Bruins want to join city's champions

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Bruins want to join city's champions

By JoeHaggerty
CSNNE.com

BOSTON Boston has been a city of Champions over the last 10 years, and the Bruins are definitely feeling the winners circle love since winning a perfectly played Game 7 on Friday night.

Boston has always been a Hockey Town, and has the Original Six paperwork to prove it. But above and beyond that, Bostonians have always love a perennial winner. The Red Sox, Patriots and the Celtics have become ultimate winners in this golden era of Boston sports, and the Bruins lagged a bit behind.

But that also means there is a certain level of fervor and trembling excitement at the thought of the Bruins completing the full set for the city of Boston. Securing a Stanley Cup would make the sporting circle complete for the local sports fan thats had just about everything over the last decade.

That kind of symmetry makes the idea of drinking from the Stanley Cup all the sweeter for the players, coaches, front office personnel and owners involved.

Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs famously went 98.5 the Sports Hub with his nemesis, Mike Felger, and said We want a Trophya big one and thats exactly what has everyone so hopped up in the streets of Boston.

Winning the first Stanley Cup since the Bobby Orr era of 1972 and punctuating this current team cores rise from the post-lockout ashes would shoot the Bruins into the local sporting stratosphere and that hasnt gone unnoticed among the players or the coaching staff.

It also hasnt gone unnoticed among the television executives that saw Boston pull down an 18.89 HH rating for Friday nights Game 7, and blow away ratings for all other hockey games in the market.

Claude Julien has always talked about the pride he feels representing the city of Boston, and that emotional knob was cranked to the max on Friday night when the coach couldnt get to sleep following Friday nights victory.

Were paid to do this job. But the thing behind our job is that youre doing it because youre representing a city. Were representing our fans. Thats what we do, and we understand it's hard work. There are a lot of sacrifices to be made, said Julien. But at the end of the day you do it for them. Theyre the ones that are coming in to see us. Theyre the ones that are paying to watch us play. This is the process of it all.

When you can walk out of this building here and see how excited the city was -- which was the case the other night -- youre certainly happy. I think thats where were at right now. Were proud of what we accomplished, but also realize that we havent finished the job yet. We still have lot of work ahead of us.

Milan Lucic was among the current set of young players that arrived when things were still in the reboot phase at the beginning of the Claude Julien Era. The power forward looked around his first season in Boston and realized something important: he wanted to make hockey important again in a place where it had once been great.

There have been some personal apexes during Lucics four years in Boston that have coincided with the teams return to the playoffs, but all of that paled next to the Game 7 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning. That is a seminal victory that fans will talk about for years to come. It's the trump card for anyone in Boston that still doesnt get hockey.

The victory has the Bs vying for the Stanley Cup against Lucics hometown Canucks, and it has given No. 17 exactly what he always wanted.

The Bruins are again rock stars in Boston just as they were in 1972 when Orr, Derek Sanderson and Gerry Cheevers led them to the puck promise land and the proof is in the way these Bruins have been embraced by the city. Where once the Bruins could walk around without a single soul knowing their name or donning their jersey, everybody knows the names Lucic, Thomas, Chara, Bergeron, Horton and Seguin as if they were characters on Cheers.

You know I definitely got a feeling of it yesterday," said Lucic. "Me and Johnny Boychuk, we went for lunch yesterday and everyone was cheering when we left the restaurant. That was cool. From when I first came here the Bruins were kind of in the bottom of the standings and everyone was cheering for the other three teams that were here. They kind of the forgot about the Bruins.

Its been a long time since theyve been in the position to win a Cup and you can see how special it is to this city that weve been able to get here. Walking around yesterday you could see everyones Red Sox hat was replaced by a Bruins hat. That was really cool to see and it means a lot. We want to do whatever we can to do it for our fans because we really feel like they do deserve it.

The lunch was complimentary for Lucic and Boychuk, as if that had to be asked. Four more wins and the Bruins players will never have to pay for a meal in Boston again for the rest of their lives.

On Monday afternoon Bruins fans are invited show their support for the Eastern Conference Champion Boston Bruins as they depart from the TD Garden parking lot for their flight to Vancouver for Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals.

Nathan Horton doesnt think hell be getting tired of earning a reputation for Game 7 heroics anytime soon, and has become the first Bruins forward in franchise history to net Game 7 game-winners during the same playoff run. Thats a long way from seven straight years out of the playoffs with the Florida Panthers, and its also put him squarely in the Conn Smythe conversation given the timeliness and importance of his contributions to the score sheet.

I really didnt know that was anything. Its definitely special for me to be able to do that and help my team win. Theres nothing like scoring in overtime or, you know, a game-winner to move on to the next round, said Horton. Ive said all along its definitely hard to describe how good of a feeling that is. It feels amazing.

The Bruins will be underdogs in the series against the Vancouver Canucks for the first time in their playoff run, and its certainly a strange position to be in. The Bs were clear favorites over both the Canadiens and Lightning with home ice advantage, and ranked as slight favorites over the Flyers given the goaltending carousel and severe season-ending slump that plagued Philly.

While that could be a rallying cry of sorts for the Bs skaters, it also means a tremendous amount of pressure rests on the shoulders of the Vancouver club to carry out a mission their fans are expecting to be successful.

I dont think it really matters. Anything can happen and in the past teams have been the underdog and they won. I dont think it really matters, said Horton. I dont think any player on their team or our team really thinks about that. Its all about winning and you know its going to be whoever puts in the best effort.

Milan Lucic is trying to keep the excitement in stride when his thoughts move to playing against the Vancouver Canucks in the Stanley Cup Finals. While he got a pretty good preview of what it could be like when his Bruins team visited Vancouver for four days during a road trip earlier this season, playing in the NHLs marquee event will certainly add an excitement level or two toward the process.

One good thing on Lucics side: hes performed well against the Canucks over the course of his career. In three career games against Vancouver, Lucic has three points, a plus-1 and 12 shots on net while also potting the game-winning goal at Rogers Arena earlier this season.

Theres always that adrenaline. Last game and the first time I played in Vancouver against the Canucks, you kind of get that nervous little butterfly feeling in your stomach playing there, said Lucic. Im sure its going to start that way too, but I just have fun when Im playing at home.

You know its always special to be able to play in front of your parents and your family, you know, and I just try to make them proud.

Lucic had some advice for family and friends looking for Stanley Cup tickets that are said to be trending toward the 1000 mark in value for a pair of cities caught with the Cup fever.

I just tell everyone, Stubhub.com. Thats your best option for tickets, dont come to me, said Lucic, sounding like the best spokesman that the ticket agency could ever hope to sign on.

Bruins fans looking for good Canucks tweets have some good options for the Stanley Cup Final: @BotchonCanucks @sportsnetmurph @TheGreenMen @Mattsekeres @rcamcole @tg_gman

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

Hayes knows he's a good player, wants to silence the critics

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Hayes knows he's a good player, wants to silence the critics

BOSTON, Mass. – There’s a long way to go toward a complete resurrection from last season’s misdeeds, but Jimmy Hayes made a nice little statement that he’s learned some lessons in Boston’s preseason debut. The Bruins lost the game, 3-2, in the shootout to the Columbus Blue Jackets, but Hayes scored one of the two goals for the Black and Gold as one of the few veterans in a very youthful lineup for Boston.

The Hayes goal was a nice give-and-go with Jake DeBrusk at the end of a nice transition play in the second period, and was the highlight of a night playing on the right wing with DeBrusk and center Austin Czarnik. The score and a team-high four shots on net for Hayes represent a good start for what he hopes is a gigantic rebound season after last year’s disappointment.

Clearly Hayes heard some of the unflattering chatter about him on sports talk radio and otherwise last season, and may even understand how his difficult season in his home city of Boston -- whether he actively expressed it to him or not -- might have been a factor in his buddy Jimmy Vesey ultimately choosing New York over Boston.

It appears the former Boston College standout is looking to change the conversation in Boston. 

“Yeah, sure am. I’ve got a lot to come out here and…[there were] a lot of comments about myself, but I know I’m a good player. I got to this level for a reason,” said Hayes, who dropped from 19 goals and 35 points with the Panthers to 13 goals, 29 points and a career-worst minus-12 for the Bruins last season.

“To be able to play at the NHL level and continue to play at that level on a consistent basis is what I expect out of myself. I do it for myself and our teammates, and to help our team win. I’ll continue moving forward.

“It’s funny being the old guy on the line. It’s nice to see those young guys and see how excited they are, and how excited I am to get back out there. That’s what I said to the guys, they still have the jitters and they still have them for the first preseason game. It shows that these guys want it and it’s been a lot of fun skating with those guys. They’ve got a lot of speed and to keep pushing the pace. Trying to keep up with them has been a lot of fun.”

There is still a long way to go for the 26-year-old winger, and his willingness to stick around the danger areas on Monday night was a welcomed one for a Bruins team that needs his 6-foot-6 body in front of the net. Hayes paid the price with stitches and a fat lip after taking a Dalton Prout high-stick to the mouth in front of the Columbus net that went uncalled on a Bruins PP at the end of the second period.

That’s all part of the big man’s game on the ice, however. It’s also the kind of battle and determined fight that Hayes will need to show much more consistently in his second season with the hometown Bruins if he’s truly looking to bounce-back from last year’s mediocre performance. 

Carlo 'arguably the best' defenseman for Bruins in preseason opener

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Carlo 'arguably the best' defenseman for Bruins in preseason opener

BOSTON – On a night when many of Boston’s young players stepped up nicely, perhaps none did more so than 19-year-old defenseman Brandon Carlo. The youngster was in a top pair role with John-Michael Liles against a decent Columbus Blue Jackets lineup that included Sam Gagner, Alexander Wennberg, Seth Jones, Brandon Saad and Sonny Milano, and had almost no miscues in his 20:16 of ice time.

Better than that, Carlo notched an assist on the game-tying score in the third period when his right point shot made it through traffic for Danton Heinen to redirect it past Curtis McElhinney from the slot. That left Carlo with an assist, a plus-1 rating and three shots on net in 20:16 of ice time to go along with some heavy battling around the net whenever Blue Jackets players tried to get too close.

“Arguably our best D, if not our best D. [He showed] real good decision-making, and his gaps are good. I can really only think of one time in the third period he kind of threw a puck away in the middle of a change, and ended up on his wrong side,” said Bruins assistant coach Bruce Cassidy. “It wasn’t a bad turnover, but it was just one that he could have made a little bit of a better decision.

“He didn’t handle the puck much in the game, that’s pretty good. He jumped up the ice, got his shot through when it was there, matched up well with whoever he was put out there [against], pushed back in front of our net. [There were] a lot of good things.”

It’s a big training camp for Carlo, who is more than likely earmarked for Providence unless he can utilize a stellar training camp performance to push over one of the seven veteran Bruins D-men with NHL contracts. That means potentially displacing Joe Morrow as the seventh defensemen on the roster, or forcing the Bruins to possibly deal Adam McQuaid or Kevan Miller if the Bruins feel he is ready for the day-to-day NHL grind.

The preseason opener was a good start that the 2015 second round pick was excited about, but things will certainly get more challenging for Carlo as the Bruins get deeper into this training camp.

“I just want to keep the same mentality, same energy. Show a little bit more physicality. I felt like I did that, but definitely could close a little quicker in a few instances overall. I just want to keep building on every game,” said Carlo. “There are some very strong guys on the puck in this league and throughout this game they had those guys out there definitely. Overall, you just have to compete just as hard as them.

“You’re dealing with NHL guys out there. [The Blue Jackets] had some pretty good guys in their lineup tonight and everyone is competing for jobs on both sides…so the speed was phenomenal. I loved it.”

The Bruins loved what they saw of Carlo in a pretty big opportunity right out of the gate this preseason, and now the teenager has set the bar if he wants to keep pushing with a hockey club that needs to upgrade their defense with strong, young players.