Bruins ready if Sabres decide to get nasty

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Bruins ready if Sabres decide to get nasty

While the age of lawsuits and heavy NHL fines has dulled the tough talk leading into hockey games that are expected to be nasty, the feeling in the Bruins dressing room was that someone will try to set the tone with physical play when Boston hosts the Sabres Thursday night.

We know theyre a deeper and tougher team, said Tyler Seguin. I have the most confidence in our team with Milan Lucic and toughness. I dont think well have a problem with that.

It's the first matchup of the year between the Bruins and Sabres. The tone for last season's matchups was set when Milan Lucic dumped Ryan Miller to the ice with a bulldozer hit and then the Bruins took care of their business without even a whimper of protest from Buffalo.

That incident really inflicted damage on the Sabres psyche, which likely didnt even start to heal until after Paul Gaustad dropped the gloves with Lucic in their next meeting at the First Niagara Center in Buffalo. But after the season, there were still whispers that the Sabres didnt have the proper heart or courage needed to be an elite hockey team. Without those things, they would continue to be perpetual divisional doormats for the Bruins.

Its difficult to stand toe-to-toe with the schoolyard bully when a team has a roster full of skilled munchkins like Tyler Ennis and Nathan Gerbe, or flopping, agitating rats like Patrick Kaleta (who wont play against the Bruins after sustaining a sprained neck against the Maple Leafs that landed him in the hospital). But the Sabres addressed their need for toughness in the offseason by signing 6-foor-8, 260-pound enforcer John Scott and trading for noted Bruins harasser Steve Ott. Both will be in the lineup for the Sabres on Thursday night for what's expected to be an Adams Division-style bloodbath.

Scott has been itching for a fight with Bs enforcer Shawn Thornton for the last two years after some harsh words were exchanged between them when the behemoth was a member of the Blackhawks organization. But there may also be a target still planted on the back of Lucic after trucking Miller so Scott might just go looking for vengeance there.

Perhaps it becomes a situation where 6-foot-9 Zdeno Chara finally feels like somebody in his weight and height class is ready for the 'Z' Challenge -- something that many have tried and failed in the past.

Im sure itll be a hard-fought game," said Bruins forward Chris Kelly. "We always have good games with them. They always come out hard and we need to do the same. Theyve added a few guys and in the right time and place they have those guys that will fight a little bit more. Last year was last year. After what happened in the next game Lucic did what he had to do with Gaustad and thats over.

By no means are we thinking about that. This is a good hockey team in Buffalo and when its a shortened season youre playing these teams a lot of times. So the two points are the thing. I dont think theyre going to jeopardize trying to get the two points by doing something foolish.

With all of this circling as the back story, the Bruins are suiting up for battle just in case the fight comes to them. Chris Bourque will be a healthy scratch after going scoreless in his first six games with the Bruins, and 6-foot-3, 209-pound AHL enforcer Lane MacDermid will suit up for the Black and Gold.

The 23-year-old MacDermid had five points (2 goals, 3 assists) and seven fighting majors in 32 games with the P-Bruins this season, and racked up 14 fights between the AHL and NHL last season.

MacDermid made his debut with the Bruins last season at Madison Square Garden and fought Mike Rupp on his very first shift of the game. Hes also dutifully watched and waited as a healthy scratch for the first six games of this season while waiting for his chance to play. So it goes without saying that he should be ready to go when the call goes out to the Bruins fourth line tonight to bring some energy and perhaps match the aggressiveness Buffalo throws on the ice.

MacDermid has got to play a little bit, said Julien. Were going to sit Bourque out tonight. I had a good talk with Chris this morning. I think hes putting a lot of pressure on himself right now and is certainly not the Chris that we know.

With the past history in mind is Julien expecting the Sabres to come out with a glove-dropping, punch-throwing point to make tonight?

Youll have to ask Buffalo that question, said Julien. Youre asking the wrong coach."

So, Lindy Ruff?

"We added Ott and Scott for added team toughness and to make us an overall grittier team," the Sabres coach said. "It had absolutely nothing to do with the Bruins. You try to win the puck battles and territorial battles. We have to win a game. In a short season we need points. We dealt with it last year where Gaustad fought Lucic and where Robyn Regehr fought Chara. We played a couple of great games and took away points. Hockey is about winning the physical battle and winning the mental battle. We're here to get the points."

Whatever's being said, the answers will be obvious when the Bruins and Sabres drop the puck for a game that might just live up to the hype fueled by hard feelings.

Haggerty: Reports of Seidenberg's demise were greatly exaggerated

Haggerty: Reports of Seidenberg's demise were greatly exaggerated

Hindsight is always 20/20, of course, but it appears the Bruins made a mistake buying out veteran defenseman Dennis Seidenberg from the final couple of years of his contract. 

Seidenberg just finished up a wildly successful stint with host Team Germany at the IIHF World Championships, where he was named Directorate Best Defenseman (the tournament’s best defenseman) after leading all D-men with a goal and eight points. This came after Seidenberg, at age 35, posted 5 goals and 22 points in 73 games for the Islanders, with whom he signed after being cut loose by the B's, while averaging a shade under 20 minutes per game.  Seidenberg also had an excellent World Cup of Hockey tournament for Team Europe last summer (where he was teamed once again with Zdeno Chara), thus managing to play at a high level from September all the way through May.

A faction of Bruins fans thought he was on the serious decline after the 2015-16 season and, clearly, the Bruins agreed, opting to buy him out with two more years still left on a sizable contract extension. (They owe him $2.16 million next season and then will be charged $1.16 million on their salary cap over the next two seasons.) But the B's could have used a durable, defensive warrior like Seidenberg in the playoffs, when they lost three of their top four defensemen against the Ottawa Senators. A rejuvenated Seidenberg, able to play both the left and right side, would have been a better option than Colin Miller.

The Bruins made a conscious decision to hand things over to younger defensemen like Miller, Torey Krug, Brandon Carlo and Joe Morrow in cutting ties with Seidenberg. But they also perhaps miscalculated how much Seidenberg still had left in the tank after his best season in at least three years. 

“Well, at the time we felt like [Seidenberg's] game had really dropped off to where we thought he couldn’t contribute, and we wanted to see if some younger players could come in and help us out,” Bruins president Cam Neely said at the end-of-the-season press conference earlier this month. “I’ve got to say he played well this year for Long Island. But at the time we thought it was the right move. You can’t envision us having three of our top four D’s get hurt [in the playoffs]. We went through a lot of D’s in the postseason. You can’t predict that.”

Neely is referring to the decision made after Seidenberg’s second straight minus season in Boston, when back injuries and a major knee injury had seemed to slow him down a bit. It seemed the only way to properly evaluate some of their other, younger defenseman was to cut Seidenberg loose, but one has to wonder if the Bruins would have possibly done it had they known he was still capable of playing like he did this season for the Islanders. 

Either way, the buyout of Seidenberg is an extremely legitimate second guess of Bruins management in a year where they did a lot of things right. 
 

Monday, May 22: Senators all out of playoff magic?

Monday, May 22: Senators all out of playoff magic?

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while feeling like we’ll be getting a Pittsburgh/Nashville Stanley Cup Final, which I suppose would be the best possible outcome at this point.

*You hear the name and it just gets you angry all over again if you grew up watching the Bruins. Ulf Samuelsson is in the running for an assistant coaching job with the Chicago Blackhawks, according to a report.

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) Chris Johnston says it appears that the time is running out on a Cinderella season for the Ottawa Senators.

*A taste of winning at the world championships with Team Sweden could fuel Alex Edler’s desire for a change from the rebuilding Vancouver Canucks.

*Interesting piece on a former can’t miss goaltending prospect with the Nashville Predators that ended up totally missing, and what he’s been up to in life since then.

*Guy Boucher explains to Pro Hockey Talk why he kept changing goaltenders in the Game 5 blowout loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins.

*Don Cherry explains that he hates afternoon hockey during his Coach’s Corner from Hockey Night in Canada in the Game 5 blowout between the Penguins and Predators.

*A good piece from FOH (Friend of Haggs) Alex Prewitt on the Nashville Predators, and the evolution of the franchise into a team on the verge of a Stanley Cup Final appearance.

*For something completely different: What a win by the Boston Celtics in Game 3 in Cleveland, and quite an interesting, fired up interview with Al Horford afterward.