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5 things we learned as Bruins miss playoffs for first time under Claude Julien 04.11.15 at 10:17 pm ET
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The Bruins have missed the playoffs for the first time under Claude Julien.  (Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)

The Bruins have missed the playoffs for the first time under Claude Julien. (Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)

TAMPA, Fla. — The Bruins have missed the playoffs for the first time since Claude Julien took over as the team’€™s head coach in the 2007-08 season, as the Bruins fell 3-2 in a shootout to the Lightning in the season finale.

Boston’€™s fate was secured prior to the conclusion of its shootout loss to the Lightning Saturday, as the Penguins secured the wild card spot Boston sought by beating the the Sabres earlier in the night.

In addition to needing a victory over the Lightning, the Bruins needed the Penguins to lose in any manner (regulation, overtime or shootout) in order to make the playoffs. Boston was in control of its playoff destiny earlier this week, but regulation losses to the Capitals and Panthers allowed the Senators to leapfrog them. Ottawa secured its postseason spot on Saturday with a win over the Flyers.

The eight Eastern Conference playoff teams, in addition to the Presidents’€™ Trophy-winning Rangers, are the Canadiens, Lightning, Senators, Capitals, Islanders, Red Wings and Penguins. The final order of the teams in each division was not yet decided at the time of Pittsburgh’€™s victory.

Nikita Nesterov broke a 1-1 5:12 into the third period to give the Lightning a lead. The Bruins were officially eliminated minutes later, though Brad Marchand scored late in the game to force overtime. Victor Hedman scored the shootout winner for Tampa.

With the Kings and Bruins both missing the playoffs, the last Stanley Cup champion from each conference will be absent from this postseason. The Bruins’€™ season proved to be colossal failure, their 96 points are the most an Eastern Conference team has had without making the playoffs since the Eastern and Western Conferences came into existence in the 1993-94 season.

Here are four more things we learned on the final day of the Bruins’€™ season:

BRUINS CARRY PLAY EARLY, DON’€™T SCORE

The Bruins had a lot of good first-periods late in the regular season. They were rarely as good as they needed to be, however.

For the second straight game, Boston outplayed its opposition in the first period only to hit the first intermission scoreless.

The Bruins were all over the puck early on, making aggressive plays in the offensive zone to stay in Tampa’€™s end. The Lightning, meanwhile, didn’€™t get their first shot on goal until 9:14 of the first.

After a furious first few shifts, the momentum for the Bruins was halted by their power play. Brad Marchand was held by Nesterov to put the B’€™s on the man advantage at 2:40, but the B’€™s managed no shots on goal and barely got set up during the power play.

The Bruins ended up outshooting Tampa, 10-6, in the first period while holding a 19-12 advantage in shot attempts.

Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Boston Bruins, Tampa Bay Lightning, Tuukka Rask,
Steven Stamkos, Lightning would ‘love’ to keep Bruins out of playoffs at 11:00 am ET
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Steven Stamkos and the Lightning would "love" to keep the Bruins out of the playoffs. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Steven Stamkos and the Lightning would “love” to keep the Bruins out of the playoffs. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

TAMPA, Fla. — The Eastern Conference is changing. Since the Bruins won the Stanley Cup in 2011, then-competitive teams have fallen off and risen again.

One of them is the Tampa Bay Lightning. Now, after earning their second consecutive playoff berth following a two-year drought, the Lightning can make it so the last Eastern Conference team to win the Cup will not participate in the postseason.

“I think any team in the league would love to knock a team like this out because of how dangerous they can be come playoff time,” Steven Stamkos said after the Lightning’s morning skate. “I think you look at LA and you look at Boston. Those are the teams that, no matter where they finish, if they can get into the playoffs, anything can happen because of the personnel they have, the experience they have. With LA being out, I think everyone in the West can sleep a little easier and obviously if Boston doesn’€™t make it, teams are a little happier here.”

Thanks to Friday night’s Penguins loss, the Bruins will still technically be alive when they hit the ice Saturday night at Amalie Arena.

When told of Stamkos’ words, Brad Marchand wasn’t surprised.

“We know that there’€™s no team that wants to do us a favor,” Marchand said. “We know that they’€™re going to bring their best game tonight. They played well at home their last game against us.

“We’€™re a good playoff team. We’€™re kind of built for that. Any team would be happy to knock us out. We know that they’€™re going to get their best game. That means that means that we’€™re going to have to play even harder and make sure we lay our bodies on the line and sacrifice for the team.”

Neither wild card spot in the Eastern Conference is clinched entering Saturday’s games. The Senators can clinch a playoff berth with a win Saturday afternoon in their regular season finale in Ottawa. The Penguins can tie up a spot with a win over the Sabres Saturday night. If the Senators lose in regulation or the Penguins fail to get a point, the Bruins can claim a spot with a win over the Lightning.

Yet the Lightning have more than one reason to try to win Saturday. In addition to knocking off the Bruins and making sure that they would never have to run into Tuukka Rask this spring, a win could potentially earn them the top seed in the Atlantic Division.

Through 81 games apiece, Tampa Bay has 106 points to Montreal’s 108. If Montreal loses to Toronto in regulation and Tampa beats Boston, the Lightning would take the top seed in the Atlantic by virtue of the regulation and overtime wins tiebreaker.

Read More: Boston Bruins, Brad Marchand, Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning
Bruins finally showing winning ‘character’ at right time 03.13.15 at 10:11 am ET
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The Bruins have finally hit their stride. And they couldn’t have picked a better time.

They’re even winning shootouts. After winning their first two shootouts of the season, they lost their next seven such contests, prompting their head coach to say shootouts “suck” and giving thanks they end with the regular season. Thursday’s 3-2 shootout win over the Tampa Bay Lightning ended the skid and gave many inside the dressing room and organization reason to hope.

Their critics will point to the up and down play of key players like Dougie Hamilton, who, by his own admission, had an off night Thursday. The critics will say the Bruins, even during the four-game winning streak, haven’t displayed the consistent 60-minute-plus effort it takes to win in the playoffs.

But what the Bruins showed Thursday night was character and grit. No one showed it more than Gregory Campbell, who took a puck to his right eyebrow early in the first period, necessitating no fewer than eight stitches. It was nothing compared to Game 3 of the 2013 Eastern finals against Pittsburgh, when he gave up his lower right leg on an Evgeni Malkin slapshot. Later in the period, when he returned to the game, he was mashed into the corner boards but got up only a little worse for the wear.

“When you win, things look a lot better,” Campbell said. “There have been times when we’ve played some pretty good hockey and for whatever reason haven’t gotten points. Winning hockey games makes everything look better. We’ve gone the right direction and I think it’s been a process this year. Sometimes there’s not answers for everything. You have expectations coming into the year and for whatever reason, we had a slow start and it’s been well documented that we’ve stumbled a little bit along the way.

“But we’ve continued to try and improve our game, find solutions and stick together as a team. The important thing to us is not what’s happened but the way things are going. This is the important time of the year and we need wins and that’s reason to be optimistic for our team because when you play important games and get wins, that’s playoff-like hockey. That’s a positive we can build on with our team.”

Wins are wins and Thursday was the seventh straight time the Bruins took the ice and gained points. Boston has won four straight, 6-of-7 and 7-of-9 since their six-game skid that put their playoff position in serious peril. Now, the Bruins have 80 points, six points better than ninth-place Florida with 15 games left. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Boston Bruins, Claude Julien, Patrice Bergeron, Tampa Bay Lightning
Brad Marchand on 3-on-3 OT: ‘There was so much room you almost don’t know what to do with it’ at 1:04 am ET
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For Claude Julien, his opinion of shootouts hasn’t changed, but he likes to win, so Thursday night’s victory over the Lightning will do just fine.

Earning just their third shootout victory in 10 tries this season, the Bruins extended their win streak to four games, edging Tampa Bay out in the skills competition with goals from Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand. Tuukka Rask posted 35 saves in the win and stoned both members of the Lightning he faced in the shootout.

And while getting that second point was big for a Bruins team that’s gaining ground in terms of playoff seeding, a couple of penalties in overtime displayed the probable future alternative to the shootout. With Chris Kelly off for holding and Lightning center Alex Killorn to the box for embellishment, the teams were left with three skaters apiece.

This situation isn’t unfamiliar to those playing at the AHL level. Teams needing more than regulation have a seven-minute overtime period where the first four minutes are played four-on-four, and the final three are played three-on-three. If all that doesn’t decide it, then the shootout is used.

Guys like David Pastrnak and Ryan Spooner, who spent time in Providence this season, have experienced three-on-three play more so than their NHL counterparts. In fact, some of the most memorable chances for the Bruins in that stretch of play were created by the duo.

With Spooner by his side, Pastrnak was able to turn two chances on netminder Ben Bishop within the span of eight seconds, the first of which was flicked wide and the second was a backhand that required the Lightning goalie to make a stop.

But for guys who haven’t necessarily had that chance, it was definitely different.

“I was a little nervous out there actually,” Marchand said. “There was so much room you almost don’t know what to do with it, but it was fun for sure.”

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Read More: Overtime, shootout, Tampa Bay Lightning,
Tuukka Rask, Bruins blank Lightning to lock up home ice in first round 04.25.13 at 10:05 pm ET
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Tuukka Rask made all the timely saves a coach could ask for as the Bruins clinched home ice in the first round of the playoffs with a 2-0 win over the Lightning at home on Thursday.

Rask earned his fifth shutout of the season, tying a career high set in the 2009-10 season. Dennis Seidenberg chipped in with his third goal of the year, a slap shot through traffic from the point, and while the Bruins didn’t have a particularly inspiring start to the game, they finished strong, holding off a late Lightning onslaught for the win.

Here’s a look at what went right and wrong for the Bruins on Thursday.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

– Rask was sharp from the start and ultimately made 30 saves. Perhaps his most memorable stop came in the second, when he robbed Steven Stamkos on an odd-man rush for the Lightning, sliding across the crease to snatch Stamkos’ wrister out of the air. Shortly afterward, he drew chants of his name from the Garden crowd when he made two impressive kick saves in rapid succession.

Late in the third, with the Bruins maintaining a 2-0 lead, Rask shut down another Lightning rush, stopping Tampa leading scorer Martin St. Louis.

Rask also kept the Bruins in the game when they were being outshot and outworked early in the first period, stopping a number of quality chances from close range. He effectively put his brief but unspectacular outing in Philadelphia, in which he allowed three goals on 13 shots in relief of Anton Khudobin, behind him.

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Read More: Tampa Bay Lightning, Tuukka Rask,
Tim Thomas gets ‘first win out of the way’ and looks great doing it 10.08.11 at 11:23 pm ET
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No it wasn’t a shutout for Tim Thomas on Saturday night but in stopping 25 of 26 shots from the Lightning, he certainly showed he has the capability of replicating his historic year of a season ago.

Thomas made all the big saves, especially when the game was in doubt helping the Bruins to a 4-1 win over the Lightning team they edged in seven hard-fought games in last spring’s Eastern finals. And it served as a nice bounce back after dropping the season-opener on Thursday to the Flyers.

“You get the first win out of the way so kind of get the monkey off of our backs to get the season back in the direction we wanted to be going,” Thomas said.

“I felt just as comfortable the first night. Both teams we played during the playoffs so semi-familiar, even though there’s some new faces on both teams. Both general systems are the same and I felt comfortable right off the bat the other night and I felt good tonight. But the team had a good game in front of me tonight. We put a lot of shots on goal, found ways to get pucks in the net with a great penalty kill. A lot of good efforts out there all over the place.”

To Claude Julien, the performance of his goalie was solid when the game called for it and spectacular when needed.

“To me, Timmy looked more like the Timmy we know,” Julien said. “He looked calm, and he looked comfortable in net, and he made things look pretty easy. Even on the big saves, he was challenging well. To me, that’s as close to last year as I’ve seen Timmy. He certainly played a solid game for us.”

But, without question, the save he made on Teddy Purcell from the low slot on a one-timer was the save of the game. The Bruins were leading 2-1 early in the third when Purcell had a clean look and appeared to have an open side to Thomas’ right. Thomas slid over before falling to the ice and making the big save just 1:44 into the third.

“The [puck] was passed through the slot and whoever it was did a good job of tipping it over to Purcell,” Thomas said. “So, I was actually originally just on the first pass and I had to scramble to get over to the second pass, which is why I sort of made the save while I was falling down.”

Just over a minute later, David Krejci scored at the other end. Bruins up, 3-1. Game, set, match.

“I think any goaltender, in those key situations, that makes those kinds of saves is certainly going to give your team a boost, and Tim has done that for us on numerous occasions throughout his time here,” Julien said. “I’m not saying we’re used to it but we like it.”

“I’m not thinking of one big save,” Thomas said. “I’m thinking I have to make some saves, basically, [because] you never want to give the other team a sniff. We’ve learned our lessons over the years. I remember a game where we were up three goals with three minutes left against St. Louis and they tied it up and won in overtime. So, that was quite a few years ago now but that happened to us last year a few times where teams came back on us late. You’ve got to play the full 60 minutes That’s what we learned last year.”

And last year turned out pretty well thanks, in large part to Thomas and the lessons learned.

Read More: Boston Bruins, Claude Julien, NHL, Tampa Bay Lightning
Zdeno Chara: Mentally tough B’s had ‘mindset’ to beat Dwayne Roloson 05.28.11 at 1:14 am ET
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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.”

Even when David Krejci pulled out all the tricks with point-blank shots and spin-o-ramas and Brad Marchand was firing shots on from great passes from Patrice Bergeron in the second period.

“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 »

Read More: 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Boston Bruins, Dwayne Roloson, Milan Lucic
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