Offensive explosion propels Bruins

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Offensive explosion propels Bruins

BOSTON -- The Bruins' five-game winning streak isn't tough to figure out.

Goals, goals, goals.

"It's been great," Milan Lucic said Saturday after Boston's 6-2 win over Buffalo. "We're doing a good job in the neutral zone, in the defensive zone. We're getting opportunities. We're bearing down on them and you know . . . coming up as a five man unit and supporting one another. I think that's ultimately what's given us the success that we're getting."

The scoring surplus is a relief.

Boston began its NHL title defense with an underwhelming 3-7-0 record. The phrase "Stanley Cup hangover" was used and overused, but the team could do little to deny it. Through their first 10 games, the Bruins goals scored 22 goals, while their opponents scored 25.

Their goals foragainst ratio in the last four games? 24-to-3.

For perspective: Boston hasn't scored at least five times in five-straight games since 1986. Scoring six or more goals in four straight contests hasn't been done since 1978.

It's escaped no one that the Brad Marchand-Patrice Bergeron-Tyler Seguin line, pieced together at the end of October, leads the offensive outpouring. Both wingers scored in Thursday's over a normally stingy Buffalo defense (2.36 average goals allowed going into Saturday's game).

Marchand spoke of their chemistry modestly.

"We are starting to click a little better here now. You see some plays where we are starting to find each other now. We know where to be. Seguin is obviously a pretty easy guy to play with because of his great skill-set. We are gelling a little better now, we just have to keep it going."

A "little better"?

Marchand's assist and third period goal on Satruday stretches his career-best point streak to five games (3G, 5A). The"clicking" was showcased in the second period on a Marchand breakaway. After picking off a Sabres pass in the neutral zone, he flew in on goalie Ryan Miller's right. Seguin hopped off the bench to fill the opposite lane. Marchand held off, showing great patience in waiting for Miller to commit before passing off to Seguin for the one-timer.

It was Seguin's 11th goal of the season.

Not only does he lead all Bruins, his 11th tally also matches that of his entire rookie campaign. His proficiency has inspired Boston's surge; Seguin's lit the lamp eight times (and has three assists) in the last six contests.

He's on pace for 61 goals.

"Whenever you score, you're never going to be disappointed," Seguin smiled. "You can never score too much and right now I'm burying most of my opportunities. But I feel like my two goals tonight, I don't know what I really did, it was really just the linemates work and me just finishing."

Claude Julien is thrilled with the production, saying Seguin has exceeded the expectations of the coaching staff. But he also credited the man centering his young, speedy wingers: Patrice Bergeron.

"I think Bergy's the guy that's the reliable guy on that line," Julien said. "He's always in the right spot, even defensively. Once in a while, one of those two guys are going to end up blowing the zone in a little quick, and that's where Bergy comes in and repairs the damage. That's the thing: they get the opportunities and they make the best of it."

Faceoffs wins -- often via Bergeron -- have been huge in creating chances.

Boston leads the NHL with a 54.5 percentage in the circle. Bergeron is ranked 8th in the league behind first line center David Krejci. The Bruins' third and fourth pivots, Chris Kelly and Gregory Campbell, are 27th and 41st, respectively.

As their success on the dot shows, the Bruins are deep. It's why they're is getting production up and down the lineup: 13 different players have registered a point and 12 have scored goals during the win streak.

Are the gaudy numbers good to last? Six goals per game would be an impossible clip for any team to sustain, and the Bruins know it.

"You go through spurts like this during the year," Marchand said. "And then you go through spurts like we did during the first bit of our season. We can't get too high and we can't get too excited about it. We have to make sure we stay calm and focused for each game."

Considering the rut Boston started in, the team appreciates experiencing the other extreme. Now they know what they're capable of: winning, and winning big.

Morning Skate: Do Caps have mental block come playoff time?

Morning Skate: Do Caps have mental block come playoff time?

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while thinking about and praying for the people of Manchester, England. It’s obviously an evil, cowardly act to bomb any public place, but to do it at a concert filled with women and children is the lowest of the low.

*The Capitals players are acknowledging that there’s some kind of mental block with the Stanley Cup playoffs. CSN Mid-Atlantic has all the details.

*It’s been a very odd postseason for the NHL where there are so many non-traditional teams still alive with the Nashville Predators in the Stanley Cup Fina, and the Ottawa Senators fighting for their lives in the Eastern Conference Final. On that note, there is a ton of disappointment at the empty seats at the Canadian Tire Centre for Ottawa’s home games in the playoffs. It sounds like there are going to be empty seats tonight for a do-or-die Game 6 in Ottawa. That is an embarrassment for a Canadian city that’s supposed to pride itself on their love of hockey. Let’s hope the Senators fans have a last-minute surge to buy tickets and show some appreciation for a Senators team that’s given the Ottawa fans a totally unexpected ride through the postseason this spring. I mean, Erik Karlsson at the top of his game is worth the price of admission all by himself.  

*The Pittsburgh Penguins have the Senators on the ropes, and it’s been an impressive showing given that they’re doing it without Kris Letang.

*Pro Hockey Talk has the ownership for the St. Louis Blues giving their GM Doug Armstrong a vote of confidence.

*Another early exit from the playoffs is going to start making some players expendable on the New York Rangers roster.

*Here’s a good piece on how David Poile built the Nashville Predators, who have reached the Stanley Cup Final for the first time. Give credit where it’s due: He manned up and made a big move dealing away Shea Weber straight up for PK Subban. It’s really worked for Music City as they’ve stepped to the next level.

*Speaking of Nashville’s rise this spring in a wide open Western Conference, Pekka Rinne has silenced the critics he might have had by carrying his team to the Cup Final.

*For something completely different: Boston law enforcement is on high alert after the bombing of the Ariana Grande concert in the UK.

 

Haggerty: Reports of Seidenberg's demise were greatly exaggerated

Haggerty: Reports of Seidenberg's demise were greatly exaggerated

Hindsight is always 20/20, of course, but it appears the Bruins made a mistake buying out veteran defenseman Dennis Seidenberg from the final couple of years of his contract. 

Seidenberg just finished up a wildly successful stint with host Team Germany at the IIHF World Championships, where he was named Directorate Best Defenseman (the tournament’s best defenseman) after leading all D-men with a goal and eight points. This came after Seidenberg, at age 35, posted 5 goals and 22 points in 73 games for the Islanders, with whom he signed after being cut loose by the B's, while averaging a shade under 20 minutes per game.  Seidenberg also had an excellent World Cup of Hockey tournament for Team Europe last summer (where he was teamed once again with Zdeno Chara), thus managing to play at a high level from September all the way through May.

A faction of Bruins fans thought he was on the serious decline after the 2015-16 season and, clearly, the Bruins agreed, opting to buy him out with two more years still left on a sizable contract extension. (They owe him $2.16 million next season and then will be charged $1.16 million on their salary cap over the next two seasons.) But the B's could have used a durable, defensive warrior like Seidenberg in the playoffs, when they lost three of their top four defensemen against the Ottawa Senators. A rejuvenated Seidenberg, able to play both the left and right side, would have been a better option than Colin Miller.

The Bruins made a conscious decision to hand things over to younger defensemen like Miller, Torey Krug, Brandon Carlo and Joe Morrow in cutting ties with Seidenberg. But they also perhaps miscalculated how much Seidenberg still had left in the tank after his best season in at least three years. 

“Well, at the time we felt like [Seidenberg's] game had really dropped off to where we thought he couldn’t contribute, and we wanted to see if some younger players could come in and help us out,” Bruins president Cam Neely said at the end-of-the-season press conference earlier this month. “I’ve got to say he played well this year for Long Island. But at the time we thought it was the right move. You can’t envision us having three of our top four D’s get hurt [in the playoffs]. We went through a lot of D’s in the postseason. You can’t predict that.”

Neely is referring to the decision made after Seidenberg’s second straight minus season in Boston, when back injuries and a major knee injury had seemed to slow him down a bit. It seemed the only way to properly evaluate some of their other, younger defenseman was to cut Seidenberg loose, but one has to wonder if the Bruins would have possibly done it had they known he was still capable of playing like he did this season for the Islanders. 

Either way, the buyout of Seidenberg is an extremely legitimate second guess of Bruins management in a year where they did a lot of things right.