Bruins and city share love with the Cup

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Bruins and city share love with the Cup

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com Bruins Insider Follow @hackswithhaggs
BOSTON The Bruins basked in the love of over one million Bruins fans Saturday while fully enjoying their rollicking rolling rally from TD Garden to Copley Place, and the celebration alternated between hearty waves, aggressive thumbs ups to the crowd and Brad Marchands boozy singing of Black and Yellow through the parade route.

The bottom line was this: the love-fest between the city of Boston and the game of hockey is again in full bloom just like it was in the early 1970s when the Bs were toast of the town and their players were considered rock stars.

I just feel like everybody in the city feels like we do, said Andrew Ference. Weve waited our whole lives with a lot of work and dedication to raise a Cup, and all of the hockey fans here have put in their hard work by supporting the team for so long.

Its amazing how many people will come up and introduce themselves, and say Ive been a season ticket holder for so many years. Thats hard work. Thats a chore. Thats incredible dedication to the sport and to the team, so of course theyre excited as we are. Im sure in some cities you celebrate with the team and thats about it. But thats not the way it is here.

That much was clear when Tim Thomas was treated with chants of MVP as he walked to his car holding his daughters hand after the rally was over, and Patrice Bergeron exhibited the same kind of passion fist-pumping the crowd like a jersey shore extra as he did keeping offensive players in tight check during the postseason.

It was a light, festive vibe throughout the crowd with signs like Roberto Luongo is golfing right now, this is better -- and Bite This! with a picture of Alex Burrows biting down on Patrice Bergerons finger underscoring the hard feelings and emotion that went into seizing the Stanley Cup.

All of those emotions turned from taut suspense and piercing intensity into simple, weightless elation, and the players picked up on all of it. The best sight: the scores of young children taking it all in with a newfound love of hockey that might not have been there for the prior generation of Boston youngsters.

Its incredible. Its such a great sports town anyway, said Recchi. With the Red Six, Patriots and Celtics all winning over the last 10 years, its great for the Bruins to be able to do it. It had been a long time. Its great to give them an opportunity to see the Stanley Cup, be a champion and bring a championship to the city. Theres nothing better.

I love this city. I love everything about it. Its been an amazing experience since I was traded here a few years ago. I love the people and Ill be back here a lotthats for sure.

There were a handful of arrests, one attempted purse-snatching on Boston Common and a healthy number of dehydrated souls passing out in the intense June heat while the Bruins rolled through the streets of Boston on the duck boats but nobody was complaining as hockey has once again seized a front page in the summertime along with a Boston Red Sox club that ostracized them for so many years.

Players were obviously excited about watching hockey make such a stunning comeback four years after hitting rock bottom in the two years that marked the GM baton passing from Mike OConnell to Peter Chiarelli.

The rolling rally and Boston love-in with the Stanley Cup simply put all of those efforts into proper perspective.

It would seem hockey will have a bountiful run in the Hub with a young corps thats been managed into a positive cap situation moving ahead, and that bodes well for the Black and Gold.

But thats a story for next season.

This year the Bs will keep parading the Cup around New England over the next few days before the trophy starts getting distributed to individual players and team staff through the next two months. Andrew Ference said everything the Bruins have done with the Cup including his novel approach of putting the 35-pound piece of hardware into a baby carriage on Thursday is about sharing their big trophy utterly and completely with the city.

Its not like the World Series trophy in 2004 or 2007 that felt more like a museum relic than something to be enjoyed interactively. The Cup is everybodys toy and deserving of a photo op or a smooch to the chalice for every red-blooded Bostonian thats lived and died with the Black and Gold over the last four decades.

Everybody wanted to take the Cup out, said Ference. Its there for everybody to enjoy. Theres no reason to lock it away. Thats the whole point of the trophy. It turns everybody into little kids.

They asked me what it was like to lift the Cup, and honestly it was great. But it was just as cool to watch your teammates reactions when they lift itor other peoples reactions when they touch it. Just walking down the street with it and walking people jump out of their cars just to touch it is awesome.

Shawn Thornton got some alone time with the Cup on Friday in honor of his wedding anniversary, and he recounted -- with equal parts amusement and annoyance a surprising number of Charlestown neighbors that simply walked right into his backyard to sneak a view of the legendary three-foot high trophy.

The Bruins should be prepared for these kinds of guerilla tactics in Boston, however, because its a pretty damned big deal that the Stanley Cup has returned to the Hub.

Everyone wants a piece of Cup after watching these Bruins in action over the course of 107 compelling, infuriating, draining and largely winning games, and thats a very beautiful thing.

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

Haggerty: Trumpeting Bruins defense as team's 'strength' might be a tad premature

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Haggerty: Trumpeting Bruins defense as team's 'strength' might be a tad premature

It’s a slow period for hockey right now, so the NHL Network is doing a tremendously solid thing by recapping each of the 31 teams' situations after the expansion, draft and free agency periods altered many rosters.

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This week, the NHL Network turned its TV eyes to the Bruins and pointed to their right-shot heavy stable of defensemen as the clear strength of the team. That perception is quite the 180-degree turn from just a couple of years ago when the B’s were bereft of top-four defensemen on the back end after shipping out Johnny Boychuk and Dougie Hamilton.

This was further compounded by No. 1 defenseman Zdeno Chara approaching 40, and, while effective, clearly not the same workhorse he was when the B’s won the Cup six years ago. Even last spring, the overall organizational depth for defensemen was compromised when Torey Krug, Adam McQuaid and Brandon Carlo were all lost to injuries and the B’s couldn’t overcome losing three of their top-four guys against a pretty formidable Ottawa bunch.

Now, it appears people are getting much more excited about the incumbent Bruins group of D-men.

The NHL Network crew referenced Boston’s surplus of right-shot defensemen and surmised the Bruins could even make a move or two before the start of the season, given the never-ending search many NHL GMs have for good right-side D.

That concept isn’t foreign given the longstanding speculation that Carlo could be moved to Colorado for fast-skating, offense-making Matt Duchene. Still, it’s clear the pendulum has swung far to the other side now with the B’s defensive group being trumpeted as “the strength of the team” and speculation there that they sacrifice a loss or two to their ranks.   

“They’re certainly dealing from a position of strength at a position that everybody covets,” said former NHL goaltender and current NHL Network analyst Kevin Weekes. “Their drafting overall has been good and their development model [has been solid].”

That’s certainly something Bruins fans will love to hear and any reason for them to be able to thump their chest is a welcomed one. I can almost see the "Wolf of Wall Street"-style celebration on Causeway Street as we speak.  

But that kind of pronouncement also might be getting a little too far out ahead of where the Bruins actually sit. Two or three years from now there’s a clear, easily seen path to where the B’s could be one of the best defensive corps in the NHL. All of the young drafted, developed D-men play into that scenario all the way down to Jakub Zboril, Ryan Lindgren, Jeremy Lauzon and Urho Vaakanainen.

Still, it might be a tad premature to tout Boston’s defense as its biggest roster strength.

After all, Chara is pushing 40 and will be much better-served if the Bruins can treat him more like a No. 3 or No. 4 shutdown defensemen playing just 20 minutes a night. Anybody who watched the playoffs saw Chara wear down quickly under the unavoidable workload against the Senators once Krug, McQuaid and Carlo went down. That will be a situation that continues to worsen if he’s asked to do too much as one of the oldest players in the league.

Then there’s Carlo, 20, and Charlie McAvoy, 19, who will both be expected to play top-four roles this season. Their talent is obvious and McAvoy, in particular, has all of the goods to be a dominant No. 1 defenseman within the next couple of seasons. Those two should lock up the right side of Boston’s defensemen depth chart for the next 10 years if everything goes according to plan.  

But there are going to be ups and downs with young players thrust into top-four roles with that kind of inexperience. Last season pointed to that kind of inconsistency for Carlo throughout his rookie year. To expect something dissimilar from McAvoy this season is unrealistic and simply just a part of the D-man apprenticeship program in the NHL.  

It will be a couple more seasons before Carlo or McAvoy are steady, consistent NHL veterans capable of shouldering a heavy workload without the occasional novice hiccup.

The Bruins also weren’t able to lock down a left-shot defenseman for their top-four in the opening of NHL free agency, so it looks like either Torey Krug or Kevan Miller is going to start the season partnered up with McAvoy. Clearly, Krug has been excellent for the Bruins while willing himself from undrafted find into an undersized top-four defenseman. Last season, he topped 50 points for the first time in his career.

Kevan Miller was good enough last season for the Bruins to protect him over Colin Miller in the Vegas expansion draft and he certainly brings value as a big, strong, hard-hitting defenseman who is better offensively than you think. But he’ll be asked to play on his left “off” side if he plays top-four minutes as a veteran on-ice tutor of sorts for McAvoy, which will take Miller a bit out of his comfort zone.

Krug and Miller have their strengths and weaknesses as possible top-four solutions and the bottom line is that the Bruins could do better in finding a partner for McAvoy. In an ideal world for the B’s, Krug and Miller would be your bottom pairing where the matchups could hide some of their limitations while maximizing their strengths.

That leaves Adam McQuaid and Paul Postma as the two remaining defensemen on the Bruins' NHL depth chart. They're players who'll give you everything they’ve got with good size and limited offensive ability. If we’re being honest, though, the Bruins would be best served if one of these two was the spare No. 7 defenseman and the other replaced by a better left-shot player that could log top-four minutes.

So, has the Bruins defensemen group vaulted ahead of the Patrice Bergeron/Brad Marchand combo as the clear strength of the team? No, they have not at this point. The defense is one player short and probably at least two years of development shy of being able to truly be the strength of the B's once they're likely again to be in the Stanley Cup contender conversation. That’s why the Bruins shouldn’t be dealing any of their young D-men and instead would be best served simply watching things develop naturally the next couple of years while building the right way.
 

Morning Skate: Blackhawks get band back together

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Morning Skate: Blackhawks get band back together

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while knowing that nobody will ever forget the courage and zest for life that 5-year-old Red Sox fan Ari Schultz showed in his far too short life. Rest in peace, little guy.  

 *PHT writer James O’Brien has the Chicago Blackhawks adjusting to the returns of both Brandon Saad and Patrick Sharp after their short stints away from the fold. It will be really interesting to see if the Blackhawks can recreate their magic by bringing some of the past Cup pieces to the scene after last year’s disappointing end.

*Ilya Kovalchuk is primed for a return to the NHL in 2018-19 after playing one more season, an Olympic season no less, in the KHL.

*Good piece by FOH (Friend of Haggs) Arpon Basu chronicling the day with the Cup in Montreal for Marc-Andre Fleury.

*Speaking of the Blackhawks, it sounds like Jonathan Toews is going to scale back on the “Captain Serious” approach to his hockey career this upcoming season.

*Vegas Golden Knights GM George McPhee is pleased with the state of his expansion team after looking at some of the pieces, and doing a little wheeling and dealing after the fact. I mean, you have to wheel and deal if you’re a hockey team in Vegas, right?

*Detroit Red Wings forward Tomas Tatar is relieved his new contract with the Winged Wheels will allow him to avoid arbitration.

*For something completely different: It remains to be seen whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing, but we’re completely in a culture where media entities are writing full stories about posters. Okay, I think this is a bad thing and my mind is already made up.