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Bear Essentials: Pittsburgh vs. Boston

Thursday, 02.28.2008 / 11:55 AM / Bish's Blog
By John Bishop  - BostonBruins.com
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Bear Essentials: Pittsburgh vs. Boston
John Bishop is the beat writer for BostonBruins.com. He covers the Black & Gold hoping to offer a positive look at the team, not only from the stands and the press box, but also from inside the locker room. A graduate of Boston U. and Northeastern, 'Bish' grew up in Connecticut and moved to the Hub of Hockey in 1993. Since then he has made all four rinks at the Beanpot schools, as well as both Gardens, his icebound homes away from home. Prior to joining the TD Banknorth Garden staff in 2005, Bishop had written for several publications, with his primary focus being college hockey. He coauthored the book Bygone Boston in 2003 and hopes someday to pen a bio of Hobey Baker.
1:13 p.m.
If the Bruins needed any extra motivation tonight (and they don't) they got it when they looked up in the stands to the throngs of reporters who came to see -- the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Yes, the other black and gold brought Evgeni Malkin (the leagues leading point-scorer) and Ty Conklin (the league's save percentage leader) and this new guy -- Hossa.

Haven't heard that much about him recently (tongue firmly in cheek).

In all seriousness, the new Pittsburgh forward brings 26-30-56 totals and a large press corps to follow his first strides as a Penguin. His new teammate, and also a new Penguin, former Bruin Hal Gill, brings 6'7 worth of defenseman to throw at Boston.

In any case, Marc Savard (70 points, and a league-leading 56 assists), Tim Thomas (.924 sv% in 43 games) and the rest of the Boston Bruins go into their game with the Pens intact -- and with Chuck Kobasew back in the lineup after missing two games.

"[Chuck] is our second leading goal scorer, so it's something that we need as far as the lack of goal scoring that we have had this year," said Julien. "So whenever you get a guy who can help you score some goals it's nice to have him back."

Shane Hnidy was the lone person missing from the ice this morning, but Coach Julien insisted that Hnidy's absence would not prevent him from playing tonight.

"Yeah, absolutely," said Coach. "If he wasn't [in] tonight I'd definitely tell you."

When asked about the Pittsburgh lineup, Coach Julien was gracious.

"They already had a lot of talent," he said. "[Hossa] is just one more.

"He's a great player and he certainly makes that team better.

"But I don't think our philosophy...is going to change because Marian Hossa is on the other side. We still have to play the same type of game that we've been playing."

Julien eventually said that questions about the Pittsburgh club should be answered by Pittsburgh and reiterated that his team needs to concentrate on doing what it does.

"That's pretty well been our motto all year," said Julien. "We really focus on our teams play and not so much on what's on the other side.

"That doesn't mean that you don't respect or pay attention to who is over there, but [we focus on] what we have to do as a team to contain or be able to win against these kind of teams."

There might be a little bit of a chip-on-the-shoulder mentality to the Bruins -- a club that did not believe that they needed any tweaks going into the playoff run.

"I've basically put my focus on what happens here," said Julien of the trade deadline. "The players were pretty happy to see that our team was still intact.

"We had good team chemistry and the guys did not want to see that disappear."

Boston Bruins Peter Schaefer (72) and Phil Kessel (81) congratulate Chuck Kobasew, center, on his goal against the New York Islanders during the third period of their NHL hockey game at the Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, N.Y., Monday, Dec. 3, 2007. (AP Photo/Ed Betz)
2:31 p.m.
Chuck Kobasew looked excited to be returning to the lineup. When asked about missing the last couple of games, it was clear that sitting did not sit well with the B's right wing.

"I'm all set to go," said Kobasew as he peeled the hockey tape off his socks and took off his shin pads after the skate. "It's tough, anytime you sit.

"But when the team wins it makes it a little easier."

Boston has not gone without a point since February 12th, when they dropped a 3-2 decision to Carolina. That's a terrific 5-0-1 streak to go with a very respectable 6-4-1 record in February.

As a result, there is a certain bravado which comes wrapped in Black & Gold during each recent practice and games.

"We know, at this point of the season, what it means [to be ready]," said Chuck. "It's the final quarter of the season and a push for the playoffs."

But look closer, True Believers. The Bruins are actually only six points out of first place (at 72 pts) in the Northeast Division with two games in hand over Montreal (77) and Ottawa (78).

Could a push for the playoffs turn into a push for home ice in the playoffs?

Cam Neely
2:59 p.m.
I just taking a look at the Cam Neely chat transcript over in the Bruins section of Boston.com.

My favorite question and answer:

animal__Guest_ It is a great pleasure to speak to you, my all-time favourite Bruin!...My question is what do you believe has been the B's greatest problem(s) in playing the hated Habs this season?
Cam_Neely Thanks, it's nice to speak with you as well ... I think as far as playing the Canadiens go, we have gotten ourselves into penalty trouble and they have a very strong power play and that's hurt us. I think we still have to play physical but try to stay out of the penalty box. Of course there's no one that hates losing to them more than me.

Ha!

6:00 p.m.
Word is that this place should be ROCKING tonight.

And as a testement to that eventuality, a throng of school-aged hockey players are chanting into the tunnel leading to the B's locker room.

6:39 p.m.
Here is the lineup:
Axelsson-Savard-Murray
Sturm-Metropolit-Kessel
Lucic-Krejci-Kobasew
Reich-Sobotka-Thornton
Chara-Wideman (sg)Thomas
Ference-Ward (bg)Auld
Stuart-Hnidy Go Bruins!


I am going to blog from here for the rest of the night. We'll post recaps after each period and a full recap after the game. JB

7:00 p.m.
The building is filling up quickly.

BTW folks, just looking at that Pittsburgh lineup is daunting. Add Crosby when he gets better and -- watch out!

That being said, the B's have proven that they can play with just about anyone (with a tough record against Montreal being the lone exception).

Should be a good game. One writer wondered aloud if Big Z and Laraque might give it a go.

I'd pay to see that, for sure.

1st Period
9:49: Some terrific play by Sturmie, Chuck and Metro led to a goal. Chuck's return is paying immediate dividends, what with his tenacious play and the shot that Marco tipped pas Conklin. Sturm dished to Metropolit who dished to Kobasew for the initial shot, which Marco then tipped in.

12:07: This time Metro dished to Sturmie who unleashed a rocket to beat Conklin -- his 200th NHL goal.

15:19: Phil hit the post -- loudest of the season. Score stil 2-0, Boston.

20:00: An outstanding first period. One of the best of the season! Timmy looked sharp, but only had to face 10 shots.

First Intermission: The chocolate cake here in the press box is choice tonight!

Looking at the stats, Milan Lucic, who starred in our chat yesterday, had two of Boston's eight hits. Pittsburgh had six, wit former BC Eagle Brooks Orpik leading the way.

2nd Period
1:00: Or thereabouts -- Luch with a HUGE hit.

2:21: Big Z with a shot that goes off a Pittsburgh shin pad. 3-0 Boston. New goalie for Pitt. Marc-Andre Fleury (his first appearance since 12/6). Chara is now 8-3-11 in his last 10 games. Marc Savard adds one to his assist total.

11:57: A Timmy Tornado! Butterfly, to pancake to snow angel -- save. Timmaaaaaaaay!

14:20: Hossa is missing from the Pittsburgh bench and has been missing for some time.

16:01: Marc Savard pays a big price in the corner, kicks the puck from the dasher to Thornton, who passes to Axie. P.J. shoveled it into the goal. Another assist for Savard. Nice!

It was Savvy's 400th career assist.

18:15: The Penguins are not very happy right now. They tried to get the B's to lose their cool. Luch seemed to calm things down with some help from Aaron Ward.

20:00: Another outstanding period, folks. Boston bent, but did not break and took the momentum back late in the period.

Thomas has been excellent when needed. A fun night, thus far.

Second Intermission: Milan is up to five hits and Boston is out-hitting the Pens, 15-11.

Hey, we are sold out tonight (17,565, eighth of the season). I checked with the Garden and there are some tickets remaining for Saturday. Get 'em before they are gone, B's fans!

Marian Hossa has been pulled from the game with a sore right knee. He will be evaluated tomorrow.

3rd Period
5:17: Not too much going on as of yet. B's going on the power play. Malkin in the box for hooking.

10:00: Or thereabouts. Tim just made a stop with his head which looked to be on purpose...soccer style.

10:36: Tempers flaring. Wouldn't surprise me if we had a couple of bouts, soon.

13:03: Pittsburgh finally gets on the board. Pascal Dupuis.

17:32: Gutsy fight by Big Luch.

Broken nose and all -- gutsy! I'm heading to the room...

On second thought.

17:49: David Krejci continued the soccer theme -- when a puck deflected off his skate and past Fleury. 5-1, Boston.

20:00: A very big win for Boston.

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