Haggerty: Three reasons why Bruins won't collapse


Haggerty: Three reasons why Bruins won't collapse

By Joe Haggerty

BOSTON I was asked by Comcast SportsNet Central to come up with three reasons why both the Bruins and Flyers are different than they were a year ago, when Philly rallied from the same 3-0 series deficit it faces now. Here's why the Bs won't repeat last seasons historic collapse:

1)More scoring: Its not the monumental struggle to score goals for the Bruins this time around as it was last year, when Daniel Paille and Miroslav Satan were top-six forwards by the end of the Philly series and Trent Whitfield was taking regular shifts as a bottom-line center over a young forward named Brad Marchand. The Bruins scored nearly one extra goal per game this season than they did last year, when they had the NHLs worst offense. Last year's Bruins had one 20-goal scorer; this year's version has a 30-goal scorer and three other 20-goal scorers. Its still mind-boggling that Marco Sturm led the anemic Bs in goals scored with a mere 22 last season before blowing his knee out in the playoffs.2)Health: Sturm and David Krejci were both out with injuries by this point in the series last year, Dennis Seidenberg (last year's big trade acquisition) never played in the postseason at all after hurting his wrist near the end of the regular season, and Marc Savard was a shadow of himself trying to cut through the fog and fill in against Philadelphia. In addition, Tim Thomas sat on the bench for the entire postseason, mainly due to a balky hip that required surgery. Krejci, Seidenberg and Thomas have been difference-makers this time around. Bostons only injury this series has been bottom-pairing defenseman Adam McQuaid, and thats something they can overcome. 3)Experience: Captain Zdeno Chara and assistant captains Patrice Bergeron and Mark Recchi were among the nine Bruins on this years squad who lived through the historic collapse. That experience -- feeling the bitterness of the loss, being the butt of jokes over the summer, hearing about it constantly during this season -- has strengthened their resolve this time around. Theres a time-honored belief in sports that teams have to lose, and sometimes lose epically, before they learn how to win, and the Bruins have shown over the last few weeks that theyve most definitely learned how to win.Conversely, here are three reasons why the Flyers are different and wont be able to shock the world this time around:1)Goaltending: The Flyers did switch from Brian Boucher to Michael Leighton last season during their series against the Bruins when an injury sidelined Boucher, but this year they've been going with a goalie-by-committee plan that simply isnt working. The Flyers have been forced to switch goalies in all three of the games against the Bs thus far -- and actually started three different goalies in their seven-game series against Buffalo in the opening round -- and still haven't come up with anyone who looks like he might be the backbone of a comeback. Boucher, 35, has been hanging on for a long time as a fringe guy with moments of brilliance, but he looked cooked while giving up that five-hole goal to Nathan Horton before getting lifted from Game 3. A good lesson for Flyers GM Paul Holmgren: This goaltending-on-the-cheap philosophy is a really crappy idea.2)No Chris Pronger: The mean, minutes-munching workhorse of a defensemen with a Stanley Cup ring and Norris Trophy-level skills played just under 20 minutes in Game 1, and hasnt been heard from since. Maybe its a back injury. Maybe its a hamstring problem. Maybe its a sinus infection, or maybe he aggravated the hand injury he was coming back from. Whatever the case, Pronger is hurting badly and doesnt figure to play again in the series. Thats a huge loss for the Flyers, and every bit as big as if Chara went down for the Bruins. His absence cant be underplayed, and theres been a real lack of intimidation coming from the Flyers with no Pronger around.3)The Odds: The sheer mathematics involved with a team coming back two straight seasons against the same opponent when down 3-0 in a seven-game playoff series is astronomical. Prior to last season, the last time an NHL team blew a 3-0 series lead was 35 years ago (Penguins to the Islanders); it's a once-in-a-generation (if that) sporting phenomenon that doesnt come around all that often. It would have to be the most soft, spineless, weak-minded, spiritually bankrupt team of all time to blow 3-0 playoff series leads in consecutive seasons -- to the same opponent, no less -- and the Bruins are none of those things.

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


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


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.