'No issues' for Krejci, Bergeron

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'No issues' for Krejci, Bergeron

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com

TAMPA David Krejci, Zdeno Chara and Tim Thomas were all missing from the St. Pete Times Forum practice ice on Friday afternoon the day after Bostons convincing 2-0 victory over the Lightning. The win gave Boston a kung fu grip on the series up 2-1 with home ice advantage back on their side, and hands the Bs a pretty good feeling headed into Saturday afternoons Game 1 matinee.Krejci surely had a little full-body soreness after taking a big hit in the first period, Chara appeared to be battling some kind of cold after logging more than 28 minutes in the victory and Thomas can pretty much do whatever he wants after putting together his second playoff shutout in the 2-0 win.Krejci played well after suffering a crunching body hit at the hand of Marc-Andre Bergeron in the first period, and the Bs coach said that there are no injury issues with the play-making center stemming from the heavy hit.David is fine," Claude Julien said. "We had a bunch of guys stay off today. Its more of an optional and short skate. There are no issues with David. Hes playing tomorrow in Game 4 with no issues at all.As for the hit itself, Julien understood why Tampa coach Guy Boucher looked like Dr. Evil -- with no Mr. Bigglesworth -- on the Lightning bench after the refs called Bergeron for an elbowing penalty on the collision. The Bs coach concurred with most hockey people that Bergeron dropped a hellacious good hit in the playoffs, and that the refs played a bit of the makeup game in ignoring Dwayne Roloson handling the puck outside the trapezoid area during the ensuing power play.If you have time to look at the replay you can say, well, it was a good hit, said Julien. Its happened to us before from our end of it. Sometimes you get called for penalties. The one thing weve always said is that the league is very sensitive to head issues, so something theyre making a call.Maybe it wasnt the right call, but at the same time they have had a second penalty on that same play where the goaltender touched the puck outside the area. The referee was there and I think he didnt call it . . . probably trying to make up for it. I think it all evened out in the end. Thats what we talk about when you play the games. Plenty of cameras and recorders out for Shane Hnidy and goalie coach Bob Essensa as talk stirred up about the Atlanta Thrashers moving into Winnipeg starting next season with Hnidy from the Winnipeg area and Essensa proud of his six seasons as a member of the Winnipeg Jets. Shawn Thornton was kind enough to assist reporters in doing their jobs as he continuously yelled Shane Hnidy is available, and hes from Winnipeg! during media availability in the visitors dressing room at the St. Pete Times Forum. Patrice Bergeron said he was no worse for the wear after playing upwards of 19 minutes during his first game action in two weeks, and said recurring concussion symptoms wasnt even a thought in his head. The day after Bergerons return there was no soreness, no concussion recurrences and nothing but good feelings about where hes at for the rest of the playoffs.To be honest I wasnt even worried about it," Bergeron said. "I knew I was back and I was ready. It took maybe a couple of shifts keeping things simple, but after that I really felt like I was in the groove and things were good. I knew I was good physically and I was ready mentally as well.

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

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.