Bruins continue to find ways to stay hot

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Bruins continue to find ways to stay hot

GLENDALE, AZ. The Bruins continue to win even when theyre having difficulties executing. Somehow they still get results whenstraying away from the game plan mapped out before taking the ice.

That was the case again Wednesday night in a 2-1 overtime victoryover the Phoenix Coyotes at jobing.com Arena. The Bruins had a couple ofrusty excuses whilecoming off four days without a game around the Christmasholiday break coupled with the long trip out to Phoenix.

But, once again, as they've proven time and time againthis season while defying conventional hockey wisdom, they pulled out two points when they probably didn't deserve it. They're now 21-2-1 over the last 24 games since Nov. 1, and it doesn't seem fair to the other 29 teams when the Bruins are winning games they openly admit they don't quite deserve.Maybe that's Boston being tough on themselves given their Stanley Cup-high standards these days, or maybe they're just really damned good. Maybe they can just win even when they're at less than their best.

We are winning some games that we probably shouldnt be winning, admitted David Krejci after the triumphant extra session struggles over the Coyotes. But we dont want to get comfortable. We want to bounce back and correct the things we werent doing well the next time we play.

While the overall execution might have been a little murky and messy, the Bs did enough to pull out the eventual win in overtime by never letting things get out of hand.

As they've done throughout their hot streak, the Bruins combined sound defensive principles and elite goaltending to allow just one goal. The Bruins were a little more fuzzy in their neutral zone coverage, but had only one breakdown in their own end when Ray Whitney made everybody else look like a rented hockey player.But that's something he's been doing for 20 years.Only once in 11 games during December have the Bs allowed more than two goals in a game, which has kept them fightingin every single hockey game theyve played. Not just for this month, though. That's been a pattern for the entire season.Add to that the experience earned through winning the Cup, and the Bruins truly believe they will pull out games that are close headed intoa third period fracas.

We know if we get more than one or two goals in a game than we have a really good chance to win, said Krejci, who scored the teams first goal less than a minute into the first period. It was a big win even though it wasnt our best game. We battled hard and found a way to win the game. That was a big two points for us.

It wasnt easy in the first game after the holiday and the ice wasnt very good at all. Its not easy. We try to do everything as we usually do, but its not always your night. But we are pretty good at finding ways to win hockey games, and thats what we did tonight. It looks like weve got something good going here.

The Bruins had defensive breakdowns and allowed more odd-man rushes and partial breakaways than usual against a flying Coyotes bunch. But Zdeno Chara was quick to point it was more execution than effort, and Boston's most consistent area of struggle this season has been neutral zone coverage that wanes over time. There was no absence of emotion in what could have been a sleepy game in the desert. The B's willingness to fight for a "W"was clear when Adam McQuaid pounded Raffi Torres into a bloody pulp during the second period.

But just as the Bruins pulled out games against the Blue Jackets, Kings and Senators in recent weeks where they didnt play their best, they did it once again besting the desert dogs. Its one of the explanation for three Phoenix Coyotes players earning the Three Stars of the Game (along with the voters being raving Phoenix homers,of course)despite dropping the 2-1 overtime decision to the Bruins.Butall of these flimsy winscome with a downside if things aren't eventually corrected. All 82 can't be gems, but bad habits can pretty easily turn into losing streaks if attention isn't paid.

Claude Julien was happy with the two points following the road victory, but it sounded as if the Bruins had some work to do once the practice ice is prepped in Phoenix for a Thursday afternoon session. That was hammered home when Ray Whitney and Shane Doan continuously ripped through the Bs attempts at neutral zone coverage, and the B's defensemanflailed badly in breaking the puck out of their own end. Boston almost didn't make it into the extra session when Phoenix had them hemmed into their own zone with the B's best players on the ice.But the Yotes have their own problems.

The Bruins were aided by a Coyotes bunch that were missing Martin Hanzal, Boyd Gordon, Adrian Aucoin and Mike Smith and couldnt quite finish the dozen scoring opportunities a sloppy Bs unit dropped in their laps. Still when a coach addresses his own squad and uses the phrase Swiss Cheese its usually a time to reassess the situation and address potential holes in the team "cheese".

It was one of those games where they had some great opportunities. I thought we struggled again through the neutral zone. I thought we struggled a bit and they were really going through us like Swiss Cheese, said Claude Julien. We left a lot of areas there for them to skate through. It was our first game back from having three days off, so we werent as sharp as we could have been. We improved as the game went on and got the result that we wanted.

We take pride in our defensive game without the puck. Confidence grows with each game, and we believe 99 percent of the time, we will get great goaltending. However, we know there will be challenges ahead, so we have to guard against overconfidence.

Itll be a challenge to avoid overconfidence when subpar periods and shoddy execution cant stop the Bruins from winning, but thats the name of a game for a hockey club thats become a handful to everyone else in the NHL for two full months. In proper perspective the B's also allowed only 21 shots through an entire overtime game against the Coyotes, so it's not like the 50 shots per game Boston allowed with Chara missing from the lineup.

Where once teams might have been able to take advantage of the Bruins on an off night the Bs now hold the secret sauce to extract two points out of those games too. It almost doesnt seem fair but thats just the way it is these days with the Stanley Cup champion Bruins and their ever-expanding point total at the expense of everybody else.

Hagg Bag: Some offseason B’s questions while waiting for Vesey’s decision

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Hagg Bag: Some offseason B’s questions while waiting for Vesey’s decision

With Bruins development camp in the rear-view mirror and the Bruins roster pretty close to full barring any bold moves from B’s general manager Don Sweeney, there isn’t much movement anticipated for the Black and Gold the next few weeks. 

Certainly there isn’t much expected until the Bruins learn about their chances in the Jimmy Vesey Sweepstakes Aug. 15. The addition of the Hobey Baker winner and Harvard captain could spur on a couple of moves from the Bruins front office and would certainly result in some alterations in terms of talent and salary cap makeup on the NHL roster.

But it’s all quiet on the Black and Gold front for right now, so there’s ample time for another edition of the Hagg Bag mailbag. As always, these are tweets to my Twitter account using the #HaggBag hash tag, emails to my jhaggerty@comcastsportsnet.com and messages to my CSN Facebook page. Now, on to the tag:

Joe

I still keep coming back to that interview, which for a Bruins fan had to make you giddy like Jimmy [Vesey] was when he responded to you about the possibility of putting a B's jersey on.  

After hearing your podcast with Jim Murphy, I agree with you there are a lot of options out there such as Toronto, Buffalo, Chicago, San Jose to play with [Joe] Thornton his idol, or New Jersey but if his father lets him make his own decision, as he's stated, then the B's have a great chance of signing him.

He wanted the B's to [draft] him but Don was not the GM then so being given a chance on August 15 to do just that has to be one of his biggest factors. Add that to having his family close by, knowing Jimmy Hayes, Matt Grzelcyk, & Ryan Donato (plus knowing and appreciating Torey) I can't wait until the 15th. Why wait until your later years to play in Boston when you can sign now?

Question is with Loui gone taking 30 goals off the board I think his signing on top of acquiring [David] Backes will be more than replace those goals. But who then can the B's trade away, not right away, but into the season to acquire some help in other areas?

The first name is [David] Krejci, [Adam] McQuaid, and possibly Jimmy Hayes if he has a second subpar season. Could the inclusion of Krejci, who can produce, be dealt along with some other pieces to acquire a player like [Jonas] Brodin or [Matthew] Dumba & also have a chance of getting a player like Charlie Coyle?

What lines do you see?  What about the following:

1st Line- Jimmy Vesey-David Krejci- David Backes

2nd Line- Brad Marchand-Patrice Bergeron-& David Pastrnak who, like Seguin, might be better suited with Patrice?

3rd Line- Matt Beleskey-Ryan Spooner-Jimmy Hayes

4th Line- Frank Vatrano- Noel Acciari- Riley Nash

Backend- Zdeno Chara-Colin Miller; Torey Krug-Kevan Miller; & John Michael Liles-Adam McQuaid or Brandon Carlo (long shot is to acquire Jacob Trouba from Winnipeg because he wants top four minutes and has Buff and Myers ahead of him on the depth chart…if possible slot him in the second unit with Torey and deal either McQuaid or Miller)

Another point I would like to touch on is also from your comments on the podcast or NHL XM/Sirius radio when you mentioned the Bruins have to caution themselves from dealing away valuable picks, or assets, for rental players at the trade deadline.  One point that Don Sweeney has made on a number of occasions was that the Bruins targeted defensemen and big center-men. My hope now is that since they have re-stocked the system they need to draft the top potential player available on the board rather than selecting based upon a particular need. Not to knock who they have drafted but they need to pick the best player available keeping in mind the importance placed on picks to having hockey sense and leadership or character traits. The selection of David Pastrnak is a case in point as he's a high skilled player who needed to learn the defensive game.  I hope that future drafts will see the Bruins focused on the best player available not based on the position they play. 

Greig Young

 
JH: Glad you enjoyed the Jimmy Vesey, interview. I came away with a much better feeling about the kid in general than I did going in without knowing much about him. I think a lot of the whispered stuff you hear about him is coming from those around him rather than him. It’s understandable that Vesey’s dad might have strong opinions about it all given that he played in the NHL. So, surely he’s advising his son, but I got the strong sense this is about the 23-year-old Vesey making the decision for himself, and what’s best for his career and his own chances of NHL success.

I went into the interview thinking that the Bruins had a very good chance based upon what I’d heard, and talking with Vesey did nothing to dissuade me from that feeling. Could the Blackhawks swoop in and snatch him at the last minute? Maybe. Or maybe he’s had designs on going to Toronto all the time.

But I’ve heard Boston was one of the frontrunners all along, and I’m going to continue to believe that until we know for sure.

Whether it’s Brodin, Dumba, Kevin Shattenkirk, Cam Fowler, Jacob Trouba, Tyson Barrie or somebody else, I do think the Bruins are poised to pull the trigger on another move if Vesey does indeed sign with Boston next month. It would certainly make a winger on the NHL roster expendable, and the Bruins already have a slew of NHL-caliber centers as well.

As for the draft, I’m a firm believer in always picking the best player available. When you pick by positional needs over best player, that’s when you end up with nonsensical choices like Malcolm Subban in the first round in 2012.

 
If they get Vesey do they run at Barrie with 54, 72 & 51?

--Russ Romandini (@goldenpipesss)

 
JH: Who knows? If the arbitration process goes badly enough for Tyson Barrie and the Avalanche then perhaps he’ll get dealt somewhere. If the Bruins sign Vesey, then I’d expect a couple of those players you mentioned (Adam McQuaid, Frank Vatrano, Ryan Spooner) might be in play to get a dynamic, young top-four defenseman the Bruins could immediately plug in as a top-pairing candidate with Zdeno Chara.

That would be my expectation of how things go down with the Bruins, but if we’ve learned one thing it should be this: it’s awfully, awfully difficult to close a deal in the NHL for a high-caliber defenseman, and it might not be in the cards for Don Sweeney and the Bruins prior to the start of the season.

The Bruins need to get one of those D-men if they really want to compete this season, so we’ll see what happens if/when Vesey signs with them. If Vesey signs elsewhere then I’d expect the Bruins will go into the season with what they currently have.

 

#StrangerThings have you ever played D&D like Mike, Dustin and Lucas? Did you ever sport a mullet in the 80s?

--borisan (@borisan28)

 
JH: Yes, and don’t forget about poor Will. He was there playing at the beginning and the end too. Right around that age I played my share of Dungeons and Dragons along with love of baseball cards, addiction to Strat-O-Matic baseball, football, basketball and hockey and a steady diet of outdoor sports playing with the many kids in my neighborhood.

I definitely owned a Players Handbook (though I was never hardcore enough into it to be a Dungeon Master, and wasn’t nearly geeky enough to suitably fit in with the real bone fide D&D nerds in the town I grew up in), and had a longstanding high-level fighter/magic user named Huon Pendragon that I role-played with. I’m willing to bet I still have some 20-sided dice around the house somewhere. And don’t forget about the golden age of Nintendo right around then as well: RBI Baseball, Tecmo Bowl, Mike Tyson’s Punchout, Spy Hunter, and Nintendo Hockey among others.

What a great time to be a kid. I definitely had some form of a mullet in middle school during the mid-1980’s, but it was probably not as definitive as many during that time period.

 
Which prospect will surprise us and make the roster?

--Michael Matthews (@MMATTHEWS4)

 
JH: Brandon Carlo and Danton Heinen are both expected to compete for spots, so I’m not sure I’d label either one of them a surprise. How about Jeremy Lauzon? He’s a 2015 second-round pick coming off a big junior season and the Bruins rave about his approach, his work ethic and certainly seem to think he’ll be a top-four defenseman someday soon. Perhaps it’s as soon as this season. Jake DeBrusk would be my best guess among the forwards after a strong development camp performance. Claude Julien is already on record as being a fan of his toughness and his willingness to do the work as a young player, and the NHL bloodlines from his dad Louie don’t hurt either.  

 
With plenty of cap space and losing a 30 goal scorer, was it foolish of Sweeney not getting Versteeg for a cheap 1 or 2 yrs?

--Jeremiah Kilburn (@vtmxjer66)

 
JH: Not a huge Kris Versteeg fan and, incidentally, neither is the rest of the NHL if he had to go to Europe for steady work for next season. Versteeg is a tough player: good enough to be paid decently in the NHL based on his numbers, but not a good fit in anything but a supporting role on a good hockey team. I’d rather see the Bruins bring along young kids in that spot or hope that something has inspired Jimmy Hayes this summer.

 
Will Rask bounce back from last year? What will Cassidy provide behind the bench to help the B’s this year?

--Bob Falfa (@FalfaBob)

 
JH: I think Rask will have a better season provided the Bruins can execute a deal for another puck-moving defenseman. If they go into the season with the current group of D-men, then I think Rask will be in line for another season similar to this past one. Why would anybody think there’s going to be a radically different result?

I obviously don’t think Rask was consistently at his best last season, but I also think 80-90 percent of his troubles last season are attributable to the shoddy defense in front of him. Plain and simple, cut and dried. Bruce Cassidy is a keen offensive mind and he’s good with young players, which means he either A) will be a nice compliment to Julien as sort of a counter-point on the coaching staff or B) will end up replacing Julien and pushing the Bruins more in the offense and youth direction if the B’s struggle mightily at the start of next season.

The Bruins should get more out of Ryan Spooner and Colin Miller with Cassidy on the staff, or should in theory at least.

I’ve long been of the opinion that things are a little stale with this Bruins group, and that a change of coaching voice might be the best thing for them given the current direction of the franchise. It doesn’t take away what Julien has done over the past 10 years, or reflect his standing as an excellent hockey coach. He just might not be the right coach for this Bruins team and the direction that they’re headed. It should be a really interesting season because I don’t think Cassidy takes the NHL assistant gig in Boston unless he thinks there’s another NHL head coaching shot in his future. That’s just my opinion, of course, but certainly an informed one.

 
Hey Joe - why do the Bruins not promote Tommy Cross? Too old now?

--John Thiell (via CSN Facebook page)

 
JH: Tommy Cross is what he is: a solid, tough pro and leader of men at the AHL level, who can perform in spots when called upon at the NHL level. I just don’t think he skates well enough anymore to be a regular NHL D-man after all of his knee surgeries, and it’s a shame given the kind of player he was before all of the knee issues. He would not be an upgrade if he was among the Bruins D-men group to break NHL camp this fall.

 
I think the B's will be better than predicted. But if things go south do you think they move Chara at the deadline? #HaggBag

--Ray Guarino (@rayguarino)

 
JH: I like your optimism. If things go south for the Bruins, I would hope they’d explore that kind of a move while clearly changing the blue line guard. They should have explored it last year as well, in my humble opinion.

 
Who the hell is Chief Hopper feeding in @Stranger_Things? Elle? Demogorgon? Ryan Fitzpatrick?

--CP (@cpierce1994)

JH: I’m going with “El”, but not ruling out Ryan Fitzpatrick. Something tells me that El and the Demogorgon are linked together, or perhaps two sides of the same being. It will be interesting to see how they explore it in Season Two, but suffice to say that I recommend “Stranger Things” on Netflix to anybody that hasn’t seen it: an awesome, addictive 1980’s homage eight episode series that combines E.T., Poltergeist, Firestarter, War Games, Goonies and Nightmare on Elm Street. It’s just that good.

 
Brad Marchand for Hampus Lindholm and Chris Wagner

--Joe Harris (via CSN Facebook page)

JH: Okay, but are you asking me or telling me? If you’re asking me, I don’t think the Ducks are going to do that unless Marchand is signed to a reasonable, long-term contract. And I don’t think he’s going to be signing one of those: he’s going to get something in the neighborhood of eight years and $50 million on a new contract if the Bruins are willing to go there.

 
Joe, will the Bruins look at either Kris Russell or James Wisniewski before camp or wait till to see what happens with the young guys

--Eugene Mannarino (@steelman58)

JH: Perhaps, but the price would have to be right. I also don’t think either of those would be candidates unless the Bruins go into training camp and don’t like what they see out of Joe Morrow, Miller and Carlo. Russell was a consideration, but I think he’s still looking for far too much money and term for the Bruins to be interested right now.

 
What is the most realistic situation for the Bruins adding to their D? And who do you see as the most promising B's prospect

--Colin Miller (@sportschatterHD)

 
JH: The most realistic situation is the Bruins signing Vesey, and then trading Vatrano or Spooner and a first round pick to St. Louis for Kevin Shattenkirk, or perhaps even trading David Krejci to the Blues for Shattenkirk once they get into the season and show that he’s fully recovered from his hip surgery. I think Charlie McAvoy is the most promising Bruins prospect and that he’s a legit top-pairing talent a couple of years down the line.

He’s got the skating, the passing, the size, the willingness to mix it up physically, and the offensive instincts to be effective while skating big, big minutes. He says he wants to play like Drew Doughty and there’s more than a little of that kind of player within McAvoy’s game. Even if he can be 80 percent of Doughty, that is a guy the Bruins can win with as one of their top defenders. He’s exactly what they need, but it will be a year or two before the 18-year-old is ready for Boston.

Combine McAvoy with Carlo, Jakub Zboril, Lauzon and a young NHL talent in Torey Krug, and you have the makings of a pretty talented back end a few years down the road. That doesn’t excuse the mess of a blue line the Bruins have right now, however, that’s alarmingly the same as last year’s weak unit that dragged down the hockey club.

 
Joe,

I am very disillusioned with the Boston Bruins.  I am angry they traded Seguin (Chiarelli), Reilly Smith and Dougie Hamilton, for essentially nothing.

They allowed Eriksson to walk, not even getting a draft pick.  They draft terribly and usually choose checkers…meanwhile, other teams in the East are improving. Bruins are not pro-active. I honestly think they do not know what they are doing.  Sweeney and Neely must be listening to dinosaur Harry Sinden.  Harry also hated scorers and offensive-minded prayers.

This team needs an upgraded defense, plus some young dynamic scoring (work so hard to score goals) talent up front, especially now that Eriksson is gone. I am so frustrated with idiots Don Sweeny, Cam Neely, Gretzky, Claude and scouts.  I want them to be fired immediately; I want Jacobs to sell the team. I want some young scoring forwards on this team... and a coach/organization that is more offensive-minded/friendly. They are so boring....

Thanks for your attention.
J.E. Shay

JH: Get it all, out. Get it all out, J.E. This mailbag is cheaper than any Bruins therapy session you’d ever attend in person. I suspect your opinion will change if the Bruins make the playoffs this season while introducing more of the young talent in their pipeline. If they don’t, then I’ll expect another one of these from you next summer. See you guys in a couple of weeks and thanks for the great questions. 

Monday, July 25: A new home for Isles in Queens?

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Monday, July 25: A new home for Isles in Queens?

Here are the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while enjoying Alec Baldwin hosting the new “Match Game.” What a throwback that is.

*Larry Brooks asks if there is even one person that would support the New York Islanders building a new hockey arena in Queens.

*Friends to hockey, Jay Onrait and Dan O’Toole, sat down Montreal Canadiens fan Jonah Keri for a podcast this week.

*A really good piece from 15 years ago by Jon Paul Morosi, back in the days when we both wrote pieces for USCHO, about Jim Prior’s dedication to BU, and to the world of hockey.

*Connor McDavid says that being named the captain of the Edmonton Oilers would be an “unbelievable honor” for the young player.

*PHT writer and FOH (Friend of Haggs) Jason Brough has the Philadelphia Flyers signing Brayden Schenn to a four year contract.

*Speaking of the Flyers, Sean Couturier has a street named after him in his hometown within the province of New Brunswick.

*For something completely different: if you’re into Andre the Giant drinking stories then this is the article for you.

 

Sunday, July 24: Dominic Moore mulls NHL offers

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Sunday, July 24: Dominic Moore mulls NHL offers

Here are the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while marveling at how good the Justice League and Wonder Woman trailers were this weekend.

*PHT writer Cam Tucker has veteran center Dominic Moore mulling a couple of offers as he looks for an NHL contract for next season.

*Jordan Eberle joined Canadian sports radio, and agreed that something needed to change with the Oilers after continually missing the playoffs.

*I will miss Jim Prior’s trademark “The Teams are ready, so let’s play hockey!” open to every game as a PA announcer, and I’ll miss his warm personality around the rink. It’s a sad day for the BU hockey program.

*The Arizona Coyotes continue to put together a very interesting D-men picture by signing Luke Schenn to a two-year contract. For my money, Schenn has long been one of the most overrated players in the NHL.

*The Hockey News’ Mike Brophy has some thoughts and observations about the NHL offseason as it continues to wind on.

*Good piece by FOH (Friend of Haggs) Dave Stubbs on Andrei Markov and his candid thoughts on everything from the Montreal traffic to the PK Subban/Shea Weber trade.

*Here’s a spot to track the travels and stories of the Pittsburgh Penguins amid their summer with the Stanley Cup.

*For something completely different: as mentioned above, here is the trailer for the Justice League that shows a much lighter, better touch with what should be a fun movie to watch. Hopefully this means it won’t be another pretty-looking, Zack Snyder funeral dirge.