Thursday, December 5, 2013

Bruins' Johnny Boychuck cleared to fly home, to be evaluated on Monday

Boston Bruins' coach Claude Julien confirmed multiple reports that defenseman Johnny Boychuk was cleared by Montreal doctors to accompany the team on their flight back to Boston on Thursday night after suffering what is believed to be a back injury.

He was cleared to fly back with us, he’s still obviously injured. We don’t know the severity of it and I don’t know all the details, but it was an injury serious enough to bring him to the hospital. - Boston coach Claude Julien

Boychuk was slammed into the dashers by Montreal forward Max Pacioretty to the left of the Montreal goal just wide of the trapezoid and stayed on ice for several minutes before being strapped to a backboard by emergency personnel and transported to a Montreal hospital. reports that Pacioretty felt terrible after the hit, and that they Bruins didn't feel that there was malicious intent with the hit.

I don’t think there was any intent. I’m almost positive. He’s a clean player, and it’s unfortunate things happen, and things happen quickly so sometimes you put yourself in those positions. It’s hard to stop yourself from the momentum you have going into the play there. - Bruins' center Gregory Campbell

Julien didn't care to divulge what the initial diagnosis was from the doctors, but told reporters that Boychuk will be evaluated by Bruins' doctors and a decision on his availability will be made then, though he mentioned that he pretty sure that his veteran blue liner will be "out for a while".

Bruins fall in Montreal, lose division lead to Habs

Thornton attempted to turn the momentum in the second period by dropping gloves with the Habs' Prust
Playing their third game in four nights - and against their oldest and most hated rival, no less - The Montreal Canadiens had almost nothing left in their proverbial gas tank in the third period.


When the Canadiens play the Boston Bruins, there's always a reserve tank - on both sides, as the rivalry demands it - so when the game reached it's midway point and the Habs found themselves trailing the visiting Bruins, they reached down and flipped the toggle to the spare...

...scoring twice to take the lead, then riding the hot hand of goaltender Carey Price, surviving a Bruins final frame barrage and stopping  32 of 33 shots overall as the Canadiens took over first place in the Atlantic Division with a 2-1 win over Boston at the Bell Centre in Montreal on Thursday night.

In winning their eighth game in nine tries - an overtime loss in Washington last week the lone blemish - Montreal overtook the Bruins for the division lead by one point and trail the Pittsburgh Penguins by two points for the best record in the Eastern Conference.

Ironically, the Bruins could help the Habs make up that deficit as their next opponent just happens to be the Penguins in Boston on Saturday night.

Tomas Plekanec and Max Pacioretty each scored second period goals, but before Pacioretty scored the eventual game winner he was involved in a more far reaching loss for the Bruins as he was on the delivering end of a crushing crosscheck to the back of Johnny Boychuk that sent the strapping defenseman to the ice and eventually into an ambulance that took him to a Montreal area hospital.

With four and a half minutes expired in the opening period, Boychuk disengaged from in front of the Montreal goal to chase a puck down low, when Pacioretty slammed him into the dashers in a prone position, Boychuk reacting immediately in pain - the six year veteran remained on the ice for more than ten minutes as emergency personnel stabilized him on a back board and wheeled him from the ice.

While the only update from the Bruins was that Boychuk was able to move all of his extremities, his brothers tweeted that he had called his mother and told her that he was ok and was dealing with back spasms - which turned out to be the case as Boychuk was cleared by doctors to fly home with the team.

When play resumed, the Bruins used the injury as a rallying cry, battering Price with scoring chances until Milan Lucic found Gregory Campbell on a beautiful dump pass across the low slot with two and a half minutes left in the period and Campbell potted it for a 1-0 lead.

The second period, however, belonged to the Canadiens.

After putting just three shots on Boston netminder Tuukka Rask in the opening frame, the Habs set their offense on rapid fire in the second, pelting Rask mercilessly with 18 shots - two of them finding twine - in a period that Bruins' coach Claude Julien called "Atrocious and embarrassing" after the game...

Plekanec firing a laser over Rask's shoulder from the tough angle at the bottom of the right circle midway through the period for the equalizer, then Pacioretty flipping a casual backhander top shelf that Rask - who was out of the crease and on the ice after giving up the big rebound off of defenseman Raphael Diaz' slapshot - had no chance at getting to.

Just after Plekanec scored and Montreal had all of the momentum, Bruins' defenseman Shawn Thornton attempted to gain some it back by dropping gloves with Habs' tough guy Brandon Prust - a lot of posturing and not many scoring blows later, both were taking five and Montreal continued their barrage.

The second period assault on Rask left the Canadiens gasping, and the fresh Bruins peppered Price with 16 shots on goal, but he stoned all attempts and Montreal skated off with the 2-1 win.

After hosting the Penguins on Saturday night, the Bruins embark on an ambitious six day tour of Canada that will find them in Toronto on Sunday, Calgary on Tuesday, Edmonton on Thursday and winding up the roadie against their old friends the Vancouver Canucks.

Bruins' Johnny Boychuk family tweets that he's ok

The brothers of injured Bruins' defenseman Johnny Boychuk are tweeting that Boychuk is ok, but experiencing back spasms as a result of being boarded in the first period of the Bruins' game at Montreal.

And his another brother...

If the family is joking around, it could be that Boychuk has dodged a bullet.

Bruins' Boychuk taken off ice on stretcher

Boston Bruins' defenseman Johnny Boychuk was taken off the ice at the Bell Centre in Montreal after suffering what appeared to be an upper body injury.

With just five minutes gone in Thursday night's contest between bitter rivals Montreal Canadiens' left wing  Max Pacioretty boarded Boychuk into the dashers just outside the trapezoid to the left of the Canadiens' goal, trapping his arm at an odd angle above his head, but also seeming to go face-first into the boards.

It is difficult to decipher exactly what part of the body was impacted, but when medical personnel reached the six year NHL Veteran, he was on all fours and either experiencing tremors or difficulty breathing, so the fist went up from the Boston trainer and emergency personnel rushed the ice.

The first responders strapped Boychuk to a backboard and had his neck stabilized, then with the assistance of team captain Zdeno Chara and forward Milan Lucic the emergency personnel lifted the board onto the rolling stretcher and Boychuk was loaded in an ambulance and taken to a Montreal hospital.

We will update Boychuk's condition as information becomes available.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Bergeron, Lucic assert their will; Bruins overwhelm Blue Jackets 3-1

So much for Patrice Bergeron struggling.

The Boston Bruins' alternate captain and one of the premier two-way players in the league hadn't registered a point in six games going into Friday night's face off with the New York Rangers, finally breaking the string with a lucky bounce off of Rangers' defenseman Dan Girardi for the equalizer in a tight game early in the third period...

...Bergeron following that up nine minutes into Saturday's game with the Columbus Blue Jackets, finding twine from a tough angle - combined with a two-goal night from a surging Milan Lucic and a solid start from Bruins' backup goaltender Chad Johnson, stopping 13 of just 14 Columbus shots as the Bruins dominated play in a 3-1 win at the TD center in Boston on Saturday night.

Bergeron's goal came from along the board parallel with the dot in the right circle, firing at Blue Jackets' goal tender Curtis McElhinney just as Brad Marchand crossed in front of the second line center, Loui Eriksson providing a clean screen as the puck zipped into the goal for an early Bruins' lead.

Lucic scored his first of the evening six minutes later, tipping in a Torey Krug missile from the high slot for the eventual game winner.

Krug took a diagonal pass from David Krejci from the left circle and released a one timer off the chain just 22 seconds into a Bruins' power play, the puck deflecting off the stick of Blue Jackets' defenseman R.J. Umberger's stick, forcing Lucic's quick-twitch adjustment on the puck in flight deflecting it through McElhinney's five hole for a two-goal lead going into the rooms for the first intermission.

The second period has been somewhat of a lull period for the Bruins this season, so with eight and a half minutes gone in the middle frame, Lucic engaged Dalton Prout in his bid both to energize the stagnant Bruins and also to give the Bruins their second Gordie Howe hat trick in as many nights, both skaters dropping gloves and receiving five minute majors - taking turns throwing haymakers and both giving as good as they got...

...Lucic appearing to complete the goal/fighting major/assist hat trick just 2:15 into the third period by firing a wicked wrister from the high slot, defenseman Jack Johnson blocking the shot but the puck deflecting up in the air, the momentum from the velocity on the shot causing the puck to gravitate over McElhinney's head.

Jarome Iginla wedged himself right in the crease to the left of McElhinney to knock the puck into the goal, but replays showed that Iginla didn't make contact with the puck, so Lucic had his second goal of the game instead of the Howe hat trick.

The two goals from Lucic were his 10th and 11th on the season, making him the first on the team to reach double-digit tallies.

Columbus scored a too little/too late goal on the power play four minutes later, center Ryan Johansen beating Johnson from the right circle to make the score 3-1, but Boston tightened up the defense and continued imposing their will on the overmatched Jackets'.

Johnson raised his record to 4-1 in limited action in helping the Bruins to an Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference best 38 points, going 10-2-2 in the month of November and 18-7-2 overall on the season - and the Bruins' defense being a big reason why, allowing less than 20 shots on goal in consecutive games for the first time in a dozen years.

Things get no easier for the Blue Jackets,  returning home to face the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday and then the Minnesota Wild on Friday while the Bruins now get to take a mini-vacation to rest and let some bumps and bruises heal before taking the ice in Montreal on Thursday for the first meeting of the year with the hated Habs.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Chara's "Gordie Howe" hat trick lifts Bruins past Rangers

The Boston Bruins needed a wake-up call on Friday afternoon.

Team Captain Zdeno Chara provided just that in emphatic fashion, completing a "Gordie Howe" hat trick with his sixth goal of the season midway through the third period as the Bruins overcame a sloppy start to beat the New York Rangers 3-2 in a Black Friday matinee at TD Garden in downtown Boston.

Looking to put a dismal 6-1 shellacking at the hands of the Detroit Red Wings on Wednesday behind them, the Bruins generated the first goal of the game on a sick pass across the slot from Chara to Brad Marchand, his one-timer bringing energy to the skating that was missing on Wednesday...

...but two quick goals by the Rangers sent Boston back into the room at the first intermission with a one goal deficit to overcome and no momentum at all - a fact not lost on Chara who, as team captain, often takes these matters into his own hands or, in this case, his fists.

After a brief scrum in front of the Boston goal with five minutes remaining in the second period involving just about everyone on the ice, Chara and New York center Brian Boyle emerged with no gloves, swinging away - two big heavyweights going at it, but it was far from a fair fight as the 6' 9" Czech blue-liner used his tremendous reach advantage and pummeled the 6' 7" Boyle.

The fight was the turning point for the Bruins in the game - the wake up call, as it were - and the beginning of the end for the slick-skating Rangers, who ultimately succumbed to the physicality of the Bruins, and it was also the second leg for the Howe hat trick, the criteria of which requires a goal scored, an assist on another goal, and a five minute fighting major.

It was the fourth such accomplishment of Chara's stellar career.

On Thanksgiving Day, while the rest of New England was engaged in turkey and stuffing and football games void of anxiety, the Bruins were holding a lengthy practice followed by a closed door meeting between coaches and players - the contents of which were not revealed to the general population - hence, closed door meeting - but it initially seemed as if it had little impact on the ice for the Bruins.

After Marchand's goal gave the Bruins a 1-0 lead with just over eight minutes left in the opening frame, the Rangers evened the score on a power move by slick puck handler Rick Nash a minute and twenty seconds later, taking a puck from behind the Boston goal. using his bulk to leverage the angle on first Chara and then Patrice Bergeron, easily snapping a shot past goal tender Tuukka Rask...

...then a minute and a half after that, center Derick Brassard found a wide open defenseman Ryan McDonagh in the high slot, firing a wrist shot off of a shielded Rask's blocker and suddenly the Rangers had a 2-1 lead heading into the rooms.

The second period saw lots of fancy stick work and nimble skating, but no scoring, though Boston forward Milan Lucic began to assert himself, being the instigator in almost every dust up in the period as he tried to energize his teammates - and it was Lucic in the middle of the scrum that ended with Chara feeding Boyle several knuckle sandwiches.

With renewed energy from the examples set by Lucic and Chara, the Bruins dominated the third period,  Marchand finding Bergeron camped out in the slot, his wrister deflecting off of Rangers' defenseman Dan Girardi and past goalie Henrik Lundqvist for the equalizer just 1:35 in...

...then Chara releasing a missile off the chain from the high slot that beat Lundqvist low for the game winner.

Neither net minder was at the top of his game, Rask showing some serious fatigue in the early going but shoring things up as the game wore on - his 17 stops good enough to earn the win while Lundqvist faltered late after a strong start, stopping 25 of 28 on the afternoon.

The win gives the Bruins a record of 17-7-2, their 36 points being three clear of the Lightning and Penguins in the Eastern Conference, while the Rangers drop to 13-13-0, but still good enough for a second place tie with the Washington Capitals in the mediocre Metropolitan Division.

New York returns home to MSG to take on the Vancouver Canucks in the first game of a protracted homestand that sees the Rangers play 11 of their next 12 at home through Christmas, while the Bruins host the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday, then getting a mini vacation before taking off for Montreal to take on the hated Habs next Thursday.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Blues top Bruins in shootout 3-2

Monkey see, Monkey do.

At least that's what Thursday night's contest between the St. Louis Blues and the host Boston Bruins seemed like, as neither team could hold a lead for more than a few seconds - just as soon as one team would take the lead, the other would answer with a goal of their own... it just goes to figure that it would take a shootout goal to end things, Blues' forward Derek Roy beating Boston netminder Tuukka Rask top shelf, stick side in the 4th round of the shootout to give St. Louis a brutally tough 3-2 victory over the Bruins in a terrific hockey game at TD Center in downtown Boston.

Roy also had a regulation goal and David Backes scored for St. Louis while Gregory Campbell found twine for the first time this season for Boston and Carl Soderberg continued to elevate his game, scoring his third goal of the season as the team skated to a regulation tie on the strength of physical board play and tough as nails defense on open ice.

The teams couldn't have been more evenly matched.

The keyword to describe the St. Louis Blues coming into their game with the Boston Bruins on Thursday night was "Heavy".  The Blues, it was said, were a heavy team - played heavy, strong on the boards, physical on the forecheck, violent on the backcheck....

...outstanding goaltending in the personage of Jaroslav Halak who stopped 25 of 27, matched by Rask who stoned 22 of 24 in regulation, but gave up the game winner in the shootout - the big Finn stopper slamming his stick into the ice in disgust as he skated off in defeat.

Rask had to be thinking that the game shouldn't even have made it to the extra period, as he gave up one of those holy roller goals in the first period that was tumbling so slowly toward him that he could have gone to the concession stand to get a hot dog and a beer, consume the ball game delicacies, and still had been able to get back in time to stop the puck.

Well, in reality, he would have had to wolf down the dog on the way back to the net - and he probably felt like disappearing into the crowd when the puck somehow slid under his stick and through his pads...

The teams treated the fans at TD Garden to a display of end-to-end hockey throughout the first period that looked on it's way to being scoreless, though both teams had excellent chances - but when Campbell took a Torey Krug pass across the slot and barely clipped the puck on the one timer, but got enough on it to send a tumbler just over the left skate of Halak, the Bruins had a 1-0 lead...

...which lasted held up all of 31 seconds, Roy getting nothing on his shot either, but answered Campbell's tumbler with the holy roller hot dog shot of his own as both teams repaired to their respective rooms tied at one.

If anything, the second period saw both team raise the intensity level, and also saw two more goals that were, once again, in very close proximity to each other, time wise.

Backes scored to give the Blues their first lead of the game with four minutes left in the period, winning a faceoff in the Bruins zone, taken by defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk who smashed a rocket at Rask and Backes, who had circled down into the slot, deflected it into the net...

...but just as in the first period, the trailing team tied the game up quickly, Reilly Smith find Carl Soderberg's tape in the slot from behind the goal and the Swede snapped the puck home for the equalizer.

The final frame of regulation was a heavyweight fight featuring some of the most graceful yet most brutally physical hockey of the year - and fittingly ended in a 2-2 tie, the overtime period offering shots from point plank range on both goaltenders, but they were up to the task and the game went to the shootout, setting up Roy's heroics for the extra point.

A shame that either team had to lose, the one point ensuring that the Bruins would remain in at least a tie with the Tampa Bay Lightning for the best record in the eastern conference while the two points earned by the Blues good for the second best record in the entire National Hockey League, one game back of defending champs Chicago Blackhawks.

The Bruins now enter a stretch where they play five games in seven days, starting with a Saturday afternoon matinee against the Carolina Hurricanes at TD Garden, then welcome the Pittsburgh Penguins on Monday before going on a quick solo trip to Detroit to take on the Red Wings on Wednesday.