Bruins

Haggerty: It was a season of success for Bruins

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Haggerty: It was a season of success for Bruins

NEW YORK Its amazing how much things can change in a year.

Almost exactly 365 days ago, the Bruins held a tense team meeting in the bowels of Madison Square Garden after collapsing in the third period against the New York Rangers. They warned each other that an early playoff exit awaited them if they didnt get their act together.

Clearly they heeded the warning provided by that ugly loss, and a Stanley Cup was theirs after triumphantly coming out on the other side of the NHL fire.

Fast forward to Sunday night. The Bs had perhaps their finest win of the season, a gritty, 2-1, playoff-style triumph over the Eastern Conference champion Rangers at their MSG home. Not only did the victory give the Black and Gold their first victory over the Rangers in six tries, but it also clinched both the Northeast Division and the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference.

In many ways it was the perfect ending to a season of ups and downs, and gave the Bruins the perfect booster shot headed into the postseason. They are 7-1-1 in their last nine games, theyve accomplished everything that was even remotely possible heading into the All-Star break, and theyre now able to rest, recharge and refocus with three games remaining until their postseason run begins anew.

Its indeed amazing how much things can change in a year.

We wanted to prove to them we werent a pushover team just in case we meet them later on down the road in the playoffs, said Tim Thomas, happily wearing a Division Champs hat atop his head as he spoke of the playoff message sent to the Blueshirts. This is a tough building to play in. Its dark. There are funny bounces all over the place. Plus theyre a good team; they play solid hockey.

Anytime you can come in here and get a win to wrap up the division, its a good thing. Theoretically we had plenty of time to get the extra two points, but why wait? We had a chance to seal it up and take all of the hope out of Ottawas sails. It felt good to be able to do that.

So great that Thomas once again couldnt resist taking a shot at the Madison Square Garden stage lighting.

The Bruins did allow 19 shots in the final period as the Rangers threw everything they had at the net in a desperate attempt to send the game into overtime, but Boston's stabilized defense had held New York to 15 shots in the first two periods.

Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and Tyler Seguin had recorded just a single assist and a minus-9 in the first three games against the Rangers this season, but they were on the ice for both of Boston's goals.

Thomas had been 2-6-1 in MSG over the course of his career, and clearly doesnt enjoy playing in the yellowish theatre lighting provided for the storied arena. But he made 19 saves in the final 20 minutes and seemed to have the Rangers shaking their heads by the end of the game. Essentially, everyone who needed to step up did just that, and thats what the playoffs will be all about.

Instead it was New York rushing to get shots off at the Boston net while trailing in a one-goal game and furiously trying to climb uphill a state the Bruins were very familiar with during the months of January and February.

Those mediocre middle months seem like a distant memory as the Bruins finish out their final three dress rehearsals, and get ready for the real season to commence.

Weve started playing really consistent hockey and that has us feeling good, said Dennis Seidenberg, who looked healthy after missing two games with an infected cut in his leg and scored the Bs first goal. It was really a wait-and-see game against the Rangers, waiting to see which team would crack first. That was our goal tonight: to get a win in the regular season, so we could send a message if we meet up with them in the playoffs. It felt good to get that.

There was a slight celebratory feel in the Bs postgame dressing room, but its not that a guy like Thomas was really looking forward to a divisional banner ceremony next season.

Did we win the division last year? said a quizzical Thomas. That answers your question: I definitely dont even remember that one going up.

Thats because the Bruins are no longer about Adams Division or Northeast Division banners these days.

Instead theyre about raising the Stanley Cup over their heads, or considering a thoroughly enjoyable regular season as a failure if its anything less. The Bruins had a warm, fuzzy feeling as they exited Madison Square Garden on Sunday having accomplished all of their regular season goals once the Presidents Trophy was far out of reach.

But the Bruins arent about warm, fuzzy regular-season feelings these days. Its amazing how things change in a year: its Stanley Cup or bust for a Bruins team that has nothing else to prove in the regular season.

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

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'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.

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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.  

Morning Skate: Shawn Thornton brightening hospitalized kids' days

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Morning Skate: Shawn Thornton brightening hospitalized kids' days

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while back in the good, ol' Eastern Time Zone.
 
*Really nice piece from Shawn Thornton in the Players' Tribune about the inspiration provided by his “Nanny” and how he’s come to truly love the community service and hospital visits while involved with professional hockey. He’s always been one of those athletes that just stops by children’s hospitals for a visit without needing the attention for it, and that is a credit to his great generosity and empathy for those brave kids.

 *You want a Stanley Cup made out of bottle caps? Well, the world will certainly provide a Stanley Cup made out of bottle caps.

*Defenseman Connor Murphy hasn’t been the player that the Chicago Blackhawks expected him to be since arriving in the Windy City.
 
*The Colorado Avalanche are adding a fancy stats and video man to their management group as they seek to keep improving the NHL product.
 
*FOH (Friend of Haggs) Eddie Olczyk is returning to the NBC broadcast booth as his health will allow as he continues to battle cancer. Good to see you back, Edzo!

 *Erik Karlsson is finally set to debut for the Ottawa Senators after offseason foot surgery, and it will be a case of the strong getting stronger for a Sens team off to a pretty decent start.

 *For something completely different: Just in time for Halloween, Jennifer Tilly releases all of the behind-the-scenes secrets of working with Chucky.