Boston Bruins

Haggerty: Bruins finally find strength in numbers

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Haggerty: Bruins finally find strength in numbers

BOSTON -- There were many buzz words synonymouswith last years Bruins.

But the one used most often, and most complimentary, was depth. Shift after shift, the B'sarrived in attacking waves as the coaches rolled out all four forward groups period after period. The Bruins could wear out more talented opponents with their overwhelming strength in numbers, and their willingness to relentlessly keep pushing.

So it was probably appropriate that 13 different Bruin players cracked the scoresheet and all four forward lines were accounted for in Tuesday nights 5-3 victory over the Ottawa Senators at TD Garden, which snapped Boston's three-game losing and Ottawas six-game winning streak.The Bruins needed to show something after a 3-7 start, and they did just that against the upstart Sens.

Thats what you want. Thats what made our team successful last year, said coach Claude Julien. I think its important to get some of that and obviously help guys get their confidence, too. When everybody goes out there and contributes in the fashion that they did tonight, its a lot better for the confidence of the whole team.

More importantly, the Bs were dogged and determined enough to ignore wide-open net chances botchedby both Rich Peverley and Nathan Horton in the early going, and didnt shrug their shoulders in weakcapitulation as theyve done too often this season.

Instead they hunkered down and kept attacking with tenacity and determination that trumped the spunky effort from the upstart Sens. It seems the Bs finally broke the spell that had them making the same mistakes over and over again.

The Bruins did some damage on the power play early, lulled Chris Neil and Spezza into taking penalties with equal parts hard work and poise under times of duress, and finally finished off some of the plays that eluded them early in the game. They attacked with 41 shots on net, and didn't ease back once they'd built up a one-goal lead heading into the final 20 minutes.

We took all the frustration and all that stuff that weve been feeling and used to our advantage instead of getting down on ourselves, said Patrice Bergeron. And thats the only way you can get out of those things. You know what, though: its only one game. So were happy but we have a long ways still to go.

Zdeno Chara was a physical presence offensively and defensively, and assisted on a pair of early goals while holding Ottawa'sSpezza and Co. to a minus-2 in the marquee match-up. Bergeron, Brad Marchand and Tyler Seguin all played over 20 minutes of iceeach while creating 11 qualityshots, and teaming with Chara and Johnny Boychuk to shut down Ottawas top line.If anything the Bruins were a little too pass-happy in the early going, but started really coming into their own as the game unfolded.

I thought that last year that was one our strengths when we had contributions from every line, at both ends of the ice, said Chris Kelly. That was nice to see tonight.

Speaking of Boychuk, the gifted defenseman once again had his game snap into focus at the exact right time. He was a consistent offensive factor, and scored the game-winning goal with one of his patented bombs from the point after being off the mark early. Milan Lucic snagged his fourth goal in the last five games and terrorized the Ottawa defenseman with his punishing body checks in the first half of the game -- a tactic that always loosens up the opposing defensemen for turnovers later in games.

Tim Thomas was timely with his stalwart goalie play in the second period where he registered only seven saves, but stood up to goal-mouth attacks from Colin Greening and Milan Michalek when the game was still tied.

That doesnt even mention the fourth lines contribution: Quality shifts with equal parts emotion and effectiveness,and an insurance goal from Daniel Paille thrown in, to boot. Its the reason Julien opted for them to start at puck dropTuesday night, and the reason he chose their line after the teams third and fourth goals of the evening as a means toward keeping the momentum solelyin Bostons corner.

There were some down portions of the win, of course. Both Horton and David Krejci continue to struggle. Krejci was slightly better as he tries to climb out of a sluggish start to the season, but Horton is still stuck in neutral with a game that's far from north-south.

But the Bruins were able to overcome any down performances through their strength in numbers, and know that is their ultimate blueprint for success this year and any other year. It worked against the best team in the NHL during the Stanley Cup Finals last season, so it will certainly work against the Ottawa Senators on a Tuesday night in November.

We played a good team game, said Thomas plainly, truthfully and simply.

Whats the key for the Bruins now that they seem to have found their footing?

The Bs need to follow up a nice statement win against the Senators with more strong efforts inback-to-back fashion. They had three singlewins prior to Tuesday, but haven't been able to follow up any of those victories with anothervictoryto get a winning streak going.That needs to change.If the Bruins are set to go streaking for a while, theyre going to need everybody on board as they were Tuesday night in a flashback performance.

Morning Skate: Star players must get more involved in CBA negotiations to make Olympics a reality

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Morning Skate: Star players must get more involved in CBA negotiations to make Olympics a reality

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while marveling that we’re just now learning about the massive rap skills of the brotherly duo of Andrew and Pete Frates. 

 

*Ken Campbell from the Hockey News says that if influential players, like Connor McDavid, want to go to the Olympics then they need to get more involved in the CBA negotiations

 

*Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Kris Letang shows what a class act he is by taking the Stanley Cup to a children’s hospital in Montreal.

 

*PHT writer James O’Brien has the Minnesota Wild looking to find long term deals for both restricted free agents Mikael Granlund and Nino Niederreiter. That was pretty clear when they chose to deal off Marco Scandella in order to clear up some cap space to afford both of them. 

 

*The Edmonton Oilers are going to face higher expectations for next season, and are willing to embrace that kind of pressure.

 

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) Craig Custance wonders aloud whether there will be any offer sheets coming for restricted free agents. I appreciate Craig wanting to add a little more intrigue to the NHL’s offseason, but it isn’t going to happen as long as GMs are treated like they have small pox once they go that route with an offer sheet. Take a look at the future job prospects for general managers that went with offer sheets in the past, and you’ll see why GMs simply don’t do them. This is why the Bruins are uncomfortable with David Pastrnak sitting unsigned as a restricted free agent, but not overly concerned that he’s going to sign a mega-offer sheet elsewhere.  

 

*The CCM hockey brand is apparently changing hands from its former home at Adidas

 

*For something completely different: Speaking of Pete Frates, MLB has announced a fundraising drive for ALS research in his name. 

Haggerty: Spooner deal represents his last chance with Bruins

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Haggerty: Spooner deal represents his last chance with Bruins

The Bruins and Ryan Spooner wisely came to a contract agreement on a one-year, $2.825 million deal just prior to the start of Wednesday’s arbitration hearing. Don Sweeney hasn’t yet taken a B’s player to arbitration during his three years running the Black and Gold, and it could have grown unnecessarily contentious with a player like Spooner if they’d been forced to point out his flaws as a player in the uncomfortable setting of an arbitration hearing.

“It’s a fair deal for both sides in our opinion,” said Spooner’s agent Murray Kuntz to CSN after the one-year contract had been agreed upon. 

Now that Spooner has been signed to the one-year deal, it represents the last chance for the 25-year-old to show some growth as a player if he wants to be a member of the Bruins for much. Spooner has averaged 12 goals and 44 points over the last two seasons as Boston’s third line center, and has amassed 35 PP points while serving as the trigger man on Boston’s power play from the right-side half-wall. 

But he dropped from 49 points two seasons ago to 39 points last year, and didn’t exactly flourish under the more offensive-minded coaching of Bruce Cassidy. 

Spooner is an excellent special teams player and has been one of the key ingredients in Boston finishing with the NHL’s 7th ranked power play in each of the last two seasons. But he tailed off badly late last season after suffering a concussion, and showed so much tentativeness in his overall game that he became a healthy scratch by the end of Boston’s first round playoff series against the Ottawa Senators. Spooner also continues to sit under a 40 percent success rate in the face-off circle, and shows little consistent interest in winning one-on-one battles anywhere along the ice.

The work on the draws is something, in particular, that comes down to hard work and diligence at practice, and should be an area Spooner can become at least average while practicing every day against a face-off maestro like Patrice Bergeron.  

All of this might be easier to overlook if he consistently utilized his excellent skating speed and considerable skill level to create offense during 5-on-5 play, but that hasn’t been the case enough over the last couple of seasons. A one-year deal for $2.85 gives Spooner one last opportunity to show some growth in those areas with the Bruins, and if he doesn’t then it should be fully expected the Bruins will rekindle trade discussions around Spooner. 

His situation is unmistakable: Spooner isn't going to be a top-6 center with the B's because Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci are firmly entrenched at this spots, and Spooner really doesn't have the right skill set to be a fourth line center. So it's third line center or bust for Spooner as the internal competition grows around him. 

Spooner is now 25 years old and should no longer be viewed as a young player that’s still in the development phase. He should be close to a finished NHL product, and may not get demonstrably better in any area of his game if he doesn’t show it this upcoming season. He was one of the main pieces discussed when the Bruins talked trade with the Minnesota Wild prior to them dealing Marco Scandella to Buffalo, and there is clearly trade value for the former second round pick. 

But the Bruins also have a potential third line center replacement in Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson after signing him out of Boston University at the end of last season. Forsbacka Karlsson may need some AHL time to start this season after looking overmatched in his only NHL appearance late last season, but he’s the eventual two-way center replacement for Spooner in the long term. 

Forsbacka Karlsson may not be as fast or as flashy as Spooner, but he projects to be better on draws, better at winning battles and puck possession and better at being more difficult to play against while boasting his own set of offensive skills. 

It’s now up to Spooner to win that training camp competition with Forsbacka Karlsson for his current third line center position, and protect his own spot on the B’s roster by playing like his very job security depends on it. If he doesn’t show that kind of urgency and hop to his game right from the start of training camp, then it’s only a matter of time before he becomes trade fodder at a salary cap number ($2.825 million) that should be easy to move.

It’s no hyperbole to say that Spooner is entering his final chance with the Black and Gold after avoiding arbitration, and it’s wholly up to him to dictate exactly how long it lasts for.