Haggerty: New teammates get a chance to bond

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Haggerty: New teammates get a chance to bond

By JoeHaggerty
CSNNE.com

WILMINGTON, Mass. The old saw of hockey wisdom goes a little something like this: The best time for players with disparate backgrounds to bond and gel as a unit is on the handful of long, extended road trips rife through the regular season.

The Bruins had one such monstrous trip when they ventured to Belfast and Prague over the first few weeks of the NHL season for the Premiere games. Theres another one set up this week as the Bs leave for a nine-day sojourn through the Canadian outposts of Calgary, Vancouver, Edmonton and Ottawa.

It cant be drawn up much better than that.

It actually is a pretty ideal situation, said coach Claude Julien. I think the fact theyll be spending a lot of time together is great. Bonding with your teammates is always important, and the new guys are going to get that chance on the upcoming road trip.

Its the Black and Golds last major road trip of the regular season, and its not a coincidence the Bs hurried to make all of their trade acquisitions prior to this final chance at a team bonding experience.

Tomas Kaberle, Chris Kelly and Rich Peverley will all be indoctrinated to the Bs way of doing things by the time the trip is over, and its the best possible way for the newly configured hockey club to be forged together as a single-minded unit prior to the playoffs.

I think its a great chance for us to get away, get that team bonding going again and find a way to get the new guys involved and fitting in with the team, said Milan Lucic. It always helps being on the road. You lose great people like Mark Stuart and Blake Wheeler, who were great friends of mine. But its part of the job and weve got to move forward with what weve got on this team.

Lucic remembers just a few short months ago when Gregory Campbell and Nathan Horton were both little more than strangers to everybody on the Boston roster, but that was no longer the case after the new guys traveled to Europe with the rest of the Bruins.

Thats the same kind of rapid initiation that awaits Kaberle, Kelly and Peverley over the next week.

Its funny, said Lucic. If you looked at the start of the year when we began the season in Europe, the new guys coming in like Horton and Campbell you didnt know very well at all. But you're on a trip with them and you seem like youve known them forever after a trip like that.

Theres more time to spend with each other because there are less distractions off the ice. I think its going to be great for this group, and we get a chance to see right away where were at with all of these new players. The big thing for us is that chemistry, and we want to build that up as soon as possible.

While the established Bruins and longtime players were looking forward to really breaking things down with their teammates, the new guys were just as anxious to have a few team dinners, shake a few hands and start working their way into the fabric of the team.

Both Kelly and Peverley have been placed on a line with Michael Ryder, and the team will be joined in Calgary by Kaberle after he takes care of the ubiquitous visa paperwork in Canada. That forward trio will be all about speed, grit and plenty of offensive upside on a team that desperately needed to quicken the tempo more than a little bit.

I think its perfect right now for three new guys coming into a new team, said Kelly. To get on the road and get away from the obvious commitments that guys have to family and friends or whatever they have to do when theyre at home, to get away and be together as a group is going to make things a lot easier on us.

If all goes well for the Bruins on a road trip featuring some tough games against the hot Flames and elite Canucks, then the three newest members of the Bruins wont be known as anything close to the three new guys when the Bs return to Boston in March.

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

Haggerty: Bruins get chance to show good results weren't just short term

Haggerty: Bruins get chance to show good results weren't just short term

The mission for the Bruins on their four-game road swing through the West Coast is certainly to keep the momentum going, but it’s also to quell any talk that the positive results will be short-lived following the coaching change.

The Bruins won there first three games interim head coach Bruce Cassidy headed into the five-day “bye week”, and they’ll come out on the other side with a potentially dangerous road swing through California that will finish up in Dallas next weekend. 

The Black and Gold have gone into death spirals before on the Cali trip, so that’s always a danger when going coast-to-coast to face tough teams in the Sharks, Ducks and Kings.

There’s also the fact that NHL teams are 3-10-2 as of Saturday afternoon in the first game coming back from the five-day midseason vacation. That means the B’s are going to face a stiff uphill battle on Sunday night against the Pacific Division-leading Sharks. 

The challenge is going to be there for the Bruins to answer all of those challenges when they’ve shrunk away from such adversity most of the season. It gives the Bruins yet another chance to show that the three games aren’t merely a sugar-high after cages had been rattled and is instead something that Boston sustains over the season’s final two-plus months.

“Our thinking is to try to win every game. We know the standings. We know it’s pretty tight. We put ourselves in some of the games in tough situations. Now, we’ve got to climb up and fight for every point,” said Zdeno Chara. “It’s going to be very important that we do that and play that way until the end.

“We can look at the standings as much as we want. I think that we really have to focus on how we play, how we want to go into every game, and what we can do to get as many points as possible.”

The good news for the Bruins is that the teams chasing them in the standings really haven’t gained ground on them, and they enter Saturday still in a playoff spot. So, the mathematics don’t look as dire for Boston as they did going into their rest period, and now they should be energized, recharged and highly motivated headed into the final 24 games of the season.

There’s also the fact that the Bruins were playing exciting, aggressive and winning hockey due to some of the tweaks made by Cassidy after taking control of the team. He finally got some production from the third line after putting forwards Frank Vatrano, Ryan Spooner and Jimmy Hayes together, a combo he never truly gave a look because he didn’t trust them to do the job defensively. Cassidy immediately placed 21-year-old Peter Cehlarik into a top-six role with power-play time straight from the AHL. That’s something one almost never saw happen with rookies and inexperienced guys during Julien’s run.

The B’s defensemen corps scored four goals in the three wins and showed aggressive, timely risk-taking to produce offense when playing it safe was normally the call of the day under Julien. The forwards were avoiding the low-to-high passing to the point that so often resulted in perimeter shots from the Bruins in the offensive zone, and instead attacked the net down low with the forwards looking to put some anxiety into the opponent’s D-zone coverage.

It all worked and it all looked remarkably different from the way the Bruins played in the opening 55 games.

“It’s something we need to bottle up and not change our approach, not change what we’re doing, make sure we’re moving [during the bye] and not just sitting idle and getting rusty,” said David Backes last weekend headed into the bye. “Make sure that mentally, we can have those same sort of mindsets for every guy to be contributing. It’s something that doesn’t show up on the score sheet, but guys are recognized in here for doing those things and that’s winning culture. That’s what we’re building.”

The Bruins now get their chance to prove this is a permanent change to a winning culture rather than a short term, three-game adrenaline rush after watching their longtime coach get fired. It won’t be easy, but it shouldn’t be for the Black and Gold if they’re finally going to earn their way into the Stanley Cup playoffs for the first time in three seasons. 

Saturday, Feb. 18: NHL more likely in Seattle than NBA?

Saturday, Feb. 18: NHL more likely in Seattle than NBA?

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while hoping that Purple Passion doesn’t try the same comeback as Zima.

*A Seattle investor says that an NHL team coming to that city is much more likely than a return by the NBA to the Pacific Northwestern city.

*Gare Joyce writes eloquently about the loneliness of a hockey scout, and how that world can sometimes come to a crashing halt.  

*Good piece from Arpon Basu giving the sights and sounds of Claude Julien’s second stint behind the bench with the Montreal Canadiens.

*The agent for Russian player Maxim Shalunov says there is a “10 percent chance” that he’s going to sign with the Chicago Blackhawks.

*Mike Babcock says not to expect any big trade deadline deals from the Toronto Maple Leafs as they push for a playoff spot.

*Henrik Zetterberg reflects on a difficult season with the Detroit Red Wings where it looks like things might finally come down to a crashing halt.

http://www.detroitnews.com/story/sports/nhl/red-wings/2017/02/17/red-wings-zetterberg-reflects-tough-season/98064530/

*The Minnesota Wild have underrated depth on their team, and the Hockey News says it might just be their scariest attribute.

*For something completely different: as referenced above, it looks like that Zima drink of the 1990s is trying to make a comeback. I was in college when the Zima people were seemingly flooding campuses with advertising and samples back in the day.