Haggerty: Still waiting for proper Bruins' response

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Haggerty: Still waiting for proper Bruins' response

This isnt about Shawn Thornton.

This isnt about John Scott.

Its not even about Zdeno Charas willingness to step up when one of the true fellow giants in the NHL decided to inflict some damage on the Boston Bruins.

The 7-4 loss to the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday night was about a divisional rival and hated enemy waltzing into the TD Garden and basically announcing that they were going to set the tone for the series this year.

Thornton did his job and stepped up to the gusty task that he takes full pride in: protecting his Bs teammates from getting the same kind of blood sport treatment that he accepts and doles out as a trained fighter.

Thornton is a player that has had every single of his teammates backs over the last six years as a member of the Black and Gold, and even before that while working his way up through the Chicago and Anaheim organizations.

So Thornton took it upon himself to tussle with 6-foot-8, 270-pound Scott at least six inches taller and 50 pounds heavier on the scale than Bostons tough guy and got pounded down to the ice with a right handed punch to the side of the head and a finishing upper-cut blast.

Hes a guy who does everything for his teammates and his team, done it very well. Unfortunately theres always a risk in that job, said Claude Julien. He took on a pretty big man, as we all know 6-foot-8 and around 280 pounds. He handled himself as best as he could, but those things are going to happen.

At the end of the day, he still was willing to do it for his team. Not only do we lose a guy to a concussion that does it well, but hes a good teammate and hes great in the dressing room. Hopefully we get him back soon.

It was shocking to watch because Thornton normally wins every one of his fights, but this was like watching the hockey version of a hammer and nail play out on the Garden ice. Theres a very good chance that the Bruins enforcer knew this is the way it was going to go if Scott got the upper hand early, and it didnt turn into a grappling match as Thorntons fight with the equally massive Derek Boogaard turned out a few seasons earlier.

The upper-cut caused the Bs enforcers legs to buckle on his way down to the ice and had him inquisitively asking arena officials if hed just been in a fight when he was finally directed to the Bruins penalty box.

Its a difficult way to make a living, but its the one Thornton has chosen where hes risen to the top ranks of his profession while winning a pair of Stanley Cups. But there are times when even the mighty fall down and need a little help from their friends as they stagger back to their feet. Sometimes a player like Thornton needs other Bruins players to have his back as much as hes got theirs, and it seems that was a missed opportunity in the aftermath of the ScottThornton tilt.

It might not have changed the outcome of a game they lost to a pumped Sabres bunch, and it might have even put the 6-foot-9 Chara in harm's way against a player every bit as mammoth as him in Scott. But theres also a point, at least in this hockey writers opinion, where Chara needs to step in as the team captain and the most feared player in the league and tell Thornton that his back is covered.

There are times when the fear of injury or the potential downside of spending a five-minute major in the penalty box isnt the point. There comes a time when its about sending a message about the way the Bruins do business, and making an example of a team thats looking to punk them.

Thats what the Sabres arrived in Boston looking to do, and thats the mission they accomplished.

Instead, Thornton was downed early in the first period, and Buffalo felt they had a green light to take liberties with the Bruins over the course of 60 very uncharacteristic minutes for the Black and Gold.

Chara looked distracted in one of the worst games of his NHL career, and finished with a minus-3, zero hits and turnovers made all over the ice. For the NHLs most intimidating player in a hated rivalry game, it appeared almost as if he spent the rest of the game running through his mind what he should have done rather than doing nothing at all.

When asked by CSNNE.com whether hed considered going after Scott once hed bested Thornton, Chara didnt really address the question while leaving the door open for what could be done Feb. 10 in Buffalo.

Right now were getting (ready) for the next game, which is Toronto, said Chara. Those questions about John Scott you guys should save for when we play Buffalo.

Scott hopped out on another shift in the first period after the decisive win and elbowed Rich Peverley in the head right in front of the Bruins bench for good measure.

Scott was whistled for the elbowing infraction, but it was pretty clear the 6-foot-8 monster felt free to do whatever he wanted on the ice after his fists of fury in the third period. Daniel Paille and Patrice Bergeron both got dinged up in the hard-fought defeat, and now Paille is out as well after catching a high-stick late in the third period. Drew Stafford felt free to throw an elbow at the head of 19-year-old rookie Dougie Hamilton that forced the youngster off the ice for a few minutes.

But luckily there was no permanent harm done, and the promising young defenseman was able to joke about it the next day after finishing out Thursdays game.

The final punch to the Bs gut was the Lindy Ruff timeout with 13.6 seconds left after he took Lane MacDermids presence on the ice as a message that the Bruins were headhunting. Never mind that third period message-sending has never been a trait of a Claude Julien-coached team, or that its basically been purged from the league because of automatic suspensions and hefty fines when it comes in the last few minutes of the third period.

It was instead about Ruff and by extension his Sabres players giving one last middle finger to the Bruins players and their coaching staff before getting back on a plane to Buffalo with a sense they accomplished their mission.

The message was clear from the Sabres after the game was over and the Bruins had been beaten: they came into Boston intent on making a point to the Bruins after the Milan LucicRyan Miller incident created some tension within the Buffalo dressing room and ostensibly sidetracked their entire season.

Scott admitted as much after the game.

Obviously going into this game there was a lot of hype around what happened last year with Miller and Lucic, said Scott. So I kind of just wanted to set the tone.

Regardless of the outcome I just want to be there for my teammates and let them know Im here to fight, Ive got your backlast years not going to happen like this year.

As previously stated, this isnt about one lost fight between two tough guys and the relative fairness of a massive human being throwing fists with a merely extra-large human being. Just as the LucicMiller collision was about much more than a forward skating into a goaltender last season for the Sabres, Buffalos fulfilled intentions of belting the Bruins straight across the face in their own barn Thursday night takes on bigger meaning for both hockey clubs.

Nobody is questioning the heart or toughness of a Bruins nucleus that memorably won a Stanley Cup two years ago, and the hope is that this is simply a blip on the radar screen of a crazy 48-game regular season.

But now everyone, including Shawn Thornton at home in Charlestown recovering from a dreaded concussion, waits to see when the Bruins will actually respond to Thursday in a way that's consistent with putting on the Spoked B Bruins sweater.

Matt Beleskey out six weeks with a right knee injury

Matt Beleskey out six weeks with a right knee injury

BOSTON – Some key Bruins players have missed a handful of games here or there already this season, but only this week did they suffer one of their first major injuries to a key player that will knock him out for nearly two months. 

Matt Beleskey will miss roughly six weeks with an injury to his right knee after the feisty forward was caught with a hip check by Tyler Fedun near center ice in Buffalo over the weekend.  Beleskey tried to instinctively sidestep the oncoming attack, but instead his lower half caught the brunt of the big collision with a young Sabres attacker. 

Instead Fedun caught Beleskey’s right leg with his hip check, and the gritty Bruins winger was knocked out in the first period of last weekend’s win over the Sabres. 

Beleskey was spotted walking with a bit of a limp during and after Boston’s 4-3 OT win against the Florida Panthers on Monday night, and armed with what looked to be a giant brace or cast on his right leg. It’s clearly a bummer for Beleskey that he’ll now miss a large chunk of time due to a freak injury, and the Bruins have to be disappointed at the timing of it all given how well Beleskey has been playing lately. 

The injury certainly opens up the third line left wing spot for a player like Ryan Spooner, who has struggled to find his right place in the NHL, or a player like Frankie Vatrano as he gets over the hump in his recovery from foot surgery.

Beleskey has skated in plenty of games with Boston in 2016-17, producing two goals and three assists for five points with 23 penalty minutes in what’s been better described as “bedlam”  after a slow start to the regular season. 

Julien: Pastrnak 'coming into his own,' has been Bruins' 'best forward'

Julien: Pastrnak 'coming into his own,' has been Bruins' 'best forward'

BOSTON – The Bruins are running out of superlatives for 20-year-old David Pastrnak at this point. 

The right winger continued his torrid goal-scoring pace in a breakout season with the B’s by scoring a couple of goals, including a dazzling overtime game-winner, in a 4-3 OT win over the Florida Panthers at TD Garden. 

Pastrnak now has 15 goals scored in 21 games this season for the Bruins, and has matched career-high for goals scored in a single season already with nearly three quarters of the season still left to be played. Only Sidney Crosby and Patrik Laine have scored more goals than Pastrnak in the NHL this season, and it’s a scary thought to imagine where the 25th ranked Bruins offense would be without their ascending superstar from the Czech Republic. 

Certainly the Bruins wouldn’t have taken two points from the Panthers without him: Pastrnak ended the overtime session quickly when he wheeled up and out of the offensive zone after getting the puck to David Krejci, and then gathered speed before taking the puck from Krejci, blowing the doors off Florida D-man Mike Matheson with a couple of moves and then easily beating Roberto Luongo with a game-winning goal. It was a highlight reel, electric overtime game-winner by any measure, but it’s also the kind of thing that’s started to become routine for an offensive player with as much speed, skill and creativity as anybody currently playing in the NHL. 

“He’s coming into his own, I think. There’s no doubt about that confidence wise, it’s at its highest right now and rightfully so. I think when you look at him skate – and not only in the goal, but even before the goal – he went after that puck to get control of it before that goal even happened,” said Julien. “So once you’ve got control and he moved it around and then got it into Krech’s [David Krejci] hands, at that point when he came back from circling just in the neutral zone a little bit, he had caught their defenseman flat-footed. 

“With that speed I guess there’s not much that D could have done, but what a great move. Obviously taking the time to lift the puck up was pretty impressive – especially that last move. So a nice goal and a great way for us to finish with that win. I think he’s been our best forward since the beginning of the year. So, no doubt it’s nice to see him growing the way he is right now.”

The second period goal was just as impressive for Pastrnak for all kinds of different reasons. The young right wing started a puck possession in the corner when he battled to hold onto the puck from his knees, and eventually worked possession up to Patrice Bergeron. Bergeron fired and missed wide on his chance at the net, but Brad Marchand grabbed the loose puck and uncorked a no-look, spinning pass to Pastrnak waiting in front of the net. 

The natural born scorer fired a laser blast past Luongo and temporarily gave the Bruins the lead in a seesaw game between Boston and Florida. All three of the forwards on the Bergeron line touched the puck on that scoring possession leading right up to the score, and it’s been part of the learning process for a player hitting his offensive peak in his third NHL season. 

“All the games I play beside Bergy [Patrice Bergeron] and Marchy [Brad Marchand] and [with] those two guys it’s such a pleasure to play [with them] and learn a bunch of stuff, learning every single shift,” said Pastrnak. “They talk to me, tell me what to do, and then I guess [I’m] trying to listen. We have a lot of guys here who have been around the league for a long time, so they [are] helping us young guys. It’s really helpful.”

Now it’s Pastrnak tearing up the league in just his third pro season, and playing like he’s going to be “around the league for a long time” just like some of the players on the Boston roster that have jumped from a talented young player to the pathway to NHL stardom. The sky is truly the limit for a player in Pastrnak that can win battles, score goals and skate around in overtime just waiting to embarrass any defenseman that dares try and stop him.