Bruins try to salvage Prague split vs. Coyotes
BRUINS (0-1-0) vs. COYOTES (1-0-0)
TV: NHLN-CA, NHLN-U.S. (HD), NESN (HD)
Phoenix leads the series 1-0-0 after Saturday night's 5-2 victory at the 02 Arena. Sunday's meeting marks the second and final meeting between these teams this season.
Phoenix drew first blood in this two-game set in Prague, jumping out to a 4-0 lead and riding that wave to a 5-2 decision. It was the three Czechs -- Radim Vrbata, Petr Prucha and Martin Hanzal -- who did the lion's share of the offensive work. Vrbata had 2 goals and an assists, while Prucha and Hanzal each managed 4 shots and a plus-1 rating. "They did everything for us tonight," captain Shane Doan told NHL.com when asked about his Czech teammates. Now, Boston must find a way to answer as the prospect of flying home to North America without a point from European competition has to be a sobering one.
Bruins: Nathan Horton
was pretty good for the Bruins on Saturday night, scoring a pair of goals in his debut with the team. But many of the other Bruins struggled, particularly on the defensive side of the puck. Boston coach Claude Julien was breaking up defensive pairings to try to find some stability as the Coyotes kept capitalizing on Boston mistakes and turnovers. On a bright note, rookie forward Tyler Seguin
had some very good flashes, including solid work moving the puck on the power play -- especially from the half wall. And despite giving up four goals, Tuukka Rask
was stellar in net.
Things couldn't have gone much better for the Coyotes, who received goals from four different players, scored on the power play and killed all but one power play against, allowing a late goal by Horton when the score was 4-1.
Yet, the Coyotes were not entirely happy after the game. Doan believes his squad can play much better than it did Saturday night.
"We have to be more disciplined," Doan told NHL.com. "I don't know what the power-play ratio was, but I do know we took way too many penalties."
Doan also said that his team gave up way too many shots, allowing Ilya Bryzgalov to see 42 pucks.
"We can't rely on Bryz like that," he told NHL.com.
Clearly Vrbata is on fire with his 3-point night, but the Coyotes got a lot of other strong performances. Eric Belanger scored a power-play goal in his first game as a Coyote. Scottie Upshall was a menace all night and netted a breakaway goal for the game-winner after forcing a turnover at center ice. Rookie Oliver Ekman-Larsson played a ton of minutes in his NHL debut and had an assist on Taylor Pyatt's goal while playing an all-around strong game.
For Boston, there were not many bright spots aside from Horton, who notched a pair of goals and played an all-round strong game, and Rask, who had three stellar saves on successive breakaways before Upshall finally solved him in the one-on-one situation.
Phoenix defenseman Derek Morris did not play Saturday after he was ruled out with a lower-body injury, believed to be a groin strain. He will be a game-time decision again Sunday, although it seems unlikely he will play as Ekman-Larsson was good as a replacement and Morris can rest for almost another week before Phoenix's next game, at home against Detroit on Friday. Ray Whitney was also a game-time decision, but he played and seemed to get through the game without problem.
Boston, meanwhile, is without top center Marc Savard
, who did not make the trip as he deals with post-concussion symptoms. The team scratched rookie forward Jordan Caron
, defenseman Adam McQuaid
and third goalie Nolan Schaefer
, but all three were healthy.
Ekman-Larsson, making his NHL debut, played 23:47, most on the Coyote blue line. He added an assist, a shot and a plus-1 rating to his totals. On the other side of the coin, Boston rookie Tyler Seguin
played 14:56 and managed four shots. But he was a minus-2. Seguin's 3:01 on the power play was third among Boston forwards, behind Patrice Bergeron
and David Krejci
. Zdeno Chara
, he of the brand new seven-year extension, played a whopping 26-plus minutes Saturday night. Blake Wheeler
, playing a feisty game on the wing, led Boston with five shots.
There isn't much of a turnaround for these two teams as they play Sunday, just 19 hours after the conclusion of Saturday's game. Yet, there is a lot at stake for both teams. With a win Phoenix goes home with four points in the bank and a belief that they can pick up right where they left off last season in marching to a 107-point regular season. Because of that, expect to see Bryzgalov in net again despite the short rest period, Phoenix has five days off before its next game and Bryzgalov was strong in back-to-back games last season. For Boston, Sunday's game represents a chance to split this two-game set and get home with at least two points. Fail in that quest and the Bruins know they have dug themselves a pretty good hole as they head back to North America. So expect to see a more desperate Boston team, one that hopes to make fewer mistakes with the puck in its own end and in the neutral zone.