Haggerty: Bruins believe going into Game 6

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Haggerty: Bruins believe going into Game 6

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com Bruins Insider Follow @hackswithhaggs
BOSTON Tyler Seguin tweeted out a single word after last weekends frustrating 1-0 loss to the Vancouver Canucks in Game 5. It was a one word reaction to the game that placed the Bruins right on the brink of elimination in the Stanley Cup Final.

He tweeted whats become the mantra for the Bruins from the time they fell down 0-2 to the Montreal Canadiens in the first round: Believe.

Seguin didnt have a premonition of any kind. The puck prodigy is certainly no slap-shooting soothsayer, but he was still moved to repeat the motto thats pushed Boston all the way to within sniffing distance of the Cup.

I dont know. Its a do-or-die coming back home and I know a lot of fans follow me on twitter, said Seguin. I thought that was the right thing. Thats been the message word around this town with the B in Boston Bruins and the believe. I was in that mood for whatever it was, and Im still in that mood now.

Since choking away a 3-0 lead against the Flyers last spring, the Bruins have picked up a bandwagon full of believers and Johnny-Boychuk-come-lately type followers ready to experience their first Stanley Cup championship. For many, it would be their closest link to the hockey nirvana that invaded Boston with Bobby Orr in the golden age of the 1970s.

The Bruins face a difficult road littered with challenges, to be sure, but they sit only two wins away from getting their names etched on Lord Stanleys hockey hardware forever.

Despite their backs being against the wall, there wasnt a lot of stress or strain in the Bruins' dressing room leading up to Monday nights Game 6. In fact, Tim Thomas was so loose, he walked up to the podium for his press conference and was playful with the media. Smiling, he asked if anybody else could smell "popcorn cooking."

It seems that a 37-year-old fretting about his brush with hockey immortality wouldnt be ready with the jokes at the microphone. But then again, Thomas isnt even close to your garden variety hockey player.

Likewise, Patrice Bergeron sees what are essentially two Game 7s in a unique light. He does not look at Game 6 (or a potential Game 7) as a pressure-packed threat. For him it's an opportunity. An opportunity to add to his already stacked trophy case with Olympic and World Junior gold medals.

This chance to win a Stanley Cup is a childhood dream and you have to enjoy the moment, said Bergeron, who has three assists and a plus-1 along with 17 shots on net in five finals games. Its a great challenge. But its something we can do. Tomorrow its up to us in front of our fans to take all that energy and emotion thats going to be in the building and carry that out on the ice.

There really is nothing to lose at home for the Black and Gold in this series after punishing the Canucks in Boston to the tune of a 12-1 combined score. They played so well at home in Game 4 that they chased Roberto Luongo with all kinds of pressure and body traffic in front of the net.

Third periods on the road have been a struggle for the Bruins, but before they worry about that, they know they need to take care of business at home in a make-or-break situation -- the kind of situation thats brought out the best in Boston all season long.

I look at our resolve that was there during the season and different times when we have to come up large whether its Game 7 in the playoffs or sometime during the season when we needed certain wins, said Claude Julien. Our guys have always responded well and I have a lot of confidence in our team. The reason were here is because those guys have delivered. I dont expect that to change.

Its quite a story that the Bruins have come so far in people's eyes that they are expected to dominate Game 6 and get to Game 7 in Vancouver where absolutely anything can happen.

They've proven that the B on their sweaters stands for more than "Boston" or "Bruins," now its up to them to make it happen.

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

Reports: Blues trade Kevin Shattenkirk to Capitals

Reports: Blues trade Kevin Shattenkirk to Capitals

The Kevin Shattenkirk-to-Bruins rumblings are done for the remainder of the season.

Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Dispatch is reporting that the Blues have traded defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk to the Washington Capitals.

According to TSN’s Pierre LeBrun, the “main parts” the Blues will receive in the deal are 2017 first-rounder, a second-rounder in 2018 and Zach Sanford 

More to come. . . 

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.