Bruins

Marchand, Lucic bring emotion to table in lieu of offense

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Marchand, Lucic bring emotion to table in lieu of offense

Here's something that's now a news flash if you've paying close attention to the Bruins during the playoffs: Milan Lucic and Brad Marchand arent exactlylighting up the scoreboard.

That much is obvious after three playoff games where neither winger has managed any involvement in anything remotely close toa goal during the postseason despite combining for an impressive54tallies during the regular season.

But both players also fill the role of emotional catalyst for the Bruins, and performed that task perfectly at a time their teammates needed their spark. Both Lucic and Marchand playedmajor energy roles for the B's in their stirring4-3 victory over the Washington Capitals at Verizon Center -- a winthat gives them a slight2-1 leadOvie and Co.in the quarterfinal playoff series. Rest assured that both hockey clubs have gone from cordial, polite playoff hockey to puck hatred in one short 60 minute playoff contest.

"The more we play each other, the more we hate each other and the worse things get out there, said Marchand. Its definitely going that way.

Lucic was breathing fire all over the icewith a game-high eight hits among Bostons whopping58 registered hits for the game. It appeared early that he was determined to make an impact ona pivotal middle game in the serieseven ifgeneratedfrom a menace and intimidation perspective.

It seemed that No. 17 wanted to end every period with a violent hockey flourish that let his Washington rivals know he wasn't going anywhere. He'd be there all night ready to inflict punishment. Lucic ended the first period in a shoving match with Nicklas Backstrom after the Capitals center cross-checked him in front of the Boston net. The play ended when Bostons power forward knocked Backstroms helmet off his head and both sides retreated to their respective dressing rooms.

Both players were whistled off for matching penalties to start the second period, but the lasting image from the incident was Zdeno Chara skating around the ice with Mike Green in a headlock that Jake "The Snake" Roberts would have been proud of.

Lucic was at it again in the second period when he tangled with both Jason Chimera and Brooks Laich before a face-off. Chimera and Laich actually exchanged places because Lucic threw the latter Washington forward down to the ice, and once again both players were whistled off for matching penalties.

Finally Lucic lost his patiencein the third period of a 3-3 hockey game when Dennis Wideman cross-checked the Bs left winger in the back. The cross-check arrived justas play was whistled dead in front of the Washington net. It took Karl Alzner, Wideman and Matt Hendricks to hold back the rampaging, enragedLucic, and he was whistled for a double-minor that some might have seen as ill-timed or poorly conceived at the time.

The skirmish led Alzner to pantomime that Lucic was crying and drying his eyes as No. 17 was being led off to the penalty box. The forward, voted the toughest player in the NHL by his peers, had a fleeting reaction to Alzner and on-ice bravery that will likely disappear when challenged by Boston's brawling left winger.

I dont even know what to say coming from my side to show that Im not a crybaby, said Lucic. Thats a lot to say coming from a guy in Alznerthat has two roughing penalties in three years, so there you go.

But all the aforementionedplays were under thesameheading: Lucic setting a physical tone for the game against a Capitals team that hasn't always been known as the strongest group of fighters when backed into a corner. Lucics Bruins teammates picked up on that when Zdeno Chara banged home the game-winning goal a little more than 30 seconds after Lucic's post-whistle histrionics.The Bruins freelyadmitted afterward that Lucic's actions fired them up as a team this time around, and they pretty much always do once he puts himself into that postseason zone he hasn't quite reached.

I think we showed a lot more emotion and that goes a long way in this series, said Daniel Paille. Lucic is definitely an emotional guy and he does whatever he can to get us going. He definitely has the right attitude. Were happy to have that. He might not be scoring right now, but he cares and he shows it out on the ice.

On Marchands end, the Little Ball of Hate didnt have a shot on net in 15:20 of ice time, but he did draw a Jason Chimera slashing call and a Nicklas Backstrom cross-checking penalty in the third period. The rabble-rousing winger also absorbed an Alzner elbow during the game that had the Washington defenseman following Marchand to the team bus Monday nightto apologize for it postgame.

So its clear Bostons agitator was doing his job as well when the offense wasnt coming quite so easily. That's just as important for Marchand as an emotional catalyst as it is for Lucic, who gets the crowd moving in a completely different way.

Emotions are running a little higher out there and things are getting a little more physical, said Marchand. Those are games that you get emotionally attached to and those are the ones that you want to play in.

When things arent going your way then you have to bring something else to the table. You saw Looch getting physically involved and trying to take control. Thats what you have to do: find a way to draw penalties or play physical to get momentum somehow.

Lucic and Marchand are still looking for their first playoff goals this season for the Bruins, but make no mistake: their paw marks were all over a pivotal road victory in Washington.

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

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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.
 
PLUS
-- 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.
 
MINUS
-- 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.  

For Celtics, winning streak is history in the making

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For Celtics, winning streak is history in the making

BOSTON – Beating the Atlanta Hawks 110-99 on Saturday did more than just pad the win total for the Boston Celtics.
 
It moved them even further up the food chain to what has already been a pretty amazing season.
 
Saturday’s win was their 15th straight, which places them in the penthouse of great Celtics runs of success.
 
Only four other teams in this franchise's storied history have won more consecutive games than this year’s group.
 
Here at NBC Sports Boston, we take a look back at the four teams that are ahead of the Celtics in what has been one of the greatest streaks in franchise history.


 
19 straight wins:  Nov. 15, 2008 – Dec. 23, 2008
 
Fresh off claiming Banner 17, the Celtics were determined to take their place among the all-time great Celtics teams by winning a second straight NBA title. They seemed well on their way with a 15-2 start to the season and of course, their 19-game winning streak. But what turned into a season-ending knee injury suffered by Kevin Garnett later in the year derailed their date with destiny and instead ended with them being upset by the Orlando Magic in the second round of the playoffs , brining a quicker-than-expected end to one of the best regular seasons in franchise history.


 
18 straight wins: Feb. 24, 1982 – March 26, 1982
 
Boston was still considered the best team in the East, although Julius Erving and the Philadelphia 76ers were very much closing the gap. The Celtics dodged a number of close calls during the streak with seven games decided by five points or less, including a 98-97 overtime win at Washington in which the Bullets (now Wizards) went into the fourth quarter with a nine-point lead. The Celtics’ streak eventually came to an end at the hands of the Sixers, which, in hindsight, served as a precursor for Boston losing to Dr. J and the Sixers in the playoffs.


 
17 straight wins: Nov. 28, 1959 – Dec. 30, 1959
 
The Celtics were defending NBA champions and seemingly off to a strong start, only to lose back-to-back games to Philadelphia. While it was still early in the season, they knew they had to quickly right the ship. And they did. During the 17-game winning streak, 12 were by double-digits with only three by five points. The streak ended on New Year’s Day 1960. But by then, the Celtics had re-established their presence atop the NBA landscape and would go on to claim the second of eight straight NBA titles.


 
16 straight wins: Dec. 19, 1964 – Jan. 22, 1965
 
There was little doubt in anyone’s mind that this Celtic team was going to have a special season. They got things going with an 11-0 record right out the gate. And they weren’t just winning games; they were thumping teams with flat-out beatdowns, which is evident by their average margin of victory being by 18.5 points per game. That’s not all that surprising when you consider most of Boston’s core group consisted of players in their prime such as Bill Russell and Tommy Heinsohn. The streak began with a double-digit win over the St. Louis Hawks and would roll along for another couple of weeks. During both the start of the season and the 16-game winning streak, both cemented Boston as the team everyone was chasing. And no one caught them. The Celtics continued to be the dominant force in the league and the season ended with another title, which was the franchise’s seventh straight.