Bruins would welcome another Winter Classic

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Bruins would welcome another Winter Classic

WILMINGTON, Mass. It would be a Herculean chore to find a member of the Bruins willing to utter anything negative about their experience playing the Philadelphia Flyers at Fenway Park two years ago.

The Bruins won itin overtime, the packed Fens went home joyful and jubilant after Marco Sturm won it with one of his handful of dramatic goals in Bs history and thenational hypeput Bostons love for hockey in the national spotlight 17 months before the Stanley Cup parade drew 1 million people strong in June.

So theres certainly enthusiasm about participating in another Winter Classic when Boston is concerned."It was a really neat and very cool experience," said Andrew Ference. "Playing in it every once in a while it would be awesome. The city gets super excited and I've really thought it's an event for the fans at the end of the day. We get excited to play in it, it looks awesome on TV and the coverage is really cool. But it's reallyabout putting on a show for the fans that love hockey."There is alsoprecedent withseveral US teams taking part in multiple classic appearances within the first handful ofyears inits existence. If its good enough for the Penguins and Flyers getting multiple chances to play in the NHLs January showpiece event, then why cant it also be true for the Black and Gold?

The massive TV ratings achieved by the Bruins both locally and nationally could be the kind of lure NBC is always looking for during the Winter Classic events. They're alsoa natural choice after captivating the hockey world on their runto the Cup last spring.

TheClassicwas a great experience. All of the stuff we went through with the preparation and the day before, and then the day of the game. It was a great experience for our entire hockey club, said Bruins coach Claude Julien, who also looked the picture of an old school hockey coach in his winter classic fedora. Obviously there are certain teams that have had two opportunities at it: Philadelphia has it this year and Pittsburgh played in their second classic opportunity as well. Maybe well get another crack at it?

Whispers circulating around next years Winter Classic have Detroit and Washington DC as the two most likely settings for the January event.In both instances the Bruins could make an excellent road opponent for the Wings or the Capitals. The Bs and Red Wings showed what kind of entertaining Original Six draw they could be while facing off in the Thanksgiving Showdown in November. It was the Caps and Bruins that were supposed to be the original combatants at the Fenway game three seasons ago before the Flyers horned in to face the B's.

The eventual game against the Flyers on Yawkey Way ended up serving asthe high water mark for B's goaltenderTim Thomas while battling through hip problems that ultimately forced him to give way to Tuukka Rask in the playoffs three seasons ago. So the 37-year-old gets a warm feeling in his heart when the conversation turns to the Classic.

For me personally the Winter Classic was the probably the highlight of that season, said Thomas, who had some loftier highlights last yearwhile winning the Vezina Trophy, Conn Smythe Trophy and Stanley Cup in one fell swoop. That and going to the Olympics really saved that year for me. It was a lot of fun playing in the outdoor venue. As an American playing in a baseball stadium it possibly meant more to me than it would have meant to a Canadian or a Finnish guy. "As an American you have thosedual dreams growing up of not only being a hockey player but also a baseball player too. It was cool and being a history buff playing in a historical ballpark like Fenway Park was also great. I didnt expect to get another chance to play in a Winter Classic, but well see if we do.

Thomas saidhed gladly take part in another Winter Classic after assuming the Fenway game would be his only crack, and a chance to play in his home state of Michigan against the Wings would be the cherry on top of the Winter Classic sundae.

It's the kind of thing he never dreamed off while growing up in Flint, Michigan and then watching Tigers games at Tiger Stadium back during the 1984 season Sparky Anderson's crewcaptured the World Series. It would obviously be something a little extra special for the Flint, Michigan nativeto face the Wings.

Comerica Park would be different for me. I went and watched plenty of games at the old Tigers Stadium and the only year I lived in Detroit the Tigers won the World Series in 1984, said Thomas. It would be cooler if it had been in the old Tigers Stadium, but Comerica Park would be great too.

Of course everybody knows something special seems to happenwhen Thomas gets inspired by the hockey environment around him. Come to think of it that might just be another selling point for the Black and Gold in an outdoor Original Six showdown next season.

Haggerty: Legacies on the line at edge of another Bruins collapse

Haggerty: Legacies on the line at edge of another Bruins collapse

BRIGHTON, Mass – Let’s start with the straight fact that it’s asinine, apologist drivel to let the Bruins off the hook, and perpetuate an off-the-mark myth there isn’t enough talent on the B's roster to be a playoff hockey team.

They are middle-of-the-road in the talent department to be sure, and the roster depth clearly isn’t what it was in their elite years, as the Bruins balance an aging core group with an influx of youthful talent from the next generation. But this is also a proud, talented group with one of the best all-around centers in the NHL in Patrice Bergeron, a former Norris Trophy winner and future Hall of Fame defenseman in Zdeno Chara, a legitimate Hart Trophy candidate and in-his-prime All-Star left winger in Brad Marchand, an emerging 20-year-old offensive superstar in David Pastrnak and a former Vezina Trophy winning goaltender still in his prime in Tuukka Rask.

That doesn’t even mention high-end players David Krejci, David Backes and Torey Krug that are game-changing talents in their own right.

Combine that with the other players on the Bruins roster and this is a team interspersed with proud Stanley Cup winning players and enough talent to still take care of business in the final eight games and punch their playoff ticket. Winning a Cup in 2011 can never be taken away from Chara, Krejci, Bergeron, Marchand, Rask and Adam McQuaid, and neither can the seven straight seasons in the playoffs under Claude Julien.

But there’s a danger now of some late-in-the-game tarnish on Black and Gold legacies for some of those distinguished, proud players if they once again collapse down the stretch this season and miss the playoffs for the third year in a row with a late-season nosedive. Four consecutive regulation losses have cast doubt into everything for the Bruins and roused all the same old uncomfortable questions from the past three years.

Bergeron and Marchand need to find their best games and dominate the way elite players do in big-game situations like Saturday night vs. the Isles. Pastrnak, Brandon Carlo and Frank Vatrano need to show they're ready for the playoffs.Rask needs to finally show he's ready to shine as a No. 1 goalie and lead his team to victory in a big game rather than buckle under weighty pressure. 

“This is their legacy, those guys. They are Stanley Cup champions and they missed last year. Each year we talk about writing our own story, and I believe that because guys come and go,” said coach Bruce Cassidy. “But generally there is a core group of guys and it’s their legacy. I’m sure they want to reach the playoffs and get back to being a Stanley Cup contender every year.

“That’s what they want and to a man I’m sure they would tell you that. I do believe that they believe it’s different [this season]. Until you change the course of your results, those questions are going to come. We have to change the results to make then go away. One week of not getting results that we want doesn’t mean we’re panicking, but we do understand what’s at stake. We want to be playing in April and May.”

If the Bruins can’t pull out a win on Saturday night against the Islanders, who just pushed even with them at 82 points on the season, then their playoff lives will no longer be under their own control anymore. It will become another late-season choke job by a team that will have its character and courage questioned. The highs of six years ago will be matched by the bitter lows of the past three seasons.

People won’t talk about a scrappy, little underdog Bruins team that just couldn’t get over the hump once again. Instead, they’ll lament a formerly proud, tough-minded group of hockey players that somehow turned into NHL tomato cans all too willing to play the victim once the going got tough late in the regular season.

That’s no way to go out if you’ve ever had your name etched on Lord Stanley’s Cup, and the Bruins that know better should be taking that to heart right now.