Haggerty: Bruins staying grounded after historic November

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Haggerty: Bruins staying grounded after historic November

TORONTO Its always difficult to appreciate history when its taking place all around the office -- or the frozen sheet in this case.

The Bruins closed the books on November with a 6-3 dispatching of the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Air Canada Centre, and it was a colorful and bountifulmonth to remember. The Bruins went 12-0-1 in the month of November and became the first team All-Star edition of the Bruins organization to go without a single regulation loss over an entire calendar monthsince the 1968-69 campaign.That edition of the Bruins went 10-0-4 in January and included a ridiculous 49 goals and 126 points from Phil Esposito, Bobby Orr in his prime and a team that would go on to win the Stanley Cup the following season. So do anything to match those squads means the current set of Black and Gold members are doing something pretty damn positive.

They also totaled 25 points during the month of November, and became the first Bruins team since March of 1978 to enjoy that kind of winning stretch over a month-long period. Its been a winning streak built on obedience to Claude Julien's systemand enthusiasm for the nightly match-up, and its also shown the different facets to Bostons dominant game that they can feature on a nightly basis.There isn't just one way the Bruins go about dismantling an opponent, and the stunningly awful October has them on a mission.

Every game is a different situation and now were looking at it that way, said Bs coach Claude Julien. We thought we were a better team than what we showed in October. We decided to pick up our game and play the way we can. Thats made a big difference.

The Bruins have punched their way to wins when it served them best against the NHLs cowardly lions in Buffalo. The Bruins have dazzled defensively-inept opponents in offensive shootouts like their goal-scoring show on Long Island, and theyve stolen hockey games when Tim Thomas is on point between the pipes as he was in Montreal last week.Befitting a Stanley Cup champion, there weaknesses have been far and few between for over a month of hockey -- and that's a large section of a hockey season to begin making assessments about a team. Perhaps the B's are closer to being this good against some very good opponents than anybody dares imagine.

The Bruins have been the last team standing in 12 out of 13 games over the last calendar month, and they managed only one true knockout punch in an alley fight with the Sabres. The rest have been aboutscoring and systems work.It would bea tediouschore to for Boston if they were simply scratching the surface for goals, and scrounging around for offense. Instead theyve been outscoring their opponents by a wide 57-24 margin during their wonderful November surge, and seem to just now be enjoyingtheir just desserts given the talent up and down the roster. But if the Bruins learned one thing during their Stanley Cup rin it's this:theres no time for patting each other on the back in Bostons world. Its on to the next challenge and a rematch with Toronto on Saturday night. Their display of firepower in November was both awesome and impressive, but it's not quite that breathtaking for a team that reached the NHLmountaintop last spring.

Its quite an accomplishment, but unfortunately with the way the world works -- and the way this league works its over and November is gone, said Tim Thomas. Its December now and Saturday night we have a game against a team that gave us a tough battle tonight.

For the Bruins, the record comes with many other things: Zdeno Chara has been a legitimate offensive force with 14 points in 13 games, and thats a career-high for the franchise defenseman over a calendar month. David Krejci, Nathan Horton and Milan Lucic all got on the scoresheet in one manner or another in Wednesday nights game, and made it the first game since a Nov. 7 win over theIslanders that two of the three forwards on the Bs top line were able to kick on a couple of scores.

So to put it simply, the Bruins would need something grand to get them off track on whats been an amazing run. A few years ago the Bruins might have been reading their clips and kicking back for a weeks relaxation at this point in their work cycle, and they definitely might have looked past a lesser opponent.

But theres one final thing they keep coming back to: a point Andrew Ference made clear following all kinds of back-slapping and kind words about their current situation in the visiting dressing room at the Air Canada Centre. Many of the Bruins have already won an award thats the coolest in all of professional sports, so there arent too many key B's players jumping up and down about a solid month of hockey. A midweek game against the cellar dweller in the East provides as much of a challenge as anything else for a B's team that's taking it all as it comes.It sounds like the voice of exprience has been a good teacher for the Bruins.

Its kind of a weird feeling. I think any other year wed be a lot more giddy about it, said Andrew Ference. Were being pretty level-headed. When we were losing at the start of the year till now theres not a huge difference in the locker room. Coming off last year we learned a lot about keeping a level head, and how much it benefited last years players on their way.

You dont see a lot of guys walking around their rooms with their chests puffed out because we know this is a difficult league to score against other teams. Things can change quickly. You want to respect your opponent, but not give them too much respect.

It sounds like the Bruins have found that delicate balance.The November ride isa nice historical footnote, but nothing more than that with so much already serving as water under the hockey bridge. Bring on the Stanley Cup again and another chance to win it, and thats when the Bruins truly come alive these days.As it should be for any champion.

Morning Skate: Do Caps have mental block come playoff time?

Morning Skate: Do Caps have mental block come playoff time?

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while thinking about and praying for the people of Manchester, England. It’s obviously an evil, cowardly act to bomb any public place, but to do it at a concert filled with women and children is the lowest of the low.

*The Capitals players are acknowledging that there’s some kind of mental block with the Stanley Cup playoffs. CSN Mid-Atlantic has all the details.

*It’s been a very odd postseason for the NHL where there are so many non-traditional teams still alive with the Nashville Predators in the Stanley Cup Fina, and the Ottawa Senators fighting for their lives in the Eastern Conference Final. On that note, there is a ton of disappointment at the empty seats at the Canadian Tire Centre for Ottawa’s home games in the playoffs. It sounds like there are going to be empty seats tonight for a do-or-die Game 6 in Ottawa. That is an embarrassment for a Canadian city that’s supposed to pride itself on their love of hockey. Let’s hope the Senators fans have a last-minute surge to buy tickets and show some appreciation for a Senators team that’s given the Ottawa fans a totally unexpected ride through the postseason this spring. I mean, Erik Karlsson at the top of his game is worth the price of admission all by himself.  

*The Pittsburgh Penguins have the Senators on the ropes, and it’s been an impressive showing given that they’re doing it without Kris Letang.

*Pro Hockey Talk has the ownership for the St. Louis Blues giving their GM Doug Armstrong a vote of confidence.

*Another early exit from the playoffs is going to start making some players expendable on the New York Rangers roster.

*Here’s a good piece on how David Poile built the Nashville Predators, who have reached the Stanley Cup Final for the first time. Give credit where it’s due: He manned up and made a big move dealing away Shea Weber straight up for PK Subban. It’s really worked for Music City as they’ve stepped to the next level.

*Speaking of Nashville’s rise this spring in a wide open Western Conference, Pekka Rinne has silenced the critics he might have had by carrying his team to the Cup Final.

*For something completely different: Boston law enforcement is on high alert after the bombing of the Ariana Grande concert in the UK.

 

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.