Tag:Claude Julien
Posted on: October 30, 2011 2:44 pm
Edited on: October 30, 2011 10:33 pm
 

Weekend wrap: Bruins' slow start staggers on

By Brian Stubits

Before the season, there was a lot of lip service given to the Stanley Cup hangover. While I could see the thinking behind it, I wasn't sure I believed it would really have a negligible effect.

While it could be pure coincidence, I'm beginning to believe in the power -- or more appropriately pain -- of the hangover. That's because the Boston Bruins are 3-7 to start the season after being swept in a home-and-home by the not-long-ago struggling Canadiens (by the way, that's three straight wins since the Habs axed assistant Perry Pearn). For those keeping track at home, that's good enough to be last in not only the Northeast Division, but the Eastern Conference.

“Honestly, this is so frustrating,” defenseman Dennis Seidenberg said after Saturday's 4-2 loss in Montreal. “I don’t know. It’s like we can’t buy a break right now and we just keep getting deeper. We need to turn this around.”

Maybe this is a team that used up all of its breaks last season.

But I didn't see this hangover coming this harsh to start the season. I mean, this is the kind I'd get in college when I'd sleep through breakfast, lunch and dinner.

I was a believer in Boston last season, picking them to win the Cup before the playoffs began. I'm a sucker for plus/minus stats for teams, and nobody was better than Boston in that category a season ago. I took that as a sign of quality balance and partly the product of Tim Thomas' career year.

Thomas hasn't been the problem this year, even if he's not living up to the standard of a year ago. But nobody, and I repeat nobody, expected that season again. It was record-setting as far as save percentage goes, the best in NHL history. That's tough to repeat.

No, instead it's been the offense. It's a group that doesn't seem to possess any elite scorers, but as the playoffs showed, there are numerous guys who are good enough. They have just 22 goals in 10 games. Defensively, there 25 goals allowed is the second lowest total in the East behind only Buffalo.

Claude Julien has tried to fix the issue. There has been line mixing. The team's best player has been sophomore Tyler Seguin, who has four goals and six points. Only five players have at least five points through 10 games.

For his part, GM Peter Chiarelli is not panicking yet. Why would he? This current roster is almost exactly the same as the one that won the championship a few months ago. Obviously it is good enough. But Pierre LeBrun of ESPN.com reported that Chiarelli might be working the phones already, trying to perhaps find a player to come in and inject some life into Boston.

“I’m always working the phones, but I am a little more diligent these days," Chiarelli told ESPN.com on Thursday.

This is the part where we normally remind you that we're only 10 games into the season. There is still a lot of time for the B's to wake up and defend their Cup in earnest. But it's also worth noting that the Northeast Division and Eastern Conference are looking better this season.

They can't afford to sleep in too long until the headache goes away.

Any be-Leafers now?

When do you start believing in what the Toronto Maple Leafs are doing? Ron Wilson's crew is 7-3-1 begin the year. The last three games, including Saturday's OT win over the Penguins, have been with starting goaltender James Reimer injured. They did get tripped up by the Sens on Sunday night in a great game.

We chuckled at the uber optimism Leafs fans were feeling with the quick start and statements such as Phil Kessel is headed for Wayne Gretzky numbers. Now there is a bigger sample size of 10 games and Kessel has 10 goals with eight assists. It's still a small sample size, however it's easier to take big projections. Don't expect Gretzky numbers, but it could be a monster season nonetheless.

Speaking of monsters, Jonas Gustavsson has fared certainly well enough in Reimer's absence. With Reimer sidelined for a little bit, this was Gustavsson's chance to show he could handle the backup duties himself. So far so good. He was good enough on Saturday for Ron Wilson -- one of the few coaches on Twitter -- to pronoune him the starter for Sunday night's game against Ottawa, a loss.

"Great win. Monster was huge and gets start tomorrow. Komo keeps getting better. Dion and Phil are the best at their positions in NHL!"

If nothing else, let's just say it's time to take Toronto a little more seriously.

Streaking Senators

Raise your hand if you saw the Senators winning six games by Thanksgiving before the season began.

Forget Thanksgiving, the Sens have won six games in their last six outings after a great comeback win over the Rangers on Saturday and then a solid win over the Maple Leafs on Sunday. Things seem to be coming together quickly.

It doesn't come as much of a surprise, but Jason Spezza has been his usual spectacular self. He has 15 points through 12 games (7-8=15). But also joining him in the better-than-a-point-per-game pace are Milan Michalek and Erik Karlsson, who has an NHL-high 12 assists.

Before the season, a lot of folks had the Senators as the preseason favorites for the Nail Yakupov (top draft prospect) sweepstakes. While they still could be, they are at least giving the fans some fun along the way.

A Star is born

Has anybody noticed what Kari Lehtonen is doing in Dallas? Judging by the attendance, the majority of the Metroplex hasn't.

The Stars are 8-3-0 after Saturday's 3-1 win over the New Jersey Devils. In those 11 games, Lehtonen is 8-1. He carries a goals against average of 1.75. He has been simply stellar for a team now being led not by Brad Richards, but instead by a bevy of young guns and veteran defenseman Sheldon Souray.

Lehtonen is at that magical age in sports when they are supposedly at their peak, 27. After playing in 69 games a season ago, he looks ready to carry the load again this season.

Just another quality goalie from Finland. Ho hum.

As for the attendance? Well Saturday night only 11.740 were announced to be in the stands to witness the win. I understood the reasons for low attendance numbers earlier this season, baseball's Rangers were fighting for the World Series and, well, the Stars lost their big star in the offseason. But with this kind of start and the Rangers now done, I hoped to see more than 11,740 in the crowd. Baby steps, I guess. Baby steps. If the Stars keep winning, they will come.

Night Caps

The Washington Capitals took on the Vancouver Canucks in the Saturday night cap and it didn't last long for Tomas Vokoun. The Capitals goalie gave up three first-period goals, two of them being on Canucks power plays, and was pulled by coach Bruce Boudreau to start the second.

The reason? Boudreau wanted to give the team a spark. Well, his Caps did come back to the tie game, but it all got away from them again in a 7-4 loss. (On a side note, a four-goal performance won't do much to change the Canucks fans' feelings about Roberto Luongo either.)

Some are seeing it as a deal. Boudreau said Vokoun wasn't particularly sharp. Vokoun said he felt fine.

But I'd like to point out that Vokoun had played every game since Michal Neuvirth was given the opening-night start. If nothing else, Vokoun deserved a break.

We're going streaking!

As already mentioned, the Ottawa Senators now have a six-game winning streak going. But they're not alone.

The San Jose Sharks have also won five in a row. More impressively, all five of those games were on the road, including Saturday's shootout win over the Islanders and a win on Friday over the Red Wings.

Speaking of Detroit, it has lost four games in row since beginning the year 5-0. Maybe that 7-1 beatdown at the hands of the Capitals sent them into a funk?

The Islanders are also in an early tailspin. Make that five losses in a row for them after Saturday's loss to San Jose.

Last but certainly not least, the Edmonton Oilers are very quietly in first place in the Northwest Division, surpassing the Colorado Avalanche. That's because the Oilers have won five games in a row after weekend wins over the Avalanche on Friday and Blues on Sunday. The Kids in the Hall are getting a lot of attention for that, but Nikolai Khabibuln has been spectacular.

Quote of the weekend

Florida Panthers coach Kevin Dineen was very happy with his team's 3-2 comeback win over the Sabres on Saturday night. He took it as a chance to talk a little, umm, anatomy.

Let's just say he appreciated the marbles his team showed by scoring twice in the final four minutes for the win.

Photo: Getty Images

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

Posted on: October 12, 2011 10:12 am
Edited on: October 12, 2011 12:17 pm
 

Report: B's Krejci day to day with 'core' issue

By Brian Stubits

Uh oh, Boston. David Krejci will not play when the Bruins take on the Carolina Hurricanes on Wednesday night after going down in practice on Tuesday with what the team described as a "core injury."

Originally, Joe Haggerty of CSN New Enland reported that Krejci went down in a non-contact injury and was looking at a problem with his knee. In Haggerty's words, the best case scenario -- best case! -- was that he's out for a couple of weeks with a knee sprain. You can probably figure out the worst case scenario, but I imagine it would have three little letters.

But coach Claude Julien said that instead it's a core issue and Krejci is day to day. That's a minor crisis averted.

These are the exact types of perils that just seem to await teams after winning a Stanley Cup. As if starting slow out of the gate (two points, five goals in three games) wasn't enough, now the B's will be without their co-leading scorer from last season and top-line center as they try and wake up. Krejci was especially effective in the playoffs when he had 12 goals -- one shy of his regular-season total of 13 -- and 11 assists.

As a result, it looks like the Bruins will have to call on the kid -- Tyler Seguin -- to man the top center spot for the time being. It was only 20 games or so ago that Seguin was a healthy scratch and now he'll get a shot to play between Nathan Horton and Milan Lucic.

We know this much, he'll add some speed that can maybe jumpstart Boston's scorers. Because while the rest of the team might be hung over from the summer celebrations, we know Seguin isn't since he's under the American legal drinking age. (Ummmm, just play along.)

Or it could just be as simple as what Shawn Thornton thinks: The Bruins aren't playing hard enough.

Back to the issue at hand: They could also put Patrice Bergeron up on the first line and leave Seguin to center another group. Or Claude Julien could pull any other number of changes he fancies. Either way, it seems like the No. 2 overall draft pick in the summer of 2010 is going to get his shot and play in the middle.

With Buffalo in the division off to a great start and the Eastern Conference looking better as a whole, the Bruins can't really afford to take too much time getting going. As their local counterparts in baseball showed, poor starts to the season can haunt you in the end (and poor finishes).

Photo: Getty Images

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

Posted on: October 3, 2011 9:09 am
Edited on: October 3, 2011 9:10 am
 

Daily Skate: Brouwer gets a look on top line

By: Adam Gretz

BROUWER EXPECTED TO BE CAPS' TOP LINE RIGHT WING It appears that Troy Brouwer is going to open the regular season for the Washington Capitals as their top line right wing, according to coach Bruce Boudreau. Said Boudreau, via Stephen Wyno of the Washington Times, “He's a physical presence. He hits, he forechecks well. He can make the play when he has time.” The Capitals acquired Brouwer on draft day in exchange for their first-round pick. In 79 games last season he scored 17 goals to go with 19 assists.

JULIEN: VERBAL ON-ICE TAUNTS CROSSING THE LINE We've had a couple of taunting incidents in the NHL over the past week, including fan-on-player and player-on-player. Bruins head coach Claude Julien is one person in the NHL that thinks some of the trash-talking is crossing the line. Here's what he had to say on the subject via Joe Haggerty of CSNNE.com:
“Whether that's been like that decades ago, I'm not quite sure. People are going after divorces or calling people certain names that I don't even want to allude to here,” said Julien. “But there is a fine line I think that has to exist. There's gamesmanship and then there's crossing the line. I think more and more, players today are going further than they used to so.

“You'd hope that it would be policed by [the players] and by having a little bit more respect for each other. They are part of a player's association, they should all be part of a group and there should be at least that kind of respect that exists. Some people are better at refraining themselves than others. You always have those other kind of guys whether the league needs to step into it . . . it's always a hard thing to prove. You know he said, she said and whatever. It's not an easy thing to tackle.”
COACH ALFREDSSON Daniel Alfredsson has been the best player for the Senators franchise since it entered the NHL back in 1993, and he's starting to get closer to the end of his career. He's starting to look forward to his post-playing days and one of the idea's that's at the top of his list is being a minor hockey coach. He talks about that, as well as being a "hockey dad," with Wayne Scanlan.

DO PRESEASON RECORDS MATTER? I typically fall on the side of "No," but Adrian Dater of the Denver Post examines whether or not the 1-4 record the Colorado Avalanche put up in the preseason means anything, and concludes that for this young Avalanche team, coming off a 29th place finish, it matters more than it would for, say, the Avs glory day teams.

NYQUIST SCORES TWO Gustav Nyquist scored a pair of goals for the Detroit Red Wings in their final preseason game on Sunday evening, a 3-2 win against the Pittsburgh Penguins, and his second goal, a power play tally in the second period, came on this nice give-and-go one-timer with Johan Franzen.



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

Posted on: September 29, 2011 3:56 pm
Edited on: September 29, 2011 4:27 pm
 

Northeast Division Preview: Champ B's still tops

By Brian Stubits

For the first time since the 1993-94 season began, the reigning champion resides in the Northeast Division after the Bruins ended their Cup drought with a thrilling run through the postseason. The even better news for Boston (but not so awesome for the rest of the division) is that the Bruins are back almost completely intact.

No team has repeated as Stanley Cup champions since the Red Wings in 1997 and 98. Only two other teams have made it back to the Finals a year after winning in that time, the Stars in 1999 then 2000 and once again the Red Wings (2008, 09). There's a reason for it, the fabled championship hangover.

But in hockey, I think it plays a bigger part than any other sport. The offseason is as short as it gets, the playoffs as long and grueling as any of the major sports. The Bruins lifted the Cup in the middle of June and reported back to camp in early September. All the while they were enjoying a whirlwind of a summer that included plenty of partying and celebrating a title. The Blackhawks admittedly struggled with it last season (although the roster being ripped apart didn't help matters). If only getting rid of it were as easy as taking a couple Tylenol and drinking Vitamin Water.

If they do look sluggish and lethargic to start the season then the Buffalo Sabres will be ready to pounce on the opportunity. They are hockey hungry in Buffalo these days with hope their Sabres can become power players in the East. As for the other three in the division, the East's Canadian coalition? Well they will all be hoping to resurrect their glory days.

You can't exactly count out the Canadiens and Maple Leafs from the division crown, but this likely is a two-horse race in the Northeast.

Now we'll just have to wait and see how the Bruins respondin their quest for another Cup.

Northeast Division (predicted order of finish)

Boston Bruins: Why mess with a good thing? That's an easy philosphy to live by when you are coming off of claiming the Stanley Cup. Really, the only new additions they have to work into the fold are Benoit Pouliot as a bottom-six forward and Joe Corvo on the blue line. With the solid support all around them of a close-knit group, they should be able to seamlessly slide in and fill the voids left by Tomas Kaberle, Mark Recchi and Michael Ryder, the only pieces to the championship puzzle missing.

One thing I'm not sure many people realize, but this team is very young in addition to being super talented. There are still five players just among the forwards who will be restricted free agents when their contracts run out. The defense is a bit more grizzled, however, and that's where a good chunk of the leadership comes from, of course including captain Zdeno Chara.

There might be a slight sense of urgency for the B's to repeat as champs as they will have a lot of work to do to keep the team together as 10 of their regulars don't have contracts beyond next season. But GM Peter Chiarelli seems to be preparing for that well, saving the B's cap space to maneuver.

Strengths: What's not to like? They are very balanced as 10 players had more than 40 points a season ago, although two of them have departed (Kaberle and Ryder). Defensively they have plenty of veteran presence and have been a very good unit under Claude Julien. Plus, you know, they have that fella named Chara.

Oh, and how can we make it this far without discussing the team's best player, Tim Thomas? He was simply superb last season and through the playoffs, posting the highest single-season save percentage in league history. It's not as if his backup is chopped liver, either, as Tuukka Rask will be expected to shoulder more of the load for the 38-year-old Thomas this year.

Weaknesses: Despite all of their success when five-on-five, Boston's special teams weren't up to snuff. Without much change in personnel, they are going to have to find a way from within to improve the 20th-ranked power play and 18th-best penalty kill units. The power play was a growing concern in the playoffs, which included an 0-for-21 streak in the opening round win over the Canadiens. They tried all sorts of remedies to fix it, including parking Chara in front of the net, but they found their groove late in the playoffs when Chara and his booming shot returned to the point. Their hope is that success will roll over.

After that, we're just getting picky here. There just aren't too many holes from a team that ranked in the top five both offensively and defensively last season and was the NHL's top plus/minus team. They will have the talk of a championship hangover looming over them for much of the season and they will have the proverbial target on their backs as the champs. Those are hurdles that will be new.

Buffalo Sabres: I'm not sure what fans in Buffalo are more excited about right now: the Bills' 3-0 start or the first full season under Terry Pegula? The Sabres' biggest (and richest) fan ushers in a new era that the fans are still trying to get used to, in a good way: Buffalo is a big spender now. Pegula will make sure of that as he is willing to put his money where his mouth is. And his mouth has expressed some awfully high expectations ... multiple championships.

On that note, the Sabres were active in the offseason, most notably signing Christian Ehrhoff and Ville Leino to augment the core group that Buffalo has built. But possibly the biggest acquisition they made was the less-heralded of them all, and that was bringing in Robyn Regehr. The stout defenseman should prove to be a great addition as he brings a lot of toughness and all-around defense. Not to mention he will serve as a good influence for assumed partner Tyler Myers, who is in line for a nice bounceback season with more talent with him on defense.

It almost feels like an acquisition, but the return of Derek Roy will be a big boost, too. The front-line center missed the second half of last season due to a quad injury.

Welcome to Pegulaville. Buffalo still can hardly believe it.

Strengths: There is obviously a strong leader, for one. That's a very nice asset to have an owner so willing to win. But beyond him, there's a reason why Buffalo has moved into the conversation to crack the home-ice equation in the East, the new faces likely will make a very good group even better. In particular, the addition of Ehrhoff to the league's ninth-ranked power-play unit will make the special-teams unit a real asset for the Sabres.

Like their division rivals in Boston, as talented as they are all over the ice, their best player probably sits in the blue paint all game long. Ryan Miller didn't have the greatest of seasons last year for Buffalo, but that tends to happen when you come off a Vezina-winning season ... there's only one direction to go. He's still one of the absolute best in the game.

Oh, and the slug logo is gone, wiped away for good. That's positive for everybody.

Weaknesses: The cap situation is a bit troubling. With Pegula's desire to spend, the Sabres actually exceeded the salary cap over the summer, so they will have to be extra diligent with how they manage the roster. Unfortunately, it doesn't leave them much room to try and make any improvements midseason if need be.

Overall, it's not a roster with many holes in it whatsoever. It will just come down to how talented the team proves to be as there are multiple players capable of 50-plus point seasons.

Montreal Canadiens: Last season, without Max Pacioretty or Andrei Markov, the Canadiens captured the six seed in the East and took the eventual champions to the brink. I'm sure this team, almost al of it remains in town, is still stewing over blowing a 2-game lead to its bitter rival in Boston.

I definitely like the signing of Erik Cole in July, he is a solid (and physical) forward who could prove to be one of the bigger acquisitions of the summer for any team. He adds to a good, but not great group of forwards. They are capable, but need to be better than 23rd-best in the league like a season ago.

Where the success of this team will likely hinge is on the blue line. They have a couple of excellent young talents in P.K. Subban and Markov and some solid players behind them like Josh Gorges and Hal Gill.

A few steps toward a return to form for Scott Gomez (just seven goals last season) wouldn't hurt eiher.

Strenghts: Special teams. Under Jacques Martin, the Habs have been good in both departments of special teams, ranking seventh in both phases a season ago. If Markov remains healthy, the power play remains lethal as Subban and him both are excellent with the man up.

It's pretty Wild the goaltending this division features. Like both teams above them here, the Habs have an oustanding man living in the crease. It took fans a while in Montreal, but they finally warmed up to Carey Price, who finally lived up to his expectations last season. Playing a 72-game work load, Price posted a 2.35 GAA and .923 save percentage. The trick will be doing it again, but the safe bet is that he turned a corner and an encore shouldn't be a problem.

Weaknesses: Let's be honest, having to rely on Gomez to anchor a top-six line after a 37-point season doesn't have overwhelming talent. It showed in their scoring totals from last season when they averaged 2.60 goals per game. Cole will help as he not only brings a power game (among the league leaders in hits for forwards) but he can score. They would love to see him at least match his 26 goals from a season ago, that would have been good for second on the team.

A major concern all season will rest on the blue line and the depth there. Adding Chris Campoli after camp began was a nice addition to help with the concern, but they still can't really afford for injuries to set in, particularly for Markov. They just invested in him with a rich contract this offseason, so they are counting on him returning at full strength from the ACL tear and remaining that way.

Toronto Maple Leafs: How much longer will the fans in Toronto put up with a team that can't make the playoffs? The postseason drought stretches back to the lockout as the Leafs have been on the outside each season since. The only other team in the same boat is Florida, and let's just say the fans in Toronto take their hockey a touch more seriously than those in the Sunshine State. There's hope that this could be the season where they break through and return to playoff hockey, but that's a tall order for this group still.

Over the summer, GM Brian Burke really coveted center Brad Richards, but his staff was unable to convince the top free agent to head to Toronto. So as a backup plan he signed Tim Connolly from Buffalo to anchor the team's top line. If healthy, a very big if, Connolly can prove to be a good addition, the Leafs had to get deeper at center. Also, I really liked the quiet addition of John-Michael Liles to the defense.

But not much else will matter if the goaltending situation isn't solved. That has been the achilles heel for years in Toronto, but they think -- or hope -- the answer lies in James Reimer in his first full season in the NHL.

Strengths: As you'd expect for a team built by Burke, they have become a physical bunch in Toronto. The team captain, Dion Phaneuf, is one of the toughest hitters in the league. But there is obviously a danger of that being a weakness if the team is getting sent to the sin bin (or being Shanabanned with the new emphasis on safety) too often.

The second line is probably good enough to be Toronto's No. 1 group. The combination of Clarke MacArthur, Mikhail Grabovski and Nikolai Kulemin placed second, third and fourth in the team scoring, respectively. Each had at least 21 goals.

Weaknesses: The problem is, the skill on the team doesn't go much deeper. Only six players on the team last year reached double digits in scoring. The fact is the Leafs have two lines that can hold up with most in the league, but the third and fourth lines are where they feel the drop.

The center position remains a concern. Sure, Connolly was brought in to help that and same with Matthew Lombardi, but you can't be sure what you are getting from either guy from a health standpoint. As mentioned, Connolly has a history of injury issues. He has only played more than 70 games once (2009-10) since the 2002-03 season. With Lombardi, he's coming off a concussion that cost him all but two games last season. If either or both goes down, then Toronto is right back to being razor thin down the middle.

Ottawa Senators: This is odd territory for the folks in Ottawa. Never in the franchise's history have they had to actually rebuild. Since originally building the team in the early 90s, the team had a long, successful run that included a trip to the Stanley Cup Final in 2006-07. A couple of the members from the old guard are still around -- Daniel Alfredsson and Jason Spezza, but the majority of the team is in place to win in the future, not necessarily now.

Expect to see a lot of the kids getting burn this season. It appears as though the team's top draft pick this summer, Sweedish center Mika Zibanejad, is going to make the team out of camp. Another coveted prospect, Jared Cowen, is also making a bid for the roster and join David Rundblad among the defensive corps. Nikita Filatov, who hadn't lived up to his perceived potential in Columbus, will also be given a shot to show what he can do. If he fits in and focuses on his game, his addition could prove to be a steal for Ottawa.

While new coach Paul MacLean and GM Bryan Murray are saying all the rights things about this team being competitive this season, it will serve as a good opportunity to get a glimpse of the future.

Strenghts: They didn't score much at all or play defense particularly well, but they were alright on special teams, particularly on the penalty kill, which ranked ninth in the league. Sergei Gonchar can help keep that ball rolling. That will qualify as a positive here.

We'll also throw goaltender Craig Anderson into the category. He wasn't spectacular last season split between Colorado and Ottawa, but he's shown before what he is capable of when he starred for the Avalanche two seasons ago. And his stint with the Sens was encouraging as he was 11-5-1 with his new team.

It speaks well for what is in the system that the team's AHL affiliate in Binghamton won the Calder Cup.

Weaknesses: This says a lot: No player that participated in more than 30 games for the Senators had a plus-rating last season. Chris Phillips was the lowest of them all at minus-35.

This team struggled mightily to score last season and that is unlikely to get easier this time around. Right now there just isn't a heck of a lot of talent to talk about. Spezza was the only player to top the 20-goal mark last year and he barely did so with 21.

The youth is a weakness for now as it will be error prone and show it is green, but the hope is that it turns into a strength down the line.

Photo: Getty Images

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

Posted on: September 19, 2011 9:54 am
 

Daily Skate: Leafs, Sens jersey leak; Semin talks

By Brian Stubits

SWEATER SLIP: Thanks to an error by Reebok, the Buffalo Sabres unknowingly revealed the third jerseys for the Senators and Maple Leafs this season in their team shop and icethetics got ahold of them. So, what do you think of the alternates?

SEMIN RESPONDS: Alexander Semin took an offseason hit from former teammate and current Florida Panthers forward Matt Bradley that included the comment that Semin doesn't care. The Russian forward talked to Puck Daddy about the perceptions, shrugging them off.

ALWAYS TWEAKING: The Boston Bruins just won the Stanley Cup and return almost the entire team that earned it. You might think that would to a "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" attitude, but Claude Julien apparently prefers the "if you aren't getting better you're getting worse" school of thought. The idea? Getting the defenseman to close the gap with the forwards. Boston Globe.

LEARNING CURVE: Speaking of coaching systems, the Flyers are getting used to Peter Laviolette's in Philadelphia and Dave Isaac says they are picking it up fast. That's good, considering how little time there is to implement such a system, especially one foreign to a lot of the players.

DEEP THOUGHTS: When you look at the top two lines, the Toronto Maple Leafs don't have much problem competing with the top teams in the East. In fact, only the Flyers and Lightning had more goals from their top four forwards. But the Leafs are sorely lacking in the depth department. James Mirtle delves deeper in the Globe and Mail.

GETTING OVER THE HILLER: Jonas Hiller is anticipating returning to the ice this preseason after missing the second half of last season because of vertigo. Jon Rosen at Fox Sports West says the Ducks better hope Hiller comes back symptom free.

TRADE TALK: Cory Schneider will remain the most-discussed goaltender on the trade market until the day the Canucks either move him or Roberto Luongo. And they aren't moving Luongo any time soon. Andy Strickland looks at the ever persistent rumors for Schneider, which include Phoenix and Columbus.

BE THE THUNDER: The Tampa Bay Lightning began running with a new promotion last season and into the playoffs of "Be the bolt." Now they have added a theme song to go with it called Be the Thunder from the Florida Orchestra. Nothing says hockey quite like violins.

SALVADOR BACK: It has been almost 12 months since Bryce Salvador left a preseason game injured (inner-ear concussion), but on Friday he was cleared to practice and has been loving being back on the ice with his Devils teammates. Tom Gulitti at the Berger Record has mroe.

STARTING FRESH: Andrew Cogliano was a first-round talent, drafted by the Oilers in 2005. But only once in his seasons in Edmonton did he hit 40 points. But with an offseason trade to the Ducks, he is hopeful a fresh start will help him reach his potential as "a lot of it had to do with the mental side of the game" in Edmonton.

MIGRATING NORTH: The Washington Capitals are going to play the Nashville Predators in Baltimore for their first exhibition game of the preseason. CSN Baltimore talks about the re-emerging of hockey in Charm City.

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

Posted on: September 18, 2011 12:53 pm
 

Bruins to rely on Rask in net more this season

By Brian Stubits

Tim Thomas carried the Bruins on his shoulders for the majority of last season including through the Stanley Cup Finals, when he was superb. Without him, it's more than fair to wonder how far the B's would have gone, he meant that much.

In total, he played in 82 games last season. That's a pretty heavy workload for any goalie in a year, let alone one who is 37 years old. But as you would expect, Thomas won't agree to the notion.

“If anything, I’m in better all-around condition than last year. At this point I don’t feel the 82 games [from last season], anyway,” Thomas, said. “Physically I don’t feel too bad. Mentally and emotionally you give so much energy that those are the harder parts to deal with.

“You’re in battle mode for two months straight because that’s what the playoffs are. Plus the whole season you’re kind of in that mode, but it gets stepped up in the playoffs. To have it suddenly be over that was harder than the physical things ... for me anyway.”

Regardless, it should come as no surprise that Boston coach Claude Julien is planning on leaning a little bit more on Tuukka Rask this season.

“I think it’s pretty obvious that Tuukka has to take a bit of a bigger bite this year. That’s not a secret and don’t plan on making that a secret,” Julien said. “Tim is a great goaltender, but Tim is a goaltender that understands that he can’t play 70-plus games in the regular season. He’s had a long playoffs and I think Tim is going to be just as happy as we are to have Tuukka here and paying some of his best hockey.

“I liked [Rask’s] practice today, I thought Tuukka looked sharp and he came in great shape, so hopefully he’s ready to take on that load. We’ll certainly make sure that we share [the goaltending workload]. You just want to make sure you keep your goaltenders as sharp as you can and Tim had such an outstanding year last year. We’d love to see him duplicate it, but he might be able to duplicate with some help from Tuukka by keeping him as fresh as we can.”

It was only two seasons ago that Rask was seen as the team's top goalie, outperforming Thomas in a season when they pretty much split the heavy lifting. Last season, though, Rask stepped back and Thomas returned to Vezina form, posting the best single-season save percentage in NHL history.

But we're not talking about chopped liver with Rask here. He wasn't all that great last season, going 11 -14-2 with a 2.67 GAA, but he has shown he's more than capable in the past. The Bruins shouldn't suffer much, if at all.

Photo: Getty Images

Hat tip to Comcast Sports Net New England

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

Posted on: March 9, 2011 3:50 am
 

Morning Skate: Should Chara be suspended?



Montreal Canadiens coach Jacque Martin all but called for the suspension of Boston Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara, who minutes earlier Tuesday sent young Habs forward Max Pacioretty to the hospital for at least an overnight stay. 

“The league has to deal with those issues,” Martin told reporters after his team’s 4-1 victory over the Burins at Bell Center, a game marred by the scary collision. “It’s not the first time. It seems to be getting worse. The league has to take some responsibility.”

As frightening as Pacioretty’s headfirst collision with the so-called turnbuckle, word came out later that he was able to move all his extremities and was conscious. His agent, Alec Schall, sent a message via Twitter that Pacioretty “is going to be OK.”

There’s no telling how long the 22-year-old from Connecticut will be out of action, but debate raged into the morning on how long Chara should sit -- if at all.

Chara said the hit that sent Pacioretty into the divider between the benches was the result of a few unfortunate events. Here’s a link to video of the incident along with more details

“We were racing for the puck and battling for position,” Chara told reporters after the game. “I was riding him out and it was very unfortunate that at the same time I pushed him, he kind of leaned and jumped up a little bit and hit the glass extension.”

Boston Bruins coach Claude Julien said Chara is not a dirty player, something that’s not really in dispute. But there are a few things working against Chara: his scuffle with Pacioretty the last time these two rivals met, the score (it was 4-0 when Pacioretty went down in the final minute of the second period), the fact the puck was already well up ice when he finished the check and the recent scrutiny of head injuries. 

TSN’s Bob McKenzie wrote that it’s hardly an easy decision for the league’s disciplinarians, who could be minus VP Colin Campbell’s voice since his son, Gregory, plays for Boston.

Personally, I didn't see or sense any malice or obvious intent to injure on the play but one would have to be a mind reader to know for certain what exactly Chara was thinking at that moment. Who knows, really?


Chara was given an interference penalty and a game misconduct becaues Pacioretty was injured on the play. Since the Bruins don’t play again until Thursday, the league has a little bit of time to figure out if any more punishment is needed. 

BETTMAN TAKES A STAND: NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman hasn't given up in hockey in Arizona, even if it appears to be the easiest path once again. 

The Goldwater Institute, a public policy group, who is seeking legal action to stop the City of Glendale's $100 million bond sale that would clear way for Chicago investor Matthew Hulsizer to take over the Phoenix Coyotes

The Arizona Republic reported the latest Tuesday:

"It's time for Goldwater to stand down," he said. "In light of their conduct in this matter, I question whether this is really an organization concerned with the public interest."

Bettman affirmed the league continues to support the city's deal with team buyer Matthew Hulsizer.

"Our commitment remains as strong as ever," he said. "But time is running out."



The Vancouver Sun's Cam Cole said the NHL is going to let Glendale to explore every option before the franchise is allowed back into Canada. 

If it were put to a vote of the NHL player membership at large, rest assured the league would be back to three Canadian cities, not thinking about adding a seventh in one of the coldest, windiest parts of the land — and Phoenix would be granted exempt status as a destination of choice, unto eternity, regardless of viability as a hockey market.


FORMER NHLERS VISIT TROOPS: NHL Hall of Famer Lanny McDonald, former NHL goaltender Mark LaForest and retired forward Pierre Turgeon were in a group of former players who visited Afghanistan on Tuesday.

They met some of the 2,800 Canadians serving in Afghanistan and even played in a pickup ball hockey game, which was dubbed "Hockey Morning in Kandahar." 

"Everyone's thankful that we're here, but I've got to be honest with you, it's just a privilege for us to be here," Turgeon told The Canadian Press.

 Comedian Tom Green was the celebrity component of this of the trip, so we’re guessing fellow Canadian Bryan Adams was on tour. 


TUESDAY’S RESULTS 
Philadelphia 4, Edmonton 1
NY Islanders 4 Toronto 3 (OT)
Ottawa 2, New Jersey 1
Pittsburgh, 3 Buffalo 1
Montreal 4, Boston 1
Florida 3, Chicago 2
Minnesota5, Colorado 2
Vancouver 4, Phoenix 3 (OT)
San Jose 3, Nashville 2 (OT)

Photo: Getty Images
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com