Archive for November, 2009

Bruins are Road Scholars

Posted in Boston Bruins, Hockey with tags , , , , , , on November 27, 2009 by clarencethehorse

Four road games. Four wins. Eight points.  Sure, it took three OT periods and 2 shootouts, but the Bruins prevailed each game and may have finally shaken off the last of the cobwebs  that had impeded their forward progress so far this season.  In defeating St. Louis 4-2 this past Monday, then going into Minnesota on Wednesday and winning 2-1 in a shootout, the Bruins are currently positioned fifth in the conference (12-8-4, 28 pts) and are only a point out of first in the Northeast division.  The only negative was the injury suffered by winger Milan Lucic in the Minnesota game, and as I write this, the Bruins are preparing to hold a press conference to discuss his condition/prognosis.  Fingers crossed, more to come….

Marc Savard, who had not played since October 17th, returned from a broken foot in the  St. Louis game, and for the second straight game Milan Lucic set the tone in the opening moments with a jarring hit on the Blues’ Barret Jackman.  Tuukka Rask was back between the pipes, and made a great save six minutes into the first to keep the game scoreless.  Mark Recchi then gave the Bruins a 1-0 lead when he batted this puck out of mid-air for a power-play goal.  After St. Louis tied the game, Blake Wheeler scored his sixth of the season on a power play early in the second for a 2-1 B’s lead.  Milan Lucic would break another tie and give the Bruins a 3-2 lead when he tipped home a Zdeno Chara shot from the point at 12:10 of the second period.  St. Louis goalie Chris Mason made the save of the game with 3:51 remaining in the second period to keep St. Louis within a goal. Patrice Bergeron made a nifty steal deep in the St. Louis end and set up Marco Sturm for a shorthanded goal in the third period to ensure a 4-2 win for the Bruins, and also the first three-game winning streak of the season for Boston.

The re-emergence of Patrice Bergeron as an elite two-way player is a truly gratifying sight for Bruins fans; in this game, Bergeron assisted on all four Bruins goals.  This 4-assist game comes on the heels of his game-winning shootout goal against Atlanta, then his game-winning OT goal against Buffalo.  Even with Savard back, it is becoming apparent that Bergeron may be just as valuable a piece of the offensive puzzle for this year’s Bruins team.  Anyone who remembers the events of October 27, 2007, when Bergeron was viciously boarded by the Flyers Randy Jones, can attest that Bergeron’s comeback should make him the early frontrunner for this season’s Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy.

Two nights later, the Bruins headed into the Wild  game knowing that in their previous nine meetings with Minnesota, they had escaped with only one win.  Tuukka Rask was again in net  (I love his mask), and the Bruins Byron Bitz gave him a 1-0 lead when he tipped home a Derek Morris shot from the point.  Andrew Ebbett tied the game for Minnesota with a power-play goal in the second, and Rask helped himself with this spectacular save in the third off the Wild’s Cal Clutterbuck….my new favorite hockey name, btw.  It was a typical tightly played, defense-dominated game against the Wild, and regulation ended with the teams knotted at one goal each.  Tuukka Rask was at his best for the Bruins in the waning minutes of regulation and in the five-minute OT period, and at this time (backup?) goalie Tim Thomas is in no danger of being ‘rushed back’ from whatever upper-body injury  currently ails him. In the shootout, Bergeron scored for the Bruins first, and then David Krejci scored the deciding shootout goal as Rask stopped 3-out-of-4 Wild shooters for a 2-1 Bruins shootout victory.

MILAN LUCIC UPDATE: He has a left high-ankle sprain and will be lost up to four weeks.  Bad, but could be worse (check out the video):

The Bruins have their first four-game winning streak of the season, and return home today to face the New Jersey Devils (9-2-1 road record) for their annual day-after-Thanksgiving Black Friday noon matinee.  We’ll see if “Tuukka time” continues, and more importantly, if the Bruins solid overall team play continues.

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Bruins Solid in Consecutive Road Wins

Posted in Boston Bruins, Hockey with tags , , , on November 22, 2009 by clarencethehorse

The Bruins took a significant step toward righting their heavily listing ship  with road wins against Atlanta and Buffalo on consecutive nights (Nov. 19 – 20).  Was the return of rugged winger Milan Lucic the sole reason?  No.  But his presence in the lineup really does seem to inject this Bruins team with some sort of  B-12 shot.  With Lucic back, Marc Savard’s return imminent (possibly Monday night in St. Louis), and the impressive play of backup(?) goalie Tuukka Rask (started and won in net for both games), there is reason to believe the Bruins team of last season is finally rousing  from an extended summer hibernation.

Against Atlanta, the Bruins came out strong and built a 2-0 lead after the first period on goals by Marco Sturm and Michael Ryder.  Nik Antropov and Ilya Kovalchuk (power play goal) scored to get Atlanta back tied at 2-2, but the B’s got a power play goal of their own from Michael Ryder, his second of the night, with 3:15 remaining in the second period to give the Bruins the lead again at 3-2.  Ryder appears ready to go on one of his goal-scoring  streaks, and it couldn’t come at a better time for the Bruins recently floundering offense.  Rask was also sharp, and this save during an Atlanta power play in the third period was one of his best.  In the third period, the Bruins took five minor penalties, and the inevitable happened with 41.4 seconds remaining, as the Thrashers pulled their goalie for the extra man and Maxim Afinogenov tied the game at three against an exhausted Bruins team.  But the Bruins prevailed in the shootout, as Rask stopped all three of the Atlanta shooters, and Patrice Bergeron scored on a nifty deke, and the Bruins had the road win.  Bergeron  continues to round back towards his pre-concussion form, and has arguably been the Bruins best player this season on both ends of the ice.

The next night in Buffalo, Rask was back between the pipes for the injured Tim Thomas, and Milan Lucic made sure that the Sabres knew the Bruins meant business with this jarring hit on Henrik Tallinder just 29 seconds into the game. Lucic also got his first goal of the season on a beautifully executed 2-on-1 with Byron Bitz, which tied the game at one in the second period.  Goaltending ruled the third period, and this game would go to overtime.  It was just 47 seconds into OT that Patrice Bergeron deftly tipped in Zdeno Chara’s shot from the blue line to give the Bruins the 2-1 win, and another two points.  It was Bergeron’s second game-winning goal in 24 hours, and the back to back wins vaulted the Bruins into sole possession of 7th place in the Eastern Conference, and only two points behind Buffalo for the Northeast division lead.

Will the Bruins be able to continue their road success in St. Louis on Monday and Minnesota on Wednesday?  With the pieces falling slowly back into place, Clarence  is cautiously optimistic.

Momentum Screeches to a Halt for the Bruins

Posted in Boston Bruins, Hockey, Movies with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 19, 2009 by clarencethehorse

I use the word ‘momentum’ lightly, but the Bruins had shown some encouraging strides in their last four game home stand and seemed poised to continue that upward trend.  So much for trending up. The following two games, at the Pittsburgh Penguins on November 14 and back home against the New York Islanders on November 16, were polar opposites in terms of effort by the Bruins, but both games had the same result: making Bruins fans nauseous.

The Bruins got a point in Pittsburgh, and it was well-earned as they came back from FOUR one-goal deficits to finally take a 5-4 lead with 2:29 remaining in regulation. But they let the win slip away like a fart in the desert as Tim Thomas let in a softie by ex-Bruin Billy Guerin with just under a second left.  Another giveaway  from Thomas in OT secured the two points for Pittsburgh.  Here’s the game summary for those interested…I’m still not ready to re-live this loss.  New Hampshire native Ben Lovejoy  did record his first NHL point in his second NHL game as he registered an assist for the Penguins.

Against the Islanders, the Bruins were so uninspired for such long stretches of the game, I had to check to see if Dave Lewis was back behind the bench.  There were no Bruins highlights. Here’s the game summary….Roloson and Moulson, and some empty Bruins jerseys.

The Bruins are headed on the road until Thanksgiving for four games, starting tomorrow night in Atlanta.  They are currently tied for 11th place in the Eastern Conference, and Bruins fans are sweating like Amy Winehouse  going through customs.

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, I need a laugh.


CLICK  below to cachinnate:

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Bruins Showing Signs of Life

Posted in Boston Bruins, Hockey, Movies with tags , , , , on November 15, 2009 by clarencethehorse

Let’s face it, last season’s success set some very high expectations for this year’s Boston Bruins.  If they do in fact end up having the type of season that we know they are capable of having, this most recent 4-game home stand (Nov. 5 – Nov. 12) will be looked back at as the point where they started to gain some traction traction after a less than thrilling opening 14 games (6-7-1).  The Bruins headed into the opener of this home stand against the Canadiens having suffered back-to-back shutouts on the road to the Rangers and Red Wings, so they were woefully in need of some offense.  They had not scored in six plus periods, they were 0 for their last 20 power plays (and last in the NHL), and were still looking for back to back victories five weeks into the season.  Would they be able to break some of these less-then-desirable streaks? On top of all this, it was announced that David Krejci krejci_06032009 was out indefinitely with the swine-flu swine flu. Although this home stand was not a complete success, it was a huge step in the right direction, as the B’s gained six out of a possible eight points (2-0-2), and Bruins fans exclaimed “Finally!” each time the aforementioned streaks were thankfully put behind them.

In the first game, it took 59 minutes against Montreal Canadiens, but the Bruins finally broke their scoring drought of 194:06 as Patrice Bergeron beat Price with 52 seconds remaining in the third period when he popped a goal-mouth rebound in to tie the game at one.  This was the 37th shot of the game for the Bruins, who ended up outshooting the Habs 43-26, but lost in a shootout.  But the Bruins had one monkey funny_monkey off their back….they had scored a goal….Finally.  Carey Price had a solid game in net for Montreal, but I still think he’s extremely overrated and would be surprised if he plays this well against the Bruins in any of the remaining Bruins/Canadiens games this season. I had to watch this game on DVR because I went to see Ben Folds BenFolds385x292 at Brandeis. This video is far away, but you can still hear Ben punchin’ the ivories.

It would not get any easier for the Bruins next game, as the Northeast division leading Buffalo Sabres (9-3-1) came to town with arguably the hottest goalie in the NHL in Ryan Miller.  But the Bruins caught a break, as rookie netminder Jhonas Enroth, recalled from Portland of the AHL on Wednesday, made his NHL debut between the pipes.   The Bruins (Finally) got a power play goal from March Recchi on a tip-in of a Derek Morris shot, then another PP goal from Zdeno Chara chara to gain a 2-0 edge after the first period.  These were the B’s first power play goals in seven games, and Chara’s goal was also his first of the season.  The monkeys were flying flying monkey off the Bruins backs now.

The first period also featured a good Thornton/Montador fight, with a clear decision being awarded to Shawn Thornton over former Bruins-stiff and current Sabres-stiff Steve Montador in this bout.  This was also the first Garden appearance for Sabres’ rookie defenseman myers Tyler Myers, who at 6′ 8″ is an impressively agile player and looks to be a star of the future for the Sabres.  He had a beautiful assist on the Sabres’ second goal. But the Bruins were finally playing with the kind of confidence we had become accustomed to last season, and Byron Bitz made it 3-0 early in the second stanza, showing again why the Bruins fourth line is the best in the league.  Sure, there are no all-stars amongst the fourth line of Bitz, Steve Begin and Shawn Thornton; but they continually shut down the other teams top lines and frustrate the opposition by keeping the play 180 feet away from the Bruins’ goal.  With 1:29 remaining in the second, Bergeron fed Marco Sturm for a 4-1 Bruins lead.  This was Sturm’s first goal in 12 games, and the Bruins will need him to get back on track if they want to replace the offense that went to Toronto this past offseason in the form of Phil Kessel.  Serendipitously, this was also the night that Kessel scored his first goal of the season for the Maple Leafs, as he returned three weeks ahead of schedule. This game also featured solid penalty-killing by the B’s, and that is one aspect of their game that has been solid all season.  The Blake Wheeler/Michael Ryder/Vladmir Sobotka line is also developing some nice chemistry, and that line produced several solid scoring chances. The 4-2 Bruins victory also featured a good bout between Thornton and Paul Gaustad, as well as more solid play from emerging defenseman Mark (don’t call me ‘Martha’) Stuart.

The Bruins had failed in their first six chances to win back-to-back games, and they now had a seventh chance to finally accomplish this against the Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins.  The Penguins came to Boston on 11/10/09 with several key players out, with Evgeni Malkin evgeni-malkin-nick-jonas being the most notable. Sidney Crosby was in the lineup, but entered the game with zero points in his last four games, the longest such drought of his career…and it would stretch to five games after tonight.  The Bruins were also still undermanned (Savard, Lucic still out), but were somewhat buoyed by the return of David Krejci from the swine_flu_pig swine flu. There was a familiar name on the back of #12 for the Penguins, as Chris Bourque small_bourque (yes, son of Bruins legend Ray Bourque) was picked up off waivers by Pittsburgh from Washington earlier this season.  The first period featured good sustained action, but the game remained scoreless going into the second period.  Matt Hunwick put the Bruins up 1-0 early in the second period, scoring a goal that slipped under the crossbar and eluded the on-ice officials.  After continued play of 1:20, there was finally a stoppage of play, the tape was reviewed, and the B’s had a 1-0 lead. In the third period, Derek Morris, who is showing himself to be a solid free-agent signing, blocked a shot that led directly to a breakaway goal by Daniel Paille.  It was Paille’s first goal as a Bruin, and Mark Recchi’s assist was the 900th of his career (in 1,507 career games).  Tim Thomas was solid when needed, and made several big saves to earn his second shutout of the season.  Pittsburgh’s Marc Andre-Fleury made the save of the game on David Krejci late in the third period to keep the Penguins within two goals at 2-0. The impressive win by the Bruins was capped off by a 180-foot open-net goal by Patrice Bergeron that took all the right bounces…..if this was plinko Plinko, it would have been a $10,000 shot.  So the Bruins had beaten the Sabres and Penguins for their first back-to-back wins of the season….FINALLY.

The last game of the four game home stand welcomed Tomas Vokoun and the Florida Panthers to the Garden.  The Bruins always seem to have problems with Florida at home, and on this night Vokoun would make sure that those problems continued.  Tim Thomas was almost as good, and this save in the first was definitely his best of the game, if not the season.  But Vokoun stymied the Bruins at every turn, and even Thomas’ second straight shutout (and third of the season) did not ensure two points for the Bruins, as Florida won in a shootout, 1-0.  Stat of the game:  the Bruins outshot Florida 19-1 in the second period (40-23 overall).  There was one bout worth noting, as Shawn Thornton scored a decision with a take-down of Bryan Allen in the second period.  There are going to be a couple of games over the course of the 82-game season where you have to tip your hat to the opposing goalie, and this was one of them.  The Bruins inefficiency in shootouts is somewhat troubling, but these stats show that there are some teams that have fared worse in shootouts since the NHL adopted this game-deciding format in the 2005-2006 season.  So three consecutive wins was not in the cards, but the Bruins had succeeded in getting points in all four games in this home stand (2-0-2).

Jack Edwards jack1 continues to make me turn down the NESN audio and turn the radio to 98.5 FM for the game play-by-play, as he remains an annoying clown clown in the TV booth.  Gems such as “(Frolik) slams into (Mark) Stuart and he’s an executive desktoy!” make me wonder what is more important to him….calling the game, or making sure he squeezes in as many useless, meaningless non-sequitor soundbites as possible.  He also called Vokoun “Brodeur” during the OT period.  Even Andy Brickley, a talented color commentator who also works on VERSUS national broadcasts, seems to be tiring of Edwards’ shtick.  I never thought I would say this, but I miss dale-arnold Dale Arnold.

The Bruins (8-7-3) head into Pittsburgh for Saturday’s (11/14/09) game looking to get back to their winning ways after the aggravating shutout at the hands of the Tomas Vokoun.  With Evgeni Malkin evgeni-malkin back in the lineup for the Penguins, and Tuesday’s 3-0 shutout at the hands of the B’s still fresh on their minds, the Bruins have their work cut out for them.  But the Bruins’ play has been trending up Trending-Up as of late, and with the imminent returns of Milan Lucic (possibly 11/19 or 11/20) and Marc Savard (should begin skating next week), Bruins fans have reason to believe that trend will continue.

Red Wings 2, Bruins 0

Posted in Boston Bruins, Hockey with tags on November 4, 2009 by clarencethehorse

Last night, the Bruins finally broke their Win-Loss-Win-Loss pattern that has defined their 2009-2010 season.  The bad news?  They finally had back-to-back losses.  The worse news?  They were also shutout in back-to-back games.  Chris Osgood had his 50th career shutout, and I don’t think many of them were easier than last nite. The 2-0 loss to Detroit made painstakingly clear that the Bruins are sorely missing Marc Savard and Milan Lucic, as they were never really in this game after the Wings took a 2-0 first period lead on goals by Henrik Zetterberg and Tomas Holstrom.  Again, the Bruins were 0 for 4 on the power play.  Not only did they not score on these PP’s, they hardly generated any pressure, let alone shots.  On the evening, Patrice Bergeron led the Bruins with four shots.   Meanwhile, Phil Kessel made his debut (3 weeks ahead of schedule) with the Toronto Maple Leafs sp-kessel-leafs and had ten shots on net in his season debut.  I really hope that the loss of Kessel does not have a larger impact on the Bruins offense than I anticipated.

So there’s not alot to cover here regarding the loss to Detroit.  But unless the B’s emerge from this slump soon, there could be plenty to worry about.

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The Bruins start a four-game home stand Thursday nite against the new-look Canadiens.  Hopefully, the ‘new-look’ aspect will also apply to the Bruins.

Halloween Leftovers from the Garden…

Posted in Boston Bruins, Hockey with tags , on November 4, 2009 by clarencethehorse

Warm_Fall_Day

Fans with Bs Girls

Beginning 2nd period

Bruins_Oilers_Halloween_2009 053

The Bruins could certainly use  this guy these days…

Synchronized Triples

Chara TRIP

costume 1

Marchand Frodo

Doesn’t Chara make Marchand look like Frodo here?

Oiler Giving Birth

This Oiler looks like he is preparing to give birth, surrounded by anxious relatives and with Nikolai Khabibulin as the mid-wife…

Rask no mask

Rask no mask 2

Shutout 2b

Claw_Man_2

Dr Wu

Click on Dr. Yang!

Bruins Continue to Search for Consistency

Posted in Boston Bruins, Hockey with tags , on November 3, 2009 by clarencethehorse

Any momentum gained from the improbable win against Ottawa on October 24 was not apparent in the Bruins next game, a 2-1 loss to New Jersey on Thursday, October 29.  The Bruins played well, but it was New Jersey that capitalized on one more chance than the Bruins.  The fact that the game was lost in the last-minute and half of the third was tough enough to swallow, as Dainius Zubrus scored with 1:26 left, but the fact that it wasn’t even Martin Brodeur in net made this game seem like one that ‘got away’ for the B’s.  Backup goalie Yann Danis made 31 saves, as New Jersey won their sixth straight road game.  So it was another chance for the Bruins to finally post back to back wins, and the result instead was another loss.  The Bruins path to their 5-5-1 record at this point: L-W-L-W-L-W-L-W-OL-W-L.   The Bruins had so far been consistent in their inconsistency.

The Bruins hosted the Edmonton Oilers for a Halloween matinee, and I attended my first game of the season.  It was good to see the Garden ‘Claw Man’ outside the pro shop:

Claw_Man

Any job where you can mingle so freely with the public, as well as frighten children, must be immensely rewarding.

Perched in great seats right behind the goal judge in Section 18, the proximity to the ice surface brought us right into the action.  Here’s big Zdeno Chara finishing a hit behind the net:

Chara SMASH

This was a playoff style game for the first two periods, not so much in intensity but in style.  There was good goaltending on both ends, as Tuuka Rask and Nikolai Khabibulin both kept all pucks out of the net through the first two periods, and both teams struggled to get quality scoring chances due to the tight defense from both teams.  Here’s a few more action shots from behind the net:

Bruins Shot

Nice seats

Get Down

Oiler effort

In the third period, Blake Wheeler and Vladmir Sobotka took turns feeding each other and scoring the goals that added up to the 2-0 final.  This was a good game for the Bruins, as they got better as the game went on and the sellout crowd left happy.

Shutout 2

This was Rask’s second career shutout, and by coincidence I was in the same seats for his first shutout last season against the Rangers…here’s the pictures to prove it:

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As it was Halloween, there were many amusing costumes in the Garden for this afternoon matinee….here’s a few I ran into:

costume 2

Costume 4

costume 3

Sorry about the ‘bigfoot-effect’ bigfoot in the Hulk Hogan  picture, but the Hulkster hulk-hogan-hulkamania is a swift, elusive creature and difficult to get to pose.

So once again, the Bruins follow-up a loss with a win.  They had only 24 hours to savor this shutout of the Oilers, as they traveled to New York to face-off against the aforementioned Rangers for their second afternoon matinee of the weekend on Sunday.

The Rangers game had a couple of parallels to the New Jersey game three days earlier:  the Bruins ran into solid goaltending, this time from Henrik Lundqvist; and the Bruins’ power play was dismal.  Against New Jersey, the Bruins were 0 for 2 on the power play, and against the Rangers they were 0 for 5.  This power outage is starting to cost the B’s games, as they have had several one-goal losses. Tim Thomas could not be faulted for this loss, as he was solid.  The lone goal was a change-up from Marian Gaborik that fooled Timmy.

Tonite, the Bruins travel to Detroit to face an aging but potent Red Wings’ lineup.  Let’s hope the Bruins have paid their electric bill and their power play gets back in gear.  November is where the Bruins established themselves last season, as they went 11-1-1.  Without the power play clicking, it is almost impossible to put together a stretch like that. Following tonite’s game in Detroit, the Bruins have a 4-game home stand which starts with their first game of the season against the Canadiens on Thursday.