Bad blood lingers between B's and Stars

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Bad blood lingers between B's and Stars

GLENDALE, AZ. --- It goes without saying that a game between the Bruins and
Dallas Stars has become synonymous with fireworks and fisticuffs.

Three years ago, an early season meeting of the B's and Stars at TD Garden turned into
an all-our war against Sean Avery and Steve Ott. The hate-filled 60 minutes also featured Shane Hnidys most memorable moment as a Bs player as he tuned up Matti
Niskanen during a line brawl on the ice, and Marc Savard throwing punches at Avery in
defense of a young Milan Lucic.

That game really ushered in the Bs current team personality as a club not to be
trifled with, and handed the current cast of Bruins players their first evidence that dialing
up the physicality brings out the best in them.

Last season, when the B's were accused in some circles of notplaying with enough heart, toughness or chutzpah, they engaged in three fights withinthe first four seconds of a game against the Stars.

Gregory Campbell and Ott -- who had taken a run at Campbell during Campbell's days with the Florida Panthers -- renewed pleasantries, but it didnt stop there.

Shawn Thornton dropped the gloves with Krys Barch and busted up the then-Dallas
enforcers face with a punishing right hand. And Adam McQuaid crushed Brian
Sutherby in the third bout.

Andrew Ference and Adam Burish followed up with another fight four minutes
later, and once again the Bruins and Stars had renewed a unique bad blood relationship.

Its rare that kind of hatred crosses over to the opposite conference, but thats what has
happened in Dallas and Boston.

It doesnt seem to matter that the two teams only play once a season, and the expectation
is Saturday night could be another bloodbath.

Another ode to Slap Shot is not what Claude Julien is thinking, however.

With some of the old Stars players no longer in Dallas and new coach Glenn Gulutzan
in place, the Bs coach doesnt think the Stars will be pulling any shenanigans. But then
again the Stars still have the agitating Ott on their roster, and wont be shying away from
things should they get a little nasty on the ice.

It doesnt matter. They have a different coach and different players, and they probably
have a different approach, said Julien. Were going to go in there and play our game.

"And what youve seen over the years is that whatever they throw at us, were going to be
ready for.

The other factor in this years BruinsStars matchup: it will be Michael Ryders first
game against his former team. Ryder leads the Stars with 14 goals scored this season
and has been reunited with his old buddy from Montreal, Mike Ribeiro, in Dallas. The
reunion has brought the best out of both players, and theres also Ryders history of
playing well against his former team, the Habs, during his years in Boston.

In other words, a highly talented player that sometimes struggles to maintain focus and
motivation gets up for games against former teams. There should be a little extra for
Ryder against a Bruins team that didnt bring him back after he helped win a Cup in
Boston.

Hes a good man and hes having some success playing with his old liney Mike
Ribeiro, said Thornton, who formed a solid friendship with Ryder during their
time in Boston. He was a good guy, good teammates and obviously he helped us get a
ring so Im happy for him having some success there.

But certainly not too much success for Ryder against the Bruins on Saturday night if
Thornton has his way

5 reasons the Celtics will get the No. 1 seed

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Haggerty: Signs of panic starting to show as losses mount for B's

Haggerty: Signs of panic starting to show as losses mount for B's

BOSTON -- For the third straight season, the Bruins are showing all the ugly, telltale signs of a hockey club poised to take a nosedive out of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

The short-attention span Bruins returned in a 6-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday night at TD Garden, and proceeded to blow three one-goal leads in the second period before totally collapsing in the final 20 minutes of the game. Three unanswered third goals later, the Bruins were understandably downtrodden and accountable for a performance that kicked up so many bad memories from the last couple of seasons.

“We all have to look at ourselves in the mirror and we can’t point fingers. Everyone has to step up and if every guy is going to do their job, including myself, then the rest will follow, you know?” said David Krejci. “But we hadn’t done that [against Tampa Bay] at all. The last two games against Toronto and Ottawa, I thought we worked hard. But for whatever reason [against Tampa] – maybe we thought it was going to come easy – we just shot ourselves in the foot.

“Like I said, each player has to be better, including myself, and if we don’t look at ourselves in the mirror that’s what’s going to happen. We’ll be losing and we need to win games. We have a team, we all believe, we know we can play well. We know we can win hockey games. We have a great game plan, but [against Tampa] I guess we just thought it was going to come easy.”

Even worse there were clear signs of panic in Boston’s game as things unfolded in an unsightly manner on the Garden ice.

Clearly it wasn’t about talent on Thursday night, and instead it was about focus, concentration and paying attention to the fine details that can come back to haunt you late in the season. The Bruins scored three goals in the second period with David Pastrnak, Zdeno Chara and Riley Nash each lighting the lamp, but it took 44 seconds, 24 seconds and 1 minute, 35 seconds respectively in the second period for the Bolts to things up.

That’s the kind of instant buckling and crumbling under pressure we’ve seen in the past from the Bruins late in seasons, and we’re seeing it again despite a different coach and some new, hard-nosed players like David Backes. That lack of composure combined with a pinch of panic is a potentially disastrous mix for the Black and Gold, just as it has been for the last three years.

“Those follow up shifts need to be our best shifts of the game. They’re when you can either bury a team, or when you get scored on to have a great response, and to show that you’re not going away [if you’re the team trailing]. I don’t think they were our best shifts. They were probably some of our least [effective] in the form of execution, least form of desperation and fortitude to just impose what we’re going to do on the other team.

[Tampa] certainly made good on their chances, there’s no question about that. But I think we led into them way too much and the result is the result that we don’t get points again. We’re four [losses] in a row here, but this needs to stop Saturday [against the Islanders] or the bleeding starts to get profuse after that. The guys are in this room. We know it. We’ve seen it. We need to look in the mirror.”

It goes beyond a thoroughly gross second period, however.

The Bruins last line of defense, No. 1 goaltender Tuukka Rask, crumbled in the second and third period as things were falling apart around him. Anton Stralman beat him high to the short-side, glove side for the game-tying goal on a transition play, and Jonathan Drouin snapped one past him from the face-off circle that dipped under his glove hand for the game-winner.

It was a soft, inexcusable goal allowed in a hugely important game, and was part of five goals allowed on 28 shots for the former Vezina Trophy winner. After the game Rask seemed frazzled, his voice getting soft and trailing off when it was his turn to accept responsibility for a giant stink bomb tossed down on the Garden ice.

“You have to [pick up the team]. A lot of the time that’s the case, the goalie has to make a couple extra stops there and today I didn’t,” said Tuukka Rask. “That’s part of my job to accept the fact that sometimes it’s your fault. There were a couple of times I should’ve made the save, but it happens sometimes…”

The high pressure situation with things spiraling out of control even seemed to be getting to their best, most established players with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand forcing things down a goal in the third period. Bergeron and Marchand were put back together with David Pastrnak in the second and third periods with Bruce Cassidy looking for answers, and they attempted to execute a D-zone face-off play that’s worked a few times for them in the last few years.

It involves Bergeron winning the draw, and then either Marchand or Pastrnak immediately releasing for a home run pass that can turn into a breakaway opportunity if the opponent is caught napping. Tampa Bay wasn’t caught unaware when the B’s tried it in the middle of the third period, but then Bergeron and Co. kept trying to make it happen.

They ended up icing the puck multiple times trying to make the goal happen in one quick play rather than working for the tying goal, and it killed any momentum they could have possibly started building up for a third period comeback. It also showed a fundamental lack of confidence that they could scratch and claw their way back in on Thursday night, and that’s a definite cause for concern at this time of year.

“At the end of the day, it is a focus, and it’s urgency, and it’s understanding time and score. We did not have a good comprehension of that tonight, I don’t think, and of late,” said Cassidy. “We’ve let games get away, and you can look back, even this year, we’ve had some goals scored against us late throughout the course of the year. It’s been built in this year, and we’re still fighting through it, to be perfectly honest.

“It’s a mindset that we’ve just got to get harder and understand the stakes, and what’s required after you score a goal. I think winning teams get through that, and we’re fighting through it this year. Some nights, we’ve been good at it. We’ve had resiliency, I think. It’s just, lately, it’s creeping in, and we’ve got to nip it in the bud now.”

It hasn’t been just the young players at the heart of this four-game losing streak, and the Tampa loss should have been a wakeup call that the Bruins veterans need to find a way to step up their focus, their effort level and their composure at this time of year. After their fourth loss in a row, the Bruins have frittered away whatever margin for error they once had with just eight games remaining in the regular season.

Their next wrong move will cause a nosedive straight out of the playoffs for the third year in a row, and that will spell changes far and wide on Causeway Street for the Boston Bruins.