Bruins

Stunning upset of Lightning leaves wide open East for Bruins or Leafs

Stunning upset of Lightning leaves wide open East for Bruins or Leafs

TORONTO – The Maple Leafs and Bruins are locked in their own first-round playoff series right now, so that’s going to take full and top priority.

Still, there also has to be some private acknowledgment that the door is wide open to advance far into the Eastern Conference playoff bracket now that the top dog Tampa Bay Lightning have been eliminated in a stunning playoff upset.

The Presidents’ Trophy-winning Lightning were the first team eliminated after the Columbus Blue Jackets completed the sweep with a 7-3 victory at Nationwide Arena in Columbus on Tuesday night. It's also the first playoff series win for the Blue Jackets in their 19-year franchise history. 

The perennial powerhouse Pittsburgh Penguins followed suit Tuesday, getting swept in their first-round series by the New York Islanders and further opening up the Eastern Conference bracket. 

Clearly, the Blue Jackets would be a tough opponent in the second round for whichever team advances from the Bruins-Maple Leafs series, but they seem like a far beatable opponent matchup-wise and one who might have unloaded their tank in the emotional sweep of No. 1 seed Tampa Bay.

Certainly, the Bruins know they’ve got their own concerns at this point down 2-1 in their best-of-seven series with a Game 4 Wednesday night in Toronto, but they’re also confident it’s going to bring the best out of them.

“We’ve found ways pretty much all year, so it comes down to that,” said Patrice Bergeron. “You’ll face adversity. It’s just the way it is. That’s what hockey is all about. You have to thrive on it. You try to make the adjustments that are necessary, and I talk about that as a team.”

There’s also plenty more for the Bruins to play for now knowing they could enjoy home-ice advantage throughout the rest of the Stanley Cup playoffs. Not only that, but there’s a legitimate pathway to the Eastern Conference Final, if not the Cup Final, right there if the Black and Gold can find a way to get past a newly battle-hardened Leafs giving them a challenge right now.

It would be a real shame if the B’s fumble away a golden opportunity after wondering all season how they’d managed to push past a juggernaut Lightning team that’s now shockingly one-and-done this postseason. Now, the Bolts are gone, and the coast feels much more clear for the Bruins or the Maple Leafs depending on which team advances in the Atlantic Division dogfight now playing out between the two rivals.  

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.

Brad Marchand: David Backes has 'been such a huge part of our group'

Brad Marchand: David Backes has 'been such a huge part of our group'

David Backes broke into the NHL in 2006. In 2019, he will get his first chance to play in a Stanley Cup Final.

Backes has been understandably emotional about making it to the Final, and his teammates have had nothing but good things to say about the veteran's performance during the playoffs.

"It's awesome to see the passion and emotion that he had on his face after (Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Final)," said Brad Marchand per Eric Russo of BostonBruins.com. "He's been such a huge part of our group. He's such a great leader and we build so much emotion off the way that he plays. He's just such a phenomenal guy, great teammate, and he's had an incredible career.

"When you see a guy that's been around that long, he has an opportunity to play for a Cup, finally has that opportunity, it's a lot of emotion. [Patrice Bergeron] said it before. When you play in this league for a long time, you start to appreciate and understand how hard it is to win and how few opportunities you get to win the Cup."

And Marchand and Bergeron would know about that. After playing for the Cup in 2011 and 2013, the duo hadn't been back to the Final until this point. But their six-year absence pales in comparison to Backes' lack of an appearance until his 13th year in the league.

To his credit, Backes has been nothing but a model teammate this year. He struggled to a career-low 20 points in 70 regular season games and was constantly moving around in Bruce Cassidy's line combinations. But he embraced the challenge and stayed ready for action at any time, especially in the playoffs.

This postseason, Backes has logged five points in 11 games and helped the Bruins to a 9-2 record in contests he has played. The team is 3-3 without him, and it has been easy to see that the Bruins are better and more poised with the veteran in the lineup.

Oddly enough, Backes may end up play against his former team, the St. Louis Blues, in his first Stanley Cup appearance. But Backes was adamant that playing the Blues wouldn't have an impact on him.

"Wishing St. Louis well, but once our opponent is picked those well wishes will be rescinded and it's on," said Backes, per Russo. "We'll see who it is and we'll be prepared for it."

It sounds like Backes is planning on bringing emotion to the ice to continue motivating his Bruins teammates. We'll soon get to see him in action.

Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final will take place on Monday, May 27 at 8:00 p.m. The game can be seen on NBC and streamed on the NBC Sports App.

Click here for the Stanley Cup TV schedule>>>

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.

Rask not worried about long layoff before Stanley Cup Final

Rask not worried about long layoff before Stanley Cup Final

After the Boston Bruins swept the Carolina Hurricanes in four games in the Eastern Conference Final, they were awarded a lengthy rest period. In fact, they ended up with the longest pre-Stanley Cup layoff in NHL history. They will be out of action for 11 days before they begin Game 1 of the Cup Final on Monday, May 27.

Despite the long layoff, Bruins players haven't seemed concerned about it. And goalie Tuukka Rask is among them. Rask wasn't too worried about time off when asked about the potential effects it could have on him in an interview captured by the Boston Bruins Twitter account.

It’s only as big of a challenge I guess that you make it for yourself. I just practice when we practice and then take time off when there’s days off. I think that’s it. I don’t think about hockey every day, all day. I don’t think that’s gonna do any good. I just stay sharp on the ice, do the work you need to do and then play when the puck drops. That’s about it.

That's a good attitude to have, and it's easy to see why Rask is so confident. So far this postseason, Rask has been terrific, logging a 12-5 record, a .942 save percentage, and a sterling 1.84 goals against average. But time off could impact his rhythm so the team will look to keep him sharp in the coming week.

Rask also addressed whether or not his teammates were actually giving him the silent treatment to avoid breaking his concentration.

No, I think they're just joking around. I've never really seen that.

Even if the team had been giving him the silent treatment in-game, it's unlikely that they would be able to continue that for 10 days ahead of the Stanley Cup Final. It's simply too much time to totally ignore a teammate.

Cassidy: Bruins leadership group 'second to none'>>>

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.