Bruins still haven't learned their lesson

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Bruins still haven't learned their lesson

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com

BOSTON The Bruins got back to work on Tuesday morning after a lost evening in New York City, where they allowed five consecutive goals -- three in the third period -- and blew a three-goal lead to the Rangers.The game -- fortunately or unfortunately -- brought back memories of a blown 3-0 lead in Game Seven against the Philadelphia Flyers last season, not to mention the blown 30 series lead, and the Bs were picking up the pieces at practice at Ristuccia Arena.Coach Claude Julien distanced himself a bit from the players, whom he maintains strayed from the game plan once they got ahead, and said they'll either finally learn their painful lesson or repeat their mistakes again in the playoffs . . . to disastrous results.There's little question that Boston's effort, with its playoff position assured, wasn't what it should have been.
Thats what happens when you dont respect the game plan, and start playing your own game, said Zdeno Chara. We knew the Rangers werent going to give up because they needed the points. They deserved the win because they were a much hungrier team in the second half of the game.Its a lack of focus and a lack of discipline to respect the game plan. I hope were not coasting. Certainly we have to address that and we did that during practice.The Bs could have pushed for the top seed in the East and sent a thumping message to the Rangers, whom they might just see in the first round of the playoffs -- but none of that happened. Now, with their third seed all but assured and three games left against the Islanders, Senators and Devils, the Bs have to focus on getting back on message and avoiding any more fire-drill chaos in their defensive end once the playoffs arrive.That means curbing Tomas Kaberle of the instinct to anticipate cycles in the corner that never happen, and vacating the net with the enthusiasm of a dog chasing after a thrown tennis ball when it's his responsibility to guard the front.That also means some poise from Tim Thomas to stay in his net and battle rather wandering too far out when he senses his defense breaking down around him.I think we need to learn as a group from the incident against the Rangers, said Julien. Part of it is that you need to respect the game plan for 60 minutes, and we didnt do that. Hopefully we learned a valuable lesson from here until the end of the season and beyond that you cant get too comfortable. "We got comfortable and you could see the level of play slipped a little bit, and before you knew it the damage was done. You have to respect the game plan for 60 minutes. Thats what has made great teams great in the past.It should have been the same lesson learned once the Bs were up 3-0 on the Philadelphia Flyers last season, but apparently class is still in session with these Bruins.We should have never believed that the game was over once we got up 3-0, said Julien, something he could have said during the Philly series last season. If its a lesson learned then itll be a positive thing down the road. If its not then itll come to haunt us because it will happen again. Shawn Thornton practiced without the half-shield off his mask, and said he was hoping to play against the Islanders Wednesday night at TD Garden after missing the last two games with a 40-stitch gash over his right eye.Well figure it out tomorrow. Hes day-to-day and that hasnt changed, said Julien. Well make a determination of whether hes ready to get back into the lineup or night. Chara said following practice that he realized Ryan Callahan was injured after sliding over to block his booming slap shot in the final minutes of New Yorks come-from-behind win over the Bruins. Callahan was diagnosed with a broken ankle on Tuesday morning, and the Bs defenseman voiced concern for a player he respects greatly.Callahan is a top-six guy, yet he still plays with so much heart and grit. You dont see many guys that throw their bodies around to block shots like that, said Chara. He plays the game so hard. You have to respect a guy like that. I heard after the game that hed probably broken a bone, so I just hope that hes okay long term. Every Bruins player was healthy and accounted for on the practice ice, and Michael Ryder was skating with Chris Kelly and Rich Peverley a sign that perhaps Ryder will be getting the nod in the playoffs when combined with 8 minutes of ice time with no power play reps for Tyler Seguin.Ryder is getting better, said Julien. Hes got to continue to work hard. Hopefully hell be a good playoff performer for us because he has been in the past. His stats have been pretty decent. If were going to have some success then were going to need Michael Ryder to be good for us.

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

Haggerty: Mark it down -- the Bruins WILL make the playoffs

Haggerty: Mark it down -- the Bruins WILL make the playoffs

The Bruins are going to snap their two-year drought and get into the Stanley Cup playoffs this spring. 

Sure, it’s going to be a tight race. And it'll come down to the last few games, befitting a team that's lived on the Atlantic Division bubble over the last three years. But in the seven games under interim coach Bruce Cassidy, the Bruins have shown they have the goods to get into the postseason. There's every reason to believe they’ll sustain their winning ways over the final two months of the regular season. 

There's a long way to go, of course, but a third-place (or higher) finish would ensure the B's a berth in the Atlantic Division playoff bracket, and they could conceivably advance a round or two based solely on the poor quality of clubs in their division. With 20 games to play, the Bruins are now third in the division and have a one-point cushion (70-69) over fourth-place Toronto, though the Leafs have a game in hand. If Toronto passes them, they currently have a two-point lead over the Islanders (70-68) for the eighth and final spot in the conference playoffs, though the Isles also have a game in hand. 

And that's not to say Boston couldn't climb higher. The B's are only four points behind the first-place but spinning-their-wheels Canadiens (20-20-7 since their 13-1-1 start), and they're even with the Habs in games played. They trail second-place Ottawa by two points, but the Senators have two games in hand.

All that, however, is another story for another day (even if it is a reason for Boston adding, rather than subtracting, at Wednesday's NHL trade deadline),

So how can we so stridently state that the Bruins are going to make the playoffs, and assure that this seven-game run isn’t just a flash in the pan?

Clearly they're playing with more urgency, higher compete levels, and a consistent focus that wasn’t there in the first 55 games under Claude Julien. They've now scored first-period goals in nine straight games and scored first in each of the four games on the highly successful Western swing through San Jose, Los Angeles, Anaheim and Dallas over the last week. 

To put that in perspective, the B's had gone 1-8 in California over the previous three seasons, when those late-in-the-year road trips spelled the beginning of the end for Boston.

But even more convincing is a simple look at the numbers, the production and the reasons behind the surge forward. 

The Bruins have long needed their two franchise centers operating at a high level at both ends of the ice, and consistently playing the 200-foot game that can cause major problems against teams not blessed with frontline talent in the middle. That wasn’t the case under Julien this year, but things have changed. 

David Krejci has three goals and eight points along with an even plus/minus rating in seven games under Cassidy. Patrice Bergeron posted three goals and nine points along with a plus-7 over that same span of games. With those two big-money, big-ceiling players operating at their highest levels, the rest of the team has shown its true potential . . . and the talent level is considerably higher than many thought.

It wasn’t long ago that many Bruins fans, and some major Julien apologists in the media, would have had you believe that Claude was keeping together a substandard NHL roster with a MacGyver-like combination of duct tape, chewing gum and an offensive system that only a dump-and-chase, trappist wonk could love. Now we’re seeing there's offensive talent on a group that’s been given the green light to create and produce. 

To wit, the Bruins' third line is now winning games for them after serving as a liability for the first half of the season. Ryan Spooner, Jimmy Hayes and Frank Vatrano have combined for 6 goals, 15 points and a plus-11 in the seven games under Cassidy after never getting a chance to work together under Julien because they weren’t in his defensive circle of trust.

There's also the elevated level of production -- across the board -- from Boston’s defensemen. Not to mention Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak continuing to produce offense at elite levels. Marchand just set a career-high with his 64th point on Sunday afternoon, and still has another 20 games left in attempting to become the B's first point-per-game player since Marc Savard (88 points in 82 games in  2008-09).

All of it amounts to a Bruins offense that’s now choosing quality shots over quantity: Boston is scoring 1.5 more goals per game under Cassidy while averaging a significant 4.5 fewer shots per game. The Bruins have finally ditched the weak perimeter attack that so entralled the Corsi crowd -- it was putting up 40-plus shots per game, yet only about 2.5 goals -- and are instead honing in their offensive chances between the dots and in closer to the net .

Should people still be wondering if this current B’s run of entertaining, winning hockey is sustainable? They certainly can if they want to wait until the season is over to decide, but the jury is in for this humble hockey writer.

Bruins fans should take the cue and start lining up for their postseason tickets. 

Because there is going to be playoff hockey in Boston this spring. Remember, you heard it here first.

Haggerty's Morning Skate: NHL teams aren't just making trades for themselves ahead of deadline

Haggerty's Morning Skate: NHL teams aren't just making trades for themselves ahead of deadline

Here are all the hockey links from around the world, and what I’m reading while feeling like Warren Beatty took the sneaky way out by handing that wrong Academy Award card to Faye Dunaway last night. Clearly he knew something was amiss and he let her step into it. Kind of a weasel move if you asked me.

-- An interesting letter from FOH (Friend of Haggs) James Mirtle about the pay wall involving The Athletic sports website in Toronto.

-- Dean Lombardi and the Los Angeles Kings dealing for Ben Bishop is about more than just an insurance policy for Jonathan Quick.

-- FOH Mike Halford has the Minnesota Wild going for it with their trade for Martin Hanzal, but also keeping him from the other teams in the West.

-- NHL commissioner Gary Bettman says the Penguins are in great shape after winning the Cup last spring, and it’s clear they’re in good hands after Mario Lemieux and Ron Burkle opted not to sell the franchise.

-- Kyle Quincey is being held out of the lineup in New Jersey because of pending trades, and the wonder is who else in New Jersey might be getting dealt.

-- Gabriel Landeskog and his Colorado Avalanche teammates know the trade deadline is coming. It would certainly be weird if they didn’t.

-- The San Jose Sharks feel fortunate for the timing of their bye week as it was clear that they needed a break.

-- For something completely different: Gronk was busy doing Gronk things at the Daytona 500 over the weekend.