Morning Skate 511: B's can survive Bergeron loss

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Morning Skate 511: B's can survive Bergeron loss

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com

BOSTON There is a tiny bright side for the Bruins should Patrice Bergeron be missing for the majority if not all of the Eastern Conference Finals against Tampa Bay.

The 25-year-old wasnt a huge factor on the scoresheet against the Lightning in four regular-season games largely due to his defensive responsibilities against the explosive Lightning. He had one assist in four games and was a minus-1 while otherwise getting shut down in his 17 minutes per game against the Lightning, but thats also a big reason why Marty St. Louis was held to two points and a minus-1 in four games and Simon Gagne was scoreless and a minus-5 in three regular season games against the Bs. So much for the Ghost of Gagne haunting Boston after stinging them multiple times upon returning to last years playoffs for the Flyers.But that defensive concentration for the Mark Recchi and Brad Marchand line shouldnt skip a beat with Chris Kelly filling in for No. 37 while he sits out with a mild concussion.Gagne broke Bostons heart with the third-period game-winner in Game 7 last May against the Bs and it looks like hell be ready to go after suffering a concussion during their sweep of the Washington Capitals. If its anything like the regular season, Gagne could be a virtual non-factor just as Bergeron on the offensive side of the puck for four games.On to the links: Many teams including the Bruins are salivating at the thought of Nashville defenseman Shea Weber hitting restricted free agency, but Weber says that he isnt going to anywhere but Music City next year and beyond. CSNPhilly.com writer and FOH (Friend of Haggs) Sarah Baicker wonders if the seven-game battle with the Buffalo Sabres took too much of a toll on the Flyers, and sealed their fate against the Bruins. Truehockey.com writer Andy Strickland reports on the St. Louis Blues beginning contract talks with Patrik Berglund on a new deal as the NHL offseason truly starts to rev up for 25 teams. An amazing ESPN.com E:60 story with Zach Bennett and a minor-league hockey team that will make you smile, cry and hold backan emotional moment. This is why sports can be special to so many people that really need some kind of escape. Pro Hockey Talk maestro Joe Yerdon has a run-down on Jaromir Jagr possibly getting ready for a homecomingwiththe Pittsburgh Penguins . . . it could happen. Brian Burkes son Patrick speaks openly and honestly with James Cybulski and Co. about the disappointing stance of Uptown Hockey Management on same-sex marriage and how understanding most of the hockey world has become. Flyers GM Paul Holmgren disputes reports that Mike Richards failed his Philly teammates and was having issues with the coaching staff through the season. Newsday has the story of the new Islanders arena project that will supposedly keep them stinking out loud on Long Island until 2045. Thats mediocre news for just about everybody. Bruce Arthur with a great column on Sean Avery, who finally may have found the proper home for his agitating nature: activism. Yahoo! Hockey blogger Puck Daddy has a great breakdown of the most intriguing match-up in the Eastern Conference Finals a couple of hockey graybeards between the pipes going at each other.

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

Win vs. Islanders 'a nice building block' for Bruins

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Win vs. Islanders 'a nice building block' for Bruins

BROOKLYN, NY – It wasn’t particularly entertaining and it won’t be all that memorable down the ride aside from the timing and importance of the meeting between the Bruins and Islanders. But it was a solid 2-1 team win for the Bruins over the Islanders at the Barclays Center on Saturday night with the B’s grinding all the way down to the end while protecting a one-goal lead through much of the third period.

Nearly everybody across Boston’s roster contributed in the major victory over the team trying to bypass them in the wild card standings, and it was a beautiful thing. Anton Khudobin stepped up when Tuukka Rask couldn’t start Saturday night’s showdown with a lower body issue, and Riley Nash supplied both Boston goals from a fourth line that’s played some of their best hockey lately.

It was unlikely heroes all around for the Black and Gold in the tightly-wound contest, but that diversity of talent and production can be a very good thing for a team looking to make that playoff push.

“You have to stay with it. You have to stay in the moment and stay with the game no matter what’s happening during the game. That’s how you get results, and that’s how you find ways to persevere through adversity,” said Patrice Bergeron. “We just got back to playing stingy, especially in the neutral zone. We got away from it the last few games, and it was nice tonight to be back playing a low-scoring game like what we’re used to playing.”

When it was all said and done the Bruins only allowed 19 shots on net and also killed off six penalties in the kind of grinding defensive showdown that you haven’t seen all that much out of the Black and Gold lately. It was exactly what Cassidy was looking for to snap the four-game losing streak, and once again start pushing the Bruins upward into the playoff chase.

“That’s the type of win that goes a long way in the room when your goaltender is battling hard and fighting that hard to see pucks and find pucks and your D are blocking shots. And you kill that many penalties. It was a nice building block for us,” said Cassidy. “From the goalie on out, everybody was in there [in the win]. It was a tough game. It was a nice Bruins win. We had been doing it with offense earlier, and we’ve got to be able to do it both ways. You need to be able to win 2-1 hockey games, and it had been awhile.”

Now it’s simply up to the Bruins to be feeling good about their latest win while going back to basics, and looking for more next time around after ending their worst losing streak of the season.

Anton Khudobin battles for a huge win filling in for Tuukka Rask

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Anton Khudobin battles for a huge win filling in for Tuukka Rask

BROOKLYN, NY – Things didn’t go so well last season for the Bruins when Tuukka Rask suddenly wasn’t well enough to play in the last game of the season, so there was good reason for the B’s to be a little nervous when their No. 1 goalie again couldn’t answer the bell Saturday night vs. the Islanders.

Anton Khudobin had won four games in a row headed into Saturday night, of course, and in his previous start he’d helped snap a 10-game winning streak for the Calgary Flames. So perhaps it wasn’t all that surprising when Khudobin stood tall for the Bruins making 18 saves in a tight, nervy 2-1 win over the Isles at the Barclays Center.

“You don’t have that many shots, but maybe 10 scoring chances…that can be tougher than seeing 30 shots and same amount of scoring chances,” said Khudobin. “But I’m glad got the job done, we got our points and we got the ‘W’.”

It wasn’t wall-to-wall action in a game where both teams combined for 37 shots on net, but it was still impressive that Khudobin and the B’s special teams killed off six Islander power plays in such a tight hockey game. After the B’s backup netminder was lauded for the way he battled in the crease and competed for pucks like his team’s very life was on the line in a pivotal game.

“That’s the type of win that goes a long way in the room when your goaltender is battling hard, and fighting that hard to see pucks and your D are blocking shots. And you kill that many penalties. It was a nice building block for us,” said Bruce Cassidy. “I loved his performance. He’s a battler. He got swimming a couple of times, but that’s Dobby. He keeps it interesting for you. He’s a battler and he always has been. That’s what we needed tonight.”

One could spend days analyzing Cassidy's words and wondering much of that was deserved, appreciative praise for Khudobin, and how much of that might have been a veiled message to Boston's No. 1 goaltender sitting back home in Boston. 

The best save of the night probably won’t even count as a save for the Russian netminder. It was John Tavares, after having beaten Khudobin once in the first period, moving into the offensive zone with speed during a third period power play, and getting an open look at the net front in the high slot. Khudobin thought quickly and dropped into the unconventional double-stack pad save that seemed to throw Tavares off just a little, and the Isles sniper smoked the shot off the crossbar rather than tying up the game.

“I didn’t touch it. I didn’t really have time to get there, so the only thing I tried to do was the two-pad stack, old school Bob Essensa-style,” said Khudobin, who has now improved to 6-5-1 with a 2.60 goals against and an .899 save percentage this season. “Then he hit the crossbar. You need to get some luck in this league, and if you don’t get luck you’re going to lose games.”

A little luck and a little good, old-fashioned battling between the pipes was enough for Khudobin and the Bruins in Saturday night’s mammoth win. Now the questions become whether or not to go right back to Khudobin again on Tuesday at home against the Nashville Predators.