Haggerty: Road woes reign supreme

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Haggerty: Road woes reign supreme

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com Bruins InsiderFollow @hackswithhaggs
BOSTON Its probably no surprise that the home teams are dominating in this years Stanley Cup Final like no either in recent memory.

The3,000-plusmiles that separate Boston and Vancouver represent the longest distance between two NHL teams ever engaged in a Cup Final, and the cross-continental travel has been grueling after the first five games of the series.

The long flights between the two cities seem to have been a factor -- maybe even more so than the matchup advantages given to the home teams that get the last line change, or the volume of the home crowds.

So far in the series, the home team has won every game and outscored the visiting team by a combined score of 17-3. The travel has to be partly to blame. But it's more than that, at least according to the Bruins.

Shawn Thornton talked about not playing with enough desperation in Game 5, and he regretted that his team gave a lackluster effort with the Stanley Cup on the line.

Zdeno Chara inspired the Bruins with a rare speech to the team between the first and second period of Game 3 after Nathan Horton went down with a severe concussion, and that gave them an edge in a pair of punishingly physical games in Boston. Chara said it was the edge that was missing from the teams game when they traveled to the West Coast.

We play a lot more on the edge in Games 3 and 4, said Chara. We have to bring the same approach for Game 6. Obviously its very important to be playing physical. We know what kind of team we have and what plays to our advantage. So we just got to get back to it.

Yet, for all the physicality the Bruins would like to bring, they aren't able to do it if they have tired legs, which is what seemed to be the problem in their Game 5 loss.

The Bs had enough energy and gas in the tank to hold down the high-powered Canucks offense, but the Black and Gold skaters had little left to give in the third period. It was the third time in three games in Vancouver when they seemed sapped in the third period.

That's usually when Cup-worthy hockey teams dig down into untapped reserves of energy and emotion, but the Bruins could not.

The Canucks have outshot the Bruins by a 32-26 margin in the third periods in Vancouver, and have outscored the Bs by a 3-0 margin while pulling away in the final 20 minutes in each of Bostons road games.

Thats the sign of a hockey team that's playing tired, and its likely the sign of an Eastern Conference team not used to the sheer amount of travel required going back and forth across the continent.

It just didnt seem like we had our energy, said Marchand. Everyone seemed a little slow and our legs just werent going. So we just have to make sure we leave everything on the ice next game, and if we go down, we go down fighting.

The Canucks have hired sleep consultants and gone outside the box to maximize their ability to withstand the rigors of their challenging schedule. And they're the team that is more used to long flights.

This is all new territory for a Bruins team that didnt have to fly more than three hours at a time for any other playoff series leading up to the finals.

The good news: Boston gets two off days before hosting the Canucks at home in Game 6, and Vancouver has looked exhausted for its two games in the Hub.

Everything in the series points to the Bs taking Game 6 in front of their excitable home crowd, but if they do, they will have to find a way to summon their legs for a winner-take-all Game 7. What makes that even more difficult? Just one off-day for the cross-country travel.

Its a problem the Bruins will have to solve if they hope to kiss the Cup.

Joe Haggerty can be reached at jhaggerty@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs

Bruins sign pair of draft picks, including BC's Fitzgerald, to entry-level deals

Bruins sign pair of draft picks, including BC's Fitzgerald, to entry-level deals

Amidst the current turmoil at the NHL level, the Bruins delivered a little good news about the future today . . . with more potentially to come. 

The Bruins announced the signing of a pair of prospects/former draft picks -- Boston College forward Ryan Fitzgerald and defenseman Emil Johansson -- to entry-level contracts that will kick in next season. There will likely be another wave of signings with the Bruins from the amateur ranks once players like Charlie McAvoy, Anders Bjork and Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson are finished up with their college teams in the NCAA tournament, though it remains to be seen exactly which players end up taking the NHL plunge. 

There was some uncertainty as to whether Fitzgerald would definitely sign with Boston after completing his senior season at BC, but he will immediately join the Providence Bruins on an amateur tryout agreement after signing a two-year deal. Johansson will join the Bruins on a Professional Tryout Agreement with a three-year entry level deal that kicks off next season. 

The 5-foot-10, 177-pound Fitzgerald was an alternate captain for BC in 2016-17, with 12 goals and 19 assists for 31 points in 34 games with 56 penalty minutes and a plus-14 rating. Fitzgerald is also the son of Billerica native and former Bruins forward Tommy Fitzgerald, who took to Twitter on Friday to voice his overwhelming pride over his oldest signing an NHL contract. He was a fourth-round pick by the Bruins in 2013.

Johansson, 20, completed his first season with Djurgardens IF of the Swedish Hockey League in 2016-17, establishing career highs with 7 goals and 10 assists for 17 points with 26 penalty minutes in 49 games. The B's selected him in the seventh round in 2014.

Rask given maintenance day as Bruins return to practice

Rask given maintenance day as Bruins return to practice

BRIGHTON -- The Bruns got back to work on Friday, but were without their No. 1 goaltender for practice at Warrior Ice Arena ahead of their biggest game of the season Saturday night against the New York Islanders at the Barclays Center 

Tuukka Rask was given a maintenance day after playing three games in four days, and Matt Beleskey was also missing “on family leave." The off-day for Rask could have very well about getting away from the rink mentally as it was physically; he has a 3-6-0 record during the month of March. 

Interim coach Bruce Cassidy said after practice that he wouldn’t be making a decision on his starting goalie in Brooklyn until Saturday, but it would be stunning if Rask didn't play.

“We’ll see how things clear up . . . and see where we’re at,” said Cassidy of any Bruins lineup changes against the Isles. “We’ll know by then. [The starting goalie] will be determined tomorrow. I don’t want to get out in front of it, to be honest with you.”

Here are the line combos and D-pairings based on Friday’s practice, with Cassidy uncertain of any changes he might make between now and Saturday night: 
 
Marchand-Bergeron-Backes
Stafford-Krejci-Backes
Vatrano-Spooner-Hayes
Moore-Nash-Acciari
 
Chara-Carlo
Krug-McQuaid
C. Miller-K. Miller