Bruins

Haggerty: Time to kill the Game 7 demons

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Haggerty: Time to kill the Game 7 demons

By JoeHaggerty
CSNNE.com

MONTREAL The Boston Bruins will have plenty to prove Wednesday night at the TD Garden when they line up against the Montreal Canadiens for a 13th and final time this season.

It could mean a promising new beginning or it could be the bitter end for some of the current nucleus of Boston players, since a loss Wednesday will mean premature playoff exits in each of the last three seasons.

When the puck drops for Game 7, the Bruins will be looking to exorcise the playoff ghosts and poltergeists that have haunted them in recent years.

They lost Game 7 at home, in overtime, to Carolina in 2009. Last year there was the historic collapse against the Flyers -- the memory of which is something the Bs have battled all season.

They partially beat down those demons by ripping off three straight wins against the Habs in this series. But until they win a Game 7, which they haven't done since 1994, the Bruins can't say they've broken the spell.

One doesnt even have to ask Zdeno Chara or Tim Thomas the questions about their Game 7 histories to understand the bitterness and disappointment thats come along with dropping a combined seven of them over their hockey careers.

We have experience, I guess, said Thomas when asked the Game 7 question. Its win or youre done. Weve won three games so far in this series. If we play the way we did when we won the three, then well win the fourth game in the series.

Chara is a fruitless 0-5 during his decorated Norris Trophy-winning career in Game 7's with the Bruins and Senators, and has had some of his most forgettable performances in those seminal moments. Thomas is 0-2 and has a chip resting on his shoulder.

The question is: Will history change Wednesday night? Or repeat itself?

We worked all year to get home ice, and now were going home, said Mark Recchi.

We have to just embrace whats coming up tomorrow. This a great time of year and you need to have fun with it. You cant get weighed down by the pressure. You just have to go play . . . I trust these guys and know theyll be ready to play. Its one game. It is what it is and both teams will be ready.

The Canadiens, on the other hand, haven't lost a Game 7 since -- you guessed it -- being beaten by Boston in 1994. They're 4-0 in Game 7's over the span . . . and, in fact, counting Tuesday night they're 6-1 in their last seven elimination games (elimination games being described as any game in which a team is ousted from the playoffs by a loss, which can happen prior to a Game 7). Forward Mike Cammalleri has been super-human in those clutch situations with seven goals and 10 points in those do-or-die moments with Les Habitants.

The path to a Game 7 in Boston was paved Tuesday night when the Bruins couldnt vanquish the Habs at a rocking Bell Centre, and instead found themselves embroiled in a special-teams extravaganza for the first time in the seven-game series. There were 11 power plays in the game, seven of them for Montreal, and the Habs connected twice.

The Bruins power play, on the other hand, was 0-for-4 Tuesday, is 0-for-19 so far in the playoffs, and is a big reason why the B's are being forced to a Game 7. Because the Bruins clearly outplayed the Canadiens when the teams skated 5-on-5.

It all started when referee Kevin Pollock botched a Brian Gionta goal in the opening minutes, whistling the play dead when he lost sight of the puck as it sat in the open ice next to Tim Thomas. Gionta successfully swiped it into the net, but Pollock waved off the goal. Angry Habs fans began raining white rally towels onto the ice in protest when it was clear that Pollocks call was going to stand.

After messing up the first big call of the game, it appeared Pollock and fellow referee Chris Lee spent the rest of the night attempting to make amends.

The five-minute boarding major and game misconduct call on Milan Lucic was iffy to start with, and became downright laughable when the fallen Jaroslav Spacek -- helped off the ice by the medical staff --was back taking regular shifts at the end of the second period.

None of the Bruins would comment on the record about the Lucic penalty. But you can be sure plenty of Bs players were rolling their eyes with derision when Spacek was back in the game moments after he lay on the ice as if he were seriously injured.

Then the refs compounded those mistakes with weak-sauce calls on Nathan Horton for slashing and Patrice Bergeron for goaltender inference, the latter wiping out a Boston power play 13 seconds into the man advantage.

Not that the Bruins would have done anything with the chance. Bostons 0-for-4 performance worsened the stats for the Bruins' historically bad power play during these playoffs.

It seems as though there's an inability to promote change on the power play and inability to spur movement, creativity or production on Bostons special teams, and it may end up being the reason for the Bruins' demise. It may also lead to Claude Julien and some of the others on his staff being employed elsewhere next year.

But thats a story that can wait for golfing season.

Its no surprise the Bruins couldnt close out the archrival Habs given the chance on Tuesday night. The Montreal roster is full of proven winners like Cammalleri, Gionta and Hal Gill, and they had one last good fight left in them, especially at home.

That sets the stage for the Bruins to soothe all those Game 7 fears, and finally give guys like Thomas and Chara that moment theyve been looking for over the last few seasons. Its no Stanley Cup, of course, but theres much to be gained for Bostons elite players if they finally learned how to win a Game 7 after cornering the market in losing them.

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

Grzelcyk's first goal for hometown Bruins 'a jolt through the system'

Grzelcyk's first goal for hometown Bruins 'a jolt through the system'

BOSTON – Bobby Orr’s iconic, leaping goal that clinched a Stanley Cup for the Bruins was memorable enough to earn its own statue outside the TD Garden, and will always be No. 1 in the hearts and minds of hockey fans around New England.  

But it’s been bumped down to No. 3 for longtime TD Garden Bull Gang member John Grzelcyk for understandable reasons, and both of those preferred favorite moments involve his hockey-playing son, Matt. One was a game-winning goal vs. Northeastern to secure a Beanpot when he played for Boston University, but the newest one was all about his burgeoning career with the Black and Gold. The Bruins rookie defenseman did his Zamboni-driving papa proud on Friday afternoon when he snapped home his first career NHL goal in a 4-3 B’s win over the Pittsburgh Penguins at TD Garden in their annual Black Friday matinee.

“I feel bad for Bobby Orr, but he’s my son,” said the elder Grzelcyk, beaming with pride. “Sorry.”

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The 5-foot-9, 174-pound Grzelcyk’s goal ended up being a pivotal one in Boston’s fourth win in a row as it arrived in the second period amid a flurry of three goals from the Penguins, and allowed the game to still be tied entering the third period. Jake DeBrusk had slipped a centering pass to David Krejci in the slot for a one-time opportunity, and the playmaking center fanned on the shot attempt with the puck drifting over to Grzelcyk crashing toward the net.

The quick change of puck direction opened up a shooting seam for the 23-year-old Grzelcyk, and he snapped the puck past Matt Murray for his first goal of the season at either the NHL or AHL level this season. The first NHL career goal would have been welcomed no matter when it happened for Grzelcyk, of course, but to have it go down on national TV in an NBC game had to make it extra special.

You couldn’t tell any of that, of course, because the younger Grzelcyk was trying to act like he’d been there before after the score. But it was clear how excited his teammates were for him as Kevan Miller quickly retrieved the puck for his D-partner, and they gathered around him for the time-honored hockey hug celebration.

“It was pretty special, obviously. It brings back memories of skating [on the Garden ice] as a kid and stuff like that. It hasn’t really set in yet, it was pretty cool to get that out of the way,” said Grzelcyk, who has a goal and two points along with a plus-4 rating in three games with Boston this season. “It was kind of a jolt through my system. I didn’t really know what was going on. I was trying to hide it the best I could. I think the rest of the guys were trying to make me smile. I was really happy.”

Part of the reason Grzelcyk got to remain in the lineup was Bruce Cassidy’s choice to go with seven defensemen against the Penguins, a game lineup look the Bruins haven’t used in an awfully long time. It allowed the Bruins to ease Torey Krug back into the lineup after missing the last couple of games with an upper-body injury, keep Robbie O’Gara active in case they needed more of a big-bodied presence in the D-zone and let Grzelcyk keep playing given how good he’s looked in his NHL appearances this season.

Cassidy indicated that plugging both Grzelcyk and Krug in among a 7 D-men formation, for a greater puck-moving dimension to the team, is something they may tinker with more moving forward.  

“We don’t mind that 11 forwards, seven D. It may be something we look at more often if you have Krug and Griz [Matt Grzelcyk] in there. But they both played well, well enough Robby [Rob O’Gara] didn’t see a lot of ice. I thought he was fine when he was in there, to be honest with you. It’s not easy to sit there,” said Bruce Cassidy. “But adding Griz into the mix does give you another puck mover with Charlie [McAvoy] and Krug if all three are in there. I think that’s important.

“That’s not being disrespectful to the other – when we have more heavy guys. It really helps our penalty kill. When you have four guys– makes it tough to get inside. We are finding that balance. And I think it’s something that we’ll tinker with for a while, and the more Griz plays consistent hockey, the easier the decision it makes.”

Either way, it will take quite a bit for Grzelcyk’s next big hockey accomplishment to live up to a pretty cool setting for his first NHL goal, or be enough to finally edge Bobby Orr out of the old man’s top-3 favorite hockey moments of all time.  

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Talking Points: Signs point to Pastrnak busting out of mini-slump

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Talking Points: Signs point to Pastrnak busting out of mini-slump

GOLD STAR: David Pastrnak netted the game-winner in the third period after getting freed up for a breakaway chance, and then throwing a double-move at Matt Murray before tucking one under his glove hand. It was the first goal in six games for Pastrnak, and it capped off a day when he topped 22 minutes of ice time, had a team-high five shots on net and battled through some physical play from the Penguins to get toward his offense. The 21-year-old continues to set the pace for the Bruins offensively, and has shown all the signs in the last couple of games that he’s busting out of whatever mini-slump was holding him down. Everybody knows that Pasta isn’t good for Thanksgiving, but it is certainly good for Black Friday.

BLACK EYE: A tough afternoon for former Boston College standout Brian Dumoulin, who got rocked by a couple of heavy Noel Acciari hits later in the game, finishing with a minus-2 rating while sitting on the ice for a couple of goals against. Dumoulin finished with three giveaways in 20:03 of ice time, managed only a single shot on net and was one of the weaker links on the ice for Pittsburgh in a game where they didn’t play too badly in the final 40 minutes. Dumoulin seems to struggle a bit when he comes back to Boston, and Black Friday afternoon was no exception.

TURNING POINT: The Bruins were outplayed in the second period despite outshooting the Penguins by a 14-8 margin, and they watched as Pittsburgh pressed them for three goals in the middle 20 minutes. But in what turned out to be a very important play in the game, Matt Grzelcyk finished off a broken play in front of the net to score his first NHL goal on the Garden ice where he grew up skating. That goal allowed the Bruins to move into the second intermission with a tied hockey game, and set things up for the third period heroics where David Pastrnak scored the game-winner on a breakaway strike.

HONORABLE MENTION: Jake DeBrusk put together another strong performance, and his line played a giant role in the Bruins jumping out to a 2-0 lead after the first period. He set up the David Krejci goal that got the Bruins up and rolling in the first period, and then he also fed Krejci again in the second period on a shot attempt he fanned on in the slot. The puck drifted over to Matt Grzelcyk for Boston’s third goal, and it capped off a day where the rookie winger topped 18 minutes of ice time, had two assists and a plus-1 rating, finished with four shots on net and had a couple of hits in there for good measure.

BY THE NUMBERS: 3 – the placement the Bruins now have in the Atlantic Division after winning four games in a row, which puts them back into a playoff spot on the day after Thanksgiving. What a stunning turnaround it’s been over the last couple of weeks.

QUOTE TO NOTE: “it’s exciting. You’re on NBC, you’re playing against the Stanley Cup Champions, everyone is watching, let’s put our best foot forward. I know it’s one of 82, but it’s a bigger one of 82 the way I look at it, and I think they felt the same way coming out [in the first period].” –Bruce Cassidy, on the strong start from the Black and Gold. 

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE