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Bruins Notebook: March 23rd

by Angela Stefano / Boston Bruins
The Eastern Conference-leading Boston Bruins (now with 102 points in 73 games) fended off the conference’s second place New Jersey Devils (97 points through 72 games) in a 4-1 victory on Sunday afternoon at the sold-out TDBanknorth Garden to clinch the Northeast Division title, Boston’s first since 2003-2004.

The Bruins now lead the Devils by a total of five points.

Power-ful Play
Boston Bruins' Michael Ryder (73) celebrates his goal with Mark Recchi, center, as New Jersey Devils' Jamie Langenbrunner (15) skates away in the first period of an NHL hockey game, Sunday, March 22, 2009, in Boston. The Bruins won 4-1. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)
The Bruins league-best home-ice power play was on full display in this Sunday’s game.

The clubs’s first goal came at 16:22 of the first period while Brian Rolston was serving a penalty for the Devils for too-many-men-on-the-ice.

A shot from New Jersey’s right face-off circle by Mark Recchi redirected off Devil Paul Martin’s skate and past Martin Brodeur into the net. Michael Ryder, who was stationed in front of the net near Martin and deflected Recchi’s shot, received credit for the goal.

Recchi and Marc Savard received the assists.

Then, with Bobby Holik in the box for roughing, Savard scored at 6:19 of the second period. Matt Hunwick and Ryder earned assists on the goal, which gave Ryder and Savard multi-point games.

Ryder’s goal and assist give him four points (two goals, two assists) in three games, and Savard now has five points (two goals, three assists) in his last five games and 15 points (2 goals, 13 assists) in his last 14 games.

“We obviously needed [the win], we were up and down a lot lately,” said Savard, postgame. “I think giving up the lead was something we didn’t want to do and we tried to go at them, but we had some penalty problems in the third, but everybody stepped up tonight and everybody did their job.

“The guys came to play tonight, everyone was focused, we didn’t have any passengers at all, everybody had a good game for us and that’s what we need here on in.”

Before Sunday, the Bruins home power play was at 27.3%, with 38 goals in 139 opportunities; it is now at 40 in 143, or 28%.

“Obviously it turned out good, because we had a couple of goals on our power play, and that’s something that you need in these types of games,” said Bruins head coach Claude Julien. “We made those changes for all the different reasons, but it’s worked out well for us.

“Sometimes your power play does go stale and it’s not about one person, it’s about the five guys [playing] together, and today our guys did a pretty good job, and scored some timely goals.”

Plentiful Points
Boston Bruins' Michael Ryder (73) battles New Jersey Devils' Jay Pandolfo for the puck in the second period of an NHL hockey game, Sunday, March 22, 2009, in Boston. The Bruins won 4-1. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)
Ryder and Savard weren’t the only Bruins to find their point totals ticking upward time and again Sunday. In fact, the scoring was spread out among many on the Boston bench, which certainly did not come as a surprise to at least one veteran Bruin.

“[Getting out of a slump] comes down to each individual doing better,” Andrew Ference said at practice Saturday when asked how the B’s might shake their doldrums going into the playoffs. “The really good teams will have a whole bunch of guys that take responsibility for their own play and know that their contribution is just as important.”

Although Recchi had the first goal of the game taken away from him (it was later awarded to Ryder), he earned points with two assists. The first came on that first goal, and the second was an assist on Chuck Kobasew’s wrap-around goal at 1:52 of the second period.

“It was a good effort,” said Recchi of the team’s turnaround. “We were ready to play. Sometimes you get a team like this that’s playing as well as you are, and it’s a good thing for us.

“Obviously we played our best game in a while, and it’s something that we’ve got to build on now.

Recchi now has a total of four points (two goals, two assists) in four games. The goal gave Kobasew three points (one goal, two assists) in three games. The other assist on the goal was given to Patrice Bergeron.

“Obviously, when you have an opportunity to play with [Bergeron] and [Kobasew] it's made the transition very easy for me,” said Recchi of his move from Tampa Bay. “I've basically been on the same line since the third period of the first game, so, you know you get a good feel for the guys and it's just something that [is] getting better and better and more comfortable.”

Meanwhile, Phi Kessel also now has six points (four goals, two assists) in his last five games, thanks to an assist on Milan Lucic’s second-period goal. Mark Stuart received the other assist on the tally, which saw Lucic walking the puck down the ice and netting it five-hole at 17:26 of the second.

The kids (are still) alright
New Jersey Devils' Mike Rupp (17) battles Boston Bruins' Matt Hunwick (48) and Stephane Yelle, right, in the first period of an NHL hockey game Sunday, March 22, 2009, in Boston. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)
Julien was asked to specify what factor was most important to bringing the B’s back from playoff DNQ’s to the Northeast Division title.

“I think a lot of it is the progression of our young players,” said the B’s head coach. “At the beginning of the year, we wanted to take another step forward.  I don’t think we even talked about being the divisional champs -- we just wanted to make sure that we were better than the year before.

“A lot of our young guys really surprised us, and obviously [Blake] Wheeler coming in was one of those guys, and David Krejci had an unbelievable season until he went through some of his troubles there in the last few weeks.  But we’ve had some young players – Matt Hunwick is [another] one of those guys – and we had a lot of young guys come up big for us.

“Our veterans continue to be our best players, and they need to be our best players, but the young players seem to be what makes a big difference.  If you get the good leadership and your young players are following them, taking the bull by the horns and doing their part, it certainly helps the progression, and I think that’s where we probably surprised ourselves a little bit, with the way the season’s gone so far.”

And on Monday, they rested…
There is no practice for the Bruins today. Players and staff are scheduled to return to Wilmington’s Ristuccia Memorial Arena on Tuesday at 10:30 a.m.

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