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Barry Pederson on D&C: ‘Very important playoffs for Tuukka’ Rask 04.30.13 at 10:48 am ET
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NESN Bruins analyst Barry Pederson checked in with Dennis & Callahan on Tuesday to break down the B’s first-round playoff series against the Maple Leafs.

Tuukka Rask enters the playoffs looking to build on a strong regular season. (AP)

One of the potential question marks heading into this strike-shortened season for the B’s was goaltending. During the 2011 Stanley Cup run, Tim Thomas was a standout. Now Thomas’ former backup, Tuukka Rask, is the No. 1 netminder. Rask proved up to the task, finishing sixth in the NHL in goals-against average, third in save percentage and tied for first with five shutouts.

“This is going to be a very important playoffs for Tuukka,” Pederson said. “By most standards he had a very good season. I think he’ll be one of the finalists for the Vezina. He did not get enough support, especially through the power-play scoring and the offensive side. I expect the Bruins to have a little bit of an advantage over Toronto in the goaltending department, which is one of the reasons when we were doing our previews for the playoffs and who the Bruins would match up well against; I thought the Bruins would do much better on a matchup basis with Toronto and the Islanders vs. the Rangers and Ottawa. … The Bruins, when they’re successful, they attack. They come at you in waves. They forecheck, they put pressure on your defense, they have turnovers, they’re physical, they’re intense. Then they go to the dirty areas, that’s what I want to see.”

On offense, the Maple Leafs are led by former Bruin Phil Kessel. The 25-year-old led the team in goals (20), assists (32) and points (52), ranking eighth, ninth and sixth in the league in those categories, respectively.

[Kessel] is a very important player and the key guy there will be [Zdeno] Chara,” Pederson said. “It could also be [Dennis] Seidenberg if they’re going to go after them that way. So far, obviously the stats speak for themselves. Phil has had a tremendous offensive season except when he plays the Bruins, and there’s one reason for that. It’s Chara. He’s that good defensively.”

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Andy Brickley on M&M: ‘Bruins appear to be very vulnerable right now’ 04.24.13 at 12:18 pm ET
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Andy Brickley

NESN commentator Andy Brickley joined Mut & Merloni on Wednesday to talk about the Bruins’ turnover issues, how their defensive pairings might look in the playoffs and how Milan Lucic has responded to being benched on Saturday.

Brickley said he saw a number of recurring issues in the Bruins’ 5-2 loss to the Flyers on Tuesday.

“[I was] surprised by the lack of complete-game effort by Boston,” Brickley. “It’s almost an indifference to their game. Not enough meaningful contact, the turnovers were just way too many. And not just by one player or a handful of players — it’s everybody. When they get good penalty-killing, their power play can’t score. When they get a power-play goal, their penalty kill seems to fall by the wayside.

“When they need a save in a close game, they haven’t gotten it lately. And if you’re looking for that Bruin team that we got so used to liking because they had that cockiness and swagger to them and they had tremendous confidence as a team, it’s just not there, plain and simple. This is a team that no matter where they finish, whether it’s second or fourth in the conference, [potential playoff opponents] will have no reservations because the Bruins appear to be very vulnerable right now.”

Turnovers have plagued the Bruins all over the ice as they’ve continued to struggle recently, and Brickley said he thinks that’s their No. 1 issue at the moment.

“The ones that jump out at you are the ones where the defensemen turn the puck over in their own zone, and a scoring chance or a goal happens,” Brickley said. “But turnovers at the offensive blue line, turnovers deep in the offensive zone, bad passes through center ice — usually when you make mistakes like that, it’s your decision-making.

“Is that a result of mental or physical fatigue? If you told me that in the middle of the third week of March, when they were playing 17 games in that month, I’d say, OK, I get that. But not now. This is where fatigue cannot be part of the equation. You have to compartmentalize, totally focus on the job at hand. And what the Bruins really need is for their leaders to lead and their star players to do more. [Zdeno] Chara can be a better player. [Patrice] Bergeron has been awesome all year long, but I’m going to ask him to do even more. I want [Andrew] Ference to stand up, [Dennis] Seidenberg, those are the guys that really play tons of minutes. Those are the guys that have to lead the way.”

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Opinion: Claude Julien needs to schedule rest time for weary Bruins 04.12.13 at 1:34 pm ET
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I’m sick of hearing that the Bruins are tired.

“We ran out of gas,” Claude Julien claimed after Thursday night’s loss to Islanders. “The effort and will was there. They were obviously a little fresher than we were.”

If Tyler Seguin and the Bruins have tired legs, it's up to coach Claude Julien to give them time to get back to full strength before the playoffs. (AP)

Maybe.

That quote came just two days after he said, “The schedule has been as tough as it could ever be on an athlete. We’ve got to be careful of how hard we push those guys, because they are tired.”

I don’t disagree.

The schedule obviously has been brutal. Yes, the Bruins face the same difficulties as every other team in the league, but they currently are in the worst of the gauntlet. Whereas they started the season with more days off than most other teams, they are paying the price for that now.

So I’m happy to concede that exhaustion is playing a role in their recent string of uninspired performances.

Normally, this is the time where I would remind athletes and coaches that if they avoid making an excuse out loud, someone will make it for them. We all know the schedule is tough; let us remind people and it will sound more like an explanation and less like an excuse.

And for Tyler Seguin, who said Thursday night that while he wasn’t making excuses, “we ran out of gas after three games in four nights,” I would repeat that message.

But to Julien, I would offer some additional advice.

If your team is so tired, do something about it!

Look, we all know the Bruins are going to make the playoffs and it’s a virtual certainty that they will fill either the second or fourth seed. So, what would be the harm in resting a few exhausted players for a game or two? If they are so desperate for some fresh legs, why not create them?

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Jaromir Jagr wanted to sign with Canadiens in offseason 04.05.13 at 1:29 pm ET
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Jaromir Jagr

WILMINGTON — Jaromir Jagr is a Bruin, but if he had it his way over the summer, he would be a Canadien.

The 41-year-old has been all smiles since being traded from Dallas to Boston this week, but the 12-time All-Star actually wanted to sign with Montreal in the offseason. The Habs were Jagr’s top choice after his one-year contract with the Flyers expired, but when the Canadiens didn’t reciprocate the interest, he took a one-year, $4.5 million contract with the Stars.

“I had never played in Canada, so I would like to try it,” Jagr said after Friday’s practice. “The [Canadiens] went in a different direction, so that’s OK. I feel like Canada lives more for hockey, so I wanted to try it at the end of my career, how it is to play in Canada.”

Jagr’s path has instead brought him to Boston, where he finds himself on the other side of the Bruins-Canadiens rivalry. He’ll get his first taste of it Saturday night in Montreal, where he figures to get a different reception than the ovation he got on his first shift Thursday. Canadiens fans, who are perhaps the most passionate in hockey, routinely boo other team’s star players, but Jagr said that at his age he shouldn’t even qualify for the type of treatment Zdeno Chara, among others, gets.

“Hey, I’m not a star anymore, so I don’t really care,” Jagr said with a laugh. “Zee is the best defenseman. He’s a star. It’s going to be a lot worse in Pittsburgh, trust me.”

The Bruins don’t play in Pittsburgh again this season, so the only way Jagr could revisit his old stomping grounds, which he eventually spurned when he signed with the Flyers upon returning to the NHL in 2011, is in the playoffs. He ties in quite interestingly to a budding rivalry between two of the East’s top teams, as the failed acquisition of Jarome Iginla in Boston (Iginla wouldn’t waive his no-trade clause for Boston, forcing the Flames to trade him to Pittsburgh) led to the Bruins swinging a deal for Jagr.

“I was reading it like everybody else,” Jagr said of the Iginla-to-Boston fiasco. “I went on the Internet and I saw the first headline was Iginla going to Boston. I didn’t follow it after that. The next day, I find out it didn’t [happen]. Sometimes, that’s what happens. Hey, you cannot trust anybody in this business. You never know. I learned that.”

For now, Jagr doesn’t need to worry about the Penguins — at least until April 19, when the B’s host Iginla’s squad at TD Garden. Even with experience on both sides of a great rivalry between the Penguins and Flyers, Jagr says he doesn’t know what to expect on being a part of the Boston-Montreal rivalry. What he does know is that the Bruins can take over first place in the Northeast Division with a win over the Habs, as Montreal has 53 points to Boston’s 52 with one more game played.

Jagr noted the intensity of Thursday’s 1-0 win over the Devils, as the Devils are pushing for a spot in the playoff picture. If he thought that was impressive, he should be floored by what he sees Saturday in Montreal.

“Every game is going to be like a playoff game. We found that out yesterday. Every point is so important, and it’s even more important for the teams who are fighting for the playoffs, for the eighth or seventh spot,” he said. “For us, we want to be in first place. It’s going to be a huge game, and you want to get ready for the playoffs with games like that.”

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Business-like: Zdeno Chara, Tuukka Rask lead B’s to bounce-back win over Panthers 03.14.13 at 9:26 pm ET
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Zdeno Chara celebrates his sixth goal of the season, a score that put the Bruins up, 1-0, in the first against the Panthers on Thursday. (AP)

Zdeno Chara and Patrice Bergeron scored in the first period and Tuukka Rask stopped 29-of-30 shots as the Bruins beat the Florida Panthers, 4-1, Thursday night at TD Garden.

It was another milestone night at the Garden, this time for the Bruins. With the win, Claude Julien surpassed Milt Schmidt for second on the club’s all-time coaching wins list with victory No. 246. Art Ross (1924-1945) is far ahead in first, with 361 career wins for the Bruins. Now in his sixth season as Boston’s coach, Julien improved his record to 246-136-53 in 435 games.

The win improved the Bruins to 18-4-3 on the season and drew them to within one point of idle Montreal (40 points) for first place in the Eastern Conference standings, with two games in hand on the Canadiens.

Chara put the Bruins on top with a slap shot from the left point after a fluky bounce off the boards. The blast beat former Boston College goalie Scott Clemmensen and gave Boston a 1-0 lead 3:55 into the game.

The Bruins got three big saves from Rask in the first period, including a glove save on Jonathan Huberdeau midway through the period that protected Boston’s one-goal advantage.

Bergeron made it 2-0 when he took a perfect feed from Brad Marchand and one-timed the puck into the net vacated by Clemmensen on the right post. The Bruins appeared ready to take advantage of an injury-depleted Panthers team that has given up an NHL-worst 103 goals this season. But instead, the Bruins could not take advantage of several chances in the final two periods, including open nets for Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton.

The Bruins gave one of the goals back by allowing a rare shorthanded goal by Florida’s Shawn Matthias at 3:10 of the second period. Matthias outworked Dougie Hamilton for the loose puck deep in the Boston zone and the Florida forward beat Rask for the unassisted goal. It was the first short-handed goal allowed by the Bruins this season in 74 power plays.

With momentum swinging against them, the Bruins’ NHL-leading penalty-killing unit killed off a pair of Florida power plays to hold onto the lead.

The Bruins finally finished a chance, with the help of a lucky bounce midway through the final period. Shawn Thornton centered a pass from a bad angle from the right circle. The puck bounced off the skate of Florida defenseman Colby Robak and back to the slot. Thornton circled behind the net and collected the loose puck and put it in the net for his third goal of the season at 12:43 of the third period.

Bergeron scored his second of the game and eighth of the season on an empty-net tally with 57.2 seconds left for the final score of the night. The Bruins are off Friday before hosting the Capitals at 1 p.m at the Garden in the first of a Bruins-Celtics day-night doubleheader on Causeway Street.

For more from DJ Bean and Mike Petraglia, visit the Bruins team page at weei.com/bruins.

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P.J. Stock on D&C: ‘Everyone’s guilty’ of embellishing 03.06.13 at 10:08 am ET
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P.J. Stock

Former Bruin P.J. Stock of Hockey Night in Canada joined Dennis & Callahan on Wednesday to talk about how changes in hockey have led to more embellishment, and how he thinks an openly gay player would be received in the league.

There have been rumors around the web that Canadiens defenseman Josh Gorges would be coming out this week, but according to You Can Play president Patrick Burke, who spoke with the Canadiens, they are untrue. Stock said that in general he thinks the league is ready for a gay player, but that he would have to worry more about taunts from opposing players and fans than about issues in his own locker room.

“I think there would be those jokes, to the opposition, which there are all the time,” Stock said. “In the locker room would be completely different. I think he would be respected and they would be positive jokes. You’re the same 20, 22, 23 guys for a year and you all learn about everybody’s flaws, your pros and cons, and you’re a big family. Yeah, it would be addressed, something that would be talked about, and yeah, you’re 20 guys that shower together all the time, so there’d be a couple jokes here and there, but that wouldn’t be the problem. I would love to see how it would work out, but the opposition is where you get into some situations where it would be interesting to see where other players react. … I hope there’s someone that steps out, I really do.”

On the topic of embellishment, Stock said he understands why Claude Julien was frustrated with the way penalties were called in the Bruins’ loss to Montreal on Sunday, but that the Canadiens don’t dive any more than any other team.

“Everyone does it,” Stock said of diving. “I don’t think any one team does it more than others. Now, there’s certain types of players that might do it more than others, so if you have more of those players on your team, therefore it might happen more often. But the Canadiens in general? I know P.K. Subban adds some flair to when he gets hit, but — I’m a huge Brad Marchand fan. You look at Team Canada, you look at players that can skate, players that have played big in big games — Brad Marchand’s an easy person not to pick, but I think if you’re really going to sit there and look at things, he does so much so well. But does Brad Marchand embellish? Yeah. You’re trying to sell something. … And Claude Julien knows that, and he’s frustrated about what happened the other night, losing [ZdenoChara out for 17 minutes, and they’re losing the game to his arch-rival, to the team that let him go years earlier. But … everyone’s guilty.”

Stock also pointed out that the value of a big hit or a big fight has changed within the game, and that instead of being momentum-changers, those moments are now cause for suspensions. He said he believes that’s why players embellish more now — getting their team a power play is more effective than getting into a fight.

“Goals are what change the game,” Stock said. “Every time there’s a big hit now, you’ve got to re-look at it 15 times to see, did he leave his feet, did he hit his head? And then there’s always some kind of altercation after it, it’s never just a big hit. The way you would change the momentum was you would increase the physical side of play, which would lead to checking, fights, get the crowd into it. Now, unfortunately, you can’t do that as much. Teams don’t have those kind of players and the game just doesn’t allow for it anymore. So the way you change the momentum is by trying to get a power play, which leads to those players embellishing, because how else do you get a power play?”

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Blown away: Bruins blow three-goal lead, lose in OT to Capitals 03.05.13 at 9:51 pm ET
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Dougie Hamilton celebrates after scoring Boston's third goal that gave the Bruins a 3-0 lead in the first period. (AP)

Eric Fehr scored on a phenomenal rush up the slot just 37 seconds into overtime as the Bruins blew a 3-0 lead and lost to the Capitals, 4-3, in overtime Tuesday night at the Verizon Center. Tuukka Rask, who couldn’t protect the 3-0 lead, made 22 saves in the loss.

The Bruins lost their second straight game for the second time this season and fell to 14-3-3 on the season.

With Tyler Seguin in the penalty box serving a two-minute hooking penalty, Brad Marchand was hooked on a short-handed breakaway from behind by Alex Ovechkin and was awarded a penalty shot. Marchand beat Braden Holtby for a 1-0 lead at 6:29 of the first. It was the first short-handed penalty shot goal since Jan. 10, 2012 when Shawn Thornton scored against Winnipeg.

With the Bruins in control, they added a pair of goals 1:23 apart late in the first to make it a 3-0 game after one period. Zdeno Chara pinched down low in the offensive zone and snapped a shot past Holtby at 17:07. Then the Bruins capitalized on what appeared to be a questionable interference call on Ovechkin.

Just 15 seconds into the penalty, Dougie Hamilton fired a shot from the top of the slot through a partial screen. The puck found its way past Holtby and the Bruins had a 3-0 lead after 20 minutes.

The Capitals, who came in winners of six of their last nine games, showed some resolve in the second period. Ovechkin found Mike Ribeiro on the low left circle in front of Rask. Ribeiro redirected the puck into the part of the net vacated by Rask at 5:46 of the second. Six minutes later, the Capitals made it a one-goal game when Tomas Kundratek fired one past Rask.

The Bruins had two golden chances to build on their one-goal lead in the third period but neither David Krejci nor Tyler Seguin could finish 3-on-1 breaks on Holtby.

Moments after Holtby turned aside Seguin, Fehr backhanded a pass from the mid-slot that deflected off the leg of Hamilton and found its way onto the stick of Wojtek Wolski, who beat Rask to tie the game, 3-3, with 6:05 left in regulation. The Bruins had one more great chance when Ovechkin was called for hooking with 2:27 left in regulation. But the Bruins managed just two shots on the power play and couldn’t get the go-ahead marker.

Then, in the opening moments of overtime, Niklas Backstrom took a puck in the neutral zone and backhanded a pass for Fehr, who streaked up the middle and beat Rask as he was falling to the ice for the game-winner. Fehr also finished with two assists on the night for the Capitals, who improved to 9-11-1.

The Bruins return to action Thursday night when they host the Maple Leafs at TD Garden. For more, visit the Bruins team page at weei.com/bruins.

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