Haggerty: The Bruins opening night that should have been

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Haggerty: The Bruins opening night that should have been

BOSTON -- Tonight should have marked the start of another raucous journey with a Bruins team that holds the best chance to bring Boston its next world championship.
It should have been every bit as compelling as the last five years have been for the Bruins organization a span thats seen them become rock stars in Boston again for the first time since the 1970s golden era.
The Boston Bruins should have been taking the ice for a nationally televised game against the Broad Street Bullies in Philadelphia.
They should have been kicking off their campaign of great vengeance and furious anger after getting unceremoniously booted by Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals in the first round of the playoffs last spring.
Tyler Seguin should have been continuing on his pathway to becoming the next big superstar on the Boston sports scene, and about to go supernova in his third NHL season as so many other NHL stars have before him.
Milan Lucic should have been breathing fire on the ice while atoning for last years limp playoff performance, and showing everyone hes worth every cent of his hefty new 6 million per year contract. The Bruins should have been finally getting on with life without Tim Thomas while their exiled goalie prepares for the end of days in his Colorado bunker.
But instead the Big Bad Bruins have scattered to the four corners of the world.
Rather than populating Charlestown and the North End, they are strange hockey players in strange lands wearing unfamiliar hockey sweaters in exotic European locales. A year ago the Bruins were raising a new Stanley Cup championship banner to the rafters after an unforgettable playoff run. The local fans were even softening to the visage of owner Jeremy Jacobs after long holding him as the No. 1 reason Boston had never won another Cup after the golden age of Bobby Orrs Bruins teams.
But all of that has been sullied by the leagues second work stoppage in the last eight years, and their fourth labor dispute in the last 20 years.
Instead, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and Jacobs the powerful NHL Board of Governors Chairman have both become the picture of greedy gluttony while holding fans hostage as they shake down the players for every last silver piece.
The loge and balcony seats at TD Garden will be empty rather than rocking for Bostons home opener against the hated Habs on Oct. 18 a game thats now a historical footnote after getting whacked along with five other games to start their season.
It takes two to tango, of course, and the NHLPA hasnt put forth their best offer either despite the cancellation of games.
But only Gordon Gecko would be proud of a group of NHL owners squeezing the players for 18-20 percent pay cuts after the league raked in a record 3.3 billion in revenues last year. The owners are locking the players out, and two weeks worth of games have already been cancelled including the season-opener against the Philadelphia Flyers. Another two weeks worth of games will be cancelled within the next week if the NHL and NHLPA cant bridge the billion dollar gap that remains between the two sides.
Lockouts and threats of work stoppages have essentially become parliamentary procedure in CBA negotiations for professional sports leagues.
One only needs to look at the difficulties that both the NBA and NFL survived last year when their agreements were up. But its different with the NHL, and by extension its different with the Bruins.
The National Hockey League has lost 1,780 games due to work stoppages since 1992. Major League Baseball (983), the NBA (504) and the NFL (0) combined have lost a little more than half that number over the last 20 years. The NHL gets no benefit of the doubt in work stoppage situations. The league has continuously shot itself in the foot over the years when it could have been building an undying loyal fan base combined with a likable group of assets in the players.
"We hoped it wouldn't be as confrontational as the last time around, but obviously that wasn't the same sentiment on the other side," said Andrew Ference before he left Boston to play in the Czech Republic. "We're getting into this rut where we're almost a joke. Every few years we've got to revisit the same thing."
Both the Bruins and the NHL have enjoyed skyrocketing momentum and unparalleled popularity over the last few seasons. Theyve hit jackpot after jackpot with the Winter Classic, the 247 HBO series and their new partnership with the NBC Sports Network over the last few years. But theyve also taken their oft-abused fan base for granted one more time, and continue to act the part of the no-good boyfriend in the latest Tori Spelling Lifetime made-for-TV movie.
Theres every reason to believe the NHL and the players will get their act together by December at the latest, and there will be Bruins hockey in Boston this season. This fight is strictly about splitting up the money pie, and that can be resolved.
Its not the philosophical battle for the salary cap that cost the NHL an entire season eight years ago.
But Jeremy Jacobs, Gary Bettman and the rest of the NHL purse-holders are playing with kerosene-soaked matches each time they choose profits over paying fans. Eventually even the most ardent hockey fans will move on and decide to spend their money elsewhere leaving the Board of Governors with the hollow husk of a league that could have been great.
The silence from the empty yellow seats at the Garden is deafening, and is forcing their fans to move on with their lives.
That will be the regrettable, lasting legacy of the NHL hawks if they continue on their current path to mismanagement and self-destruction.

STANLEY CUP FINALS: Guentzel's goal lifts Penguins by Predators 5-3 in Game 1

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STANLEY CUP FINALS: Guentzel's goal lifts Penguins by Predators 5-3 in Game 1

PITTSBURGH - Pittsburgh rookie Jake Guentzel beat Nashville's Pekka Rinne with 3:17 left in regulation to put the Penguins ahead to stay in a 5-3 victory in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final on Monday night.

Guentzel snapped an eight-game goalless drought to help the defending champions escape after blowing a three-goal lead.

Nick Bonino scored twice for the Penguins. Conor Sheary scored his first of the playoffs and Evgeni Malkin scored his eighth. The Penguins won despite putting just 12 shots on goal. Murray finished with 23 saves for the Penguins, who used the first coach's challenge in finals history to wipe out an early Nashville goal and held on despite going an astonishing 37:09 at one point without a shot.

Game 2 is Wednesday night in Pittsburgh.

Ryan Ellis, Colton Sissons and Frederick Gaudreau scored for the Predators. Rinne stopped just seven shots.

The Penguins had all of three days to get ready for the final following a draining slog through the Eastern Conference that included a pair of Game 7 victories, the second a double-overtime thriller against Ottawa last Thursday.

Pittsburgh downplayed the notion it was fatigued, figuring adrenaline and a shot at making history would make up for any lack of jump while playing their 108th game in the last calendar year.

Maybe, but the Penguins looked a step behind at the outset. The Predators, who crashed the NHL's biggest stage for the first time behind Rinne and a group of talented defenseman, were hardly intimidated by the stakes, the crowd or the defending champions.

All the guys from the place dubbed "Smashville" have to show for it is their first deficit of the playoffs on a night a fan threw a catfish onto the ice to try and give the Predators a taste of home.

The Penguins, who led the league in scoring, stressed before Game 1 that the best way to keep the Predators at bay was by taking the puck and spending copious amounts of time around Rinne. It didn't happen, mostly because Nashville's forecheck pinned the Penguins in their own end. Clearing attempts were knocked down or outright swiped, tilting the ice heavily in front of Murray.

Yet Pittsburgh managed to build a quick 3-0 lead anyway thanks to a fortunate bounce and some quick thinking by Penguins video coordinator Andy Saucier. Part of his job title is to alert coach Mike Sullivan when to challenge a call. The moment came 12:47 into the first when P.K. Subban sent a slap shot by Murray that appeared to give the Predators the lead.

Sullivan used his coach's challenge, arguing Nashville forward Filip Forsberg was offside. A lengthy review indicated Forsberg's right skate was in the air as he brought the puck into a zone, a no-no.

It temporarily deflated Nashville and gave the Penguins all the wiggle room they needed to take charge.

Malkin scored on a 5-on-3 15:32 into the first, Sheary made it 2-0 just 65 seconds later and when Nick Bonino's innocent centering pass smacked off Nashville defenseman Mattias Ekholm's left knee and by Rinne just 17 seconds before the end of the period, Pittsburgh was in full command.

It looked like a repeat of Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals against Ottawa, when the Penguins poured in four goals in the first period of a 7-0 rout.

Nashville, unlike the Senators, didn't bail. Instead they rallied.

Ellis scored the first goal by a Predator in a Stanley Cup Final 8:21 into the second. Though Nashville didn't get another one by Murray, they also kept Rinne downright bored at the other end. Pittsburgh didn't manage a shot on net in the second period, the first time it's happened in a playoff game in franchise history.

Nashville kept coming. Sissons beat Murray 10:06 into the third and Gaudreau tied it just after a fruitless Pittsburgh power play.

No matter. The Penguins have become chameleons under Sullivan. They can win with both firepower and precision.

Guentzel slipped one by Rinne with 3:17 to go in regulation and Bonino added an empty netter to give Pittsburgh early control of the series.

Morning Skate: No surprise cheap-shot artists are running wild

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Morning Skate: No surprise cheap-shot artists are running wild

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while hoping everybody on this Memorial Day takes some time to appreciate all of those that made the ultimate sacrifice to protect our freedom. We should also take a moment to say thanks to people like the three heroes in Oregon that stood up to a hateful bigot earlier this week, and in doing so reaffirmed what the majority of people living in the US believe we are all about while trying to live up to that ideal every day.
 
-- A number of NHL legends are shaking their heads at the dirty play that we’re seeing in these playoffs, particularly those plays targeting the superstars that people pay big money to see in the postseason. Why should anybody be shocked by this? The rooting out of enforcers, and fighting, has taken accountability out of the game for the cheap-shot artists and dirty players, and leaves little real deterrant for players looking to take out opponents with dangerous plays. I wrote about this a couple of years ago when the NHL threw the book at Shawn Thornton for going after Brooks Orpik, and in doing so chose to protect somebody trying to hurt opponents (Orpik) and punish somebody trying to protect his teammates (Thornton). It was a sea change for the league, and something players didn’t forget as more and more enforcers were quickly weeded out of the NHL. This is what the rule-makers and legislators wanted, and now it’s what they’re getting just a couple of years later with dangerous stick-work, cheap shots and a general lack of respect for fellow players.
 
-- Here's why the Tampa Bay Lightning would consider trading a player like Jonathan Drouin, and the major impact that could have on the offseason trade market.
 
-- Down Goes Brown has a Stanley Cup Final rooting guide for the other 28 other fan bases now that Nashville and Pittsburgh are in the final series.

-- So which goaltender has the edge in the Stanley Cup Final: Nashville's Pekka Rinne, or Pittsburgh's two-headed monster of Matt Murray and Marc-Andre Fleury?
 
-- Scotty Bowman says winning back-to-back Stanley Cup titles has become monumentally difficult since the advent of the salary cap.
 
-- Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are pushing each other to be betters, and showing exactly how a team should be led by its superstars in the salary-cap era for the league.
 
-- For something completely different: We can confirm through this report that a lot of hot dogs are eaten in the summertime. So glad we have people to research these kinds of things.