It wasn’t how it was drawn up, but somehow, the Boston Bruins came back from a 2-goal deficit in wild third period to beat the Montreal Canadiens 5-3 and even this best-of-seven series at a game a piece.

This has to be the year of the two goal lead evaporation. Saturday marked the 11th time this NHL post season in which the team with that goal margin would eventually lose the game.

It didn’t look like it was going to go that way for a while as Bruins killer Tomas Vanek twice tipped in shots from the other Bruins menace, P.K. Subban and it looked like 2011 all over again and Boston would be heading to Montreal’s Bell Centre Theatre trailing the Canadiens 2-0 in the series. But in this decade of comebacks on Causeway Street, the Bruins did not fade away. All season long they owned the third period and Saturday afternoon was no different.

Frustration for the Bruins and their fans had set in late in the second period after Boston was hit with a couple of roughing penalties that Claude Julien didn’t agree with and let the officials know about it with some salty language and it earned the Bruins a bench minor penalty just after Vanek’s first goal. The Bruins would survive that Montreal power play, but a Doug Hamilton interference penalty they would not as Vanek once again would tip home a Subban shot early in the third.

Julien was asked what it was like being down 3-1, I could hear guys saying was, ‘Hey, there’s lot of hockey left, let’s get that next goal here, let’s get going,’ and it was all about encouraging each other to be better. And you just do your job as a coach — change the lines, try to put the right people out there, and the rest, they took care of.

Many times in past playoffs, we Bruins fans have seen this movie far too often, especially when it involves that team north of the border. It used to end badly. But the resiliency of this team came through and started with Hamilton’s goal and the surge was on. “I just tried to join the rush, and I knew there was guys in front of me and just tried to get a good shot off, and didn’t really see where it went…nice to get stuff rolling”.

They rolled to the victory and for the time being solved the mystery of Carey Price who has been nothing short of sensational in the two games. But if he can’t see it, he can’t stop it. He is still looking for Hamilton’s shot as it went through a maze of players finally deflecting off a Montreal defenseman. Three of the Boston’s goals deflected off of a Canadien.

It seems a two goal lead is the kiss of death in these playoffs, but the Bruins will take it as they head to Montreal for games three & four with the series tied. A much more comfortable time than a two games deficit would have been.


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Overtime Hockey for Bruins, No Problem

Overtime playoff hockey is the best and worse for fans. Generally you are on the edge of your seat ready to jump off the couch screaming GOAL, or the worst expletive should it not go the way you would like. Over the years, I’ve had my share of both of those emotions. Bobby Schmautz in 1978 against the Montreal Canadiens was a tremendous high for Boston and the Bruins, as was Brad Park in 1983 against Buffalo . The OT lows were the worse of emotions especially May 10, 1979. I can honestly say that was one of my worse days in life, sad but true. I can still remember everything about that day from about 5pm until about 11pm. It was not pretty.

But last night as the Bruins came back from a two-goal deficit against the Red Wings in raucous Joe Louis Arena, to send the game into overtime, for some reason there was no major emotional swings like I used to have. Maybe with age, my emotions are more controlled because there is really not much I can do about the outcome. Maybe since June 15, 2011, I’ve become jaded and arrogant since that WAS the best day of my life. Or simply because I’ve become used to seeing the Boston Bruins approach each game the same way. No panic in the team. They know what they need to do even when they get behind on the road. Of course it doesn’t always work that way, but really, Thursday night, it was steady, workman, business-like performance by the Bruins who are clearly a better team than Detroit.

The Red Wings came out strong and took the lead on a power play goal and and another on a couple of miscues and running around by the Bruins. Both goals being scored by Proud Papas, Pavel Datsyuk and Niklas Kronwall and the fans were rocking and most teams would begin to crumble. But the not as fast but experienced Bruins are bigger, stronger, nastier, and they do have the better and healthier, goalie. Torey Krug scored on the power play on a faceoff that of course, Patrice Bergeron won and Milan Lucic tied it on a nice backhand feed from behind the goal line by Carl Soderberg. In overtime, Jarome Iginla deftly tipped a Doug Hamilton shot that most likely was going wide, but it deflected off Danny Dekeyser and by Jonas Gustavsson who found out he was starting after warmups.

Game over and that satisfying feeling that you know the Bruins had done what they set out to do. Not only did they regain home ice advantage, they are doing a good job of crushing the will of the Red Wings. They owned the third period and as Detroit Coach Mike Babcock said of Boston, “They got better as the game went on.” The Bruins dominated the third period and overtime which has been their trademark all season long.

Saturday afternoon back at the TD Garden, the Bruins will look to close out the Wings and move on to the next round. The emotions will be high for most of the fans in attendance and watching, but as the the signs and T-shirts say, Keep Calm.


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Bruins – Red Wings Game one .

It doesn’t take him long but he is magic and he performed it Friday night at the TD Garden. Detroit Red Wings Pavel Datsyuk scored the only goal, in highlight fashion, pulling the puck from behind and wrists a shot between the legs of Doug Hamilton and over the pad and under the glove of Tuukka Rask in game one of their series with the Boston Bruins. Tight checking was the word from both Coaches after the game along with it being an even game. But it was the “world class player” as Detroit Coach Mike Babcock put it talking about Datsyuk, “he’s coming back from an injury, but he can still can do some very good things and he knows how to play without the puck’. But when he has the puck is when he can make you look silly.

For the Bruins, it was a few uncharacteristic things that can make the difference between winning and losing. Boston lost the faceoff battle, losing 55 percent of the draws. David Krejci 2-for-8 and Carl Soderberg 3-for-8. If you lose faceoffs, it generally means you spend the next 13-20 seconds chasing and trying to gain possession of the puck. Oh, and the usually reliable Patrice Bergeron was at 52 percent but did lose 10 of 11 draws.

At times, especially in the second period, Detroit’s forechecking hemmed the Bruins in their own end as the Wings kept fighting for space but Rask was sharp and neither team could score and you knew this was going to be one of those games that would be decided on a mistake or a great play. It was the latter as Datsyuk entered the Bruins zone and Justin Abdelkader crashing the lane and into Hamilton causing the screen and just a great shot by a great player.

Yes, it’s only one game and it was at home, but we’ve seen this script before albeit not with this team. A team that plays a totally different style than the Bruins have face in the playoffs in a while. Everyone spoke of Detroit’s speed before the series, however, nothing in Friday’s game had anyone afraid of it. The Bruins had no trouble with the speed of the the Red Wings. Boston had trouble finishing the scoring chances they had on Jimmy Howard. Stating the obvious, if you don’t score, you cannot win and the line of Milan Lucic, David Krejci, and Jarome Iginla had but four shots on net. That’s just not acceptable.

So Happy Easter everyone. Get those sunrise services out of the way. Get your dinner early and get your beverage of choice and your easy chair ready for Sunday afternoon’s game two. The Bruins look even things up and get by that tight checking and solid goaltending before heading to Joe Louis Arena where they don’t win too often.


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The Coach Remains the Same!

From the time he arrived in Boston back in June 2007, many, (including yours truly) have questioned his decisions. Why is this player not playing? Why has this player or that player been sent to the minors? Why have you sent your most prolific scorers to other teams where they do continue to score? But Bruins Coach claude Julien has never wavered. Always remaining true to himself and to the team and management staff philosophy. You can play in the offensive zone, but if you choose not to play in the defensive zone as well, no matter who you are, you might as well not be here because you do not fit in.

The results are not to be argued. In the playoff year 2011, and down 0-2 to hated rival Canadiens, and heading up to Montreal, just about every hockey writer in this city had their Julien fired column already drafted. But a funny thing happened on the way to the Forum, er Bell Centre.

Demanding that his team play better defense is nothing new. If you look at this 10-game winning streak the team hit Tuesday night with a solid 4-2 win over the New Jersey Devils, yes it’s good defense most times and solid goaltending, but it all starts with the forwards. Playing defense in the neutral zone and then coming back to help out when the play is in the Bruin end, this is the foundation of the Julien system. This system is what paid off in 2011 & 2013 and what has made Boston the perennial team to beat in the east. It’s the system that has the Bruins leading the league in goals against despite, or is it the result of, being tied for second in goal scoring. 41 goals in that 10 game stretch Boston has scored while yeilding a mere 15. This is not an accident.

Defense and hitting have long been the reason you wore the Spoked B. No matter how efficient you were in putting the put behind opposing goalies, you stay in Boston would be measured by your willingness to pay the defensive price. In his tenure, there have been some headscratching moves that had me and others instinctively asking why is Claude doing that? But when you analyze and look at the whole, nothing has really changed with how he manages/coaches the team. Like the players, we in the media either get it, or we don’t. As of June 15, 2011, I got it. I still get a quizzical look with some of his decisions, but as the Coach remains the same, this current edition of the Boston Bruins look as good, no wait, better today than they have at any other time since Claude Julien took the helm.


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Time for Bruins to put up or shut up!

After beginning the month with a lackluster and listless 4-2 loss against the Washington Capitals, the Bruins have gone on to dispatch the New York Rangers, Tim Thomas and the Florida Panthers, those same Caps, and a weekend Florida sweep of the Tampa Bay Lightning and this time, newly acquired Roberto Luongo and his band of Panthers. They played pretty solid in once again beating the teams that they should beat.

Wednesday, it’s time to put up or shut up. Rivalry night and one of the biggest games of the year. Boston will be in Montreal to face the Canadiens and they had better show up this time. When last they met at the TD Garden, the Bruins were posting a 5-0-1 record and Montreal had been reeling, losing four of their last five. The Canadiens toyed with the Bruins and skated away with a very easy 4-1 win as Boston seemed have no interest in playing them. Since that last meeting, the Canadiens acquired “Bruin Killer”, Tomas Vanek who in 53 against Boston, with the Buffalo Sabres, and a few with the New York Islanders has merely put 30 goals behind various Bruin goaltenders. 61 total points and now plays for the team Boston cannot seem to beat.

Since February 6, 2013 when the visiting Bruins edged Montreal 2-1, Boston has lost five consecutive to the hated Habs and with the way the division and conference is now set up, the Bruins will most likely have to play the Canadiens in the first or second round of the playoffs. And unless something changes tonight, they don’t match up very well against the speed of Montreal. Oh, and one more thing, Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask has a career record against Montreal of 2-10-2, the most losses he has against any opponent by far. The Sabres and Penguins have tagged Rask with five losses each.

So, it really is time to put up or shut up tonight for the Bruins and their goalie. If not, no matter how many “other” teams they rack up wins against, if they can’t beat the Montreal Canadiens, I can’t see them going very far into the spring!


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Six, Two, and Even Weekend for the Bruins

Six, two and even was a common saying of former Boston Red Sox Coach Walpole Joe Morgan. It could sort of apply to the Boston Bruins weekend. Six being the first time in nine seasons that the team has been able to put that many pucks behind New York Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist Sunday night in Manhattan, winning 6-3. The Bruins previous high was a mere three goals. Two is how many points they salvaged this weekend after their lackadasical showing Saturday afternoon in a 4-2 loss against the Washington Capitals at the TD Garden. Two would also be the number of games off the hellish March calendar which leaves 15 games in 28 days.  And even, well that would NOT be how the Bruins played in said weekend games.

Intensity, hard-working, hitting were non existent against the Caps which made for costly penalties and Washington, in particular, Alex Ovechkin made them pay with two power play goals. Passive and mistake prone defense led to opposition breakaways and goals by Eric Fehr & Joel Ward.  To a man, the Bruins say they have to be better defensively. Hard to believe the Bruins recorded five hits Saturday afternoon.  Obviously the Bruins defense has suffered a bit since Dennis Seidenberg tore up his knee, but its definitely time for the corp to bring some of his intensity and stalwartness to the blue line if Boston has plans of going where they went last year once the season ends.

Sunday, the Bruins seemed to pick up where they left off when the Rangers J.T. Miller picked off an errant David Krejci pass at the New York blue line for a beauty of a breakway goal just over three minutes into the game and had control of that first period outshooting Boston 20-9. But it was the goaltending of Tuukka Rask and Jerome Iginla’s goal off a Krejci pass late in the period which seem to put the Bruins on track, getting back to Bruins hockey and a solid, if not too comfortable 6-3 win.

Even consistency is what the Bruins need from not just their defensive corp, but from all players. Goaltender out.  Sunday night Rask was as brilliant as he has been on most night. He has to maintain that level of play to allow for those mistakes that the young defensemen will make and not cost the team. Consistency from the forwards to play hard hitting and discipline hockey. This weekend saw the Bruins taking too many ill-advised retaliatory (Chris Kelly) penalties. Not a good thing at any time, but especially when your penalty kill is as bad as its been since the Seidenberg injury.

The Bruins have played SIX months of the season with TWO monthes to play. It’s that EVEN keel thing they would like to maintain as they continue the race to seed themselves for the playoffs.



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Hockey has become Ugly!

I love hockey. It’s a beautiful sport to watch and I find myself still playing it three times a week. I hate what my sport became Saturday night at the TD Garden. The Bruins hosted the Pittsburgh Penguins and from the start of the game, things were, shall we say, not right. The Pens Brooks Orpik knocked Boston’s Loui Eriksson out of the game 13 seconds into play. There was no penalty call on the play. Earlier this season, Eriksson was recently concussed by the Buffalo Sabre’s Meathead, John Scott and when Orpik plowed his shoulder into Loui’s head, it was no contest.

The Bruins resident tough guy, Shawn Thornton immediately tried to engage Orpik in a retaliatory fight. Orpik would not and did not drop the gloves and play continued. Things would get very nasty and dangerous very soon.  At the 11:06 mark, after a no call on what should have been a Sidney Crosby tripping penalty on Brad Marchand, as Marchand was prone, looking up ice, James Neal did a fly-by knee to his head. The ref was calling a penalty but play continued into the Penguin end of the ice where a scrum ensued and this is where more ugliness happened.

With Orpik part of the scrum, Thornton comes up behind and slew-foots him down to the ice and then proceeds to punch him in the face twice while on his back on the ice. Orpik was knocked unconscious and was taken off the ice on a stretcher and to Massachusetts General Hospital. Thornton was given a Matched Penalty which carries a Game Misconduct and an automatic suspension by the National Hockey League, to be determined my league disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan. The guess here is that Thornton will sit for at least five games, maybe more.

Vigilante justice in a league that has come under fire recently for allowing fighting and many players going down with head injuries, is not gonna be tolerated. James Neal should also face Mr. Shanahan for his dirty work as well.

Last nights ugliness spurred a bunch of emotions from opponents of fighting, proponents, and the apathetic. Proponents think that if Orpik had engaged Thornton initially after the Eriksson hit, all would have been settled right then and there. They would have fought, message sent, code not broken, game continues (hopefully) without further incident. But that did not happen and Thornton, the atypical “goon”, not only broke the code, he smashed it and rewrote it, attacking the defenseless player.

Opponents say there should never be fighting allowed in the NHL calling it barbaric and has been the cause of many head injuries and and rumored to have been the cause of death for some players and recently a lawsuit has been filed against the league with those claims.

For his part, Thornton too full responsibility for his actions saying “It’s always my job to defend my teammates. I’ve prided myself for a long time to stay within the lines. It’s hard for me to talk about it right now. I can’t say I’m sorry enough. I’m sure I’ll be criticized for saying it. But it’s true. I hope he’s doing all right. I heard he’s conscious and talking. I’m happy to hear that.”

Over the years, respect in National Hockey League has gone the way of the Dodo bird. it used to be that if someone gave a good hit, or even an illegal hit, you’d bide your time and eventually things would even out. Hockey is a contact sport and so many players do not like to be hit and when that hit comes, said player immediately wants to fight. That is not the way it was and shouldn’t be now, unfortunately it is and has been for a while and unless the league and its players change their ways, it will remain.

Oh yeah, the hockey game. After having two first period leads on goals by Chris Kunitz and the aforementioned James Neal, sandwiched around the Bruins Reilly Smith goal, Boston trailed late in the the third 2-1. They pulled Goaltender Tuukka Rask and David Krejci took a pass from Milan Lucic from behind the net and beat Marc-Andre Fluery to tie the game with a minute and a half left. Patrice Bergeron  would later win a defensive zone faceoff against Sidney Crosby and Boston would make it to the Penguin end and set up their Captain in the high slot where he wristed a hard shot just over the glove of Fleury for the late 3-2 comeback win.

Boston will face the Maple Leafs in Toronto on Sunday, while Shawn Thornton will be facing some major discipline from the league.



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