Can Bruins capitalize on net advantage?

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Can Bruins capitalize on net advantage?

By Michael Felger

Two quick Bruins thoughts for you heading into Game 2 in Philadelphia tonight:

I've working on some theories about goaltending in the NHL playoffs, and in the Philadelphia Flyers we have a great case study.

They are the team that proves my theory -- the importance of goaltending in the postseason has been oversold to you.

But they are also the team that proves the theory has its limits.

Put another way:

While goaltending may not be the most important thing in the postseason -- as I keep saying, I'd put it third on the list behind overall team skill and, for lack of a better description, testicle size -- that doesn't mean it's worthless.

Far from it. History has shown that if your goaltending isn't good enough to at least compliment first two things, then your run will come to an end short of the Stanley Cup. You may get by for a round or two, and if you're a truly talented team then maybe even a third, but you will ultimately fall short of a championship.

This is all a long way of saying that the mess in the Flyers net is going to catch up to them eventually this postseason. They will get beat because of their clown-car rotation of Brian Boucher, Michael Leighton and Sergei Bobrovsky.

The question is whether the Bruins are good enough to be the ones to do it.

They weren't last year. Neither were the Devils nor the Canadiens. And the Sabres didn't have enough this year, either. In every one of those series, the opponent had the decided edge over the Flyers in net, but Martin Brodeur, Tuukka Rask, Jaoslav Halak and Ryan Miller weren't enough to overcome the Flyers' talent and toughness.

The only team to beat the Flyers in the postseason the last two years was the only one that had more skill, last year's Blackhawks. Then and only then did Philly's problems in net cost them, as Chicago averaged just over four goals a game in the Stanley Cup Finals and ultimately closed it out on a bad angle shot by Patrick Kane in overtime of Game 6.

So there's the answer to the question:

How far can you go with bad goaltending?

Deep into the Cup Finals.

The point for the Bruins in this series should be clear: Tim Thomas, for all his excellence this year and this week, won't be enough to take out the Flyers alone.

If the Bruins don't continue to apply pressure offensively, if they don't continue to finish around the net and get skilled plays from their skilled players, they will lose.

The way the B's played in the offensive zone on Saturday was what it will take the rest of the series. The first line played like a first line. The defensemen, particularly postseason standout Dennis Seidenberg, took chances and made plays. And most importantly, the forwards created enough action in front of the crease for Boucher and Bobrovsky to look like what they are -- not good enough.

But don't be fooled. If the Bruins don't continue to give the Flyers goalies an opportunity to collapse -- they won't. And your big advantage in net won't end meaning a thing.

A final word on the way the Montreal Canadiens played in Game 7 last Wednesday:

What a disgrace.

Jobs and reputations were at stake. Everything was on the line. It was a defining moment for a host of players who have devoted their lives to competition. And the Canadiens tried to win the game on a series of fakes, dives and embellishments.

The worst, in my mind, was Jeff Halpern going down in a heap after a behind-the-play collision with defenseman Andrew Ference. Of course, Halpern stayed down long enough for the trainers to come out and help him off the ice -- even though he obviously wasn't hurt. Halpern returned to the ice a few minutes later.

It was an embellishment that could have cost the B's the game and Ference a suspension. Fortunately, the NHL once again refused to take the cheese from the Canadiens and Ference wasn't disciplined.

"It sucks," Ference told us on 98.5 the Sports Hub. "Initially I always give guys the benefit of the doubt. I grew up out West, and guys don't stay down unless they have to be carted off by the Zamboni . . . But he's back out there less than two minutes later. So that one's tough to swallow, knowing it can get you in trouble, especially at that time in the game. It's a big penalty. It would be a shame.

"Ninety nine percent of the Canadiens game I really respect . . . They have a lot of really, really good things about their team. But that stuff is hard to swallow. Same with the Spacek one the night before when Looch hit him. He wasn't out too long, either.

"It's just not how I grew up. I have a really good memory I have of a coach I had growing up who sat us down in the locker room and told us he's never, ever going to come on to the ice to help us off. And if we need help, the Zamboni better come cart you off because both legs better be broken. And I think I was 8 years old at the time. So that's how I grew up and that's how I learned to play the game."

The Canadiens clearly operate by a different set of values.

E-mail Felger HERE and read the mailbag on Thursdays. Listen to him on the radio weekdays, 2-6 p.m., on 98.5 the Sports Hub.

Haggerty's Morning Skate: Phil Kessel emotional about reaching Stanlery Cup Final

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Haggerty's Morning Skate: Phil Kessel emotional about reaching Stanlery Cup Final

Here are all the links from around the hockey world and what I’m reading while picking the San Jose Sharks over the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Stanley Cup Final.

 

*Patrick Lalime hopped on sports radio in Ottawa, and said the Chris Phillips/Zdeno Chara defense pairing was the best he ever played behind.

 

*Don Cherry had a major problem with Steven Stamkos suiting up and playing in the losing Game 7 to the Penguins.

 

*Phil Kessel gets pretty emotional about finally getting to the Stanley Cup Final after years of struggle in Toronto.

 

*USA Today’s Kevin Allen says the gap between the No. 1 goaltender and the backup isn’t what it used to be.

 

*Speaking the Sharks, the trip back to Pittsburgh for the Cup Final brings back memories for Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau.

 

*PHT writer and FOH (Friend of Haggs) writer has the news about Dustin Brown getting stripped of the captaincy with the LA Kings.

 

*Bryan Rust was in the AHL to start this season, but much like Mike Sullivan and Matt Murray he killed it for the Penguins in the playoffs.

 

*For something completely different: It’s official that moving Jackie Bradley Jr. in the lineup wasn’t what killed his hitting streak.

Haggerty: Bruins putting a lot of their hopes in one roster fix

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Haggerty: Bruins putting a lot of their hopes in one roster fix

The improvement plan has become as clear as it’s going to be for the Bruins this offseason.

With Bruins general manager Don Sweeney locking up Kevan Miller to a four-year, $10 million deal this week and vowing to sign Torey Krug as well, the Bruins defensemen corps is going to look awfully similar to last season’s misbegotten group.

Almost identical, it would seem.

Sure, Sweeney said on Wednesday that the Bruins are actively seeking out “a transitional defenseman” that’s presumably a little better than 35-year-old journeyman John-Michael Liles, and can be paired with Zdeno Chara as a top duo for next season. It’s the No. 1 priority on the Bruins offseason shopping list just as it was last season once they shipped Dougie Hamilton to Calgary for draft picks and were instead saddled with a fearsome, crippling black hole at the top of their organizational D-man charts.

The trade market has been set to a degree by the Erik Gudbranson trade from the Florida Panthers to the Vancouver Canucks on Wednesday night with Jim Benning giving up a Grade-A center prospect in Jared McCann, a second-round pick and a fourth-round pick in exchange for the 24-year-old top-four defenseman. Per a hockey source with knowledge of the situation, the Bruins were not involved in any talks for the towering Gudbranso. It sounded like the Panthers and Canucks were pretty locked in with each other on making a deal.

That’s an unfortunate product of Boston not being able to match up with the available center prospect that might have interested Florida and having dealt some of those 2016 draft picks on fruitless deadline rental deals for Lee Stempniak and Liles.

So, how difficult will it be to land Kevin Shattenkirk, or Jacob Trouba, or Sami Vatanen, or Tyson Barrie, or any other mobile blueliner able to play big minutes, move pucks and survive against the other team’s best offensive players while being sheltered defensively by Zdeno Chara?

“Time will tell on that one, you know? Either through free agency or through acquisition, it’s a matter of finding a trading partner or finding a match in the marketplace. We’re going to be aggressive,” said Sweeney. “We certainly have identified, we had our pro meetings … I’m not going to give my whole plan out to you today. But we have areas that we want to address in the depth of our organization more likely in the forward position, either on the right wing or the center, or again on the backend. We’re exploring a bunch of different things trade-wise. It’s difficult in this league, but I think that we’re in the position with two first-round picks to be either selecting really good players or to be in the marketplace.”

The Bruins had better hope it’s a miracle-working puck-mover that they bring to Boston because otherwise they are on course for bringing back the same old sorry usual suspects from last season. Miller and Adam McQuaid will be taking up a combined $5.25 million on the salary cap, Krug will have a salary in the range of $5 million per season after watching the B’s largesse in the Miller deal and both Chara and Seidenberg will trudge on as proud, aging warriors well on the back end of their careers after outstanding service in Boston.

That means many defenders, including Joe Morrow and Colin Miller, return. Defense was the clear weakness on the team, which finished 19th in the NHL after being in the bottom third of the league pretty much all season. It was inarguably the worst defensive group of Claude Julien’s 10-year tenure with the Bruins and had major difficulties in all areas ranging from tape-to-tape passes, to coverage breakdowns and good, old-fashioned lost battles in all of the danger areas.

So, with the plan to add one high-caliber “transitional defenseman” already laid out, it’s clear the B’s belief is that will be enough to substantially improve things on the ice.

At least that’s the theory before the bullets start flying next season and Sweeney gave a few perfunctory lines about the team improving in every area.  

“This is a results-oriented business, so we have to get better in areas. We have to improve our roster. I’ve said all along that we need to continue to improve our roster. We’ll be in the marketplace in every different way, shape, or form to try and acquire players that will continue to help us do so,” said Sweeney. “Talking with Claude and going over the time he spent with Butch [Cassidy], through my dealings with Butch, and realizing the development of a lot of the players that have been a part of our roster and success is the transition game and stuff that Butch has brought to the table.

“[It’s] how he saw the game, how he expects players to play and move pucks and work on it every day, is an area that I think he’s going to be an addition to our [coaching] staff and how he sees the game. I think I identified that if Butch was playing in this day and age now, he’d be a very welcome addition to our roster.”

So that’s the plan, folks. The big move of the summer is getting a defenseman they badly need, filling in a few roster spots, signing a good deal of their own players and then hoping for a better result next time around.

Isn’t there some kind of line about insanity and expecting different results with the same cast of characters year in and year out?