It’s official: No changes to the Boston Bruins coaching staff. Claude Julien is back, as is his staff.
The faces behind the bench remain the same, but talk of philosophical change — and maybe more personnel changes — to how the Bruins play continues, especially when it comes to transitioning to the attack. You’ll recall recently hired general manager Don Sweeney making it quite clear when he took the job that he wants his team to play with an aggressive style.
On Friday, Sweeney lauded his coaching staff when it comes to the defensive side of things.
The Bruins were eighth in the NHL during the regular season at 2.45 goals-against-per-game. By comparison, the Chicago Blackhawks, playing in the Stanley Cup Final once again, were second in the league at 2.27.
Scoring goals, however, was an issue. The Bruins, despite decent puck possession numbers at five on five, were 22nd in the league in goals-for-per-game. None of the teams below them in that category qualified for the playoffs.
“I love the structure and accountability that [the coaches] bring to our table defensively. We’re not going to abandon that as a hockey club,” said Sweeney, as per the Bruins’ website.
“I think our forwards work extremely hard; I just want to be able to get into the flow of the offensive game a little quicker. And again, some of it is going to be personnel, and some is going to be system stuff that we have to address and utilize to the best of our ability.”
The New York Rangers were one win away from back-to-back appearances in the Stanley Cup Final. However, there will be no return trip this year.
They lost Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final to the Tampa Bay Lightning, ending a post-season that saw Henrik Lundqvist often as the backbone, their best player, on many nights. In the first round against Pittsburgh, each of the five games were decided by one goal, including three in a row by 2-1 decisions.
Against Washington, the Rangers managed to come back from a 3-1 series deficit. Again, every game decided by one goal.
It can be argued New York was flirting with an earlier exit, had it not been for timely goals, but mostly for the play of Lundqvist, who posted a .928 save percentage in the playoffs. The only goalie to play 10 or more games in this post-season and post a better save percentage was Braden Holtby.
Despite giving up two third-period goals — an Alex Killorn backhander through traffic and an Ondrej Palat wrist shot off the rush — Lundqvist was sharp. His collection of saves included a great glove stop on Jason Garrison, and a quick pad save on Tyler Johnson to keep it scoreless in the second period.
“I think we all expected him to do that; he’s a great goaltender,” said Johnson of Lundqvist to NHL.com.
“There’s no denying that. We knew we would just have to keep getting opportunities and we knew he was going to save a lot of those, so it was just a matter of time for us to get try to get more opportunities than he could save. Luckily, we were able to.”
The Tampa Bay Lightning have now dispatched the Detroit Red Wings, Montreal Canadiens and New York Rangers in these Stanley Cup playoffs. So long, Original Six.
They are now off to the Stanley Cup Final, after beating the Rangers 2-0 in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final.
Going into Madison Square Garden, against a team that had not lost a Game 7 in six previous opportunities, or lost a Game 7 on home ice in its history, was apparently not a problem for the Lightning.
“We’ve just kind of got that group,” said Lightning head coach Jon Cooper. “I don’t know if we’re so young and dumb and don’t know any better … it’s hard to explain.
“But they just answer the challenge. Every time we as a staff go in and challenge them, they respond.”
After battling through two scoreless periods, the Lightning finally solved Henrik Lundqvist with a pair of third-period goals and Tampa Bay’s goalie Ben Bishop, who had been hot and cold in this series, was perfect in a 22-save shutout performance.
“Well, we didn’t give them much,” said Bishop.
“Last game they had some open looks, some odd-man rushes and a couple of seeing-eye pucks. And tonight the guys were blocking shots, giving up their bodies, sacrificing, and it makes a big difference when the guys are out there doing that, and it makes it really easy on me.”
New York Rangers’ captain and defenseman Ryan McDonagh was playing with a broken foot “for a couple of games,” said head coach Alain Vigneault, as per the Rangers’ Twitter account
There was a mysterious beginning to the game for the Rangers and McDonagh, who left the bench and went to the locker room before he had even played a shift on Friday. He eventually returned to the bench and began taking more regular shifts in the second period.
“The freezing hadn’t kicked in, so we weren’t sure if he was going to be able to play,” Vigneault told reporters.
“So, at that time we made the decision to go with seven (defensemen). He went back in right at the start of the first period, and it kicked in a little bit. But he played through a lot of pain.”
While their captain returned to action, the Rangers couldn’t conjure much of an offensive push in a 2-0 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final.
There is a new Eastern Conference champion.
The Tampa Bay Lightning are off to the 2015 Stanley Cup Final, which will mark their first appearance in the championship series since 2004, when they won it all.
WATCH: Full replay of Game 7
Playing a team that had history on its side, the Lightning defeated the New York Rangers in Game 7 by a final score of 2-0. Alex Killorn finally broke a scoreless deadlock less than two minutes into the third period. Ondrej Palat followed that up with the kill shot, beating Henrik Lundqvist on the glove side to give Tampa a two-goal lead.
It was an insurmountable lead.
The Rangers, Stanley Cup finalists a year ago, began the day having been victorious in their last six Game 7 appearances dating back to 2012. And for the first time in their history, the Rangers lost a Game 7 on home ice.
Ben Bishop had allowed five goals in three of his last four starts prior to Friday. After getting pulled in Game 6, he responded with a 22-save shutout in Game 7, the most important start of his career.