Bruins snap slump with well-rounded effort

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Bruins snap slump with well-rounded effort

By JoeHaggerty
CSNNE.com

BOSTON As slump-busters go, the Bruins' win over the Devils Tuesday night pretty much had it all.

Tim Thomas rebounded from a disturbingly human month of March to record 30 saves in his 30th victory of the season. Milan Lucic notched the career-changing 30th goal of his breakout NHL season. The defense finally locked things down in front of the net. And the special teams-averse B's even managed a power play score in a 4-1 victory over a desperate Devils bunch at the TD Garden.

We want to go into the playoffs on the way up, not on the way down, said Shawn Thornton, who opened things up for the Bruins by crashing the net and earning a goal that bounced off his body and into the net. We have 10 games left, so we want to start being consistent and getting ready so we can go in on a bit of a roll, I guess.

There were plenty of individual accomplishments to puff their chests out about after essentially extinguishing New Jersey's faint playoff hopes, but the victory was simply about the Bruins returning to past form and snapping out of the 1-3-3 funk over the last seven games.

The Bs are now 3-0 against the Devils this season, and have outscored them 11-2 in the process of season-long domination.

The Bruins were difficult to play against. Skill players like Nathan Horton and Tyler Seguin were brandishing a physical edge that everyone will need to carry once the postseason begins. And their playmakers rose to the occasion when offense was needed against the trap-happy Jersey boys.

There were no troubling signs of leaden legs or flagging spirits on the bench, and there certainly wasnt any sign of bad body language or a defeatist mindset. The Bruins understood that theres plenty of work to do with 10 games left in the regular season, and plenty to gain or lose with that No. 2 overall seed in the Eastern Conference still very much within their grasp.

The win is just about regaining some focus and getting back to what were good at, said defenseman Andrew Ference in his second game back from injury. It is a long season and I think that were kind of getting down to crunch time with playoffs around the corner.

Its finding that balance of being focused and being intense for the games, but not squeezing the stick too hard and not being so tense that youre just paralyzed out there. This is a critical time in the year to find that balance of being loose and enjoying the game -- but also being extremely sharp. I think were finding that.

Even struggling Bruins like Dennis Seidenberg and Mark Recchi, who both seemed a little worn down in recent weeks after full workloads through the entire season, responded with big plays that helped set the victory in motion.

It feels great that I was able to get the thirtieth goal, said Lucic, who iced the victory with a third period strike that made it a 3-1 hockey game before Recchis empty net tally. But I think the biggest thing here tonight is that I felt like we played Bruins hockey again.

After they got their first power-play goal I think we started kicking into gear and started getting pucks in behind them and started winning battles like we used to. And that was a big reason why we were able to generate four goals today.

It's easy to see why this team holds so much promise when recounting the highlights from a hard-fought win. Among them: Thomas flashing a furious glove hand mid-butterfly while swallowing Ilya Kovalchuk bids from all over the ice, and Bruins players knocking the Devils all over ice through the final 50 minutes of the game.

Lucic was 100 percent on the money with his assertion. They once again played Boston Bruins hockey, a sharp contrast to the lack of effort and desire evident in their last few games on the road. The Bs stopped the slide in convincing fashion, and now must keep building wins and piling points until their highest playoff potential is achieved.

That is what we did tonight. Maybe we got a little comfortable with the standings during the slump, said Patrice Bergeron. We had to find some emotion back; our intensity. I thought playing in front of our fans helped us a lot.

Perhaps the biggest reason for optimism was also one of the most nagging issues with the Bs: the power-play unit that had gone 3-for-36 with Tomas Kaberle in the fold until breaking through for a Zdeno Chara one-timer at the beginning of the second period. The Bruins finished 1-for-5 on the night, which is an improvement at a 20 percent success rate and which also provided Boston with the game-winning goal against New Jersey.

It was a bit of a funky power play strike as the Bs never really set up traditionally, and instead had David Krejci flash to the slot area while Lucic found Chara all alone on the backdoor. For a team thats pegged as simply always looking to load Charas big gun at the point, the Bruins used an element of surprise and rattled things around to try and loosen up some pretty stagnant special teams play of late.

The Bruins entered Tuesday night 22nd in the NHL in power play success rate and 17th in penalty kill percentage, and know that both need to be much better. The Bruins are back in the mindset to improve those areas and give that one final push through the final portion of the NHL regular season.

The sprint to the finish line has begun with a promising first step against the dead-in-the-water Devils, but theres no more room for complacency or weariness.

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

Thursday, Aug. 25: Nearly two decades later, the Whalers live on

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Thursday, Aug. 25: Nearly two decades later, the Whalers live on

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while in disbelief mode that the summer is almost over.

*Good piece on the remainders of the Hartford Whalers organization in Connecticut trying to keep the dream alive for the Whale.

*Tyler Seguin sits down for a podcast this week that I freely admit I did not have the time to listen to. I wonder if Boston even rated a mention in the conversation?

*Rating the top NHL contracts, according to the fancy stats hockey analysts, sounds like an interesting exercise.

*Tracey Myers has Duncan Keith bowing out of the World Cup of Hockey while recovering from an injury, and getting replaced by Jay Boumeester.

*The “Da Beauty” Hockey League has kept players like Dustin Byfuglien, Ryan McDonagh and David Backes in hockey shape this summer while slowly getting ready for the season.

*The Arizona Coyotes make a historic hire by naming Dawn Braid as skating coach, making her the first female coach in the NHL.

*For something completely different: FOH (Friend of Haggs) Rich Shirtenlieb guested on the #DORK podcast this week, and it sounds like he didn’t love “Stranger Things.” At the very least he liked “Preacher” better. I thought Preacher was entertaining, but I didn’t even think it was in the same stratosphere as Stranger Things. Rich also has me wanting to watch “It Follows” now, however, after his endorsement.

 

Bruins don't poll well in latest New England Sports survey

Bruins don't poll well in latest New England Sports survey

It’s no secret Bruins fans are getting fed up with a hockey team in decline, one that’s missed the playoffs each of the last two years. Now there are numbers to prove it.

Channel Media and Market Research, Inc. came out with its annual New England Sports survey,  tabulating responses from over 14,600 polled, and, according to the numbers, the Bruins are dropping in popularity, fan support and faith in the current management group.

The B’s are holding somewhat steady with 16 percent of voters listing them as their “favorite sports team” behind the Patriots (46 percent) and Red Sox (29 percent) while ahead of the Celtics and Revolution. Claude Julien also ranked ahead of John Farrell among the big four teams in the “coaches/manages most admired” category.

But after sitting at a relative high of ranking at 27 percent for “ownership performance” in 2014 -- they year after their trip to the Cup Finals against the Blackhawks -- the Bruins now rank dead last in that category at 2 percent, behind the Patriots, Red Sox, Celtics and even the Revolution. Ouch, babe.

Also sitting at a lowly 2 percent is Bruins president Cam Neely in the “leadership performance” category. In "management performance," Neely has dropped from a solid 49 percent in 2014 to just 16 percent in this summer’s survey.

So B’s fans are clearly upset with a team that traded away Tyler Seguin, Johnny Boychuk, Milan Lucic and Dougie Hamilton, and has featured a decimated defense corps for each of the last two seasons. But do the B’s fans think that things are getting any better with prospects coming down the pipeline?

Not really.

In the “which team has done the best job making its product better.” category, the Patriots (35 percent) and Red Sox (31 percent) were resting at the top, with the Celtics (27 percent) a respectable third. The Bruins limped in at just 4 percent with a fan base that very clearly sees that, on paper, this upcoming season’s club doesn’t appear to be much better than last year's.

On top of that, only 13 percent of those surveyed believe the Bruins have gotten better over the last year, and 52 percent believe they’ve just gotten worse. A lowly 3 percent of those surveyed think the Bruins have the best chance of the five teams to bring a world championship back to Boston; the Patriots (79 percent), Red Sox (11 percent) and Celtics (5 percent) all ranked higher.

Finally, Zdeno Chara, Tuukka Rask and Jimmy Hayes were at the top of the list of the Boston athletes “who did not meet expectations” last season. None of that is a surprise, given the state of Boston’s defense along with Hayes’ subpar season.

The good news for the Bruins: They still have a passionate fan base. But they need to start reversing course immediately before they do lasting damage to the B’s brand.

Wednesday, August 24: B's dealing with post-Vesey aftermath

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Wednesday, August 24: B's dealing with post-Vesey aftermath

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading with the Olympics coming to a close . . .
 
-- FOH (Friend of Haggs) Kirk Luedeke sorts through the aftermath for the Bruins after losing out on Jimmy Vesey

-- Detroit Red Wings GM Ken Holland gave an interview where he said the Red Wings aren’t Stanley Cup contenders this season. 

-- Related to Holland’s comments, some of the media in Detroit aren’t taking the dose of reality all that well

-- It’s a big season for New Jersey Devils forward Kyle Palmieri, who will be starring for Team USA on the World Cup team. 

 -- PHT writer Cam Tucker says the Buffalo Sabres still have a strong group of forwards even without Jimmy Vesey.

-- Jamie Benn is giving everything to his Dallas Stars team, and that means that the World Cup of Hockey is taking a backseat
 
-- The Colorado Avalanche are nearing the end of their head coaching search as they look for their replacement for Patrick Roy.
 
-- For something completely different: NBC is making the argument that millenials watched the Olympics, but just not on the traditional formats