Haggerty: Bruins know November is key

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Haggerty: Bruins know November is key

WILMINGTON Gregory Campbell and presumably the rest of his Bruins teammates are happy that the month of October is finally over.

Its a long season, however, we see how short it all becomes. Its amazing how important each game is and how difficult it is to climb back in the standings, said Campbell. Fortunately for us October is over, and we can close the door and move on from it.

The Bruins limped out to a 3-7 start in the defense of their Stanley Cup, and have been the poster-children for inconsistency and out-of-control emotion after perfectly walking the fine line last season. Its been well documented that the Bruins are saddled in last place in the Eastern Conference and are among the bottom of the Eastern Conference teams with a minus-3 goal differential -- a far cry from last seasons 5-on-5 dominance throughout the league.

Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli indicated last week he was working the phones for potential trades, and admitted those conversations kicked up in frequency and intensity as he watched his teams game go south. But hes not ready to bust up a Stanley Cup winning team with a seismic trade of a key player, and is in many ways stuck in the same post-Cup limbo the players keep trying to break through.

Add to that a lack of NHL teams willing to significantly alter their roster less than a month into the season, and the Bruins look to bring the same cast of characters into November with at least a few more weeks to turn things around. The Bruins are well aware of the league stats facing them as they already sit six points outside of the top eight East teams rounded out by the Sabres and Lightning.

The Bruins have 10 games leading up to the Thanksgiving holiday, and recent NHL history has shown that teams in the top eight in either conference have a 77.5 percent chance of making the playoffs. Those outside of the top eight have only a 22.5 percent chance of qualifying for the postseason, and teams more than two or three points outside of the top eight are usually too far back in the standings.

Six of those 10 games leading up to Thanksgiving are against Northeast Division foes, and the improvement across the board in Buffalo, Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto is another season-long challenge for a Bruins team searching for a foothold.

Ten games in we should be getting back to form and feeling good about ourselves, said Milan Lucic. There shouldnt be any excuses at this point in the season. We have to take it upon ourselves to figure it out.

Lucic is aware of all the statistics, and he doesnt want the Bruins to follow in the unfortunate path of last years New Jersey Devils team. The Devils couldnt get untracked early in the season under a new coaching staff, but caught fire in the second half once they made a coaching change. Jersey made the coaching change once their record sat at an NHL-worst 9-22-2, and the Bruins are still another disastrous month away from suffering the same fate.

Its difficult to see the Bruins floundering that badly with a healthy team that was good enough to win the Cup, but Milan Lucic is still determined to help the Bruins avoid a similar fate. Nobody inside the Bs dressing room wants the Black and Gold to turn into a Stanley Cup cautionary tale.

There is adversity you have to face throughout the season, and for us thats obviously right now, said Lucic. Weve got to figure it out quickly. I know its only been 10 games, but how many teams have had starts like this and theyve never been able to recover.

Look at Jersey last year, who finished off as the best team after January and they werent able to recover for a playoff spot. You can reflect on this and see what happens down the road, but we need to do everything we can to get out of this hole as quickly as possible. Were going to have to do this as a team and a group effort. Its the only way we can do this together.

The Bruins are saying all of the right things, and they have right examples at the ready for bad starts gone very wrong in the NHL. But the path to getting back into the playoff picture this month is paved with a string of wins, and that upward conference movement begins with a chance against an Ottawa team thats won six games in a row headed into Tuesday nights must have at the Garden.

Bruins make official free agent signings of Liles, Nash, Khudobin

Bruins make official free agent signings of Liles, Nash, Khudobin

The Bruins made a number of signings official on the first day of NHL free agency on Friday along with the big prize in hard-hitting, productive center David Backes.

Backup goaltender Anton Khudobin signed a two-year deal worth $1.2 million per season to return as a goaltending tandem with Tuukka Rask as they were back in a highly successful 2012-13 NHL season.

Hustling, grinding fourth line forward Riley Nash was signed to a two-year, $1.8 million contract with the Bruins as well, and had nine goals and 22 points in 64 games for the Carolina Hurricanes last season in an energy forward role. In his five-year NHL career, Nash has played in 242 games, amassing 31 goals and 50 assists for 81 points with 69 penalty minutes, including a career-high 10 goals a couple of years ago with the Hurricanes.

The 36-year-old John-Michael Liles signed a one-year, $2 million contract with the Bruins after arriving from Carolina at the NHL trade deadline last spring. Liles appeared in 17 games and notched six assists along with a minus-6 rating for the Bruins in 2015-16 after being acquired for Anthony Camara, a 2016 third-round pick and a 2017 fifth-round pick on February 29, 2016. Prior to joining up with Boston, the 5-foot-10, 185-pound Liles played in all 64 games for Carolina, recording six goals and nine assists for 15 points with 16 penalty minutes.

“We went out to identify a primary target in David Backes as a center, right wing candidate. He provides depth and balance to our lineup, as did Riley Nash. And Anton Khudobin addressed an area that we seemed to have chased for a little while and possibly with Malcolm’s [Subban] injury we needed to address that for the next couple of seasons. John-Michael Liles is a player that we acquired last year that really added a lot to the mobility and the transition game and we’re excited about bringing him back,” said Bruins GM Don Sweeney. “Tim Schaller was a local boy at Providence College that we went out and identified another size, strength, left-shot, penalty kill and continued to add depth. Tyler Randell emerged last year was on our roster all year long, contributed and was a real hard-nosed player, sticks up for his teammates, was able to contribute goals, albeit not necessarily in the lineup every night, bringing balance. And Tommy Cross and the leadership qualities he brings to Providence for younger players to continue to develop.

“He found himself playing in NHL games, acquainted himself very well, just a real quality person across the board. So I think the overall philosophy of today and going into the free agent period was to address some needs and we did that. But we’ve created what I think is a real internal competition for our younger players to step up and emerge around what I think we’ve added to the core group of our players. They should be excited about this opportunity.”

Tommy Cross, Tyler Randell and Tim Schaller all signed one-year, two-way deals with the Bruins for an NHL value of $600,000, but are all expected to play the bulk of the season at the AHL level barring anything unexpected. 

Joe Haggerty can be followed on Twitter: @HacksWithHaggs

Backes: Most of the talk has me playing center for Bruins

Backes: Most of the talk has me playing center for Bruins

David Backes on the Felger and Mazz show on 98.5 The Sports Hub, and simulcast on CSN, tells fill-in hosts Jim Murray and Greg Dickerson there has also been some discussion with the Bruins of putting him on the wing with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand.

Watch the video above for more. 

Bruins lose Stempniak, Eriksson, others in free agency

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Bruins lose Stempniak, Eriksson, others in free agency

The Bruins lost a number of free agents on after the market opened at noontime. None bigger than Loui Eriksson signing a six-year, $36 million contract with the Vancouver Canucks to play with the Sedin Twins.

It’s the exact level of term and salary that Eriksson said he was looking for from the Bruins in contract negotiations around the trade deadline, but the Bruins never really moved from their offer of a four-year deal at comparable money.

The Bruins will miss the 30-goal production and solid all-around, two-way play from Eriksson as he heads to the West Coast, but they also traded in a passive player in Eriksson for an in-your-face, physical leader in David Backes on a five-year deal. 

Backes is much more of a Bruins-style player than Eriksson could have ever hoped to have been. That part of it is a win for a Bruins fan base that wants intensity and physicality from their players.

The Bruins also watched Jonas Gustavsson sign a one-year, $800,000 contract with Peter Chiarelli and the Edmonton Oilers, Brett Connolly sign a one-year deal for $850,000 with the Washington Capitals, Zach Trotman signs a one-year deal for $950,000 and Lee Stempniak ink a two-year, $5 million contract with the Carolina Hurricanes after being a non-contract training camp invite with New Jersey last season.

Sweeney had maintained as late as Thursday that he was still keeping ties with many of Boston’s free agents prior to the noon opening of the free agent market, but clearly that’s changed.

“We’ll continue to have talks and sort of figure out where things may go. We’ve had talks with a number of players to see what they would like to see as the opportunity here or what we see as a fit,” said Sweeney on the Torey Krug conference call on Thursday night. “I haven’t ruled absolutely any of that out; just haven’t found common ground and obviously it gets harder and harder as we go further along in the process.”