Boston Bruins make another big statement, roll through best road trip since 1972

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When you hit a mark that hasn’t been reached since Bobby Orr was on your team, chances are high that it’s a pretty special thing. (Unless it involves a once in a generation player being forced to retire too soon … let’s just move on.)

The 2010-11 Boston Bruins have already drawn some reasonable comparisons to those Stanley Cup winning “Big, Bad Bruins,” but tonight’s win wraps up a perfect six game road swing that matches the best road trip the franchise has produced since a championship 1971-72 season. (Click here for the specifics about their latest win, which was highlighted by Tuukka Rask’s 33-save shutout.)

It would be wrong to say that the Bruins are “back” since they’ve been somewhere between competitive and a legitimate force in the Eastern Conference for a few seasons now, but this year’s club might be the best of the Claude Julien era. The stunning part is that they’re blossoming without Marc Savard and they’re not leaning too much on Tim Thomas, either, as Rask earned four of those six victories.

While the Bruins’ success is mostly dictated by Julien’s defensive system, Zdeno Chara’s elite shutdown abilities and a nice one-two punch in net, the club is also versatile. Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci give the team quality pivots while they’ve turned a previous weakness at the wings to a relative strength, as Michael Ryder’s play has improved and Nathan Horton and Milan Lucic bring size and skill to the table.

It’s reasonable to think that the Bruins have joined the Philadelphia Flyers as the conference’s true elite ranks after making some nice trade deadline tweaks. The Flyers are the only East team with more goals scored so far this season (203 to Boston’s 195) while the Bruins’ 148 goals allowed is the lowest total in the NHL. Their +47 goal differential – one of the best indicators of a truly dominant team – is second only to the Vancouver Canucks’ ridiculous +58.

So long story short, the Bruins are looking really good. Really, really good. A lot can change as this season has been chock full of twists and turns, but right now, Boston looks like a legitimate Cup contender.

In fact, this might be their best chance since the days of Orr.

Predators eliminate Ducks, reach first Stanley Cup Final in franchise history

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Colton Sissons made a serious argument that the Nashville Predators do, indeed, still have a No. 1 center.

At least, he certainly played that way on Monday, generating a hat trick as the Predators eliminated the Anaheim Ducks via a 6-3 win, taking the series 4-2.

In doing so, the Predators advanced to their first Stanley Cup Final in franchise history.

That 6-3 score is very misleading. While Nashville managed 2-0 and 3-1 leads, there was plenty of drama in this one, as the Ducks did not go down easily. Cam Fowler tied it up 3-3 in the third period, briefly stunning a rowdy crowd in Nashville.

Sissons was up to the task, however, settling down a bouncing puck on an otherwise stupendous Calle Jarnkrok pass to score the game-winner, notching a hat trick in the process. Sissons continues to be an unlikely hero for a Predators team dealing with the absence of Ryan Johansen (not to mention Mike Fisher, Craig Smith, and others).

Two empty-netters inflated the score, and they also sapped drama from the closing moments, which must have been quite the relief considering how much resolve Anaheim showed.

Peter Laviolette distinguishes himself as one of the NHL’s most underrated bench bosses, becoming just the fourth coach in league history to take three different teams to a Stanley Cup Final. He couldn’t win it all with the Philadelphia Flyers, but he does have a ring thanks to his time with the Carolina Hurricanes. Perhaps he’ll take another one this spring?

It’s quite the moment for GM David Poile, too, after trading Shea Weber for P.K. Subban and Seth Jones for Johansen, among other pivotal moves.

The Ducks might wonder what could have been if John Gibson played instead of Jonathan Bernier. Bernier struggled early, allowing two goals on the first three shots he faced and generally having a tough Game 6. Pekka Rinne, meanwhile, maintained his mostly great run in the playoffs; he protected a Predators lead even when the Ducks dominated long stretches of play.

Now the Predators get a nice rest, as the Eastern Conference Final continues with a Game 6 on Tuesday (and possibly a Game 7 on Thursday).

They’ll limp a bit toward that final round, but the Predators seem to be embracing new territory. And sometimes new heroes.

Video: Ducks’ 3-3 goal survives goalie interference review

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When the Nashville Predators went up 3-1 in the third period, it seemed like they might finally put the Anaheim Ducks away in Game 6. The Ducks quickly responded with “Not yet.”

Two minutes after that 3-1 goal, Chris Wagner kept Anaheim’s hopes alive with a surprising tally. Corey Perry then bumped Pekka Rinne, but he was able to reset before Cam Fowler scored the 3-3 goal 8:52 into the final frame (of regulation).

In less than six minutes of game time, the tone of the contest changed rapidly. Now we’ll see if either team can get the next tally in the remaining minutes of the third or if the Stanley Cup Playoffs will see yet another overtime contest.

Here’s the Wagner goal:

You can see the 3-3 goal in the video above. Hold onto your seats.

Update: Moments after this was published, Colton Sissons‘ hat-trick goal made it 4-3. Could there be even more drama? We’ll see …

Game 6 is airing on NBCSN. You can watch online and via the NBC Sports App. Click here for the livestream link.

Coyotes’ Dylan Strome breaks Memorial Cup record with 7 points in game

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Dylan Strome’s journey to becoming a full-timer at the NHL level might be a little bumpy, but he continues to distinguish himself at other levels.

In the case of Monday, it was setting a new Memorial Cup record. With four goals and three assists, Strome’s seven-point game set a new record as he helped the Eerie Otters pummel the Saint John Sea Dogs 12-5.

They’ll face the Windsor Spitfires on Wednesday to determine which team goes to the tournament’s final round.

The performance wasn’t lost on his brother Ryan Strome.

Ducks dominate, but Predators enter third up 2-1

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So far, it seems like Jonathan Bernier playing instead of John Gibson for the Anaheim Ducks in Game 6 has indeed been a pretty big deal.

Bernier allowed two goals on the first three shots he faced against to start Game 6, putting the Ducks in an early hole. The Ducks have been absolutely dominating the contest since then, but only Ondrej Kase could get a puck beyond Pekka Rinne through the first 40 minutes.

Seriously, the play’s been lopsided. Nashville managed a few shots after this tweet, yet it still tells much of the story.