Haggerty: Canucks providing concentration test for B's

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Haggerty: Canucks providing concentration test for B's

WILMINGTON, Mass. The Bruins are entering the grind portion of their schedule, so a simple philosophy is going to benefit them greatly: simply put their heads down and start pushing forward.

After a cushy first three months the Bs will play 12 games in 18 days starting Wednesday night in New Jersey against the Devils. Theyll have three back-to-back games in that span, and fatigue is going to become a very real factor while focus is going to wane for some.

The road tilt against the Devils will be followed Thursday night by their one and only meeting of the season against the Calgary Flames on the Garden ice, and that will be a challenge by itself. The Devils are cranking at playoff-level efficiency this season, and the Flames will be desperate to finish off a seven-game road trip strongly after going 2-3-1 through their East Coast swing thus far.

The collective Black and Gold eyes should be trained solely on each of those individual games, but theres one problem. Theres also a flopping, biting, tire-pumping gorilla in the room distracting the Bruins as they strengthen their focus on two midweek games against the Devils and Flames.

Thats right.

The Vancouver Canucks invade Causeway Street on Saturday for a much-anticipated rematch of last years Stanley Cup Finals. The Saturday matinee at TD Garden represents the only time Vancouver and Boston will face each other unless they both make it to the Finals again in June.

Oh, its going to be interesting, admitted Brad Marchand. I know that the fans and everybody else are going to be into it. Itll be good to get it over with. I dont think Ive ever even talked about it once this year, though.

Its just another game in our minds, though. I havent heard any of the guys even talking about it once yet. We both realize nothing is going to change what happened last year. It doesnt matter how they come in and play. Its only one game.

Alex Burrows will get his comeuppance for biting Patrice Bergerons finger, Roberto Luongo will undoubtedly face entire sections of Bs fans furiously waving tire pumps and the Sedin Twins will be entering the same unmerciful no respect zone they found so intimidating in last years seven game series.

It will essentially come down to a 60-minute chance for players on both teams to right whatever wronged them last spring when a retaliation penalty might have been the difference between winning and losing.

The Bruins will have plenty of motivation headed into that game after the bad blood built up over those seven hate-filled games, and the Canucks should be looking for payback. Its not really in their team fabric to cause too much trouble and its really not in their best interest to beat Boston at their own game.

But it will be fun to see how things play out. Theres no love lost for Marchand in the Vancouver dressing room after he used one of the Sedins as a boxing speed bag during the Finals. A whole group of Bruins would clearly love a piece of Burrows after he targeted one of the NHLs classiest players in Patrice Bergeron with his biting antics.

Those are just the obvious ones. Perhaps Mason Raymond still wants a piece of Johnny Boychuk after the hit that knocked him out of the Finals last season, or maybe the entire Bruins roster wants to take their shot at Maxim Lapierre.

Well, actually the last one is a stone-cold definite.

Vancouver really lost some respect in the eyes of the other teams around the NHL with behavior unbecoming of an NHL team during the Finals, and perhaps they see Saturdays game against the Bruins as a chance to win some of that back. It was Vancouver that was rag-dolled around the ice and Mark Recchi labeled the Canucks the most arrogant team hed ever played against following his retirement from hockey after a 20-year Hall of Fame career.

But all of that speaks to just how easily the Bruins could get sucked into the hype leading up to Saturdays game rather than the challenge at hand in New Jersey and Calgary. Their head coach doesnt see potential distraction as an issue at this point with two games coming up in two days.

I havent heard any of the guys talking about. We havent talked about it. Weve become accustomed to focusing on the next game in front of us, and for us its about bouncing back from a game where we didnt like the way we played, said Claude Julien. We need to focus on getting our own game back where it needs to be rather than putting the focus on any of that stuff.

Its vital to get the train back on the tracks after dropping a stink-bomb in Dallas for one of their most uninspiring losses of the season.

That cant happen if their minds are wandering toward jacking up Burrows rather than getting the next available two points.

Weve really matured and had success as of late because were really not looking past the next game, said Marchand. We make sure the focus is where it needs to be on New Jersey tomorrow night, and then after that it will be on Calgary. Well worry about that game when its here.

The Bs have uncovered some newfound maturity this season while defending their Cup championship, and nowhere has been that more evident than taking things one game at a time during an 82-game marathon. Theyve been able to focus game-to-game all season, but a looming battle with the Canucks will put that dedication and patience to the test in the next few days.

It all starts when the Bruins get back to work in New Jersey.

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.