Cross Checks: Tuukka Rask

Hall of Fame defenseman Brad Park believes his former team, the Boston Bruins, have a strong nucleus that could keep the club among the top teams for years to come. But in the salary cap era, with a lower-than-expected cap for the 2014-15 season, the Bruins are feeling the crunch.

The constraints they face forced the club to part ways with veteran forward Jarome Iginla, who tied for the team lead with 30 goals last season. The 37-year-old instead signed with the Colorado Avalanche in July.

Park believes that type of offensive production will be hard to replace.

[+] EnlargeBrad Park
Steve Babineau/NHLI/Getty ImagesBrad Park Park accrued 896 points in 1113 career NHL games with the Bruins, Rangers and Red Wings.
“I think they have a very strong nucleus,” Park told ESPN.com in a recent phone conversation. “I think they’ll probably lose some offensive power with Iginla not coming back. I don’t think they have somebody capable of scoring, on a regular basis, 25-to-30 goals. Offensively, that hurts them.”

The Bruins, who recently signed key performer David Krejci to a six-year deal worth $43.5 million, have approximately $69.8 million committed for next season (the cap has been set at $69 million), according to Capgeek.com, and that is with restricted free agents Reilly Smith and Torey Krug still unsigned.

Considering the obstacle that faces general manager Peter Chiarelli, many believe the Bruins will have to trade one of their defensemen. Boston currently has a glut of blueliners as they head into training camp later this month.

Park thinks the Bruins’ back end is particularly solid, and should be a strength for the club, especially if they can stay healthy.

“Defensively, they’re very sound, with [captain Zdeno] Chara, but the guy they missed the most was [Denis] Seidenberg, who is a stalwart defenseman for them,” Park said of the 33-year-old German, who missed much of the season and the entire playoffs with a knee injury. “They had to rely on Zdeno a lot. He looked a little tired and he also had that broken finger, which hindered him in the playoffs.”

As for Vezina Trophy winner Tuukka Rask, Park still thinks the Finnish netminder has another gear to reach despite being regarded as one of the league’s best.

Though Rask was sensational last season, posting a 36-15-6 record with a .930 save percentage and a 2.04 goals-against average, Park wants to see him completely take over a game.

“I think Tuukka is still establishing a reputation. I don’t think he’s there yet,” Park said. “I only say that because it never looked like he was capable of winning a game all by himself. He is a very good goaltender, but the great goalies in the game, they’re capable of winning games all by themselves.”

This is obviously rare territory, Park explained, citing greats like Martin Brodeur, Patrick Roy, Dominik Hasek and former Bruins legend Gerry Cheevers.

If there is one thing Park would like to see from the Bruins -- and from practically the entire league -- is an increased emphasis on offense.

Park, who accrued 896 points in 1113 career NHL games, said he doesn’t feel there is enough attention to that these days.

“The one thing the league has to do or other teams have to do is really teach more offense,” Park said. "My opinion is that puck control creates consistent offense, whereas dump and chase does not. That came into the game with [the Philadelphia Flyers] because they were afraid of turnovers.

“I look around the league and exactly who's teaching offense? I don’t see a lot of offensive guys coaching offensive skills.”

Park actually pointed to another one of his former teams, the New York Rangers, as a prime example of what an emphasis on offense can bring.

Though the Bruins were considered the team to beat in the 2014 Stanley Cup playoffs, they made a surprising exit in the second round. Meanwhile, the Rangers knocked off the Montreal Canadiens in the Eastern Conference finals and advanced to the Stanley Cup finals in their first season under new coach Alain Vigneault.

“There was a dramatic improvement with the Rangers under Vigneault," Park said. "The Rangers had some latitude last year for offense, which under [former coach John Tortorella] they didn’t have that same latitude. It really helped their performance when they weren’t held to such strict guidelines.”

Park still follows both the Rangers and Bruins and, though he has long lived in the Boston area (he and his wife are currently in the process of moving to a warmer locale), Park doesn’t attend many Bruins games in person.

He’s enjoying “semi-retirement,” which includes making appearances, speaking engagements, golf outings and the like. If he were to be at every game, he’d find himself nit-picking and he knows that wouldn’t be too enjoyable.

“When I watch, I critique it,” Park said. “A lot of ex-players go [to games] and critique. I try to stay away from that.”
From the official NHL release:

BISHOP, RASK AND VARLAMOV NAMED VEZINA TROPHY FINALISTS


NEW YORK (April 25, 2014) -- Ben Bishop of the Tampa Bay Lightning, Tuukka Rask of the Boston Bruins and Semyon Varlamov of the Colorado Avalanche are the three finalists for the 2013-14 Vezina Trophy, which is awarded “to the goalkeeper adjudged to be the best at his position,” the National Hockey League announced today.

The general managers of the 30 NHL clubs submitted ballots for the Vezina Trophy at the conclusion of the regular season, with the top three vote-getters designated as finalists. The winner will be announced Tuesday, June 24, during the 2014 NHL Awards from Encore Theater at Wynn Las Vegas.
The 2014 NHL Awards will be broadcast by NBCSN in the United States and CBC in Canada.

Following are the finalists for the Vezina Trophy, in alphabetical
order:

Ben Bishop, Tampa Bay Lightning

Bishop set multiple franchise records in backstopping the Lightning to a second-place finish in the Atlantic Division in his first season as a starter. He became the Lightning's all-time leader for wins in a season with his 31st on Mar. 15 against New Jersey and finished the season ranked fourth in the NHL with 37. Bishop also set a franchise mark in save percentage (.924). He tied for fourth in the League in shutouts (five) and placed seventh in goals-against average (2.23). Bishop is a Vezina Trophy finalist for the first time and the first Lightning nominee for the award since Daren Puppa placed third in 1996.

Tuukka Rask, Boston Bruins

Rask posted a 36-15-6 record, highlighted by a career-best 10-game point streak from Mar. 20-30 (9-0-1), as the Bruins captured their first Presidents’ Trophy since 1990 and led the Eastern Conference in team defense (2.08 GA/game). He allowed two goals or fewer in 37 of 58 starts, set single-season highs in wins and appearances, and was the only goaltender to rank among the NHL’s top five in each of the major statistical categories: first in shutouts (seven), second in save percentage (.930), fourth in goals-against average (2.04) and fifth in wins. Rask is a first-time Vezina finalist.

Semyon Varlamov, Colorado Avalanche

Varlamov led the NHL and set a franchise record with 41 victories, surpassing Avalanche head coach Patrick Roy’s previous single-season high of 40 in 2000-01, and joins Roy (1996-97) as the only goaltenders in club history to top the League in wins. He ranked first in the NHL in shots faced (2,013) and saves (1,867) and thrived under the heavy workload, posting a 7-1-1 mark when facing 40 or more shots and going 32-4-4 when facing 30-plus shots. Varlamov is a Vezina finalist for the first time and the first Avalanche goaltender nominated for the award since Roy was runner-up to Montreal’s Jose Theodore in 2001-02.

History

Leo Dandurand, Louis Letourneau and Joe Cattarinich, former owners of the Montreal Canadiens, presented the trophy to the National Hockey League in 1926-27 in memory of Georges Vezina, the outstanding Canadiens goaltender who collapsed during an NHL game on Nov. 28, 1925, and died of tuberculosis a few months later. Until the 1981-82 season, the goaltender
(s) of the team allowing the fewest number of goals during the regular season were awarded the Vezina Trophy.

Who should win the Vezina Trophy?

February, 26, 2014
Feb 26
10:00
AM ET
A lot of factors go into deciding who gets the Vezina Trophy for the top goaltender.

Is it just about numbers? And if that is the case, which statistic is most important?

Mike Smith has the most saves thus far (1,369 saves) and Ben Scrivens has the best save percentage, but it is safe to say neither goalie will take home the Vezina this season.

Josh Harding posted a league-best 1.66 goals-against average during a dominant start that made him a top candidate for the Vezina. But his battle with multiple sclerosis has kept him on the injured reserve since Dec. 31.

Marc-Andre Fleury leads the league with 31 wins, but that just raises another important question.

How much do you penalize a goaltender in the Vezina race for having a strong team in front of him?

Tuukka Rask is having another great season, but he plays on a very good team. Does that mean Ben Bishop is more deserving because he is helping his team win without Steven Stamkos?

Is Jonathan Quick automatically eliminated from consideration because he missed time with a groin injury? Also, Scrivens was a strong replacement for the Kings (before being traded to the Oilers), so is it more about the team's system than a Vezina-worthy season?

Is Carey Price the front-runner for the award? He would easily win if you base it on his dominant performance in the Olympics.

We've laid out the questions, now you give us the answer: Who should win the Vezina Trophy?

Make your voice heard. Go to Twitter @ESPN_NHL or Facebook or leave a comment below to let us know who you think should win the Vezina Trophy.
CHICAGO -- Just imagine the furor had Corey Crawford lost the game.

In the wake of the Chicago Blackhawks’ dramatic 6-5 overtime win in Game 4 -- one in which the Boston Bruins continued to target Crawford’s glove side -- the goalie has been besieged by questions about what is now perceived as a potentially fatal flaw.

Never mind that Crawford still boasts a 1.86 goals-against average and .931 save percentage.

Never mind that he’s two games away from winning the Stanley Cup or that he allowed one fewer goal in Game 4 than his Bruins counterpart, Tuukka Rask.

Crawford’s glove-hand woes have gone the hockey equivalent of viral.

For his part, Crawford, 28, has remained calm and unruffled throughout the playoffs.

“Obviously, they’ve shot there a lot more than blocker side, but for me I can’t start thinking about that because then you’re going to get in trouble if you start to think that they’re going to shoot glove,” Crawford said during a long question-and-answer session with reporters Friday.

“As a goalie, you never want to be thinking out there; you want to read and react. They made some good shots. Just got to get over it and be prepared.”

If he is surprised by the sudden attention to his glove hand, Crawford did not betray it. In fact, he noted that in the Western Conference finals, people questioned his ability to deal with shots to his blocker side.

“Both sides are bad, I guess,” he said, joking.

Were he a younger player, Crawford said, perhaps the sudden attention on this aspect of his game would have been unsettling. Not now.

“I think it's something you have to learn from,” he said. “I think if that would've happened in junior [hockey], I think I would've been pretty deflated, and my confidence would've been pretty low. I think it's something you build over time and something you learn from.”

If the media seemed unduly concerned about the fissure in Crawford’s armor, his teammates and the Chicago coaching staff seem unperturbed.

“There’s probably a lot of talk about every little play that happens out there. I think goaltenders have always received the brunt of criticism after a loss and whatnot,” defenseman Duncan Keith said.

“It’s a position they sign up for. They know they’re going to get the heat. But Corey’s been great for us all season long, and he’s always bounced back and had huge games after losses. We know that he’s going to be there for us.”

Coach Joel Quenneville likewise was unconcerned, but even if he feels otherwise, he wouldn't have shared that with the media anyway.

“He’s fine. I think that the scrutiny of goaltending at any stage of the season is at a different level of any other player, and I guess it's even more out there now that you're in the final,” Quenneville said.

“But Corey just seems to move forward, whatever the challenge is, the next shot, the next game. He's excited about the opportunity. We're excited about what he accomplished. He won a big game for us, and that's where we're at.”

Despite the line of questioning and the fact that Game 4 was his worst performance of the postseason, Crawford talked about the excitement of being here and being so close to winning the Cup for the first time.

“This is amazing. Furthest obviously I’ve ever been; so close to accomplishing a dream. You work hard your whole life to get here," he said. "It’s been a lot of fun. I’m sure the next game in this building will be the same thing, exciting crowd will be loud and it’s going to be a lot of fun."

BOSTON -- Four games into the Stanley Cup finals, there’s a bit of movement in our Conn Smythe Trophy candidate list, keeping in mind that this award -- unlike the NBA's -- reflects all four playoff rounds and not just the final series.

Still, the importance of the Cup finals has an impact on players sliding up and down the scale.

Here’s our ranking of the top four candidates on each team:

BOSTON BRUINS

1. Patrice Bergeron
2. Tuukka Rask
3. David Krejci
4. Zdeno Chara

The skinny: We ran our Bruins’ list by center Chris Kelly on Thursday.

“I don’t think you can go wrong with all four of them,” he said. “David leads the playoffs in scoring. If you’re a betting man, Tuukka. Z plays 30 minutes every game against every team’s best players, and he contributes offensively as well. Bergy is my favorite player. He never makes a mistake.

“I’ve said this before: Bergy has the offensive ability to be up there in the scoring leaders every year, but he chooses to play the game on the defensive side of the puck, which helps our team tremendously. Same with David; he reminds me of [Jason] Spezza. He’s very creative in the offensive zone, sees the ice and controls the puck well. But he plays all three zones, he plays hard. He’s killing penalties now that Soup’s out [Gregory Campbell].”

Kelly is right. Despite the half-dozen goals Rask gave up in Game 4, he is probably the bettors’ choice, and it’s hard to argue with his rock-solid netminding since the opening day of the playoffs five weeks ago.

However, my No. 1 choice is Bergeron. I just feel that his 200-foot game and clutch ability throughout the playoffs to step up at the most pressure-packed times make him the most valuable player on this team. If the Bruins win the Cup, my Conn Smythe vote will be with Bergeron.

CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS

1. Patrick Sharp
2. Jonathan Toews
3. Duncan Keith
4. Corey Crawford

The skinny: The Blackhawks are tougher to handicap for the Conn Smythe than the Bruins, who have a more clear-cut list of candidates. Perhaps telling of the many contributions the Hawks have had from different players, there aren’t obvious front-runners. But you can’t ignore Sharp’s team-leading 10 goals. He has been a consistent force and threat in this series. The bigger the game, the more Sharp seems willing to raise his play. Toews has only two goals in the playoffs, which will hurt him in the Conn Smythe voting if the Hawks win the Cup.

“Yeah, but how can’t you have him in there?” a Bruins player, who shall remain nameless, told ESPN.com. “He does it all for them.”

And that’s just it. Despite the lack of goals, Toews has been all over the ice, doing all the other things so well for his team. The Hawks would not be two wins away from the Cup without their captain doing his thing. He's the mirror version of Bergeron.

I had Keith and Crawford ranked 1-2 for the Hawks before the finals but have found both to be average in this series. Keith is a workhorse; nobody plays more minutes, and he’s been tremendous in these playoffs. I suspect you’ll see his game rise over the final stretch of the series. Crawford has looked poised and confident in the playoffs, but I don’t feel like he ever had to steal a game. His struggles in Game 4 on Wednesday night will likely hurt him a bit with the voters. But he has time to change their minds again over the next week.

Home teams dominating in playoffs

June, 19, 2013
6/19/13
11:36
AM ET
Game 4 - Stanley Cup finals
Blackhawks at Bruins, 8 ET (Bruins lead series, 2-1)


The Bruins look to take a commanding 3-1 series lead on the Blackhawks Wednesday in Boston. FROM ELIAS: Home teams are 58-25 (.699) this postseason, setting the NHL record for most wins by home clubs in a single postseason. The last time home teams had a winning percentage of .600 or higher during the Stanley Cup Playoffs was in 1993, when they went 52-33 (.612).

* Bruins: 8-2 at home in 2013 playoffs (won last 7)
* Bruins: 7-game home win streak is NHL's second-longest this postseason (Kings, 8)
* Bruins: 11-2 in last 13 playoff games (both losses have come in OT)
* Bruins: killed 27 consecutive penalties dating to Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals (all 11 in this series)
* Tuukka Rask (BOS): stopped 282 of 290 shots over last 8 games (.972 save pct)
* David Krejci (BOS): leads 2013 postseason with 23 points; equals his career-high for a playoff year (also had 23 pts in 2011)
* Patrice Bergeron (BOS): 66-30 on faceoffs in this series (68.8%)
* Blackhawks: 3-5 on road in 2013 playoffs (lost last)
* Blackhawks: lost 2 straight (8-1 in previous 9 games)
* Blackhawks: 0-11 on power play this series (6 straight games without power play goal)
* Patrick Sharp (CHI): 1 point in last 6 games (14 pts in 1st 14 games of postseason)
* Jonathan Toews (CHI): 0 points in series; 1 goal in 20 postseason games (0 in last 10 games)
* FROM ELIAS: home teams are 58-25 (.699) in the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs, setting the NHL record for most wins by home clubs in a single postseason. The last time home teams had a winning percentage of .600 or higher during the Stanley Cup Playoffs was in 1993, when they went 52-33 (.612).

Highest Save Pct in Single Postseason
Last 30 Years (Min. 10 Games)
Year Conn Smythe?
Jonathan Quick LA .946 2012 Yes
Patrick Lalime OTT .946 2002 No
J.S. Giguere ANA .945 2003 Yes
>> Tuukka Rask: .946 save pct would be 1st on this list

Stanley Cup finals - Game 3
Bruins 2, Blackhawks 0 (Bruins lead series 2-1)


The Bruins took a 2-1 series lead in the Stanley Cup finals with a 2-0 blanking of the Blackhawks. Tuukka Rask pitched his second straight shutout at home and third overall this postseason. He’s allowed 1 goal or fewer in 9 of 19 games this postseason. Game 4 is Wednesday in Boston, but the Bruins should beware. The last time the Blackhawks were shut out this postseason (May 23), they won their next five games.

* Daniel Paille (BOS): 2nd straight game with a goal; had 2 goals in first 17 games this postseason. From Elias: Paille is only the second player in the last 17 years to score the winning goal in each of two consecutive games in a Stanley Cup finals, joining Fernando Pisani, who did that for Edmonton in Games 5 and 6 of the 2006 Final against Carolina
* Game 3 winners when series is tied 1-1 have won 21 of 25 series since 1939 when (1st year of best-of-7 format)
* Tuukka Rask (BOS): 3rd shutout this postseason (2nd straight at home)
* Rask: Allowed 1 goal or fewer in 9 of 19 games this postseason
* Bruins: 26-26 on penalty kill in last 7 games (since start of Conf. Finals)
* Bruins: 11-2 in last 13 playoff games going back to Game 7 of Conference Quarterfinals vs Maple Leafs
* Bruins: 8-2 at home in 2013 playoffs (won last 7)
* Patrice Bergeron (BOS): 7th goal this postseason (new career high)
* Blackhawks: Lost 2 straight games (8-1 in previous 9 games)
* Blackhawks: Shut out for second time this postseason (May 23 vs DET - won 5 straight after that loss)
* Blackhawks: 0-11 on power play this series (6 straight games without power play goal)
* Patrick Sharp (CHI): Only 1 point in last 6 games (14 pts in previous 14 games)
* Marian Hossa (CHI): Scratched before game (had 15 points this postseason - tied for team lead)
* Game 4 Wednesday in Boston
* Home teams have won 10 straight Game 3s in Stanley Cup Final
* Bruins have won 11 straight Game 3s (regardless of series)
* The Blackhawks power play in the Stanley Cup Finals has generated 8 shots on goal, two fewer than the Bruins recorded in Game 3 alone (19 shots overall). Bruins center Patrice Bergeron, who scored on the power play in Game 3, has out-produced the entire Blackhawks team this series with the man advantage.

Power Play Comparison
Stanley Cup finals
Blackhawks Bergeron
Goals 0 2
SOG 8 5<<
PP Time 18:54 8:27
>>Most on Bruins

NEXT LEVEL: Tuukka Rask allowed 2 goals on shots to the upper half of the goal in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals, but hasn’t allowed one on 11 such shots since. His counterpart in net, Corey Crawford, has allowed all of his goals this series on high shots.

Corey Crawford and Tuukka Rask on High Shots
Stanley Cup Final
Crawford Rask
Goals 7 2<<
SOG 32 27
SV pct .781 .926
>>0 goals in last 2 games

* Tuukka Rask stopped all 28 saves for the Bruins, upping his save percentage to .946 in this postseason. If it holds, that would be the highest by a goaltender in a single postseason (min. 10 games) in the past 30 years.

Highest Save Pct in Single Postseason
Last 30 Years (Min. 10 Games)
Year Conn Smythe?
Jonathan Quick LAK .946 2012 Yes
Patrick Lalime OTT .946 2002 No
J.S. Giguere ANA .945 2003 Yes
>> Tuukka Rask: .946 save pct would be 1st on this list

BOSTON -- Pittsburgh Penguins GM Ray Shero and agent Kent Hughes, who reps star blue-liner Kris Letang, are slated to meet here in Boston on Wednesday, a source told ESPN.com.

It only makes sense because Hughes lives in Boston and Shero is in town for the NHL's general managers meeting.

It could potentially be a pivotal meeting in terms of what transpires on the Letang front. The blue-liner has one year left on his deal, but Shero’s usual M.O. is not to wait it out. Just look at the Jordan Staal situation a year ago. After Staal, who had one year left on his deal, rejected a contract extension from the Penguins, Shero dealt him quickly thereafter.

It could be that Shero will get the ball rolling on trade talks if Letang rejects whatever offer might be coming from the Penguins' GM.

And know this, I don’t think Letang signs for any less than $7 million a season.

Wednesday’s meeting, therefore, will be a compelling discussion either way.

BRIERE BUYOUT

Daniel Briere will be an unrestricted free agent soon, with the Philadelphia Flyers deciding to buy him out.

A source told ESPN.com that Briere and Paul Holmgren met last week, at which time the Flyers' GM informed the veteran center of the team’s decision. No bitter feelings, though, as I’m told Briere feels Holmgren handled it with class.

The buyout will wipe out Briere’s $6.5 million cap hit for the next two seasons.

What remains to be seen is whether the Flyers will buy out goalie Ilya Bryzgalov, a decision that has been met with mixed opinions within the Flyers front office.

The decision is whether to do it now or wait one more year, when they can still get a cap-friendly buyout.

Perhaps what might push the Flyers into buying out Bryzgalov now is the availability of young netminder Jonathan Bernier from the Los Angeles Kings.

My TSN colleague, Bob McKenzie, reported during our Insider Trading segment Tuesday night that the Flyers, Maple Leafs and Islanders were most interested in Bernier.

One source told ESPN.com Tuesday that five teams have serious interest in Bernier, the list cut down from the nearly dozen clubs that poked around about him.

COACHING CAROUSEL

Could the New York Rangers and Vancouver Canucks simply swap coaches this offseason?

It’s possible.

We know Alain Vigneault will be the new Rangers bench boss, the official announcement imminent. But what about John Tortorella?

He has interviewed in Vancouver, and a source told ESPN.com that the Canucks were impressed with Torts. He is among the final four candidates for the Canucks' coach gig vacated by Vigneault. The others are John Stevens, Scott Arniel and Lindy Ruff.

The intensity that Torts brings and the accountability he would demand from players are elements that impressed Canucks brass.

Stevens would be a more cerebral coach, his defensive work on the 2012 Stanley Cup champion Kings not to be overlooked. Ruff is a stud candidate, of course, and Arniel is viewed by some in the industry as a guy who deserves another shot after what happened in Columbus.

Another potential candidate is Dave Tippett (whose deal is up), depending on what transpires with the Phoenix Coyotes' ownership front. If Tippett were to become available, my guess is both Vancouver and the Dallas Stars would want to talk to him.

TUUKKA’S FUTURE

Give agent Bill Zito a lot of credit. When he signed his client Tuukka Rask to just a one-year deal a year ago, some people criticized him. The gamble, though, was that Rask would excel in his first full season as Boston Bruins starter with Tim Thomas gone -- and boy, oh boy, has that been an incredible decision by Zito.

Cha-ching, cha-ching.

Zito and Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli talked about an extension back after the lockout-shortened season began in January, but then mutually decided it would be better to wait until after the season was over to pick it up again regarding the star netminder, a restricted free agent.

SIGNINGS

On the heals of the Penguins locking up star center Evgeni Malkin a year before he was due to become a free agent, the Detroit Red Wings and Pavel Datsyuk, while the Sharks have agreed to a five-year extension with Logan Couture worth $6 million a year.

A couple of thoughts on each deal: First in Detroit, where I wonder what the Datsyuk signing means for pending UFA center Valtteri Filppula. In a weak UFA class, Filppula can likely fetch north of $5 million on the open market, and I think that coin is too rich for Detroit. Expect the Wings and Zito, also Filppula’s agent, to meet next week at the draft though.

As for Couture, the term (five years) is reflective of how San Jose has managed to keep its top players from signing those lifetime deals that other stars get around the league, which allows GM Doug Wilson to stay out of a payroll/cap jam. Other than Couture now, not a single player on the Sharks roster has a deal that extends past five years, Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau both signing shorter-term deals a few years ago.

SENATORS UPDATE

Ottawa Senators GM Bryan Murray held a brief discussion with Jack Adams Award winner Paul MacLean about a contract extension last weekend and is expected to sit down with his coach next week at the draft. MacLean has one year left on his deal.

Murray has chatted briefly with captain Daniel Alfredsson, who is an UFA and undecided on whether to keep playing or not. In a perfect world, Murray would get an answer before Alfredsson goes back to Sweden for the summer next week, which would give the Sens the ability to hit trade talks/free agency with the knowledge of whether or not he’s back.

But if Alfredsson needs more time to think about it, Murray said it would be no problem at all. Meanwhile, other UFAs on the Ottawa roster include Guillaume Latendresse, Peter Regin and Mike Lundin, none of whom likely will get a contract offer from the Senators.

THIS AND THAT

Veteran agent Don Meehan expects to meet with Rangers GM Glen Sather in New York/New Jersey the week of the draft to talk extension for star goalie Henrik Lundqvist. That’s going to be an expensive re-sign. …

The Carolina Hurricanes offered pending UFA Dan Ellis a new deal, but the veteran backup netminder informed them he was headed to market. …

Speaking of the Hurricanes, they’ve gotten calls about their No. 5 overall pick for the June 30 draft, but the intention right now is to keep the pick. …

Contract talks have been ongoing since the end of their season between the Kings and pending UFA blue-liner Rob Scuderi. The expectation is that veteran agent Steve Bartlett will meet in person with Kings GM Dean Lombardi on draft week. With Slava Voynov signing a six-year, $25 million deal Tuesday, Scuderi is now clearly the top priority. …

No surprise at all but the expectation is that pending UFA center Derek Roy, who was dealt by the Stars to the Canucks at the deadline, is headed to market. …

The NHL’s 30 GMs meet here Wednesday before Game 4 of the Stanley Cup finals, and while Patrick Roy will be handling trade discussions for the Colorado Avalanche, Greg Sherman will represent the franchise at the meeting.


CHICAGO -- For much of the early part of Game 2 of these achingly close Stanley Cup finals, it appeared as though the Boston Bruins had spoken the right words but were going to be unable to summon the will to move on from an emotional triple-overtime loss in Game 1.

Oh, they had talked the talk, all right. They had talked about their experience and their belief in themselves.

And then they came out and played a first period that suggested the complete opposite, that they were in fact crippled by their 4-3 loss in Game 1.

But slowly, inch by inch, minute by minute, the Bruins made good on those words and became the kind of team they insisted they were.

They started hitting everything that moved in a Chicago Blackhawks jersey, and by the time overtime rolled around, they had tilted the entire ice surface to their side, capping off a dramatic 2-1 come-from-behind victory with Daniel Paille's goal with 6:12 left in the first overtime.

"It's great and exciting for the fans who watch the hockey games," offered Boston winger Jaromir Jagr, who had a strong game for the Bruins and narrowly missed ending the game himself, ringing one off the crossbar earlier in overtime. "If you have a bad heart, you might not watch the game because you might get a heart attack. For young people, it's pretty exciting to watch. Old people don't watch it because you might die just watching."

Now, the pressure shifts to a Chicago team that must come to grips with its failure to bury the Bruins in a first period in which they dominated Boston, outshooting them 19-4.

"It's like the second period; I thought we lost the pace of the game on that end of the rink. We had the perfect start to the game, then we stopped doing what made us successful," Chicago head coach Joel Quenneville said. "We stood around. They countered."

"We’ve got to swallow this one and move on," said Patrick Sharp, the Blackhawks’ lone goal scorer. "They’re a good team. They’re tough to play against. They protect their net well, and for all the talk about how big tough and physical they are, they move well, too."

As this series moves along, one wonders if the Blackhawks will think back to the first period of Game 2 as the moment when this series got away from them.

Were it not for Tuukka Rask’s continued brilliance in the Boston goal, Game 2 would have been over early and perhaps the series as well.

But that’s not how it played out.

"Well, we definitely were in survival mode there for a bit. It looked like they had more guys out there than we did," said Rask, who has now allowed two or fewer goals 13 times in this playoff year.

In the Bruins' room after that period, there was a lot of soul-searching.

"We told ourselves we have to wake up. It’s the Stanley Cup finals,” defenseman Dennis Seidenberg said. "You don’t get here too many times in your life. It’s now or never and we started playing better slowly, and finally found our gear towards the end of the second."

Although the Bruins lost the first two games of the 2011 Stanley Cup finals on the road in Vancouver and came back to win four of the next five and the Cup, the odds of repeating that feat this year against a team as deep and talented as Chicago would have been remote.

"It was a dirty road win, I would say," Seidenberg said. "I mean, we didn’t deserve to only be down one after the first but we ground it out somehow and again Tuukka saved us. But it’s huge going back home and I don’t know if it’s momentum but we can certainly build off that."

Although this game lacked the spark and sizzle of Game 1, in which the Bruins built a 3-1 lead and then traded chances for 112:08 before Andrew Shaw gave the Blackhawks the victory, it was dynamic in its own way.

In the two off days between games, Bruins head coach Claude Julien talked about the team’s poise and how not much rattles his troops. That was borne out Saturday, as the Bruins survived the first period and then allowed just 15 shots the rest of the way.

On a night when neither team’s big guns were particularly visible -- Sharp scored the lone goal for the Blackhawks during that dominating first -- the Bruins got two goals from a revamped third line and it happened to be enough to redefine the narrative of this series.

"I think we stopped thinking and started playing and realized we had to help the team. That helps your game when you stop thinking and using your natural ability," Paille explained.

Paille, Chris Kelly and Tyler Seguin were thrown together midway through the game and were the best unit on the ice for either team, tying the game on a hard-working shift in the second period and then winning it on a nice pass from Seguin to Paille in the slot.

"It was awesome. I know being on the bench for that one, playing 10 periods in two games, it was nice to see that one go in and not have to go to double overtime and to get us back in the series," Milan Lucic said. "It was a big goal. Two big goals by that line. Another great game by Tuukka. We definitely had to earn this one."

While that unit provided the scoring heroics, the rest of the Bruins' lineup provided moments that facilitated the comeback.

The big line of Nathan Horton, Lucic and David Krejci struggled mightily in the first period and it appeared as though the injury that saw Horton miss most of the overtime sessions in Game 1 was prohibiting him from playing with the same abandon we had seen earlier in the playoff year.

But as the game progressed, Lucic was a force, plastering Blackhawk players to the boards all over the ice.

"When things aren’t going your way, you try to get yourself into it any way you can," Lucic said. "For myself, that’s what I was trying to do was be physical and get in on the forecheck, and it seemed like things started to happen for us after that. So we talked about it before the series that our forecheck is going to be key for us and we have to keep it up for us."

The line of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and Jagr likewise looked out of sync in the first but was among the most dangerous units late in the game and in overtime, when the Bruins dominated. Along with his crossbar, Jagr led all Bruins with five shots.

"Like I told our guys, we got to show up on time for these kind of games. It could have cost us tonight," Julien said. "Again, we got rewarded because I thought from the second period on, we were a good team, a better team, and by the end I thought we had more chances."


CHICAGO -- Nearly 10 periods of hockey through two games of the Stanley Cup finals and one thing is crystal clear.

There’s almost nothing to choose between the Boston Bruins and Chicago Blackhawks.

Five goals apiece and two overtime games, a series many expected to go the distance sure smells like it will.

"Two good teams playing in the finals," Bruins captain Zdeno Chara said after his team evened the series with a 2-1 OT win. "It’s very even. You know, small things are usually going to decide those games."

Small things, like Bruins defenseman Adam McQuaid pinching to stand up Brandon Bollig inside the Blackhawks' blue line, which forced a turnover and led to Daniel Paille's overtime goal 13:48 into the first extra session.

One little play, a good one by McQuaid, a mistake by Bollig, and that’s all that separated two great hockey teams on this night.

The smallest of margins will decide games in this series.

"Both sides felt it was going to be a tight series," said Blackhawks star forward Patrick Sharp, who scored his team’s lone goal. "Every shift is going to matter. And you saw it in this game, it is pretty evenly matched. I expect more of the same heading forward. ...

"Every shift is important. Every bounce is important. Momentum is definitely huge as well."

The Blackhawks had all the momentum early on in Game 2, outshooting the Bruins 19-4 in the opening period, definitely tilting the ice on the visitors, but getting only Sharp’s goal out of it.

"Well, we definitely were in survival mode there for a bit," said Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask, who saved his team in the opening period. "It looked like they had more guys out there than we did. They were pouncing on every single puck in front of net, had a lot of chances. We definitely played pretty bad. But, you know, it was good that we were only down by one and regrouped after that."

Regroup the Bruins did, finding their legs and their style of game in the second period, eventually tying it on Chris Kelly's first of the playoffs at 14:58.

The Bruins outshot the Hawks 24-15 in the final two periods and overtime, gradually turning the tables on the Blackhawks, particularly in overtime, when Boston enjoyed most of the chances.

"I don’t think we played well enough to win that one in overtime at all," said Blackhawks defenseman Brent Seabrook. "We played well in the game, but in overtime they had lots of chances."

The Bruins began the evening frustrated; the Hawks ended the night feeling the same way.

It’s a microcosm of what this series is already about: neither team able to dominate the other for an entire game, instead one team counterpunching the other. Both will get their stretches; whether they capitalize enough during those stretches will be key.

The Hawks’ speed game gave the Bruins fits in the opening 20 minutes, causing turnovers in the Boston zone and generating tons of chances and zone time. That’s Chicago’s game.

The Bruins countered with their trademark physicality, hitting every Chicago jersey in sight in the hopes of softening some Hawks players as the night went on. It appeared to work.

"They definitely came out with a lot of speed in the first period and we wanted to somehow change that," Paille said. "Playing physical is a part of our game where we've been successful. I think that's been huge for us. We started to pick up the pace after that."

Well, as Kelly pointed out, after being outshot 19-4, something had to be done, so why not go to their bread and butter: banging bodies.

"I figured we had to do something because we weren't doing much in that first period," said Kelly, laughing, after his team outhit Chicago 50-34. "We're a big, strong team. We want to finish our hits when they're there, try to wear teams down. We didn't really have the puck a whole lot. There was lots of times to hit. Maybe it was a little one-sided that way."

The question, though, is whether the turning of the tide in this game was simply because of Boston’s physicality or perhaps also because Chicago was guilty of taking its foot off the pedal after the opening period.

From the sidelines, it just seemed like the Hawks suddenly seemed content to nurse a 1-0 lead and stopped attacking in droves the way they had earlier.

"Scoring first was big, the building was into it, we were using our legs and skating and for whatever reason that didn’t sustain itself," said Sharp.

Hawks head coach Joel Quenneville stresses the importance of the defensive side of the game. His team is underrated for its ability to play on that side of the puck. But, to me, in this particular series, that plays into the hands of a grinding Bruins team that would like nothing else to make this about 2-1 hockey games.

Easier said than done, but I believe the Hawks have to use their most important asset -- team speed -- for 60 minutes of hockey to gain the upper hand on the Bruins.

"When you score a goal and are playing the way we were playing in the first period, you need to find a way to sustain that, and we didn't quite do that tonight," said Hawks captain Jonathan Toews.

"No one said it was going to be easy," Toews later added. "No one said everything was going to go our way. Some moments, you feel pretty darn good, like when we won Game 1 and triple overtime, and tonight it doesn't feel good. You've got to find a way to get over it to move to the next time you're going to be on the ice, and not let it affect you."

The pressure now shifts to the Hawks, who need to win at least one game in Boston in this series if they’re going to win a second Stanley Cup in four years.

But just like you never got the sense the resilient Bruins were rattled one bit by their triple-OT heartbreaker in Game 1, I don’t think the Blackhawks -- who rallied from 3-1 down against Detroit -- are going to suddenly feel overwhelmed by the task at hand.

"I don’t think at this point either team is going to get upset with the word 'pressure,'" said Sharp. "There’s a lot of pressure being in the finals, both teams are excited to be here. We know it’s going to be tough, Games 3 and 4 in Boston. Dropping this one makes it that much more of a challenge. But we’ve got a day to regroup and recover and we’ll be ready to go."


CHICAGO -- In the moment when Michal Rozsival's point shot ricocheted first off teammate Dave Bolland's stick and then off Andrew Shaw's leg and past a helpless Tuukka Rask to bring this epic Stanley Cup final tilt to an end came two thoughts.

First: Thank goodness.

Second: Can we do that again? Now?

And again and again and again?

If Game 1 of the 2013 Stanley Cup finals, a 4-3 triple-overtime victory for the host Chicago Blackhawks, is any indication, the series the hockey world had been anticipating is going to deliver the goods. And then some.

After both conference finals fell far short in the drama department, Wednesday’s final-series opener delivered 112:08 of hockey at its most dramatic. A rollicking back-and-forth affair that left both players and fans limp with exhaustion.

"It’s fun being in the finals, the last two teams playing, all the hockey world is watching, and to be put an effort like that from both sides, it was fun to be a part of," Patrick Sharp said.

"And thank god it’s over," he added.

An elated Shaw managed to drop an F-bomb on NBC after his big goal, and then found it difficult later to put the experience into words.

"Emotions are high, but [I'm] too exhausted right now to express it," Shaw said.

Forget the idea that these two teams would require time to feel each other out; perhaps start in a cautious manner, as so often happens at the start of a playoff series. The Bruins and Blackhawks started this one in mid-stride, in full flight, if you will. And over the course of a little more than five and a half periods revealed the kind of character one would expect of two teams that have risen above the rest in this playoff spring.

Two battle-tested teams pushing forward, only to be pushed back.

The Bruins would strike first, and then again with two Milan Lucic goals.

And how much have the Bruins loved a lead? They never trailed in their four-game sweep of the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Eastern Conference finals and were 8-2 this playoff year when scoring first and 5-0 when leading after the first period.

After rookie of the year nominee Brandon Saad tallied his first of the postseason to make it 2-1 early in the second period, the Bruins looked like they would coast to a Game 1 victory when Patrice Bergeron restored the two-goal lead with a laser on the power play.

It was the first power-play goal for the Bruins since Game 5 of the second round and only the fourth power-play goal the Blackhawks had allowed all spring.

But these Blackhawks are no strangers to adversity, having overcome a 3-1 series deficit against the Detroit Red Wings in the second round. There is no crumble in that room.

They scored twice in 4:14 in the third period -- the tying goal coming off a Johnny Oduya shot that glanced past Rask off defenseman Andrew Ference's skate, setting the stage for a frenetic stretch of overtime hockey.

After tying the game, the Blackhawks appeared as though they would push the Bruins right out of Game 1 altogether.

In the first overtime, the Bruins held the decisive edge in play, with Corey Crawford having to come up big on chances by Shawn Thornton and Brad Marchand.

The Hawks had the better chances in the second overtime frame.

The Bruins twice had power plays thanks to too-many-men-on-the-ice calls against Chicago, one in the first overtime and one in the final minute of the second overtime. In those final seconds of the fifth period, Bruins captain Zdeno Chara’s point shot eluded netminder Crawford but hit the post.

In the third overtime, Kaspars Daugavins had a glorious chance for the Bruins. The winger, picked up on waivers from Ottawa early in the season, had the puck alone in front and Crawford down, but he could not find the back of the net, tripping to the ice as the puck skittered wide. Television cameras caught him with his head resting on the edge of the bench, a mixture of exhaustion and frustration.

"I was more frustrated that I missed it, and after I missed it I thought maybe a call because it was pretty obvious there was a stick in my foot. But you have to score those chances. You can’t let those slide by, especially in triple overtime," Daugavins said.

Moments later, Shaw would make that miss seem exponentially larger.

Punch, counterpunch.

Each team creating a chance, making a defensive play to deny a chance.

Reset. Then go again. Punch, counterpunch.

Chance for chance, hit for hit, save for save.

By the end of the night, Boston had been credited with 59 hits, Chicago 61.

They were virtually equal in faceoff wins and losses.

"I mean, both teams are just kicking, trying to survive. Every time you go back on the ice, you just try and get that feeling that it's just going to be that one chance that makes the difference," Chicago captain Jonathan Toews said.

While the Bruins, who have never trailed in a series this spring, will need to regroup by Saturday's Game 2, there was still a sense of having been involved in something remarkable on this night.

"Think about it overnight and you realize we’ve been down a lot worse. It’s one game. It was a fun game to be a part of. It was great hockey out there," said Tyler Seguin, who assisted on the Bergeron goal. "By the end of those overtimes, I talked to a couple of guys on their team just saying, 'Someone end it, please.' The boys were getting tired."

A couple of hours before puck drop, commissioner Gary Bettman met with the media, and among the questions were several about the lockout that threatened at one point to scuttle the entire season. The show put on by the Bruins and Blackhawks made it seem as though the labor dispute was a bad dream.

"We said it was going to be a series like that, and [if] the first game’s any indication, we weren’t wrong," Thornton said. "We had our chances and all of those overtimes; rang one off the post on the power play at the end of the second overtime. It’s playoff hockey. It’s fun to watch. We’ll think about this 'til we get out of here, and then got to shake it off and get ready for Saturday."

The only shame is that we have to wait that long to see how the next one turns out.

Pens have little hope of rally -- or do they?

June, 4, 2013
6/04/13
11:21
AM ET
Eastern Conference Finals - Game 2
Bruins 6, Penguins 1 (Bruins lead series 2-0)


The Boston Bruins took a 2-0 series lead in the Eastern Conference finals, as they won Game 2 6-1 in Pittsburgh. The Bruins have outscored the Penguins 9-1 in the series. Under the current playoff format, teams trailing 2-0 in the conference finals are 0-16 in the series. But there is hope. The last team to win the conference finals after trailing 2-0 were the 1991 Penguins (overcame deficit to defeat Bruins in 6 games). Jaromir Jagr was a 19-year-old rookie with the Penguins that season.

* Bruins: won 7 of last 8 postseason games
* Bruins: 2-0 vs PIT in postseason (had lost previous 6 regular-season meetings)
* Brad Marchand (BOS): 2 goals ... 3rd career multi-goal playoff game
* Johnny Boychuk (BOS): goal ... 5 goals this postseason (most he's ever had in the regular season is 5)
* David Krejci (BOS): goal ... leads NHL in scoring this postseason with 20 points (8G, 12A)
* Nathan Horton (BOS): goal, assist ... 2G, 3A in series
* Tuukka Rask (BOS): stopped 55 of 56 shots in series
* Tomas Vokoun (PIT): replaced by Marc-Andre Fleury after allowing 3 goals in first 16:31
* Sidney Crosby (PIT): -1 and team-high 4 giveaways
* The last time the Penguins scored one goal over a span of two home games was October 2006 (lost 2-0 to the Red Wings and 5-1 to the Hurricanes with a road game in between). That was Sidney Crosby's 2nd year in the NHL. The last time the Penguins scored one goal over consecutive games, both at home, was January 2004 when they lost 4-1 to the Rangers on January 3rd and 5-0 to the Maple Leafs on January 5th. How long ago was that? Mark Messier, rumored to be in the running to be the next Rangers coach had 2 assists in that game. Eric Lindros was also on that Rangers team.

Best-of-Seven Series History
Bruins: 22-7 when up 2-0
Penguins: 5-6 when trailing 2-0

Conference Finals Since Current Playoff Format Adopted in 1993-94
Teams trailing 2-0 are 0-16 in the series
Teams trailing 2-0 after losing first 2 games at home are 0-8 in the series

FROM ELIAS: The Bruins hold a commanding lead in the Eastern Conference finals after winning the first two games of the series by scores of 3–0 and 6–1. It’s only the eighth time in NHL history that a team has recorded a road win by a three-goal or larger margin in each the first two games of a playoff series, but it’s the fourth such series involving the Bruins. In 1970, Boston won by scores of 6–3 and 4–1 at Chicago in the first two games of its Semi-Final series against the Blackhawks, and then repeated that feat with 6–1 and 6–2 wins at St. Louis in Games 1 and 2 of the Stanley Cup Final. The Bruins were on the receiving end in 1995, when Martin Brodeur and the Devils posted 5–0 and 3–0 shutouts at Boston Garden in the first two games of a first-round series.

FROM ELIAS: The Bruins outscored the Penguins, 4–1, in the first period enroute to a 6–1 victory in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Final at Pittsburgh. It was the first time in 30 years that a visiting team scored four or more goals in the opening period of a Conference Final or Stanley Cup Final game. In Edmonton’s series-clinching win at Chicago in Game 4 of the 1983 Campbell Conference Final, the Oilers outscored the Blackhawks, 4–1, in the first period, with Wayne Gretzky recording one goal and one assist.

NEXT LEVEL: The Bruins have been scoring from distance this postseason, with their goals coming on shots 29.4 feet away from the net on average. Only the Canucks, who scored 7 goals in a 1st-round sweep to the Sharks, have scored from further out this postseason.

Longest Avg Shot Distance
On Goals This Postseason

Canucks 35.9'
Bruins 29.4'<<
Red Wings 28.8'
Capitals 25.8'
>>47 goals this postseason (2nd-most)

- 14 of the Bruins goals have come from the point this postseason, 8 more than the next highest team.

Rask slams the door for the first time

June, 3, 2013
6/03/13
1:50
PM ET
Eastern Conference Finals – Game 2
Bruins at Penguins, 8 ET (Bruins lead series 1-0)

* In Game 1, Penguins were shut out for the first time in 96 games (Toronto, Feb. 1, 2012)
* Bruins win in Game 1 snapped a 6-game losing streak vs Penguins (all 6 were regular-season games)
* Tuukka Rask's (BOS) shutout in Game 1 (29 saves) was the first of his postseason career
* Boston’s Jaromir Jagr (0-40) and Tyler Seguin (1-45) have combined for 1G on 85 shots this postseason
* Bruins: won 6 of last 7 games (only loss came in OT at NYR in Game 4 of Eastern Conference Semifinals)
* Penguins: 3-0 this postseason following a loss (outscored opponents 16-7)
* Evgeni Malkin (PIT): 1G, 1A in last 4 games after 8-game point streak to start postseason (3G, 11A)
* Sidney Crosby (PIT): 1 point (goal) in 3 games vs Bruins this season (regular season and playoffs)

2-0 Deficit Not Insurmountable: The Penguins look to avoid a 2-0 hole tonight against Boston, but they’ve overcome such deficits before. Since winning their first Stanley Cup in 1991, the Penguins are 5-3 in series when losing the first two games. According to Elias, no other team over that stretch has more than two series wins in those situations and all six of those teams have win percentages of .400 or below.


PITTSBURGH -- It was probably the moment when Evgeni Malkin and Patrice Bergeron, he of the one career NHL fight, decided to drop the gloves and start whaling on each other at center ice that illustrated how very quickly this Eastern Conference finals had gone off the charts emotionally. And while Malkin, a former Hart Trophy winner, scoring champ and playoff MVP, might have won a unanimous decision in his rare bout with the Boston center, it was the Bruins who scored the Game 1 knockout by blanking the Penguins by a 3-0 count.

The game, a curious affair filled with borderline and over-the-line plays, including a hitting-from-behind call against the polarizing Matt Cooke, put us immediately in mind of last year’s first-round series between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia: a wacky, out-of-kilter series that featured at one point simultaneous fights between Claude Giroux and Sidney Crosby and Kris Letang and Kimmo Timonen.

Given how the Philadelphia-Pittsburgh series of April 2012 turned out, with the Flyers getting the Penguins completely off their game and walking away with a six-game victory -- including victories in the first two games in Pittsburgh -- you have to figure Saturday’s emotionally charged affair was exactly what the Bruins were looking for to begin the conference finals.

"I don’t think the situation at the end of the second period was in our favor," Pittsburgh head coach Dan Bylsma said of the Malkin fight and an extended jawing session between the two captains, Boston’s Zdeno Chara towering over his counterpart Sidney Crosby while exchanging pleasantries near where the fight was taking place.

Although the Penguins trailed just 1-0 at that point, Bylsma pointed to that moment as the one where Game 1 got away from the Penguins and conversely when the Bruins seized control.

The Penguins were on a power play at the end of the second period that would carry into the third, thanks to another potentially dangerous play by Brad Marchand, who was called for boarding after hitting James Neal from behind near the Pittsburgh bench.

But with the Penguins missing power play mainstay Malkin, off for fighting, as well as Chris Kunitz, who was sent off late in the second with Rich Peverley for another dustup, the Bruins continued their strong penalty kill, and shortly after the Penguins’ power play ended scored their second goal to suck the life out of the Penguins.

"It did get us off our game," Bylsma acknowledged.

Defenseman Brooks Orpik suggested the Bruins are the team better suited for those kinds of extracurricular activities and that it did seem to change the course of the game.

"After that, it seemed like they were a lot better," he said.

The Bruins, of course, saw that defining moment through a different prism.

"That sums up this time of year," Boston defenseman Andrew Ference said. "Two of the top guys on each team are raising the stakes and will do anything to either fire up the team, to swing momentum, to establish what this series is going to be all about. It’s impressive to see guys like that do that dirty work. It’s raw emotion and it’s good."

Ference returned to the lineup after missing seven games with an injury and added an assist on the Bruins’ first goal, a David Krejci blast that nicked off the skate of Pittsburgh defenseman Paul Martin and squeezed through netminder Tomas Vokoun’s pads.

Bruins coach Claude Julien gave the matter little thought, which is most often how these incidents are viewed from the winning side.

"I didn't see everything happen except that there was a fight. I saw Sidney [Crosby] push our goaltender as he's skating off," Julien said.

"This is playoff hockey. Those things are going to happen. You don't whine or complain about it, you just deal with it. What we had to deal with tonight was winning a hockey game. That's all that mattered."

Nine times in their first 11 postseason games, the Penguins scored four or more goals. They did so with a relentless forecheck and at times uncontainable skill. In the latter stages of the New York Islanders series and for long stretches against Ottawa in the second round, the Penguins dictated pace, imposing their will upon the game.

One wondered then how the Bruins would or could contain that kind of offensive might, how they might grab the tiller themselves.

As it turned out, they did it by winning the patience game and goading the Penguins into a kind of emotional space they are far better to avoid.

"It’s tough. They’re letting a lot go out there. The more and more it gets like that, the more it’s going to escalate," said Crosby, who was whistled for two minor penalties.

"Keep letting guys do that stuff, they’re just going to push the envelope," he added. "That’s something we obviously want to stay away from but it’s kind of a natural thing when it gets like that."

You never know at the start of a series how the two elements are going to mix.

These two teams have little in the way of relevant history and yet the heightened tension, the short tempers, the borderline and across-the-line hits and post-whistle scrums suggested teams that have had a long-simmering feud that quickly boiled over onto the brightly lit ice.

While there were obvious signs of rust -- to be anticipated when the league inexplicably delayed the start of the series until Saturday evening, giving the two teams a week off from playoff action -- there was no rust in the emotion department.

That the emotion turned ugly and thus prompted more bad blood was, if not inevitable, then at least not unexpected.

Cooke crunched Adam McQuaid from behind into the end boards and earned a five-minute major and a game misconduct for hitting from behind before the second period was two minutes old.

Although Julien said during an in-game interview he believed McQuaid might have put himself in a vulnerable position, it doesn’t absolve Cooke, of all people, from understanding what is a borderline hit.

That Marchand was whistled for a potentially dangerous hit from behind on Neal but received only a two-minute minor enraged the sold-out CONSOL Energy Center crowd, although the hit had much less velocity than the one administered by Cooke.

Although the penalties had little bearing on the outcome of the game -- the two teams combined to go 0-for-8 with the man advantage, including a three-minute power play the Bruins enjoyed after the Cooke major -- they were certainly part of the emotional tapestry of the evening.

"As far as the emotion, I don’t know, it definitely wasn’t what we had in the Ottawa series but after what happened at the end of the second there, maybe it’ll ramp up," Orpik suggested.

If that’s the case, hang onto your hats for Game 2 on Monday.

Rangers are toast -- or are they?

May, 23, 2013
5/23/13
1:34
PM ET


With a 3-0 series lead, the Bruins on Thursday can eliminate the Rangers and advance to the Eastern Conference finals. The Rangers are 0-10 all-time in playoff series when trailing 3-0; however they are playing one of the three teams in playoff history that has blown a 3-0 series lead: 1942 Red Wings (up 3-0 on Maple Leafs), 1975 Penguins (vs Islanders) and 2010 Bruins (vs Flyers).

Sweep Justice: The Bruins look to finish off the Rangers Thursday night and increase their chances for a Stanley Cup. Over the previous 10 postseasons, six teams have posted sweeps in the conference semifinal round. Four of them went on to win the Stanley Cup (Kings in 2012, Bruins in 2011, Red Wings in 2008 and Lightning in 2004).

Where’s The Scoring? The Blackhawks look for offense Thursday night after being held to just one goal in each of their last two games. From Elias: Chicago was the only team to go through the 2012-13 regular season without a streak of two or more consecutive games in which it scored fewer than two goals.

Eastern Conference Semifinals – Game 4
Bruins at Rangers, 7 ET (Bruins lead series, 3-0)
* Bruins: seeking 2nd series sweep in Conference Semifinals in last 3 postseasons (swept Flyers in 2011 Conference Semifinals)
* Bruins: 6 of 10 games this postseason have been decided by 1 goal (4-2 in those games – won last 3)
* Tuukka Rask (BOS): 3-0, 1.53 GAA, .948 save percent (5 GA on 96 SA in 195:40 played) in this series (4-3, 2.49 GAA, .923 save percent in Conference Quarterfinals vs Maple Leafs)
* Rangers: 0-10 all-time in playoff series when trailing 3-0
* Rangers: 0-10 on power play in this series, 2-38 (5.3 percent) on power play this postseason (worst among remaining playoff teams)
* Rangers: have scored 2 goals or less in 7 of 10 games this season (1-6 in those games)
* Rangers: have not been swept in a playoff series since 2006 postseason (lost 4-0 to Devils in Conference Quarterfinals)

Western Conference Semifinals – Game 4
Blackhawks at Red Wings, 8 ET (Red Wings lead series, 2-1)
* Red Wings: won last 3 home playoff games, 2 coming in overtime
* Red Wings: 1-15 on power play in 4 HOME playoff games)
* Jimmy Howard (DET): 4-1, 2.00 GAA, .942 save percent (10 GA on 171 SA in 300:13 played) over last 5 games
* Blackhawks: only team yet to allow a power play goal in 2013 playoffs (29-29 on penalty kill)
* Blackhawks: 0-8 on power play in ROAD games this postseason (3-14 in home games)

Western Conference Semifinals – Game 5
Sharks at Kings, 10:30 ET (Series tied, 2-2)
* Home team has won all 4 games in series
* Kings: 5-0 at home in 2013 playoffs
* FROM ELIAS: Kings are 20-0 when they score at least 2 goals over the last two playoff years
* Jonathan Quick (LA): 6-0, 1.33 GAA, .949 save percent, 2 shutouts (8 GA on 158 SA in 359:51 played) in last 6 home playoff games dating back to last season
* Sharks: 1-16 on power play in ROAD games this postseason (9-24 at home)
* Logan Couture (SJ): has goals in each of last 2 games (all 5 goals this postseason have come on the power play)
Rich PeverlyAP Photo/The Canadian Press, Frank GunnWhen the Maple Leafs had the momentum Monday, the Bruins quickly flipped the script.

TORONTO -- The Boston Bruins barely allowed the NHL’s most pent-up playoff crowd to party.

The visitors scored first, and then when the Toronto Maple Leafs gave their fans reason to shake the building with a goal that cut the lead to 2-1 in the second period, Boston tallied right back just 50 seconds later to end the fun.

That was it. About 50 seconds of ear-splitting adrenaline for the locals who have dreamed for nearly a decade of what playoff hockey felt like in their home barn.

"It was a 2-1 hockey game and we had the building going our way, and there was a lot of energy and momentum going," Leafs head coach Randy Carlyle said after the 5-2 Game 3 loss. "We made a mistake and gave them a goal, I think, the very next shift. That takes the wind out of our sails."

On a night that was nine years and two days in the making, an electric pregame atmosphere basically fizzled out thanks to a textbook road game by the 2011 Stanley Cup champions.

And the Leafs didn’t even play badly.

No, Game 3 of this Eastern Conference quarterfinals series was actually, perhaps, finally demonstrative of the true reality of these two teams.

The Leafs were brutal in Game 1, the Bruins not very good in Game 2.

Monday night, both teams put a good foot forward but in what is an accurate measure of where both teams stand: the Bruins deeper and more experienced, they made fewer mistakes and capitalized on their opportunities for a well-earned victory to seize a 2-1 series lead.

"You have to give the opposition credit. They came in, they played hard, they forced us to make mistakes and, consequently, they won the hockey game," Carlyle said. "That’s really it -- they made less mistakes than we did, and their execution level was beyond ours."

Which is often the difference between experienced teams and clubs working to gain that type of playoff knowledge.

"You can say they’re a veteran team and that their lineup has been through more wars than ours," Carlyle said. "You explain to your team that every game is a test, every shift is a test. This is a war of attrition. There’s skill involved in it, there’s will involved in it, and there’s luck involved in it. But you have to earn every one of them. We didn’t do enough and we made too many mistakes to give ourselves the proper chance to win."

Toronto had its chances, and there were moments in the game when its speed and transition gave the Bruins fits and led to good zone time.

Bruins/Leafs
AP Photo/Nathan DenetteTuukka Rask turned aside 45 of the 47 shots he faced Monday.
When the Leafs threatened, a confident Tuukka Rask of the Bruins was up to the task, aggressively challenging and doing well to find the puck through screens. He pushed away 45 of 47 shots.

The real difference on this night, though? Mistakes, as in the number committed by a game-yet-still-green Leafs squad finding its playoff wings.

Ryan O’Byrne’s giveaway behind his own net to none other than future Hall of Famer Jaromir Jagr set up Rich Peverly’s 2-0 goal 5:57 into the second period.

Then, after Jake Gardiner had given the game some life with a power-play goal at 13:45 of the middle period to cut the lead at 2-1, the Bruins stopped that Toronto momentum after Nathan Horton was left unguarded by Leafs forward Leo Komarov in the slot, and the Bruins forward didn’t miss at 14:35.

“I think that was probably the biggest goal for us so far in the series,” said winger Milan Lucic, who was a force with three assists and three hits. “We talked about the crowd, the way the fans were going, it seemed they were creating a lot of momentum. I was just hunting down the puck, got a good bounce and Horty did a good job roofing it when I gave him the pass.”

Once again, a quiet Air Canada Centre.

"When they got that first goal they got the momentum a bit, and it helped us a lot when we got that [third] goal right away after it,” Rask said. “It's a big thing when you play on the road and try to break their momentum, and today, for the most part, we did a pretty good job of that."

Then, Phil Kessel, coming out of his own zone on a power play, tried to give the puck right back to Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf but instead found the stick of Daniel Paille, who skated in alone to beat James Reimer. A brutal giveaway, and a 4-1 goal by the Bruins with 3:23 left in the second which planted the dagger on the Leafs.

Game over.

Those are mistakes you just can’t make in the playoffs and still expect to win.

"We fought the puck pretty good tonight, it was jumping pretty good tonight,” Leafs defenseman Cody Franson said. "Just a little bit soft on the puck. The mistakes we made we ended up playing a lot of defense or they were scoring because of them. …

"We can’t do that in the playoffs, we have to be better than that."

I believe the Leafs will be better. They’ve more often than not picked themselves up this season after a tough loss. And it would not surprise me at all if Toronto tied this series Wednesday night.

Toronto outshot Boston 47-38 Monday night, including 18-6 in the third period, the Leafs showing no signs of rolling over in this series.

But over the course of six or seven games, I think what you saw Monday night will play out as the storyline.

The Bruins are just that much better right now where it matters. Not a lot, but enough.

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