|Game 4 another must-win for Bruins||04.21.11 at 7:48 am ET|
MONTREAL — The truth is that every playoff game is important. The stakes are always high, and every loss brings a team one game closer to elimination. Yet if Bruins fans can’t help but place a bit more emphasis on Game 4, it wouldn’t be so irrational.
Take a look at Wednesday night, and a game that put the Rangers in a real hole. As Jason Chimera tapped the game-winning goal past Henrik Lundqvist in the second overtime, the Rangers had to have known that they blew it.
Leading 3-0 earlier in the game (sound familiar?) the Rangers let the Capitals get back into it, and three quick tallies in the third period suddenly made it 3-3.
To lose such a game (especially on your own ice) in that sort of fashion is a tough pill to swallow, but the Rangers’ No. 1 concern should be with the fact that they have spotted the Capitals a 3-1 lead in the series. A 3-1 deficit, while not insurmountable, is obviously far from ideal, and the Bruins, despite being able to return home for Game 5, should be viewing it as such. Game 4 is every bit as much a must-win as Monday’s Game 3 victory was.
Unless a team has won the first three, that’s generally the nature of Game 4. Thursday night, the rest of the series could begin to look a bit clearer. Easily the most interesting non-elimination game of a series, the Bruins can tie it with two of the three remaining games to be played at TD Garden, while the Habs are looking to put the Bruins just one loss away from failing to advance to the second round for the first time in three years.
A 3-1 deficit in a series is far from impossible to overcome (Bruins fans of course know that a 3-0 deficit in a series is not impossible to overcome thanks to the Flyers), and the Flyers weren’t the only team to do it last season. The other team to come back from being down three games to one? The very Canadiens that will host the B’s Thursday night. Two of eight teams in such a position last postseason were able to come back and win the series, though the Bruins would just as soon skip out on that discussion altogether by grabbing a road win in Game 4.
One could suggest the B’s have momentum on their side after taking Monday’s Game 3 by a 4-2 score. Claude Julien wouldn’t agree with that logic, but if it’s something that is going to motivate the Bruins at the Bell Centre Thursday, he’ll probably take it. Whether or not the B’s are feeling that momentum and whether the Habs are feeling any added pressure remains to be seen.
One thing the Bruins can expect on Thursday, aside from the possible return of Jeff Halpern to the lineup and the removal of Benoit Pouliot, is for the Habs to come out flying. Given the way they turned it on for the final 30 minutes of Game 3, the Habs have to know that if they can start better and take advantage of the early breaks (such as the two penalties the Bruins took in the first eight minutes of the game), they have a far better chance of playing the third period with a lead rather than bombarding Tim Thomas with shots in a desperate attempt to tie it late.
If the Bruins can get a full game of what Thomas brought on Thursday night, even a great 60 minutes from the Habs might not matter. This has not been the prettiest series for the Vezina shoo-in, but he dominated late in Game 3, and if he can do so for all three periods Thursday, perhaps the series will return to Boston with the home team having yet to win through four games.
The Bell Centre is a loud and hostile environment. The Bruins were able to hang on to send the fans home hanging their heads Monday, but if they want to leave Montreal Thursday knowing they will return for a Game 6, they’ll need to block out the deafening boos for Zdeno Chara and notch the ever-important Game 4 win. If they lose, it could be a hole too big to come back from. A win and they are suddenly favorites once again to win the series. They’ll need more than they brought Monday night, but if they get it, they can breathe just a bit easier.
|Zdeno Chara feeling better, and that’s that||04.20.11 at 3:02 pm ET|
LAKE PLACID, N.Y. — From the semi-update-that-really-isn’t-an-update department: Bruins captain Zdeno Chara fully participated in Wednesday’s practice at Whiteface Lake Placid Olympic Center. After playing in Game 3, it would appear that the illness that hospitalized Chara Friday and kept him out of Saturday’s game is far enough in the rear-view mirror that the B’s won’t have to worry about it going forward. The B’s like to keep that stuff quiet, though, so whether Chara is still playing through any discomfort remains unknown.
“I’m feeling much better,” he said Wednesday when asked for a health update. Asked whether he still needs to monitor it, he replied, “I’m feeling much better.”
Well, at least there’s good news on that front. Chara is obviously expected to play in Game 4 vs. the Habs on Thursday in Montreal.
|Claude Julien sees Scott Gomez/Chris Kelly play as being similar to Zdeno Chara/Max Pacioretty incident||04.19.11 at 3:44 pm ET|
LAKE PLACID, N.Y. — In the first period of Monday night’s 4-2 win over the Canadiens at the Bell Centre, Rich Peverley missed with a shot on a 3-on-1 opportunity. While Peverley wasn’t able to hit the net, his linemate in Chris Kelly was thanks to a shove from Scott Gomez that sent him into Carey Price‘s goal.
Gomez was given a minor for interference on the play, and while it may have looked worse than it was, Claude Julien had an interesting comparison in addressing the perception of it.
“Well, he got a penalty for interference. I would say, to be honest with you, it’s a little bit of the Zdeno Chara hit on [Max] Pacioretty,” Julien said. “It’s a hit that turned out badly. I think in Kelly’s case, it was interference [on Gomez], but I don’t think he meant to push him in the net or [have him] go head-first into the post.”
Chara was tossed from the March 8 meeting between the Bruins and Habs when he hit Pacioretty into a stanchion. There was no punishment from the league, and Chara stressed that it was not his intention to hurt the Habs forward on what ended up being an interference call. Asked whether the Gomez play should warrant a second look from the league, Julien took the same stance Chara did last month.
“You’ve got to understand that there are parts of the game that the result of what happens is not necessarily the intention. Was it a penalty? Absolutely, but I don’t think there was any intent to injure there,” Julien said. “Thankfully, our player came out of it OK. It’s not something you like to see, and thank God he had a visor which certainly helped take the blow away a title bit. Still, it was a very dangerous play.”
|Zdeno Chara: ‘I felt much better today’||at 1:17 am ET|
MONTREAL — Bruins captain Zdeno Chara made his return to the lineup Monday night, playing a team-high 26:20 in Boston’s 4-2 win in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals. The defenseman had missed Saturday’s Game 2 due to an illness that had hospitalized him Friday night.
Chara, who said he knew he Monday morning that he would “most likely” play in Game 3, was crossed up with Andrew Ference for a too-many-men penalty 1:08 into the game and was beating by Andrei Kostitsyn for the Habs’ first goal, though he picked up an assist on Nathan Horton’s first-period goal and posted an even rating on the night. The 6-foot-9 defenseman said he “felt pretty good,” but that the team’s performance and getting their first win of the series (Montreal leads, 2-1) was his biggest concern.
“We knew the importance of this game, and we approach it that way,” Chara said. “I was just happy with the result tonight, and we’ve got to get ready for the next one.”
Claude Julien said following the win that the team made the decision to play him following the warmup. Chara had attempted to play Saturday, but was scratched due to his illness.
“Obviously, I wasn’t feeling well,” Chara, who would not elaborate on what plagued him, said. “I tried to play [Saturday], and we decided not to. Obviously I had another 24 hours to recover, and all day today. I felt much better today.
“I wanted to play in the game before that, but obviously I knew it wouldn’t be a smart decision for the team, so I was really anxious to be in the lineup tonight.”
After holding off a surge by the Canadiens in the third period (the Habs held a 16-5 shots on goal advantage in the final 20 minutes), the Bruins will travel to Lake Placid for two days of practice. They will attempt to tie the series Thursday back at the Bell Centre.
“It’s only one win,” Chara said. “The next game is going to be an even bigger game.”
|Whether or not the big man plays, Bruins will have to block out big-time crowd noise||04.18.11 at 1:34 pm ET|
MONTREAL — The Bell Centre is going to be roaring for Monday night’s Game 3 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals. Given that the Habs have taken the first two games of the series against the rival Bruins, the crowd noise should be plenty loud, and that’s without factoring in the possibility of Montreal villain Zdeno Chara playing.
If things get as loud as they’re expected to, it could actually impact the game in how players communicate with one another. Unable to hear over all the hoopla, calling to teammates suddenly becomes a much more of an intended yell.
“That happens a lot during a game,” Habs forward Michael Cammalleri said after the Canadiens’ morning skate. “I guess it will happen more often if they’re cheering or boring more often when someone’s on the ice. Even if you get a rush chance, everyone gets excited and on their feet. Sometimes you can’t hear a guy and things of that nature because the fans get loud. Players are pretty used to that kind of thing.”
The Bruins are at enough of a disadvantage playing in the Bell Centre down two games to none, so the crowd noise seems to be the least of their concerns. Either way, they know it’s there.
“If you’re close enough — and you may have to talk a little louder than normal — but normally it’s not too bad, but it definitely is a loud atmosphere,” B’s defenseman Adam McQuaid said Monday. “When you’re down on the ice, you just kind of have to speak over it.”
McQuaid has never played in Montreal in the postseason, but did admit that he “can only imagine what it will be like tonight.”
If Chara plays, he can expect perhaps the heftiest booing of his career, as long as Habs fans can top some of their personal bests. Should he be in the lineup Monday, the crowd will get its first crack at the Boston captain since he was ejected for shoving forward Max Pacioretty into a stanchion on March 8. Much like the rest of the crowd noise, the B’s will have to block out any pointed jeers as well.
“That doesn’t matter,” Claude Julien said of the reception Chara would get if he plays. “I think what matters to us right now is what is at stake in this game. No matter what happens, you have to play through those things. We’re all aware of that and guys are professional enough.
“I don’t know if there is a rink Zdeno doesn’t get booed in, certainly not because of what happened, but because of the realization of the impact he has on the game and the difference he can make in game situations. He’s a big man, he’s a strong guy that we rely on a lot and he’s a big part of our team. I think other buildings realize that.”
MONTREAL — Defenseman Zdeno Chara was on the ice as the Bruins held their morning skate in anticipation of Monday night’s Game 3 vs. the Canadiens. Chara did not play in Game 2 due to an illness that included dehydration. He was not available to the media after the skate and his status for Game 3 remains unknown, though coach Claude Julien said he has “absolutely” seen improvements from the captain.
“As we speak right now, it’s looking good, but I can’t stand here right now and say he’s a definite in,” Julien said.
Chara played a team-high 25:06 in Thursday night’s 2-0 loss in Game 1. He played in the first 81 games of the regular season before sitting out the finale vs. the Devils for the sake of rest.
|Bruins must find Bell Centre success that eluded them in regular season||04.17.11 at 2:51 pm ET|
The Bruins know they were a good road team in the regular season. They strung together that perfect 6-0-0 road trip beginning back on Feb. 17, and their 53 road points were good for fifth in the NHL over the 82-game campaign.
After dropping the first two games of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals to the Canadiens at TD Garden, they had better hope that they can play Monday night’s Game 3 and Thursday’s Game 4 like they did in many of the regular-season’s road games. The only problem is that while they have been fantastic in many buildings, the Bell Centre is most certainly not one of them.
The B’s took a 4-3 loss to the Habs on Dec. 16, and in their second meeting in Montreal, they blew a 2-0 lead in the final 2:22 en route to taking an embarrassing 3-2 loss in overtime on Jan. 8. While the March 8 game in Bell Centre was ugly enough as a result of the Max Pacioretty/Zdeno Chara mess, the B’s play in a 4-1 loss wasn’t much prettier. With the Habs winning all three games of their meetings at the Bell Centre, they could conceivably be licking their chops at the prospect of sweeping the B’s in front of their home crowd. They’re not thinking about it, but the Bruins are thinking about finding a way to turn into the team that grabbed 24 road wins.
“That’s hopefully something that can help us get back in the series, and that’s going to be up to us to have that same approach as we’ve had most of the year on the road,” Claude Julien said Sunday. “We’ve been a good road team, we’ve done the things better, and for some reason on the road you seem to want to keep your game a little simpler than you do at home. That’s something that’s going to have to happen. Keep it simple, but keep it efficient and maybe if we do that we’ll make less mistakes.”