Haggerty: B's may be finding their focus


Haggerty: B's may be finding their focus

MONTREAL -- From the monumental effort it took to beat Nashville last Saturday, to the 42-save stoning they got from Henrik Lundqvist on Tuesday night, to a bizarre night at the Bell Centre filled with fan classlessness and bizarre refereeing and the normal Boston-Montreal enmity on Wednesday, the Bruins are getting a series of wakeup calls that the regular-season dial has been turned up.

The intensity's always greater and the motivation's always heightened when the Bruins play the Canadiens, and there's legitimate hope that the hatred and ill will that arose Wednesday, coupled with what they went through against Nashville and New York, will rekindle some focused consistency from the B's.Call it the ultimate blaring wakeup call after constantly hitting the "snooze" button on the NHL regular season, but that's appeared to be happening as the Bruins battled through every "typical Montreal" experience on Tuesday night.

It would be a perfect time for it to happen, too.If the Bruins can use Wednesday's gutsy, 4-3 shootout win over the Canadiens as a springboard to a four- to six-win road swing, theyll put themselves in great shape to lock down the No. 2 seed in the East.

The trip got off to a good start, both in terms of the Bruins' effort and the final result. Patrice Bergeron and Andrew Ference pushed the Black and Gold forward with leadership-worthy efforts on the ice, and the Bruins were able to utilize Tim Thomas and Tyler Seguin's skills to improve to 7-1 this season on the shootout.

That was two teams battling . . . it was a very tight game, said Tim Thomas. We needed a big effort here tonight and we knew that. We havent played with great consistency. We wanted to come in and have a strong game and basically gain some of the pride back. We want it headed in the right direction.

Hopefully we can carry over some and bring the same kind of energy that we had tonight into the next game in Winnipeg.

Perhaps the best development for the Bruins Wednesday was their mental strength and resolve. Adam McQuaid, Johnny Boychuk and Dennis Seidenberg all needed stitches for high-sticking infractions that were never noticedby the refs Dean Morton and Steve Kozariamid their zeal for goaltending interference calls (four separate whistles for goaltender interference including rare matching calls for each team.) Rich Peverley went down with a knee injury after a third-period collision with Hal Gill. And Zdeno Chara was weakened by a shot to the throat (which drew a standing ovation from the Bell Centre crowd, something the players were fuming about after the game) that forcedthe B's captaininto taking stitches under his chin during the first period intermission.

Weve got about four guys that ended up with stitches tonight, and three of those were from high sticks, said coach Claude Julien. Its not fun to get those gashes and not to get any power plays out of it."

But the Bruins maintained their poise. Patrice Bergeron finished with a season-high 23:23 of ice time and fired off a power-play goal in the third period. Tyler Seguin notched his fourth game-winning shootout score of the season. Ference had arguably his best game of the year with his team desperate for a win, and McQuaid threw down in a wild, haymaking-throwing battle with Ryan White to the delight of the bloodthirsty Bell Centre audience.

The Habs outshot the Bruins by a 10-2 margin in the third period while erasing a two-goal deficit, but the Bs hung tough. Thomas and the rest his teammates bounced back even after Charas unforgivable turnover in his own end led to Erik Coles game-tying score.The turnover late in the third or the soft goalgiven up to Max Pacioretty in the openingfour minutes of the third period could have thrown Thomas off if he didn't have his "have to win focus." But Thomas and the Bruins locked it down to a needed victory to start their defining road swing.

They just had to suck it up," said Julien. "Its important to keep your focus. There are challenges. The way to get out of those tough times is to just battle through everything, to not let it get you down too much, and I think the team did a fantastic job of that.

The hated Habs might have also done a fantastic job of waking the sleeping giants in Black and Gold, and riling them up just in time for the remaining five games of this key road trip.

Report: Aroldis Chapman, Yankees reach deal for $86M, 5 years


Report: Aroldis Chapman, Yankees reach deal for $86M, 5 years

OXON HILL, Md. - Aroldis Chapman found a spot in a most familiar bullpen - a very rich spot, too.

The hard-throwing closer reached agreement to return to the New York Yankees on Wednesday night with the highest-priced contract ever for a relief pitcher, an $86 million deal for five years.

A person familiar with the negotiations told The Associated Press that the contract was pending a physical. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the deal was not yet complete.

Once it's done, the 28-year-old lefty whose fastballs routinely top 100 mph would shatter the previous richest contract for a reliever - that was the $62 million, four-year deal Mark Melancon signed with San Francisco just a couple days ago during the winter meetings.

Chapman was acquired by New York from the Cincinnati Reds last offseason, then missed the first 29 games of the season due to a domestic violence suspension from Major League Baseball. The Cuban was traded to the Chicago Cubs in late July and helped them win the World Series, becoming a free agent when it was over.

Chapman went 4-1 with 36 saves and a 1.55 ERA in a combined 59 games for the Yankees and Cubs. He struggled some in the postseason as the Cubs beat Cleveland for their first championship since 1908.

With the Yankees this season, Chapman teamed with Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances in one of the most dominant bullpens in baseball history. Miller was later traded to Cleveland, but Betances is still with New York.

Earlier this week, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said the team was interested in both Chapman and fellow free agent closer Kenley Jansen. The Yankees had already made one deal at these meetings, signing slugger Matt Holliday, before paying a lot more to bring Chapman back to the Bronx.

Fox Sports first reported the agreement.