|Numbers don’t lie: David Krejci continues to crush the Flyers||05.04.11 at 11:49 pm ET|
After Game 3 of the Eastern Conference semifinals a season ago, the questions surrounding the Bruins weren’t about whether they could close out a 3-0 series. They were about how the Bruins could potentially reach their ultimate goal without David Krejci, who had left the game with what would later be diagnosed as a broken wrist. This time around, there’s a storyline with Krejci, but it’s far different. With Boston’s first-line center healthy, he’s shown just how much of a factor he can be, and the Flyers have been the biggest victim.
That isn’t news for Krejci. For one reason or another, the 25-year-old center has been an absolute force vs. Philadelphia, and it continued Wednesday night with his fourth goal in three games, as well as an assist on Zdeno Chara‘s power play goal in the third period.
Dating back to last year’s Winter Classic, and including the playoffs, Krejci now has 17 points (five goals and 12 assists) in his last 12 games vs. the Flyers. The B’s have won 11 of those 12 games, with the one loss coming this season in overtime.
“One thing is that my shots are finding the back of the net, and that’s a good thing,” Krejci said after Game 3. “Hopefully it’s going to keep coming. I don’t think it’s anything different from other teams. I’m just trying to play the same way as I always do, and I guess I just hope that it’s going to keep going well.”
The Flyers have certainly made it a point to limit Krejci’s chances, but the first line has continued to click. He ended Game 2 in overtime with a goal off Brian Boucher, and his tally in the first period Wednesday also proved to be a game-winner. Try as the Flyers might, there’s been no silencing Krejci this time around, and the Bruins, with a healthy Krejci, have a far better 3-0 lead than they did a series ago.
“They’re playing me hard, that’s for sure,” Krejci said. “They’re all letting me know that it’s going to be tough, but the puck’s going in for me right now.”
Krejci isn’t one to boast about personal achievements, so you won’t catch him reflecting too much on his dominance vs. the Flyers, or even admitting it exists. The mere acknowledgement of it Wednesday was enough from a guy who certainly knows he’s in a groove.
“I know I was doing well last year before I got hurt, and obviously this year I know how I’m doing,” he said. “I just hope I can keep going.”
Given that he had just one point in the first round against the Canadiens and already has seven points through three games vs. Philadelphia, it’s clear that Krejci just steps it up against Philadelphia, and that the Flyers have had no fun when he’s been in the lineup. Krejci said Wednesday that he “didn’t plan” to get hurt last year, but he isn’t thinking about it. With the way he’s going, he might not even have to think about Philadelphia much longer, as his play could put them in the Bruins’ rear view mirror.
|Bruins/Flyers Game 3 live blog: B’s lead, 4-1, in third||at 6:54 pm ET|
Join DJ Bean, Mike Petraglia and others from TD Garden as the Bruins and Flyers square off in Game 3 ofthe Eastern Conference semifinals. Boston has a 2-0 series lead.
|Bruins looking for positives as results continue to escape power play||05.01.11 at 6:09 pm ET|
PHILADELPHIA — The Bruins’ power play struggles have gone from concerning, to laughable, to just being a sensitive subject. An 0-for-26 showing in the playoffs will do that, but right now the B’s are simply looking for signs of progress.
“We’re just trying,” Zdeno Chara said after Sunday’s practice at Wells Fargo Center. “We’re always trying to get better. We’re still working on it, and I thought we created some better scoring opportunities yesterday. Hopefully it happens sooner rather than later.
“We controlled the puck pretty well, made some plays, had some quality shots. We had some power plays where we got in really easily, and we had some of them where we couldn’t really get past the blue line. It’s just a little inconsistent on that part.”
The Flyers, who killed off all five of the Bruins’ power plays in Boston’s 7-3 Game 1 victory Saturday, boasted a middle-of-the-pack penalty kill unit in the regular season. Their 82.7 penalty kill percentage was 15th in the NHL, though in the first round against the Sabres, they gave up seven goals on 31 Buffalo power plays, meaning they were successful only 77 percent of the time. Against a team that’s struggled as much on the man advantage, it doesn’t seem to matter how the Flyers’ PK operates.
“No results,” Claude Julien said Sunday of the team’s power play. “That’s one thing, but I thought there was a few things better. Hopefully it continues to get that way, but we just need it going.”
The Bruins will make their latest attempt at breaking the unflattering streak Monday night in Game 2.
PHILADELPHIA — Flyers forward Danny Briere isn’t about to put up a stink over a missed call in the Bruins’ 7-3 Game 1 victory over Philadelphia Saturday. Speaking with reporters after Sunday’s practice, Briere said he didn’t think Zdeno Chara meant any harm when he got him with a stick to the face in front of the net during the third period, but that it could have been avoided.
‘I don’t think it was intentional,” Briere told reporters Sunday. “He was battling with someone else in front of the net, but the thing with him is that every time he battles he always has his stick is always in the air. At the size he has, I don’t think he needs to do that. You are supposed to be in control of your stick. But it happened, [and] like I said, it wasn’t intentional on his part.’
Briere said Chara’s stick got him on the right side of his head. No penalty was called on the play, though the Bruins did take five penalties in the third period.
The 33-year-old Briere had the Flyers’ first goal of the game Saturday, beating Tim Thomas to tie the game at a goal apiece in the first period. He leads all postseason skaters with seven goals in the playoffs thus far.
|Hockey writers realize Zdeno Chara is still one of the best in the game||04.25.11 at 1:27 pm ET|
On Monday, Chara was named one of three finalists for the Norris Trophy, given annually to the top defenseman in the NHL – the third time in four seasons that the Bruins captain has been so recognized.
Chara, who won the award in 2009, led the league with a plus-33 rating and recorded 44 points, including 14 goals and 30 assists.
“I think, obviously, he’s a well-deserving player,” Julien said. “There are a lot of reasons. I think everyone who knows him here knows he plays a lot of minutes. He also always plays against other team’s top lines. He’s utilized as a shutdown D against the top players on other teams. The stats at the end of the year, I think he’s a plus-30 something, plus-33, and I think that speaks for itself. And double digits in goals, and certainly, offensively, he’s contributed well.
“So, if you’re talking about the Norris and talking about a defenseman that brings a lot, he’s certainly. And I don’t think there are many players in this league who will raise their hand and say they really enjoy playing against him.”
Chara has bigger concerns on his plate right now, like closing out the Canadiens in Game 6 Tuesday night, but he did show sincere appreciation after Monday’s practice at TD Garden for being recognized.
“It’s obviously a big honor and I’m very humbled and very thankful, especially after you consider how many guys had such a great season – breakout seasons.” Chara said. “I’m just very thankful that people who did vote recognize the definition of the Norris Trophy award. And obviously, a big thank you goes to all the people who helped me get there, especially my teammates, all those in the organization, and obviously, my family and fans.
Chara consistently faces the opposing team’s top offensive line, something that makes him one of the most reliable players in black and gold.
“That’s something I take a lot of pride in,” Chara said. “I’m very competitive when it comes to defending the top lines and playing top lines. I know that it’s not an easy job, but I get up to it every night. You can’t think that it’s just you. Yeah, it’s a big motivation for me every night to face such skill and great players.”
Chara – who has climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro for fun – takes as much pride as anyone in his off-season training that year-in, year-out puts him among the finest conditioned athletes in not only hockey but the world. Monday, in the wake of another Norris nomination, he pointed to that training regiment as a big reason for his continued success.
“To me, the first priority is hard work,” Chara said. “I always like to work extremely hard on and off the ice. I’m very competitive, I’m very motivated to play against top lines and the best players every night. I take a lot of pride in that, and I just want to help the team as much as I can to win. That was always my first thing. I always want to put the team in front of egos or individual goals.
“To me, that’s the most important thing, and everything else will fall into place. I know I’m not the extremely skilled defenseman who’s going to put probably 70 points on the board every year. But I know that if I play my game, I give my team a good chance to win hockey games. That’s all I can do.”
Joining Chara as finalists are Detroit’s Nicklas Lidstrom and Nashville’s Shea Weber. The three were voted as finalists by the Professional Hockey Writers Association, and the names were released Monday by the league.
The winner will be announced June 22 during the 2011 NHL awards ceremony in Las Vegas.
|Bruins Game 5 Live Blog: B’s, Habs head to overtime||04.23.11 at 6:29 pm ET|
Join DJ Bean, Mike Petraglia and others at the TD Garden for Game 5 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals.
<a href=”http://www.coveritlive.com/mobile.php/option=com_mobile/task=viewaltcast/altcast_code=544866eb6c” mce_href=”http://www.coveritlive.com/mobile.php/option=com_mobile/task=viewaltcast/altcast_code=544866eb6c” >WEEI.com Bruins Game 5 Live Blog</a>
|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.