Haggerty: Bruins just keep getting better offensively

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Haggerty: Bruins just keep getting better offensively

BOSTON -- Heres the thought going through the minds of 29 other NHL general managers after watching yet another Bruins blowout victory at the expense of the sad sack Calgary Flames: Were gonna need a bigger boat.

Thats the infamous line from Jaws when they finally get a sobering lookat the gigantic great white shark theyre hunting, and its the slow-settling realization among the hockey cognoscentithat the Bruins are the biggest predator in the NHL this season. Not in terms of throwing dirty hits or preying on the leagues weak sisters, but simply in being the biggest fish at the top of the hockey food chain this season.The Bruins are everybody else's big white whale in the NHL this year, and it's really not even close for second place half-way through the year.

Thirty-seven games into the season the Bruins are the class of the league coming off a Stanley Cup-winning campaign, and they just seem to keep improving on a formula that provedultimately successful last year. There is little doubt the reigning Cup champs are better than they were last year: theyre younger, theyre faster, they have the confidence of a team that knows theyre good enough when push comes to shove and they are much, much better offensively.

Its crazy. Weve built our team a certain way: its not that were going to dangle guys and make all kinds of solo goals, said goaltender Tuukka Rask, who wrapped up his fifth straight win and third shutout this season after the B's 9-0 win over the Flames. Its something we recognize and weve worked on for a couple of years. We dont even want to try anything fancy. We just want to work in our style of hockey because its worked out pretty well.

With that offensive improvement and overwhelming depth comes confidence fromthe Bruins that they can beat anybody at any time in any place. The Bruins havegone about doing it while sitting only a point behind the New York Rangers for the NHLs highest point total with an all-important game in hand. They're first in offense, first in defense, first in every goaltending category and literally have no weakness to be exploited by opponents -- but it's the offense that's really helped push this team toa new level.

I think its confidence honestly," said Rask. "I think the depth weve been talking about all year has been helping us a lot, but four lines feeling confident and feeling good about themselves obviously helps a lot. Every line wants to contribute and go out there and find ways to score.

Nobody envisioned the Bruins leading the NHL in goals per game as an offensive juggernaut, and there havent been Bs teams in recent memory capable of outscoring their opponents by a 45-11 margin while winning eight of their last nine games. That means the Bruins are averaging more than four goals for every one goal their opponents scrape together, and the Bruins have potted 15 unanswered goals after dropping nine goals on Calgary in the 9-0 spanking.

The offensive surge has taken some of the Bruins by surprise, particularly those players that werent part of the Cup run last season.

Its pretty fun to watch and fun to be a part of. I didnt expect that at all, scoring like weve been scoring all year, said Benoit Pouliot. Our plus differential is pretty high and its good but our goalies are the main thing keeping us in the game. We backed them up, kept the momentum on our side and scored some goals.

Yeah, thats right. Pouliot just said its all about the goaltenders in a 9-0 drubbing of a dead hockey team skating in Calgary at the end of a long seven game road trip.

It got so bad that Bruins fans started chanting We Want 10! in the third period hoping there was a chance for the Bruins to reach double-digits for a single goal total. The Flames might have been steaming as they heard the chant raining down on them, but they were powerless to make the B's pay any price for it.

Im a goalie, so if I was playing for Calgary Id be mad, said Rask. Theyre fans. Theyre known to chant different things and not really feel for the other team. Its important that theyre having fun. As long as theyre not chirping at me, its all right.

Clearly those around the Bs franchise have already become accustomed to their teams offensive prowess, but they simplyhad to "settle" for nine goals scored for the first time since a 1998 season. How long ago was that? Jason Allison and Peter Ferraro led the Bruins with two-goal performances much like Nathan Horton and Patrice Bergeron each potted a pair of goals in the blowout win 14 years later.

Thats where the similarities end, though, for teams of B's past anda Black and Gold powerhouse thats making everybody rethink just how high Bostons ceiling could possibly reach. This season reminds older Bruins fans of the 1970-71 season when the Orr-led B's had one of the all-time romps through the regular season, but couldn't cap it off with a Cup in the postseason.This team is having that kind of regular season again this year, and has made a decisive step forward in their development into a potential hockey dynasty capable of yearly runs.

We hope were a better team than last year because we know how hard it is to even think about getting another shot at the Cup. You always hope to improve as a hockey club, said Claude Julien. We matured and got better through experience, but we also got some young players that are better this year.

We brought some players in that are fitting in well, and I think our goaltending duo is stronger as we speak than it was last year at this time. Are we a better team? For the moment we are. But are we going to be a better team at the end of the year? Thats up to us to make it happen.

The numbers are startling for the better edition of the Bruins:

The Bruins have scored six plus goals 11 times in their 37 games this season and continue to put up big offensive numbers against overmatched opponents.

The Bruins are far and away the best offensive team in the NHL this season while averaging 3.65 goals per game, but theyre doing it without an offensive player in the top 20 in NHL scoring. Tyler Seguin sits at No. 23 on the NHL scoring list with 36 points while leading the NHL with a plus-31 this season. That screams out balance and depth up and down the lineup.

The Bruins continue to build on their third period prowess with a plus-34 goals forgoals against differential in the final 20 minutes of games.

A dozen players cracked the scoresheet in the win with goals from each of the four forward lines, and goals from each individual member of the David Krejci, Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton line.

The Bruins already have six players up and down the lineup in double-digit goals scored totals for the season, and David Krejci is about to make it seven different players with his next tally this year.

The Bruins lead the NHL in goal differential with a plus-69 and hold a tidy lead over the second-place Detroit Red Wings with a plus-40 on the season. Thats the kind of five-on-five domination thats characterized the Bruins way of doing things over the last several years under Claude Julien.

It all adds up to the most offensively dominant Bruins team of the last 20-plus years that continues to reach up toward the historic Orr era in Bs history as some of the best in Boston franchise history. Yes, they are that good this year.

Haggerty: Reports of Seidenberg's demise were greatly exaggerated

Haggerty: Reports of Seidenberg's demise were greatly exaggerated

Hindsight is always 20/20, of course, but it appears the Bruins made a mistake buying out veteran defenseman Dennis Seidenberg from the final couple of years of his contract. 

Seidenberg just finished up a wildly successful stint with host Team Germany at the IIHF World Championships, where he was named Directorate Best Defenseman (the tournament’s best defenseman) after leading all D-men with a goal and eight points. This came after Seidenberg, at age 35, posted 5 goals and 22 points in 73 games for the Islanders, with whom he signed after being cut loose by the B's, while averaging a shade under 20 minutes per game.  Seidenberg also had an excellent World Cup of Hockey tournament for Team Europe last summer (where he was teamed once again with Zdeno Chara), thus managing to play at a high level from September all the way through May.

A faction of Bruins fans thought he was on the serious decline after the 2015-16 season and, clearly, the Bruins agreed, opting to buy him out with two more years still left on a sizable contract extension. (They owe him $2.16 million next season and then will be charged $1.16 million on their salary cap over the next two seasons.) But the B's could have used a durable, defensive warrior like Seidenberg in the playoffs, when they lost three of their top four defensemen against the Ottawa Senators. A rejuvenated Seidenberg, able to play both the left and right side, would have been a better option than Colin Miller.

The Bruins made a conscious decision to hand things over to younger defensemen like Miller, Torey Krug, Brandon Carlo and Joe Morrow in cutting ties with Seidenberg. But they also perhaps miscalculated how much Seidenberg still had left in the tank after his best season in at least three years. 

“Well, at the time we felt like [Seidenberg's] game had really dropped off to where we thought he couldn’t contribute, and we wanted to see if some younger players could come in and help us out,” Bruins president Cam Neely said at the end-of-the-season press conference earlier this month. “I’ve got to say he played well this year for Long Island. But at the time we thought it was the right move. You can’t envision us having three of our top four D’s get hurt [in the playoffs]. We went through a lot of D’s in the postseason. You can’t predict that.”

Neely is referring to the decision made after Seidenberg’s second straight minus season in Boston, when back injuries and a major knee injury had seemed to slow him down a bit. It seemed the only way to properly evaluate some of their other, younger defenseman was to cut Seidenberg loose, but one has to wonder if the Bruins would have possibly done it had they known he was still capable of playing like he did this season for the Islanders. 

Either way, the buyout of Seidenberg is an extremely legitimate second guess of Bruins management in a year where they did a lot of things right. 
 

Monday, May 22: Senators all out of playoff magic?

Monday, May 22: Senators all out of playoff magic?

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while feeling like we’ll be getting a Pittsburgh/Nashville Stanley Cup Final, which I suppose would be the best possible outcome at this point.

*You hear the name and it just gets you angry all over again if you grew up watching the Bruins. Ulf Samuelsson is in the running for an assistant coaching job with the Chicago Blackhawks, according to a report.

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) Chris Johnston says it appears that the time is running out on a Cinderella season for the Ottawa Senators.

*A taste of winning at the world championships with Team Sweden could fuel Alex Edler’s desire for a change from the rebuilding Vancouver Canucks.

*Interesting piece on a former can’t miss goaltending prospect with the Nashville Predators that ended up totally missing, and what he’s been up to in life since then.

*Guy Boucher explains to Pro Hockey Talk why he kept changing goaltenders in the Game 5 blowout loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins.

*Don Cherry explains that he hates afternoon hockey during his Coach’s Corner from Hockey Night in Canada in the Game 5 blowout between the Penguins and Predators.

*A good piece from FOH (Friend of Haggs) Alex Prewitt on the Nashville Predators, and the evolution of the franchise into a team on the verge of a Stanley Cup Final appearance.

*For something completely different: What a win by the Boston Celtics in Game 3 in Cleveland, and quite an interesting, fired up interview with Al Horford afterward.