Haggerty: The Bruins are ready for the Boston spotlight

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Haggerty: The Bruins are ready for the Boston spotlight

The contrast was too plain and easy to ignore.

As the New England Patriots dig their way out from under unfulfilled expectations and the ghosts of Super Bowls past, the Boston Bruins are the citys best hope for another championship in the foreseeable future.

The Celtics still have remnants of their NBA title past in Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, but theyre too old, too small and too not-the-Miami-Heat to have any chance of winning this spring. The Red Sox are running their baseball operations like theyre the Minnesota Twins these days, and their summer will end with the same kind of small market disappointment as they do in the Twin Cities.

But the Bruins have the talent, the experience, the star power and the nucleus of a Stanley Cup worthy team thats still in their prime, and have shown just how motivated they are by jumping out with a pair of solid wins at home. That's why they are the best, last hope to live up to the mantle of high expectations that's part of the DNA for every sports team within the city of Boston.

Where the entire region was at the depths of disappointment on Sunday night with the sobering realization an era might be slowly crawling to an end for Tom Brady and Bill Belichick, the melancholy was wiped away on Monday afternoon with one filthy Tyler Seguin scoring move in the shootout.

It's a responsibility the Bruins organization is keenly aware of from Cam Neely on down, and it's one they're looking to uphold.

Were a gritty team, we like to think were a hardworking team, and you know our guys are pretty focused on making sure we give the fans what they want and give the city what they deserve. Thats helped us a lot, said Claude Julien. Were all big fans Sunday afternoon I sat in front of that television all afternoon watching football, and I was a big fan like everybody else and just as disappointed.

But you turn around and say, Okay now its our chance here to try and do something for this city. Were fortunate to have some good sports teams here in Boston. No doubt the fans get spoiled, but theyre such good fans. They fill every building up, so they deserve it.

The lament for a potentially lost NHL season during the lockout was strong in Boston because folks could see what else was on the pro sports horizon aside from the Black and Gold.

And it wasnt pretty.

A spring filled with Red Sox spring training camp and the mercurial point guard stylings of Rajon Rondo werent going to get the job done by themselves. No NHL would have left a gaping hole that couldn't be filled by the hollow activities of the four-month lockout: emptying out the contents of your DVR, or renting the entire run of "The Wire" on Netflix.

Now the Bruins are back, and theyve restored their swaggering hunger after getting far too drunk and much too satisfied on their own Stanley Cup success.

Milan Lucic went from lockout question mark to snarling beast who has amassed an NHL-best 14 registered hits in Bostons first two games, and is back to being the big-bodied wrecking ball striking fear into all opponents. Tuukka Rask is 2-0-0 with a 0.96 goals against average and a .958 save percentage in Bostons first two games, and is doing it with the economical movements and quiet technique in direct contrast to the hyper crease theatrics of Tim Thomas.

Tyler Seguin provided the electric offense in regulation that Boston needed, and then set the playmaking tone in the shootout as hes so often done over the last few years. Thats helped the Bruins to a 10-3 record in shootouts over the last two seasons, and will keep them piling up the points in this short regular season campaign.

Zdeno Chara completely shut down New York Rangers wonder boy Rick Nash in the season opener, and rag-dolled old friend Blake Wheeler all over the ice on Monday afternoon like it was the good old days at the Bruins practice rink. That he did it in defense of his young understudy, Dougie Hamilton, simply made it all the better.

The Bruins defense has allowed just 47 shots and two goals in the first two games, and has done that while breaking 19-year-old Dougie Hamilton into the regular rotation of blueliners.

For a team that had focused on a strong start as one of the big keys to success in a 48-game shortened schedule, the Bruins are right on time. Even better theyre getting it done at home and creating an air of expectation that people will see something special on the TD Garden now that the Boys are Back.

We want to create a good atmosphere here and a good feeling right on through the whole organization and to the fans, said Andrew Ference. We just want to get those positive vibes going early in the season because they count for a lot. People say it was the Stanley Cup thing last year, but I dont think that was it because we turned it on pretty good for a couple of months.

It was just mentally not being as prepared as we should have been. Now I think everybody has put a lot of onus on themselves to play their game. I know the guys that didnt play in Europe put a lot of pressure on themselves to make sure they were prepared and that they werent dead weight to the team. So its just a matter of guys taking pride in getting the first few under our belt.

The Bruins have accomplished their first mission of taking the initial two home games on TD Garden ice, and now comes an opportunity to really step on the Rangers throats Wednesday night. The Blueshirts are reeling after a pair of season-opening defeats including a tough loss to the Penguins that saw Henrik Lundqvist pulled from net for the first time in well over a year.

There is still four months worth of regular season followed by two months of playoffs for the Bruins before another Stanley Cup title could be a reality.

But the Black and Gold are now on the clock after last weekend.

The Bs represent the next-best chance for a Boston team to bring home a title to the City of Champions after the Patriots faltered, and they look like theyre ready for their hockey close-up.

Tuesday, Jan. 24: Crosby, Matthews top coaches' poll

Tuesday, Jan. 24: Crosby, Matthews top coaches' poll

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while rooting for “Manchester By the Sea” to upset some favorites at the Oscars.

*Sidney Crosby and Auston Matthews top the annual NHL coaches' poll produced by TSN Insider Bob McKenzie.

*The oral history of Fox’s glowing puck used for the NHL during their run with the league is an entertaining one.

*Mike Babcock gives pep talks to the reporters along with his own players while running the show in Toronto.

*The Vegas Golden Knights are moving forward with their timetable toward hiring a coach with some good candidates out there now, and some other ones potentially available soon. I’ve wondered if Claude Julien would be interested in that spot if he’s let go by the Bruins this season, but the one sure thing is that he wouldn’t be out of work long if he is relieved of his duties.

*Claude Giroux needs to start playing a little more fearlessly and without dwelling on mistakes, according to his general manager.

*Detroit Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill doesn’t believe that fancy stats and analytics have had a major impact on the way the Wings do things.

*PHT writer James O’Brien has the rundown on a Millenial’s dream of performers at the 2017 NHL All-Star Game: Nick Jonas, Fifth Harmony and Carly Rae Jepsen.

*For something completely different: keeping an eye on the notion that Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg is going to run for President.

 


 

Julien: 'The less said and the more shown' is good for Bruins right now

Julien: 'The less said and the more shown' is good for Bruins right now

BRIGHTON, Mass – Claude Julien met with the media after Tuesday’s morning skate and there was a bit of a long pause between questions at one point early in the session.

“I understand because everything that needs to be said has already been said, right?” cracked the longtime Bruins bench boss, who was in good spirits after morning skate despite the turmoil around him.

It’s clearly less about words and more about results right now for a struggling team that’s lost a season-worst four games in a row in gut-punching fashion and has fallen out of a playoff position despite teams above them, Ottawa and Toronto, holding five games in hand on them. 

The Bruins are in a freefall at the worst possible time and at this point, Julien wants to see positive action and winning results from his team rather than the empty talk with the media.

“We want to respect our game plan, execute it well and that normally helps you. We’ve been a little bit all over the place, especially in the last game,” said Julien. “That’s what we addressed yesterday, moving forward.

“I haven’t used the All-Star break as a motivation. We’re basically looking at these last two games, and what we have to do in these last two games. I think we’re well aware of what’s waiting for them after that. The players normally know when the breaks are. That’s not for us right now. I’d like to see our focus on what we need to do [against the Wings] to right the ship. We’ve talked about it a lot, and I think right now the less said, and the more shown is probably the best thing.”

With two games left until the All-Star break, one has to wonder what Julien’s fate will be if the Bruins drop both games to Detroit and Pittsburgh before the group breaks up for All-Star weekend. 

A good showing might be enough to keep Julien calling the shots for the Black and Gold down the stretch this season. But the sense is that more of the same fragile, losing efforts from the Bruins in these final two home dates, a familiar look from this group over the past three seasons, could spell doom for the winningest coach in Bruins franchise history.

One thing is for sure: Words aren’t going to do anything for Julien, and instead it’s about cold, hard results for the coach and the Bruins players who are nose-diving in the middle of the regular season.