Morning Skate 328: Playoff clincher is first step

Morning Skate 328: Playoff clincher is first step
March 28, 2011, 4:17 pm
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By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.comPHILADELPHIA It might have been a little sweeter for the Bruins to slap backs and fist bump each other for securing a playoff spot after finishing off a Flyers bunch looking a bit out of sorts on Sunday night.The Bruins punched their postseason ticket with the 2-1 victory at the Wells Fargo Center powered by power play goals and shimmering brilliance of goaltender Tim Thomas once again at the full height of his puck-stopping powers.The Bs basically can finish no less than the third seed in the Eastern Conference after vanquishing the Canadiens last week, and can still realistically push the Capitals, Penguins and Flyers for the top spot in the East if they can get scalding hot in their final seven games.It really appears that the top eight teams in the East are locked in, and now its a just a matter of the Canadiens, Rangers or Lightning as playoff opponents for the Bs in the first round should things remain close to their current standings.Its obviously awesome, said Mark Recchi, who got a big assist on Brad Marchands power play goal game-winner in the third period against Philly. Its a lot of hard work this right from Vermont to the start of training came to Prague and then here we are with seven games left. And were still working on it and we want to make sure were full steam ahead.We have three big games this week as well, and it just never seems to end.Nathan Horton has nine goals in his last 17 games, the power play seems to finally be living up to its might name and skilled cast of characters, and Tim Thomas has again dipped his goalie pads into the fountain of hockey youth he discovered at the beginning of the season.Its been a long haul for a Bs team thats had several low moments throughout the regular season the Claude Julien is in trouble talk leading up to the Atlanta Thrashers game in January, the third period collapse against the Montreal the Bell Centre, the March losing streak marred by the Max Pacioretty head slam into the stanchion but the Bruins have proven themselves one of the best teams that the East has to offer.Were focusing on what we can do right now. Were not focused on where were going to end up, but we know were probably not going to end up any lower than third, said Recchi. We want to make sure were playing well going into the playoffs and thats our focus right now. Where we end up is where we end up, and thats not something were too worried about right now. Its now were playing and what were doing going into the playoffs so that we can make sure were full steam ahead.It also remains instructive that the Bruins are an impressive 13-6-3 this season in games against the top 6 teams in the East including the Flyers, Capitals, Penguins, Lightning and Canadiens, and have risen to the occasion against their best competition. The hard part of the playoffs qualifying for them through an 82-game grind is in the rear view mirror after a playoff-style victory in Philly. For guys like Tomas Kaberle, its a feeling that hasnt been there in a long time.Its been a while. Its been six years, said Kaberle. Im happy for it, but its a long way and I know it. Even though we only have seven games left we really just have to keep performing.Thats right.Its about keep performing and expelling some of the playoff ghosts that have haunted the Black and Gold over the last few seasons.On to the links:I dont agree with ESPN.com'sPierre LeBrun on his opinions concerning Mark Recchi and his actions toward Max Pacioretty, but I respect his stance and the way he went toe-to-toe with Mike Milbury on it during Hockey Night in Canada.Broad Street Hockey takes a look at why the Flyers have struggled so much lately, and havent beaten a team currently in the playoff mix since late February.Bruce Dowbiggin of the Globe and Mail stands up for Theo Fleury as the ever-present haters attempt to take a piece out of him via Twitter. Also, was E from Entourage actually taking up a spot behind the New York Islanders bench last Tuesday night? Wow. Where will Johnny Drama wind up?CBCs Elliotte Friedman has the low down on Merrimack College superstar Stephane Da Costa making the jump to the NHL. On a side note, congrats to Mark Dennehy and the Merrimack program for an amazing season that ended last weekend during the NCAA Regional in Manchester, N.H.Another guy to follow on the Da Costa radar is Mike McMahon with the Lawrence Eagle-Tribune, who has been all over the Merrimack beat this season.You had me at "When Mr. Carrie Underwood Came to Nash-Vegas" in your headline.

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