Haggerty: Bruins showing lineups, methods for playoff run


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.

Young understands work isn't done after claiming Celtics final roster spot

Young understands work isn't done after claiming Celtics final roster spot

WALTHAM, Mass. – For so many years the game of basketball came easy – almost too easy – for James Young.

He stood out on a young Kentucky team that played at the highest levels, delivering the kind of performances as an 18-year-old college freshman that catapulted him into the first round of the NBA draft.

To be so young and already having achieved a childhood dream, to be in the NBA, Young was too young to realize how quickly the dream could become a nightmare if he didn't put in the necessary work.

The past couple of weeks have not been easy for Young, aware that the Celtics were torn as to whether they should keep him around this season or waive him.

They choose the former and instead waived his now-ex teammate R.J. Hunter, on Hunter’s 23rd birthday no less.

One of the first acts Young said he planned to do following Monday's practice was to reach out to Hunter, offer words of encouragement to a player he looked upon as a brother, a brother who is in a state of basketball limbo right now which could have easily been the latest chapter in James Young’s basketball narrative.

And that’s why as happy as Young is to still be donning the Green and White, his work towards proving himself to this team, to this franchise is far from done.

You listen to veterans like Jae Crowder, a second-round pick who has come up the hard way in the NBA, they speak of how Young now takes the game more serious.

Even Young acknowledged that he didn’t take the NBA game and the need to work at staying in the league as serious as he should have initially.

“I wasn’t playing as hard (early on),” Young admitted. “I just was satisfied being where I was, being too comfortable. My confidence was down. I have to change that around.”

Crowder, a straight-no-chaser kind of fellow, said as much when I asked him about the changes he has seen in Young.

“He’s taking stuff a little more serious,” Crowder said. “It’s growing up. He came in as a first-round draft pick and was on the borderline of getting cut. I don’t know what else is going to wake you up.”

That’s part of what made this decision so difficult and on some levels, left players with mixed emotions about the decision.

For those of us who followed this team through training camp, there was no question that Young had the better camp.

But the one thing that was never questioned with Hunter, was his work ethic. He made his share of mistakes and missed more shots than a player with a sharpshooter's reputation should, but you never got a sense it had anything to do with him not working as hard as he needed to.

That was among the more notable issues with Young who came into the league as an 18-year-old. That youth probably worked for him as opposed to Hunter who played three years of college basketball and was expected to be seemingly more NBA-ready.

Even though Hunter’s NBA future is on uncertain ground now, he’s too young and too talented to not get at least one more crack with an NBA team.

And by Boston waiving him, he really does become a low-risk, high-reward prospect that an NBA team might want to take a closer look at with their club. 

And Young remains a Celtic, doing all that he can to climb up the pecking order which now has him as the clear-cut 15th man on the roster.

He might see more minutes than rookie Demetrius Jackson and possibly second-year forward Jordan Mickey, but Young’s future with the Boston Celtics is still on relatively thin ice.

“I told him this morning, this might be the first time he’s earned anything in his life,” said Danny Ainge, Boston’s president of basketball operations.  “He earned this by his play, day-in and day-out. He was given a lot as a young kid with a lot of promise, a lot of potential. We talked about earlier this summer, he had to come out and win a spot with some good competition and he did. He needs to keep doing what he’s doing.”

More than anything else, Young has been consistent in his effort, overall energy and attention to detail. But it remains to be seen if Young has done all that to just secure a roster spot, or has he truly grown up and figured out what has to be done in order to be an NBA player.