Haggerty: Bruins putting it all together in win streak

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Haggerty: Bruins putting it all together in win streak

WILMINGTON A wise old sports man once said things are never as bad as they are during a losing streak, and never as good as they seem during a long winning streak.

So the Bruins arent likely to beat every opponent from pillar to post and average nearly six goals per game in doing it, but the Black and Gold finally showed some engagement, some emotion and plenty of physical execution in ripping off a six-game winning streak thats got the team back on track.

Tyler Seguin has sparkled with seven goals and 10 points in the six games during the month of November, but Brad Marchand, Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci and Milan Lucic have all been point-per-game plus contributors over that stretch as well. Chara has very quietly dominated during the Bs winning streak, and has put up nine assists and a plus-9 while offering up his usual stalwart defense in 26 plus minutes per game.

In fact, Adam McQuaid is the only Bruins regular without a point during the winning streak with contributions from top-to-bottom, and the stretch of victories has once again featured Bostons overwhelming depth at forward and defense.

The depth has been one thing, and Gregory Campbell gives credit to the big money skill players producing ample offense to take the pressure off everybody. Their latest win against New Jersey was a grinding effort, but so many of Bostons recent wins have been blowouts by the third period.

I think weve scored points, and weve done it by playing our north-south game and being stingy defensively. We always get goaltending, but were getting goal-scoring right now, said Gregory Campbell. Our top guys are really putting in the work and theyre getting rewarded.

Its a lot easier for the whole team to succeed when were winning. The first and second lines the goal-scorers so to speak have done a great job and theyve carried us. Its a tough job to have that contribution night in and night out, so when you get the third and fourth line chipping in it goes a long way.

Granted the six-game winning streak has been over teams that didnt qualify for the playoffs last season aside from the Buffalo Sabres, and could be considered teams that are still searching for their the NHL identity. But none of that mattered much to the Bruins when they were staring at a 3-7 record and last place in the Eastern Conference just a few weeks ago.

Now they lead the NHL with a plus-18 goal differential, and sit one more winning streak away from some breathing room in the middle of the playoff pack.

The Bruins sit tied for 11th place in the Eastern Conference just outside of a playoff spot with games in hand, and they finish out a ludicrous home stretch to start the season with a Thursday night game against the worst team in the NHL, the Columbus Blue Jackets.

But following the Western Conference tilt against Columbus finest hockey team, the Bruins lead into the all-important Thanksgiving holiday with road battles against the New York Islanders, Montreal Canadiens and the circle the calendar game against the Sabres in Buffalo on the night before Turkey Day.

With all of the losses we put up in the early going, we can ill afford to get comfortable and rest on our streak so far. Were just trying to maintain our intensity and our solid play structurally, said Campbell. We want to continue climbing. Those are two huge divisional games waiting for us next week if we want to make a huge divisional jump.

If successfully executed, the three-game road stretch against Eastern Conference teams should be the final set of dominoes that get the Bruins back into playoff pole position two months into the season. Its not exactly what the Bruins envisioned when they were sitting down to Stanley Cup championship ring dinners back in early October, but its not as bad as it looked for an entire month of uninspired hockey either.

Our whole game fell together when it was all about the execution and the skating, said Claude Julien. Then all of the other things fell into place. The first month of the season even in practice you could see it was sluggish. Thats why the mental part of the game wasnt really ready to play the way we have.

It was a big struggle and a long struggle to get things going in the right direction, and we finally found our legs and energy. All of the sudden our game just began picking up.

The Bruins have outscored their opponents by a 34-13 margin and theyve regained their swagger knocking around their last six opponents. But nobody is going to remember Bostons six-game winning streak if they slide back into mediocrity in the next week, and thats the main course of action for a Bs team just hitting their powerful opening stride.

Reports: Blues trade Kevin Shattenkirk to Capitals

Reports: Blues trade Kevin Shattenkirk to Capitals

The Kevin Shattenkirk-to-Bruins rumblings are done for the remainder of the season.

Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Dispatch is reporting that the Blues have traded defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk to the Washington Capitals.

According to TSN’s Pierre LeBrun, the “main parts” the Blues will receive in the deal are 2017 first-rounder, a second-rounder in 2018 and Zach Sanford 

More to come. . . 

Haggerty: Mark it down -- the Bruins WILL make the playoffs

Haggerty: Mark it down -- the Bruins WILL make the playoffs

The Bruins are going to snap their two-year drought and get into the Stanley Cup playoffs this spring. 

Sure, it’s going to be a tight race. And it'll come down to the last few games, befitting a team that's lived on the Atlantic Division bubble over the last three years. But in the seven games under interim coach Bruce Cassidy, the Bruins have shown they have the goods to get into the postseason. There's every reason to believe they’ll sustain their winning ways over the final two months of the regular season. 

There's a long way to go, of course, but a third-place (or higher) finish would ensure the B's a berth in the Atlantic Division playoff bracket, and they could conceivably advance a round or two based solely on the poor quality of clubs in their division. With 20 games to play, the Bruins are now third in the division and have a one-point cushion (70-69) over fourth-place Toronto, though the Leafs have a game in hand. If Toronto passes them, they currently have a two-point lead over the Islanders (70-68) for the eighth and final spot in the conference playoffs, though the Isles also have a game in hand. 

And that's not to say Boston couldn't climb higher. The B's are only four points behind the first-place but spinning-their-wheels Canadiens (20-20-7 since their 13-1-1 start), and they're even with the Habs in games played. They trail second-place Ottawa by two points, but the Senators have two games in hand.

All that, however, is another story for another day (even if it is a reason for Boston adding, rather than subtracting, at Wednesday's NHL trade deadline),

So how can we so stridently state that the Bruins are going to make the playoffs, and assure that this seven-game run isn’t just a flash in the pan?

Clearly they're playing with more urgency, higher compete levels, and a consistent focus that wasn’t there in the first 55 games under Claude Julien. They've now scored first-period goals in nine straight games and scored first in each of the four games on the highly successful Western swing through San Jose, Los Angeles, Anaheim and Dallas over the last week. 

To put that in perspective, the B's had gone 1-8 in California over the previous three seasons, when those late-in-the-year road trips spelled the beginning of the end for Boston.

But even more convincing is a simple look at the numbers, the production and the reasons behind the surge forward. 

The Bruins have long needed their two franchise centers operating at a high level at both ends of the ice, and consistently playing the 200-foot game that can cause major problems against teams not blessed with frontline talent in the middle. That wasn’t the case under Julien this year, but things have changed. 

David Krejci has three goals and eight points along with an even plus/minus rating in seven games under Cassidy. Patrice Bergeron posted three goals and nine points along with a plus-7 over that same span of games. With those two big-money, big-ceiling players operating at their highest levels, the rest of the team has shown its true potential . . . and the talent level is considerably higher than many thought.

It wasn’t long ago that many Bruins fans, and some major Julien apologists in the media, would have had you believe that Claude was keeping together a substandard NHL roster with a MacGyver-like combination of duct tape, chewing gum and an offensive system that only a dump-and-chase, trappist wonk could love. Now we’re seeing there's offensive talent on a group that’s been given the green light to create and produce. 

To wit, the Bruins' third line is now winning games for them after serving as a liability for the first half of the season. Ryan Spooner, Jimmy Hayes and Frank Vatrano have combined for 6 goals, 15 points and a plus-11 in the seven games under Cassidy after never getting a chance to work together under Julien because they weren’t in his defensive circle of trust.

There's also the elevated level of production -- across the board -- from Boston’s defensemen. Not to mention Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak continuing to produce offense at elite levels. Marchand just set a career-high with his 64th point on Sunday afternoon, and still has another 20 games left in attempting to become the B's first point-per-game player since Marc Savard (88 points in 82 games in  2008-09).

All of it amounts to a Bruins offense that’s now choosing quality shots over quantity: Boston is scoring 1.5 more goals per game under Cassidy while averaging a significant 4.5 fewer shots per game. The Bruins have finally ditched the weak perimeter attack that so entralled the Corsi crowd -- it was putting up 40-plus shots per game, yet only about 2.5 goals -- and are instead honing in their offensive chances between the dots and in closer to the net .

Should people still be wondering if this current B’s run of entertaining, winning hockey is sustainable? They certainly can if they want to wait until the season is over to decide, but the jury is in for this humble hockey writer.

Bruins fans should take the cue and start lining up for their postseason tickets. 

Because there is going to be playoff hockey in Boston this spring. Remember, you heard it here first.