Thursday, March 31, 2011

Game 77: Time Is Running Out...For The Leafs

Tonight the Bruins took on the Toronto Maple Leafs. This was the last meeting of the season between these two teams and this was the next to last divisional game of the season for the Bruins. Boston trailed the Washington Capitals by three points for second place in the Eastern Conference heading into the night. For Toronto, they were seven points out of the final playoff spot needing a miracle finish to play beyond the 82 game schedule.

There were some line up changes for the Bruins tonight. Defenseman Johnny Boychuk was a scratch tonight in order to give Steve Kampfer some playing time. Also, Michael Ryder played tonight after forward Shawn Thornton was not medically cleared to play after taking a skate to the forehead resulting in 40 stitches. Yesterday, Thornton claimed he did not know who said the trash talk to him as he was skating by the Chicago bench, but he said that he "will find out who did it if he wants to be a man about it." God have mercy on that unknown Blackhawk's soul.

After both national anthems were heard, the puck was dropped. For the first few minutes, the Bruins could not get the puck out of the their own end. However, the Maple Leafs did not have too many quality shots. Luke Schenn (TOR) scored for the Leafs after his shot was deflected behind Tim Thomas by Tomas Kaberle. Both teams took turns trading hooking and slashing penalties towards the end of the period but no power plays resulted in goals. Toronto had a one goal lead after the first period.

The Bruins woke up right away in the second period. After Zdeno Chara got sent to the penalty box for a holding call, they had to go on the penalty kill. It was there that Brad Marchand scored his 21st goal and it was also his fifth shorthanded goal of the season. Less than a minute later, the Bruins took the lead when David Krejci put the puck in the net after some great passing by Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton.

Joffrey Lupul (TOR) scored his 12th of the season to tie the game at two. This was a power play goal that was assisted by Tyler Bozak and Phil Kessel. Soon after, Andrew Ference scored his third of the season to put Boston back on top. This was an action packed second period that featured a fight between Milan Lucic and Jay Rosehill and lots of extra pushing and shoving following whistles. Boston had a 3-2 lead after two periods.

In the third period, each team had bursts of energy and moments of fatigue. They each alternated fast rushes to the goal with a flurry of shots. The only goal of the period came when Joffrey Lupul scored his second goal of the game to tie the game at three and send the game into overtime. Tim Thomas stopped a penalty shot in overtime after a horrible call on defenseman Steve Kampfer. Boston had the opportunity to score when they went on the power play for the final minute, but several shots from Zdeno Chara could not go in and this game went to a shootout.

In the shootout, the three Boston shooters were Tyler Seguin, Michael Ryder, and Rich Peverley. The shooters for Toronto were Phil Kessel and Nazem Kadri. Kadri scored the only goal and they did not need to send out a third shooter. The Maple Leafs won 4-3 in a shootout. Toronto keeps their minimum playoff hopes alive and Boston will have to wait until Saturday for another chance to clinch the Northeast Division.

Gold Star: Andrew Ference (1 goal, 4 shots on goal, +2 rating)

Black Star: Patrice Bergeron...he was not a huge factor in this game. Although he was involved in a key play: a turnover that led to the Toronto goal that tied the game. Try being on the other side of those Bergeron.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Game 76: To Be The Team, You Have to Beat The Team

The defending Stanley Cup champions, the Chicago Blackhawks, made their way into the TD Garden tonight to face the Bruins. Coming into the game, Chicago had 90 points and held the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. This team has made several changes from their roster last season and they had to play a portion of this season without one of their most porductive players in Patrick Sharp due to a knee injury.

On the Bruins side, they are just one game removed from a hard fought victory of the Philadelphia Flyers. The Bruins needed to come out playing strong, especially getting production from their first line (David Krejci, Milan Lucic, Nathan Horton). In fact, those three players lead the team in all three offensive categories respectively: Krejci leads the team in assists (48), Lucic in goals (30), and Horton in +/- (+29).

The game began with Boston coming on quite strong. They were definately the more dominant team in the first 20 minutes. They had the higher number of scoring chances and they executed their set plays to perfection (one of which they almost scored off of after Zdeno Chara sent a nice pass through the Chicago defense to a rotating Brad Marchand, but the shot was blocked). Boston had 12 shots on goal and won 11 faceoffs whereas Chicago had five shots on goal and won six faceoffs. Even though the period was that one-sided, there was no score after the first period because of great goaltending from Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford.

Things got a little chippy in the second period. Some extra ciricular activity on both sides of the ice came as a result of some big hits and some trash talk. Bruins tough guy Shawn Thornton took a skate to the forehead leaving blood all over the ice. Despite that setback, the Bruins scored two goals in the period and both were by defensemen. Zdeno Chara scored his 14th of the season and Johnny Boychuk scored his third of the season. Two forwards at the assists on each goal (Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand for Chara's goal and Mark Recchi and Milan Lucic for Boychuk's goal). Usually you have the defense assisting the forwards. Either way the forwards still played key roles in both goals. At the end of two periods, Boston had a two goal lead.

In the third period, the fatigue was beginning to show in the Blackhawks. They played a hard game last night against the Detroit Red Wings and that took its toll. Nathan Horton added a goal in this period to give Boston a 3-0 lead and that is how the game would end. Boston goaltender Tim Thomas picked up his ninth shutout of the season.

Gold Star: Tim Thomas (32 saves on 32 shots, 1.00 save percentage)

Black Star: David Krejci...he did not have an impact in this game at all. As a puck mover, he needs to do a better job of distributing the puck like we know he can do. Tonight, most of the puck moving came from the defense.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Game 75: Black and Gold vs. Black and Orange

The Bruins were in action on back-to-back nights, yet it was rare to see them in action on a Sunday night. They faced the first place Philadelphia Flyers in one of their final road games this season. In fact, after tonight they only have two remaining road games left on their schedule.

Tim Thomas took the start in goal. Steve Kampfer and Michael Ryder were the healthy scratches for the Bruins (not really a surprise there). The first period was rather even as both teams each had 10 shots on goal. Boston fell behind 1-0 when Kris Versteeg scored his 20th goal of the season. Thomas kept the Bruins in shouting distance with some nice stops. That would be the score after the first 20 minutes.

In the second period, Boston seemed to pick up some energy. After Chris Kelly (BOS) almost had his leg taken off by a Blair Betts (PHI) trip, Nathan Horton scored his 23th goal of the season. This goal came four seconds into the power play. The rest of the period was somewhat slow. The puck spent most of the time in the neutral zone and both teams were on the defensive. Zdeno Chara had a great opportunity, but he hit the cross bar. Needless to say, the Bruins and Flyers remained tied at one after two periods.

In the third period, Philadelphia picked up their game. They were pressuring Boston during the early going of the period. On the Bruins side, center David Krejci took several hits in order to make a pass into the open zone. That showed just the type of tough player Krejci is; he was willing to take some punishment in order to benefit the team.

There was a point in the third period where Flyers captain Mike Richards caught Bruins defenseman Tomas Kaberle in the neck with a high stick. Richards went right over and shoved Kaberle, accusing him of selling the call. Are you serious? Kaberle is one of the most honest players in the league and that stick was right in his face. The officials arm could not have gone up any faster. On the other hand, Richards is the same guy who almost crippled Florida Panthers forward David Booth with a similar hit that Matt Cooke delivered on Marc Savard. Sorry Richards, you are not going to get the benefit of the doubt in that situation.

The power play that ensued the Richards high stick led to Brad Marchand putting Boston on top 2-1 by scoring his 20th goal of the season. Dennis Seidenberg and Mark Recchi had the assists. After holding off the Flyers in the final seconds, the Bruins held on to win the game by a score of 2-1, thus clinching a playoff spot.

Gold Star: David Krejci...he only had one assist in the game. However, it was his play off the score sheet that stood out tonight. He had a physical presence, won key face offs, and he always makes beautiful passes to create scoring chances.

Black Star: Adam McQuaid...he has games of brilliance on certain nights and then he has games of lack-luster play on other nights. All he has to do is keep playing on a consistent level and he will be a dominant player in the playoffs.

Their next game will be Tuesday night at the TD Garden against the defending Stanley Cup champions, the Chicago Blackhawks. This will be a great test to see how Boston can play against a Western Conference power house. The last time they played an elite team from the Western Conference was when they traveled to Vancouver and they defeated the Canucks.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Game 74: Bruins Blanked

The Boston Bruins had an afternoon game today at the TD Garden. They welcomed in the New York Rangers, a team who might match up against Boston in the playoffs. This game was a tight one the entire way. However, it was the Rangers who had the fun ride back to the hotel.

Derek Stepan (NYR) scored the only goal of the game at 6:39 of the first period. It was his 20th goal of the season and Michael Sauer and Vaclav Prospal had the assists. Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist was on his game today. He stopped all 26 shots that went his way.

The Bruins defense was solid today. They allowed 23 shots on goal the entire game and that includes one total shot allowed in the third period. However, it was the Bruins offense that did not show up to play today. Tyler Seguin had four shots on goal and had a very strong game throughout. There were times when he was the only forward on the ice that was actually playing with heart. Boston goaltender Tuukka Rask had a very good game as well. However, that one goal proved to be the difference.

In this game, Gregory Campbell (BOS) had a fight with Sean Avery (NYR), one of the most hated men in the league. Towards the end of the scrap, Avery used his signature leg take down tactic and threw two punches at Campbell when he was flat on the ground. What happened to the unwritten rule of not throwing a punch when a man is down? That part of the game is disgusting, but those of you who know about Avery were not surprised when that took place.

Gold Star: Tuukka Rask (22 saves on 23 shots, .957 save percentage)

Black Star: Michael Ryder...he seems to be losing his presence on the ice. No shots, no goals, no assists. Even Seguin had more shifts than Ryder today (13 for Seguin, 11 for Ryder).

On a side note, Bruins center Marc Savard had reported to be currently experiencing memory loss and it is starting to worry him. Lets hold our breaths Bruins fans and hope that Savard can make a return to the ice next season. But for right now, his health is the biggest concern.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Game 73: The Rivalry...Didn't Look Like It Tonight

For those of you who were expecting a close and physical game from both teams tonight were wittnesses to exactly that....well, half of that at least. The Boston Bruins faced that team from Montreal tonight. Maybe you have heard of them? The Montreal Canadiens? Does that sound familiar? Anyone?

Yes, it was the final regular season meeting between the two teams this season. The Bruins only have one win against Montreal coming into this game. They also held a three point lead in the Northeast Division heading into the night. This was a huge game for Boston in the sense that they can put winning the division behind them and focus on winning the conference. This game was significant due to the fact that it was the first time these two teams met since the "Chara Hit" up in Montreal on Max Pacioretty of the Canadiens. That black and gold crest on Zdeno Chara's chest might as well have been painted red tonight.

The Bruins needed to come out firing and that is what they did. 61 seconds into the game, Johnny Boychuk (BOS) scored on a slap shot to put the B's on top 1-0. They never looked back. Gregory Campbell and Nathan Horton each added a goal in the first period to give Boston a 3-0 lead after one period. Zdeno Chara and David Krejci had two assists each on goals that were scored.

In the second and third periods, the Bruins defense stepped up on both sides of the ice. Dennis Seidenberg and Andrew Ference were solid all night along the boards and the blue line. Adam McQuaid and Tomas Kaberle contributed on the offensive end when they each scored a goal. When Kaberle scored, that was his first goal in a Bruins uniform. Goaltender Tim Thomas stopped all 24 shots that came his way. Every Boston player contributed in a huge way to the game tonight. Boston won the game 7-0. See you in the playoffs Montreal!

Gold Star: Zdeno Chara...he racked up three assists and finished with a +3 rating. But with all of the controversy surrounding this game, he played strong and did not let anything distract him from his game. That is exactly how a captain should act.

Black Star: Michael one point this season he was on the first line. Now he is being alternated between the third line, the fourth line, and the press box (healthy scratches). Speculation prior to this season was that Ryder would begin the season in Providence. We may not see Ryder in a Bruins uniform next season.

On a side note, today was play-by-play commentator Jack Edwards' birthday today. Happy 54th birthday Jack and what a gift the Bruins gave to you tonight.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Game 72: Devil's Advocate

Finally some justice around the NHL. Pittsburgh Penguins' forward Matt Cooke will be suspended for the rest of the regular season and the first round of the playoffs. This came as a result of his high elbow to the face of New York Rangers' defenseman Ryan McDonagh. Cooke is the same man who delivered a similar hit to the head of Boston Bruins' center Marc Savard. Savard may never play hockey again.

The Bruins face the New Jersey Devils tonight, a team that was once a joke of a team has turned the table into a team that is playing some of the best hockey in the league. However, Boston outscored the Devils 7-1 in their previous two meetings that both resulted in wins. Led by the 100 million dollar man Ilya Kovalchuk, New Jersey was out to prove that this was a different squad that is fighting for a potential playoff spot.

The Bruins fell behind early in the game when Kovalchuk scored his 27th of the season. This was a power play goal that resulted when Mark Recchi got called for hooking Dainius Zubrus. Minutes later, Shawn Thornton scored his ninth of the season after shielding future Hall of Fame goaltender Martin Brodeur as he deflected a shot from Bruins' defenseman Dennis Seidenberg into the net. The period would end in a 1-1 tie.

Once New Jersey scored that opening goal, the momentum had quickly shifted to Boston and that continued into the second period. Even all of the calls were going their way since they had five opportunities to score on the power play at this point of the game. With some crisp passing from Tomas Kaberle and Milan Lucic, Zdeno Chara put the puck into the net to give Boston a 2-1 lead. That was the score heading into the third period. Boston out shot New Jersey 16 to 8 in the second period after being out shot 16 to 6 in the first period.

In the third period, the Devils put some pressure on Boston, forcing the Bruins to just dump the puck instead of making plays out of their zone. They had some decent shots but Tim Thomas (BOS) kept the puck out of the net. Late in the third period, Milan Lucic scored his 30th of the season. Lucic is Boston's first 30 goal scorer since Phil Kessel did it in 2009. Mark Recchi added an empty net goal and they went on to win the game by a score of 4-1.

Gold Star: Zdeno Chara (1 goal, 2 assists, 4 shots on goal, +2 rating)

Black Star: Gregory Campbell...he only had four shifts in the second period because the Bruins had four power plays. He is normally a huge part of the penalty kill, not the power play. It is not like he had a bad game. He just lacked the playing time due to circumstances beyond his control.

The Bruins will take on the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday night at the TD Garden...enough said.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Game 71: A Spoiled Homecoming

The Bruins finished up a mini four game road trip tonight when they traveled to Toronto to take on the Maple Leafs. This was the first time that Bruins' defenseman Tomas Kaberle returned to his former team since the trade. The butterflies must have been present, but knowing how great of a player Kaberle is, it was all business when the puck dropped.

Tim Thomas got the start in net for the Bruins tonight. His night in net did not last too long. After allowing four goals, he was pulled about halfway through the second period in favor of Tuukka Rask. Toronto players Luke Schenn, Nazem Kadri, Joey Crabb, and Mike Brown were the goal scorers that put the puck past Thomas. Once Rask got into the net, Keith Aulie added to the lead by scoring his second of the season.

Adam McQuaid got the Bruins on the board early in the first period, but that was the only goal scored by Boston through two periods. The Maple Leafs took a 5-1 lead after the first 40 minutes. The Bruins were getting some scoring chances, but they just failed to capitalize. That was in part by the outstanding play of Toronto goaltender James Reimer.

The third period was a slow one that did not see a goal until the final 20 seconds. Daniel Paille scored his third of the season for Boston. Shawn Thornton and Gregory Campbell had the assists. Even though Toronto did not score another goal in the third period, Thomas replaced Rask in yet another goalie change. Make up your mind Claude Julien.

Nathan Horton went head to head with Dion Phaneuf in a fight tonight. Horton came up cut after Phaneuf drove his head into the ice. These two have a personal history with each other so it was not a surprise to see these two guys go again. The Maple Leafs ended up winning this game 5-2 over the Bruins.

Gold Star: Tyler Seguin ( 5 shots on goal, 2 hits, -1 rating)...a solid game from the rookie. He thrives on coming off healthy scratches. It must motivate the kid.

Black Star: Andrew Ference...this was his first game back since injuring his leg against Vancouver. He finished -3 for the night. A bit of a rough first game back, but that is normal. It should not be long before he is back to his form.

The Bruins will head back to Boston for a Tuesday night game against New Jersey. They have 11 games remaining on their schedule and eight of those games will be played at the TD Garden.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Game 70: Familiar Territory

Earlier this afternoon, the NHL suspended Bruins forward Brad Marchand for a hit to the head he delivered to R.J. Umberger of the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday night. The play did not result in a penalty. The length of Marchand's suspension is two games, a bit of a controversial ruling. However, with the league cracking down on concussions and hits to the head, the league is making an early example out of Marchand and rightfully so.

Tonight's game for Boston was in Nashville against the Predators. This is a team that the Bruins rarely see during the regular season. In fact, the Bruins have not won in Nashville since March of 2004. The Predators are only one point out of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. As for the Bruins, they are ahead of Montreal in the Northeast Division by four points and they are breathing down their necks. So this game had a certain level of significance for both teams.

Boston got off to a fast start when Tyler Seguin (BOS) scored his 11th goal of the season less than two minutes into the game. Rich Peverley and Tomas Kaberle had the assists. Several minutes later, Sergei Kostitsyn, arguably the best offensive threat the Predators have, scored his 17th goal of the season to tie the game at one. This goal came about as a result of the Bruins failing to clear the zone effectively. Despite that setback, defenseman Adam McQuaid had a very strong period using his size and strength to make some effective plays.

The Bruins began the second period on a power play that resulted from a 5 minute major elbowing penalty on Partic Hornqvist. Boston had a couple quality chances but Pekka Rinne (NSH) shut down every opportunity during the five minute power play. Boston goaltender Tuukka Rask was matching Rinne save for save until Colin Wilson gave Nashville a 2-1 lead. Rask needs to do a better job of protecting the strong side of a play. David Krejci (BOS) put in a rebound shot from Nathan Horton to tie the game at two after two periods.

The third period was an exciting one. This was fast-paced hockey at its best. Patrice Bergeron scored his 22nd of the season to put Boston on top 3-2. Mark Recchi and Michael Ryder had the assists. The lead was short lived when David Legwand scored his 12th of the season as the Bruins got caught in a line change. Tuukka Rask made two inital stops and Steve Kampfer laid out in the net to try and prevent the goal but to no evail. For the second consecutive game, the Bruins will play overtime to decide the game.

In the overtime, Kampfer got called for a holding penalty and Boston had to play four on three for the final two minutes of the you see the foreshadowing? We all know what happened next. Shea Weber (NSH) scored the winning goal in overtime to give the Predators the 4-3 win. Zdeno Chara got the better of Weber in the hardest shot competition at the NHL All-Star break, but Weber got the best of Chara and the Bruins tonight.

Gold Star: Adam McQuaid...nothing he did tonight will show up on the stat sheet. His play beyond the stat sheet was solid tonight. He won lose puck battles and played solid along the boards. With Andrew Ference returning from injury soon, every defender will have to earn their time and tonight McQuaid did just that.

Black Star: Steve Kampfer...why would he take that holding penalty in the overtime to put Nashville on the power play? Easily avoidable. What happened to funamentals?

The Bruins will be in Toronto on Saturday to take on the Maple Leafs. Will we see Tim Thomas in net again? Lets hope so.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Game 69: Time To Snap Out Of It

A team is most vulnerable immediately after they score a goal. The same can be said if a team is on a winning streak. They are susceptible to suffer a loss after an emotional winning streak due to exhaustion, injuries, or fatigue. This is what is happening in Boston right now. The Bruins are on a four game losing streak after winning six straight.

Tonight, the Bruins were in action against the Columbus Blue Jackets. This is an organization that slowly fading with ticket sales and fan attendance. Columbus has just two wins in their last nine games. Their stand out player is Rick Nash, who leads the team in points (60), goals (29), and assists (31). He has been a bright spot for the team this season and they will need him as they try to chase a playoff spot in the Western Conference.

Michael Ryder was the healthy scratch for the Bruins tonight, a surprising decision since Ryder has played over 100 consecutive games for Boston. Claude Julien says the reason for this is because he is "a streaky player who scores goals." No disrespect coach, but the entire team is on a streak right now, not just one player. Steve Kampfer returned to the line up tonight after missing several games with a mild concussion.

For a team that was in desperate need for a win, the Bruins did not come out looking to play. Within the first minute of the first period, they got called for a too many men penalty. As the period progressed, their heads started to get back into the game. Nathan Horton had a great opportunity for a goal but he could not find the puck under his skates. However, it was Columbus that answered first when Grant Clitsome put the Blue Jackets on top 1-0 and that was how the period would end. What stood out about this period was that when the puck was in the offensive zone, the defense was stepping up to help with the scoring chances.

The second period was an improvement for the Bruins. David Krejci scored for Boston to pull the teams even at one. It was Krejci's 11th of the season and it was assisted by Johnny Boychuk and Zdeno Chara. In this period, Matt Calvert (CBJ) went down very easily to draw two penalties against Shawn Thornton and Dennis Seidenberg of the Bruins. Boston overcame the controversial calls and did not allow a goal on either power play. Even though Columbus out shot Boston 23 to 17 through two periods, the teams were tied at one after 40 minutes.

As the third period got under way, the energy from the Bruins was very visible. The fourth line for Boston (Gregory Campbell, Shawn Thornton, Daniel Paille) had the Blue Jackets on their toes with some fast breaks and solid scoring opportunities. That energy quickly faded when Columbus put together some shots of their own. Scottie Upshall scored his 20th of the season to give the Blue Jackets a 2-1 lead. That was Upshall's third goal against Boston goaltender Tuukka Rask for his career.

The Bruins had to go on the penalty kill but that did not stop Rich Peverley. He scored a short handed goal for Boston after a turn over just outside the neutral zone to tie the game again. The Bruins now have eight short handed goals for the season. At the end of regulation, the score was tied at two. Even though the Bruins have the four game losing streak two of those losses came in overtime, so this scenario was familiar to them. After a scoreless overtime, the game went to a shootout.

Here was the shootout line up for both teams:

Tyler Seguin
Patrice Bergeron

Rick Nash
Fedor Tyutin
Scottie Upshall

Seguin had the only goal in the shootout and since Columbus elected to shoot first and went 0 for 3, Boston did not need to send out a third shooter. Bruins win 3-2 in a shootout.

Gold Star: Tuukka Rask (34 saves on 36 shots, 2 goals allowed, .944 save percentage)

Black Star: Chris Kelly...he only has two points since being aquired by Boston. If he was not so effective on the penalty kill, he might have been the one sitting tonight instead of Michael Ryder.

With the win the Bruins have 87 points and extend the lead in the Northeast Divsion by four points over Montreal.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Game 68: A New Streak

The Bruins are on yet another streak. Although this time around, they are now riding a four game losing streak with a loss tonight in New York to the Islanders. This was a team that was a victim on the Bruins recent six game win streak.

Nathan Horton scored the first goal of the game yet again when Milan Lucic and David Krejci set up Horton for the shot. This was Horton's 20th of the season. Zdeno Chara put in a power play goal later on in the game to put the Bruins on top 2-0.

Bruins fans witnessed history repeat itself on back-to-back nights when Boston once again blew a two goal lead. The Islanders scored three unanswered goals in the final two periods. They later added an empty night goal to ice the game. The final score was Islanders 4, Bruins 2.

Gold Star: David Krejci (2 assists, even, 50% face-offs won)

Black Star: Matt Bartkowski...he was only on the ice for eight shifts for just under five minutes of playing time. In that time he ends up in the penalty box. Why bother dressing six defensemen?

Not much to write about tonight. Very disappointing streak of games the Bruins are putting together. They need to get some momentum heading into the last couple of weeks of the season. Although that is probably the best time to catch fire: heading into the playoffs.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Game 67: Divisional Opponents Are Always A Challenge

Before we get to the game, one thing needs to be said about the backlash revolving around the "Chara hit" that took place two nights ago in Montreal. Zdeno Chara was not suspended for the hit on Canadiens' forward Max Pacioretty in Tuesday's game. Chara was given a 10 minute game misconduct and a 5 minutes interference major for the hit. Pacioretty suffered a major concussion and broken vertebrae. Now police officials are investigating the hit and Air Canada threatens to pull their sponsorship. A bit of an over-reaction on a hit that did not result in a suspension.

Anyway, the Bruins took on the Buffalo Sabres tonight at the TD Garden. Buffalo has won the last three meetings with the Bruins and they have climbed their way into the playoff picture. As far as for Boston, they are one game removed from that controversial loss against the Canadiens. This was a perfect opportunity for the Bruins to try and bounce back and regain some momentum heading into a 4 game road trip beginning on Friday.

Nathan Horton gave the Bruins an early lead when he scored his 19th of the season. Milan Lucic and David Krejci had the assists. It was nice to see some great production out of this first line tonight because that will be crucial down the stretch. When the second period started, the Bruins picked up where they left off. Mark Recchi scored his 12th of the season to give Boston a two goal lead. That lead was short lived as Tyler Ennis and Thomas Vanek from Buffalo each scored to pull even at two.

It is unfortunate sometimes when the officials take the players out of their game with inconsistent calls. Some questionable calls by the referees tonight went against the Bruins, particularly the tripping call against Tomas Kaberle and the hooking call against Johnny Boychuk. All that is asked by the players, coaches, and fans is consistency. 18 total penalties for both teams including six total fighting majors.

The third period got off to a fast start as both teams had great scoring opportunities that resulted from great puck movement. Gregory Campbell put the Bruins back on top by scoring his 10th of the season. It was his first point in nine games. Since Campbell had a fight earlier in the game, he was an assist shy of accumulating the Gordie Howe hat-trick (a player must score a goal, record an assist, and have a fighting major). The game was sent into overtime when Tim Connolly (BUF) scored a power play goal to pull the teams even at three.

In overtime, Rich Peverley (BOS) had the chance to win the game when he skated through the defense and fired a shot that hit the post. Seconds later, the Sabres counter-attacked and scored the game-winning goal. The goal scorer was Brad Boyes, former Boston Bruin who was traded out of Boston for Dennis Wideman. Talk about a regretful trade.

Gold Star: Zdeno Chara (2 assists, +2 rating, 3 shots on goal, 2 hits)...going beyond the stats, Chara played very well despite the controversy surrounding the lack of suspension on the Pacioretty hit.

Black Star: Patrice Bergeron...he has had some below-average games lately, but he should be able to bounce back.

When leading by two goals, the Bruins have 3 overtime losses this season. All three have come against the Sabres. They Bruins may have another potential first round match up problem with his team. However the Bruins defeated Buffalo last year in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Game 66: Round Two

Are we ready for round two? Well, actually this is more like round five since it is the 5th occurrence of "The Rivalry" this season. We all remember what happened the last time these two teams faced each other; gloves and sticks were scattered all over the ice, 14 goals were scored, 182 combined penalty minutes were tallied, and goalies matched up as dance partners for a tango of their own...just another day at the office for the Boston Bruins and the Montreal Canadiens.

Coming into the game, Montreal trailed Boston by five points in the Northeast Division standings. The Canadiens also have a 20-8-6 home record, good for second in the Eastern Conference. The Bruins have yet to win a game at the Bell Centre, home of the Canadiens, this season. It was going to be a challenge for the Bruins tonight especially since Montreal came into this game with a four game win streak.

Regardless of all of the cheap tactics that both teams pull behind the play or behind the referee's back, the key for the Bruins was to play smart, plain and simple. Montreal's skilled players, if you want to call them that, are very small in size. Milan Lucic, Zdeno Chara, Adam McQauid, and other Bruins needed to give the hits and use their size against players like Mike Gionta, Mike Cammalleri, and Tomas Plekanec who are all under 5'-11". When a goaltender is the best player for a team (Carey Price for Montreal), take advantage of it.

The first period turned out to be one of expectation. The physical play was on display for both teams. Defenseman Johnny Boychuk attempted to unload on P.K. Subban and instead was met by Ryan White, who was just called up recently because he is known for his fighting. Coincidence? Either way, White earned himself 17 minutes worth of penalties on that one stoppage of play (2 minute instigator minor, 5 minute fighting major, 10 minute misconduct). It did not jump start the Bruins at all even though the Bruins led the Canadiens in both shots and scoring chances. However, Lars Eller (MTL) scored two goals and gave the Habs a 2-0 lead at the end of the first 20 minutes.

The second period was a disappointing one for Boston. The Bruins went 0-4 on the power play with 5 shots on goal. They were losing all of the battles in the neutral zone and that cannot happen if you expect to beat a team like Montreal. Goaltender Tuukka Rask (BOS) allowed two more goals in this period. Mike Gionta scored his 24th of the season and James Wisniewski scored his 8th of the season. Both were power play goals. You bet that the Habs' fans were chanting "Oh Lay" at that point of the game.

Towards the end of the period, Zdeno Chara hit Max Pacioretty clean right into the metal upright the supports the glass around the boards. He was served a 10 minute game misconduct and a 5 minute interference major on the hit. Pacioretty was motionless for several minutes until he was carted off the ice. In all likelihood, the NHL will review the hit and the Bruins might take another blow to that already weakened blue line.

It was obvious that the injury to Pacioretty got to the minds of both teams because the third period was generally slow and it went by fast. Milan Lucic scored for Boston as he broke up the shut out held by Carey Price (MTL). That goal was his 29th of the season and that leads the team. Brad Marchand (BOS) had an opportunity on a penalty shot, but it was stopped by Price. The final score was 4-1 in favor of Montreal. They are now three points behind Boston and they are on a five game winning streak.

Gold Star: David Krejci (1 assist, 4 shots on goal, even)

Black Star: Tuukka was just one of those nights. He let in a couple of softies and failed to clear the puck on several occasions. Although he is not fully to blame for this loss.

During the period, it was announced that Max Pacioretty was reported to have feeling and motion in all four limbs and he was conscious after being taken to a local hospital. The severity of his injury is still unknown.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Game 65: It Had To End Sooner Or Later

Yes that is right. The Bruins fell to the Pittsburgh Penguins tonight in overtime by a final score of 3-2. Patrice Bergeron was out of the line up tonight due to personal reasons, but he is scheduled to be back in the line up on Tuesday against the Canadiens. Steve Kampfer was also out tonight with a mild concussion and he is scheduled to miss a week.

With the B's blue line looking a little thin right now, Boston had to call up Matt Bartkowski from Providence. This is his third game up with the Bruins this season and all three of come against the Penguins. The defensive pairings tonight play very solid. It was the lack of offense that was the problem for Boston tonight.

The first period was a scoreless one in the goals column, but not so much in the penalty minutes column. Two fights occurred in the first period (Shawn Thornton vs. Mike Rupp and Nathan Horton vs. Craig Adams), hoping to generate some energy for some goal scoring to take place, but that did not happen in the first period.

Zdeno Chara (BOS) got things going in the second period when he scored his 11th of the season. That lead was short lived however when Jordan Staal and Dustin Jeffrey from Pittsburgh scored within 70 seconds of each other to put the Penguins on top 2-1. It was not until late in the third period where David Krejci popped in the game-tying goal after some great triangle movement of the puck with Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton.

The game was sent to overtime when Jeffrey (PIT) scored his second of the game as he snuck a puck under Tim Thomas (BOS) to win the game. The deciding factor in this game was the take-aways. The Penguins led the Bruins in take-aways for the game 13-9. When you take the puck away from the opposing team and create turnovers, you will win the game.

Gold Star: David Krejci (1 goal, 1 assist, +1 rating, 5 shots on goal, 2 hits, 1 take-away, 47% face offs won)

Black Star: Michael Ryder...maybe playing without Rich Peverley affected his play tonight since Peverley had to center the second line in Bergeron's absence. He had a -2 rating for the night and forced Dennis Seidenberg to make a tough pass which caused a turnover and led to the winning goal in overtime.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Game 64: 2nd Place Showdown

The Bruins returned home tonight after being away from the TD Garden for over two weeks. With less than 20 games remaining in the regular season, every game is going to be critical as positioning for playoff standings will be on the mind for the B's. Coming into tonight's game, the Bruins were tied with the Tampa Bay Lightning for 81 points, good for second place in the East. Their opponent tonight: the Lightning. Perfect timing.

The Bruins have a 15-12-3 home record this season, which is not terrible. However, they need to start making the Garden a tough place to play as the season winds down. When you have two Hart Memorial Trophy candidates coming into the Garden tonight (Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis), any home ice advantage would help. The key for the Bruins tonight was to stay out of the penalty box. Stamkos leads the league with 16 power play goals and St. Louis leads the league with 27 power play assists. Talk about a difference maker.

An interesting statistic coming into this game: the Bruins were a +47 as a team and the Lightning were even at 0. So it is against anybody's better judgment for the Bruins to just shoot the puck? After all the Lightning have a 3.0 goals against average and that ranks them 25th in the league. They give up a lot of goals and the Bruins needed to take advantage of that tonight.

The fans saw Daniel Paille return to the line up as Tyler Seguin got the healthy scratch for this game. This game got off to a really fast start for both teams. Each team had several scoring opportunities. Even though Tampa Bay out shot the Bruins 10-8 in the first period, Boston clearly had more quality chances. The puck hit the post on both ends of the ice, but goaltenders Tim Thomas (BOS) and Mike Smith (TB) held both team scoreless through the first 20 minutes. Smith would like to forget the last time he traveled to Boston since the Bruins put up 8 goals that night, a game in which Smith was pulled.

Eric Brewer from Tampa Bay got things started quickly in the second period when he scored the first goal of the game and his ninth of the season. Just over two minutes later, Steve Kampfer tied the game up at one. It was Kampfer's first goal in the last 18 games. The physicality and the chippy play picked up in this period. A couple of questionable tactics from Lightning players caused Gregory Campbell and Mark Recchi to send their tempers flying. Shawn Thornton was licking his lips to fight with Steve Downie but that never took place. Instead, Milan Lucic dropped the gloves with Eric Brewer and won that scrap pretty decisively. Oh yes, the score was tied at one after two.

NESN play-by-play commentator Jack Edwards pointed out something that holds water: Tampa Bay loves to take dives and cause tempers to flare. It's a shame that a team like the Bruins will fight through all of the hits and the chippy play. But when a team like the Lightning takes the easy way out by diving, it is a disgrace. It is a shame that players like that exist in the NHL.

It was nice to see the cooler heads prevail in the third period. The Bruins clearly dominated the entire period and held the puck more than 50% of the time. Lucic scored his 28th goal of the season after shooting the puck over six bodies in front of the Tampa Bay goal. On that goal, David Krejci recorded his 200th career point by picking up the assist along with Nathan Horton. The Bruins held on to win this important game by a score of 2-1.

Gold Star: Tomas Kaberle...he finished with a + 1 for the night, but he is not being recognized for what he puts up on the stat sheet. His play tonight was nothing short of perfect. Just watching him move the puck and create lanes for passes is unlike anything anyone has ever seen. He will be vital in the Bruins playoff run, particularly on the power play.

Black Star: Shawn was exciting to see him wanting to drop the gloves. But fans forget to realize that it was because of him that Tampa Bay brought the puck into the B's zone and scored their goal. Instead of trying to take his head off, he should have played some defense. Take it easy in those situations Shawn.

That is seven in a row for the Bruins. They will welcome the Pittsburgh Penguins to the Garden on Saturday night. They will see Alexei Kovalev in a Penguins' jersey for the first time. He is a great player, but he is no Sidney Crosby.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Game 63: "Oh, Canada" Road Trip Game 5 of 5

The trade deadline quickly passed us this past Monday. As expected, the Bruins did not make any major deals on that day. Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli told the media that he had made the major trades and acquisitions when he dealt for Tomas Kaberle, Rich Peverley, and Chris Kelly. A minor deal was made however when the B's picked up goaltender Anton Khudobin from the Minnesota Wild for two prospects. This trade might not make sense right now, but Chiarelli must have something up his sleeve for the future.

Anyway, there was a hockey game tonight. It was the final game of the six game road trip in which the Bruins are 5-0-0 and outscored their opponents 19-9 in that span. They faced the Ottawa Senators tonight, a team with a record of 21-32-9 for 51 points. That record is good enough for last place in the Eastern Conference. Well, maybe not so good. However, the Senators knocked off the Philadelphia Flyers in a recent game and they have the best record in the Eastern Conference. So, this game was not going to be an easy conclusion to this road trip.

Tuukka Rask got the start for the second consecutive game after having a solid game against Edmonton. His play carried over into this game because he made some great saves in the first period. Even though Ottawa out shot the Bruins 10-6, the B's defense was the story of the period. Dennis Seidenberg and Adam McQuaid performed at a high level by making key passes to set up scoring chances. After it was all set and done, the first period ended in a scoreless tie.

We witnessed deja vu in the second period as the fans were treated to some old time hockey. The defense and the goalies were unbelievable as shot after shot was followed by save after save. Boston did go on the power play in which they just took liberties at firing off shots like there was no tomorrow. Zdeno Chara and Tomas Kaberle anchored the power play setting up some scoring chances. but Ottawa goaltender Craig Anderson was able to keep the teams even through two.

Within the first two minutes of the third period, Nathan Horton scored his 18th of the season to put the Bruins on top 1-0. Brad Marchand and Adam McQuaid has the assists. To go a bit off topic, Mcquaid had one of his best games as a professional tonight. He was hustling to the puck, defending the blue line, and kept attacking players away from Tuukka Rask. Overall, the entire Bruins defense was on top of their game throughout this road trip. After killing a late penalty and fighting off the extra attacker in the final minute, Boston held on to win 1-0.

Gold Star: Tuukka Rask (33 saves on 33 shots, 0 goals allowed, 1.000 save percentage)..he had a solid game overall and we should be seeing him splitting time with Tim Thomas the rest of the season.
Black Star: Brad Marchand...he failed to utilize his speed tonight. He put the Bruins on the penalty kill when he got sent to the penalty box for holding. In that situation, he should have used his speed to get to the puck. He almost cost us the game.

The Bruins return home on Thursday to take on the Tampa Bay Lightning in a game that will determine who will take over second place in the Eastern Conference. One last thought, the Bruins finished this six game road trip 6-0-0. The last time they did that was during the 1971-1972 season, the last year that they won the Stanley Cup.......