|Bruins can’t wait for their next test: Sidney Crosby and the East-leading Penguins||12.05.11 at 10:42 am ET|
It’s the perfect test at the perfect time.
The Bruins have rebounded from a 3-7-0 start and are the hottest team in the NHL. They have 13 of 14 and are unbeaten in regulation since Oct. 29 in Montreal.
The Penguins are the top team in the East and have been the best team in the conference since the start of the season.
Now the top two teams in the conference meet in tonight in Pittsburgh.
“It’s going to be a great challenge for us,” said Chris Kelly, who scored the game-winner on Saturday night. “They are playing extremely well. They have their best player back and he seems like he hasn’t missed a beat. It will be an exciting game for us.”
Of course, the “best player” to whom Kelly refers is Sidney Crosby. He returned from his post-concussion symptoms on Nov. 21 with two goals in a 5-0 win over the Islanders. He hasn’t scored since but he does have 10 assists and the Pens are 5-1-1 in the seven games with him back in the lineup.
“It’s going to be a big game,” Bruins captain Zdeno Chara said. “We haven’t faced them this season yet. Obviously they’ve got a healthy team now. I’m sure it’s going to be a good game.”
Tonight marks the first of four games between the last two Eastern Conference teams who have won the Stanley Cup. The Penguins won on Detroit’s home ice in Game 7 in 2009 while the Bruins accomplished the same feat back on June 15 in Vancouver.
Is this is a “measuring stick” game for the defending champion B’s?
“I think we’re approaching- we’ve got the right mind set going into every game right now,” new pugilist Joe Corvo said. “I feel like we’re playing the same way every game and we’re being super consistent and if we don’t at some point in the game, it gets corrected. I think it’s obviously a good test, they’re in first place so it’ll be an exciting game.”
With a regulation win, the Bruins will be just one point out of the top spot in the East, 15 games after being in the cellar.
“We want to get up there in the standings and this is a game for first place so it’s going to be a big one,” David Krejci said.
There will be no rest after the game, either. The Bruins hop on a plane and go halfway across the continent for a Tuesday night game in Winnipeg.
|Points ain’t nothing but a number for Zdeno Chara||12.03.11 at 1:03 pm ET|
Statistically speaking, Zdeno Chara is having the best season of his career. After not registering a point in the season’s first six games, the massive defenseman with the league’s hardest shot has five goals and 13 assists for 18 points, with only Tyler Seguin registering more points for the B’s since Oct. 20.
That leaves Chara on pace for a career-high 64 points (his current career-best is 51, which he registered in 2007-08). Not all of Chara’s points have been blasts from the point, or even teammates burying rebounds of blasts from the point. Chara was in on the rush Wednesday when David Krejci fed him to set up a wrist shot from right before the hash mark for what became his fifth goal of the year.
It’s been a big year offensively for Chara, but he knows that a defenseman’s worth is not always measured by stats. Even so, the 6-foot-9 blueliner is happy to be producing at a pace he’s never seen before.
“My first priority is to play well defensively. My job is obviously to shut down top lines every game, so that’s the No. 1 job to me,” he said after Saturday’s morning skate. “Anything above that is a plus. Any time I can help the team offensively and contribute on the other side of the ice, it’s a big plus.”
Seven of Chara’s points (3 G, 4 A) have come on the power play, and he leads the team in points on the man advantage. With the power play performing better than it was down the stretch last year and Chara producing more, the B’s have been able to give penalty killers a much harder time than they were when they would go games at a time without scoring on the man advantage.
“I think it’s about doing everything,” Claude Julien said Saturday. “I mean, in order for [Chara] to get some shots you got to have some versatility on your power play and some of the opportunities have to come from different places. Tyler on the half wall has done a great job of course there, [Milan Lucic] in front of the net and other guys. Again, we’ve moved some guys around. [Patrice] Bergeron finds the right people to pass to, and with Zdeno where he is right now, it allows him to take a shot whenever he’s open and if they pay too much attention to him, then there’s something else open.”
Chara is currently a plus-15 as well, meaning that while he may get beaten occasionally (as he was when Phil Kessel flew by him in the neutral zone Wednesday to set up a 2-on-1 and a Toronto goal), he still does what he believes to be his No. 1 job: playing against top lines and seeing to it that no goals are scored unless they’re from the B’s. He’s on pace for a plus-53 rating, which would surpass last season’s career-best plus-33. Between the points and the strong rating (only Seguin and Chris Kelly have better ratings on the B’s at plus-19 and plus-16, respectively), there’s been very little not to like about the big man’s game this season.
“You also want to be an all-around defenseman,” Chara said of the offensive production being a part of his game. “That’s what it takes.”
|Bruins-Sabres Live Blog: Headed to shootout||11.23.11 at 7:02 pm ET|
|Andrew Ference on D&C: Bruins take the Bill Belichick approach on trade rumors||11.18.11 at 10:11 am ET|
Bruins defenseman Andrew Ference joined Dennis & Callahan on Friday morning for his weekly appearance. With their 2-1 shootout win over the Blue Jackets Thursday night, Ference and the Bruins have now won seven straight games, all in the month of November. But the win over Columbus was not as easy — or as pretty — as the other wins have been for Boston. Ference said that’s just all part of the game.
“It definitely wasn’t a pretty thing to watch,” Ference said. “They came to play and it was a weird game, it probably wasn’t the best game to watch. What can you do? Those happen, but come playoff time, we’ll take the points.”
Coming up big for Boston was goaltender Tuukka Rask, who had 30 saves and stopped two of the three attempts in the shootout. Rask was part of trade rumors early in the week, as some have speculated that the Bruins would consider trading him for Blue Jackets high scorer Rick Nash.
The rumors only got more press when Rask appeared to have an angry meltdown in practice on Wednesday when he gave up a goal during a special teams drill and tried to break his stick over the crossbar. But Ference said he doesn’t think the team pays much attention to trade speculation.
“I’m not even really sure who pays attention to that stuff. I know most guys don’t,” Ference said. “I think most guys kind of go to the Bill Belichick, never read anything that goes on. It sounds like a cop out, but I really think guys don’t pay attention to it.”
Ference went on to say that it’s an advantage to have two solid goaltenders in Rask and Tim Thomas.
“[Rask] is great for us. I think it’s awesome to have two goalies that we can have complete confidence in,” Ference said. “From a player’s perspective, you want the best players on your team. Players that you have the greatest chance of winning with. And if I can look back and see two goalies that gives us an unbelievable chance of winning every night, why wouldn’t I want that? I’d be crazy not to.”
|Zdeno Chara’s case closed with Quebec police||11.17.11 at 3:08 pm ET|
We’ll keep this is short as possible in an attempt to finally put this ridiculous topic to bed. Quebec’s director of criminal prosecutions released the following statement regarding the criminal investigation on Zdeno Chara‘s hit on Max Pacioretty last March:
“After carefully examining all the information provided in this affair, the (office) is not reasonably convinced it could establish evidence of guilt.”
|Zdeno Chara ready to leg it out vs. Islanders||09.23.11 at 11:58 am ET|
Bruins captain Zdeno Chara will be among the B’s making their preseason debuts Friday night at TD Garden when the defending Stanley Cup champions hope the Islanders. After an injury scare earlier in the week, he’s happy he won’t have to watch it from the press box.
Chara was hit in the inside of the left leg in Monday’s practice and left the skate with a contusion. He was among those to skip Tuesday’s black and white scrimmage and was left off Wednesday night’s roster for the preseason opener, though he returned to practice that same day.
“I’m very glad that it wasn’t [serious]. Obviously, it’s something that you’ll worry about when it does happen, but I was pleased in a good way that it wasn’t as bad as it looked,” Chara said Friday. “It took all the necessary steps to make sure it was nothing major. It isn’t, so we’ll have to still treat it. Nothing really major.”
Chara said that as he continues to play and practice, he’ll monitor the leg and treat where necessary.
“You have to do different things,” he said. “Obviously, icing is one of them. Doing a little bit of other things that make the swelling go down and away. Obviously, the pain is just a factor that I can handle. As far as the swelling and being able to have the full range of motion, that’s the key.”
|Zdeno Chara returns to practice, Joe Corvo absent||09.21.11 at 11:27 am ET|
WILMINGTON — Just hours before the B’s preseason opener in Ottawa, the team held a pair of practices Wednesday morning at Ristuccia Arena. The first hour-long session featured the players dressing for the contest, with non-game players skating in the second session. (For Wednesday’s roster, click here).
Zdeno Chara, who is not playing, returned to the ice for the first time since leaving Monday’s practice with a left leg contusion. Joe Corvo, who left Tuesday’s black and white scrimmage with a lower body injury, did not practice.
Third-round pick Anthony Camara was not on the ice, suggesting he may have been cut from camp. We’ll have more on that after Claude Julien speaks to reporters.