Haggerty: Bruins finally look energized again

Haggerty: Bruins finally look energized again
April 3, 2013, 10:45 am
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Nathan Horton is one of seven Bruins' players, who are originally from Ontario and are playing tonight. Horton has 2 goals in the first two games of the series thus far.

(USA Today Sports)

BOSTON -- The energy, precision and speed you might have noticed from the Bruins on Tuesday night was probably not a coincidence.

Sure it was a “soft” defensive effort as termed by Claude Julien after the fact, but the Bruins also snapped off a season-high 50 shots on net and got offensive push from everybody in a Black and Gold sweater, including 38-year-old Jay Pandolfo who had a booming shot attempt from the slot in the first period.

The Bruins also finally snapped a spell of seven straight games where they hadn’t scored in the first period, and held a lead after the first 20 minutes for the first time in weeks.

Clearly there were a couple of things at work that inspired the B’s skaters to unmatched offensive heights this year, but they were just glad they were able to parlay that into a 3-2 win over the Senators at TD Garden. They’ve also now widened their cushion over Toronto and Ottawa to six points with a game in hand in the Northeast Division, and the B's remain just a single point behind the Montreal Canadiens for second overall in the Eastern Conference.  

“It was more of just a run ‘n’ gun game,” admitted Brad Marchand, who assisted on Tyler Seguin’s first-period goal. “Both goalies played very well, and it definitely made it interesting out there. When you get a couple of goals, it usually gets your confidence up.

“It seems like the puck is bouncing the right way for a lot of guys. [There were] a lot of shots on net there. It was fun and exciting, but nice to come out on the winning side.”

There were a number of things to marvel at throughout the game. Tyler Seguin led all players with a career-high 12 shots on net and seemed to be all over the ice making plays whether it was his first-period goal or a breakaway in the second period on which Robin Lehner was able to execute a pad save.

Nathan Horton scored a goal in his fourth consecutive game and appears to finally be putting together that power game in front of the net where he’s collecting rebounds and changing shots. David Krejci scored his ninth goal and 30th point of the season while pushing his average-sized body toward the front of the net, and continues to put together the most consistent regular-season effort since he’s been in the NHL. Milan Lucic had a couple of assists and surprisingly ranks third in that category on the Bruins with 17 helpers on the season.

Things are coming together for many of the Bruins’ best players, and they still readily admit they can get better.  

“It was [three] decent periods. I wouldn’t say it was the best hockey we played, but it was decent. Sometimes you need some dirty goals,” said Krejci. “That’s what happened today so we’re obviously happy for those two points and now we have to look ahead to our next game in a couple days.

“It’s coming up pretty quickly again so we’ve got to regroup and get ready for our next game.”

So what is all of this attributable to?

Some of it is the natural order of things with the hockey calendar now turned to April, and the Bruins fully aware they only have a couple more weeks of grinding regular season hockey before it becomes an all-consuming drive through the playoffs. There was clearly a malaise during the month of March where Bruins players were just battling to slog through a punishing schedule.

But it’s time to flip the switch and make sure the Black and Gold machine is running at full efficiency.

The other reason: The Bruins were clearly energized with the message from the Bruins’ front office that the team is going for it by securing the services of Jaromir Jagr for the rest of the season. The Bruins were close on a couple of big-ticket deals last season that fell through because the players weren’t ultimately made available by teams on the cusp of the playoffs, and the lack of oomph provided by deadline-day deals for Brian Rolston and Greg Zanon was palpable.

But this year the Bruins know they’re getting a player that’s only 44 points away from passing Mario Lemieux for No. 7 on the NHL’s career scoring list, and one of the best offensive players that moved at the deadline. Say what you will about Jagr being a mercenary at this point in his career and speculate about what motivates a guy like him to keep playing at 41 years old, but he’ll produce offense. He enters the B’s fold with 14 goals scored and six power-play goals this season.

Not to mention it adds a little something to the mix for a group of Bruins players that are very used to each other inside the dressing room. Perhaps bringing in a surefire Hall of Fame hockey icon will provide a little energetic spring in everybody else’s step as it seemed to on Tuesday night.

“It’s obviously very exciting. I know he entered the league a couple of years before I was born, so it definitely shows his experience,” said Tyler Seguin. “I’ll be watching him closely. I think he’s got incredible skill. He’s going to help out our depth, for sure, and obviously our power play.

“From a confidence standpoint, I guess you could say [the trade provides] a little spark. Coming in here, everyone definitely is going to look up to him with what he’s done. I think he’s going to be a big part of our locker room, both on the ice and in the dressing room with getting a true leader.”

Clearly the Bruins have some defensive issues to straighten and some room to grow before they’re hitting the top rungs of their overall game. Peter Chiarelli also needs to finish out today’s trade deadline by landing the potential top-four defenseman capable of moving the puck and helping out on the power play.

The Bruins are not yet as good as they’ll be when the postseason begins. But the speed and energy is flowing back into their game, and the reasons why are less important than the unmistakable evidence the B’s are getting back to where they need to be.