|Barry Melrose on D&C: Maple Leafs have to ‘be the Boston Bruins to be successful’||05.02.13 at 12:33 pm ET|
ESPN NHL analyst Barry Melrose talked with Dennis & Callahan on Thursday to analyze the Bruins’ Game 1 victory over the Maple Leafs. Game 2 is Saturday in Boston, before the series shifts to Toronto on Monday.
After trailing 1-0 early in the first period, the Bruins quickly answered with two first-period goals and coasted to a 4-1 win.
“[The Bruins] were awesome after [Wade Redden‘s goal],” Melrose said. “They looked like the old Bruins after that. They were physical, their play in the neutral zone was great. I can probably think of 10 passes and plays intercepted by the Boston Bruins in the neutral zone. They attacked the net with ferocity. And [Tuukka] Rask, he didn’t get a lot of work, but I thought he made three or four key saves when the game was on the line. It was just what the doctor ordered if you’re a Bruins fan.”
Melrose also discussed the importance for the Maple Leafs to be more physical in the coming games, and the consequence of not doing so — a quick exit in the playoffs.
“They have to play more aggressive,” Melrose said. “They’ve got to do some hitting. Toronto’s got to play on the edge. They’ve got to be finishing checks, winning battles. They’ve got to be the Boston Bruins to be successful, and they weren’t last night. They were always retaliating, they were never initiating, and that’s got to change for the Toronto Maple Leafs. If it doesn’t, this will be a short series.”
The Maple Leafs’ top offensive weapon, Phil Kessel, was essentially neutralized by the Bruins in Game 1. This is becoming all to familiar for Kessel, as he has struggled in his career against his former team, due in large part to Zdeno Chara‘s stellar defense.
“Chara’s on the ice every time Kessel’s on the ice,” Melrose said. “That just shows how good Chara is. Year in and year out I would give Chara the Norris Trophy, he’s that good defensively and that’s what he did last night. He’s out there with that huge reach. He’s got that mean streak to him, and Kessel just has no open ice. Kessel needs room, Kessel needs some space to make plays and with Chara and that long stick and that huge reach, he just doesn’t have any time or space to make plays. Chara always eats Kessel up.”
The favorites out of the Eastern Conference are the top-seeded Penguins, who took care of the Islanders 5-0 in their playoff opener. However, as we saw last year with the Kings, anything is possible in the playoffs.
“We see that every year,” Melrose said. “We see LA last year make the eighth spot and win the Stanley Cup and win it easily. It’s about getting your game together, it’s about getting hot at the right time, it’s about great goaltending, it’s about your special team kicking in key goals at key times and stopping their power play. We see it all the time. A team that looks unbeatable at the start of the playoffs loses in four straight. So, without a doubt things can change and change very quickly.”
|Andy Brickley on M&M: Bruins-Leafs ‘should have all the elements of a playoff series [B’s] can win’||05.01.13 at 2:15 pm ET|
NESN’s Andy Brickley joined Mut & Merloni on Wednesday to talk about the Bruins’ approach to the playoffs, some lineup decisions they’ve made, and how they match up with the Maple Leafs.
Brickley said he would have preferred to see the Bruins face the Islanders in the first round, but he thinks Toronto is a better matchup for them than Ottawa would have been.
“Toronto, they’re a little porous on defense,” Brickley said. “I’m still not sold on [James] Reimer being an elite guy. He’s got no experience, really, when it comes to NHL postseason play. So I think it’s a pretty good matchup. My preference would have been the Islanders, but be careful what you wish for. But it should have all the elements of a playoff series they can win, which is physical play, 5-on-5 hockey. If Toronto wants to initiate, the Bruins will oblige, but I’m looking for the Bruins to initiate.”
“I’m not surprised,” Brickley said of Chara and Seidenberg playing together. “I don’t know if it’s my preference. Toronto, one of their strengths this year is the fact that they have more than one scoring line. You put those guys together and you try to play them against Phil Kessel and his threesome, and they can still hurt you with [Joffrey] Lupul, [Nazem] Kadri. But that’s something they wanted to do. They were committed to it before the season ended. Now it’s up to the other four defensemen that are in the lineup to get the job done on the matchups.”
Brickley said that while Dougie Hamilton looks likely to sit in favor of Wade Redden in Game 1, Hamilton likely will crack the lineup at some point in the playoffs.
“I absolutely think we’ll see Dougie, whether it’s an adjustment or an injury or trying to get a little bit more on your power play,” Brickley said. “They want to get him some playoff experience, no doubt, but it’ll all be determined on how the Bruins play and how healthy they are on the back end.”
|Barry Pederson on D&C: ‘Very important playoffs for Tuukka’ Rask||04.30.13 at 10:48 am ET|
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.
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.”
|Andy Brickley on M&M: ‘Bruins appear to be very vulnerable right now’||04.24.13 at 12:18 pm ET|
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.”
|Opinion: Claude Julien needs to schedule rest time for weary Bruins||04.12.13 at 1:34 pm ET|
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.”
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?
|Jaromir Jagr wanted to sign with Canadiens in offseason||04.05.13 at 1:29 pm ET|
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.”
|Business-like: Zdeno Chara, Tuukka Rask lead B’s to bounce-back win over Panthers||03.14.13 at 9:26 pm ET|
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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