Bruins close out Cup party with White House visit

650478.jpg

Bruins close out Cup party with White House visit

WASHINGTON, D.C. Aside from Tim Thomas decision to use the afternoon as a political bully pulpit, the Bruins had a presidentially good time during a Monday afternoon visit to the White House as reigning Stanley Cup champs. The players, coaches, management, ownership and training staff aside from Thomas as the lone absentee from this years team and Michael Ryder due to commitments with the Dallas Stars took in a 45-minute private tour of the presidential home on Pennsylvania Ave. before standing on the stage as the guests of presidential honor in the East Wing.

There have been so many good memories from winning the Cup, but a chance to come to the White House is definitely up there, said Patrice Bergeron. I never thought Id be able to do that. Now Im here. Were all here and we all met the President together just like we all won the Cup together. It was special being able to do that today.

President Barack Obama spoke for a few minutes and covered all the bases with a speech tailored around the Black and Gold just one day before his State of the Union Address: he cracked a joke about the Bs drinking exploits after racking up the gigantic bill tab from Foxwoods last summer, dropped a Brad Marchand nickname into the proceedings with the under-utilized Little Ball of Hate and made reference to the thorough domination of the Boston sports scene.

Last year, this team endured a long season, and an even longer playoff. They are the first team in NHLhistory to win three full seven-game series," said Obama amid a throng of photographers, reporters and onlookers including Boston Mayor Tom Menino and Massachusetts Senator John Kerry in the East Wing audience. "They had some pretty long playoff beards to show for it. I appreciate them looking a little more clean-cut as they come here today.

"Brad Marchand went into the season on the fourth line, but the Little Ball of Hate shrugged off the rookie jitters -- what's up with that nickname, man?" Obama asked before turning to a red-faced Marchand being nudged on by Zdeno Chara, "and scored five goals in the last five games of the final series.

A couple of other greatest hits from the Obama speech that included references to Marchand, Nathan Horton, Thomas, Mark Recchi and Zdeno Chara:

Nathan Horton went down hard in Game 3 of the Finals but that didnt stop him from doing everything he could to help them win. He even brought some Boston water all the way to Vancouver and poured it on the ice before the decisive Game 7 . . . so Beantown delivered.

There is no better image of the Bruins dominance than the tallest player in NHL history. Ill let you guess which one that is. Zdeno Chara hoisted the Cup high above the ice in Vancouver and Im sure thats the highest that the Stanley Cup has ever been. This Stanley Cup was won as much by defense as it was by offense and Tim Thomas posted two shutouts in the Stanley Cup Finals. He set an all-time record for saves in the postseason and he also had the honor of being only the second American to ever be recognized as the Stanley Cup playoffs MVP.

They overcame injuries and they overcame long odds. The wise old man of the team Mark Recchi summed up the season by saying, We played together, we drank together." Obama couldnt resist asking Well, how much did you drink? before going back to the Rex quote "we lost together and we never wavered.

Obama also gave some love for the Boston Bruins Foundation that raised over 7 million in its charitable endeavors over the years since its inception, and got some well-rounded applause.

It was nearly a perfect turn for the Bruins on an off-day in the nations capital between a Sunday shootout win over the Flyers and a Tuesday night tilt against the Washington Capitals finishing out the pre-All-Star break portion of the schedule. Marchand was genuinely flattered at the attention he received from the Commander in Chief, and many of the Bruins from the Slovakian captain to the Quebecois heart and soul leader of the team appreciated how unique the White House experience turned out to be.

That doesnt happen everyday . . . to have the President single you out. Its a cool thing to have happened, said Marchand. I definitely didnt expect it, but it was very enjoyable and something Ill always remember. They all saw Obama looking around for me and Zee was pretty quick to give me a shove toward him.

It was a little embarrassing at the time, but it was cool. The boys have been all over me because I got a little red-faced especially being there in the front row. Its all in good fun.

Aside from Marchand again providing some comic relief to the formal setting, the January stop at the White House with the Cup in tow also finally, officially closes the book on last years accomplishments. Several times the Bruins have said this is the last time theyll be in the same room with the Cup unless they win it again.

But this is truly the case after visiting with Obama.

Really.

Theyre sure of it.

This actually is the conclusion of our Stanley Cup celebration. While this is great, its also the end, said Chiarelli. We all see the history in this place. I really liked the President. He seems very down to earth. He talked to a bunch of us in the receiving line and he seems like a guy that genuinely loves sports. He just seems like a good guy.

With another once-in-a-lifetime experience now behind them after spending the day relaxing with Obama in the presidents house, the Bruins will move on to the business of being humble hockey players again on Tuesday.

Haggerty: Rask puts up, makes critics shut up

Haggerty: Rask puts up, makes critics shut up

BOSTON -- The decision to sit out Saturday night's game against the Islanders, for whatever issue needed healing, worked wonders for Tuukka Rask.

Rask looked fresh, strong and determined while stopping 24 of 25 shots in a 4-1 win over Nashville on Tuesday night, and, at the very least, temporarily quieting talk of his missing Saturday's win over the Islanders because of a lower-body injury that wasn't disclosed until the day of the game. It also snapped his personal four-game losing streak, in which Rask had allowed 15 goals on 95 shots (an .842 save percentage) and hit rock bottom while surrendering a couple of damaging soft goals in last week's loss to the Lightning.

After watching Anton Khudobin battle, brawl and double-pad-stack his way to a huge win in Brooklyn on Saturday, Rask played with his own battling style Tuesday, fighting through Nashville attackers as he limited the the Preds to one goal.

"I loved [his battle]," said interim coach Bruce Cassidy. "He really worked hard to find pucks in traffic. They created some good opportunities, and even the goal against, he found it. They just tipped it at eye level so it was going to be a tough one, and we need to be better in the shooting lane on that one.

"But I thought he was terrific, very pleased with his performance. If you've got to track pucks, you've got to find pucks and you've got to fight through bodies, and he did a real good job with it.

"I thought we played well in front of him, but when we broke down it seemed to be in those areas where we couldn't break the puck up below our goal line. [There were] lot of bodies, a lot of point shots. This is the type of team, [Ryan] Ellis, [P.K.] Subban, [Roman] Josi, they rely on that part of the game and traffic. It was going to be a test for [the defense] there. I thought [Rask] answered the bell and in a terrific manner."

There were no two ways about it, Rask was truly excellent in a game where he had to be.

He made a save in the second period on Viktor Arvidsson when a David Backes turnover at the half-wall gave Arvidsson a wide open look at the net, and made 9 of his 24 saves in the third period as the Predators ramped up the desperation once Craig Smith had broken through on a tipped Josi shot. He also was the beneficiary of 24 blocked shots from the defenders in front of him. Adam McQuaid had five of the blocks all by himself,  absorbing all kinds of bumps and bruises in the process.

It was clear that the Bruins, as a team, were in late-season urgency mode.

"Well, we needed [a win]," said Rask. "Personally, I mean, I've lost four games but played a couple good games there, and we just didn't get the bounces. But we kind of got in winning habits there in [Broooklyn] and me stepping in here, I just wanted to make sure that I gave us a chance to win. The guys did the rest. So, it was a great team effort today, I think. As I said before, we blocked a lot of shots, which is huge."

So does one solid performance mean everything is settled for the B's No. 1 netminder after sitting out last weekend?

It certainly goes a long way toward putting some distance between Rask and whatever lower-body injury popped up and then disappeared just as quickly, and it puts a bit more of an optimistic spin for the remainder of the season. Rask didn't actively listen to any of the criticism of the last couple of days, but he fully understands that it comes along with the territory of being the No. 1 goalie in a city that takes hockey seriously.

"I can't do anything about what people say," said Rask, who took a pretty good hit on a Predators drive to the net in the third period but kept right on trucking. "I'm not staying home because I want to say home. I'm not playing because I don't want to play. I don't think any athlete does that. Obviously what's happened where I missed a game [vs. Ottawa] last year, people are going to talk about it. That's just the nature of media people, and what they talk about. It's fine.

"[All you can do is] you try not to read any of it, you stay even-keeled and you play the game the right way."

But the bottom line is the Bruins need much more of what they saw from Rask on Tuesday -- determined, tough-minded, a strong No. 1 goalie -- in the final six games if they want to be a playoff team this year.

He played well enough in the first few months, carrying the Bruins through the early portion of the season, to make people forget about calling in sick against Ottawa in the final game of last season. That's to Rask's credit. But last weekend's action, or lack of it, brought some of those same nagging questions back. He needs to build on Tuesday's encouraging performance to continue instilling confidence that he's a big-time No. 1 goalie.

Morning Wrap: Looking at C's potential first-round foes

celtics-isaiah-thomas-032917x.jpg

Morning Wrap: Looking at C's potential first-round foes

Click here for the gallery.