Kelly to play pivotal role with Bergeron out

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Kelly to play pivotal role with Bergeron out

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com

BOSTON Heading into this weekends start to the Eastern Conference Finals, its not much of an overstatement to say Chris Kelly might be the most important player on the Bruins' roster.

It would haveseemed funny to say when Kelly managed only 5 points in 24 regular seasongames for the Bruins after general manager Peter Chiarelli acquired him from Ottawa for a second-round pick. His lackluster start had people viewing the gritty, two-way center as nothing more than wallpaper on a good hockey team.

But Kelly moved into this seasons playoffs with more than 40 games of postseason experience on his resume as a member of the OttawaSenators and a Stanley Cup Finals appearance already on his resume. Those big-game instincts, and the playoff poise that nearly alwayscomes with them, will be needed as he attempts to authorhis best poor mans Patrice Bergeron impersonation against the Lightning.

Kelly has come a long way from the center who earned amuch-discussed16:47 of ice time in Game 1 against the Canadiens. After that game, he caught the ire of Bs fans everywhere for getting more time on the sheet than the man hes now replacing in Bergeron (15:47).But that was before he exploded offensively against the Habs after getting thrown head first into the post by Scott Gomez in Game Three.

Chiarelli threw out the "P.J. Axelsson" parallel for Kelly at the conclusion of the Montreal series in terms of hockey intelligence and competence in all three zones on the ice, and the seven points in 11 postseason gameswas vitalfor Boston.

Nobody is expecting the Bs offense to continue running with the same efficiency when Bergeron out, but Kelly's put up impressive offensive numbers during the playoffs. As Lloyd Christmas might say in "Dumb and Dumber" about another potential offensive outburst against Tampa Bay, "so you're saying there's a chance."

I think Kelly obviously is -- what he produced offensively, point-wise and goals and all that stuff -- he has certainly been refreshing for us, said coach Claude Julien. We know he was a good, solid two-way player, we maybe didnt expect as much offensively as weve seen so far. So thats been great.

True, Tyler Seguin will get his playoffshot now that Bergeron is sidelined with a mild concussion. But its Kelly who will slide into Bergeron's center spot between Brad Marchand and Mark Recchi and help take controls of a vital forward group. Bergeron, Marchand and Recchi had been rolling for the Black and Gold. They combined for an obscenely good plus-25 in the first 11 games against the Canadiens and the Flyers, and they were a dual threat. Not only were Bergeron and Marchand exploding against other teams' second and third defense pairings, but the trio was locking down other teams' best offensive players in true checking-line fashion.

Marchand and Recchi are great players, said Kelly. Whatever needs to be done or wherever Claude wants to be me, I think there are plenty of guys that are capable of playing with them. If I do end up playing with them then itll be a fun experience. Well see what happens and go forward from there.

Obviously you cant replace Bergie. He does every little thing that maybe goes unnoticed by a lot of people, but it doesnt go unnoticed by us. He does all of the big things that get noticed as well. Hes irreplaceable and hopefully hes good to go against the Lightning.

Kelly will slide right into the defensive responsibilities and faceoff duties Bergeron hasskillfully mastered, and the former Senators center pointed to his experience in Ottawa as the prime reason hed have little trouble moving up the lines. Let's just say he made his bones with a lot of different players during his time in Ottawa.

Wherever the coach needed me to play on any line, any position and any situation, it was a challenge that Ive always been ready to take on," said Kelly.

Going from Peverley and Ryder to Recchi and Marchand might be a little easier than in Ottawa going from Chris Neil and Jarkko Ruutu to playing with Daniel Alfredsson and Jason Spezza. Its a big difference. Not in a bad way, but they are just very different players. I think itll be a much easier transition than some of the ones Ive made in the past.

Kelly has also been a guy who's taken on a little of the missing Axelsson leadership role within the Bs dressing room.It clearly took some time in the feeling out process to get comfortable blending his leadership voice with the establishment in the room, but Kelly chimes in now when something needs to be said along with the rest of the veteran B's chorus.

Ill do anything I can to help this team, said Kelly. Obviously coming into a dressing room thats as established as this team, you just want to come in and help. Nobody wants to come in and be the loud guy within a group of players that you dont know.

As I got more comfortable and the guys got more comfortable with me, if theres something that needs to be said then I dont mind being the guy to step up and say it. Ninety-nine percent of it is always positive, and everybody here really wants to step up and do the right thing to help the team.

Fold the leadership, faceoff and defensive components into the Kelly tool box and the Bruins are getting a facsimilie of Bergeron without the elite playmaking.

The question against the Lightning: Will Kelly be able to replicate the offense he provided around the net while scoring six points in seven games against the Canadiens, who play similarly to Tampa Bay?

Kellys ability to generate some offense could be the deciding factor in the series, and that means a guy with 35 total games in a Bruins uniform could be the biggest difference-maker in the biggest Bs playoff series in 19 years.

Who would have ever guessed that when Kelly, Peverley and Tomas Kaberle were dealt to the Bruins in February?

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

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

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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

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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.