|05.28.11 at 2:38 am ET|
Much was made of Lightning coach Guy Boucher‘s mind games, as they seemed, in the Eastern Conference finals. The Tampa coach, who does have a degree in psychology, displayed various tactics to seemingly mess with the Bruins’ heads, from discussing imaginary Tim Thomas quotes to saying before each of the first two games that Patrice Bergeron would play, to overemphasizing Tyler Seguin‘s impact, to cleverly calling out a referee without using his name. During the series, Bruins coach Claude Julien would have subtle and not-so-subtle responses to Boucher’s methods, noting that Boucher was hyping the Bruins more than he was his own team, and after Game 6, Julien said he feared the pre-game referee talk could have influenced the game.
With the series in the books, Boucher had one last press conference, and it turns out that if he used a trick at all, it was a case of killing Julien with kindness. When asked how he felt the Bruins might fare against the Canucks in the Stanley Cup finals, Boucher was sincere with his answer and made a point of it to express his respect for Julien.
“Both teams that make it there, to me, they are on even grounds, but one thing for sure, [the Bruins] are very well coached,” Boucher said. “You know Claude, I coached against him in Juniors, he’s always done a very good job. I was always very happy for his success in the past, obviously not tonight, but as he moves on, if there’s somebody that is going to beat us, that’s one guy I hope gets success.”
|05.28.11 at 2:34 am ET|
Because he’s still only 25, it can be easy to overlook the fact that Patrice Bergeron is the longest-tenured Bruin. Bergeron, who was just 18 in his rookie season of 2003-04, is in his seventh season with the club — eighth if you count the lockout year he spent with the Providence Bruins.
As a result, Bergeron knows the ups and downs that the Bruins and their fans have gone through — starting with blowing a 3-1 series lead to the Canadiens in 2004 — better than anyone else on the team. After earning a berth in the Stanley Cup finals Friday night, Bergeron said it felt great to finally be able to reward those fans like this.
“It’s unbelievable. It’s a great feeling, just to have the chance to share that with the city,” Bergeron said. “I call Boston my second home now. I love it here. That’s why I got my extension [before this season]. The feeling is amazing. I’ve been here for the highs and lows. Just to have a chance to do that here and share that, we could feel that the whole city was behind us all along.”
Bergeron had his own highs and lows to deal with in the Eastern Conference finals, as he missed the first two games with a mild concussion suffered in Game 4 of the second round. He had perhaps his best game of this series in Game 4, as he registered a pair of goals in a losing effort. Then in Game 5, he assisted on Brad Marchand‘s goal that proved to be the game-winner. And of course, he was his usual stellar self on faceoffs, winning 58.1 percent of his draws in the series.
Marchand called Bergeron’s return to the lineup the “turning point” of the series, but Bergeron was quick to deflect any and all credit to his teammates.
“I don’t know. I just want to go out there and play my game,” Bergeron said when asked about Marchand’s comments. “Obviously I’m not gonna be the one standing here and saying yes. As soon as I got back on the ice, I felt good. I was just trying to help the team as much as I could night in, night out. We got the job done as a team. It’s not about one person. That’s why we’re here. It’s about everyone.”
|05.28.11 at 2:16 am ET|
Bruins assistant captain Mark Recchi made his decision to return for a 22nd season in the NHL last summer, electing to re-up with the B’s after the team was eliminated in the second round by the Flyers. Now that his team is in the Stanley Cup finals, the two-time Cup winner said after Friday’s Eastern Conference-clinching victory over the Lightning that this is what he had in mind when he decided to return.
“This is what I play for, to get this opportunity one more time, and probably my last time is pretty special,” Recchi said. “WIth this group of guys, right from Day 1 in training camp we put a lot of belief in each other, a lot of trust, and a lot of working together. I’m going to end my career at some point and say this is one of the better groups I played with. I’m proud to play with them regardless of what happens.”
At 43 years of age, Recchi may very well be in his last season, as he said late in the regular season that he would retire if the Bruins won the Cup. Now, he’s glad he made the choice to go one more year.
“It’s been a fun year for me,” he said. “This is what I came back for. I’m proud to say I’ve played with these guys.”
|05.28.11 at 1:55 am ET|
“I mean, that makes it extra special,” Lucic said. “A lot of good things have happened to me in Vancouver.”
They sure have. Lucic, who was born and raised in Vancouver, got the chance to play junior hockey there for three seasons with the Vancouver Giants of the Western Hockey League. He helped lead the Giants to a Memorial Cup title in 2007, and when the Bruins visited Vancouver earlier this season, the Giants held a “Milan Lucic Night” and inducted him into the club’s Ring of Honour. That trip was made even more memorable when Lucic scored what proved to be the game-winner in a 3-1 Bruins win.
Lucic said it will be great to play in front of friends and family in the finals, but that he might have some work to do when it comes to convincing them to root for his team.
“I know I am going to have to convert a lot of my, well my family is already converted, but a lot of my friends into Bruins fans,” Lucic said. “So that is going to be a little tough to do.”
|05.28.11 at 1:14 am ET|
While Dwayne Roloson was putting forth the performance of a lifetime – epic by even Stanley Cup playoff standards – it was fair to wonder if it just wasn’t meant to be for the Bruins in Game 7.
But for these Bruins, thankfully, that question never even entered their mind. That’s essentially why they were finally able to beat the apparently unbeatable 41-year-old goalie for one Nathan Horton tally with 7:33 left and make it stand in a Game 7 1-0 win for the ages that sends them to the Stanley Cup finals.
“We’ve had a few games like that, even in regular season,” Bruins captain Zdeno Chara said. “To have that performance in Game 7, it’s just nice to see. Everybody bought into it. It was really a strong mindset before the game, throughout the whole game. I was very impressed the way we played and never changed anything.”
“We talked about it between periods, just stick with it, stick with it and eventually, it did happen,” Chara said. “It’s something you have to do that to be able to accomplish something. Everybody has to play the same way. It’s a team discipline.”
Chara and the Bruins were being denied time after time by Roloson, a goalie, who entering Game 7, was 7-0 in elimination games in his career, including four wins in these 2011 playoffs, alone. Read the rest of this entry »
|05.28.11 at 12:42 am ET|
During Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals, defense partners Andrew Ference and Johnny Boychuk and assistant coach Doug Houda talked about a play they thought would break the Lightning’s 1-3-1 neutral zone setup. Instead of gathering speed through the neutral zone to win the race to a dump-in, they discussed using that speed to make short passes and skate the puck into the offensive zone.
The Bruins used that plan to varying amounts of success throughout the series, but it never really worked out well enough to result in a goal… until the third period of Game 7.
The play started with all three forwards circling back toward the defense to pick up some speed as Ference walked the puck into the neutral zone. Then Ference made a quick pass to David Krejci that sprung the speedy center clear through Tampa’s three-man front at center ice.
“I’ve been waiting for that all series,” Ference said. “All series, we’ve talked about that. I talked about that play with Doug Houda, I think Game 1. Johnny and I, we’ve been in that situation, I don’t know, 50, 60 times this series where we bring up the puck into the forecheck that they have. Game 1, we drew that play up and said, ‘Boys, look for this play. It’s gonna work, it’s gonna work.’ We tried it a couple times, but tonight was the first time it really just worked perfect, the timing and everything. Krejci came through with the perfect timing and obviously the finish was sick.”
That finish was a criss-cross by Krejci and winger Nathan Horton once they entered the zone, a quick pull-up by Krejci in the left circle, and a crisp centering pass that Horton tipped home from the top of the crease.
“We knew we wanted to come back and get some speed,” Horton said. “You want to have speed to get going through the zone and we kind of did that. We had a little bit more than they probably thought, so it worked out well. That’s what you want. You want Dave coming over the blue line with the puck. I just tried to give him some space and he made an unbelievable pass to me.”
Claude Julien said that play gave the Bruins a nice second option on entries, allowing them to keep the Lightning on their toes.
“I liked the way our guys made some decisions tonight as far as knowing when to run it in because we have guys going with speed,” Julien said. “I think that was a great play where you walk the puck in, and obviously Dave made a great play hanging onto it and Horts went to the net.”
|05.28.11 at 12:41 am ET|
Tim Thomas has waited his whole career to get to this point and now the Bruins goalie will have the chance to play on hockey’s biggest stage and play for the most famous trophy in all of North American sports. Thomas stopped all 24 shots Friday night, posting his second shutout of the playoffs and third career in the postseason, in Boston’s 1-0 win that sends them to the Stanley Cup finals starting Wednesday in Vancouver.
“This is a great moment,” the 37-year-old Thomas said. “There’s no doubt about it. When’s the last time Boston’s been to the Stanley Cup finals? Twenty-one years. It’s been a long time for Boston, it’s been a long journey for me to get here. Now, you want to take advantage of this opportunity. There’s more work to be done. Unfortunately, that’s the way it is. You can’t ever be too happy for too long until you’re the last man standing.
“They had to earn. We pressured them, offensively. The only reason it was a 1-0 game was because of Dwayne Roloson. He played an incredible game.”
Roloson stopped the first 34 shots he faced before Nathan Horton put one past him with 7:33 left in the third for the deciding goal in the Eastern Conference finals.