Bruins' top line is slowly coming back to life

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Bruins' top line is slowly coming back to life

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com

LAKE PLACID, N.Y. There were several things the Bruins needed to achieve before victory could be theirs this postseason, and they've finally begun hitting their marks.

Tim Thomas owned the third period, the Bs shut down the vauntedCanadien power play, and most importantly the Black and Gold finally jumped out in front with an early lead. It was a bit of a white-knuckle grip down the stretch in a 4-2 win over Montreal at the Bell Centre in Game 3 Monday night, but there were a bevyof positive developments.

Among those happy story lines in the Boston victory were goals scored by Nathan Horton and David Krejci from the Bs top line after a pair of quiet games to start things off. Milan Lucic was still shut off from the scoresheet for the third straight game, but as a line the trio combined for five shots on net and a pair of goals in the pivotal victory.

It was Hortons first NHL playoff goal -- and the first postseason dividend for a right wing who entered the series with a lot of hope and expectations -- and Krejcis 8th goal and 22nd point in 30 career postseason games for the Bruins. The Krejci score was a skill play all the way with a one-time snap to the top corner off a great Bergeron pass, but the Horton strike was a bit more of a playoff-style strike.Horton collected a wide shot off the back boards, and found a path to squirt the puck through Carey Price's pads and backside in a heads up play. More often than not it's the ugly, unexpected goals that make the difference in the postseason, and Horton is getting that as his playoff experience grows.

Claude Julien noted theproduction out of his No. 1 line in Boston's third playoff game, and hopes strides by Krejci and Horton can kickstart Lucics game.

He was better last night, Julien said of Lucic. If his linemates are starting to roll then he follows up, or vice versa. Usually the other guys catch up to him. I expect him to be better, and we need him to be better if were going to win this series.

But Lucic was shut out when Carey Price closed up the five-hole between his pads on a breakaway in the second period, and it was a turning point in the game as Andrei Kostitsyn immediately returned the threat with Montreals first goal. The Lucic breakaway was the kind of goal that could spark an emotion-based player like the young B's forward, but he's still looking for it.

The combination of offensive playmaking and brutish physicality to create someimpact in the offensive end is the hallmark of Lucic's game, and it hasnt taken place thus far against the Habs.

We obviously felt like we did not get enough done the first two games. You look at our scoring chances in the first game I think we only had one chance as a line and the second I think again we only had one scoring chance as a line, said Lucic. We were able to generate more, but still I think we are going to have to keep working and working hard and working smart.

One thing that could help Lucic to get his game back on track: focusing on the pounding physical play that always helps him regain his offensive mojo, and shortening his shifts a bit so hes not skating himself into an exhausted shell. It appears thatLucicdoesn't have the energy left in the tank to remove players from the puck or finish off great opportunities when he gets them at the tail end of marathon shifts.

Lucic has wandered pretty far away from his blue-collar physical image at timesthis season while potting a team-high 30 goals, and now his line is being threatened for top status as Patrice Bergeron's No. 2 forward group continues to play well. Bergeron has been Bostons bestplayer on the ice during the postseason as his nine shots on net and three points (1 goal, 2 assists) would attest.

With jobs -- specifically, Julien's and perhaps even GM Peter Chiarelli's -- potentially on the line, it was key for the Bruins not to panic. They didn't Monday, thanks in large part to Horton's and Krejci's resurrection, and they're back in the series.

Now the goal is to get Lucic back on top of his game, as well.

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

Friday, Dec. 2: Toews vs. Matthews

Friday, Dec. 2: Toews vs. Matthews

Here are all the links from around the hockey world and what I’m reading, while everybody in New England is in mourning over the latest Gronk booboo. 

*A pretty neat sharpshooting video with Jonathan Toews and that young whippersnapper Auston Matthews squaring off against each other. 

*Craig Custance looks a little deeper into the situation with the Florida Panthers and how things are stabilizing after the rough firing of Gerard Gallant last week. 

*Now. let’s get to the real important stuff: the San Jose Sharks website has put together their Movember rankings for the player’s mustaches. 

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) Bruce Garrioch says that the plans for an outdoor game in Ottawa are again back on the NHL’s agenda. 

*Erik Erlendsson has put together a “Lightning Insider” website where you can find all the latest news about the Tampa Bay franchise. Check it out. 

*As guys such as Anton Khudobin prove when they’re thrust into the starting spot, backup goalies matter in today’s NHL. 

*For something completely different: a mash-up of Kylo Ren and “Girls” from the mad mind of Adam Driver is exactly just that. 

 

Chara ‘feels better’ as he closes in on return, but won’t play in Buffalo

Chara ‘feels better’ as he closes in on return, but won’t play in Buffalo

BRIGHTON, Mass. – Zdeno Chara said he is “feeling better” after going through a full practice with the Bruins, but the captain won’t be making the one game road trip to Buffalo for Saturday afternoon’s matinee game vs. the Sabres. 

Chara was going through line rushes and battle drills with the rest of his teammates while practicing for the second day in a row, but made it clear that his lower body injury hasn’t been cleared for game action yet. 

“It’s day-to-day. It feels better…yeah. But it’s still day-to-day,” said a rather laconic Chara when it came to questions about his injury. “It would feel much better [to play] than it feels [not playing].”

Claude Julien said his 39-year-old defenseman has moved into true “day-to-day” status as he nears a return after missing what will be his sixth game in a row on Saturday afternoon, but that he isn’t quite ready to go just yet.

“[Chara] and [Noel] Acciari won’t be on the trip,” said Julien. “I think [Chara] is getting pretty close. When you see him at practice things are going pretty well for him. I think that the term day-to-day is fitting for him right now. A lot of times when we say day-to-day we don’t know whether it’s going to be two days, three days or even a week. But in his case I would say that day-to-day is really day-to-day now with him.” 

One thing the Bruins can be heartened by is that they’ve managed to survive without Chara: the B’s have gone 2-2-1 and allowed just nine goals in the five games since their No. 1 defenseman went down. They have been able to continue collecting points in sometimes ugly, workmanlike fashion. 

That gives the Bruins the luxury of not rushing their D-man along before he’s ready and gives some of their other defensemen added confidence that they can effectively do the job with or without their 6-foot-9 stopper.