Morning Skate 328: Playoff clincher is first step


Morning Skate 328: Playoff clincher is first step

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'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 Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs

Bergeron 'feeling good' in return, plays role of third period hero

Bergeron 'feeling good' in return, plays role of third period hero

BOSTON – It certainly feels appropriate that Patrice Bergeron would author a clutch game-winning goal late in the third period of his first game back after missing a week of games with a lower body injury. That Bergeron’s game-winner also arrived in the home opener at TD Garden was an added bonus once No. 37 hammered a shot from the high slot with 1:15 to go in the third period to give the Bruins their first lead of the game in a 2-1 victory over the New Jersey Devils at TD Garden.

The goal arrived courtesy of a nifty setup from linemate Brad Marchand working behind the New Jersey net, and also thanks to David Pastrnak winning a battle in the corner thanks to newfound grit in his game. But the hero of the day again turned out to be No. 37, who went from missing an entire week of action to reclaiming his center role on the top line, playing 16:49 of ice time and winning 13-of-24 face-offs while generating five shot attempts.

“I think it’s pretty obvious with what he did [against the Devils]. After being off for over a week and to come back and have one practice with us then back into the game, he scores a clutch goal for us. That’s what he has always been, a clutch player for us,” said Claude Julien. “I think the third period we gave it a really good push there and I like seeing that from our team that you come out and you don’t play on your heels and you push hard and we went down by a goal but we got our game going like I said and we got a couple goals to win this for us.”

Bergeron modestly said postgame that he was just trying to get into the flow of the game after missing a healthy chunk of time with injury. But he certainly looked like he was vintage form once it crunch time. The timing was perfect as he stepped into the one-timer shot off Marchand’s pass, and beat Cory Schneider amid a strong 34-save performance by the kid from Marblehead.

“I mean I was just trying to, I guess, get my feet wet right away and use the first few shifts to kind of just get, feel good about my positioning and my skating,” said Bergeron. “As the game went on I just felt better. Of course you want to start on a good note, especially at home, and we talked about our home record in the last few years. We wanted to do the job early, especially in the first game, and it’s one step but we’re happy with it.”

It was like Bergeron didn’t miss a single beat after missing the first three games of the season with a lower body injury, and those kinds of instincts and natural ability are things worth marveling about when it comes to the Bruins.

“I was feeling good [on the ice],” said Bergeron. “It would have been nice to ride the wave of the World Cup, but that being said I thought in the first I was trying to be good position ally and kind of get myself going with the first few shifts, and just kind of go from there. Overall I thought that happened.”

While the comeback win was certainly good news for the Bruins, the best news of all is that Bergeron has returned to the lineup with no signs of an injury that surprised everybody right before the start of the regular season.