Notes: Bruins brought back to Earth by Red Wings

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Notes: Bruins brought back to Earth by Red Wings

By JoeHaggerty
CSNNE.com

DETROIT Its pretty clear that the Bruins have some work to do if anyone is going to believe theyre as good as the Detroit Red Wings team that swept them in a home-and-home series this weekend.

The Wings outscored the Bs by a 10-3 margin, outplayed them in five out of the six periods played between the two teams, and dropped Boston to 3-7-2 on the season against the Western Conference. Obviously Detroit can do that a lot of teams around the NHL, and the Bruins ran into the buzz saw of a Red Wings team smarting from a recent slump.

Bs leader, winger and assistant captain Mark Recchi took solace in the fact that it was a closer game on Sunday afternoon at Joe Louis Arena, and the Bs basically lost the game on a pair of mistakes by Brad Marchand and Tyler SeguinDennis Seidenberg that cost Boston two goals.

"It's a process still and we all know that, said Recchi. We had a really bad game on Friday night. We played a lot better today. We feel comfortable knowing we can play with these guys after the game today. We know that were a good team.

Still, the Bruins cant really consider themselves elite when they lost two straight to the Red Wings and get outshot 26-16 over the final two periods of play. Defensive mistakes were the order of the day, and there wasnt a lot of care given to the puck in their own zone. That is very un-Bruins-like and led to a lot of booboos all over the ice for the Black and Gold.

The biggest thing that sticks out for me is the type of mistakes we've made in the last two games, said coach Claude Julien. There's mistakes. This is a game of mistakes. But the type of mistakes that you make can make a difference. Bad pinches. We haven't given up two-on-ones like that in a long time. We gave those up. Ill-advised decisions.

Even their first goal, we gave them that one. We didn't help ourselves tonight. We had some chances when it was 3-2 to tie it up. We had a couple scoring chances. Had we scored, maybe that would have made a difference. But they come back and score on the two-on-one. That kind of put the nail in the coffin.

Chief among the players that couldnt get things going were the exact players expected to produce against an elite team like the Red Wings.

The Bs top line of David Krejci, Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton were muzzled all afternoon long, and Horton didnt squeeze off a single shot until the game was firmly out of grasp in the third period. Lucic wasnt able to get his physical game started either as Detroits subtle ability to interfere and get in the way without drawing penalties slowed down every change they had to attack.

As a line they finished with a minus-5 and five shots on net, and they were routinely burnt by the trio of Henrik Zetterberg, Todd Bertuzzi and Johan Franzen on the ice in key game matchups.

They played really tight in the defensive zone and the neutral zone. You really had to work hard for every offensive chance, and thats what has made them a good hockey club for a long time, said Lucic. Its unfortunate because we felt good about todays game and especially after the first period, but its too bad we couldnt get the job done.

It seems like theyre always getting in your way. Its not the guy that youre trying to hit, but its the guy coming from the side or the other defenseman that gets in your way or gives you that little bit of interference. Its the way they play and its what makes it so hard to get in there on the forecheck.

Milan Lucic said a Nicklas Kronwall shot he blocked with his right foot in the third period hit his funny bone, and it immediately went numb as he went down like a ton of bricks. Lucic walked it off and went down the runway briefly, but returned to finish out the game and said hed be fine after getting a scare.

It just hit in the funny bone, and it got me good, said Lucic. But I was okay. It was part of the game. You try to block shots and sometimes its going to hurt.

Adam McQuaid was also tagged in the right hand with a shot at the end of the second period, but appeared to be okay and finished out the game without any issue.

Zach Hamill and Steve Kampfer were the healthy scratches for the Bruins on Sunday afternoon, and Hamill was returned to the Providence Bruins following Sundays loss to the Red Wings. Hamill fared decently in the third games he played with the Bruins after his call from the AHL, and played his best game while notching an assist against the Montreal Canadiens.

The Bruins needed to make a roster move with Daniel Paille returning from his four-game suspension for his hit on Raymond Sawada, and it appears that the Bs chose Jordan Caron over Hamill. Caron took a big shot from Nicklas Kronwall at the end of the second period and didnt play the third, but he was on the bench and riding a bike after the game was over.

The Boston Bruins Foundation and the 2010-11 Bruins roster and coaching staff will host the first "Boston Bruins Casino Night" presented by TD Bank on Sunday, February 20 from 5:00 p.m. - 9:00 p.m. at The Westin Copley Hotel. Fans will have the opportunity to purchase tickets to play a variety of casino games with Bruins players and coaches. For more information visit bostonbruins.com.

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

Reports: Blues trade Kevin Shattenkirk to Capitals

Reports: Blues trade Kevin Shattenkirk to Capitals

The Kevin Shattenkirk-to-Bruins rumblings are done for the remainder of the season.

Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Dispatch is reporting that the Blues have traded defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk to the Washington Capitals.

According to TSN’s Pierre LeBrun, the “main parts” the Blues will receive in the deal are 2017 first-rounder, a second-rounder in 2018 and Zach Sanford 

More to come. . . 

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.