Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Game Day VS Tampa, 3/31/09

The boys look to keep the momentum rolling tonight against the lowly Tampa Bay Lightning. While it certainly doesn't have any of the pent up animosity of the Philly game, or the tradition of the Leafs, tonight's tilt is just as important. These are the games Boston simply has to win. In the grand scheme of things, it isn't a "must-win" per-se, but it's very important for the players to keep the good vibes going. They took care of business over the weekend on the road, now they have to get their mojo going at home again. Last week's win over NJ at the Garden was a great start. Really hate to blow that by losing to an inferior team. I can't see that happening tonight. It looks like the bulk of the B's roster is starting to find it's groove again. Lucic and Krejci most notably. Both are coming off terrific games against the Flyers, and I see no reason the hot streak shouldn't continue.

Tampa, as usual, is led by Vinny Lecavilier and Marty St. Louis. Beyond that, they're average at best. Newcomers Lashoff and Karsums are getting big minutes for the Bolts......Which should pretty much tell you the state of that franchise. Although, to be fair, rookie Steve Stamkos is showing signs of the player everyone expected him to be.

On defense, they're worse. They've had a mind boggling TWENTY-ONE different players suit up on D for them this year. 21!! I had to go back and check that three times....incredible. Of the bunch, there isn't a single "star" type. Definitely a team you can have your way with in the offensive zone (as their +/- proves). All you have to do, is be willing to out-work them. Skill wise, they simply can't compete. BUT, the Lightning do play with pride, so an effort is required to beat them.

In net, well, lets just say they haven't played as many guys as they have on D, but it's close. They've used five different goalies this year. None of whom are exactly in the Martin Broduer category. Although Mike Smith, somehow, actually has decent numbers for them (2.62GAA & .916 save%).

Tampa does have one fairly legit tough guy, David Koci, who we all remember bleeding all over the Garden ice last year while with the Blackhawks. That's really about it, although lately it seems frustration has been building for Evgeny Artyukin, as he's been looking for bouts the last couple times I've seen him play. At 6'4", 255lbs, he's had a tough time finding takers though ("Arty's" highlight of the year was an absolute beat down of Tom Kostopolous...at least in my opinion).

Quick B's thoughts- Before I get into predictions, I wanted to hit on a couple random Bruins thoughts I've been talking about with friends lately.

MONTADOR- GOOD LORD MONTY! Hey, I love the fact that he's willing to drop the gloves with anyone. I do, really. But come on....sooner or later you actually have to WIN one of those bouts.....or at least make them close? He fought in both games this weekend, and was embarrassed in both of them. It gets to the point where it's counter-productive. Watching a teammate take a beating, especially on the road, doesn't always work to inspire the team. I know people will say that the B's scored three goals after his fight in Philly. But please, I really don't think that bout had much to do with it. Beyond his lack of fighting skills (which we knew coming in), I'm incredibly disappointed in his overall play. I liked the acquisition when the B's got him at the deadline. But he hasn't looked anything like the player I remember him being. Not sure why, but he hasn't been very good, either on D or as a wing.

At this point, he HAS to be the healthy scratch. No way Julien can justify playing him over either Hunwick or Bitz. The fourth line, with Bitz on it, has a decent amount of skill. But mostly it has a ton of energy and decent size. Bitz, mark my words, could end up being a very important playoff performer. He just seems like that kind of kid, as does Hunwick (joining Lucic as guys I expect to only get better in the playoffs).

SHAWN THORNTON- Speaking of the fourth line, I have to get something off my chest about Thornton. Now, let me preface this by saying a like him a lot. Hell, when I got a jersey this year, it was his name & number I chose for it. So I'm not a "hater" by any means. BUT, he is quickly approaching Georges Laraque status. And no, I don't mean that as a compliment. Thornton, like Big Georges, seems to be so caught up in this "code" crap, that he's losing sight of his role (or should I say, a PART of his role). If you're supposed to be your team's designated "tough guy", you simply HAVE to have some intimidation in your game. Thornton has completely lost that. If he feels like he needs to fight you, he waits for you to accept his invitation. If he does engage in a fight, he instantly stops punching whenever he has any kind of advantage. See the Orr fight for the most pathetic example of this. Orr is NOT a guy who lives and works by any "code". Yet when Thornton got his the jersey over Orr's head (however briefly) he waved the refs in to break it up. Raise your hand if you think Orr would have stopped punishing in that situation? The thing about this whole "code" BS that bugs me is, two fold.

A)In the "old days" (pick an era, right up until just a few years ago), the idea of fighting a guy was to hit him in the face as hard and as often as you could. If you got the jersey over his head? Great, that was the idea. Now he can't hit you back. If you took him to the ice? Tough, he should have better balance. Keep swinging until it's broken up. Seriously, go back and watch video of any of your favorite fighters. NOBODY stopped once they had the upper hand. Not the Miller/Byers/Jonathan types, or more tellingly, not even a guy like Bobby Orr.
So why is this "code" so pronounced now? I say it's because they're all just one big happy family. Union brothers. Making a ton of money, so nobody wants to risk injury, effectively killing the golden goose.

B)the other thing that drives me nuts about "the code" is, guys like Thornton practice it, even against guys who aren't as "respectful". Again, see Orr, Colton. Why would you pull up on a guy that you KNOW would hammer away on you for as long as he could? Has that player earned that respect? Not at all. I just don't understand it, but hey, I guess unless you do it for a living you can't understand. Still don't like it though.

But my most concerning issue about Thornton is....he's stopped hitting. Watch him closely tonight. Watch how many times he pulls off of wide open hits. I respect the fact that he's careful about not hitting from behind. I'm proud to say that the Bruins don't have a team full of cheap shot artists, and I'd never want him to play like that. But for the love of God, he's a fourth line winger. He HAS to be more physical. Even the hits he does have, are generally laughably soft and ineffective. Again, another area of intimidation that is completely missing from his game now. Perhaps he's playing hurt, and can't throw the body around the way I'd like. But if not, he needs to pick up the intensity big time.

OK, enough negativity (for now). I like KingKrej's prediction (see his post below) of 6-2 B's. Seriously...that's what I was going to go with. But, since picking the same score as him is lame, I'll go with......7-3. And the three comes from the fact that it very well could be Manny in net tonight for Boston. Julien want to get him a couple more games, so tonight makes sense. Your goal scorers tonight will be-Wheeler, Ryder, Rechi, Savard, Lucic, Hunwick and Bitz.

Hard to tell if any fireworks will happen. I doubt it, but if there are any, I'm going to say Lucic has a go with Artyukin. Two big guys, but Lucic should win in a fairly entertaining bout. Go B's-Kynch

Couple "NewBie" Observations & Who's Taken our Mr. Burns?

While waiting for what seems to have been a very "fast/long" Regular Season to end & as we head down the home stretch, I figured I throw out a couple quick observations from my unique "NewBie" fan perspective. Feel free to add, debate or just plain BLAST me where you see fit. Anyway here goes-

*Observation #1 - The old thought that Boston's a dyed in the wool "Baseball" town. Always has been, always will be...

100% NOT TRUE. Boston like every other major sports city is all about the winning, first and foremost. Let's keep the Cult also known as Red Sox Nation out of this for a minute and witness the return of the Celtics fans over the last season and a half from God knows where?! The unbelievable arrogance of the Patriots...ahem.."Fans" over the last eight or nine "winning" seasons and now the Bruins, who outside of their core blue collared, Die Hard, always been there/always will be set of fans seem to have picked up an awful lot of Bandwagon jumpers over the last four months...Let's hope the wagon can hold us all this time and that after the Playoffs they'll still be there.... So I guess for the most part it's less about the "tradition" and all about the winning in Boston fans eyes isn't it...

*Observation #2 - Jeremy Jacobs aka "The Anti-Christ in a Tie" and Harry Sinden are the reasons for all the Bruins fans suffering over these last 25+ seasons.

While I can't and won't defend "Mr. Buffalo/Mr. Hot Dogs/Mr. Burns" or Harry Sinden for all the shenanigan's we've seen over the years. I on the other hand also have a hard time laying all the blame at their feet too... I've also NEVER subscribed to theory that the reason the B's have struggled for the most part over the last 25 years is that Jacobs & the B's have been CHEAP and won't spend money to improve the team because that's TOTAL Bullshit!

In fact if you use this link to the website NHLSalaryCap.info- (http://nhlsalarycap.info/teams/northeast/boston-bruins.php?sec=payroll&yr=2007 ) you'll see that the Bs have been in the Top 5 in terms of money spent on players since there's been a cap in the NHL and even beyond that were in the Top 10 in NHL payroll almost every season?!

OK... So what's the REAL reason then for all this suffering been? First off if we can all 200% AGREE and throw out the fact that Jacobs, Harry and the ENTIRE B's organization completely misread what the post-lockout NHL world like and as such had to BLOW that whole era's club up (see: Knuble, Ralston, Nylander, Joe Thornton etc...) and as such had to restart overhauling their roster by overreacting and overpaying alot of BAD hockey players, we can begin to then look at what I think have been the real issues with the team over the years by simply breaking it down into the following three key categories:

1) Free Agent signings & bad trades (Zhamnov, Stevens & Leetch anyone..?)
2) Drafting, developing and then retaining the limited amount of young talent that you had acquired &
3) The complete and bewildering loss of Franchises storied heritage and with it the clubs true gritty and workman like identity! (Just check out the new History of the Bruins DVD to bear (no pun intended...) this point out.

I think if you stand back and really look at all this together you'll agree that its been the real reasons why the B's had lost their way and have mostly FAILED over the last 20/15 seasons prior last year (07/08 season) and this one so far... So now if we can all agree on these points we should also agree that the fallacy of the B's NOT or UNWILLING to SPEND MONEY really hasn't been true or has been the issue with them at all!

Was it BAD upper management, personnel choices, uncertain decision making, constant coaching hires and fires and piss poor execution on and off the ice - 100% YES!

Was it the fact that Money was or wasn't being spent - 100% NO!

So can we been DONE with that line of thought and excuse making and move on...? I hope so because it's wrong and shows that 95% of the "fans" out there don't know DICK!

Moving on and all that aside, I for one am completely on board (and sometimes WAY OVERBOARD) with these "New Bruins" and this "New Era"... In fact I'm the guy DRIVING the Bandwagon these days so stay off the sidewalks will ya!

I also agree that the times feel like they "Are-Finally-a-Changing" around here for the good but in the same vein I think it's funny and a bit sad really that with this "new change" and feeling's of "Black and Gold Pride" again, that I haven't heard much if any Jeremy Jacobs bashing this year(?) or even more important ANY credit given to him or his organization beyond B's G.M. Peter Chiarelli, Cam Neely and Coach Julien for making what I'm sure for him were some uncomfortable and somewhat tough changes within his business model to set this new era off to begin with... I mean would it kill any of us to give Mr. Jeremy "Burns" & his son Charlie "Smithers" a little "LOVE"? Ugh, I guess so huh! - Let's Go Brooounze! KingKrej46

PS- I'm looking forward to seeing a BIG EFFORT and NO LETDOWN tonight by the Boys' given the fact that the B's LOST last time out verses the Bolts 4-3 back in February and the fact that it's Old Home night vs. the Lightning with the return of former "luminaries" like Wingers Martin Karsums and Brandon Bochenski as well as the BIG return of Kynch's Boy; Defensemen Matt Lashoff... In fact you gotta LOVE Lashoff's "smarts" making comments like this in the papers just prior to playing -

"Just the way things were going in Boston, I didn't have my confidence," Lashoff told Erik Erlendsson of Tampa Tribune. "I was always second-guessing plays that I was making out on the ice. I think from the moment I got here, it was like a weight was taken off my shoulders. The moment I found out I was traded here, to be able to have that opportunity to come in and play right away, to have that all behind me, it's changed my whole demeanor.
"It even started Tuesday during the pregame skate, I just felt more confident with the puck." In Boston, "every time you come up, it's an audition, but the way the Bruins were, it would be one shift and you thought you were going back down to Providence of the AHL, and with the way things are going for them this year they didn't have that leeway to give," Lashoff said

Brilliant huh...The odd's say he gets SMOKED against the boards at least once by Looch & that the B's win BIG 6-2!

Monday, March 30, 2009

B's Weekend Game Recaps- Back to Back Road Wins set B's up Nicely for Final Push...

Recaps of the B's wins in Toronto and then Philly as pulled from the AP & bostonbruins.com;

Saturday Night in TORONTO (AP) -The Boston Bruins seem to be gearing up for a long playoff run. After holding a comfortable lead in the Eastern Conference for most of the season, the Bruins can finally see the start of the postseason coming into view.

A 7-5 victory over the Toronto on Saturday night left Boston with just eight games remaining in the regular season. Coach Claude Julien believes each of them is important even though his team seems destined to wrap up the No. 1 seed a little early.
"We've got our own issues," Julien said. "Just because we're in a playoff spot doesn't mean that everything's OK. Our play in the last month and a half hasn't been up to par. We need to get better in our game. "So those games do mean something for us. It's about fine-tuning ourselves and getting some momentum heading into the playoffs."
In the game Mark Recchi scored two goals, Dennis Wideman and Matt Hunwick each added three assists, and Chuck Kobasew, Michael Ryder , Shawn Thornton, David Krejci and Blake Wheeler also scored for Boston. Alexei Ponikarovsky scored twice for Toronto, and Nikolai Kulemin, John Mitchell and Niklas Hagman added goals.
Boston roared ahead by scoring three goals in a 3:43 span. Recchi tied it with his second power-play goal on a tip-in at 9:01, and Thornton put the Bruins ahead for good at 11:30. His long shot through traffic seemed to fool Pogge.
"Everyone pays $450 bucks a ticket, so they got their money's worth anyways," said Thornton, from Toronto. "I only know that because I had to buy them for my parents."

Leafs coach Ron Wilson called a timeout at that point to try and settle his team, but Krejci made it 6-4 on a breakaway at 12:44. Curtis Joseph was sent in to relieve Pogge - the reverse of what happened during a 5-3 loss in Buffalo on Friday night - but the game was put out of reach when Wheeler scored at 17:04. In the third period, Hagman scored his 20th goal of the season - and the 100th of his career - with a high wrist shot at 14:39. That was a welcome sight in his first game since sustaining a concussion Feb. 26.
Notes: Boston won five of six against the Maple Leafs this season. ... Defenseman Jay Harrison played his first game for Toronto in two years after signing a free-agent contract this week. ... Bruins forward Phil Kessel missed the game because of an undisclosed injury. ... Leafs goalie Martin Gerber served the second game of his three-game suspension.

Sunday night in PHILADELPHIA (AP) -The Boston Bruins are gradually returning to their midseason form. Tim Thomas made 45 saves for his career-high 32nd win, Milan Lucic scored two goals and the Bruins held off the Philadelphia Flyers 4-3 on Sunday night for their third straight victory.
Dennis Wideman and Mark Recchi also scored, David Krejci added three assists, and Zdeno Chara had two assists for the Eastern Conference-leading Bruins, who snapped a five-game road losing streak Saturday night with a 7-5 victory in Toronto.
Asked if the team was getting back where it was defensively when it won ten straight games and 15 of 16, Thomas said, "I think it's a step in the right direction.
"Offensively we were opportunistic and scored some big goals and we're getting that part of our game together," Thomas explained. "We're making steps forward in the other direction. but I don't think anybody thinks that we're completely there. I think it's a step in the right direction."

Thomas was especially effective midway through the second period when he thwarted a Philadelphia two-man advantage for 1:52 and made a brilliant stop on a shot by Scott Hartnell. A few seconds later, he denied Mike Knuble's attempt from the doorstep."It's frustrating," Hartnell said. "It would've put us right back in the hockey game. It was probably a big motivation shift on their part."
"It was really good to come out of this weekend with four points, no matter how you get them," Thomas said. Claude Giroux, Mike Richards and Simon Gagne scored for the Flyers, who had won four of their previous five games. Antero Niittymaki, making his first start in seven games, made 27 saves for the Flyers. "Ready to play, moving side to side, and timing and stuff like that I was a little rusty," Niittymaki said. "But I've felt a lot worse."
Giroux put the Flyers ahead at 4:56 of the first period, scoring from the side of the net after taking a pass from Arron Asham.

Boston then scored three straight goals to take a 3-1 lead.
"I think our forecheck tonight was better than what we've seen in a long time," Boston coach Claude Julien said. "We were much better defensively, obviously, and had much fewer breakdowns. We're establishing ourselves as a four-line team again." Lucic teamed with Michael Ryder on a 2-on-1 rush to tie it at 10:39. After Wideman scored
with a slap shot through a screen with the Bruins holding a two-man advantage at 13:55, Lucic added his second goal at 17:54, scoring from inside the left circle. Krejci picked up his third assist of the period on the play. "We wanted to come out hard," Lucic said. "We got the momentum on our side and we just controlled the second and third period." Richards made it 3-2 with 2:11 left in the second period when he redirected Ryan Parent's long slap shot for his 29th goal. Recchi reached around Philadelphia defenseman Braydon Coburn to poke in a rebound of a shot by Chuck Kobasew at 4:21 of the third period. Skating with the extra attacker, Gagne scored on a goalmouth scramble with 1:12 left in the third period to bring the Flyers closer.

Notes: The Flyers recalled RW Andreas Nodl from the Philadelphia Phantoms, their American Hockey League affiliate, to replace LW Riley Cote, who injured a finger during a fight against the New York Islanders on Saturday. ... Flyers G Niittymaki had won both previous starts against Boston this season with a 1.17 goals-against average. ... Philadelphia C Jeff Carter played his 300th NHL game. ... The Bruins and Flyers split the season series 2-2, with the each team winning twice on the road. ... The Bruins return home for their next three games. ... Philadelphia had a season-high 48 shots

Friday, March 27, 2009

"One More Lonely Night...

....Just one more lonely night...." Ah yes, the words of this long forgotten Fleetwood Mac song ring true for Bruins fans tonight. One more lonely night without seeing our boys in action. I seriously think I'm in full-blown withdrawal. I'm shaky (but not in the same sense I meant when I called David Clarkson shaky...long story), irritable, bored and prone to using 70's rock band obscure song lyrics for blog titles.. This is not good. I need a damn Bruins game soon! Thankfully, we just have this one last lonely night (it's so bad I'm actually watching the Worcester Sharks-Springfield Falcons game on the NHL Network. I may need an intervention).

Tomorrow the Black & Gold are back in the GTA to take on the pension plan puppets (I prefer pension fund failures myself), also known as the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Laughs, oops, Leafs are sitting in eleventh place in the East right now. But, under new GM Brian Burke they are playing a much more inspired brand of hockey. Not surprisingly, since Burke has been in command the Blue & White are playing a much more physical style. Players know Burkie won't hesitate to can them if he doesn't see the requisite effort on every shift.
The last full game of theirs I watched was a 5-2 beat down of the Canadiens in Montreal. Hard to say if the Leafs were playing that well, or if Montreal just played that poorly. It was right in the heart of the Habs glorious slump so it's hard to say. But Toronto was winning every single race to loose pucks and was clearly the more determined team. I fully expect that type of effort from them against Boston, so they bet be ready to come out using those fresh skating legs.

The Leafs are led offensively by the pesky Jason Blake. It seems hard to believe he "only" has 25 goals. Seems like every game I watch he's scoring at least once. Backing up Blake in the scoring column is Alex Ponikarovsky with 21G. After that it isn't exactly murderer's row, although Grabovsky seems to be playing very well lately.

On the back end, the lead dog (and I do mean DOG) is Tomas Kaberle. I know his numbers are more a reflection of the terrible team play, especially in net, but I've never understood why everyone raves about the guy. He's probably at the upper end of the mid-tier defensemen in the NHL. But he's far from a Chara, Lidstrom or even Greene in my opinion. He isn't good enough at any one thing to rate as an elite player. He's pretty good defensively, but isn't a "shut-down" guy like Chara. And he has some offensive skills, given the opportunity. But he's not exactly Greene piling up 25 goals. In fact, he has a paltry 4 goals to go along with his 21 assists. And his unsightly -14 +/-. Just to underscore his lack of stats, he has an embarrassing 8 PIMS on the year. I'm sorry, but if you're a D-man on a bad team that plays that many minutes, you HAVE to have more PIMS than that. You just do. But enough about Kaberle....he isn't in the line-up anyway!

And without Kaberle, that shifts a good deal of the load to highly touted rookie Luke Schenn, Ian White and Jeff Finger (he of the ridiculous contract). Finger, I think everyone can agree is far from a premiere D in this league.
Ian White is a decent little player.And at 5'10" 185lbs, I do mean little. But he's managed to put up 9 goals and is a plus 2. Not terrible considering the team's situation.
That brings us to Luke Schenn. Before I go any farther, let me say I think he's a great prospect and if he was in the Bruins system I'd be thrilled. That being said, I really hope somebody pounds the little bastard. He's very mouthy for a rook and loves that extra little shove, whack or slash after the whistle. Just something about him aggravates me, and I'm sure it's not helped by him wearing the maple leaf on his chest.

In net, the Leafs are an absolute mess. Complete and utter joke. I mean, not good. And by not good I mean, they're wishing they never let Andrew Raycroft get away. Now do you see what I mean? They figured scooping up Martin Gerber would settle their issues in net. Well, for the next three games he won't have a chance to prove that theory right, as he'll be serving a suspension for bumping an official. That forced Burke's hand, and prompted the return of Justin Pogge. Pogge is the guy who's play in the AHL Burke described as "fair....not bad, but not great. just...fair." How's that for inspiring confidence in his teammates, huh? There is an outside shot that the nearly fossilized Curtis Joseph could get the start, but Pogge is the presumed starter for Saturday.

Toronto pretty much has Jamal Mayers and...um, well Mayers and....ok, so it's pretty much Mayers now that they sent Deveaux back down to the Marlies. Burke brought in his old friend Brad May to be the veteran leader/grit guy they needed. But he isn't nearly the fighter he used to be. He'll still stir the pot plenty, but he isn't an intimidating force out there. If there is to be a fight, Mayers would clearly be the odds-on favorite to go for the Leafs. Being a Saturday night in Toronto, I would almost bet there is a fight or two. Tough for the home town team to NOT get in a scrap or two on Hockey Night In Canada.
Shenn, to his credit does have four fights so far, and they're all against fairly legit guys (Davison, Boll, Neil and Kennedy). Tyler Kennedy was by far Schenn's smallest opponent, but he's also the only fight he's had that he didn't initiate in defense of a teammate. This one was started by the diminutive (5'10, 175lbs) Kennedy in response to a big Schenn hit on Malkin. So again, if he was in a different uniform I'd probably like him a lot more. Hopefully someone feeds him his lunch at the Air Canada center though (although it's a can't win situation if you go looking for the kid. The "code", in it's most recent version states that you leave 18 year old kids alone for some reason. Pretty sure that goes out the window now that he's been the aggressor in more than his share of scraps.)


Boston should be well rested and ready to go. But because of the long break between games, I expect them to start slowly and find their legs as they go on. That should limit the scoring to something like 4-1. Ryder, Krecji, Wheeler and Lucic are your scorers.
As far as the rough stuff goes, I fully expect Thornton to get into it with Mayers. In my wish list bout of the night, it's Lucic putting a hurting on Schenn. If I had to guess, it will be after Looch hammers Van Ryn with yet another huge hit. Van Ryn has been on the wrong end of practically every huge Lucic hit this year, including the glass breaker.
It's been a week without hockey. Lets hope the wait was worth it. Go B's-Kynch

Side Note- How the hell did Phil Kessel come up with an "undisclosed injury" during the easiest week of the year? I don't like the sound of this one at all. He appeared healthy and happy in footage from practice yesterday (or was it Wednesday?), so not sure what happened or when. My biggest fear right now is that he's either sick again with mono, which could be devasting with the playoffs approaching in a mere two weeks.
In the worst case scenario, I can't get the thought of his bout of testicular cancer a couple years ago. Let's just hope and pray that he doesn't have something as serious as that again. Hockey threatening injuries/ilnesses I can handle. I'd hate to think it was something worse.

As an aside, this is the worst part about the Bruins new habot of complete and total secrecy about injuries. It gives people too much time to sit and wonder, speculate and start rumors about what it could be. So for the record, let me be perfectly clear....I KNOW nothing. I don't have any inside sources with the team (none that would know something like that anyway) and all I'm saying is I HOPE IT ISN'T SERIOUS. That is ALL. So please folks, let's not get the rumor mill cranked up until Julien tells us more, possibly next week.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Hibernation continues

Just let me say thank you. Thank you very much to whoever the genius is that scheduled the Bruins for five consecutive days off in March. Brilliant. You mean to say there was no way to schedule ONE game this week? I know the NCAA Sweet 16 is in town now, but come on....I'm pretty sure a road game could have been worked in at some point this week.

The thing is, I'm not sure how much this unprecedented break hurts or helps them. On one hand, you hate to see them get stale at this point in the season. They finally turned in a good sixty-minute effort Sunday against the Devils. Now they have to sit and watch everyone else jockey for playoff position, while they gather dust. after a win like that, they'd all love to play again right away. It's a heck of a lot easier to carry momentum into a game a day or two later. But six days later? No chance. They're essentially starting from scratch.

Which may not be a bad thing. Maybe, just maybe, having a week off could work in their favor. Julien gave the team Monday off, which was well deserved after the tough New Jersey game. Tuesday, from the sounds of it, was a fairly normal work day (albeit with Krejci & Kobasew getting "maintenance" days off). Wednesday was another normal day, with Kobasew getting an additional "maintenance day" off (which may or may not mean he's banged up a bit. Julien knows Chucky is under sized for the way he plays, so he may just be being very cautious). Today's practice was voluntary, with most players staying off skates opting for off-ice workouts. I'm sure tomorrow they'll have a normal day-before-game practice before heading to Toronto.

Beyond the reasonable expectation that fresh legs for the stretch drive (only nine games left) will help, I think the mental break could be beneficial. Thankfully, they won that game Sunday. MUCH easier going into this layoff with a good taste in your mouth. Imagine how dreary it would be sitting around for a week dwelling on a big loss. Instead,the whole team gets to to rest and practice with a bit of that "swagger" they had earlier in the year. They were slumping badly prior to that game, and I don't believe one game ends a slump. But, it sure does help the attitude and confidence. And it's confidence that was the main culprit for the recent slide. Nice to have a week where you can refresh, and go undefeated.

Why else could the break be good for them? Because they're a very young team. And the long grinding NHL schedule seemed to clearly be wearing on a few of them. Namely, Krejci and Wheeler. Wheeler, especially, has never played so many games. He seemed to lose some jump of late, and I have to believe the time off will do him wonders. Krejci, while not limited in games to the extent Wheeler has been, has also suffered from fatigue I believe. But for Krejci, it's probably more mental fatigue than anything. Never has he been counted on to be a leader at this level. He's facing opposing teams this year, that are hell bent on slowing his line down. He's not last year's post-season surprise anymore. Being a known commodity, and legitimate offensive threat makes everything much harder. He's seemed to struggle a bit under that weight. Hopefully, and I believe it will, this time off allows him to clear his head and approach the game the way he did right out of training camp. If Krecji's line isn't productive, it will be a very short spring for the B's... Again.

In my biggest case of "pie-in-the-sky-not -how-it-works-in-the-real-world" mania ever, I'd love to think that mingling with all the former Bruins greats the other night will inspire them. OK, maybe consciously it won't, but hey, we can always pray that somewhere deep down, that good old "what it means to be a Bruin" attitude rubbed off on them a bit. Hell, maybe they all ran right home and watched "Original Six Series; The History Of The Boston Bruins" (available now wherever DVD's are sold). OK, OK, I know that most of them could care less about the history of the team. BUT, they must notice who gets the biggest fan reaction, don't they? Just watch the closing ceremony of the Old Garden and watch who the crowd goes craziest about. With the exception of Bobby Orr, the biggest ovations by far were for Stan Jonathan and Terry O'reilly. Yes, the game has changed. But, if the current B's get back to their Big Bad Bruins roots, as they had when they were piling up points earlier this year, they will be just fine. I honestly am starting to convince myself that this break in the schedule could go a long way towards that goal.

So, when I first sat down to type this rambling pile of nonsense I call a blog, I was definitely opposed to this ridiculous scheduling fluke. But the more I think (aka babble) about it, the more I think it isn't as bad as I had feared. I guess we'll find out starting this Saturday in Toronto. Go B's- Kynch

PS-In all seriousness, if you haven't picked up the History of the Bruins DVD yet, it is a must buy. It's worth it for the retirement ceremonies and "last hurrah" of the Old Garden alone.

Monday, March 23, 2009

B's Game Recap vs. The Devils

Bruins Clinch Northeast Division Title with BIG WIN verses New Jersey

From the AP & Bostonbruins.com;

BOSTON (AP) -The Boston Bruins' lead in the Eastern Conference was fading but coach Claude Julien didn't talk to them about the importance of beating the team threatening to take it away.
Or about how a win Sunday over the surging New Jersey Devils would give the Bruins the Northeast Division title.

"Lately we've been wasting a lot of energy just thinking about getting the win and forgetting how to get the win," Julien said after Boston's 4-1 victory. "If you play well enough, the outcome would take care of itself."

His players proved him right with some very timely outstanding play - and some help from their opponents. Michael Ryder and Milan Lucic scored on deflections off Devils players past Martin Brodeur, and the Bruins (102 points) built a five-point lead over New Jersey with nine games left. The Devils have 10 remaining.
"We made a couple of mistakes," said Brodeur, 9-2 since returning from biceps surgery. "We paid the price, even though they were some lucky goals on the power play they got, it was still opportunities that we gave up that usually we don't do."
Boston locked up a playoff berth Saturday night when Florida lost to Columbus then clinched its first divisional title since 2003-04. "It wasn't even mentioned once," Julien said. "We didn't talk about it. I didn't hear any players talk about it." The Bruins were coming off a 3-2 overtime loss to Los Angeles on Thursday night in which they wasted a two-goal lead in the third period. Now they're 7-9-4 in their last 20 games after going 39-8-6.
"We're not making proclamations that it's all corrected," Aaron Ward said, "but it's a step in the right direction, especially timing-wise. With all this time off, it's something to build on."
The Bruins have five days off before playing Toronto next Saturday. The Devils visit Philadelphia on Monday night and are 9-3 in their last 12 games.

"We get the chance to get right back at it, so that's a good thing," New Jersey coach Brent Sutter said. "But we do have to play better on the road, especially our specialty teams."
The Bruins got another fluke goal when Marc Savard scored on a power play on a rebound off New Jersey's Travis Zajac, who had stopped Matt Hunwick's shot from the left point. And Chuck Kobasew beat Brodeur between the post and the goalie's left skate as Kobasew stood behind the goal line.

"It's about time," Ward said of the deflections. "We've had a few of those go against us."
Andy Greene scored for New Jersey midway through the second period, cutting the lead to 3-1. But the Bruins held the lead three days after squandering a two-goal lead.
Challenged by Julien to work harder after Thursday night's loss, the Bruins responded. They even scored on their first two power plays after Julien said they were "totally flat" when they had the man advantage against the Kings.
"We really wanted this game," Savard said. "The biggest game of the year for us, the way we've been going, and we certainly proved we can do it." On Boston's first power play Sunday, Ryder scored his 25th goal of the season. Mark Recchi centered the puck from the right side, where it touched Ryder and continued to the other side of the slot where it hit the skate of the Devils' Paul Martin and went past Brodeur.
The Bruins made it 2-0 just 1:52 into the second when Patrice Bergeron passed the puck from the lower left corner to Kobasew, who scored his 18th goal. Savard, Boston's leading scorer, then got his second goal in four games after going 15 games without one when he scored on a power play at 6:19 of the period.

"We made four mistakes that they capitalized on," Sutter said. "It's a big game, but we move forward." Tim Thomas, the NHL leader in goals against average, gave up Greene's second goal of the season at 12:44 of the second period. Greene kept skating to the net after passing from the left point across the ice to Jamie Langenbrunner, who returned the puck into the slot. Greene redirected it past Thomas. But the Bruins regained the lead less than 5 minutes later on Lucic's 14th goal and first in 16 games. He skated in on the left side and put the puck in front of the net where several Devils and no Bruins were camped. It hit the stick of defenseman Mike Mottau and ricocheted past Brodeur.

Final Game Notes: Zach Parise got a point in his eighth straight game when he assisted on Greene's goal. ... The Bruins are 22-0-0 when they lead by three goals. ... Recchi got his first two assists for Boston since being acquired from Tampa Bay on March 4.

Friday, March 20, 2009

B's Game Recap vs. The Kings

From the AP & Bostonbruins.com;

BOSTON (AP) -Dustin Brown scored with 34 seconds left in overtime to give the Los Angeles Kings a 3-2 come-from-behind win over the Boston Bruins on Thursday night.
Brown converted a rebound of Sean O'Donnell's shot for his 24th goal, capping a comeback from a 2-0 deficit midway through the third period. Boston got goals from Matt Hunwick in the first period, and Mark Recchi in the second as it attempted to clinch a
playoff berth with a win.
But Michael Handzus scored on a power play for Los Angeles with 10:10 left in the third period, and rookie defenseman Drew Doughty tied it with 1:36 remaining in regulation
The Kings began their winning play from deep in their own end. Bruins goalie Tim Thomas made a kick save on O'Donnell's shot, but had little chance to stop Brown. Until the late rally, the Bruins seemed poised to become the first Eastern Conference team to earn a postseason spot. Detroit and San Jose already have made it in the Western Conference. Now the challenge to keep their conference lead is greater as New Jersey, which trails the Bruins by five points but has played two fewer games, visits Boston on Sunday.
The loss stalled a mini-surge by the Bruins, who had been 2-1 in their previous three games after a 4-8-3 stretch. Before that they were 37-6-3.

Handzus began the comeback with a power-play goal when he converted a rebound from the side of the net on a shot by Teddy Purcell. Handzus' 16th goal of the season came with 11 seconds left in a penalty to Aaron Ward. The Kings tied it on Doughty's fifth goal. Wayne Simmonds' shot from just in front of Thomas hit the post to the goalie's left and ricocheted to Doughty, who knocked the puck in from the other corner of the net. Hunwick, a healthy scratch the last five games, gave Boston a 1-0 lead at 14:41 of the first period with his sixth goal of the season. Stephane Yelle, who missed the previous five games with an upper body injury, fed the puck from behind the net to Hunwick, who beat goalie Jonathan Quick with a fast shot from the slot.

Recchi made it 2-0 at 3:48 of the second period with his 17th goal of the season, the first 13 with Tampa Bay. Chuck Kobasew started the play when he knocked Jack Johnson off the puck behind the Los Angeles net and fed it out to Patrice Bergeron. Bergeron then passed to Recchi, who put the puck from the slot into the open side of the net to Quick's right.
Notes: The Kings started a six-game trip Thursday. They're five points out of the eighth and final playoff spot in the West. ... The Bruins are in the midst of a slow stretch with two games in 12 days. They have five days off after facing the Devils on Sunday.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Game Day Vs. LA Kings 3/9/09

First of all, yes. I've been slacking big time on posting, but what can I say? Sometimes real life and the the job that pays the bills gets in the way.

Anyway, the boys are back in action tonight against the "lowly" LA Kings. Granted, the Kings are 13th in the Western conference, with only 68 points. And Boston still (precariously) sits atop the East with 99 points. And sure. La has lost three in a row. And the Kings haven't won a road game since February 24th. Sounds like it should be a rout, right? Well, yeah, it SHOULD be a blowout.

BUT, the Kings do have some pretty potent offensive talent. Alexander Frolov has 28 goals, Anze Kopitar has 25 and Dustin Brown has 23. Defenseman Kyle Quincey (a Detroit castoff) has 34 assists. Problem for the Kings is, that's pretty much their entire offense. So I fully expect the B's, with Chara, to be able to shut them down. But the Kings don't usually go quietly. Six of their last seven games have been one goal affairs.

In net, we'll most likely see former UMASS goalie Jonathan Quick. Quick has been good since his recall from Manchester, with flashes of greatness. His 2.65GAA and .908 save % aren't bad behind a suspect defense.

Speaking of that defense.....the Kings only have one defenseman with a positive +/-. That is Quincey, and he's only a plus one (not very good considering his point total). Most recognizable name for Bruins fans is old friend Sean O'Donnell. If you don't like Sean OD, you don't like hockey. Class act, steady veteran presence. He was a candidate to be moved at the deadline, but the LA brass valued his leadership so much they never seriously considered moving him.


LA isn't exactly cut from the Anaheim Ducks playbook. They don't have a roster full of brawlers, but what they do have is Raitis Ivanins. The big Latvian only has ten bouts (only being a relative term I guess), but he's a heavyweight contender. At 6' 4", 250lbs., he is no push-over. He generally goes with only other tough guys. He's danced with Parros (twice), Boll, Boogard, Walker, Shelley, Rupp.....nobody that isn't used to a throwing a few. Ivanans is also pretty much everything the anti-fighting crowd hates. He has plenty of "staged" fights, including several at the drop of the puck. The rest are agreed upon by both parties. He won't jump anyone in the heat of the moment (generally speaking), so I suppose if you don't want to fight him you won't have to. BUT, one thing he WILL do, is continue to throw punches once he gets your jersey over your head. I hope Shawn Thornton has his scouting report in order, because if he tries giving him a break if it comes to that, Ivanans will come up swinging. And his arsenel pretty much consists of trying to land the knock-out blow with huge rights. He does throw some nasty body punches as well to get the opposition to drop their guard a bit.

After a couple days of hard practices, I expect the B's to put in a solid effort all night (I've been dead wrong on that assumption a lot, but...). So, I'm looking for a beat down.....say, 6-1? It's a stretch, but what the hell? Your goal scorers tonight are Kessel, Wheeler, Ryder, Lucic, Chara and Krecji. And yes, that's more of a wish list of guys that need to get going, but I'm sticking with it. Since it's a beat down, I expect a fight or two as well. Ivanans is the logical King....but I'm going to pick an illogical (to a degree) Bruin and say Chara steps in. I can see Ivanans trying to stir the pot with someone else, and Z stepping in to settle it down. I also think tonight may be a night for Looch to drop the gloves. He REALLY wanted to last game, but couldn't find a partner. Tonight, I say he finds one in Matt Greene. Greene is a decent size match-up for Lucic, at 6'3" 225lbs. Greene also has nine fighting majors, so he's a likely suspect. And Lucic sort of fits the profile of the guys Greene has gone with this year. So far he's squared off with May, Barret Jackman, Rupp, McCormick, Winchester, Commodore, Matt Bradley, Ethan Moreau and Ben Eager. Not non-fighters, but just that second level below the big boys. Right in Looches neighborhood. Could be a good one. For what it's worth, hockeyfights.com has him winning NONE of his fights. B's need to get their game going starting tonight. They have a week off after Sunday's HUGE tilt against the Devils. No need to conserve energy with such a light schedule. Get after it tonight and carry that through Sunday. Then they can rest up a bit for the final puch into the playoffs. These next two games could say a lot about how they fare in the tournament, Go B's- Kynch

Monday, March 16, 2009

B's Game Recap vs. The Pens

From the AP & Bostonbruins.com;

PITTSBURGH (AP) -Chris Kunitz lost a goal and a hat trick he insists he didn't deserve. The two points? Kunitz and captain Sidney Crosby believe the Pittsburgh Penguins very much earned both of those.

Sergei Gonchar and Kunitz scored 18 seconds apart early in the third period, Petr Sykora got the game-winner later in the period and the Penguins gained a valuable victory in the Eastern Conference race, beating Boston 6-4 on Sunday.

The Penguins rallied from deficits of 3-2 and 2-1 to beat the conference-leading Bruins for only the second time in six games and moved ahead of idle Montreal into fifth place in the crowded standings. The Penguins picked up at least one point for the 10th consecutive game, going 8-0-2 during a run that began with a seven-game winning streak

For the Bruins Phil Kessel scored his 31st goal and fourth in three games and former Penguins player Mark Recchi and Blake Wheeler also scored for the Bruins. Wheeler's short-handed goal in the second briefly put them up 3-2.

However, Wheeler's holding penalty 28 seconds into the third created the power play that led to the first of two Kunitz's goals in the opening 1:01 of the period. "You can't look at anybody but yourself," Wheeler said. "Obviously there's calls you don't really like, but that's part of the game. We can't put them on the power play that much (the Penguins were 2-for-8), and we did."

Boston coach Claude Julien said several penalties were "poor calls," but added, "You can't win hockey games, especially against a team like this, when you take that many penalties."

Guerin scored 50 seconds into the game, his second goal since being dealt to Pittsburgh. Recchi answered 16 seconds later by beating Mathieu Garon with a one-timer from just inside the blue line as the Bruins scored on their first shot for the second day in a row. They scored on their first two shots of a 2-1 victory over the Islanders on Saturday.

Garon made 21 saves in only his second start since being traded to Pittsburgh on Jan. 17. Marc-Andre Fleury started the previous 19 games.

Notes: Crosby has four goals and 17 assists in 13 games against Boston. ... Five years after having the NHL's worst attendance, the Penguins played before their 100th consecutive sellout crowd. The streak began Feb. 14, 2007. ... Penguins executive Eddie Johnston was honored before the game in recognition of his 25th season with the club. He has been their coach, general manager, assistant general manager and, in his current role, senior adviser.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

B's Game Recap vs. The Islanders

From Bostonbruins.com;

BOSTON (AP) -Bruins coach Claude Julien made it clear that he wanted young forward Phil Kessel to play hard every game.

Kessel, benched by Julien during last year's playoff series against Montreal and a subject of trade rumors at this season's deadline, scored his 30th goal of the season in Boston's 2-1 win over the New York Islanders on Saturday.

"He's what you saw when he's on his game, a game-breaker," Julien said. "When he doesn't compete the way he's been competing lately, he is a player that doesn't bring as much to the table."

After his benching last spring, Kessel scored a key goal in Game 5 before the Bruins lost the series to the Canadiens in seven.

The Bruins jumped ahead of the Islanders 1-0 on Kessel's goal 3:16 in when he got to a rebound and beat goalie Yann Danis with a wrist shot inside the left post from the left circle. Kessel became Boston's first 30-goal scorer since teammate Patrice Bergeron had 31 in the 2005-06 season. "It's a nice season," Kessel said. "I give a lot of credit to my teammates and linemates I've been playing with this year."

Boston made it 2-0 after Kessel gathered Zdeno Chara's long clearing pass at the Islanders blue line and sent the puck to a charging Savard, who fired a wrist shot past Danis' glove for his first goal since Feb. 7 against Philadelphia. Boston scored on the game's first two shots. Some of Kessel's teammates agreed that he's one of the Bruins' best offensive threats when he's on top of his game.

"I don't think you sneak up to 30," winger Shawn Thornton said. "Guys know where he is on the ice at all times. He's usually up against the top lines. When he's skating it shows he's certainly a dynamic player."
P.J. Axelsson agreed. "I think he can be a top-goal scorer," he said. "He's still very young. He can be as good as he wants to be."

The Eastern Conference-leading Bruins earned their second straight win after they had lost five of six. Tim Thomas stopped 21 shots in matching his career-high with his 30th win. Mark Streit had the goal for Islanders, who lost in regulation for the second time in nine games (5-2-2). New York has a NHL-worst 54 points.

"It's been great. Our guys have really come together. They're playing hard for each other," Islanders coach Scott Gordon said of his team's recent play. "They're supportive on the ice and off the ice and in the room. It's something we've been striving for in the second half, and it's been consistent."

New York cut it to 2-1 when Streit took advantage of a defensive breakdown midway through the second period. Streit cut between the defenseman - with Chara apparently expecting a pass as he circled away - and fired a wrist shot inside the left post. The Islanders pulled Danis for an extra skater with just over a minute left. David Krejci barely missed a goal late in the second when his backhanded shot from the edge of the crease tipped off the crossbar and hit Danis' back before rolling out of the crease. Thomas made a nice stop on Streit's shot from the point just as the first half of a 5-on-3 Islanders advantage ended in the third period.

"I thought we had a couple of opportunities to shoot the puck. We just didn't execute; some guys were just sleeping," Streit said. "It's a 5-on-3. We just have to execute what we do in practice. We've got to read and react and take advantage of it, and we just didn't do it."

Notes: Thomas also won 30 games in the 2006-07 season. ... Islanders RW Kyle Okposo had a four-game goal streak snapped. ... Boston C Stephane Yelle missed his fourth straight game with an undisclosed upper body injury. ... Bruins RW Mark Recchi. acquired in a trade-deadline deal from Tampa Bay, has 118 career points in 103 games against the Islanders. ... New York is 8-6-3 against Northeast teams, the only division the team is over .500. ... D Steve Montador assisted on Kessel's goal, his first point with the Bruins since being acquired on trade-deadline day from Anaheim. ... Gordon is the former coach for the Bruins' Providence AHL affiliate.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Slump? Rut? Inevitable Rough Patch? or Something Worse?

So here were are. It's March 11th. The Bruins have 14 games left in the regular season, and they're in their worst stretch of the season. Of that we are sure. But the bigger question is, why? They're 3-6-1 over their last 10 games. They've now lost 5 of their last 6. This despite some decent performances from the majority of the roster.

So what gives? Is it the goaltending? yes and no. Manny Fernandez may have turned in his worst performance as a Bruin against the Rangers. And we all know that's saying a lot.

He turned what probably should have been a 4-3 Bruins win into a 4-3 loss to the Rangers. As Pierre McGuire said during the NBC telecast of that fiasco "you simply can not with goaltending like that" I couldn't agree more. For some reason Manny has simply lost all confidence. He was starting to play pretty well for awhile, then the wheels fell off in a hurry (you can trace it back to the loss against Ottawa when he stormed off the ice after giving up the winning goal in OT)

I would like to think that it would take more than that game to make a veteran goalie lose his confidence so completely. I'm sure it wasn't JUST that game, but it appears to be the tipping point. Thomas turned in a fine performance last night against Columbus. He battled as always, but he was also seemingly always in the right position, a sure sign that he is seeing the game well right now. You can't blame any of the recent losses on Timmy. He can't put up zeros every night, and he can't score goals. What I wish he WOULD do, is carry a spare mask at all times. Once again last night, he got hit and his mask broke. Forcing him into wearing Manny's for a stretch (bad mojo aside, a goalie more than any other athlete is "in tune" with and more comfortable with their equipment. Any change is bad thing) Sure enough, he finally cracks and surrenders a goal while wearing Manny's (cursed) mask. You could just see it coming.

What about the defense? Well, the D has been....interesting lately to say the least. They've shown flashes of their dominance, but don't seem as committed for a full 60 minutes as they need to be. The physical play has come in spurts, but consistency is lacking in a big way. For whatever reason, they don't seem to be moving the puck out of their end nearly as crisply as they are capable of. That has been a huge part of their success this year, and something they need to get back in their game ASAP. Of course that's easier said than done. I think the jury is still out on how all the competition for playing time will pan out. Now, I'm a huge fan of Julien's philosophy of earning your ice time. I think having extra legitimate NHL defensemen on the roster is a good thing. It should push everyone that much more to earn their spot in the line-up. On the down side, I wonder if the added pressure hurts younger guys, specifically Hunwick. His (Hunwick's) versatility, while certainly as asset, may also work to his disadvantage. He's a young guy that now spends half of his practices as a defenseman, and half as a forward on several different lines. Could he in the long run be running into a "jack of all trades, master of none" type situation? Could be, but for the time being the positives of his flexibility outweigh the negatives by far. Julien's juggling of the D-pair combo's seemed short-lived last night, but I love the thought of breaking up the under-sized pair of Wideman and Ferrence. Not sure if I love Wideman being paired with Chara, but it's worth a shot to see how everyone gels.

Well then, it HAS to be the forwards.....right? Yes it is. And well, then again, no it isn't. The forwards, just like the D have been inconsistent (which may be being kind). They haven't put together three solid periods in a game in ages. Every one of them seems to be in the classic "gripping the stick too tight" mode right now. The young guys like Wheeler seemed to have hit that proverbial "wall" we hear so much about. While the vets like Savard and Ryder just can't seem to buy a break. But breaks come from hard work, and they're simply not giving enough of it on a shift to shift basis.

Wheeler's night in the press box seems to have done him a world of good. He's skating harder and playing to his size much better since the one game break.

Kessel has had much more of an "edge" to his game lately as well. And I give him huge credit for coming back into the game last night. The way he left after smacking into the boards, I assumed he was done....for awhile. He sure looked to be in pain for the rest of the night, but he gutted it out. Say what you want about him, but he is a pretty tough kid. He did miss practice today, so we'll see if he's able to bounce back now that the adrenaline isn't pumping.

Krejci... I don't know what to make of at this point. He has incorporated some edginess and grit into his game of late. But that almost seems to be the result of frustration, rather than of a n acknowledgement that physical play is a requirement. I was really hoping that the tough angle (lousy) goal he scored the other night would open the floodgates for him. After he scored it, there was literally a noticeable change in his posture and demeanor on the ice. Like the weight of the world had been lifted off his shoulders. He clearly is pressing and trying too hard. If he goes back to having some fun, I think he'll be fine.
Savard is frustrating to watch lately. last night's game a great example of it. He made several great defensive plays, picking off careless Bluejacket passes. But then he committed many of the same type of bad plays. He's always been a high risk type player, with a penchant for blind passes. Lately his success rate with those has been awful. When a team is struggling to score goals, it can't afford to keep giving up possession of the puck.

Ryder, I thought was back on track after his 2 goal game last week. So much for that. Now it's not uncommon for him to have 1 or 2 shots per game, if that. He's a sniper, he needs to be shooting the puck. But in order to shoot it, he has to get himself in better positions to do so.

Lucic is starting to come around a bit. At least his physical play is starting to show up more often. He's not exactly as intimidating as he had been, but it's coming. Hopefully his health is improving, and his game will follow.
Without going through every player on the roster, you can apply parts of everything written above to every player on the team. So where does that leave us? In a pretty decent spot I think. Nothing I've mentioned above has anything to do with talent or a lack thereof. It is all correctable and in the players hands. All they have to do is look at themselves in the mirror and make an honest assessment of their play. As long as nobody thinks they're giving everything they have on every shift, and sets out to do something about it, they'll be fine.

They have the talent to win. They're a young team that has hit a rough patch. It's now up to the veterans on the team to get the ball rolling in the right direction again. Up front, Ryder, Savard, Recchi, Axe, Thornton, yelle, Kobasew and Bergeron to lead the way. On D, Chara Ward and Montador have to set the tone. Keep it simple and punish the other team at every turn.
In net, Timmy just has to keep playing as he has been. He'll have to make some big stops to keep the boys in some games until they get things fixed, but I don't see that being a problem. But Timmy can't play the rest of the games and be expected to be fresh for the playoffs. Manny HAS to get his head together, and quick. And to be honest, I wouldn't be totally against seeing him sit and Tuuka Rask getting a couple starts instead. All year I've been a proponent of having Manny around as a playoff backup. But I think I'm at the point now, where I'd feel better with a confident rookie instead of a frazzled veteran stepping in if Thomas were to go down (perish the thought).

So Bruins fans, step back from the ledge. Things are always darkest before the dawn, right? The team didn't suddenly forget how to play the game. They just need a few breaks to go their way, get everyone healthy again and they'll find their confidence again. And who knows, it could come back at just the right time. Playoffs will be here before you know it. Go B's-Kynch

Saturday, March 7, 2009


All he wanna do is a zooma-zoom zooma-zoom and a boom boom, and get to the net!
Ok, so maybe I have a hard time picturing the 41 year old Recchi "shakin' his butt" to an early '90's one hit wonder rap act, but HIS act hasn't gotten old in the least.
In a performance that should provide Coach Julien with enough coaching tape to last a life time, the newest Bruin picked up two huge goals. Recchi played exactly as expected. He was constantly around the net, and played a pretty physical game all over the ice. The young Bruins forwards should take notice of where both of his goals came from. Combined, they probably traveled no more than five feet. Funny how that works isn't it? He went to the blue paint and picked up two goals. This guy has made a great career out of doing just that. It's no fluke that that's where he makes his living and has piled up over 500 goals in his career.
I'm sure that effort wasn't lost on Blake Wheeler, as he sat watching the game from the press box. If Julien was trying to send him a message, he couldn't have asked for a better day to send it. Recchi's play spoke louder than any of Julien's lectures ever could.

The B's also got goals from a couple other guys that really needed the puck to bounce their way for a change. Most notably, David Krecji. He somehow squeezed past Huet on the short side post. Probably not a shot he thought he had a chance to score on. But exactly the kind of shot you have to take. Hey, maybe Recchi's influence has found it's way to Krecji already.

It was also great to see Phil Kessel pot one. His was no fluke though. Which may be even more encouraging. After Milan Lucic picked up the puck at his blue line, he started a three on two with Savard in the middle and Kess flying down the right wing. Looch fed Savard as he drove across the Chicago blue line, and Savvy laid a soft pass on Kess's tape. Kess wasted no time in firing a bullet of a wrist shot top shelf before Huet had a chance to get across his crease.

The scoring was capped off by "Mr. Empty Netter", PJ Axelsson. As much as some empty net goals can be "cheapies", Axe actually worked for and deserved this one. It was the exclamation point on a terrific shift (and game) for PJ. Earlier in the shift he did a great job of fore-checking, forcing Chicago to waste valuable time as the retreated behind their net to avoid his pressure. Then when they did get it to the Bruins blue line, Axe blocked the entry shot, and took off for his ENG.

Great work once again being rewarded. Defense to offense. Julien must have loved so much of this game.
But, that isn't to say it was a perfect game. Far from it. After playing what may have been their best period in weeks in the first, the Blackhawks really took it to them in the second. But for a couple hit posts and a wide open whiff job in the crease, Chicago could have easily had a 3-1 lead in the second. But Thomas held the B's in the game long enough for his mates to pop in a a pair of late period goals, so THEY went to the room with the 3-1 lead.

Chicago came out hard in the third as well, and sustained it for the full final twenty minutes. But once again, Tim Thomas stood tall and kept the B's in it. Despite surrendering a pair of goals in the period, Timmy was absolutely responsible for putting Axe in a position to get his clinching goal. Thomas made acrobatic saves all day, and I'm still stunned he didn't get one of the three stars.

Now the B's play the new-look Rangers in new York tomorrow afternoon. And sadly, it looks like the roster shuffling will have to continue in Manhattan. Whereas Wheeler was given the day off for a mental break, it looks like injury will force Julien's hand. Stephane Yelle fell awkwardly into the end boards in the second and didn't return. he's out for tomorrow and his status remains unclear for Tuesday in Columbus.
Zdeno Chara also took an awkward tumble into the boards right in front of the Bruins bench. He stayed on the ice and didn't miss a shift. But he was clearly laboring out there. He sucked it up and played so his team wouldn't be short handed, but it's worth keeping an eye on in New York. I assume he'll play, but it wouldn't surprise me if woke up very stiff and sore tomorrow. I'd consider him "probable", but you never know (it appeared to be his left knee).

My guess is that Wheeler is back in tomorrow and Hunwick sits.....although he really did look good out there again today I thought. Bitz will go back to his fourth line duty, replacing Yelle. Not sure if Montador is with the team, but if not Hunwick could supplant Hnidy on the blue line. His versatility could prove invaluable down the stretch.
It also figures to be Manny Fernandez's day in goal, as Julien has stated he needs to get him more time (interestingly, Julien specified that he wants to play Manny more because Thomas is better when well rested. I guess Manny should have no fantasy about taking over the #1 job any time soon, huh?).

All in all a very entertaining day at the Garden for all us old fans, and even the friends and family I had in attendance seeing their very first Bruins game in person. Let's hope the newbies are hooked, and tune in to another good showing tomorrow.

Go B's-Kynch

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Trade Wrap, Good Job Chia

Puckhead Christmas is over. And now, just like little kids everywhere on Christmas night, I'm exhausted from the day's excitement, stress and curiosity. But I can't help but look at all my shiny new toys and try to figure out which is my favorite. And, being a materialistic competitive kind of kid, I also want to see if I "made out better" than my friends.....or more importantly, better than the jerks up the street.
As I wade through the piles of shredded wrapping paper and other debris, I'm torn between my two new toys. Do I like the shiny new Energizer bunny powered rock 'em sock 'em robot more than the antique (or should I say "Classic"?) action figure, which I suspect is a hand-me-down.....it just doesn't look "new" to me?
Truth is, I think I like them both equally.
Now I know everyone was all fired up about the prospect of landing a Chris Pronger type "impact player". And yes, a guy like Pronger could have clearly moved Boston to the head of the class in the East, and beyond. At least on paper. Luckily, championships aren't won or lost on paper. Would I have loved to have seen Pronger in a Bruins uniform tomorrow night? Absolutely. I can't even imagine a blue line corps with Chara and Pronger. Back that up with Ward & Wideman, and they'd have easily had the best top four in the league. And with Hnidy, Stuart or Hunwick as your five and six guys? Yikes. Scary stuff, and beatings would be handed out regularly. There would just be no rest for the opposition. Of course, Stuart or Hunwick would probably have been involved in the deal, but let's not split hairs. You get the idea. Which brings me to my next point....

......What would the price have been to get a Pronger type to Boston today? Apparently quite high, since he's still a Duck. Presumably the price escalated to the point that Stuart, a pick, a prospect and probably Kessel were being asked for. IF that is the case, I'm happy Chilly had the guts to pass on the deal. As big of an impact as Pronger can have, I don't see much logic in trading away your leading goal scorer. No defenseman short of Bobby Orr has ever more than offset the offensive production of a top winger. So what they gained on the back end, they probably would have just handed right back up front and then some. You know what they say, sometimes the best deal is the one you don't make. I'm starting to feel that way about this one.

But that isn't top say that Steve Montador and Mark Recchi are some kind of saviors. Neither player is capable of coming in and putting the team on their shoulders and carrying them to the promised land. But they don't have to. No, they'll be put in a position to be great additions to a team, not to BE the team.
Remember, the last three years, the team that has won the Cup has done it with "small" moves at the deadline, not the blockbuster deal. In 2006 Carolina picked up Mark Recchi (I think I know that name) and went on to win it all. In 2007, Anaheim picked up the, shall we say, less than "big name" Brad May. And last year, Detroit made a huge splash by getting.....Brad Stuart? Not huge name guys in the prime of their careers to say the least. But what they were, was good character guys that were given a specific role to fill on teams that were already rolling along pretty well. Am I the only one that thinks Julien will have no trouble giving these two clear direction on what is expected of them? And more importantly, what is NOT expected?

Let's take a look at each deal individually, shall we?
Since Montador was announced first, we'll start with him. He isn't the biggest defenseman in the league, by a long shot. At 6'0 and around 210lbs, he's actually a bit undersized by today's standards. Try telling that to anyone foolish enough to enter his zone with their head down. Or to anyone unwise enough to cheap shot, hack or otherwise wrong one of his teammates. He's an extremely physical guy, who brings a bit of nastiness to the rink every night. Yeah, that's right. I said it. EVERY night. Not a guy to take a night off at all. He's a high energy, immensely popular teammate. He may not win all of his fights, in fact he rarely does win them, but he never backs down. In fact, he challenged Lucic to a fight when the Ducks were in town last week. An impossible fight for him, but he saw that his team needed a spark. That is the kind of teammate the Bruins now have in their locker room. He isn't the only guy they have like that, but he may be the most consistent at it.
From what I've seen, the reaction of the Bruins players that know has been one of excitement. Apparently Andrew Ference, a good friend of "Monty's", couldn't wipe the grin off his face. And I guess Thornton appeared pretty fired up to have him on board too. Hey, Monty has eleven fights to his credit this year, so Thornton should at least be getting some help in that department.

But don't make the mistake of thinking Monty (yes, that's all I'll be calling him....Montador is a pain to type and I'm lazy. thanks) is just a one dimensional tough guy type. He's actually a very good skater and puck handler. He may not be that elite level "puck moving defenseman" everyone is searching for, but he gets the job done. As Ducks broadcaster Brian Hayward said of him, and I paraphrase,'he's a good enough skater to out-skate the fore-check and get to pucks first, then turn it up ice. He isn't one to get to a puck then just fire it off the boards.'. Sounds like a good addition in pure hockey terms as well as toughness. I like this deal a lot. Possibly more than I should, but I liked him when he was in Calgary too.
Bottom line on Monty is he's not going to be your top pairing guy. But he also is probably better than a bottom pairing player too. In fact, he could fit in on any pairing if need be. Oh, and just for kicks....he has a fair amount of experience playing a wing too (guess that skating ability is real).
Trading Nokelainen, who I can't see cracking the lineup any time soon, for him was a no brainer. I think Nokie has a decent career ahead of him, but as nothing more than a good third liner.

How about Mark Recchi? The more I think about this one, the more I like it actually. My first reaction was "o....k...., so who else are you bringing in Chia?" But upon further review, I think he's a great fit. The first and biggest contribution he'll make is getting Axe off the power play, at least the first unit. That in itself should make Bruins fans everywhere happy. I like PJ a lot, but he has been miscast all year because there haven't been many viable options for the PP. Now there is, and it's a very good one. One of Boston's stated goals was to get a little bigger up front. Recchi does nothing to help that. At roughly 5'10 185lbs, he's far from an imposing winger. But watch some tape of this guy. He makes his living by going to the "dirty areas". He battles for position in front of the net and is fantastic at tipping shots. It may take a few games for him to learn the system and whatnot, but I think he will be a huge boost to the sagging Boston power play.
And something tells me that his style of play will mesh seamlessly with Bergeron's. Patrice is a puck control, cycling type of center. He's best suited when he has guys that know how to get open in scoring areas, but can also cycle the puck and skate fairly well. Bergeron doesn't need a burner on his wing, he needs a guy with a "high hockey IQ". A savvy veteran like Recchi could be just what Bergy needs to jump start his game. This acquisition may just get the B's back to a three line scoring team. And it will certainly help create some matchup problems down the road. I think I really like the sound of a Recchi/Bergeron/Kobasew line. A good mix of skill, grit and just enough speed to keep teams honest. They may not look pretty doing it, but I wouldn't be surprised to see them pile up points, especially in the playoffs.

Speaking of playoffs....both Monty and Recchi have been through the playoff wars. Monty not nearly as much, but he was a key part of Calgary's Cup Final team a couple years ago.
Recchi on the other hand has played more playoff games than the whole Boston roster combined....probably a couple times over (ok, that's a guess, but I bet I'm not far off if I am at all). He's played in a total of 140 playoff games. That's nearly two full regular seasons worth of playoff games. Do you really think anything rattles him in those pressure packed games anymore? Me neither. In those 140 games, he's managed to put up a 47G, 70A, 117Pts line (along with 77 PIMS). He's a two time Cup winner as well. Not bad at all.
The calming veteran presence he will bring to Boston's young forwards could be invaluable. Prior to his arrival, most of Boston's Cup experience was on the blue line, in the person of Aaron Ward (3 Cups). Shawn Thornton has a Cup to his credit, but having a scoring type forward with experience is a big boost for guys like Wheeler especially (doesn't hurt that they're both left wings, so Recchi can coach him up in-game etc).

All in all I'm pretty happy with the job Chiarelli did. He managed to land a couple of potential contributors without losing a roster player. Nokie, Lashoff and Karsums all were going to have a hard time cracking the lineup anyway. Karsums could end p being the best of the three, but I doubt he'll be a top flight guy. Lashoff, well, I have never been sold on him as an NHL player, so no great loss there in my opinion. Chilly didn't have to give up prospects like Joe Colborn either, so the pipeline still seems to be intact.

After listening to both players phone interviews on NESN, it's clear they're both very excited to be coming to Boston. When was the last time you heard a player say that, and you actually believed it. Boston is now a desirable destination for both free agents and players being traded.

If they think THEY'RE excited to be here, just wait until they see how excited the fans are to see them on ice tomorrow at the Garden.

Go B's-Kynch

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Game Day Vs Philly, 3/3/09

Take a good look at your Boston Bruins tonight folks. They could look markedly different by the time you see them again (Thursday vs Phoenix). In the last game before tomorrow's trade deadline, the B's look to tackle the brawling Flyers.

Philly comes into the game losers of their last two, but they're 6-3-1 in their last ten. Much better than Boston's dismal 3-4-3 over that stretch. The Philly offense is lead by Jeff Carter, who is third in the NHL goal scoring race with 36. The Flyers are also bolstered by the return of center Danny Briere from IR.

But let's be honest, when you think of the Flyers, you don't really think about their offensive firepower. You think about.....


The Broad Street Bullies are back in the city of brotherly glove dropping. Philly is second in the league in fighting majors with 59. They're also the most penalized team in the league. Riley Cote (18) and Arron Asham (15) lead the parade to the sin bin. Cote is one entertaining fighter. Defense? Who needs defense when you can just keep swinging until your arms fall off? I still don't get how Asham has piled up so many fights though....he just never struck me as a guy that would fight THAT much. I guess something happens when you move to Philly...you turn into an A-hole.

Which reminds me... Scott Hartnell needs a beating tonight. This guy has turned into one the absolute dirtiest, cheapest players in the NHL. Low hits. Blind hits. Hits on vulnerable players (think of his hit on current teammate Andrew Alberts last season). Worse, he runs his yap constantly. All while sporting a curly muppet-like mullet. How people can resist punching him in the eye is beyond me. That restraint better be lost tonight. Enough is enough with this dink. Even if Lucic does play tonight, I doubt he'll be engaging in any fisticuffs. Depending on who you believe, he either has a hand or jaw injury (possible minor concussion) from his last bout. And since I see a Thornton Cote battle in the cards, I think a less frequent fighter will challenge Hartnell.

Beyond the brawling, this should be a pretty physical game tonight. I know, I said that last time these two played and it was a major disappointment. I don't see that happening again. Let's face it, there are probably a few guys on each team trying to convince their GM one last time that they belong and deserve to stay.

As always, Philly's goaltending is their weakest point. As such, I fully expect the B's to pour in five tonight, while giving a motivated Tim Thomas (I'm assuming he gets the start) lots of help in their own end. So, I'm going to say it ends up 5-1 Boston (although a shutout wouldn't stun me).
Your scorers, Kessel, Wheeler, Chara, Ryder and Bergeron. All guys the need to get hot (except Chara) in the scoring column.

As for the bouts, I say Thornton-Cote is a done deal. Always fun when these two hook up.
As far as the aforementioned less frequent fighter taking on Hartnell? I say Mark Stuart steps in and hands him a beating. Stuart is sure to have heard his name in a bunch of these trade rumors lately, so he probably fits the bill as one the guys trying to prove he should stay. But even on a "normal" day, I think Stu would hand Hartnell a beating. Sometimes, it's just the right thing to do.
Go B's-Kynch

*EDIT: Looks like Fernandez will get the start in net tonight. But screw it, I'm sticking with my 5-1 call. Call it optimism, call it laziness. You'd be right either way.