Bruins' win streak vaults them into playoff spot

590554.jpg

Bruins' win streak vaults them into playoff spot

UNIONDALE, N.Y. For the first time since the opening few days of the NHL regular season, the Bruins woke up Sunday morning, read their newspaper or favorite hockey blog and realized the Black and Gold are situated in a playoff spot among the top eight teams in the Eastern Conference.

It seemed highly unattainable while the Bruins lost game-after-game in October, but theyve been as hot in November as they were cold before Halloween.

The eight-game winning streak has elevated the Bs into the seventh spot in the East nestled between the New York Rangers and Washington Capitals a pair of hockey teams moving in opposite directions and has Boston within two points of the Northeast Division lead with two games in hand on the Sabres.

In fact the Bruins are only three points behind the Eastern Conference-leading Philadelphia Flyers with a single game in hand, and have only two road games against the Sabres and Habs leading into the Thanksgiving holiday. The winning streak during the month of November has truly fulfilled the message Claude Julien pieced together for his team after getting off to a forgettable, sloppy 3-7 start.

There was urgency there if we wanted to get back into the group of teams in a playoff spot. We needed to wake up, and wake up quickly. We just showed some players examples of where teams were in the standings by Thanksgiving, and how the end of the year went, said Claude Julien. A lot of the teams up there end up being in the playoffs in the end. Were fighting our way into hopefully being in the spot by the time Thanksgiving comes around. We still have a few more games to go.

The Bs coaching staff outlined the recent track record of Eastern Conference playoff teams over the last four years, and the results have been pretty bulletproof: if a team is in the top eight by the end of November then they are well-positioned for a postseason berth, and if theyre outside the Eastern playoff teams by Turkey Day then chances are theyre not going to make it.

There have been exceptions, of course.

The 2007-08 NHL season was particularly screwy with the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals both out of the playoffs at the end of November. But both high-powered teams ended up in the postseason with a big rush down the stretch despite the Thanksgiving deficit. Meanwhile the Atlanta Thrashers and Florida Panthers were in the playoff hunt early over the first two months of that season, but got pushed aside by the true contenders over the bulk of the season.

The Caps went on a 13-4 rush to end that season and cruise into the playoffs while the Penguins went 19-8-4 down the stretch to punch their ticket. But dont try that at home, kids.

We went back four years. There was one year where teams like Florida and Atlanta had gotten off to good starts and Pittsburgh and Washington were at the bottom of the standings in November, said Julien. So they eventually climbed up.

But where we were in the standings Im telling you that if we hadnt gotten off to this big time roll then wed still be in trouble. Its nice to see we have this streak going, and hopefully by Thanksgiving well still be in a playoff spot.

Those kinds of late season rushes are difficult to engineer and doubly so with a team like the Bruins that will be operating with a heavy schedule full of road games in the second half of the year. So Julien and the Bs coaching staff stressed how important it was for the players to remove the hangover haze from their collective minds, and put things together in November with sharper focus and execution.

The Bruins did just that and ripped off eight straight wins while outscoring their opponents by a 41-14 margin, and lifted themselves from the Eastern Conference basement to a playoff perch.

But the Bruins know theres still work to be done with statement games against the Sabres and Canadiens, and theyre a better team than one simply slumming for a bottom-feeder postseason berth. The Bruins are getting a little greedy now that theyve pulled themselves out of their Stanley Cup hangover tailspin: the reigning Cup champs want to keep pushing while momentum and good health are firmly in their favor.

Its not satisfying to be in a playoff spot to be honest. Its good and its nice to see. But we dug ourselves a big whole to start the season and were just starting to climb out of it, said Patrice Bergeron. We cant stop now. We have a lot of work to do. Its nice to see the results starting to happen, but we have to keep it going.

That shouldnt be a problem given the natural motivation against the team that embarrassed them in October (Canadiens) and the team (Sabres) that called them a piece of expletive on the schedule this week.

Morning Skate: Not a dry eye as Canucks draftee gets the call

Morning Skate: Not a dry eye as Canucks draftee gets the call

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while getting ready to check out GLOW on Netflix.

*This video of a Vancouver Canucks draft pick tearing up while watching the video of his brother celebrating him getting picked is all that is right with the NHL Draft.  

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) Adrian Dater has Avs first-round pick Cale Makar talking about his hockey background, and why it doesn’t matter.

*The Calgary Flames are excited about their prospects and the pieces they were able to acquire last weekend.

*The Washington Capitals have re-signed Brett Connolly for a couple of years at short money and he appears to have found a home in DC.

*The Chicago Blackhawks are still in talks with Marian Hossa about how to resolve his contract and the allergic skin condition that might have prematurely ended his hockey career.

*Will the Tampa Bay sports go through a dry spell when it comes to Hall of Fame athletes now that former Lighting forward Dave Andreychuk has been called to the Hockey Hall?

*It looks like young Pierre Luc Dubois will be put in a position to contribute with the Columbus Blue Jackets this season.

*Alex Prewitt has a preview of the NHL free agency period and the stress levels that many players go through in it.

*For something completely different: This video of Drake and Will Ferrell hoop handshakes was pretty solid, and funny.

 

Haggerty: Jacobs may not be beloved, but he's Hall of Fame-worthy

Haggerty: Jacobs may not be beloved, but he's Hall of Fame-worthy

If it was based solely on his 42 years as owner of the Boston Bruins, it might be debatable as to whether Jeremy Jacobs would have been selected to the Hockey Hall of Fame.

The Bruins have won one championship and been to a handful of Stanley Cup Finals during Jacobs' long stewardship, of course. They also enjoyed the longest running playoff streak (29 years) in NHL history, though it began before he purchased the franchise. Altogether, the B's have won one Cup, four conference championships, two Presidents' trophies, 15 division championships, and 35 Stanley Cup playoff berths during the Jacobs Era.

MORE BRUINS

But Jacobs didn't make the Hall of Fame solely on his accomplishments with the Bruins organization. He's being inducted in the "builder” category, which is defined as "coaching, managerial or executive ability, or ability in another significant off-ice role, sportsmanship, character and contributions to his or her organization or organizations and to the game of hockey in general.”  In addition to overseeing the Bruins over the last four-plus decades, he has been a power broker at the league level for just as long.

"I am flattered to be included in with this great group of 2017 inductees, and I am humbled to be included with the legends of hockey that went before me,” said Jacobs. "Owning the Boston Bruins for 42 years has been one of the most rewarding honors of my life. I am indebted to our team's leaders and players, but most of all, to our fans, for giving me a broad and deeply appreciative perspective of the game."

The 2011 Stanley Cup victory was the overriding on-ice moment in his stewardship of the team, and the Jacobs family has had a major, altruistic impact in Boston. No one should overlook the Boston Bruins Foundation, which has touched so many lives with the $28 million that's been awarded to those in need since its inception in 1993.

Unfortunately, Jacobs will always have a reputation with a large portion of the Bruins fan base that his ownership wasn't willing to spend enough for truly competitive teams. At times he was viewed as an absentee owner living in Buffalo, overseeing the team from afar while Harry Sinden ran the operation. Those fans hold that grudge even today, despite the Bruins consistently spending to the salary cap ceiling while fielding competitive teams. They view Monday's Hall of Fame announcement as something akin to Montgomery Burns being inducted into the Springfield Hall of Fame.

Cam Neely disagrees.

"As a player, I knew of Mr. Jacobs' passion for the Bruins,” said Neely, who has served as Bruins president for nearly a decade after a Hall of Fame playing career highlighted by his years in Boston. "Over the past decade while in the front office, I have seen firsthand his dedication to winning, by consistently providing the Bruins the resources that we need to compete for Stanley Cup Championships and also his unmatched commitment to growing the game of hockey."

That commitment to hockey is a key factor in Jacobs' Hall of Fame selection.

Jacobs was unanimously voted in as chairman of the NHL Board of Governors in 2007, and he's been a major driving force in each of the last couple of oft-contentious CBA negotiations. While Jacobs clearly had a hand in the cancellation of the entire 2004-05 season due to a labor dispute, and in the lockout-shortened season of 2013, those CBA negotiations ultimately led to the imposition of a salary cap and a pathway for small-market NHL teams to survive as the cost of doing hockey business continues to go up.

Without Jacobs as an often hawkish, hard-line owner, there's a chance that a team like the Western Conference champion Nashville Predators might not have been able to survive in the NHL, and it's highly doubtful they'd be able to be as competitive as they are now if teams like Toronto, New York and Chicago could outspend everybody else. So there's no denying the seismic impact that Jacobs made at the league-wide level with his leadership and commitment to growing the game, and that the NHL is better off for the battles waged in collective bargaining while he's been in a position of power.

If you polled every single Bruins fan on the street, it's unlikely he'd be a populist choice for the Hall of Fame. The lean budgetary years durinhg the playing days of Neely, Ray Bourque and others will always be part of the Spoked B history. Some will hold those grudges forever, which is part of makes us who we are as a fan base.

But faithful, rabid fans continue to stream into TD Garden, continue to spend money to support their favorite hockey team, and continue to provide the kind of support that's led to a 338-game home sellout streak. It's a sign Jacobs and Bruins ownership continue to do things very right, even if we shouldn't be scheduling any popularity contests anytime soon.