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Pregame Notebook: Game 4 vs. Montreal

by Hannah Becker / Boston Bruins

BOSTON – After an emotional 5-4 come-from-behind overtime victory in Game 4 on Thursday night, the Bruins will look to gain the series lead for the first time with a win tonight in Game 5 at TD Garden.

Neither team has come out victorious at home thus far in the series, but with three possible games remaining on the docket, two of which will be played in TD Garden, the Bruins have to find a way to win at home.

“We realize we’re still in a pretty tough series here and at one point you hope that your team wins at home and hopefully that happens [tonight],” Bruins head coach Claude Julien said Friday.

The Bruins will look to avoid the standard letdown after an emotional win, as they take to the ice tonight. The comeback won’t be complete unless the Bruins can skate out of the first round.

 It all starts tonight.

“It’s best two out of three now and I think [tonight] is going to be a huge game and I think we are going to have to keep the momentum going,” forward Michael Ryder said.

Ryder Comes Up Big
After being a healthy scratch for multiple games towards the end of the regular season, one of the questions on many fans’ minds heading into the postseason was whether or not Michael Ryder would see any playoff ice time—or would he sit in favor of rookie Tyler Seguin.

Boston Bruins' Michael Ryder (73) celebrates as Montreal Canadiens' goaltender Carey Price looks on after scoring the overtime winning goal of Game 4 of a first-round NHL Stanley Cup playoff series in Montreal, Thursday, April 21, 2011. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Graham Hughes)
After the Bruins fell in the first two games of the seven-game series, head coach Claude Julien came under fire with questions of if playing Ryder over Seguin was the right choice.

Julien stuck by his decision to go with his veteran winger who has outstanding postseason numbers throughout his career.

Entering the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Ryder had 12-14-26 totals in 45 games, including two game-winning goals. In last year’s postseason run, Ryder collected four goals and a single assist in 13 outings for Boston.

“We believe in the roster that we have right now and you have to go with what you believe in and you live with the consequences, as a player and as a coach you are always going to be facing criticism,” Julien said Friday.

“And that’s part of the business, if you let the criticism get to you then you are not doing your job. I just went out there and continued to do what I believed in and I guess Michael did the same things and he responded with two big goals.”

Ryder had a 2-1-3 scoring line in Thursday night’s 5-4 win including the overtime game-winner just 1:59 into the extra frame.

“Pretty exciting that’s for sure,” Ryder said of scoring the overtime goal.

“It was a lot of fun, it was exciting. I’m just happy we got the win and then we tied the series up, that was the main thing.”

Skating along side Rich Peverley and Chris Kelly, Ryder and his linemates combined for 3-5-8 totals in the game.

“I think our line [Thursday] got off to a little bit of a slow start. But I think we realized we had to be better and I think we did that,” said Ryder.

 “We talked to each other and tried to get each other going. I think we knew how big the game was and we knew in order for us to win, we wanted to make a difference and we had to step up our game.”

Thomas Nominated for Vezina
For the second time in three seasons, Boston Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas has been named a finalist for the NHL’s Vezina Trophy.

Boston Bruins goalie Tim Thomas poses with the Vezina Trophy, for the top goaltender, at the National Hockey League awards in Las Vegas on Thursday, June 18 2009. Thomas beat out Steve Mason of the Columbus Blue Jackets and Niklas Backstrom of the Minnesota Wild in voting by the NHL's general managers. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Ryan Remiorz)
“Very happy to hear that, obviously. After last year, wasn’t quite sure if I’d ever hear that again. And so obviously very happy,” Thomas said upon learning of his status as a finalist for the award.

The Vezina Trophy is awarded annually “to the goaltender adjudged to be the best at his position.” The other finalists for the award are Vancouver’s Roberto Luongo and Nashville’s Pekka Rinne.

This season, Thomas broke the NHL record for single-season save percentage with a mark of .938, besting the previous record of .937 set by Dominik Hasek in the 1998-99 season (save percentage was first introduced to the NHL statistics package in the 1982-83 season). Thomas had a record of 35-11-9 in 57 games this season, and had a GAA of 2.00.

“Tim is very deserving of that nomination, and obviously I am a big fan of what he has done this year. And if you ask me he certainly deserves it and I’m sure that would get some arguments from other places,” Bruins head coach Claude Julien said of his No. 1 goaltender.

“I’m certainly going to support Tim for the season he’s had. Especially what he went through last year and to bounce back this year and have that kind of season, he is certainly very deserving. So I wish him all the luck and hope that he wins what he deserves.”

While the honor comes at an important time in the B’s season, in the midst of a highly contested first-round playoff series with their long-time rival Canadiens, Thomas is adamant the nomination won’t be a distraction.

“It’s weird timing that we happen to be in the middle of a very tough first round series. So it’s really, to be honest with you, it’s an honor,” Thomas said Friday.

 “I could talk about it right now but my focus will immediately go back to the playoff series. I won’t be thinking about the Vezina later today.”

No Explanation for Lack of Home-ice Success
The benefit of being one of the top four seeds heading into the postseason is gaining a home-ice advantage over the opponent. But as has been the case in the Boston/Montreal series thus far, home-ice advantage hasn’t been an advantage at all.

Montreal Canadiens' Benoit Pouliot, left, fights with Boston Bruins' Andrew Ference during the first period in Game 3 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoffs series, Monday, April 18, 2011, in Montreal. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Graham Hughes)
In the first four games of the series, the visiting team has come out on top.

It seems that nobody can explain the phenomenon.

“Because the away team scored more goals than the home team in all of those games,” Thomas said by way of explanation.

“I don’t put too much thought into that. Sometimes in the playoffs the more road type of game ends up getting you the victory at the end, and so possibly that’s what’s happened. Each team has played their road games when they’re on the road. But there might be something to learn from that, that if you can play a road type game at home, maybe that’s how you get the victories at home.”

While the statistics may stand to reason that playing more games than your opponent at home in a particular series is indeed an advantage, Coach Julien throws those statistics out the window once the puck drops on the postseason.

“Statistics don’t really matter to me in the playoffs and that’s done in the regular season,” he said.

“I’m not worried about a team not winning at home and I think what I’m more concerned about is making sure our team is ready to play tomorrow and hopefully build on that great win yesterday. And we just have to keep getting better and not worry about where we’re playing but how we’re playing.”

With the series tied 2-2, there are three possible games left to play—two of which will take place at TD Garden. If the Bruins want to win the series, they are going to have to find a way to win at home.

“Definitely, it’s a must,” Bruins defenseman Andrew Ference said of needed a win at home.

“And you want to do it in front of your fans. It’s not fun for them to lose up there and it’s not fun for us to send home disappointed fans down here. So it’s an important thing and you work hard through the season to get home ice advantage for a reason.

“Even if I don’t believe in it, it’s an important thing.”

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