Haggerty: Bruins earn their hockey immortality

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Haggerty: Bruins earn their hockey immortality

By JoeHaggerty
CSNNE.com Bruins Insider Follow@hackswithhaggs
VANCOUVER It came down to three words for the Bruins in this unexpected run to Stanley Cup glory:

Depth, character and toughness.

Those three traits above all others carried Boston through a long 107-game season that included triumphant rises, precipitous drops and one of the best goaltending seasons ever put together by an NHL netminder.

Depth, character and toughness drove Bostons newest champions throughout their playoff run as they became the first team in NHL Stanley Cup playoff history to win three different Game 7s.

Depth, character and toughness were featured prominently in Bostons perfectly executed 4-0 dispatching of the Vancouver Canucks in Game 7 at Rogers Arena. It was a game that left players, management and coaches raving about Bruins hockey.

It was Bruins hockey, you know, said Patrice Bergeron. Weve done this all year. We stayed in tight. There was never any panicking. Not getting too high or too low, and then we got the first goal, which was key.

Tim Thomas was the picture of cool, calm and flawless goaltending while stopping 37 shots in the first road shutout in a Stanley Cup Final Game 7 since before the Michigan native was born. He also became just the second American-born player to ever win the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoffs' best performer.

Thomas provided the biggest dose of character on a hockey club packed with it, and he was obviously the biggest cog in the Black and Gold machine that eventually captured Stanley Cup glory.

Tim Thomas in these playoffs just totally dominated. That's the sign of a great goaltender, said Claude Julien. He was on top of his game from start to finish, and especially in this final round. He was outstanding every game.

He was in the zone, focused, never let anything rattle him and never questioned his style of play. What's happened to him right now is so deserving and I'm so proud of him and obviously the rest of the team.

But the Bruins had so much more than a hot goalie in their Stanley Cup Game 7 victory.

There was Bergeron, who went from great two-way player to force of hockey nature as he tapped into a little surliness and played close to a perfect hockey game in the biggest moment of his life. He finished with five hits as he, along with the Bs fourth line, kept the Bruins grounded early in the game when it appeared like nerves were getting the best of them.

Then Bergeron, the longest-tenured player with the Bruins, broke things open with his offense and scored the games first goal with little more than five minutes to go in the first period. He won a convincing face-off against the closest available Sedin and then darted straight to the net as Brad Marchand danced with the puck in the corner. Bergeron kept his stick down on the ice and then flipped a quick shot off the left post and in the net before Roberto Luongo could recover his bearings.

In years past, the Bruins might have relaxed a little bit with the lead. But this year was different. This year, they poured it on in the second period.

The Bs were outshot 13-8 in the period, but they managed to pounce on Roberto Luongo twice as they capitalized on Canucks breakdowns as Vancouver withered under the pounding of a physical seven-game series.

It was Bostons second line -- its best since month of January -- that eventually did in the Canucks in the middle 20 minutes. Marchand attacked the net after a long Dennis Seidenberg shot from the left point caused a big, fat juicy rebound off the pads of Luongo. Bostons pest then tucked in a wraparound goal before a clearly frazzled Luongo could protect his post.

The Bruins' depth and unrelenting attack never wavered over the course of the seven games, and the Bruins knew it would eventually win out if they could survive their 0-2 start to the series.

It kind of sinks in a little, but with 10 seconds left I kinda lost it and started getting a little emotional, said Andrew Ference, who took on a huge leadership role with the Bruins over the course of this season. When I got to lift it, it all felt very surreal.

There is a lot that goes into it. Lets not kid ourselves. They were really banged up and there were a lot of injuries. We took advantage of that. But if I had to sum up our team in one word it would be 'focus.' We had an unbelievable focus of doing the job, doing all the little things, and rebounding from losses. Not being fazed. Its actually hard to get really emotional now because we really had that focus going for the entire playoffs.

But the biggest difference-maker in Game 7 for the Bruins against a Canucks team that had the best record in the NHL this season? Toughness.

It was the toughness that had always marked the Big Bad Bruins throughout their history. The 2010-2011 intimidating bunch of Black and Gold warriors are fitting descendants of the Bobby Orr groups of the 1970s and the Don Cherry-helmed Bs crews in the latter part of the decade.

"There is such a bunch of character on this club," said Bs President Cam Neely. The demeanor of the players from the moment we got onto the plane until the game tonight, I knew they were focused and ready to play. They were confident going into this game.

Look at the depth of our team. We can roll four lines if the coach wants to, has to or needs to. We have great depth on D and goaltending depth. We had a lineup you might look and down and say that we didnt have any superstars, but weve got some damned good hockey players on this club. We have some really skilled players, but more importantly we play as a team.

When Julien did decide to roll four lines in Game 7, he was rewarded. Shawn Thornton and the rest of the Boston energy line was breathing fire from their opening shift of the game. They did their job, giving the Bruins a visible lift.

Milan Lucic felt it. He led the Bs with six registered hits and created a physical presence when his offense didnt appear. Seidenberg felt it, too. He led all skaters with 28:51 of ice time and was once again an unbreakable stalwart at both ends of the ice while shaking off attackers and shutting down the Sedin twins' line, handing them a minus-7 rating for the evening.

There is little doubt that the Swedish twins will have cold sweat nightmares about the SeidenbergZdeno Chara defenseman pairing that held them to five points in the entire series. The Bs penalty kill was equally scary, limiting the vaunted Canucks power play to a 2-for-30 performance in the series.

The bottom line for the Bs: They played with a physical toughness, dignified air and an unrelenting willingness that is always rewarded by the hockey gods. Those types of players always end up kissing the Cup at the end of Lord Stanleys tournament.

It always takes a little bit of luck, of course. But the Bruins werent relying on luck to beat very good teams in Montreal, Philadelphia, Tampa Bay and Vancouver before hoisting the 34-pound Stanley Cup over their heads.

They had toughness. They had depth. They had character.

Now they will have their names etched on the Stanley Cup, representing Boston for the first time in nearly 40 years, and nobody will ever be able to take that away from them.

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

Rask: Last season 'something to rebound from' personally

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Rask: Last season 'something to rebound from' personally

BRIGHTON, Mass. – While David Pastrnak, Tuukka Rask and David Backes are back from competing in the World Cup of Hockey in Toronto, that doesn’t mean you’ll see those players on the ice over the next couple of days. Perhaps the trio will practice on Monday in the fourth on-ice session at main training camp, but Bruins GM Don Sweeney confirmed that none of those returning players will suit up against the Columbus Blue Jackets in the B’s preseason debut at TD Garden on Monday night.

“Yeah…absolutely,” said Sweeney when asked if those three players have been ruled out for Monday night. “They’re going to get through the weekend here. Next week, we’ll evaluate [them] when they get on the ice. But, all those guys will not be on the ice until next week.

“It might be case-by-case for each guy. Those guys have been playing for a while at a high level. It’s unique for David Backes coming into the organization, so he’d like to integrate himself. I talked yesterday with all three of them just to get a read of where they’re at. But, sometime first of next week, they’ll be on [the ice].”

Both Pastrnak and Rask have checked in with the Bruins media over the last couple of days after returning from Toronto, and the Bruins goaltender, in particular, has plenty of motivation coming off a down statistical season. The 2.56 goals against average and .915 save percentage were well below his career numbers, and people like B’s President Cam Neely have pointed to Rask as somebody that needs to have a better season for Boston to rebound back into the playoffs this year.

“There were a couple of years where the standards pretty high, so obviously when they go down there’s something to rebound from. You kind of know where you can be. That’s where I try to be every year and I’m working on being there this year, and taking us to the playoffs and moving forward,” said Rask. “But every year is a new year where you’ve got to work hard, and set your goals to be at your best. More often than not you hope [being at your best] is going to happen, and I hope this year is going to be a great year for us.”

Clearly Rask wasn’t alone in his struggles last season behind a mistake-prone defense that allowed plenty of Grade chances, and that could be a repeating phenomenon again this season for the Bruins unless the defense is substantially upgraded along the way.

As far as the other three B’s players still taking part in the World Cup, it could be a while for Patrice and Brad Marchand as Team Canada has advanced to the final best-of-three series that could also feature Zdeno Chara if Team Europe is victorious. 

Sweeney: 'Helpless feeling' hoping World Cup players return healthy

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Sweeney: 'Helpless feeling' hoping World Cup players return healthy

BRIGHTON, Mass. – It’s a bit of a helpless feeling for an NHL general manager watching their star players participate in an intense hockey tournament like the World Cup of Hockey that doesn’t directly benefit their respective teams.

Not helpless because of the tournament’s outcome, obviously, but helpless because players could return from Toronto dinged up, or even worse significantly injured.

Aaron Ekblad had to shut it down for Team North American with what many speculated was a concussion, and Pittsburgh goalie Matt Murray is out a month, or more, with a broken hand sustained playing for the same young guns team.

So, it certainly must have been an uneasy few moments for Don Sweeney when Brad Marchand was pulled from Team Canada’s last game for the concussion protocol after a nasty-looking collision with Team Europe forward Marian Hossa.

Marchand went through the testing, and ended up returning to the game no worse for the wear. But it could have been a lot worse for a Bruins team that can’t afford to be missing Marchand, Patrice Bergeron or Zdeno Chara, who are still playing for teams alive in the semifinal round of the tourney.

“I would expect all of us to have been in a similar situation. For everybody - any general manager, coaches, staff, you're concerned about [injuries],” said Sweeney, talking about the World Cup and Marchand’s close call. “I mean, especially when you realize the stakes are going to go up as the tournament goes along. The pride involved - it's a risk. There's no question, it's a risk.

“But you also want to see them play their best hockey and they're not going to hold back. Yeah, it's a definite concern. You've got your fingers and toes crossed.”

David Pastrnak and Tuukka Rask have already returned to Boston fully healthy. David Backes should be joining the team anytime now after Team USA’s rude dismissal from the tournament. But Sweeney and the Bruins still have their sensors out for the three B’s players taking part that aren’t quite out of the woods yet before returning to B’s camp in one piece.