Haggerty's thoughts from Bruins-Hurricanes

840305.jpg

Haggerty's thoughts from Bruins-Hurricanes

RALEIGH, NC Here are five thoughts from the first period with the Bruins leading the Hurricanes by a 2-1 score after the first 20 minutes of action at PNC Arena.

1) The Bruins were firing out of the gate in this one. Tyler Seguin, Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand set the tone with an energetic first shift that had a couple of scoring chances, and they kept the pressure on. When that line plays with energy and reckless abandon on the fore-check it really sets the tone for everybody else on the Black and Gold bench. That line accounted for three of the 11 shots in the first period, and members of that line were involved in both goals.

2) A special teams extravaganza for the Bruins in the first period as they scored both shorthanded and on the power play. The shorthanded goal came as the Bruins set up despite being outnumbered by the Carolina attackers, and Zdeno Chara found a cross-ice pass to Brad Marchand for a sniper shot from the right face-off circle that Cam Ward had zero chance to stop. The power play strike was what the Boston coaching staff envisioned at its perfect: Zdeno Chara and Tyler Seguin moving the puck and Zdeno Chara hitting the net with a wrist shot as Milan Lucic was screening in front of the net. The Bs power play is having their best night of the season thus far.

3) Anton Khudobin looks solid while making 10 saves in the first period and had a couple of very good stops among those shots attempted at the Boston net. The best was probably as he quickly moved from left to right to snuff out a Jiri Tlusty-to-Jamie McBain play on the backdoor He also took a delay of game penalty when he played a puck outside of the trapezoid a play that wouldnt be a penalty in the KHL and was perhaps the No. 1 goaltender of Kazakhstan having an out of body experience.

4) Milan Lucic drops the gloves with Tim Gleason after hed been trying to get the Canes defenseman to fight him for the last couple of years. The two big men traded a bunch of powerful punches with Gleason actually getting the better of Lucic in the bout. The Bs power forward now has two fights in five games after waiting 20 games to get into his first hockey brawl last season. The Bruins were up 2-0 at the time of the fight and did seem to lose a little momentum after they squared off.

5) Zdeno Chara leads the Bruins with three shots on net, has two points and was the focal guys on both goals for the Black and Gold. Its been a very solid start to the season for the Boston captain in the first five games.

Here are five thoughts from the second period with the Bruins and the Hurricanes tied at a 3-3 score after the first 40 minutes of action at PNC Arena.

1) Back-to-back turnovers by Shawn Thornton and Chris Kelly in the defensive zone lead to a pair of Carolina goals in the final few minutes of the second period to tie things up. Not sure its a good idea to leave the fourth line out on the ice against the Jeff SkinnerJordan Staal combo that opened it up to get things working for the Hurricanes at the end of the second. The Kelly turnover went right to Alex Semin at the blue line and he fed Eric Staal for the game-tying score. It looked like he might have been gassed at the end of a shift because he wasnt moving his feet at all. Just a complete letdown by the Bruins, and some poor shifts for the fourth and third line. Dougie Hamilton was also nowhere to be found in the defensive zone on the Kelly turnover as Dennis Seidenberg was the only backup the Bs forward had.

2) What a goal for Nathan Horton that put the Bruins up 3-1 and shows the Bs right winger is healthy and completely back to his game. He dangled through three Canes defenders including leaving Tim Gleason in the dust by the blue line before roofing a shot over Cam Ward. Hortons second goal of the season and really as good a highlight reel goal as youll see from the power forward.

3) Bruins penalty kill great again tonight. Theyve got their first shorthanded goal of the season and theyre a perfect 22-for-22 in killing penalties, and they had plenty of work in the first couple of periods in a penalty-filled game.

4) Best game of the season for Rich Peverley, who leads the Bruins with four shots on net and nearly scored on both a shorthanded breakaway and a shot from the slot. Ward stopped both chances with big saves, and then was also able to shut down Chris Bourque on a rebound attempt at the doorstep.

5) Two assists, four shots on net and a plus-3 for Alex Semin, who has always been a Bruins killer over the years. He decided to show up tonight.

RALEIGH, NC Here are five thoughts from the third period with the Bruins taking a 5-3 win over the Hurricanes score after 60 minutes of action at PNC Arena.

1) The third line was a little bit better tonight, but still no offense and they let in the game-tying goal at the end of the second during a rare Bs collapse with a two-goal lead. Chris Kelly made the rare turnover that led to the goal, and also didnt fare very well in the face-off circle. Chris Bourque doubled his season shot output total, but also took a penalty that wiped out a Bruins PP in the third period.

2) Johnny Boychuk left the ice for a portion of the third period and it may have been a result of a couple of blocked shots in the second period. One of the shots to the footankle area looked particularly painful, but he did return for the majority of the period.

3) Milan Lucic playing the wrecking ball role rather than the offensive role against the Hurricanes. Led the Bruins with five registered hits and knocked Eric Staal out of commission for a few minutes in the third period after a violent collision in the Boston end.

4) Carolina has all of the look of a player team this year. Jordan StaalJeff Skinner and Eric StaalAlex Semin give the Hurricanes two legitimately dangerous forward lines and its a very underrated D corps with a proven goaltender. Thats a pretty good combo.

5) Nathan Horton is 100 percent back. He nearly potted the game-winner with a wrist shot from the slot off a Carolina giveaway, but Cam Ward somehow stopped the short-side wrister. Horton also hit the post in the wild scramble at the end of the third period that led to the David Krejci game-winning score.

6) Dougie, Dougie, Dougie. Assists in three straight games for the 19-year-old, who is making a major impact for the Bruins.

Bruins bouncing between left wings Schaller and Spooner on Krejci line

bruins_ryan_spooner_120216.jpg

Bruins bouncing between left wings Schaller and Spooner on Krejci line

BRIGHTON, Mass. – It certainly doesn’t feel like it will go on forever this way for the Bruins, but at this point it’s essentially a case of musical left wings on the David Krejci line as it’s been for much of this season. 

Ryan Spooner has spent the majority of the season adjusting to playing the wing with Krejci, and has been just okay trying to play away from his natural center spot while using his speed and playmaking on the wing. But the speedy Spooner also spent his share of time lately on the fourth line after getting off to a slow offensive start this season with three goals and eight points along with a minus-1 rating in 23 games. 

The bouncing between the second and fourth line has undoubtedly been frustrating for the 24-year-old getting pushed off his natural position after posting 49 points in his first full year as a third line center. But Spooner has continued to toe the company line, work on keeping his confidence high for a productive offensive season and do what he needs to in an effort to get off a fourth line.

That’s opened the door for hard-nosed former Providence College standout Tim Schaller to get some top-6 forward time on the Krejci line as well, but he’s just posted a single assist in the last three games while working hard to keep up offensively with David Krejci and David Backes. The 6-foot-2, 219-pound Schaller has the grittiness to do the dirty work for that line in the corners and in front of the net, and he can certainly skate well enough for a big, energy forward. 

“To think this was going to happen, I would say ‘no’,” said Schaller when asked if he could have predicted at the start of the season that he’d be getting a look from the B’s in a top-6 role. “I’ve been able to play with whoever and whenever my whole career. I wouldn’t want to say it’s one of those things that I had expected, but I’m always ready for it. 

“We’ve been working pretty well together. I don’t know that we’ve had too many great [offensive] opportunities to capitalize on, but Backes and Krejci are good enough players that they’ll come. They’re good enough to bury on those chances, so the goals will come. I’m always going to play the same way no matter who I’m with. Those guys might have the puck on their sticks a little longer than other linemates of mine, but that will just create more space and opportunities.”

So Spooner and Schaller bring different strengths and weaknesses to the table as the B’s coaching staff searches for the right fit alongside Krejci and Backes, and Julien sounds like a coach that’s going to keep swinging back and forth between the two players. He certainly did that with Spooner during the third period in Philly, which led to an immediate goal for Krejci in the third period comeback, and toward the end of the Carolina win with the B's desperate for offense. 

Julien also didn’t rule out Matt Beleskey getting another look there as well with the Bruins having a tough time finding anybody to consistently fill Loui Eriksson’s role from last season.

“At times I don’t think that offense has been producing much because maybe it’s lacking a little bit of speed at that time, so you put Spooner back up there. But sometimes you feel like that line isn’t winning enough battles or spending enough time in the offensive zone, so you put Schaller back in there because he’s going to play a little grittier. So we’re looking there,” said Julien. “We’d love to be able to find somebody to be a consistent player there. We’ve had Matt Beleskey there and that line never really did anything. 

“[Beleskey] has been much better on the [third] line and he’s been getting more chances, so I’ve been trying to put the best scenario together, I guess. Sometimes it’s the situation and sometimes it’s the matchup [against the other team] as well. So there are different reasons for that. I’ve just got to make it work. If it’s working with [Schaller] on that night then you stick with it, and if you don’t think you’re getting enough then you move [Spooner] there and see if you can a little spark with some speed. It doesn’t mean Beleskey won’t go back there. That’s what we have right now.”

So it’s clear Julien, and the B’s coaching staff, have simply tried to find something that will work on a consistent basis with a couple of key offensive players on Boston’s second most important forward line. The one wild card in all of this: the impending return of Frank Vatrano, who has been skating for nearly two weeks as he works toward a return from foot surgery.

Vatrano was initially penciled in as the left winger alongside Krejci to start NHL camp this fall, and the Bruins were hoping he was going to build on the eight goals he scored in Boston last season in a limited role.

Vatrano could be ready to play within the next couple of weeks, and should be back in the B’s lineup prior to the early January timetable originally offered at the time of his surgery. So perhaps the 22-year-old Vatrano can end this season-long carousel of Bruins left wingers getting paraded on and off the Krejci line, and finally give the B’s greater options at left wing. 

But the Czech playmaking center could use some stability also as he looks to find the highest level of his game in a challenging year for the Black and Gold, and do it while the Bruins find the right kind of talent to skate alongside him. 

Blidh plans to bring some energy to Bruins after call-up

Blidh plans to bring some energy to Bruins after call-up

BRIGHTON, Mass. – Anton Blidh plans on keeping things pretty straightforward on his first call-up to the NHL. 

The former sixth-round pick of the Bruins has earned his stripes at the AHL level with Providence over the last couple of seasons, and comes to Boston as a gritty, energy forward capable of stirring things up in otherwise sleepy games. There’s also a bit of offensive upside for a fourth line-type player with five goals and nine points with 22 penalty minutes and a plus-eight rating in 19 games for the P-Bruins this season. 

It remains to be seen if the Blidh call-up means that the Bruins intend to scratch a player or that somebody is questionable for Saturday afternoon’s game in Buffalo, but Patrice Bergeron did miss Friday’s practice without any real defined reason for his absence. The 21-year-old Swede said he plans to play to his strengths if he gets into the lineup for the Black and Gold, and that could mean getting under the skin of his Sabres opponents. 

“It’s my first time called up, so I’m happy,” said Blidh, who was asked what he'll bring if he gets into the lineup. “I’ll just play simple and play my own game: be hard on the puck and play with some energy. I worked hard [in Providence] and then I got some confidence. I’m not a goal-scorer, but I scored a couple of goals and got some confidence.”

Claude Julien hasn’t been able to catch up Blidh’s work since the season got started, but was pleased by the youngster’s progress in training camp, where he earned notice for his feisty, physical play on a line with Noel Acciari. 

“They said he’s playing well, so they brought him up. We’ll get to see him, hopefully tomorrow,” said Julien. “I didn’t hear a ton of fine details aside from him being a guy that was certainly playing with a lot of energy. I didn’t mind him in training camp either. He works really hard and competes hard, and we could use that.”

That would certainly be the case after watching the Bruins go through the motions for long stretches Thursday night against Carolina before essentially stealing a game that they didn’t deserve to win.