Recchi, Bergeron set the tone for Bruins

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Recchi, Bergeron set the tone for Bruins

By JoeHaggerty
CSNNE.com

LAKE PLACID, N.Y. There was no confirmation that Journey was playing in the background as he spoke, but there was a distinct Dont Stop Believing tone to Mark Recchis message when he addressed the Bruins prior to Game 3.

The 43-year-old Recchi, along with Patrice Bergeron and Zdeno Chara, came together to form the Black and Gold's leadership triumvirate two years ago, and forged it with another strong season this year.

So on a team full of leaders, and in a time of need prior to Game 3, it was Bergeron who raised his game on the ice and it was Recchi who spoke to the team about his experience in 2006 while a member of the Stanley Cup-winning Carolina Hurricanes

It was about the guys believing in each other said Recchi. "I joined the Hurricanes with 20 games left and saw how much the guys believed in what they were doing. They stayed with it and everyone believed in it. Its all about believing and believing in what weve done all year. Believing in each other and trusting what weve done all year. Trusting each other, and thats what it comes down to.

"If the Bruins didn't trust each other then we wouldnt have won Game 3, and now we have to believe in each other even more in Game 4 on Thursday. Trust each other that each guy is going to go out and do their job, and do good things for the hockey club like we have all year. If we do that, then weve put ourselves in good position to win a hockey game. If not then well be making it very hard for ourselves. Theres no better step than Thursday trying to get home ice back, and then we get back home and see where we go from there.

That 'Canes team was actually down 2-0 after a pair of home losses to the Montreal Canadiens, and roared back to defeat the Habs before winning right on through the Stanley Cup Finals. The easiest change in Carolinas fortune was the insertion of rookie goaltender Cam Ward into the series before a Game 3 win that turned things around.

But Recchi did his best Steve Perry impersonation while drawing parallels between that Carolina squad and this Boston team as the B's attempt the same unlikely, come-from-behind feat against the high-flying Habs.

Being through something like that shows you that you can do it, and that it can be done, said Recchi, his blue eyes flashing with excitement while hearkening back to the Stanley Cup memories. It was a lot of work, but you have to stay focused. Weve done it on the road all year, and its showed. We have to play another one, and were going to have to be even better in Game 4.

There are technical sides to winning hockey, to be sure.

The Bruins have to pursue all the textbook diligence in Claude Juliens hockey system, and that means dumping pucks deep, forechecking with reckless abandon and containing the speedy Montreal snipers. Most importantly, the Bs cant shoot themselves in the foot as they did with bad defensive zone play in the first two games.

A pair of soft five-hole goals allowed by Tim Thomas in Game 3 didnt help, either, but they survived those gaffes.

Theyre fast and theyre a very good hockey team said Recchi of the Canadiens, who should be hungry for a win in Game 4. So we have to be smart and understand that first five goals they scored in the series were off turnovers. They were basically all in the neutral zone and the defensive zone, and we have to be smart and wary of that. Were fast, too, but the system they run thrives on turnovers and theyre very good at it.

While Recchi has been solid with three assists and a plus-1 in three games and instrumental in calming the teams psyche off the ice, its been linemates Bergeron and Brad Marchand who have taken it to another level in each of the three games thus far.

Marchand has been all over the Montreal cage with golden scoring chances he hasnt quite yet buried.

The line has scorched the defense corps of Jaroslav Spacek and Brent Sopel regularly in the three games, and Bergeron has been Bostons best player from the beginning to current end of the series.

His Game 2 goal nearly pulled the Bruins back into that game, and his Game 3 effort all over the ice in a must-win match at the Bell Centre was downright inspired hockey.

Better than that, Bergeron has thrown his weight around in the playoffs with a bit more ferocity. The 25-year-old has also been noticeably more vocal in his own dressing room and in the face of opponents, and all of that reveals just how engaged Bergeron has been during the postseason.

Hes probably been our best forward. Hes such a good player for us. I think he was the No. 1 Star in Game 3 and I thought he was the best player out there, said coach Claude Julien. He just competes hard. Hes so focused and determined, and everything about his game is professional whether its conditioning, whether its rest or whether its focus or showing up for every game ready to play.

There are times when we talk about Patrice and say he hasnt scored in a little while, but no matter what he is doing something to help the hockey club. Thats what you want from your players. Hes more vocal than he ever has been. Earlier in his career he was a young player feeling his way through, but hes pretty confident now about his leadership role and qualities. Hes one of those guys that doesnt speak every game, but when he does speak he has their attention.

The one thing that does need to change: Bergeron is averaging almost three minutes of ice time less per game during the postseason than David Krejci and Milan Lucic, who have floundered with a combined minus-4 for much of the series. Bergeron is averaging a crisp 36 seconds per shift and getting on and off the ice with machine-like precision while also fully admitting that some of his shifts are a bit shorter due to his penalty-kill duties. Lucic (51 seconds), Krejci (53 seconds) and Horton (48 seconds) are all staying out on the ice for longer stretches of time with each shift, and tiring themselves out while going up and down the ice multiple times per twirl.

Perhaps its time for the Bs top line to get in line with the rest of the squad, and cut things down a bit to make sure theyre not caught on the ice at the tail end of Herculean shifts.

That hasnt been the case for the line of Bergeron, Recchi and Marchand, which has been so good for the Bruins this postseason.

Recchi and Bergeron should know the numbers headed into Game 4, and some of them can be pretty daunting.

According to the web site whowins.com, the lower-seeded teams up 2-1 in a series -- as Montreal is currently -- have advanced 60.5 percent of the time in the history NHL playoffs. But that numbers skyrockets to 87.8 percent of the time if the team goes up 3-1 in the series with a Game 4 victory.

If the series gets to 2-2 its pretty much 5050 which teams come out on top, and that means the Bruins have to like their odds if they can eke out another victory at a riotous Bell Centre lusting for a win.

Itll be tough without question, but the Bruins being led by Recchis head and Bergerons heart are in a pretty solid place to start.

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

Morning Skate: Do Caps have mental block come playoff time?

Morning Skate: Do Caps have mental block come playoff time?

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while thinking about and praying for the people of Manchester, England. It’s obviously an evil, cowardly act to bomb any public place, but to do it at a concert filled with women and children is the lowest of the low.

*The Capitals players are acknowledging that there’s some kind of mental block with the Stanley Cup playoffs. CSN Mid-Atlantic has all the details.

*It’s been a very odd postseason for the NHL where there are so many non-traditional teams still alive with the Nashville Predators in the Stanley Cup Fina, and the Ottawa Senators fighting for their lives in the Eastern Conference Final. On that note, there is a ton of disappointment at the empty seats at the Canadian Tire Centre for Ottawa’s home games in the playoffs. It sounds like there are going to be empty seats tonight for a do-or-die Game 6 in Ottawa. That is an embarrassment for a Canadian city that’s supposed to pride itself on their love of hockey. Let’s hope the Senators fans have a last-minute surge to buy tickets and show some appreciation for a Senators team that’s given the Ottawa fans a totally unexpected ride through the postseason this spring. I mean, Erik Karlsson at the top of his game is worth the price of admission all by himself.  

*The Pittsburgh Penguins have the Senators on the ropes, and it’s been an impressive showing given that they’re doing it without Kris Letang.

*Pro Hockey Talk has the ownership for the St. Louis Blues giving their GM Doug Armstrong a vote of confidence.

*Another early exit from the playoffs is going to start making some players expendable on the New York Rangers roster.

*Here’s a good piece on how David Poile built the Nashville Predators, who have reached the Stanley Cup Final for the first time. Give credit where it’s due: He manned up and made a big move dealing away Shea Weber straight up for PK Subban. It’s really worked for Music City as they’ve stepped to the next level.

*Speaking of Nashville’s rise this spring in a wide open Western Conference, Pekka Rinne has silenced the critics he might have had by carrying his team to the Cup Final.

*For something completely different: Boston law enforcement is on high alert after the bombing of the Ariana Grande concert in the UK.

 

Haggerty: Reports of Seidenberg's demise were greatly exaggerated

Haggerty: Reports of Seidenberg's demise were greatly exaggerated

Hindsight is always 20/20, of course, but it appears the Bruins made a mistake buying out veteran defenseman Dennis Seidenberg from the final couple of years of his contract. 

Seidenberg just finished up a wildly successful stint with host Team Germany at the IIHF World Championships, where he was named Directorate Best Defenseman (the tournament’s best defenseman) after leading all D-men with a goal and eight points. This came after Seidenberg, at age 35, posted 5 goals and 22 points in 73 games for the Islanders, with whom he signed after being cut loose by the B's, while averaging a shade under 20 minutes per game.  Seidenberg also had an excellent World Cup of Hockey tournament for Team Europe last summer (where he was teamed once again with Zdeno Chara), thus managing to play at a high level from September all the way through May.

A faction of Bruins fans thought he was on the serious decline after the 2015-16 season and, clearly, the Bruins agreed, opting to buy him out with two more years still left on a sizable contract extension. (They owe him $2.16 million next season and then will be charged $1.16 million on their salary cap over the next two seasons.) But the B's could have used a durable, defensive warrior like Seidenberg in the playoffs, when they lost three of their top four defensemen against the Ottawa Senators. A rejuvenated Seidenberg, able to play both the left and right side, would have been a better option than Colin Miller.

The Bruins made a conscious decision to hand things over to younger defensemen like Miller, Torey Krug, Brandon Carlo and Joe Morrow in cutting ties with Seidenberg. But they also perhaps miscalculated how much Seidenberg still had left in the tank after his best season in at least three years. 

“Well, at the time we felt like [Seidenberg's] game had really dropped off to where we thought he couldn’t contribute, and we wanted to see if some younger players could come in and help us out,” Bruins president Cam Neely said at the end-of-the-season press conference earlier this month. “I’ve got to say he played well this year for Long Island. But at the time we thought it was the right move. You can’t envision us having three of our top four D’s get hurt [in the playoffs]. We went through a lot of D’s in the postseason. You can’t predict that.”

Neely is referring to the decision made after Seidenberg’s second straight minus season in Boston, when back injuries and a major knee injury had seemed to slow him down a bit. It seemed the only way to properly evaluate some of their other, younger defenseman was to cut Seidenberg loose, but one has to wonder if the Bruins would have possibly done it had they known he was still capable of playing like he did this season for the Islanders. 

Either way, the buyout of Seidenberg is an extremely legitimate second guess of Bruins management in a year where they did a lot of things right.