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Bruins eliminate Red Wings, will face Canadiens next

04.26.14 at 5:53 pm ET
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The Bruins eliminated the Red Wings with a 4-2 series-clinching Game 5 victory Saturday to set up an Eastern Conference semifinal series with the Canadiens.

Henrik Zetterberg made it interesting when he banged home the rebound off a Justin Abdelkader bid with 3:52 remaining to close what was a two-goal Bruins’ lead to one, but the Bruins held up the rest of the way and Jarome Iginla added an empty-netter to eliminate Detroit in five games.

Loui Eriksson scored his first power play goal as a Bruin when he beat Jonas Gustavsson in front for a power play goal 3:27 into the game while Justin Abdelkader was serving a hooking penalty. Gustavsson was playing a second straight game in place of regular starter Jimmy Howard, who the team said was dealing with the flu.

Boston’s lead held up until late in the second, when Pavel Dastyuk scored a power play goal at 14:41 of the period. From there a flurry of penalties called on both sides set up a Bruins’ four-on-three, with Zdeno Chara firing a slapshot past Gustavsson with 3.8 seconds remaining in the second.

Milan Lucic gave the B’s some breathing room by cashing in on a feed from Torey Krug in front 4:27 into the third. Krug had two assists on the day.

Earning the win was Tuukka Rask, who never let up more than two goals in a game this series. Rask ended up holding Detroit to six goals in five games with one shutout.

The Canadiens have awaited their next opponent since sweeping the Lightning on Tuesday. The teams last met in the postseason in the 2011 conference quarterfinals, with the Bruins eliminating Montreal in a seven-game classic en route to a Stanley Cup victory.

The conference semifinals will not begin until all other rounds are completed later next week.

WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE BRUINS

- With a pair of power-play goals Saturday, the Bruins ended up scoring six goals on the power play in the series. That’s the most they’ve had in a series since they scored six on the man advantage against the Sabres in the 2010 Eastern Conference quarterfinals against the Sabres. They saw the light at the end of the tunnel all season (they had the third-best power play in the regular season) and can now officially say their days of having no power play in the postseason are behind them.

- As he was throughout the series, Rask was big for the B’s in the first two periods. His biggest saves of the second included a stop on Henrik Zetterberg when the Detroit captain wheeled around to fire a shot off a Dastyuk faceoff win and moments later, when he stopped Daniel Alfredsson on the doorstep.

- Dougie Hamilton once again had way too easy a time skating the puck into the zone on a power play as Darren Helm repeated his passive performance from Game 2. Hamilton scored off it in the first period Tuesday and it led Eriksson’s goal Saturday.

- For all the you-know-what spearing and occasional sleepiness, Lucic still ended up with solid numbers for the series (three goals) and finished especially strong with key goals in the final two games and a big shift on Jarome Iginla’s game-winning goal in Game 4.

- The Bruins didn’t end up missing Chris Kelly or Daniel Paille too much in the series. Justin Florek filled in admirably for Kelly on Carl Soderberg’s left wing, while Jordan Carl was both physical and smart throughout the series. Florek and Caron scored a goal apiece in the series.

Going forward, the guess would be that Paille, who has been skating and was cleared for contact Thursday, could be available when the next round starts. Kelly, who is out with a back injury, has not skated since late in the regular season.

WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE BRUINS

- The Bruins’ first line took two offensive zone penalties Saturday, and the second one cost them. David Krejci tripped Brendan Smith in the corner of the offensive zone in the first, but it was a high-sticking call against Milan Lucic in the second that gave Detroit the power play on which Datsyuk scored the equalizer.

In general, the penalties got out of hand when the officiating crew got whistle-happy throughout the second period. Lucic’s penalty was followed by a holding call against Danny DeKeyser, then a weak goalie interference call against Eriksson, a Johan Franzen holding penalty and finally a cross-checking call on Brendan Smith. Jarome Iginla drew two of the penalties that came during that three-minute stretch of penalty-calling madness.

It didn’t even end there, as Marchand was sent off for roughing in the opening minute of the third.

- Speaking of penalties, Shawn Thornton racks up the penalty minutes with all the fighting he does, but it’s rare that he takes a minor penalty. He had seven in the regular season, but with Saturday’s high-sticking penalty in the first period, he has now taken two minors this round.

Daniel Paille remains out for Game 5; no update on Corey Potter

04.26.14 at 2:01 pm ET
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Bruins forwad Daniel Paille skated again Saturday morning and will remain out of the lineup for Saturday’s Game 5 against the Red Wings.

Paille, who is recovering from what is believed to be a head injury, has not played since leaving the second-to-last game of the season two weeks ago. Claude Julien said that Paille, who has been taking contact in recent days, is getting to closer to a return, but is not yet ready.

Julien had no update on defenseman Corey Potter, who suffered a shoulder injury in Friday’s practice.

For more Bruins news, visit weei.com/bruins.

Read More: Corey Potter, Daniel Paille,

Jonas Gustavsson to start for Red Wings in Game 5

04.25.14 at 7:30 pm ET
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Red Wings coach Mike Babcock told reporters Friday that Jonas Gustavsson will start Saturday in Game 5 against the Bruins, with Jimmy Howard serving as the backup.

Gustavsson made his playoff career playoff start in Thursday’s Game 4 because Howard, the team’s regular starter, was out with the flu. Howard did not practice Friday.

The 29-year-old Gustavsson saw 40 shots Thursday, stopping 37 of them in taking the loss in a 3-2 overtime win for Boston that gave the B’s a 3-1 lead in the series.

For more on the Bruins, visit weei.com/bruins.

Read More: Jimmy Howard, Jonas Gustavsson, Mike Babcock,

With chance to finish off Red Wings, Bruins hope they’ve learned from previous closeout struggles

04.25.14 at 5:45 pm ET
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Claude Julien knew it was coming. He started laughing before the reporter even finished the question. Chances are he’€™ll hear it asked every time the Bruins are in this situation.

The situation is having a chance to close out a playoff series. The question is about the Bruins’€™ rather unimpressive history in pre-Game 7 closeouts under Julien.

It all starts with that blown 3-0 series lead against the Flyers back in 2010. The B’€™s won the Stanley Cup the next year, but along the way they let the Canadiens and Lightning take them to seven games after losing a pair of Game 6 closeouts.

Last year they held a 3-1 series lead over the Maple Leafs, but wound up needing that miracle Game 7 comeback to finally finish off Toronto. It took them two tries to close out the Rangers as well. Of course, there have been series in which the Bruins have closed the door on the first try, too, as they swept Montreal in 2009, Philadelphia in 2011 and Pittsburgh in 2013.

All in all, the Bruins are 5-9 in non-Game 7 closeouts during the Julien era, which is why he still has to answer the question any time this situation arises.

“We can learn a lot from last year actually,” Julien said Friday. “You can look at it whichever way you want. It doesn’€™t mean just because it’€™s happened before, it has to be the same thing. There are different situations all the time.

“Right now, we have yet to lose respect for that team we’€™re playing against. They added some good players to their lineup last game, and a guy like [Henrik] Zetterberg can only get better in his second game than he was in his first. So there’€™s a respect factor there that we need to be really good tomorrow if we want to end the series. If not, then we’€™re going back to their building, and that’€™s something we’€™d prefer not to do.”

The Bruins’€™ first objective in Saturday’€™s Game 5 is to get off to a much better start than the one they had in Game 4. The Red Wings thoroughly dominated the first 25-30 minutes of the game, outshooting the B’€™s 15-5 in the first period and opening up a 2-0 lead by the five-minute mark of the second. The Bruins wound up coming back and winning in overtime, but they know they don’€™t want to be playing from behind again. Read the rest of this entry »

Vezina finalist Tuukka Rask glad he ‘wasn’t a disappointment,’ but still has more to prove

04.25.14 at 4:18 pm ET
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Last season, Tuukka Rask willingly played on a one-year deal. It was his first season as the full-time starter, and he was happy to go out and prove that he deserved a long-term deal.

Rask did that, and then he got that long-term deal, signing an eight-year, $56 million contract this past summer. In turn, that provided a different kind of motivation for this season (on top of the obvious motivation of winning a Stanley Cup). Now that he had the big contract and the long-term security, he needed to make sure he lived up to the heightened expectations.

After posting a league-leading .930 save percentage and being named a Vezina Trophy finalist for the first time, it’€™s safe to say Rask did that.

“I feel good. I feel like I wasn’€™t a disappointment,” Rask said Friday. “It’€™s something where you just try to be as good as people think you are, and you think you are. I accomplished that in the regular season, and there’€™s still a lot to prove in the playoffs.”

Last year, Rask raised his game to an even higher level in the playoffs. He posted a .940 save percentage for the entire postseason, and most notably stopped 134 of the 136 shots he faced against the Penguins in the Eastern Conference finals in one of the greatest single-round performances any goalie has ever had.

This year, Rask is at it again. Almost quietly — perhaps because everyone has just come to expect this — he has a .966 save percentage through four games against the Red Wings. There has been none of the shakiness or uncertainty that so many other playoff teams have had to deal with already. No soft goals. No bad misplays. No wondering if the goalie is lacking confidence. Just exceptional goaltending, one period after another.

“He’€™s an unbelievable goalie,” Matt Bartkowski said. “I have no doubt he’€™s the best goalie in the league. Through the playoffs so far, he’€™s been showing it.”

That unbelievable play makes everything much easier for all the Bruins, but especially for the team’€™s young defensemen. Bartkowski, Dougie Hamilton, Torey Krug and Kevan Miller have all been regulars on the Boston blue line this season, and there have been some growing pains for sure. Read the rest of this entry »

Pierre McGuire on M&M: Bruins ‘well on their way to creating three things you have to have if you’re going to win’

04.25.14 at 2:40 pm ET
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NBC Sports hockey analyst Pierre McGuire joined Mut & Merloni on Friday to discuss Thursday night’€™s game against the Red Wings.

After winning 3-2 in overtime on Thursday, the Bruins have a 3-1 series advantage over Detroit in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

“I would say the three things you want to plant in an opponent’€™s mind during a playoff series — concern, doubt and fear,” McGuire said. “Clearly there’€™s concern. If you’€™re Detroit, there’€™s got to be a whole lot of doubt, and I think coming into Game 5, there’€™s a little bit of fear.

“So Boston’€™s well on their way to creating the three things you have to have if you’€™re going to win a playoff series. But to say it’€™s over would be disrespectful to the Detroit Red Wings, and I would never disrespect that franchise.”

The Red Wings took a 2-0 lead in the first 25 minutes of play Thursday before Boston made its comeback.

“(Detroit) can put 60 minutes together,” McGuire said. “They just can’€™t do it the same way Boston can. The biggest thing is … Detroit, under (Mike) Babcock, made a subtle adjustment. They were really trying to stretch out the Bruins defense, and that’€™s why you saw the speed game engaged by the Detroit Red Wings in the first period, and that’€™s why the shot totals were so in Detroit’€™s favor.

“But (Claude) Julien and his staff made a subtle adjustment. They started moving their defensemen up and closing the gap, forcing more turnovers that allowed them to control the puck more and then they started a counterattack forcing those quicker Detroit players to play defense rather than offense.”

McGuire added: “You saw Boston with the four lines start to dominate, and what was really apparent in the third period (when) he was rolling four lines, and he was basically cutting the shift times from 35 to 45 seconds down to 30 to 25 seconds — and even 20 seconds, in some cases. But that four-line attack just wore Detroit down.”

Following are more highlights from the interview. For more team news, visit weei.com/bruins.

On Brad Marchand: “It’€™s three (missed shots) in a row now. You go back to Game 3 where he hit the post on the empty net and then two last night. … The good news for Brad is that he’€™s creating these opportunities and he’€™s playing with a whole lot of vim, vigor and vitality, which is really important. … He’€™s just trying to be too refined right now, and I think it’€™s a little bit in his head.”

On Carl Soderberg: “I’€™m prepared to say he’€™s the best third-line center in the National Hockey League right now from a skill standpoint, from a game-breaking standpoint and from a not being a defensive liability standpoint. And when you factor in no Chris Kelly on that line — he’€™s such an important player for the Boston Bruins – that says a lot about the Bruins’€™ depth. It says a lot about Carl Soderberg’s ability to really stabilize a game.”

To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.

Tuukka Rask named Vezina Trophy finalist, joining Tampa’s Ben Bishop, Colorado’s Semyon Varlamov

04.25.14 at 11:27 am ET
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For the first time in his career, Tuukka Rask is a Vezina Trophy finalist. The NHL announced the three finalists for the league’s top goaltending honor Friday, with Tampa Bay’s Ben Bishop and Colorado’s Semyon Varlamov joining Rask.

Among goalies who started at least 40 games, Rask ranked first in save percentage (.930) and second in goals-against average (2.04), trailing only Cory Schneider of the Devils. Rask also led the NHL in even-strength save percentage (.941), which is considered a stat that goalies have even more control over than overall save percentage since it eliminates discrepancies between different teams’ penalty kills.

Bishop and Varlamov are first-time finalists as well. Varlamov finished second with a .927 save percentage (.933 even-strength) while facing 372 shots more than Rask over the course of the season. That heavy workload is probably the strongest case against Rask among this group.

Bishop posted a .924 save percentage (.932 even-strength), and it was easy to see how much the Lightning missed him over the last few weeks after he went down with a wrist injury and had to watch from the sidelines as Tampa got swept by the Canadiens in the first round.

Rask finished fifth in voting last year and seventh in 2010.

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