Haggerty: It'll take a lot more to slow down Bruins

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Haggerty: It'll take a lot more to slow down Bruins

The mark of a great hockey team is the ability to withstand the absence of key players without any interruption of concentration, effort or quality play on the ice.

Some teams are good largely when things are rolling and adversity is properly being held at bay. Some hockey clubs answer strongly when trouble is at the door while continuing to stand bedeviled by the consistency thing, and some hockey teams simply stink no matter whats floating around them.

The Bruins are none of those things.

They are instead a team thats put up a gaudy 19-2-1 record since Nov. 1 and weathered absences from their captain, their fourth line heart and soul and their intimidating leading scorer in the last two weeks to still reel off win after win.

Zdeno Charas tweaked left knee, Gregory Campbells fractured left foot and Milan Lucics one-game suspension were no match for the unbearable brightness of being the Bruins, and those brilliants Bs smacked the Habs by a 3-2 score at TD Garden for their fifth straight victory.

We can talk about depth all we want, but if we cant prove it or show it then its not really depth, right? asked Claude Julien following the victory. So this is whats been going on here the last little while. Weve been challenged with some injuries -- and obviously tonight a suspension -- and our guys keep stepping up.

Whoevers replacing ... the rest of the team just keeps going. We dont change our game and we dont change our game plan. We just try and play the same every night, no matter who youve got in the lineup. Thats just the simplicity of our hockey club.

Its sweetly simple and its finally yielded the results theyve been waiting for since making themselves a gigantic crap sandwich over the first month of the season.

The Monday night win over Montreal combined with the Flyers 3-2 shootout loss to the Colorado Avalanche means that the Bruins finally have sole possession of first place in the Eastern Conference, and theyve built up a dominant 10-2 record in their own Northeast Division.

There was talk about the individual games accomplishments, and both Brad Marchand and Tim Thomas could take bows knowing they contributed mightily to the nightly chores. Benoit Pouliot had some revenge against his old Montreal mates with a goal in the first period courtesy of an insanely dominant offensive zone face-off by Rich Peverley, and David Krejci was the beneficiary of an uncharacteristically sloppy night from P.K. Subban.

But the bigger picture wasnt about one 60 minute show of HabsBruins supremacy. It was about putting on display a reigning Stanley Cup thats learned how to banish trouble into the corner when it inevitably comes calling.

The Bruins are adept at finding players willing and able to step forward when their stars stumble and fall, and that allows them to succeed when others will fail.

The defensemen corps and the Bs goaltenders filled the gap when Chara missed time against the Kings and Senators, and it was a collective effort that filled in for the hulking presence normally provided by Lucic in these games against the Habs.

When youre missing a big part of the puzzle like that, we all need to step up. I know I say that a lot when we are missing a guy but thats exactly what we need to do, said Patrice Bergeron, who created the play that led to the game-winning goal with a sneaky piece of fore-checking trickery. Everyone needs to chip in and the guys that are coming in are always doing a good job.

Guys that are coming in are filling the void, they arent trying to replace them, and they are just playing their game. I think the guys did that tonight. They played a good game, it was a tough game for us to win but we found a way.

Certainly missing Chara for two-plus games and suiting up without Lucic for one HabsBruins game isnt going to tear the team apart at the seams, but it didnt even slow them down aside from perhaps a few extra shots fired at their goaltenders. The Bruins collected Ws in each of those games and simply moved on with their freight train of momentum thats ripping through the Eastern Conference.

That ability to focus and concentrate on getting results amid all manner of sound, fury and bad breaks is something they learned on the way to the Cup victory last season and never did the lesson resonate more than when the Bruins carried on with the business of winning after Nathan Horton went down with a concussion.

It shows the depth we have in this room and I think its something we learned a lot during the playoffs last year, said Marchand, who ranked second among all Bs forwards with 18:18 of ice time and scored the winning goal in the third period. When Horton was out different guys stepped it up, and this year youre seeing guys stepping forward at all the right times. Not only that, but you can also expect all four lines to go out there and battle hard to do the job.

The Habs are an absolute mess reeling in the Eastern Conference dumpster far away from a playoff spot. The Bruins cant lose even when their best players are pulled out of the fold for games at a time. It might seem like a bizarro world to longtime followers of both teams, but its the new reality for the Bruins as they continue to find new and interesting ways to win despite the unavoidable regular season bumps start to crop up.

No Chara, no Campbell and now no Lucic essentially means no problem for the Bruins.

Bean: The (incorrect) case for the Bruins signing Kevin Shattenkirk

Bean: The (incorrect) case for the Bruins signing Kevin Shattenkirk

The Bruins should not sign Kevin Shattenkirk. They really shouldn’t. 

Yet they might. Pierre McGuire said on TSN Radio Tuesday that his guess is that Shattenkirk, arguably the best free agent defenseman on the market, will end up in Boston.

It is remarkable how universally against a Shattenkirk megadeal B’s fans have seemingly been. A Twitter poll with over 3,600 votes this month had Bruins fans preferring Boston sign 40-year-old Zdeno Chara to a two-year, $8 million extension than the 28-year-old  Shattenkirk to a seven-year, $45.5 million deal. 

That is obviously the correct conclusion, but considering how hard the false “Chara is old and bad” garbage is pushed in this town, it’s telling that 64 percent would rather he stick around than the team build the defense around Shattenkirk. 

Of course, Shattenkirk is not a bad player just because he’s been overrated in recent seasons. He’s a decent second-pairing defender and strong power play asset who can be penciled in for 40 points a year. The Bruins already have that in Torey Krug, and he makes less than Shattenkirk figures to command. Shattenkirk is also a righty who plays on the right, which is not a need for the Bruins, whereas Krug is a left shot who plays both sides. 

Add in the Bruins’ cap situation due to some bad contracts and they why of Shattenkirk would be a bad signing doesn’t need to be re-hashed. By this point, the explanation’s been given a few times in a few different places. 

So what would the Bruins’ actual case for signing Shattenkirk be? 

TO KEEP IT MOVING 

Last season was encouraging for Bruins fans because it saw them reach the playoffs for the first time in three years while also seeing young talent emerge. Yet they still only made the playoffs by two points, something of which Don Sweeney and Cam Neely are undoubtedly aware. 

So for all the good signs, this could be a fringe playoff team again if more improvements aren’t made, and missing the playoffs for the second time in three years would mark a step back in the eyes of ownership, perhaps putting jobs in danger. It would be a shame if money were spent irresponsibly for the sake of saving jobs, but Shattenkirk would definitely make the Bruins better next season, even if it crippled them financially down the road. 

TO PULL A CHIARELLIAN FREE AGENT SWITCHEROO

With McAvoy set to be a top-pairing player and Brandon Carlo a good second-pairing option, the Bruins do not have a need for a highly paid right-shot defender. That doesn’t mean they don’t have needs elsewhere. 

Last offseason, Peter Chiarelli made the controversial move of trading Taylor Hall, one of the best left wings on the planet. He did it to get Adam Larsson to help build Edmonton’s blue line up, then he went out and signed Milan Lucic in free agency to replace Hall. 

If the Bruins truly have designs on adding Shattenkirk, perhaps they could have something similar in mind: Trade someone like Carlo for either a left-shot defenseman or a left wing, then replace Carlo with Shattenkirk. 

This would still not be financially palatable, however. When the Oilers traded Hall for Larsson, they swapped a player with a $6 million cap hit for a player with a $4.16 million cap hit and replaced the original player (Hall) with a player in Lucic who carried a $6 million cap hit. So essentially they netted one player for an additional $4.16 million. 

Carlo is on his entry level contract, so unless the Bruins traded him for a player on an entry-level deal, they’d be spending a lot of money in any maneuver that involved replacing him with Shattenkirk. 

TO GO ALL-IN ON POST-CLAUDE LIFE

Claude Julien’s detractors lamented his affinity for responsibility. They loved it when Bruce Cassidy was more open to trading chances. 

Well, you like trading chances? Shattenkirk’s your guy. He’s a good skater, a good offensive player and a sub-par defender. You put Krug, Shattenkirk and McAvoy as three of your four top-four defenseman and you’ll be a long way from the days of Chara, Seidenberg and Boychuk, for better or worse. 

BUT, KEEP IN MIND . . . 

They for sure should not sign Kevin Shattenkirk. 

Morning Skate: What does trading a first-rounder get you now?

Morning Skate: What does trading a first-rounder get you now?

Here are all the links from around the hockey world and what I’m reading, while wishing that Gordon Hayward and Paul George were already in Boston, like, yesterday.

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) Elliotte Freidman gives his 30 thoughts for the week, including the trade value of a first-round pick right now.

*It could that non-unrestricted free agents steal all of the thunder on July 1 with massive contract extensions a la Connor McDavid.

*PHT writer James O’Brien has the Detroit Red Wings taking potential fliers on a number of veteran D-men that are out on the free market.

*With free agency right around the corner, the legendary Stan Fischler details the sad end to Bobby Orr’s career in Boston, where he was lied to about the offer extended to him and ended up playing things out with the Chicago Blackhawks in a way that it shouldn’t have gone. The sight of Orr in a Blackhawks sweater is one of the real all-time NHL oddities out there.

*The NCAA is eying college hockey expansion in NHL markets, including the University of Illinois and Pitt, and, from what I’ve been told, perhaps UNLV and maybe even Vanderbilt. This is a great thing for amateur hockey players and anybody that can’t get enough of the game.  

*Ex-Senators defenseman Marc Methot holds no ill will toward the Sens after being dealt from Vegas to the Dallas Stars following his selection in the expansion draft.

*Josh Ho-Sang shares his wisdom to Islanders prospects as a 21-year-old somebody that’s gone through the ups and downs of being in their shoes.

*As we referenced above, Connor McDavid is closing in on a massive contract extension with the Edmonton Oilers that will probably make him the highest paid player in the NHL.

*For something completely different: My heart goes out to this Roslindale family fighting through a situation with a child who has a life-threatening disorder. They have a Go-Fund-Me page, so please give if you can.