Haggerty: Bruins back in the driver's seat

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Haggerty: Bruins back in the driver's seat

MONTREAL It was hard to imagine when the Bruins had dropped to 3-7 on the season at the end of October after a frustrating defeat on the Bell Centre ice at the hands of the Canadiens, but there was still plenty of time to turn things around.

The Bruins were getting lulled into multiple penalties by the insufferable P.K. Subban, offensive shooters were hitting posts instead of burying goals, and the Black and Gold were dead last in the Eastern Conference.

Zdeno Chara sounded unbending, undoubting and full of resolve after getting swept in a home-and-home against the hated Habs.

Heres what the Bs Captain said back on Oct. 29:

I believe in this team. I know what we have," Chara said. "I know we are in a deep hole but if anybody can get out of it, it's this team."

It was the last time the Bruins have tasted the bitterness of defeat this season, and theyve now won nine games in a row after a 1-0 victory over the Canadiens in their own backyard.

The Bruins were far from good. They got outshot by a 32-18 margin through the three periods, but hot goaltending play and sound defense trumped tough nights from Bostons skill guys at the forward position.

We played a little on our heels tonight, said Claude Julien. We werent very good on the walls, and I thought they were the better team in an area were usually pretty good at. What I liked is that we found a way to win, defensively we werent that bad and Tim Thomas was huge for us.

The nine-game winning streak is the longest for the Bs since a 10-game win streak that ended in January 2009, and should finally signal that the Stanley Cup champs are back where they need to be.

Stanley Cup hangover talk is over. Stories and memories from last years Cup run have been stored away in a box for safe-keeping, and now its about the solid way the current season is shaping up for them. The Bruins entered last nights win over the Canadiens sitting second in the NHL while scoring 3.2 goals per game, and fourth in the league in allowing 2.2 goals per game. The optimal offensedefense combo along with the NHL-best plus-26 goal differential tell the story of a team playing some pretty good hockey.

There was a certain level of sweetness to the Black and Gold finally dispatching their hockey arch-rivals for the first time this season, but there was even more meaning in taking over the Northeast Division lead for the first time this season.

Its a good streak. Now looking back on it Im pretty impressed with the way our team handled a bad start, said Andrew Ference. There was a wide open door for frustrations to go overboard and for people to get away from the belief of how we do things around here. That didnt happen.

Looking back now we handled it professionally and with confidence. Guys didnt waver. Instead they took long, hard looks in the mirror and simply got better. Its nice to see that we can believe in a system, have chemistry and have good attitudes that pay off in situations like that. Thats what good dressing rooms are for. Its easy when youre winning to smile and have fun. Holding things together is much more impressive when youre losing.

The turnaround has been stunning for the Black and Gold, who now sit three points behind the Pittsburgh Penguins for the top spot in the Eastern Conference and have been the NHLs hottest team for the entire month of November. It was fitting the Bruins finally took their rightful place in their division in Montreal as most members of the Bs organization look at the home-and-home loss at the end of October their hangover tipping point.

The losses to the Habs were like an open-handed slap to the face, and proved hurtful enough to their pride to have a long-lasting effect. Combine that with a few better bounces, Tim Thomas heading on a hot streak thats seen him push his save percentage back up to .938 and an offense thats averaging nearly five goals per game over the last month and theres all the ingredients required for a season-changing win streak.

Were not focusing on things. Weve done a good job of settling it down one game at a time, and not thinking about how many games weve won in a row, said Tim Thomas. Thats the key: breaking it down into sections of a few games.

Now matter how you slice it, the Bruins have been damned good when things really started to get real in November and theres no reason to think that wont continue against Buffalo in what should be a nasty environment Wednesday night.

Morning Skate: Sidney Crosby has been a good ambassador as the face of his NHL generation

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Morning Skate: Sidney Crosby has been a good ambassador as the face of his NHL generation

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while wishing everybody a safe and relaxing Memorial Day weekend. 

*Apparently Nashville Predators head coach Peter Laviolette has yet to try Nashville’s hot chicken despite his time behind the Preds bench. It’s okay, I have yet to try it either in my handful of visits to Music City. 

*Good stuff from PHT writer and FOH (Friend of Haggs) Jason Brough. Apparently it wasn’t so easy to make Wayne Gretzky’s head bleed when it came time for director Doug Liman to cut Swingers together

*Sidney Crosby cares about the history and the issues of the game, and has been a good ambassador as the face of his NHL generation despite the hate that always comes with such responsibility. 

*Puck Daddy examines Crosby’s performance in the playoffs, and the odds of him winning another Conn Smythe Trophy. 

*The Penguins have made it to the Stanley Cup Final without Kris Letang for their playoff run, and that’s an amazing accomplishment. 

*Erik Karlsson said that he will be tending to his injured foot next week, and expects a full recovery for next season after a brilliant run with his Ottawa Senators

*Larry Brooks again rails against the Stanley Cup playoff structure and it’s relation to an “absurd regular season.” Say what you will, but the fact the Penguins are there for a second straight season shoots down some of the absurdity stuff in my mind. The best team from the East is where they should be and they did it without Kris Letang to boot. 

*Chicago Blackhawks prospect Alex Debrincat is confident his abilities will translate to the NHL despite his size after taking home honors as the best player in junior hockey this season. 

*For something completely different: Apparently there’s a hard core comic book geek gripe that “The Flash” is burning through bad guys too quickly. This would make sense if they couldn’t revisit these bad guys at any point, but they absolutely can go back to a big bad like Grodd anytime they want. 

Playoff run ends for Providence Bruins, but some promising signs

Playoff run ends for Providence Bruins, but some promising signs

It was the longest run that the P-Bruins have had in a few years and another unmistakable sign that the future is brightening for the Black and Gold, but the Bruins AHL affiliate has ended their playoff push in the Calder Cup semi-finals. 

The Providence Bruins fell by a 3-1 score to the Syracuse Crunch on Saturday night to lose to the Crunch in five games when the best-of-seven series was set to return to Providence this coming week. The P-Bruins had vanquished the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins and Hershey Bears in the first two rounds of the Calder Cup playoffs before finally exiting against Syracuse. 

Though it’s over, it’s clear some of the Bruins prospects made a nice step forward over the second half of the AHL season and then into the Calder Cup playoffs. With the Calder Cup Finals yet to start, B’s forward prospect Danton Heinen stands as the second-leading playoff scorer in the entire AHL with nine goals and 18 points in 17 playoff games after really struggling in the first half of his first pro season while bouncing back and forth between the NHL and the AHL. 

This could bode well for the skilled Heinen and his hopes to make the leap to the NHL in the near future after a stellar collegiate career at the University of Denver. AHL journeymen-types Wayne Simpson and Jordan Szwarz were the next two top scorers for the P-Bruins in the playoff run, but Jake DeBrusk had a strong playoff season as well while popping in six goals in 17 games. DeBrusk led all Providence players with his 54 shots on net in the 17-game playoff run for Providence, and he headlined a group that included B’s prospects Ryan Fitzgerald, Zach Senyshyn, Matt Grzelcyk, Peter Cehlarik (who succumbed to shoulder surgery during the playoffs), Emil Johansson and Robbie O’Gara all getting some vital playoff experience. 

Both Heinen and DeBrusk will be strong candidates for jobs on the wing with the Boston big club when training camp opens in the fall after strong showings in the postseason. 

On the goaltending side, Zane McIntyre was solid for the P-Bruins at times while in 16 of their 17 playoff games with a .906 save percentage. But it was Malcolm Subban that was playing at the very end of the playoff run for Providence and featured a sterling .937 save percentage in the four AHL playoff games that he appeared in this spring after an up-and-down regular season. McIntyre had an .857 save percentage and 4.37 goals against average in the final series against Syracuse, and looked a little spent like many of the other P-Bruins players once they’d unexpectedly made it to the third round of the AHL postseason.  

The only unfortunate part of Providence’s run is that newly signed youngsters Charlie McAvoy and Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson couldn’t be a part of it after signing and then appearing in NHL games following a cut-off date for AHL playoff rosters. Both missed on an experience that could have been very conducive for their professional development, and uncovered a wrinkle in the NHL/AHL transaction process that really doesn’t make a whole lot of sense for a developmental league.