Boston Bruins

Haggerty: Bruins know November is key

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Haggerty: Bruins know November is key

WILMINGTON Gregory Campbell and presumably the rest of his Bruins teammates are happy that the month of October is finally over.

Its a long season, however, we see how short it all becomes. Its amazing how important each game is and how difficult it is to climb back in the standings, said Campbell. Fortunately for us October is over, and we can close the door and move on from it.

The Bruins limped out to a 3-7 start in the defense of their Stanley Cup, and have been the poster-children for inconsistency and out-of-control emotion after perfectly walking the fine line last season. Its been well documented that the Bruins are saddled in last place in the Eastern Conference and are among the bottom of the Eastern Conference teams with a minus-3 goal differential -- a far cry from last seasons 5-on-5 dominance throughout the league.

Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli indicated last week he was working the phones for potential trades, and admitted those conversations kicked up in frequency and intensity as he watched his teams game go south. But hes not ready to bust up a Stanley Cup winning team with a seismic trade of a key player, and is in many ways stuck in the same post-Cup limbo the players keep trying to break through.

Add to that a lack of NHL teams willing to significantly alter their roster less than a month into the season, and the Bruins look to bring the same cast of characters into November with at least a few more weeks to turn things around. The Bruins are well aware of the league stats facing them as they already sit six points outside of the top eight East teams rounded out by the Sabres and Lightning.

The Bruins have 10 games leading up to the Thanksgiving holiday, and recent NHL history has shown that teams in the top eight in either conference have a 77.5 percent chance of making the playoffs. Those outside of the top eight have only a 22.5 percent chance of qualifying for the postseason, and teams more than two or three points outside of the top eight are usually too far back in the standings.

Six of those 10 games leading up to Thanksgiving are against Northeast Division foes, and the improvement across the board in Buffalo, Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto is another season-long challenge for a Bruins team searching for a foothold.

Ten games in we should be getting back to form and feeling good about ourselves, said Milan Lucic. There shouldnt be any excuses at this point in the season. We have to take it upon ourselves to figure it out.

Lucic is aware of all the statistics, and he doesnt want the Bruins to follow in the unfortunate path of last years New Jersey Devils team. The Devils couldnt get untracked early in the season under a new coaching staff, but caught fire in the second half once they made a coaching change. Jersey made the coaching change once their record sat at an NHL-worst 9-22-2, and the Bruins are still another disastrous month away from suffering the same fate.

Its difficult to see the Bruins floundering that badly with a healthy team that was good enough to win the Cup, but Milan Lucic is still determined to help the Bruins avoid a similar fate. Nobody inside the Bs dressing room wants the Black and Gold to turn into a Stanley Cup cautionary tale.

There is adversity you have to face throughout the season, and for us thats obviously right now, said Lucic. Weve got to figure it out quickly. I know its only been 10 games, but how many teams have had starts like this and theyve never been able to recover.

Look at Jersey last year, who finished off as the best team after January and they werent able to recover for a playoff spot. You can reflect on this and see what happens down the road, but we need to do everything we can to get out of this hole as quickly as possible. Were going to have to do this as a team and a group effort. Its the only way we can do this together.

The Bruins are saying all of the right things, and they have right examples at the ready for bad starts gone very wrong in the NHL. But the path to getting back into the playoff picture this month is paved with a string of wins, and that upward conference movement begins with a chance against an Ottawa team thats won six games in a row headed into Tuesday nights must have at the Garden.

Marchand stepping up his twitter game to hilarious effect

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Marchand stepping up his twitter game to hilarious effect

BOSTON – It was probably only a matter of time before it happened, but it looks like Boston’s favorite Little Ball of Hate is stepping up his game on social media.

Brad Marchand is known as much for his rabble-rousing and trash-talking on the ice as he is for massive offensive production while serving as Boston’s top scorer in each of the last few seasons. So Marchand has the perfect mixture of good humor and clout as a star NHL player, and that usually combines for a pretty powerful voice on Twitter.

Marchand has been noticeably more active on Twitter in recent days with a wide-ranging group of tweets, and the big winner is the hockey fan that gets a little more exposure to some classic Nose Face Killah wit. Some of the tweets have been as a Bruins team leader where he’s praising the talented young crop of B’s prospects that he’s watching during training camp:

Some have been about chirping the NHL for their decision to skip the Olympics this winter where Marchand most certainly would have been primed for a chance at a Gold Medal:

Some have been engaging with “fans” and dropping classic pop culture references from children’s books while showing the nasty edge that routinely drives opponents up a wall:

The Charlotte’s Web reference is a devastating classic from Marchand, a noted longtime fan of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Sometimes it’s just telling a quick story in a tweet that gives you an inside look at the kind of chirping that goes on when Marchand is on the ice:

A social media platform like Twitter was made for a personality like Marchand, and a stepped-up presence is good for him and good for hockey fans. So why all of a sudden is No. 63 tweeting with greater frequency over the last few days?

It sounds like it’s a combination of training camp boredom and a genuine interest in amplifying his voice on all manner of subjects.

“I’ve just been kind of lying around with nothing to do and I jumped on [twitter]…thought it was kind of funny,” said Marchand. “I thought I’d get a little more involved. I don’t know if I’m going to have enough time to do it every day, but it’s fun.”

As fun as it’s been for Marchand, it’s no doubt even more fun for the fans that might get a chance to interact with him even if it’s as the unwitting foil for one of his well-placed chirps. 

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Cassidy: Khudobin 'has a leg up' on backup competition in Bruins camp

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Cassidy: Khudobin 'has a leg up' on backup competition in Bruins camp

BOSTON – Fresh off a strong performance allowing just a single goal on 31 shots in his preseason debut, Tuukka Rask looked close to the top of his game and exactly where he needs to be with the regular season a couple of weeks away. Nearly as important as Rask’s state as the regular season nears, the Bruins coaching staff has been keeping a keen eye through camp on the all-important backup goaltender position as well. 

It’s important that the Bruins have a quality backup goalie in place as they hope to start Rask in just 55-60 games this season, and manage the slender puck-stopper in a way where they can get the best out of him from beginning to end. Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy indicated Anton Khudobin has the inside track on the backup job after finding his groove in the second half of last season, and it would appear he’s well on his way to retaining his job with a Malcolm Subban/Zane McIntyre tandem in Providence.

“Tuukka looks good, and looks good in practice and healthy. So that’s reassuring,” said Cassidy. “[Anton Khudobin] I thought played very well in his game. He had the one unfortunate goal, but I thought he was rock-solid the rest of the game. He’s in very good shape and he’s practiced well, so he’s got a leg up on the other [goalies] based on his experience.

“We know that going in, but he’s going to get pushed. Zane [McIntyre] was good in a game, and Malcolm let in a couple where he could have been more aggressive. But it was a first game, so right now they all look good. That’s a good problem to have if they all push each other, but to get direct to the point Anton has done nothing to lose that backup spot.”

At this point, it would likely be McIntyre rather than Subban that would challenge for the NHL backup job if Khudobin did stumble at all in training camp or early in the regular season as he did last year. There will be no backup controversy, however, if the 31-year-old plays like he did in stopping 20-of-22 shots in Tuesday night’s win vs. the Red Wings or as he did going 6-1-0 with a .922 save percentage after the All-Star break last season.  

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