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Stanley Cup Final
Posted On Monday, 04.23.2012 / 2:14 PM

By Matt Kalman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Bruins vs. Capitals series blog

Julien explains decision to sit Thornton in Game 6

BOSTON -- Prior to Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals on Sunday, Bruins coach Claude Julien had to make a difficult decision about his lineup.

He hadn't changed any of his forwards through the first five games, but for Game 6 against Washington he opted to insert rookie Jordan Caron and sit out veteran Shawn Thornton.

"Well, it certainly wasn't related to play. It was related to a decision I had to make just before the game," Julien said Monday during his team's first off day prior to Game 7 on Wednesday. "Those are -- [it's] hard for me to give you that reason right now because it would probably open up a can of worms, so I'm going to leave it at that. It's certainly not because of Thornton's play; it's because of necessity."

It's assumed that Julien's "can of worms" refers to the injury Patrice Bergeron played through. The Bruins veteran center was second in the NHL in faceoff percentage during the regular season, but he only took one draw in Game 6. It's assumed Bergeron is battling through an upper-body injury from Game 6.

Based on the nature of the injury, Julien probably didn't know how much Bergeron would be able to give the Bruins in Game 6 and needed someone of Caron's skill set in the lineup instead of Thornton.

"He's a competitor and he's a really valuable player to our team. I know he handled the situation well, but I'm sure it's killing him to not be able to play," said Gregory Campbell, Thornton's frequent linemate. "We'll see what happens Wednesday. He's always ready."



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Posted On Sunday, 04.22.2012 / 3:34 PM

By Corey Masisak -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Bruins vs. Capitals series blog

Bruins make lineup changes for Game 6

The Boston Bruins made two changes to their lineup as they try to stave off elimination in Game 6 of this Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against the Washington Capitals at Verizon Center.

Defenseman Joe Corvo, who missed part of Game 5 after an apparent injury, was replaced by Mike Mottau, and fourth-line forward Shawn Thornton was scratched in favor of Jordan Caron. This is the series debut for both Mottau, who was acquired at the trade deadline from the New York Islanders, and the rookie Caron.

Caron played 23 games for the Bruins last season and 48 in the 2011-12 campaign, but he is making his Stanley Cup Playoffs debut Sunday afternoon.
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Posted On Saturday, 04.21.2012 / 3:04 PM

By Matt Kalman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Bruins vs. Capitals series blog

Projected lineups for Game 5

BOSTON – The Boston Bruins skated with the same lines during the warmup before Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals on Saturday at TD Garden against Washington as they skated in practice Friday.
               
The new-look lines included a new union between left winger Daniel Paille, center Patrice Bergeron and Rich Peverley. Based on share of the Bruins’ offense (seven goals) through the first four games of the series, that trio could be considered Boston’s top line because it has accounted for three of the goals (two by Peverley, one by Paille).
               
Normally a fourth-line energy player on a unit with Gregory Campbell and Shawn Thornton, Paille said before the game he didn’t want to change much in his game even though he was going to play on a more offense-minded unit.
               
“For me I think I’ve got to kind of stay the same way, especially in the playoffs here,” he said. “I find in the past I tried to change a little too much and kind of got off my game. So it’s best that I stay with what I’m doing best right now and keep that up.”
               
With Nicklas Backstrom back from his one-game suspension, Mathieu Perreault looks to be the healthy scratch for the Capitals. Goaltender Michal Neuvirth is back from injury and backing up starter Braden Holtby.
               
Here are the projected lineups for the two teams:

BRUINS

Milan Lucic - David Krejci - Brian Rolston
Daniel Paille - Patrice Bergeron - Rich Peverley
Benoit Pouliot - Chris Kelly - Tyler Seguin
Brad Marchand - Gregory Campbell - Shawn Thornton

Zdeno Chara - Dennis Seidenberg
Andrew Ference - Johnny Boychuk
Greg Zanon - Joe Corvo

Tim Thomas
Anton Khudobin

CAPITALS

Alex Ovechkin - Brooks Laich - Marcus Johansson
Jason Chimera - Nicklas Backstrom - Alexander Semin
Matt Hendricks - Jay Beagle - Troy Brouwer
Mike Knuble - Keith Aucoin - Joel Ward

John Erskine - Dennis Wideman
Roman Hamrlik - Mike Green
John Carlson - Karl Alzner

Braden Holtby
Michal Neuvirth
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Posted On Friday, 04.20.2012 / 3:24 PM

By Matt Kalman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Bruins vs. Capitals series blog

Julien shakes up all four lines at Bruins practice

BOSTON -- Typically patient with his lines combinations, Bruins coach Claude Julien seemingly has seen enough of his offense through four games to decide it's time for a major revamp.

During a 30-minute practice at TD Garden on Friday to prepare for Saturday's Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against Washington, Julien shook up all four of his lines, led by Brian Rolston moving to right wing next to Milan Lucic and David Krejci. The other lines featured Patrice Bergeron centering Daniel Paille and Rich Peverley, Chris Kelly centering Benoit Pouliot and Tyler Seguin, and Gregory Campbell skating between Brad Marchand and Shawn Thornton. Spare forward Jordan Caron rotated in on the Kelly line.

"Making line changes, that's a part of trying to find solutions and it's as simple as that," said Julien, whose team has scored just seven goals and is tied in the series at 2-2. "You've got to mix up guys who are not getting the results that we'd like to. So, you're trying to make changes that will maybe spark that part of our game."

Defensively, the Bruins have been as sound as the Capitals, who also have scored just seven goals. Only San Jose and Vancouver, two teams in unenviable 1-3 deficits in their series, have scored that few goals.

Last year, only injuries caused Julien to shuffle his lines even when the Bruins were struggling and fell into 0-2 series holes against Montreal and Vancouver. Nonetheless, most of the players said they weren't surprised at the changes, which may not even carry over into Game 5.

"I think maybe you try to jump start a little bit more offensive opportunities with certain guys. I think that's all that was," Kelly said. "I think the defensive part of the game has been good from everyone. By no means is this a scare tactic or a panic tactic ... I think it's just Claude weighing his options. He has lots of options in this locker room."

Peverley said: "It never hurts to have a little change, especially if we're not scoring goals. And we're not scoring enough, so we've done it earlier in the year and it worked. We won a couple games, so why not change?"


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Posted On Friday, 04.20.2012 / 12:40 AM

By Corey Masisak -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Bruins vs. Capitals series blog

Ovechkin sits for most of third period

WASHINGTON -- Braden Holtby was the star Thursday night for the Washington Capitals, stopping 44 of 45 shots in a 2-1 victory against the Boston Bruins to even their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series at two games each.

One guy who was surprisingly missing for much of the third period as the Capitals tried to hold off the Bruins was captain Alex Ovechkin, who played only 1:58 in the period. Ovechkin took four shifts in the period, but played only 54 seconds in final 17:20 and only 15 seconds in the final 14:00.

Ovechkin played 15:03 in the first two periods -- more than all of Washington's skaters save for Mike Green, who was on ice for 15:25 through 40 minutes. The Capitals' captain took a 64-second shift that ended 2:40 into the third, then his final three shifts lasted 39, two and 13 seconds.

He spoke to the media after the game, and no injury was mentioned by Ovechkin nor coach Dale Hunter. The two-second shift happened because he came on the ice during play and then the puck went into the netting two seconds later. Hunter went with a different line for the ensuing faceoff. The same thing happened on his final shift -- a stoppage in play led Hunter to choose other players for the faceoff.

Former coach Bruce Boudreau often played Ovechkin in the final minute of games when the Capitals were leading, and Boudreau often said he trusted his captain to play in those situations. Boudreau actually benched Ovechkin for one shift near the end of a game earlier this season when Washington was trailing by a goal and it became a national story in the United States and Canada for multiple days.

Ovechkin wasn't the only star player on the team to not play much in the third period. Green played only 3:24 in the final 20 minutes, while Alexander Semin logged only 3:03. But every Washington skater saw at least three minutes of ice time -- except for Ovechkin.
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Posted On Thursday, 04.19.2012 / 2:54 PM

By Ben Raby -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Bruins vs. Capitals series blog

Bruins' power play struggling again in playoffs

WASHINGTON -- The Boston Bruins showed last spring that they can win the Stanley Cup with a mediocre power play. The Bruins' power play went 10-for-88 in 25 Stanley Cup Playoff games, including 0-for-21 in their seven-game first round series win against the Montreal Canadiens.

Three games into their 2012 Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against the Washington Capitals, the Bruins are following a similar script with a power play that has gone 0-for-11.

"We've had 10 scoring chances, I think, since the beginning of the series, but we haven't capitalized," Bruins coach Claude Julien said ahead of Game 4 Thursday at Verizon Center (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC).

"You've heard me say that before, the finish seems to be a bit of a struggle right now. Sometimes [it's about] pouncing on those loose pucks and getting a little bit better in the finishing area, so those are things we're going to continue to work on."

The Bruins' power play finished 15th in the regular-season, and it remains the only power-play unit this postseason still searching for its first goal. Since March 22, Boston's power play is 2-for-32 in 16 games.

"We definitely want to score on the power play, but if you don’t score at least create some momentum and create some chances, and I think we started to do that last game," center David Krejci said. "Then the next shift you go for five-on-five, you at least have the momentum. We worked on it [ahead of Game 4] and hopefully our PP is going to be better and hopefully we'll get some goals."

Added Patrice Bergeron: "I think it's about us creating some openings for each other and talking on the ice and taking what's being given to us and not forcing plays. We have to keep things simple, I think too often you're trying to make the perfect play, but it's not always how it works."
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Posted On Thursday, 04.19.2012 / 2:42 PM

By Corey Masisak -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Bruins vs. Capitals series blog

Erskine excited to be back in the lineup

ARLINGTON, Va. -- John Erskine has played a total of eight minutes and 31 seconds of NHL hockey since Jan. 31, so he’s probably more than a little excited to get back in the lineup for the Washington Capitals for Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals on Thursday against the Boston Bruins (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC).

Given Erskine’s disposition when he’s on the ice, it is exactly what the Capitals are looking for. Neither Erskine nor coach Dale Hunter would confirm it Thursday morning, but all signs point to the rugged defenseman replacing Jeff Schultz next to Dennis Wideman on the team’s third defensive pairing against the Bruins.

“If I do play [Thursday], I think I just have to go out and play a simple game and not try to do much and let come the game to me. Don’t be lunging at people and stuff like that,” Erskine said after the team’s morning skate. “Playoffs are an exciting period, but yeah, it is a lot of ... having not played in a couple months, I’ll be going.”

Added Hunter: “We just want him there because he plays the body. After the whistles, I think they’re going to clamp down on and we don’t want no penalties. We want to play through the whistle and skate away. We’ll play hockey between the whistles. We just want him there to finish more hits on Boston.”

Erskine was last in the lineup Feb. 12, and before that it was Jan. 31. He’s spent much of this season as a healthy scratch after it started late for him because of offseason shoulder surgery. He missed the final 27 games of the regular season, first as a healthy scratch and then near the end of the season with a lower-body injury.

A season after playing in a career-best 73 games and establishing himself as a consistent top-six defenseman for the Capitals, he played only 28 games in 2011-12, his lowest total since joining the organization before the 2006-07 season.

Despite not playing for so long, Erskine said he isn’t worried about his conditioning.

“I’ve been bag skating for two months now, so I think I’ll be good like that,” he said. “Whenever you get thrown into a game, though, it is a different kind of conditioning. It will take me a few shifts to get going. ... I’m not going to change my game -- my game is to play physical, play tough in front of the net and just play a simple game.”

The physical play, both between the whistles and after them, ramped up significantly in Game 3 of this series. Boston was credited with 58 hits, and the Bruins baited the Capitals into more jostling after goalies made saves and before faceoffs.

Those are the areas where Erskine can provide the Capitals with an extra bit of snarl. He is also a willing combatant, should one of Boston’s tough guys, like Milan Lucic or Shawn Thornton, be interested in a round of fisticuffs.

“He’s physical and a tough guy to play against,” Capitals defenseman Karl Alzner said of Erskine. “He’s got that heavy, heavy shot when he can let it go from the point. It is tough for goalies to handle. He’s just one of those guys that you really like having in your lineup.”

Added Erskine: “I’ve been like that since Game 1. It is definitely my style of game -- physical and with the ruggedness of the series.
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Posted On Thursday, 04.19.2012 / 12:49 PM

By Corey Masisak and Ben Raby -  NHL.com /NHL.com - Bruins vs. Capitals series blog

Projected Game 4 lineups

WASHINGTON -- The Boston Bruins will stick with the same lineup that helped them win Game 3 when they take the ice at Verizon Center on Thursday for Game 4 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against the Washington Capitals (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC).

On the Capitals' side, the suspension to Nicklas Backstrom means Mike Knuble gets a sweater for the first time in the series and coach Dale Hunter shuffled his lines around. Expect to see a lot of the Matt Hendricks - Jay Beagle - Troy Brouwer line against Boston's top forwards.

John Erskine is expected to also make his series debut in place of Jeff Schultz. Dennis Wideman and Schultz have been on the ice for all four of Boston's goals at five-on-five in the series. Erskine hasn't played since Feb. 12 and only once since Jan. 31. Hunter said Michal Neuvirth, out with an injury, is not ready to back up Braden Holtby.

Here's how the lineups project:

BRUINS
Milan Lucic - Patrice Bergeron - Rich Peverley
Brad Marchand - David Krejci - Tyler Seguin
Benoit Pouliot - Chris Kelly - Brian Rolston
Daniel Paille - Gregory Campbell - Shawn Thornton

Zdeno Chara - Dennis Seidenberg
Andrew Ference - Johnny Boychuk
Greg Zanon - Joe Corvo

Tim Thomas
Anton Khudobin

CAPITALS

Alex Ovechkin - Brooks Laich - Marcus Johansson
Jason Chimera - Mathieu Perreault - Alexander Semin
Matt Hendricks - Jay Beagle - Troy Brouwer
Mike Knuble - Keith Aucoin - Joel Ward

Karl Alzner - John Carlson
Roman Hamrlik - Mike Green
John Erskine - Dennis Wideman

Braden Holtby
Dany Sabourin
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Posted On Tuesday, 04.17.2012 / 2:26 PM

By Corey Masisak -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Bruins vs. Capitals series blog

Seidenberg relishing physical matchup with Ovechkin

WASHINGTON -- Chris Kelly has been the recipient of a Dennis Seidenberg body blow, and he's quite happy to be wearing the same uniform as the stout defenseman.

Seidenberg has been a physical, positionally sound player for his entire career, but spending last season next to Boston captain Zdeno Chara on the Bruins' top defense pairing as they bruised and battered their way to a Stanley Cup earned the German defenseman plenty of recognition and praise.

He's back next to Chara again at the start of the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs, and his titanic collisions with Washington's Alex Ovechkin in this Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series have been epic.

"It doesn't feel great, actually," Kelly said with a chuckle. "I remember him hitting me when he was on Carolina in the corner. It was just a great hit and I ended up on the ice. He’s just a big, strong guy who plays physical, plays honest. I think he’s exactly what the NHL wants in a big, strong defenseman.

"They are too big strong men going at it and being physical. Like I have said before, there is no added slashing or yapping -- it is two big guys battling hard."

Boston coach Claude Julien has done all that he can to make sure Chara is on the ice against Ovechkin, but more often than not it is Seidenberg who ends up engaged in one-on-one battles with the Washington captain because he plays on the right side against the left wing.

Ovechkin leads the League with 17 hits this postseason, while Seidenberg isn't far behind with 12. Many of those have been on each other, and a few of them have been highlight-reel quality.

"It's a tough battle. He's a very thick guy," Seidenberg said. "But it's fun. It's playoff hockey. You play a little harder, and that's what it's all about."

While Chara stands out for his genetics, Seidenberg absorbs and delivers contact like he was crafted from 210 pounds of granite. That Ovechkin has been able to knock him off his feet a couple of times is a significant achievement -- even for one of the League's most ferocious hitters. 

Seidenberg complements brute strength with the ability to skate and position himself well against oncoming attackers. Ovechkin has not found a lot of open ice in this series when Seidenberg is in his vicinity.

"Certain guys get certain assignments during the playoffs and for the last couple years him and [Chara] obviously get matched up against top guys," Boston defenseman Andrew Ference said. "I think he does an extremely good job of being consistent against his matchup. It is not once in a while where he is on top of them -- he is really tough to shake throughout the entire game, and for that matter the entire series. Obviously he has a lot of pride in having that assignment against top guys. Put that with talent and he's a good player as it is. He's just got what it takes. I think he really relishes that role."

Added coach Claude Julien: "He's a guy that has always been good in the playoffs, even before he came to us. He's a big-game player. He's been known as a big-game player, and he continues to show that. Zdeno is as good as you'll get as a defenseman, but when it comes to playoff time, 'Seids' isn't that far behind him, if at all. He's been a real good player for us, a real force, physical, he's loving these kind of challenges and he thrives on it. You need those kinds of players to succeed."
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Posted On Tuesday, 04.17.2012 / 12:38 PM

By NHL.com Staff -  /NHL.com - Bruins vs. Capitals series blog

Kelly: Lucic was an angry baby

The battle between Bruins forward Milan Lucic and Washington defenseman Karl Alzner has been captivating to watch throughout the first three games of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series between Boston and Washington.

Monday night, it came to head during a goal-mouth scrum in which Lucic tussled with Matt Hendricks and Alzner. When the participants were separated, Alzner rubbed his eye with his fist, suggesting that Lucic was a crybaby.

Lucic, who took three roughing penalties in Game 3 and was serving a double minor for roughing when the winning goal was scored in the 4-3 victory on Monday that gave Boston a two-games-to-one lead in the series, laughed off the suggestion.

But, Chris Kelly was all too happy to come to the defense of the team's most physical forward with a bit of humor thrown in for good measure, according to a tweet from CSNNE's Joe Haggery (@HackswithHaggs).

"I dont think he ever cried," Kelly told CSNNE's Joe Haggery. "I don't think he cried as a baby. He came out an angry baby. He came out w/an attitude."
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Quote of the Day

For our team, as a group, we've never been this far before, and so it's just more lessons learned, and sometimes you have to go to the school of hard knocks to find out what works and what doesn't. We've got a young group. They've played some unreal hockey here to get us this far, and we showed if we're not going to play the proper way, a really, really good hockey team is going to beat you, and that's what they did. It's a lesson learned.

— Lightning coach Jon Cooper after Rangers win in Game 6 forced a Game 7 that will be played at Madison Square Garden on Friday