Bruins need to capitalize early on home ice

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Bruins need to capitalize early on home ice

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com Bruins Insider Follow @hackswithhaggs
BOSTON -- Its tough to tell whether the Bruins' early season schedule is an advantage, or a path fraught with difficulty.

It was originally thought the Bs schedule for this season was an effort to counter-balance last years long-distance trip to the Czech Republic, and Boston would this season enjoy the home cooking consistent with playing 13 of its first 17 games at TD Garden.

It would make things easier for the Bruins over the first six weeks of the season, and there is an argument to be made that is true. The Bruins dont travel any further West than Chicago for any of the four road games during that six week span, and should have ample time to recover from the short, two-month offseason.

Its always nice to start off at home and kind of ease into the season a little bit, said Patrice Bergeron. Those are going to be some huge points. Putting together big point totals at home can help you quite a bit during the season, and put you in a good or bad position for the rest of the year.

Were aware that there are going to be home games that were not going to get at the end of the season. We need to take advantage of it.

Of course there is the opposite effect at the end of the season that Bergeron alluded to with the Bruins playing 11 of their final 19 games on the road, with a West Coast trip shoe-horned into the final few weeks of the regular season for good measure.

That should be a challenging trip through time zones as the Bruins are making preparations for a lush and long-lasting playoff run, but Bs management is really reserving opinion on what the schedule means for them.

This seasons schedule is really the reverse of so many for the Bruins in recent memory.

Normally the Black and Gold have embarked on a long road trip in the first few weeks of the season once the circus arrives at TD Garden, and that long road trip was always used as a team-bonding experience forging together any new elements to the squad.

That preseason team-bonding trip to clandestine New England spots has essentially taken the place of that long road trip, but there is truly something to be said for a long stretch away from home early in the season that forces hockey players to come together.

Its probably more than a coincidence that the last three Stanley Cup champions have all started the season as participants in the Premiere Games in Europe but that wont be the case for the Bs this season.

It seems if we had a lot of road games weve talked about that in the past being an advantage because youre able to bond, said general manager Peter Chiarelli. Thats certainly something weve discussed as a group. I dont think its a disadvantage. Its just the way the schedule sets out.

I think its just something that at the end of the year the latter third of the year and into the playoffs we were a really good home team. So you could look at it both ways.

As Chiarelli alluded to, theres also the simple fact that the Bruins struggled on home ice for the first half of last year and that it wasnt always rainbows and sunshine despite the 22-13-6 home ice record to end last season.

The Bs will need to shake off the hangover thoughts, burst out of the starting gate and dominate at home early in the season if they hope to make things easy on themselves in a year rife with challenges.

Theres no place like home, and thats truer this season for the Bruins than its ever been before.

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

Liles remains in lineup for Bruins, Colin Miller stays a healthy scratch

Liles remains in lineup for Bruins, Colin Miller stays a healthy scratch

BRIGHTON, Mass – It had been more than a month since John-Michael Liles had jumped into a game for the Bruins, so the 36-year-old kept it simple on Tuesday night against the Nashville Predators.

Liles finished with a plus-1 rating and a couple of shots on net in 13-plus minutes of ice time and was part of a Bruins defense that blocked a whopping 25 shots in the tight, defensively sound victory. He was also just understandably excited to be back to playing with so much on the line this late in the regular season.

“I’ve been in situations like this before, so I was just trying to stick to my game and play to my strengths,” said Liles, who has five assists in 32 games this season. “It did feel like a playoff game a bit and you get to this time of year where every point is crucial for us as well as [the other teams]. It can be challenging when you haven’t played together with somebody for a while [as a pairing], but when you keep it simple that makes it easier. As long as you talk on the ice it will work, and I think [Kevan Miller] and I have done okay with that in different situations.”

On the flip side, the 24-year-old Colin Miller will sit for the second consecutive game tonight against the Dallas Stars in favor of Liles after playing a low 11:50 of ice time in the win over the Islanders last weekend. The skilled, puck-moving Miller has two points and a plus-2 rating in 12 games in March, but clearly something isn’t good enough with Bruce Cassidy opting for Liles over Miller as of late.

“I think [Liles] has worked hard to stay in good condition and stay sharp if he got in the lineup, so we’re going to give him another chance. It’s one of those gut instincts this time of year, and [Dallas] is a good matchup for him,” said Cassidy. Miller has five goals and 12 points in 58 games for the B’s in his second NHL season. “[Miller] is young, but he’s not Brandon Carlo-young. He’s been a pro for three or four years. It’s him understanding the consistency, every-night factor or playing to his strengths and what we want out of him, and balancing that with what [Liles] did for us the other night.

“This time of year you always want young players to face these moments and play through them, but you also have to balance your lineup if you feel a veteran guy gives you a better shot to win. We’re looking at both of those things. Either way you hope that when Colin Miller gets back in that he’s better off for it, and not worse off. That’s the plan. In the meantime [Liles] gives us good, solid minutes.”

One final thing that could also be going on a bit in the background: The Bruins possibly paving the way for Charlie McAvoy to get an look at the NHL level next week and giving themselves some options of where to play him if he thoroughly dominates in Providence this weekend.

A third pairing of Liles-McAvoy would give the Bruins a much different, much more mobile look if that transpired and knocking some of the rust off Liles makes that a possibility if/when McAvoy gets an NHL cup of coffee.  

Thursday, March 30: Maybe they should rename it the Bergeron Trophy?

Thursday, March 30: Maybe they should rename it the Bergeron Trophy?

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while really enjoying Matthew Tkachuk’s first go-round in the NHL. He may not have grown up here, but he’s definitely got some Masshole in his game.

*The five major contenders for the Selke Trophy include this one guy that wears Black and Gold and might have won the thing a couple of times. I’ll give you three guesses who that is.

*The 25-year run of the Detroit Red Wings in the playoffs has come to a close, and it’s probably the right time for them to reevaluate things.

*A Flames/Kings game turned into an on-ice rumble of sorts with Matthew Tkachuk involved in all kinds of action after his previous elbow of Drew Doughty.

*Speaking of the Flames/Kings, here’s Brian Burke with an After Hours-looking segment talking about the rough stuff during Flames/Kings.

*David Clarkson is finding his hockey life after the NHL with a high school coaching gig in Ohio not far from the Blue Jackets’ home rink.

*If it’s truly his last hockey game in Calgary, Jarome Iginla made it one to remember squaring off against his old Flames team.

*For something completely different: There’s been some smoke about the Expos returning to Montreal, but no fire as yet on the reports.