ll see him play tomorrow,” Julien said. “You know, again, I say good possibility. It depends on how today goes and then there’s tomorrow. If everything goes well, I think we’d like to see him in out lineup.”
Tuukka Rask and Nolan Schaefer are the goalies on the roster for Tuesday night’s game in Washington. Here’s the video of Thomas speaking after taking the ice:
|Expect Friday morning’s lines on Saturday||09.24.10 at 6:19 pm ET|
Those excited to finally hear that Milan Lucic, David Krejci, and Nathan Horton skated on a line in Friday morning’s practice are in luck. Same goes for those gushing about the PPF (past, present, future — stick tap to ESPNBoston’s Joe MacDonald on the name) line consisting of 42 year old Mark Recchi and 18 year old Tyler Seguin with Patrice Bergeron, 25, in the middle. Claude Julien indicated that the lines from the earlier of the team’s two sessions will likely be the same ones that take the ice Saturday night at the Garden against the Panthers.
“Our lineups should be pretty close to what you saw this morning in the first group,” Julien said Friday. “So if you took note of that, that’s pretty close. I always say that because tomorrow morning something may happen or we might make a change here or there. But what you saw in the first group is, if everything goes according to how it should, it should be pretty close team for tomorrow.”
Chiarelli also said that Tim Thomas, who practiced on Friday, will not be in net for the Bruins. By process of elimination, expect Tuukka Rask, the only other goalie in the first group Friday, to get the start.
|Julien: Thomas will practice, travel||09.21.10 at 3:51 pm ET|
With Tim Thomas a notable absence from Tuesday’s practices, it is only natural to wonder just how much his workload will be cutdown as far as the short-term future goes. Thomas is recovering from offseason hip surgery, and after making appearances at captain’s practice earlier this month was held out of Monday’s intrasquad scrimmage.
Claude Julien, who has said that the team is taking precaution with Thomas in the preseason, said Tuesday that keeping the 2008-09 Vezina winner out of practice was simply “part of the process of giving him a little bit of rest in between those hard workouts.”
Julien noted that Thomas is expected to practice Wednesday and travel with the team for its preseason matchups with the Canadiens and Panthers. He did indicate, however that Saturday’s game against the Panthers at the TD Garden might be the soonest that Thomas, 36, sees preseason game action.
Regarding Wednesday and Thursday’s games, Julien said that the team’s intention is to go with a separate squad for each game, with no players participating in both matchups.
|Tim Thomas missing from Tuesday’s practice||at 1:26 pm ET|
One day after the Bruins held goaltender Tim Thomas out of the team’s black/white scrimmage, the 2008-09 Vezina winner was once again missing when Group A took the ice for Tuesday’s practice.
Thomas is recovering from hip surgery and participated in some of the team’s captain’s practices earlier in the month in an effort to hopefully be at 100 percent by the time the Bruins begin their season next month in Prague. Even so, the team sees no use in rushing the 36-year-old back.
“Something that we’ve said right from the get-go, [is that] we’d monitor [him],” Bruins coach Claude Julien said Monday. “He’s had that surgery and we have to take our time to bring him [back].”
Julien added monday that though Thomas “is actually ahead of schedule” if anything, the team’s plan is to “bring him along slowly.”
|Tuukka Rask working on becoming a Bostonian||09.17.10 at 2:30 pm ET|
Finland native Tuukka Rask has done plenty in Boston so far as a goaltender. In his first full season splitting time with Tim Thomas in net, Rask led the NHL in both goals against average (1.97) and save percentage (.931).
Now, after bringing Finland to Boston, Rask is getting more acquainted with becoming a Bostonian. After spending a couple of months in his native country, Rask did what he could to soak up the Boston atmosphere outside of hockey season.
“I had never seen Boston in the summertime, so I kind of wanted to see that. I was really impressed, it was awesome here.”
As such, his offseason activities included plenty of golfing — including charity tournaments for both Shawn Thornton and the Bruins foundation — and, like many locals this summer, taking in the Aerosmith/J. Geils Band concert at Fenway Park last month.
With fitness testing taking place Friday morning, the offseason fun is over for Rask, but if he continues what he started last season, his affection for the city will undoubtedly be reciprocated.
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