|Bruins getting offensive with the defense||04.24.12 at 10:21 am ET|
For all of the talk – and deservedly so – about Patrice Bergeron finally getting nominated as a finalist for the Selke award for best defensive forward in the game, it’s ironic that the offensive play of the Bruins’ defensemen is a key reason they even find themselves in a Game 7 Wednesday night against the Caps.
“Yeah, they’ve played well all series, but also I think all year and it’s just another aspect of our game that shows right there that we’re deep offensively, but also we’re deep on defense and throughout the lineup,” Bergeron said Monday. “They’ve been helping us in this series a lot to just get offense, but also defensively to stop their skilled guys and can’t say enough about all of them back there. They all do their job and they all take pride in it.”
Everyone knows about the abilities of Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg in helping to contain Alex Ovechkin, Alexander Semin and Nicklas Backstrom. And everyone knows that both of them bring cannons from the point with their slap shots. What fans – and even the Caps – may not have counted on was the offensive contributions of Johnny Boychuk and Andrew Ference.
Boychuck had one of his patented “Johnny Rockets” on a power play to tie Saturday’s Game 5 at 3-3, when time was running down. Sunday, it appeared for all the world that Ference – on “Earth Day” – had given the Bruins the game-winning goal in regulation when he pinched down and scooped up a rebound off a Tyler Seguin shot and put it in the net.
Earlier in the game, it was Ference who smartly read the rush of Patrice Bergeron and Rich Peverley out of the offensive zone circle draw toward the slot and fired a shot that Peverley tipped past Braden Holtby for the game’s first goal.
“I think he’s done a great job,” B’s coach Claude Julien said of Ference. “We’ve always liked Andrew’s battle and also for his size and also for the fact that he certainly has good versatility. He moves well, he skates well and again, we keep encouraging our D’s to support the attack and go out the ice and he’s done a great job of that.”
There is a risk, of course, like when Chara and Seidenberg get caught too far up ice as was the case on Capitals’ goals in Games 3 and 6. In Game 6, the Capitals tied the game, 2-2, when Jason Chimera got behind Seidenberg, who had a broken skate, and beat Tim Thomas.
“Our D’s seem to be finding a little bit more balance in this series as we get near the end, between jumping in [and] supporting, and also being reliable defensively we can’t forget the fact that this is a team in Washington that’s got some guys that can score goals and they love to blow the zone quickly. So we’ve got to be careful we don’t get our D’s caught up the ice all the time, but he did a great job [Sunday] at identifying that opening and going up the ice and giving us that lead.”
The Bruins will be relying on that again in Game 7 as they look for every advantage.
After taking a high stick from Alex Ovechkin in the second period of Sunday’s win over the Capitals, Bruins captain Zdeno Chara resembles Frankenstein with a series of stitches right across the bridge of his nose. It could’ve been worse, and Chara knows it. Now, he can look ahead to Game 7 Wednesday night at 7:30 at TD Garden.
“I feel good,” Chara said. “Obviously, it’s been tough to have back-to-back games, both afternoon games but again, it’s the schedule, and we all have to get through it and now we have two days to recover and get ready for Game 7.
“You always hear that teams play for that advantage, to have Game 7 at home but at the same time, we just have to be ready to play our way, the full 60, and even more if it needs to be. It doesn’t mean just because we’re at home we’re going to have an easy game. We still have to win the game on the ice.”
Chara and the Bruins have been pushed to the limit in more ways than one against the No. 7 seed Caps. Every game has been decided by one goal, the first time in Stanley Cup history that the first six games of a seven-game series have been so close. Now, the Bruins are back in familiar territory, a Game 7. But don’t think for a minute that Chara and the Bruins necessarily drew it up that way.
“No, I don’t think that’s the way we meant it,” Chara said. “Those games are always tough to win. Everything can go right and everything can go wrong in those games. You just have to make sure everything you do is maximized to almost perfection because obviously that’s the game that decides if you play for another day or you’re done.
“It’s very close, very tight series. Every game decided by one goal just tells you it’s really been close.”
Chara also took time Monday to thank a teammate that has finally been recognized by the league for his ability to play both ways on the ice. Patrice Bergeron was one of three finalists named for the Selke Award, given annually to the best defensive forward in the game.
“I’ve been saying that for years,” Chara said. “He should’ve been nominated way before this year. He’s such a reliable guy to have on the ice. He plays all the situations. You can really count on him when he’s on the ice that he’s going to get the job done. It’s just a pleasure to have a teammate like that. He’s such a tremendous person and hard worker, and obviously a leader, there’s no question in my mind he should be the winner.”
Like Chara, Bergy knows what it’s like to play through pain and he appreciates that Bergeron is doing it again this year, suffering an upper body injury in Saturday’s Game 5 that limited him to one faceoff draw in Game 6.
“That’s the way it is at this time of year, everybody sacrifices and does whatever he can to help the team,” Chara said. “That’s just the way it is.He’s been doing that for years. He’s always playing against top lines. Whatever job or task you ask from him, he’s going to do that. Explain all the situations, it’s always huge to have someone willing to play defense first before the offense. Not too many guys take as much pride in it as Bergy does.”
|Claude Julien on Game 7: ‘We don’t make things easy’||04.23.12 at 5:04 pm ET|
After watching six one-goal games between the two teams, no one should be surprised that the Capitals and Bruins are headed for a winner-take-all Game 7 to decide their Eastern Conference quarterfinal series.
As a matter of fact, listening to Bruins coach Claude Julien a day after his team survived a 4-3 overtime thriller in Game 6 in Washington, it’s almost expected. Are the Bruins approaching this Game 7 the way they did in their three Game 7s of 2011, when they became the first team ever to win three Game 7s and win the Stanley Cup?
“Well I guess that’ll be probably answered after Game 7,” Julien said Monday at TD Garden, site of the showdown game Wednesday. “We don’t make things easy, we didn’t last year, but we got through it and we haven’t gotten through it this year. So I think that’s probably the difference right now is we need to get through Game 7 before we can look at it the same way.”
What was racing through his head when Tyler Seguin scored three minutes into OT Sunday?
“Well although I’m excited, I try to look calm,” Julien said. “I think that’s the main thing here is, you know, you kind of regroup, go into the room and you do. For me, it’s – how do I keep our team focused and enjoying what they just accomplished but not let it slip to the point where you lose focus of what you have to do next. All we did last night, or yesterday afternoon, was tie the series. We didn’t win it. There’s still another game to be played; before we can be happy with this we’ve got to make sure we take care of Game 7. So, it’s exciting because it was either that or we’d be here today packing our bags and going home and I don’t think anybody’s ready for that right now.”
If the Bruins get the same kind of production from their top two lines as they did in Game 6, there’s good reason to think they’ll be moving on to the second round.
“I think if you look at the last two games, it’s true – it’s not just [Sunday], it’s the day before, some of those guys started producing and helping us out,” Julien said. “So our secondary scoring has kept us in this series and allowed us to move forward. And now it’s up to those guys to take over, and they have. [Tyler] Seguin’s big goal, [David] Krejci’s big goal, [Milan] Lucic—plays he’s made, Patrice, [Rich] Peverley, those kinds of guys have all been – [Brad] Marchand. Our top two line guys have really stepped up and that’s made a big difference.”
In other news and notes from Monday’s media availability, the team did not practice on Monday, taking the day to rest instead, though several Bruins reported to the Garden to work out, get treatment and be available to the media. The team will practice on Tuesday in Wilmington at 11 a.m. … Julien said there was no update on injured defensemen Adam McQuaid and Joe Corvo.
McQuaid has been out the whole series since taking a hit into the boards late in the regular season from Washington’s Jason Chimera. Meanwhile, Corvo was injured in the right leg blocking a shot of Marcus Johansson on Saturday in Game 5. “As far as Joe is concerned I think he’s going to be fine,” Julien said. “Adam McQuaid is still at the same spot he was before we left on the road.”
|Tim Thomas stands on his head then tips cap to ‘coming of age’ goal by Tyler Seguin||04.22.12 at 8:13 pm ET|
There’s no one on the Bruins who has handled pressure over the last two years any better than Tim Thomas.
He did it again on Sunday and thanks to that – and an overtime goal from Tyler Seguin – the Bruins will play a Game 7 against the Capitals on Wednesday in Boston.
“Basically, believe that we can do it, that we’re going to come out on top. It only takes one shot and we’re heading back home for Game 7 to sum it up,” Thomas said after registering 36 saves in the 4-3 OT thriller at Verizon Center.
Thomas defines clutch in Boston sports right now. He is 9-2 in elimination games with a 2.01 goals against average. His last loss to end a season came in the double-overtime crusher of 2009 against the Hurricanes in the Eastern semifinals.
His latest clutch moment came in a 60-second span when he denied Marcus Johansson with his paddle, a la his classic save on Steve Downie in Game 7 of the Eastern finals against the Lightning last year, and then, less than a minute later, Thomas stoned Jay Beagle point blank.
“I pride myself on doing the best I can every night, and doing the best I can to help the team,” Thomas said Sunday. “Our backs are up against the wall so I was trying to help them out. Hopefully, I did, but they stepped up and helped themselves out, too. The whole team did.”
“You’ve got obviously Tyler Seguin, a coming-of-age goal there, an overtime goal. [David Krejci] getting his first goal of the series. [Milan Lucic], it may not have shown up on the scoreboard, but the fact he had that extra gear helped us out. [Rich Peverley] again. All of us were there today and that’s what it took to come out of here with a win, and even having said that, it was hard.”
As for overtime, Thomas needed only to turn away one shot, a 53-foot shot from Beagle just 2:23 into the extra period.
“I’m not really feeling pressure like that,” Thomas said. “Yeah, it crosses my mind but I do my best to block it out as soon as possible and get into that mindset that you get into while you play the game, which is very little talk in your head. So, having said that, in the quiet times you realize that one shot, and our season is over. By the time the puck’s dropped, you better make sure you get that out of your head and you’re ready to make the save. More than hoping not to get scored on, I think you have to be ready to make the save.”
|Claude Julien: ‘Maybe in trouble, but we’re not dead’||at 10:50 am ET|
The Bruins know the refrain by now.
The series isn’t over till you win four games.
They repeated it over and over last year on their way to a sixth Stanley Cup title. And Claude Julien repeated it Saturday after a 4-3 gut-puncher at the hands of the Capitals at the Garden.
“Well there’s certainly lots of guys in that dressing room that have gone through that and there’s some others that are new to our hockey club that have to manage that as good as they can,” Julien said. “A guy like [Brian Rolston], he’s got some experience so our guys that we’ve gotten are experienced guys so I don’t see that as an issue. We’re down 3-2 in the series and most people will tell you, until they win four games, that’s when the series is over. So we’ve got an opportunity to get back into this series and create a Game 7 and that’s what we’re going to try to do.”
There were positives from Saturday that the B’s will try to carry over to today in Washington, like Milan Lucic getting in front of the net time and time again in the third period. Lucic’s “jam” in the slot created a point-blank chance for Tyler Seguin with 10 minutes left. Only a superhuman effort by Braden Holtby kept the Bruins from a late lead in their own building.
“There are some good things – I don’t think now’s the time to start collaborating all those things with players,” Julien said. “Sometimes you’ve got to feel that sting a little bit in order to get yourself ready the next day and we’ll address that tomorrow certainly before the game. Still a lot of good things that we did tonight and you look at some of the missed opportunities – Seguin is one, he had grease tonight and those opportunities were there for him, so that’s a positive. You wish he would have put some of those in and it’s a different outcome. But building on the positives, and as I said, we’re maybe in trouble but we’re not dead and we’re certainly going to make tomorrow a game that’s going to create a Game 7 for us.”
Johnny Boychuk finally blew a cannon past Holtby to tie the game on the power play to tie the game, 3-3. He sees a lot of hope.
“I thought we came out really well,” he said. “Again, [Holtby] played extremely well – he made that one stop and stretched out and got it with his toe. We did play well, but it wasn’t good enough. They scored more goals than us and that’s the end of the day. We lost the game and [today], we have to win.”
|What Tim Thomas did – and didn’t – see on the Capitals’ game-winner||04.14.12 at 9:29 pm ET|
There’s an old hockey adage that was proven very true Saturday as the Capitals tied the Bruins at a game apiece in their Eastern Conference quarterfinal series – you can’t stop what you can’t see.
When Marcus Johansson outworked Johnny Boychuk for the loose puck in the defensive cornerboards, the Swede fed his native countryman Nicklas Backstrom to nearly the exact same spot Chris Kelly won Game 1.
Only difference this time was that there was a lot more traffic in front of the goalie. And in this case, Tim Thomas practically had no chance, unless he was lucky enough to have the puck hit him. No such luck.
“I just had time to yell ‘screen’ and then I think I picked it up about halfway to me, but it was one of those knuckle [shots],” Thomas said. “You can’t get a read on exactly where it’s going. It is what it was.”
Asked if the shot dipped on him or just fluttered, Thomas again couldn’t describe what he couldn’t see.
“I didn’t see it enough to tell you,” Thomas added.
It was a bizarre kind of game for Thomas, who thought he was going to smother a puck that fluttered in on him in the second period. But out of nowhere Greg Zanon collided with him as he was trying to cover and Troy Brouwer was on the spot to find it, and flip a backhander between his legs while he was on the ground trying to get on it. Read the rest of this entry »
|Milan Lucic is fully prepared for Dale Hunter and his ‘underachieving’ Capitals||04.11.12 at 9:22 am ET|
WILMINGTON — Milan Lucic was just four years of age in 1993 when Dale Hunter delivered one of the most notorious hits in Stanley Cup playoff history.
It was on April 28 that year when Hunter laid out Pierre Turgeon, after Turgeon had just scored the clinching goal for the Islanders late in the third period of the decisive Game 6 of their opening playoff round against Hunter’s Capitals.
Hunter was understandably ticked. But he inexplicably checked Turgeon from behind and into the side boards, separating his shoulder and knocking him out of the next round against the defending champion Penguins.
Hunter received a then-record 21 game suspension for the hit. Turgeon returned for the semi-finals against the eventual champion Canadiens after missing seven games.
Fast forward 19 years and Hunter is now coaching the Capitals in the first-round series against the defending champion Bruins. The Capitals – who finished with the best record in the NHL two seasons ago – were 42-32-8 but had to struggle to get into the playoffs this season in the final week, finishing as the No. 7 seed. That’s quite a change for a team that fired Bruce Boudreau early on this year because they were 12-9-1 and underachieving with names like Alex Ovechkin and Alexander Semin.
“You can say the Capitals have probably underachieved a bit this year,” Lucic said of the Capitals, who actually won the season series against the Bruins this year, 3-1. “They have a lot of great players over there that can definitely do some damage. They’ve had some success against us this year. Season success and playoff success are two different things, which we’ve found out in the past. We know that they’re a great team and have a lot of great weapons and a lot of great players who can step up and be an impact in this series and I think that’s what’s going to make this a real challenging and hard-fought series for us.”
Hunter instilled a new dedication to physical play and no doubt realizes his finesse-laiden Capitals need to channel at least some of his toughness against the new Big Bad Bruins in order to have a chance.
“Especially playing under Dale Hunter, I’m sure they’re going to be real physical,” Lucic said. “They have some forwards that definitely will get in there and get dirty. Even a guy like Ovechkin is not afraid of the physical play and likes to use his body. It’s a way that they have success. For us, we have to do whatever we can to be physical and I think that’s what’s going to make it even a better series because both teams are going to go after each other.
“Part of our identity and part of our success is being physical, regardless of who we play so we have a game plan and we have a type of way we’re going to play and playing physical is one of the ways. We’re going to do everything we can to establish a forecheck and finish our checks and it’s important for us to do that.”
Lucic insisted the Bruins aren’t about to take the Capitals lightly and certainly place no significance on their No. 7 position in the conference.
“I think you definitely learn a lot,” Lucic said. “You can take from what you’ve done in the past and kind of use that experience, hopefully to your advantage. One thing that we did [this season] was that we never took anyone or any opponent for granted. Just because we’re second and they’re seventh doesn’t mean a thing right now. What happened last year is last year. This is a new year, new playoff. Everyone starts off at 0-0. It’s important for us to have a good start, come out strong and hopefully have a good game in Game 1.”