Haggerty: Bruins back in familiar territory

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Haggerty: Bruins back in familiar territory

BOSTON -- The Washington Capitals have done well in their first-round series against the reigning Stanley Cup champion Bruins, and theyve proven the wise guys wrong by playing hard-nosed, playoff-style hockey.

The Caps and Bruins have battled through six one-goal games with the seventh and deciding matchup on tap Wednesday night the first time in Stanley Cup playoff history that two teams have played six consecutive one-goal games. But Game 7 is what separates the men from the boys, and its something the B's excelled at last year.

Boston players like Zdeno Chara and Tim Thomas had previously struggled in Game 7, but flipped that on its head last season as the Bruins became the only team in NHL history to post three Game 7 victories en route to winning the Cup.

Theres no secret to Game 7 success, as the Bruin players tell anybody who'll listen. It simply comes down to confidence, poise and self-control under the greatest pressure cooker the NHL can concoct.

This is where experience can help; the playoffs are tight regardless, said Thomas, who now stands 3-1 in Game 7s during his Bruins career. If you look back at last year, we played in a lot of tight playoff games in our run. In a majority of those tight games -- even during the regular season weve done a good job of finding and figuring out a way to be the team that comes out on top. Thats where experience comes in.

I actually think being on the bad side of Game 7 losses allows you to know you can fail and that life will go on. Your life wont be ruined. Until youve had that experience its really tough to handle. It actually gave me an advantage going into the Game 7s last year. But having won having won several times in Game 7 -- also gives you confidence that you can get it done again.

The Bruins have 18 players remaining from last years Cup-winning roster, and each one of them has the cool confidence of a player thats been there and done that.

It matters a bit, said Brad Marchand, who scored a pair of goals in Bostons 4-0 win over the Vancouver Canucks in their last Game 7 last June. We know we have to battle for 60 minutes, right down to the last buzzer. But in Game 7 anything can happen and its usually a lucky bounce or a minor mistake that will decide the game. We have to be prepared to play our best game yet of this series.

The best part for the Bruins: They havent come close to playing up to their potential in the first six games of the series, while Boston has brought the best out of the Capitals.

Were evolving here as team, said coach Claude Julien. The one thing I can say is our team has been good in the series, but I dont think its been at its best. Its at best when everybodys playing their best hockey. Last year we had that challenge in the first round. We remember that third line with Chris Kelly, Rich Peverley, and Michael Ryder playing a big role and got us through.

Weve got some guys right now that have carried us through a Game 7 and some of those other guys in the last game the Tyler Seguins, the Patrice Bergerons, the David Krejcis, the Milan Lucics and the Marchands, are picking up their game. When we got everybody going were a really good team. Thats what we have to bring Wednesday night. We need to get the best out of everybody. Hopefully once that happens we get the right result and we carry forward with that group.

The Bruins have managed to push to a Game 7 despite getting zero goals from Milan Lucic; no more than one goal from anybody not named Rich Peverley, and a complete breakdown by Thomas in the third period of the Game 5. Theyre also missing Nathan Horton the guy who clinched the Game 7 victories over Montreal and Tampa Bay during last years playoff run after he was ruled out for the postseason because of a concussion.

All of that is background noise now. All that matters to the B's is the task at hand.

Even though we won last year I still have in the back of my mind all those bad feelings from losing those Game 7s, said David Krejci. Its more intense. Everybody is more involved. Everything gets tight because nobody wants to open up, so youve got to stay patient. Usually the more patient team wins.

Its fun when you win and it sucks when you lose. Ive been on both sides and its a lot more fun when you win. Winning the Cup is one thing, but we have a chance to win it twice in a row. That is something special. We have a chance in Game 7 to get a step closer. Its an exciting time. Weve got to get it done.

It hasnt been easy and its been far from pretty, but there is every reason to believe the Bruins will make it four Game 7 victories in a row when they take the ice against the upstart Capitals on Wednesday night.

They're too experienced and too ready for these big playoff moments, and they have to know theres another possible deep run at hand with the Penguins out of the playoffs and the Rangers on the brink of elimination in the East.

If the Bruins can summon up one more big game, things are once again breaking exactly the right way.

Vatrano takes 'step in the right direction' in return to practice

Vatrano takes 'step in the right direction' in return to practice

BRIGHTON, Mass -- The Bruins lost Matt Beleskey for six weeks to a knee injury this week, and now they’re hoping to get another winger back now that 22-year-old Frank Vatrano has rejoined the Bruins at practice.

Vatrano was wearing a red no-contact jersey at Tuesday’s practice at Warrior Ice Arena, but his presence along with the other players at the team skate means that he’s moving closer toward a return to the B’s lineup. While initial timetables for his recovery from foot surgery had him in the early January range for returning to the Bruins lineup, it appears that he might be at least a couple of weeks ahead of that initial expectation.

Either way Vatrano is happy to be back on the ice with his teammates after the torn ligaments in his foot wiped out his training camp and the first two plus months of the regular season for him.

“It was a big step for me today. It was nice to be out there with the guys for the first time,” said Vatrano, who scored a combined 44 goals last season for Providence and Boston in a breakout season with the B’s organization. “I’ve gone through the rehab and done everything I need to do to get back playing, so now the next step is getting back on the ice with the guys. I felt great, so now it’s just waiting to hear the news when I start playing again.”

While Vatrano is still a young, relatively inexperienced player with just one full year of pro hockey under his belt, the sense from the Bruins is that he’s going to help a team that’s currently ranked 25th in the NHL in offense. Claude Julien was encouraged by seeing him out there in the red, no-contact jersey that his teammates were chirping him about, and said that his level play at last spring’s world championships should give him confidence when he jumps back into a big role with the Black and Gold.

“It’s a step in the right direction for Frank. That’s the best way for him to get to the pace of our game because it’s going to take a while when you’ve been out that long,” said Vatrano. “I think his experience at world championships last year is a real blessing in disguise because he gained a lot of confidence there. I think that’s going to help him a lot more than had he not gone.

“He played against a lot of elite players last year, and he fared really well. I think he’ll be coming in now with some confidence, and we just have to sure coming in that we give him every opportunity to succeed by using him properly, and giving him a chance to find his game.”

That certainly sounds like the Bruins are preparing for a top-6 role and maybe some power play time once the young, sharp-shooting Vatrano is back up to full speed. That should be fun to watch once he’s ready to play, and ready to again unleash that shot and release that rivals anybody else for tops on the Bruins roster. 

Spooner on trade rumors: 'I definitely want to play here'

Spooner on trade rumors: 'I definitely want to play here'

BOSTON -- Ryan Spooner has definitely heard the reports out there that he’s being shopped in trade by the Boston Bruins, and he played like a guy that didn’t want to be moved in Monday’s win over the Florida Panthers at TD Garden.

Spooner had his good skating legs, created chances for his teammates and set up the third period goal that got the B’s into overtime when he flipped a shot at the net that was tipped in by David Backes while camped out around the crease. Spooner finished with an assist and a plus-1 rating along with five shot attempts in his 14:24 of ice time, and looked much more like the energized, creative player that was at the heart of some pretty good offensive things last season.

In other words, Spooner looked much more like the talented young player that finished with 13 goals and 49 points last season while centering the third line.

“I think there were five or six games there where I felt I wasn’t playing a bad game. Then six or seven games there where it was hard to get, I guess, the ice time that I wanted,” said Spooner. “At the end of the day, I’ve been a little bit inconsistent.

“I just have to go out there and use my speed and my skill and I found that in the game here. I thought that I did that and I just need to play with that, and I should be fine.”

Multiple sources have indicated to CSN New England that the Bruins are talking about a possible Ryan Spooner deal with multiple teams including the Carolina Hurricanes, San Jose Sharks and New York Islanders. Part of it is certainly the need for the Bruins to collect a bit more goal-scoring as Monday night’s win was just the eighth time in 26 games this season that Boston’s offense has scored more than two goals.

Part of it is also, however, a challenging season for Spooner where he’s been in and out of Claude Julien’s dog house while getting dropped to the fourth line at times, and even being left off the power play a handful of times as well. He’s played out of position at left wing rather than center and has underachieved to three goals and nine points in 25 games largely played with David Krejci and David Backes.

Whatever the history and the number of potential trade scenarios, Spooner said was “fed up” with all of it in his own words as he headed into Monday night’s game, and one thing remained true above all else: He wants to stick around as a member of the Bruins.

“I try to just put it in the back of my mind. When I was 17, I went through the same thing [in junior hockey]. I definitely want to play here,” said Spooner. “I want to help out and that’s kind of where I’m at now. If I play like I did [against the Panthers], I think I’ll be fine. I just want to go out, I want to help out, and that’s kind of where I’m at right now.”

The Black and Gold are looking for a top-6 forward capable of putting the puck in the net on the trade market in any possible deal involving Spooner, but it would seem that the 23-year can control his own destiny in Boston if he starts generating offense and putting the puck in the net. Spooner did just that on Monday night while setting up a third period goal, and lo and behold the Bruins offense posted four goals after struggling to get more than two for most of the season.

That could turn into the kind of trend that keeps Spooner in Boston if he knocks out the inconsistency in his game, and instead steps on the gas pedal and brings the speed and skill that got him to the NHL in the first place.