Haggerty: B's look to capitalize on perfect trip

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Haggerty: B's look to capitalize on perfect trip

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com

OTTAWA Any time the current crop ofBruins draw comparisons to their 1972 Stanley Cup-winning edition, it means things are going pretty swimmingly.

That about sums it up for the Black and Gold after finishing a perfect 6-0-0 on a just-completed road swing divided into three parts a two-game winner of a stretch against Eastern Conference cellar-dwellers in the Islanders and Senators, a more impressive three-game romp through Western Canada that included galvanizing victories over the Calgary Flames and Vancouver Canucks, and the finale, a 1-0 win Tuesday in Ottawa.

It means a lot, said Tuukka Rask, who bookended twin victories at the beginning and ending of the six-game road stretch. It all started off on Long Island against the Islanders and then the trades came in. We really came together as a team during the trip, and bonded together during that time in Vancouver. "Its a big thing.

Theres little doubt some of the answers have come from theoutside help. Rich Peverley, Chris Kelly and Tomas Kaberle have helped tremendously on both ends of the ice, and the Bs power play has been worlds better despiteenjoyingjust a 1-for-13 success ratiosince Kaberle came on board.

But the answers have come just as much from withinled byscoring sources that had gone dry duringthe middle months. Those goal-scoring sourcesare again flourishing. Nathan Horton scored the game-winner in Tuesdays victory, and did it the old fashioned way: the right wing crashed the net after shots by Adam McQuaid and Brad Marchand, and forced a second-effort goal past Ottawa goaltender Craig Anderson.That's the fourth goal for Horton in the last five games, and his sixth point (4 goals, 2 assists) in the last six games. David Krejci, Milan Lucic and Michael Ryder have all enjoyed some offensive success as of late, and embody one of the deepest groups of forwards still intact in the Eastern Conference.

The key that set Boston free in Hortons eyes: a move away from individual focus, and back towards unselfish, detail-orientedtogetherness that grinds opponents down.
The exhausted B's did just that against the Senators after appearing to have little energy through the first two periods. But like all good teams, the Bruins found a way to grit it out.

Its working together; back-checking, said Horton. Doing all the little things. Nobody is caring about goals or assists . . . or anything individual. We care about winning, and thats about it.

The six-game road winning streak was certainly a big thing to Zdeno Chara, who has helped craft this Bruins team into a hard-charging, complete hockey club hell-bent on finishing as high as possible in the Eastern Conference standings.

There were a handful of 1972 clubrecords matched or broken when the Bruins put up 116 points during the 2008-09 season and romped all the way to the Eastern Conference title witha team armed tosimply overwhelm opponents with offense and physicality. Those featsdidnt faze Chara then, and certainly dont now with an older, wiser, more experienced and talented group of Bruins earning their stripes late in the regular season.

Its more about a Bs team with 19 games to go in an Eastern Conference race that's wide open, as so many perennial favorites struggle withinjuries and inconsistency. The Bs outscored their opponents 20-9 over the six-game road winning streak, rank fifth in the NHL with 3.1 goals per game, rank second in the NHL with 2.3 goals allowed per game, and are the leagues best team at the most important juncture in a hockey game: the third period.

Whether judging by the numbers or simply evaluatingwiththe naked eye, the Bruins are a good hockey club with few weaknesses. They have very little true star power, but they're a team build on depth and chemistry.

That ability to score and defend coupled with their elite goaltending the Bruins also lead the NHL with nine shutouts this season makes them a tough out for any otherteam in a seven-game series. That became obvious when the new-look Bruins went on the road and set the Western teams straight.Weve always believed in those guys and its just a matter of putting it together, said coach Claude Julien. Weve talked about consistency and when you win six in a row, to me thats consistency. Weve had some real big challenges along the way but what we wanted to do was win this game and set ourselves up for a real good match against Tampa Bay Thursday at home and we got that now.

The Penguins are beset by injuries, and wont be getting Evgeni Malkin or Sidney Crosby back anytime soon. The Capitals are pinning their playoff hopes on Bruins castoffs like Dennis Wideman and Marco Sturm, and Boston fans know exactly how that tune goes.

The Tampa Bay Lightning have little big-timeplayoff experience aside from Vinny Lecavalier and Marty St. Louis, and are a year or two away from doing real postseason damage.

The Flyers are loaded in the back and up front, but theyre relying on young, unproven goaltending the same recipe thats been Phillys undoing so many times in the recent past.

Chara appreciates his teams mention in the same breath with Bobby Orr, Gerry Cheevers, Derek Sanderson and so many other legendary members of the 1972 champions. But their road accomplishment across three time zones is about much more than hockey history. It's aboutan undefeated road trip through some challenging NHL outposts is a clarion call to the rest of the league that this Bruins' editionis ready to carve out their own identity inthe next three months.

I don't think we have any of those kinds of names or players," Chara said. "Those are such legends that it's hard to really be compared to those guys. We're really trying to focus on playing well and playing our game and playing for each other, and win as many games as possible and have good feelings after the games, no regrets.

The Bruins had few regrets during an extremely successful six-game road trip, and there doesnt appear to be many difficultiesin their future if they can simply maintain the mojo captured somewhere between Long Island and Vancouver. Things are starting to appear special for these Bruins, and they'ddo best not to misplace it.

Joe Haggerty can be reached at jhaggerty@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs

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.