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Bish's Blog

Game Day: Bruins @ Montreal

The B's will practice in Boston before heading to Montreal.

Thursday, 12.03.2009 / 10:50 AM / Bish's Blog
By John Bishop  - BostonBruins.com
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Game Day: Bruins @ Montreal
7:51 p.m.
A decent guess a tonight's lines...
Wheeler-Savard-Bitz
Sobotka-Krejci-Ryder
Sturm-Bergeron-Recchi
Thornton-Begin-Paille
Chara-Morris
Ference-Wideman
Hunwick-Stuart
Thomas
Rask

Tonight's in-game live blog is up and running. Click the link to the right  to join -------->

7:33 p.m.
Hey, one thing. I have just heard from the Garden -- there are tickets available for tomorrow night.

Click here  to join us if you have an open spot in your schedule around 7 p.m. on Sat.

7:23 p.m.
It was reported earlier, that Tim Thomas should be in net versus the Canadiens, this evening.

Yesterday, I asked Tim whether there will be any worry about waiting for the game to actually take shape or whether it will be a problem relaxing enough to put skates to ice.

Tim looked at me a little like I were crazy and said, "That’s good thing about these games is you don’t have to make them any more than they are because just the way the crowd and the atmosphere is you can feel the buzz.

"Actually I think it’s important to not make it more than it is, at least from my own perspective -- different jolts for different folks.

"You can get excited about it, but just the experience of playing in these matches is enough," he said.

But Thomas, who can wear his own emotions on his sleeve, knows exactly the kind of emotion that will be present this evening.

"I’ve said this before, I’ve played in world championships, I’ve seen the crowds, been part of the crowds, I’ve played in Finnish championships which people wouldn’t think about, but the crowds are crazy there, too," he said. "And so I thought the first year that we played Montreal in the playoffs that I’d be prepared for it because I’ve seen a lot.

"Having said all that, there was no way to prepare yourself unless you’d been through it before. The crowd atmosphere...the first year we played Montreal in the playoffs, when they finished first in the East, their fans really believed they had a chance to win the Cup -- the atmosphere, I mean the energy and noise of that crowd was the loudest thing I ever hear in my life.

Boston Bruins goalie Tim Thomas celebrates his team's victory over the Montreal Canadiens in Game 4 of the NHL playoff hockey series Wednesday, April 22, 2009 in Montreal. The Bruins beat the Canadiens 4-1 to sweep the best of seven series 4-0. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Paul Chiasson)
"Even when we lost in game seven, the plane ride home I couldn’t hear anything, the echo was in my ear, from just the noise of that place," said Thomas.

Tim explained that he had to train himself not to internalize the din.

"Personally, I got over it I think by game two, but after game one I tried to prepare myself for game two and still got over excited by the crowd," he said. "So, I don’t want to call it overwhelmed, but… over excited maybe.

"Then, I was ready for it and ready to kind of block it out. It’s still there and it adds energy, but I was more prepared because...I was more prepared to just show up and do my job and ignore the outside circumstances," he said.

So, the Bruins will have to "ignore" what is going on around them and just play BOSTON BRUINS hockey.

"We've just got to be ready to play when the puck drops," said Tim. "I don’t think you need to stay focused that whole time, I mean the whole time the ceremonies are going on, we just have to be ready to go when the ceremony is over.

"A lot of those ceremonies on the road, those guys are really paying attention. It’s their club's history and it’s a big thing to them."

And it is certainly an important game, even just in terms of the 2009-10 season.

"They’re all important," said Thomas. "We have like four games in twelve days so we’re not playing a lot, some other teams are catching up with us, as far as playing more games and they have a chance to make up points.

"So that makes those points even more valuable because you need to get the wins you can to stay where you want to be."

And where the Bruins want to be is...first place, of course.

7:00 p.m.

Okay, so we are under about an hour and fifteen minutes away from the big tilt in the big house in Montreal.

There's no doubt that hockey history is taking place on the ice in the Bell Center, but it's my guess that Shawn Thornton has the team's stereo system cranked to high heaven in the Bruins locker room and that the club might not be able to hear the din that is the atmosphere in the rink.

But I doubt that any stereo could even come close to drowning out what is going on presently.

Right now, Patrick Roy, who joined Ken Dryden in the nets for a sort of warm up to the pregame program is addressing the crowd after being introduced to tumultuous applause.

On the ice, players who go by the names of Robinson, Gainey, Lafleur and Richard are standing on the ice for a sort of who's who of Canadiens history.

Don't worry, True Believers, the NESN pregame show, the in-game live blog and the SportsHub hockey programming will start around 7:30 p.m.

2:13 p.m
Begin
Our own bostonbruinstv interviewed Steve Begin on Thursday and asked the Quebecois center whether he had thought about his return to Montreal and the Centennial Ceremony prior to the tilt.

"Right now I am not too nervous or worried about it," said Steve. "I guess I will be [Friday], but right now I am just taking it like it is just another game.

"We are going there to win the game and I am going to have to do my job. And that's it. I shouldn't put any [more] pressure on my shoulders and just think about the game."

Pressed for more, Begin did not relent and said he would try and stay within himself even when reminded about the atmosphere in his old building.

"No, no. That's the point," he said. "I have to go there and play my game and not try to do too much.

"That's where you get yourself in trouble -- if you try to do too much you sometimes will take a penalty or make a play that you usually don't and you're going to put yourself and the team in trouble.

"So, like I said...we've got a game to win and I've got to go in there and do what I do best."

Begin did admit that returning in a Bruins uniform to the Bell Centre will be a little strange.

"It's going to be a little weird, being on the other side with Montreal sitting on the other bench," said the French Canadian forward. "But I'm probably going to get used to it pretty quick.

"They are going to be coming out pretty hard and will be trying to find a way to win.

And they have a good team, and a lot of good players out there, so we have to go out there and just concentrate on ourselves."

"I know it's going to be big with the ceremony, but they are going to want to win that game and probably going to work extra hard. So we have to be ready and show up for that game."

1:30 p.m.
Fighting Phil?
Toronto Maple Leafs' Phil Kessel, left, celebrates his goal against the Columbus Blue Jackets with teammates Alexei Ponikarovsky, center, of Ukraine, and Tomas Kaberle, of the Czech Republic, during the second period of an NHL hockey game Thursday, Dec. 3, 2009, in Columbus, Ohio. (AP Photo/Jay LaPrete)
The Toronto Maple Leafs are here in the Garden today, practicing for their big tilt with the Bruins on Saturday night.

I'm going to keep my mind in and on Montreal (at least virtually) for today, but I was surprised to see Phil Kessel hit the highlights again this morning.

Let me correct that -- it didn't surprise me that Phil hit the highlights for the two goals he scored against Columbus on Thrusday.

However, it DID surprise me that he hit the Sports Centre highlights on TSN.ca for a Fight.

That's right, Phil Kessel went to Canada and has not only reaffirmed his goal scoring skill, but he has actually dropped the gloves, as well.

Kevin McGran reports on TheStar.com that not only did Kessel fight, but he declared himself the winner of the battle -- sort've:

Phil Kessel, who said there's room to improve his game, is getting hot just in time for his return to Boston.
Kessel had two goals and a fight – the first scrap of his NHL career – to lead the Leafs to an easy 6-3 win Thursday night over the Columbus Blue Jackets.
"Fight? It was a pillow fight," Jason Blake, who also scored twice for the Leafs, said of Kessel's lightweight bout with defenceman Kris Russell.
"If he'd have passed the puck, he'd have had a Gordie Howe hat trick, which no one ever thought he would ever get," said Leafs coach Ron Wilson. "He picked the right guy to fight. No knock on Kris Russell, but they're the same size. And he ended up on top, so that's considered a win."
Kessel relented.
"All right, it was more of a wrestling match," said Kessel, who, after the room had cleared, asked a reporter, "I won the fight, though, right? I got the W?"


You can be the judge over at TSN.

1:26 p.m.
TSN.ca is projecting that Carey Price will be in goal for the Canadiens this evening.

1:14 p.m.
Ryder Will Reflect
Before he left for Canada, I asked Michael Ryder about being a player on both sides of the Bruins vs. Canadiens rivalry.

"Yeah, for sure...when I’m retired I can look back at it and [say] there’s two great organizations and part of the 'Original Six' and some guys don’t get to experience that -- especially between Boston and Montreal," he said. "The rivalry, it’s fun just to be a part of it.

"But now, I’m on this side, and I like it over here a little better."

There's no doubt that tonight's centennial game will be a highlight during Ryder's future reminiscing.

"Well, playing in Montreal is always exciting and the atmosphere is always pretty intense and I think [Friday] is going to be another level on top of that," said Michael. "I think it’s going to be a lot of excitement, a lot of fun.

"I don’t have many friends [on the Canadiens bench] now, but I still have a couple.

"So, it’s good to go back just to see a few of them, but the whole game I think overall is going to be a lot of fun and exciting."

12:37 p.m.
The Boston Globe's Fluto Shinzawa says that Tim Thomas was the first goalie off the ice after morning skate.

12:25 p.m.
Montreal Canadiens goalie Jaroslav Halak, of Slovakia, right, and Canadiens defenseman Marc-Andre Bergeron react after the Buffalo Sabres scored their sixth goal of the NHL hockey game late in the third period in Buffalo, N.Y., Thursday, Dec. 3, 2009. Buffalo won 6-2. (AP Photo/Don Heupel)
It was a frustrated Jacques Martin who spoke to The Montreal Gazette on Thursday night after his Habs dropped a 6-2 decision to the Buffalo Sabres.

"You look at most of the goals that were scored, they were second and third chances," said Martin to The Gazette's Pat Hickey (you can listen via Habsinsideout.com, here). "You have to win battles and you have to play determined.

"We lost too many battles one-on-one, they beat us to the puck, they were more determined than us," he said.

Ouch. The loss was the fourth straight setback for les gloreiux who are now 12-14-2.

"I think they have to understand that you are not going to win games playing offensive hockey," said Martin, sounding very much like Claude Julien from earlier this season. "If you are cheating and trying to get out of your zone before the puck you are going to give opportunities to the other team.

"If you look at the good teams -- look at New Jersey, they do a good job defensively. You look at Buffalo. They don't score any more goals than us and before tonight we were tied.

"The difference is goals against," said the Canadiens head coach.

The answer, according to Martin, is simple.

"You have to play more determined, more passionate about doing your job," he said.

11:33 a.m.
Boston Bruins right wing Blake Wheeler, top, drops Montreal Canadiens left wing Max Pacioretty to the ice on a hard check during the first period of their NHL hockey game in Boston, Thursday, Nov. 5, 2009. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
The Bruins should be on the ice by now, preparing for tonight's big tilt.

And it was excitement like the type that Marc Savard and Blake Wheeler expressed that had Boston Bruins head coach (and former Canadiens bench boss) Claude Julien trying to lower the hype level.

"It’s a good rivalry and it’s exciting for fans in both cities," said Julien. "At the same time, you [see] that it’s really their anniversary not ours.

"We have to make sure that we don’t get caught up in all that hoopla and that we need to focus on our game that’s number one and it’s not easy with all this stuff going on.

"The bottom line is that our biggest task will be to remain focused on doing the job tomorrow night and not get caught up in all of that," he said.

But there is no doubt that Julien understands the significance of the Habs choosing the B's for tonight's matchup.

"In a way we should be kind of glad that they thought we are a good opponent for that game because, obviously, there is a good rivalry between the two organizations," he said.

Part of tempering the excitement might involve the B's surviving the first 10 minutes of play.

"I think the first half of the first period is normally up-tempo and there’s a lot of emotion flowing," said Wheeler. "So, once you get past that point the game slows down a bit and everyone kind of settles in.

"But for that first ten minutes the crowd is always on their feet and it’s normally pretty crazy."

10:57 a.m.
The Bruins will hit the ice for morning skate, shortly, and I am hoping to receive word from the Montréal contingent as soon as possible as to who was the first goaltender off the ice.

Yesterday, before they left for le belle province, many of the Bruins were already thinking about tonight's matchup and the significance of being included in the conclusion of the Montréal Canadiens centennial celebration.

"Well, I think it’s just (about) the tradition and the history in it," said Marc Savard. "Obviously, being a little kid watching those playoff series even before being able to play in one makes it all the more special."

And, of course, the Bell Centre should be even more rocking tonight because of the historical significance of the evening -- the Canadiens franchise was born 100-years ago, tody.

"The fans show the intensity and right through the players, coaching staff and owners, everybody’s into it so that’s why it’s a great feeling...in both side' s [rinks]," said Savard. "So that’s what makes it the best [rivalry and atmosphere]."

Boston's Blake Wheeler, a former Minnesota Golden Gopher, likened it to the biggest rivalry he'd played in during his college career -- Minnesota vs. North Dakota.

"With us and Wisconsin, it was a respectful rivalry, but with us and North Dakota, it was more on the lines of wanting to rip each others heads off," he said. "So, I think we play these guys six times a year -- and sometimes even more including playoffs -- so you see these guys a lot and the familiar faces sometimes can get a little old and you want to beat them."

But Blake explained that the intensity of Bruins vs. Canadiens ratchets the rivalry up into unprecedented territory.

"There’s just so much surrounding it. So much so that it’s never just your normal game," he said. "There’s always a little bit more emotion involved in these games and I think even more recently [because] we’ve played these guys in the playoffs.

"So [these are] always the ones that you want to walk away from the rink feeling like you gave your best effort and one that you feel like you represented yourself well.

"That's because I think the fans put an equal amount of emotion into it as we do. So for us to go out there and play hard against these guys, it means a lot for us and for the fans," he said.

Thursday, December 4
2:55 p.m.
Rinkside Video is going up here.

2:34 p.m.
No worries about 33 and 60
Boston Bruins' Zdeno Chara (33) celebrates after he scored the go-ahead goal against the Montreal Canadiens in the third period of a first-round NHL hockey playoff game in Boston on Thursday, April 16, 2009. The Bruins won 4-2. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
After one of the quicker practices of the year, the Bruins jumped off the ice, showered, changed into their suits and hit the bus to the airport.

However, Bruins captain Zdeno Chara did eventually join the team for the end of practice and Vladimir Sobotka practiced for the entire session and left with the team.

"Yah, he was out there today," said Julien of Sobotka. "We looked at him again and he said he felt better today.

"Hopefully, another day will give us a better indication."

So, after 24:17 on the ice yesterday, Chara just had a light day of practice.

"Yeah, Zee was out there, just a little maintenance."

11:56 a.m.
Tim Thomas just made a lunging split save that had players on both benches yelling.

Very, very nice.

11:35 a.m.
Zdeno Chara is the only one missing from practice.

11:30 p.m.
Sobotka is on the ice.

11:25 a.m.
Mark Stuart and Dennis Wideman are the first players on for Boston.

I'm sitting here wondering if we'll see Vladimir Sobotka this morning. The sparkplug forward complained of fatigue yesterday during the game and Coach Julien said that the Bruins would take a closer look at him this morning.

10:45 a.m.

With the Bruins heading to Montreal today preceding their big tilt with the Habs on Friday, and with the Toronto Maple Leafs gracing the Garden ice consecutively on Saturday and Thursday, the all-important four-point games are piling up.

And with points in his last four games, and a terrific all around game versus the Lightning last night, Patrice Bergeron (1-2-3 vs. Tampa Bay, +3) and his line have picked the perfect time to get hot.

"I knew this was coming," said Marc Recchi (0-3-3, +3), the right wing on Bergeron's trio. "I could tell right from the first day of training camp that he was strong. You could tell that he was a different player. You could see it coming at the end last year, but then he had the full summer of him getting some great training.

"People forget that he’s 23-24 years old and he’s asked to play on these top lines every night. He plays way above his age, and his commitment to defense, number one, is just unbelievable, and number two, he’s just very offensively gifted and he’s taking advantage of that."

B's head coach Claude Julien thinks Bergeron's entire line, with Marco Sturm (2-0-2, +3) on the left wing and Recchi on the right is really rolling.

"They played well. All three of them," said Julien. "I thought they were in sync tonight.

Boston Bruins' Patrice Bergeron scores past Montreal Canadiens goalie Jaroslav Halak during the shootout in NHL preseason hockey game Thursday, Sept. 24, 2009, in Montreal. The Bruins beat the Canadiens 2-1. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Paul Chiasson)
"Marco skated well and was driving to the net. When you do those things you get rewarded. I thought he had about nine shots on net tonight, which was good. Bergy [Patrice Bergeron] was strong on the puck and made some good decisions with it.  Rex [Mark Recci] did the same thing.  I thought he was skating well tonight.

"Those guys were just on top of their game. They wanted to establish the lead tonight [and] score the first goal which we did. Then it was a matter of not just sitting back," said Julien.

Bergeron's line also matched up with the best of what Tampa Bay could throw at the Bruins on Wednesday.

"For me it is simple, if you play in their end against their top line, then their top line can’t do much damage," said Julien. "I don’t want them sitting back."

Instead, Bergeron, Recchi and Sturm were intent on pushing the envelope on Wednesday.

"Overall I think it was really good," said Sturm of the Bruins performance. "You know its been awhile [since] we had a four goal lead.

"[But] I think after the second period and there [were] a couple things that we have to get better at.

"I think we got a little too comfortable a couple times but we wanted to be better at home and I think we did that today," he said.

Sturm explained that the Bruins have to stay in the moment.

"We just have to go game-by-game here and, like I've said before, I think we need to focus it more on the home stretch and the games we have at home [in the Garden].

"We want to get it done and go from there game-by-game."

Mark Recchi thinks that Sturm can help the B's meet those goals.

"He’s a heck of a player," said the future Hockey Hall of Famer. "He’s a great two-way hockey player. He skates great, and when he gets some confidence you can see it. It’s nice to see that. He was on a little stretch and then he went a couple of games, but it’s nice to see him get a couple tonight."

Coach Julien, for one, is starting to feel more comfortable with his team, top to bottom.

"Some of the guys...are starting to find their game," he said. "Things are falling into place because guys are playing the way we expect them to play, not just as a team but also even as individuals.

"We have had a lot of guys that have had slow starts...[and] it is one of those things that you go through challenges at times and at the beginning of the year, with expectations so high and us having such a slow start really threw everybody for a loop.

"Right now we are slowly finding out identity and our groove," he said.

In the end, however, each player and each line can only worry about what is happening when they are on the ice.

Recchi has no problem with that, at all.

"Our line will keep on doing the job," he said. "We’ll keep on helping this team do good things."

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