Haggerty: The Bruins are ready for the Boston spotlight

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Haggerty: The Bruins are ready for the Boston spotlight

The contrast was too plain and easy to ignore.

As the New England Patriots dig their way out from under unfulfilled expectations and the ghosts of Super Bowls past, the Boston Bruins are the citys best hope for another championship in the foreseeable future.

The Celtics still have remnants of their NBA title past in Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, but theyre too old, too small and too not-the-Miami-Heat to have any chance of winning this spring. The Red Sox are running their baseball operations like theyre the Minnesota Twins these days, and their summer will end with the same kind of small market disappointment as they do in the Twin Cities.

But the Bruins have the talent, the experience, the star power and the nucleus of a Stanley Cup worthy team thats still in their prime, and have shown just how motivated they are by jumping out with a pair of solid wins at home. That's why they are the best, last hope to live up to the mantle of high expectations that's part of the DNA for every sports team within the city of Boston.

Where the entire region was at the depths of disappointment on Sunday night with the sobering realization an era might be slowly crawling to an end for Tom Brady and Bill Belichick, the melancholy was wiped away on Monday afternoon with one filthy Tyler Seguin scoring move in the shootout.

It's a responsibility the Bruins organization is keenly aware of from Cam Neely on down, and it's one they're looking to uphold.

Were a gritty team, we like to think were a hardworking team, and you know our guys are pretty focused on making sure we give the fans what they want and give the city what they deserve. Thats helped us a lot, said Claude Julien. Were all big fans Sunday afternoon I sat in front of that television all afternoon watching football, and I was a big fan like everybody else and just as disappointed.

But you turn around and say, Okay now its our chance here to try and do something for this city. Were fortunate to have some good sports teams here in Boston. No doubt the fans get spoiled, but theyre such good fans. They fill every building up, so they deserve it.

The lament for a potentially lost NHL season during the lockout was strong in Boston because folks could see what else was on the pro sports horizon aside from the Black and Gold.

And it wasnt pretty.

A spring filled with Red Sox spring training camp and the mercurial point guard stylings of Rajon Rondo werent going to get the job done by themselves. No NHL would have left a gaping hole that couldn't be filled by the hollow activities of the four-month lockout: emptying out the contents of your DVR, or renting the entire run of "The Wire" on Netflix.

Now the Bruins are back, and theyve restored their swaggering hunger after getting far too drunk and much too satisfied on their own Stanley Cup success.

Milan Lucic went from lockout question mark to snarling beast who has amassed an NHL-best 14 registered hits in Bostons first two games, and is back to being the big-bodied wrecking ball striking fear into all opponents. Tuukka Rask is 2-0-0 with a 0.96 goals against average and a .958 save percentage in Bostons first two games, and is doing it with the economical movements and quiet technique in direct contrast to the hyper crease theatrics of Tim Thomas.

Tyler Seguin provided the electric offense in regulation that Boston needed, and then set the playmaking tone in the shootout as hes so often done over the last few years. Thats helped the Bruins to a 10-3 record in shootouts over the last two seasons, and will keep them piling up the points in this short regular season campaign.

Zdeno Chara completely shut down New York Rangers wonder boy Rick Nash in the season opener, and rag-dolled old friend Blake Wheeler all over the ice on Monday afternoon like it was the good old days at the Bruins practice rink. That he did it in defense of his young understudy, Dougie Hamilton, simply made it all the better.

The Bruins defense has allowed just 47 shots and two goals in the first two games, and has done that while breaking 19-year-old Dougie Hamilton into the regular rotation of blueliners.

For a team that had focused on a strong start as one of the big keys to success in a 48-game shortened schedule, the Bruins are right on time. Even better theyre getting it done at home and creating an air of expectation that people will see something special on the TD Garden now that the Boys are Back.

We want to create a good atmosphere here and a good feeling right on through the whole organization and to the fans, said Andrew Ference. We just want to get those positive vibes going early in the season because they count for a lot. People say it was the Stanley Cup thing last year, but I dont think that was it because we turned it on pretty good for a couple of months.

It was just mentally not being as prepared as we should have been. Now I think everybody has put a lot of onus on themselves to play their game. I know the guys that didnt play in Europe put a lot of pressure on themselves to make sure they were prepared and that they werent dead weight to the team. So its just a matter of guys taking pride in getting the first few under our belt.

The Bruins have accomplished their first mission of taking the initial two home games on TD Garden ice, and now comes an opportunity to really step on the Rangers throats Wednesday night. The Blueshirts are reeling after a pair of season-opening defeats including a tough loss to the Penguins that saw Henrik Lundqvist pulled from net for the first time in well over a year.

There is still four months worth of regular season followed by two months of playoffs for the Bruins before another Stanley Cup title could be a reality.

But the Black and Gold are now on the clock after last weekend.

The Bs represent the next-best chance for a Boston team to bring home a title to the City of Champions after the Patriots faltered, and they look like theyre ready for their hockey close-up.

Talking Points: Veteran Red Wings torch Bruins

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Talking Points: Veteran Red Wings torch Bruins

GOLD STAR: Take your pick: Steve Ott, Drew Miller and Luke Glendening torched the Bruins with veteran savvy and toughness against a very young defensemen unit trying to survive in the second preseason game. Ott and Glendening each scored a goal and finished with three points, and Miller finished with a goal and two points while all three forwards had a plus-3 rating for the night. All of their goals came off winning battles, crashing the net and taking advantage of defensive miscues. The goals provided a good lesson to the young kids that have a ways to go before they’re NHL ready at this point in their careers. It certainly must have been a kick to the stones to many Bruins fans when “Brave” Steve Ott was named the No. 1 Star of the game after it was all over, but that was certainly appropriate.

BLACK EYE: Adam McQuaid was the most experienced defensemen out on the ice for the Bruins on Wednesday night, and it was a rough night for him with so many young guys around him on the back end. McQuaid finished a minus-2 in 17:41 with a couple of hits and got a little better as the game was going on, but was on ice for two of the first three goals allowed to Detroit in a really lackluster middle section of the game. In general, it was about more than just one player, though. There were blown assignments in the D-zone and some really noticeable lost battles leading to scoring chances for a Red Wings group that aggressively took it to the Bruins. This is a game that will leave the Bruins coaches with plenty of video material moving forward.

TURNING POINT: The real slippage came early in the game when the Bruins failed to score on some good power play chances for Peter Mueller and Matt Beleskey, and then allowed two goals within 19 seconds of each other in the first period. The first goal was a PP one for the Red Wings with Ryan Spooner whistled for a face-off infraction, and the second was simply the Bruins falling asleep at the wheel just seconds after the first goal was scored. Lost battles led to a bang-bang play in front with Steve Ott scoring as Malcolm Subban was turned around looking for the puck, and the B’s were reeling headed into the first intermission. Only a Subban shoulder save kept it from being 3-0 at the end of the first, and that was something the B’s never seemed to rebound from.

HONORABLE MENTION: Austin Czarnik scored the B’s only goal off a nice play from Ryan Spooner driving toward the net, and continues to put together another strong training camp after doing the same thing last season. Czarnik finished with the goal, three shots on net and six shot attempts in 17:38 of ice time, and battled back from a rough start to go 6-for-12 in the face-off circle while centering an extremely young line with Sean Kuraly and Zach Senyshyn. While Czarnik might not have been a big name when talking about an open roster spot with the Bruins a couple of weeks ago, he’s pushed toward making himself a part the conversation with his heart-filled, high effort energetic performances for the Black and Gold.

BY THE NUMBERS: 4-for-16 was the final tally for Ryan Spooner in the face-off circle as he continues to be a work-in-progress on the draw.

QUOTE TO NOTE: “Maybe I was a little bit shocked first going out there. The speed of the game is noticeably faster, but I think as time went on I got more comfortable out there. Hopefully I can build off that moving forward.” – Bruins rookie D-man Matt Grzelcyk on his first NHL preseason game being a bit of a big wakeup call.  

Bruins defense struggles in 5-1 loss to Red Wings

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Bruins defense struggles in 5-1 loss to Red Wings

BOSTON – The Bruins are clearly getting the kinks out a couple of games into the preseason.

The B’s defense struggled all night, and allowed 39 shots on net and five goals in a 5-1 loss to the Detroit Red Wings at TD Garden. The loss provides plenty of video material for the Boston coaching staff to look at over the next few days.

The Bruins actually started off well in the opening half of the first period, but then the bottom fell out when they couldn’t cash in on a power play chance. That led to a Ryan Spooner face-off penalty and then the Wings scoring on the power play to get things going. The Winged Wheels then scored on a Drew Miller-to-Steve Ott connection 19 seconds later to double Detroit’s lead, and really showed some collapse for the Bruins group on the ice Wednesday night.

Impressive youngster Austin Czarnik scored in the second period after a nice feed from Ryan Spooner crashing to the net, but that was the lone highlight for the Black and Gold against a Detroit team that was ready to go. Luke Glendening scored on a play right in front of the net in the second period as well, and Anthony Mantha made it a 4-0 lead for Detroit until Czarnik cracked the score sheet with his first goal of the preseason.

Drew Miller added a goal in the third period when Linus Arnesson vacated the front of the net to leave it wide open for the NHL veteran, and that was a pretty symbolic play for a Bruins group that never got a defensive foothold all evening.