A Cup of expectations

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A Cup of expectations

By Rich Levine
CSNNE.com Columnist Follow @rlevine33
Walking down to the Garden on Wednesday night, it was hard to ignore the enormous beads of sweat rolling down my forehead. And Im sorry if thats a gross picture, but it was a pretty gross situation.

Its only a 10-minute walk from my apartment to Causeway Street, but I was sweating like an Iron Man on his last leg of the triathlon. Or KG five minutes into the first quarter. And the sweaty irony of it all is that I was going to a hockey game. It was mid-June, at least 125 degrees in the shade, and I was headed over to watch the Bruins.

Summer hockey isnt something were accustomed to in Boston, but weve embraced it like we would any opportunity to end 39 years of misery. Maybe it helps that the NFLs in such a depressing state, the Celtics are off planning vacations for the lockout and the Sox are in the early stages of a painfully long season. But that probably doesnt matter. Hockey doesnt need help right now.

The Bruins are two wins away from the Stanley Cup, and the citys on fire.

By now, the novelty of making it back to the Finals has worn off. After the events of the last two games, theres no one whos just happy to be here. When we look at the Bruins, theyre no longer a gang of scrappy guys trying like hell to catch a break and earn some respect. We see a team thats more suited to win the title than any Bruins squad in the last 30 years.

Theyre the real thing. Theyre a championship team. We know its there.

But were also realistic, So, despite all the recent success, no ones lost sight of the fact that the Bruins are still skating on thin ice. That as much as theyre two wins from glory, theyre two losses from watching Aaron Rome kiss the Cup. And it wont be easy.

First of all, they have to win a game in Vancouver. The Canucks will reap the same benefits of playing at home that the Bruins did in the first two games. The same benefits the Bruins did in the last two. Vancouver had the best home record in the NHL, and the home crowd will never be as hyped as they will be on Friday, or in a potential Game 7.

Theres the fact that the Canucks are the more talented team. Or maybe I should say: They have more individual talent. They have more players capable of making more plays, and again, thats magnified even more at home.

Theres also the fact that momentum doesnt travel in the playoffs. If you dont believe me, just ask the 2011 Canucks. Earlier this week, they came to Boston on top of the world. They were beating the Bruins at their own game; they were the physically superior team, willing and able to outlast their opponent before stepping up when it mattered most. Back then it was the Bruins goalie who subjected to mass criticism. It was the Bruins who were having their toughness questioned, and left trying to reestablish their misplaced identity. The series moved to Boston, and they flipped the script.

Is that an inevitable fate for the Bruins as they trek back across the border? Nope. But heres what we do know for sure: If the Bruins win Game 5, it wont be because of anything they did in Game 3 or 4. Game 5 is only about Game 5. As soon as the puck drops, the celebrations over. No ones accomplished anything. Its a three-game series for the whole damn thing. And the Bruins have a shot. A real shot.

And while the events of this past week wont have any real effect on the game itself, they will have a great effect on how we watch it.

This is no longer just another trip to the Stanley Cup Finals. This isnt 1988 and 1990, where the Bruins served as the doormat to a Western Conference giant. It may have felt that way when this all started. But that feelings long gone. Expectations are higher and realer than theyve ever been. Theyre as high as they can be.

Its summer hockey and weve all taken the plunge, just waiting to sweat out another piece of history.

Rich Levine's column runs each Monday, Wednesday and Friday on CSNNE.com. Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrlevine33

Morning skate: Devils win NHL Draft Lottery

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Morning skate: Devils win NHL Draft Lottery

Here are all the links from around the hockey world and what I’m reading while continuing to marvel at the strength and character of Isaiah Thomas. 

*PHT writer Cam Tucker has Barry Trotz and the Washington Capitals doing major damage control after going down 0-2 to the Pittsburgh Penguins in their series. 

*Dion Phaneuf is finding exactly what he needed with the Ottawa Senators and is going past where he’d been before in the Stanley Cup playoffs. 

*The New Jersey Devils won the NHL Draft Lottery, and will get the No. 1 overall pick in this summer’s draft with a team badly in need of some star power. 

*On the other hand, the Colorado Avalanche were the big losers dropping all the way to the fourth overall pick after being a dumpster fire all season. I guess there is some hockey justice left in the world. 

*Larry Brooks says that the word on the street is that the Lightning are going to shop Jonathan Drouin this summer for a stud top-4 D-man. They should be getting the pick of the litter by making the skilled forward available. 

*Ron MacLean and Don Cherry talk Big, Bad Oilers and the decline of Corey Perry during Coach’s Corner on Hockey Night in Canada. 

*For something completely different: Manny Ramirez hitting home runs in Taiwan is a beauty and a joy forever

Bruins will add assistant coach, tap Bradley to run draft board

Bruins will add assistant coach, tap Bradley to run draft board

While the Bruins technically operated, and operated well, short one coach once assistant coach Bruce Cassidy replaced Claude Julien behind the Boston bench, that’s not expected to continue for the upcoming season.

Bruins GM Don Sweeney confirmed this week that the B’s will be retaining the current assistant coach group of Joe Sacco, Jay Pandolfo and Bob Essensa to work under Cassidy as full-time head coach, and that they’ll be looking to add one more person to his staff.

“I think our staff did a very good job jumping in and picking up, because we didn’t add to it at the time [of Cassidy’s promotion] when we subtracted from the group. It will stay as is,” said Sweeney. “We will also be looking to add to it to complement that group. Bruce and I have already spoken briefly about it, but we haven’t identified yet and we’ve already received some people that would have some interest. We’ll pursue that accordingly.”

Sacco handled the defensemen and the penalty kill in the final few months of the season, and Pandolfo worked with the forwards in his very first season as an NHL assistant coach following a stint in player development. Essensa, of course, worked with the goaltenders and as the “eye in the sky” from the press box once Pandolfo moved to the bench following the coaching change. So the natural assumption would be that the Bruins would hire another former defenseman to work with the D-men given the backgrounds of Sacco and Pandolfo as forwards.

“We haven’t gotten too far out in front of it. But, Joe Sacco moved from the front of the bench to the D, and did a terrific job [while playing a] big part of the penalty kill all year. Jay [Pandolfo] came down from the press box, worked with the forwards, which he had worked with all year. But now he’s in the heat of the battle. They were terrific. We were a true staff,” said Cassidy. “Goalie Bob [Essensa] became a little bit more of an eye in the sky for us up there. We had Kim [Brandvold], who was our skating coach, helped a lot with the practices, with the pace we were trying to establish. I can’t thank them enough.

“Going forward, we’re going to meet and decide what’s the best fit for us [as an assistant hire]. Obviously those two have a forward background, I have a defense background, so maybe that’s an area we have to look at, what’s the best complement. But we’d be getting ahead of ourselves if I said today that we’re pinpointing an exact thing. We’ve got to look at it and say, ‘OK, who’s the best fit. What makes us the most successful?’ We’ll go from there with the candidates we get.”

The situation automatically leads one to wonder if P-Bruins head coach Kevin Dean would be a possible candidate as a longtime Cassidy assistant at the AHL level, or if Dean wants to continue on his track as a head coach. If not Dean then perhaps Providence Bruins assistant coach and former Bruins D-man Jay Leach might also be a strong candidate after his first season working with the young P-Bruins at the AHL level.

While it’s clear the Bruins still have some discussions before potentially making a move on hiring an NHL assistant for Cassidy’s staff, they have made a determination about their scouting staff. The B’s never replaced the head of amateur scouting position when Keith Gretzky was hired as an assistant general manager with the Edmonton Oilers, and it will instead be Bruins assistant GM Scott Bradley that will run Boston’s draft board in June.

“Scotty Bradley has stepped back into that role, which he’s very comfortable doing. He holds the title of Assistant General Manager and he’ll oversee the draft. We’re very comfortable with the people he’s worked with in recent years that have been a big, big part of our recent drafts. Our meetings went well,” said Sweeney. “They were just at the U-18s and had other subsequent meetings, so there will be some banter in the upcoming [scouting] meetings, in terms of where we end up finalizing our list. Scotty will oversee that.”

It’s not exactly foreign territory for Bradley, who previously held the head scouting position with the Black and Gold and played an instrumental role in drafting players like Milan Lucic, Phil Kessel, Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci. But there’s also some question as to how big a role Gretzky played in drafting the massive wave of talented prospects now pushing their way through Boston’s system, and how much his presence will be missed at NHL Draft weekend moving forward.