Whitfield chips in with some big hits
PHILADELPHIA — For most of last night, Trent Whitfield, once considered the Bruins’ 13th forward, was their best player.
Whitfield made the most of his 8:49 of ice time, winning eight of 11 faceoffs, throwing two hits, and putting one shot on goal. One that nearly went in.
In the first period, after Mike Richards had given the Flyers a 1-0 lead, Whitfield came inches away from tying the score. With Mark Stuart in the box for elbowing, Whitfield, killing the penalty with Steve Begin, slipped behind the Flyers for a shorthanded breakaway on Michael Leighton.
Just before a backchecking Kimmo Timonen chased him down, Whitfield let a wrister fly that thudded off Leighton’s chest at 11:13. It was one of the Bruins’ best scoring chances.
“Everybody on the bench was really rooting for Whits to score that goal,’’ said coach Claude Julien. “He’s been a good soldier for us. He’s been working hard and waiting for his turn to get in there. He did a great job to spring himself loose. That would have been a big goal for us.’’
Later in the first, Whitfield had the puck in the left corner and spotted Shawn Thornton in front. Whitfield threw the puck to the slot for Thornton, but the pass was just outside of the right wing’s reach. Halfway through the second, the fourth-line grinders wore down the Flyers down low, which led to a Begin scoring chance in front of the net that went just wide. For several shifts in the second and third, Julien even put Begin on the first line as a replacement for Daniel Paille.
“You really wish that line would get rewarded with some goals with the type of work they put in there,’’ Julien said. “They work so hard. They make good things happen. Unfortunately, they haven’t been rewarded with the goals.’’
But the Bruins need more than Whitfield and the fourth line to generate chances. Last night, Patrice Bergeron and Blake Wheeler had zero shots.
“They’re doing a good job of tightening up as a five-man unit and playing great in the defensive zone,’’ Milan Lucic said of the Flyers. “We’ve just got to find a way. That’s where frustration can’t kick in. It’s just finding a way to battle through it and finding those goals.’’
“Power-play goal wins it for them,’’ said Lucic of Danny Briere’s four-on-three strike in the second. “We have to do a better job of being disciplined. They’re doing a good job of that. So we’ve got to do an even better job than them. It’s important. It [stinks] for me at the end of the second where we take a bunch of penalties in a row. I’m sitting on the bench for the last six minutes of the second period. It gets guys sitting around for a bit who don’t penalty kill. We’ve got to do a better job as a team of not taking penalties in a span of six minutes there. We can’t be doing that. We’re just giving them chances and shooting ourselves in the foot.’’
The Bruins, however, questioned the call on Paille, which Scott Hartnell drew at 15:49 of the second. According to Julien, replays showed that Paille never made contact with Hartnell.
“Paille puts us down five-on-three with what they called an elbow,’’ Julien said. “You look at the replay. He didn’t even touch him with his arm. There’s a space between his arm and the guy’s face. But he puts his head back and the referees called it. Do you blame your players for that? I don’t think so. I think we’ve got to stay out of the box. There’s no doubt about that. But I don’t know that we were overly undisciplined like we were [in Game 5] when it ended up costing us.’’
Fluto Shinzawa can be reached at email@example.com.