Bruins

Haggerty: Let the craziness begin

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Haggerty: Let the craziness begin

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com

NEWARK, N.J. Milan Lucic joked that the lusty Bell Centre crowd will boo Zdeno Chara like hes never been booed before while discussing the Bruins' upcoming first-round playoff matchup against the Montreal Canadiens. That might be an understatement for a frothy Montreal crowd that flooded emergency phone lines and demanded the Bruins captain be arrested after he rode Max Pacioretty into a stanchion between the benches during their last meeting on Habs home ice.Itll be interesting to see what will happen. You cant overthink it, said Lucic.
It was definitely a tough building for us this year, but we cant overanalyze things. Its a new year in the playoffs. Its a part of the rivalry and the hatred between both teams is what really makes it interesting.Pacioretty suffered a fractured vertebrae and what the Canadiens called a "severe" concussion -- though he was up and about in a matter of days, and there's even talk he may return before the end of the playoffs -- in the stanchion collision, which set off a chain reaction of lunacy north of the border that only heightened when the NHL deemed it to be a hockey play unworthy of a suspension. That meant no supplemental discipline for Chara and the Bruins, and a feeling of injustice within the Canadiens fan base an often imbalanced group, always 100 percent out of its mind for the Habs, which has done such things as burn police cruisers on their city streets when its heavily-favored hockey team beat a No. 8 seed in the playoffs, as was the case four years ago.
If nothing else, it'll be great theatre.
Its looked like we were going to play them for the last month or so. Its almost like a match made in heaven. Ive been here four years and four times in the playoffs and three of them have been against Montreal in the first round, said Lucic. The atmosphere is there, the fans are going to be into it and from a media standpoint theres going to be a lot to talk about it. So its going to be a lot of fun.Add to that the fact the Bs have managed to lose four straight games to the Habs at the Bell Centre, and havent won there in over a year. The hostile environment served as the setting of two of their worst losses this season and it would appear hockeys greatest rivalry should have at least one more compelling chapter when this first-round series has been settled.The third-seeded Bruins beat the Habs badly in a pair of games on the Garden ice to end their regular-season meetings one that was a fight-filled alley brawl and a second that was a complete annihilation with clean, old-fashioned hockey happening up and down the ice while Montreal seemed afraid to show any emotion or anger and gave Boston the confidence things are looking up with home ice advantage in their corner.It should be a classic in the 33rd playoff matchup between the two longtime Original Six rivals, who have met in more playoff games and more regular-season games than any other teams in NHL history. The Canadiens have won 24 of those postseason meetings.The 33 playoff meetings between the Habs and Bruins is actually the most playoff meetings by two specific teams in any of the four major professional sports leagues in North America.It wasnt really reignited until four years ago, and that hatred started to come back into play, said Lucic. That hatred is definitely there again. Thats what makes it fun and thats what makes it a great rivalry.One player who will make for an interesting addition to this years edition of the rivalry: rookie Brad Marchand.The Bs pest has been a vocal critic of the diving and flopping done by the Canadiens to draw penalties and gain power plays, and he expects more of the same as he lines up against similar instigators P.K. Subban and Tomas Plekanec in his first Stanley Cup playoffs series.
The Habs finished the season ranked seventh in the NHL with a power play thats clicked 19.7 percent of the time, and its pretty clear the skill and special teams game is where Montreal will attempt to do its damage. The Bruins on the other hand will counter with the size, strength and physical intimidation thats overwhelmed the Canadiens in Boston on several occasions this season. Lucic and Nathan Horton have been handful for teams lacking the strength to stand up to them, and the Habs really have no answer for Charas tower of power defensive game.Its gonna be exciting. Its going to be a long, hard-fought battle. I cant wait, said Marchand, anticipating the first playoff series hell be playing in after serving as a Black Ace during last years playoff run. It just seems like every guy on their team is a bit of an agitator, and can draw you into penalties. So you just have to play with a cool head and suck them into our game.Theyre very good on the power play, so if you give them a lot of penalties theyre going to do a lot of damage.Both teams can do damage, and both teams hate each other like poison. Sounds like theres some good hockey on tap for the next couple of weeks.
Joe Haggerty can be reached at jhaggerty@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs

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.