Bruins

Bruins: Capitals haven't seen our best yet

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Bruins: Capitals haven't seen our best yet

BOSTON -- The Bruins and Washington Capitals have played what amounts to the closest, tightest series in NHL Stanley Cup history.

No two teams had ever started a series off with six straight games decided by one goal as the margin of difference in each contest, and its been dead-even with things tied at 3-3 headed into Wednesday nights Game 7 winner-take-all at TD Garden.

So what will the difference come to in the end?

One overriding factor in the Bruins favor: they havent played close to a perfect game in their series against the Washington Capitals while the No. 7 seed team has blocked shots with agonizing desire and played Dale Hunters defensive system to frustrating perfection.But the Bruins have suffered the odd defensive breakdown, they watched Tim Thomas sag during the third period of Game 5 in front of the TD Garden crowd and they received next-to-nothing offensively from their top forward line (Milan Lucic, David Krejci and Tyler Seguin) until midway through Game 6 in Washington DC.

I think weve seen spurts, but I dont know that weve put an entire 60-minute game together that wed like to see. The last game we had that four-minute power play. We didnt capitalize, and that really swung things in the direction of the Caps. Thats what we dont like to so were obviously looking to put together full 60. Were looking to lay it all on the line.

That means the Black and Gold, who became the first team in Stanley Cup playoff history to win three Game 7s en route to a Cup last season, still have another gear they can shift up to against an upstart bunch from Washington. Its the kind of effort that Boston put forward in the Eastern Conference Finals against the Tampa Bay Lightning in a 1-0 victory where neither team blinked until the Bolts made one critical defensive error late in the third period.

Were obviously always chasing after perfection or for as close to perfection as we can. Youre foolish to think youre ever going to get perfection. Even if you think to past years that might have only been mentioned in one gamemaybe in that Game 7 against Tampa, said Andrew Ference. I dont think that was even mentioned during any of the Vancouver games. Its a pretty high standard to say we need to play our best hockey when its happened only once in five years.

The one thing thats fair to ask is for every player in this room to play at or close to the level that theyve played at all season long. It would be great if everybody could play beyond that, but its not realistic and thats inviting trouble if guys start to try doing too much. We havent a game in this series where weve had all 20 guys playing at or close to the level that theyre normally capable of getting to, and if we can do that then well get a pretty good result.

Thats the same style two careful hockey coaches could adopt for Wednesday nights tilt with hockey lives on the line: the club that doesnt allow their opponent to capitalize on their mistakes, or doesnt make any mistakes, will be the one advancing toward the next round.

Its tough. Every game is kinda funny. There are games were bounces went it, there are games were teams made big defensive mistakes and there were ones where one guy had a monster game. They all take on their own personality, said Ference, who will be playing in his team-high 10thGame 7 of his career on Wednesday. But generally speaking its the team that can recover the fastest between shifts, keep their heart rates down and not overreact to situations be they positive or negative. Its like everything we talk about in the playoffs except its amplified higher for one game.

The Bruins have been battling through frustration and a surprising Washington Capitals while fighting to find the full scope of their game. They grasped it in the final few periods of Game 6 in Washington, and now its time to finally tap into their considerable Game 7 potential with everything waiting for them.

Rask recovering from concussion, may be ready to play on Saturday

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Rask recovering from concussion, may be ready to play on Saturday

BRIGHTON -- Tuukka Rask is quickly making his way through the concussion protocol and may return to action this weekend.

The Bruins netminder skated with the other injured players ahead of Monday’s main team practice at Warrior Ice Arena, and is on track to rejoin the team at regular practice on Tuesday barring any setbacks in his concussion recovery. That would leave Rask with just a couple of games missed after getting trucked by Anders Bjork at practice last week, and it would give the Bruins back their No. 1 goaltender after Anton Khudobin let in five goals vs. the Sabres on Thursday night.

“He’s in the protocol and progressing well,” said coach Bruce Cassidy. “He’ll probably join us [on Tuesday] for the next step if there are no ill effects from today. That’s a positive. If there are no setbacks, I think Saturday is a more realistic [timetable for a return].”

The hope would be that Rask could start elevating his game when he does return, and play better than the goalie that’s posted the 1-3-0 record, 3.30 goals against average and .882 save percentage thus far this season. But first things first with the recovery to his first career concussion as an NHL goalie, and the set of hurdles that must be passed before Rask is again allowed to jump back into game action as early as this weekend.

Here are the line combos and D-pairings from Bruins practice with Rask, David Krejci and Noel Acciari all skating prior to practice, Patrice Bergeron staying off ice with a maintenance day and Kevan Miller skating in main practice with a maroon, no-contact jersey:

Marchand-Schaller-Bjork
DeBrusk-Backes-Pastrnak
Agostino-Nash-White
Beleskey-Kuraly-Vatrano

Chara-McAvoy
Krug-Carlo
Miller-Postma

Khudobin

Schaller's sterling play helping to ease Bruins' pain

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Schaller's sterling play helping to ease Bruins' pain

BRIGHTON -- Injuries, and some really tough losses, have put a bit of a damper on the start to the Bruins season. But there've also been a couple of unquestioned bright spots.

And one of them is Tim Schaller, who's been a strong, consistent performer in the first couple of weeks of the season. The New Hampshire native -- and lifelong Bruins fan -- was penciled in as a fourth-line winger throughout most of training camp, but he’s played everywhere as injuries have ravaged the B's roster.

The high point was probably centering Jake DeBrusk and David Pastrnak (and notching an assist) in Saturday’s overtime loss to the Sabres, and filling in for a late-scratched David Krejci with a very different set of skills. Certainly he’s been a standout for the Bruins with his physicality, including stepping up and fighting man mountain Erik Gudbranson after Gudbranson's nasty boarding hit on Frank Vatrano last week, and he’s also kicked in a couple of goals and three points in seven games thus far this season.

“It’s a reactionary thing, and that’s just in a person,” said Bruce Cassidy of fighting Gudbranson. “It’s a character thing because you don’t have a lot of time to think about it. Good for Timmy. That earns a lot of street cred not only in your own locker room, but the other teams notice it. too.

"We know with the goals that he can obviously chip in [offensively] and he’s doing a great job for what we’re asking him to do. He’s probably going to take ownership if he’s out there with some young guys on a line, and if he can be a leader and get that line playing the right way every night that is very valuable to us.”

Schaller’s game to this point is a continuation of what he showed in his first season with the Bruins last year, when the 26-year-old posted 7 goals and 14 points in 59 games while becoming a staple in Boston’s bottom-6 group. He’s once again shown pretty good straight-ahead speed for a big man, and a willingness to take his 6-foot-2, 219-pound frame straight to the net.

“I’ve been moving well and I’ve got the two goals, so personally I’m happy [with my game],” said Schaller. “Hopefully others can feed off what I’m trying to do out there, and we get a more well-balanced game [as a team]. I had a good season last year, and what was really good was that I knew that I had more to give. That’s what I’m trying to do this season.

“I can obviously produce more. I had a good start to last season and then I kind of fell off a little bit. So hopefully I can be a little more consistent for this entire year.”

That would be a very good thing for a Bruins team that can use him in a bottom-6 energy role when its roster is healthy, and will fully utilize his versatility in times of injuries and adversity.