Thornton, Recchi share Cup experiences

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Thornton, Recchi share Cup experiences

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com

VANCOUVER When Shawn Thornton and Mark Recchi get talking about their experiences winning the Stanley Cup, something happens in the Bruins dressing room.

It gets really, really quiet.

The eyes in the room get a little wider and players linger a little longer as Recchi talks about carrying the Cup as a young man in Pittsburgh and a grizzled veteran in Carolina, and Thornton tells what it was like to win it with Anaheim.

The elation when you won it that night was hard to explain, said Thornton. There are no words to explain it. It was the greatest day of my life. All those bus rides, all the three games in 2 12 days and fighting five times in three nights in the minors . . . all that crap was finally worth it. All those feelings really come together at once when you win the Cup and its kind of emotional actually.

Of course, Thornton also had a brush with the Cup early in his NHL career when Bruins legend Bobby Orr brought it to an annual Oshawa golf tournament and offered the young enforcer a chance to take a picture with it around the 17th hole.

Im pretty sure he didnt know who I was, but, being such a nice guy, Bobby offered me a chance to get a picture with the Cup, said Thornton. I think Id had 12-15 NHL games in my belt at that point. I said No, Im good, because you never freakin know if your chance is going to come to win it.

Now Im glad I didnt. I never thought it would happen for me, but it did eventually. I told Bobby Id take a picture with him. Just not with that big trophy.

Last week, Recchi and Thornton brought their Stanley Cup rings into the Bs dressing room prior to Game 7 against the Tampa Bay Lightning. The two veterans wanted to show the rest of their teammates exactly what it is they were playing for. Suffice to say, the ploy was effective when it came to getting the Bruins ready to play in the biggest game of their lives.

Now Recchi is hoping to see his teammates carry thay feeling through to the Cup Final, so the aging winger can watch the celebration hes been envisioning in his head for two years.

This is a great time, and you might never see it come again, said Recchi. Its the ultimate dream for all of us, and its exactly what you set out to do as a hockey player. Its what I dreamed of when I was playing street hockey with my brothers, and playing out on the ponds in the winter with your buddies.

I want to win it for the rest of the guys in here more than anything else. Ive been lucky enough to win it a couple times, and I want to win another one. Thats why I came back. But I also want to see the rest of these guys put a Cup up in the air. I want to party with them.

Among these Bruins, only Recchi and Thornton know what its like to hoist the 34 12-pound Cup over their heads. For Thornton, the Cup didnt feel heavy at all the night the Ducks won it, but he remembers it getting a little tougher to drag around when he had it for a day in Oshawa.

Recchi had a handful of hours with the Cup his first time around in Pittsburgh, but he probably didnt appreciate it as much as he might have after winning the World Junior, the Turner Cup and the Stanley Cup over a span of four years as a young NHL star. Winning, at that time, was something he'd come to expect.

But it didn't happen again for 15 years. So the second experience with the Cup, as a member of the Hurricanes, was a memorable one. Recchi had it for a day of revelry that finished with the then 38-year-old sleeping with the Cup in his bed.

Recchi said Monday he'll retire if the Bruins can take down the favored Canucks and he also has a 1970 bottle of Bordeaux wine hell crack open if he gets to celebrate one more championship with a band of teammates hes grown to love playing with over the last three years.

Regardless of what happens, this will go down as one of the best groups Ive ever played with, said Recchi. Its one of the most enjoyable Ive been with. Ive played with a lot of great groups of guys, and this one ranks right up there.

That tightness and togetherness is one thing that would make a Cup celebration all the sweeter for players who have been pulling for each other since heading for Europe in September. And the celebration should be a pretty easy one if they get there.

Just follow the leads of Recchi and Thornton. Theyve been there before.

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

Morning Skate: Old friend Warsofsky called up by Penguins

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Morning Skate: Old friend Warsofsky called up by Penguins

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while waiting for the next wave of announcements that the Bruins have signed college players out of the NCAA tournament.
 
-- Former Wild goaltender Josh Harding is finding his way after his MS diagnosis forced him out of the NHL prematurely.

-- Young D-man Seth Jones is becoming the “hoss” defenseman that the Blue Jackets will need come playoff time.

-- PHT writer Cam Tucker has Wild coach Bruce Boudreau calling a loss to the Canucks “embarrassing” as the hard times continue for Minnesota.  

-- Backup goalie Curtis McElhinney is ready to step up for the Leafs after they lost Frederik Andersen to injury.
 
-- Old friend David Warsofsky has been recalled from the AHL and will be with the Penguins as crunch time hits ahead of the playoffs.

-- USA Hockey is now reportedly reaching out to rec league and former Division III women’s hockey players to find a replacement roster for the world championships as the USA women continues their boycott.
 
-- For something completely different: We have an honest-to-goodness think piece about pulling the “Irish Exit.” Well, okay then.

Haggerty: Time for Bruins to make a change in goal

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Haggerty: Time for Bruins to make a change in goal

BROOKLYN -- For the second year in a row, Boston's franchise goaltender and $7 million man Tuukka Rask couldn’t physically answer the bell for one of the biggest games of the year.

Rask was unable to go Saturday night when the Bruins faced the Islanders at the Barclays Center because of a lower body injury. Anton Khudobin stepped in and helped the B's to a 2-1 victory that snapped their four-game losing streak, moved them past the Isles back in the second wild-card spot, and enabled them to close to two points behind Toronto for third place in the Atlantic Division.

It wasn't quite the same as last year, when Rask was too sick to play the win-or-go-home regular-season finale against Ottawa. The Bruins got shellacked in that one and missed the playoffs. There are still two weeks left in the regular season, so Saturday didn't have the same do-or-die consequences.

But Khudobin, who made 18 saves, gave Boston some energy and enthusiasm in the crease with the same kind of battling, chaotic style that Tim Thomas exhibited. Watching Khudobin throw a double-pad stack at John Tavares on a late third-period Islanders power play in a one-goal game was a clear sign that Rask wasn’t in net, and his unconventional technique perhaps distracted Tavares enough that he ripped his open shot off the crossbar and away from harm.

Afterward interim coach Bruce Cassidy fervently sang Khudobin’s praises, and almost seemed to be shedding some light on what they aren’t always getting from their top goaltender in these crunch-time games.

“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," he said. "And you kill that many penalties. (The Islanders failed to score on six power plays.) It was a nice building-block win for us.

"I loved [Khudobin’s] 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.”

So now the Bruins have a choice about what to do Tuesday against the Predators. And the hope here is that Khudobin gets a second straight start, whether or not Rask is healthy enough to go.

Khudobin has won five games in a row and has a 1.98 goals-against average and a  .920 save percentage since the All-Star break. Rask, in contrast, has an inflated 2.91 GAA and .892 save percentage in that span.

More than that, however, there’s a real issue developing with Rask and how much trust the Bruins can have in him when the games matter most. He gave up a couple of bad goals in the loss to the Lightning on Thursday night, and afterwards looked like the boy who lost his dog when answering questions with a soft, unsure voice that began to trail off when it came time to accept responsibility for his part in the ugly defeat.

The downcast expression was a concern, and it certainly seemed like Rask was rattled mentally as much as he was beaten physically after that defeat.

So the overriding question now is: What good is a No. 1 goaltender if he doesn’t play like one when it matters most?

Maybe Rask is seriously injured and we’ll find out after the season that he needs hip surgery, and was far less than 100 percent all year. Or maybe playing three games in four nights was too much of a strain, and he needed the weekend away from the ice after the unavoidable bump in workload.

The fact that the Bruins expect Rask to practice on Monday, however, really takes some of the oomph out of the serious-injury argument, and makes one wonder how he can practice Monday after not playing in the biggest game of the season on Saturday.

Maybe Rask was angered by Cassidy calling him out by saying the team “needs more from him” after the goalie's lackadaisical performance in the loss to Tampa Bay, and that played into the goalie’s sudden case of “lower body discomfort” on Friday after saying Thursday he felt fine physically.

Maybe Rask is frazzled emotionally after the burden of carrying the team at times this season, and he needed a few days away from the ice to recollect himself and get ready for the crucial seven remaining games on the schedule.

Still, the Bruins can’t look at Rask as someone they can rely on when the chips are down for the rest of this season. That cost them last year, and shame on the Bruins if they again make the mistake of putting all of their playoff eggs in the Rask basket.

Perhaps it’s time to even start thinking about other goaltending options this summer. Rask will no longer have full no-trade protection once the season is over. He's been inconsistent at best in the biggest moments over the years, and the B’s shouldn’t pay a goaltender like he’s one the best if he isn’t when the late-season heat is on.

But that’s a question to ponder in a month or two.

For now, the Bruins should ride the hot goalie -- Khudobin, who showed Saturday he's willing to battle his butt off -- and let Cool Hand Tuukka cool his heels on the bench while recuperating from whatever it is that kept him out of a gigantically important game in Brooklyn this weekend.