Haggerty: Bruins showing lineups, methods for playoff run

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Haggerty: Bruins showing lineups, methods for playoff run

The Bruins said they were aiming toward playoff mode with a dozen games left in the regular season, and they werent punking anybody.

The Bs have won two games in a row and started rounding the playoff version of their hockey team into shape with plenty of moving parts.

If the Saturday afternoon matinee win over the Flyers represented the first few baby steps for a sleeping Bs giant, the Black and Gold machine was firing its pistons with strength and ferocity during the 8-0 shellacking of the Toronto Maple Leafs at TD Garden.

Its something we know we have to stay focused on. Not to get carried away by the result tonight we want to have a strong finish of the season and establish our game going into the playoffs on the right note, said Bs captain Zdeno Chara. So tomorrow is a new day and new preparation is on the way.

The resounding victory finished off a perfect 6-0 season series against an overmatched Toronto club headed for their respective golf courses next month. The victory also supplied a window into what everybody will see out of the Bruins come April.

First and most obviously was the offensive involvement from every member of the Bs roster against a Leafs team destined for the glue factory: points for 13 different players and at least one goal from each of the forward lines for Boston.

We tried to focus. We had some good contributions from Chris Kellys line again tonight -- some great added help from that line, because it just gives us, again, that little bit of more breathing room when it comes to guys that are producing offensively, said Claude Julien. It doesnt put all the pressure on the same people all the time.

It involves defensive domination in their own end and responsibility in front of their own net, and that starts with Joe Corvo serving as a healthy scratch.

It continues with Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg paired together as a shutdown duo that made Phil Kessel break out into a cold sweat.

While this is taking it to an extreme with some help from a group of Toronto skaters completely unwilling to pay the price, there are all kinds of things going right for the Boston defenders if its taken the Leafs 50 minutes of hockey to squeeze off 10 shots at the net.

The Bruins are playing air-tight defense around their own slot area and avoiding the defensive breakdowns that caused headaches for stretches this season. Theyre also facing down the demons that thoroughly destroyed them on a three-game road trip through Pittsburgh and Florida.

I think we all played well at both ends of the ice and thats when you tend to have success. I think if youre cheating on the offensive side of the puck those things come back to bite you, said Chris Kelly. Like I said, itd be easy to not play the game properly, the proper way, when youre up by a bunch.

Even Greg Zanon, the newcomer, has mixed in with the collective group and is forcing the opposition to pay a price around Bostons net.

It was Zanon that stood up Colby Armstrong around the Bs cage and started a heated sequence that broke up into a solid Gregory CampbellLuke Schenn tilt that sparked some emotion.

Campbell lit the match on fire, but the powder keg finally exploded when longtime adversaries Milan Lucic and Mike Komisarek dropped the gloves for another chapter in their history of hatred.

Once again it was Lucic familiarly gaining the upper hand while landing upper-cut bombs to Komisareks chin that repeatedly snapped the Toronto defensemans head back.

We didnt want them to come in here and try to bully us or play harder than us, said Benoit Pouliot. We just outplayed them the whole game and came out with a big win.

New Toronto head coach Randy Carlyle seemed to be lamenting the kind of abuse awaiting Bostons playoff opponents once the final 10 games of the regular season have played themselves out.

They have a tough team. You point to their hockey club and they have four guys, big strong guys. You look at Milan Lucic, you look at Adam McQuaid, you look at Zdeno Chara and you look at Shawn Thornton, said Carlyle. The rest of them guys, they follow behind. Theyre solid hockey players, but theyre, you know.

Those are the four guys, the big guys that I would say, just off the top of my head. The intimidation factor is they worked harder on the one on one battles, the puck battles than we did.

The playoff role for Brian Rolston is gaining clarity with the Bruins as well as the versatile forward regains his game conditioning. The 39-year-old is playing a role on all of the special teams, and hes orchestrating a Bs third line that produced nine points and a plus-10 in the blowout victory over Toronto.

Those are the kinds of numbers Bostons third line put up during last springs postseason march, and its once again what the Bruins will need from some of the depth players theyll be touting in the postseason.

Then there is perhaps the single most important individual to Bostons playoff hopes: goaltender Tim Thomas. Thomas has stopped 40 out of 42 shots in his last two games both victories for the Bruins, of course and has finally begun to again resemble the goaltender that dominated his crease prior to January.

Thomas wasnt challenged in the 13-save shutout against Toronto, but has shown plenty in stopping 94 percent of the shots he faced over the course of two important games used to prime the playoff pump.

Injuries, suddenly available players and adversity are all problems facing the Bruins as they do their last minute cramming prior to the playoffs, and send an unmistakable message that nobody is pushing the Bruins around.

Bennett: 'Put my pants on the same way' for preseason or regular-season games

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Bennett: 'Put my pants on the same way' for preseason or regular-season games

FOXBORO -- There seem to be some differing opinions inside Gillette Stadium as to the feel of the third preseason game. Is it a good dress rehearsal for the regular season, or is it just as vanilla as any other preseason matchup?

Example No. 1 comes from coach Bill Belichick's WEEI interview earlier this week: 

"In terms of playing time it might be a little different, but in terms of game-planning and strategy, what we see in the regular season compared to what we see the in third preseason game, I don’t even think you’re in the same universe," he said. "We’re still running our basic plays and we’d expect our opponents would run their basic plays.

"You get to the opener and start to get to game-planning and scheme, I mean you’re in a totally different ballpark, in my opinion. I don’t see any comparison at all. It’s too far away, I don’t see how you could compare them, from that standpoint. One-on-one matchups, letting the players play, yeah, I would say you have a better matchup of guys like that, but it’s nothing compared to what we’re going to see in the regular season from a total scheme situation standpoint."

Example No. 2 comes from Martellus Bennett, who opted not to meet with reporters last week when the Bears, his former club, came to town for joint practices. 

"All my snaps are full speed," Bennett said when asked about this week's game with the Panthers. "I don't slow down. I just go full speed the whole time so it's just a regular game for me . . . It's always the same whether it's the regular season or preseason. Put my pants on the same way. Put my shoes on the same way. Tie them the same way. Same gloves, same face mask."

Truth is, both can be right.

For players who are given plays and asked to execute assignments, a preseason game played at full speed may very well feel like a regular-season game. For coaches who are coming up with the plays and assignments for said players to execute, the difference between the regular season and preseason is vast. 

The third preseason game might then be the closest thing teams experience to a regular-season game this month, but it's still not close.