Tim Leiweke

MLSE prez: Leafs’ meltdown vs. Bruins ‘is going to make us’

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According to Tim Leiweke, a historic collapse will forever change the future of the Maple Leafs — for the better.

On Tuesday, the president of Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment discussed the infamous Boston meltdown and the future of his hockey club, saying the lessons learned from the Bruins series will help the Leafs for years to come.

“You go through that last game and it either makes or breaks an organization,” Leiweke told the Toronto Sun. “This is going to make us.

“That [Boston collapse] will be the image, the impression and the moment that we ingrain within everybody in the organization now to make sure we grow from that and we learn our lesson.”

Up 4-1 in Game 7 with 10:12 left in the third period, Toronto failed to seal the deal and allowed the Bruins to score three times in a span of 9:51 to even it up.

Discombobulated, Toronto only lasted six minutes into overtime before Patrice Bergeron scored the game-winner.

Leiweke said he was “extremely encouraged” by the Leafs this year and insisted the Game 7 collapse was an excellent opportunity for the organization to grow and learn.

“If that’s what we do,” Leiweke said, “it’s the best lesson we can ever go through.”

The Morning Skate: ‘HuLK Line’ thriving for Bruins

hortonseguingetty

A quick look at the Eastern Conference finals and notes from Los Angeles’ big Game 3 victory vs. Chicago.

Game 3: #1 Pittsburgh Penguins at #4 Boston Bruins, 8 ET (NBCSN) – Bruins lead series, 2-0

Having outscored the top-seeded Penguins 9-1 so far this series, the Bruins will look to take a three-games-to-none lead tonight at TD Garden.

The Bruins have exhibited incredible balance this entire postseason, but it is the top line of Milan Lucic – David Krejci – Nathan Horton that has led the way. The “HuLK Line” has combined for five goals and 10 points this series, adding to its league lead in goals (18) and points (49) by a line. In Game 2, a 6-1 Boston win, each member of the second line (Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – Jaromir Jagr) had two points, and Johnny Boychuk scored his fifth goal of the postseason, tied with the Kings’ Slava Voynov for the most by a defenseman. With his team playing “the best hockey we’ve played so far this year,” B’s coach Claude Julien is not expected to mess with success by making any roster moves.

Although reiterating during his off-day press conference that his team’s “mental focus” and “mindset” are the areas that need the most improvement, Pens coach Dan Bylsma promised some lineup and combination changes for Game 3. (Those changes have not been confirmed at time of press.) However, those changes will not likely involve goaltenders Tomas Vokoun and Marc-Andre Fleury. In Game 2, Vokoun allowed three goals on 12 shots before being replaced by Fleury, who was not any better, allowing three goals on 17 shots. For Fleury, it was his first action since May 7, when he gave up six goals to the Islanders in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals.

PENGUINS GOALIES in BOSTON (career)

  • Tomas Vokoun (w/NSH, FLA, WSH, PIT): 5-5-1, 2.58 GAA, .924 save %, shutout
  • Marc-Andre Fleury: 5-1-1, 1.94 GAA, .939 save %

DID YOU KNOW?

Jaromir Jagr is 11th all-time in career postseason goals (78) and assists (117). Three goals and six assists came in the 1991 and 1992 Eastern Conference Finals vs. Boston, as a member of the Penguins (10 games). Two assists have come in the 2013 Eastern Conference Final vs. Pittsburgh, as a member of the Bruins (two games).

WHO ON EARTH IS … JUSSI JOKINEN?

Only one player who has suited up for the Penguins in both games this series vs. the Bruins has not been on the ice for any of Boston’s nine goals: Jussi Jokinen. The fourth-line center, who came over from Carolina as the Pens’ fourth and final trade acquisition during a busy period before the trade deadline, had a hand in all three goals (goal, two assists) the last time Pittsburgh visited Boston, a 3-2 win on April 20.

Since his first NHL season, the 30-year-old Finn, who was born on April 1, has made a name for himself by making opposing goaltenders “look like fools” on shootouts. He started out a perfect nine-for-nine when the game-deciding one-on-one was instituted before his rookie year (2005-06), and his 31 shootout goals (in 67 attempts) are tied for third all-time with Brad Boyes, behind Pavel Datsyuk (33) and Zach Parise (32). His 46.3% success rate is fourth all-time among players with 25 or more goals, behind Frans Nielsen (55.6%), Jonathan Toews (49.1%) and Parise (46.4%).

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

Los Angeles 3, Chicago 1 – Blackhawks lead series, 2-1

Team

Shots (goals)

Even-strength shots (goals)

Series, Game Opponent Result
Kings

16 (2)

16 (2)

WCQF, Game 6 vs. Blues W, 2-1
Kings

18 (2)

15 (1)

WCSF, Game 7 vs. Sharks W, 2-1
Maple Leafs

20 (1)

16 (0)

ECQF, Game 1 at Bruins L, 4-1
Blackhawks

20 (1)

17 (1)

WCF, Game 3 at Kings L, 3-1
Blackhawks

20 (1)

18 (0)

WCSF, Game 2 vs. Red Wings L, 4-1
Kings

20 (2)

20 (2)

WCSF, Game 1 vs. Sharks W, 2-0

WCQF = Western Conference Quarterfinals   ECQF = Eastern Conference Quarterfinals

WCSF = Western Conference Semifinals   WCF = Western Conference Final

 LINKS

  • Five reasons the Bruins are dominating the Penguins [Boston Globe]
  • Penguins hope to draw from 2009 Stanley Cup run [CBC]
  • Sidney Crosby at center of any potential Penguins comeback [Globe and Mail]
  • Goal may have been fluke, but Slava Voynov isn’t [L.A. Times]

Playoffs Tonight: Bruins look to battle Penguins to edge

PITTSBURGH, PA - JUNE 03: Brad Marchand #63 of the Boston Bruins scores a goal on Tomas Vokoun #92 of the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first period during Game Two of the Eastern Conference Final of the 2013 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Consol Energy Center on June 3, 2013 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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The Los Angeles Kings avoided falling behind 3-0 in the Western Conference finals. Now the Pittsburgh Penguins will try to do the same…

Boston Bruins host Pittsburgh Penguins (8:00 p.m. ET, NBCSN/Live Extra)
Boston leads 2-0

With all the focus on what’s gone wrong for the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Boston Bruins are perhaps not getting enough credit for their accomplishments. They’ve taken one of the most loaded teams in recent memory and made them look silly.

If Pittsburgh’s strategy was to overwhelm the Bruins offensively, so far it’s failed spectacularly. Boston’s defense has risen to the task and Tuukka Rask has been nearly flawless so far.

Still, Boston hasn’t won this series yet and Bruins coach Claude Julien understands that this would be a terrible time for his squad to feel content.

“Our team is really playing good hockey right now, without a doubt the best we’ve had this year, and that has to continue to beat these guys,” Julien said, according to the Ottawa Sun. “We were in the same position as Pittsburgh a few years ago and we worked our way back.

“I think we understand the situation here. We’re not going to get ahead of ourselves and understand these next games are crucial for us.”

“These next games will be a lot tougher I’m sure,” Boston’s Shawn Thornton added. “These guys are a very dangerous team.”

For Pittsburgh, there are any number of adjustments they might make, but perhaps the most useful ones would be mental. After suffering a 6-1 loss on Monday, Penguins coach Dan Bylsma talked about the Penguins’ need to adjust their attitude. Although he didn’t go into detail, that likely speaks to competitiveness and patience, but also not getting scared or frustrated.

“Maybe after that first game, we played Game 2 scared to lose instead of trying to win it,” Pittsburgh forward Brenden Morrow told the McKeesport Daily News. “We were slow to pucks all night, and that’s why. We were doing too much thinking. We can’t do that again.”

We’ll see if the Penguins can enter this game with renewed focus or if the Bruins can push their backs against the wall.

The Bruins are tough to beat because of their ‘layers,’ says Julien

Claude Julien
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Boston coach Claude Julien wasn’t about to share his entire game plan with reporters today, but he did say something that’s become frustratingly apparent to the Pittsburgh Penguins after two games of the Eastern Conference finals.

“I think it’s pretty obvious that we have layers,” said Julien. “Our guys are committed to come back and just making sure that there’s layer after layer that make it hard for them to get to our net.”

The Bruins, with their layers, have surrendered just one Pittsburgh goal so far. And combined with clutch goaltending from Tuukka Rask — another layer in itself — Boston has a commanding 2-0 series lead, with Games 3 and 4 on home ice.

“Our team’s playing probably its best hockey this year right now, but so is Tuukka,” said Julien. “I think he’s been unbelievable so far in this series. He’s been good throughout the whole playoffs, but he seems to have brought his game up a notch here as well.”

The Bruins — who boast one of the NHL’s top defensive forwards in Patrice Bergeron and one of the best shutdown defensemen in Zdeno Chara — have shut down potent offenses in the past.

In the 2011 Stanley Cup finals, they limited the Vancouver Canucks to just eight goals in seven games. Now they’re thwarting a Pittsburgh side that came into the conference finals averaging over four goals per game in the playoffs.

On the flip side, the Canucks once led the 2011 finals by the same score the Bruins now lead the Penguins, a fact that Julien acknowledged today.

“We’re not going to get ahead of ourselves here,” he said. “We need to understand that these next games are crucial for us, just as much as it is for them.”

Related: Crosby preaches patience for struggling Penguins’ offense

Discover ‘Road to the Cup’: Boston Bruins

BostonBruins
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So, who saw this coming?

After two games of the Eastern Conference finals, the Boston Bruins find themselves up on the heavily favored Pittsburgh Penguins by a series of almost unbelievable numbers:

— Two games to none

— Nine goals to one

— Six power plays conceded, zero PP goals allowed

Add it all up and you’ve got one of the most stunning storylines of this postseason.

Even the Bruins themselves are having a hard time wrapping their heads around it.

“I probably wouldn’t have believed you,” Milan Lucic told CSNNE.com when asked what he would’ve said if someone told him the Bruins would be in this position.

“We’re just trying to create opportunities, and bear down when we do get them. It was what was lacking most during the season for us. It has thankfully come at the right time.”

The Bruins have imposed their will on the Penguins though, to be fair, they’ve really been imposing their will on all comers since the third period of that fateful Game 7 against Toronto in the opening round.

Boston has outscored opponents 31-11 since then, winning seven of eight playoff games with its lone loss coming in overtime.

But in this series, that dominance has been on display more than ever before.

Nobody has overpowered Penguins like this at any point during the regular season and/or playoffs — Pittsburgh hadn’t been shut out in 96 games prior to Game 1’s 3-0 loss and their star players have been completely shut down.

According to NHL.com, Sidney Crosby, Kris Letang, Evgeni Malkin, James Neal, Pascal Dupuis, Chris Kunitz and Jarome Iginla combined for 88 points in the first 11 games of the playoffs.

They have combined for no points and a minus-25 rating in the past two games.

As such, the Bruins have now completely stolen home-ice advantage from the Penguins and head back to Boston with a chance to close out the series at TD Garden.

If they can do that, they’ll be on their way to a second Stanley Cup finals appearance in the last three years.

Who’da thunk it?