|Pierre McGuire on M&M: Pittsburgh ‘has an answer for the Bruins’ fourth line’||05.29.13 at 1:00 pm ET|
NBC Sports hockey analyst Pierre McGuire joined Mut & Merloni on Wednesday to preview the Bruins-Penguins Eastern Conference finals.
Boston’s fourth line of Daniel Paille, Gregory Campbell and Shawn Thornton came up big for the Bruins against the Rangers, playing key roles in Games 3 and 5. McGuire said Pittsburgh’s depth will negate that advantage.
“There was no answer from the Rangers for Boston’s fourth line. ‘¦ Pittsburgh, I can tell you, has an answer for the Bruins’ fourth line,” McGuire said. ” Paille, Campbell and Thornton aren’t going to run around and dominate the way they did the Rangers. Because guys like Jussi Jokinen, guys like Joe Vitale, who played at Northeastern University, a kid out of St. Louis, guys like Craig Adams, who played at Harvard. You’re going to see, these guys can make a mess and they can put you through the boards as much as Thornton can, as much as Paille can, they can fight as much as Campbell can. That’s going to be the X factor that really helped the Bruins last series, it won’t be as much of an impact this series.”
Andrew Ference, who missed the entire Rangers series with what the Bruins called a lower-body injury, skated with his teammates at Tuesday’s practice. That’s let to discussion about which young defenseman the B’s might sit if the team wants to make room for the veteran. McGuire suggested the B’s might want to give Ference more time to recover fully.
“He’s walking around with a walking boot on, so clearly there’s a problem with the lower part of his foot or ankle,” McGuire said. “It’s not easy to come back from something like that at this time of the year. So, I don’t think they’re in a rush. And Andrew would probably be the first person to tell you: You know what, when a team’s playing as well as Boston’s playing, especially those players, you probably don’t take them out of the lineup.”
Another topic of discussion around the Bruins is whether the team should move Tyler Seguin back up to the second line in place of Jaromir Jagr.
“We saw what Jaromir could do in confined areas against the Rangers, and there were points in that series where he really wanted to take the puck over but he was overextending his shifts and you could see he was breaking down a little bit,” McGuire said. “Tyler, you could see, and I talked to Tyler a couple of times during the series, he was fighting it in terms of getting pucks in, but he was still making plays. I know he turned the puck over a couple of times. That’s going to happen with offensive players, you’re going to turn the puck over because they’re trying to make stuff happen with the puck. It’s the checkers that you can’t afford having them turn it over. Because they don’t do much with it. They chip it in and chip it out, and they usually don’t score a lot.
“Tyler will probably get augmented minutes. I’ve got to believe the coaching staff is seeing what we’re seeing, and that is that here’s a kid that’s got a chance to be a difference-maker, and his speed is going to be huge.”
|A hockey life: Older, wiser Jaromir Jagr continues to live his dream||05.28.13 at 11:15 am ET|
Hours after the Bruins’ 5-2 victory over the Rangers last Sunday, the TD Garden sat still and empty.
The boisterous crowd had long since departed after Boston took care of business, holding serve on home ice, supplying the team with a 2-0 series lead in its Stanley Cup playoff conference semifinal series. The players and coaches trickled steadily out of the building, the janitorial crew had finished cleaning. Hours after the final whistle, Jaromir Jagr returned, alone, to the ice.
‘Hockey is who he is,’ said Mark Recchi, Jagr’s former Penguins teammate. Last seen in a Bruins sweater hoisting the Stanley Cup, Recchi now is a hockey operations advisor with the Stars, the team that dealt Jagr to the Bruins. ‘That’s his life. He’s passionate about it, he works hard at it, and he still wants to be a great player. He does whatever it takes to stay at that level.’
In front of 17,565 empty golden seats, the 41-year-old Jagr skated. Using every inch of his 6-foot-3, 240 pound frame, the forward from Kladno pushed himself, feeling the burn in his thickly muscled thighs. Living over 3,900 miles from his family in the Czech Republic, Jagr needed to be back on the ice, back home. The man with such phenomenal balance on skates then skated some more.
‘This is playoffs,’ reminded Jagr. ‘Any player will find out. It doesn’t matter if you’re on the first, second line or third. It’s tight checking. It’s harder to score.’
Jagr began his NHL career with the Penguins but now is looking to end Pittsburgh’s season. His playoff resume includes 78 playoff goals, though none have come recently. Amidst the longest scoring drought of his career, Jagr has not scored in 21 consecutive playoff games (his last playoff goal came against the Penguins in 2012). Though he has accumulated 193 playoff points over the course of his career, Jagr has registered just four points in 12 games during the Bruins’ 2013 postseason run.
‘It’s harder to score for me, and it’s harder to score for anybody else,” he said. “Unless you the best player in the world.’
Jagr would know better than most, considering, once upon a time, he was the best in the world.
Just like Jagr can’t fathom the idea of leaving the rink after a game (he is on record stating his desire for the NHL to begin playing doubleheaders), the concept of life without hockey is far removed from his mind. The offensive dervish entered the National Hockey League at the age of 18. Since then, every imaginable part of his life — and the world — has changed. His identity as a hockey player has evolved over the past 23 years, but his profession remains unchanged. Jaromir Jagr, all these years later, is still a hockey player.
‘I don’t think he’ll ever change,’ said Craig Patrick, general manager of the Penguins from 1989-2006. ‘He was built this way.’
Bruins forward Shawn Thornton joined Dennis & Callahan on Tuesday morning and previewed the B’s Eastern Conference finals series against the Penguins, talked up “underhyped” goalie Tuukka Rask and revealed that he received a congratulatory text message from former teammate Tim Thomas after Game 3 vs. the Rangers.
The Bruins return to practice Tuesday following two days off since dispatching the Rangers in Game 5 on Saturday night, preparing for what is expected to be a much tougher test from the top-seeded Penguins.
“They’re a pretty deep group up front, that’s for sure,” Thornton said. “They’ve got guys like Brenden Morrow on their fourth line. That’s some pretty good players back there. So, yeah, they’re a force to be reckoned with up front.”
Added Thornton: “I know there’s a lot of hype with the guys we’re playing against, and rightfully so, they’re great players. It’s always kind of the Sidney Crosby show wherever he goes. He’s the face of the league and he’s probably the best player in the game. You can’t get caught looking at that. We have to worry about what’s going on in our locker room, like we did last series with the Rangers and the series before with Toronto. You can’t really worry about what’s going on outside. We’ve got to play our game if we want to be successful. ‘¦ You get caught just trying to react to what they’re doing, you’ll get caught with your pants down. They’re a dangerous team.”
Asked if Crosby is the best player he’s played against, Thornton said: “Yeah, I’d say, all-around. There’s not much he doesn’t do well. He competes hard. Not only how skilled he is, his compete level is right up there. He never seems to take a night off. I think that’s part of the reason why he’s so good. ”
Thornton said there are no hard feelings toward Jarome Iginla after the veteran forward chose Pittsburgh over Boston at the trade deadline.
“No, I don’t care,” Thornton said. “He made a decision based on his personal opinion. He has a no-trade, he’s entitled to that. He earned it. He played a lot of great years in Calgary for that right. As a player, you can’t really fault him for it.”
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|Tyler Seguin breaks through: ‘I want to be relied on as a guy who can bury the puck’||05.24.13 at 12:03 am ET|
When Seguin scored at 8:06 of the third period, the Bruins were just under 12 minutes from advancing to the Eastern Conference finals. It looked like the perfect way to celebrate breaking his goal drought in the postseason. He jumped in the air and punched the glass behind Henrik Lundqvist as a sign of relief.
The Rangers spoiled it, of course, by tying it less than two minutes later on the power play and winning it in overtime, 4-3.
“It’s a weird feeling, of course,” Seguin said of scoring in the loss. “It feels good. I don’t know exactly how many shots, but it was too many I’ve taken that haven’t gone in. I want to be relied on as a guy who can bury the puck. It feels good that it went in. It’s not a great feeling losing but we’ll learn from this, talk about, move on and get ready for [Saturday].”
Seguin said he could feel his first goal coming on after getting momentum from a first-period power play that didn’t yield any goals but did produce several chances, including one from Seguin.
“Especially in the first, having a power play right away got me into the game where last game it took me a couple more shifts,” he said. “I didn’t start off playing too much in the first period. Again, I felt great as the last few games go on, gaining more confidence and making smarter plays so just didn’t work out.”
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|Pierre McGuire on M&M: Tyler Seguin ‘about to break through’||05.22.13 at 12:07 pm ET|
NBC Sports analyst Pierre McGuire joined Mut & Merloni on Wednesday, following the Bruins’ 2-1 victory over the Rangers in Tuesday night’s Game 3.
The Bruins controlled the first couple of minutes of the game, despite the Rangers’ desperate situation, sending an early message.
“If you’re going to start a game on home ice, you’re down 2-0, you know you’re never in trouble in a playoff series until you lose on home ice, you want to set the tone early,” McGuire said. “So, you want to go after it, you start your heavy hitters, you start Brian Boyle, you start Derek Dorsett, you start Taylor Pyatt. You start your bangers, I call them the stampeding elephants, and you’re expecting them to stampede. Well, they didn’t. In fact, Boston took the game to them. That really set the whole tempo for the game, I thought.”
McGuire said the Bruins have the upper hand because they have the Rangers questioning themselves.
“There’s three things you want to accomplish in a playoff series: concern, doubt and fear, if you’re the opponent,” McGuire said. “Right now the Rangers are clearly concerned, they clearly have doubt, and I thought last night in the third period in particular after [Daniel] Paille scored the second goal, they had fear. If you can accomplish those three characteristics in a playoff series, your chances of winning are really good. I think the Bruins have put themselves in that position right now.”
“Shawn is an emotional leader and he’s not going to burn you defensively,” McGuire said. “And he’s a tough guy. When they started challenging Marchand last night with Dorsett, you saw what happened on the offside faceoff: Marchand comes off, Thornton comes on, Dorsett gets stabilized, no more issues.”
That said, McGuire insisted Dorsett’s failure to respond physically doesn’t reflect badly on the Rangers winger.
“I don’t think he backed down,” McGuire said. “I just think at that point their team’s kind of lost some momentum. Thornton’s not going to fight him, but he’s going to tell him in his ear, whisper sweet nothings: Listen, dude, do you want to mess around? We will dance, and it won’t be fun for you. That’s all Shawn had to do.”
|Ed Olczyk on M&M: Jaromir Jagr ‘always looking for that edge’||05.21.13 at 6:30 pm ET|
Editor’s note: In an earlier version of this story, Olczyk was quoted as guaranteeing a Bruins series victory, but the quote was mistakenly taken out of context.
NBC Sports hockey analyst Ed Olczyk joined Mut & Merloni on Tuesday, prior to Game 3 of the Eastern Conference semifinal series between the Bruins and Rangers.
Olczyk, who played for six NHL clubs during his 16-year career that ended in the 1999-2000 season and coached the Penguins for a season and a half (2003-04 and part of ’04-05), has a personal connection to Bruins defenseman Matt Bartkowski, as he coached the Pittsburgh native when Bartkowski was a youngster.
“I just knew that he had the natural ability. It was just whether or not he would take advantage of the opportunities that were presented,” Olczyk said. “I couldn’t be happier for Bart. He’s a terrific young guy. I don’t think he’s really hit his full complement of his ability. He’s only played maybe 20 games in the NHL, whatever the number is. He’s getting a great taste of what it is to be a pro. I think he’s handled the situation very well.
“He has that great ability to skate you out of trouble. He’s poised with the puck. And I think there’s still an opportunity for him to continue to push the pace. And there’s something [to be said] for that, to have a guy back there that can be strong but also can skate you out of trouble. The game isn’t just about off the glass, get in to the neutral zone. Sometimes that’s the only play for a defenseman, sometimes that’s the best play. But for me, I think he’s got a lot of upside. I couldn’t be happier for him and his family. He’s playing obviously in one of the greats sports towns in the world, and playing for a great organization, for the Boston Bruins.
“He’s stepped in here very well, and it looks like he’s a seasoned veteran from watching him play. Is he going to make mistakes? Absolutely, those are going to happen. But when you put in [Torey] Krug, and you have [Dougie] Hamilton there, and you have the leadership of a guy like Zdeno Chara on the back end, I think it really makes those guys feel really comfortable.
“I’m not surprised, particularly with Matt Bartkowski, because I know him very well, but when you do put three young guys in there with not a lot of experience in the second round of the playoffs, more times than not you’re going to have a little bit more trouble, but the Bruins have been able to overcome that. And these guys and the organization could much better off because these guys have gotten this opportunity. ‘¦ There is something [to be said] for experience, but the experience these guys are getting right now is just so valuable, not only for tomorrow or today, but for down the road.”
|Pierre McGuire on M&M: Game 1 changed after Johnny Boychuk was injured on hit from behind||05.17.13 at 11:35 am ET|
NBC Sports hockey analyst Pierre McGuire made an appearance on the Mut & Merloni show Friday morning to dissect the Bruins’ Game 1 win over the Rangers.
After an uneventful first period, the teams traded goals in the second and third periods before Brad Marchand scored the game-winner when he tipped in a pass from Patrice Bergeron 15:40 into overtime. McGuire said the intensity level starting picking up after a play early in the second period.
“I really felt the whole game and the intensity of the game changed after the [Taylor] Pyatt hit on Johnny Boychuk,” McGuire said. “That amped up the entire energy in the building and amped up the entire energy between the two teams. And it created some good opportunities for some phenomenal athleticism from both teams. ‘¦ In overtime it was clearly the Bruins’ overtime and they dominated it. Obviously, they had the power-play opportunity, they felt comfortable. That’s one of the reasons why home ice matters, because you have such a raucous crowd there. And I think the crowd really helped energize the Boston Bruins, especially during that power-play sequence.”
Added McGuire: “I’m not surprised they had a bit of a slow start. But I really, again, I can’t stress this enough: I thought the whole game and the whole energy of the game changed after Taylor Pyatt hit Johnny Boychuk from behind. That really changed the entire chemistry of the game. That’s good for the series going forward.
“I asked Brad Marchand last night on my interview after the game what kind of series he was expecting. He says, ‘Nasty, physical, mean.’ I would agree.”
Jaromir Jagr didn’t register a point Thursday, but McGuire said he believes his presence will be felt eventually.
“I think he can help the power play. That’s where I think he’s going to be a huge benefit for the Bruins, because of his ability to dominate the puck and make good decisions with it,” McGuire said. “Fatigue was a very real issue for Jaromir last night. That’s why I made the comment that I made [about Jagr needing short shifts].
“I was part of the management team that drafted him, I coached him, I skated with him a ton earlier in his career. I know the body of work that he’s presented, and I know when he’s tired and when he’s not. And you could just see he was breaking down last night after about 25-30 seconds. That’s normal; he’s 40 years old. But I expect that he’s going to help their power play. And I think at some point they’re going to have to look to put Tyler Seguin back on that line in five-on-five situations, especially in the second and third period.”