Bruins

Bruins-Lightning: A clean Game 7?

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Bruins-Lightning: A clean Game 7?

By JoeHaggerty
CSNNE.com

BOSTON All anyone can ask in a winner take all Game 7 situation -- with a berth for the Stanley Cup Finals on the line is that it doesnt turn into a penalty-filled affair bogged down by sloppy play or tic-tac penalties called by whistle happy referees.

A game decided during five-on-five play with teams fighting for survival is what playoff hockey is all about. Only the strong survive to vie for the Stanley Cup, and thats exactly the way it should play out tonight in 60 minutes of pulse-pounding hockey with a little thing called puck immortality on the line.

The Bruins know the Black and Golden chance to play for the Stanley Cup doesnt arrive very often, and that this could be the last chance for aging elite players like 37-year-old Tim Thomas and 33-year-old Zdeno Chara.

Only Mark Recchi and Shawn Thornton have won Cups among the players currently dotting the Bruins roster, but others like Andrew Ference have come perilously close in the past. Ference lost in the Cup Finals as a member of the Calgary Flames to Marty St. Louis and the Lightning back in the 2004, and all of the grizzled Bs vets know tonight that the game is the thing.

All is forgotten except for one game. You lay it on the line for one game. Have fun with it, said Recchi, who along with Chara mark the only players that have participated in a conference final Game 7 during their careers. You dream about playing in Game 7s with an opportunity to play in the Stanley Cup Finals. Guys are really relishing it.

Its been a long time since this team has been in the Finals. Everybody is excited. Its going to be a great atmosphere on the ice. We finally have nice weather outside, so people are going to be in an even better mood all around. People are excited.

If recent history in the Stanley Cup playoffs is any guide to the present and near future, the Bruins wont have to worry about tonights game morphing into a power play fiesta as it was at the St. Pete Times Forum in Game 6.

No large amount of devious mind games from Guy Boucher or pointed comments about the refs will pull the whistles out of the pockets, and conjure up a cross-checking call for what normally passes for legal hockey violence in front of the net.

The majority of Game 7 at TD Garden tonight between the Bs and Tampa Bay Lightning wont be a power play extravaganza given the past hockey history in these situations. A straight hockey game with little special teams influence leans heavily toward a Bruins team thats been a plus-98 during the postseason in 5-on-5 play after they were the best 5-on-5 team in the Eastern Conference this season.

That is the very reason the Bruins have survived this long with a putrid 8 percent power play efficiency in the playoffs. Its also the reason theyll ride the power play reliant Lightning right out of town.

I hope they just let us play. Obviously if theres a penalty it needs to be called, said Milan Lucic. But look at the penalty on Dennis Seidenberg there. He gets a cross-check call in front of the net. I dont know how many times Ive been cross-checked in front of the net and its never been called.

We dont want the referees to be a big part of what happens in the game. We cant control what they do, but Im sure theyre going to let us play. Its going to be decided the way it should be in 5-on-5 play.

The Lightning just as in the regular season have struggled in 5-on-5 play during the playoffs, and sit at only a plus-18 headed into their first conference final Game 7 since they won the Cup over the Flames back in 2004.

Past history tells us that special teams likely wont be the deciding factor between the two Eastern Conference squads for a chance to battle the Vancouver Canucks beginning Wednesday night.

The refs simply put their whistles in their pockets during these pivotal Game 7 moments, and let the men on the ice decide who should win. Thats how the Bruins want it decided, and thats how it will likely if past is prologue to an officials approach to Game 7.

You dont want Game 7 to be decided in silly waysdefinitely not, said Recchi. Five on five is the way that it should be decided. If we play the right way on the edge and they play the right way, there arent going to be a lot of penalties. Its just a matter of playing our game, playing disciplined, playing smart and playing on the edge we have all year.

The BruinsBolts is actually the first Game 7 in the conference finals since the Carolina Hurricanes featuring future Bruins Mark Recchi and Aaron Ward defeated the Buffalo Sabres way back in the 2006 Cup playoffs. Its been five years since the NHL featured a Game 7 to play for the sweetest piece of hockey hardware.

In all there have been four Game 7s played during conference final play over the last 10 years, and three of the four games featured three or less power play chances for each team. Two of the games featured two power plays each for both teams, and special teams didnt factor heavily into the games result.

The only conference final game refereed by tonights senior referee, Stephen Walkom, featured two power plays for each side with the Lightning pulling out a 2-1 victory over the Flyers.

Dan OHalloran is Walkoms partner on the officiating crew for tonights game, and it will be first time presiding over a Game 7 conference title game with the a Cup Final berth on the line. One further stat of interest: 11 conference finals have lasted seven games since 1982 and 7 of those 11 Game 7 winners have gone on to win the Stanley Cup.

So not only should the tone of the game be ever so tilted toward the Bruins way of doing things against the Tampa Bay Lightning, but it would seem the hockey gods will be with whomever finds a way to win tonights Game 7 event.

Zdeno Chara practiced tipping pucks during Friday morning skate, and normally doesnt camp out down low during practice unless he again is planning to take the low position on the Bs power play.

Hes a big body. Hes probably the heaviest guy in the game tonight, said Lucic of Chara. I think he supplies the same thing he does as a defenseman when he stands in front on the power play. For a big man hes got good hands around the net. I felt like he made a difference in front of the net during the power plays in the last game.

Chara used his 6-foot-9 body to good effect creative havoc in front of the Tampa net, but the Bruins need more shots on net during any potential PPs awarded to them. The Bruins finished with five shots on net in five power plays during their Game 6 loss, and thats not close to good enough.

Mark Recchi has zero points in 17 games and over 40 minutes of power play time during this postseason with the Bruins, and the 43-year-old hopes the Game 7 atmosphere can raise a little extra out of both him and the power play. The power play is 5-for-61 during the postseason for an 8.1 percent success rate, and Recchi knows the forward carry much of the burden in the struggles.

"You take it to heart. Its an important piece of the puzzle, said Recchi of the power play. We've got an opportunity in one game to erase all of the power play junk weve done over the last 3-4 months really. Even if you dont score its how well youre moving it around.

In the first game against the Lightning I wasnt very good. After that Ive been okay. I havent been good and I havent been bad. Thats all washed away in one game. You lay it on the line. Earlier in the playoffs our line was terrific and carried the burden of the team, and now other guys have stepped up and played well. Now its one game and lets all do it together. We all have this one opportunity.

Speaking of shots, the Bruins need a lot more of them after only managing to squeeze off 20 total shots during the Game 6 loss in Tampa Bay. During the course of the playoffs, only one Bs forward is among the top 20 NHL players in shots attempted during the playoffs. Patrice Bergeron sits 20th in the NHL with 43 shots attempted in only 15 games played an amazing stat given that he played two less games than the rest of the Bruins forwards due to a mild concussion.

Claude Julien spoke glowingly of Tomas Kaberle during his pregame comments, and rated the much-maligned defenseman as pretty good for the Bruins in three of the last four games against the Lightning.

If the Bruins pull out the win tonight they happily surrender a 2012 second-round pick to the Toronto Maple Leafs as a condition of the Tomas Kaberle trade to the Bruins. The Bs surrendered their 2012 second-round selection if they A) reached the Stanley Cup Finals or B) resigned Kaberle to a contract extension after the season is finished.

Thats somebody I can talk about positively, said Julien. Hes certainly one of those guys that I think last game played pretty good. I liked his game. He moved the puck well. He was in there and created some opportunities for us.

I thought he made some good decisions in our own end. I know there has been a tendency to be hard on this guy at times, but I would say three out of the last four gamers hes been a real good player for us.

Joe Haggerty can be reached at jhaggerty@comcastsportsnet.com.Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs

Bruins demoralize Habs in three game set

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Bruins demoralize Habs in three game set

MONTREAL – The Boston Bruins weren’t about to dance on any Montreal Canadiens’ graves after it was over and done with, but they effectively closed the door on any flickering playoff hopes for the Habs this week. It all ended with Saturday night’s 4-1 win over the Canadiens at the Bell Centre that finished off the sweep of all three meetings between the two arch-rivals over an eight day span, and with the reeling Montreal a stunning 13 points out of a playoff spot in the Atlantic Division.

It was a close game nearly all the way through in Montreal until David Pastrnak and Riley Nash scored in the final few minutes of the third period, but the Bruins outscored the Habs by an 11-5 margin while clearly establishing they were the better team in all three contests. It all makes sense given the opposite directions that the two hockey clubs are headed at this point in the season, and because of that the Bruins were playing it pretty cool after burying the Habs.

“It was kind of a crazy week because we were playing them three times, so we obviously wanted to play good hockey,” said Tuukka Rask, who won all three games vs. the Habs while improving his lifetime record vs. the Habs to 10-15-3 in the process. “[We wanted to] get as many points as possible, and won all of those games along with the one on Long Island. So it was a great week for us.”

Certainly it seemed like there was more genuine emotion from the Bruins in Claude Julien’s return to Boston midweek, and perhaps a little more adrenaline in last weekend’s first game at the Bell Centre where rookies like Jake DeBrusk, Charlie McAvoy and Danton Heinen were dipping their toes into the storied rivalry for the first time.

But on this Saturday night it was more about a complete dismantling of the Bleu, Blanc and Rouge even as the Bruins initially fell down by a goal after a bad McAvoy turnover. Instead it was Boston’s Perfection Line that went to work with an efficient, dominant performance as David Pastrnak scored the game’s first goal and insurance third goal in the third period. They also accounted for the game-winner when Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak hemmed Montreal’s fourth line in the defensive zone, and Torey Krug eventually stepped up and rifled one short side on Carey Price.

Marchand, Bergeron and Pastrnak combined for two goals, six assists and a plus-8 in the resounding victory over the Habs, and had a dominant 12 of Boston’s 31 shots on net when the final horn had sounded. They simply overwhelmed Montreal with their depth, the high end quality of their lineup and the fact that Boston was rested while the Habs had to play in Washington DC on Friday night in a three games in four days stretch.

All of that allowed the Bruins to drive the final nail into Montreal’s coffin when the game was over, and it furthermore allowed Boston to keep worrying about the teams they’re trying to catch (ahem…Tampa Bay Lightning) rather than Eastern Conference bottom-feeders like the Canadiens.

“We talked about doing the job against them and finding a ways to push teams down while gaining ground on the teams above us,” said Patrice Bergeron. “I thought it was a great effort again. We knew that they would be ready for us, but we also knew that they had played last night. So maybe if we had a good start we could jump on them. I thought we had a good game.”

Clearly there have been ebbs and flows to the Bruins/Habs rivalry over their long history together, and both Boston and Montreal have been in the catbird at different times even in the recent editions of their history. But right now Boston is beating the Canadiens badly at their own skill and speed game and dominating thing with pure hockey rather than bullying, and that’s got to sting for a Habs group that simply couldn’t compete with the Bruins in three different chances to do so this week. 

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David Pastrnak dominates third straight win against Canadiens

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David Pastrnak dominates third straight win against Canadiens

GOLD STAR: David Pastrnak had been a little quiet offensively, but that all changed on Saturday night against Montreal. It was the 21-year-old that answered with a bad angle goal in the second period after Montreal had taken the first lead in the game, and it was Pastrnak again in the third period crashing the net and scoring his second goal to finally give Boston the breathing room that they needed. Pastrnak thoroughly dominated the game, scored two goals and three points along with a plus-3 rating, and led all players with a game-high eight shots on net while playing with energy and intensity in all three zones. It is nights like Saturday night in Montreal when you see just how good Pastrnak could still be a few years down the road.

BLACK EYE: Carey Price wasn’t terrible in the game, but he gave up the wrong goal at the wrong time to the Bruins in the second period. David Pastrnak surprised him with a bad angle shot by the goal line aimed at his skates, and Price couldn’t recover quickly enough to keep the puck from squirting into the net for the game-tying goal. Given how much better the Bruins are than the Canadiens this season, Price was going to be have to letter-perfect in order to beat the Black and Gold. Instead he gave up a bad goal just minutes after Montreal had finally scored, and completely sucked all of the momentum out of the Habs. A few minutes later Torey Krug beat Carey Price with a sniped shot for the go-ahead goal and that was it for the night. In all Price allowed three goals on 30 shots and had one of his weaker games against the Bruins in recent memory.

TURNING POINT: The Bruins appeared to score the insurance goal in the third period when Patrice Bergeron jumped on the rebound of a shot attempt where David Pastrnak’s stick had shattered on the initial shot. But a coach’s challenge ruled that the play was off-sides and the goal was overturned leaving it at a one-goal game in the third period. Montreal was given second life to scratch for one goal to at least push things in overtime, but instead that line was at it again and Pastrnak scored on a rebound in front directly from a Torey Krug point shot. That was the goal that officially broke Montreal’s spirit and allowed the Bruins to sweep all three games over the Habs in an eight day span.

HONORABLE MENTION: Torey Krug hasn’t exactly been a scoring machine lately, but he stepped up and had one of his best games against Montreal on Saturday. It was Krug that ended up with the game-winning goal on a sniper shot over Price’s shoulder in the second period when he jumped into the play with the Perfection Line dominating, and it was Krug that finished with a goal, three points and a plus-three rating in 17:24 of ice time. He finished with five shot attempts, a hit and a blocked shot as well, and was truly making things happen offensively as he did with a point shot in the third period that turned into a Pastrnak rebound goal for the insurance marker.

BY THE NUMBERS: 25 – the number of goals for the Perfection Line (Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak) over the 16-game point streak that the Bruins have been riding on for over a month.

QUOTE TO NOTE:  “I think at the end of the day if I knew that I would have to face them now, I probably would’ve kept them separate for all those years.” –A joking Claude Julien when asked postgame what it feels like to have Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand doing so much damage against his new team during the three games played in eight days. 

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