Toronto Sneaks Past Boston In Shootouts, 4-3

By Matt Noonan

BOSTON, MA – It certainly seems that the Boston Bruins are having trouble remaining consistent or at least keeping their momentum going, especially as the current season slowly winds down. Yet, on Thursday, the Bruins hosted an opponent that easily should have been an additional win in the win column, but instead, the Toronto Maple Leafs came to the TD Garden and won, 4-3 in shootouts.

“We don’t have a great shootout team. We’ve talked to our goaltenders, we’ve talked around—it’s not our strength. And, it is what it is. It doesn’t matter,” said Boston Bruins head coach Claude Julien.

“It was a playoff atmosphere,” said Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Ron Wilson. “If that’s the only playoffs we see, it can make the team better.”

Toronto’s Luke Schenn scored an unassisted goal seven minutes into the opening period to give the Maple Leafs an early lead, as well as some confidence. The early goal also brought an end to Tim Thomas’s shutout streak between the pipes.

“Well it’s kind of like every time we play Toronto we don’t start out the way that we want, they get goals off of shin pads and skates,” said Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas.

Entering the second period, the Bruins bounced back, as Brad Marchand, David Krejci and Andrew Ference all scored goals for Boston. The points were indeed necessary, but despite the excitement and fireworks that were on display, Toronto refused to allow Boston a comfortable lead, which led to Phil Kessel and Tyler Bozak to set up Joffrey Lupul, who pushed the puck past Thomas to keep the Leafs in contention for the final period.

“The first period was obviously something we weren’t very happy with and I think from then on, second period was a very good run and that’s the type of play I think we’ve had in a lot of the games that we recently played,” said Bruins defenseman Andrew Ference.

Toronto came out for the final 20-minutes with a mission, which was to stop Boston, as well as pick up yet another win against their rival. Lupul would record his second goal of the game at roughly the eight-minute mark of the third period, which then forced both teams to play a short overtime.

After 65-minutes of intense hockey, the game was then settled through an old fashion shootout.

Both Tyler Seguin and Michael Ryder were unable to get the puck past James Reimer, which allowed Toronto’s Nazem Kadri the opportunity to secure a win, when he beat Thomas on backhand goal during the Maple Leafs second scoring opportunity.

Boston then had one final chance to force another round of shootouts, but Rich Peverley’s shot was denied and Toronto skated off the Garden’s ice with their second win in two months in Boston.

“We’ve set the bar and I think what you try to do at this time of the season is obviously try to meet those expectations,” explained Ference after the game. “Obviously we know we have potential to play a certain style of hockey and when we do it’s very effective, so when we don’t obviously you get dull periods like the first [period] where you just aren’t clicking, it’s just very obvious, so there’s no secrets in how we have to play at this time of year.”

The Bruins will return to the ice on Saturday when they host the Atlanta Thrashers for a 1:00pm face-off.

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.

Bruins Fall to Maple Leafs, 4-3

By Matt Noonan

BOSTON, MA – In front of 17, 565 fans, the Boston Bruins [31-19-7] and Toronto Maple Leafs [24-27-6] faced off for the fourth time this season, but in the end, a majority of the “Black and Gold” fan faithful left the TD Garden unsatisfied. The Maple Leafs earned an important road victory Tuesday, as they defeated the Bruins, 4-3.

“It’s one of those situations where if you have any sense of pride your embarrassed about tonight,” said Bruins head coach Claude Julien. “Not because the other team played well [but because] we did not play to the level that we should be playing and its unacceptable.”

The first period began with the Bruins playing unimpressive and out of sync hockey. Their passing was horrendous, they didn’t skate well or move the puck, although they were able to account for 14-shots on the Maple Leaf’s goaltender James Reimer [32-saves] during the opening period. As for the defense, they did receive some extra help from goaltender Tim Thomas [24-saves] who didn’t have his greatest game between the pipes.

“I don’t have an analysis yet, it’s just too early after the game. I mean, not a big enough picture to analysis to make one,” said a frustrated Thomas after the loss.

Yet, despite Boston’s early struggles to score points, they did manage to record one goal when Mark Stuart and Gregory Campbell assisted Daniel Paille, which gave the Bruins an early lead.

“I was fortunate and got a lucky bounce off [Mike] Komisarek, I think it was his foot, so you know, I’ll take it there, but I’d rather have that one. It was a lucky bounce for us there,” said Paille when asked about scoring the Bruins first goal.

The Maple Leafs later responded on their second power play of the game when Phil Kessel scored his first goal since January and helped Toronto even the score before the first intermission.

“I haven’t scored in fourteen games, so it was nice to get a couple in tonight,” said Kessel.

Mikhail Grabovski began the second period with an impressive goal for the Maple Leafs, which gave Toronto the lead for the majority of the second period until Campbell netted the second goal for the Bruins.

As the final period began, Boston once again appeared desperate on offense, but also exhibited that their defense seemed either over tired or completely out of gas. Although, the Bruins offense eventually worked together to produce their third goal in the contests, as Adam McQuaid and Mark Recchi set up Patrice Bergeron to score what appeared to be the go-ahead goal.

Although, Boston’s lackluster performance continued, which allowed Kessel to tie the game and Grabovski to win it.

“[I was mad because] I didn’t stop it and the fact that [Kessel] lost the puck right before he scored and that’s what threw me off. That’s what made me open up my legs because he lost the puck and I tried to adjust,” said Thomas.

“That was without a doubt Phil’s best game, not just because he scored, [but] he was in on the forecheck,” said Maple Leafs head coach Ron Wilson.

The Bruins will regroup following an upsetting loss on Wednesday and look to snap their three-game losing streak against the New York Islanders on Thursday, which also marks the beginning of a six-game road trip.

“What’s happening to us is what we deserve. If we can’t play better than that, we shouldn’t expect more than that. I think we have to take responsibility. We have to stop making excuses and take charge of the situation starting [Wednesday],” said Julien.