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National reaction to Cup finale: Toronto Sun teases Bruins 06.25.13 at 1:21 pm ET
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Tuesday’€™s copy of the Toronto Sun was a thank you card to the Blackhawks. Maple Leafs fans got a chance to watch the Bruins collapse in the final minutes of a crucial playoff game just like their team did in the first round to Boston, and it was celebrated with a bolded ‘€œThanks!’€ on the cover of the Sun. It was even signed ‘€œLove, Toronto’€ at the bottom.

‘€œThis time, the final 76 seconds ended the Boston Bruins season,’€ wrote Sun columnist Steve Simmons. ‘€œThis time, the miracle ending went against them.’€

National Post columnist Bruce Arthur — a Toronto resident — drew a similar comparison to the end of the Maple Leafs-Bruins series in his column. However, his was not so much of a celebration of the reversal of the situation like the Sun cover, but more of a sense of awe that that type of miraculous finish could happen twice in the same building.

‘€œIt was familiar, though, if you had been here before,’€ Arthur wrote. ‘€œBoston got here with two goals in the final 1:22, 31 seconds apart with their goalie pulled, to escape Game 7 against Toronto in the first round. They came within a bouncing puck of ending that game in regulation, too. This time, the other guys pulled the goalie, scored the goals, won the game on a puck that managed ‘€” on a hot and humid night where the ice was dripping and melting and becoming the pockmarked surface of a moon ‘€” not to bounce. How it happened again, in the same building, a sideways mirror image, is impossible to say, except to say it’€™s hockey.’€

The comparison to the Bruins victory over Toronto was not limited to Canadian publications. Larry Brooks, a columnist for the New York Post, drew the same comparison.

‘€œIt was Emile Francis, the old Cat, who once observed that hockey is a slippery game for after all, it is played on ice,’€ Brooks wrote. ‘€œNever was the sport more slippery than it was last night for the Bruins, who six weeks earlier had pulled off the most remarkable escape trick in NHL playoff history by scoring twice within 31 seconds in the final 1:22 of regulation to tie the Maple Leafs in Game 7 of the opening round before winning in OT.”

Rick Morrissey of the Chicago Sun-Times wrote his column on the joy of the Blackhawks final two goal-scorers, Brian Bickell and Dave Bolland. His piece described the scene on the ice after the game was done and the Blackhawks were celebrating.

‘€œI see everyone in a Hawks uniform hugging each other in a big ball of wild celebration, and I see the vanquished Boston Bruins absolutely shocked out of their minds, heads down, shoulders sagged in defeat,’€ Morrissey wrote. ‘€œWhat had been a 2-1 lead fled the premises in the span of 17 seconds and gave way to a 3-2 Blackhawks victory. I can still hear the strange silence of a large stadium in shock and the faint whoops of Hawks players.’€

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Pierre McGuire on D&C: Bruins ‘unbelievably resilient’ 06.24.13 at 12:29 pm ET
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NBC sports hockey analyst Pierre McGuire joined Mut & Merloni on Monday morning to give his thoughts on the Patrice Bergeron injury, Zdeno Chara‘€™s play and the first impression of Carl Soderberg.

Bergeron, who left Game 5 with a ‘€œbody injury,’€ did not participate in the morning skate prior to Game 6 Monday night. However, if Bergeron is unable to play, McGuire said he thinks that the Bruins can have success without their assistant captain.

‘€œThey can come back from it,’€ McGuire said. ‘€œIt’€™s a big loss, but they can come back from it. This is one of the most resilient teams I have seen in the last seven years in the NHL. They are unbelievably resilient. So they can overcome it. It won’€™t be easy. I think everybody knows that. But I could see them overcoming it. This is where your core leadership steps in. This is where Dennis Seidenberg and Zdeno Chara, Milan Lucic take it to another level and everybody else follows.’€

While Bergeron did not participate in the morning skate, McGuire said that it is a good sign for the Bruins that the 28-year-old center took the flight back from Chicago to Boston between games, because that may eliminate the idea that he suffered an internal injury.

‘€œIf you have a punctured lung, if you have a lacerated spleen, if you have any kind of internal — and this is from talking to doctors; I’€™m not a doctor but I’€™ve talked to doctors about it — if you have any type of internal injury like that or the potential for a punctured lung, they can’€™t put you on an aircraft,’€ McGuire said. ‘€œIt’€™s just too dangerous. The fact that he was able to get on an aircraft and fly back home, I think that is positive more than negative.’€

Without Bergeron and his defensive skill in the lineup, it puts more work on the shoulders of Chara, who has struggled in recent games. Chara is minus-5 in the last two games despite recording a goal and two assists in the process. McGuire said that Chara’€™s struggles are a result of good strategy from Chicago.

‘€œYou want to make the bigger person go back and get the puck,’€ McGuire said. ‘€œYou want to put some physical pressure on him. You want to get him out of his comfort zone. If Zdeno Chara is allowed to get into a comfort zone, he can dominate a game. So Chicago has done the right thing by attacking him.

‘€œThe guy that has made probably the biggest difference on that has been Brian Bickell. Again, in-series adjustments by Chicago and Joel Quenneville by putting [Patrick] Kane and [JonathanToews together, but also putting Bickell on that line and creating a snow plow effect so that that big body can go around and start bouncing some Bruins players.’€

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Shawn Thornton on D&C: Bruins have to ‘win one game twice’ 06.24.13 at 10:15 am ET
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Bruins forward Shawn Thornton joined Dennis & Callahan on Monday morning to talk about the Bruins’€™ mindset entering a Game 6 elimination game.

With potentially one game left in the season, Thornton said the Bruins are going to need a sense of urgency in order to keep the Blackhawks from raising the Stanley Cup in Boston.

‘€œIt is human nature,’€ Thornton said. ‘€œThe survival instinct kind of kicks in. Whether you notice it or not while you are out there, I think you give a little bit more. That’€™s why they always say the last game is the toughest game to get. Let’€™s hope that is the case again tonight for us.’€

The Bruins were in this situation in 2011, as they topped the Canucks, 5-2, in Boston before winning Game 7 on the road, 4-0. While Thornton said the B’s have confidence that they can stave off elimination thanks to that prior experience, that doesn’€™t help them win unless the sense of urgency shows itself.

‘€œWe know that we have done it before, so the experience helps give you that knowledge that it can be done,’€ Thornton said. ‘€œBut at the end of the day, what we did before doesn’€™t really matter if we don’€™t bring it on the ice. We’€™ve got to go play a hockey game, like you said.

‘€œWe kind of approach it as you’€™ve got to win one game twice. So, tonight, just focus on winning tonight and once you get to a Game 7, if you get to a Game 7, it is a whole different ballgame. So we are focused on just winning tonight. Win one game.’€

With the series on the line, Thornton said he expects Claude Julien‘€™s pregame speech to be more of a motivational one. At the same time, Thornton said that extra motivation already will be there for the Bruins.

‘€œI’€™m sure tonight it will be a little bit more than just the X’s and O’s,’€ Thornton said. ‘€œI don’€™t know yet. I don’€™t know if it will be a [Vince Lombardi] speech, but I think there will be a little bit of chatter. You shouldn’€™t have to do that at this stage of the playoffs, either, though. If you can’€™t motivate yourself to get up for a Game 6 elimination game in the Stanley Cup finals, I think you’€™re in the wrong business.’€

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Barry Pederson on D&C: Bruins ‘forwards last night were awful with puck management’ 06.20.13 at 11:19 am ET
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NESN Bruins analyst Barry Pederson joined the Dennis & Callahan show Thursday morning to talk about the Bruins’ loss in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup finals.

The Blackhawks offense broke out with a six-goal performance in the game, which was more than the Bruins had allowed in their last four games combined. Pederson said that the Bruins defense struggled because the team’s forwards consistently turned the puck over in the neutral zone.

‘€œYour defense creates your offense and it’€™s your forwards that create your team defense,’€ Pederson said. ‘€œWell the forwards last night were awful with puck management. Turnovers, of course that first goal with [Tyler] Seguin turning it over, but throughout the game Brad Marchand, [Milan] Lucic, they all struggled in areas where they had been very responsible at throughout the playoffs, not allowing outnumbered opportunities. You could also see that as that happened, the turnovers, the transition, Chicago’€™s speed started to jump in, they got some confidence, you saw [Duncan] Keith jumping in, [Brent] Seabrook, [Michal] Rozsival from the backside.’€

Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg were a combined minus-5 on the night, in part due to their inability to keep Chicago forwards away from the front of the net. However, Pederson noted that the B’s forwards did not give them much help in the defensive zone like they had throughout the rest of the playoffs.

‘€œIf you can allow Chara and Seidenberg that even-up opportunity with two-on-two, there is no way [Tuukka Rask is not able to see shots through screens],’€ Pederson said. ‘€œThey were coming at them with three-on-twos and four-on-twos. When you’€™re Chara and Seidenberg, when you see that, normally you are taking away their space by attacking defensively at them. Now you see you have an outnumbered opportunity you’€™ve got to back in. As soon as you back in you give up the blue line, and when you give up the blue line now Chicago can go east-west and not just north-south, which causes problems. As you back off and you have speed, now that allows Chicago to get in front of Tuukka with that front-net presence. You can’€™t get inside position, you can’€™t box out because they’€™re coming at you in waves.

‘€œBut again, that all started with poor puck management in the neutral zone, getting caught defensively, you saw a couple of times when you saw the Bruins defense do what they were supposed to do which was pinch, but there were no forwards behind them backing them up like there was earlier on in the playoffs.’€

However, Pederson pointed out that the silver lining for the Bruins in Game 4 was that they seemed to have figured out Corey Crawford. All five goals went to the glove side, which reminded Pederson of the goalie the Bruins beat last time they were in the Stanley Cup finals.

‘€œTo me, as that game wore on last night, he looked exactly like Roberto Luongo having trouble with that glove,’€ Pederson said. ‘€œYou watch him when he goes into that stance and he is anticipating a shot, instead of having his glove to his side where it should be, he has it up by his head. When he goes down, his glove has to go from by his ear all the way down to by his pads, and right in that area is where they were scoring.

‘€œHe didn’€™t look comfortable. It was almost like he was sitting there ‘€” and I can remember my baseball days playing second base saying, ‘€˜Don’€™t hit the ball to me.’€™ He didn’€™t want that puck on him. It must have been overtime when he was sitting ‘€” that one dump in by [David] Krejci on a snap shot from the blue line gave him all kinds of trouble.’€

To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page. For more Bruins news, visit the team page at weei.com/bruins.

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Barry Pederson on D&C: Tuukka Rask ‘making it look easy’ 06.18.13 at 11:33 am ET
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NESN Bruins analyst Barry Pederson joined the Dennis & Callahan show Tuesday morning to talk about the Bruins’ win in Game 3, the value of team defense and Tuukka Rask‘€™s technically sound play in goal.

Pederson said that the Bruins team defense has played consistently well throughout the playoffs and has been key in winning not only the physical battle but the mental battle.

‘€œWe have seen it whether it was Toronto, the Rangers, Chicago in here or Pittsburgh,’€ Pederson said. ‘€œIt is the fact that they’€™re breaking the will of the opponent. It is so frustrating to go out there and every time you get the puck, [Zdeno] Chara is taking away your space, he is running you through the boards, you think you’€™ve got an open lane and you go to throw it across and all of a sudden [Dennis] Seidenberg is in there with his stick, with his feet. They just don’€™t give you an inch.

‘€œAfter a while it is almost like when you have a horse and you saddle-break him. Once his shoulders roll on you, you know you have the horse’€™s spirit broken and you have a chance of breaking him and getting him saddle-broken. Here’€™s the situation to me where you can see it on the ice where guys are going, ‘€˜OK, we are ready, Chicago. Here comes our energy.’ And it’€™s like, ‘Oh, this just ain’€™t happening.’ They’€™re just frustrating them.’€

That strong team defense is a testament to Claude Julien sticking with his defensive system and having his players buy into it. It is also the result of general manager Peter Chiarelli bringing in players that fit Julien’€™s system well and are willing to play hard on the defensive end every night.

Pederson said that one thing that makes Chiarelli successful is that he is willing to pay players for their contributions on the defensive end — not just the offensive end.

‘€œWhat happens a lot of times is somebody says, ‘€˜OK, we want to play a certain style and we want to reward these guys for being successful, but yet they’€™re playing team defense,’€™ ‘€ Pederson said. ‘€œA lot of times throughout the season when things aren’€™t going well it’€™s like, ‘€˜We just don’€™t have enough offense. We don’€™t have those stars like [Evgeni] Malkin and [Sidney] Crosby who can generate a lot of goals.’€™ But champions, as we know, are known for both sides of the puck. Not only the offense, but it’€™s that great, smothering team defense and the structure and the layers they have defensively.

‘€œIt has been very important also for Peter Chiarelli to reward these players for not only their offense that they show us by being maybe a point-a-game guy, but they are capable on other teams of probably being 80- or 90-point seasons, but they’€™re not. They are giving it up for the team and they are doing it the right way.’€

Tuukka Rask was the beneficiary of the strong team defense in the Bruins’€™ win in Game 3, as he was protected well in his 28-save shutout Monday. However, Pederson said he thinks Rask may not be getting the credit he deserves because he is making it look easier than it is.

‘€œI think one of the things that we are getting ourselves maybe into a bad habit of, is because Tuukka is so sound technically and is so much in control of his emotions right now, he is making it look easy,’€ Pederson said. ‘€œIt’€™s not as easy as it looks. He is just attacking the shooters correctly. When he goes down he is taking up space, his belly is not touching the ice, he is standing up straight with his chest, he is controlling his rebounds.

‘€œA couple of times last night you could see the shifts were getting long and the Bruins needed a whistle. They are coming down the right side and they shoot the puck. He is able to control the rebound and throw it outside of the rink to get yourself a stop or a whistle. He has done a great job. He will be the first to tell you that his team in front of him is playing very well defensively, but I also think his teammates will tell you, ‘€˜Hey, listen, he is playing so well right now and he is so locked in, he is making it look easier than it actually is.’€™ ‘€

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Doc Emrick on M&M: Tuukka Rask gives Bruins ‘check mark’ over Blackhawks 06.12.13 at 12:34 pm ET
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NBC Sports play-by-play caller Mike “Doc” Emrick joined Mut & Merloni on Wednesday morning to break down the Stanley Cup finals between the Bruins and Blackhawks.

Emrick said he expects the series to be almost dead even, and he did not offer a prediction for who would raise the Stanley Cup in the end. However, he drew a comparison between this series and the 1995 finals between the Devils and Red Wings.

‘€œThe edge is very difficult to call,’€ Emrick said. ‘€œI know there have been various surveys done and I think one very extensive one in Canada came out 50 percent to 49.2 percent, and at that point I didn’€™t even ask who had the 50 percent because it becomes ‘€” it is pretty much the way that everyone here is thinking. It is just too tough to call.

‘€œI remember a similar thing that happened when we had a 48-game season in 1995 and we went into the final with a favorite team and a non-favorite one because the New Jersey Devils were not a good scoring team. They had a good goaltender and they played good defense. And the Red Wings were lights out. I mean, they were the biggest offensive juggernaut going and they banged their way through Chicago to get to the final and then New Jersey shut them down in four straight games with a defensive scheme.’€

Emrick continued that comparison between the current series and the 1995 finals while discussing Zdeno Chara‘€™s impact on Tuukka Rask‘€™s play. Emrick compared Chara’€™s dominance to that of hall-of-fame defenseman Scott Stevens.

‘€œI think if you were to ask that question to Marty Brodeur, he would say that Scott Stevens‘€™ years were some of his best, because when you have somebody out there that is a presence that takes care of business as well as Scott did and as well as Zdeno Chara does and covers even more distance than Scott would ever hope to just because of his raw size.’€ Emrick said. ‘€œI think you’€™re making a very good comparison there and I think you’€™re also giving appropriate credit to the defense in front of [Rask].’€

While he praised Chara for his defense, Emrick was sure to give credit to Rask, saying that he gave the Bruins an advantage between the pipes over Corey Crawford.

‘€œIf you want to put a check mark in one particular category that I think solidly goes to Boston, it is goaltending,’€ Emrick said. ‘€œAnd again, we have the leading goals-against average is one guy and the other is second. And the leading save percentage is the other guy and the one guy is second. So you can waffle back and forth. It seems to me the way that Rask has been playing, that is a check mark to the Bruins.

‘€œAs [NBC Sports color commentator] Eddie Olczyk always says, ‘€˜Without goaltending you have got no shot.’€™ And they’€™ve sure got goaltending.’€

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Andy Brickley on M&M: ‘Surprised’ to see Andrew Ference play over Matt Bartkowski in Game 1 06.03.13 at 1:58 pm ET
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NESN Bruins analyst Andy Brickley, in an interview with Mut & Merloni on Friday, talked about the Bruins’ win over the Penguins in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals and previewed Monday night’€™s Game 2.

Brickley said that the end result of the game was what impressed him most about the Bruins on Saturday night, because they did not start the game very well. Pittsburgh outshot Boston 22-17 through the first two periods.

‘€œThe way they played the first 40 minutes was not Bruins hockey,’€ Brickley said. ‘€œThey played real strong, they looked more like the team and their identity in the third period. I liked the way they played in the third, the neutral zone was a lot better, fewer turnovers. Once they had that 1-0 lead and were able to extend that lead they got real comfortable in that third period playing the style that they wanted to play. They are going to need a better start tonight because that could have easily been 3-1, 4-1, 5-1 after the first 40 minutes.’€

One thing that surprised Brickley on Saturday night was that Andrew Ference returned to the lineup in place of Matt Bartkowski. Bartkowski, a Pittsburgh native, played more than 19 minutes in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Rangers before sitting Game 1 against the Penguins.

‘€œYeah, [I was] a little surprised to be honest with you,’€ Brickley said. ‘€œI know it was a very difficult decision. The minute you get clearance from team doctors and you’€™re ready to go, it is a tough decision. Bartkowski being a Pittsburgh kid, he was instrumental in advancing in that five-game series against the Rangers. He gave a different element to the Bruins back line with his speed, his ability to pinch down the wall, make key plays in the offensive zone, the quick ups. He was a good match for the Rangers because the Rangers don’€™t have a ton of team speed so he had more time and space.

‘€œBut Andrew Ference is a guy that shouldn’€™t lose his job to injury. He is a veteran guy, he plays real well in the postseason, he is a leader and he is a good match for the Pittsburgh Penguins when you talk about their high-end talent. I was a little surprised. I thought they would go with the same lineup that you saw in Game 5 against the Rangers, but it was a good decision because Ference played real well.’€ Read the rest of this entry »

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