Haggerty: Win means stability -- for now


Haggerty: Win means stability -- for now

By JoeHaggerty

For us as a group it was nice to reward our fans because theyve been punished enough. -- Claude Julien

BOSTON In one short sentence, Claude Julien showed just much he understood all that was swirling around him.

When asked to express his feelings when he saw Nathan Horton fire up an overtime game-winner that clinched Bostons first Game 7 victory in 17 years, Julien had the big picture in mind.

There were ramifications and upheaval brewing on Causeway Street if the Bruins couldnt get it done in their fourth season under Julien, but it looks like all of that has tabled for the time being.

The Bruins always understood the pressure and the expectations that came with Wednesday's perform-or-perish Game 7 scenario -- they've been there before. But this current brand of Black-and-Gold brothers had never been able to match the lofty aspirations of a hockey city reborn.

Beyond the three straight Game 7 losses under Julien prior to Wednesday night -- to the Flyers, Hurricanes and Habs -- there were legitimate organizational questions about the long-term employment of Julien and his staff.

Even with the win, the questions linger.

Bruins president Cam Neely will ultimately make the decision on retaining the coaching staff and the roster once the season is over, and he didnt shy away from the questions pertaining to his coach while holding court in the victorious dressing room.

Based on how we finished last year and coming into this year, we had some high expectations, said Neely. We knew it was going to be tough series against Montreal given how we played each other during the course of the season. In sports there are always expectations and there is always pressure.

The pressure and the pain might have been exactly what these Bruins needed to get to the other side. Learning to win can often involve painful losses and wince-inducing lessons, and they dont come any more painful than the gut punches suffered during last years collapse against Philly.

In the end, that bitter taste may be exactly what spurred Boston on to victory against the Canadiens . . . and what will keep them going.

You know, the guys deserved it. I think we deserved this series, said Mark Recchi. I give Montreal a lot of credit: They played hard, they played well, their power play was unbelievable and it kept them in the series. But five-on-five I thought we were a really good hockey team. I thought we deserved the series.

Horton's overtime score was a team effort in every sense of the word.

Adam McQuaid beat P.K. Subban in a one-on-one puck battle in the corner. Milan Lucic set a perfect pass back to Horton in the high slot for the second assist of the playoffs, and David Krejci served as a human screen as the puck whistled past.

That little bit of overtime execution gave Boston the victory after several heart-stopping saves by Tim Thomas in the extra session, and 34 total stops on the evening.

No longer will Thomas, Lucic Zdeno Chara or Patrice Bergeron have to answer questions about why their team couldnt capture a Game 7 in the Stanley Cup playoffs after Wednesday nights coming-out party.

The Game 7 dragon has been slain, and the Bruins were enjoying the spoils after finally tasting sweet victory against a team that wielded the upper hand on them way too many times.

There was a lot at stake in this series. People understand the rivalry between Montreal and Boston thats been there many times, and people also understand the statistics and the winning percentages between the two teams, said Julien, alluding to Boston more often being on the losing end. If you look back to my first year we took Montreal to seven games and then lost.

We know the last couple of years its been Carolina and Philadelphia. I saw some of the stats of Bruins in the seventh games, so its one of those things where you feel happy.

One of the best parts of the victory: different heroes for the Bruins at every turn.

Playoff newcomer Horton had two overtime game-winners in his first postseason appearance, Kelly had six points from Bostons third line, Ryder had a two-goal game and The Save when Boston needed him most in the middle of the series. Andrew Ference finished as a feisty plus-6 while stepping up and answering all who doubted his three-year contract extension last summer.

I think we showed a lot of character. We had to put ourselves in a little bubble, and not think about the pressure and what people were saying around us, said Bergeron. I think we did a great job with that. We stayed resilient all game and all series, and we found a way.

It was a true team playoff victory in every sense of it, and the Bruins are going to bask in it for at least a day.

There are still serious power-play problems, not to mention the revenge issues against Philadelphia and enigmatic performances from franchise players like Chara and Lucic.

But those are issues for another day.

For now, Chara, Thomas, Julien, Chiarelli, Kelly and so many other Bruins can laugh heartily at the playoff monkeys tossed from their backs on Wednesday night.

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

Bruins will add assistant coach, tap Bradley to run draft board

Bruins will add assistant coach, tap Bradley to run draft board

While the Bruins technically operated, and operated well, short one coach once assistant coach Bruce Cassidy replaced Claude Julien behind the Boston bench, that’s not expected to continue for the upcoming season.

Bruins GM Don Sweeney confirmed this week that the B’s will be retaining the current assistant coach group of Joe Sacco, Jay Pandolfo and Bob Essensa to work under Cassidy as full-time head coach, and that they’ll be looking to add one more person to his staff.

“I think our staff did a very good job jumping in and picking up, because we didn’t add to it at the time [of Cassidy’s promotion] when we subtracted from the group. It will stay as is,” said Sweeney. “We will also be looking to add to it to complement that group. Bruce and I have already spoken briefly about it, but we haven’t identified yet and we’ve already received some people that would have some interest. We’ll pursue that accordingly.”

Sacco handled the defensemen and the penalty kill in the final few months of the season, and Pandolfo worked with the forwards in his very first season as an NHL assistant coach following a stint in player development. Essensa, of course, worked with the goaltenders and as the “eye in the sky” from the press box once Pandolfo moved to the bench following the coaching change. So the natural assumption would be that the Bruins would hire another former defenseman to work with the D-men given the backgrounds of Sacco and Pandolfo as forwards.

“We haven’t gotten too far out in front of it. But, Joe Sacco moved from the front of the bench to the D, and did a terrific job [while playing a] big part of the penalty kill all year. Jay [Pandolfo] came down from the press box, worked with the forwards, which he had worked with all year. But now he’s in the heat of the battle. They were terrific. We were a true staff,” said Cassidy. “Goalie Bob [Essensa] became a little bit more of an eye in the sky for us up there. We had Kim [Brandvold], who was our skating coach, helped a lot with the practices, with the pace we were trying to establish. I can’t thank them enough.

“Going forward, we’re going to meet and decide what’s the best fit for us [as an assistant hire]. Obviously those two have a forward background, I have a defense background, so maybe that’s an area we have to look at, what’s the best complement. But we’d be getting ahead of ourselves if I said today that we’re pinpointing an exact thing. We’ve got to look at it and say, ‘OK, who’s the best fit. What makes us the most successful?’ We’ll go from there with the candidates we get.”

The situation automatically leads one to wonder if P-Bruins head coach Kevin Dean would be a possible candidate as a longtime Cassidy assistant at the AHL level, or if Dean wants to continue on his track as a head coach. If not Dean then perhaps Providence Bruins assistant coach and former Bruins D-man Jay Leach might also be a strong candidate after his first season working with the young P-Bruins at the AHL level.

While it’s clear the Bruins still have some discussions before potentially making a move on hiring an NHL assistant for Cassidy’s staff, they have made a determination about their scouting staff. The B’s never replaced the head of amateur scouting position when Keith Gretzky was hired as an assistant general manager with the Edmonton Oilers, and it will instead be Bruins assistant GM Scott Bradley that will run Boston’s draft board in June.

“Scotty Bradley has stepped back into that role, which he’s very comfortable doing. He holds the title of Assistant General Manager and he’ll oversee the draft. We’re very comfortable with the people he’s worked with in recent years that have been a big, big part of our recent drafts. Our meetings went well,” said Sweeney. “They were just at the U-18s and had other subsequent meetings, so there will be some banter in the upcoming [scouting] meetings, in terms of where we end up finalizing our list. Scotty will oversee that.”

It’s not exactly foreign territory for Bradley, who previously held the head scouting position with the Black and Gold and played an instrumental role in drafting players like Milan Lucic, Phil Kessel, Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci. But there’s also some question as to how big a role Gretzky played in drafting the massive wave of talented prospects now pushing their way through Boston’s system, and how much his presence will be missed at NHL Draft weekend moving forward.  

Saturday, April 29: The race for the top pick in NHL Draft

Saturday, April 29: The race for the top pick in NHL Draft

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while tipping my hat to the Celtics after an emotional, impressive showing against the Chicago Bulls in the first round of the playoffs.

*It’s a tight race for the No. 1 overall ranking headed into this summer’s NHL Draft and it also doesn’t necessarily seem like a surefire superstar player right off the bat either.

*The New York Rangers seem to have a little more respect for the “underdog” Ottawa Senators headed into Game 2 of their series.

*Speaking of the Senators, it looks like they may once again have the best player in the series with the dominant Erik Karlsson at the top of his game while presiding over the best-of-seven playoff match.

*The Carolina Hurricanes are rolling the dice that they can sign Scott Darling to be their No. 1 goalie before he gets to unrestricted free agency.

*PHT writer James O’Brien helps break down the method that the Vegas Golden Knights are going to use to build their team, but the bottom line is they don’t want to be boring.

*Milan Lucic is enjoying the ride with the Edmonton Oilers as they’ve taken a 2-0 lead in their series against the Ducks.

*For something completely different: Interesting news about M. Night Shyamalan, who is making a sequel that will tie together two of his hit movies.