Bruins not letting previous home ice success get to their heads before Game 6

Home ice has turned out to be a very big deal in the Stanley Cup finals. After a playoffs that saw the road teams get their licks in on the home standing favorites the finals have proved to be a case where everyone is holding serve in their own respective ways. Vancouver has done it with physicality, tight checking, and taking advantage of turnovers. Boston has done it with brutal physical play and lighting up Roberto Luongo and the Canucks defense.

Heading into tonight’s Game 6, it’d be easy to see how the Bruins could be teeming over with confidence. After all when you win games by scores of 8-1 and 4-0 at home, it might be easy to fall into a comfort zone bordering on cockiness. In speaking with Bruins players after today’s morning skate, nothing could be further from the truth.

“Games 3 and 4 don’t matter right now. Game 6 is Game 6,” says Bruins forward Shawn Thornton. “Tonight’s a new night. Just because we were good in Games 3 and 4 doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy tonight. It’s going to be the toughest game by far.”

While Thornton is the voice of reason in what should prove to be a mad atmosphere tonight, Bruins defenseman Andrew Ference went a bit deeper with his thoughts on how different tonight will be compared to how it was when the Bruins rolled Vancouver in back to back games last week.

“It sets the bar for what we have to do. I think that’s what it’s all about – playing to your potential as individuals and as a team,” Ference says.

“We’ve had different games throughout the playoffs in different series you pick out the games and you set the bar for what the coaches expect for you and what you expect to yourself and really all you’re trying to do throughout the whole playoffs is meet that bar. You don’t have to go out as an individual and do miraculous things you just have to play as good as you can. That’s all you can really ask.”

“Those games in our building we played well, we felt well and our confidence was there. It’s not automatic that it’s going to happen but it shows you what it takes to have success against this team,” Ference concludes.

Ference’s thoughtfulness on the matter comes from experience. He was a member of the 2004 Calgary Flames team that lost to Tampa Bay in the Stanley Cup finals in seven games. If there’s a guy in the room the Bruins should tilt their ears to more often than not, it’s him. He’s been here  before and knows what it’s like. His Flames team that year dropped the final two games of that seven game series to the Lightning. That Calgary team also lost two of the three home games they had that year.

For Boston, they can’t afford to lose this last one or else they’ll be watching the Canucks skate around their ice with the Stanley Cup. That’s something Ference would rather not see.

“A loss is a loss and maybe people view it different ways but I don’t know… I’ve lost in different rounds of the playoffs and they all feel pretty crappy.”

The Bruins hope that that crappy feeling can be avoided, especially at home tonight.

Vegas wants ‘progressive’ head coach, says McPhee

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Golden Knights GM George McPhee continued to list the characteristics he wants from a head coach this week, explaining that he’s searching for a forward-thinking bench boss.

“We want someone who is very current on the game, who is progressive on how the game should be played,” McPhee said in a recent phone call with season ticket holders, per the club website. “We’re looking for that progressive guy that can really help us through the early years and help develop our team and our players.”

So, time to connect the dots.

Back in November, Vegas owner Bill Foley laid the initial groundwork for McPhee’s coaching profile, saying he wanted to hire an experienced head coach.

“He’s not looking for a first-termer,” said Foley. “Some may or may not be available. … I would say the coach that we name is going to be a recognizable individual.”

Among the names that have already been floated, many fit the above billing: Jack Capuano, Gerard Gallant, Ken Hitchcock and Michel Therrien, among others.

Vegas has already spoken with Gallant and reportedly made contact with Capuano as well, which shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. Gallant was nominated for last year’s Jack Adams as the NHL’s top coach, and McPhee is familiar with Capuano, having worked as an adviser to Isles GM Garth Snow prior to taking the Golden Knights gig.

It’s also believed former Flyers head coach Craig Berube is being considered, along with current Montreal associate Kirk Muller.

 

Pre-game reading: Tonight’s Kings-Flames game could get testy

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— Up top, the Calgary Flames don’t want Matthew Tkachuk to play any differently — even though Drew Doughty called the rookie winger a “pretty dirty player” after taking the 19-year-old’s elbow to the face earlier this month.

— Tkachuk was suspended two games for that elbow. Still, there could be fireworks tonight when the Flames and the Kings meet again in Calgary. Especially after Tkachuk replied to Doughty’s remarks with the following: “I expected more from him, honestly, than to go right to the media and start complaining after a loss.” (Calgary Sun)

— TSN’s Gary Lawless thinks Sergei Bobrovsky should win the Hart Trophy over Connor McDavid and Sidney Crosby. Lawless writes: “No other player has been as important to his team and its results as Bobrovsky has to the Columbus Blue Jackets. Take Bobrovsky off the C-bus and it’s not necessarily in the ditch but it isn’t nipping at the Capitals for the league lead.” (TSN)

— Coyotes captain Shane Doan is understandably frustrated about the lower-body injury that’s kept him out of the lineup the past six games. At 40, this could be Doan’s last year in the NHL, so hopefully he’s able to return and play at least once more in front of all his fans. (Arizona Republic)

— Golden Knights owner Bill Foley doesn’t want each team’s protected list to be made public ahead of the expansion draft. That being said, Foley is also realistic: “I’d rather we know what each team has left unprotected and we make our picks and it’s a big surprise. I think there’s going to be a lot of leaks, though. I found one thing about the NHL that … everyone talks.” (Yahoo)

— An appreciation of the Detroit Red Wings playoff streak, which will finally come to an end this season. The last time the Wings missed was 1990. As noted by Nick Cotsonika: “No player in the NHL today was in the NHL then, not even Jaromir Jagr. Nine of the franchises in the NHL today weren’t in the NHL, 10 if you include the Vegas Golden Knights, who begin play next season.” (NHL.com)

Enjoy the games!

The Leafs’ remaining schedule is no cakewalk

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The Toronto Maple Leafs took care of business last night, sending the floundering Florida Panthers to a 3-2 defeat at Air Canada Centre.

Now comes the hard part for the young Leafs. They have seven games left to book their first playoff appearance since 2013, and their schedule is no cakewalk.

The Leafs’ next three games are all on the road, in Nashville Thursday, Detroit Saturday, and Buffalo Monday. After that, it’s a four-game home stand to close out the schedule, all against formidable opponents: Washington, Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh, and Columbus.

With a four-point playoff cushion, the Leafs can afford to lose a few games down the stretch. But head coach Mike Babcock doesn’t want his players looking too far ahead.

“I really believe with our group if we just focus on the day we’re playing and play right, we have a real good chance to win,” Babcock said. “That’s what we talk about and that’s kind of our mantra every day is just play right, play fast and we have an opportunity to be successful. We don’t get all caught up in the race. We know the standings, it’s in the paper every day, so we know that.”

The Leafs today sent goalie Garret Sparks back to the AHL. That can only mean good news for starter Frederik Andersen, who could play Thursday after missing last night’s victory with an upper-body injury.

Backup Curtis McElhinney got the nod against the Panthers, calling it the biggest game of his career. The 33-year-old then went out and made 25 saves to earn the win.

“It was great,” said McElhinney. “Getting a couple of goals in the first period there helped out a little bit and let me settle into it. It was a nice win.”

Parise ‘pretty black and blue’ after Wilson high stick, but injury not serious

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Zach Parise looked in bad shape after taking a Tom Wilson high stick to the face in Minnesota’s loss to Washington on Tuesday.

Thankfully for the Wild, Parise’s early diagnosis is a good one.

“He can see and is fine as far as that goes,” head coach Bruce Boudreau said on Wednesday, per the club’s Twitter account. “He’s sore in the upper body. I don’t think he’ll be out long.”

Boudreau went on to add that Parise was “pretty black and blue” and unlikely to play tomorrow, when Minnesota hosts Ottawa. That said, the club expects the 32-year-old to return next week.

It goes without saying that losing Parise is huge. The alternate captain has 17 goals and 37 points through 64 games this year, and is averaging 17:33 TOI per night. And for a Wild team that’s mired in a horrific slump — just three wins in its last 15 games — being down the services of such a vital contributor is costly.

Related: Stewart fought Wilson in response to the high stick