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

Bruins get a needed boost from young players in win over Sharks


Bruins get a needed boost from young players in win over Sharks

Here’s what we learned from the Bruins' 3-1 win over the San Jose Sharks at the SAP Center on Saturday night, which gave Boston four of a possible six points in its California road swing.
1) The kids stepped up at a great time for the Bruins. Boston needed some young players to step up and fill in for the injured veterans up front, and they got it on Saturday night. Jake DeBrusk was the main playmaker on both goals in the first period, and the Bruins got goals from rookies DeBrusk, Peter Cehlarik and Danton Heinen. It was Cehlarik’s first NHL goal and the 10th point of the season for Heinen, who continues to show signs that he is going to be a productive, reliable winger  even though he didn’t start the season at the NHL level. DeBrusk finished with a goal and an assist and twice used his speed and aggressiveness taking the puck to the net to create scoring chances: On the first goal it was Cehlarik who finished the loose puck after DeBrusk’s net drive created a rebound, and on the second it was DeBrusk simply beating reigning Norris Trophy winner Brent Burns to a race for the puck and then snapping it up and over San Jose backup goalie Aaron Dell. Cehlarik became the sixth Bruins rookie to score the first goal of his NHL career with Boston this season, and it all shows tangible results of the youth movement they were fully embracing this season. There will be peaks and valleys with so many young players in the lineup, but Saturday night turned out to be one of those high-water marks.

2)  At their healthiest, the Bruins can be a fast-skating, skilled team that will be equal parts offense and defense in a hard-working style that features pace and creativity in the offensive zone. The Bruins aren't healthy right now, obviously, and aren’t going to find success that way as attested by the fact that they hadn’t won two games in a row this season until Saturday night in San Jose. With a number of players already out of the lineup, Torey Krug now injured as well and Tuukka Rask taking an extended rest in favor of a red-hot Anton Khudobin, the Bruins are actually playing a very different brand of hockey right now. With Rask not playing -- and not allowing the types of bad or soft goals he's given up so far this year -- they can play a little more conservatively and try to make a two- or three-goal output in a game actually stick as the game-winning margin. Just check the box score,  as the Bruins blocked a whopping 30 shots and conversely the Sharks blocked just 12. Zdeno Chara, Kevan Miller and Robbie O’Gara all had blocked shots in the final few minutes, and Brandon Carlo stepped in front of a wide-open chance for Burns in the third period off a clean offensive zone faceoff win for the Sharks. Those are all gritty, tough plays in the D-zone that you don’t always see, and it perhaps comes a little more naturally when the Bruins are making the clear choice to feature their defense and goaltending right now. It may not be sustainable once Anton Khudobin inevitably cools off a little bit, but for now it’s pretty darn effective.

3)  After watching him stop 36 of 37 shots for the win on Saturday night, the Bruins need to see this thing through with Khudobin until he loses a game. Khudobin is 5-0-2 with this season, with a .949 save percentage in three appearances in November. He's playing the best he's played in the last couple of years. Right now Khudobin is actually leading the NHL with a .935 save percentage for the season, and that really contrasts to Rask's .897 save percentage. Certainly part of it is about the Bruins selling out defensively in front of him and blocking 30 shots in the win while knowing they didn’t have to play again until Wednesday night. But it’s also about the Bruins backup goaltender playing himself into a position where the B’s should ride him until he cools down a little bit, and give Rask some more time to figure out what is slowing him down between the pipes right now.
-- DeBrusk made a couple of big plays in the first period that led to goals for the Bruins, and he finished with a goal, two points, a plus-2 and a team-high four shots on net in 15:49 of ice time. He has a goal and three points in three games since being a healthy scratch last weekend against Toronto.
--Khudobin made 16 saves in the first period when the Bruins were outshot 17-5 and it certainly seemed like they were going to get run out of the building. Instead Khudobin stood tall.
-- Heinen finished with two goals and three points on the three-game trip and iced the game for the Bruins with a backdoor strike in the third period after Kevan Miller had dashed up the right side of the ice to create the chance. Heinen is pushing up near the Bruins team leaders in some offensive categories and looks like he belongs in the NHL this season.
-- Burns was burnt on each of the Bruins' two first-period goals, he actually missed the net with 12 of his 16 shot attempts, and he had seven giveaways in a pretty sloppy game managing the puck. Burns hasn’t had a great season to date, and Saturday night was a good example of things not going well for him this year.
-- Paul Postma finished with just eight minutes of ice time in the win, and was part of the poor defensive coverage on the Sharks goal by Joonas Donskoi in the first period that ended up getting overturned on video review. Postma didn’t show much else after that only playing a handful of minutes over the remainder of the game, and based on his early performance looks like he’s only going to be a seventh defensemen in Boston.
-- Here’s a hearty boo to the 10:30 pm West Coast starts on Saturday night that only the diehards, or those getting paid, are going to closely watch on the weekend leading up to Thanksgiving. Congrats to you if you were one of the lucky ones that decided to stay up and watch a game that didn’t end until after 1 a.m. in the East.  

Morning Skate: Payroll mess at the heart of Bruins' problems


Morning Skate: Payroll mess at the heart of Bruins' problems

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while battening down the hatches for Thanksgiving week.
-- When longtime Bruins follower Clark Booth opines about the Black and Gold, I tend to listen. And he's not happy with the Bruins' salary cap situation at this point in time. It should be noted that this was written before they won the last two games. But some of those truths still remain self-evident when it comes to the B’s.

-- Kevin Bieksa will never stop talking about former teammate Rick Rypien, or about the factors that ultimately led to his tragic passing.
-- Alex Ovechkin is truly living up to the “Russian Machine Never Breaks” mantra these days, which led to the creation of an entire blog about the Capitals.
-- This Saturday Night Live skit with Chance the Rapper playing a clueless hockey reporter was funny, even to people that have been covering the league for 20 years and still struggle to pronounce a name like Brady Skjei.
-- The good, the bad and the ugly courtesy of FOH (Friend of Haggs) Mitch Melnick from last night’s Montreal blowout loss to the Maple Leafs that probably could have just been called the ugly, the ugly and the ugly.
-- It’s 20 games into the season, and the Buffalo Sabres media are wondering what’s wrong with their team, and star Jack Eichel.
-- For something completely different: It sounds like some of the NFL rank-and-file players want to know why Roger Goodell deserves $50 million and a lifetime private plane.