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Eastern final lived up to the hype

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Well, it doesn’t get much better than that.

If Bruins 1, Lightning 0 didn’t have you ohhing and ahhing Friday night then sports just isn’t your thing. The game also proved the point once again that you don’t need six or seven goals a game to have a terrific game.

Great efforts all the way around and if not for Nathan Horton’s goal, we might all still be watching. That’s how good the goaltending and defensive play was in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals.

“First of all, we knew we had to play a 60-minute game tonight,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said. “There couldn’t be a 10-minute lapse in our game. In Game 7, you’ve got to be so focused. Our guys did a great job.

“When I walked into the room before that third period, I really didn’t have much to say because I could hear what they were talking about, and they were bang on,” Julien said. “The message was clear. It was direct. It was what you wanted to hear from your players. So I came in just said a couple of things and basically said we shouldn’t have to change anything. We just gotta stick with it and eventually we get rewarded. And that’s what happened.”

“I think it was in overtime the entire game, to be honest with you,” Lightning coach Guy Boucher said. “That’s how it felt. I think the other team probably felt like that too. It was for who was going to make that one mistake. And it was us.

“I just looked at the clip five times now, and it’s hard to look at, because you know it’s one little defensive mistake. And if you don’t make it, if they make one, if you capitalize on one of your chances, you know, we’re all happy here, but in the end, they deserve that goal. They made it happen and they’re going to the Stanley Cup Finals.”

So now the Bruins look to end a Stanley Cup drought stemming from 1972. But to do so, the Bruins will have to find a way against the NHL’s top team in 2010-11, the Vancouver Canucks. Should be interesting to say the least.

“Right now we’re four wins away from winning a Stanley Cup,” Julien said. “And we understand what’s at stake here.  We understand who we’re playing, a really good team that dominated the whole league this year.”

So, what to do? Keep on keeping on.

“We’re going to have to play a lot like we did tonight if we want to give ourselves a chance,” Julien said of meeting the Canucks. “Right now, that’s what matters to me is prepare those guys to face that challenge.”

Hats off to Bolts—When you consider where the Lightning were not too long ago, losing the seventh game of the Eastern Conference finals in all honesty is quite an achievement and it gives GM Steve Yzerman a nice foundation to build upon.

The Lightning are a team built to win now, what with Vinny Lecavalier, Marty St. Louis, Mattias Ohlund and Dwayne Roloson comfortably nestled in the veteran category, but Steven Stamkos and Victor Hedman are an excellent bridge to the future Yzerman intends to build.

“I think there’s hope at all levels in the organization,” Boucher said. “I think that’s what’s impressive. From the inside, I see what’s going on. And starting from Mr. Vinik and Mr. Yzerman and Mr. Tod Leiweke and everybody that it trickles down to, their attitude and their work ethic and everything they put into it and their experience, it’s trickled down to the players and the staff and myself.

“And certainly we always want more. That was our motto all year long. The guys are so resilient. If people knew how banged up the guys are right now, it’s incredible. We’re talking about (Pavel) Kubina and (Sean) Bergenheim not playing, but there’ew guys playing in there, their bodies are just barely hanging on there. So from the inside, this was the end. I mean, there was nothing left. There was nothing left in the tank.

“We have to learn from this,” Boucher said. “We have to be proud of our players. They put everything on the ice, but at the same time I think it’s a moment to learn. And what the Bruins have done, it gives you hope for the future, definitely.”

“I thought it was a hard-fought series,” Boston coach Claude Julien agreed. “Tampa Bay certainly deserves a lot of credit.  The fact that where they were before this year for the last few seasons and to come back this year and play the way they did, and then push us straight to the limit in the third round of the Playoffs, I think they deserve a lot of credit.

“From the ownership down, they’ve obviously done a pretty good job,” he said. “And they certainly gave us all we could take, so I think even though they lost, I think they need to be congratulated on their season.”

Indeed they do.

Even steven—Guy Boucher sees an even matchup between the Bruins and Canucks in the Stanley Cup Final.

“To me they’re on equal grounds,” Boucher said. “One thing’s for sure, they’re very well coached. I know Claude, I coached against him in Junior. He’s always done a very good job, and (I) was always very happy for his success in the past—obviously not tonight.

“I think the team they put on the ice, the depth is just tremendous,” he said. “When you look at the players that they put together and the goaltender, he’s outstanding. ... He was outstanding all year. (Vancouver’s) got great defensemen. Four-line depth that can come at you. You’ve got guys who can put the puck in the net and defend. I mean, obviously, they got it all. And they’ve been at this for a few years now, coming close and coming close and coming close.

Hats off to Weight— Doug Weight’s decision to retire after a couple injury-plagued seasons with the New York Islanders certainly is worthy of comment, since Weight is one of the top players produced by the United States, ranking sixth among American-born players. A skilled playmaker, Weight played in 1,238 NHL games starting with the New York Rangers. He won a Stanley Cup with the Carolina Hurricanes, a World Cup title with Team USA in 1996 and an Olympic silver medal in 2002.

“He could make plays, he could score goals, he could stand up for his teammates in the dressing room, he could take control at any time,” former teammate Bill Guerin said at Thursday’s press conference. “You hope that what you bring rubs off on the guys who are going to be carrying the torch. I like to feel that I had some influence on some of the younger players, and I know for sure Doug did.”

Weight will remain with the Islanders as an assistant coach and adviser to GM Garth Snow, so the Isles will gain from his considerable body of work.

“Saying goodbye and never going to play again in the league, it’s terrible,” an emotional Weight said Thursday. “It’s tough. It’s a sickening, sad feeling, but it’s also a new chapter to hopefully the greatest part of my life.”

Back problems sounded the death knell for Weight. His season ended on Nov. 17 and Weight played in only 36 games in 2009-10.

“My health hasn’t come back as much as I’d like,” Weight said. “I still have some issues with my back and some soreness. If I felt 100 percent at the end of the season, I think I’d still be making this decision. I’m fulfilled and I feel good about it.

“I knew the writing was on the wall and it was something I was going to have to face,” Weight said. “As sad as it is, I am very excited and fulfilled with my career. You can’t have regrets. I just wish I was healthy.”

PROFILE
Phil Coffey has covered the NHL since 1981, most recently as the Senior Editorial Director of NHL.com. He spent over 11 years there.

Filed in: NHL Teams, Boston Bruins, Tampa Bay Lightning, Phil_Coffey, | KK Hockey | Permalink
 

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Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.

From breaking news to in-depth stories around the league, KK Hockey is updated with fresh stories all day long and will bring you the latest news as quickly as possible.

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