Haggerty: Sixty minutes from the Stanley Cup Finals

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Haggerty: Sixty minutes from the Stanley Cup Finals

By JoeHaggerty
CSNNE.com

TAMPA Just 60 minutes of solid hockey stands between the Boston Bruins and the Stanley Cup Finals.

The Bruins havent been there since a 1990 matchup against the Edmonton Oilers. But now its so close to a reality that the Bruins can touch it, and it seems even more attainable when Tim Thomas is pulling his Superman act between the pipes.

Mark Recchi is the only member of the Bruins who was actually in the NHL that year. Though he wasn't with the B's then, he knows what it's like to make it to the Cup finals and win. The 43-year-old certainly knows that these Black and Golden opportunities dont come around very often. And he knows that, for many of his teammates, it will never come again.

Recchi won his first Stanley Cup with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1991 on a team loaded with talent, and he relives the moments of that first Cup experience each time he moves ahead with these Bruins as their elder statesmen and on-ice leader.

Im still great friends with a lot of those guys on the 1991 Penguins," said Recchi. "Thats the nicest thing. You have a bond thats never broken when you win a championship together. Its something you hold for the rest of your life. The great thing about 2006 when he won again as a member of the Carolina Hurricanes is that I was able to watch and enjoy it a little more because Id already won a Cup in 1991.

You really take it all in more. You watch how guys react to things and you enjoy it. You see how guys are handling things, and maybe not handling things. Its fun to be around it. This is the time of year that guys love to be involved in.

Its the time of year where its up to the Bruins to come out hitting, scoring and flying just like they did against the Flyers in the final game of the last round. The Bruins piled it on early with strength, skill, speed and anything else they could think to throw at the flagging Flyers.

Thats the same game plan they should have Wednesday night against faltering goaltender Dwayne Roloson and a sagging Lightning defense corps.

Its amazing that the Bs have encountered fluctuating goaltender situations in each of the last two rounds against Philadelphia and Tampa Bay, because Boston has enjoyed an overwhelming advantage in that category.

Even so, and even with a series lead, they don't want to sit back and wait.

Theres nothing to worry about it. Theres no pressure. You just go out there, play your game and lay it on the line, said Recchi. You put everything you have into Wednesday night and if it doesnt happen then theres a Game 7. Were going to go out, enjoy it, have fun out there and focus on what we do well as a hockey club.

The guys are excited. This is a great opportunity to end things right now, and were ready to give it a go.

The Bruins have been in these spots before, of course.

They need only look at their last game against the Lightning at the St. Pete Times Forum as a cold shot reminder what happens when things get a little too quick and easy.

The Bs continue to gather a little too much giddiness in certain situations, and constantly battle the balancing act of complacency and lost confidence once things suddenly take a turn. Its a toxic cocktail once it takes effect on the ice as it did in the second period of Game 4.

The Bruins hope to avoid that at all costs, as well as avoid a gray-hair-inducing Game 7. Claude Julien doesn't even want the possibility of a Game 7 to enter into the teams consciousness.

You want to have a mindset of winning Game 6. We talked about it. Don't think ahead and don't think of the past, said Julien. We need to think of the present. Tomorrow is an opportunity to come out and play the best game we can. It's as simple as that.

The Bruins are resilient, and they have fought back from both epic losses and overwhelming odds this season.

The 0-2 series comeback against the Montreal Canadiens was storybook stuff, and there were multiple regular-season losses that registered in the gut punch variety. Perhaps none were a bigger kick to the stomach than Chapter 1 and 2 of the Max Pacioretty saga with the Bruins a pair of regular-season losses to the Canadiens that left plenty of hard feelings and soul searching in their wake once the scrapping Montreal forward got involved. Zdeno Chara went through his own personal trials in the final month of the season and through the first round of the playoffs, but both the player and the team are ready for anything now.

The Bruins are different this season, and theyve proven it time and time again. They did it again in Game 5 against the Lighting at the Garden, and much of it comes from an even-keeled philosophy thats the opposite of last seasons celebrating when the team went up 3-0 in the series against the Flyers.

There are no longer many questions about elite Bs players like Chara and Thomas after beating down the Game 7 ghosts against Montreal and then vanquishing the Flyers but they cant start building their own Bruins legends until they have a Cup of their own to share with the high standard City of Champions in Boston.

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

Monday, May 22: Senators all out of playoff magic?

Monday, May 22: Senators all out of playoff magic?

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while feeling like we’ll be getting a Pittsburgh/Nashville Stanley Cup Final, which I suppose would be the best possible outcome at this point.

*You hear the name and it just gets you angry all over again if you grew up watching the Bruins. Ulf Samuelsson is in the running for an assistant coaching job with the Chicago Blackhawks, according to a report.

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) Chris Johnston says it appears that the time is running out on a Cinderella season for the Ottawa Senators.

*A taste of winning at the world championships with Team Sweden could fuel Alex Edler’s desire for a change from the rebuilding Vancouver Canucks.

*Interesting piece on a former can’t miss goaltending prospect with the Nashville Predators that ended up totally missing, and what he’s been up to in life since then.

*Guy Boucher explains to Pro Hockey Talk why he kept changing goaltenders in the Game 5 blowout loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins.

*Don Cherry explains that he hates afternoon hockey during his Coach’s Corner from Hockey Night in Canada in the Game 5 blowout between the Penguins and Predators.

*A good piece from FOH (Friend of Haggs) Alex Prewitt on the Nashville Predators, and the evolution of the franchise into a team on the verge of a Stanley Cup Final appearance.

*For something completely different: What a win by the Boston Celtics in Game 3 in Cleveland, and quite an interesting, fired up interview with Al Horford afterward.

Sunday, May 21: Has Kessel changed?

Sunday, May 21: Has Kessel changed?

Here are all the links from around the hockey world and what I’m reading while finding it unbelievable that some people are questioning the heart of Isaiah Thomas at this point.

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) Bruce Arthur with a column on Phil Kessel playing all of his cards right with the Penguins. It’s something he never did in an untenable Toronto situation where he and Dion Phaneuf were expected to be franchise players instead of the “third banana” type roles they were meant for on good teams with Ottawa and Pittsburgh.

That was very clear when he was with the Bruins early in his career, was not a good match with the hearty crew that ended up winning a Cup in 2011 and basically didn’t want to play for Claude Julien anymore after just three seasons. It was more clear when he pulled the same reluctant public figure card as Toronto’s high-paid star forward in the NHL’s biggest media market, and never did more than put up his numbers. Now in Pittsburgh he’s clearly well behind Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin on the pecking order, plays in a place where he can fade into the background a little bit without too many problems and a lot of his eccentricities are viewed as charming, or Phil being Phil, rather than Kessel being viewed as a bit of an odd duck or a malcontent.

But to this Bruins writer he’ll always be the guy that clashed with Julien over the stick that he preferred to use, clashed with Zdeno Chara on the ice for his work habits and was ultimately a player that wasn’t very popular at all in the Bruins dressing room despite the obvious talent and the courageous battle with cancer he waged during his first year in Boston. He’s obviously matured and is more well-rounded in some ways than his Boston days, but in many ways he’s the exact same Phil that doesn’t want to change for anybody or anything.

*Here’s the New York Islanders season in review after disappointing with a failure to get into the playoffs, and a big situation coming up with John Tavares.

*PHT writer Cam Tucker has Nashville Predators forward Ryan Johansen done for the playoffs after being diagnosed with “acute compartment syndrome.” What a big blow to the Predators.  

*The Ottawa Senators are still looking to push the Penguins to the brink in the Eastern Conference Finals, but it’s obviously going to be a difficult task for them.

*Don Cherry and Ron MacLean had their Coach’s Corner on Hockey Night in Canada this weekend, and tackled some hot topics like the Nashville crowd throwing a dead duck on the ice.

*Ryan Getzlaf addresses the fine from the NHL for using a vulgar slur on the ice, apparently aimed at nobody in particular according to the player.

*Here’s a set of statistics that effectively sums up the pathetic regular season put forth by the Colorado Avalanche.

*For something completely different: In an interesting rumor, the Mr. Robot show creator is apparently in talks on an Obi-Wan Kenobi standalone movie.