Haggerty: Bruins out to right last year's wrongs

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Haggerty: Bruins out to right last year's wrongs

RALEIGH, NC The Bruins just keep blazing through the checklist and righting some of the wrongs from last season.

The biggest and most overarching hockey penance for Boston involves making everybody forget their stupefying, disappointing first-round loss to the Washington Capitals. But there are smaller, easier missions to be accomplished in the short term, and one of them was knocking around the Carolina Hurricanes after the young, hungry 'Canes club slapped them around last season.

Carolina swept them in a four-game regular season last year, outscored them 14-5 in those four games and gave the Bruins as much trouble as any team in the NHL has over the last few years. So the Bruins went out Monday night with a purpose and scored a pair of goals in the first seven minutes of the game to make a clear, dominant opening statement.

The Hurricanes made a comeback in the middle of the game, of course, but the Bruins opened and closed with authority to take the 5-3 victory at PNC Arena that elevated them to 4-0-1 on the season.

We still remembered what happened last year, said Nathan Horton. They took all four games from us. They really play us hard and we knew that coming in. We knew it was going to be a tight game going in and thats exactly what it was.

We played well and the big thing is that we got the win. In the end that was all that mattered.

The Bruins certainly hit some valleys within the 60 minutes in Carolina. Shawn Thornton and the fourth line couldnt get the puck out of the zone at the end of the second period, and that turned into a Jeff Skinner goal when he got the puck with a clear angle toward the net.

Less than a minute later, the Hurricanes scored again when Dougie Hamilton had already sped up the ice on an anticipated offensive rush, and Chris Kelly was left to lug the puck out of the D-zone with Alex Semin bearing down on him. That turned into an Eric Staal bomb from the slot that tied up the game after Kelly turned the puck over near the blue line, and things looked dicey.

Thats when Claude Julien reminded his skaters they still had 20 minutes to exact their revenge on Carolina, and they looked properly motivated while outshooting the Hurricanes by a 17-8 margin in the final 20 minutes.

If anything those two goals we gave up at the end of the second, we got caught standing still or the defense got caught moving the wrong way, said Julien. I went in and said Guys, the last time I checked weve got a 3-3 hockey game so you cant afford to hang your heads and drag it into the third. Weve got to go win a 20 minute third period. The guys did a good job of answering that call.

It eventually took a Hamilton cross-ice beauty of a pass to David Krejci during a wild scramble in front of the net in the final three minutes of regulation to bring the Bruins their fourth victory in five games. Tyler Seguin's empty net score for the puck prodigys first goal of the season was simply icing on the cake.

The game contained much more positive than negative for the Bs despite the tight score: the Bruins scored a pair of power play goals, their PK unit continued to dominate and kicked in a shorthanded goal, Horton scored on a breathtaking rush from the neutral zone that trumpeted just how solid hes been to start the season, and Boston got a resounding yes on the question of whether Anton Khudobin will be capable stepping up as the clubs backup goaltender.

They came back there at the end of the second and we were still tied, said Horton. We knew we could win, so we kept pushing and it came right down to the goals at the end.

If you told us that we would be all even going into the final period against them we would have taken that.

With Carolina licking their wounds after a physical defeat at the hands of a Bruins team that has yet to be beaten in regulation, the Bruins now move on to new peaks to scale.

Whats the new challenge for the Black and Gold?

Its about proving they can handle the back-to-back game situations that will arrive fast and furiously during the abbreviated season, and coming to play against a New Jersey Devils team that has not yet lost a game in regulation this season. The Devils had the luxury of sitting around in Boston last night waiting for the Bruins as the B's resided in NASCAR country for their game in Carolina.

Now Boston is the hunted rather than the hunter.

Thats because the Bruins dominated the Devils in four games last season despite New Jersey making it all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals. Talented layers like David Clarkson and Ilya Kovalchuk will be looking to reverse that trend on the Black and Gold without their captain, Zach Parise. Unlike the Philadelphia Flyers, the Washington Capitals and the Florida Panthers, the Bruins are off to an excellent start this season while taking full advantage of the familiarity and large number of players coming back from Europe that gave them an early advantage on the competition.

Now the challenge is on for the Bruins to keep the Black and Gold train moving as Monday night kicked off a stretch of playing four games in six days. On the bright side, they were 9-4 in the second game of back-to-back situations last season and outscored their opponents by nearly 30 goals.

We learned from last year. We had a pretty bad start. This year we were ready to go and we know its important to get points in a short season, said David Krejci, who smoked the game-winning shot with 1:50 left to go in the third period. Weve got nine out of ten points and thats pretty good. But we need to keep it going.

Its time to prove they can pile up points when the season starts transforming into a compacted grind rather than the leisurely pace they experienced over the first week-plus of the season.

Just mark that one down as more goal on a season full of prove it moments for the Black and Gold as they make the slow, laborious march back up to the NHL mountaintop.

Wednesday, July 27: Boychuk's historic home about to be razed

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Wednesday, July 27: Boychuk's historic home about to be razed

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while amazed that President Bill Clinton has still got “it” after all these years.

-- An odd story about Johnny Boychuk’s historic home on Long Island, which is now set to be razed.

-- The Buffalo Sabres are undoubtedly looking to trade Evander Kane at this point. Here are five possible destinations for a player who's got far too much baggage at his age.

-- NHL commissioner Gary Bettman continues to make firm denials about the link between concussions and CTE in ex-football and ex-hockey players.

-- Some rumors from Spector that include Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Tyson Barrie, and whether either player is on the trade block.

-- The Red Wings have signed Danny DeKeyser to a long-term contract that might be viewed as a bit of an overpay at this point in his career.

-- The annual Hockey News story focusing on three teams that could make the playoffs in 2016-17 after missing last season, and three teams that might fall out of the playoff picture from last season. Once again the Bruins are not counted as one of the teams expected to get back in after missing last season, but the Canadiens are at the top of the list.

-- Former NHL tough guy Jay Rosehill has surfaced in the British Elite League, where he’ll play for the Braehead Clan.

-- Moving piece from Joel Ward about the passing of his father, and his own excellent career at the NHL level.

-- For something completely different: Smash Mouth has made an EDM song. I repeat, Smash Mouth has made an EDM song.

 

Bjork returns to Notre Dame after impressing at Bruins' development camp

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Bjork returns to Notre Dame after impressing at Bruins' development camp

Given that he’s a former fifth-round pick, he’s not a local guy with any Boston ties to speak of and that there isn’t a lot of fancy to his game, Anders Bjork might be a bit under the radar as far as Bruins prospects go right now. 

Still, the 19-year-old Notre Dame forward has been steadily rising among the ranks at the NCAA level and Bjork put on a pretty impressive show at B’s development camp right along with more hyped forwards like Danton Heinen and Jake DeBrusk.

Bjork showed great skating speed and a hard-nosed willingness to battle whether the puck was on or off his stick. Even better, he showed a finishing flourish with the puck whenever he was around the net. He was literally blowing by defenders with his speed throughout drills each and every day at camp, and it was hard not to notice. Time after time Bjork buried those chances earned through speed and tenacity and showed the offensive confidence that saw him lead Notre Dame in points (12 goals and 35 points in 35 games) last season as a sophomore.

“You can tell the guys that have been here. Grizzy [Matt Grzelcyk] has a great week and Anders [Bjork] has a great week because they’re just comfortable in what they’re doing,” said Bruins general manager Don Sweeney. “I mean they’ve played at the college hockey level for two, three, four years in some of these cases. They’re very comfortable in their own skin and in what they do.

"In Anders’ case he gained a tremendous amount of confidence in the World Juniors last year and you can tell he’s carrying that over offensively. He also plays in a very tight system at Notre Dame, so the habits away from the puck are really ingrained in him. Now he’s looking to explore his offensive side.”

The good news for the Bruins: Bjork wants to keep improving on the offensive end and pump up the goal-scoring numbers in his third season with the Fighting Irish. If the week spent at Ristuccia Arena is any indication, Bjork should be lighting it up in Hockey East next season after being a second team All-Hockey East selection last season.

“I’m just working on trying to contribute a little more offensively, and really work on my goal-scoring and offensive abilities like that,” said Bjork, who is a bit of a legacy at Notre Dame with his father, mother, siblings and cousin NHL forward Erik Condra all having matriculated in South Bend as well. “Working on the little things in areas like goal-scoring and playing on the wall are what I’ve been focused on. The feedback from the Bruins has been really good, and really helpful.

“Sometimes they’ll check in after a game or after a weekend of games, and give really helpful feedback. Sometimes it’s even different than what my coach said, so it’s nice to get my viewpoint and sometimes they see things that my coach doesn’t notice. Stuff like that has been really helpful, and has helped me develop as a player definitely.”

Bjork said the Bruins have stressed consistency and greater focus in his game from shift-to-shift and game-to-game and that’s something he clearly took to heart in a dominant week at development camp. Given the rising number of college hockey players that are foregoing the teams that drafted them and become free agents following their senior seasons, one would expect that next season will be Bjork’s last at Notre Dame before signing with the Bruins.

The way that the 6-foot, 188-pound Bjork is improving his game each and every season after being projected a couple of years ago as a possible third-line player in the NHL, the Bruins should be looking to bring him into the Black and Gold fold sooner rather than later.