Bruins

Paoletti: A Rally of joy

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Paoletti: A Rally of joy

By Mary Paoletti
CSNNE.com Staff ReporterFollow @mary_paoletti
BOSTON -- It was strange to see Causeway shut down.

Instead of cars, the street was lined with lawn chairs.

The sun shone without much warmth, but it was only 8:30 in the morning and felt like one of those June days that held the promise of heat. The Cup wouldn't emerge for another 2 12 hours.

In the meantime, they poured in from the subway, great waves of black and gold spilling out and spreading over the parade route. Those who couldn't walk were wheeled, "BELIEVE IN BOSTON" banners waving from the backs of their chairs. Some stood in triplets of generations, the well-worn Sanderson, Samsanov, Oates and Orr jerseys mixing in with those Recchi, Bergeron, Krejci and Seguin sweaters, tags still on. Somebody's mother wore a Milan Lucic "Ass Kicker" t-shirt.

It was estimated that over 1 million people would gather by the TD Garden that Saturday. The Bruins had won the Cup -- that much fans knew and celebrated-- but now they needed to see it.

Tinfoil and inflatable copycats were everywhere. As a four-foot silver masterpiece was carried by the Harp, a group of twenty-something guys whooped their approval. All five patrons raised nearly-empty Sam Adamses in salute, and one leaned out the large bar window.

"I want to kiss that Cup!" he crowed. "Bring it over here!"

Even the cops were calm. MBTA shuttles dropped Boston officers off by the busload to infiltrate the crowd, but the work day was casual considering the numbers. It was a mob scene only by volume, not intentions. Young troublemakers got their Poland Spring bottles of vodka confiscated and dumped into storm drains. Getting arrested would be pointless -- can't see the Cup from the back of a squad car. No, a winner's unity kept Boston on its best behavior Saturday.

And they were smug in that knowledge. More than a few signs poked a sharp elbow at the already-bruised Canucks fan base.

"Vancouver Riots. Boston rallies!" one sign read. "Visit Vancouver: I hear it's a riot!" read another.

The little jabs were irresistible, but the majority of that million couldn't care less about the Canucks. Rolling Rallies are about one thing: The start of a fresh obsession or the climax of a long-standing love.

As the clock ticked closer to the Cup, anticipation swelled and fell away. "LET'S GO BRUINS!" that most classic game chant, began in earnest at 11. Fans rose up on tiptoes, craning necks in the direction of the idling duck boats promised to carry their champions. The most important party possible wasn't starting on time, but today the fans were happily impatient.

They waited 39 years. What's 10 more minutes?

It was all worth it.

It started with a rumbling bass line. Those first familiar strains of "Shipping Up to Boston" followed like shots of adrenaline directly to the heart. Women and children were boosted up onto strong shoulders, cameras and cellphones were raised blindly overhead as that first boat rolled between the barriers.

The Stanley Cup was hoisted high in the arms of its guardian, their captain, Zdeno Chara.

Spectacular.

Someone sprayed champagne, cheap beer or both. Chara lofted the Cup again, then pretended to toss it to the fans. They jumped up, fingers stretched forward and chests tight. Beside him, Tim Thomas gripped his Conn Smyth. Neither stopped smiling for a full minute and probably couldn't have on a dare.

The Nature Boy's iconic "Woo!" kicked off "We are the Champions" on Cambridge Street. Bagpipers held off to let it play. Shawn Thornton held his right index finger in the air and twirled silver beads around the left.

"McQUAID! McQUAID! THE MULLET!"

He smiled and pulled off his hat. They will love him for years for that; Adam McQuaid can buzz his head for the rest of his career and they would remember the mullet.

Patrice Bergeron looked unflappable as ever. His joy was tightly radiant. One lift of his arms and a slow smile sent them swooning. On one stop, a small group of fans screaming silently from high on a rooftop caught Bergeron's eye. He pointed up to their perch with both hands.

You -- yes, you -- thank you for being here.

Behind Cup sightings, Nathan Horton got the loudest cheers. Every time his boat rolled around a different corner and Bruins fans caught his million-watt smile they were sent into a frenzy. Nathan Horton: happy-go-lucky hero turned shutdown symbol for The Good Fight. At Center 1 Plaza he grasped hold of his young sons' wrists and lifted the boys' arms in victory.

Three days after Game 7, Tuukka Rask still wore Horton's helmet. He may never have taken it off since the postgame locker room celebration.

All the while, black-and-gold confetti shot into the air. Fans lifted their faces as it floated gently down like a November flurry.

Those who imagined this day had no idea how brightly the Stanley Cup really shined. When the sun broke free and burned off the clouds, it was overwhelming. Some chased it down, following that lead float as far as they could, not wanting the day to end.

It had to.

Eventually, the lawn chairs gave way to discarded signs ("Never forget Savvy 91"), streamers and incoming street sweepers. The crowd walked back to where it all began, TD Garden, and the trains that brought them in. But this time, for the first in a long time, they walked away from hockey season satisfied.

A moment of immortality, one sunny Saturday in Boston. Nothing left to say.

"Now just do it again!"

Mary Paoletti can be reached at mpaoletti@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Mary on Twitter at http:twitter.comMary_Paoletti

Rask out tonight as he recovers from practice collision

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Rask out tonight as he recovers from practice collision

BRIGHTON, Mass – The string of injuries for the Bruins continues as Tuukka Rask (upper body) is out for tonight’s game against the Vancouver Canucks at TD Garden after getting trucked by Anders Bjork in practice Wednesday.

Rask was wobbly-legged while being helped off the ice after the violent collision and the 21-year-old Bjork looked like he’d also needed a couple of stitches on his chin after bloodying his practice jersey.

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The big concern is Rask still being evaluated by Bruins medical personnel for a possible concussion. It will be Anton Khudobin stepping in place for him against the Canucks with Providence Bruins netminder Zane McIntyre serving as his backup.

“Tuukka is out tonight. He’s going to get reevaluated today and we’ll have a better idea tomorrow,” said Bruce Cassidy. “Anton will start [against the Canucks].”

Clearly, Khudobin didn’t like seeing his goaltending partner get drilled in a spirited practice, but the 32-year-old is clearly feeling confident after a strong camp and a winning season debut last week against the Arizona Coyotes.

“You don’t want to see that, but at the same time we’ve got to keep moving forward and hopefully he’s going to get better soon,” said Khudobin, who stopped 29-of-31 shots in the win over Arizona last weekend. “I feel good. Camp was good and everything is fine, and I’ve started better than last year. My role is just day-to-day. Today is a game day and hopefully, you get a good result, and then tomorrow is another new day.”

Otherwise, it looks like the Bruins will at least be getting some of their healthy bodies back with David Backes in the lineup and Patrice Bergeron a game-time decision against the Canucks. Here are the projected line combos and D-pairings based on Wednesday’s practice:

Marchand-Bergeron-Bjork
DeBrusk-Krejci-Pastrnak
Schaller-Kuraly-Backes
Beleskey-Nash-Agostino
 
Chara-McAvoy
Miller-Carlo
Krug-McQuaid

Khudobin 

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Bruins shuffling the deck looking for answers up front

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Bruins shuffling the deck looking for answers up front

BRIGHTON, Mass – It would appear that Bruce Cassidy is ready to start shuffling the deck up front after a slow start to the season.

With the Bruins ranking among the league’s worst both offensively and defensively just a handful of games into the season, they are both introducing a few new forwards to the mix while hoping for full health to a couple of other ones. 

First off, the Bruins appear that they might get David Backes back for Thursday night’s game against the Vancouver Canucks after his bout with diverticulitis, supplying some badly needed size, strength and net-front tenacity on the wing. Patrice Bergeron (lower body) might not be too far behind after going through a full practice wearing a no-contact jersey. The return of No. 37 would help in any number of different areas once he’s good to go, and would have a cascade effect on the rest of the forwards.  

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Getting both players back in short order would give the Bruins a toughness around the net that was certainly missing against Malcolm Subban and the Golden Knights, and hasn’t been there consistently this season with No. 37 and No. 42 out of commission.

“[Bergeron] is progressing. In the past we’ve ruled him out ahead of time, but we’re not ruling him out for [Thursday vs. the Canucks]. Backes looks closer to being ready to play,” said Bruce Cassidy. “Some of the games that have gotten away from us, those guys are glue guys that really add that element to us to keep us on the rails without the game getting away. Some nights you just need their offense or some hard defending, and you miss their leadership obviously. They’re all good players, but most of them you know they’re bringing that North/South game and a few good shifts here or there could have got us back on track.

“[Bergeron] is underrated in his ability to get to the front of the net especially with Marchand and Pastrnak on his wings. So we miss that part of it: Getting there on time, making plays and finishing off plays. Backes is just a big body there and you certainly miss that part of it. With Vegas the other night that was one of the biggest things we were missing was getting second chances, shooting for second chances, hitting the net and getting those rebound chances against a team that was harder to get inside on.

A few moves on Wednesday might also suggest some on-the-fly changes with some forwards that haven’t been working out with the Black and Gold. Ryan Spooner suffered a lower-body injury on Sunday night against Vegas, and it sounds like it might not be a short-term injury for the center with just one point in his first five games. Matt Beleskey and Frank Vatrano also haven’t produced much in the first couple of weeks of the season, and could be in danger of losing roster spots to Providence call-ups Kenny Agostino and Peter Cehlarik.  

Both players were late cuts from training camp and were showing the blend of size, strength, skill, experience and production that Boston needs more of as they search for answers among their forward group. Beleskey, Spooner and Vatrano have combined for one point, a minus-6 rating and just 12 shots on net in a combined 14 games this season, so clearly that is one of the first spots to look for upgrading the roster from within.

“[A tryout period] is a good way to put it. We talked about that in training camp when we had a long look at guys, but not Cehlarik because he didn’t get a chance to play [because of shoulder surgery]. He obviously piqued our interest last year and did a lot of good things for us,” said Cassidy, who has been in a state of constant flux putting forward lines together due to injury and ineffectiveness. “We just went in a different direction at the trade deadline, but we brought him up to give him a look. We have a decision tomorrow and I’m not going to say whether [Cehlarik] is in or out.

“He’s really played well in Providence, and we just thought he might be able to help us. Some of it may depend on the health of the other guys as far as who’s in and who’s out. If both Cehlarik and Agostino are both in the lineup there’s a chance [they might play together]. They were with [Riley] Nash today in the middle, and he has some of the same qualities as JFK down in Providence. But until we sort through who’s in for tomorrow, and that starts at the top with Bergeron and Backes, then stuff will fall into place for all of them.”

Depending on how Don Sweeney plays with his 23-roster spots, perhaps the time has come to put one of those players on waivers for a trip to the AHL. Simply based on merit it would be Vatrano and the total nothingness he’s shown in his first four games this season, but there would also be a legitimate concern they’d lose the 23-year-old Massachusetts native on waivers for nothing.

For their part, players like Agostino and Cehlarik ripped up the AHL while teamed with Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson in Providence, and were just looking for their chance to carve out a role in Boston. Now they may get their chance based on others not really grasping their opportunity, and they’re ready if that’s the case.

“It’s encouraging for me, but I’m just taking things day-by-day. I’m not looking past anything and I’m looking in the past. I just take things as they come here,” said Agostino, who leads the Bruins two goals and seven points in three games thus far. “This isn’t my first time [up at the NHL], so I’m just going to do whatever I can to make the best impression possible.”

What if Agostino and Cehlarik, a career AHL player and a former third-round pick, can’t make the impact that the Bruins are looking for?

Hopefully by then the Bruins will at least have their top two lines healthy and firing on all cylinders, and can continue to mix and match things in the bottom six until they find a combination of forwards that work. But it may come to a point where the Bruins need to look outside the organization for an impact forward or two, or at least find somebody that can make an impact on the ice rather than will themselves invisible.

Only Beleskey has been at all effective this season as he’s dropped the gloves and played physical at times, and certainly can still be an effective third or fourth liner with the right players skating alongside him. For those reasons along with the massive contract money still owed him, Beleskey should be given every opportunity to succeed in Boston. But one thing is clear at this point: There is too much dead weight on the Bruins roster right now at the forward position, and something needs to be done about it if they hope to pull themselves out of their early-season funk.   

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