Bruins

Haggerty's Bruins-Sharks preview

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Haggerty's Bruins-Sharks preview

SAN JOSE, Calif. The Bruins have harkened back to their hard-earned defensive way of life, and its shown results.

Claude Julien called it protecting the house in front of the net, and the Bruins are starting to chase the burglars and the brigands away after letting the oppositions have their way in the slot for far too long. The Bruins allowed 4.00 goals per game during the first nine games of March and were gashed for six goals against both the Lightning and the Panthers and that was the breaking point Boston needed.

They woke up last weekend, saw they were the seventh place Boston Bruins and all of a sudden played with the urgency that had been missing for far too long. That meant the Bs goaltender stopping 95 percent of the shots hes facing, that meant a staunch Bruins defense holding the Leafs to only 13 shots on net in a 60-minute hockey game and that meant allowing only two goals to accomplished offenses like the Flyers and the Leafs.

After meandering far too far away from their defensive principles, everything is back in line with the way the Bs coaching staff prefers it.

Obviously a lot of teams are playing desperate hockey fighting for the playoffs and fighting for home ice advantage. Its about playing like theres no tomorrow and playing with a lot of desperation. Thats playoff hockey and thats what were doing right now, said Tyler Seguin. I think we are playing more Bruins style hockey. Were playing with a bit of a chip on our shoulders competing and winning battles.

Thats when we start playing well: when were competing, winning battles and doing all of the little things while paying attention to detail. We like winning more than losing and thats what makes us happy.

The Bruins were able to do all of that in the friendly confines of the TD Garden after theyd caught their breath and exhaled from a disastrous road trip through Florida. Now the Bruins must get in touch with their inner road warrior and carry on the competitiveness and defensive awareness after a six-hour plane ride plopped them in California for the next five days.

With only 10 games left in the regular season the Bruins shouldnt have any more speed bumps along the way, and they know they cant afford it with the Senators and Panthers still well within striking distance.

PLAYER NEEDING HIS TIRED PUMPED: With the B's on a two-game winning streak, Marty Turco might be the player that needs his tires pumped the most. The 36-year-old netminder hasnt seen the light of day since his disastrous outing against the Tampa Bay Lighting, but he does have some obscenely bright yellow goaltending pads hes ready to rock when he does get the call. If the Bruins are able to win the first couple of games of their swing through California, then perhaps theres a shot Turco will get his redemption chance against the Ducks. But it wont be against the Sharks.

DRESSING ROOM MANTRA HEADED INTO THE GAME: You could tell in our game against Toronto and also on Saturday afternoon against Philadelphia that we really wanted to turn things around, and maybe it was a blessing in disguise that Ottawa did pass us because maybe there was that fire that needed to be re-lit. Milan Lucic talking about the wakeup call provided by the Ottawa Senators that should last them for the rest of the season.

KEY MATCHUP: The Bruins need to find a way to match Brian Rolston and the Bs third line up against Joe Thorntons line in San Jose, and perhaps create a flashback effect when he sees Rolstons No. 12 in Black and Gold. Perhaps even fool him into making a bad pass or when Rolston calls for the puck like he was still one of his teammates as they were for five years in Boston. One would expect the Zdeno CharaDennis Seidenberg combo would get the draw to neutralize Jumbo Joe and his linemates and that could be a challenge given the urgency they should be skating with after dropping out of the top eight in the Western Conference.

STAT TO WATCH: .952 the save percentage for Tim Thomas in the Bs last two wins while stopping 40-of-42 shots, which is much closer to normal for the 37-year-old netminder.

INJURIES: Tuukka Rask (groin strainabdomen strain) and Nathan Horton (mild concussion) are long term injuries for the Bruins. Peverley skated with the team on Thursday and is closing in on a return from a sprained knee. San Jose forwards Michal Handzus (undisclosed), Tommy Wingels (upper body) and TJ Galiardi (upper body) are all questionable for Thursday's game against Boston.

GOALTENDING MATCHUP: Tim Thomas will get the call for the Bruins, and hell be appearing in his 14th straight game for the Black and Gold including a pair of relief appearances. Thomas is 5-5 with a 3.36 goals against average and an .863 save percentage during the month of March, but looks like hes on the upswing. Antti Niemi will make his 13th straight start in net for the Sharks. Hes 4-0 with a 1.96 goals-against average and .930 save percentage in four career games against Boston, and got the win in San Joses 4-2 win over the Bruins back in October.

Pastrnak on B's loss: "We kind of stopped playing"

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Pastrnak on B's loss: "We kind of stopped playing"

BOSTON – At the end of the day, it was simply a game where the Bruins allowed themselves to get outworked in the third period and overtime. 

The B’s held a three-goal lead in the second period and still enjoyed a two-goal lead in the third period, but eventually dropped a frustrating, futile 5-4 overtime loss to the Buffalo Sabres at TD Garden on Saturday night. It was clear to most speaking after the game that the Bruins eased up on the gas pedal once they’d scored their fourth goal of the game in the second period, and simply watched as the Sabres stomped all over them in the game’s second half. 

“I think we might have been a little bit too scared to play [in the third period], you know? We tried to just flip the pucks away, and didn’t make any plays trying to get it in the zone. Instead we should have just kept going like we did in the first two periods,” said David Pastrnak, who scored a pair of goals early in the loss to allow the Bruins to build up the three-goal lead. “Obviously we’re disappointed. We got one point. I think we didn’t play our game in the third period. We kind of stopped playing and they were all over us, and you know, it’s on us. We were the ones that gave them their point, but the first two periods were good. It’s just another learning session.”

To Pastrnak’s point, the Bruins were outshot by a 15-6 margin in the final 20 minutes of regulation and 21-6 overall in the third period and overtime prior to Ryan O’Reilly’s game-winner during 3-on-3 play. It was at this point the Bruins certainly missed stalwart stay-at-home defensemen Adam McQuaid and Kevan Miller in the D-zone, and fell short of qualified penalty killers while trying to burn off a Brandon Carlo interference call at the end of the third period. 

All of that caught up to them once the Bruins loosened their grip on the Sabres, but certainly the feeling is that the loss should’ve been avoidable even if some of the circumstances made it difficult for the Black and Gold. It also should have been avoidable against a Sabres hockey club that was dreadful last season, and is again one of the doormats in the Atlantic Division in the early going thus far. 

“Those are the games you can’t lose. We obviously didn’t do the job there in the third and close it out, but we’re going to have to regroup and work on our game and be better for the next one,” said Brad Marchand. “We didn’t play the game we needed to play. We relaxed a bit and we started losing a few battles in the wrong areas, and you know, they just played better than we did.”

It’s mystifying that any team would need a crash-and-born loss like Saturday night in order to learn any lessons moving forward, and it certainly might have been a different story for the Bruins if they weren’t missing a few big defensive pieces. But that’s not how it went down for the Black and Gold as they sagged under rising pressure from the Sabres, and simply stopped working when the chips were on the table late in Saturday night’s game. 

Astros beat Yankees in Game 7 to advance to World Series, 4-0

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Astros beat Yankees in Game 7 to advance to World Series, 4-0

HOUSTON - Charlie Morton and Lance McCullers combined on a three-hitter, Jose Altuve and Evan Gattis homered and the Houston Astros reached the World Series, blanking the New York Yankees 4-0 Saturday night in Game 7 of the AL Championship Series.

Just four years removed from their third straight 100-loss season in 2013, the Astros shut down the Yankees for two straight games after dropping three in a row in the Bronx.

Next up for the Astros: Game 1 of the World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Tuesday night. Houston aces Dallas Keuchel and ALCS MVP Justin Verlander will have plenty of rest, too, before the matchup begins at Dodger Stadium.

Houston has never won even a single World Series game. The only previous time the Astros made it this far, they were a National League team when they were swept by the Chicago White Sox in 2005.

Now, manager A.J. Hinch's club has a chance to win that elusive first title, while trying to boost a region still recovering from Hurricane Harvey.

Houston improved to 6-0 at Minute Maid Park in these playoffs and became the fifth team in major league history to win a seven-game postseason series by winning all four of its home games.

Morton bounced back from a loss in Game 3 to allow two hits over five scoreless innings. Starter-turned-postseason reliever McCullers limited the Yankees to just one hit while fanning six over the next four.

Combined, they throttled the Yankees one last time in Houston. Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez and their New York teammates totaled just three runs in the four road games.

CC Sabathia entered the game 10-0 with a 1.69 ERA in 13 starts this season after a Yankees loss. But he struggled with command and was gone with one out in the fourth inning.

Houston was up 2-0 in fifth when former Yankees star Brian McCann came through for the second straight game by hitting a two-run double after snapping an 0-for-20 skid with an ground-rule RBI double to give Houston its first run on Friday night.

The Yankees, trying to reach the World Series for the first time since 2009, lost an elimination game for the first time this season after winning their first four in these playoffs. New York struggled on the road this postseason, with this loss dropping the team to 1-6.