Haggerty: Bruins get back on the beam in St. Louis


Haggerty: Bruins get back on the beam in St. Louis

ST. LOUIS There were plenty of things to be enthused about after the Bruins went into one of the most inhospitable places in the NHL and came away with two points . . . and some regained bravado.

The Blues had gone an amazing 21 straight games without losing in regulation at the Scottrade Center, but the Bruins handed them their first home defeat since Dec. 3 with a 4-2 victory Wednesday night.

It was a great team effort, said Chris Kelly. The goals we scored werent about forcing anything. It was about being in the right spots and capitalizing on our chance. We just kept plugging away and going at them. We stuck with the game plan and didnt get into a situation where we were on the defense all night.

It was a simple return to the Bruins way of doing things.

There were heavy, punishing hits all over the ice, like the thumping David Krejci put on Kris Russell behind the St. Louis net to set up the Bs second goal. There was a goaltending clinic put on by Tim Thomas in the second period, when he stopped everything as the Blues outshot the Bruins 14-4. There was an undeniable emotional spark from Brad Marchand early in the game, when he turned a splendidly clean steal from Kevin Shattenkirk into instant offense.

There werent any passengers on the bus this evening (including the struggling Krejci, who, in his new right-wing role, helped set up goals for linemates Kelly and Milan Lucic). That roster-wide participation made all the difference for a team that came into Wednesday with three regulation wins in its last 18 games.

There was no doubt we played to win and we did the right things, said coach Claude Julien. I dont think one guy was a bigger hero than the other tonight. I thought this was really a good team win.

It goes to show that when our guys really put their minds to it and are determined to be the hardest-working team out there, then they give you a really good chance to win. Tonight as a coach I was really happy with everybodys game. We worked really hard.

It was the first time the Bs scored more than three goals in a game in nearly three weeks, and it helped that they got away from an offensive formula that had failed them during their recent skid. The Bruins didnt pile up an obscene numbers of futile shot attempts from the perimeter, like they did against Minnesota or the Carolina Hurricanes earlier this month. Instead they reverted to form and chose quality scoring chances over shot quantity. Alert, aggressive defensive plays and punishing forechecking created scoring chances that they capitalized on.

A big thing today was getting that first goal. It helped lighten the mood and gave us that confidence, said Lucic. Even though they tied it up later, the first goal gave us that weight off our shoulders that we could go out and get the next one.

Best of all, the Bruins finally returned to form in the third period. After getting outscored by a 5-1 margin in the third period over the previous four games, the Bruins outshot the Blues, prevented them from scoring, and put the finishing touches on sweet victory with a Marchand breakaway goal.

It was a focused 60-minute effort, and it couldnt have looked more different than many of Bostons recent sleepy performances.

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Celtics-Sixers preview: Road has been kind to C's lately

Celtics-Sixers preview: Road has been kind to C's lately

BOSTON – For most teams in the NBA, road games are a necessary evil. 
Not for the Celtics. At least, not lately.
The Green Team hits the road for its next three games, and that has been a good thing – a real good thing – lately. 
Boston (11-8) has won its last four road games, the kind of success that breeds a heightened level of confidence heading into this current trip which begins tonight at Philadelphia. 
And it only helps that they hit the road coming off a 97-92 win over Sacramento on Friday. 
“We have to carry that momentum with us,” said Boston’s Jae Crowder. “You know how...anytime in this league, the momentum, you have to stay with it. We’ve been having success away from home. It was big for us to get this win (over the Kings) to start the road trip off.”
A big part of Friday’s victory was the play of Al Horford who finished with 26 points, eight rebounds, and six blocked shots. The points and rebounds for Horford were both season-highs.
Horford’s breakout performance came on the heels of a 121-114 loss to Detroit, a game in which Boston’s $113 million man (Horford) only took five shots.
“Coach [Brad Stevens] didn’t say anything about going to him just specifically,” said Boston’s Isaiah Thomas. “We just found him and made the right play and when he got it he was very aggressive.” 
Part of Horford’s success was that he was in more of an attacking mentality. But he also benefited from a Kings defense that didn’t double-team him nearly as much as the Pistons did. 
“I got a lot of early looks in the game and like I said [following the Pistons loss] I think the Pistons did a good job defending and doubling and forcing me to pass the ball. [Friday night] I had more opportunities to be aggressive.”
Facing a Sixers team that ranks among the NBA’s worst in several defensive categories, Horford and the rest of his Celtics teammates should have ample opportunities to make plays offensively. 
And in doing so, they will be able to add on to what has been an already impressive stretch of play this season away from home.
“I think it will be good,” Horford said. “[Tonight] it’s a Philly team that plays hard and we just want to keep building on [Friday night’s win over Sacramento] and just try to be better.”