Briere

Bonjour, New York: Habs beat B’s, advance to Eastern Conference finals

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Montreal gave the Bruins trouble all season long — so if any team was going to knock Boston down, it’s fitting it was the Canadiens.

The Habs bested Boston on Wednesday at TD Garden, winning Game 7 of their second-round series 3-1 to advance to the Eastern Conference finals for the first time in four years.

Despite a 17-point gap in the standings between the Bruins and Canadiens, Montreal proved it was Boston’s bogey team all year long — going 3-1-0 in the regular season — and did it again in the postseason, thanks in large part to the play of Carey Price.

Price was the deciding factor in the two most crucial games of the series — six and seven — by stopping 55 of 56 shots over that stretch. He also carried a shutout streak which lasted 104 minutes and is now a perfect 5-0 in elimination games this year (three for Canada at the Olympics, two for the Habs this postseason).

Price wasn’t the only one that came up big over the last two contests, though.

On Wednesday night, Montreal opened the scoring early — for the second straight game — when Dale Weise scored goal No. 2 of the series at the 2:18 mark. It was the second straight game the Habs scored within the opening three minutes; in Game 6, Lars Eller scored just 2:11 in for what proved to be the game-winner.

Then, in the second period, Max Pacioretty stamped his mark on the game by scoring his second goal in two contests for what ended up being the deciding tally. The good vibes from Pacioretty’s goal were short-lived, however, as he took a bad holding the stick penalty on Dougie Hamilton a short while later, which the Bruins converted for their first and only goal of the game when Jarome Iginla scored on the ensuing power play.

The teams would trade chances in the third before Johnny Boychuk took a late interference penalty and Daniel Briere capitalized, flipping a puck of Zdeno Chara’s skate to give the Habs a two-goal cushion.

For Boston, the loss will sting and the club will likely look back on this series as one filled with missed opportunities. Twice the B’s had chances to eliminate Montreal — including a Game 7 at home — but instead, they fell short and ended up with a playoff run of just 12 games.

For Montreal, tonight’s win was a gusty effort and a signature victory for head coach Michel Therrien, who was participating in his first Game 7 as a bench boss. The win also erases some of the disappointment from last year’s playoffs, when the Canadiens entered as the East’s No. 2 seed but were upset by Ottawa in the opening round.

Beard breakdown: Burns vs. Thornton (Video)

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Sometimes you need to ask important questions, breaking down positional battles and strategies.

Other times you can’t help but ask “Which guy has the better beard?”

In the case of Joe Thornton and Brent Burns, the San Jose Sharks boast two players with elite beards to match their elite skills. “Jumbo Joe” drew a lot of attention for his wild facial hair, yet Burns may very well have inspired Thornton to go heavy-whisker in the first place.

The video above breaks down those two beards, in case you’re itching for a comparison.

One thing that sparks little debate? Both players’ wives are real troopers.

Brouwer mulling signing with Canucks in free agency

PHILADELPHIA, PA - DECEMBER 21: Troy Brouwer #36 of the St. Louis Blues looks on against the Philadelphia Flyers at Wells Fargo Center on December 21, 2015 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
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Troy Brouwer grew up in North Delta, a suburb of Vancouver.

We mention this because, on Monday, Vancouver’s News 1130 spoke with Brouwer — a pending UFA — about his plans for the future. And, lo and behold, Brouwer has thought about a return home.

“I have thought about it, for sure,” Brouwer said. “Family and friends, playing for my hometown, it would be an experience for sure.”

The 30-year-old added his father is a “huge” Canucks fan and that Mark Messier, who spent two ill-fated seasons in Vancouver, was a “big influence” on Brouwer’s career.

So, file that one away for the future.

Brouwer will likely have a number of suitors come July 1. A Stanley Cup winner with Chicago in 2010, he’s been a very reliable goalscorer — at least 17 in seven straight seasons — and is coming off a terrific playoff, in which he scored eight goals and 13 points in 20 games for the Blues.

The Blues, of course, would probably like to retain Brouwer. They paid a high price to get him — T.J. Oshie, in last summer’s deal with Washington — and used him quite a bit this year. Brouwer averaged 16 minutes per night in the regular season and nearly 19 during the playoffs.

Problem is, St. Louis might not have the cap space to retain him. Brouwer will almost certainly be getting a raise on the $3.66M he earned annually on his last deal, and the Blues have some other financial decisions to make this summer (like captain David Backes, for example.)

“Not sure what the Blues plans are,” Brouwer told News 1130. “I’m assuming we will talk with them before July 1st.”

Bettman: The ‘word’ on expansion should come June 22

NHL hockey commissioner Gary Bettman speaks to the media, Monday, Dec. 8, 2014, after attending an NHL owners meeting in Boca Raton, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
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PITTSBURGH — Mark June 22 on the calendar. That’s when the NHL’s Board of Governors will meet in Las Vegas, and that’s when we should get word about the league’s expansion plans.

“That word,” commissioner Gary Bettman said today at his annual Stanley Cup Final press conference, “will probably come in one of the following forms:

“Whether there will be no expansion; whether expansion will be deferred until a later time in the future; or whether there will be expansion, and if so whether it will be a one-team or a two-team expansion.

“I am not going to handicap what’s going to happen. But again, when the board meets in Las Vegas on June 22, I am fairly certain that we will know more than we do today.”

The NHL is currently considering two expansion bids, one from Las Vegas and another from Quebec City. The former is optimistic about its chances, while the latter’s fortunes may have been dashed by the decline of the Canadian dollar.

On Las Vegas, the commissioner and his deputy, Bill Daly, were asked if the NFL’s potential foray into that market could affect the NHL’s decision. The answer to that question was no.

The other theme of today’s press conference was the Olympics. Specifically, the IOC’s decision to stop covering millions of dollars in transportation and insurance costs for the players.

On that, Bettman had a strong message for the IOC and IIHF.

“I’m pretty sure that our teams are not really interested in paying for the privilege of disrupting our season,” he said.

In other words, if the IOC and IIHF can’t resolve the “expense issue,” it’s practically a certainty that the NHL will not be sending its players to Pyeongchang‎, South Korea.

WATCH LIVE: Stanley Cup Final Game 1 – Sharks at Penguins

PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 30:  Pittsburgh Penguins fans sit outside of Consol Energy Center prior to Game One of the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Final between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the San Jose Sharks on May 30, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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The wait is finally over. The 2016 Stanley Cup Final is about to begin.

Both the Pittsburgh Penguins and San Jose Sharks received some time to lick their wounds after three grueling playoff rounds, so expect Game 1 to be fun, even if there might be a subtle bit of rust here or there.

The star power is considerable. The beards are burly (at least on the Sharks’ side). It’s time to get cracking.

Game 1 airs on NBC. You can also stream it via the link below and enjoy some “NHL Live” coverage leading in.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE