Boston being down 2-0 will look to Montreal and Pittsburgh for historic inspiration

2 Comments

It’s not an enviable position for the Boston Bruins to be in. They’re down 2-0 in the Stanley Cup finals to the Vancouver Canucks and since the expansion era began in the NHL in the 1966-1967 season only two teams have battled back from that to win the Stanley Cup. 25 of the last 27 teams that jumped out to a 2-0 lead went on to win Lord Stanley’s most prized possession.

The Bruins have already fought out of a 2-0 hole this year in the first round of the playoffs against Montreal. There the teams took care of each other on one another’s home ice through the first four games before seeing Boston win their final two home games in Games 5 and 7 to take the series, culminating with a Game 7 win in overtime thanks to Nathan Horton. But when it comes to the Stanley Cup finals, they’ll have to dig a bit deeper to find inspiration to comeback and win the series.

In 2009, the Pittsburgh Penguins dropped the first two games of the finals to Detroit and fought back from being down two games twice in those finals to win the series in seven games. Evgeni Malkin helped lead the charge for Pittsburgh while Marc-Andre Fleury stood on his head to help keep the Red Wings off the board. Malkin’s play was so inspiring that he took home the Conn Smythe Trophy at the end of everything. Considering that Pittsburgh had to win twice in Detroit in the final three games of the series to do it makes their feat all the more impressive.

The first team in the expansion era to pull off the 2-0 comeback was, of course, the Montreal Canadiens in 1971. That year the Habs got down 2-0 to the Chicago Blackhawks before winning the next two at home in Montreal. Home teams would all win each game except for Game 7 when the Habs beat Chicago 3-2 to take the Stanley Cup thanks to the work of Ken Dryden in goal and brothers Frank and Peter Mahovlich on the ice. Captain Jean Beliveau would make that Stanley Cup his tenth and final one as captain of the Canadiens.

For Boston, they’ll need to draw on the legacy of those Canadiens legends who defended their home ice perfectly and gutted it out to win on the road in Game 7, something that’s only happened three times in Stanley Cup history. Those Canadiens, the 1945 Maple Leafs, and those 2009 Penguins are the only ones to pull that off. Sure the Bruins don’t necessarily have to go seven games, they could rattle off four wins in a row and end it in six, with the way they’ve been outplayed at times through most of the first two games, seven games makes far more sense to work things out.

Much like with those past teams it’ll come down to goaltending and Tim Thomas will more than have his hands full dealing with the Canucks attack the rest of the way. While he’s played out of his mind, he’ll need better support from his defense and hope that they can eliminate the mistakes and not come up with bad turnovers and penalties that can lead to goals. Don’t expect Bruins captain Zdeno Chara to dwell on what’s been a rough couple of games for him.

History has shown that it can be done and while it hasn’t happened that often, the opportunity is there for Boston to take but it starts with one win.

Ducks deny rally, end Penguins’ winning streak

1 Comment

When Ondrej Kase cashed in on another breakaway opportunity for the Ducks to make it 4-1 in the second period, it looked like that goal would be icing on the cake for Anaheim. Even if it would be especially pretty frosting.

Instead, that stylish goal ended up being critical, as the Pittsburgh Penguins nearly rallied in the third period to at least send Wednesday’s game to overtime. John Gibson ended up holding down the fort, and with an empty-netter in the dying seconds, the Ducks ended up beating the Penguins 5-3.

You could call it a game of periods and close calls.

The Penguins entered the first intermission thanks to a 1-0 Evgeni Malkin goal, but the Ducks dominated the middle frame with their first four-goal period of 2017-18. The Penguins’ prolific power play helped them stay in the game (2-for-4, with both goals coming during that third-period comeback bid), but the rally fell short. Pittsburgh’s winning streak ended at four victories.

Some bounces went both ways, as Antoine Vermette nearly scored for the Ducks while Carl Hagelin suffered a near-miss. So maybe those missed opportunities cancel each other out?

From the Ducks’ perspective, this is the latest argument in favor of this team being a threat now that key pieces have returned to the lineup. This win begins what they hope is a successful five-game homestand, as Anaheim still needs to battle for its own playoff hopes.

The Penguins can’t ruminate on this loss for very long. They head to Los Angeles to face what must be a frustrated Kings team (four straight defeats, only two wins in their last eight games) on Thursday, with little reason to expect any mercy.

This last stretch of wins improved the Penguins’ outlook, but dropping games in back-to-back nights could make things tense again in a hurry. You can check out that Penguins – Kings game on NBCSN Thursday.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Willie O’Ree celebrates 60th anniversary of debut with Bruins

2 Comments

BOSTON (AP) Hockey pioneer Willie O’Ree was honored in Boston on Wednesday on the 60th anniversary of the Bruins forward breaking the NHL’s color barrier.

At a news conference at the TD Garden before the Bruins game against the Montreal Canadiens, Mayor Marty Walsh declared Jan. 18, 2018 to be “Willie O’Ree Day”. O’Ree made his debut in 1958 during a 3-0 victory against the Canadiens at the Forum in Montreal.

Walsh called O’Ree a Boston legend who changed the city for the better and thanked him for his courage. As part of the celebration, the city dedicated a new street hockey rink in the Allston-Brighton neighborhood to be known as Willie O’Ree Rink.

A native of Canada, O’Ree, 82, had four goals and 10 assists in 45 games over parts of two NHL seasons. He spent a total of 21 years in pro hockey.

For the past two decades, O’Ree has served as the NHL’s Diversity Ambassador, spreading the message that hockey is for everyone.

More AP NHL hockey at https://apnews.com/tag/NHLhockey

Bruins cruise vs. Canadiens in Julien’s return to Boston

4 Comments

Don’t blame Claude Julien if Wednesday made him think of better times, and not just because it was his welcome back night in Boston.

Coming into this one, it was a tale of two teams going in opposite directions, and the teams stuck to their scripts. The Boston Bruins remain red-hot with a 4-1 win, while the Montreal Canadiens are mired in mediocrity .. or worse?

When you’re as disappointing as the Canadiens have been, plenty of things are going wrong. It was a weak start even with a 1-0 lead and 1-1 first period in mind, and it obviously didn’t get any better.

Nights like these have to sting for Julien, a coach known for his sophisticated systems and eye for defensive detail.

There are questions about Max Pacioretty possibly being trade bait. People wonder if Jonathan Drouin or Alex Galchenyuk fit as centers, or if neither work that way. Yet, these performances make you realize that as exasperated as management must be, they may also appreciate more specific distractions.

Because, frankly, this was a team … non-effort.

Then again, the Bruins are a red-hot squad, so maybe they shine an especially harsh light on the Habs’ haplessness?

Boston generated a 32-22 shots on goal advantage in this one, with multiple contributors stepping up. Big guns came through (Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak were among the goal scorers, Patrice Bergeron collected two assists), while David Backes and others added to the fun.

It was the kind of effort Julien would have been very happy with, if it didn’t come at his expense.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

WATCH LIVE: Pittsburgh Penguins at Anaheim Ducks

Getty
Leave a comment

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

PROJECTED LINEUPS

Pittsburgh Penguins

Dominik SimonSidney Crosby — Daniel Sprong

Carl HagelinEvgeni MalkinPatric Hornqvist

Conor ShearyJake GuentzelPhil Kessel

Tom KuhnhacklRiley SheahanRyan Reaves

Brian DumoulinKris Letang

Olli MaattaJustin Schultz

Matt HunwickJamie Oleksiak

Starting goalie: Tristan Jarry

[NHL on NBCSN doubleheader: Canadiens vs. Bruins; Penguins vs. Ducks]

Ducks

Rickard RakellRyan GetzlafCorey Perry

Derek GrantRyan KeslerJakob Silfverberg

Nick RitchieAdam HenriqueOndrej Kase

Chris WagnerAntoine VermetteJ.T. Brown

Cam FowlerKevin Bieksa

Hampus LindholmJosh Manson

Francois BeaucheminBrandon Montour

Starting goalie: John Gibson