Haggerty: B's should follow SeguinMarchand example

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Haggerty: B's should follow SeguinMarchand example

CHICAGO Perhaps the answer lies somewhere in the sparkling offensive play of Tyler Seguin and Brad Marchand for the rest of the Boston Bruins.

While the majority of Black and Gold skaters have stubbed their toes off a 1-3 start and seem to be asking themselves whats my motivation? Johnny Drama style, Seguin and Marchand are flying to start their seasons.

I want to do the best I can and try to win, said Tyler Seguin. I know that I still have a lot to prove and a lot of respect I need to earn. Thats been one of the main individual goals for me this season.

Marchand and Seguin have combined for eight points (3 goals and 5 assists), a plus-6 and 23 shots on net in four games to start the season, and have been by far the biggest offensive touchstones for a Bruins team that would love a do over dating back to Oct. 6 against the Flyers.

Seguin has created scoring plays all over the ice even if third liners like Chris Kelly and Benoit Pouliot havent been able to finish off the plays and electrified everybody including Carolina puck-stopper Cam Ward with his glove-side sniper shot against the Hurricanes.

Marchand has stuck his nose where it doesnt belong per usual, and is the most consistent finisher the Bruins can boast early in the season while proven goal-scorers like Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton are experiencing difficulty putting the puck in the net.

So whats the magic formula for Marchand and Seguin?

Perhaps its that both young both players unlike almost everybody else on the roster -- felt like they had something still to prove headed into this year.

Both Marchand and Seguin were humorously teased and jabbed for letting the post-Cup partying go on just a little too long last June -- with shirtless pictures at bars all over Boston flooding Barstool Sports and the like as evidence.

They had themselves a good time after climbing Mt. Everest as Peter Chiarelli called it once the Bs captured the Cup, and with the wild celebration came the obvious questions.

Some wondered if Marchand would roll into training camp woefully out of shape after tearing up the Boston nightlife. Others thought perhaps Marchand was a one-year wonder incapable of repeating as a 20-goal scorer or as a postseason lion.

Seguin was a part of the celebration tag team with Marchand in the two weeks following the Cup, and thats perhaps the biggest reason why the team has looked into a billet family for the 19-year-old this season.

But there were questions on the ice for Seguin as well after a 21-point rookie season that screamed at his elite potential, but also provided a road map for all of the work required of him this summer.

In short both young players had tons to still accomplish headed into this year while words like comfort, complacency and motivation have crept in as buzz words in the year after Stanley Cup glory. Andrew Ference admitted along with some of his teammates that its been a delicate balancing act between still accepting kudos for last years achievement, and focusing on a team personality for this new band of hockey brothers.

Its busy and theres a lot going on, and the challenging part for the team as a whole is where do you find that balance between celebrating what youve done embracing the accomplishment because there are a lot of good things that come out of it with good lessons and plenty of positives but also creating the team identity of this year . . . building on the drawing for this year with new lessons and new victories, said Ference. Its a hard thing to explain and a hard thing to figure out, but its something that every successful team has gone through to find the balance.

The bright side of everything: Marchand and Seguin are exactly where they need to be in order to make an impactful contribution to the Bruins, and the collective team is only losing one-goal games despite an admitted malaise. The Bruins will be that much better when everyone is on the same page.

The dark side: There is always going to be some level of complacency when so many players achieved their lifelong goals no matter what is said, and its a new experience for a team thats always thrived on adversity as its greatest fuel.

We have to bring some awareness to the fact that weve got to fight to find our game with a lot of our players, said Claude Julien. I find on the ice that we dont have everybody going at once. Were still close in games, but if we had everybody closer to the level we expect them to be then those one-goal losses would transform into wins.

Perhaps its time for more of the Bs nucleus to adopt the prove it to the public mentality that both of the young skaters consciously or unconsciously carried with them into the year despite reaching the NHL pinnacle.

Once the hunger returns for each of the 20 players on the ice for the Black the Gold the dominant shifts, successful periods and string of wins will surely follow.

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.

Haggerty's Morning Skate: NHL teams aren't just making trades for themselves ahead of deadline

Haggerty's Morning Skate: NHL teams aren't just making trades for themselves ahead of deadline

Here are all the hockey links from around the world, and what I’m reading while feeling like Warren Beatty took the sneaky way out by handing that wrong Academy Award card to Faye Dunaway last night. Clearly he knew something was amiss and he let her step into it. Kind of a weasel move if you asked me.

-- An interesting letter from FOH (Friend of Haggs) James Mirtle about the pay wall involving The Athletic sports website in Toronto.

-- Dean Lombardi and the Los Angeles Kings dealing for Ben Bishop is about more than just an insurance policy for Jonathan Quick.

-- FOH Mike Halford has the Minnesota Wild going for it with their trade for Martin Hanzal, but also keeping him from the other teams in the West.

-- NHL commissioner Gary Bettman says the Penguins are in great shape after winning the Cup last spring, and it’s clear they’re in good hands after Mario Lemieux and Ron Burkle opted not to sell the franchise.

-- Kyle Quincey is being held out of the lineup in New Jersey because of pending trades, and the wonder is who else in New Jersey might be getting dealt.

-- Gabriel Landeskog and his Colorado Avalanche teammates know the trade deadline is coming. It would certainly be weird if they didn’t.

-- The San Jose Sharks feel fortunate for the timing of their bye week as it was clear that they needed a break.

-- For something completely different: Gronk was busy doing Gronk things at the Daytona 500 over the weekend.