Notes: Boychuk making the most of his shot


Notes: Boychuk making the most of his shot

By Joe Haggerty

BOSTON Johnny Boychuk has picked an opportune time to start playing his best hockey of the season.

The hard-hitting defenseman experienced highs and lows during his first full NHL season where he played from beginning to end.But Boychuk hasflourished in the big-game pressure of the playoffs just as he did last year against the Sabres and Flyers. Boychuk, placed onto the point during the power play in the Montreal series, has been unleashing a heavy slap shot that's resulted in a pair of goals and an assist in the last five games, as he piled up 12 shots on net during the four-gameseries against the Flyers.

Included in all that was the game-winning goal Friday night, as Boychuk broke a 1-1 tie early in the third period immediately following Patrice Bergeron's injury. The goal washuge given how dejected the bench could have been seeingone of their leaders skate off the ice with anapparent head injury,and Boychuk's big shotsent the Bruins on their way to a series-clinching, 5-1 win in Game 4 at TD Garden.

The Bs coaching stafffinally seem to realize that putting Boychuk out for shooting situations is leading to goaltenders having trouble smothering the defensemans forceful point shot, and Claude Julien said that his blueliner has finally found the range on his cannon after struggling with it all year. That was the case with 2:42 to go in the third period of Game 4 when Chris Kelly won a faceoff in the Flyers zone, Michael Ryder worked to get the puck back to Boychuk, and the defenseman smoked a big point howitzerfrom the right side that sailed and dipped toward the net after he caught it on edge.

You just want to try to get it past that first guy," said Boychuk. "Flyers goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky saw couple of Boychuk's earlier shots and he did a good job stopping them. But on the game-winning goal, it was kind of knuckling and it might have moved a little bit on him maybe.

That was a big goal tonight," said coach Claude Julien. "It certainly lifted the whole bench.

"Johnnys got a good shot and we know the success that hes had in the American League in the past on the power play, but for a good portion of the season here he didnt seem to be able to find that range or find those opportunities to use his shots. So that kind of took away some of his opportunities on the power play.

But we moved Patrice Bergeron up front and we certainly were looking for some plays down low. Patrice is one of those guys that can create those, but at the same time, we wanted to have a good shot from the point, so Johnny fit that mold pretty good. And, you know, he seems to have found, again, the range, and found those openings for him to use his shots in the playoffs more than he had during the regular season.

With the added minutes and responsibility now that injuries and attrition have started eating away at the blueline, Boychuk certainly couldn't have stepped up at a better time -- and will continue to need to if Bergeron is lost to the power play with an injury for any extended period of time.

The Bruins are 5-0 during the playoffs when they score the games first goal, and kept that streak alive on Friday night as Milan Lucic opened the scoring with a power-play goal. The importance of fast starts in playoff games for the Bruins can't be underappreciated.It's a regular Mark Recchi victory tour as the Bruins go through the playoffs and eliminate all of the Eastern Conference teams that the 43-year-old future Hall of Famer used to play for. First it was Montreal and then Philadelphia -- a pair of places where Recchi spent a significant chunk of his NHL career -- and now it's on to the Tampa Bay Lightning franchise that traded Recchi to Boston during the 2008-09 stretch run.Making a run to the Eastern Conference Finals with the Bruins and taking that extra step with the franchise has made coming back for one more season all the more worth it to the NHL's elder statesman."The Bruins' front officemade moves that they believed were going to help us and thats important for a team to know. We went through a lot together as a team all year and we just kept battling through it," said Recchi. "We said it was a process from the day we started training camp to Vermont to Northern Ireland to Prague and back here. "We really believe in each other we really trust each other and it shows. It showed big time in the Montreal series. I think we took that next step against Philadelphia."With Boston's first trip to the Eastern Conference Finals there are now only four NHL franchises -- Atlanta Thrashers, Nashville Predators, Columbus Blue Jackets and the Phoenix Coyotes -- that have not made it to the conference finals over the last 19 years.The B's power play managed to secure a goal for the second playoff game in a row, and went 1-for-5 for the night while literally drawing blood on a Milan Lucic power play goal after Gregory Campbell had his face ripped open by a Daniel Carcillo cross-check. That puts the Bruins at 2-for-37 for the playoffs and a five percent success rate, but thebright side is that it'sgetting better and it's certainly better than zero percent. "Our power play, we scored a couple of goals. It has been pretty good overall. I thought in the second period we had one there that we didnt do a very good job with our entries and consequently we didnt get much of a power play out of it," said Julien. "But once we got control in the offensive zone, I thought wed been doing a better job of moving the puck and creating some scoring chances, so hopefully thats something that keeps getting better. We all know were going to need it."

Sources indicated to that the Eastern Conference Finals could begin as soon as Tuesday night in Boston if the Western Conference series get wrapped up by the end of this weekend.

Joe Haggerty can be reached at Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs

Haggerty: Signs of panic starting to show as losses mount for B's

Haggerty: Signs of panic starting to show as losses mount for B's

BOSTON -- For the third straight season, the Bruins are showing all the ugly, telltale signs of a hockey club poised to take a nosedive out of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

The short-attention span Bruins returned in a 6-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday night at TD Garden, and proceeded to blow three one-goal leads in the second period before totally collapsing in the final 20 minutes of the game. Three unanswered third goals later, the Bruins were understandably downtrodden and accountable for a performance that kicked up so many bad memories from the last couple of seasons.

“We all have to look at ourselves in the mirror and we can’t point fingers. Everyone has to step up and if every guy is going to do their job, including myself, then the rest will follow, you know?” said David Krejci. “But we hadn’t done that [against Tampa Bay] at all. The last two games against Toronto and Ottawa, I thought we worked hard. But for whatever reason [against Tampa] – maybe we thought it was going to come easy – we just shot ourselves in the foot.

“Like I said, each player has to be better, including myself, and if we don’t look at ourselves in the mirror that’s what’s going to happen. We’ll be losing and we need to win games. We have a team, we all believe, we know we can play well. We know we can win hockey games. We have a great game plan, but [against Tampa] I guess we just thought it was going to come easy.”

Even worse there were clear signs of panic in Boston’s game as things unfolded in an unsightly manner on the Garden ice.

Clearly it wasn’t about talent on Thursday night, and instead it was about focus, concentration and paying attention to the fine details that can come back to haunt you late in the season. The Bruins scored three goals in the second period with David Pastrnak, Zdeno Chara and Riley Nash each lighting the lamp, but it took 44 seconds, 24 seconds and 1 minute, 35 seconds respectively in the second period for the Bolts to things up.

That’s the kind of instant buckling and crumbling under pressure we’ve seen in the past from the Bruins late in seasons, and we’re seeing it again despite a different coach and some new, hard-nosed players like David Backes. That lack of composure combined with a pinch of panic is a potentially disastrous mix for the Black and Gold, just as it has been for the last three years.

“Those follow up shifts need to be our best shifts of the game. They’re when you can either bury a team, or when you get scored on to have a great response, and to show that you’re not going away [if you’re the team trailing]. I don’t think they were our best shifts. They were probably some of our least [effective] in the form of execution, least form of desperation and fortitude to just impose what we’re going to do on the other team.

[Tampa] certainly made good on their chances, there’s no question about that. But I think we led into them way too much and the result is the result that we don’t get points again. We’re four [losses] in a row here, but this needs to stop Saturday [against the Islanders] or the bleeding starts to get profuse after that. The guys are in this room. We know it. We’ve seen it. We need to look in the mirror.”

It goes beyond a thoroughly gross second period, however.

The Bruins last line of defense, No. 1 goaltender Tuukka Rask, crumbled in the second and third period as things were falling apart around him. Anton Stralman beat him high to the short-side, glove side for the game-tying goal on a transition play, and Jonathan Drouin snapped one past him from the face-off circle that dipped under his glove hand for the game-winner.

It was a soft, inexcusable goal allowed in a hugely important game, and was part of five goals allowed on 28 shots for the former Vezina Trophy winner. After the game Rask seemed frazzled, his voice getting soft and trailing off when it was his turn to accept responsibility for a giant stink bomb tossed down on the Garden ice.

“You have to [pick up the team]. A lot of the time that’s the case, the goalie has to make a couple extra stops there and today I didn’t,” said Tuukka Rask. “That’s part of my job to accept the fact that sometimes it’s your fault. There were a couple of times I should’ve made the save, but it happens sometimes…”

The high pressure situation with things spiraling out of control even seemed to be getting to their best, most established players with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand forcing things down a goal in the third period. Bergeron and Marchand were put back together with David Pastrnak in the second and third periods with Bruce Cassidy looking for answers, and they attempted to execute a D-zone face-off play that’s worked a few times for them in the last few years.

It involves Bergeron winning the draw, and then either Marchand or Pastrnak immediately releasing for a home run pass that can turn into a breakaway opportunity if the opponent is caught napping. Tampa Bay wasn’t caught unaware when the B’s tried it in the middle of the third period, but then Bergeron and Co. kept trying to make it happen.

They ended up icing the puck multiple times trying to make the goal happen in one quick play rather than working for the tying goal, and it killed any momentum they could have possibly started building up for a third period comeback. It also showed a fundamental lack of confidence that they could scratch and claw their way back in on Thursday night, and that’s a definite cause for concern at this time of year.

“At the end of the day, it is a focus, and it’s urgency, and it’s understanding time and score. We did not have a good comprehension of that tonight, I don’t think, and of late,” said Cassidy. “We’ve let games get away, and you can look back, even this year, we’ve had some goals scored against us late throughout the course of the year. It’s been built in this year, and we’re still fighting through it, to be perfectly honest.

“It’s a mindset that we’ve just got to get harder and understand the stakes, and what’s required after you score a goal. I think winning teams get through that, and we’re fighting through it this year. Some nights, we’ve been good at it. We’ve had resiliency, I think. It’s just, lately, it’s creeping in, and we’ve got to nip it in the bud now.”

It hasn’t been just the young players at the heart of this four-game losing streak, and the Tampa loss should have been a wakeup call that the Bruins veterans need to find a way to step up their focus, their effort level and their composure at this time of year. After their fourth loss in a row, the Bruins have frittered away whatever margin for error they once had with just eight games remaining in the regular season.

Their next wrong move will cause a nosedive straight out of the playoffs for the third year in a row, and that will spell changes far and wide on Causeway Street for the Boston Bruins.

Bruin players talk the talk after failing to walk the walk vs. Lightning

Bruin players talk the talk after failing to walk the walk vs. Lightning

BOSTON -- All the Bruins -- the leaders and the core veteran group -- were front and center on Thursday night, taking accountability for what had just happened on the ice.

It was ugly: Boston frittered away three one-goal leads in the second period and then came totally unglued in the third period, allowing three consecutive goals in a 6-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning at TD Garden. There were moments when focus and concentration were clearly an issue, and other moments when the Bruins lacked their usual discipline with veteran players were taking some ill-advised penalties.

With pressure mounting as the Bruins, losers of four in a row, appear to be headed towards their third consecutive late-season collapse out of the playoffs, the players were saying all the right things while vowing to move forward with eight games left.

"I think it's not good enough from top to bottom," said David Backes. "I'll be the first guy to point fingers at my chest and say I need to be better. Tonight was certainly not our best when it's that time of year [and] you need your best every night to win, no matter who you're playing against or what the circumstances may be. This one certainly hurts . . .

"But now's not the time to not be giving ourselves a chance to win and we need to be doing that every night. Tonight, we didn't and we've got eight games left and they all need to be really good-to-great ones so that we can find our way into these playoffs."

Backes finished a minus-2 with just a single shot on net and seemed a step behind Tampa Bay most of the game, so it was proper to him to call himself our for personal ineffectiveness. But as interim coach Bruce Cassidy put it, responsibility for Thursday night -- the low point of the Bruins' season -- rests on "Player 1 through Player 20". And all 20 of the Bruins will be needed to find a successful way out.