Top line quietly makes big impact on Friday


Top line quietly makes big impact on Friday

BOSTON -- Both Claude Julien and Zdeno Chara called their fourth line their best line, following Friday night's 4-2 win over the New York Islanders.

And in the first two periods, Shawn Thornton, Greg Campbell, and Daniel Paille helped provide the first two Bruins goals.

Thornton and Campbell scored the goals, and Paille assisted on the first, getting a piece of a Dougie Hamilton shot from the point that was initially saved, but then followed up by Thornton for a rebound goal.

The Bruins' fourth line helped keep the game tied through the first two periods, for sure. But the game-winner was a product of the Bruins' top line. And while Milan Lucic, David Krejci, and Nathan Horton may not have been the team's best trio for the first 40 minutes on Friday night, they've been providing plenty of big goals in the early stages of the lockout-shortened season.

Add Zdeno Chara's wrister from the top of the left circle to the list. Because not only was the captain's third-period snipe the game-winner, but it was set up by Krejci, Horton, and Lucic.

"We had some good traffic, and Looch made a really nice play," said Chara after the win. "So, it worked out really well."

Krejci took the puck over the blue line along the right boards, and dumped it in deep, where Horton picked it up in the right corner. As Horton turned with the puck back towards the right half-wall, he softly cycled it back behind the net to Lucic.

As Lucic took the pass behind the net while facing the glass, he faked Marty Reasoner left, and came back to his right, where he stepped out to the circle, turned and sent a pass through the slot to Chara above the left circle.

Afterwards, Lucic applauded Chara's effort to step up into open space, given the overloading defense that New York was playing.

"I'm looking for that guy right there, and Chara did a great job getting open," said Lucic. "If you can see, he seeped down to the top of the circles there, because a lot of teams now, when they overload in the defensive zone, they take away that strong-side D-man. So he did a great job getting open for me there, where I could make that pass.

"As much as it is a pass from me, it's him getting open and him giving me that outlet. And he did a great job of that."

That is true. But as much as it's Chara getting open, it's also Lucic -- and the rest of the Bruins' top forward line -- having the ability to step up in a big spot, and make a big play.

Lucic' pass can be considered a big play, at a big moment. It seems as if all three of his points (two goals and an assist) this season have been important.

Overall, the first line has been an important part of Boston's early-season success, even if most in the room are praising the fourth line for keeping them in the game on Friday.

It should also be noted that on Campbell's goal -- Boston's second of the game that tied it at 2-2 -- Krejci recorded the assist. His attempt to throw it on net was blocked by Islanders defenseman Joe Finley, and Campbell knocked in the loose puck.

That marked Krejci's third assist of the season. He didn't receive an assist on Chara's goal -- the game-winner that his line set up. But Krejci's screen out front of Rick DiPietro certainly played a factor.

"Krejci did a good job by just getting the puck in the zone, and then Horton did a good job creating that cycle," said Lucic. "And Chara did a great job finding that soft area where he could get open. Another goal tonight with a guy right in front of the net to create the screen. It was a good one to get us going in the third."

It got them going in the third, and it finished the Islanders off. Credit on this night will go to the fourth line.

But the game-winner also shows another solid showing from Claude Julien's top-three forwards.

Haggerty: So what exactly has happened to the Bruins-Habs rivalry?


Haggerty: So what exactly has happened to the Bruins-Habs rivalry?

BRIGHTON, Mass. -- It didn’t take last season’s embarrassing Winter Classic result to figure out something has been missing from the storied, legendary Bruins-Canadiens rivalry over the last few years.

The last traces of the latest, great incarnation of the B’s-Habs rivalry were clearly still there a couple of seasons ago when the two hockey clubs met in the second round of the playoffs. After falling short the last few times the teams met in the postseason, Boston was summarily dismissed by Montreal in Game 7 on their own home ice during that series. The following season the B’s simply had so many of their own players struggling to put out a consistent effort, so the games against the Habs didn’t really register highly on the importance scale, and last season both Boston and Montreal suffered through subpar seasons that saw them each fall short of the playoffs.

Since the second round loss to the Habs in the 2013-14 playoffs, the Bruins are 2-7 while being outscored by a 31-18 margin in nine regular season meetings over the last two seasons in an incredibly one-sided chapter in the two teams’ shared history. The real lack of competitiveness has been a noticeable lack of deep emotion or ill will on the ice between the two hockey clubs, and that is very different from the recent past when signature players like Milan Lucic, P.K. Subban and Shawn Thornton were card-carrying members of healthy hate that regularly spilled out on the ice between the two rival NHL organizations.

Instead it will probably be new blood that breathes glorious, hard-edged life into the history between the two Original Six teams, and new personalities like David Backes, Shea Weber and Andrew Shaw are likely to do just that. Certainly the Canadiens wanted to be much more difficult to play against in recruiting players like Shaw and Weber, and, their presence along with the offensively explosive Alex Radulov, could make it a tough matchup for the Black and Gold.

Either way, the Bruins are curious to see what the matchup looks like this season with the electric P.K. Subban removed from the mix as one of the classic Habs villain-type characters from a Boston perspective.

“It’s always fun to play Montreal at home, or in Montreal. This will be our second time counting the preseason, and our first time at the Garden. It’s going to be pretty cool,” said David Krejci. “When you say any NHL team there are a few names that pop out for that team, and [P.K. Subban] was definitely one of them [for Montreal]. But P.K. is gone, and now it’s Shea Weber. So it’s going to be a little different, but he’s a hell of a player as well so it isn’t going to be any easier.

“It’s a big game. It’s a division game. We don’t want to take any game lightly within the 82 games because you don’t know what can happen at the end. When those games against [Montreal] are done you always feel like you’ve played two games, and not just one. It’s high intensity, and it’s obviously a rivalry that you get up for.”

As Bruins head coach Claude Julien would say it, things are a bit too civilized between the two enemy teams when thinking back to the days of Georges Laraque chasing Milan Lucic around the ice challenging him a fight on the Bell Centre ice, or the awful epoch in B’s-Habs history when Zdeno Chara clobbered Max Pacioretty with a dangerous, injury-inducing hit into the stanchion area.

Nobody is looking for players to get hurt on borderline plays when the two teams suit up on Saturday night, but something to introduce a new chapter into the Boston-Montreal rivalry would be a good thing for both teams, a good thing for the fans and a potentially great thing for an NHL that prides itself on good, old-fashioned rivalries.

“We need to make sure that we’re ready to play [on Saturday]. I like the way that we’ve played so far, and except for Toronto we’ve managed to compete with all of the teams that we’ve played against,” said Julien. “I don’t know if it’s going to stay that way, but I’m going to use the word that [the rivalry] has been more civilized for the last few years. There hasn’t been as much of the sideshow as there has been [in the past].

“I think there’s still a lot of hatred between the two organizations when they meet, but I think the way the game is trending, and how costly that penalties can be in a game, both teams are a little cautious in that way. I still think there is great intensity and both teams get up for the games, so hopefully that happens tomorrow, and the fans get to see a good game.”

One thing that should ensure a good, familiar showdown with plenty of hard-hitting and honest-to-goodness rivalry-like behavior: both the Canadiens and Bruins are off to strong starts at the top of the Atlantic Division in the first couple of weeks this season, and there are some new faces that are undoubtedly going to want to announce their presence for these Bruins-Habs tilts with authority.

Let’s hope this happens because last season’s Bruins-Habs games needed a pair of jumper cables and 1.21 jigowatts of electricity to shock them back into their elevated level of intensity, and that’s when hockey is served best after all. 

Friday, Oct. 21: Pee-wee push-ups draw coach’s punishment


Friday, Oct. 21: Pee-wee push-ups draw coach’s punishment

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while anxiously awaiting a Cleveland/Chicago Cubs World Series showdown with all of the Red Sox subplots that could be involved.

*A peewee hockey coach in Quebec has been given a season-long suspension for punishing his players with hundreds of push-ups.

*The NHL game has changed radically over the last 11 years as Henrik Lundqvist has been a fixture for the New York Rangers.

*A lot has changed since Jaromir Jagr scored his first goal in 1990 and this article is worth it for the Jagr mullet picture alone.

*PHT writer and FOH (Friend of Haggs) Jason Brough says that a healthy Brandon Sutter has been a difference-maker for the Canucks.

*Carey Price is back in net for the Montreal Canadiens, and that makes the Habs a new team as they prepare for the Bruins on Saturday.

*This is what it looks like when you’ve completely given up on just about everything else except for being a hockey fan. So very gross.

*For something completely different: The Doctor Strange cast is being forced into answering some tough questions at the premiere of what is essentially a comic book movie.