Thomas 'not calling sour grapes' on overtime goal

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Thomas 'not calling sour grapes' on overtime goal

BOSTON -- It was there for the taking. And everybody knew that one little mistake could be the difference-maker.
That mistake came in the form of a failed dump-and-change in overtime of Game 7 on Wednesday night at the TD Garden.The Bruins made the mistake. The Capitals made them pay.
Joel Ward put home a Mike Knuble rebound, three minutes into the sudden-death overtime, giving Washington a 2-1 win in the game and a 4-3 win in the first-round series that was played as closely as a series has ever been played.
Game 7 marked the fourth overtime game of the series, but the 2-1 result marked the seventh game of the series that resulted in a one-goal decision. And it was the first time in NHL history that all seven games have ended in a one-goal difference.
"It was there for us to win," said Bruins defenseman Johnny Boychuk after the loss. "So tight, even one little mistake and they're going to score, and they did that. But that's what they were trying to do. They were just sitting back, waiting for a mistake and to capitalize, and they did."
Knuble blocked Benoit Pouliot's attempted dump-and-change from the neutral zone, and skated hard up the left wing on an odd-man rush with Ward streaking down the ice with him, to his right.
"It hit me right in the shins," said Knuble. "I knew they were all going for a line change. Ward wasn't going to get the pass. I was going right to the crease with that one. I'm glad he added the finish there at the end."
Knuble drove the puck hard to the net, with Thomas making the initial save. But Ward swooped in and put home the rebound with traffic in front, ending the Bruins' season.
"I knew he was going to take the puck to the net," said Ward. "I wasn't really looking for a pass across, and I was just trying to follow it up, just in case there was a puck that squirted loose or a rebound. I just kind of saw it and then gave it one of the hardest whacks I've ever given a puck."
Ward's "whack" ended up in the back of the net. From Tim Thomas' perspective, Knuble's body was preventing him from seeing the rebound at all.
"You see Knuble coming down with the puck and coming to the net hard," said the Bruins goaltender. "He had himself in a position, he's a big strong guy, where it looked like to me where he could cut across the net, or he could go both ways. So I had to play him straight up, and when he got closer to me, it got stuck on his backhand, so I was just trying to play him honest and wait for him to take the shot. I didn't want to go down until after he released the puck because I didn't want him to be able to go up and over my pad. And then he threw it at the net, backhand, and his momentum continued into me.
"I'm not calling sour grapes, but it's reality, and it pushed me out of the way, just enough to open up the net for Ward to put it in," added Thomas. "I didn't even see Ward put it in. I knew the rebound was going that way, but my head was probably in about his stomach."
Sour grapes or not, Ward's overtime goal put the finishing touches on a series that was played as closely as a series has ever been played.
"No doubt, it made it an interesting series," said Bruins coach Claude Julien on all of the one-goal games. "I don't know why people would even think that it would have been one-sided, when you look at their team. I mentioned it numerous times, I don't believe they're a seventh-place team. There's too much talent on that team, to be that. They righted the ship at the right time, and they're playing some great hockey right now.
"And that's what it seems to be all about in the playoffs nowadays," added Julien. "When you look at the teams that have been knocked out, it's whoever's playing their best hockey at the right time."

Haggerty: From top to bottom, still no urgency from Bruins

Haggerty: From top to bottom, still no urgency from Bruins

BRIGHTON -- The Bruins pulled the worst of their no-shows on Monday afternoon in the 4-0 shutout loss to the Islanders.

It was a lethargic, mediocre start in the first period that devolved into the bottom dropping out on the Black and Gold when they allowed three unanswered goals in the second. Then, to top it all off, they showed zero urgency or push to make a comeback in the final period. 

It was “unacceptable” in the words of the Bruins players from beginning to end with careless, elementary mistakes in the defensive zone and absolutely zero sustained push in the offensive zone despite a deceiving 32 shots on net.

So, where was the urgency for a Bruins team that’s barely ahead of the Maple Leafs and Senators in the Atlantic Division despite having played six more games than each of those two?

Apparently the Bruins were feeling a little cocky after playing a solid five-game stretch where they’d gone 3-1-1 and taken down the Panthers, Blues and Flyers while elevating their level of play. Heart and soul team leader Patrice Bergeron admitted as much on Tuesday morning as the Bruins cancelled practice and turned their attention toward righting the ship Wednesday night in Detroit.

It was frankly a little stunning to hear Bergeron admit that his Bruins team thought they could win just by showing up on Monday afternoon, but that’s exactly what he copped to in something of an apologetic way.

Brad Marchand said Monday postgame that the Bruins “just weren’t ready [to play]” against the Islanders, and it sounded like his linemate agreed with him.

“It’s about realizing that you can’t take teams lightly, or take the foot off the gas pedal for a period, for a game, or whatever. It hurts us every time we do it, so we have to learn and realize that it just cannot happen. Teams are too good and the points are too valuable for us,” said Bergeron. “You never want to do that, but at the same time maybe it was something that happened because it was a terrible start, and to not respond when they scored the goals. Maybe that’s what happened yesterday.

“As much as you don’t want it to happen, maybe we thought it was going to be an easier game than it actually was against them.”

On the one hand, it’s somewhat shocking to hear that admission from a player that’s always played with full work ethic and an effort level that’s never been questioned. But Bergeron was also a minus-3 in the 4-0 loss and was every bit as guilty as everybody else up and down the roster for the team’s most pathetic loss of the season at a time when results are all that matter.

Perhaps this shouldn’t be surprising, though, because the lack of urgency on the bench is mirrored by the lack of urgency upstairs in the Bruins management office right now. Bruins general manager Don Sweeney told the Boston Globe last week that he’s considering a move with the head coach along with a number of other things to spark a team treading water, but it doesn’t feel like a major move is on the horizon with this Bruins team.

Trade talks are still in the formative, discussion stages as GMs like Joe Sakic and John Chayka are overvaluing their players looking for a king’s ransom for guys like Matt Duchene, Gabriel Landeskog, Martin Hanzal and Radim Vrbata. While Claude Julien should be under the microscope with a team sleepwalking its way through perhaps a third season in a row without the playoffs, it also doesn’t feel like the Bruins are going to pull the trigger on that move until the offseason at the earliest.

This humble hockey writer still insists that this playoff-caliber Bruins team plays at times like a one that needs a swift kick in the backside. Perhaps Julien isn’t up for it after 10 long, successful years of battles with the same core group.   

So, what is there to do then besides make cosmetic moves like shipping underperforming Anton Khudobin down to Providence, or rearrange the deck chairs on a third and fourth line that it’s difficult to tell apart on most days in Boston?

If the Bruins front office wants to truly get to the bottom of their team’s lack of urgency on the ice, perhaps a look in the mirror might be in order. Because that same lack of urgency is playing out with a management group that’s watching their team sink into the Atlantic Division muck right now and seems gun-shy on making a move that could rattle cages.

“Right now where we are in the standings, we’ve got a lot of games to play but we’re still in a playoff spot,” said Julien. “We try and play with the expectations that we have, and that’s to do the best with what we’ve got. We’ve got a lot of new faces and we’re trying to build with what we’ve got here moving forward.”

Certainly nobody is talking about trading away their blue chip prospects like Brandon Carlo or Charlie McAvoy, but there are veteran players on Boston’s current roster that aren’t cut out for battling into the postseason with a young team. It’s plain to see when a middling hockey team can’t find the inspiration to go out and take care of business against a bad Islanders group on a sleepy Monday afternoon just a month after they made the same mistake against the same team on home ice.

The Bruins showed in a five-game stretch leading up to the Islanders debacle that they should be held to a higher standard - that of a team that should qualify for the postseason. But one question arose again and again watching the poorest of poor efforts play out on Monday afternoon: why should the Bruins players show any feet-in-the-fire urgency on the ice when it doesn’t feel like there’s much feet-in-the-fire urgency from upper management to improve the flailing hockey club?

Until that organizational dynamic changes, it’s difficult to see things getting much better, or worse, for a Bruins team that looks destined for the mediocre middle once again this season. 
 

Bruins cancel practice to 'regroup' after bad loss to Islanders

Bruins cancel practice to 'regroup' after bad loss to Islanders

BRIGHTON, Mass – The Bruins were supposed to hit the ice for the eighth day in a row on Tuesday following their empty 4-0 loss to the New York Islanders on Monday afternoon, but those plans were scrubbed.

The reeling Black and Gold instead cancelled practice, with only Matt Beleskey, Jimmy Hayes and Zane McIntyre taking the ice at Warrior Ice Arena and the rest of the B’s hitting the giant reset button after an embarrassing loss.

“I think it’s one of those [things] where you’ve got to regroup and recharge the batteries, and feel better,” said Patrice Bergeron. “Maybe a little bit of fatigue was part of it [Monday vs. the Isles] and you use a day like today to look forward, look at videos and be better the next day. It happens today and we have another game tomorrow [against Detroit].”

While it is true that the Bruins and Winnipeg Jets have played more games than anybody else in the NHL in this wacky season with a condensed schedule, the B’s leaders weren’t having it as an excuse with both the Maple Leafs and Senators holding an incredible six games in hand on Boston. Blown opportunities against bad opponents are exactly the recipe for missing the playoffs, as they have in each of the past two seasons, and the Bruins are tracking to do that again.

“All of the teams are in the same situation. It’s about managing and finding ways to be at your best every night and in every game. Yes, maybe [the condensed schedule] is part of it, but you can’t just put the blame on that. We’re professionals and we need to show up every game.”

The Bruins didn’t show up against the Islanders on Monday afternoon and basically pulled their second no-show vs. the Isles on home ice this season. There’s no excuse for that given the B’s current situation battling for the postseason. 

Maybe a day off the ice will improve that situation and maybe it’s simply rewarding a team that didn’t earn it on Monday afternoon, but the B’s have to hope it’s much more of the former than the latter.