Haggerty: Sixty minutes from the Stanley Cup Finals

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Haggerty: Sixty minutes from the Stanley Cup Finals

By JoeHaggerty
CSNNE.com

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

Haggerty: Good, but not good enough, again the story for Bruins

Haggerty: Good, but not good enough, again the story for Bruins

BOSTON – The all-important results continue to elude the Bruins at the time when they need them most.

The Black and Gold lost their third game in a row, 1-0, to the Chicago Blackhawks at TD Garden Friday night when they allowed the game-winning goal with less than 90 seconds remaining in regulation. It was a simple defensive breakdown and some great tic-tac-toe passing with Marian Hossa finishing things off, but it also felt like a game where the Blackhawks coasted against a wounded Bruins team for 58 minutes before turning it on when it was winning time.

The winning goal was a cross-ice pass from Tanner Kero to Hossa, with the puck sliding right between the legs of Adam McQuaid in the slot, and Hossa picking a corner while giving Tuukka Rask zero time to react side to side.

“We had a game plan in place and our guys executed well, they were ready to play,” said Claude Julien. “One little mistake and it’s in our net, and you lose yourself a pretty important hockey game.”

So, now the Bruins have taken only one point in their past three games, have dropped behind the Ottawa Senators in the Atlantic Division standings and continue to skate around like they’re wearing the weight of the entire organization on their shoulders.

“At the end of the night it is another loss and that’s the biggest thing. Did your team play fairly well? I think so. I think we competed hard, but then again you’re dealing with some growing pains. We had an icing late in the game so that’s not necessary, but the winning goal that goes through three of our guys and in our net with a minute-and- a-half left,” said Julien. “We have to stand there again, and take the responsibility for our own actions. It’s unfortunate because that minute-and-a-half that was left in the game kind of tarnished everything we had done for the first 58 minutes.

“I thought we played pretty well against a good team. We had contained the guys that we needed to contain. We didn’t score any goals – I don’t think we did a good enough job there - we had some chances but again you got to find ways to score goals. That’s where we are at.”

Clearly, the Bruins didn’t give up a ton defensively and Rask had been solid for the first two-plus periods, but there was also a sense Chicago didn’t bring its best game either when Boston outshot the Blackhawks 17-6 in the opening period. It was also clear that, aside from a couple of good, early chances from Tim Schaller and Brad Marchand, along with a Joe Morrow breakaway chance, the Bruins offense wasn’t doing enough work to get closer to the Chicago net for any sustained pressure.

So, instead of a solid result with dark clouds swirling over Causeway Street that a big change is needed to jolt a stagnant team, the Bruins hang up another loss where they outshot their opponent and end up with nothing to show for it.

These are the kinds of losses that test morale and togetherness and could either be taken as a sign of things tightening up for the Bruins or of things continuing to spiral away from a team that just needs wins at this point.

“I’m sure everybody’s feeling down right now because we lost, but you can’t start pouting too much. You’ve got to move on,” said Rask, who allowed one goal on 22 shots in the loss. “[There’s a] big game coming up Sunday, and next week, so it’s a loss and we have to move on. [We have to] get ready for the next one. I’m sure guys are pissed today, but tomorrow’s a new day.”

Tomorrow is a new day for everybody on the Black and Gold including Julien, who is scheduled to still run practice on Saturday as the B’s bench boss before speaking to the media prior to the team leaving for Pittsburgh. So, it’s business as usual after another loss on Friday night in a classic Original Six matchup that’s clearly most of the luster from where it was at four years ago, but one can only sit and wonder how much longer business as usual cuts it for a hockey club that continues to flounder. 
 

Julien sidesteps job security question with "shock journalism" comment

Julien sidesteps job security question with "shock journalism" comment

BOSTON -- With three crushing losses in a row at a time when results are really all that matters, the Boston Bruins are reeling at the wrong time during the regular season. The B’s tried their best to win a game 0-0 with strong defense against a sleepy Chicago Blackhawks bunch on Friday night, but ultimately coughed up a Marian Hossa goal in the final minutes for a 1-0 regulation loss at TD Garden.

The defeat continued a swirl downward for the Black and Gold over the last week, and was a second straight shutout loss on home ice for the first time in almost 15 years. The losing stretch has also kicked up the chatter that Claude Julien is in trouble as head coach of the Bruins, and the hockey club’s underperformance up and down the lineup is ultimately going to cost the NHL’s longest tenured bench boss his job.

The Ottawa Senators have passed the Bruins in the Atlantic Division, and it’s only a matter of time before the Toronto Maple Leafs move by them as well with both Toronto and Ottawa holding six games in hand on Boston. Combine all of this with the B’s having missed the playoffs in each of the previous two seasons leading into this one, and it shouldn’t be at all surprising that Julien is squarely on the coaching hot seat.

The B’s bench boss was asked about his job security after the Chicago loss, and clearly didn’t appreciate the tough, but appropriate question.

“Well, I’m not into shock-journalism,” said Julien in a prideful tone. “So I’ll stay away from that question if you don’t mind.”

The Bruins posted their Saturday schedule shortly after Julien and the B’s players had addressed the media following the loss, and sure enough the embattled coach is scheduled to address the media post-practice as part of the regular practice day routine. So it doesn’t seem that a move with Julien is imminent this weekend despite another loss, but both the coach and the players know something is going to happen to shake things up with this team if they continue to struggle.

“Right now it’s a results based situation, so if you’re going to keep losing games then probably something’s going to happen,” said Torey Krug. “But right now we’re just pretty down emotionally after this game, so I don’t want to look at the big picture. I just [want to] focus on what’s going on in this room, and hopefully we can come back with a good effort the next game.”

A good effort might help Julien’s standing with the Bruins in the short term, but it’s impossible to imagine the B’s bench boss making it through the rest of the Bruins regular season given all of things working against him right now.