Bruins Beat Up Canadiens, 7-0

They may have only beaten Montreal twice this season, but Thursday win was big.

By Jon Fucile

BOSTON, MA – There was no blood shed, just one fight and very little post whistle activities. There was physicality but it was controlled, tempered even, and that was exactly what the Bruins needed. One minute into the game the Bruins set the tone and by the end of the night the Bruins had shown the Canadiens that when Boston plays their game they can beat Montreal, and do it in grand style.

The hype machine was in full effect leading up to the game as head coach Claude Julien swore his team was focusing solely on winning and not on any potential revenge Montreal might try to take on Zdeno Chara. Julien stated time and time again how the Bruins needed to control their emotions and carry the momentum from the Devils game into Thursday night’s match-up while ignoring all the hype and that is precisely what the Bruins did.

“There’s been a lot of stuff going on, but we kind of just tried to push that aside and focus on playing the game without any kind of distraction. Our focus had to be on nothing else but the game and what we needed to do to win the hockey game,” Julien said.

Further proving Julien’s prophecy correct, just one minute into the game the Boston Bruins showed they meant business and their eventual machine like victory was set in motion.

Johnny Boychuk scored his second goal of the year, a beautiful snipe that seemed to surprise Carey Price and found the back of the net. Boston would go on to score six more time while keeping Montreal off the board and all the hype about a violent clash was quickly forgotten about en route to a 7-0 victory that is key to Boston’s playoff hopes.

Nathan Horton scored twice, Gregory Campbell scored twice, one a fantastic 5 on 3 shorthanded breakaway goal, captain Zdeno Chara notched three assists and Tim Thomas out dueled Vezina competitor Carey Price while earning another shutout. Boston dominated it all areas of the game in what was expected to be a close, hard fought game.

“I thought it was going to be a tight game to be honest with you. Sometimes those kind of things happen and you take advantage of it, but I thought our team played really well. It set the tone early,” Julien said. “Good forecheck, good pressure. Got some shots on net and it was important to get traffic in front as well and we did a great job of that also.”

Montreal had dominated Boston all season, with Boston posting a [1-3-1] record in their previous five meetings and getting outscored 20-15. Montreal had been great at forcing Boston to play into their hands and swiftly defeated Boston in most of their meetings. TheCanadiens game plan always seemed to be to simply get under the skin of the Bruins, win the mental battle, and draw a lot of penalties against a fiesty Bruins team.

Almost every prior game this season the Bruins fell into that trap. Every subtle shot by the Canadiens was met with an obvious retaliation and the Bruins found themselves shorthanded frequently while the Canadiens scored nine goals on twenty threepowerplay chances. While the Bruins tried to play a rough, intimidating game the Canadiens used mental warfare to get the Bruins off their game and then used their speed to finish them off.

Heading into their sixth and final regular season game against Montreal, Boston needed to prove to themselves they could hang with, and beat, the Canadiens and that is exactly what Boston did. As the season winds down it looks more and more like the Bruins and Canadiens will meet in the playoffs and before Thursday’s tilt the Bruins had done little to show they could defeat the Canadiens in a seven game series.

In 60 well played, dominant minutes the Bruins changed all that. Boston put their foot on the gas early and never let up. Even when they were up seven goals Boston continued to go for Montreal’s throat and if there was even half a second more on the clock Tyler Seguin would have scored and eighth goal for Boston.

“Yeah, everyone showed up. We didn’t have any passengers tonight. Everyone was going from the goaltending out so it was a good game. We had some guys step up like Greg Campbell that usually don’t get all the notoriety that they deserve. It was a good all around effort,” Shawn Thornton said.

The Canadiens certainly tried their old tactics. Multiple Canadiens took obvious dives, Paul Mara tried to take Recchi’s head off and P.K. Subban was up to his typical antics but the Bruins kept their emotions in check and focused on the bigger goal all while frustrating Montreal. In perhaps the biggest game of the year the Bruins came out and dominated their rivals, putting a five point cushion between themselves and Montreal in the Northeast Division with two games in hand.

Most of all, however, they sent a message to Montreal and they did not do it with their fists. They proved to the Canadiens that when the Bruins play their game, use that extra emotion in a productive manner, the Canadiens have their hands full. They showed the Canadiens they can channel the tension and hatred that brews for these games into offensive fury.

Maybe this was just one game but what the Bruins did Thursday is plant seeds of doubt in the Canadiens mind. Montreal had no answer for Boston’s furious attack and they left Boston with their tails between their legs, completely embarassed by the Bruins. Yes, Montreal may have won the overall regular season battle but the Bruins sent a message to Montreal that they are more than ready for the post season war.

Bruins Pick Up Big Win against New Jersey, 4-1

By Jon Fucile

BOSTON, MA – Through most of the first period in Tuesday night’s game against New Jersey the Boston Bruins looked like a prematurely defeated team, a team wilting yet again under playoff like pressure against a hungry and desperate New Jersey Devils team. Eleven seconds into their first penalty kill, Bruins defenders left Ilya  Kovalchuk all alone near Tim Thomas for an easy goal and the Bruins were down 1-0 and half way through the period they had mustered just one shot. Bruins fans began to settle in for what looked to be a long, frustrating night.

Unfortunately for New Jersey, that Kovalchuk tally awoke a sleeping giant and the Bruins suddenly found their game.

New Jersey was a team scratching and clawing for every victory, trying to keep their slim playoff hopes alive. This was a playoff game for the Devils and Boston did not have an answer for their attack for much of the first. Kovalchuk’s goal punched the Bruins in the mouth and they knew they had to respond.

“I think after the Toronto game, it was a bit of a wake up call. But also, we knew the effort was going to be there today. We addressed the thing we needed to address in practice. I think we did a good job in responding tonight,” said Shawn Thornton.

On a night where Tim Thomas moved into fifth place on the Bruins all time wins list, Zdeno Chara scored his 400th career point and Milan Lucic scored 30 goals for the first time in his career and became the first Bruin to do so since Phil Kessel, Boston punctuated everything with a decisive 4-1 victory at a time when they needed it most.

Boston, at least temporarily, answered many questions that had crept up while losing six of seven games and getting outplayed badly almost every time they took the ice over that span. The Bruins had wilted under pressure at almost every turn this season and had begun to show numerous cracks before answering the bell against the Devils.

Claude Julien and his Bruins have been less than stellar at home this season, Tim Thomas had suddenly looked human, the powerplay looked intent on setting new lows and Boston as a whole played some uninspired, emotionless hockey. Against New Jersey Thomas kept the Bruins in the game while facing 16 shots in the first period alone, Chara scored the game winning goal on the powerplay and Boston continued to apply pressure the rest of the game to seal the victory. Boston put forth exactly the type of effort they will need heading down the stretch going into the playoffs.

“Yeah, I think it’s important that we basically play the way we’re supposed to as far as being a stingy team, being a hard team to play against. So bringing your work ethic to the rink and trying to outwork the other team every night,” said Julien. “So I think that’s basically what the message was and obviously, besides the first 15 minutes, I thought our team responded well.”

Getting Tim Thomas back on track was perhaps the most critical aspect for the Bruins, as their savior of a goaltender had looked fatigued and average recently. All season Thomas made the big, impossible saves when the team needed them most but during his late season slump those big moments were few and far between. Against a furious New Jersey attack, however, Thomas once again showed why he is the Bruins MVP and a serious Vezina candidate.

“I mean, we needed it. The team needed it. We needed a strong effort, and we came up with it,” said Thomas.

“We need to build off it and make sure we continue on and we need to do the same things that gave us success tonight. New Jersey’s been hot. They’ve been playing some really good hockey. So getting the win isn’t easy against them.”

The question now for these Bruins is whether or not they can maintain that effort over the long haul. Boston’s display tonight showed once again that when the Bruins are on their game they can compete with any team in the league. However, the lingering issue for Boston all season has been maintaining that effort and desire when it matters most.

Boston has a huge test coming up  Thursday against their hated rivals from Montreal. Regular season games do not come more pressure pack than Thurday’s tilt against the Canadiens. Montreal is chasing Boston for the Northeast Division lead and the Canadiens have clearly been in the Bruins heads while winning four of their five meetings so far this season. Can the Bruins rise to the occasion again against Montreal and display the same skill, grit and desire they showed against New Jersey?

Their dominating victory against the Devils was a step in the right direction for the Bruins if they want to be true Stanley Cup contenders but they will need to bring that same game against Montreal before they can say they are back to playing Bruins hockey.

Jon Fucile on Noontime Sports the Podcast

Jon Fucile from Days of Y’Orr, Boston Sports Then and Now and Wicked Good Sports joined Noontime Sports the Podcast on Friday to talk about the Boston Bruins season, as well as look ahead to the final few months of the regular season.

Follow Fucile on Twitter (@JonFDOY).

The Evolution of Milan Lucic

Submitted by Jon Fucile (Boston Sports Then and Now) and (Days of Y’Orr)

BOSTON, MA – Wednesday’s victory over the Florida Panthers highlighted many of the Bruins strengths. Tim Thomas was his usual spectacular self. Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and Mark Recchi continued to wreak havoc at both ends of the ice. Gregory Campbell continued to show why he’s been one of the NHL’s best offseason pick ups. Milan Lucic showed once again that he’s more than just fists of fury.

Yes, the evolution of Milan Lucic has Boston fans torn but excited at the same time and that very evolution was on full display against the Panthers.

Throughout his young career fans have come to know Milan Lucic as a player who can not only throw a big hit but as a player who also loves to drop the gloves and express his displeasure by pummeling his opponents. Lucic has toned down the violence this season and it is no coincidence that he has already set a new career high in goals and is on pace to shatter his career high in points.

Through forty-seven games this season Lucic has sixty penalty minutes and just two fights. Twenty-two of those sixty penalty minutes came December 23rd against the Thrashers when Lucic was called for high sticking in the first period and then assessed a ten minute game misconduct and a ten minute match penalty during an end game brawl.

Lucic’s two fights this season both came all the way back in October, with Lucic seemingly focusing more on scoring and producing points and less on fistic justice since. Boston’s hulking winger fought thirteen times in 2007-08, ten times in 2008-09 and four times in an injury shortened 2009-10 season. While many fans have openly pined for the “old” Lucic, the punishing forward’s hands are now being put to better use.

“Well I think Looch is at a stage in his career now, he’s still a young player, but he’s got enough experience here now that it’s going to be his fourth year but here’s one of those guys that’s building consistency in his game and what should I expect from him?  I should expect him continue playing a physical game, we should expect him to continue to produce because he’s capable of doing that,” said head coach Claude Julien.

Lucic spent his offseason getting healthy after a disappointing 2009-10 campaign and working on his shot. The Bruins wanted more from their power forward in training and more importantly Lucic wanted more from himself. Before the season he said his goal was to light the lamp twenty times this season, his previous career high in that category being seventeen.

His evolution was on full display early in the second period against Florida. Less than two minutes into the period, David Krejci lined up to take a faceoff in the Panthers zone. Krejci cleanly won the faceoff and passed the puck back to Lucic. Lucic collected the puck, picked a corner and fired a beautiful shot towards Panthers goalie Tomas Vokoun. Seconds later the red light was on and Lucic had scored his 20th goal of the season, a goal that would be the eventual game winner.

“That was a big question coming in from myself and a lot of people if I was able to get to that mark, and it came a lot quicker than I thought but most importantly it was a big goal to help the team win here,” Lucic said.

“I’m just  taking it one at a time, just looking at every game here and just try to create chances and opportunities. I’ve had some real great linemates this year, and I feel like I’ve been skating better, and I’ve worked on my shot so I think that’s a big reason why I’ve been able to produce. And looking forward it’s the same thing. I’ve just got to take it one game at a time. I shouldn’t change anything and keep pushing for more.”

As Lucic’s game has involved, the  young winger seems to have recognized that perhaps he is better served to stay on the ice and help his team beat their opponents on the scoreboard rather than introducing opposing players to his fists. Lucic still has his temper, but also has better self control. He has no problem letting other players know if they have wronged him or his teammates, but the gloves do not come off as easy and the shoves and cross checks that put him in the sin bin often in prior seasons are held in check.

Lucic still has work to do, as do almost all players his age, and consistency has been a problem, though less so as the season goes on. He had a rough late December, early January stretch where he had trouble finding the back of the net but the drive and desire he shows to improve should guide Lucic to even further success.

“Yeah they [goals] didn’t come right away, that’s for sure. But they’ve come in the last five games here. So like I said, all the credit to my linemates here, they’ve been finding me and I’ve been able to get open for them,” Lucic said. “And I’ve been working on my quick release this summer and also a lot with Geoff Ward and Jarvy [Doug Jarvis], just working on one-timers and getting myself in scoring positions and getting a good, hard, quick shot off.”

And that is exactly what the Bruins need Lucic to do. Lucic needs to keep that physical edge to his game, intimidating opponents with those thunderous hits that he dishes out so well, while also improving his offensive arsenal. Developing a strong offensive game to go with the brute force he possesses could make Lucic Boston’s most dangerous weapon.

As his evolution continues and he sets new milestones for himself, do his goals get bigger?

“You know what, yeah like I said one game at a time, one goal at a time, so we’ll see where I can get to this year.”