Bruins overcome pressure to win Game 7

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Bruins overcome pressure to win Game 7

CSNNE.com staff and wire reports

BOSTON -- The Boston Bruins thought they excised the specter of last season's postseason collapse when they finished off the Philadelphia Flyers in the Eastern Conference semifinals this year.

Turns out it was just a warmup for Friday night.

The Bruins avoided another, less apocalyptic collapse by beating the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 7 and advancing to the Stanley Cup Finals. But a collapse it would have been, since the Bruins a) couldn't protect a three-goal lead in Game 4, and b) couldn't close out Tampa Bay in Game 6 with a 3-2 series lead.

But the B's didn't focus on failures of the past.

"Our guys are not discouraged or disappointed," said coach Claude Julien prior to the game. "The past is the past. We've got an opportunity to win a hockey game and get into the Stanley Cup Finals."

An opportunity they took advantage of.

The Bruins spent most of this season trying to forget what happened in last year's playoffs, when the Flyers rallied from a 3-0 deficit to force a seventh game and then trailed 3-0 in Game 7 before winning to advance to the conference finals. Boston swept Philadelphia this year in Round 2, but that didn't mean Bruins fans were ready to get comfortable when the team got a big lead.

In Game 4, with Boston already leading the series 2-1, the Bruins opened up a 3-0 lead before allowing five unanswered goals. The Bruins also led 3-2 in the series, with a 2-1 lead after one period of Game 6 on Wednesday night, before the Lightning scored three in a row and eventually won 5-4.

That sent the teams back to Boston for Game 7.

But the Bruins felt the pressure fell on both teams equally.

"When it all comes down to one game, I think the pressure is on both teams," said Patrice Bergeron. "You shouldn't allow pressure to get into your head. Just go out there and play your game."

Although the Bruins could call upon their experience in Game 7 against Montreal in the first round, Tampa Bay was much more familiar with elimination games. The Lightning fell behind the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-1 in the first round before winning three straight to advance; Wednesday's victory over Boston made them 4-0 this season in elimination games.

Now, however, it's 4-1.

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Hayes: 'I know I've got to bounce back and have a strong year'

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Hayes: 'I know I've got to bounce back and have a strong year'

DORCHESTER –Bruins general manager Don Sweeney spoke last weekend of the need for big winger Jimmy Hayes to step up next season if Loui Eriksson should indeed depart via free agency.

“I think Jimmy had a pretty good start to the year, but he really tailed off when the team needed him most. He should take some responsibility for that,” said Sweeney. “We had a pretty frank discussion about that to challenge him to take his game to another level, and be able to help out a younger player. He played a lot with Ryan Spooner.

“I have to put ownership on Jimmy in terms of saying ‘Hey, I have to take more responsibility. It’s not just about finishing and scoring goals.’ He has the capacity to do that. He gets power play time and net-front time, and he needs to get to the hard areas of the ice with more consistency. It’s an area that he needs to continue to improve upon. We as an organization feel that we need to have players that are driven to get better.”

Hayes heard that loud and clear just as he received the same message during exit interviews with the Bruins back in April, and knows that he needs to simply put more into next season.

Hayes’ numbers dropped from the previous season with the Florida Panthers, and he finished with 13 goals, 29 points and a minus-12 while going through long stretches where he completely disappeared on the ice. That’s a difficult thing for a 6-foot-6 forward to do, but Hayes managed while going weeks at a time without scoring and failing to play the big man’s game around the net on most nights.

The 26-year-old Hayes knows that needs to change for both his personal benefit and for the well-being of the Black and Gold this upcoming season.

“It’s definitely something that’s going to motivate me beyond just already motivating myself [this summer]. We had our own discussions [during exit interviews], and I know I’ve got to bounce back and have a strong season,” said Hayes. “I need to make sure I help my team win, and that’s what it’s all about. I want to be consistent and available every night to try get two points for our team, and get us as an organization back where we want to be.

“We just talked about how the season went, and we were really up-front with each other. We just want to continue to get better and more consistent, and get better through the season rather than have these spurts where you’re putting up numbers. And if you’re not scoring then you’ve got to find other ways to help the team win, and get to those areas where you’re going to get rewarded for going to those hard areas on a consistent basis.”

This isn’t the first time that Hayes has said all the right things about turning around his game, and really, truly living up to the hope he could be a big-bodied factor down low for the Black and Gold tipping, redirecting, screening and shoveling home rebounded pucks from areas all around the front of the net.