Haggerty: Win means stability -- for now


Haggerty: Win means stability -- for now

By JoeHaggerty

For us as a group it was nice to reward our fans because theyve been punished enough. -- Claude Julien

BOSTON In one short sentence, Claude Julien showed just much he understood all that was swirling around him.

When asked to express his feelings when he saw Nathan Horton fire up an overtime game-winner that clinched Bostons first Game 7 victory in 17 years, Julien had the big picture in mind.

There were ramifications and upheaval brewing on Causeway Street if the Bruins couldnt get it done in their fourth season under Julien, but it looks like all of that has tabled for the time being.

The Bruins always understood the pressure and the expectations that came with Wednesday's perform-or-perish Game 7 scenario -- they've been there before. But this current brand of Black-and-Gold brothers had never been able to match the lofty aspirations of a hockey city reborn.

Beyond the three straight Game 7 losses under Julien prior to Wednesday night -- to the Flyers, Hurricanes and Habs -- there were legitimate organizational questions about the long-term employment of Julien and his staff.

Even with the win, the questions linger.

Bruins president Cam Neely will ultimately make the decision on retaining the coaching staff and the roster once the season is over, and he didnt shy away from the questions pertaining to his coach while holding court in the victorious dressing room.

Based on how we finished last year and coming into this year, we had some high expectations, said Neely. We knew it was going to be tough series against Montreal given how we played each other during the course of the season. In sports there are always expectations and there is always pressure.

The pressure and the pain might have been exactly what these Bruins needed to get to the other side. Learning to win can often involve painful losses and wince-inducing lessons, and they dont come any more painful than the gut punches suffered during last years collapse against Philly.

In the end, that bitter taste may be exactly what spurred Boston on to victory against the Canadiens . . . and what will keep them going.

You know, the guys deserved it. I think we deserved this series, said Mark Recchi. I give Montreal a lot of credit: They played hard, they played well, their power play was unbelievable and it kept them in the series. But five-on-five I thought we were a really good hockey team. I thought we deserved the series.

Horton's overtime score was a team effort in every sense of the word.

Adam McQuaid beat P.K. Subban in a one-on-one puck battle in the corner. Milan Lucic set a perfect pass back to Horton in the high slot for the second assist of the playoffs, and David Krejci served as a human screen as the puck whistled past.

That little bit of overtime execution gave Boston the victory after several heart-stopping saves by Tim Thomas in the extra session, and 34 total stops on the evening.

No longer will Thomas, Lucic Zdeno Chara or Patrice Bergeron have to answer questions about why their team couldnt capture a Game 7 in the Stanley Cup playoffs after Wednesday nights coming-out party.

The Game 7 dragon has been slain, and the Bruins were enjoying the spoils after finally tasting sweet victory against a team that wielded the upper hand on them way too many times.

There was a lot at stake in this series. People understand the rivalry between Montreal and Boston thats been there many times, and people also understand the statistics and the winning percentages between the two teams, said Julien, alluding to Boston more often being on the losing end. If you look back to my first year we took Montreal to seven games and then lost.

We know the last couple of years its been Carolina and Philadelphia. I saw some of the stats of Bruins in the seventh games, so its one of those things where you feel happy.

One of the best parts of the victory: different heroes for the Bruins at every turn.

Playoff newcomer Horton had two overtime game-winners in his first postseason appearance, Kelly had six points from Bostons third line, Ryder had a two-goal game and The Save when Boston needed him most in the middle of the series. Andrew Ference finished as a feisty plus-6 while stepping up and answering all who doubted his three-year contract extension last summer.

I think we showed a lot of character. We had to put ourselves in a little bubble, and not think about the pressure and what people were saying around us, said Bergeron. I think we did a great job with that. We stayed resilient all game and all series, and we found a way.

It was a true team playoff victory in every sense of it, and the Bruins are going to bask in it for at least a day.

There are still serious power-play problems, not to mention the revenge issues against Philadelphia and enigmatic performances from franchise players like Chara and Lucic.

But those are issues for another day.

For now, Chara, Thomas, Julien, Chiarelli, Kelly and so many other Bruins can laugh heartily at the playoff monkeys tossed from their backs on Wednesday night.

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

Sunday, Oct. 23: Hall fitting in with Devils


Sunday, Oct. 23: Hall fitting in with Devils

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while waiting to find out which Walking Dead character got brained by Lucille in last season’s cliffhanger. I’m going with Abraham.

*The SI roundtable talks about the future of Jacob Trouba, and where he’ll end up going when his current situation resolves itself.

*P.K. Subban is apparently getting very comfortable in Nashville, and enjoying life in a city with NFL football.

*Fun conversation between Yahoo’s Josh Cooper and Brad Marchand about a whole range of random topics.

*A cool father-son story where they became the goaltending tandem for the Ontario Reign through a series of dominoes falling after Jonathan Quick went down with injury for the Los Angeles Kings.

*Pro Hockey Talk has Taylor Hall serving as exactly what the New Jersey Devils have needed for the last couple of years.

*For something completely different: FOH (Friend of Haggs) Dan Shaughnessy says that the MLB playoffs couldn’t have played out any worse for the Boston Red Sox.


Haggerty: Bruins continue to stumble against Canadiens at home

Haggerty: Bruins continue to stumble against Canadiens at home

BOSTON -- One of the definitions of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.

Much like Charlie Brown was never going to actually kick the football before Lucy pulled it away, it feels like the Bruins are never again going to beat the Montreal Canadiens at TD Garden. They failed again Saturday night, never holding a lead at any point as they dropped their ninth straight home game to the Habs, 4-2.

Bruins-Canadiens games in Boston have become the hockey version of 'Groundhog Day', as the same patterns emerge over and over again: Montreal's speed forces the Bruins into mistakes with the puck; Habs players draw the B’s into taking bad penalties; Carey Price dominates in goal. It's been that way ever since the last Bruin victory over Montreal at the Garden, on Jan. 12, 2012. To put it perspective, Tim Thomas and Tyler Seguin were still Bruins back then.

Saturday night's loss, though, had a little added twist: The B's second-period woes, such a problem last year, reared its ugly head again.

“[The second period was] terrible, and that’s where it really hurt us," said Claude Julien. "I thought we played well (in the first period) . . . But the second period came back to haunt us. We were flat coming out. We didn’t make good outlet passes, and we spent way too much time in our own end, and because of that, it gave them some momentum. And by the end of it, we cheated ourselves a little bit, and pucks ended up in the back of our net . . .

"[When] you give up four goals to Montreal, and you have Price at the other end, it’s pretty hard to beat that team. So we needed to be better . . . [We] shot ourselves in the foot with some real poor mistakes, and we can’t afford to do that against the Montreal Canadiens."

The Bruins were essentially done for after a couple of very typical Boston-Montreal plays went against them in the middle 20 minutes.

The first was a defensive coverage breakdown in the D-zone that allowed both Max Pacioretty and Brendan Gallagher to operate with time and space. Five B’s players simply watched as Gallagher smoked a one-timer from the outside of the left circle that eluded Anton Khudobin.

Then, later in the period, John-Michael Liles misread a play where he pinched deep in the offensive zone and couldn’t control the puck. As a result, Alexander Radulov worked a 2-on-1 with Phillip Danault to skilled perfection on a typical Habs transition play.

"I think our second period has got to be better overall," said Patrice Bergeron. "We talked about them having a good forecheck . . . [but] we didn’t make the easy plays too many times. When you do that, it creates turnovers and you spend more time in your zone than you’d like to."

From there, it was just more of the same. Playing with the lead, Montreal was able to neutralize Bergeron and Brad Marchand; Bergeron never got a shot on goal. Price came up big when he had to, shutting down a couple of Ryan Spooner chances.

And Bruin weaknesses were exposed, things Julien and the coaching staff may have to address. It looks like it’s time to move on from the Joe Morrow/Torey Krug defense pairing; it's simply not working. (Krug, in particular, was a minus-3 and made mistakes all over the ice.) They also may need to switch things up with the forwards, as they're getting zippo offensively from their second and third lines.

To their credit, the Bruins never packed it in. They hung in and made plays in the third period to keep the game close, right up to the 6-on-3 advantage they had at the end. But there are no consolation prizes or moral victories in the Boston-Montreal rivalry, especially when the Habs have made it so one-sided.

To be a true rivalry, you need equal rivals. And the Bruins, especially at home, aren’t holding up their end of the bargain.