Haggerty: B's speeding up defense of their title

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Haggerty: B's speeding up defense of their title

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com Bruins Insider Follow @hackswithhaggs
BOSTON -- Claude Julien is fond of the phrase speed kills, and it appears his Bruins are going to be living that philosophy this season.

The Bruins captured the Stanley Cup last season with equal parts toughness, teamwork, elite goaltending and a defense that continuously held to its belief system, with good health in the postseason thrown in for good measure.

They were a very good team aspiring to be elite, and they tapped into it in the Stanley Cup Finals when they created a transition game that matched the speedy attack of the Vancouver Canucks. Part of it was a hockey team operating at its highest efficiency, but another part was the gradual shift in personnel that raised the bar for the Bs overall skating speed and skill level.

Patrice Bergeron is convinced that increased burst of team speed and wrinkle-free transition game is what allowed the Bs to eventually topple the Canucks, and its created a Bruins team this season that's attacking with a different kind of ferocity.

I dont know if guys are faster or its just that our transition game is way quicker, said Bergeron. It doesnt give guys a chance to set up, which is a good thing. We need to keep that going. If I want to put a finger on one thing its the improvement of the transition game. Weve moving. Were always on that puck and hunting. Were always moving in that transition.

Its something weve talked about since winning that Cup in Vancouver. The first couple of games we were giving them time to set up, but after that we started moving our feet, not giving them time and . . . we created chances for ourselves. We saw it in games three and four when we created a lot of chances off the rush, and thats what we need to keep doing.

Tampa Bays coaches and players talked about the chaos being caused by the Bruins waves of speedy attackers, and its clear watching the Bruins that theyre a faster team this season.

A scary thought for the rest of the NHL, which watched the Black and Gold run roughshod over them last year.

It makes all the sense in the world that the Bruins noticed the trend within the league to younger, faster players that can do damage with aggressive speed, and then strangle off another team with a swarming forecheck once they have a lead. The Bruins can now do that with a combination of personnel upgrades and simple betterment of key younger players in the lineup.

Julien said it was a combination of both that hes noticed in the early going this season. The Bruins showed off the blazing skating wheels while building up a 4-1-1 record during the preseason. They didnt have much of anything in the blah opening night loss to the Philadelphia Flyers, but the Bruins seemed to have a much easier time matching or bettering the frenetic pace of the speedy Lightning.

General manager Peter Chiarelli remarked that increases speed was simple biggest improvement he noted for the team during the preseason, and Julien said it was faster personnel and better transition working in tandem to really grease the wheels.

Replacing 43-year-old Mark Recchi with Rich Peverley immediately boosts the speed killing factor in a major way, and increased minutes for young, fast skaters like Brad Marchand and Tyler Seguin continues to play into the improvement. Watching Bergeron, Peverley and Marchand move from forecheck mode into attack-the-net mode is something the coaching staff has to be pointing toward as the standard for the rest of the forward lines.

When teams are faced with the strength and intimidation factor inherent in the Bruins' way of doing things, and then attacked with speed and skill, it almost doesnt even seem fair. That only happens when the Bruins are operating at high efficiency, but thats exactly what happened for 60 minutes against the Lightning.

If you look back, Tylers now getting more minutes than he did last year, so thats speed, said Julien. Benoit Pouliot was in the lineup, and thats another guy thats adding speed. Peverleys on the top line, and -- no disrespect to Recchi -- but Recchi brought something different to that line. So there is a little bit more speed, no doubt.

But between tonight and the last game, we worked a lot on our transition game. I thought we were a little out of sync. We seemed much better tonight. If our game is where it should be, I think youre going to see some good team speed. The team we played tonight actually has unbelievable speed up front, and thats why theyre dangerous.

But now the Lightning arent the only team thumping their chest about their blinding speed.

The Bruins are still big and bad, but theyre also moving with the same lethal speed as the faster teams in the league.

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

Morning Skate: Sidney Crosby has been a good ambassador as the face of his NHL generation

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Morning Skate: Sidney Crosby has been a good ambassador as the face of his NHL generation

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while wishing everybody a safe and relaxing Memorial Day weekend. 

*Apparently Nashville Predators head coach Peter Laviolette has yet to try Nashville’s hot chicken despite his time behind the Preds bench. It’s okay, I have yet to try it either in my handful of visits to Music City. 

*Good stuff from PHT writer and FOH (Friend of Haggs) Jason Brough. Apparently it wasn’t so easy to make Wayne Gretzky’s head bleed when it came time for director Doug Liman to cut Swingers together

*Sidney Crosby cares about the history and the issues of the game, and has been a good ambassador as the face of his NHL generation despite the hate that always comes with such responsibility. 

*Puck Daddy examines Crosby’s performance in the playoffs, and the odds of him winning another Conn Smythe Trophy. 

*The Penguins have made it to the Stanley Cup Final without Kris Letang for their playoff run, and that’s an amazing accomplishment. 

*Erik Karlsson said that he will be tending to his injured foot next week, and expects a full recovery for next season after a brilliant run with his Ottawa Senators

*Larry Brooks again rails against the Stanley Cup playoff structure and it’s relation to an “absurd regular season.” Say what you will, but the fact the Penguins are there for a second straight season shoots down some of the absurdity stuff in my mind. The best team from the East is where they should be and they did it without Kris Letang to boot. 

*Chicago Blackhawks prospect Alex Debrincat is confident his abilities will translate to the NHL despite his size after taking home honors as the best player in junior hockey this season. 

*For something completely different: Apparently there’s a hard core comic book geek gripe that “The Flash” is burning through bad guys too quickly. This would make sense if they couldn’t revisit these bad guys at any point, but they absolutely can go back to a big bad like Grodd anytime they want. 

Playoff run ends for Providence Bruins, but some promising signs

Playoff run ends for Providence Bruins, but some promising signs

It was the longest run that the P-Bruins have had in a few years and another unmistakable sign that the future is brightening for the Black and Gold, but the Bruins AHL affiliate has ended their playoff push in the Calder Cup semi-finals. 

The Providence Bruins fell by a 3-1 score to the Syracuse Crunch on Saturday night to lose to the Crunch in five games when the best-of-seven series was set to return to Providence this coming week. The P-Bruins had vanquished the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins and Hershey Bears in the first two rounds of the Calder Cup playoffs before finally exiting against Syracuse. 

Though it’s over, it’s clear some of the Bruins prospects made a nice step forward over the second half of the AHL season and then into the Calder Cup playoffs. With the Calder Cup Finals yet to start, B’s forward prospect Danton Heinen stands as the second-leading playoff scorer in the entire AHL with nine goals and 18 points in 17 playoff games after really struggling in the first half of his first pro season while bouncing back and forth between the NHL and the AHL. 

This could bode well for the skilled Heinen and his hopes to make the leap to the NHL in the near future after a stellar collegiate career at the University of Denver. AHL journeymen-types Wayne Simpson and Jordan Szwarz were the next two top scorers for the P-Bruins in the playoff run, but Jake DeBrusk had a strong playoff season as well while popping in six goals in 17 games. DeBrusk led all Providence players with his 54 shots on net in the 17-game playoff run for Providence, and he headlined a group that included B’s prospects Ryan Fitzgerald, Zach Senyshyn, Matt Grzelcyk, Peter Cehlarik (who succumbed to shoulder surgery during the playoffs), Emil Johansson and Robbie O’Gara all getting some vital playoff experience. 

Both Heinen and DeBrusk will be strong candidates for jobs on the wing with the Boston big club when training camp opens in the fall after strong showings in the postseason. 

On the goaltending side, Zane McIntyre was solid for the P-Bruins at times while in 16 of their 17 playoff games with a .906 save percentage. But it was Malcolm Subban that was playing at the very end of the playoff run for Providence and featured a sterling .937 save percentage in the four AHL playoff games that he appeared in this spring after an up-and-down regular season. McIntyre had an .857 save percentage and 4.37 goals against average in the final series against Syracuse, and looked a little spent like many of the other P-Bruins players once they’d unexpectedly made it to the third round of the AHL postseason.  

The only unfortunate part of Providence’s run is that newly signed youngsters Charlie McAvoy and Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson couldn’t be a part of it after signing and then appearing in NHL games following a cut-off date for AHL playoff rosters. Both missed on an experience that could have been very conducive for their professional development, and uncovered a wrinkle in the NHL/AHL transaction process that really doesn’t make a whole lot of sense for a developmental league.