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Game Day: Bruins @ Thrashers

by John Bishop / Boston Bruins

Boston 0 1 1-2

Atlanta 1 0 0-1

First Period-1, Atlanta, Little 18, 19:45.

Second Period-2, Boston, Kessel 22 (Savard, Wideman), 1:43.

Third Period-3, Boston, Ryder 14 (Krejci, Wheeler), 13:56.

Shots on Goal-Boston 14-10-4-28. Atlanta 10-11-12-33.

Goalies-Boston, Fernandez. Atlanta, K.Lehtonen. A-16,835 (18,545). T-2:19.

0:00 - Bruins win! That's eight in a row!

10.8 - With the Thrashers employing the extra attacker, Fernandez makes another save and holds on.

38.9 - Fernandez with a diving glove save, outstretched for his 31st stop of the afternoon. Time out Atlanta.

52.0 - Lehtonen goes to the bench.

1:57 - Kobasew pulls down a Thrasher. Atlanta with a late power play.

2:16 - Fernandez's turn...A nice save on Slater.

3:32 - Lehtonen with a save. Boston continues to press...

6:04 - A video game pass from Krejci to Ryder puts Boston in the lead. A very nice goal by the right winger. His 14th game equals his production from last year. That's his 11th goal in 14 games.

6:32 - A near miss - Kovalchuk was just a step from getting a complete breakaway, but the B's defense held on.

8:12 - Icing Bruins.

9:48 - Manny trapped the puck on top of the net. Faceoff in the Bruins zone. Wideman made sure not to knock it in while making sure the puck remained on top of the cage.

15:20 - Fernandez just saved the game again. Three saves in a row to keep the score 1-1.

17:10 - It looked as if Ryder was pushed into Lehtonen, but he got a penalty for goalie interference.

18:36 - Savard almost connects with Lucic who is on the top of Lehtonen's crease, but Milan could not get his stick on the puck for the slam dunk.

19:56 - Atlanta wins the draw.

20:00 - Start of the Third.
0:00 - Acouple of late attempts by both squads were to no avail and the score remains 1-1 after two. The shots were 24-21, Boston.

1:02 - Manny made two or three difficult saves to keep the game tied.

3:07 - St. Pierre in the box for tripping.

4:59 - The save of the game. Fernandez stops Slater on the breakaway...

5:18 - A turnaround wrister by Lucic goes into the stands. But there's been some very strong pressure by Boston late in this period.

8:45 - Lehtonen with another save. Shots are 21-14, Boston.

10:53 - Little is in the box for Atlanta. "We're due for a power play goal," says John Bucyk.

11:10 - A nice shift from Thornton and co. gives Atlanta some fits. Thornton kept ending up with the puck until Lehtonen grabbed it.

13:20 - I think that should have been a penalty or a penalty shot. Savvy looked to have been pulled down right in front of Lehtonen on a breakaway.

14:14 - With Wheeler on the doorstep, Lehtonen litterally sat on the puck to keep it out and away from Wheels.

16:56 - Schneider is in the box for interference.

17:25 - Manny came up big after a funny bounce saw a Thrasher get a scoring chance right in front.

18:17 - Kessel got the puck at the top of the circles and put it through Lehtonen to tie the score. Nice shot, but the Atlanta goalie would surely like another chance.

19:02 - Atlanta remains on fire...

20:00 - Beginning of the Second. Two bad bounces are the only thing kept the Bruins from leading at the end the first.
0:00 - End of the First The B's had several opportunities to score, including a would-be goal that somehow didn't go in for Vladimire Sobotka on a late shorthanded breakaway.

So, it's 1-0, Atlanta after one.

14.8 - After pretty good penalty kill, a bad pass in the Atlanta zone gave the Thrashers a breakaway. Little gets credit for the goal, which looked to have gone off a Bruins stick.

1:02 - Fernandez with a tough save through traffic. Shots have been changed to 9-9.

2:17 - Chara is in the box for slashing. Atlanta has a five-on-three for 1:37.

2:40 - Sobotka is in the box for hooking.

3:42 - Finally, a stoppage. Manny had to make a couple of really tough stops as the Thrashers were able to sustain their attack in the B's zone for almost a minute.

8:05 - Chuck Kobasew creates some havoc in front of the Thrashers goal. Shots are 11-4, Boston.

8:40 - Some good movement on the power play, but not much else happened thanks to a couple of blocked shots. It's nice to see St. Pierre on the power play and it's always fun to see Kessel and Wheeler on the ice, together.

10:53 - Marty Reasoner is in the box for Atlanta for hooking. Boston gets their second PP of the night.

13:08 - St. Pierre attempted a shot off the faceoff. No goal, but nice attempt.

13:09 - Wideman gathers the puck in the B's zone and skated down the ice, crossed the blueline and encountered three Thrashers -- no matter, he shot and made Lehtonen hang on for the faceoff.

15:19 - Boston had a little bit of trouble sorting things out on the PP, but Phil Kessel just had the second shot of the man advantage.

16:58 - Sobotka draws a hooking call on Kovalchuk.

18:24 - Manny Fernandez has four saves already. Atlanta has come out flying. Fernandez has looked solid, however.

19:57  - Atlanta won the draw.

20:00 - Start of the First. A continuation of last night's third period would be appropriate.

Boston Starters:
Chara, Wideman, Axelsson, Yelle, Kobasew, Fernandez.
Atlanta Starters: Hainsey, Valabik, Kovalchuk, Thorburn, Reasoner, Lehtonen

Let's switch to time on the clock...

4:57 p.m.
Aaron Ward looked good in warmups, which should indicate that he will indeed hit the ice with the Bruins at 5:08 p.m.

Julien spoke to the difficulty of working a defenseman back into the lineup.

"I think it's hard for anyone to get back after a certain amount of time," said the Bruins head coach. "Obviously, [as a defenseman] you look at yourself and [know] that you are the last line of defense and then there's the goaltender.

"As a forward, you make a mistake, you have somebody to cover up for you.

"So it's always a little more stressful, but a guy like Aaron Ward, who's been in the league forever, has enough experience to deal with those things," he said.

And, let's face it, Ward has been here before. Because of the way he plays (think blocking shots, hitting) Ward has been injured before.

"It's certainly not the first time he's had to deal with an injury where he's had to come back after a long layoff," said Julien. "We're confident he'll bounce back well."

A funny fact. Last night, The Bruins stayed at the same hotel as the St. Louis Rams and Chicago Bulls.

4:39 p.m.
Here are the lines...
Lucic - Savard - Kessel
Axelsson - Yelle - Kobasew
Wheeler - Krejci - Ryder
Sobotka - St. Pierre - Thornton
Chara - Hnidy
Hunwick - Wideman
Ward - Stuart
Nokelainen, Lashoff

4:29 p.m.
Manny Fernandez and Kari Lehtonen are the goalies today.

4:24 p.m.
Ward is on board...
"We're hoping to use Aaron Ward tonight," said Julien. "The plan is to play him and we'll make that final decision after warmup.

"As long as everything is okay, he should be in."

If Ward cracks the lineup, look for Matt Lashoff to sit this one out.

3:31 p.m.
Chuck Kobasew, a no-nonsense kind of player, blew holes in my Holiday layoff theory.

Kobasew, who spoke from just outside the locker room a few minutes ago, said he didn't think that the break was or should've been a factor.

"Maybe a little bit, but it could be an excuse," he said.  "I thought we came out and had a good start, and the first five minutes we played well.

"And I thought we played well at the beginning of the second period, but then we sat back in the second half of both those periods."

Kobasew did say he was pleased that the Bruins were able to bounce back and give themselves a chance at the "W".

"But, being the team that we are, we found a way to win the game," said the winger. "We set ourselves up, twenty-minutes for a win and we were able to do that."

Coach Julien agreed with the former Boston College standout.

"Everybody had the same layoff," said Julien. "Sometimes it's [just] a bad game in certain players' systems and they just have to say, 'It is what it is.'

"Then in the next game go out ther and bounce back with a nice performance.

"It's as simple as that," he said.

12:55 p.m.
The day is racing towards the departure time of the bus to Phillips Arena – except I am not sure what day it is until I check my phone, look around the hotel room here in Atlanta and think to myself, “Sunday, December 28th feels like it started last week in New Jersey.”

And today is one of those days where I can’t believe that the players have to play another game less than 24-hours since the beginning of their last contest.

In his book, The Game, Ken Dryden writes of hockey travel and days like today:
Life on the road comes at a price. The energy it gives, the freedom you feel, it takes away, and more – twenty-six weeks a season, eighty games, from bus to plane to bus to hotel to bus to arena to bus to plane, to a leagueful of cities three times a week.

Certainly, as a writer I don’t have it bad -- after all, my job is basically to watch some hockey everyday.

Yes, it has its difficulties and stresses, and yah it does take a certain amount of will and brain power to pump out prose. However, there is no physicality involved beyond the occasional headache, tired typing fingers and a back that feels messed up by three different beds in three nights.

The players, however, give a full measure body and soul to the game each and everyday all have to get used to a consistent semi-tired feeling and perform to the top of their capabilities.

Sure, anyone who plays in the NHL is getting a decent paycheck, so there is no feeling sorry for anyone involved, but it’s days like this where I look down to the back of the bus and see Zdeno Chara, all 6’9 of him, upright and strong, and just admire the heck out of these guys; not only for the amount of effort it takes to play hockey, but also for the amount of effort it takes to deal with being a professional hockey player.

I mean, they have to tell Zee to take days off from the rink or the gym. Think about that – they TELL him to go home.

This morning some of the players (presumably the ones not playing tonight) and coaches got up and were at the rink by eight in order to get in an on-ice workout. They joined the rest of the squad who were up and in the meeting room to have breakfast at 9:30 a.m. with a video session at 11:00 a.m. After a short nap and a snack, then the bus will take us to the arena at 2:45 p.m. We'll bus to the airport after the game and depart for Pittsburgh shortly thereafter and arrive in Pennsylvania sometime after 11:00 p.m.

And that, my friends, is an EASY day in comparison to some trips.

So, when I hear the players say that maybe the time off for the holidays might have been a factor in the inconsistent effort in Carolina, I understand why that might happen and it does not register as a complaint in my mind. Because even if they are not tired, the cessation of the routine and then it’s eventual resumption must be like starting a cold sports car in the middle of the northern Canadian wilderness in the middle of winter – chances are good that you are not going to be able to speed down the highway at top velocity.

Although I do expect the Hub of Hockey's Black & Gold express to be a top speed this afternoon.

More in a bit. I have to get ready to catch a bus. JB
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