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Bear Essentials: Florida vs. Boston

by John Bishop / Boston Bruins
John Bishop is the beat writer for He covers the Black & Gold hoping to offer a positive look at the team, not only from the stands and the press box, but also from inside the locker room. A graduate of Boston U. and Northeastern, 'Bish' grew up in Connecticut and moved to the Hub of Hockey in 1993. Since then he has made all four rinks at the Beanpot schools, as well as both Gardens, his icebound homes away from home. Prior to joining the TD Banknorth Garden staff in 2005, Bishop had written for several publications, with his primary focus being college hockey. He coauthored the book Bygone Boston in 2003 and hopes someday to pen a bio of Hobey Baker.
I generally e-mail with a friend during Bruins games and after the end of last night's game with the Caps she wrote, "We shall never speak of this again."

Fair enough.

Happily, however, many of you are feeling pretty philosophical about our team and have refused to look too deeply into the loss -- a completely logical response to a lopsided score (in either direction) during an 82-game schedule.

That's particularly so, since the squad had been 8-0-1 in their previous nine games.

But being a supporter (and an employee) of a team tends to send logic out the window. For instance, my "logical" response was to finish off the General's birthday cake.

But that's just me.

"Bound to happen a few times during the year," said Bear Essentials reader Andrew in my blog mail. "I expect Saturday to be interesting."

Thank you for the gift of calm, Andrew.

I myself was very impressed with Shawn Thornton's showdown with Big Don Brashear -- Thorts landed several heavy blows on the bigger skater and ended up with a take down.

Strong work Shawn!

"I think tonight's game against the Capitals should be forgotten," said Jim, another True Believer. "We didn't get the two valuable points but we didn't lose anything in the standings.

"Sometimes games like that happen, nothing worked for us and everything worked for them. I think we only need to go out tomorrow night and try a little harder."

Jim ended by saying, "This Bruins team is the best I've seen in a long time."

True dat!

And thankfully, Jim is also right -- with the possible exception of a lost game in hand -- the B's are still in sixth, five points out of first.

    Team              GP  W-L-OT  PTS
1. Pittsburgh *   67  37-23-7  81
2. Montreal *      67  36-22-9  81
3. Carolina *      68  34-29-5  73
4. New Jersey   66  37-23-6  80
5. Ottawa            67  37-24-6  80 
6. Boston           65  35-24-6  76 
7. NY Rangers  66  34-24-8  76
8. Philadelphia 66  33-25-8  74

This morning is an optional morning skate (the B's got in very late) and head coach Claude Julien will speak to the media at 11:15 a.m. or so.

No doubt Coach Julien will have a "sparkplug" plan in mind even before he hits his office this morning. It should be fun to watch.

9:59 a.m.
Some of you will remember that I follow James Mirtle's blog (he writes for the Globe and Mail in Toronto).

He figures that to make the playoffs in the Eastern Conference you need 92 points and he lists the "magic record" needed to attain that plateau in a club's remaining games.

Boston can play just slightly under .500 and still make the playoffs...

Eastern Conference (92 points, less to win the Southeast**)
   1. Montreal - 5-9-1
   2. New Jersey - 6-10-0
   3. Pittsburgh - 5-9-1
   4. Ottawa - 6-9-0
   5. Boston - 8-9-0
   6. N.Y. Rangers - 8-8-0
   7. Philadelphia - 9-7-0
   8. Carolina - 9-4-1**

You can take a look at this for the West, etc. at

12:30 p.m.
About last night…
The Hub of Hockey turned its eyes to B's head coach Claude Julien on Tuesday morning, hoping for an explanation for Monday night's loss to Washington.

"I think first of all, we were ready to play, but I don't think we were ready to face what they threw at us last night," said Coach. "We talked about them being a desperate team and I don't think the guys reacted well to how desperate they were.

"When you are not ready to face that it is hard just to turn the switch on."

Washington's success, early in the game, made it very difficult for Boston to find its footing as the goals piled up.

"They got some early goals and it just kept going from there," said Julien, who added that the club must move on quickly.

"Why would you keep dwelling on it?" he asked. "[Particularly] if you look at what we've done so far.

"I think we have to acknowledge what has happened, but at the same time I think we have to start thinking about tonight."

As important as the game is to Boston, the Bruins have to acknowledge that the Panthers are hanging on to their hopes of a playoff berth by the skin of their teeth.

"This game is as important as the game last night was to [Washington] to [Florida], and we just have to make sure we are ready to bounce back," said the Bruins bench boss. "We just got away from our game last night.

"Our thinking…was always a half second behind every play that was being made.

"We just have to get ourselves focused properly and go out there and play our game -- it's gotten us this far, and that should be what it is all about," he said.

Coach Julien indicated that his club might have been listening to its own billing during their six game win streak.

"Right now, we maybe have to realize that we are not as good as a lot of people make us out to be," he said ominously. "In order to be as good as we would like to be we have to keep working every night."

I would venture a guess, after listening to Coach, that the Bruins will be back on track this evening -- or else.

1:17 p.m.
Wardo is out…
Veteran defenseman Aaron Ward will miss this evening's game.

"He's not going to play tonight," said Coach Julien. "His foot is too swollen to put in his skate.

"We haven't gotten the results yet on the x-rays and everything else," he added.

Asked if the injury occurred in the third -- presumably on a blocked shot -- coach said he did not know.

"He played throughout the whole game, so I think it happened earlier than that."

Beyond a late call up, d-man Bobby Allen stands to return to the lineup in Ward's absence.

Auld is in…
One veteran reporter asked Coach Julien what he was working at, goalie wise, on Monday night when he flip flopped his keepers twice.

"I think you guys probably thought I was Mike Keenan for a while," said Julien with a laugh and a nod towards a former B's coach. "But no, at first it was hopefully to try and change the momentum and settle things down a little bit.

"But after it was 6-0 after the first period -- and I knew that I was going with Alex [Auld] tonight -- I decided to pull [Tim Thomas].

And then the last ten minutes I was just giving [Auld] the opportunity to see some [more] game action before tonight.

"That was explained clearly to both and I think that was important, too."

1:21 p.m.
Just an FYI -- NESN has picked up 2 additional Bruins games on two consecutive Sunday afternoons - March 9th and March 16th. The schedule is now as follows.

Sunday, March 9th
2:30 pm            WB Mason Bruins Face-Off Live
3:00 pm            Boston Bruins at New York Rangers
5:30 pm            Granite City Electric Bruins Overtime Live

Sunday, March 16th
2:30 pm            WB Mason Bruins Face-Off Live
3:00 pm            Boston Bruins at Washington Capitals
5:30 pm            Granite City Electric Bruins Overtime Live

4:23 p.m.
Today, Manny Fernandez and Patrice Bergeron returned to the ice yet again. They were a very bright spot at this morning's optional.

"Yeah it is [encouraging]," said Coach Julien. "You know it's great for us to see them back on the ice.

"I think if anything it's been fabulous for them to get that feeling back.

"[When you] see their faces and hear them speak and how excited they are to back on the ice it's great," he said.

When will they be back, Coach?

"All we can do right now is cross our fingers that these guys recover as soon as possible," he said. "And if we're lucky enough we'll have a chance to see them back by the end of the season.

"If not, at least they're on the right track and they're going to be [big] for us somewhere down the road."

4:46 p.m.
Patrice Bergeron seemed to step up his workout this morning.

"So far, right now, I feel pretty good," he said in front of his locker this morning following the skate.

It was the first time that he participated in a practice alongside healthy skaters (including, Bobby Allen, Petteri Nokelainen & Stan Chistov).

"I'll be aware during the day today, to see if anything comes up," said Bergy -- but he cautioned the writers surrounding him that even if there are no symptoms after today's harder practice, he still has a long way to go.

"[The next step] would be doing workouts to help me get in shape," said the center. "Not getting to playing mode -- obviously I am far from that, my lungs were burning out there.

"I can feel that it was my first real workout where my heart [rate] was going higher, but I am feeling good."

Bergeron was asked, point blank, if he felt he could return this season.

"I've never turned the page on this year," said the young man, earnestly. "Last week I wasn't working out that hard and yah, now that I felt good today for 28 minutes, and [after completing] a couple of skating drills I feel more confident.

"But only time will tell and I want to be smart."

What's the next step, Patrice?

"That's a good questions," he said. "I think Wednesday and Thursday we will stay at 28 [minutes] and if I feel good after three days...we'll go higher."

God speed Bergy!

6:37 p.m.
"Some" changes...My guess, based on the skate.
Chara-Wideman (sg)Auld
Ference-Hnidy (bg)Thomas
Stuart-Allen Go Bruins!

6:54 p.m.
BTW: Bruins in white tonight. Florida requested the darks -- they have been on a long road trip.

I am going to keep it here for the duration. Angela is on the recap and we'll have a notebook from Helin. So keep it here for all the latest on the B's.

6:57 p.m.
The Latest on Wardo: Defenseman Aaron Ward has a deep contusion. No timetable on his return.

First Period
0:00: P.J., Savvy, and Muzz, with Wides and Zee in front of Auldie for starters.
The Bruins are honoring Andrew Ference and Steve Montador for their efforts with "Right to Play."

6:19: A frenetic pace and very little consistency right now. The loss of Ward seems to have Coach Julien testing d-pair combos. The lines seem pretty static.

12:05: Still not a heck of a lot of flow to the game. Auld has looked sharp, but some rebounds have been juicy. Milan Lucic seems intent on staying on the ice until he scores, shiftwise.  After being hit by David Booth, Peter Schaefer went to the ice momentarily, but got up and returned to play. Boston is on the PP with Booth in the box for interference.

18:30: Some frustration beginning to show on the B's...

20:00: Florida ends with 15 shots. B's with 13. Boston was lucky to keep the score 0-0 through one. Auld made some excellent saves. The Black & Gold are still playing a little too tentatively.

Second Period
1:30: Auld has already made two stops...

3:58: More Auld...up to 19 saves.

7:49: Tough to even find a writing rhythm...

10:00: The fourth line of Lucic-Sobotka-Thornton has put in some good work through 30 min.

14:33: It's looking more and more like a goalie battle -- Anderson has made 21 saves. Auld has 23.

18:32: B's fourth liners draw a Florida penalty and almost put in the first goal.

0-0 after two.

Third Period
0:00: Big PK early...

1:57: Kessel almost nets one off a breakaway -- Nice glove save, Anderson.

More good work from Sobotka and Co.

7:24: A Bruin in the box another big PK. Things are getting tense -- and the Rangers are losing.

8:00: Shorthanded, Sturm forces Anderson to make another save.

11:33: Nailbitin' time...

14:36: Another PK. Ugh.

16:30: Auld saves the game. Point blank stop on McLean.

19:54: Auld saves the game...Again. This time he stopped Stephen Weiss.

20:00: A goaltending clinic through the end of regulation. Anderson has 40 saves for Florida. Auld has 31. That also makes 93 saves for Anderson over his last two games. Wow.

0:22: Oh no!
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