Bruins

Price proves regular season is 'irrelevant'

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Price proves regular season is 'irrelevant'

By DannyPicard
CSNNE.com

BOSTON -- If you're the gambling type, putting your money on the Bruins' offense over Carey Price at the TD Garden wasn't exactly a painful bet.

The last two times Montreal's top goaltender put on the white jersey and took to the pipes in Boston, he was embarrassed. On Feb. 9, Price allowed eight goals. On March 24, he allowed five before being yanked in the third period.

He latest trip to the Garden, however, wasn't nearly as forgettable. For on Thursday night, Game One of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, the Canadiens' All-Star picked up his first playoff win since 2008 and his third career postseason shutout.

"Whatever happened in the regular season is pretty irrelevant right now," said Price after Montreal's 2-0 win over Boston. "It's a different season. It's a different kind of hockey. And tonight, like I said, it was an excellent road game."

Price made 31 saves on the night, including a flurry of shots in a second period in which the Bruins outshot the Habs, 18-6. And that shot differential could have been worse had Canadiens players not been diving all over the ice throughout the period, sacrificing their bodies to block Boston's shots.

The combination of the two led to a big fat zero on the scoreboard for the Bruins when Game One was all said and done.

"When you look at the kind of season Price had, he was our most valuable player," said Montreal coach Jacques Martin after the game. "He gave us a chance to win every night. We're very confident in his ability, and it's up to us to give him some help, some good protection. And that's why it should be a good series."

If Price continues to play like he did on Thursday night, it will be exactly why Montreal will continue to be in the series, if not advancing to the next round.

It's Price's game that headlines the blueprint to the Canadiens' success in this series. You just didn't really know what you were going to get out of him, especially at the Garden.

But just as much as his NHL-high 38 wins in the regular season are out the window, come playoffs, so are his second-most 28 losses.

And after being Jaroslav Halak's backup in last year's Eastern Conference Finals run, Price is trying to start a new postseason legacy, one that doesn't include getting swept by the Bruins in the first round, something he experienced as the team's starting goaltender two seasons ago.

So what's changed since his last playoff win, three seasons ago?

"I think I'm just more mature, I guess," said Price after Thursday night's shutout. "I've got an excellent group in front of me. We really play excellent defensively, so that helps me out a lot.

"You can't buy age or experience. I've gone through a lot since my last win in the playoffs."

He's gone from "Jesus" Price (a nickname bestowed upon him by the Habs' faithful) to Halak's backup, to an All-Star goalie who may or may not show up in a big game.

He showed up on Thursday night at the TD Garden, and his current teammates notice a difference.

"I think everybody's seen the maturity level," said Brian Gionta after his two-goal performance. "This time last year . . . he's changed a lot. His work ethic, his mental game really came about, and you saw the maturity starting. He carried it through the summer, and you saw the results through the season."

"He's one of the best in the world now," said Scott Gomez. "He's set that presence. Whether he likes it or not, he set the bar that high. He's been waiting for this.

"He's just an even-keeled guy," added Gomez. "He was a part of it last year. He's just on a different level now. Watch him in practice. Watch his presence. Watch the way he walks. He's been waiting for this. That's one area we're not really concerned with."

After his Game One shutout, everyone in the Montreal dressing room is all in on Price.

Danny Picard is on Twitter at http:twitter.comDannyPicard. You can listen to Danny on hisstreaming radio show I'm Just Sayin' Monday-Friday from9-10 a.m. on CSNNE.com.

Heinen beginning to look like a keeper for Bruins

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Heinen beginning to look like a keeper for Bruins

BRIGHTON, Mass – While it’s still early in the careers of all the young Bruins rookies making their way this season, it sure looks like 22-year-old Danton Heinen is among the B’s youngsters that are here to stay. The former University of Denver standout didn’t make the cut at the end of training camp this season and he failed early last year when it was clear he wasn’t ready during an eight-game audition with the big club.

But Heinen continued to look ready while scoring a pair of goals and three points in the three games on a pivotal road trip through California last week, and is now tied for fifth on the Bruins in points despite missing four games in the AHL. In all, Heinen has four goals and 10 points along with a plus-4 rating in 15 games this season, and is on pace for a really strong 21 goals and 52 points in his first full year.

This has been a really nice step forward for Heinen after being a point-per-game player for Providence during their playoff run last spring.

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“Last year’s playoff did a lot for him. When I saw him playing there, he was a different player than when he’d left [Boston],” said Bruce Cassidy. “There was a willingness to stay in the battle and his growth when it comes to winning pucks…you’ve seen it here. A lot of the things he’s down well are his second and third efforts on the puck where last year I thought he was pushed off the puck pretty easily [at the NHL level].”

There could be a period when his offense slows down or some other part of his game drags his minutes down, but right now he looks like he’s well on his way to establishing himself in a key role with the Black and Gold. The difference has been Heinen increasing his speed and also adding a little more tenacity to the skill and offense package that he was always bringing to the table.  

“I don’t want to say that because when we get our guys healthy then we’ll see where we’re at,” said Bruce Cassidy, when asked if Heinen was a keeper at the NHL level at this point. “But I think he’s certainly shown he’s a much more consistent player than he was last year. He’s probably a bit ahead of the other younger guys because he has gone through a bit of it [at the pro level]. The fact that he’s been able to play in a lot of different situations, play left or right wing, and moved up in the lineup while being very effective with [Sean] Kuraly and [Tim] Schaller down in the lineup, as a coach it’s to have a guy like that who can move around and fit in a lot of different places.

“So he’s certainly helped himself [to stay in the NHL]. I think it’s too early to say if he’s here for good, but I don’t envision him leaving [Boston] anytime soon with the way that he’s played.”

Only time and consistently good play will allow the playmaking Heinen to truly lock up his spot on the NHL roster, but it’s increasingly difficult to envision any scenario where the fifth-round pick isn’t playing an increasingly important role for the Bruins. 

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Bruins' Backes returns to ice after surgery for diverticulitis

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Bruins' Backes returns to ice after surgery for diverticulitis

BRIGHTON -- In a development that was certainly much sooner than originally anticipated, David Backes has returned to the ice just a matter of weeks after having 10 inches of colon removed during surgery for diverticulitis. It remains to be seen how gradual a process it will be for the 33-year-old to actually return to game action given his original timetable for recovery was eight weeks following the early November procedure, but it seems like it might end up being ahead of the two months Backes was initially expected to be sidelined. 

For his part, Backes was happy to be back skating with his teammates and pushing his recovering body after feeling pretty sluggish for the first few days following surgery. He confirmed he’d been skating for a couple of days while the team was on the West Coast, but Monday was his first team doing anything post-surgery with the rest of the team. 

“It’s good to be back with the guys and to be around the room, and to have seen the kind of resiliency that these guys showed on the road trip. The back half of the road trip was impressive,” said Backes, who has an assist in five games with the Bruins before succumbing to the surgery. “To be on the ice and moving around after sitting around doing nothing for too long where you don’t think you’re going to see the light at the end of the tunnel, it feels good. 

“The doc’s advice is that if it doesn’t hurt then I can keep moving forward and add more of a workload on, so that’s the update for today. It’s still non-contact, but we’ll keep moving along and hopefully I’ll be back doing what I love to do on a regular basis. I haven’t been notified that the timeline has changed at all, so I’m just going to keep putting in the work. The more I seem to do the work the better it is, and I seem to be able to do a little more each day. So those are all positive signs.”

For the Bruins it’s clearly a morale booster to see the big power forward back doing regular hockey activities, and serving notice that he’ll be bringing his size, strength, leadership and physicality back to a B’s team that definitely needs him. Clearly the return of another high-end forward would also immensely help a Bruins team that’s still very undermanned up front, but it would appear there will be some other B’s forwards getting back prior to Backes. 

Brad Marchand and Ryan Spooner appear poised to return to full practice on Tuesday with a possible return to the lineup not too far beyond that after all three injured forwards took part in Monday’s optional skate at Warrior Ice Arena. 

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