Bruins see Canucks showdown as just another game

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Bruins see Canucks showdown as just another game

WILMINGTON -- Here we go.

The Bruins and Canucks, a rematch of last year's Stanley Cup Final. It's all or nothing on Saturday afternoon at the TD Garden.

Right?

Well, maybe not exactly. Vancouver may very well have something to prove. But the Bruins? They know this isn't the Stanley Cup Final.

Sure, they want the two points. The B's realize they're one point behind the New York Rangers for the top spot in the Eastern Conference. They understand that the Canucks are the top team in the West.

But as far as the build-up leading into Saturday afternoon's game, it's not what some outside the dressing room may make of it.

"I don't think it's as much as people think it is," said Bruins coach Claude Julien after Friday's practice at Ristuccia Arena. "The Finals was last year, and we did what we had to do, and we succeeded in that. We had to come back this year, and it's a league game. I'm not going to stand here and say it means absolutely nothing. There was a rivalry that was built there, that I'm sure both teams are going to go into tomorrow's game knowing that.

"But I don't think it's any different than the rivalry we have with Philadelphia or other teams that we've played, Montreal. It's just going to be one of those intense games. But certainly, I wouldn't read more into it than that. There's no Stanley Cup at the end of tomorrow's game, but certainly, it's a battle of two teams that feel they're good teams, and certainly will want to measure themselves to each other.

"I don't think we're putting all our eggs in one basket, as far as saying this is a must-win or a do-or-die situation," added Julien. "It's a league game, and we'd like to get the two points for the right reasons, and nothing more than that."

Bruins enforcer Shawn Thornton agreed.

"It's a good challenge for us," said Thornton on Friday. "As far as extra build-up and stuff, I guess because we played them in the Finals, it was a pretty emotional Final. And the Final should be emotional. You're in the wrong place if you don't have emotion at that time of year. But as for this one, it's game, whatever it is, 38 for us. It'll be a good test. I think there's more build-up to it than there needs to be."

Milan Lucic expects to have a physical presence on Saturday. And he said on Friday that he's enjoying the hype.

"I think it's great that there's a build-up towards it," said Lucic. "Both teams I think are excited going into this game, as we should be. Both didn't really have the starts that we wanted, and both teams picked up their game and are on top of the league. So it makes it more interesting that there's a lot that we're playing for.

"It's a big two points for us. In the Eastern Conference, the Rangers are playing well. They're still ahead of us, and it's a chance for us to be first in the whole league, if we win this game. So it's definitely a big game for us, and we're looking forward to the challenge."

The Bruins watched the Canucks play the San Jose Sharks on television, Monday. They see the same type of Vancouver team that they saw in last year's Cup Final: a speedy, skilled, puck-possession team that enjoys getting their defensemen involved because of their solid goaltending.

"Their game hasn't changed," said Julien. "They had a great year last year, and had a lot of success with the way they play, and they believe in the way they play. And we believe in the way we play. So I don't think much has changed, as far as what we should be looking for. We should be looking for the same things we did last year when we played them."

When asked if he was concerned that the Canucks would use Saturday as a "statement" game and play more physical, Julien said that's not something the Bruins are concerned about.

"We're built to handle that if that comes, we'll deal with it then," he said. "But we're certainly not preparing ourselves for that. That's not what our main focus is on. It's about playing a solid game the way we've been playing all year. Whatever build-up people want to make of it, we're going out there and playing the game that we know we can."

Thursday, Aug. 25: Nearly two decades later, the Whalers live on

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Thursday, Aug. 25: Nearly two decades later, the Whalers live on

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while in disbelief mode that the summer is almost over.

*Good piece on the remainders of the Hartford Whalers organization in Connecticut trying to keep the dream alive for the Whale.

*Tyler Seguin sits down for a podcast this week that I freely admit I did not have the time to listen to. I wonder if Boston even rated a mention in the conversation?

*Rating the top NHL contracts, according to the fancy stats hockey analysts, sounds like an interesting exercise.

*Tracey Myers has Duncan Keith bowing out of the World Cup of Hockey while recovering from an injury, and getting replaced by Jay Boumeester.

*The “Da Beauty” Hockey League has kept players like Dustin Byfuglien, Ryan McDonagh and David Backes in hockey shape this summer while slowly getting ready for the season.

*The Arizona Coyotes make a historic hire by naming Dawn Braid as skating coach, making her the first female coach in the NHL.

*For something completely different: FOH (Friend of Haggs) Rich Shirtenlieb guested on the #DORK podcast this week, and it sounds like he didn’t love “Stranger Things.” At the very least he liked “Preacher” better. I thought Preacher was entertaining, but I didn’t even think it was in the same stratosphere as Stranger Things. Rich also has me wanting to watch “It Follows” now, however, after his endorsement.

 

Bruins don't poll well in latest New England Sports survey

Bruins don't poll well in latest New England Sports survey

It’s no secret Bruins fans are getting fed up with a hockey team in decline, one that’s missed the playoffs each of the last two years. Now there are numbers to prove it.

Channel Media and Market Research, Inc. came out with its annual New England Sports survey,  tabulating responses from over 14,600 polled, and, according to the numbers, the Bruins are dropping in popularity, fan support and faith in the current management group.

The B’s are holding somewhat steady with 16 percent of voters listing them as their “favorite sports team” behind the Patriots (46 percent) and Red Sox (29 percent) while ahead of the Celtics and Revolution. Claude Julien also ranked ahead of John Farrell among the big four teams in the “coaches/manages most admired” category.

But after sitting at a relative high of ranking at 27 percent for “ownership performance” in 2014 -- they year after their trip to the Cup Finals against the Blackhawks -- the Bruins now rank dead last in that category at 2 percent, behind the Patriots, Red Sox, Celtics and even the Revolution. Ouch, babe.

Also sitting at a lowly 2 percent is Bruins president Cam Neely in the “leadership performance” category. In "management performance," Neely has dropped from a solid 49 percent in 2014 to just 16 percent in this summer’s survey.

So B’s fans are clearly upset with a team that traded away Tyler Seguin, Johnny Boychuk, Milan Lucic and Dougie Hamilton, and has featured a decimated defense corps for each of the last two seasons. But do the B’s fans think that things are getting any better with prospects coming down the pipeline?

Not really.

In the “which team has done the best job making its product better.” category, the Patriots (35 percent) and Red Sox (31 percent) were resting at the top, with the Celtics (27 percent) a respectable third. The Bruins limped in at just 4 percent with a fan base that very clearly sees that, on paper, this upcoming season’s club doesn’t appear to be much better than last year's.

On top of that, only 13 percent of those surveyed believe the Bruins have gotten better over the last year, and 52 percent believe they’ve just gotten worse. A lowly 3 percent of those surveyed think the Bruins have the best chance of the five teams to bring a world championship back to Boston; the Patriots (79 percent), Red Sox (11 percent) and Celtics (5 percent) all ranked higher.

Finally, Zdeno Chara, Tuukka Rask and Jimmy Hayes were at the top of the list of the Boston athletes “who did not meet expectations” last season. None of that is a surprise, given the state of Boston’s defense along with Hayes’ subpar season.

The good news for the Bruins: They still have a passionate fan base. But they need to start reversing course immediately before they do lasting damage to the B’s brand.

Wednesday, August 24: B's dealing with post-Vesey aftermath

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Wednesday, August 24: B's dealing with post-Vesey aftermath

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading with the Olympics coming to a close . . .
 
-- FOH (Friend of Haggs) Kirk Luedeke sorts through the aftermath for the Bruins after losing out on Jimmy Vesey

-- Detroit Red Wings GM Ken Holland gave an interview where he said the Red Wings aren’t Stanley Cup contenders this season. 

-- Related to Holland’s comments, some of the media in Detroit aren’t taking the dose of reality all that well

-- It’s a big season for New Jersey Devils forward Kyle Palmieri, who will be starring for Team USA on the World Cup team. 

 -- PHT writer Cam Tucker says the Buffalo Sabres still have a strong group of forwards even without Jimmy Vesey.

-- Jamie Benn is giving everything to his Dallas Stars team, and that means that the World Cup of Hockey is taking a backseat
 
-- The Colorado Avalanche are nearing the end of their head coaching search as they look for their replacement for Patrick Roy.
 
-- For something completely different: NBC is making the argument that millenials watched the Olympics, but just not on the traditional formats