Haggerty: Bruins know November is key

560264.jpg

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.

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.