Bruins' win streak vaults them into playoff spot

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Bruins' win streak vaults them into playoff spot

UNIONDALE, N.Y. For the first time since the opening few days of the NHL regular season, the Bruins woke up Sunday morning, read their newspaper or favorite hockey blog and realized the Black and Gold are situated in a playoff spot among the top eight teams in the Eastern Conference.

It seemed highly unattainable while the Bruins lost game-after-game in October, but theyve been as hot in November as they were cold before Halloween.

The eight-game winning streak has elevated the Bs into the seventh spot in the East nestled between the New York Rangers and Washington Capitals a pair of hockey teams moving in opposite directions and has Boston within two points of the Northeast Division lead with two games in hand on the Sabres.

In fact the Bruins are only three points behind the Eastern Conference-leading Philadelphia Flyers with a single game in hand, and have only two road games against the Sabres and Habs leading into the Thanksgiving holiday. The winning streak during the month of November has truly fulfilled the message Claude Julien pieced together for his team after getting off to a forgettable, sloppy 3-7 start.

There was urgency there if we wanted to get back into the group of teams in a playoff spot. We needed to wake up, and wake up quickly. We just showed some players examples of where teams were in the standings by Thanksgiving, and how the end of the year went, said Claude Julien. A lot of the teams up there end up being in the playoffs in the end. Were fighting our way into hopefully being in the spot by the time Thanksgiving comes around. We still have a few more games to go.

The Bs coaching staff outlined the recent track record of Eastern Conference playoff teams over the last four years, and the results have been pretty bulletproof: if a team is in the top eight by the end of November then they are well-positioned for a postseason berth, and if theyre outside the Eastern playoff teams by Turkey Day then chances are theyre not going to make it.

There have been exceptions, of course.

The 2007-08 NHL season was particularly screwy with the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals both out of the playoffs at the end of November. But both high-powered teams ended up in the postseason with a big rush down the stretch despite the Thanksgiving deficit. Meanwhile the Atlanta Thrashers and Florida Panthers were in the playoff hunt early over the first two months of that season, but got pushed aside by the true contenders over the bulk of the season.

The Caps went on a 13-4 rush to end that season and cruise into the playoffs while the Penguins went 19-8-4 down the stretch to punch their ticket. But dont try that at home, kids.

We went back four years. There was one year where teams like Florida and Atlanta had gotten off to good starts and Pittsburgh and Washington were at the bottom of the standings in November, said Julien. So they eventually climbed up.

But where we were in the standings Im telling you that if we hadnt gotten off to this big time roll then wed still be in trouble. Its nice to see we have this streak going, and hopefully by Thanksgiving well still be in a playoff spot.

Those kinds of late season rushes are difficult to engineer and doubly so with a team like the Bruins that will be operating with a heavy schedule full of road games in the second half of the year. So Julien and the Bs coaching staff stressed how important it was for the players to remove the hangover haze from their collective minds, and put things together in November with sharper focus and execution.

The Bruins did just that and ripped off eight straight wins while outscoring their opponents by a 41-14 margin, and lifted themselves from the Eastern Conference basement to a playoff perch.

But the Bruins know theres still work to be done with statement games against the Sabres and Canadiens, and theyre a better team than one simply slumming for a bottom-feeder postseason berth. The Bruins are getting a little greedy now that theyve pulled themselves out of their Stanley Cup hangover tailspin: the reigning Cup champs want to keep pushing while momentum and good health are firmly in their favor.

Its not satisfying to be in a playoff spot to be honest. Its good and its nice to see. But we dug ourselves a big whole to start the season and were just starting to climb out of it, said Patrice Bergeron. We cant stop now. We have a lot of work to do. Its nice to see the results starting to happen, but we have to keep it going.

That shouldnt be a problem given the natural motivation against the team that embarrassed them in October (Canadiens) and the team (Sabres) that called them a piece of expletive on the schedule this week.

Blidh plans to bring some energy to Bruins after call-up

Blidh plans to bring some energy to Bruins after call-up

BRIGHTON, Mass. – Anton Blidh plans on keeping things pretty straightforward on his first call-up to the NHL. 

The former sixth-round pick of the Bruins has earned his stripes at the AHL level with Providence over the last couple of seasons, and comes to Boston as a gritty, energy forward capable of stirring things up in otherwise sleepy games. There’s also a bit of offensive upside for a fourth line-type player with five goals and nine points with 22 penalty minutes and a plus-eight rating in 19 games for the P-Bruins this season. 

It remains to be seen if the Blidh call-up means that the Bruins intend to scratch a player or that somebody is questionable for Saturday afternoon’s game in Buffalo, but Patrice Bergeron did miss Friday’s practice without any real defined reason for his absence. The 21-year-old Swede said he plans to play to his strengths if he gets into the lineup for the Black and Gold, and that could mean getting under the skin of his Sabres opponents. 

“It’s my first time called up, so I’m happy,” said Blidh, who was asked what he'll bring if he gets into the lineup. “I’ll just play simple and play my own game: be hard on the puck and play with some energy. I worked hard [in Providence] and then I got some confidence. I’m not a goal-scorer, but I scored a couple of goals and got some confidence.”

Claude Julien hasn’t been able to catch up Blidh’s work since the season got started, but was pleased by the youngster’s progress in training camp, where he earned notice for his feisty, physical play on a line with Noel Acciari. 

“They said he’s playing well, so they brought him up. We’ll get to see him, hopefully tomorrow,” said Julien. “I didn’t hear a ton of fine details aside from him being a guy that was certainly playing with a lot of energy. I didn’t mind him in training camp either. He works really hard and competes hard, and we could use that.”

That would certainly be the case after watching the Bruins go through the motions for long stretches Thursday night against Carolina before essentially stealing a game that they didn’t deserve to win. 

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.