Bruins

Haggerty: These aren't your old Bruins

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Haggerty: These aren't your old Bruins

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com

BOSTON Nobody could be blamed if they were starting to wonder just how trustworthy this edition of the Boston Bruins would be in the playoffs.

After all, the Bruins -- while showing mettle and worthiness -- had suffered gut-wrenching Game 7 losses in each of their last two playoff runs.

This time around, would the big-game ghosts and playoff poltergeists would be too much for a team with plenty of playoff baggage?

While it certainly deserves the caveat that the series against Montreal isnt over and things can change awfully quickly in the Stanley Cup playoffs, the Bruins are looking more and more like a team that isnt living in the past at all.

They kept their composure locked down tightafter losing the first two games at home. They've come from behind on the road. And they've won back-to-back overtime games in forging a 3-2 series lead over their arch-rivals to the North.

It was all encapsulated in Saturday night's 2-1, double-overtime victory in Game 5 at TD Garden that will do down as another chapter in the book of BruinsCanadiens.

It took a lot," said Patrice Bergeron, who looked exhausted after finishing with 28:18 of ice time. "We stayed with it. We kept competing. We tried to tell ourselves we werent tired and I guess . . . we were the more fit of the two teams, because at that point it is just mental.

Its not your body, it's your head. You have to stay with it. I thought we did a great job of that.

The Bruins have displayed equal parts courage, heart and guts in ripping off three straight wins against the Habs. The Bs, who began the season with plenty to prove in the playoffs, finally look like a hockey club thats putting it all together when it matters most.

As does their goalie. Tim Thomas had long since proven hispuck-stopping brilliancein the regular season, but now -- after a 44-save performance Saturday night -- is finally beginning to build a postseason reputation, as well.

The hyperactive Bs goaltender, who experienced exaggerated highs and lows in the first four games of the series, was all kinds of good against the Canadiens Saturday night while elevating the heart rates of everyone on either side of the BostonMontreal fence.

The cross-crease, post-to-post save in double overtime on Brian Gionta during a 2-on-1 break with Travis Moen was the highlight-reel stop of the night for Thomas. The 37-year-old has given up somesucculent rebounds during this serieson Montreal shots, but he made the adjustment by quickening his leg pad whenchances come from the far side.

Thomas has racked up gaudy stats and plenty of awards in the regular season, but true playoff greatness had eluded him until he went into the Timmy Zone for the final 30-plus minutes of an epic double-overtime tilt that will no doubt grow into his signature moment with the Bruins..

Save of the game. Simple as that, said Zdeno Chara of the Gionta stop. It is two-on-one and I think he made a hell of a save.

More than anything else, a Thomas who plays as well in April and May as he does in December and January allows Boston to dream that this year will be different. Just ask Gionta as he continues shaking his head slack-jawed indisbelief.

But Thomas isn't all Boston has going for them.Playoff newcomers Brad Marchand and Nathan Horton powered the offense with the two goals, Patrice Bergeron is back to being a postseason warrior with six points (2 goals, 4 assists) in five games and face-off domination throughout the series. Dennis Seidenberg led the Bs with 38:15 of ice time along with six blocked shots, four hits, five shots on net and has sparkled in alead role as Charas defense partner that's also settled down the other defensive pairings.

It all starts with the kind of physical sacrifice that Michael Ryder unflinchingly made with an unprotected glove save and a beauty -- in the first period on Tomas Plekanec. Ryder even kicked his leg out and threw his gloved hand up with perfect technical style in a nod to his ball hockey days between thepipes in Newfoundland as a kid.In the third period, a sure-fire Montreal goal was deflected from Bergerons backside to Charas leg and away from the net in the type of grit and determination that symbolizes winning playoff hockey and Boston's newfound grace under fire.

Theres no glitz, no glamour. But there is a growing sense of confidence and good feeling.

These Bruins seem faster, hungrier, more experienced . . . and determined to erase Boston's recent playoff history.

And they know how tough it's going to be.

I think weve experienced that last year, right?" said coach Claude Julien when asked about the difficulty of nailing down the fourth win of a series. "We dont want to bring up the collapse against the Flyers after they built a 3-0 series lead, but unfortunately it is what it is. That last win is a tough one, we recognize that. We need to go to Montreal with the intentions of winning that game and playing to win that game.

We need to understand its probably going to be the toughest game of the series. When teams are playing for their lives they come out with their best effort. And we have to be ready for that.

Saturday nights double overtime win was just further confirmation that as Zdeno Chara said, anything is possible for the Bruins this spring.

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

Morning Skate: No place for Gudas’ slash on Perreault

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Morning Skate: No place for Gudas’ slash on Perreault

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while enjoying the new Brown Sugar Cinnamon coffee flavor at Dunkin’ Donuts. It’s not Cookie Dough, but what is after all?

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) and PHT writer James O’Brien has the details on Radko Gudas getting ejected for an ugly, reckless and dangerous slash to Mathieu Perreault’s head last night. Gudas should be facing a long suspension for a play that has no place in the NHL. It’s time for Flyers fans to stop making excuses for a player who’s no better than a cheap-shot artist and hatchet man. He has to face the music for consistently trying to hurt his fellow players.  

*Frank Seravalli has some of the details for a historic GM meeting in Montreal where NHL hockey was born in the first place.

*You always need to link to a service dog being part of the pregame face-off ceremonies. That’s like a rule here at the morning skate?

*Cam Atkinson and the Columbus Blue Jackets have agreed to a seven-year contract extension, according to reports from the Athletic.

*It’s been quite an eventful year for Arizona Coyotes coach Rick Tocchet and some of it has been to the extreme both good and bad just a month into his first year as bench boss.

*For something completely different: Chris Mannix is all-in on the Celtics being the front-runners in the Eastern Conference after their big win over the Golden State Warriors.

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Haggerty: For now, Bruins need to ride Khudobin’s hot hand over Rask

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Haggerty: For now, Bruins need to ride Khudobin’s hot hand over Rask

These are desperate times for the Bruins even after pulling out a solid, blue-collar 2-1 win over a sputtering Los Angeles Kings team on Thursday night.

The victory ended a four-game losing streak and gave the Bruins just their second road win of the season in eight tries. It was also the fourth win of the season for backup netminder Anton Khudobin, who is a sterling 4-0-2 and has given them everything they could possibly hope for out of the backup spot. The Bruins have a grand total of 18 points on the season and Khudobin miraculously has more than half of those (10 to be exact).

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It’s clearly a far cry from last season for Khudobin, of course, when it took until February for the goalie’s season to get in gear.

But Thursday night’s 27-save effort from Khudobin was also a stunning contrast to what Tuukka Rask has been able to produce this season. Khudobin has a .928 save percentage and 2.35 goals-against average. Rask has a dreadful .897 save percentage while giving them average play between the pipes at best.  

Khudobin is tied for seventh in the NHL with reigning Vezina Trophy winner Sergei Bobrovsky in save percentage and Rask is chilling in the NHL goalie statistical basement with retreads Steve Mason and James Reimer.

Quite simply, Khudobin has been way better than Rask and the Bruins have, for whatever reason, played better hockey in front of their backup goalie. Some of it might also be about Khudobin’s more adaptable game behind a Boston defense that can make things unpredictable for their goaltender, but Rask is being paid $7 million a season to be better and figure it out. It would be amazing if this trend continued for the entire season and it would certainly merit more examination from management as to why the rest of the Bruins and Rask can’t seem to combine for an effective, winning product on the ice.

For now, the Bruins need to simply win by whatever means necessary and that amounts to riding Khudobin’s hot streak for as long as it lasts. It should begin with the backup goalie getting a second consecutive start against the San Jose Sharks on Saturday night and seeing where it goes from there. Perhaps the extra rest gets Rask additional time to get his game together, or serves as the kind of motivation to get the Finnish netminder into a mode where he can steal games for an undermanned, out-gunned team that needs that right now.

“We’re going to look at it,” said Bruce Cassidy, when asked postgame by reporters in L.A. about his goalie for Saturday night. “He played very well against San Jose last time. They’re a heavy team. He seems to do well in these kinds of games with a lot of traffic around the net. But we’ll look at that decision [Friday].”

Khudobin has stopped 57 of 61 shots in his two games in November, so perhaps that level of hot goaltending could also allow the Bruins to survive a month that otherwise might absolutely bury their playoff hopes. Maybe Khudobin finally loses on Saturday night and the goaltending conversation, not controversy, ends as quickly as his point streak. For now, riding the hot goalie is the right call for a team that needs something good to hang onto.

The Bruins are in desperation mode until they get a number of their injured players back. There certainly might not be more of a desperate option than setting their beleaguered sights on a goalie they sent to the minors as recently as last season. But it’s a new season, Khudobin has been excellent and he’s earned a chance to carry this team for a little bit until they can get things back in order.

Calling Khudobin’s number is the right call right now for the Bruins and, quite frankly, shouldn’t be that difficult a choice given what we’ve seen so far this season. 

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