Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Eastern Conference Semifinals (Game Seven) - This Is It

Without a doubt, the two greatest words in all of professional sports are "game seven."

In this case, we fully expected the Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens to jostle for position all the way to the end of this series. The 34th playoff installment of this rivalry was going to culminate on Wednesday night, and the winner would earn the right to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals. 

There was no safety net for either team on this night. One of these teams was moving on and the other would be heading home for the summer. Everything was going to be left out on the ice. Also, it is worth noting that this was the ninth game-seven meeting between these two teams, a record for all sports. 

For all of the jawing, physical play, media bashing, and outright hatred for one another, the Bruins and Habs would play 60 more minutes for least for this season.

Both teams sent out the same lineups, including the goaltenders. This was not a shocker at all, but it is still worth noting. 

In the first period, the Canadiens seized momentum by recording an early goal. The Bruins could never really get on a roll due to the numerous icings that occurred at both ends, but they posted a couple of shots near the end of the period just to keep Carey Price honest. 

The ice was absolutely horrendous throughout the game, but it was especially evident in the second period. The bouncing puck could not settle down for the Bruins, even in the defensive zone. Sure enough, the Habs still cashed in on their chances as they increased their lead. Max Pacioretty is starting to find the hot stick right now, scoring his second goal in two games. The B's FINALLY broke through on the power play as Jarome Iginla tipped the puck past Price to get his team on the board. 

The Bruins held a 22-14 shot advantage heading into the third period. At the end of the day, shots mean nothing if you cannot score. The Habs had no problem doing that in this series, and it was no different in the final 20 minutes. They added a late power-play goal to end the game and the series. 

Congratulations to the Canadiens; they are now in the Eastern Conference Finals. As for the Bruins, the season is over. We will see the Black and Gold next year. In the meantime, this is going to be a long offseason. 

Gold Star: David Krejci...He saved his best game of the series for this one, but nothing came from this. 

Black Star: Matt Bartkowski...Yikes....Good riddance.

Game seven box score.....

Monday, May 12, 2014

Eastern Conference Semifinals (Game 6) - *Face Palm*

The inclination was absolutely omnipresent that this thing was going to go the distance. If not, then it would get pretty close to the pinnacle. 

Once Monday night arrived, we had reached that point. Game six took place at the Bell Centre in Montreal. If the Boston Bruins wanted to end this series and have a joyous flight home, then they were going to be put through hell to do just that. Why not conquer all challenges en route to the greatest prize in the sport? 

They had a stellar effort against the Habs in game five on Saturday, but the Bruins knew that this was not going to be easy. With the shakeup of line combinations and the Bell Centre crowd behind them, the Canadiens were looking to force game seven. 

Something had to give, right?

As for the Bruins and their lineup, it remained the same for this one. Chris Kelly is still sidelined with back spasms. However, Matt Fraser has turned into a pretty capable player on that third line during his brief stint. The Bruins would have a decision to make if Kelly does return.

Montreal was the hot team in the first period. They imposed their will by lashing out hits while being sneaky good in drawing penalties. After a sloppy giveaway, Lars Eller slid the puck past Tuukka Rask for the opening goal. That seemed to be the story of the first 20 minutes: lucky bounces of the puck. 

In the second period, the Bruins accumulated a plethora of scoring chances. Unfortunately, Carey Price stonewalled and stymied Boston in its tracks. The Habs were able to cash in on their chances on goals from Max Pacioretty and Thomas Vanek, two guys that the B's vowed to shut down. #miscommunication 

Even video review could not benefit the Bruins on this night. Nothing went right for the B's, and the Canadiens took advantage of the opportunity. Vanek added an empty-net goal late in the third period to ice the 4-0 win in game six (pun intended). Just a poor effort from front to back, but some of this can be attributed to lucky bounces for Montreal. This should not have been a surprise if you are keeping score at home-the B's are 0-5 in game sixes on the road under Claude Julien. 

We will reconvene on Wednesday night for game seven at the TD Garden.   

Gold Star: Jarome Iginla...He led the team in shots, and he actually looked engaged out there. 

Black Star: Kevan Miller...The young defenseman was responsible for two big turnovers, one of which led to a goal. He needs to tighten up the screws in the defensive zone and not be so sloppy with the puck.

Game six box score.....

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Eastern Conference Semifinals (Game 5) - That's More Like It

Who would have thought that the Boston Bruins would become shells of themselves on the biggest stage in the NHL? The playoffs are a time where your best players are supposed to be your leaders and produce on the ice. 

Unfortunately, this has not been the case.

Before we press on, it needs to be clarified that this was a generalization. It is unfair to lump the entire roster into that statement because certain players have actually played well thus far in the series. With that being said, the B's first line (Milan Lucic-David Krejci-Jarome Iginla) has been invisible. 

Krejci has been creating some great opportunities with excellent passes, but his wingers just cannot find the net. The point production is not reflective of the opportunities. Either way, they needed to turn things around. The same is applicable for Tuukka Rask. The B's were in desperate need for him to play better between the pipes. 

We also neglected to mention the fact that the defensemen have been horrendous and seem to lack the capabilities to keep up with the speed of Montreal.  

We live in Boston. We are supposed to critique our teams harshly. 

Now, not all has been lost to this point. With the series tied at two games each, game five was on Saturday night back in Boston. 

The Bruins stormed out of the tunnel and took it right to the Habs from the opening drop of the puck. They started to get their "mojo" back in the form of some taunting from the bench, including Shawn Thornton instigating P.K. Subban by squirting him with some water (lol). We all can expect the Montreal media to blow this up like there is no tomorrow. When you throw in that hoopla, along with some chippy play after every whistle, then you have got a rivalry renewed. 

As far as the game, the B's were in control on home ice. Boston's third line combined for six points, and they continue to be a force for the Black and Gold. Matt Fraser has certainly found a new home skating with Carl Soderberg and Loui Eriksson. The Bruins also capitalized twice on the power play. For the first time in this series, Carey Price is starting to second guess himself. The Bruins picked up the 4-2 victory to take the series lead.

The only con to take away from this game is that Subban scored again on the power play. They just need to limit his chances a little more. Other than that, the Bruins made the minor tweaks necessary to be physically and mentally prepared for the hockey nuances Montreal threw at them. 

Both teams will head to Montreal for game six on Monday night. The Bruins, who lead the series 3-2, are looking to close things out. 

Gold Star: Carl Soderberg...He posted one goal and two assists in a game where his team needed him the most. He has the hot hand right now. 

Black Star: David Krejci...This drought is painful to watch. The first line might need a shakeup soon.

Game five box score.....

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Eastern Conference Semifinals (Games 3 and 4) - The Series Shifts North

The Boston Bruins and the Montreal Canadiens each had an extra day off between games, which has turned into a rarity in today's NHL. 

Both teams used that time to practice, rest, and mentally restart themselves before a pivotal game three up in Montreal on Tuesday night. So far, the series has been everything as previously advertised. Both Carey Price and Tuukka Rask have been solid, the blue liners have had their bright spots, and the offensive stars certainly have produced. 

More importantly, we were tied 1-1 coming into game three. For the next two games, the teams skated on Bell Centre ice in Montreal. This is always a dangerous place to play, but the B's have had success in this building. Unfortunately, this is a "what have you done for me lately" type of feel when it comes to the postseason. The Bruins would love to prevent that annoying goal horn from going off, but they would also thrive at the opportunity to take that crowd out of the games early. 

Easier said than done, but the B's were eager to give it a shot. 

Over the weekend, the team announced that Adam McQuaid underwent successful ankle surgery. He is expected to miss eight weeks, thereby ending his season. He has been battling quad injuries all throughout the year, so this news was a bit puzzling.  

The Bruins trotted out the same lineup for Tuesday night as they did in game two. 

In the first game, the Bruins tried to weather the storm out of the gate. Naturally, the Habs controlled the early going in their building by jumping out to a 2-0 lead. P.K. Subban factored in on both of those goals; he is progressively becoming the new "Bruins Killer" during the postseason (no offense to his teammate, Thomas Vanek). 

The Canadiens carried a 3-1 lead into the third period of this fairly-quiet game (by B's/Habs standards). Sure, there was physical play, but not too many whistles. Boston made a resilient effort to mount a comeback, but fell short this time around. Montreal took this game by a score of 4-2. Hopefully, the Bruins will not make a habit of playing from behind-this is not good for the blood pressure! 

Game four took place on Thursday night with Montreal leading the series. Matt Fraser was recalled from Providence and joined the Bruins up in Canada prior to puck drop. Also, Matt Bartkowski made his return to the lineup. Let's see if this shakeup paid off. 

After a scoreless 60 minutes, overtime was the stage for one of these teams to capitalize. The Canadiens dictated the pace in the third period after getting outworked and outplayed by the Bruins during the first two periods. With some luck and some assistance from the post, Price saved the Habs on several times in this game. 

Early in overtime, the B's ended the game when Fraser jammed at the puck in front of the net and slid it over the crease. This was his first-career playoff game, and what a way for it to conclude. He was on the third line with Carl Soderberg and Loui Eriksson, which was the best line going for the Bruins. Rask played great, stopping all 33 shots he faced. 

We have a tied series on our hands yet again. The teams will head back to Boston for game five on Saturday night. 

Gold Star: Patrice Bergeron...He had a five-game point streak heading into game four, and his usual consistent effort is enough to get his team going. 

Black Star: Matt Bartkowski...He was a scratch for game three and when he did play on Thursday, there was obvious rust. He is struggling right now.

Game three box score.....

Game four box score.....

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Eastern Conference Semifinals (Games 1 and 2) - Here We Go

Here we go, indeed.

When the 2014 NHL playoff schedule was announced, one thing that jumped off the page was that the Boston Bruins had the opportunity to play the Montreal Canadiens in the second round. Of course, everything had to align perfectly for that to happen.

Guess what? No more salivating is necessary; we have received that matchup. 

The Bruins and Habs will lock up in the postseason for an NHL-record 34th time, and no other rivalry brings the emotion and hatred like this one. Montreal has had over a week off since sweeping the Tampa Bay Lightning out of the first round, so they were certainly a well-rested and rejuvenated bunch. 

For the Bruins, having home-ice advantage could mean all the difference in the world by the end of this series. Thursday night marked the beginning of the next installment of this rivalry. Yes, the Canadiens have taken the season series, but the playoffs are an entirely different animal. 

Daniel Paille made his return to the lineup after missing the entire series against the Detroit Red Wings with a concussion. Also, Dennis Seidenberg is back practicing with the team. No need to absorb a double take-that information is accurate. 

Bruins/Habs-Round 34 is upon us!

In the first game of this series, the Bruins got off to a really strong start. They just needed to crowd the front of the net a little more to actually produce. They fell behind on goals from P.K. Subban and Rene Bourque, but that only increased the hitting and chances for Boston. The second period featured countless scoring opportunities for the Bruins, but they just could not get the puck past Carey Price. 

After knocking on the door for over 40 minutes, they finally beat Price for two goals on consecutive shots to tie the game. Reilly Smith and Torey Krug were the goal scorers for the Bruins. After the teams exchanged late goals in the third period, this one was overtime bound. Sure enough, Subban blasted the puck past Tuukka Rask for his second power-play goal of the game in double overtime. Yes, the Bruins recorded 51 shots, but fell to Montreal in game one. 

Saturday afternoon at the TD Garden was the sight of game two. Andrej Meszaros and Jordan Caron returned to the lineup for the Bruins. Clearly, a spark and a shakeup was needed. 

The referees tried to settle things down, but they dictated the majority of the game. The pace favored Montreal as they held a 3-1 lead in the third period, with two of those tallies coming from Thomas Vanek. However, the B's erupted for four-straight goals in the final 20 minutes to shell-shock Montreal with a 5-3 victory. Rask finally accumulated his first win against the Canadiens on home ice. This was an electrifying affair, and could easily be considered the best game of the second round thus far. Well, we are tied up. Now, it is off to Canada. 

Games three and four will be played next week up in Montreal.

Gold Star: Patrice Bergeron...He definitely stepped up in big moments, recording three total points and demonstrating his "Selke" skills in the defensive zone. 

Black Star: Milan Lucic...He lacked speed, he was sloppy with the puck, and he was not hitting. He is supposed to be a Bruin, not a Hab. Despite his empty-net goal in the second game, he did nothing.