|Captain Z: We can’t lose focus like last year||04.27.10 at 1:00 am ET|
What a difference a year makes for Zdeno Chara following an opening-round win.
Last year, the Bruins dispatched of the Montreal Canadiens in four games, and then waited nine days for their second-round series to begin when Carolina came from behind to beat New Jersey in the closing five minutes of Game 7.
While the Bruins were long on rest, they were short on sharpness and, in the end, it cost them dearly as they dropped Game 2 at home and fell behind 3 games to 1 before rallying to force Game 7. They fell in heart-breaking fashion when Scott Walker scored the OT game-winner to end the Bruins season.
“We can’t lose the focus like maybe we did last year a little bit during that week off,” Chara said in the wake of Monday’s series-clinching win over Buffalo. “We have to stay on top of things and really get ready for our next opponent, which we don’t know who that’s going to be.”
The reason the Bruins don’t know who’s next is because Montreal has decided to learn from 2009 as well. They have not rolled over for Washington. Instead, following a 4-1 win over the Capitals on Monday, there will be a seventh game in America’s capital on Wednesday night.
If the Capitals survive, the Bruins open the second round in Pittsburgh against the defending Stanley Cup champion Penguins. If the Canadiens pull off the shocker, the Bruins actually host Games 1 and 2 against Philadelphia beginning this weekend.
Chara said the team has earned one good day of rest but that’s all they need right now.
“Just maybe relax on [Tuesday], enjoy the day off, and then get back at it on Wednesday,” he said.
“Obviously it’s always a nice feeling, to be going to the second round. Buffalo was extremely playing well. They battled hard and it was a tough series.”
Another source of pride for Chara was the performance of the specialty teams. The Bruins killed off all 19 Buffalo power plays in the series while Boston scored five power play goals.
“I really thought that our specialty teams played extremely well,” Chara said. “We battled pretty much hard every game. We were almost into every game, besides Game 5.
“We take a lot of pride in our PK. We try to, you know, we’re obviously aggressive, but at the same time well-positioned and like I said, the people we have on the ice, those are the workers and we try to always outwork the opposite power play.”
|No suspension for Chara||04.24.10 at 2:01 pm ET|
The Bruins were never concerned that they would be without their big man for Game 6 on Monday. In their eyes the real instigator in the mini-brawl as time expired on Game 5 was Paul Gaustad and his slashing stick that set captain Zdeno Chara off and he began punching Gaustad and any other Sabre in the immediate vicinity.
That was just about every other Sabre on the ice. Nathan Gerbe and Cody McCormick entered the fray and the three of them toppled Chara like and Oregonian red wood. Even Ryan Miller got into the act as the pile on Chara thickened with both Sabres and Bruins as the goaltender came in and tried to pull Miroslav Satan out of it only to get tangled in it himself.
“To me I wasn’t even worried because I could not see it [a suspension] happening,” coach Claude Julien said. “It did not take long for them to rescind that stuff and it just didn’t make any sense, you know, a guy gets slashed behind the leg with a two-hander and he just turns around and takes a pop and three guys jump him. Where does all this stuff come from? I don’t know. It is just common sense and I just felt he didn’t deserve it.”
The Bruins players made available to the media Saturday morning at TD Garden were instantly dismissive of the notion that Chara would ultimately receive the instigator-within-five-minutes-of-the-end-of-a-game suspension. Andrew Ference did not even think it was a real fight even though Chara took a five-minute fighting major though Gaustad did not.
“That wasn’t even a fight, an instigator is when there is a fight and that wasn’t a fight,” Ference said. “The guy clearly slashed in in the ankle on the ice, if you really want to talk instigator so, but there was no fight so it was not an issue.”
Did Gaustad think he could have gotten away with the slash because the clock was expiring? Maybe he was thinking it would be a tit-for-tat move after Johnny Boychuk took out the Sabres best player, Thomas Vanek, with a slash in Game 2. The difference in the situations of the hits is clear. Boychuk was defending a partial breakaway in a one goal game. Chara was skating towards the bench areas after the Sabres had cleared the puck out of their zone with second remaining in a game that his team had already won.
“We stand up for ourselves too. It is about doing it at the right time. Sometimes a guy takes a cheap shot at you at the time of the game it gives you a power play and you say well ‘OK, I know who it is and it is a long game.’ But the game is over there. Obviously it was a cheap shot and it was unwarranted, the two-hander and he responded so I don’t think there is any damage there this time except listen, we will turn the cheek when it is time to and there’s times when you have to stand up for yourselves and he stood up for himself,” Julien said.
|Chara and his pest||04.19.10 at 2:01 pm ET|
There is no doubt that the Bruins captain Zdeno Chara can be a dominating player. He logs big minutes, neutralizes big forwards and, in the case of Game 2 against the Sabres, scores big goals. Everything about Chara is big. So, how do you stop that dominating force of nature especially when he is one of the key players in a playoff series?
By putting the smallest guy you can find on him, of course.
On the Buffalo roster that would be rookie Tyler Ennis. The 5-foot-9 forward gives a solid foot to the 6-foot-9 Chara but he is exactly the type of player that gives the towering Slovak blue liner problems — small and especially quick.
“You look at Boston, they got a big game out of Chara, he is one of their special players,” Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said. “We can’t let that happen again. He will try to make it happen, but we can’t. Maybe we will put Ennis on him and make sure that he doesn’t do it again.”
Is the task daunting for a rookie playing his 13th career NHL game, which includes three of the playoff variety (counting Game 3 on Monday night)? Probably a little more than Ennis lets on.
“It has been fun. He is a really good player and a big guy and a strong player,” Ennis said. “Myself, I have been trying to use my speed and just battle really hard. He is a lot stronger than I am and stuff and I just need to know when to use my speed and other stuff.”
Ennis got a rough hello from Chara in Game 2 when the defenseman checked Ennis hard, depositing him in the Sabres bench. Yet, Ennis has some pretty specific training when it comes to handling guys the size of Chara as he has gone through the minors as both teammates and opponents.
“I think he really is a unique player.I have never really seen a player like that big and that mobile and offensive and can shut you down,” Ennis said of Myers. “I played with [Myers] in the World Juniors and stuff and played against him in the Western League so it has helped getting used to that long reach and getting used to really tall players with long reach like that.”
The scouting report on Chara is the same for Myers — the quicker, the more of a nuisance.
“I find it with the smaller, really shiftier guys are the hardest to handle for me,” Myers said. “[Ennis] can really turn on a dime. It is really more containment for me than being physical. I don’t try to kill him in practice. But, a guy like that is very similar to [Martin] St. Louis — very shifty, very skilled. With those smaller skilled guys I think I contain more.”
The comparison to St. Louis may prove to be apt. The 20-year-old Ennis was named the American Hockey League Rookie of the Year after putting up 65 points (23 goals, 42 assists) in 69 games with the Portland Pirates this season. He was also selected to the AHL All-Rookie Team. He was recalled on March 27 and played 10 regular-season games with the Sabres with three goals and six assists. He is effectively taking the spot of injured Buffalo forward Jochen Hecht (21 goals, 21 assists in regular season) who will be out indefinitely after having finger surgery last week.
In other Monday morning news, Sabres forward Drew Stafford is expected to return to the lineup and participated in the morning skate at TD Garden. Stafford missed the first two games of the series with the a concussion sustained in the second-to-last game of the regular season.
|B’s complete comeback to claim Game 2, tie series||04.17.10 at 3:58 pm ET|
Summary — Boston turned the series around on Saturday with a 5-3 comeback win over the Sabres at HSBC Arena in Buffalo. The Bruins fell behind 2-0 in the first period before tying the game in the second and netting three in the third. Rookie goaltender Tuukka Rask earned his first career playoff win with 26 saves. Ryan Miller allowed four goals on 30 Boston shots to take the loss.
The Bruins scored three in the third period after entering the frame down a goal. They tied the game on Michael Ryder’s second goal of the game on an odd-man rush when Blake Wheeler sent the puck across the ice in front of the crease and Ryder was able to control of it and put it high into the net. The game-winner came courtesy of Zdeno Chara with a wrist shot from the point that got by Miller with an effective screen from center David Krejci.
Buffalo took an early lead for the second straight game when rookie defenseman Tyler Myers took a blast from the point that went off the skate of Boston forward Steve Begin at 2:55 in the first period. It was the rookie’s first career playoff goal. Buffalo would make it a two-goal advantage later in the period when Matt Ellis charged down the right wing and flipped a backhand shot on Rask that the netminder took a bad angle on and it beat him far side of the post at 12:00.
Boston bounced back in the second period.
The Bruins cut the lead in half at 2:35 when Vladimir Sobotka took a screaming slap shot from the high slot that hit Miller in the chest and bounced straight up in the air, over his shoulder. Ryder went crashing the net and stuck his stick in the crease to finish it off for his first goal of the playoffs. Boston’s second goal came courtesy of the captain, Chara. Johnny Boychuk hit a slap shot from the right point that center Patrice Bergeron deflected straight to the one-timing stick of Chara in the circle to tie the game at 9:54.
Buffalo reclaimed the lead late in the period when Milan Lucic turned the puck over by his own end wall. Tyler Ennis found the loose rubber and flipped it back in front to Jason Pominville who put it passed Rask at 16:41.
Mark Recchi scored an empty-net goal with 19.4 seconds left for the Bruins’ fifth goal to seal the game.
Sabres forward Thomas Vanek left the game in the first period with a lower body injury after a hooking call on Boychuk, whose stick hit Vanek’s knee. He did not return.
Zdeno Chara — The captain kept bringing his team back with two goals and physical play to hold down the Sabres.
Michael Ryder — The forward scored two goals for the second time in three games (two against Washington in the regular-season finale).
Blake Wheeler — He helped set up both of Ryder’s goals with effective passing and heads-up play.
Turning Point — The Bruins did not have a good third period after a dominating second in Game 1. It was a different story in Game 2 as Boston had a two-goal burst early in the period to take its first lead of the series. The game-tying goal came on a 4-on-2 rush when Wheeler sent the puck back across the ice in front of the crease and it went through defenseman Andrew Ference to the stick of Ryder, who flipped it high into the net as Miller was out of position on the other side of the crease.
Key Play — With Boston holding on to its one-goal lead, its goaltender came up huge down the stretch to seal the series-tying victory. Buffalo forward Michael Grier had a point-blank attempt on Rask midway through the third but could not complete the finish as Rask came out of the crease and aggressively knocked the shot to the corner to end the threat and preserve the lead.
|Second period summary: Bruins vs. Sabes – Game 2||at 2:58 pm ET|
Nothing went right for the Bruins in the first period. By the laws of hockey karma, things would have to go well in the second period.
Entering the period down by two goals and facing a serious possibility of a two-game deficit, Boston clawed its way back into the game and the series. The first goal was the type of fortunate bounce that has not been a frequent occurrence for the Bruins this year. Blake Wheeler cycled the puck from the end wall back up the wing and centered to the high slot where Vladimir Sobotka was waiting with a big stick and a big shot that he boomed towards the crease. Ryan Miller stopped it high off his chest but it bounced straight up in the air and over his shoulder. Michael Ryder crashed the net, stuck his stick into the crease and gave the puck the extra help it need to break the goal line to cut the lead in half at 2:35.
The first goal was a bit of a lucky break. The second was set up by the Bruins most steady player and finished by the captain.
Johnny Boychuk, who probably has the second hardest shot on the team after Zdeno Chara, wound up for a slap shot from the right point. Patrice Bergeron was set up in the slot in front of Miller and recognized that he had Chara in the deep corner to his right with space. Boychuk’s shot stayed low and Bergeron redirected it with a touch pass straight to the one-timing stick of Chara who buried it at 9:54 to tie the game at two.
The whole period was not perfect for Boston. Milan Lucic went to retrieve the puck on the end wall, lost it off his stick straight to that of Buffalo forward Tyler Ennis who whipped it back in front to Jason Pominville who snapped a shot passed Tuukka Rask at 16:41 to retake the lead.
Through two periods the teams are tied in the shot department at 23.
|Miller and Sabres claim Game 1||04.15.10 at 9:43 pm ET|
Summary — Playoff hockey is a different animal than its regular-season cousin. The Bruins and Sabres proved that on Thursday in Game 1 of their quarterfinal Eastern Conference matchup that was won by Buffalo 2-1 at HSBC Arena in Buffalo. (Recap.)
Thomas Vanek gave Buffalo the early lead at 4:52 in the first period. He was set up by Sabres center Derek Roy, who won the puck coming out of the Buffalo defensive zone and started a break down the right wing. After making the entry, he skated to the top of the faceoff circle and laid the puck up for Vanek, who chose his spot (far side high) on Rask and buried it for the 1-0 lead.
Mark Recchi got the Bruins back into it during a second period in which his team rarely let the puck out of the Buffalo zone. In the second 20 minutes, Boston outshot the Sabres, 24-8. Recchi tied it on a power play (Toni Lydman – cross check, 8:44) when he found the puck bouncing in the slot after a booming one-timer from the point by Zdeno Chara that had been set up off the stick of Matt Hunwick. Patrice Bergeron tangled enough in front of the net to let the puck pass back through traffic on the rebound, and Recchi swept in to put it back on the top shelf at 9:30.
The tie would not last long. Boston was caught sleeping once in the second period, just long enough for Craig Rivet to beat Rask with a slap shot from the top of the right circle for the game-winner. Tim Kennedy set up Rivet with a back pass from the goal line as the Sabres captain came down the wing with a full head of steam at 14:10.
The victory gave the Sabres a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven series. Game 2 is scheduled in Buffalo for Saturday.
Ryan Miller — The likely 2009-10 Vezina Trophy winner and MVP candidate stood tall for Buffalo, especially in the second period, when the Bruins set a record with 24 shots, the most the Sabres have ever allowed in a period in the playoffs.
Mark Recchi – The veteran scored on the power play in the second period for his 51st career postseason goal, good for a tie for second among active NHL players.
Tim Kennedy — The Sabres forward was a pest on the ice all night and totaled a plus-two with an assist on Rivet’s second-period goal.
Turning Point – In the midst of withstanding a 24-shot period by the Bruins, Rivet was able to find enough time (which the Sabres had very little of as Boston controlled the puck all period) and space on the right wing to let loose a slap shot after a back feed by Kennedy. The goal stopped Boston’s momentum just enough to allow the Sabres to catch their breath to finish the period with the lead.
Key Play — With Boston trying to claw back in the game towards the end of the third period, two consecutive hard-luck penalties that sapped any momentum it could have gained. The first was on what looked to be a phantom tripping call on Dennis Wideman when Roy went to the ice with hardly a touch at 13:20. Right after the Bruins killed that penalty, Miroslav Satan accidentally flipped the puck over the boards into the crowd for a delay of game at 15:40 that put Boston on the kill for half of the remaining four minutes.
|Second period summary: Bruins vs. Sabres – Game 1||at 8:46 pm ET|
Maybe the Bruins power play is starting to come back to life.
They scored one in the regular season finale against Washington to break an 0 for 23 funk and then turn around to score on their first opportunity of the postseason after a Toni Lydman cross checking penalty. Mark Recchi found the back of the net off a rebound in the low slot from a Zdeno Chara slap shot from the high slot. The play was set up by a nice touch pass by defenseman Matt Hunwick on the point to give Chara the one-timer that split the Sabres forward penalty killers. Patrice Bergeron did not register and assist on the play, but he should have as his tangling play in front of Ryan Miller helped keep the puck loose from Buffalo defenseman Henrik Tallinder long enough for Recchi to find it and put it home to tie the game at 9:30.
Boston absolutely lived in the Sabres’ zone for most of the period but, outside of the power play strike, did not have much to show for it except a bunch of shots and Recchi’s goal. Then, the moment that the Bruins let their foot off the gas pedal for a minute, Buffalo struck.
It was captain Craig Rivet that did the damage with a back pass assist from Tim Kennedy. Rivet came down the right wing from the point with a head of steam and let go a slap shot at the top of the circle that whittled its way through traffic passed Rask at 14:10.
Boston had another power play opportunity late in the period when Thomas Vanek went for tripping Milan Lucic flying through the neutral zone at 16:28. The Sabres penalty kill was more effective this time around to preserve their 2-1 lead heading into the third.
Boston outshot Buffalo 24 to 8 on the period and lead the game 33 to 20.
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