Haggerty: It'll take a lot more to slow down Bruins


Haggerty: It'll take a lot more to slow down Bruins

The mark of a great hockey team is the ability to withstand the absence of key players without any interruption of concentration, effort or quality play on the ice.

Some teams are good largely when things are rolling and adversity is properly being held at bay. Some hockey clubs answer strongly when trouble is at the door while continuing to stand bedeviled by the consistency thing, and some hockey teams simply stink no matter whats floating around them.

The Bruins are none of those things.

They are instead a team thats put up a gaudy 19-2-1 record since Nov. 1 and weathered absences from their captain, their fourth line heart and soul and their intimidating leading scorer in the last two weeks to still reel off win after win.

Zdeno Charas tweaked left knee, Gregory Campbells fractured left foot and Milan Lucics one-game suspension were no match for the unbearable brightness of being the Bruins, and those brilliants Bs smacked the Habs by a 3-2 score at TD Garden for their fifth straight victory.

We can talk about depth all we want, but if we cant prove it or show it then its not really depth, right? asked Claude Julien following the victory. So this is whats been going on here the last little while. Weve been challenged with some injuries -- and obviously tonight a suspension -- and our guys keep stepping up.

Whoevers replacing ... the rest of the team just keeps going. We dont change our game and we dont change our game plan. We just try and play the same every night, no matter who youve got in the lineup. Thats just the simplicity of our hockey club.

Its sweetly simple and its finally yielded the results theyve been waiting for since making themselves a gigantic crap sandwich over the first month of the season.

The Monday night win over Montreal combined with the Flyers 3-2 shootout loss to the Colorado Avalanche means that the Bruins finally have sole possession of first place in the Eastern Conference, and theyve built up a dominant 10-2 record in their own Northeast Division.

There was talk about the individual games accomplishments, and both Brad Marchand and Tim Thomas could take bows knowing they contributed mightily to the nightly chores. Benoit Pouliot had some revenge against his old Montreal mates with a goal in the first period courtesy of an insanely dominant offensive zone face-off by Rich Peverley, and David Krejci was the beneficiary of an uncharacteristically sloppy night from P.K. Subban.

But the bigger picture wasnt about one 60 minute show of HabsBruins supremacy. It was about putting on display a reigning Stanley Cup thats learned how to banish trouble into the corner when it inevitably comes calling.

The Bruins are adept at finding players willing and able to step forward when their stars stumble and fall, and that allows them to succeed when others will fail.

The defensemen corps and the Bs goaltenders filled the gap when Chara missed time against the Kings and Senators, and it was a collective effort that filled in for the hulking presence normally provided by Lucic in these games against the Habs.

When youre missing a big part of the puzzle like that, we all need to step up. I know I say that a lot when we are missing a guy but thats exactly what we need to do, said Patrice Bergeron, who created the play that led to the game-winning goal with a sneaky piece of fore-checking trickery. Everyone needs to chip in and the guys that are coming in are always doing a good job.

Guys that are coming in are filling the void, they arent trying to replace them, and they are just playing their game. I think the guys did that tonight. They played a good game, it was a tough game for us to win but we found a way.

Certainly missing Chara for two-plus games and suiting up without Lucic for one HabsBruins game isnt going to tear the team apart at the seams, but it didnt even slow them down aside from perhaps a few extra shots fired at their goaltenders. The Bruins collected Ws in each of those games and simply moved on with their freight train of momentum thats ripping through the Eastern Conference.

That ability to focus and concentrate on getting results amid all manner of sound, fury and bad breaks is something they learned on the way to the Cup victory last season and never did the lesson resonate more than when the Bruins carried on with the business of winning after Nathan Horton went down with a concussion.

It shows the depth we have in this room and I think its something we learned a lot during the playoffs last year, said Marchand, who ranked second among all Bs forwards with 18:18 of ice time and scored the winning goal in the third period. When Horton was out different guys stepped it up, and this year youre seeing guys stepping forward at all the right times. Not only that, but you can also expect all four lines to go out there and battle hard to do the job.

The Habs are an absolute mess reeling in the Eastern Conference dumpster far away from a playoff spot. The Bruins cant lose even when their best players are pulled out of the fold for games at a time. It might seem like a bizarro world to longtime followers of both teams, but its the new reality for the Bruins as they continue to find new and interesting ways to win despite the unavoidable regular season bumps start to crop up.

No Chara, no Campbell and now no Lucic essentially means no problem for the Bruins.

Injuries have created a muddled picture with Bruins goaltenders

Injuries have created a muddled picture with Bruins goaltenders

It’s hard to believe that it’s already come to this, but it might just be Malcolm Subban between the pipes for the Bruins on Tuesday night against the Minnesota Wild, and perhaps again on Wednesday at Madison Square Garden.

The 22-year-old Subban has been pulled from two ineffective starts for the P-Bruins in four AHL starts this season (.846 save percentage and a 4.50 goals against average in four games) while coming back from last year’s fractured larynx injury. He's also a player the organization was uncertain enough about that they signed veteran backup Anton Khudobin to a two-year deal on the July 1 open of NHL free agency.

Subban attributed his start to a slow opening few weeks with a new P-Bruins roster of players, but that hasn’t stopped fellow P-Bruins goalie Zane McIntyre from putting up excellent numbers between the pipes in the early going.

But Khudobin went down with an injury mere minutes into Monday morning’s Bruins practice at Warrior Ice Arena, and Tuukka Rask been battling a nagging leg injury since the season opening win against the Blue Jackets.

So Subban was the last goalie standing on Monday as an emergency recall from Providence, and could be in line to play Tuesday night against the Wild if the Bruins medical staff can’t perform some Mr. Miyagi-style healing techniques on Rask or Khudobin.

“Khudobin got injured and couldn’t practice with us, but I haven’t heard anything yet [on an update],” said Julien following practice. “This is hockey. We deal with it on daily basis with the injuries. We wait for the news and then it’s about doing your job as it’s required. If we have to make some adjustments and have to have some different personnel, then we’ll deal with it when we have more of an update. Tuukka is still day-to-day, so nothing is changed there.

“We’re in a situation here where we’ll see what happens, and if [Subban] needs to go in goal then he’ll go in goal. It’s as simple as that. As a coach, there’s one thing that worries me and that’s ‘stop the puck.’ I’m not a goalie coach, so I’m just demanding on making the saves.”

Subban, of course, hasn’t been making the saves down in Providence early in the going there this season, and is entering the stage of his career where he needs to begin showing signs of being a potential No. 1 guy at the NHL level.

Fellow goalies from the 2012 NHL draft class like Andrei Vasilevskiy, Joonas Korpisalo, Matt Murray, Connor Hellebuyck and Frederik Andersen have all begun making their mark in the league, and Subban was selected higher than all of them except for Tampa’s Vasilevskiy. So in the final year of his entry level deal it’s high time for the 22-year-old to begin showing signs he can play in the league, whether it’s in Boston or elsewhere.

He admitted on Monday he might have been putting too much pressure on himself down in Providence while watching the injury issues play out with Tuukka Rask in Boston.

Subban was worried about the big picture of stringing together saves so he was the guy called up if the Bruins needed a goalie, and instead should have been focusing more on the present opponents at the AHL level.

“I put a lot of pressure on myself. I think anybody that knows me well knows that. I don’t like to let in goals no matter what happens, whether it’s breakdowns or not it’s my job [to stop the puck]. If there were no breakdowns then you wouldn’t need a goaltender,” said Subban. “I want to make every save and get a shutout every game. I think the biggest thing is just relaxing and playing, and knowing that it’s okay to let a goal in every once in a while.

“So I think in my position right now I’m supposed to be playing really well down there, and I think that go in my head a little bit. I was trying to get a shutout every game rather than going game-by-game and shot-by-shot. I was overthinking it too much. But collectively as a team we’re a new team and we were trying to get the chemistry together, and once we do that the D-zone will be better and the offensive zone game will come.”

If Subban does indeed get the emergency start on Tuesday night against the Wild, the Bruins just have to hope that it’s a better outing than getting pulled in his NHL debut against the Blues two seasons ago after allowing three goals on three straight shots to start the second period. They also have to hope that Rask or Khudobin get well quick given Boston’s shaky situation on defense in front of the goaltender, and the stretch they’re in of playing six straight opponents that qualified for last spring’s Stanley Cup playoffs.

If not then watch out below because every hockey person knows there’s no quicker way for a hockey club to really begin imploding than if the goaltending starts to become a major problem whether it’s because of injury, inconsistent performance or simply because of being a straight-up sieve.

McQuaid cleared to play, nearing return to Bruins lineup


McQuaid cleared to play, nearing return to Bruins lineup

BRIGHTON, Mass. -- It was a bitter pill for Adam McQuaid to sit out the first five games of this season, but it looks like the veteran Bruins stay-at-home defenseman is nearing a return to the lineup. McQuaid was cleared to potentially play in Saturday’s loss to the Montreal Canadiens after an upper body injury kept him shelved for the team’s first four games, and could be approaching a return in the next few days as Claude Julien mulls a number of possible lineup changes.

“It was obviously frustrating, but I’m where I’m at now and trying to move on from it. Looking forward to getting back into the lineup hopefully as soon as possible here,” said the 30-year-old McQuaid, who had a goal and nine points in 64 games for the Black and Gold last season. “The excitement level is high for me, and it is for everybody after a loss when you’re looking forward to getting back out there.

“It would have been nice to have started the season with the guys, but you can’t change that now. I’ve had some good practices, and I’m just trying to my game as simple as possible, and take it as it comes. Obviously guys have played some games and it’s been a couple of weeks for me, so I’ll just have to keep my game simple.”

The B’s bench boss indicated it was only a matter of time before McQuaid makes his 2016-17 regular season debut, but that he’s got plenty of things to decide prior to dropping the puck against the Wild.

“[McQuaid] was cleared last game. I haven’t made any decisions based for [Tuesday night vs. Minnesota]. There’s a lot of things that are up in the air, and I’ve just go to juggle those things,” said Julien. “Who knows? Hopefully tomorrow morning I’ve got a better picture [of injury situation], and if not then it will be game-time decisions. I wish I could have a better answer [on if McQuaid will play], but I’ve got no answers right now.”

With Colin Miller (minus-4), Joe Morrow, Torey Krug (a rough minus-3 against Montreal) and John-Michael Liles all minus players after the first five games of the season, there are ample options for Julien on which potential blueliner to bump up to the press box. McQuaid is just happy he’s getting closer to a return while skating with 23-year-old Rob O’Gara at practice, and he can get back to helping a B’s team that’s smack dab in the middle (ranked 15th allowing 3.0 goals per game) of the NHL for team defense this season.