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Stage is set for Stanley Cup finals 06.01.11 at 6:50 pm ET
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VANCOUVER — We’re just a little over an hour away from Game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals between the Bruins and Canucks here at Rogers Arena, and the building is all ready. Each of the 18,860 seats has been draped with a white Canucks towel. Here are a few pictures and further proof that there is something worse than my writing.

Read More: 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Stanley Cup Finals,
With environmental hero in the stands and Stanley Cup at stake, Vancouver best of both worlds for Andrew Ference 06.01.11 at 5:09 pm ET
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VANCOUVER — When players are on the ice, they have to focus on nothing but what’s on the ice. Yet for Bruins defenseman Andrew Ference, he’ll have a pretty big name in the stands Wednesday watching him in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals.

“My best friend lives in Vancouver. My parents will be at the games. Dr. Suzuki is coming tonight with my parents,” Ference said when listing who will be at the game. “My sister is flying out, it’s close for them, and we have people coming down to Boston as well. I think it’s a lot more fun to cheer for the Bruins down there than it is here.”

That Dr. Suzuki he mentioned is Dr. David Suzuki, who is a well-known Canadian environmentalist and hails from Vancouver. Years ago in an interview, Ference said that if he could meet one person, it would be Suzuki. Since then, the two have teamed to create the NHL’s carbon-neutral program and have remained friends.

So it must be pretty cool for Ference, known just as well for his environmental interests as he is for a certain on-ice gesture this postseason, to have Suzuki sitting with his parents as he tries to win the Stanley Cup.

“He’s been to a couple [of my games], and he’s excited. He loves hockey,” Ference said Wednesday. “But I told him not to cheer for us, because he would probably get notched down a couple places in Canadien folklore. I said it’s alright if he cheers for the Canucks, but he might be a neutral party tonight.”

While playing in Vancouver is neat for someone from western Canada, the 32-year-old just considers himself lucky to be playing for the Cup at all. The last time he played in the finals was in 2004, when his Flames fell to the Lightning in seven games.

“I feel really fortunate. It’s my second going to the finals, and both times with the Canadian content. It’s a special thing, and for a Canadian team to be matched up with an Original 6, that’s a really cool opportunity as a player,” he said. “For two great cities with good hockey history to be involved is awesome. The finals is special no matter what, but there’s a couple of little extra sprinkles on top with this matchup.”

Read More: 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Andrew Ference, Stanley Cup Finals,
Claude Julien says Bruins’ ‘homework is done’ for Stanley Cup finals 06.01.11 at 4:34 pm ET
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VANCOUVER — Speaking at the team’s hotel Wednesday, Bruins coach Claude Julien said his team has done all the preparation necessary for Game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals vs. the Canucks.

The Bruins blanked the Lightning, 1-0, in a Game 7 victory last Friday that figures to be memorable for the team’s nearly flawless and disciplined execution. Julien hopes the B’s can play the same way against Vancouver.

“We talked about it after we won that game. Those are the types of games you have to play in order to win the Stanley Cup,” Julien said. “We’ve obviously proven that we can. Now it’s up to us and do it on a game after game basis. We understand the challenge. We understand what’s at stake. We understand who we’re playing.

“Basically our homework is done. Right now, it’s up to us to go out there and show that we can and believe that we can.”

Read More: 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Claude Julien, Stanley Cup Finals,
Rich Peverley: ‘Hockey could work’ in Atlanta 06.01.11 at 12:14 am ET
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VANCOUVER — Bruins forward Rich Peverley can thank his lucky stars that he is playing in the Stanley Cup finals rather than having to worry about relocation.

The Bruins swung a deal for Peverley and defenseman Boris Valabik on their day of retooling on Feb. 18, though the speedy forward was the centerpiece of the deal that sent Blake Wheeler and Mark Stuart to Atlanta. Now, Peverley’s Atlanta teammates officially know that they’ll be playing in Winnepeg next year due to relocation of the team. Peverley said he’s been in touch throughout the process.

“I think a few guys are disappointed,” Peverley. “They really enjoyed the city, but at the same time, they’re going to have to move on, and I think a lot of guys are excited about the opportunity to play in a Canadian market. That’s going to bring a lot of passionate hockey to the city, and I think they’re really excited about that.”

Peverley still has another deal remaining on his contract, so he would have been a part of the team’s relocation unless he was dealt away. He seems clearly disappointed that the franchise with which he played parts of the last three seasons couldn’t stay where it was, but he also understands it.

“I think it’s a tough market if you’re not winning,” he said. “I think there’s a lot of hockey fans there that might be other fans and not necessarily Thrashers fans, so I think hockey could work in that city, but when you make the playoffs one out of 10 years, you put yourself behind the 8-ball a little bit.”

One reason for the relocation you shouldn’t rule out: Perhaps it’s just because the Peverley Hillbillies stopped giving the team their money after Feb. 18.

“I don’t know,” Peverley said with a laugh. “I have no idea [what happened to them].”

Read More: 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Blake Wheeler, Mark Stuart, Rich Peverley
Maxim Lapierre loves that he’s facing hated Bruins 05.31.11 at 11:29 pm ET
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VANCOUVER — It’s a cliche to say that if one can’t get excited to play this time of year, that they had better check their pulse. Maxim Lapierre‘s pulse is probably berserk right about now.

The 26-year-old Quebec native is realizing a lifelong dream of not only playing in the Stanley Cup finals, but doing so against the Bruins. A childhood of rooting for the Canadiens and five years of playing for the Habs made it so Lapierre could never have anything but negative feelings for the Bruins.

“It’s pretty special,” Lapierre said of facing the Bruins. “Being from Montreal, all my life I was kind of raised to hate them, so it’s unreal. I can’t wait to play tomorrow. It’s going to be a great experience for everybody.”

Lapierre was traded from the Canadiens to the Ducks on Dec. 31 of this season. He didn’t stay there long, as he was dealt to the Canucks after playing 21 games for Anaheim.

Now, he finds himself four wins away from the Stanley Cup. His Canucks eliminated the Sharks in five games in the Western Conference finals, so Lapierre and his teammates had plenty of time to watch the Bruins and Lightning series play out. He admits that at least on some level, he hoped it would be the Bruins who would advance.

“A little bit,” Lapierre said. “It would make it special. It’s really special to play against this team. They’re a great team — well-coached, good players, they’re physical, so we’re going to have a real taste of the Stanley Cup finals.”

Lapierre has had more of a taste of facing the Bruins in the postseason. He was on the 2007-08 Habs team that eliminated the B’s in the first round in seven games, and he was with Montreal when the Bruins swept them the following year.

Though he’s scored some goals and racked up some penalty minutes in his 35 career games against the Bruins (including the playoffs), when it comes to the B’s, Lapierre may be best known for being the recipient of a cross-check to the head from Milan Lucic in Game 2 of the 2009 quarterfinals. Lucic received a match penalty and was suspended for Game 3 of the series.

“Tomorrow is a new day. It’s the playoffs. Everybody wants to play their role,” Lapierre said about facing Lucic in the postseason again. “We know Milan is a great player. He’s strong, he’s physical. He’s going to be in our face and he’s going to be ready to play, and so are we.

“That’s part of the game, and I understand that. He’s playing a great role for this team. He’s a good player, and he’s going to be there tomorrow like a warrior and the same thing for our guys. Everybody’s going to be ready. It’s the Stanley Cup finals.”

While Lapierre no longer dons a Canadiens jersey when he goes to work, his Montreal ties remain as strong as ever as he and the Canucks try to take down the Bruins. Lapierre knew he’d be getting support from his loved ones anyways, but when the Bruins are the opponent, it makes it even sweeter.

“A lot of people from Montreal are behind us now, but it won’t be easy at all,” Lapierre said. “This team is unreal. We’re going to have to be ready from the first shift to the last one.”

Read More: 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Maxim Lapierre, Milan Lucic, Stanley Cup Finals
Unable to win in a uniform, Neely hopes to win Stanley Cup as an executive 05.31.11 at 9:06 pm ET
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VANCOUVER — When it comes to the Bruins playing the Canucks in the Stanley Cup finals, there is a buzz throughout the entire organization. From players, to coaches, right on up to management, the excitement for the B’s to reach the highest level is clear.

One guy to whom this series may be even more special is team president and former player Cam Neely, who hails from British Columbia and began his career with the Canucks before being traded to the Bruins in 1986.

“I got to Maple Ridge in 1976 and became a huge Canuck fan,” Neely recalled. “… Unfortunately it  didn’t  work  out  well  for  me here, and things worked well in Boston.

“I certainly kept tabs on what happened to the Canucks over the years, of course except when they played us. But  it’s  home,  Boston  is  home as well. It’s fun to see what the Canucks have been able to accomplish, especially this year. They’ve got a great team. It’s going to be a pretty interesting series.”

Though Neely could not hoist the Cup in his playing days, he hopes to do so as an executive, something he spoke to Tuesday.

“It would  be  by  far  the next best thing, there’s no question,” Neely said. “Absolutely no question. I mean, when you’re a player, your goal is  to  make  the  NHL. Once you get into the league, you want to win the Stanley Cup. Unfortunately, I didn’t  have a chance to do it in a uniform, but hopefully can do it in a suit.”

Neely admitted that despite years in press box with the B’s, he still hasn’t totally settled into watching a game without the intensity that comes with being on the ice, saying it’s “much harder than playing,” and that he is “still getting used to it.”

While winning the Cup as a player would have been the ultimate prize for Neely, at least he can watch his team now knowing he’s watching a good product.

Read More: 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Cam Neely, Stanley Cup Finals,
Bruins hold last regular practice before Stanley Cup finals 05.31.11 at 8:05 pm ET
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VANCOUVER — Only extra defenseman Shane Hnidy was missing from Tuesday’s Bruins practice at Rogers Arena. The practice, which lasted about an hour, was the team’s final regular practice before the Stanley Cup finals begin Wednesday vs. the Canucks.

Rich Peverley skated with the second line again, donning the gold sweater along with Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and Mark Recchi. Peverley took shifts on the line in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals, spelling Recchi from time to time.

Read More: 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Brad Marchand, Mark Recchi, Rich Peverley
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