Bruins Shutout Chicago – Lead Series 2-1

Sometimes you just feel it.  You just know something is gonna happen for you. Everything you do is gonna make you or someone else smile throughout the day. That’s what it was like for the just about everyone on the Boston Bruins team Monday night as they beat the Chicago Blackhawks 2-0 at the TD garden to take a two games to one series lead in this Stanley Cup Final.

Home ice has been a good place for Boston during these playoffs as they have lost only two of nine games so far on Causeway Street and tonight was no different. Chicago couldn’t do much with the minimal amount of time and space the Bruins allowed, and when they did, Tuukka Rask continued his out of this world goaltending.

Daniel Paille, show scored the overtime game winner Saturday night in Chicago, also got the game winner Monday as his line with Chris Kelly and Tyler Seguin proved once again to bring the energy the the Coach Claude Julien is always looking for. It’s part of the system that he has employed from day one and no matter how maddening outsiders seem to think he should change, it is simply not his way. He believes in what he does and he believes in his players to carry out that system and tonight they worked it to perfection. The ‘Hawks had 28 shots but most were from just over the blue line which made it easy for Rask to see and rebounds were cleared.

There is a saying in hockey that if you win faceoffs, you start off with possession of the puck and the other team has to chase you for it. The Bruins veteran center Patrice Bergeron not only score a power play goal for insurance, but at the faceoff dot he won an amazing 24-of-28. Eighty six percent of his draws, he won. Think about that. You win the faceoff and your opposition spends the next 20-30 seconds trying to get the puck back and that made for a frustrating evening for the Chicago forwards.

A solid, top to bottom win for The Bruins from start to finish.  They scored first which is always key, especially at home and they never let down.  Chicago had a flurry at the end of the game when they pulled their goaltender and even got a puck past Rask, but it hit the left post and bounced out behind him on the right.

So there where smiles all around the Bruins locker room after the game, however, Coach Claude says,”yes, we will enjoy this tonight, but never lose sight of the future and put our minds right back to the next game because, the Hawks have are a good team”. He knows what he is talking about as they and came from 3-games to 1 deficit early in these playoffs against the Detroit Red Wings, “so lets refocus and continue with we are doing” says Julien.

There was a thunderstorm before the game and a double rainbow hanging over Boston just before puck drop. Rainbows usually bring smiles to everyone that sees them and last nights victory brought smiles to the 17, 565 fans that saw the Bruins win their 14th playoff game. two more rainbows and….well, you know!

~Diehard

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Stanley Cup Final Game 1…or Almost 2

The clock struck midnight Chicago time and it was like all that excitement of the Ball had turned the Boston Bruins and its fans into the pervebial pumpkin as Chicago defenseman Michal Rozsival’s blue line wrister found its way off a stick, then Andrew Shaw’s knee and into the net behind Tuukka Rask 52 minutes into overtime.

Yes, that would be a thoroughly entertaining, sometimes maddening game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final went to the Chicago Blackhawks 4-3 over the Boston Bruins in triple overtime. That’s hockey folks. Twice the Bruins had two goal leads, one in the third period when Patrice Bergeron scored on the power play which made it 3-1 and let it slip away.

This particular unpleasant development has reared its ugly head again. It had been a big problem for the Bruins for the better part of the season. Losing two or even three goal leads late in the game was part of that Jeckell & Hyde thing Claude Julien spoke about during the first round against Toronto. But since that infamous 7th game against the Leafs, we have not seen much  of those Bruins except for a small hiccup in game four against New York.

Maybe it was because the Rangers and the Pittsburgh Penguins were paper tigers and with that, gave the Boston the confidence they needed to advance to the Stanley Cup Final.

But now they have run smack dab up against a very good Blackhawk team. A recent former Champion like themselves. A team that plays physical like Boston do, but may have more skill and quickness than you. Game one saw a lot of the regular season Bruins who could not move the puck out of their own zone with any regularity. We also saw a lot more turnovers including a huge one in the third, in their defensive zone by rookie Torey Krug that lead to a chicago’s second goal and a momentous tide shift and shortly thereafter, a shot from the point glanced off Andrew Ference’s skate and in behind Rask to tie the game.

These things happen in the course of any hockey game, they are correctible, you just hope they don’t burn you like it did Boston. The Blackhawks committed their share of errors which also cost them early in the game and the Bruins made them pay. For Boston it’s holding onto a lead in the third period and lacking that killer instinct to put Chicago away when they had them on the ropes.

It wasn’t like the Bruins didn’t have their chances. In overtime, Tyler Seguin had at least two chances to end it. Shawn Thorton all alone after a nifty pass from Daniel Paille failed to get a shot. Other times it was Chicago goaltender Corey Crawford stoning Boston. It’s these failures of the Bruins third and fourth lines to convert quality scoring chances into goals that are haunting them. Particulary Chris Kelly and Rich Peverley who despite getting quality minutes are non factors in scoring!  Peverley has one goal and zero assists in 16 playoff games while Kelly has played 17 games and has yet to record a single point! How have the Bruins survived this far without secondary scoring, relying mainly on David Krejci, Milan Lucic, Nathan Horton (who was injured in the 1st OT and did not return), and Bergeron. Oh and lets not forget Tuukka Rask who made 59 saves and could not be faulted on any of the Blackhawks goals.

The Bruins could have won a game that they may or may not have deserved, but the fact  that remnants of late season, late game disasters surfaced in game one, is troubling and seeing those mistakes again during this Final would simply be a recipe for disaster against the Blackhawks.

~Diehard

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Bruins in The Stanley Cup Final Again!

It was there for the taking.  A chance for the Boston Bruins to sweep the Pittsburgh Penguins and their vaunted offense out of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.  A chance to to close it out on a Friday night before the crazy TD Garden crowd exactly like they had done two years ago. And that’s exactly what happened.

The Bruins have advanced to the Stanley Cup Final for the second time in three years with a hard fought 1-0 win on a third period goal by Adam McQuaid. Brad Marchand doing most of the work bringing the puck into the Pens zone, stopping and letting the defense go by and laying a soft pass to the middle as the trailing Mcquaid let a one-time blast go which was tipped by Jerome Iginla into the top corner, glove side by Tomas Vokoun.

Just like that Friday night two years ago against the Tampa Bay Lightning, the crowd erupted and for the next 15 minutes of playing time the crowd was nervously standing and in full throat.

But as you would guess, the Penguins would not go easily. After all, they were the best team in the Eastern Conference for the regular year. In losing to the Bruins 2-1 in double overtime on Wednesday, you could see that for a few breaks, the Pens could have been back in the series.

Not on this night and not against the swarming team defense and the stupendous goaltending of Tuukka Rask. He has been nothing short of tremendous this playoff year and Friday night he was terrific. Finding every way to keep the puck out of the net and the Pens off the scoreboard. Whether it was robbing Sidney Crosby on a breakaway or taking one off the mask from Kris Letang, Rask was not about to be dented The Bruins couldn’t afford to as Vokoun was also playing top notch goaltending at the other end.

Pittsburgh had come into the series scoring a lofty 4-plus goals a game in the playoffs but managed a mere two goals in four games, while going 0-for-15 on the power play. The Bruins were committed to their system of Team defense and making sure that they limit the chances of the Penguins superstars, especially Crosby and Evgeny Malkin.

The biggest save/block did not come from Rask, but from the Bruin Captain Zdeno Chara. With 1:30 left in the game and the Pittsburgh net empty and the Pens trying to find a way to score the tying goal, Malkin got the puck low in the right circle and got Rask to commit early and he went down and the net was wide open. Chara had gone down trying to block the shot as well. Malkin toe dragged around the netminder but Chara was able to get his arm on Malkin’s shot and knocked it away. Pittsburgh still had possession and somehow, ironically, Iginla, who had rejected coming to Boston at the trade deadline and chose Pittsburgh, had the puck in the high slot and blasted on goal and at the buzzer, Rask would glove the shot and Boston would have its sweep and ticket to the Final!

The Penguins hadn’t been swept in 45 playoff series. The last time was in 1979 by the Boston Bruins.  The Bruins swept the Eastern Pennsylvania team, the Philadelphia Flyers two years ago on their way to the Championship. Boston will enjoy a few days off as they find out if the will open the Stanley Cup Final in Chicago or host the first two games against the Los Angeles Kings.

~Diehard

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They may be talented. They may be allstars. They may even be eventual Stanley Cup winners. But they are also cheap shots, whiny, and slithering slime.  And oh by the way, The Pittsburgh Penguins also lost game one of the Eastern Conference Final to the Boston Bruins 3-0.

Both teams came flying out of the gate with scoring chances and physical play but it was the Bruins magical playoff god, David Krejci whose slapper from the high slot made its way through defenseman Paul Martin before squiggling through the pads of Pens goalie Tomas Vokoun. That would prove to be the game winner as TR, (not TT) Tuukka Rask posted his first playoff shutout and continued to silence critics that are still comparing him to that other goalie. No comparison necessary. Rask was sharp from the drop of the puck.

Pittsburgh tried to take the physical play to the Bruins early as if to say Boston is not the only team that can play that style.  The Bruins don’t mind of course as its the way the Bostonians have always played the game.  If the Bruins aren’t physical, they most likely will not win. The strategy backfired on Pittsburgh as it was the Pens who were frustrated and although they were able to garner scoring chances, Tuukka was there to stymie them.

It seemed Sidney Crosby was even impressed with the play of Rask who robbed the Pittsburgh Captain a few times with acrobatic saves from point blank range. Rask was asked after the game what Crosby said to him at the end of the second period when frustrations seemed to boil over and Crosby jabbed at him, Rask said he told him “Great job so far”!

After just two periods of this series, it had begun to turn to snarl & nastiness. I would say Boston villian, but he is a National Hockey League villian, Matt Cooke illegally plastered Adam McQuaid from behind against the glass causing the Boston defenseman to spend a few minutes in the “quiet” room and gaining Cooke a 5-minute major penalty and a game misconduct. Yes this is the same Matt Cooke who the Penguins and all the Pittsburgh media said he was a changed man. He had gotten religion and would not be playing like the murderous, evil miscreant he was previously. But we all know a leopard cannot change his spots and that was on full display for the NHL world to see.

The closing of the second period brought more snarl as the teams were moving off the ice. The Crosby & Rask interchange which turned into a shouting match between the two Captains as Chara stepped in to let Sid know not to fool around with his goaltender and two of the Alternate Captains, Patrice Bergeron & Evgeny Malkin dropped the gloves and squared off. To paraphrase the Great Doc Emrick, ‘Everything is happening here.’

I would be remiss to not mention the fact that Bruins forward Brad Marchand had his own cheap shot. Hitting Pens James Neal from behind similar to the Cooke hit, however, it was not as egregious and the refs saw fit to level a two minute penalty to the dismay and anger of the Pittsburgh bench and fans.

But this game was mostly about the Boston Bruins, David Krejci scoring, he leads the league in the playoff, and Tuukka Rask stopping and shutting down the so-called high powered offensive juggernaut power play of the Pens.  Making sure Rask could see the shots and clearing rebounds when left in dangers zones and making the most of their opportunities when presented. Krejci also scored the second goal on his own rebound after great board work by Nathan Horton causing a turnover sending a pass to the slot. Horton closed out the scoring and put the game on ice as he was left alone to the right of Vokoun for an easy goal that sent the crowd home disappointed.

It’s only one game, but the underdog Bruins played their best game of the playoffs, maybe even the entire year and if they continue that route, bringing that snarl and defense and opportunistic scoring, the frustration for Pittsburgh will grow and that can only be good things for Boston.

~Diehard

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Bruins Elimin……Oh wait, A Comeback for the Ages!

Kessel had you all fooled by his regular season play!

Another MASSIVE collapse by the Bruins.

Just a couple of the tweets I made with about six minutes left in the third period of Monday nights game seven between the Boston Bruins and the Toronto Maple Leafs. And of course, they were your thoughts as well!  Down three goals after 5:29 of the third period when Nazem Kadri deposited a Phil Kessel rebound by Tuukka Rask, it was time to turn out the lights, melt the ice, and figure out which players would be on the 2013-14 roster and if the Coach would be retained. The loss would sure mean major changes to the hockey club as we know it.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the Boston Collapse. The wide-eyed playoff freshman from Toronto had a meltdown of their own. It started with a Nathan Horton goal with 11:42 left. Nice, but at the time, I called it ‘window dressing’, to try and make the score respectable. For the next nine minutes, the Bruins were pressing as they haven’t all game and for much of the past three games and still two goals short of tying the game. Meantime as they put pressure on, its the Leafs who seem to keep getting breakways and two on ones which thankfully Rask is shutting them down with regularity.

Two minutes left and Rask head to the bench as the Bruins dump and chase. The puck comes back to the Captain and Chara blast on net. Reimer saves and pokes the rebound to Milan Lucic – who in that last 10 minutes was the Lucic that we’ve been looking for all year – who promptly lifted a hard wrister over the prone goalie and now with 1:22 left, the Bruins are a goal away from tying it. Still improbable!

This will not happen. They are gonna lose game seven by one goal because of their “Jeckyll and Hyde” personality Claude Julien says they have. They are still teasing us by clawing back in it and really do not have much time to tie the game and send it to overtime.

Toronto is gonna stiffen their backbone and say  ‘Screw you Bruins. You are not gonna take this away from us.  Not now. Not this close.’

But the Leafs spine was weakening even more as the puck came back to Patrice Bergeron at the blue line and with the six foot eight inch Chara screening, Bergy’s shot beat Reimer on the blocker side with :50.2 seconds left and….and….We are tied?!?!?!

Remarkable! Three goals down in period three of game 7 and the Bruins have tied and the collapse is almost complete. Rich Peverley had a chance to win the game in regulation however, his shot from all alone in the slot but, ahhh, its Rich Peverley.

Overtime after what should have been a funeral for the Boston Bruins. Adrenaline pumping in the players and the fans are rocking the TD Garden.

A few innocuous scoring plays for both teams before Bergeron brings the puck in the attacking zone. Toronto players allow him to bring around behind the to Tyler Seguin who immdiately puts a shot on net. One rebound, a shot by Begeron, another rebound and sticks from both teams poke the puck right back to Bergeron who one times it home and this surreal adventure has left the Bruins and their fans in euphoria and the Maple Leaf collapse complete.

Toronto players were in shock, utter disbelief. Nazem Kadri was having good thoughts, for a while. “Obviously there were thoughts creeping into your mind, that we might be advancing to the second round,” said Kadri, “but at the end of the day we couldn’t handle the pressure that was given.” Joffrey Lupul tweeted “That hockey game will haunted me till the day I die.”

After many seven game disappontments I still don’t believe what I witnessed last night. The Bruins were dead in the water. Yet they managed to bring their will, their fortitude, their talent, but most of all their experience in these games to that final 10 minutes of regulation and show the young, playoff neophytes what these Stanley Cup Playoffs are really all about!

Wow! Just Wow!

~Diehard

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Nope! Not gonna happen!

Easy!  The Boston Bruins are always making things easy for themselves. Right?  They roll to a three to one series lead over the Toronto Maple Leafs and we all know that its ova!

Nah, we are oh so much smarter than that. Or are we?  Friday night at the TD Garden, there was an air of invincibility going into the building. The fans had that smug we know the Leafs are done attitude and for the most part sat there and waited for the Bruins to dispatch Toronto and go home for the weekend and get ready for the next victim. Ha! Instead, the Leafs came out in a phenomonal first period, put 19 shots on Tuukka Rask and came away with a hard fought 2-1 win.

Sunday back at the ACC in Toronto, thriving off their win and those fans, the Bruins again spotted Toronto a 2-goal lead before breaking James Reimer’s shutout with 26 seconds left in the game.

And now for the eighth time in the Bruins last eleven playoff series, there will be a winner take all seventh game. No one is sure why the team seems to always be here but thye are there, we are there and its just not fun anymore…well maybe it is but its not funny!

History, even recent history will show that game sevens have not been good for the hockey club. Yes they played three seven-game series during that marvelous year of 2011, winning them all. One in overtime and all three were one-goal games. But there was last seasons loss to the Capitals. They also lost game seven to Carolina, Montreal and that fabulous meltdown in 2010 to the Philadelphia Flyers even after leading 3-0 in the first period.

Lots of questions hang over the Bruins heads before tonights game. Will they be able to score?  Who will score as it seems only the Krejci-Lucic-Horton line has done most of the damage in the series, what little damamge the team has done.  Will Claude Julien mix up the lines should they be as stagnant as they’ve been?

One question that really has been answered and no matter what, Tuukka Rask has done everything asked of him. How many times can you ask your goaltender to pitch a shut out because you cannot score. If it weren’t for Rask, this series would’ve been long over.

Final question is my own and my answer is NO. I have no confidence that the Boston Bruins will come to play and take control early and often of this game.  They have shown most of the year that they do not play back to back games with the intensity that is need to win consistently in the playoffs. They have shown that they will not crash the net to make the goaltenders life more miserable. They have shown a propensity to not shoot when the opportunity is there instead they  try cutesy passes which have lead to odd man rushes.

So, will they make things easy for us and the team tonight or will we have to go through the madness of a lucky bounce here or there one way or another.

I hope I’m wrong, and I don’t usually predict, but I think this not going the right way tonight!

~Diehard

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Bruins Killer Instinct? Not Really!

The Chicago Black Hawks did it. The Los Angeles Kings did it. Two of the last three Stanley Cup Champions closed out their first round series when the first opportunity arose.

With the Boston Bruins leading their opening round series with the Toronto Maple Leafs, three games to one, and after the two outstanding performances they had north of the border, you expected a step on the throat, rip the heart out and put in a bag and give it back to them type of effort from the home team. All the anticipation of moving on to the next round of the war of attrition known as the Stanley Cup Playoffs

Instead it was the Maple Leafs that were doing the swarming and handing the Bruins their head and keeping their hopes alive of advancing. Pouncing on every move a Bruin would make and making life tough with 19 shots on Tuukka Rask in the first period.  Had it not been for some spectacular saves by the goalie, Boston would’ve been in a huge hole.

Meanwhile the Bruins mustered eight on James Reimer who handed out a bunch of rebounds but were just out of reach for Boston to capitalized. And it remain that way for most of the night as Toronto’s Tyler Bozak would score a shorthanded goal, in the second period and Clarke MacArthur would score the eventual game winner in the third before Zdeno Chara’s shots from the high slot would create some late drama but would be the only tally the Bruins would score on Leaf goaltender James Reimer who looked beatable at times but stopped 43 Bruins shots!

Both Maple Leaf goals came off turnovers by Bruins defenseman. Andrew Ference on the power play mishandled the puck at the blue line which sent Bozak in on a breakaway as Ference tried but could not catch him. Rask got a piece of the shot but not enough. Then in the third, Johnny Boychuk attempting a pass to Nathan Horton at center ice never got it there and MacArthur gathered the puck in, went around Boychuk, cut in front of Rask and a 2-0 Toronto lead and it was the Leafs who had the killer instinct as they sent this series to a game six at the Air Canada Center Sunday night.

For most of the season we’ve wondered where the Bruins killer instinct was. When they left Toronto after winning games three & four, we were hoping that coming back home with a chance to clinch the series and send the playoff young Maple Leafs packing with a nice-thanks for coming-salutation. Instead Boston’s performance was uneven for most of the game and as we’ve seen a lot lately, the defense had problems getting the puck out of their zone.

The last 10 minutes of the game was the only time a killer extinct was exhibited by the Bruins. On their only score, they had Toronto on their heals as an icing call had the faceoff in the Leafs end. Boston had possession of the puck for 1:25 ending with Chara’s goal. They did keep pressuring the Leafs but could not dent Reimer who play well enough for the win and his defense cleared away the voluminous rebounds he left.

No longer having a stranglehold on this series, the Bruins must now try to close it out Sunday in Toronto where the Leafs have not lost three in a row all season and that raukus crowd will be in full throat.

Toronto has been given life and killer instinct or not, the Boston Bruins had better find a way to win game 6 because if they let them up for air a second time, it may be their heart, and ours, that gets ripped out.

#Diehard

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