Thomas not a distraction for B's vs. Predators

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Thomas not a distraction for B's vs. Predators

BOSTON -- Nobody asked Tim Thomas about his Facebook page on Saturday.

That's the way it should have been.

The Bruins' 4-3 shootout win over the Nashville Predators at the TD Garden had nothing to do with political views or personal opinions revealed through social media outlets.

This was about hockey, which is exactly what Thomas so adamantly insisted after Thursday's practice at Ristuccia Arena, when he was peppered with questions about his latest Facebook comments on religious freedom.

"That has absolutely nothing to do with the Bruins or hockey," said Thomas on Thursday, before walking away from reporters when asked if he regretted the Facebook comments.

Bruins coach Claude Julien also insisted on Thursday that there were no issues inside the dressing room because of those comments, and that they will never mix politics with hockey.

All of that seemed to prove true on Saturday afternoon, as Thomas made two huge saves in the shootout to help seal the deal on the type of hard-fought win that some -- outside the Bruins organization -- thought the team would have trouble with, because their top goaltender was becoming a "distraction."

There were no distractions on Saturday with Thomas in net, as he picked up his 23rd win of the season.

He allowed three goals on only 22 shots in the win, but his two stops in the shootout helped give Boston two points on a day in which they nearly lost in regulation.

"It probably would have been a real tough loss had we not been able to come out with a win, with the way we played this afternoon," said Julien afterwards.

Thomas first stopped Sergei Kostitsyn on Nashville's first shootout attempt. Kostitsyn decked right at the last second, but Thomas extended his left pad to the left post and stuffed the Predators shifty forward.

Thomas then made a save on Martin Erat on Nashville's second attempt, and never had to make a third, as the Bruins scored two shootout goals to secure the win.

"I got fortunate on the first one, I think, that Kostitsyn couldn't lift it, because obviously I was taking away down low," said Thomas. "And the second one there, I also think I got a little bit fortunate, because the puck kind of bounced on Erat at the hashmarks, right in the area where you're going to decide whether to shoot or deke. And he had no option, really, except for to go with the way the puck went.

"Bergy scoring was huge for me, and then Bergy scoring that second one, so that i don't even have to make another save. I was very appreciative."

Patrice Bergeron scored the game-clinching goal in the shootout. He also scored the Bruins' first goal of the game, with four minutes left in the first period. It was a shorthanded goal. And any goaltender would be thrilled about that.

Thomas allowed a power-play goal in the second, and two even-strength goals in the third. But the Bruins kept the Predators' shot count low, which at times, can make it tough for a goaltender to get into a rhythm. And Thomas admitted that, at times on Saturday, it wasn't easy to keep that rhythm going -- especially in the second period, when Shea Weber's goal 7:32 in, was Nashville's first shot of the period.

"I was doing the best I could to mentally stay in it, like some of the little stuff like when you get out to play the puck can help keep you in the game," said Thomas. "So, I didn't feel that bad actually, through the first period.

"It got harder, as we went on," added Thomas. "We dominated so much in the early second period, that I didn't really get any action. So at that point it got harder and harder to get into a complete rhythm. But I was watching what was going on in front of me, and I was happy to see us controlling the play and getting the scoring chances. So it's fine if I don't get shots. It's my job to be ready when I do get shots."

Thomas' social-media activity in recent weeks has forced critics to nail that point home -- that Thomas' job is to be ready to stop pucks, not to express his opinion on anything outside of the hockey world.

The thought was that Thomas was becoming a distraction.

These Bruins -- with Thomas in goal -- didn't look distracted on Saturday. And they got back to their blue-collar, hard-working, never-say-die hockey to get back back to finding a way to win.

Proving true that Bruins aren't going to mix hockey with politics.

"It's our job to build off this," said Thomas. "I think we played a much better game. And we found a way to win again. Over the past two years, that's what we've been really good at. Most of our wins we've earned, and I think we earned our win tonight. I guess the good part is, we're finding a way to win."

Haggerty: Good, but not good enough, again the story for Bruins

Haggerty: Good, but not good enough, again the story for Bruins

BOSTON – The all-important results continue to elude the Bruins at the time when they need them most.

The Black and Gold lost their third game in a row, 1-0, to the Chicago Blackhawks at TD Garden Friday night when they allowed the game-winning goal with less than 90 seconds remaining in regulation. It was a simple defensive breakdown and some great tic-tac-toe passing with Marian Hossa finishing things off, but it also felt like a game where the Blackhawks coasted against a wounded Bruins team for 58 minutes before turning it on when it was winning time.

The winning goal was a cross-ice pass from Tanner Kero to Hossa, with the puck sliding right between the legs of Adam McQuaid in the slot, and Hossa picking a corner while giving Tuukka Rask zero time to react side to side.

“We had a game plan in place and our guys executed well, they were ready to play,” said Claude Julien. “One little mistake and it’s in our net, and you lose yourself a pretty important hockey game.”

So, now the Bruins have taken only one point in their past three games, have dropped behind the Ottawa Senators in the Atlantic Division standings and continue to skate around like they’re wearing the weight of the entire organization on their shoulders.

“At the end of the night it is another loss and that’s the biggest thing. Did your team play fairly well? I think so. I think we competed hard, but then again you’re dealing with some growing pains. We had an icing late in the game so that’s not necessary, but the winning goal that goes through three of our guys and in our net with a minute-and- a-half left,” said Julien. “We have to stand there again, and take the responsibility for our own actions. It’s unfortunate because that minute-and-a-half that was left in the game kind of tarnished everything we had done for the first 58 minutes.

“I thought we played pretty well against a good team. We had contained the guys that we needed to contain. We didn’t score any goals – I don’t think we did a good enough job there - we had some chances but again you got to find ways to score goals. That’s where we are at.”

Clearly, the Bruins didn’t give up a ton defensively and Rask had been solid for the first two-plus periods, but there was also a sense Chicago didn’t bring its best game either when Boston outshot the Blackhawks 17-6 in the opening period. It was also clear that, aside from a couple of good, early chances from Tim Schaller and Brad Marchand, along with a Joe Morrow breakaway chance, the Bruins offense wasn’t doing enough work to get closer to the Chicago net for any sustained pressure.

So, instead of a solid result with dark clouds swirling over Causeway Street that a big change is needed to jolt a stagnant team, the Bruins hang up another loss where they outshot their opponent and end up with nothing to show for it.

These are the kinds of losses that test morale and togetherness and could either be taken as a sign of things tightening up for the Bruins or of things continuing to spiral away from a team that just needs wins at this point.

“I’m sure everybody’s feeling down right now because we lost, but you can’t start pouting too much. You’ve got to move on,” said Rask, who allowed one goal on 22 shots in the loss. “[There’s a] big game coming up Sunday, and next week, so it’s a loss and we have to move on. [We have to] get ready for the next one. I’m sure guys are pissed today, but tomorrow’s a new day.”

Tomorrow is a new day for everybody on the Black and Gold including Julien, who is scheduled to still run practice on Saturday as the B’s bench boss before speaking to the media prior to the team leaving for Pittsburgh. So, it’s business as usual after another loss on Friday night in a classic Original Six matchup that’s clearly most of the luster from where it was at four years ago, but one can only sit and wonder how much longer business as usual cuts it for a hockey club that continues to flounder. 
 

Julien sidesteps job security question with "shock journalism" comment

Julien sidesteps job security question with "shock journalism" comment

BOSTON -- With three crushing losses in a row at a time when results are really all that matters, the Boston Bruins are reeling at the wrong time during the regular season. The B’s tried their best to win a game 0-0 with strong defense against a sleepy Chicago Blackhawks bunch on Friday night, but ultimately coughed up a Marian Hossa goal in the final minutes for a 1-0 regulation loss at TD Garden.

The defeat continued a swirl downward for the Black and Gold over the last week, and was a second straight shutout loss on home ice for the first time in almost 15 years. The losing stretch has also kicked up the chatter that Claude Julien is in trouble as head coach of the Bruins, and the hockey club’s underperformance up and down the lineup is ultimately going to cost the NHL’s longest tenured bench boss his job.

The Ottawa Senators have passed the Bruins in the Atlantic Division, and it’s only a matter of time before the Toronto Maple Leafs move by them as well with both Toronto and Ottawa holding six games in hand on Boston. Combine all of this with the B’s having missed the playoffs in each of the previous two seasons leading into this one, and it shouldn’t be at all surprising that Julien is squarely on the coaching hot seat.

The B’s bench boss was asked about his job security after the Chicago loss, and clearly didn’t appreciate the tough, but appropriate question.

“Well, I’m not into shock-journalism,” said Julien in a prideful tone. “So I’ll stay away from that question if you don’t mind.”

The Bruins posted their Saturday schedule shortly after Julien and the B’s players had addressed the media following the loss, and sure enough the embattled coach is scheduled to address the media post-practice as part of the regular practice day routine. So it doesn’t seem that a move with Julien is imminent this weekend despite another loss, but both the coach and the players know something is going to happen to shake things up with this team if they continue to struggle.

“Right now it’s a results based situation, so if you’re going to keep losing games then probably something’s going to happen,” said Torey Krug. “But right now we’re just pretty down emotionally after this game, so I don’t want to look at the big picture. I just [want to] focus on what’s going on in this room, and hopefully we can come back with a good effort the next game.”

A good effort might help Julien’s standing with the Bruins in the short term, but it’s impossible to imagine the B’s bench boss making it through the rest of the Bruins regular season given all of things working against him right now.