Bruins

Haggerty: Game 7 to decide Bruins' legacies

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Haggerty: Game 7 to decide Bruins' legacies

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com Bruins InsiderFollow @hackswithhaggs
VANCOUVER After one of the strangest, most memorable, and contentious Stanley Cup Finals in recent history, it comes down to 60 minutes.
Either the Bruins or the Canucks are 60 minutes away from hoisting Lord Stanley's cup, 60 minutes -- or perhaps more, depending on overtime -- that will be played Wednesday night at Rogers Arena.
There is hatred oozing all over the ice, of course, which acts as a natural motivator for both teams after a series of cheap shots, head shots and shots to Roberto Luongos combustible self-esteem.

But this Game 7 is all about the legacies of so many great players on both sides of the coin.

So many skaters in Bruins uniforms are getting their Stanley Cup close-up at exactly the perfect moment in their careers, and that just be what gives them the edge in hostile territory.

Guys like Zdeno Chara, Andrew Ference and Tim Thomas will probably never again get the chance to participate in a classic Game 7 scenario during the Cup Final, and theyre keenlyaware of ithat. Chara and Thomas both have All-Star berths and individual awards, but the Cup is the thing for all of them.

The time is now for the Bs skaters who are bumping into the back ends of their primes to stand up and lead their teammates in the search for a Vancouver victory thats eluded them so far in the Finals.

The symmetry of Thomas enjoying one of the best goaltending seasons in the history of the NHL and changing the perceptions on the importance of goaltending when roster-building in the process speaks to just how brightly his star is shining at 37 years old.

Thomas knows this might be his only kick at the Stanley Cup can, and the smile cant be surgically removed from his face. Many have learned in the past that its a bad idea to try and get between Thomas and his place in hockey history, and that should be a lesson for Vancouver in the last game of their season.

The reality is, for me anyway, this may be the only Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final that I ever have in my career, said Thomas. If we happen to make it again, hopefully we can win before Game 7. But it's a big game. When we're in the garage or driveway playing as a kid and you're fantasizing -- well, I was Stevie Yzerman, which doesn't make sense for a goalie -- but you're saying to yourself, 'Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals.'

You're not saying Game 6, you know? So this is really, you know, what every kid dreams about.

Its also the dreamofthe grizzled veterans who have been there several times before.

Its what 43-year-old Mark Recchi dreams about before what is likely to be his swan song. A Cup victory would be a storybook ending to the Bruins chapter of his career thats been brilliant, spanning from Bryan Trottier to Tyler Seguin.

Recchi has been a warrior in the Cup Finals and one of Bostons best forwards against the Canucks when it appeared to many including this hockey scribe that hisgastank might haverun bonedryon the power-play unitagainst Tampa Bay.

Instead it looks like the future Hall of Famer was saving his best for last, which explains the six points in the first six Stanley Cup Finals games.

It seems all but assured Recchi will be riding off into the sunset whether the Bruins win or lose. A win wouldcertainly slap a Hollywood endingon Recchis tale.

But true to Recchis impeccable character, and true to the team full of players that legitimately care about each other, the veteran forward wants to win so he can watch his teammates bask in the glow of Lord Stanleys Cup. He wants to bring others into the club to which he already belongs.

Everyone that has been around the team has seen the impact he's had on our young players and the team itself in the dressing room, said coach Claude Julien. He's really been a great leader as a captain . . .

He is a very respected player, because right now, you've heard him say that, and he said that to our players, he's got two Stanley Cup rings. Right now he probably wants it more for others on this team than he does for himself. That's why he's playing, for his teammates. No doubt it would be a great way for him to cap his career with something like that and certainly doing his share.

Recchi and Shawn Thornton know what its like to win a Stanley Cup from first-hand experience, and have intimate knowledge of what it takes to get there.

But there is also a hunger from others within the Bs dressing room. Youngsters like Patrice Bergeron, Milan Lucic, David Krejci, Seguin, Brad Marchand and Adam McQuaid, who will probably have other chances to go for the rarified hockey chalice.

Bergeron, too, is hungry. He has been ferocious in the last couple of games in a way that nobody has ever seen, a result of his competitive drive taking over as he's so close to his ultimate goal of adding a Stanley Cup to his World Junior gold medal and Olympic gold.

Ference wants it. He lost a Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals to the Tampa Bay Lightning when he was with the Calgary Flames, and the void of that loss doesnt get any emptier than it is right now for the cerebral blueliner.

Thats been obvious in the physical edge Ference has provided during the playoffs, capping off his best season in a Bruins uniform. He's also taken a growing vocal leadership role within the Bs dressing room, as have many players.

Words like love and family are used by the Bruins when talking about the makeup of their roster, and thats the reason "resiliency" and "spirit" register as a lot more than buzz words to the Bs when theyve needed them most this season.

Something special has been going on with this team since it hopped on a plane destined for Ireland way back in September. They are the first Bruins team in 18 Stanley Cup Finals appearances to play in a Game 7 for their chance at the Cup, and they would become the first team to win three Game 7's in the same playoff run. There's a whole lot of special potentially going on here with the Black and Gold against the villainous Canucks.

We want to have our best game of the series in our last game, said Chara, who has grown by leaps and bounds in the leadership category this season. Its the most important game of the playoffs. Its the game of the year for us.

Its actually more than that.

Its the game of their careers for Chara, Thomas and so many other talented, gutsy players on Boston's roster. Immortality awaits as their reward for a job well done.

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

Talking Points: Khudobin keeps rolling in shootout win

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Talking Points: Khudobin keeps rolling in shootout win

GOLD STAR: Who else but Anton Khudobin? The Bruins backup netminder improved to 6-0-2 on the season and upped his NHL-leading save percentage to .938 while making 40 saves in a shootout win over the New Jersey Devils. Khudobin was outstanding stoning players like Nico Hischier and Blake Coleman on breakaways, and stood tall in the third period while the Bruins were outshot 15-5 and ended up tying the game. Even better Khudobin was super-competitive in the shootout where he was challenging shooters, and even stared down Hischier after he poke-checked the puck away from him on his attempt. The Bruins don’t win Wednesday night’s game without Khudobin playing the way he did, and that should pretty much guarantee that he plays again on Friday afternoon against the Penguins.

BLACK EYE: One shot and one hit in 8:28 of ice time for Jimmy Hayes in his first game against his old Bruins team, so pretty much par for the course from the underachieving big guy. Hayes has scored a couple of goals for the Devils this season, but he’s been mostly the same as in the past with sporadic scoring, intermittent tough guy play in the danger areas and then long stretches where you don’t even notice the 6-foot-6 guy out on the ice. Of the two ex-Bruins forwards going up against their old team tonight, Drew Stafford was by far the better of the two with three shots on net and at least one pretty decent scoring chance among them after stealing a puck from Frank Vatrano.

TURNING POINT: The Bruins set things up for their shootout win with a strong opening first period when it came to finishing off plays. Yes, they were outshot by a 15-10 margin, but they also made two big plays with Jake DeBrusk scoring a goal and then David Pastrnak setting up Patrice Bergeron for his fifth goal of the season. Beyond that Anton Khudobin also stopped 14 pucks in the first period that included a number of scoring chances for the Devils, and it showed what the Bruins are capable of when they’re on the right side of some key plays early in the game. Sure, the Devils clawed their way back in, but the Bruins felt like they had the game in control because of the work they put in during the first period.

HONORABLE MENTION: Charlie McAvoy led all skaters with a game-high 27:04 of ice time, and played a strong game while totaling three shots on net and three blocked shots. But he saved the real good stuff for the 11th round of the shootout when he threw a nifty stick move at Cory Schneider, and then roofed a backhanded attempt in tight and close to the net. The McAvoy shootout move begged the question why it took so long to get to him, but also mercifully closed out a shootout session that felt like it could have gone on forever between the Bruins and Devils. The finishing move from the 19-year-old was pure, unadulterated skill with the puck.

BY THE NUMBERS: 1 – the first NHL career point for Matt Grzelcyk arrived in the first period when he picked up an assist on a lead pass off the boards that freed Jake DeBrusk up for a goal-scoring rush.

QUOTE TO NOTE: “It’s the end of a road trip, so give the guys credit. They dug down deep and found a way to get the two points.” – Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy,  

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Bruins outlast Devils in 11-round shootout

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Bruins outlast Devils in 11-round shootout

NEWARK, N.J. Charlie McCoy scored in the 11th round of the shootout to lift the Boston Bruins to a 3-2 win over the New Jersey Devils on Wednesday night.

Anton Khudobin made 40 saves as Boston improved to 9-7-4 with its third straight win-all with Khudobin in goal.

Jake DeBrusk and Patrice Bergeron scored first period goals for the Bruins.

New Jersey has dropped three of its last five in falling to 12-5-4.

Jesper Bratt and Brian Gibbons scored for the Devils, and Cory Schneider made 27 saves.

The shootout opened with Hall and David Pastrnak trading goals. And it stayed that way until McAvoy's game-winner

Prior to the extra period, the first of three regular season meetings between the longtime Eastern Conference rivals was essentially a special teams affair.

Despite not scoring on their four power plays and surrendering a man advantage goal to the Devils, it was the Bruins who left with two points thanks to two first period even strength strikes and the play of their ostensible backup goaltender.

The Bruins struck first when rookie left winger DeBrusk opened the scoring with his fifth of the season with a shot from the right circle at 1:25. And Bergeron added to Boston's lead with his fifth of the season at 11:02.

The Bruins had a two-goal lead and Khudobin, who made his third straight start, tried to make it hold up with a pad save on a Nico Hischier break-in with and a diving stop on Travis Zajac in a span of 1:13. But there was nothing he could do on Bratt's power play goal with 2:50 left as New Jersey's rookie right winger lifted a loose puck in the slot to halve the deficit while Brian Boyle was tied up with Zdeno Chara in front of Khudobin. A video review upheld the goal.

The game remained 2-1 until the Devils equalized on Gibbons' top-of-the-crease deflection with 4:44 left in regulation. Up to that point, though, Khudobin was the story as the netminder stopped a Blake Coleman shorthanded attempt with 10:35 left in the second. Khudobin also benefitted from Hischier, the first overall pick in last June's NHL draft, losing control of the puck alongside the goal line late in the period. Midway through the third, Khudobin stoned Hischier from the top of the crease.

The Devils outshot the Bruins, 42-29.

NOTES: Prior to the game, New Jersey announced RW Kyle Palmieri would miss 4-6 weeks with a broken right foot, suffered in the Devils' 4-3 overtime win in Minnesota Monday. The team later announced Palmieri had been placed on the injured reserve retroactive to Monday. .New Jersey scratched D Dalton Prout and RW Stefan Noesen. .Bruins C Ryan Spooner dressed for the first time since suffering a torn right adductor on Oct. 15. .Boston scratched LW Matt Beleskey, D Torey Krug and D Paul Postma. .The Bruins did not have LW Anders Bjork (undisclosed), LW Brad Marchand (upper body injury), RW David Backes (colon surgery) and D Adam McQuaid (broken right fibula). .Boston announced RW Jordan Szwarz had been sent down to AHL Providence. .The Devils announced Friday's home game against Vancouver will coincide with the team hosting the NHL and NHLPA "joint initiative Hockey Fights Cancer" as part of the "annual Cancer Awareness Month."

UP NEXT

Bruins: Host Pittsburgh Friday afternoon.

Devils: Host Vancouver Friday night.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE