Bruins tired of talking about the past

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Bruins tired of talking about the past

By Mary Paoletti
CSNNE.com

BOSTON -- The ad showed the frantic final seconds of an on-ice battle. It was the Philadelphia Flyers, a puck-clear away from the Eastern Conference Finals. Then the ad cut to the newly eliminated Boston Bruins. They skated back to their bench. They flew home.

"WATCH," the TV instructed, "AS THE BRUINS LOOK FOR REVENGE AGAINST THE PHILADELPHIA FLYERS IN THEIR FIRST MEETING SINCE BOSTON'S STUNNING DEFEAT IN THE STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS." Or something like that.

Pregame stories trumpeted the same scene, each promising a bloodthirsty Bruins team "haunted by their epic seven-game setback" and ready for a "rematch."

The ad ran before the Bruins' game in Philadelphia on Dec. 1. But that wasn't all. Not a single mention of that game, in any medium, failed to tie it to last season's collapse.

Understandable.

Of course the Bruins wanted to punish the team who beat them. They confirmed it every single time they were asked. They were pissed off. They were both unwilling and unable to forget.

And that Wednesday night, 10 days ago, they skated into the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia and took what they could get: A 3-0 win. Two points. Some satisfaction.

Yet meeting the Flyers on home turf tonight will be an even more of a headhunt, right? Go get that chum bucket! Roll out the sad-Bear commercials! Dip those game previews in venom!

For us. But for them? Are the Bruins sick of the media's 2010 Revenge storyboard and ready to move on?

"Yes,'' Mark Recchi said Friday. "That was last year. It's over, it's done with. It's a new season."

The tired winger's eyes were clear when he spoke. He had just practiced on the TD Garden ice for an hour on what would normally be an off-day. It was prep for Saturday night's fight, the third game in five days. Where there can be signs of physical exhaustion in a locker room the mental strain can only be imagined.

But Recchi took the time to make sure he was perfectly understood.

"We have to learn from it, obviously. But it's over,'' he repeated. "They've got a good team now to worry about. It's always been a good rivalry for us. They've got a good team, we've got a good team, and we've got to be ready."

Teammate Blake Wheeler reacted the same way when prompted about the media's playoffs fixation. He shook his head as he shucked elbow pads and turned to his locker.

"That was last year. Guys will never forget about it but that carries no weight this year. Obviously we're always going to remember that but it's something that's gotta be kept in the past and our focus is just on the present and keep continuing to play well at home."

Can you blame them. Rehashing past failures is miserable for anyone on any plane of life. To be poked and prodded into reliving it for reporters gripping voice recorders ("React! Emote! Say something provocative!") seems like it should be in some textbook about psychological trauma. How frustrating it must be to get dragged backwards when you're trying to forge ahead.

It's not that the guys won't be hungrier than usual for a win tonight. The hunger is just channeled differently. What it can do is fuel the Bruins toward the goal of being the better team in 2010. Because Lord Stanley doesn't care if you settled last season's scores.

But what about the fans? Are they as focused on the current season? Was that win in Philly as satisfying for the boys at the bar wearing Black and Gold as it was for the Bruins? How about the three generations of Hub hockey fans gathered around that antagonizing TV?

I wonder if they want blood.

I wonder if they're fantasizing about October of 2009 when Carolina came back into Boston. The Hurricanes, of course, were the revenge foil prior to Philadelphia after ousting the Bruins from 2009's Eastern Conference semis. And talk about revenge. Boston was murderous, unleashing a beating on both the scoreboard (a 7-2 win) and the ice (92 total penalty minutes).

The fans were deranged with happiness. They celebrated in the club seats and unleashed bedlam in the balcony. A victory that complete against the wretched 'Canes who stole their Cup was better than anyone had hoped for in a regular season rematch.

Wheeler imagines the passion will be there again tonight.

"It's a huge game for the fans,'' Wheeler said. "It's still fresh in their memories... what happened last year, so they want to see us come out and play a really solid game."

After the game day morning skate, Flyers forward Scott Hartnell agreed. "Itll be hostile, Im sure, to say the least. There are probably a lot of disappointed fans that were not only at Game Seven, but that were watching at home."

There's one little hang-up to this fan fantasy of a Boston massacre, though. Boston already beat the Flyers this year, remember? So who's looking for retribution tonight?

"We played a good road game in Philly," coach Claude Julien said of the Bruins 3-0 win. "It was a battle and I expect an even bigger battle Saturday, to be honest with you. Now you got a team coming back wanting to redeem themselves and get that win back that we stole from them in their home building and I would expect it to be a tough challenge."

Hate for Philly is a familiar feeling in this city. These two teams met in the playoffs not once but four times in the 1970s. This isn't the Broad Street BulliesBig Bad Bruins clash of that era but those memories are built into the brains of many B's fans who will come roaring into the TD Garden tonight.

Last year's playoffs loss is just another layer that will eventually be buried under others, a benchmark for the momentum shifts that happen in every rivalry. Boston won the Winter Classic on an overtime goal, then the Flyers won the playoffs matchup; this year Boston triumphed on December 1 and now Philadelphia has a chance to pay them back.

And you know what? The loser will have the motivation for "revenge" when they meet again in March.

The lesson: You can't compare. The only game that matters is the one in front of you. Hartnell can jaw all he wants about the past as he did Saturday morning, "We did a great job of fighting back and ruining a night when they were supposed to win Game 7 and dominate," but if his team loses again tonight those words will fall flat.

That's why the Bruins need to be, and are ready to, move on.

Mary Paoletti can be reached at mpaoletti@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Mary on Twitter at http:twitter.comMary_Paoletti

Coyotes hire Craig Cunningham as scout

Coyotes hire Craig Cunningham as scout

The Coyotes have hired former player Craig Cunningham as a pro scout, keeping the 26-year-old in hockey after a cardiac episode ended his playing career this season. 

Drafted by the Bruins in the fourth round of the 2010 draft, Cunningham played 34 games for Boston over parts of two seasons before he was waived and claimed by Arizona. He totaled 19 games for the Coyotes, but served as captain of the Tucson Roadrunners, the team’s AHL affiliate. 

Cunningham was hospitalized after he collapsed during pregame warmups on Nov. 19. He was kept alive by continual CPR, but had his lower left leg amputated the next months due to an infection from the episode. 

Known as a high-character player who was popular with his teammates, Cunningham’s transition to scouting lets him further his career after a scary break. 

"I'm very excited to begin the next chapter of my life with the Coyotes," Cunningham said in a statement released by the team. "I'm very grateful to John Chayka, Dave Tippett, the Coyotes and Roadrunners organizations, and all of the great fans across Arizona for the incredible support I've received over the past year. I'm looking forward to helping the Coyotes and I can't wait to get started in my new role."

Said Chayka, the team’s general manager: ”We're thrilled to have Craig join our hockey operations department as a pro scout. Craig was a smart, hard-working player with an incredible passion for the game. We're confident that he will bring those same qualities to the Coyotes in his new role and that he will be an invaluable asset to our organization. We look forward to Craig helping us in several areas and are excited that he is staying with the club."
 

Morning Skate: Overreacting to the Oilers' window

Morning Skate: Overreacting to the Oilers' window

Here are all the links from around the hockey world and what I’m reading while really enjoying what the CW does season in and season out with the Flash.

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) Don Brennan says that the Senators fans not showing up for Game 6 is their way of sticking it to Sens owner Eugene Melnyk.

*The talk is turning to the next captain of the Buffalo Sabres, and what they can do to help open up communication up and down the roster.  

*A guy that wore a Habs toque on his twitter avatar writes a glowing, praise-filled article about the performance of PK Subban during these Stanley Cup playoffs. He’s undoubtedly been good, but he just might have been wearing his Montreal Canadiens footie pajamas when he wrote this one, and rattling his fist at Habs management all the while.

*Interesting piece by Jason Gregor about the “window to win” for the Edmonton Oilers, and an odd notion that the window will close when Connor McDavid has moved out of his entry level contract. I’d say that’s kind of ludicrous.

*The Colorado Avalanche coaching staff has been let go after last year’s dreadful season, and that’s too bad for a really good guy in former Providence College head coach Tim Army. I’m sure he won’t be out of work long.

*Colin White made his Stanley Cup playoff and NHL debut for the Ottawa Senators in Game 6, and helped push Ottawa to a Game 7. It will be interesting to watch the Massachusetts native and former Boston College standout develop with the Senators as White was one of the players that the Bruins skipped over to instead draft Jake DeBrusk and Zach Senyshyn in the first round of the 2015 NHL Draft. The others, Mathew Barzal, Travis Konecny and Kyle Connor, are all either in the NHL or knocking on the door as well, and it’s going to be a challenging road for both of Boston’s forward prospects to live up the justification of the B’s drafting them first. Granted DeBrusk and Senyshyn are also both doing their thing for the P-Bruins as they push into the conference finals of the Calder Cup playoffs, and they’re both bright prospects in their own right. It’s going to take years to determine the rights and wrongs of that first round, but White getting into the lineup for the Senators is proof of just how high that organization is on him.

*Pittsburgh Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan says that Sidney Crosby handled the targeted abuse well from the Senators in a Game 6 loss that will push to a Game 7 between the Penguins and the Senators.

*For something completely different: A great message from Brookline homey and former Sox GM wonder boy Theo Epstein in his commencement address to Yale University.