Bruins

Notes: Thomas in the zone for Game 6

191545.jpg

Notes: Thomas in the zone for Game 6

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com Bruins Insider Follow @hackswithhaggs
BOSTON While many of the players from the Bruins and Canucks will be dreaming up their ultimate Stanley Cup scenario with the oversized chalice finally in the house for what might be the Canucks' championship clincher in Game 6, Bruins goalie Tim Thomas will have his mind in a far away place.

Like the frozen ponds of hardscrabble Flint, Michigan in the 1980s, where Thomas grew up playing hockey outside with his buddies and developing that famous competitive streak that still courses through his veins.

The 37-year-old goaltender has allowed only six goals in five Stanley Cup Final games, and is sporting one of the lowest goals against average in Cup Finals history despite his team being down 3-2 in the series. He says one of the keys to his success is putting his mind back to the same place he was mentally while playing against the neighborhood kids in Michigan before the sun went down every day in the winter.

Thomas was asked how he manages to focus with millions and millions of hockey fans watching his every move, and he quickly replied that those millions are the first thing he eliminates every time he straps on the equipment. There wasnt any pressure on Thomas as a young kid learning how to play the goalie position, and the wide smile on his face in the third period of Game 7 against the Tampa Bay Lightning told you he was feeling no pressure whatsoever with his teams fate on the line.

There are only 12 players out on the ice at any given time, max, and the ice surface is the same size, said Thomas, who leads all NHL playoff goalies with the 2.07 goals against average and a .937 save percentage. There is only one puck in play at all times and I think you just focus on the nuances of the game.

You dont pretend that the fans arent there, but it shouldnt matter whether you have a packed building or youre playing in an empty rink. Youre focus is on the game and playing the game. You try to get the same focus that you had as a kid when you were out playing on the pond, and youre really just enjoying the game. If you approach it like that it can be really fun.

Thats got to be one of the really scary propositions for the Canucks headed into a potential Game 6 buzz saw after they were pounded 12-1 in the last two games at TD Garden. Vancouver will be dealing with some very real pressure hoping to avoid a Game 7 scenario where anything could happen. On top of it all, Thomas is dominating the postseason just as thoroughly as he did the regular season as the best goaltender in the NHL this season.

Coach Claude Julien surveyed his goaltender and the rest of his players in the room leading up to their biggest game of the season their last game of the year at TD Garden regardless of what happens and felt like the Bruins would adapt the same attitude as Thomas.

I dont think anybody in that dressing room is panicking, said Julien. Were focused. We understand the situation. When youve been through it quite a few times, you certainly know how to deal with it a lot better. Weve certainly been through it enough.

The Bruins have won 9 of their last 10 at TD Garden in the playoffs after struggling on home ice during the regular season, and Julien said that its largely the result of a very the team playing some good hockey in Boston during March and April.

Right near the end of the year we were pleased with our road record, but we talked about establishing ourselves as a better home team, said Julien. That was the last month-and-a-half or so. We started doing that the regular home season and weve carried that into the playoffs. So if there is a good time to be good at home, its certainly tomorrow. We intend to keep that streak going.

Shane Hnidy was noticeably physical with Tyler Seguin in the corners during battle drills at Sunday practice, and prompted more than one animated response from the 19-year-old as the players battled during a drill below the blue line. Seguin recognized after practice that the 35-year-old veteran defenseman was simply trying to get a little more fight out of the young forward.

Its one of those veteran tricks that you learn from out there, I guess, said Seguin when asked what it was all about.

Bruins pest Brad Marchand and close to half of the Bruins were sporting Nose Face Killah T-shirts provided by Barstool Sports after practice on Sunday, and Marchand wore his during an NBC interview that aired on Sunday afternoon.

Thomas was presented with an interesting nugget of information during the media availability on Sunday afternoon: Thomas and Montreal Canadiens Hall of Famer Dryden have both graduated from college hockey and worked this deeply into a Stanley Cup Final appearance after their collegiate careers.

Its an honor to be mentioned in the same sentence as Ken Dryden, said Thomas. He played at Cornell, the same league that I played college hockey at UVM. When I was in college I remember looking at what hed accomplished and his stats. Those were stats that I was gunning for to try and reach in college he had such a good collegiate career.

I read his book either when I was in college or the year after I was out of college and gained some insight from that. I would like to hope I can finish it off and get the Cup just like he did too.

The smirk couldnt have been any plainer on Patrice Bergerons face when he was asked about Roberto Luongos complaints that he hasnt been complimented by Tim Thomas during the Stanley Cup Final series while the Canucks goaltender has pumped his tires on numerous times.

The answer was very neutral, of course, but the message behind the message couldnt have been any clearer: The Bruins are pretty amused at the daily soap opera that has become Luongo putting his foot in his mouth.

Im trying to stay out of that, said Bergeron. Im not the guy thats going to give you much juice right now. Im worrying about myself and Im worrying about the Bruins.

Bergeron, David Krejci and Milan Lucic comprised the forward spots down low on Bostons first power play unit during Sunday practice, and both Michael Ryder and Seguin split time operating off the half-wall with Mark Recchi and Rich Peverley manning the other two units. Dennis Seidenberg and Tomas Kaberle were the first defensemen points on the top power play unit, and Zdeno Chara and Andrew Ference manned the second unit.

Ryan Kesler didnt practice with the Canucks as he continues to be hampered by unspecified injury. The Vancouver Province is listing the problem as a groin strain, but whatever it is has truly slowed down to one assist and a minus-3 in five games along with whopping 33 penalty minutes worth of frustration. The injury appeared to be aggravated after Johnny Boychuk hit Kesler in Game 2.

Hes fine, said Canucks coach Alain Vigneault. Thats all. Keep it day-to-day.

The Bruins have been the Stanley Cup Finals 17 times, but have never played a Game 7.

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

Backes, on mend from bout with diverticulitis, may return Thursday

bruins_david_backes_121216.jpg

Backes, on mend from bout with diverticulitis, may return Thursday

BRIGHTON -- While there will clearly need to be sign-offs from the medical staff, the Bruins aren’t ruling out a return from David Backes for Thursday night’s game vs. the Vancouver Canucks.

Both Backes and Patrice Bergeron returned to Bruins practice with the rest of their teammates on Tuesday morning at Warrior Ice Arena, but it was only the 33-year-old Backes that practiced fully without any limitations.

“He skated a little while we were away and a full practice today, so we’ll consult with the medical staff going forward with his plan,” said coach Bruce Cassidy. “Potentially he could be an option for Thursday, and I think that should sort itself out in the next couple of days. We’re no different than anybody else, right? We’d like to have our full complement, and some of the guys we’re missing are glue guys that could really add that element to some of the kinds of games that got away from us.”

MORE:

After the team practice, Backes said that he’s been skating for the last four days and that he’s lost about 10 pounds over the last couple of weeks while adjusting to the medication and dietary treatments for diverticulitis. It wasn’t a complete shock to Backes given some of his family medical history, but he wasn’t expecting anything like that to hit him in the prime of his professional athletic career at just 34 years old.

“I have a family history of it, but this is kind of unfortunate timing and unfortunate circumstances. Hopefully I take care of this, get it behind me and not have to ever think about it again,” said Backes. “The first couple of days it was tough to just stand up straight or do anything, and then you’re on a ‘no exercise’ regimen for six or seven days. So progress . . . certainly. A return . . . we’ll see. Long-term prognosis we’ll have to discuss with the really smart guys.

“You don’t have much appetite, to deal with pain you take a painkiller and then that slows down digestion and just makes it even worse. So you’re stuck there…and it really drains your energy. I was on a liquid diet there for a few days and lost about 10 pounds. I don’t suggest that as a crash diet for anybody.”

He’s come a long way from being stuck in a Mass General hospital bed during Bruins opening night against the Nashville Predators, and Backes is hoping he’ll be all the way back to playing sooner rather than later. The Bruins right winger skated in a third line spot with Riley Nash and Tim Schaller on Tuesday, and said he’s actually even consulted a bit with former Patriots offensive lineman Matt Light, who battled his own stomach issues with Crohn’s Disease during his NFL career.

“I was like a kid in a candy store before practice. You have that carrot of Game 1 dangled in front of you and then taken away, and finally you’re back with the guys on the ice after they’ve been gone a week. Knowing what the results have been you want to interject a little energy out there while knowing that we’ve got 77 games left to establish ourselves, and find our game,” said Backes. “I felt good out there and it was nice to be back on the ice. I was smiling most of the day knowing that I’ll hopefully be playing some ice hockey in the future.

“We’re working to get that strength back and to return me to a productive member of this hockey team, which is going to be on the upswing here shortly. It’s not just due to me, but because guys are putting work in as a group. I’m trying to be as educated about it as I can, so I can be available as often as possible and as productive as possible when I am available.”

There are medical hurdles that need to be traversed by Backes before he can return, but once it becomes a matter of toughness and grit then he’ll be suiting up again for the Black and Gold, and that moment might be coming soon.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

'I definitely wasn't mad at our team,' Rask says of Vegas postgame comments

bruins_tuukka_rask_110315.jpg

'I definitely wasn't mad at our team,' Rask says of Vegas postgame comments

BRIGHTON, Mass – Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask was acting a bit out of character after the Sunday night loss to the Vegas Golden Knights when he said he wouldn’t be commenting on team performance outside of his own goaltending. 

Clearly, it was a tense atmosphere in the Bruins dressing room following an extremely bad road performance and it would seem very likely there’s probably been some friction in the past between Rask and positional players over his postgame candor.

MORE:

That was the backdrop for Rask keeping it laconic, and saying on Sunday night: “I just try to go out there and give us a chance to win every night. That’s what I’m focused on. I’m not going to comment anymore on team play that much. We can just talk about goaltending. That’s just the way it is. Sorry.”

It would seem that some fans and Bruins observers took that to mean Rask was pissed off at his Bruins teammates after a few breakdowns defensively, and a total non-performance at the offensive end of the ice.

Taking all that into account, Rask clarified his comments a bit after practice Tuesday at Warrior Ice Arena and said it’s all about focusing on his own performance rather than taking issues with any of his teammates.

“You lose games and you’re not happy with your performance. Somebody just told me that I guess it got spun the wrong way that it was me mad at my teammates or something. That’s definitely not the case,” said Rask, whom at 1-3-0 with a 3.30 goals-against average and .880 save percentage this season, is clearly in need of some improvement as well.

“You lose games and you definitely hold yourself accountable and you want to talk about your performance and what you need to do to get better," Rask said. "So, that’s where I was coming from. I definitely wasn’t mad at our team. I was more mad at myself, so that’s that.

“You always try to give a fair assessment about the game, but I think the biggest thing that I need to worry about, and what everybody else needs to worry about, is how they get better themselves. You start from that, so that’s where I was coming from.”

The prospect of getting Patrice Bergeron and David Backes back healthy would go a long way toward improving the Bruins play on the ice and stabilizing things defensively for Rask and the rest of the Black and Gold. That’s really what’s needed at this point to improve a situation where the B’s are 23rd in the NHL, averaging 3.6 goals allowed per game, and real, rather than figurative, fingers might start getting pointed all around if it doesn’t start looking better in short order.