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.

Vatrano out with upper body injury, Beleskey returns tonight vs. Stars

Vatrano out with upper body injury, Beleskey returns tonight vs. Stars

BRIGHTON, Mass – The Bruins will be missing one of their regular wingers when they take the ice against the Dallas Stars on Thursday night.

Frank Vatrano missed the morning skate at Warrior Ice Arena with an upper body injury and is out for tonight’s game. That creates  an opening for Matt Beleskey to draw back in after missing the past couple of games due to the birth of his first child. The sharp-shooting Vatrano was injured at Wednesday’s practice and it sounded like a day-to-day type thing when Bruce Cassidy discussed it following morning skate.

“Frankie yesterday in practice had an upper body issue that will leave him day-to-day,” said Cassidy. “I don’t think it’s serious, but [Vatrano] will miss tonight. We’ll see where he’s at tomorrow.”

It might not be the worst time for Vatrano to reset things as well having gone goal-less in the past 14 games, and been a part of an up-and-down third line that hasn’t produced much offense lately for the Bruins. With that change out there and Tuukka Rask again being tapped for the start against the Stars, here’s the line combos and D-pairings based on morning skate:

Marchand-Bergeron-Backes

Stafford-Krejci-Pastrnak

Beleskey-Spooner-Hayes

Moore-Nash-Acciari

 
Chara-Carlo

Krug-McQuaid

Liles-K. Miller


Rask

Haggerty: Bruins plan to take it slow with McAvoy, unless . . .

Haggerty: Bruins plan to take it slow with McAvoy, unless . . .

BRIGHTON -- Nobody doubts that 19-year-old Charlie McAvoy is going to be a game-changer down the road for the Boston Bruins.

The Boston University sophomore, expected to be in the NHL next season, is the crown jewel of a draft-and-development movement led by general manager Don Sweeney over the last three years. And if McAvoy hits the ground running with the Providence Bruins over the weekend, he may even make his NHL debut with the Bruins sometime in the next 10 days, even though playing in as much as a single game with Boston this season would burn a year off his entry-level contract.

"[The NHL] is still to be determined. It will be contract first and [the AHL] as a good first step for us," said Sweeney after signing McAvoy to an ATO (Amateur Tryout Agreement). "He's made the decision to leave [college] and we're excited about that process. It leaves some options open [for McAvoy], but first and foremost gets him playing and acclimated to pro hockey."

But there's also the reality that a 19-year-old like McAvoy is going to face challenges in pro hockey. Mastering the defenseman position at the NHL level is an extremely complicated process. It's the reason we see a lot more teenage forwards take the league by storm than teenage D-men, who typically need more development time in the AHL to hone their skills at both ends of the rink.

"[The challenge] would be getting him to figure out what works at this level and what doesn't, just like if he were in Providence," said interim coach Bruce Cassidy about the theoretical possibility of McAvoy playing in Boston soon. "We've used seven defensemen here over the last eight weeks and they've done a good job for us, so we'd have to see where he fit in and go from there . . . I've seen him here and there, but I don't know enough about his individual game at this point to know what he would specifically need to do . . .

"[Defense] is a tougher position in the NHL because mistakes are magnified. If you're a forward you've got another layer of defense to support you, so you can get away with some of that stuff. I think that's why you see generally that most of the rookies that age in the NHL are forwards."

Torey Krug signed with the Bruins out of college five years ago and had a one-game cameo with them before spending the entire next season in Providence. Krug says now that, looking back, he knows he wasn't ready to play in the NHL coming out of school and needed a season to sort things out defensively against bigger, stronger, smarter and faster opponents.

"The speed itself wasn't much of an issue, but if you fall asleep even for a second it's going to turn into a scoring chance for the other team," Krug said of the adjustment from college hockey to the NHL. "These games are not easy to play in, even for veterans in the league . . .

"I thought offensively I was ready [right away], but defensively I had a lot to learn. It's a tough league to play in. Offensively it was fun, but defensively I had my share of hiccups realizing I had to go down to Providence to work on some things."

McAvoy isn't expected to follow Krug's path. He'll get development opportunities at the AHL level at the end of this season just like fellow young D-man Brandon Carlo, who used last spring's AHL experience to vault directly into the NHL this season as a 19-year-old playing top-four minutes right from opening night.

It's also the track taken by Zach Werenski last year with the Columbus Blue Jackets. An AHL playoff run fully prepped him for his breakout season as the league's best rookie defenseman.

"It's a long time ago, but I used that [ATO] myself as a benefit and I've always been an advocate of it, and I think Robbie O'Gara, Danton Heinen and Carlo all [did it]," said Sweeney. "All the players that have been able to come on and play at a very high level against men, generally in a playoff stretch drive or the playoffs themselves, it's a unique [experience].

"When you first turn pro, you're introduced to it at a really high level and you have to adjust to it on the fly. It's about structure and understanding the voices you're hearing. And reading and reacting at the pro level are all very important [skills]. [I think] it's a great on-the-job training exercise and right now Brandon is the best example of it. He's been able to jump into our lineup this year, and that's a testament to him and also the work he did last year."

So the Bruins should take their time with McAvoy, though also allow that he could be a dominant exception to the rule and become a force right out of the chute. It certainly appears Sweeney is going to leave that door ajar,  to make sure the Bruins don't miss out on anything with a young defenseman who's already drawn comparisons to Norris Trophy winner Drew Doughty.