Thursday, April 30, 2009

Canes unveil new "Score(s)" line


The Carolina Hurricanes have heard enough. Ever since it was determined that they would face off against the Boston Bruins, they've heard the talk. They're a one line team, no depth. Staal can't do it all. Well, they've finally responded to their critics and unveiled their new line which they hope will take the pressure off the Stall/Whitney/Larose line. And while they may bear a passing resemblance to the Kostitsyn sisters from Montreal, rest assured, these players are all Carolina. No word yet if the NHL will allow the giant slingshot instead of sticks, but given Colin Campbell's confusion on what sticks are for, I wouldn't bet against it. This line could provide the Bruins first real test of physical play, as they're obviously tougher than anyone the Canadiens rolled over the boards in round one.


As for the rest of the Carolina roster, meh. Not overly impressed to be honest. When you look at their roster, there are VERY few names that jump off the page at you. Yes, Eric Staal is a "star" player (at least one of those second-tier types). Cam Ward is on a roll, not unlike the one he went on on his way to winning the Conn Smythe trophy in their Cup year. After that? Mixed bag. Rod Brind'amour is a savvy veteran with loads of experience. But I don't think he's nearly the player he was just a couple seasons ago (as his 0-0-0, minus 1 for the first round will attest). Beyond that, you have a shopping list of guys who may as well be in the witness protection program. Nobody would recognize them walking down any street in the hockey world. But, is that a bad thing? The Canes won their Cup with a similar crew of "no-names" in 2006. Yes, the sum of the parts can be greater than the individuals.

BUT, when one of these "sum of the parts" teams meets up with a team with loads of depth, and much better talent up and down the roster.....things get a little dicey. And that is just the situation the Whalers/Canes find themselves in. Yes, the Whale plays well as a team. But they don't play "great" as a team. The offense is all on the Staal line, and the defense is pretty much left to Cam Ward. That my friends, is not a recipe for success. One line (really, one player) doing all the scoring doesn't work for long in the playoffs. And while goaltending is obviously a huge part of playoff success, you simply can't expect your goalie to win you every game. The Bruins have such a clear advantage in the depth department that I can't see how, barring a major meltdown by Boston or a goaltending display for the ages by Ward, that Carolina last more than five or six games.

On the subject of depth, Carolina had 6 players with 4 points or more in their seven game series. Boston had 5 in their sweep of the Hapless Habs. And that perfectly mirrors the regular season, in which they led the league in 20 goal scorers. Oh, and one of those 20 goal guys was shuttled to the fourth line and shut-out in limited time(Wheeler) and one was held goal-less (Recchi). Raise your hand if you expect Mark Recchi to go 0-fer in the second round. Exactly. And remember, Recchi knows this team very well, having played on that Cup winning team in '06....think he may know a thing or two about Ward that he can use to his advantage? I fully expect a big series from the Recching ball.

And that's just it....we can rightfully EXPECT big performances from many different players. While the Whale can basically only HOPE for big series from most of their guys. I'm sure they'll all publicly say all the right things and display confidence etc. But honestly, do you think anyone in tobacco country EXPECTS Staal or Cole or Whitney...or anyone, to have a great series? The top line will see loads of Zdeno Chara. That in itself pretty much eliminates the "big series" from them. Now, they may score a couple goals here and there. I would never predict a shut out of high end talent, especially high end talent that has won a Cup. But they just don't go deep enough to make themselves a serious threat. Eric Cole, who was widely credited with being a big part of the Canes late season surge, has fallen off the planet. 0-0-0 for him too, with a -2 rating. If I'm a Canes fan, I'm thinking Cole could be the key to the series. He HAS to provide secondary scoring, or they have no chance.

Now, as much as Boston has a clear edge on talent, I don't expect this to be an "easy" series by any stretch. They have a lot of character. They play hard. They get rock solid goal-tending. But while the B's will have to earn it, I see this game going six at most. So that's my call- Bruins in 6.....which sucks, because dammit, I want to be there when they clinch a berth in round 3.

With the long layoff the Bruins have had, I expect to see some rust early in game one. Hopefully, after a period or so, the boys find their legs again. Thomas may have to hold the fort for awhile, which I expect he will. After that, talent will take over.
And of course, you have to wonder about the fatigue factor for the Canes. While Boston was sitting at home resting and healing all their bumps and bruises, they were playing for their lives. The NJ series wasn't overly physical, so I'm not sure how big a factor that will be. But it will have some effect, no doubt. After a few games of Chara, Ward, Stuart, Lucic, Thornton and many others leaning on them, the Whale will start to feel it.

I'll be back on game day to provide my predictions etc. Finally, a GAME DAY post is just hours away. It's been WAY to long.

Go B's-Kynch

One Man's take on the 2nd Round of NHL Playoffs 09'...

Well... That's one round down & hopefully 3 more to go for the B's. As promised (threatened really) here's a follow up on the original set of Round #1 picks I had posted previously by series and a look at Round #2 from my point of view as we all continue the Bruins "Quest for the Cup" together.
As a quick review my Round #1 picks and comments were:

In the Eastern Conference

*#1 Boston Bruins vs. #8 Montreal Canadiens- The Pick was the B's in 5 (Who knew the Habs would get pushed around that much...)

*#2 Washington Caps vs. #7 NY Rangers- The Pick was the Cap's in 6 (Washington's lack of a true goaltender was and will continue to haunt this team. Put it this way it's not a good sign when your playoff goaltender is still sporting his Hershey AHL mask...)

*#3 NJ Devils vs. #6 Carolina Hurricanes- The Pick was the Canes in 6 (The Canes prevailed and they played one more game than I thought but who could have predicted the Game 7 melt down by the Devils at home and Brodeur failure?)

*#4 Pittsburgh Pens vs. #5 Philly Flyers- The Pick was the Pen's in 7 (As much talent as the Pens have you have to wonder if Philly's lack of team disciple was the real reason they lost this series and are now at home watching?)

That's 4 for 4 in the East! Nice!

In the Western Conference though, I had:

*#1 San Jose Sharks vs. #8 Anaheim Ducks- The Pick was the Sharks in 6 (I guess "The Curse of Jumbo Joe & the (Nurse) Sharks" continues in San Jose huh...Unreal)

*#2 Detroit Red Wings vs. #7 Columbus Blue Jackets- The Pick was the Wings in 5 (Good season for the Jackets but reality set in quick for them didn't it)

*#3 Vancouver Canucks vs. #6 St. Louis Blues- The Pick was the Blues in 7 (How'd this one work out for me?! Blues goalie Chris Mason did turn in a solid effort but Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo turned in a better one as did the Brothers Sedin who combined to post 3-6-9 numbers offensively and a +8 effort. )

*#4 Chicago Blackhawks vs. #5 Calgary Flames- The Pick was the Blackhawks in 7 (Despite the Hawks' only having ONE player post a PLUS effort (Jon Toews at a +3) they pushed through in 6)
So thats 2 out of 4 in the West (NEVER AGAIN SHARKS) so a total of 6 out of 8... Not bad but we can do better and with that in mind it's on to my picks for NHL's "Elite Eight" aka the Conference Semifinals.

In the East:
#1 Boston Bruins vs. #6 Carolina Hurricanes
Based on just their four regular season match ups (which the B's took 4 out of 4) and on paper this looks like a mismatch. The Bruins go four lines deep and bring the physical game on a consistent basis. We all know without question that the B's Milan Lucic can change the "feeling" of a game and an entire series just based on his physical effort on a shift by shift basis, which is exactly what they'll need him to take the lead on from the outset of things and not let the Canes get started or feel like they have any hope of upsetting the #1 seeded Bruins. We also all know that the B's start this years potential Vezina Trophy winner in Tim Thomas in net and have the potential Norris Trophy winner Zdeno Chara on their blue line. Which again on paper makes this series look like one sided. Then add in the fact that from the individual match-ups side, you only need to look at Chara up against Eric Staal, the Hurricanes main man upfront and see where this thing begins and ends to slant in the B's favor. Not to get too overconfident here and take anything way from Carolina's gritty club but let's face it, for the Canes to stay in this series and have any chance to pull an upset, Staal is going to need A LOT of help around him because when you get him on that one-on-one match up against the most dominant, punishing, physical defenseman in the NHL in Chara, it can be tough sledding for even the most talented forward let alone Staal... The Pick: Bruins in 5...

#2 Washington Capitals vs. #4 Pittsburgh Penguins
So... The NHL "some how" gets their "Dream" match up and first ever "Sid the Kid" Crosby vs. Alexander "The Great" Ovechkin Playoff series. Funny how that happened huh...Anyway like many others view point, I don't think those two (Crosby & Ovie) will really be the real difference makers in this series. Crazy you say? Let's just assume for a minute that the unique talents that Crosby & Ovie both bring to the ice will show themselves but in fact with cancel each other out regardless of how spectacular the both may be...OK? The next step is to look at each clubs "2nd tier" stars to see where the edges may come from and without hesitation two names jump out. The first is the Pens Jordan Staal. If you only look at the stats you'll see a player that only had one assist and was minus-1, in Round #1 and as such will NEED to be a main guy in this series and the one that will need to step up in big way if Pittsburgh is going to pull the upset here. I realize Staal is not alone in needing a bigger effort here as the Pens will also need to also more (read: Any) production upfront outside of the Crosby & Malkin lines...HELLO 3rd & 4th lines...Anyone home! Conversely from the Caps' side of things, Mike "The Planet 2" Green has also got to play much, much better than he did in the first round against the Rangers. "Hey Mike, your listed as a DEFENSEMEN right?" OK - then play some DEFENSE will you?!... The written excuse for Green's sub par round #1 was that he was sick for most of it but regardless of that he in NO WAY looked or played like the Norris Trophy candidate he's been rightfully touted as this year and as such was baggage for the most part for a Caps team that already is shaky in their own end due to their uncertain goaltending situation. In my opinion he's (Green) going to have to be THE big, big difference maker for Washington if they're going to have any chance to win this series as well. Because of this and some other factors, The Pick is - The Pens in a thrilling 7 games...

In the West:
#2 Detroit Red Wings vs. #8 Anaheim Ducks
This whole series may well come down to two facts: Fact #1: The Red Wings power play is now firing on all cylinders these days and downright scary... Fact #2: The lions share of the Ducks game is based on their very physical & sometimes down right dirty play which either has intimidated opponents and allowed for turnovers and odd rushes down their opponents end or them being severely shorthanded most of the time... So when you add these two facts together and I'm sure you'll agree that this combo may be tough (near impossible really...) for the Ducks to overcome this situation if they end up spending the whole series in the box, playing shorthanded. Look it, if you consistently play on the edge and at times to and over the extreme, you better make sure your goaltender and your penalty killing will be able to bail you out. With this in mind, The Pick is- Red Wings in a tough 6 games...

#3 Vancouver Canucks vs. #4 Chicago Blackhawks
The easiest way to look at this match up would be to throw out the line that this will be a clash of the Blackhawks offensive prowess against the Canucks defense, more specifically their goaltender Roberto Luongo. True but again easy... For me this one could be all about the "Battle of the After the Whistle, Pushing and Shoving Face Washers"... I see the Blackhawks fourth line of Ben Eager, Troy Brouwer, and Adam Burish continuing to unsettle things both on and off the ice just as the did so effectively against the Flames in round one. Burish in particular was a big factor agitating the Flames top line (See: Iginla, Jerome) on the ice as well as having a lot to say off the it too, which really seemed to effect the Flames and that whole series. On the flip side Vancouver have no shortage of "agitating grinders" as well with guys like Alexandre Burrows, Ryan Kesler, Steve Bernier, Kevin Bieksa etc,. All that being equal I see the "O vs. D" factor being important (that's my one of my Turk like "Key's"btw...)but again I'm really thinking this one will be decided by the team that's LEAST effected by their opponents "in your face, extra jab, extra comment, nastiness" and chippy style. The Pick- The Blackhawks in 6...

So in recap form my picks this round are: B's & Pens in 7 in the East and the Wings & Blackhawks in the West.

Until next time. Let's get focused again and Jacked & Pumped for Game #1 tomorrow night in Boston! Go Broounze! - KingKrej46

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

B's 2nd Round Opponent Snap Shot - The Canes!

CAROLINA HURRICANES

Regular Season Record: 45-30-7, 97 pts

Head-to-Head Record vs Bruins this season: 0-4

Last Stanley Cup Win: 2006

Last Stanley Cup Final Appearance: 2006

Last Postseason Appearance: 2006

Current Canes Players with Stanley Cup Rings: Ray Whitney (1), Rod Brind'Amour (1), Matt Cullen (1), Erik Cole (1), Chad LaRose (1), Anton Babchuk (1), Niclas Wallin (1), Frantisek Kaberle (1), Cam Ward (1)

How They Got Here: The first round series against the Devils was a back and fourth affair. Five of the seven contests were decided by a single goal and two have gone to overtime, if you count Carolina's winner with 0.2 seconds left in Game 4.
Martin Brodeur was stellar for the Devils but so was Hurricane goaltender Cam Ward, who was Brodeur's equal in every way, matching the Devil netminder save-for-save throughout the series. That is, until the last minute and a half of Game 7 when the Hurricanes shocked New Jersey with one of the biggest quick turn wins in playoff history by scoring the TYING & WINNING GOALS with under 1:20 minutes left in their collective seasons.

Another Reason (NOT) To Cheer For The Hurricanes: Carolina was a great story when they won the Cup in 2006, but everything went downhill from there as the club missed the postseason for the next two seasons. But with head coach Paul Maurice returning behind the bench, the Hurricanes were one of the hottest teams down the final stretch and look like a contender in the wide-open Eastern Conference.

The Big 3 look to's:
  1. What They Bring To The Table: A bust in Edmonton with 27 points in 63 games, Erik Cole returned to Carolina in a trade deadline deal and brought back instant chemistry. Reunited with Eric Staal on the top line, Cole should be one of several big weapons up front.
  2. In net - Cam Ward is also on his game, breaking the franchise record with 39 victories this season and finishing 14-4-2 over the last 20 games. A Conn Smythe Trophy winner in 2006, Ward has been a workhorse in goal, building a 10-1-2 record in March and finishing the season with a 2.44 goals-against average and a .916 save percentage.
  3. Up front - Eric Staal led all Hurricanes in goals (40) while Tuomo Ruutu set a career high with 26 goals. On the blueline, Joe Corvo led all Hurricanes defenseman in points (38) while Anton Babchuk had a career season, posting 16 goals (best among all 'Canes blueliners) and 19 assists with a plus- 13 rating.
It's really has been a LONG wait for the B's and their fans after the BROOMING the HATED HABS in only 4 games but this match up looks like it may be worth it as it should be a very SPICY & rough series from the get go! Can't wait till Friday! Let's Go Broounze! - KingKrej46

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Carolina on our Minds... Opponent & Dates Set for Round #2!

The B's 2nd round opponent & dates are (FINALLY) set! And it's a Hurricane Warning! Here is the complete schedule as reported by TSN Canada and blogged by John Bish on bruins.com;

Game #1 Friday, May 1 at Boston (7:30 p)
Game #2 Sunday, May 3 at Boston (7:30 p)
Game #3 Wednesday May 6 at Carolina (7:30 p)
Game #4 Friday, May 8 at Carolina (7:30 p)
*Game #5 Sunday, May 10 at Boston (7:30 p)
*Game #6 Tuesday, May 12 at Carolina (7:00 p)
*Game #7 Thursday, May 14 at Boston (TBD)
*If needed...

The other Eastern matchup will feature 2008 Stanley Cup finalist Pittsburgh opening on the road against the Washington Capitals, who pulled out their own 2-1 Game 7 heart-stopper Tuesday.

The matchups in the Western Conference were set Monday night after the No. 8 Anaheim Ducks closed out intrastate rival and top seed San Jose in six, and Chicago's young Blackhawks did the same six-and-out number on the Flames at the Saddledome. Anaheim travels to Detroit to open its second-round series in a battle of the last two Stanley Cup championship teams, while Chicago travels to Vancouver to open its conference semifinal series.

Monday, April 27, 2009

B's NewsBlast! - Tim Thomas Named Vezina Finalist!

As announced by the Bruins on Bostonbruins.com;

BOSTON, MA - The NHL announced today that Boston Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas has been named one of three finalists for the Vezina Trophy, which is awarded “to the goalkeeper adjudged to be the best at his position.” Thomas joins Minnesota’s Niklas Backstrom and Columbus’ Steve Mason as this year’s Vezina finalists. This is the first time Thomas has been a Vezina finalist in his career.
Thomas - who set a career high with 36 wins this year and played in his second straight NHL All-Star Game - finished the 2008-09 regular season as the league leader in Goals Against Average (2.10) and Save Percentage (.933). He helped lead the Bruins to their highest victory (53) and points (116) totals since 1971-72, and he and teammate Manny Fernandez shared the NHL’s William Jennings Trophy as the goaltenders for the club finishing the regular season having surrendered the fewest goals (196).

The general managers of the 30 NHL clubs submitted ballots for the Vezina Trophy at the conclusion of the regular season, with the top three vote-getters designated as finalists. The winner will be announced Thursday, June 18, during the 2009 NHL Awards that will be broadcast live from the Pearl Concert Theater inside the Palms Hotel Las Vegas on VERSUS in the United States and on CBC in Canada. Following are the other two finalists for the Vezina Trophy, in alphabetical order:Niklas Backstrom, Minnesota WildAfter nine seasons honing his craft in Europe and two earning increased playing time in the NHL, Backstrom established himself as the Wild’s go-to goalie this season, appearing in 71 games.

He ranked among the League’s top five goaltenders in goals against average (2.33, third), save percentage (.923, fourth) and shutouts (eight, third) and his 37 wins were a franchise record in addition to being the NHL’s fifth-highest total. Backstrom established a club record with 149:19 of consecutive shutout goaltending Dec. 31-Jan. 8.Steve Mason, Columbus Blue JacketsMason began his NHL career by winning his first three starts, Nov. 5, 7 and 8, seizing the Blue Jackets’ No. 1 goaltender role. Named the NHL’s Rookie of the Month for both November and December, he posted a club-record three straight shutouts in late December.

Mason finished strong, going 8-2-4 from Mar. 7-Apr.8 as Columbus captured the first playoff berth in franchise history. His 10 shutouts led the League and his 2.29 goals against average ranked second to Tim Thomas’ 2.10 for Boston.History of the Vezina Trophy:Leo Dandurand, Louis Letourneau and Joe Cattarinich, former owners of the Montreal Canadiens, presented the trophy to the National Hockey League in 1926-27 in memory of Georges Vezina, the outstanding Canadiens goaltender who collapsed during an NHL game on Nov. 28, 1925, and died of tuberculosis a few months later. Until the 1981-82 season, the goaltender(s) of the team allowing the fewest number of goals during the regular season were awarded the Vezina Trophy.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

It's kind of like wrapping an old Fish in last weeks Newspaper..

Well True Bs Believers! Series #1 & the Habs 100th Season Jubilee are KAPUT! And as we await our Round #2 opponent and the "Return of Kynch" from his 10 days in Florida (must be nice huh...)

I figured I'd wrap things up from my perspective by sharing a note I had posted on the very well done "All Habs" blog: (http://allhabs.blogspot.com/)

which if you haven't seen or heard of yet is a similar Fan Blog site to the Kynch's Korner but from a group of passionate Habs fans rather than us RATIONAL B's ones (yeah right..) Anyway what I posted was in response to the traditional post series smack talk and relentless listing of "Whys, What If''s and If Onlys" and went like this...

From under the All Habs Blog heading- "Game 4 -- The better team won"

"All, Out of respect to the work of "Rocket" and the rest of the All Habs staff as well as what I assume are the few REAL Habs fans on this blog. I'll try and keep my true feelings and personal comments brief on this one but all in all the fact of the matter is that the Bruins at least for this season are the better team and really do look to be in much better shape heading into the near future given obvious disarray that the Habs organization is in and the fact that there's now some serious, serious doubts wheter or not Carey Price can rebound from this whole sub par season and this specific series and be able to even play in Montreal any longer (Are we seeing a "Roy II" here...?)

As an observer from the enemy side, I have to think you're all down right GIDDY to be RID of that FRAUD Mike Komisaresk who's departure from the series & Centre Bell mirrored the way many of the Habs so called "Fans" in attendance did, that is without ANY CLASS whatsoever. Which seeing it come from what many consider the "jewel" organization within the NHL has to be a complete embarrassment to the club and the great City of Montreal! That was totally WEAK showing of any sportsmanship and respect to either team's efforts.

As much as I'm a non-believer in the "second coming" aka Carey Price, the booing and ridicule that he was subjected to was downright crude and PAINFUL even for me to hear given the build up that this kid has gotten from your fans and organization since he was first drafted a few seasons. God, he's still only 21 years old for Price's Sake... Ugh!

Despite all that B.S. though I was impressed with Big George Laraque believe it or not who despite being my more MYTH than actual player at this point, handled the post game hand shake in a very professional and even warm way which really struck me that despite all the back and forth nonsense that goes on between our two teams & cities sometimes, shows that there really is a mutual respect between the two clubs and that sometimes that's the 2nd most important take away we should get from these events outside enjoying the beauty of game itself...In the end a sincere "Great job" to everyone at All Habs & believe me when I say we know your current pain all to well but that we rather enjoy it being you guys feeling it this time around! :-) Until we inevitably meet again, keep well & Go Bruins Go eh'!" - Go Broounze, KingKrej46"

B's Playoff Game Recap - Game #4 vs. Habs!

B's SWEEP Les Habs as Komisarek takes the LOW ROAD Again!

The Boston Bruins swept aside their longtime rivals and a decade's worth of playoff frustration.
Former Montreal forward Michael Ryder scored twice and assisted on David Krejci's goal to help Boston complete a four-game sweep of the Canadiens with a 4-1 victory Wednesday night.


Tim Thomas made 26 saves, and Phil Kessel also scored for the Bruins, who won the Eastern Conference quarterfinal for their first playoff series win in 10 years.
"Yeah, it's definitely a good feeling to beat your old team here in Montreal and make it the last one," said Ryder, who signed as a free agent after he was a healthy scratch for all but four of the Canadiens' 12 playoff games last season. "I kind of actually forgot about what happened last year. I'm a Bruin now and it's a lot of fun."

Top-seeded Boston had lost five straight series - falling to Montreal in 2002, '04 and '08 - since beating Carolina in the first round in 1999.
"Since I got here that was the goal and we tried to improve every year and tried to get better," said Bruins captain Zdeno Chara, who left Ottawa as a free agent to sign with Boston for the 2006-07 season.

"Obviously, the first year we didn't make the playoffs and the second year we lost in Game 7, now this year we're moving on to the second round but I don't think, 'This is it, we should be satisfied.' We all know we have to go towards the goal and this is just the first step."
Andrei Kostitsyn gave Montreal a 1-0 lead 39 seconds in and the Canadiens dominated the scoring chances in the opening period, outshooting Boston 16-7.
The Bruins, though, went to the dressing room with a 2-1 lead after Ryder and Krejci scored 1:58 apart late in the period.
"That's always the goal, to be tied or be ahead after the first, especially on the road," Chara said. "That puts a lot of pressure on the home team and you know that going into the second period that it's always tougher for them because they know they're one goal behind and they have to press even more, so you just to be patient and play smart."

Kessel extended the lead to 3-1 when he stepped out of the penalty box and drove the right side before putting a low shot past Carey Price 11:58 into the second for his fourth goal in four games.
Ryder, who scored the winner Monday night in a 4-2 victory, got his second of the game - his fourth of the series - at 12:43 when he scored off a Krejci's cross-ice pass. Montreal completed its 100th season with eight straight losses, including its last four regular-season games.
"They came in first in the conference for a reason," Canadiens left wing Chris Higgins said. "They've got a lot of depth on that team and they play well as a unit so it's no surprise why they played as solidly against us as they did in the series."
The fans gave Price a sarcastic cheer when he stopped Chuck Kobasew's 80-foot dump-in 15:38 into the second.
The sophomore goalie raised his arms above his head, offering the crowd the same response Patrick Roy gave when he was subjected to similar mock cheers on his way to allowing nine goals in what would prove to be the future Hall of Famer's final game with the Canadiens, an 11-1 loss to Detroit at the Montreal Forum on Dec. 2, 1995.

"I suppose he could have kept his cool and not made any gesture towards the crowd, but on the other hand when you're being bullied, basically, if you don't stand up for yourself, who's going to?" Canadiens GM and coach Gainey said. "By my count he must have had three or four breakaways to stop in the second period so where is the basis for the jeering coming from?"
Price went the distance and made 26 saves. He started all four games, though he was pulled in Game 2 after allowing five goals through the first two periods.

The sold-out Bell Centre crowd was squarely behind the Canadiens at the outset when Kostitsyn took Saku Koivu's pass and beat Thomas with a partially screened shot into the top right corner.
Ryder tied it at 1 with his third goal of the series with 2:33 remaining in the first. Canadiens defenseman Roman Hamrlik pushed the puck forward into the slot and Ryder jumped on the opportunity to drive a one-timer past Price.

Krejci worked a give-and-go with Ryder to set up the second goal, taking his linemates return pass to score into a wide open left side with 34.4 seconds left in the opening period. Milan Lucic returned to the Bruins' lineup after serving a one-game league suspension Monday and fought with Mike Komisarek late in the second.
Komisarek got a major and a game misconduct 12:39 into the third for cross-checking Lucic. Komisarek missed 16 games from Nov. 15 to Dec. 16 after injuring his shoulder in a fight with Lucic.

Notes: It was the Bruins' first series sweep since they beat Montreal four straight in the 1992 Adams Division final. ... Boston beat the Canadiens for the eighth time in 32 playoff meetings between the longtime rivals. ... Bruins RW Byron Bitz was left out of the lineup. Bitz replaced Lucic in the lineup Monday and recorded an assist in his playoff debut. ... LW Alex Tanguay was unable to play for Montreal. A game-time decision, he missed his second straight game because of an upper body injury. Earlier Wednesday, Canadiens GM and coach Bob Gainey ruled out a return by D Andrei Markov and D Mathieu Schneider. Markov has been out since missing the last four games of the regular season with a knee injury, and Schneider was unable to play Monday because of a sore shoulder.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

B's Playoff Game Day Preview - Game #4 vs The Habs!

With the Return of Looch, could this be "Knock Out Day"?

Well, well, well... The brooms are out of Crescent Street and ready to clean up! While the Boston Bruins talked about how tough it is to get the fourth win in a best-of-seven playoff series, the Montreal Canadiens contemplated their bleak reality of being down to the final chance to get their first.

Boston practiced at the Bell Centre on Tuesday, one day after taking a 3-0 lead in their Eastern Conference quarterfinal with a 4-2 win in Montreal.

The Bruins, who are poised to win their first playoff series in 10 years, will get their first chance to finish off the Canadiens in Game 4 on Wednesday night.
Eastern Conference Quarterfinals

"We want to come out here and give everything we have, like we have all series, and hopefully get the win," Bruins center Marc Savard said. "That's the goal right now, is to come out and play another 'one game at a time', and hopefully we win it. It's going to be tough. We know they're going to come out and throw everything at us, and we've got to be ready."

P.J. Axelsson was in his sophomore season when the Bruins won their last playoff series, a first-round win over Carolina in 1999.
He said that the Canadiens gave him and his teammates all they could handle at the outset Monday, and he was steeling himself for what they would bring in front of a sold-out crowd on Wednesday.

"I think, if anything, they're going to come even harder so we've got to be prepared for that," said Axelsson, the longest-serving member of the Bruins.
Shawn Thornton, who scored Tuesday for his first point in 25 playoff games, agreed.

"Yeah, I'm sure they will so I think we can't be shocked by it, we've got to be prepared for it," Thornton said. "That being said, it's a lot easier said than done when you get out there and you can't hear yourself think when you have that puck, you can't hear your linemates, you can't hear anything and they're coming with a lot of energy, it's pretty tough to play in."

Aaron Ward has won the Stanley Cup three times, including consecutive championships with Detroit in 1997 and 1998, and a third with Carolina in 2006.
The pressure of those playoff runs didn't compare to the expectations Boston felt entering the playoffs as the top seed in the East.


"This is probably one of the most stressful series that I've been involved in," Ward said. "The pressure of having gone in through a season and being a No. 1 seed, knowing that there's a lot of external factors that can really have an influence on the direction of a series, for us, we were well aware of the position we are in."

Ward recalled Peter Laviolette's advice when he played for the Hurricanes, stating that his former coach urged his players to "always understand the mental philosophy of the opponent, understand where they're coming from."

"You always have to be aware of what your opponent brings to the table," Ward said. "In Game Fours it's always the best effort's brought forth by players. You're professional athletes and you're conditioned to play well and understand that no one ever wants to lose, and you have that mentality that you'll do whatever it takes, and at all costs, to win the game."
Boston will get a boost from the return of Milan Lucic, who served a one-game league suspension and missed Game 3.


The Canadiens' task for Game 4 is plain and simple - win, or pack it in.
"Just as with our fans, with our team we're going to have to prove that we can stay alive by winning a game," GM and coach Bob Gainey said. "If we win a game, then we play a game on Saturday where we can look to Tuesday. So, it's by small increments and without the first one it's hard to move to the second one or the third one, which has been our case since the beginning of the series.


"We need to win a game to get into it, whether it was the first, second, third or fourth, and right now we're sitting at the fourth, still waiting to get out of the gates as far as putting a win up on our side."

Montreal was without defenseman Mathieu Schneider and left wing Alex Tanguay on Monday night, both key players sidelined by upper-body injuries. Top defenseman Andrei Markov has been out with a lower-body injury that cost him the last four games of the regular season. "I can't really say that they will or won't be possibilities for (Wednesday)," Gainey said.

The Canadiens held an optional skate at its suburban practice facility and nine players took to the ice, including goalies Carey Price and Jaroslav Halak. Also taking part where defenseman Mike Komisarek, forwards Andrei and Sergei Kostitsyn, Tomas Plekanec, Matt D'Agostini and Gregory Stewart, and rookie defenseman Yanick Weber, who had a goal and an assist in Monday's loss for his first playoff points.

"There's always a vein of optimism, there's always some hope, and until that's gone, that's what you play with, that's what you rely on," Gainey said.

Good Luck Bob... You're going to need it!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

B's Game Recap! - Game #3 at The Habs!

From the AP & Bostonbruins.com;

Former Hab Michael Ryder scores winner as Boston takes 3-0 series lead! As B's think SWEEP!

MONTREAL - Michael Ryder won't use words like payback, revenge or even "I told you so" when he scores against the Montreal Canadiens.

Not even after getting the game-winning goal against his former team Monday night to break a 2-2 tie and lift the rival Boston Bruins to a 4-2 win and a 3-0 stranglehold in their NHL Eastern Conference playoff series. Boston can close out the best-of-seven series and move on to the second round with a win Wednesday in Game 4 at the Bell Centre.

"I don't know, I just try to work hard and play my game," Ryder said, looking innocent as possible after his game-winner. "It was a big win for us. "My goal was just a rebound goal and it ended up being the winner."Phil Kessel, Shawn Thornton and Chuck Kobasew into an empty net, also scored for the Bruins, the top seed in the East.

Rookie defenseman Yannick Weber had a goal and an assist and Chris Higgins also scored for the injury-plagued Canadiens, who learned before the game they would be without veterans Alex Tanguay and Mathieu Schneider due to upper body injuries.
Boston was outskated by Montreal through the first half of the game before taking over midway through the second period. The Bruins did not appear to miss suspended forward Milan Lucic.

Ryder was a healthy scratch in last year's playoffs under former Habs coach Guy Carbonneau as Montreal beat Boston in the opening round. It was a dismal season for the native of Bonavista, N.L., in he slumped to 14 goals after scoring 30 in each of the previous two campaigns.
He signed as a free agent with Boston last summer after Montreal failed to make him a contract offer and, reunited with coach Claude Julien, he bounced back with a 26 regular-season goals.
Ryder played for Julien both in junior hockey with the Hull Olympiques and in Montreal before Julien was fired in 2006.

"I knew I could play," said Ryder. "I never lost it. "It was just getting the opportunity again."
His coach agreed. "Good for him to come in here and showcase what he can do," said Julien. "I knew him, but it's not for the coach to tell an organization which guys to sign. "But before last year, he scored 25 to 30 goals a year. We knew he could bounce back. And with our style of play, he seemed like a guy who could fit in."

Only two teams have ever come back from an 0-3 deficit in playoff history - the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs and the 1975 New York Islanders. It is the 10th time Montreal has lost the first three games of a series.

With elimination looking imminent, coach and general manager Bob Gainey hinted that drastic measures may be taken for Game 4 and that even injured veterans Andrei Markov and Robert Lang could return. Neither has played in the series. Lang has been out since early February with a severed Achilles tendon and was not expected back until at least the second round of playoffs. Markov missed the final four games of the regular season with an undisclosed injury. Both have been skating of late, but not with their teammates.

"All our players are on skates now and we know what the game represents, so we will be re-evaluating everyone," said Gainey. "It's the worst situation and the best challenge.
"We'd rather not be in this situation. We came in looking for a win and we didn't get one."
This was the closest the Canadiens have come to a win in the series thus far, but they failed to get keep the lead when they dominated the opening period.

For the first time in the series, Montreal scored first as Higgins broke down the left side on a counterattack and beat Tim Thomas with wrist shot off his glove at 11:52. But with 1:25 left in the first, Mike Komisarek's clearing attempt was intercepted at the blue-line by Dennis Wideman, whose shot toward the net went in off Kessel for his third of the series.
Since the goal was not produced by any sustained Boston pressure, but rather off of a fluke play, Gainey described it as "a punch to the mid-section" for his team.

Two players scored their first NHL playoff goals early in the second frame, as Byron Bitz fought off Weber to feed Thornton in front for his first in 25 career post-season games at 3:36. Bitz was in inserted in the Bruins lineup for the suspended Lucic. "Bitzy did a great job for us," said Thornton. "He was up all day. I don't think he got an afternoon nap. "We tried to limit him to one coffee. This is a tough building to play in for your first NHL playoff game."
Less than two minutes later, Glen Metropolit won a draw off Marc Savard back to Weber, who scored in only his second playoff game and fifth career NHL contest. After that goal, the Bruins took over and a string of three shots ended in Ryder's second of the series to give Boston the lead at 17:21.
"The rebound just came to me and I saw (Carey) Price was out of position a bit and I just wanted to get it on the net," Ryder said.

The Canadiens forechecked hard in the third period, but couldn't penetrate the Boston defence. Kobasew outraced Saku Koivu to score into the empty net with 37 seconds left to play. The crowd of 21,273 booed as the game wound down and some chanted "Carbo, Carbo," for the coach who was fired and replaced by Gainey with a month left in the season. The same crowd had booed the U.S anthem before the game, which didn't sit well with Higgins, a New York area native "I don't really understand it," said Higgins. "You can chant through it, but the booing thing, it's not really needed. What are they booing - the U.S. or that Boston's from the U.S.? Either way, it doesn't make sense."

Notes: Forward Tanguay and defenceman Schneider were surprise absentees for the Canadiens with upper body injuries. Both missed games in the final week of the regular season but played in the opening two playoff games. Since they were already missing top defenceman Andrei Markov, it may be why the scoreboard flashed a quote before the game from Voltaire: "Faith is believing when it is beyond the power of reason to believe." . . . Sergei Kostitsyn and Patrice Brisebois also sat out. Gregory Stewart played his first NHL playoff game and Ryan O'Byrne also got into the lineup. . . Lucic sat out his one-game suspension for cross-checking Maxim Lapierre in Game 2 and Bitz, in his NHL post-season debut, took his spot in the line-up.

Friday, April 17, 2009

B's Game Recap! - Game #1 vs The Habs!

From the AP & Bostonbruins.com;

BOSTON (AP) -Phil Kessel's first NHL playoff experience is one he'd like to forget, and he's well on his way to erasing the memories of last year's postseason benching.
The third-year forward had two goals and an assist to lead Boston to a 4-2 victory over the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday night in the opener of the best-of-seven series.

"He's improved leaps and bounds," Bruins forward Marc Savard said. "He brings a dimension not too many guys have, with his speed and skill. He's ready to take the torch."

Tim Thomas stopped 26 shots, and Zdeno Chara scored a power-play goal with 8:45 left to break a third-period tie before Kessel iced it with an empty-netter.
Game 2 is Saturday night.

"We have to have the confidence we can win these road games, and we have to be more disciplined," Canadiens captain Saku Koivu said. "The winning goal was on the power play ... we have to play better." It's the second straight year the Original Six rivals have met in the first round, though the roles have reversed from 2008, when Montreal was the top team in the East and Boston was the No. 8 seed. And no one has seen his fortunes change more than Kessel.
The fifth overall pick out of the University of Minnesota who came to the Bruins with great potential in 2006, Kessel wasn't playing up to the expectations when coach Claude Julien scratched him following Game 1 of the Montreal series. Kessel returned after missing three games with a goal in the fifth game and two in the sixth, when Boston avoided elimination before losing in the decisive seventh game in Montreal.
He led the Bruins with a career-high 36 goals this season, including a hat trick in the regular-season finale. And he picked up where he left off on Thursday, scoring in his sixth straight game. "It's nice," Kessel said, "but it's a long series."
Carey Price made 35 saves for the Canadiens.
Kessel and
David Krejci gave Boston a 2-0 lead before Montreal tied it on goals by Chris Higgins and Alex Kovalev. Mark Recchi almost tied it on a third-period power play with a tip-in that hit the post and bounced off Price's back toward the goal line. But Price gloved it before it crossed the line, and Chara slapped it into the net seconds later.
"He's our heart and soul. A pretty valuable player for us," Julien said. "I like the way he led our team tonight, and it's quite appropriate he scored the game-winner." Kessel made it 4-2 with 13.4 seconds left on an empty-netter on a pass from Milan Lucic, a goal that prompted a round of fisticuffs that continued after the final whistle.

Canadiens coach Bob Gainey said he couldn't see the fighting because it was against the near boards. But he didn't have to see it to know the explanation.
"I think you could probably mix frustration in there somewhere," he said.
Montreal and Boston have met an NHL-record 32 times in the playoffs, with the Canadiens winning 24 times, including last year when they had the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference but needed seven games to get out of the first round. The Bruins left the series emboldened, and it showed with a quick start this season that propelled them to the conference's top seed.

More disappointing for Boston was the 2004 first-round series, when the best record in the East meant little and the Bruins blew a 3-1 lead in the series for another early exit. Boston has not made it out of the first round since 1999, losing to the Canadiens in three of four playoff appearances since then.
Once again, the Bruins went into the postseason with hopes for something better. They were 5-0-1 against Montreal in the regular season, giving them hope of ending their postseason slump.

Boston started things off when Price tried to cover the puck in the crease with his glove but it got poked out and right to Kessel, who knocked it in with 6:49 left in the first. Krejci made it 2-0 just 90 seconds later, backhanding a pass from ex-Canadien
Michael Ryder past Price. But Boston failed to clear the zone, diving to the ice and deflecting passes before Higgins put a rebound past Thomas with 3:51 left in the opening period.

The Canadiens tested Thomas repeatedly in the second, but he responded with a beautiful diving save with 14 minutes left in the period and then stopped Glen Metropolit on a 3-on-1 at the 12 minute mark. But he didn't have a chance at Kovalev's slap shot that tied it 2-all with 2:23 left in the second.
Notes: The Bruins honored the NCAA championship hockey team from Boston University during a break in the first period. ... Montreal D Andrei Markov, the team's second-leading scorer in the regular season, did not travel with the team because of an undisclosed injury. ... Boston D Andrew Ference also did not dress. ... Bruins F P.J. Axelsson took a shot off the kneecap with 6 minutes left and struggled to get back to the bench. He returned for the final minutes. ... Price fell to 5-7 in the playoffs.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


They may not be teenagers (although they act more like pre-teens), and they *may* not be mutants (the jury is still out on a few of them)...but they most certainly are NINJA TURTLES! Ninjas, because they're famous for sneaking up on their opponent from behind to launch their attacks. Turtles because, well......that's just what they do when their foe turns around. I never was a fan as a kid, and I sure as hell am not a fan of "Turtle Power" now. But hey, I guess everyone has to do what they feel they need to do, right?


All turtle related nonsense aside, there has been one topic that amazingly has taken on a life of it's own on the web today. Being the playoffs and all, you would think the debate is centering around the Thomas vs Price match-up. Or the injury to Markov. Or maybe a debate about Chara's place in history if he carries his dominant regular season to new heights with an incredible playoff run. Well my friends, you'd be wrong if you guessed any of those topics was today's "burning issue".

No, the hot topic today has been none other than..... georges Laraque. I kid you not. The same Georges Laraque that has been deemed useless often enough this year to be a healthy scratch for the majority of Montreal's games this year, having played in only 33. Just as a starting point, to establish the player we're talking about, here are "Big Georges Laraque's" (henceforth to be called BGL because I'm lazy) stats on the season: 33GP 0G 2A 2PTS 61PIMS -6 +/- rating and a whopping 15 shots on net. ALL year....15 shots on goal. Yet this guy is the one every Habs fan seems to obsessed with. Curious, to say the least.

So, you may ask, why? Why is a completely irrelevant player being hyped so much north of the border? (to be fair, many a Bruins fan site has been over loaded with BGL talk today as well....with obvious differences of opinion than our Habs friends). Here's my theory, and I think it's obvious.....not exactly a shocking discovery on my part. Montreal was flat out embarrassed by the game in the Garden last week. Their fans saw their Ninja Turtles running around, being yappy and getting pushed around. Deep down, it emasculated them. It shamed them to their core. They of course will never admit that. They'll put on the brave front and say that their guys are every bit as "tough" as any Bruin. This, as we know, is laughable. Thing is, they know it too. The fact is, they also know they don't have the talent to match up with the Bruins. So what do you do? They can't out-skate the B's. They can't "out-tough" them either. So, their last resort is to suit up the hired goon and hope that he can somehow be the security blanket his little buddies need. The theory is, as long as BGL is dressed, those big meanie Bruins won't "run around" and hit their "star" players.

While that sure is a heck of a theory, I don't think it's much of a game plan. If Montreal is pinning their hopes on BGL, they have some serious issues on that team. BGL's only contribution is, he's a decent fighter. Not nearly the undisputed heavyweight champion he once was. But far from a man to be taken lightly when the gloves come off. But you see, the flaws in the plan are two-fold. One, it's the playoffs. Fighting is beyond rare in the post season. So automatically, BGL's biggest (nay, only) asset is stripped from him. Secondly, BGL touts himself as the self appointed keeper of "the code". And by his set of values, he has to cordially ask you for an appointment to fight him. You can be sure Julien has given, at the very least, Chara and Lucic strict orders to not waste their valuable time fighting that waste of a roster spot. Bingo, Claude has now completely neutered BGL.
Oh sure, you'll have plenty of Habs fans hooting and hollering, calling Lucic all kinds of names (like Lucie .....personally, I LOVE LUCIE), but the truth is, everyone knows just ignoring BGL is the right thing to do. Especially for a top player, like Looch or Chara. Why in God's name would Boston want to trade five minutes in the box with BGL for either of those two? You just don't do it. Besides, with BGL's style of fighting, it's very easy to end up with an injury. Not because of a hard punch, but because he is now hell-bent on wrestling guys to the boards and tackling them (after punching the back of their head a few times). Why risk a shoulder injury for him? Foolish.
OK, so I think most rational fans can agree that a Lucic or Chara trade for BGL isn't a wise move for Boston. But many Montreal fans, for some reason, feel that Thornton needs to fight him. Again, fighting isn't a priority in the playoffs. And Thornton, while a fourth liner, is a vastly superior player to BGL. Thornton can actually PLAY HOCKEY. A concept completely lost on BGL. Thornton has gone with BGL in the past. He has zero to "prove" to anyone.

About all you can say for BGL is that he isn't a Turtle. He will actually drop the gloves, unlike any of his teammates. But I'm still confused as to Gainey's line of thinking. Hang with me while I try to explain my confusion. Here's the deal; Montreal knows they can't beat Boston five on five. So they know they have to do everything they can to create power play opportunities. If you listen to most Habs fans (at least the vocal ones on the message boards etc), they'll tell you that they're banking on the Habs pulling all the garbage they did in the last game. Cheap shots. Extra whacks after the whistle. Running their mouths. Basically anything and everything they can think of to get a response from the Bruins. Then part two of that plan, obviously, is to turtle and/or hide behind the refs (while chirping more). I mean, hey, it worked last week right? The B's completely lost their cool and over reacted to many situations that could have been let go. Certainly the Lucic take-down of Komisarek crossed a line (despite it's enormous entertainment value). And yes, I suppose Thornton COULD have not gone after O'byrne.....but I would have been upset if he didn't. The Chara altercation with the cowering Komisarek was completely deserved. An elbow to the head after the whistle to a small skilled player ALWAYS deserves an "intervention" from the Captain. But here's the thing the Habs seemingly are forgetting. That game meant absolutely nothing to the Bruins. So, if you've spent the season, or longer, taking this crap from a team.....what better opportunity to "settle old scores"? Trust me, if it was anyone other than Komisarek, Looch wouldn't have blown a chip and gone after him.
So the fatal flaw to this "instigate then run" game plan is, the Bruins understand exactly what they're trying to do. These games matter, the last one didn't. They're smart enough to know that there is a time and place for everything. This clearly isn't the time for frontier justice (unless something incredibly egregious takes place). So Montreal can take their little shots all they want. The B's game plan will be to let them do so. If Boston stays smart, it's the Habs that will find themselves in the box. And if not, five on five is fine with Boston.

But here is where things get all convoluted for me (hey, I asked you to hang in there with me....I'm getting there, I swear).
The obvious reason to insert BGL in the lineup is to stop the Bruins from "running around" and "taking advantage" of the Habs. But......if you're TRYING to goad the Bruins into taking liberties on one hand, how can you try to DETER them from taking liberties with the other? I mean, seriously...which is it? Do you want the B's to act the way they did last week? Or, as Gainey is clearly indicating, do you want them to be "settled down" by the presence of BGL? Maybe it's me, but I don't think they can have it both ways. Seems to be a dysfunctional game plan in my opinion. The vast majority of Canadiens fans I've seen talking about BGL have insisted that he will be a great deterrent....let's assume (incorrectly) for a moment that that is true. So the Bruins look to the bench, where BGL is sure to be stapled for long stretches, and they decide "OK, it isn't worth 'gooning it up', let's all play nice and gentlemanly". How does a nice polite skating game help Montreal? Sure, the Habs top line can very dangerous in a wide open game. So can Boston's. And the B's second line. And their third. No, playing it straight doesn't help the Habs this year. For a change, it is their fans that realize that the only real shot they have, is to muddy up the game as much as possible. Use every dirty trick in the book, and hope you make the Bruins lose their composure.
BGL does nothing to help that strategy. As much as you, me and everyone else knows what his role is, rest assured, so do the officials. I have to believe, that if Gainey rolls this hammer head over the boards with the express intent of him "stirring the pot", the refs eyes will never leave him. Reputations do precede you in this league. That is why, in my opinion, if I were Montreal I would sit BGL. A one dimensional player that can't keep up with the pace of the NHL has no place in the playoffs. And if that player is known only as a fighter, well, I just don't get it.

So I know I'm rambling, and I'm sure I've made my point as clear as mud. But in a nutshell; you can't try to be the team instigating bullshit while simultaneously trying to make sure no BS starts. Yet this seems to be exactly the approach Gainey is taking. As Bruins fans, I think we can agree the biggest concern we'd have is seeing the Habs on the power play all night. But again, I think we all know Boston won't get sucked into the nonsense (while the game/series is in doubt anyway). If dressing BGL works the way Habs fans think it will, that just makes it easier for the B's to stay disciplined.
The last little thing about this "strategy" of dressing BGL that I don't get is.....the game is in Boston. Does Gainey honestly think that Julien will allow him to dictate who BGL plays against? He has last change. If say for example, Julien doesn't want a repeat of the circus in Montreal earlier this year. As soon as he sees BGL hop the boards to square off with Looch, he just changes lines. Now poor Georgey will actually have to play hockey. And we all know that isn't exactly his strong suit. Does Gainey honestly want to see BGL having to chase down actual skilled players all night (all night being a relative term. In BGL-speak, that's about five minutes of TOI)?
In fact, Julien may already be one step ahead of poor old Bob on this one. It's been reported that Blake Wheeler has been slotted in as a fourth line winger. Seems to me that Claude wants to spread out the scoring a bit, which is always a decent idea (plus, honestly Axe isn't a great fit on that line). Throw a lumbering player like BGL on the ice, and now whatever line the B's throw out there, they have more than enough speed and skill to make him completely useless. BGL doesn't skate nearly well enough to be a physical force in an up-tempo game. Spreading out the offense, while I'm sure not done specifically to take advantage of him, hurts BGL more than anyone on the Habs roster. No place for him to hide.

I don't know, maybe it's me. But I would think that on the eve of Game one, there has to be more for Montreal fans to hang their hat on than BGL. Pretty sad state of affairs when the guy everyone in Hab land has been RIPPING all season has suddenly emerged as their savior. Flawed logic reins supreme suddenly. And I for one couldn't be any happier.

Go B's-Kynch

Price saves his emotion for after the game, another loss to Boston.


Time to discuss Montreal's Sacred Cow, aka; Carey Price.

Carey Price, to me, is a decent goalie. Nothing more, nothing less. Can he get hot? Of course he can, just as any decent goalie could. He has some very good technical skills. Although, puck handling clearly is not among them. I jump out of my seat in anticipation every time I see him leave his crease to play a puck. But what he doesn't have, and the one thing Habs fans hung their collective hat on last year was, mental toughness. I think the Montreal faithful have confused dispassionate play for "calmness". Price isn't overly demonstrative in net, which is fine. Many a great goaltender has not been. But, he goes beyond being "calm". He looks downright sedated in there most of the time. I know teams don't want to look behind them and see a goalie who looks like he's over anxious all the time. I get that. But I also know that players like to play in front of a goalie that they KNOW cares as much as they do, and battles as hard as they do. Anyone who claims Price has shown that, has not been paying attention. I've mentioned it here before, that he gives up on plays quite often. Contrast that with Thomas, and it's striking. Price assumes the guy left uncovered on the far post will score once the puck gets there. Thomas defies you to score and makes you earn every goal you get. It's a distinct, and telling, personality difference.

I look at it like this; Thomas has been doubted, mocked and written off his entire professional career. Price on the other hand, has had nothing but rave reviews amid expectations of greatness. Obviously the underdog will always have more of a chip on his shoulder, while the "next great thing" has more of a tendency to develop lazy habits etc. In Price, I see not that calm persona the Habs fans see, rather a timid youngster, too insecure to fully exert himself or emote openly on the ice. Pressure and high expectations manifest themselves in many ways. Some people it's obvious, they can't stand still, they have many twitches and quirks etc.But for some, it's much more subtle. And in my eyes, Price clearly falls into that latter category. Watch him after a goal against, especially a soft one (he gives up one softy per game, so you'll get your chance). His reaction, rather than a Tim Thomas like display of anger at himself, is a sullen, beaten....almost embarrassed look. The slight head shake as if he's in disbelief that HE of all people has allowed a goal. If I'm a teammate or a fan, I'd much rather see my goalie pissed at himself, not looking around as if to say "it wasn't my fault"

And if anecdotal evidence like that isn't proof enough for you (I know, never trust your lying eyes right?), just look at last years playoffs. Price entered that series pre-ordained the next Ken Dryden and Patrick Roy all rolled into one. Guess what? He didn't win that seven game series for them. If anything, he damn near blew it for them. I've said it before and I'll say it again. If you score on him early, it's lights out. The self doubt that creeps into him is palpable. You can literally SEE him start to wonder what kind of a night it's going to be. Crowd the crease on him, and it just accelerates the process. He's a "technical" goalie. Anything that throws him off of his rhythm is a death sentence.

So, what does all that mean? Well, for one, it means you'll see the Bruins shooting pucks from anywhere and everywhere. You'll also see a steady stream of Bruins heading to the Montreal crease to say hello to young Mr. Price. The B's may not be the biggest team in the world, but they have more than enough players that can be effective posting up in front. Mark Recchi being the best of the bunch as far as scoring goes of course. But the likes of Lucic, Thornton, Yelle, Kobasew, Bergeron among others (including Chara occasionally) are well suited to causing problems in front. Of course, the turtle boys will do their best to clear the crease of any Black & Gold traffic, but with the way the rules are written now, it's nearly impossible to do so legally. All it takes is a little commitment from the offensive player, and they can set up camp in front all night. I fully expect that to be the case.

But it isn't just the B's players that can get into his head. I'm convinced crowd noise and chanting affects Price as well. Obviously, like every athlete, he'd deny it. But again, just look at his performances when facing a hostile crowd as opposed to being cheered by the home folks. Night and day. Mental toughness my friends, mental toughness. Some have it, some pretend to.

So, after reading all this, you probably assume I think Price will be a total bust. Get lit up every game, right? Actually, no. I expect him to play reasonably well for the most part. As I said, he's a decent goalie. And decent goalies don't get shelled on a regular basis. But, what I do expect is for him to give up a smattering of absolutely crushing goals. Like I said, he's good for that one bad one per game, and that is a recipe for disaster in the playoffs.

He also carries no "mystique" to this Bruins team that has had more success against him than any other team. And that is a huge consideration. Many a playoff series has been lost before they even started because team B was convinced they couldn't score against team A's goalie. Simply not the case here. They've done it all year, and they did it last post-season. Price giving up five goals to Boston is no longer news-worthy, it's practically a common event.

I've seen a few Montreal fans comment that the Habs are in a good position because of their goal tending "depth". The logic goes that,if Price stumbles, you just roll out Halak and the Habs don't miss a beat. Well, I'm sorry but that's a bunch of garbage. If the playoff pressure gets to Price, as it very well may, why does anyone think Halak would stand up to it any better? He's also a young kid, who has never been thrust into the spotlight like that. In fact, it could be argued that if Halak ended up having to play, he'd be under even more pressure than Price. Because if Halak gets the nod, it means it's desperation time in Montreal, and all their hopes ride on his shoulders. I'm just not convinced he's equipped to handle it. And as the old saying goes, if you don't have one goalie, you don't have A goalie.

All of this puts Gainey in an interesting quandary. What if Price gets shelled in game one? Does he pull him, on the road in front of a very hostile fan base? Does he let him stay in and take his beating, conceding the loss in the process? Which does more long term harm to Carey's psyche? Honestly, I don't know what I would do in that situation. It almost seems like a lose-lose for him. If he pulls him, sure, I guess it gives him time to regroup. But it also gives him time to sit there and contemplate how wrong it all went. All while sitting idly by, with no way to change anything (and getting and earful from the Garden faithful). If he stays in, even if he stops the bleeding, does that help him? He'd have taken the loss, and not had much time between seeing the same opponent again to get his head straight again. That scenario could very well lead to a snowballing effect on his confidence, especially if he allows an early goal in game 2. I'm not convinced he could shake off the bad start in either scenario, so obviously I'm rooting for an early goal.

The bottom line is this;Boston is the far superior team this year. Their depth all over the ice is unmatched by Montreal. All things being equal, and by that I mean power plays and the like, the Habs simply have to steal games with outrageous goal tending. And honestly, although I know ANYTHING is possible, I just don't think Price is the one to pull that off. If he does, I'll tip my cap to him (while blasting the B's for choking of course). But I feel pretty confident that there will be no cap tipping in my future, other than to say "better luck next year fellas".
One more day.....the wait is killing me. Go B's-Kynch

One Man's take on the 1st Round of NHL Playoffs 09'...

As we all count down to the drop of the puck for Game #1 tomorrow night in the Garden, I figured I'd share my take on what looks like it could be among the most exciting and competitive NHL Playoffs ever! Even the traditional #1 verses #8 first round match ups look to be tight and tough to call and that the next TWO MONTHS of hard nosed hockey won't be for the faint of heart... Anyway here's my Round #1 picks by match up which I'll update heading into the next round:

Eastern Conference

#1 Boston Bruins vs. #8 Montreal Canadiens

I fully expect that we'll all see the usual HIGH intensity (and at times the unexplainable nonsense...) right from the first shift to the last horn between these two Original 6, Blood Rivals but I simply think that the Bruins are the better team this time around and that they'll show it from start to finish. The Pick- B's in 5

#2 Washington Caps vs. #7 NY Rangers

This one boils down to the Caps potent offense vs. the Rangers Super Goalie Henrik Lundqvist. Curious to see what if anything that dope Sean Avery will bring to this match up and if he can take some of the Cap's stars off their games? Regardless The Pick is- Cap's in 6

#3 NJ Devils vs. #6 Carolina Hurricanes

The Canes' finished the regular season as one of the NHL's hottest teams, so there seems little doubt what to expect from them in the opening round of the playoffs. The New Jersey Devils are a different story, despite winning four of the final five games... Something interesting to keep in mind is that the team that won Game 1 in these teams' previous three playoff meetings has gone on to win the series. The Pick: Hurricanes in 6

#4 Pittsburgh Pen's vs. #5 Philly Flyers

This one ought to be crazy... It's common for playoff opponents to talk about not liking each other, but the Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins truly don't! They haven't since the moment they entered the NHL together as expansion teams in 1967 and keeping with that theme this one should have it all and I think will be a BATTLE that ultimately comes down to the fact that the Flyers blew the chance for round #1 home ice advantage last weekend with a mail in job verses the Rangers. The Pick: The Pens in 7

Western Conference

#1 San Jose Sharks vs. #8 Anaheim Ducks

Could the Playoff "Curse of Jumbo Joe" jump up and bite the Sharks (again..) and implode what's been a successful regular season for them? This can't be the match up San Jose wanted having to stare down the surging Ducks in what will be a "fun", Cali on Cali crime... I'm thinking Anaheim's blue liners will do a number on the Sharks wingers but that goalie Evgeni Nabokov will somehow come up BIG and save the Shark's (at least in this round) The Pick: The Sharks in 6

#2 Detroit Red Wings vs. #7 Columbus Blue Jackets

As much as I'd like to point out the huge question mark the Wings' have in net with Chris Osgood and then when you add in the fact that the Blue Jackets & their Calder worthy goalie Steve Mason really have been a great story this season and that they well may be this years Playoff Cinderella. The pick should be easy right? "Upset Special" right? Well then I remember that the Wings just captured their fourth Cup in 11 seasons last year and that they roll with guys named Datsyuk, Lidstrom, Zetterberg and Hossa... Then I say... OK I get it... The Pick: Wings in 5

#3 Vancouver Canucks vs. #6 St. Louis Blues

While I think we all know and can agree that Blues goalie Chris Mason isn't in Roberto Luongo's class in either reputation and skill. I on the other also think we need to question why he (Luongo) still has never found a away to carry over his usual regular season brilliance into the post season after all these years? And since I'm no Dr. Phil, I'm thinking that we should just expect this lack of Playoff success to continue for Berto' and his boys and as such The Pick is: Blues in 7

#4 Chicago Blackhawks vs. #5 Calgary Flames

I like this match up on pure mutual skill and young star power with the Hawks' dressing Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, ex-B's prospect Kris Versteeg and the Flames rolling out rugged and skilled winger Jarome Iginla among others in the end I think like most close Playoff match ups this one will be decided by goaltending which in this case could be a GREAT match up between Flames workhorse goalie Miikka Kiprusoff verses the all but forgotten Nikolai Khabibulin from Chicago. I'm not sure if it's the fact that Mike Keenan's behind the Flames bench or that trade deadline pick up Olli Jokinen was initially red hot but has gone cold of late? but The Pick is: Blackhawks in 7

Regardless of all this we're now within 30 hours or so of the drop of the puck at the Garden! So it's time I begin to gear it up and get ready for "The Running of the Bears" - Go Broounze! KingKrej46

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The B's Win The Cup! Well...kind of...

EA SPORTS NHL 09 PREDICTS BOSTON BRUINS WILL WIN THE STANLEY CUP!

The Bruins will WIN the Stanley Cup for the first time in 37 years, defeating original six rival Chicago Blackhawks in a six game series, according to the official EA SPORTS simulation of the 2009 NHL playoffs on the award-winning NHL 09 videogame.

Boston, led by shutdown defenseman Zdeno Chara, outmuscled the Blackhawks and received timely scoring from Conn Smythe Trophy winner Phil Kessel to capture its sixth Stanley Cup, and first since 1972. Kessel, playing on the Bruins top line with playoff leading scorer Marc Savard, delivered two overtime game-winners during the Finals. According to their simulation Savvy finished with 14 goals in the playoffs, including five in the Finals.

The EA SPORTS simulation predicts Boston and Chicago will appear in the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time in 17 and 15 years, respectively. Boston last appeared in the Stanley Cup Finals in 1990, losing 4 games to 1 to the Edmonton Oilers. Chicago lost in four straight games to Pittsburgh in the 1992 Stanley Cup Finals.

EA's 2009 Stanley Cup Finals Results

Game 1 – Boston 4 Chicago 2
Game 2 – Boston 3 Chicago 2 OT
Game 3 – Chicago 3 Boston 1
Game 4 – Boston 4 Chicago 3 OT
Game 5 – Chicago 4 Boston 3
Game 6 – Boston 5 Chicago 3

The B's reached the Stanley Cup Finals with 4-2 series wins over Montreal, and Carolina, and a thrilling seven games series victory over the Washington Capitals in the Eastern Conference Finals, according to NHL 09. Chicago, making its first playoff appearance since 2001-02, upset President’s Trophy winner and top seed San Jose in seven games in the Western Conference Finals after series wins over Calgary (4-2) and Vancouver (4-2).

As a interesting side note, EA's results also showed that the defending Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings were upset by Columbus Blue Jackets, who were making their first playoff appearance, in a seven game first round series. Nice!

The NHL 09 computerized simulation is conducted using artificial intelligence that uses real-life data from each team, such as player ratings and line combinations, and includes variances such as injuries and hot streaks to predict a realistic outcome of each game and series.

If you havent played before or are unfamiliar with with EA SPORTS. Their NHL 09 game release has won 12 Sports Game of the Year awards and is the highest rated* sports game on Xbox 360. This years version allows you to "Feel" what it’s like to become an NHL superstar in their innovative and candidly really cool "Be A Pro" mode. Where you can create yourself or any type of player you see yourself as in game, choose your position, insert yourself onto the roster of your favorite team and then lead them to the Stanley Cup in NHL 09. Great stuff!

Anyway the full announcement and other details on this can be found on EA Sports website or by connecting via this link: http://www.easportsworld.com/en_US/news/NHLStanleyCupSimulation

Hey, I know it's only a video game "Cup Win!" but it still has to be a good omen of things to come, right?! Go Broounze! - KingKrej46

Monday, April 13, 2009

The Hab Strategy

This picture pretty much sums up Montreal's strategy in a nut, excuse me, I mean turtle shell.

Sad part is, it can be effective. Shameful, embarrassing and pathetic, but effective. Of course, it's only effective if the Bruins allow it to be. And as tempting as it is to want to hammer away on anyone that cheap shots and chirps then runs away or simply turtles, the B's by now are wise to these tactics. I don't expect to see a parade of marauding Bruins headed to the penalty box after trying to exact revenge for the chippyness Montreal is sure to bring to the series. Boston will simply have to bide their time, and wait for appropriate situations to present themselves in order to "pay back" some of the nonsense. Players like komisarek, O'Byrne (if he plays), Kostopoulus, Plecanek and Gorges are sure to do some things to get the B's blood boiling. Patience is key. There will be plenty of time to blast them with legal checks etc. With luck, the officials will have their eyes open and be aware of what the Habs are doing. Because Montreal's strategy will be to initiate altercations, and pray that the ref just sees the retaliation. If Boston doesn't respond (or at least OVER react), they'll have a field day on the power play.

The most interesting, IE; hysterical theory I've seen floated from Montreal is that the Habs will....wait for it.......seriously, you may want to sit down.....ready?...OK, I've seen it written that Montreal will try to "intimidate" the Bruins! I know! That was my reaction too! To be specific, the suggestion is that Gainey will copy Carbeneau's (failed) strategy of having Georges Laraque "shadow" Lucic. It's proposed that BGL will "challenge" Lucic to fight all night as "pay back" for his "attack" on Komisarek last week. This is funny on so many levels. First of all, I don't think Gainey is dumb enough to waste a top line spot on Laraque the way the Rodent did. Hell, I'll be mildly surprised if BGL even dresses for the playoffs, unless the Scabs find themselves down a couple games or more.
Beyond the fact that it wasn't Gainey's call the first time they tried it, is the fact that when they did that, the game was in Montreal. This time, Julien will be able to get the last change and defuse the whole thing anyway. Plus, you just know Julien will give Looch another "no fighting Laraque" mandate. And, BGL being the self proclaimed "keeper of the code", all Looch or anyone else has to do is just say "no thank you" when asked to fight. Suddenly, the big man is rendered impotent. As much as Canadiens fans like to think this tactic worked last time, Lucic had one of his better games all year that night. He threw more hits than anyone in the game, and scored the winning goal. So please, by all means Mr. Gainey, I'm begging you. PLEASE use this same brilliant strategy again.
Personally, I think if Gainey dresses Laraque, they can kiss the series goodbye early. If he dresses and plays his "normal" role, he won't see more spot than five minutes of ice time. And I'm all for an opposing team wasting a roster spot in the playoffs. And if Gainey does decide to increase his ice time, especially to shadow Lucic (who will probably be on the top line with Kessel and Savard), well.......Savard will feel like he's on a power play every shift. Sideshows don't win hockey games. And BGL dressing would be nothing more than a sideshow. The man simply can't play hockey.

So what should Boston's strategy be then? Simple. End of strategy. Seriously, if the B's keep the game plan as simple as possible, they'll win going away. Boston plays it's best hockey when it uses it's speed and size to play a straight line game. Crisp passes out of their zone, speed through center ice sets up options for their attack. If the D backs off, Boston forwards can press the attack, either driving hard to the net, or pulling up and hitting a late trailer/defenseman filling the void behind them. If the Habs try to stand up at the line, no problem. Chip it deep and use your wheels to get to the puck first. If the habs D gets to the puck first, Boston's distinct size advantage allows them to punish the wimpy Montreal defenders. Over the course of a long game,never mind series, Canadien Defensegirls will wear down and cough up pucks. It really is a simple game when you get right down to it. As long as Boston keeps it simple, they're fine. For the first time in a long time, the Bruins are clearly the more talented team at every position. keep it simple, control your emotions and win the series. Simple never looked so fun.

I'll try to break down individual match-ups etc as the week goes on, but for now all you need to know is this. HABS SUCK. Go B's- Kynch