Bruins: Stanley Cup playoffs

5 things on Bruins' to-do list

April, 26, 2012

BOSTON -- The 2011-12 Boston Bruins' season came to an abrupt and stunning end Wednesday night as they lost Game 7 of their Eastern Conference quarterfinals series, 2-1 in overtime, to the Washington Capitals.


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The seventh-seeded Capitals gave the second-seeded Bruins all they could handle and more throughout the series, as every game was decided by one goal. But in some ways this series encapsulated the Bruins' entire season.

The Bruins entered the season as defending Stanley Cup champions and quickly found out how hard it would be to defend the title. It was a season-long learning process and, as Claude Julien pointed out after Game 7, more of a mental test than a physical one after a shortened summer. But what seemed like a blur is now over and the Bruins will have a more normal offseason to prepare for 2012-13 campaign.

With that in mind, here are five things the Bruins must address in the offseason.

1. Clutch scoring: Yes, the Bruins' offense improved drastically this past season, as they were second overall in overall scoring. But when it counted most, they couldn't get the big goals. They scored 15 goals in this seven-game series, but they did not generate enough quality scoring chances and did not bury enough of the ones they had. That was the difference in the NHL's first playoff series that saw every game decided by one goal. Chris Kelly and Tyler Seguin came through with overtime winners in Games 1 and 6, respectively, but not enough of the Bruins' big guns -- such as David Krejci, Milan Lucic and Brad Marchand -- delivered when the team needed them most.

[+] EnlargeRich Peverley, Mike Green
Elsa/Getty ImagesMike Green, right, and the Capitals' defense made life tough for Rich Peverley and the Bruins' goal scorers.
2. What to do with Tim Thomas? It sounds almost inconceivable to imagine the Bruins trading Thomas only a year removed from his Vezina Trophy, Conn Smythe Trophy and Stanley Cup winning season. Thomas was by far the backbone of that Cup run last season and has been a very good goalie during his tenure here in Boston, but he is 38 and entering the final year of a five-year deal that will see him paid $5 million against the salary cap. Thomas had a decent season at 35-19-1 with a 2.36 GAA and .920 save percentage, but he -- just as his team did -- struggled through January and February, and in this series Thomas was not the Thomas we saw in the 2011 Stanley Cup playoffs. He wasn't bad, but he wasn't good enough. With Tuukka Rask ready to be a No. 1 goalie and only 25, and under contract as a restricted free agent, it may be time to part ways with Thomas for a scoring forward and/or high draft pick and then take the money and put it toward Rask and other free agents. It should be noted too that Thomas' no-movement clause expires June 30.

3. Address 2012 and 2013 free agents: As mentioned above, the Bruins need to sign Rask and they are on record as saying they will. But they also have to decide whether to sign seven unrestricted free agents in Brian Rolston, Chris Kelly, Gregory Campbell, Daniel Paille, Joe Corvo, Greg Zanon and Mike Mottau, and another restricted free agent in Benoit Pouliot. The guess here is that Kelly, Campbell, Mottau and Pouliot are all re-signed. But the Bruins need to start thinking about the following summer as well, when Nathan Horton, Andrew Ference, Thomas (if he's not traded) and goalie Anton Khudobin are unrestricted free agents and Milan Lucic, Tyler Seguin, Brad Marchand and Jordan Caron are restricted free agents. Will they extend any of them this summer?

4. Try to figure out the health of Nathan Horton: The Bruins player personnel moves when addressing scoring will definitely be affected by the health of Nathan Horton, who never returned from a concussion suffered Jan. 22 (his second in one calendar year) and was unable to even attempt a legit comeback for the playoffs. Where he is in his recovery process and whether he can ever be the Horton he was last season -- when he played a major role in the Bruins' Cup win -- will be hard to gauge but has to play a role in what trades and signings the Bruins make.

5. Fix the power play: The Bruins somehow won a Stanley Cup in 2011 without a power play that could score, but it finally caught up to them in this series with Washington and may have been the reason they're hitting the golf courses early. The Bruins were 0-for-3 in Game 7, failing to convert on a power play with less than two minutes left in regulation. They were 3-for-21 in the series, and this has to be addressed in the offseason -- whether with new players or a new power-play coach.

Melrose: Holtby too much for Bruins

April, 25, 2012

ESPN NHL analyst Barry Melrose says Braden Holtby was the key to the Capitals' upset over the Bruins.

"This kid has got ice water in his veins," says Melrose, who goes on to give some of the credit for the Caps' Game 7 win to their stars Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom.

Rapid Reaction: Capitals 2, Bruins 1 (OT)

April, 25, 2012

Rapid reaction after the Washington Capitals ended the Boston Bruins' Stanley Cup defense with a 2-1 overtime win in Wednesday's Game 7:

Ward the unlikely hero: After scoring just six goals in 73 regular-season games, Capitals forward Joel Ward notched his first goal of the playoffs just 2:57 into overtime to catapult Washington into the second round. He earned first-star honors for his decisive strike.

One-upmanship: The Capitals' 2-1 win marked the seventh straight game to be decided by one goal, setting a playoff series record that can obviously only be tied in the future. Game 7 was the fourth of the series to extend to overtime.

Seguin's resurgence not enough: After his gritty OT goal won Game 6 for the Bruins, Tyler Seguin followed it up by banging home their lone Game 7 tally. He crashed the net hard and pounced on the rebound from Johnny Boychuk's slapper, knotting the game at 1-1 with 5:33 left in the second period. Seguin won't have a chance to continue his hot streak after struggling in the early part of this first-round series.

Holtby holds on: The Caps' Braden Holtby was the last man standing in an epic goalie duel with the Bruins' Tim Thomas. The future is bright for Washington's rising 22-year-old star. Meanwhile, the Bruins will have to decide what to do with their goalie situation. Thomas, 38, has one year remaining on his contract, but 2012-13 could be the season in which backup Tuukka Rask beats him out for the starting role.

3rd-period reax: B's 1, Caps 1; bring on OT

April, 25, 2012
BOSTON -- For the second straight season the Bruins will have to win in overtime to advance to the second round. The Caps and Bruins are tied 1-1 headed to the extra frame and here’s three keys from the third period.

Seidenberg MVP of series: Braden Holtby has made a name for himself in this series and is a main reason the Capitals are headed to overtime in Game 7, but Dennis Seidenberg is the MVP of the series, win or lose. Seidenberg was everywhere both defensively and offensively. His block on Alex Ovechkin's seemingly certain goal on a third-period power play epitomized what Seidenberg means to this team and its defense.

Status quo for power play: The Bruins once again failed to convert on the power play and finished regulation 0-for- 3 and they’re now 3-for-21 in the series. They got two more chances in the third period on the man-advantage including one with under two minutes left and still couldn’t score.

Bruins miss Bergeron on faceoffs: In Game 6, Patrice Bergeron -- the Bruins best faceoff man -- was limited to just one faceoff due to an undisclosed injury he is battling. Luckily, he won that faceoff but the Bruins clearly missed him at the dot and they did so again in Game 7. Bergeron hasn’t taken a faceoff as the Bruins were beat on the dot 31-26 in regulation.

2nd-period reaction: Bruins 1, Caps 1

April, 25, 2012
BOSTON -- The second period came and went and the Boston Bruins were able to tie Game 7 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinal series against the Washington Capitals, 1-1.

The Bruins' Tyler Seguin, who scored the overtime goal to give Boston a 4-3 win in Game 6 in Washington on Sunday, scored the grittiest goal of his pro career with 5:33 remaining in the second period.

The Bruins had sustained pressure in the offensive zone when Bruins defenseman Johnny Boychuk unloaded a slap shot from the right faceoff circle. Capitals goalie Braden Holtby made the initial save, but left the rebound at the top of the crease.

Seguin, with two defenders draped on his back, reached out and poked the puck through traffic and snuck it in.

The Garden fan base erupted and the Bruins had life once again.

Body talk: After the goal, the Bruins began to play their style more, bodying up and getting in the Capitals' faces. In the final minute of play, Holtby cross-checked the Bruins' Rich Peverley from behind, right in front of the net. Peverley took exception, swinging his stick like a baseball bat and stopping at the goalie's chest. Holtby never flinched.

Buckle up: With the score tied at 1-1 and advancement in the Stanley Cup playoffs on the line, the third period -- and maybe overtime(s) -- should make for entertaining hockey, no matter which team wins.

1st-period reaction: Caps 1, Bruins 0

April, 25, 2012
BOSTON -- The first period is over and the underdog Washington Capitals are once again giving the Boston Bruins all they can handle, taking a 1-0 lead on Matt Hendricks' goal at 11:23. Here’s a quick look at Game 7's early action:

Chimera continues to be thorn in Bruins side: While he didn’t score the first goal of the game, Jason Chimera assisted on it as his grit and hustle continue to pay off for the Capitals. Chimera also got under the skin of Bruins captain Milan Lucic, who went after him by the benches.

Lucic's errant clear leads to Caps goal: Milan Lucic had a great Game 6 in setting up Tyler Seguin's overtime winner, but Game 7 did not get off to a good start for the rugged Bruins winger. He made an errant pass that led to the Hendricks goal. Lucic seems a little too pumped up and hopefully can calm down for the second period.

Power failure: The Bruins will still have 10 seconds left on their first power play of Game 7, but so far the man-advantage has been status quo: They look to be skating in quick sand. The Bruins spent most of this power play in their own end and need to jump-start it in the second.

Rookie Holtby outshines veteran Thomas: If anyone wondered if Braden Holtby would finally show his human side and have some Game 7 jitters, that’s not happening. The Caps netminder continued to shine, outdueling Tim Thomas in the opening frame while making 11 saves to Thomas’ 4. However, it should be noted that the Capitals goal was by no means Thomas’ fault.

Thornton and Corvo stay out; Mottau and Caron in: Claude Julien went with the same lineup he had in Washington for Game 6 as Shawn Thornton was a healthy scratch again and Joe Corvo remained sidelined with an undisclosed injury he suffered in Game 5. Jordan Caron took Thornton’s spot up front again and Mike Mottau was on the blue line for Corvo. Here’s what the lineup looked like:

Milan Lucic-David Krejci-Tyler Seguin
Brad Marchand-Patrice Bergeron-Rich Peverley
Benoit Pouliot-Chris Kelly-Brian Rolston
Daniel Paille-Gregory Campbell-Jordan Caron

Zdeno Chara-Dennis Seidenberg
Andrew Ference-Johnny Boychuk
Greg Zanon-Mike Mottau

Tim Thomas
Tuukka Rask

Bruins set for familiar Game 7 territory

April, 22, 2012

WASHINGTON -- It wouldn't be the Stanley Cup playoffs without the Boston Bruins playing a Game 7.

After a 4-3 overtime win in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinal series against the Washington Capitals, the Bruins will host Game 7 on Wednesday at TD Garden.

The atmosphere at the Garden should be rocking as usual. The players realize that even though this series has been tight, the Bruins have played some of their best playoff hockey on home ice.

[+] EnlargeOvechkin-Chara
AP Photo/Nick WassZdeno Chara and Alex Ovechkin will settle the final chapter of their playoff battle Wednesday.
A season ago they dismissed the Montreal Canadiens in Game 7 of the quarterfinals in Boston with a dramatic 4-3 win in overtime when Nathan Horton scored the game-winning goal.

Then in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals against the Tampa Bay Lightning on May 27 in Boston, Horton did it again, scoring late in the game to give the Bruins a 1-0 win in probably the most exciting game witnessed in Boston in recent history. Both goaltenders, Boston's Tim Thomas and Tampa's Dwayne Roloson, were spectacular. Thomas made 24 saves for the shutout, while Roloson finished with 37 in a penalty-free game.

The Bruins' Game 7 dramatics did not end there.

After a crucial 5-2 win in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup finals against the Vancouver Canucks on Garden ice, Boston traveled to British Columbia and hoisted the Cup on hostile territory as the Bruins finished an historical season with a 4-0 victory.

Boston has a chance to advance to the semifinals this season if they can repeat that Game 7 magic at home against the Capitals on Wednesday.

"Obviously we have guys who are excited to play in those games," said Bruins defenseman Andrew Ference. "Obviously, I'm glad it's going back [to Boston] and it's been the type of series that's been so close that it deserves a Game 7. It's kind of fitting that either team has not given the other team too much in the way of leads, or being able to hold onto leads. It's been a good hockey series and a Game 7 is well deserved on both sides."

Even if many Bruins fans, and some "experts" (including this one) did not expect this series to go the distance, the players did.

"Oh, yeah," Ference said. "You always expect it and that's what you plan for. You plan for the hardest a team can play against you. It's not like anybody goes in thinking anything's going to be easy in the playoffs. There's been enough lessons around the league the last few years, especially this year. Every team has an equal chance once you get there and that's what you prepare for."

The Bruins felt a major sense of desperation on Sunday, especially with only 21 hours between the end of Game 5 on Saturday in Boston and puck drop on Game 6 here. It was simple, actually: Win and force a Game 7, or lose and officially end their title defense.

They won.

"We're a character group and we've been through this before and we know what it takes," said assistant captain Patrice Bergeron, who is playing with an undisclosed injury. "It's not over until you get that fourth win. Tonight was a huge effort. We played well and found a way to live another day. We need to be ready for Game 7."

Even Bruins coach Claude Julien said he expected this series to reach Game 7.

"It's fitting for us," said the coach. "I know that for a fact. I don't know that it was fitting for them before tonight's game. When you look at the way the series has been played, you're right; it's been a dogfight from start to finish.

"Late goals or overtime games -- I think it's three overtime games now. As they say, it is what it is, and I think both teams are heading into Game 7 with the same kind of confidence. They've beaten us twice in our building, and we've beaten them twice here [at Verizon Center]. For us, it's time to take advantage of that home ice that we've fought hard all year to get and we have to make it count."

Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas was incredible in each of the three Game 7s last spring, and in order for Boston to advance, he needs his best game of this series.

"That helped us as a group, knowing that it's not over," Thomas said of last season's heroics in the playoffs. "Maybe a less-experienced team would get down, 3-2, and think that it's too stacked against you. We know that there's the possibility of coming back, but we also know how hard it is to come back. The guys stepped up and the whole team was willing to do it tonight."

Tim Thomas comes up big in Game 6

April, 22, 2012
[+] EnlargeTuukka Rask and Tim Thomas
Barry Chin/The Boston Globe/Getty ImagesTuukka Rask suited up Sunday for the first time since March 3, but Tim Thomas didn't need any backup in Game 6.
WASHINGTON -- Boston Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas normally does not take losing too well.

Most pro athletes don't.

Thomas is different, though. The reigning Vezina, Conn Smythe and Stanley Cup winner always talks about his job of stopping the puck, and as elementary as it sounds, Thomas has turned it into an art form.

“I pride myself on doing the best I can every night and doing the best I can to help the team," he said after Sunday's 4-3 Game 6 OT win over the Capitals. "Our backs are against the wall so I was trying to help them out. Hopefully I did, but [the rest of the team] stepped up and helped us out too -- the whole team did.”

After a Game 4 loss in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals to the Washington Capitals last Thursday, Thomas made some honest comments, saying if his teammates can produce 45 shots on opposing goaltender Braden Holtby then there should be more than only one goal.

Then in Game 5 on Saturday, Thomas took full responsibility for the 4-3 loss, saying he should have made the saves on the last two goals by the Capitals. Those comments were a bit unusual for Thomas and he responded with a 36-save performance in Boston's 4-3 overtime win.

The biggest save of the night came with 9:10 remaining in the second period. It saved the game and possibly the series for the Bruins.

With Boston holding a 2-1 lead, the Capitals had sustained pressure in the offensive zone and were using tape-to-tape passes to elude the Boston defenders. The Capitals' Marcus Johansson had a golden opportunity for a backdoor goal, but Thomas stuck out his stick and stoned him with an incredible save.

"That felt good," he said. "I mean, that let me know that I was really into the game and following the puck well. Last game, the rebound to [Mike] Knuble, I actually got a stick on it but it went in anyways. [Tonight] it felt good."

Bruins coach Claude Julien said he knew right away early Sunday morning that Thomas would respond.

"I thought he played a huge game," Julien said. "I know he's upset after [Game 5] and just by his reaction, I had no doubt in my mind he was going to come up big today because that's the character this individual has. When he's not happy with himself, you can be sure he'll bounce back. He was up early this morning, having breakfast and you could see he was prepared for this game. He did a great job for us tonight."

Everyone should know by now that it doesn't matter what Thomas says or does on or off the ice. As long as he stops the puck he'll always have the support from his teammates.

"I've never worried about Timmy," said assistant captain Patrice Bergeron. "He's a competitor and he's a battler. Everything he's been through to get here tells a lot about him. He's got character and I wasn't worried about him."

Rapid Reaction: Bruins 4, Capitals 3 (OT)

April, 22, 2012

WASHINGTON -- The 2011-2012 NHL season is not over for the defending Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins.

The Bruins were able to stave off elimination in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinal series against the Washington Capitals and won 4-3 on Sunday afternoon at Verizon Center.

Boston surrendered the lead three times until Tyler Seguin netted the game-winning goal in overtime at 3:17.

For only the second time in this series, the Bruins took a 1-0 lead when Rich Peverley redirected a shot from the point by Andrew Ference. It was the kind of momentum the Bruins needed on road ice, but the Capitals responded and tied the game at 1-1 when the puck bounced their way and ricocheted past Boston goalie Tim Thomas at 9:47 of the first period. Washington defenseman Mike Green unleashed a wicked slap shot from the left point, but the puck was redirected off Bruins defenseman Greg Zanon.

Fortunately for the Bruins, they finally scored on the power play when David Krejci snuck one past Braden Holtby at 16:48 for a 2-1 advantage. It was Krejci's first goal of this postseason. As far as Boston's man-advantage, with that tally the Bruins are 2-for-17 on the power play this postseason.

Early in the second period, the Capitals' Alex Ovechkin was given a double-minor penalty, for cutting the nose of the Bruins' Zdeno Chara on a high stick to the face. Boston, however, could not convert and produced just a pair of shots.

Washington tied the game at 2-2 with only 41.9 seconds remaining in the second period. But before the Capitals' Jason Chimera scored, it appeared he had caught the Bruins' Brad Marchand with an elbow to the face. Marchand fell to the ice and was bleeding from the mouth but there was no whistle. The replay showed very little contact as Marchand was hit in the face by his own stick.

Either way, Washington knotted the game.

Boston started the third period with a 4-on-3 situation for 1:23, and again, couldn't capitalize.

It happens so many times when one goalie makes a big save and then his team goes on the attack and produces. That's exactly what led to Boston's go-ahead goal at 11:57 of the third period.

Thomas made a shoulder save, the Bruins gained control and quickly started the other way. Tyler Seguin had the puck down the right side and took a wrister. Holtby made the initial stop but left the rebound in the slot. Ference crashed through a scrum in front of the net and pumped in the goal.

That lead wouldn't hold for long.

With the faceoff to the left of Thomas, the Capitals' Nicklas Backstrom won the drop cleanly back to Ovechkin, who snapped off a shot through traffic and beat Thomas to the five-hole at 15:08.

SAVE OF THE GAME: It's a fair assessment to say that Thomas has not been playing at the same level he did during the 2011 Stanley Cup playoffs. But it's only the first round and he saved Game 6 and potentially the series for the Bruins. With Boston holding a 2-1 lead with 9:10 remaining in the second period, the Capitals had sustained pressure in the offensive zone and were using tape-to-tape passes to elude the Boston defenders. The Capitals' Marcus Johansson had a golden opportunity for a backdoor goal, but Thomas stuck out his stick and stoned him with an incredible save.

OFF THE SCHNEID: Krejci finally notched his first goal of the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs with a power-play goal at 16:48 of the first period to give the Bruins a 2-1. Krejci was a beast during the 2011 Stanley Cup playoffs, leading the league in playoff scoring with 12 goals and 11 assists for 23 points in 25 games -- the first Bruin to do so since Bobby Orr and Phil Esposito tied for the playoff scoring lead in 1972 with 25 points in 15 games.

WHEN IT TIME TO CHANGE: With Bergeron a game-time decision due to a undisclosed injury, Julien decided Shawn Thornton would be a healthy scratch and inserted Jordan Caron, likely for depth at center if needed. In fact, Bergeron played on the wing with Rich Peverley at center and Brad Marchand on the other side. Caron was on the line with Gregory Campbell and Daniel Paille.

RASK RETURNS: For the first time since he suffered a groin/abdominal injury on March 3, Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask dressed as backup. During his absence, Anton Khudobin served as backup for Tim Thomas.

UP NEXT: The series shifts back to Boston for Game 7 on Wednesday at TD Garden.

Murphy's prediction: B's will force Game 7

April, 22, 2012
1. Will the Bruins force a Game 7 and why?

Yes, the Bruins will win Game 6 and for one simple reason: experience. The core of this team that has been here since 2007-08 has faced elimination 10 times and is 7-3 in such games. Last year, the Bruins were 4-0 facing elimination en route to the Stanley Cup. This team seems to thrive off such games and the pressure it brings and that's why the Bruins will bring this series back to Boston for Game 7.

2.) If Patrice Bergeron plays but is not at full strength, what Bruins forward can compensate for all Bergeron brings?

If Bergeron is at half speed or below, the Bruins luckily have enough depth. This would serve as the perfect chance for Brad Marchand and Tyler Seguin to shine and show what Bergeron has taught them this season when they played on his wings. Use the two-way game and determination Bergeron brings and combine to fill in the void.

Bergeron, Corvo game-time decisions

April, 22, 2012
WASHINGTON -- Boston Bruins coach Claude Julien said that both forward Patrice Bergeron and defenseman Joe Corvo would be game-time decisions.

Both suffered unspecified injuries during Game 5 on Saturday. Both will participate in the pregame warm-up. In case there’s an issue with either one, defensemen Andrew Bodnarchuk and Mike Mottau, along with forward Jordan Caron, will also skate in the warm-up.

Bergeron, who normally takes the team bus to the arena, was the first player to arrive this morning for treatment.

Game 6 of B's-Caps set for 3 p.m. start

April, 20, 2012
The Bruins and Capitals will play Game 6 of their first-round series Sunday in Washington at 3 p.m., the league announced Friday night.

That means the teams will play back-to-back 3 p.m. starts, with Game 5 Saturday in Boston.

This is the second straight year that the Bruins have played back-to-back games in the first round in different cities. Last year the Bruins lost Game 6 at Montreal on April 26, then beat the Habs in overtime in Game 7 at TD Garden on April 27.

"That's the schedule. That's part of it and it's going to be tough, no question, but that's the way it is," Bruins captain Zdeno Chara said after practice Friday. "We can't do anything about it. There's so many back-to-backs we have during the regular season and we'll deal."

Rapid Reaction: Capitals 2, Bruins 1

April, 19, 2012

WASHINGTON -- As this Eastern Conference quarterfinal series between the Boston Bruins and Washington Capitals progresses, there's definitely a growing concern the Bruins' explosive offense has been stifled and coach Claude Julien is trying to figure out how to fix it.

For the third time in this series, Julien has tweaked his top two lines in a vain effort to find some much-needed chemistry.

Boston bombarded Washington goaltender Braden Holtby all night, but when the final buzzer sounded, the Capitals had a 2-1 win and the series is now tied at two games apiece. Holtby made 44 saves.

With the Bruins not able to produce more than one goal on 32 shots in the first two periods, Julien decided to tweak his top two lines again to start the third period.

Milan Lucic was back on the wing with David Krejci, along with fellow winger Tyler Seguin, while Patrice Bergeron was back with Brad Marchand and Rich Peverley.

The Bruins created chances but they couldn't get more than one by Holtby.

Washington took an early lead when Marcus Johansson finished off a 2-on-1 for a 1-0 advantage at 1:22 of the opening period. As the play developed in the neutral zone, Bruins defenseman Andrew Ference was clearly interfered with by the Capitals' Alexander Ovechkin, but there was no call and Washington capitalized.

Boston responded later in the period to knot the game at 1-1 when Rich Peverley notched his second of the playoffs at 13:12. The Bruins outshot the Capitals 14-3 in the first period.

ANOTHER GOALIES' DUEL: The pace picked up drastically in the second period and both goaltenders made highlight-reel saves.

The game remained in a stalemate until the Bergeron was called for hooking with 2:07 remaining in the period. Washington gained a 2-1 lead while on the man-advantage when Alexander Semin unleashed a wicked shot from the left faceoff circle that beat Thomas to the high glove side at 18:43.

After two periods, Boston was still outshooting Washington 32-18, and Thomas made 14 saves in the second frame.

POWER-LESS: The Capitals stayed disciplined, and the Bruins had only one power play the entire game, and it din't come until midway through the third period with Washington holding a 2-1 lead. The Capitals' penalty-kill shut Boston down and the Bruins are now 0-for-12 on the man-advantage in this series. The Bruins were awful on the power play (8-for-48) during the 2011 Stanley Cup finals, but they still won the Cup.

UP NEXT: The series shifts back to Boston with the Bruins hosting Game 5 at TD Garden Saturday afternoon.

Bruins still undefeated vs. mind games

April, 18, 2012
Milan Lucic,AP Photo/Elise AmendolaBruins winger Milan Lucic has been in the middle of the rough stuff with the Caps.
ARLINGTON, Va. -- In the past, opposing teams, players, coaches and even fans have tried to rattle the Boston Bruins during the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff. Philadelphia bench boss Peter Laviolette. Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo. Washington Capitals fans (see Obama faces). And many more have been guilty of trying to play mind games with the Bruins.

It doesn't work.

As Bruins tough guy Shawn Thornton put it, the team's preferred flavor in the playoffs is capital-V Vanilla.

Capitals coach Dale Hunter called the Bruins head-hunters on Tuesday, claiming they were targeting the head of Washington forward Nicklas Backstrom, who missed 40 games this season with a concussion and has been suspended for Game 4 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinal series on Thursday because of a cross check to the face of the Bruins' Rich Peverley after Game 3.

The defending Stanley Cup champions responded in their typical understated way Wednesday.

"We're not falling into that," said Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "As I told our players, we just gotta focus on what we have to do to win a series, and win a game. They're still a very, very good team with or without [Backstrom] in the lineup, so there's no ifs or buts about it that we're going to feel confident tomorrow because he's not in. Dale even mentioned, they've won some games without him, and they've even beaten us without him. That's not going to be an issue. Our issue is about us trying to get better as the series moves on."

If Hunter thinks some bulletin board material is going to fire up his Capitals, the Bruins aren't about to get into a public debate.

"We've been a pretty good group over the years not stepping outside and I assume we'll continue to be the same way," Thornton said. "I worry about what's going on in this room. We're a physical team and they are, too. It's been a good series. I don't think anyone has crossed the line."

He's right -- vanilla.

Speaking of bland, Bruins assistant captain Patrice Bergeron turned the focused away from Hunter's comments and praised the Capitals for being a great team.

"It's about us," Bergeron said. "I said that last year and it's the same thing this year. It's about making sure we stay in our own bubble and not listen to what's happening outside our room. It's about us playing well and bringing our A effort. We know it's not going to be easy. They're a great team and every game is a huge battle."

Hulking Bruins forward Milan Lucic has been Washington's main focus off the ice, but he'll only smile when asked about the Capitals gamesmanship.

"It's things we've learned in the past," Lucic said. "We don't really pay too much attention to what being said in the newspapers, we're just focusing on ourselves and what we need to do to win hockey games. The only stat that matters this time of year is wins and losses and that's what our main focus is on."

The Bruins did not play with an edge in the first two games of this series as Washington controlled the play. In Game 3, Boston found its game and started pushing back, which obviously woke up the players on both teams.

Now Hunter is attempting the mental games by calling the Bruins head-hunters. It's not going to work.

"We're not listening to anything they're saying," said Bruins forward Brad Marchand. "They can say what they want. We have to worry about how we play on the ice. What they say isn't going to change that."

B's on (head)Hunter claim, concussions

April, 18, 2012

ARLINGTON, Va. -- Bruins coach Claude Julien did not appreciate Capitals coach Dale Hunter's contention that the Bruins are headhunters.

Julien called Hunter's comments "ridiculous" and "ludicrous."

On Tuesday, Hunter said the Bruins were targeting the head of Nicklas Backstrom, who missed 40 games this season due to a concussion.

"There's no reaction, really," Julien said. "That doesn't make sense. We don't. I don't know any coach that would tell his team to go after somebody's head. That speaks for itself and that's all I'm going to say about that."

[+] EnlargeBruins, Capitols
Barry Chin/The Boston Globe/Getty ImagesCaps center Nicklas Backstrom is suspended for Game 4 for inciting this post-Game 3 scrum by cross-checking Rich Peverley.
But Julien continued.

"It's ludicrous. It's ridiculous. There's always going to be emotions in games and there are things that are happening. There were three cross checks and they penalized one and suspended one, but we're not whining about the referees and what's going on here. We need to win a game and we need to win a series. That's where our focus is on and that's where it should be."

Backstrom was suspended for one game and will miss Game 4 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinal series against the Bruins on Thursday night at Verizon Center. After Boston's 4-3 win in Game 3, Backstrom cross-checked the Bruins' Rich Peverley in the face.

"We're definitely going to miss him," Hunter said. "We don't think he should be suspended.

"It's disappointing. He's suspended and it's in the history books and we have to concentrate on [Game 4]."

After the Capitals held practice Wednesday morning, Hunter said the Bruins are not only playing between the whistles.

"They were after the whistle and before the puck was dropped. They were doing stuff off the draw, like [Milan] Lucic going after Nicky's head," Hunter said. "We've got to play through it and let the refs do their job. We just have to play."

Julien believes his team is doing exactly that.

"The one thing you have to do is play between whistles," Julien said. "There are scrums that happen after whistles and you've got to be disciplined enough not to put your team short-handed. We're just one of many series that have all the same things happening. This is not unique. This is playoff hockey."

When it comes to concussions, the Bruins have recently dealt with their fair share of head injuries. Currently, forward Nathan Horton will not play again this season after suffering a concussion on Jan. 22. Marc Savard's career is likely over because of numerous concussions, and Patrice Bergeron nearly had his career ended in 2007.

"It's the first I'm hearing of it," Bergeron said of Hunter's comments. "We're just playing playoff hockey. We're not worrying about who's out there. I certainly would be the last guy to do something like that, having been through it. I don't really worry about that, to be honest, we just need to go out there and play our game."

Bergeron does not believe players head-hunt in the NHL.

"No. Obviously, games are played hard, especially at this time of the year," he said. "I hope not."

After the Bruins held practice at Capitals Iceplex Wednesday afternoon, Julien spoke at length about concussions, and mentioned a tweet by Octagon hockey agent Allan Walsh, who wrote: "This has spiraled from out of control to total chaos. Do we really need a player to die on the ice for this insanity to stop?"

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