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Bruins GM discusses dealing with last year's collapse

Thursday, 05.12.2011 / 7:59 PM / NHL Insider

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Bruins GM discusses dealing with last year's collapse
Despite having exorcised their demons with a second-round sweep of the Flyers, last year's implosion still plagues Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli.
By the end of Thursday evening, the Boston Bruins may no longer be known as the most recent sports franchise to blow a 3-0 series lead and lose a best-of-seven series, depending on how Game 7 of the Western Conference Semifinals between Detroit and San Jose plays out.

Regardless of the outcome of that game, and regardless even of whatever the Bruins go on to accomplish in the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs after rallying past Montreal in seven games and then redeeming themselves against Philadelphia in the second round, Boston GM Peter Chiarelli admits memories of last year's postseason collapse will probably remain with him.

"I don't think I'll ever get over it," Chiarelli said during a guest appearance on Thursday's “NHL Hour With Commissioner Gary Bettman.”

"We've had to deal with it in some shape or form throughout the whole year. Personally, it's something I probably think about it every other day at the very least. You just try to build on it, you try to learn from it, learn lessons from it -- I've had a manager call me and ask how we dealt with it at certain stages, so I guess there's other people who are benefitting from it."

That may include the Bruins themselves, who in sweeping the Flyers advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time in 19 years.

"It certainly helps lessen the blow or just minimize it a little bit," Chiarelli said. "I think it will always be with us, but I think we're stronger from it."

Boston's next opponent, the Tampa Bay Lightning, has been this far in the playoffs only once before, when they won the Stanley Cup in 2004. Like the Bruins, the Lightning also swept their second-round opponent -- the Eastern Conference's top seed, the Capitals -- and have had a lot of time off heading into Game 1 on Saturday night at TD Garden.

"I think from all that rest you're going to see a little bit of rust from both teams," Chiarelli said. "We had two days off following our Game 4 [against the Flyers], and then we had two really good practices, probably two of the best practices I've seen in a long time. We had another day off and then we had a real good practice today. So you watch practice, you feel good about how the team's executing, but it's just not the same as playing.

"The rest aspect is good because we've got a couple guys that have been dinged up and are recuperating, but I think you might see some -- while both coaches pride themselves on defense, I think you might see a little bit of a funky start just due to the rest."

Asked about the condition of forward Patrice Bergeron, who suffered a concussion in the third period of Game 4 and is likely to miss at least the beginning of the conference final, Chiarelli said he is improving, but there's currently no further update. Bettman joked to the GM that he wanted to ask the question to prove to the media that even the commissioner wasn't going to get any additional information on that subject.

The Bruins enter the third round with a number of things working for them, and at the top of that list is goaltender Tim Thomas. The Vezina Trophy winner two years ago and a finalist again this year, he's challenging his Lightning counterpart, fellow veteran Dwayne Roloson, for the leads in goals-against average and save percentage that Thomas owned during the regular season.

"We've had to deal with it in some shape or form throughout the whole year. Personally, it's something I probably think about it every other day at the very least. You just try to build on it, you try to learn from it, learn lessons from it -- I've had a manager call me and ask how we dealt with it at certain stages, so I guess there's other people who are benefitting from it."
-- Bruins' GM Peter Chiarelli

"This year, right from the very first captain's practice when the guys skate amongst themselves before the camps start, he's been so, so sharp and so focused," Chiarelli said, noting injuries that Thomas mostly kept to himself were largely responsible for his subpar 2009-10 performance.

"He's had a historic year and he's been terrific. He's been a little quieter in the net, and that's relatively speaking because Tim is generally an acrobatic goalie, he's been better with rebounds, and I think a real testament to his play this year -- after the first two games against Montreal, where none of us played very well, he really came back strong and he's been strong ever since. And he's made some terrific, just game-changing saves. He's had a heck of a year and he's such a competitive guy."

Chiarelli is also happy with the defense being played in front of his goaltender. After those two opening losses to the Canadiens, the Bruins switched up to their current pairings that include the shutdown duo of captain Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg.

"We're happy with our defensive pairs -- we feel they're well-rounded," Chiarelli said. "We have a big defense, which is something that is obviously by design so we can play our defensive system."

In less than 48 hours Chiarelli will watch as his own team takes the ice in the playoffs again, but on Thursday night all eyes focus on the Red Wings and Sharks. Having gone through what he did last year, Chiarelli was asked what might be going through the minds of San Jose's players, coaches and management right now.

"They're independent events and if you're on the losing ends you try to squash the momentum the other team gained from the previous game," he said. "But now it's like you're down to the final game and obviously you're nervous because you don't have any real leeway left -- there's no margin for error.

“You want to get relaxed. I recall from last year, I felt we were relaxed, but it just felt like there was a momentum that we couldn't stop. So I don't know if that's how San Jose feels -- we went through three or four significant injuries and you could feel the momentum build as the bodies dropped. But I think it's just important to be calm and to play your game, stick to your game plan."
Quote of the Day

Obviously a lot happened in a short period of time. At the end of the day, considering everything I went through, I really felt close to my teammates and I really feel like what we accomplished, I know we didn't win it all. ... I'm really proud of how we got there and what we did once we got there.

— Rangers forward Martin St. Louis to Jim Cerny of BlueshirtsUnited.com