Haggerty: Sixty minutes from the Stanley Cup Finals


Haggerty: Sixty minutes from the Stanley Cup Finals

By JoeHaggerty

TAMPA Just 60 minutes of solid hockey stands between the Boston Bruins and the Stanley Cup Finals.

The Bruins havent been there since a 1990 matchup against the Edmonton Oilers. But now its so close to a reality that the Bruins can touch it, and it seems even more attainable when Tim Thomas is pulling his Superman act between the pipes.

Mark Recchi is the only member of the Bruins who was actually in the NHL that year. Though he wasn't with the B's then, he knows what it's like to make it to the Cup finals and win. The 43-year-old certainly knows that these Black and Golden opportunities dont come around very often. And he knows that, for many of his teammates, it will never come again.

Recchi won his first Stanley Cup with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1991 on a team loaded with talent, and he relives the moments of that first Cup experience each time he moves ahead with these Bruins as their elder statesmen and on-ice leader.

Im still great friends with a lot of those guys on the 1991 Penguins," said Recchi. "Thats the nicest thing. You have a bond thats never broken when you win a championship together. Its something you hold for the rest of your life. The great thing about 2006 when he won again as a member of the Carolina Hurricanes is that I was able to watch and enjoy it a little more because Id already won a Cup in 1991.

You really take it all in more. You watch how guys react to things and you enjoy it. You see how guys are handling things, and maybe not handling things. Its fun to be around it. This is the time of year that guys love to be involved in.

Its the time of year where its up to the Bruins to come out hitting, scoring and flying just like they did against the Flyers in the final game of the last round. The Bruins piled it on early with strength, skill, speed and anything else they could think to throw at the flagging Flyers.

Thats the same game plan they should have Wednesday night against faltering goaltender Dwayne Roloson and a sagging Lightning defense corps.

Its amazing that the Bs have encountered fluctuating goaltender situations in each of the last two rounds against Philadelphia and Tampa Bay, because Boston has enjoyed an overwhelming advantage in that category.

Even so, and even with a series lead, they don't want to sit back and wait.

Theres nothing to worry about it. Theres no pressure. You just go out there, play your game and lay it on the line, said Recchi. You put everything you have into Wednesday night and if it doesnt happen then theres a Game 7. Were going to go out, enjoy it, have fun out there and focus on what we do well as a hockey club.

The guys are excited. This is a great opportunity to end things right now, and were ready to give it a go.

The Bruins have been in these spots before, of course.

They need only look at their last game against the Lightning at the St. Pete Times Forum as a cold shot reminder what happens when things get a little too quick and easy.

The Bs continue to gather a little too much giddiness in certain situations, and constantly battle the balancing act of complacency and lost confidence once things suddenly take a turn. Its a toxic cocktail once it takes effect on the ice as it did in the second period of Game 4.

The Bruins hope to avoid that at all costs, as well as avoid a gray-hair-inducing Game 7. Claude Julien doesn't even want the possibility of a Game 7 to enter into the teams consciousness.

You want to have a mindset of winning Game 6. We talked about it. Don't think ahead and don't think of the past, said Julien. We need to think of the present. Tomorrow is an opportunity to come out and play the best game we can. It's as simple as that.

The Bruins are resilient, and they have fought back from both epic losses and overwhelming odds this season.

The 0-2 series comeback against the Montreal Canadiens was storybook stuff, and there were multiple regular-season losses that registered in the gut punch variety. Perhaps none were a bigger kick to the stomach than Chapter 1 and 2 of the Max Pacioretty saga with the Bruins a pair of regular-season losses to the Canadiens that left plenty of hard feelings and soul searching in their wake once the scrapping Montreal forward got involved. Zdeno Chara went through his own personal trials in the final month of the season and through the first round of the playoffs, but both the player and the team are ready for anything now.

The Bruins are different this season, and theyve proven it time and time again. They did it again in Game 5 against the Lighting at the Garden, and much of it comes from an even-keeled philosophy thats the opposite of last seasons celebrating when the team went up 3-0 in the series against the Flyers.

There are no longer many questions about elite Bs players like Chara and Thomas after beating down the Game 7 ghosts against Montreal and then vanquishing the Flyers but they cant start building their own Bruins legends until they have a Cup of their own to share with the high standard City of Champions in Boston.

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

Injuries have created a muddled picture with Bruins goaltenders

Injuries have created a muddled picture with Bruins goaltenders

It’s hard to believe that it’s already come to this, but it might just be Malcolm Subban between the pipes for the Bruins on Tuesday night against the Minnesota Wild, and perhaps again on Wednesday at Madison Square Garden.

The 22-year-old Subban has been pulled from two ineffective starts for the P-Bruins in four AHL starts this season (.846 save percentage and a 4.50 goals against average in four games) while coming back from last year’s fractured larynx injury. He's also a player the organization was uncertain enough about that they signed veteran backup Anton Khudobin to a two-year deal on the July 1 open of NHL free agency.

Subban attributed his start to a slow opening few weeks with a new P-Bruins roster of players, but that hasn’t stopped fellow P-Bruins goalie Zane McIntyre from putting up excellent numbers between the pipes in the early going.

But Khudobin went down with an injury mere minutes into Monday morning’s Bruins practice at Warrior Ice Arena, and Tuukka Rask been battling a nagging leg injury since the season opening win against the Blue Jackets.

So Subban was the last goalie standing on Monday as an emergency recall from Providence, and could be in line to play Tuesday night against the Wild if the Bruins medical staff can’t perform some Mr. Miyagi-style healing techniques on Rask or Khudobin.

“Khudobin got injured and couldn’t practice with us, but I haven’t heard anything yet [on an update],” said Julien following practice. “This is hockey. We deal with it on daily basis with the injuries. We wait for the news and then it’s about doing your job as it’s required. If we have to make some adjustments and have to have some different personnel, then we’ll deal with it when we have more of an update. Tuukka is still day-to-day, so nothing is changed there.

“We’re in a situation here where we’ll see what happens, and if [Subban] needs to go in goal then he’ll go in goal. It’s as simple as that. As a coach, there’s one thing that worries me and that’s ‘stop the puck.’ I’m not a goalie coach, so I’m just demanding on making the saves.”

Subban, of course, hasn’t been making the saves down in Providence early in the going there this season, and is entering the stage of his career where he needs to begin showing signs of being a potential No. 1 guy at the NHL level.

Fellow goalies from the 2012 NHL draft class like Andrei Vasilevskiy, Joonas Korpisalo, Matt Murray, Connor Hellebuyck and Frederik Andersen have all begun making their mark in the league, and Subban was selected higher than all of them except for Tampa’s Vasilevskiy. So in the final year of his entry level deal it’s high time for the 22-year-old to begin showing signs he can play in the league, whether it’s in Boston or elsewhere.

He admitted on Monday he might have been putting too much pressure on himself down in Providence while watching the injury issues play out with Tuukka Rask in Boston.

Subban was worried about the big picture of stringing together saves so he was the guy called up if the Bruins needed a goalie, and instead should have been focusing more on the present opponents at the AHL level.

“I put a lot of pressure on myself. I think anybody that knows me well knows that. I don’t like to let in goals no matter what happens, whether it’s breakdowns or not it’s my job [to stop the puck]. If there were no breakdowns then you wouldn’t need a goaltender,” said Subban. “I want to make every save and get a shutout every game. I think the biggest thing is just relaxing and playing, and knowing that it’s okay to let a goal in every once in a while.

“So I think in my position right now I’m supposed to be playing really well down there, and I think that go in my head a little bit. I was trying to get a shutout every game rather than going game-by-game and shot-by-shot. I was overthinking it too much. But collectively as a team we’re a new team and we were trying to get the chemistry together, and once we do that the D-zone will be better and the offensive zone game will come.”

If Subban does indeed get the emergency start on Tuesday night against the Wild, the Bruins just have to hope that it’s a better outing than getting pulled in his NHL debut against the Blues two seasons ago after allowing three goals on three straight shots to start the second period. They also have to hope that Rask or Khudobin get well quick given Boston’s shaky situation on defense in front of the goaltender, and the stretch they’re in of playing six straight opponents that qualified for last spring’s Stanley Cup playoffs.

If not then watch out below because every hockey person knows there’s no quicker way for a hockey club to really begin imploding than if the goaltending starts to become a major problem whether it’s because of injury, inconsistent performance or simply because of being a straight-up sieve.

McQuaid cleared to play, nearing return to Bruins lineup


McQuaid cleared to play, nearing return to Bruins lineup

BRIGHTON, Mass. -- It was a bitter pill for Adam McQuaid to sit out the first five games of this season, but it looks like the veteran Bruins stay-at-home defenseman is nearing a return to the lineup. McQuaid was cleared to potentially play in Saturday’s loss to the Montreal Canadiens after an upper body injury kept him shelved for the team’s first four games, and could be approaching a return in the next few days as Claude Julien mulls a number of possible lineup changes.

“It was obviously frustrating, but I’m where I’m at now and trying to move on from it. Looking forward to getting back into the lineup hopefully as soon as possible here,” said the 30-year-old McQuaid, who had a goal and nine points in 64 games for the Black and Gold last season. “The excitement level is high for me, and it is for everybody after a loss when you’re looking forward to getting back out there.

“It would have been nice to have started the season with the guys, but you can’t change that now. I’ve had some good practices, and I’m just trying to my game as simple as possible, and take it as it comes. Obviously guys have played some games and it’s been a couple of weeks for me, so I’ll just have to keep my game simple.”

The B’s bench boss indicated it was only a matter of time before McQuaid makes his 2016-17 regular season debut, but that he’s got plenty of things to decide prior to dropping the puck against the Wild.

“[McQuaid] was cleared last game. I haven’t made any decisions based for [Tuesday night vs. Minnesota]. There’s a lot of things that are up in the air, and I’ve just go to juggle those things,” said Julien. “Who knows? Hopefully tomorrow morning I’ve got a better picture [of injury situation], and if not then it will be game-time decisions. I wish I could have a better answer [on if McQuaid will play], but I’ve got no answers right now.”

With Colin Miller (minus-4), Joe Morrow, Torey Krug (a rough minus-3 against Montreal) and John-Michael Liles all minus players after the first five games of the season, there are ample options for Julien on which potential blueliner to bump up to the press box. McQuaid is just happy he’s getting closer to a return while skating with 23-year-old Rob O’Gara at practice, and he can get back to helping a B’s team that’s smack dab in the middle (ranked 15th allowing 3.0 goals per game) of the NHL for team defense this season.