Haggerty: Bruins finally find strength in numbers


Haggerty: Bruins finally find strength in numbers

BOSTON -- There were many buzz words synonymouswith last years Bruins.

But the one used most often, and most complimentary, was depth. Shift after shift, the B'sarrived in attacking waves as the coaches rolled out all four forward groups period after period. The Bruins could wear out more talented opponents with their overwhelming strength in numbers, and their willingness to relentlessly keep pushing.

So it was probably appropriate that 13 different Bruin players cracked the scoresheet and all four forward lines were accounted for in Tuesday nights 5-3 victory over the Ottawa Senators at TD Garden, which snapped Boston's three-game losing and Ottawas six-game winning streak.The Bruins needed to show something after a 3-7 start, and they did just that against the upstart Sens.

Thats what you want. Thats what made our team successful last year, said coach Claude Julien. I think its important to get some of that and obviously help guys get their confidence, too. When everybody goes out there and contributes in the fashion that they did tonight, its a lot better for the confidence of the whole team.

More importantly, the Bs were dogged and determined enough to ignore wide-open net chances botchedby both Rich Peverley and Nathan Horton in the early going, and didnt shrug their shoulders in weakcapitulation as theyve done too often this season.

Instead they hunkered down and kept attacking with tenacity and determination that trumped the spunky effort from the upstart Sens. It seems the Bs finally broke the spell that had them making the same mistakes over and over again.

The Bruins did some damage on the power play early, lulled Chris Neil and Spezza into taking penalties with equal parts hard work and poise under times of duress, and finally finished off some of the plays that eluded them early in the game. They attacked with 41 shots on net, and didn't ease back once they'd built up a one-goal lead heading into the final 20 minutes.

We took all the frustration and all that stuff that weve been feeling and used to our advantage instead of getting down on ourselves, said Patrice Bergeron. And thats the only way you can get out of those things. You know what, though: its only one game. So were happy but we have a long ways still to go.

Zdeno Chara was a physical presence offensively and defensively, and assisted on a pair of early goals while holding Ottawa'sSpezza and Co. to a minus-2 in the marquee match-up. Bergeron, Brad Marchand and Tyler Seguin all played over 20 minutes of iceeach while creating 11 qualityshots, and teaming with Chara and Johnny Boychuk to shut down Ottawas top line.If anything the Bruins were a little too pass-happy in the early going, but started really coming into their own as the game unfolded.

I thought that last year that was one our strengths when we had contributions from every line, at both ends of the ice, said Chris Kelly. That was nice to see tonight.

Speaking of Boychuk, the gifted defenseman once again had his game snap into focus at the exact right time. He was a consistent offensive factor, and scored the game-winning goal with one of his patented bombs from the point after being off the mark early. Milan Lucic snagged his fourth goal in the last five games and terrorized the Ottawa defenseman with his punishing body checks in the first half of the game -- a tactic that always loosens up the opposing defensemen for turnovers later in games.

Tim Thomas was timely with his stalwart goalie play in the second period where he registered only seven saves, but stood up to goal-mouth attacks from Colin Greening and Milan Michalek when the game was still tied.

That doesnt even mention the fourth lines contribution: Quality shifts with equal parts emotion and effectiveness,and an insurance goal from Daniel Paille thrown in, to boot. Its the reason Julien opted for them to start at puck dropTuesday night, and the reason he chose their line after the teams third and fourth goals of the evening as a means toward keeping the momentum solelyin Bostons corner.

There were some down portions of the win, of course. Both Horton and David Krejci continue to struggle. Krejci was slightly better as he tries to climb out of a sluggish start to the season, but Horton is still stuck in neutral with a game that's far from north-south.

But the Bruins were able to overcome any down performances through their strength in numbers, and know that is their ultimate blueprint for success this year and any other year. It worked against the best team in the NHL during the Stanley Cup Finals last season, so it will certainly work against the Ottawa Senators on a Tuesday night in November.

We played a good team game, said Thomas plainly, truthfully and simply.

Whats the key for the Bruins now that they seem to have found their footing?

The Bs need to follow up a nice statement win against the Senators with more strong efforts inback-to-back fashion. They had three singlewins prior to Tuesday, but haven't been able to follow up any of those victories with anothervictoryto get a winning streak going.That needs to change.If the Bruins are set to go streaking for a while, theyre going to need everybody on board as they were Tuesday night in a flashback performance.

Bruins hope OT win was sign of things to come offensively

Bruins hope OT win was sign of things to come offensively

BOSTON -- For a team where offense has been a major problem area this season, lighting the lamp four times against the Florida Panthers on Monday night was a welcomed sight for the Bruins indeed.

The Bruins won it in dazzling fashion with a 4-3 overtime win on a David Pastrnak rush to the net after he totally undressed D-man Mike Matheson on his way to the painted area, and then skill took over for him easily beating Roberto Luongo with a skate-off goal.

That was the game-breaker doing his thing and finishing with a pair of goals in victory, and continuing to push a pace that has the 20-year-old right wing on track for more than 40 goals this season.

That would give the Bruins just their fourth 40-goal scorer in the last 25 years of franchise history (Glen Murray in 2002-03, Bill Guerin in 2001-02 and Cam Neely in 1993-94), and mark one of the bigger reasons behind an expected offensive surge that may just be coming for a Black and Gold group currently ranked 23rd in the league in offense.

They just hope that the four strikes vs. Florida is indeed a harbinger of things to come for the rest of the season after serving as just the eighth time in just 26 games this season that they scored more than two goals.

“[There have been] a lot of tight games and low-scoring games, you’re right. It’s good, but as a goalie, I’m not happy when I let in three goals, ever. But it’s great to see that scoring support,” said Tuukka Rask. “When you get four goals, you expect to win, and a lot of times when we get three, I expect to win. It’s great to see [an uptick in scoring].”

So what is there to be optimistic about from a B’s offensive perspective aside from Pastrnak blowing up for a couple more goals to keep pace among the NHL league leaders with Sidney Crosby and Patrick Laine?

Well, the Bruins are starting to see results from crashing to the front of the net, attacking in the offensive zone and finally finishing off plays after serving as one of the best puck possession teams in the league over the first few months.

Just look at how the goals were scored, and how the Bruins are working in closer to the net rather than settling for perimeter plays.

The first goal on Monday night was a result of Tim Schaller crashing down the slot area for a perfectly executed one-timer feed from David Krejci. Similarly David Pastrnak was hanging around in front of the net in the second period when a no-look, spinning Brad Marchand dish from behind the net came his way, and he wasn’t going to miss from that range against Roberto Luongo. Then David Backes parked his big body in front of the Florida net in the third period, and redirected a Ryan Spooner shot up and over Luongo for the score that got the Bruins into overtime.

It’s one of a couple of goals scored by Backes down low recently, and his third goal in the last five games as he heats up with his playmaking center in Krejci. The 32-year-old Backes now has seven goals on the season and is on pace for 26 goals after a bit of a slow start, and the offense is coming for that line as they still search for balance in their two-way hockey play.

“A few more guys are feeling [better] about their games, and know that we’re capable of putting a crooked number up like that. It bodes well moving forward,” said Backes. “But you can’t think that we’re going to relax after the effort that we put in. We’ve got to skill to those dirty areas and still get those second and third chances, and not take anything off during those opportunities. It’s got to go to the back of the net.

“With the way Tuukka has played, and our defense has been stingy and our penalty kill has been on, four goals should be a win for our team. It hasn’t always been easy for us this year. It’s been a process, but I think you’re starting to see the things that you need to see in order for us to score goals. We’re going to the front of the net and getting extended offensive zone time, and then you find a few guys like Pasta in the slot. That’s a good recipe for us.”

Then there’s Ryan Spooner, who enjoyed his best game of the season on Monday night and set up the B’s third goal of the game with his speed and creativity. It was noticeable watching Spooner play with his unbridled skating speed and creative playmaking, and it made a discernible difference in Boston’s overall offensive attack against Florida. It’s something that Claude Julien is hoping to see more of moving forward from Spooner after recent trade rumors really seemed to spark the 23-year-old center, and also knocked some of the inconsistency from a player that’s extremely dangerous offensively when he’s “on.”

“It’s obvious that if Ryan wants to give us those kinds of games, then we have lots of time for him. When he doesn’t we just can’t afford to give him that kind of ice time,” said Julien. “There are games where he hasn’t been as involved, and it’s obvious and apparent to everybody that when he’s not getting involved then he’s not helping our team. When he is playing the way he did yesterday, we can certainly use that player more than not. We’d love to see him get consistent with those kinds of games.”

So while it’s clear the Bruins aren’t completely out of the woods offensively and there are still players like Patrice Bergeron sitting below their usual offensive numbers, it’s also been a little mystifying to watch Boston struggle so much offensively given their talent level.

The Black and Gold fully realized that potential in taking a tough divisional game from Florida on Monday night, and they hope it’s something to build on as the schedule doesn’t let up at all in the coming weeks.

Tuesday, Dec. 6: The Bruins-Panthers connection

Tuesday, Dec. 6: The Bruins-Panthers connection

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while Dave Dombrowski is collecting stars and talent over at Fenway Park. I dig it.

*Interesting piece about switching teams in the NHL and leaving behind old allegiances when the job calls for it.

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) Harvey Fialkov looks at the connections between the Bruins and the Florida Panthers, and more specifically with the Panthers and the Boston-area.

*A rumor round-up across the NHL including the humorous nugget that the Bruins are looking to move Jimmy Hayes. Yes, they are looking to move Hayes. They are begging some other NHL team to take on the player and the contract for somebody that has one point since last February. It’s not happening.

*Escrow is at the heart of the next negotiation between the NHL and the NHLPA, and I really thought it was going to be years before I’d have to even think about the CBA again.

*Tough break for the Florida Panthers losing Keith Yandle for a long period of time after he was injured last night vs. the Bruins. FOH (Friend of Haggs) Mike Halford has the story at Pro Hockey Talk.

*Wild coach Bruce Boudreau talks his “bucket list”, which includes a lot of movies and even a stint as a movie reviewer for the Manchester Union Leader back in the day.

*Sounds like Pat Maroon might want to sit out the next few plays after calling hockey a “man’s game” among other things.

*For something completely different: Yup, I’m pretty okay with the Red Sox blowing up the prospect cupboard for Chris Sale.