Newly formed Bruins lines look promising

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Newly formed Bruins lines look promising

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com

RALEIGH The final outcome was underwhelming and undesirable, but it wasnt a complete washout for the Bruins, either.

Sure, they fell behind 2-0 before truly getting things going and dropped to 1-3 on the season with a 3-2 defeat at the hands of the Hurricanes in their RBC Center home. But Tyler Seguin did snag his first goal of the season, and manned the center position adeptly between Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton while helping to spur on their best games of the season to date.

Both Lucic and Horton had multiple Grade A scoring chances, all three forwards topped 20 minutes of ice time for the first time this season, teamed up for a goal and unloaded 10 shots on net in a positive step in the right direction. Seguin played a career-high 20:08 of ice time against the Hurricanes, and his linemates liked what they saw in the second-year package of hockey skills.

Seguin played pretty well, said Lucic. Especially on that second shift in the first period where we got on them and there was an unlucky bounce for me when I hit the side of the net. He was skating well, he was getting open and he was in the right spot. Thats something he learned last year as a player was where to go, and hes able to get himself open.

For me and Horton, that was probably our most effective game where we were creating opportunities and we had lots of time in the offensive zone. Thats good, and the one goal we created was also good, but we had a lot of offensive chances and weve got to bear down on more of them.

The straw that really stirred the drink was the 19-year-old Seguin, however, as he glided through the Carolina defense with speed and precision looking to make plays and then turned into a stone cold goal-scorer when allowed a sliver of space in the third period. The 'Canes had just scored their second goal of the game an Anthony Stewart hard-hat special in front of the net and thats when the Bs top line started showing the urgency and snarl thats been missing in the early going.

Adam McQuaid wound the puck up the ice with speed, found Horton as he criss-crossed through the neutral zone with Seguin and then Horton fed the teenager a pass while in strong skating stride. Seguin simply used his speed to create separation with the defenseman, and then snapped a top shelf wrist shot over Cam Wards glove hand after watching the goalie begin to cheat away from the near post.

I went wide, saw Looch going hard to the net and at the last minute decided to go short side when he was sliding over a little bit, said Seguin.

The goal was a thing of beauty for Seguin, a sign of life for the Bruins, Hortons first point of the season and exactly the kind of promising sign Claude Julien was hoping for when he slotted Seguin with his two bookend power forwards.

The Bs coach isnt expecting miracles and wasnt doing handstands in a game that the Bruins lost, but he admitted hes seeing improvement in the No. 1 line that carried them so much last year.

They had some great opportunities, said Julien of the top line, thrown together Wednesday due to David Krejcis injury. We just didnt seem to be at the top of our game. Youre seeing the effects of some players that havent found their game, and its frustrating because everybody is coming hard at us. Seguin was one of the guys that scored a goal for us. It was his first game skating with Lucic and Horton and I think he did a good job for us.

Its not about one guy, though. If the whole line finds a way to play better as a whole, then theyll be more effective.

The Patrice BergeronBrad MarchandRich Peverley line wasnt as good as theyve been in the first three games, but they accounted for the teams second goal. Bergeron executed an impressive spin-o-rama cross-ice pass to Marchand for a successful one-timer, and a pass that Marchand will be raving about for years to come.

That was about it for observations about the newly configured forward lines aside from a Jordan Caron turnover in the slot area that turned into the third periods eventual game-winner for Jiri Tlusty during an otherwise non-descript 7:29 of ice time.

The big lesson learned while plugging in holes among the top 12 forwards: The Bruins have themselves a versatile commodity in Seguin, who has already moved between center and wing on the first and third line for the Bruins. The 19-year-old has four points (1 goal, 3 assists) in four games thus far and appears comfortable and functional in whichever spot hes dropped into moving forward.

The Bs boy wonder passed his first big exam of the season with flying colors, but there will be more difficult ones to come.

Joe Haggerty can be reached at jhaggerty@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs.

Bruins hope OT win was sign of things to come offensively

Bruins hope OT win was sign of things to come offensively

BOSTON -- For a team where offense has been a major problem area this season, lighting the lamp four times against the Florida Panthers on Monday night was a welcomed sight for the Bruins indeed.

The Bruins won it in dazzling fashion with a 4-3 overtime win on a David Pastrnak rush to the net after he totally undressed D-man Mike Matheson on his way to the painted area, and then skill took over for him easily beating Roberto Luongo with a skate-off goal.

That was the game-breaker doing his thing and finishing with a pair of goals in victory, and continuing to push a pace that has the 20-year-old right wing on track for more than 40 goals this season.

That would give the Bruins just their fourth 40-goal scorer in the last 25 years of franchise history (Glen Murray in 2002-03, Bill Guerin in 2001-02 and Cam Neely in 1993-94), and mark one of the bigger reasons behind an expected offensive surge that may just be coming for a Black and Gold group currently ranked 23rd in the league in offense.

They just hope that the four strikes vs. Florida is indeed a harbinger of things to come for the rest of the season after serving as just the eighth time in just 26 games this season that they scored more than two goals.

“[There have been] a lot of tight games and low-scoring games, you’re right. It’s good, but as a goalie, I’m not happy when I let in three goals, ever. But it’s great to see that scoring support,” said Tuukka Rask. “When you get four goals, you expect to win, and a lot of times when we get three, I expect to win. It’s great to see [an uptick in scoring].”

So what is there to be optimistic about from a B’s offensive perspective aside from Pastrnak blowing up for a couple more goals to keep pace among the NHL league leaders with Sidney Crosby and Patrick Laine?

Well, the Bruins are starting to see results from crashing to the front of the net, attacking in the offensive zone and finally finishing off plays after serving as one of the best puck possession teams in the league over the first few months.

Just look at how the goals were scored, and how the Bruins are working in closer to the net rather than settling for perimeter plays.

The first goal on Monday night was a result of Tim Schaller crashing down the slot area for a perfectly executed one-timer feed from David Krejci. Similarly David Pastrnak was hanging around in front of the net in the second period when a no-look, spinning Brad Marchand dish from behind the net came his way, and he wasn’t going to miss from that range against Roberto Luongo. Then David Backes parked his big body in front of the Florida net in the third period, and redirected a Ryan Spooner shot up and over Luongo for the score that got the Bruins into overtime.

It’s one of a couple of goals scored by Backes down low recently, and his third goal in the last five games as he heats up with his playmaking center in Krejci. The 32-year-old Backes now has seven goals on the season and is on pace for 26 goals after a bit of a slow start, and the offense is coming for that line as they still search for balance in their two-way hockey play.

“A few more guys are feeling [better] about their games, and know that we’re capable of putting a crooked number up like that. It bodes well moving forward,” said Backes. “But you can’t think that we’re going to relax after the effort that we put in. We’ve got to skill to those dirty areas and still get those second and third chances, and not take anything off during those opportunities. It’s got to go to the back of the net.

“With the way Tuukka has played, and our defense has been stingy and our penalty kill has been on, four goals should be a win for our team. It hasn’t always been easy for us this year. It’s been a process, but I think you’re starting to see the things that you need to see in order for us to score goals. We’re going to the front of the net and getting extended offensive zone time, and then you find a few guys like Pasta in the slot. That’s a good recipe for us.”

Then there’s Ryan Spooner, who enjoyed his best game of the season on Monday night and set up the B’s third goal of the game with his speed and creativity. It was noticeable watching Spooner play with his unbridled skating speed and creative playmaking, and it made a discernible difference in Boston’s overall offensive attack against Florida. It’s something that Claude Julien is hoping to see more of moving forward from Spooner after recent trade rumors really seemed to spark the 23-year-old center, and also knocked some of the inconsistency from a player that’s extremely dangerous offensively when he’s “on.”

“It’s obvious that if Ryan wants to give us those kinds of games, then we have lots of time for him. When he doesn’t we just can’t afford to give him that kind of ice time,” said Julien. “There are games where he hasn’t been as involved, and it’s obvious and apparent to everybody that when he’s not getting involved then he’s not helping our team. When he is playing the way he did yesterday, we can certainly use that player more than not. We’d love to see him get consistent with those kinds of games.”

So while it’s clear the Bruins aren’t completely out of the woods offensively and there are still players like Patrice Bergeron sitting below their usual offensive numbers, it’s also been a little mystifying to watch Boston struggle so much offensively given their talent level.

The Black and Gold fully realized that potential in taking a tough divisional game from Florida on Monday night, and they hope it’s something to build on as the schedule doesn’t let up at all in the coming weeks.

Tuesday, Dec. 6: The Bruins-Panthers connection

Tuesday, Dec. 6: The Bruins-Panthers connection

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while Dave Dombrowski is collecting stars and talent over at Fenway Park. I dig it.

*Interesting piece about switching teams in the NHL and leaving behind old allegiances when the job calls for it.

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) Harvey Fialkov looks at the connections between the Bruins and the Florida Panthers, and more specifically with the Panthers and the Boston-area.

*A rumor round-up across the NHL including the humorous nugget that the Bruins are looking to move Jimmy Hayes. Yes, they are looking to move Hayes. They are begging some other NHL team to take on the player and the contract for somebody that has one point since last February. It’s not happening.

*Escrow is at the heart of the next negotiation between the NHL and the NHLPA, and I really thought it was going to be years before I’d have to even think about the CBA again.

*Tough break for the Florida Panthers losing Keith Yandle for a long period of time after he was injured last night vs. the Bruins. FOH (Friend of Haggs) Mike Halford has the story at Pro Hockey Talk.

*Wild coach Bruce Boudreau talks his “bucket list”, which includes a lot of movies and even a stint as a movie reviewer for the Manchester Union Leader back in the day.

*Sounds like Pat Maroon might want to sit out the next few plays after calling hockey a “man’s game” among other things.

*For something completely different: Yup, I’m pretty okay with the Red Sox blowing up the prospect cupboard for Chris Sale.