Johnny Boychuk

Redemption: Bruins sweep Flyers out, win 5-1 and set date with Tampa in East final

There will be no miracle comebacks for the Flyers this year. Boston earned redemption for their extreme collapse last season by sweeping the Flyers out of the playoffs this year and doing it in impressive fashion once again tonight beating Philadelphia 5-1.

Defense and goaltending have been the issues for Philadelphia all playoffs long and tonight they suffered bouts with both of these again. It only makes sense that the same problems that kept them from winning the first three games helped prevent them from prolonging the series and making doubt creep into the heads of the Bruins.

Things were coming up so much for Boston that the often absent from this series Milan Lucic showed up in a big way tonight adding two goals including a power play goal in the first to kick off the scoring for Boston.

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While the Flyers were able to tie things up in the second period thanks to a goal from Kris Versteeg, in the third the Bruins would not let Sergei Bobrovsky (22 saves) go quietly. Johnny Boychuk would get the Bruins the lead just 2:42 into the third to make it 2-1 and the Bruins wouldn’t look back as they locked things down defensively and let Tim Thomas do the rest in stopping 22 shots in the game. At 15:03 Lucic would score his second of the goal game to ice things. Brad Marchand and Daniel Paille would add empty net goals to complete the deal and finish off Philadelphia in euphoric style.

For Boston the win helps them build confidence as they head to their first Eastern Conference final since 1992 when they were beaten by Mario Lemeiux’s Pittsburgh Penguins. There, former University of Vermont teammates and alums Tim Thomas and Martin St. Louis will do battle against each other for a shot at the Stanley Cup final. The two are old friends and with St. Louis being a Hart Trophy finalist and Thomas a Vezina Trophy finalist the stage is set for those two to have a classic battle.

Boston may have other worries however as Patrice Bergeron left the game after a collision with Claude Giroux that left Bergeron rattled. Bergeron has a history of concussion issues, those of which began against the Flyers years ago thanks to a hit from then Flyers defenseman and current Lightning blue liner Randy Jones. Coach Claude Julien did not have an update on Bergeron after the game.

Philadelphia will need to go into the offseason looking to answer the same question they had after last year’s Stanley Cup final failure: Who will play in goal? After all three Flyers goalies proved to be shaky at best, the Flyers should be focused on ponying up some money and finding some cap space for next year and beyond to take a run at guys like Tomas Vokoun or Ilya Bryzgalov. These sorts of disappointment don’t go over well in Philadelphia and even though they may have overshot themselves last year as a seven seed, failing out as a two seed is inexcusable.

Video: Drouin equalizes, but Rust strikes again 30 seconds later

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Bryan Rust is really having himself a series.

After opening the scoring in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final, Rust took matters into his own hands after Jonathan Drouin evened the score for Tampa Bay, notching his second goal of the game — just 30 seconds after Drouin scored — to put Pittsburgh back out in front, 2-1.

Before digging into the Rust goal (posted above), let’s take a moment to appreciate Drouin’s snipe, one that whizzed by Pittsburgh netminder Matt Murray:

Now, back to Rust.

With that second goal he’s now racked up eight points for the playoffs, just three back of the 11 he put up over the course of the entire regular season. The former Notre Dame standout has become a major storyline, and now sits tied with Patric Hornqvist for the team lead in even-strength playoff goals.

Not bad for a guy that spent a fair chunk of the year in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, eh?

Video: Rust opens scoring in Game 7

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What an Eastern Conference Final for Bryan Rust.

Rust scored his second goal of the series — and third point in as many games — to open the scoring on Friday night, giving the Penguins a 1-0 lead over the Lighting at Consol.

After scoring just 11 points during the regular season, Rust — in just his second season at the NHL level — now has seven points in 16 playoff games, and has emerged as a vital bottom-six contributor in the process.

Chris Kunitz and Evgeni Malkin notched assists on Rust’s goal, which came early in the second period. The Pens out-shot the Bolts 8-5 in the first period, but were unable to get one past Andrei Vasilevskiy.

Oh, and speaking of Kunitz, he’s also produced extremely well in this series — he now has six points in his last five games.

Shock of Lightning: Stamkos will play

Steven Stamkos
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He’s in.

As if Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final couldn’t get any more dramatic, it has — Tampa Bay captain Steve Stamkos, who hasn’t played since Mar. 31, will make his playoff debut against the Penguins tonight.

Stamkos underwent vascular surgery in early April to correct a blood clotting issue, and has remained on blood thinners ever since. While there’s been no confirmation he’s off medication, he did tell Sportsnet he’d be able to return to the lineup once he was.

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Stamkos reiterated that he’s still on the same prescription of blood thinners he was given earlier this month. He takes a 12-hour dosage, twice a day, and it has been suggested to him that once he is cleared to stop taking the medication, Stamkos conceivably could return to the Lightning lineup almost immediately.

That’s why I’m trying to stay in shape,” he said.

Per NHL.com, Stamkos took the warmup and participated in line rushes centering Ondrej Palat and Ryan Callahan.

It’s been exactly eight weeks since Stamkos played his last game. At the time of his diagnosis, the Lightning said his timetable for recovery was 1-3 months.

To say his return will be a boost is a major understatement. Aside from the emotional factor, Stamkos led the Bolts in goals this year, with 36, and would presumably spark a power play that’s gone just 2-for-12 in the series.

 

Drama builds as Stamkos takes Game 7 warmup

NEWARK, NJ - FEBRUARY 26:  Steven Stamkos #91 of the Tampa Bay Lightning skates against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on February 26, 2016 in Newark, New Jersey. The Lightning shutout the Devils 4-0.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Steve Stamkos took the team bus to tonight’s Eastern Conference Game 7 in Pittsburgh. As TVA noted, it was the first time he’s arrived early for a game in these playoffs.

In his pregame presser, Bolts head coach Jon Cooper refused to answer any questions about Stamkos’ availability.

And then Stamkos took the warmup.

As such, the drama surrounding Tampa Bay’s captain has reached an all-time high. Stamkos, who’s been out of the lineup since early April due to blood clots, looks as though he’s on the verge of an emotional comeback as the Lightning try to win an ECF Game 7 — on the road — for a second consecutive season.

“If Stamkos is in the lineup, it’s our best foot forward,” Cooper said. “If he’s not in the lineup, it’s because he wasn’t eligible to play.”

No word if No. 91 is still on the blood thinning medication he’s been taking since undergoing vascular surgery on Apr. 4.

Stay tuned…