|Milan Lucic is fully prepared for Dale Hunter and his ‘underachieving’ Capitals||04.11.12 at 9:22 am ET|
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.”
|Claude Julien on Tyler Seguin: ‘He knows everybody on his team has his back’||04.10.12 at 2:01 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — Moments after captain Zdeno Chara was pointing with his stick and barking at Tyler Seguin Tuesday morning on a power play drill, coach Claude Julien and assistant coach Doug Jarvis came over and had a heart-to-heart with the Bruins’ leading goal scorer this season.
They were simply reminding him to play hard on the power play and play with a “heavy stick” – Julien’s way of saying scoring on the power play and scoring in general, requires more will power in the playoffs than in the regular season.
“Playoffs, a lot of times, it’s all about little details and that’s why we’re going over video,” Seguin said Tuesday. “Even on the ice, obviously, coaches see stuff that they want you to improve on or little details they want you to fix and sometimes, as a player, you see something different. You just compare notes without crossing the line and just get prepared.”
Julien knows that Seguin – with his 29 goals – will be a marked man by Dale Hunter‘s Washington Capitals much more than he was at the start of the Stanley Cup championship run 12 months ago. Julien and Chara just want Seguin to be ready for that hunt beginning Thursday night in Game 1 at the Garden.
“I think he knows everybody on his team has his back, and all he has to do is go out there and compete and be ready to face that kind of challenge,” Julien said. “If we want him to be a better player, he has to be able to face those kind of challenges and face them with a positive result. He has to be able to work his way through and we expect him to be able to do that.”
For his part, Seguin downplayed being a focal point of Washington’s defensive game plan.
“I don’t really know about that. If you look at our team, there wasn’t exactly much gap between [players],” Seguin said. “We’re pretty close. We had [six] 20-goal scorers. That’s what makes our team pretty dangerous.”
“I don’t think he’s been bad at that this year whenever things were a little tough,” Julien added. “We’ve always kept a close eye on him. He’s a young prospect that we want to make sure that he continues to go in the right direction so we’ve taken time to bring him in and talk to him. Players have done the same thing. When it comes to a situation where you haven’t scored in a while or you’re a little frustrated, you go back to basics, and you stop looking at the big picture and just take a step back and keep your game maybe a little simpler but more efficient, and eventually, things come back.
“We’ve done a good job with him as far as the whole coaching staff, the players, to help him through those things. And he likes his teammates, he likes our coaching staff, he has a lot of trust in all of us where he’s not afraid to come up and say, ‘Listen, this is what’s happening here.’ Or whenever we suggest something, it’s nice to see a guy with that much talent and skill be so open to suggestions and help, as well.”
|Bruins know Cup defense is all about them, not the opponent||04.07.12 at 8:30 pm ET|
Through all the number crunching and scenario possibilities Saturday afternoon, the Bruins knew one thing – it doesn’t matter who they’re playing, they are focused on themselves.
And they like what they’re seeing in the mirror right now.
“Well it helps, it definitely helps,” Milan Lucic said of Saturday’s 4-3 shootout win, giving them four wins in their final five games. “Obviously, there was a bit of a worry I guess when we couldn’t even put two wins together. We were winning one, losing one. Winning one, losing two, winning one. So, you know the fact that we were able to kind of regroup and get things going in is definitely more of a confident feeling and we’re looking forward to the challenge that’s coming up ahead.
“It doesn’t matter at all,” Lucic said when asked if he was planning to pay close attention to Saturday’s night games to see if they’re playing Washington or Ottawa.
“There’s a good saying, ‘In order to be the best, you have to beat the best.’ So, you know, it doesn’t matter who you play or who’s on the other side. It’s about who’s in this room and how we’re going to play so we’re committed to that, and that’s our main focus right now.”
The Bruins are happy with where they’re at following a shootout win against the Sabres that left them with 102 points and the No. 2 spot in the East. They’ll be opening with the Capitals on Thursday at TD Garden, as the Capitals won Saturday night in New York while the Panthers clinched the Southeast Division with a win over Carolina, clinching the No. 3 seed in the East. The Capitals wound up as the No. 7 seed while the Senators – who will play the Rangers – finished as the No. 8 seed.
“I got the app that shows you all the scores on the old iPhone so obviously I’m going to take a look by the end of the night and see who we’re up against,” Lucic said afterward. “It’s going to be a hard-fought battle no matter who we play… We’re looking forward to the challenge.”
Added Claude Julien, “That’s the feel that there should be in the dressing room. Anybody who decides who they want as an opponent, whether it’s, you know, saying, ‘Oh, I’d rather play this team than that team,’ or plays to pick their own opponents don’t deserve to win.
“That’s the way — this is a game. This is not wrestling, it’s not a fake sport, you don’t go out there and pretend to play and make sure you lose because you want a certain team to play against, because karma’s a pretty powerful thing, and I believe in doing the things right. And if we’re going to win, we’re going to have to beat every team that comes in our way, and that’s the way we’ve approached it.”
|Was hit on Adam McQuaid dirty? ‘Reckless’ is more like it||03.30.12 at 12:07 am ET|
At first glance, the Jason Chimera hit on Adam McQuaid with six minutes left in the first period Thursday evokes emotions of anger and revenge.
But even the Bruins, who have been on both sides of vicious hits over the last several seasons, were careful to choose their words carefully after the game, given the fine line between finishing your check and hitting from behind and endangering a vulnerable player.
Chimera was given a five-minute major for charging and a game misconduct for the hit that left McQuaid on the ice for several minutes with a gash over his eye and a dazed head.
The Bruins reaction? Measured.
“Well, you know, again, when it happens to you, you also have to be honest about it. I think, again, he came off the bench, and he was going hard, and maybe it was a little bit reckless, but there’s no doubt in my mind that it wasn’t intentional,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said. “You know, McQuaid, Mac just turned at the last second and, you know, put himself in a bit of vulnerable position, but still, like, I agree with the referee’s call.
“It was a bit of a reckless hit, and it deserved probably a five[-minute penalty] when you look back at the replay, and they had to make that decision. It was a tough one, but certainly wasn’t intent to injure by the player, in my mind. And, you know, and that’s why I keep saying, and you’ve heard me before, I really, really encourage our players to be careful, with the speed of the game today, to make sure you don’t turn your back to the play as much because those kind of things happen. And you worry about the security of the players, you worry about the safety of the game, and I’m one of those guys that will look at both sides of it and not just preach for my side of it.”
Joe Corvo – already filling in for injured Dennis Seidenberg – not only saw the hit, but saw both sides.
“It’s nearly impossible when a guy comes, I noticed I think he came off the bench, and really didn’t break stride,” Corvo said. “It’s a tough play because it’s hard for that forward to stop when he’s coming that fast and Quaider [McQuaid] kind of turned a little bit. The guy could have let up a little bit but it just happens fast. I think that’s why he was so upset that he got thrown out. I don’t think he’s a dirty player, I think just with his speed it was hard for him to stop.”
|Tim Thomas saved the sleepwalking Bruins||12.19.10 at 1:21 am ET|
There was a great deal of irony in the words of Tim Thomas following his latest Houdini act on Saturday night at TD Garden.
The Bruins held on for a 3-2 win over the slumping Capitals, a win that snapped Boston’s three-game losing streak while extending Washington’s to an almost unbelievable eight.
But that hardly tells the story.
Thomas noticed early on the Capitals were asleep at the wheel. But it was the Bruins who nearly blew the game by sleepwalking through the final 20 minutes.
The Bruins ran the Capitals off the ice in the opening 20 minutes. They got goals from Patrice Bergeron, Andrew Ference and Blake Wheeler and Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau was in the midst of another breakdown for HBO’s “24/7 The Road to the NHL Winter Classic.” But Thomas figured it was too good to last.
“I didn’t know what we were going to get,” Thomas said. “They turned it up for a while in the second there and then they kind of went back to sleep a little bit and I didn’t know if… They looked like a tired team for the first two periods and I was hoping that was the case, but it turned out not to be.” Read the rest of this entry »
|Why Tim Thomas is a happy man||10.22.10 at 12:01 pm ET|
At the end of last year and in the playoffs, Tim Thomas wasn’t smiling that much. He was in pain from not playing and from bad hip that required labrum surgery in the offseason.
Fast forward five months and you have a spry 36-year-old goalie sliding easily from post to post, stopping 38-of-39 saves in a 4-1 win over the mighty Washington Capitals in the team’s first game of the season before a fired-up crowd at TD Garden. He is 4-0 to start the season, allowing only three goals while posting a 0.75 goals against and a .978 save percentage.
Why wouldn’t you be smiling?
“I felt good, I felt really good,” Thomas said. “My movement felt real good and maybe there was some rebounds, where there’s a different kind of on, where it just sticks to you and there’s no rebounds and stuff. I didn’t exactly have that tonight, so my D helped me out with the rebounds, but I had the movement and the speed. One of these days, you’ll have everything and one of these days I’ll play the puck the right way too.
“I think it’s been exceptional the last couple of weeks since, you know, I got back into the groove. I felt it coming in the early days of Czech and you know, it’s fun when you can move.”
Thomas even admitted he’s exceeded his own expectations in his recovery.
“For sure, and obviously, I couldn’t be happier with the way I’m feeling this far,” Thomas said. “You know, now I’ve just got to keep working hard and keep working in practice, and there’s ways that I can make it easier on myself. That will be my goal in practice.” Read the rest of this entry »
|Hat trick: A point made in loss||04.06.10 at 12:18 am ET|
All season long the Bruins have had their doubters, especially when it concerned matters of the heart. Specifically, do they have the intestinal fortitude to get the job done when the odds are against them?
On Monday night, during a 3-2 overtime loss to Washington (click here for the full recap) ‘ the most dominant team in the NHL this season ‘ the Bruins may have shown they do want to play into the second season.
With Adam McQuaid playing nine minutes and Andrew Bodnarchuk playing just six, and their regular rotation of defensemen shortened to four because of 15 stitches in Dennis Seidenberg’s left wrist, the Bruins managed to hang punch-for-punch with Alex Ovechkin, Alexander Semin and the team that has the President’s Trophy wrapped up.
Here are three things we learned:
THE BRUINS SHOW HEART
When Niklas Backstrom’s shot trickled by Tuukka Rask at 7:36 of the first period, the Bruins had to wait nearly seven minutes through a painfully slow video review, only to have the goal upheld.
But following that goal, the Bruins picked up their skating and forechecking.
The scoring chances were again plentiful for Boston, and it seemed for the first 19 minutes, 58.4 seconds of the opening period, they would be frustrated again.
While the Bruins were frustrated on the power play again ‘ going 0-for-3 ‘ they did their best to put pressure on Theodore.
Maybe most importantly, the Bruins showed they weren’t intimidated by the Captials, even when they fell behind 1-0 on Backstrom’s goal. If the two teams meet in the first round, the Bruins coaching staff is likely to show the team a tape of this game and show them why and how they can win.
DENNIS WIDEMAN PICKS UP HIS PLAY
It’s no secret that Dennis Wideman has been the whipping boy for all that ails the Bruins this year. Every time there has seemed to be a critical turnover or penalty, it’s been Wideman at the center of the storm.
And true to form, Wideman was again in the middle of things when he was whistled for a high sticking penalty 24 seconds into overtime. The Capitals made the Bruins pay with the game-winning goal off the stick of Brooks Laich 20 seconds later.
But long before that, Wideman had been doing his best to help the cause.
Just before Backstrom’s shot slipped by Rask at 7:36 of the first period. Wideman came to the rescue but just a half-second late as the puck was ruled to have cleared the goal line for a 1-0 Capitals lead. Alex Ovechkin fed Backstrom across the slot to set up the score.
The Capitals had carried the pace of play. But with 1.6 seconds left, it was Wideman of all people, who blasted a slap shot past Jose Theodore to tie the game and shift the momentum.
EYE ON THE BOTTOM LINE
As a result of Monday night’s outcome, the Bruins gained a point, giving them 85 and a one-point leg up on the Flyers for seventh in the East. Boston is now just one point behind Montreal for sixth. Monday was the game-in-hand the Bruins had on the Flyers and Canadiens. The Rangers are just two points behind the Flyers, and those two teams play each other in a home-and-home on Friday and Saturday.
Now, the Bruins play Buffalo and Carolina at home on Thursday and Saturday before returning to Washington on Sunday with the season possibly on the line against the best team in the NHL.
But if the Bruins win on Thursday and Saturday, they could make life a lot easier on themselves.