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

Wyshynski: Eriksson is looking to really cash in

Wyshynski: Eriksson is looking to really cash in

Greg Wyshynski joins Michel Felger on Sports Tonight to discuss the recent Boston Bruins moves and other potential landing spots for free agents Loui Eriksson and Milan Lucic.

Bruins view newly signed Krug as an emerging leader

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Bruins view newly signed Krug as an emerging leader

With Bruins defenseman Torey Krug in the fold for four more years, a Thursday afternoon conference call with the 25-year-old defenseman and GM Don Sweeney was about what the young puck-mover can accomplish over the next few years. With Krug coming off a four goal, 44-point season and offseason shoulder surgery, it will be a slow and steady progression to begin next season once he’s cleared to play.

What isn’t in question is Krug’s leadership, toughness and gritty attitude to go along with his considerable offensive skill set, and those all made the $21 million contract a no-brainer from the Black and Gold end of things.

“Torey’s got a very, very unique skill set that’s important to our hockey club. He’s had a very, very productive three years. His role this year and his time on ice, in all situations, increased significantly. He was able to shoulder much, much more responsibility in all parts of the game. As a young player who is invested in the Boston Bruins organization, he wants to win, he does things the right way every time he comes to the rink,” said Sweeney. “He wants to get better; he’s not satisfied. All the things you want out of a young player to identify with, which is something we also acknowledge, that Torey has really been identified as an emerging part of our core leadership group.

“I think he’ll help tremendously to help all of our young players that hope to fall in similar fashion with the success that he’s had up to this point. We have a lot of work to do in front of us and Torey’s going to help us get back to where we want to be in trying to win a Stanley Cup.”

Krug has averaged 10 goals and 41 points over his first three seasons in the NHL, and averaged a career-high 21:37 of ice time last season as a de facto No. 2 defenseman behind Zdeno Chara. It was a big season because Krug survived, and continued to put up points, as a legit top-4 defenseman in the NHL, but the 5-foot-9, 181-pounder also needed his shoulder repaired after his first season of heavy duty usage.

So it bears the question of whether Krug will stay in one piece with the heavy top-4 duty over the next four years. Whatever the answer is to that question, the puck-moving defenseman will be a leader, a feisty character on the ice and somebody that’s going to serve as a good professional role model for the flock of young players expected to come through in the next couple of seasons.

The Michigan boy couldn’t be happier to be a part of all of it in Boston for the next four years.

“I think [the leadership thing] has been something that was instilled in me in a young age, you know, coming from my father. It’s always been authentic. If anyone tries to force it then people see right through that, and it just doesn’t happen. But for me and this team and this locker room I think I’m able to bridge that gap from the young guys to the older guys,” said Krug. “I relate to every single person in that locker room, which I think will help our team as we grow and we mature bringing in younger guys from Providence. Or guys that are just signed and helping them develop and helping them feel comfortable within the locker room because it can be intimidating.

“It’s tough to walk in the locker room, you know, when you have Stanley Cup Champions and Norris and Selke Trophy winners. So it can definitely be very intimidating and hopefully I can serve as that bridge to kind of ease that gap for those guys. As far as young defensemen goes, the one thing that Claude [Julien] helped me with when I first came up was making sure I was myself. I was here for a reason. I was able to do the thing I do well, and I wasn’t straying away from that to try to be someone that I’m not. So I think young defensemen, once they realize that and they realize that everyone in this organization is there to help them then they’ll begin to improve. They’ll become themselves as they will at the NHL level.”

With Krug having experienced a couple of years of late season collapses as one of the young leaders on this Bruins team, even more will be asked of him next season as the Black and Gold push hard to right the ship. 

Report: Celtics likely to guarantee Amir Johnson’s $12M deal for next season

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Report: Celtics likely to guarantee Amir Johnson’s $12M deal for next season

The Celtics will likely guarantee the second year of Amir Johnson’s two-year, $24 million deal he signed last season, the Boston Globe reported.

Johnson, 29, a 6-9 forward, signed as a free agent last summer, averaged 7.3 points, 6.4 rebounds and 1.1 blocks in 79 regular season games for the Celtics and 8.5 points, 7.5 rebounds and 1.3 blocks in the six-game, first-round playoff loss to the Atlanta Hawks.