Tag:Claude Julien
Posted on: February 10, 2012 2:29 pm
Edited on: February 10, 2012 3:12 pm
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Horton 'back to square one' in concussion rehab

Horton is dealing with his second concussion within one year. (Getty Images)

By Brian Stubits

When Nathan Horton was concussed last year, he didn't seem all that worse for the wear. Sure, he missed the last four games of the Stanley Cup Finals, but he reported not feeling bad by the time the series was done and the Bruins were champs.

He felt good enough to travel with the team and bring the Bruins some good luck.

This most recent concussion, though? Doesn't seem to be going as smoothly.

Horton has been out of the lineup since Jan. 22 thanks to a hit from Tom Sestito of the Flyers. The B's have been taking his recovery slowly, obviously in no rush to get him back right away. That's one of the benefits of the cushion they have, not to mention the depth.

Unfortunately, even with their cautious approach, Horton suffered a setback on Friday after trying to take to the ice for a solo skate.

“He’s been pulled back,” coach Claude Julien said. “He’s got some symptoms. So we’ve pulled him back. It’s hard for me to come out every day with a step forward, step backward. He’s back to square one. We’re giving him some time here. Those symptoms, once he got on the ice, came back.”

As for what those symptoms are? The usual things you'd associate with a concussion, headaches chief among them.

This is the fickle nature of concussions. Even when you seem to be doing things the right way and taking it slow, you can revert right back to square one, as Julien puts it. The same happened with Nicklas Backstrom of the Capitals.

Read into this what you will, but since Jan. 22 the Bruins are just 2-4-0. In three of those six games less than two goals, twice being shut out.

Before the concussion, Horton had 17 goals to go with 15 assists on the season playing on the top line.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: January 25, 2012 3:14 pm
Edited on: January 25, 2012 3:29 pm
 

Bruins hit the break on slump by their standards

Boston goes to the All-Star break 5-4-1 in its last 10. (US Presswire)

By Brian Stubits

WASHINGTON -- No team is ever as bad as it is at its worst moments nor as good as they look in their best moments. I hate clichés, but remember, they are all born out of truth. This one is no exception and is important to remember.

I bring this up in reference to the Boston Bruins, the defending Stanley Cup champions. I'd like to take you back to the beginning of the season, if I could. You'll remember the Bruins began the season 3-7-0 and people were beginning to wonder what was going on. There wasn't much but even a little doubt setting in about their chances.

Fast forward a month or two and the Bruins were on one of the most incredible stretches of hockey I've ever seen. They rattled off a 21-2-1 stretch that vaulted them back up atop the NHL perch and ran their goal differential to gaudy levels, leading many to crown them for a second time in as many years.

Like most everything, the truth lies somewhere in the middle. Of course the Bruins weren't 3-7-0 bad or 21-2-1 good. But you knew that.

They leveled off and found a bit of that medium now by finishing the first half with a 5-4-1 stretch, including the final game pre-All-Star break being a 5-3 loss to the undermanned Washington Capitals on Tuesday night in D.C.

The surprising thing about that closing stretch is the where the defense has gone for the Bruins recently. This is a team that not only scores goals galore on teams but doesn't allow others to score. That's why they led the league last year in goal differential and are doing so again this season. They are truly a two-way team, elite two-way players like Patrice Bergeron fit the bill.

When the conceded five goals to the Caps -- minus Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom, mind you -- it marked the third time in five games the Bruins gave up five goals. So of course I had to ask coach Claude Julien about his team's defense.

"Talk about our defense? There was none," Julien said after the loss. "The way we played tonight we gave them their goals, there's no question about that. The turnovers from our Ds, the type of goals we gave them certainly are disappointing for our team."

It's certainly out of character to see the Bruins giving up as much as they have lately. It's not their style. So with how porous the defense has been of late, I'd say it's a pretty good testament to how strong this team is even when they aren't playing very well that their not riding a losing streak.

In the 10 games since their 9-0 clobbering of the Flames on Jan. 7, Boston has surrendered 33 goals, an average of 3.3 goals per game. That's not exactly up to their standard. It's safe to say that for the second time this season, the B's have hit a slump, the thing is they are scoring enough this time around to avoid another 3-7-0 stretch.

"Bottom line is we've got to play better, we know that," Julien said. "Saying that is one thing, you just have to make sure you make it happen. Hopefully in a week that will happen."

One thing I have not seen mentioned much with the Bruins in the first half of the season: They actually had it pretty easy from the schedule makers. They had a little spurt of games before the All-Star break that brought them closer to the rest of the league in terms of games played. For the majority of the season they had played a lighter schedule than all the other teams with many games in hand.

Moreover, they were spending a lot of time at home in the comfy confines of Boston. Even after playing six of the last seven games on the road, they still have played three more home games than away. So maybe it's no coincidence that they have hit another bump in the road.

"It's not the way we wanted to head into the break and we realize we have to be better," Bergeron said. "We can't just rely on playing a good first, bad second and just think everything is going to come up in the third period and we're going to win the game. It's not going to happen all the time, we've been lucky when it did and now we need to realize that."

I'd say there hasn't been much luck involved for the Bruins. You don't get those kinds of goal differentials by way of luck. It's teams like the Panthers, who are minus-14 in scoring, who have been a bit lucky to have their playoff position. I mean, the Bruins still have the league's best plus/minus mark at plus-69, an incredible number through 47 games.

Slumps happen, obviously even to teams that seem slump-proof. The difference between the Bruins and most of the other teams is that they can sustain a .500 pace even through the bad times, such as now.

"We need to be better," Bergeron said.

That's because 5-4-1 is seen as not good enough with these Bruins. That's a serious standard. That will go a lot further in telling you what kind of team the Bruins are than any stretch of play this season. They have downs and a lot more ups. But it's that understanding that treading water isn't good enough that shows how good they are to me.

More from Eye on Hockey

Recap: Caps 5, Bruins 3
Thomas called selfish, speculation starts
Bruins honored in White House visit
Thomas explains skipping White House

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: January 20, 2012 12:57 pm
Edited on: January 20, 2012 3:50 pm
 

Weekend Preview: Rangers and Bruins finally meet

McDonagh's and Seguin's teams renew acquaintances. (Getty Images)

Weekend Schedules: Friday | Saturday | Sunday

By Brian Stubits

Thanks to the scheduling quirks of the NHL, it has taken us until the end of January to get a dose of some real New York-Boston feuding in hockey. No offense to the Devils and the Islanders, but the city-to-city rivalry is reserved for pretty much only the Rangers against the Bruins.

This season, though, the wait has seemed even longer than it really has been. That's because of the little fact that for the first team in a long, long time, the Bruins and Rangers are the best two teams in the Eastern Conference.

There has been some bemoaning lately of the lack of rivalries in hockey. Well this isn't on par with Yankees-Red Sox in baseball, but there's always a little extra flair when it's New York vs. Boston. This one should have a lot of extra flair.

Nobody at this point will dispute the Rangers are one of the best teams in the league this season. You'd be foolish to try. But there are people, myself included, who are still wondering exactly how good are the Rangers? Well what better way to find out than to send them to the hornets’ nest that is TD Garden in Boston to face the defending champs?

Although it’s too bad we could have had this game a week or so ago. By their standards this season, each of these teams has lost some steam going into the game. The Bruins are only 6-4-0 in their last 10 (gasp!) while the Rangers just slightly better at 7-3-0. I laugh about it a little but it was just in the last two weeks that each of these teams had won nine of 10 games.

One of the tricks for each of the coaches is to find ways to keep pushing their guys in the middle of the season, particularly when you've had as much success as these two Original Six squads have. Sometimes that can be as simple as finding a bear to poke (pun clearly intended).

Bruins coach Claude Julien took his poking stick to the midsection of Nathan Horton this week on the Bruins' recent road trip.

"Horton has got to pick up his game. No ifs or buts about it," Julien said after the shootout win at Florida. "A guy his size needs to get more physically involved. He needs to compete a lot harder. He's skating hard, you can see it on the backcheck ... but we need more from him. When he's emotionally engaged, he scores goals and he's a difference-maker. He's got to find his game. We're at the point where we're a little shorthanded and we need him to step up."

Horton responded by scoring twice in the loss to the Lightning and then one more in the win on Thursday night against the Devils. That might be mission: accomplished.

It looks like Rangers coach John Tortorella has his own target to try and prod.

Brad Richards was the star they brought to New York this summer to give Marian Gaborik that other scoring threat and finally give Henrik Lundqvist some much-deserved support. In that regard, Richards has been alright. But that's it.

In 45 games he has 15 goals and 16 assists for 31 points while carrying a minus-3. That stat still means very little, plus/minus, but on a team like the Rangers, it's tough to be negative. He and Ruslan Fedotenko are the only players on the team with more than 10 games played that are in the red.

Going into the game against the Bruins, Richards hasn't tallied a single point in the last six games. Obviously that's not very good, particularly for a guy making $6.7 million per season.

While Tortorella didn't go anywhere close to the level of criticism that Julien did with Horton, he at least made it known that Richards needs to step up some. From Ranger Rants:

Coach John Tortorella said he didn’t want to analyze individual performances after the game when asked specifically about Staal and Brad Richards. But he acknowledged that Richards’ game wasn’t spot on right now (he was a minus-1 in 16:46 though he won 12 of 16 faceoffs).

If the Rangers can get a point-per-game pace out of Richards like he has been doing for most of the past few seasons, then watch out.

This will be the first of four matchups between the foes this season and each will very likely go a long way in determining who gets home-ice advantage throughout the Eastern Conference playoffs.

If that leaves you wanting more ...

... Then you'll get it. There is no better way to spend Saturday if you're a hockey fan than to tune in to the NHL Network. Once that Rangers-Bruins tilt is done it's on to the next, but it takes no backseat to the first game.

The Vancouver Canucks seem to have a lot of rivalries these days. We all know about their ongoing feud with the Bruins, they have a fierce battle with the Chicago Blackhawks and pretty much any team from Canada.

But don't forget about their rivals to the south in San Jose, too. They've had some damn good playoff battles as well, including that Western Conference final matchup a season ago where Kevin Bieksa was the only person on the ice who knew what the heck was going on.

The Sharks are an interesting team to me. Perhaps it's a situation of just getting used to it, being desensitized to them, but once again they are right there in the race for the Presidents' Trophy this season. Remember, they have games in hand on every single Western Conference team.

Yet they are just quietly trudging along on the West Coast. It's expected from them now to be honest. That's a great compliment to give to the ownership and front office in San Jose.

Unlike the Eastern powers mentioned above, these Western heavies have already met three times this season, so when they dance on Saturday night in Vancouver, it's the last time they'll see each other until next season. Unless ...

Hot, hot, hot!

The Ottawa Senators are 12-2-2 since Kyle Turris came to town. They are in the midst of a very challenging road trip to the West Coast, starting it off with a win on Thursday in San Jose.

When they looked at the itinerary for the road trip, they had to look at the Saturday visit to Anaheim as a little bit of a reprieve on the tough trip. Not anymore.

It took a while, but Bruce Boudreau is seeing the Ducks play the way we all thought they would this season. All of a sudden, these are the two hottest teams in the NHL (what?!?). The Ducks are 6-0-1 in their last seven games in their own right.

It's likely well past the time for them to get back into the playoff picture. Even with these 13 points in seven games, they are still 13 points behind Colorado for the eighth spot in the West. What a really strong finish can do, though, is affect the way general manager Bob Murray views his team and thus how much of a seller the Ducks will be at the Feb. 27 trade deadline.

In the meantime, each of the Sens and Ducks gets a heat check in one of the few places in either the USA or Canada that it's actually warm right now, Southern California.

Familiar foes

Friday night will feature some old friends facing off as the Florida Blackhawks visit the Chicago Panthers. Wait ...

Since Dale Tallon took over in Florida as general manager, the Panthers have taken on quite a strong feeling of the Blackhawks. They currently carry five former players from Chicago: John Madden, Brian Campbell, Kris Versteeg, Tomas Kopecky and Jack Skille. Of them, only Skille wasn't a contributor to the Stanley Cup a couple of seasons ago.

To make that happen obviously Tallon had to send some of his Panthers players to GM Stan Bowman in Chicago. It's not as strong the other way but the Blackhawks currently employ former Panthers Michal Frolik, Steve Montador and have Rostislav Olesz and Alexander Salak in the system.

But the player to watch in this battle? How about Andrew Shaw, who is quickly making a big name for himself in Chicago. The 20-year-old forward who was a fifth-round pick by the 'Hawks has five points in the last four games on the strength of a goal in each game. That's led to the Twitter hashtag of #ShawFacts where fans have taken their best Chuck Norris jokes and tailored them for Shaw.

Something else worth watching: With weather conditions as bad as they are in Chicago this weekend, will the Panthers have any problems getting out of town and into Winnipeg in time for their game Saturday against the Jets?

Speak of old friends ...

What would the Tampa Bay Lightning give to have the summer over and keep Mike Smith instead of Dwayne Roloson?

The Bolts will get the chance to see firsthand what has happened to Smith since he moved to the desert this offseason. For those not in the know, what has happened is that he has become a quality starting goaltender for the Coyotes.

The Lightning are giving up more goals than any team in the league. Don't you think Smith and his 2.41 goals against average would be handy in Tampa Bay this season?

Then again, it probably wouldn't be too much different if the defenders in front of Smith were playing the same/as injured as they are in front of Roloson and Mathieu Garon.

Fun doesn't stop Saturday

On Sunday there is a nice pair of battles for matinee games in the Eastern Conference.

The Bruins will take on another one of the I-95 corridor powers in the Philadelphia Flyers while the Pittsburgh Penguins will host the Washington Capitals for their final bout this season. It might be a bit watered down without Sidney Crosby playing, but it's still worth watching.

Both games are worth it, so get ready to wear out the "last" button on your remote.

We're going streaking!

A look at the winning and losing streaks heading into the weekend.

Penguins: Remember how they just lost six in a row? This is how you rebound from that. The Pens take a four-game winning streak into Friday night's game against the Canadiens before the game against the Caps.

Detroit Red Wings: For the moment, they have taken the lead in the Central Division, which is an unbelievable race this season. Their five straight wins will be put on the line Saturday vs. the Blue Jackets.

St. Louis Blues: They are doing what they can to keep pace with the Red Wings and Blackhawks, and they're doing it just fine. They ride a three-game run into a home game against the Sabres, losers of 10 straight on the road.

Buffalo Sabres: As just mentioned, 10 straight road losses, four in a row overall. Only the one chance in St. Louis to snap it this weekend.

Panthers: They haven't won a game in their last three chances but they have picked up points in two of those three. The double dip this weekend is at Chicago and at Winnipeg.

Minnesota Wild: The ship keeps on sinking. Remember when they were first in the NHL? I hardly do either. Four straight losses and Dallas on tap this weekend.

Dallas Stars: Misery loves company, I suppose. Dallas brings its own losing streak of three games into the weekend, but they get Tampa Bay before facing the Wild.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.
Posted on: December 18, 2011 4:19 pm
Edited on: December 18, 2011 4:49 pm
 

Milan Lucic has hearing for hit on Zac Rinaldo

By Brian Stubits

Milan Lucic might finally get hit with the Shanahammer.

The Bruins forward who has been in the crosshairs in the past for those watching Brendan Shanahan's suspension radar, has yet to be punished beyond on-ice infractions. That could change now as Bruins coach Claude Julien announced that Lucic will have a phone hearing with Shanahan for his hit on the Flyers' Zac Rinaldo in a 6-0 Bruins win on Saturday.

Here's a look at the hit and ensuing fight between Rinaldo and Nathan Horton.

The fact that Lucic is getting a hearing leads me to believe that this is one hit Lucic won't be able to get past with no punishment.

Of course the most notable instance of a hit that wasn't punished came earlier this season when Lucic ran into Sabres goalie Ryan Miller way outside the crease. People were split on whether the hit warranted a suspension, but Shanahan explained that he didn't think the intent was there.

In this case, while Rinaldo clearly wasn't injured, I'm not sure how much Lucic can argue that it was an accident, that it wasn't his intention. Just look at what he said after the game.

"I noticed he was in a bit of a vulnerable position," Lucic said. "I looked and watched the tape again in slo-mo and I looked at the point of contact and it was his shoulder more than anything. And you can see him turning ... when he was going into the boards.

"I'm just glad no one got hurt on the play."

Admitting to delivering a hit on a guy that you saw in a vulnerable position isn't going to get him any brownie points to start the conversation off.

But then Rinaldo came out on Sunday and said he had no problems with the hit, calling it clean and "shoulder to shoulder."

So score one in Lucic's defense.

At this point I'm very curious to hear what the verdict will be. Rinaldo wasn't hurt and he had no problems with the hit, but it was a potentially dangerous play. I don't know if he'll be suspended for this or not, it's up in the air.

What I do know is that if he doesn't get suspended, this guy might have more lives than my cats. Likely there will be a lot of people feeling like the Bruins and Lucic got away with another one (judging from comments on all of the Lucic stories).

So, how many games, if any, jury?

More NHL Discipline News Here

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: December 16, 2011 1:39 pm
Edited on: December 16, 2011 2:35 pm
 

Weekend Preview: Flyers streak on sans Pronger, G

Schedules: Friday | Saturday | Sunday

By Brian Stubits

There must be something in the water in Pennsylvania. That's the old cliché people turn to when they can't make sense of what's going on, how people (or teams in this case) continue to perform at a high level despite the obstacles.

We saw it last year (and again this season, really) with the Pittsburgh Penguins. Despite being without Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin the second half of last season, they just kept on winning. Their 106 points were tied with the Flyers for most in the Atlantic and were just one point behind the Capitals for best in the East.

This season, the Flyers are getting their own taste of life without their Stars. And just like their Keystone State brethren, they continue to win. As in seven in a row.

Philly has been playing without its captain Chris Pronger for a month now. After yesterday's news, they are going to have to play the rest of the season without him, too. In fact, some are saying that Pronger might never play a game again. After all, he is 37 and he has a life after hockey to think about.

As good as Pronger is and has been his entire career, the Flyers have done a good job overcoming his absence this season -- nay, a great job. Since he last played against Winnipeg on Nov. 19, the Flyers have won nine of 11 games.

As callous as it always feels, the Flyers must move on. While their captain and best defenseman deals with severe post-concussion syndrome, they have a very promising season to continue. With the roster freeze coming next week, it's unlikely the Flyers will acquire some additional help on the blue line in the near future, but it will have to be a consideration for Flyers GM Paul Holmgren.

Holmgren told the media on Friday that he's already considered that, having called all 29 teams, presumably about any defensemen they might have available.

But that's for then. Right now, the Flyers are making due without him or their budding superstar center Claude Giroux (or simply G, as they team calls him). It doesn't seem like it will be a long shelving for Giroux, but you never can know, concussions tend to be pretty fickle.

In the only games the Flyers have played without either player, they have won. Despite missing their leading scorer and a point-producing defenseman, Philly has still averaged 4.5 goals in the two games without Giroux and Pronger.

But now a real test comes to see how they compare with the other beats of the East without the two stars.

The Boston Bruins are nipping on the Flyers' heels for the best record in the Eastern Conference and they, too, have been playing without arguably their best player (skaters-only division) in Zdeno Chara. But the big man might be back in time for the Saturday matinee in Philadelphia.

"We're going to give him a chance to fly and see how he feels," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "If he feels good then we have a chance of seeing him."

Normally I'd lament this game being played without Giroux, Pronger and possibly Chara. But with the way both of them, the Flyers in particular, have played without the all-stars, I don't see it stopping what will likely still be a very good game.

Winnipeg welcome wagon rolls on

This first season with the Jets back in the NHL has been an ongoing welcome wagon for the folks in Manitoba. They were licking their chops at getting to see Ilya Bryzgalov, they relished the opportunity to see former Jet Shane Doan back in Winnipeg.

Now comes perhaps the best welcome/return of them all; Teemu Selanne.

The veteran once starred for the Jets before he was traded to the Anaheim Ducks. He has waited for the chance to go back and play in the first NHL city he called home. Now it comes on Saturday night.

"You know, even when the schedule came out, even when I didn't know if I was going to play or not, I checked right away if we were going to Winnipeg," Selanne said. "That day was on my calendar right away.

"I knew there were two really special things. Obviously the Finland trip and then Winnipeg. It was really exciting to even think about it."

Unlike the welcomes fans in Winnipeg gave to Bryzgalov and, to an extent, Doan, it's hard to imagine there will be any jeers, only cheers for Selanne.

"He was so admired. It was overwhelming," Jets chairman Mark Chipman said of Selanne. "This guy was so good and so approachable and so humble in his approach that the community just absolutely fell head over heels for the guy."

Amazingly, Selanne is still performing at the level he was when he first broke into the NHL with the Jets in the early 90s. That's only going to help the flashbacks for the fans -- minus that whole wearing the Ducks jersey part.

Back in Buffalo

One of the more criticized offseason signings (excluding just about every move made by the Florida Panthers) was the Toronto Maple Leafs signing former Sabres center Tim Connolly. Leafs GM Brian Burke gave Connolly a two-year deal worth $4.75 million per season.

People in Buffalo laughed and simply said "Enjoy!" to their near-neighbors in Toronto. It wasn't about Connolly being a bad player -- he's not at all -- but it was about his health concerns. There always seemed to be something that was keeping Connolly on the bench.

So there's a sense of irony when the Maple Leafs visit the First Niagara Center this weekend. Connolly will be healthy and on the ice against his former team. Although he hasn't been without his health issues this season, when he's been on the ice, he's been good for Toronto. In 18 games played, he has 15 points.

On the other hand, the deal that Buffalo signed with Ville Leino was widely applauded. That one hasn't worked out so well.

Reunion tour continues

The Washington Capitals will be visiting the Colorado Avalanche this weekend. That means they will get to see their old goalie Semyon Varlamov up close and personal again.

Varlamov was traded to the Avs this summer after he made it clear that he was looking to play in the KHL over Washington. So Caps GM George McPhee swung a deal with the Avs to give them Varlamov in exchange for Colorado's first-round draft pick this offseason and their second-round pick.

So not only do the Caps get the chance to say hi to an old friend, but they can help themselves out in more ways than one. The points in the standings are the first and most obvious way, but every game without points for the Avs helps the Caps' first-round draft pick go higher and higher.

Although it's quieted down with Varlamov coming back down to earth, when he and the Avalanche were off to their hot starts, some in Washington wondered if the team made the wrong goalie decision. There might still be some questions considering the duo of Tomas Vokoun and Michal Neuvirth hasn't fared much better, if at all. But at least Neuvirth comes into the game having just shut out the Jets in Winnipeg, so there might be some positive momentum building. The goaltending problems have been as much an issue as anything in D.C. this season.

Canucks are still great

In fact, according to Roberto Luongo they are better than they were last season, which was great.

"We were one win away, so I don't think you need to change much," Luongo said. "That being said, though, we went through a lot last year, and I think we grew as a team. So for that reason alone, I think that we're better than last year."

That's even with him still getting a lot of starts in the net. Remember, he was a Vezina finalist last season. This season? Not so much.

Their next chance to prove Lu right will come in Toronto on Saturday evening for another Hockey Night in Canada appearance.

Stammer don't hurt 'em!

More like don't get hurt Stammer.

With his overtime winner on Thursday night, Steven Stamkos joined Milan Michalek on the top of the goal-scoring list this season with his 19th. Hopefully the same fate that has befallen many of the game's best scorers in recent weeks won't strike the Lightning's superstar.

With Michalek, Giroux, Sidney Crosby and Jeff Skinner (among many others) recently being diagnosed with concussions or at least post-concussion symptoms, the last thing the league wants is another young star to go down. If anything, it would probably love to see Stamkos go on one of his tears and become a positive story in the league again.

He'll have the chance to take the lead in the goals race by himself when Tampa Bay heads to Columbus to face the Blue Jackets.

We're going streaking!

Flyers: As mentioned, they are the hottest thing going in the NHL right now between their seven-game win streak and HBO's 24/7.

Bruins: Philly's opponent brings a modest three-game run of itself into the Saturday matchup.

Chicago Blackhawks: A double-dip awaits the Blackhawks and their three-game win streak as they face the Ducks and Flames.

Nashville Predators and St. Louis Blues: We're going to combine these two because they are both riding four-game win streaks and they will face off against one another on Saturday. The Blues also have the Jackets on Sunday.

Dallas Stars: Last on the win side, the Pacific-leading Stars take to New Jersey seeking to extend their three-game streak on Scott Niedermayer Night.

New York Islanders: Once again, the Isles are slumping. They get to face the NHL-best Minnesota Wild with a four-game skid. The good news for New York is Minnesota is likely down a lot of bodies.

Florida Panthers The Southeast leaders are on a mini slump having lost three in a row. They have the Flames and Hurricanes at home this weekend to try and cure the ills.

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: December 11, 2011 11:50 am
Edited on: December 11, 2011 5:03 pm
 

Bruins' Chara injured, expected to miss a week

By Brian Stubits

Attention every year is given to the idea that a hangover is the biggest obstacle for a defending champion to overcome (when they have been kept mostly together and the expectations remain, that is). But nothing can derail a repeat opportunity like injuries.

That's especially the case when you are talking about a potentially serious injury to Boston's captain and arguably the team's best player not named Tim, Zdeno Chara.

Half-way through the Bruins' win over the Blue Jackets on Saturday, Chara and Jackets forward Antoine Vermette collided in the Bruins' defensive zone. Chara went down to the ice and didn't return in the game.

As you can see from the replay, Chara's knee is the worry after the seemingly innocuous hit. Like most every team in the NHL now, the Bruins didn't elaborate on the injury after the game, calling it simply a lower-body injury.

"I didn't find out whether it's minor, major, anything," coach Claude Julien said after the game. "That's just what I was told after the third.

"I haven't even seen him yet."

Now the question is when can the Bruins expect Chara back? Is it possible he won't miss a game at all?

"It's hard to comment on that until I know the severity," Julien added. "Throughout the season, you're going to have some injuries, and you're going to have to live with them ... no matter what happens."

Fluto Shinzawa of the Boston Globe says that Chara will likely be out for a week or two with a leg injury. It looks like it will be just a momentary scare for Boston.

However long his absence turns out to be, it's too long for the Bruins (unless, you know, he misses no time). Chara is a huge part of what Boston does and he has been solid this season -- as if we expected anything else. He has six goals, which are good enough for second most among NHL defensemen, and he plays nearly half of every game.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: December 6, 2011 5:05 pm
Edited on: December 6, 2011 5:11 pm
 

Right now it's Boston, and then everybody else

thomas1

By: Adam Gretz


PITTSBURGH -- When discussing the best goalies in the NHL, Boston's Tim Thomas has to be at the top of the list, head and shoulders above the rest of the competition. With two Vezina Trophies and a Stanley Cup on his resume over the past three years, it's hard to argue otherwise. He's once again near the top of the NHL in every category among netminders this season, and he's playing at the top of his game for a Bruins team that continues to play at a level above every other team in the league over the past month.

Thanks to their 3-1 win in Pittsburgh on Monday night, the Bruins won for the 14th time in their past 15 games going back to Nov. 1. The only loss over that stretch came in a shootout against the Detroit Red Wings the day after Thanksgiving, and it was a game that Boston arguably had the upper hand in for much of the day.

Over the past five weeks, they have recorded a point in the standings every time they have stepped on the ice. Right now it's their league, and everybody else just happens to be playing in it.

What's been incredible to watch during this recent run by the defending Stanley Cup champs is that for as well as Thomas has played this season -- and he's been great -- they haven't had to rely on him to carry the load or win games for them on his own. For the season, the Bruins are currently the second-highest scoring team in the NHL -- behind only Philadelphia -- averaging over 3.40 goals per game, nearly a full-goal above the league average. During their 14-0-1 run they've been averaging over four goals per game, and have scored five or more seven times.

That sort of goal support makes life easier for any player in the crease, even one like Thomas that's put up numbers like few others have in the post-lockout NHL.

"It's been easier mentally because you have confidence that your team is going to find a way to come through," said Thomas on Monday night.

"If the team isn't playing well, sometimes the goalie can make the mistake of trying put all the pressure on himself and try to win a game all by himself. But with the team playing the way it has over the past five weeks, you don't have to go into a game feeling like that."

The Bruins' current run came after a sluggish start that was easily attributed to a "Stanley Cup hangover." After the first month of the season they were 3-7 and riding a four-game losing streak that included back-to-back losses to their long-time rivals from Montreal on Oct. 27 and 29.

They haven't lost in regulation since.

"I felt like in the first four weeks, we just weren't ready mentally," said head coach Claude Julien. "Our guys, although they wanted to, that switch hadn't been turned on yet for the season."

"What's been good about it is that we've found our game again, and we seem like we're a group that's excited to play that way every night. It seems like we've gotten up, i guess that good feeling again, and we're willing to do it night after night. That's the difference. We kind of knew what was going on, it wasn't just games, it was practice, it was hard to get ourselves going again. We were slow out of the gate, and the fact that we rebounded that way is pretty impressive for those guys."

The way they're playing is old-school Bruins hockey -- big and bad, tough and physical. They don't back down from anything, and if you punch them in the mouth they're going to come right back at you. And they also have plenty of skill. For as much talk as there is about their two-headed monster in goal with Thomas and Tuukka Rask, or their massive defensemen Zdeno Chara, they're also incredibly deep up front, rolling four lines, all of which can score, and they can play any type of game they need in order to win.

A skilled finese game. Physical. A 6-5 track meet or a 1-0 slug-fest. Whatever they need to do, they can, and will, do it.

Their leading scorer is still a teenager, second-year sensation Tyler Seguin, and Patrice Bergeron has the look of an early-season favorite to take home the Selke Trophy (he finished in the top-five in voting each of the past two seasons), playing the tough minutes and shutting down the oppositions top-players, opening up scoring opportunities for Seguin and the team's other top-scorers. It's difficult to find a weakness right now.

"We've done a good job just coming to play, coming to find a way to win," said Thomas. "We don't know how we're going to win every night, but we're going to do it different ways, with different guys, but all of us together at the same time. It's been pretty nice to be a part of this team over the past month."

"There's been times were we've fell out of exactly how we wanted to play a couple of times during this streak," Thomas later added. "But then at the same time other guys came through with big nights and bailed us out. That's what makes a good team; not everybody is going to be their best every night, but as long as everybody doesn't feel their best on the same night you're going to find a way to come out on top."

And that's all the Bruins are doing right now: coming out on top.

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.

Posted on: November 7, 2011 9:22 pm
Edited on: November 7, 2011 11:10 pm
 

Bruins' Paille exits game after slap shot to face

By Brian Stubits

Let the visor debate rage on. Although at this point, I don't know how much of a debate there really is.

That's because right now we seem to be in a funny little vortex where players keep taking pucks to the face as if the cosmos are trying to build a case. Although there is nothing funny about it.

The latest incident occurred on Monday night when Daniel Paille of the Boston Bruins took a slap shot that got away from Steve Staios of the New York Islanders square in the face.

Thankfully, Paille was wearing a visor, which presumably took the brunt of the blow. It still didn't save him from all the harm, though. As you can see in the video, Paille leaves a lot of blood both on the ice and in/on his helmet.

After the game, Patrice Bergeron said that Paille suffered a broken nose on the play. I suppose that beats the alternatives that could have happened sans shield.

"The puck hit him in the face, in the nose area, so we'll probably know more tomorrow once he's seen by a specialist," Bruins coach Claude Julien said after the game.

Some players continue to steadfastly refuse to wear visors, something that is not mandatory in the NHL. Seeing more and more plays like this will only increase the volume of the conversation of those wanting it mandated. The most logical idea for institution right now seems to be the popular idea of grandfathering them in. Many of the young players are already wearing them as they are required at the levels below the NHL.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

 
 
 
 
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