Haggerty: Bruins back in the driver's seat

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Haggerty: Bruins back in the driver's seat

MONTREAL It was hard to imagine when the Bruins had dropped to 3-7 on the season at the end of October after a frustrating defeat on the Bell Centre ice at the hands of the Canadiens, but there was still plenty of time to turn things around.

The Bruins were getting lulled into multiple penalties by the insufferable P.K. Subban, offensive shooters were hitting posts instead of burying goals, and the Black and Gold were dead last in the Eastern Conference.

Zdeno Chara sounded unbending, undoubting and full of resolve after getting swept in a home-and-home against the hated Habs.

Heres what the Bs Captain said back on Oct. 29:

I believe in this team. I know what we have," Chara said. "I know we are in a deep hole but if anybody can get out of it, it's this team."

It was the last time the Bruins have tasted the bitterness of defeat this season, and theyve now won nine games in a row after a 1-0 victory over the Canadiens in their own backyard.

The Bruins were far from good. They got outshot by a 32-18 margin through the three periods, but hot goaltending play and sound defense trumped tough nights from Bostons skill guys at the forward position.

We played a little on our heels tonight, said Claude Julien. We werent very good on the walls, and I thought they were the better team in an area were usually pretty good at. What I liked is that we found a way to win, defensively we werent that bad and Tim Thomas was huge for us.

The nine-game winning streak is the longest for the Bs since a 10-game win streak that ended in January 2009, and should finally signal that the Stanley Cup champs are back where they need to be.

Stanley Cup hangover talk is over. Stories and memories from last years Cup run have been stored away in a box for safe-keeping, and now its about the solid way the current season is shaping up for them. The Bruins entered last nights win over the Canadiens sitting second in the NHL while scoring 3.2 goals per game, and fourth in the league in allowing 2.2 goals per game. The optimal offensedefense combo along with the NHL-best plus-26 goal differential tell the story of a team playing some pretty good hockey.

There was a certain level of sweetness to the Black and Gold finally dispatching their hockey arch-rivals for the first time this season, but there was even more meaning in taking over the Northeast Division lead for the first time this season.

Its a good streak. Now looking back on it Im pretty impressed with the way our team handled a bad start, said Andrew Ference. There was a wide open door for frustrations to go overboard and for people to get away from the belief of how we do things around here. That didnt happen.

Looking back now we handled it professionally and with confidence. Guys didnt waver. Instead they took long, hard looks in the mirror and simply got better. Its nice to see that we can believe in a system, have chemistry and have good attitudes that pay off in situations like that. Thats what good dressing rooms are for. Its easy when youre winning to smile and have fun. Holding things together is much more impressive when youre losing.

The turnaround has been stunning for the Black and Gold, who now sit three points behind the Pittsburgh Penguins for the top spot in the Eastern Conference and have been the NHLs hottest team for the entire month of November. It was fitting the Bruins finally took their rightful place in their division in Montreal as most members of the Bs organization look at the home-and-home loss at the end of October their hangover tipping point.

The losses to the Habs were like an open-handed slap to the face, and proved hurtful enough to their pride to have a long-lasting effect. Combine that with a few better bounces, Tim Thomas heading on a hot streak thats seen him push his save percentage back up to .938 and an offense thats averaging nearly five goals per game over the last month and theres all the ingredients required for a season-changing win streak.

Were not focusing on things. Weve done a good job of settling it down one game at a time, and not thinking about how many games weve won in a row, said Tim Thomas. Thats the key: breaking it down into sections of a few games.

Now matter how you slice it, the Bruins have been damned good when things really started to get real in November and theres no reason to think that wont continue against Buffalo in what should be a nasty environment Wednesday night.

Pastrnak, Marchand and Vatrano represent Bruins at World Championship

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Pastrnak, Marchand and Vatrano represent Bruins at World Championship

The Bruins have three players headed to the IIHF Hockey World Championship, which begin this weekend in Russia.

Brad Marchand was invited to play for Team Canada early on in the process, coming off his 37-goal season for the Bruins. Last week the Czech Republic added 19-year-old right wing David Pastrnak to their squad with plans to skate on a line with the Montreal Canadiens' Tomas Plekanec.

And Frank Vatrano -- who scored a total of 44 goals between Boston and Providence in this, his first full professional season -- was added to the Team USA roster this week. Vatrano, 22, confirmed it on his own Twitter account on Tuesday night prior to hopping on a flight bound for Russia:

Torey Krug played for Team USA last season, but was unavailable this time around after undergoing right shoulder surgery just a couple of weeks ago that will have him sidelined until late October. 

Vatrano is one of four Massachusetts players on this year's version of Team USA. The others are Canadiens goaltender Mike Condon, Hurricanes defenseman Noah Hanifin and Devils D-man David Warsofsky.

Both Marchand and Pastrnak previously suited up for their countries in the World Junior championships, and Vatrano played in the U.S. National Team Development Program prior to playing college hockey at the University of Massachusetts. Vatrano also previously represented the U.S. at the 2012 IIHF Under-18 Men's World Championship in Brno and Znojmo, Czech Republic, where he helped Team USA claim the gold medal.

The IIHF Men's World Championships will start Friday and run until May 22 in Moscow and St. Petersburg, Russia. It features featuring many of the NHL players that aren’t participating in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Haggerty: Anticipate ‘great deal of player movement’

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Haggerty: Anticipate ‘great deal of player movement’

Ahead of the expansion draft, teams may look to get something in return for players they’d otherwise lose for nothing.

May 4, 2016: If expansion hits, which Pens goalie is protected?

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May 4, 2016: If expansion hits, which Pens goalie is protected?

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while giving a warm May the Fourth Be With You to everybody out there.

*Mike Francesa has declared sports radio war on former New York Islanders goalie Rick DiPietro, and it’s getting ugly folks.

 

*A humbled Bruce Boudreau, who really didn’t need to be humbled given what a nice man he is, will have a long line of NHL suitors interested in his services.

 

*The Northeastern University hockey team has gone to some extremes with their pregame wrestling matches.

 

*Pro Hockey Talk asks the question: if there’s an expansion draft, which goaltender should the Penguins protect given what’s going on in their playoff series?

 

*A really nice gesture within the PHT morning skate with Tampa Bay Lightning head coach Jon Cooper going to bat for a Lightning beat reporter that finds himself out of a job.

 

*Max Domi had a very memorable rookie season even if it didn’t end with any serious consideration for the Calder Trophy.

 

*The Nashville Predators got a little better this week with the decision to kick Mike Ribeiro up into the press box.

 

*For something completely different: these Han Solo uniform jerseys for the Durham Bulls’ Star Wars Night are the freakin’ truth.