Haggerty's Bruins-Capitals Game 7 preview


Haggerty's Bruins-Capitals Game 7 preview

The Bruins get plenty of credit for being big game players and thriving when the spotlight burns brightest. Theyve earned it after excelling in gut-check Game 7 scenarios last season, but theyll need to prove it again with another Game 7 on tap against the Washington Capitals Wednesday night at TD Garden.

It will be an interesting challenge for both teams. The Bruins have plenty of pressure on them as they attempt to be only the third reigning Stanley Cup champ in the last nine years to get out of the first round of the playoffs the following season, and the Capitals are staring down the barrel of team reconstruction they cant advance past the first round.

The Bruins guaranteed one thing: their hunger hasnt dissipated in the slightest after climbing the Stanley Cup mountain-top last year.

"I dont see a difference in our guys. Our team really fought hard through the first round last year and we had a tougher uphill climb than weve had this year," Claude Julien said. "So basically weve gone through it and I think what happens is you get through the crunch here. For us to get through tomorrow will only make us better moving forward. Thats what we have to look at right now.

"Personally I dont think anythings changed from last years hunger to this years hunger I still see the same thing in our players. I do not sense a single person in our dressing that doesnt want to go through it again. Ive been around this team long enough that I would if that was a case.

The advantage for the Bruins? Theyve been through the playoff rigmarole countless times and theyll be approaching Game 7 much more closely to a regular season game than a Washington Capitals team whose very reputation is on the line.

Just read into Chris Kellys planned routine on this amped up Game 7:

Long nap, lunch same thing Ive done for the last 600 or 700 plus games that Ive played. The exact same thing skate, eat, nap, come back.

The Bruins might even mix in a victory as they look to make it four Game 7 victories in a row.

PLAYER NEEDING HIS TIRES PUMPED: Alex Semin and Nicklas Backstrom have a combined four points in eight Game 7 appearances during their Capitals careers, and they havent shown up when it mattered most during prime time. Alex Ovechkin comes into Wednesdays Game 7 with four points in four career Game 7 appearances, but Mike Green also has only a single assist in four Game 7s with Washington during a career thats always underwhelmed when the pressure has been on. As a franchise the Capitals could certainly use their tires being pumped while putting up a career 1-3 record in four Game 7 chances.

DRESSING ROOM MANTRA HEADED INTO THE GAME: You cant get too high or too low in these situations. I think being through these types of games in hockey throughout our lives is a good thing. I woke up ready to come to the rink and skate this morning and do all the fun things that I do every other day when I come in the rink. Chris Kelly is ready to treat Wednesdays Game 7 just like a run-of-the-mill game.

KEY MATCHUP: It becomes a match of whichever Bs forward line is on the ice when Dennis Wideman is on the ice as a defensemen pairing for the Capitals. Wideman has been on the ice for all but one of Bostons five-on-five goals during the series thus far, and completely lost track of Tyler Seguin during overtime in Game 6 when the 20-year-old whacked home the game-winner.

STAT TO WATCH: 6 That's the current number of consecutive shutout periods for Tim Thomas in Game 7s.

INJURIES: Goaltender Michael Neuvirth is back for the Capitals as their backup goaltender, but veteran Tomas Vokoun doesnt appear close to returning with a groin injury. Patrice Bergeron is expected to play despite an injury suffered during Game 5 that kept him from taking face-offs. Defenseman Adam McQuaid remains out for the Bruins with an upper-body injury and Nathan Horton has been ruled out for the playoffs.

GOALTENDING MATCH-UP: Tim Thomas is the 11th ranked playoff goalie with a .922 save percentage, but hes 3-2 with a 2.04 goals against average and a .935 save percentage in six career appearances in Game 7s. He should be primed and ready for another titanic Game 7 performance while 22-year-old rookie Braden Holtby will be playing in the first Game 7 of his NHL career. The young goaltender has been outstanding in the series with a .935 save percentage after six games of hotly-contested playoff hockey with the Bruins.

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.