Bruins get a boisterous send-off

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Bruins get a boisterous send-off

By Mary Paoletti
CSNNE.com Staff Reporter Follow @mary_paoletti
BOSTON -- For the second time this series, the Bruins are Vancouver-bound.

The B's left Boston Thursday morning, sent off on the well-wishes of hundreds of fans who gathered at the TD Garden.

This trip may be different from their first. Instead of entering enemy territory to chart the unknown, at least one question has been answered: The Bruins can, in fact, compete with the Canucks. After dropping the first two games in Vancouver -- losing one in the final 20 seconds of regulation, the other in overtime -- Boston responded with two dominant home wins, outscoring the Canucks 12-1.

So while the series is tied 2-2, the Bruins are hoping to take their momentum on the road and turn the finals in their favor.

"Last week we were going into the situation blind," said Tyler Seguin. "A lot of us players -- myself included -- haven't been in the Cup finals before so I think now everyone definitely feels more confident, more used to the situation. Hopefully we get a different result tomorrow night."

"We need to cancel all the noise around us. Their rink is pretty loud, just like the Garden. Home ice can be an advantage and we need to take that away."

Stealing Game 5 will take the utmost mental toughness. It helps that a few guys have taken these flights before.

Shawn Thornton was on Anaheim's championship team in 2007 and Mark Recchi hoisted Lord Stanley's Mug with Pittsburgh in 1991 and Carolina in 2006. The pair is happy to provide prospective to their teammates.

"The number one thing is, we've got to keep the same focus and be ready for the start. That's the most important thing," Recchi said. "The Canucks are going to go home and they're going to try to rally around their crowd. If we can hold them for the first 5, 10 minutes and get in their face -- get pucks deep and play physical hockey -- it'll play dividends in the end."

Thornton admitted that it's "exciting" any time the Cup is nearby (it'll be in the building starting with Game 6), but was quick to point out that the team isn't there yet.

"It's not so much different from the last trip," he said. "The series is evened up -- it's best out of three instead of best of seven. We've got to get through this first."

Andrew Ference also has experience to draw on. The defenseman played for Calgary during the 2003-04 Finals and was visibly thoughtful in considering the seasons side by side. In the end, he said the resolve of this Bruins team is different. And that's a good thing.

"We aren't getting ahead of ourselves," he said. "We truly aren't. I've never been on a team that's as focused as this one . . . that never got ahead of itself. I've never really thought about the scale of what we're doing right now. It's special. We're not taking anything for granted."

Especially not Roberto Luongo's breakdown.

After limiting Boston to just two goals in the first two games, the Vancouver netminder fell apart on the road. Letting up eight goals in Game 3 earned him cheers and ridicule from Hub hockey fans; giving up four more in the next outing earned him the derision of Canucks fans at home. Vancouver's coaching staff signaled the end of its patience by pulling the starter Wednesday night.

But the Bruins aren't dwelling on it.

"He's an unbelievable goaltender," Thornton said. "And it kind of scares me that he's had a couple off-nights, because I know he'll bounce back and have an unbelievable one."

"The Canucks know Luongo is one of the best goalies in the league, so they aren't too worried about it," Seguin agreed. "I'm sure they're still confident. Luongo is known to bounce back, so we need to be ready and stay sharp for that."

They're probably thinking of Vancouver's first-round series with Chicago.

Luongo was stellar in the first three games, allowing just five goals, before allowing 11 in a trio of ugly losses, including two on the road. He bounced back in the series finale, stopping 31 of 32 shots to secure Vancouver's advance.

This resilience is what the Bruins are expecting. But they also have expectations for their own keeper.

Tim Thomas has been Boston's trump card all season and his teammates continued to sing his praises as they boarded the bus.

"I'm so happy that we have our goalie," Ference laughed. "He's the best, he really is. As a defensemen, it's a special treat to play in front of Timmy. That's all I know."

Thomas -- with his league-leading .936 save percentage and 2.11 goals-against average duing the playoffs -- is a big piece of what sounds to be a pretty simple plan. The Bruins hope to keep doing what they're doing in the return to Rogers Arena. Why mess with a good thing?

"It's our physical play," said Recchi. "We skated very well. We played our system very well and obviously Timmy's been great. We came back home and were confident we could do this. We've got a long ways to go still, but it was a step. Now we've got to go and steal home ice from them."

Though it must pass through Vancouver, the Bruins know if they stay the course it will lead them back home. They're just hoping it's the last trip they make.

Mary Paoletti can be reached at mpaoletti@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Mary on Twitter at http:twitter.comMary_Paoletti

Report: Celtics likely to guarantee Amir Johnson’s $12M deal for next season

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Report: Celtics likely to guarantee Amir Johnson’s $12M deal for next season

The Celtics will likely guarantee the second year of Amir Johnson’s two-year, $24 million deal he signed last season, the Boston Globe reported.

Johnson, 29, a 6-9 forward, signed as a free agent last summer, averaged 7.3 points, 6.4 rebounds and 1.1 blocks in 79 regular season games for the Celtics and 8.5 points, 7.5 rebounds and 1.3 blocks in the six-game, first-round playoff loss to the Atlanta Hawks. 

Bruins, Krug agree to four-year, $21 million deal

Bruins, Krug agree to four-year, $21 million deal

With the salary room created by buying out the final two years of veteran defenseman Dennis Seidenberg contract, the Bruins signed restricted free agent Torey Krug to a four-year, $21 million contract ($5.25 million cap hit) through the 2019-20 season.

The negotiations between Krug and the Bruins had been fairly quiet with GM Don Sweeney consistently stating that something would get it done and it seemed the writing was on the wall when Sami Vatanen signed a four year, $19.9 million extension with the Anaheim Ducks. The two are comparable players in size, offensive production, NHL experience and both also served in top-four roles last season while projecting to stay at that level of performance over the next four years.

The Bruins couldn’t afford to let Krug, 25, hit the open market, where another team could potentially poach Boston’s only true puck-moving D-man with an offer sheet. After signing a one-year bridge deal, Krug played in a career-high 81 games, with four goals and 44 points. His 40 assists were ninth among D-men in the NHL last season and it’s clear that Krug plays a vital role as a puck mover and power-play specialist.

Krug also stepped up in minutes last season, finishing only behind Zdeno Chara with a career-high 21:36 average of ice time and essentially serving as the B’s de facto No. 2 defenseman. The diminutive (5-foot-9) D-man did pay the price for playing such heavy minutes by undergoing shoulder surgery following the season, but Krug was expected to make a full recovery and be ready to jump into the lineup at some point during the month of October.

The signing of Krug is a big piece for Sweeney and the Bruins, who must prepare for what awaits them Friday, once the free agent market opens, and later in the month when they begin efforts to re-sign Brad Marchand to an extension. 

 

Bruins buying out veteran D-man Dennis Seidenberg

Bruins buying out veteran D-man Dennis Seidenberg

The Bruins placed veteran defenseman Dennis Seidenberg on waivers on Thursday for the purposes of buying the veteran defenseman out of the final two years of his contract.

The 6-foot-1, 210-pound Seidenberg, who turns 35 July 18, still had two years remaining on a deal that would have paid him $4 million in each of the seasons. The move will save the Black and Gold roughly $4.6 million in cap space over the next two years.

Seidenberg confirmed the contract buyout to CSNNE.com and confirmed one other thing: "I going to miss it."

The extra space should theoretically allow the Bruins to spend big money on Friday when free agency opens, but the Bruins really haven’t been the lead suitors for any of the major available players to this point.

With the way buyouts work, however, the spread over four years means that the Bruins will still be including $1.16 million cap hits from 2018-2020, and are now down another experienced D-man who was a stalwart warrior for them over the years. Seidenberg clearly lost a step after blowing out his knee in the 2013-14 season and was a minus player for the first time in Boston last season with one goal and 12 points in 61 games.

The skating speed was noticeably slower and Seidenberg had trouble keeping up with the pace even as he continued to block shots and throw opponents around in the defensive zone. Seidenberg finishes his seven seasons in Boston with 23 goals and 117 points in 401 games as a rugged top-four defenseman. He will always be cherished in Boston for his marvelous stretch en route to the Stanley Cup in 2011.

Claude Julien pairing Seidenberg with Zdeno Chara midway through their first-round series against the Montreal Canadiens changed the tide of that playoff matchup and was the combo used by the B’s for the playoffs when they again made it to the Cup Final in 2013 against the Chicago Blackhawks.

The German-born defenseman was a respected and tough veteran leader in the B’s dressing room and will be missed for his toughness and accountability whether it was good times or bad in the room.

TSN’s Bob McKenzie was the first to report that Seidenberg was being placed on waivers for the purpose of being bought out of his contract.