Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Eastern Conference Quarterfinal - Game Seven

You will never succeed unless you risk failure. If you are not afraid to fail, then you have a great chance to succeed. However, you are never going to get there unless you risk everything along the way.

After a clean slate in the series and a quick prayer prior to the opening face-off, the Bruins and Capitals were ready for game seven of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals. The sound of the national anthem probes the jitters and a lot of mind racing. The thoughts going through the minds of the players before a game seven must be excruciating. Just play hockey boys.

Wednesday night was the night that one of these two great teams was going home. For the second consecutive game, Shawn Thornton was scratched from the lineup in favor of Jordan Caron. Joe Corvo was not in the lineup as well with a lower-body injury. Hometown veteran Mike Mottau suited up for the Black and Gold in his place.

Stephen Walkom was one of the officials in this game. Why mention something like that? He was one of the officials in game seven of the Eastern Conference Finals between the B's and the Tampa Bay Lightning - a penalty-free game. He was also an official for game seven of the Stanley Cup Finals last season. He liked the whistle a little more in this game as four penalties were called but all resulted in unsuccessful power plays.

The Bruins fell behind early in this game once again. Matt Hendricks deflected a shot by John Carlson past Tim Thomas for the only goal of the period. The Bruins were playing dump and chase most of the period, but it seemed that Washington was the more physical team whenever the Bruins possessed the zone. Boston made things difficult for themselves by playing too conservative at times.

The chippy play picked up in the second period. No surprise there. The story in this period, however, was the Bruins' inability to clear the puck out of their defensive zone. This was scary to watch as Thomas literally had to pull his defensemen back from jumping off the ledge. With that being said, Tyler Seguin tied the game at one after putting in the rebound off of a shot by Johnny Boychuk. 

After a scoreless third period, both teams cleaned up their sloppy play and headed for sudden death. Just 2:57 into overtime, fourth liner Joel Ward ended the game with a backhand shot. The Bruins' season ends as the Caps beat the B's in game seven by a score of 2-1. 

Gold Star: Dennis Seidenberg...He poured his heart out in this series. He played like a number one defenseman. Great effort throughout.

Black Star: Rich Peverley...What in the world was he doing at the face-off dot? Taking the place of Patrice Bergeron at the dot is tough to do though, but a lack-luster performance in game seven.

The 2011-12 Boston Bruins season has concluded. I will be posting material consistently throughout the summer via Inside Hockey and occasionally through this blog. Enjoy the offseason. It should be an interesting one.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Eastern Conference Quarterfinal - Game Six

The Bruins went into Washington on Sunday afternoon with a purpose. Less than 24 hours after falling at home to their new Eastern Conference rival, Boston looked to take game six and force a game seven back at the TD Garden. That is exactly what happened. 

The Bruins defeated the Capitals in overtime with a final score of 4-3. Tyler Seguin had the game-winner 3:17 into the extra period.

Joe Corvo was out for this game as he suffered a knee injury in game five on Saturday afternoon. He was replaced by Mike Mottau. Patrice Bergeron, who was also injured in game five, was in the lineup for this one. However, he did not line up to take face-offs because of an apparent head injury. The only draw that he took was when Rich Peverley got thrown out of the dot. 

In a surprise move, Shawn Thornton was a healthy scratch in favor of Jordan Caron.

Speaking of Peverley, he had the game's first goal. After Mike Green tied things up for Washington, David Krejci got his stick on a shot and deflected the puck into the goal. Both teams continued to alternate goals right up until the final whistle in regulation. Jason Chimera (WSH), Andrew Ference (BOS), and Alex Ovechkin (WSH) had the tallies for their respective teams through the final two periods.

There was a lot of chippy and physical play during game six, something that was lacking earlier in the series. That is what happens during a seven-game series when the teams finally get under the skin of each other. Now we must wait until Wednesday night for the deciding game seven.

Take this with a grain of salt, but Tuukka Rask returned to the Bruins' bench as the backup goaltender. It may be a long shot, but with the way Tim Thomas has been playing in the playoffs it would not be a reach of we see Rask between the pipes. Again, a real long shot. 

Gold Star: Tyler Seguin (1 goal, 1 assist, plus-2 rating, 4 shots on goal)...When he is put on the hot seat, that is when he shines. His play in all three zones has been the story thus far for him in this series.

Black Star: Benoit Pouliot...It seems that all he is contributing to this team lately is mindless penalties.  

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Eastern Conference Quarterfinal - Game Five

The Bruins and the Capitals were back to square one heading into game five. The teams each took two games and now it has become a best-of-three series with the Bruins having home ice. On Saturday afternoon, we witnessed arguably the most entertaining game of the series between the two teams.

The Bruins switched up the line combinations during Friday's practice in order to generate to some more offense. The lines were as follows:

Milan Lucic-David Krejci-Brian Rolston
Daniel Paille-Patrice Bergeron-Rich Peverley
Benoit Pouliot-Chris Kelly-Tyler Seguin
Brad Marchand-Gregory Campbell-Shawn Thornton

While those were the lines heading into the game, Bruins' head coach Claude Julien switched them up once again as the game went on.

After a scoreless first period that consisted of scrums, big hits, and great saves, the second period started to open up. The Capitals grabbed a 2-0 lead on goals scored by Alexander Semin and Jay Beagle. The B's defensive pair of Joe Corvo and Greg Zanon were stuck on the ice for an extended shift and were exhausted. During that time, Corvo got injured and could not get off the ice. This is what led to the Caps' first goal. The second one was an ugly, unassisted tally that the Bruins would have liked to have back.

From that point on, the game switched in favor of Boston. They also scored back-to-back goals in a 28 second span to tie the game. Seidenberg and Marchand were the goal scorers for the B's. With just a little incentive and hard work along the boards, Boston was able to record those goals. Marchand, along with Lucic and Krejci (who picked up assists on the goals) each picked up their first point of the series in this game. 

Washington took the lead back when former Bruin Mike Knuble beat Tim Thomas stick side. Johnny Boychuk blasted a rocket past Caps' goaltender Braden Holtby to tie the game. The Capitals had the last laugh as Troy Brouwer recorded his second goal of the playoffs to give his team the lead for good. This was a power play goal as Benoit Pouliot took a slashing call. Bergeron had limited ice time towards the end of the game after taking a big hit from Alex Ovechkin.

Washington won this game by a score of 4-3 and take a 3-2 series lead. Game six will be Sunday afternoon back in Washington.

Gold Star: Brad Marchand (1 goal, 1 assist, 5 shots on goal)....He responded to the line changes in the best way possible: putting up two points.

Black Star: Tim Thomas (28 saves on 32 shots, 4 goals allowed, .875 save percentage)...He allowed a couple of soft goals that he would have normally saved. He was not on his game in this one. 

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Eastern Conference Quarterfinal - Game Four

Remember the spark that was desperately needed to shake up the series? Well, the Capitals ignited a fire last game.

The energy has certainly picked up in this series. That has to favor the Bruins right? Sure it does. Scrums in between the whistles are not ideal, but whatever it takes to get the team clicking again is perfectly acceptable.

The Bruins looked to continue that momentum into game four on Thursday night. They would be facing a Caps team that was without Nicklas Backstrom, who was suspended for one game after cross-checking Rich Peverley in the face and receiving a match penalty for it. Even though Washington was without Backstrom for 40 games this season, he is still an important piece of their team.

The Bruins did not get off to the right start as they surrendered the first goal of the game at 1:22 of the first period. Marcus Johansson beat Tim Thomas after Washington pressured the Bruins with some good forechecking. They were unable to do much else in the first 20 minutes since they only recorded two shots in the period.

Peverley tied the game after the Bruins created some pressure of their own. They really controlled much of the puck possession and made Capitals' goaltender Braden Holtby look fragile. Boy did that ever change.

The Bruins had four or five chances to score a goal in the second period. They got shots on net that produced rebounds, but they could not put in the loose puck. They also were very sloppy in their defensive zone. Washington was able to go back on top on a power play goal scored by Alexander Semin. If it was not for the stellar play of Thomas between the pipes, the Caps could have easily put in more goals.

That story continued into the third period where they kept relying on Thomas to keep them in this game. The B's offense was clicking in this one, but they did everything except score. Holtby made 44 saves to preserve the 2-1 victory for Washington. The series is now tied at two games a piece.

Including Thursday's game, Boston is now 0-for-12 on the power play and continue to get roughed up at the face-off dot.

Game five will be Saturday afternoon back at the TD Garden.

Gold Star: Tim Thomas (19 saves on 21 shots, 2 goals allowed, .905 save percentage)...He is in playoff form no doubt.

Black Star: Zdeno Chara...He was all out of position in this game and could not really keep the puck on his stick. It is too bad because one of his blasts could have been the difference maker.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Eastern Conference Quarterfinal - Game Three

The Bruins/Capitals series has been somewhat disappointing thus far. The only reason why I say that is because of what is going on around the league. Look at what is taking place in the other first round match-ups.

The Los Angeles Kings are up 3-0 over the President's Trophy winning Vancouver Canucks. The New York Rangers and the Ottawa Senators each have a player who was suspended. As far as the Philly/Pittsburgh series goes, well, that speaks for itself.

The Bruins and Caps have combined to score only three goals in two plus games. A spark was needed to get things going and I am not just speaking for the Bruins. I am speaking for the progression of the rest of the series.

Anyway, game three took place on Monday night at the Verizon Center. Some of the fans were sporting Barack Obama masks to try to get under the skin of Tim Thomas. Really? The White House "controversy" is dead people. It is so old.

Some good news for the Bruins as Tuukka Rask traveled with the team and participated in a heavy practice on Monday morning. He may resume his role as the backup goaltender at some point in this series. On the other hand, Adam McQuaid remained in Boston to rest his eye.

Now we can talk about the game. The Bruins had a few decent chances in the opening period. When there are five red sweaters and a flying goalie stick crashing the net on every shot, it is almost impossible for a decent chance to become a great chance.

The only goal scored in the period was on a power play for the Caps. Alexander Semin recorded the tally on assists from Brooks Laich and Alex Ovechkin. The B's finished the period 0-for-2 with the man advantage.

Rich Peverley put the B's on the board less than a minute into the second period. Ovechkin scored seconds later to put Washington back on top. At that point, some much needed energy was injected into the game when the fourth line of the Bruins got some significant ice time. Daniel Paille tied the game at two by scoring his first goal of the playoffs.

The action was fast and furious in the third period. End to end action, hard hits, and near donnybrooks all period long? You can tell it is playoff hockey. Brian Rolston gave the Bruins the first lead of the series after cleaning up a deflected shot in front of the yet. After Laich tied the game once again, Zdeno Chara put the Bruins ahead for good while the teams skated four-on-four.

The Caps' defensemen were on their game throughout this one. Roman Hamrlik shut down the wingers for Boston, a surprising feat since the Bruins juggled their top two lines all game long. Johnny Boychuk and Dennis Seidenberg did the same at the other end of the ice for the Bruins.

Away from the action for a bit. During a scrum, Milan Lucic (who finally asserted himself) was taunted by Karl Alzner calling him a crybaby. Keep in mind this was after Alzner grabbed Lucic from behind and wrestled him to the ground. I have a feeling this might resurface as the series goes on.

The Bruins take a 2-1 series lead after a 4-3 victory in game three. Game four will be Thursday night back in Washington.

Gold Star: Dennis Seidenberg...It is about time he got some recognition for his outstanding play on the ice. He finished with an assist and was a wall in the defensive zone.

Black Star: Brad Marchand...He needs to step up, or at least show up. He has played like trash in the first three games.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Eastern Conference Quarterfinal - Game Two

Game one took overtime to decide the winner. In a foreshadowing of things to come, game two would also take overtime to decide a winner...two overtimes to be exact.

The Washington Capitals tied the series up by stealing a victory on the road against the Bruins on Saturday afternoon. Nicklas Backstrom beat Tim Thomas for the game winner at 2:56 of the second overtime with a back-hand shot. Thomas finished with 37 saves. His counterpart, Braden Holtby, looked like a veteran netminder in this one, stopping 43 Bruins shots.

Boston had the clear advantage in the early going. They had the better scoring chances and slowly started to wear down the Caps' defense. Yet, they could not find the back of the net.

With the Capitals leading 1-0 on a garbage goal scored by Troy Brouwer, the Bruins took back control once again. Benoit Pouliot tied the game up on assists from Brian Rolston and Chris Kelly. The B's third line has now accounted for both goals through two games in this series.

A great defensive effort put up by the Bruins was all for nothing. With the series tied at one game each, this match-up will resume in Washington for game three on Monday night.

Gold Star: Tim Thomas (37 saves on 39 shots, 2 goals allowed, .949 save percentage).

Black Star: David Krejci...He finished with a minus-1 and went 1-for-8 at the face-off dot. His play thus far has been boarder-line embarrassing.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Eastern Conference Quarterfinal - Game One

It seems as if it was just yesterday. The Boston Bruins broke the 39-year championship drought and brought Lord Stanley's Cup back to the city of Boston. Over 1 million people joined the celebration as duck boats and a sea of Black and Gold filled the Hub.

That was over 10 months ago.

Now the Bruins will be focused on the new task at hand: repeating as Stanley Cup champions. They took the ice on Thursday night as they opened up another potential two-month long campaign. The B's first round opponent will be the Washington Capitals.

The Caps hold the regular season advantage by possessing a 1-2-1 record against Boston. This match-up became a bit of a surprise since everyone was expecting the B's to face off against the Ottawa Senators. However, the Capitals caught fire the final two weeks of the season and surged into the seventh spot in the Eastern Conference.

The Bruins own every major advantage (offense, defense, goaltending, special teams, home ice) over the Caps. The biggest advantage for the Bruins will be in net. While they send out two-time Vezina Trophy winner Tim Thomas, Washington will have to send out third-string goaltender Braden Holtby to start the series. Let's see how everything unfolds.

Adam McQuaid missed game one due to an eye injury and was replaced by Joe Corvo. Johnny Boychuk made his return to the lineup after injuring his knee in a game against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Jordan Caron was the healthy scratch, which will likely be the case for most of the playoffs.

The Bruins wanted to set the tone early as their top defensive pair of Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg was assigned the daunting task of defending Alex Ovechkin. The duo and Ovechkin matched hit for hit throughout the contest. By the end of the night, they held Ovechkin to only one shot on goal.

Both teams established a great forecheck and that forced each player to make quick passes from zone to zone. The Bruins looked really good on their lone penalty kill of the period, allowing only one shot. Boston ended the first period with a four-minute power play that carried over into the second period (Jay Beagle sliced David Krejci's lip with a high stick).

Immediately after that penalty expired, the B's received another power play opportunity due to a delay of game penalty whistled against the Caps. Essentially six straight minutes with the man advantage, but no goals were produced.

The physical play increased, which is to be expected during playoff hockey. The Bruins opened up the ice more and started to produce multiple scoring chances. They outshot Washington 26-7 through two, but the game remained scoreless.

Washington started to find their game in the third period. They clearly were the more physical and heavy hitting team that it may have worn down Boston just a bit. Thomas came up big for the Bruins by making nine huge stops in the third frame. Sixty minutes came and went with no goals. This game went into overtime.

Less than two minutes into the sudden death overtime, Chris Kelly ended the game with a blast from just inside the blue line that beat Holtby glove side. Benoit Pouliot and Brian Rolston had the assists. The Bruins take game one by a score of 1-0.

Thomas recorded his 6th career playoff shutout while Holtby finished with 29 saves.

Game two will take place on Saturday afternoon at the TD Garden. Hopefully the ice will be in better shape than it was for game one.

Gold Star: Brian Rolston (1 assist, plus-1 rating, 3 shots on goal)...In a game where someone needed to step up, he did. He played solid in all three zones, specifically in the defensive end where he shut down some good scoring chances for the Capitals.

Black Star: David Krejci...When a game gets heated, he tends to disappear. The series is still young enough for him to rebound.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Game Eighty Two: Season Finale

There is no better way to end the regular season at home. There is also no better way to end the regular season with a win. The Bruins knocked off the Buffalo Sabres 4-3 in a shootout.

Tyler Seguin scored two goals while Brad Marchand recorded one goal. Patrice Bergeron racked up three assists. Tim Thomas was back in net for the B's, stopping 25 shots.

The Sabres scored three consecutive goals at one point in this game. However, they were only able to grab one power play opportunity, which is where the game was won. Boston went one-for-four with the man advantage. In a meaningless game, the Bruins were well disciplined.

The Bruins finished second in the Eastern Conference as the Northeast Division champions. They accumulated 102 points by posting a 49-29-4 record during this season. Their first round opponent is still unknown, but an article will by posted via Inside Hockey discussing the regular season, gold and black stars, and a preview of their first round match-up. Bring on the playoffs.

Gold Star: Tyler Seguin (2 goals, plus-2 rating, 5 shots on goal)...The kid will shine in the playoffs. Good thing he will actually play in the opening round this year.

Black Star: Joe Corvo...It will be shocking if this game was not his last game as a Bruin.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Game Eighty One: Road Finale

The Bruins were on the road Thursday night for the final time in this regular season. They were in action against the Ottawa Senators, a potential first-round playoff match-up.

While the Senators were sporting their full roster on the ice, the Bruins left some of their top guns back in Boston. Patrice Bergeron, Zdeno Chara, and Tim Thomas did not travel with the team in order to get some rest. Johnny Boychuk also remained in Boston due to a sprained knee and he is listed as day-to-day.

Goaltender Anton Khudobin made his Bruins' debut in this game against the Senators. Adam McQuaid made his return to the lineup after missing the last three games with an eye injury.

With the history that surrounds these two divisional rivals, this one was sure to be an interesting one. The Sens controlled much of the puck in the opening period. They were able to get 17 shots on Khudobin in the first 20 minutes, but he stopped them all.

The only goal of the period belonged to the Bruins as Benoit Pouliot buried a shot on a nice pass from Brian Rolston. The scoring play started with Jordan Caron winning the puck in the neutral zone. That goal was Pouliot's 16th of the season, the most he has had with one team in his NHL career.

The B's started to find their rhythm in the second period. Greg Zanon grabbed his first goal as a Bruin on a shot from the top of the point. He finished the night with 10 blocked shots as well. At the other end of the ice, the Senators kept pounding...and pounding...and pounding the net with shot after shot until they finally got to Khudobin. Jason Spezza released a shot that hit the post and trickled in to cut the lead in half.

The physical play picked up for both teams in the third period. It was surprising that it took that long in the game for the hits and chippy play to get going. The Bruins battled through all the hits and put another tally on the board. Milan Lucic recorded his 26th goal of the season on assists from David Krejci and Torey Krug. That was Krug's first career NHL point.

The Bruins knocked off the Senators with a final score of 3-1 and improve to 5-1-0 against Ottawa this season.

McQuaid left the game early, recording only eight shifts for seven minutes. It was unaware as to whether or not his absence was due to his eye injury.

The Bruins will wrap up the regular season on Saturday afternoon when they host the Buffalo Sabres.

Gold Star: Anton Khudobin (44 saves on 45 shots, 1 goal allowed, .978 save percentage)...How about that for a stat line? This kid should be a brick wall during his stint in Boston.

Black Star: Dennis Seidenberg...What a shaky game he had. Almost had a costly giveaway. He looked totally uncomfortable without Zdeno Chara skating by his side.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Game Eighty: Bruins Outplayed Penguins, But Drop Tough Game

The final week of the regular season is upon us. Three games left for the Bruins and at this point things are all locked up. They have clinched the Northeast Division and the second seed in the Eastern Conference. Regardless, they still look to ride momentum as the season dwindles down.

The B's were in action Tuesday night against the Pittsburgh Penguins. While the Penguins are still fighting for playoff position, the B's have the luxury of resting players at this point in the season. You have to wonder if the Pens were still concerned about Mike Milbury's comments toward Sidney Crosby. If so, grow up guys.

Torey Krug made his NHL debut in this game on the blue line. Jordan Caron was scratched due to flu-like symptoms and was replaced by Daniel Paille. Finally, Marty Turco got the start in goal while Anton Khudobin (called up from Providence) was the backup. Tim Thomas did not even dress for this game.

Prior to the game, it was announced that Tyler Seguin won the annual "Boston Bruins' Seventh Player Award" for the player who exceeded all expectations this season. He had posted 27 goals, 38 assists, and a plus-32 rating heading into Tuesday night. Was he not supposed to put up these numbers? A well deserved honor for Seguin, but interesting decision by Bruins' fans.

The Pens got on the board first in the opening period by scoring two consecutive goals. Guess who? Crosby had the first one during four-on-four play and Paul Martin recorded the second goal. Pascal Dupuis had an assist on Crosby's goal, extending his point streak to a league-best 15 games.

The Bruins managed to grab one tally in the first on a goal by Benoit Pouliot. The Bruins had several other opportunities to increase the score, but it seemed like they kept getting in the way of each other. Spread out guys!

Milan Lucic tied things up in the first minute of the second period on an assist by David Krejci. The rest of the period belonged to Pittsburgh for all the wrong reasons. After two questionable penalties were called against the B's, they had to fight off a five-on-three man advantage for Pittsburgh.

James Neal and Crosby each pounded home a goal past Turco as they capitalized on a tainted man advantage. Neal later had to respond for his hits he was throwing out and dropped the gloves with Andrew Ference. All momentum had been lost for Boston at that point in the period. What was disappointing about it? They controlled much of the period before those penalties.

Both teams each added another goal in the final period. The Penguins defeated the Bruins by a score of 5-3. Kris Letang finished with three assists for Pittsburgh. Seguin had five shots on goal, two of which were near misses.

The concern in this one was the fact that Johnny Boychuk collided knees with Arron Asham and had to be helped off of the ice. He did not return to the game. His status will be updated later on in the week.

The Bruins will play their final road game of the regular season on Thursday night when they take on the Ottawa Senators.

Gold Star: Milan Lucic (1 goal, 1 assist, plus-2 rating, 3 shots on goal)...He let every Penguin know that he was on the ice.

Black Star: Marty Turco (22 saves on 27 shots, 5 goals allowed, .815 save percentage)...The "Turco Era" in Boston may very well be over.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Game Seventy Nine: B's Top Rangers, Clinch Division

The Boston Bruins and the New York Rangers are the class of the Eastern Conference. Two deep teams with two great coaches and two shutdown goaltenders. A Sunday night finale could be the only stage big enough to hold these two teams.

In what was the final regular season meeting between these teams, both squads had much to gain with a victory. The Rangers would clinch the top spot in the East whereas the B's could clinch the Northeast Division. The Bruins were 6-1-1 in their last eight games. Rangers have won four straight. Talk about combustible elements.

Tim Thomas opposed Henrik Lundqvist in this one. Everyone expected Thomas to get the start since the B's were winless against the Rangers this season and this is a team you would still like to prove something to by getting a win.

Gregory Campbell was scratched due to a foot injury and was replaced by Daniel Paille. Brian Rolston centered the fourth line with Paille and Shawn Thornton. Dennis Seidenberg returned to the lineup after missing the last two games with an infected laceration.

The first period consisted of a lot of speed through the neutral zone with very little scoring chances. The only goal of the period came when Zdeno Chara blasted a shot off of Jordan Caron, creating a loose puck. From there, Marian Gaborik chased it down and scored his 40th goal of the season. The Bruins outshot the Rangers 7-5 through the first 20 minutes.

In the second period, the physicality certainly picked up. As many B's fans know, that always seems to favor the Black and Gold. Boston recorded two goals in the period to take the lead. Seidenberg unloaded a shot from the top of the zone to beat Lundqvist and Patrice Bergergon stuck one in under his pads on the power play. Chara had an assist on Seidenberg's goal, extending his point streak to five games.

The third period was all about Thomas. Sure, he made things a little interesting with his unorthodox goaltending style by vacating the net. In the end, he made the key stops towards the end of regulation when the Rangers made their late push. The Bruins held on to win this game by a score of 2-1 and clinch the Northeast Division.

The Bruins' next game will be Tuesday night back at home against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Gold Star: Tim Thomas (33 saves on 34 shots, 1 goal allowed, .971 save percentage)...Ready for the postseason? Sure seems like it.

Black Star: Johnny Boychuk...He needs to keep his head up more and look for his teammates when passing the puck.