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Here are your Boston Bruins!
No Hnidy. No Bitz. But Phil Kessel is on the ice for warmups...
It's Tim Thomas
vs. Cam Ward. Thomas is 5-0 with a 1.40 Goals Against Average and a .949 save percentage through Boston’s first five games of the postseason, while Ward is 4-4 with a 2.34 Goals Against Average and a .929 save percentage in Carolina’s eight games this postseason.
Thomas has won his last 11 consecutive games overall, as he finished the regular season on a six-game win streak. His last loss was a 3-2 overtime setback to Los Angeles on March 19.
Press Box Notes
Bruins forwards Michael Ryder (5-4-9) and Phil Kessel (4-4-8) each have points in all five Bruins playoff games this year. Ryder meanwhile has scored a goal in four straight postseason games, his five goals are tied for the most in the playoffs, and his nine points are tied for the second highest total. Other stories...
- David Krejci, who led the NHL during the regular season in plus/minus rating with a +37, currently leads all skaters in the postseason with a +8 rating. Teammates Milan Lucic and Michael Ryder are tied for second with a +7.
- For Carolina, forward Jussi Jokinen has a three game goal/point streak in progress with 3-0-3 totals in that span.
- Hurricanes forward Eric Staal is one of six skaters tied with Ryder for the league lead in goals scored this postseason, joining Patrick Kane and Patrick Sharp of Chicago, Sidney Crosby of Pittsburgh and Alex Ovechkin of Washington.
- Hurricanes center Rod Brind’Amour is playing in his 150th career playoff game tonight and will become the franchise leader in playoff games played. Tonight will be his 63rd playoff appearance with Carolina, surpassing Ron Francis’ previous mark of 62.
From the Eyes of the Storm*
Judging from their comments this morning, the Hurricanes continue to have a sense of déjà vu after Friday night’s game – from the identical score to the on-ice play, game one against the Bruins seemed just like game one against the Devils.
“You have to keep your game a little more simple against these guys,” said goalie Cam Ward. “They’re a very patient team, like Jersey, but they’ve got a little more offensive upset where they’re going to make you pay for [mistakes].”
“We’ve got to initiate a little bit more – I think get on the attack, not give them easy transition plays, and be smart with the puck,” added Eric Staal. “That’s the key against this team, and it was a key against Jersey.”
And when you’re playing against a team like the B’s or Jersey, it’s about responding and not giving up, despite the score.
“We showed in the first series that we were able to respond and play a better game in game two, and we’re going to have to do that most of the time tonight,” Ward said.
After breaking down tape instead of having an on-ice practice on Friday, Carolina seemed to have an idea of what that response would consist of – like not having enough turnovers to cause head coach Paul Maurice to quip after the game that he thought the guy counting into the press conference microphone to test its status was “counting [their] turnovers.”
“They’re a good transition team,” said Eric Staal. “They make you pay when you turn the puck over, and they’re pretty patient through the neutral zone.
“We’ve got to do simple things with the puck because if you try those cross-team passes, they’re going to pick them off.
“They’ve got enough skill that they can do that and go the other way,” he said, “and they’re a team that you don’t want to give odd-mans to because, like I said, they’ve got some guys who can really shoot it.”
Another key to the B's game is playing all three periods. It seems obvious, but nearly every person in the locker room was talking about Boston's slow first period on Friday.
"You’ve got to play your game for 60 minutes," he said. "Sitting back is not something you can do very well anymore, especially with the new rules that are in. You can’t clutch, grab, hold or slow people down.
"The minute you start playing on your heels is when the other team picks it up and starts coming after you.
"We've made a commitment to play a full 60 minutes and play to the buzzer," he said.
After all, there is no better example of what can happen than the Hurricanes.
"[Just] use the example of the .2 second goal that Carolina scored on New Jersey," said Julien. "You’ve got to play till the end and that was a great example for everybody that’s still in the playoffs right now."
Recchi talks tipping
|Montreal Canadiens goalie Carey Price can't stop a goal by Boston Bruins' Marc Savard as teammate Mark Recchi screens in front during the second period of game 2 of an NHL playoff hockey game in Boston on Saturday, April 18, 2009. (AP Photo/Winslow Townson) |
Yesterday, I also asked Mark Recchi about tipping the puck. As you know, the B's future HHOFer is very adept at both blocking the goaltender's view and waiting to coax the biscuit into the basket.
"It’s more of a redirection, trying to get a piece of the stick on it just to change direction of it," said Recchi. "It creates a little bit of [panic] or a scramble when it hits his pad and bounces out."
Recchi said he thought it was something that came naturally to him.
"Well it’s something, I mean I think you’ve got to work at it but it’s definitely something you have," said Recchi. "You definitely gotta work at it but you gotta have [the] timing and that coordination to do it.
"So there are some guys who are really good at it and some guys who are really bad at it."
Recchi said that it is a really fun skill to have and develop.
"Oh yeah, it’s great," he said.
"You put yourself in a position in front of the net and our D-man is so good at getting pucks to the net like that," he continued. "You want to reward them too, they’re shooting the puck at my stick and expecting me to get a piece of it or expecting me to screen the goalie and when it does go in it’s a great feeling for both of us, really."
But his sitting in front of the net like a fire hydrant doesn't give the opposing team a secure feeling.
"It just puts so much pressure on the other team when you go there and stay there and you’re willing to go there and get dirty," said Recchi. "We have some big guys who are really good at it
|Boston Bruins right wing Mark Recchi, left, shoots his game-winning overtime goal past Montreal Canadiens goalie Carey Price (31) during their NHL hockey game in Boston, Thursday April 9, 2009. The Bruins beat the Canadiens 5-4. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa) |
and when we do that on a consistent basis we put a lot of pressure on teams."
Fun aside, it does take a certain amount of courage to park yourself in front of the net.
"It is a mentality," he said. "But you have to be willing to go there. You have some players who aren’t willing to go there, guys who’d rather score on the outside than score there, but obviously it’s a little different now than it used to be.
"You cant do as much in front of the net as you used to so I mean everybody should be able to go to the net, there’s not a lot they can do to you.
"When I first came in…it was open season, so whatever happened to you happened to you [but now] everybody should want to go there cause that’s where the goals are scored."
|Boston Bruins defenseman Mark Stuart, right, drops Carolina Hurricanes left wing Ray Whitney to the ice on a hard check in the second period during Game 1 of an NHL Eastern Conference semi-final hockey game, Friday, May 1, 2009 in Boston.(AP Photo/Charles Krupa) |
On Saturday, Luke DeCock, of The News and Observer
wrote of Friday's game:When Mark Stuart flattened Ray Whitney at center ice late in the second period, that [3-1] lead suddenly seemed much larger, even before Lucic punctuated the period with a hit on Dennis Seidenberg at the buzzer.
That's music to Stuart's ears. On Saturday afternoon, following the B's practice at Ristuccia, the big defenseman talked about being able to contribute with his physical play.
"I think I need to play physical," he said. "I’m not going out there looking for big hits but if there’s an opportunity…step up and get a little chance without putting their defense in jeopardy, we’ve gotta take those."
Boston out-hit Carolina 32-23 on Friday night.
"That’s a big part of our game, is to be physical, especially on the forecheck," said Stuart. "It’s playoffs so...I think that was good even if we get a lead we need to continue to play the same way -- physical -- and continue to wear teams down."
|Boston Bruins head coach Claude Julien instructs his players during hockey practice in Wilmington, Mass., Wednesday, April 15, 2009. The Bruins face the Montreal Canadiens in the first round of the NHL playoffs on Thursday.(AP Photo/Charles Krupa) |
B's head coach Claude Julien didn't talk for too long after his club left the ice, but he did speak long enough to address the importance of being able to use four lines on Friday night.
"It’s great," said Julien. "It gave everybody an opportunity, obviously, to play and get back in the groove as well.
"We were able to do that partly because everybody played well enough to be on the ice on a regular basis.
"At the same time we’re a team that once we get the lead I think it’s important that we keep pushing...and that’s by having some fresh guys on the ice," he said.
The use of four effective lines is nothing new for Boston.
"We’ve rolled four lines pretty well all year and it’s served us well," said Julien. "We feel that doing that...in the playoffs is something that we need to keep doing."
It looks like an optional skate. I see Ward, Montador, Stuart and Hnidy in black (defensemen). Savard, Kessel (yay) and Lucic are in white (forwards). Coaches Ward, Essensa, Houda and Ramsay are on the ice. Manny Fernandez hopped on, too.
Shane Hnidy and Byron Bitz are the first guys on for morning skate...
By the way, there was a surprise guest at practice yesterday. But I think I'll let good friend Matt Kalman at TheBruinsBlog.net
The B's are scheduled for a 10:30 a.m. skate at the Garden (not open to the public)...
|Carolina Hurricanes coach Paul Maurice, center left, and associate head coach Ron Francis, center right, talk to the team during a timeout in the second period of an NHL first-round hockey playoff game against the New Jersey Devils in Raleigh, N.C., Tuesday, April 21, 2009. The Hurricanes won 4-3 to tie the series at two games each. (AP Photo/Karl B DeBlaker) |
Carolina head coach Paul Maurice talked about the similarities between the New Jersey Devils and the Boston Bruins during his press availability on Saturday.*
“Yeah, [they have] similar games. Very, very similar," said Maurice. "I think that Boston has a little bit more of a transition, but the top two offensive lines in New Jersey are
very similar in their ability to off the rush, so it’s certainly not the
first time [the Hurricanes] heard that message between games one and two.
"We were singing pretty much the same song."
Carolina fell to New Jersey in the first game of the first round before outlasting the New Jersey club.
"We clearly didn’t move the puck the way we need to and we have, or have in
the past," explained Maurice. "I don’t think it was one individual or, you’re trying to single out one or two guys.
"It’s the mindset of a hockey team, when it’s comfortable in what it’s doing, it doesn’t make plays that are high-risk, low-reward plays. We made a number of those last night, in part because the Boston Bruins do a very fine job defensively, and they don’t give you a whole lot.
"But based on our experience playing the New Jersey Devils, we’re built with the same concepts
in mind, and we would like to see our team make some better decisions," he said.
Maurice sounded unconcerned, however.
|Boston Bruins fans celebrate after a goal by center David Krejci as the Carolina Hurricanes bench and head coach Paul Maurice look on during the first period during Game 1 of their NHL Eastern Conference semi-final hockey game, Friday, May 1, 2009 in Boston.(AP Photo/Charles Krupa) |
“We actually, we’ve got a really, really good bunch of men in that locker room, and the vast majority of the mistakes they’ve made over the last two and a half months come from wanting to do something more," he said. "Both of those teams, New Jersey and Boston, just hope that you try to do that.
"To get comfortable in your own skin and to realize that they are going to control certain parts of the ice, and you can only put a puck there if you’re at 100% confidence level - we just need to get comfortable with that game, again, and less is more, obviously, through the neutral zone and coming out of our own end."
And if the Hurricanes practice more discipline in their puck possession, the B's will have to show even more restraint penalty-wise.
“They didn’t need to put themselves into too many deficit positions physically, because they weren’t ever chasing the lead or trying to force things themselves," said Maurice. “We’re going to do everything that we can, and you rarely take a penalty when you have the puck, so you need to control the puck better and put them in positions where they’re getting behind and have to reach in to stop you.
"But they’re very well-coached and very disciplined in that approach, so that doesn’t happen
"With New Jersey, our first power play in that series came at the start of the third period in game one as well. We didn’t get one through the first two periods, and we’re going to have to, again, control the puck enough to get them into some positions where they have to reach in
and do things they don’t want to do."
---*Thanks to the Carolina PR staff for sending out MP3's of their press availability on Saturday & Sunday.