Haggerty: Time to kill the Game 7 demons


Haggerty: Time to kill the Game 7 demons

By JoeHaggerty

MONTREAL The Boston Bruins will have plenty to prove Wednesday night at the TD Garden when they line up against the Montreal Canadiens for a 13th and final time this season.

It could mean a promising new beginning or it could be the bitter end for some of the current nucleus of Boston players, since a loss Wednesday will mean premature playoff exits in each of the last three seasons.

When the puck drops for Game 7, the Bruins will be looking to exorcise the playoff ghosts and poltergeists that have haunted them in recent years.

They lost Game 7 at home, in overtime, to Carolina in 2009. Last year there was the historic collapse against the Flyers -- the memory of which is something the Bs have battled all season.

They partially beat down those demons by ripping off three straight wins against the Habs in this series. But until they win a Game 7, which they haven't done since 1994, the Bruins can't say they've broken the spell.

One doesnt even have to ask Zdeno Chara or Tim Thomas the questions about their Game 7 histories to understand the bitterness and disappointment thats come along with dropping a combined seven of them over their hockey careers.

We have experience, I guess, said Thomas when asked the Game 7 question. Its win or youre done. Weve won three games so far in this series. If we play the way we did when we won the three, then well win the fourth game in the series.

Chara is a fruitless 0-5 during his decorated Norris Trophy-winning career in Game 7's with the Bruins and Senators, and has had some of his most forgettable performances in those seminal moments. Thomas is 0-2 and has a chip resting on his shoulder.

The question is: Will history change Wednesday night? Or repeat itself?

We worked all year to get home ice, and now were going home, said Mark Recchi.

We have to just embrace whats coming up tomorrow. This a great time of year and you need to have fun with it. You cant get weighed down by the pressure. You just have to go play . . . I trust these guys and know theyll be ready to play. Its one game. It is what it is and both teams will be ready.

The Canadiens, on the other hand, haven't lost a Game 7 since -- you guessed it -- being beaten by Boston in 1994. They're 4-0 in Game 7's over the span . . . and, in fact, counting Tuesday night they're 6-1 in their last seven elimination games (elimination games being described as any game in which a team is ousted from the playoffs by a loss, which can happen prior to a Game 7). Forward Mike Cammalleri has been super-human in those clutch situations with seven goals and 10 points in those do-or-die moments with Les Habitants.

The path to a Game 7 in Boston was paved Tuesday night when the Bruins couldnt vanquish the Habs at a rocking Bell Centre, and instead found themselves embroiled in a special-teams extravaganza for the first time in the seven-game series. There were 11 power plays in the game, seven of them for Montreal, and the Habs connected twice.

The Bruins power play, on the other hand, was 0-for-4 Tuesday, is 0-for-19 so far in the playoffs, and is a big reason why the B's are being forced to a Game 7. Because the Bruins clearly outplayed the Canadiens when the teams skated 5-on-5.

It all started when referee Kevin Pollock botched a Brian Gionta goal in the opening minutes, whistling the play dead when he lost sight of the puck as it sat in the open ice next to Tim Thomas. Gionta successfully swiped it into the net, but Pollock waved off the goal. Angry Habs fans began raining white rally towels onto the ice in protest when it was clear that Pollocks call was going to stand.

After messing up the first big call of the game, it appeared Pollock and fellow referee Chris Lee spent the rest of the night attempting to make amends.

The five-minute boarding major and game misconduct call on Milan Lucic was iffy to start with, and became downright laughable when the fallen Jaroslav Spacek -- helped off the ice by the medical staff --was back taking regular shifts at the end of the second period.

None of the Bruins would comment on the record about the Lucic penalty. But you can be sure plenty of Bs players were rolling their eyes with derision when Spacek was back in the game moments after he lay on the ice as if he were seriously injured.

Then the refs compounded those mistakes with weak-sauce calls on Nathan Horton for slashing and Patrice Bergeron for goaltender inference, the latter wiping out a Boston power play 13 seconds into the man advantage.

Not that the Bruins would have done anything with the chance. Bostons 0-for-4 performance worsened the stats for the Bruins' historically bad power play during these playoffs.

It seems as though there's an inability to promote change on the power play and inability to spur movement, creativity or production on Bostons special teams, and it may end up being the reason for the Bruins' demise. It may also lead to Claude Julien and some of the others on his staff being employed elsewhere next year.

But thats a story that can wait for golfing season.

Its no surprise the Bruins couldnt close out the archrival Habs given the chance on Tuesday night. The Montreal roster is full of proven winners like Cammalleri, Gionta and Hal Gill, and they had one last good fight left in them, especially at home.

That sets the stage for the Bruins to soothe all those Game 7 fears, and finally give guys like Thomas and Chara that moment theyve been looking for over the last few seasons. Its no Stanley Cup, of course, but theres much to be gained for Bostons elite players if they finally learned how to win a Game 7 after cornering the market in losing them.

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.