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, July 29: Good signs in Bruins-Marchand negotiations

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Friday, July 29: Good signs in Bruins-Marchand negotiations

Here are the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while using “malarkey” in my day-to-day vocabulary as much as possible. 
 
-- Dale Tallon was promoted with the Florida Panthers to accentuate his strengths as a talent evaluator, but maintains that he still has final say on hockey decisions
 
-- PHT writer Cam Tucker has another young D-man off the board with the Wild’s Matthew Dumba signing a two year, $5.1 million deal with Minnesota
 
-- In the interest of self-promotion, here’s my take on the negotiations between Brad Marchand and the Bruins: There’s a couple of good signs at the outset of negotiations
 
-- The Arizona Coyotes are stressing the defensive side of things in a big, big way, and it appears to be part of John Chayka’s master plan

 -- Alex Pietrangelo would be a natural selection to replace David Backes as the next captain of the St. Louis Blues. 

-- A moving letter from Sens forward Bobby Ryan to his recently passed mother is up at the Players Tribune website. 

-- Chris Kreider has re-signed with the New York Rangers, and plans to get out of his head and onto the score sheet more often. 
 
-- For something completely different: Jerod Mayo will bring a new voice to Tom E. Curran’s Quick Slants program on our very own CSN network. 

 

List of Bruins prospects includes two familiar names

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List of Bruins prospects includes two familiar names

With decidedly Boston-sounding names and thoroughly familiar faces, given their resemblances to their ex-Bruin dads, it might have been easy to overlook Ryan Donato and Ryan Fitzgerald and focus on the truly little-known prospects at Development Camp earlier this month.

But on the ice, their brimming confidence, their offensive skills and the maturity to their all-around game was impossible to ignore.

When it was over, general manager Don Sweeney singled out Donato, who plays at Harvard, and Fitzgerald, from Boston College -- along with Notre Dame forward Anders Bjork and former Boston University defenseman Matt Grzelcyk -- as players who have developed significantly.
 
“[They're] just comfortable in what they’re doing,” said Sweeney. “I mean, they’ve played at the college hockey level . . . two, three, four years with some of these kids. They’re very comfortable in their own skin and in what they do.”
 
Donato, 20, is actually coming off his first season at Harvard, where he posted 13 goals and 21 points in 32 games. He looked like he was in midseason form during Development Camp, showing off a scoring touch, skill with the puck on his stick in tight traffic, and the instincts to anticipate plays that allow him to beat defenders to spots in the offensive zone. He’s primed for a giant sophomore season with the Crimson, based on his showing at camp.
 
“Every year is a blast," said Donato, son of former Bruins forward and current Harvard coach Ted Donato. "You just come in [to development camp] with an open mindset where you soak everything up from the coaches like a sponge, and see what they say. Then I just do my best to incorporate it into my game and bring it with me to school next year.
 
“One of the things that [Bruins coaches and management] has said to me -- and it’s the same message for everybody -- is that every area of your game is an important one to develop. The thing about the NHL is that every little detail makes the difference, and that’s what I’ve been working on whether it’s my skating, or my defensive play. Every little piece of my game needs to be developed.”
 
Then there's Fitzgerald, 21, who is entering his senior season at BC after notching 24 goals and 47 points in 40 games last year in a real breakout season. The 2013 fourth-round pick showed speed and finishing ability during his Development Camp stint and clearly is close to being a finished hockey product at the collegiate level.
 
“It was good. It’s definitely a fun time being here, seeing these guys and putting the logo on,” said Fitzgerald, son of former Bruins forward Tom Fitzgerald, after his fourth Development Camp. “One thing I’m focusing on this summer is getting stronger, but it’s also about just progressing and maturing.
 
“I thought . . . last year [at BC] was a pretty good one, so I just try to build off that and roll into my senior season. [The Bruins] have told me to pretty much continue what I’m doing in school. When the time is right I’ll go ahead [and turn pro], so probably after I graduate I’ll jump on and make an impact.”
 
Fitzgerald certainly didn’t mention or give any hints that it could happen, but these days it has to give an NHL organization a bit of trepidation anytime one of their draft picks makes it all the way to their senior season. There’s always the possibility of it turning into a Jimmy Vesey-type situation if a player -- like Fitzgerald -- has a huge final year and draws enough NHL interest to forego signing with the team that drafted him for a shot at free agency in the August following his senior season.
 
It may be a moot point with Fitzgerald, a Boston kid already living a dream as a Bruins draft pick, but it’s always a possibility until he actually signs.
 
In any case, both Donato and Fitzgerald beat watching in their respective college seasons after both saw their development level take a healthy leap forward.