Haggerty: Bruins battling for roster spots


Haggerty: Bruins battling for roster spots

By Joe Haggerty

BOSTON With four regular-season games left until the playoff intensity starts percolating like water bubbling at a boil, an assorted group of Bruins players are making important final impressions.

With 7 wins in their last 10 games and the Northeast Division title in their back pocket after Saturday's 3-2 victory over the Atlanta Thrashers at TD Garden, the Bruins now have bigger items on their agenda.

They still have a shot at the Eastern Conference top spot. The B's are three points behind the second-place Flyers and four points (with a game in hand) behind the first-place Capitals, and first place overall -- with home-ice advantage throughout the conference playoffs -- is nothing to sneeze at. It would be the clearest path possible for the Bruins to make their drive toward the Stanley Cup, which has eluded them since the days of the Bobby Orr rock star Bs of 1972.

Thats why there is never any Korbel champagne popped in hockey dressing rooms after clinching division titles.

I dont know why there wasn't a bigger celebration. I really dont know," said Mark Recchi, who opened up Bostons scoring with his 14th goal of the season in the first period. "I guess its because we have another big game on Monday in New York against the Rangers. We still have things ahead of us. We know we still have some things to accomplish. We want to try and continue this thing.

We have four games left and want to make sure we play well. We are excited about it but hopefully we still have a few more months of hockey. Its the ultimate goal for all of us.

With the postseason approaching, some Bruins players are starting to feel the roster pinch while stepping up their games. Nobody wants to be the healthy scratch in the playoffs, and it would appear that Michael Ryder, Daniel Paille, Shawn Thornton and Tyler Seguin are all battling to avoid being that lone Bruin out.

Provided theyre all healthy and Thorntons head wound has sufficiently healed by the third week in April, one of those four players will be in the press box wearing an Armani suit when the postseason begins.

So its no surprise that several of them have had their hockey alarm clocks start blaring as of late.

After a sluggish start in his first training camp with the Bruins, Paille has come on strong down the stretch while skating on the fourth line with Gregory Campbell and serving as one of Bostons chief penalty killers.

That continued in the closing minutes of the second period Saturday with the Bs down 2-1 and attempting to kill off a penalty. Paille stepped up and made a play to secure Bostons 11th shorthanded goal of the regular season.

He intercepted a lazy Zach Bogosian pass thrown in front of the Atlanta net, and roofed a laser wrist shot from the left circle before either Bogosian or Dustin Byfuglien could converge on him.

It was Pailles third point in his last four games, and the speedy fourth liner knows the grit and PK performances are the valued areas that will be his calling cards if hes tapped for the postseason.

I feel great. I think I feel faster and just more patient on a lot of plays, said Paille. I feel really happy with my play right now.

I focus on the penalty kill more than anything else. Coach Claude Julien trusts me out there, so I do whatever I can to not get scored against. Hopefully that continues as we keep moving on here.

Ryder hasnt put together such a solid recent body of work as Paille, but Saturday afternoon was undoubtedly the bounce-back game critics had been waiting for from the streaky winger after he was scratched for a pair of games headed into this week.

The 12-game goal-scoring drought and measly four shots in five games werent really screaming out urgency or desperation in Ryders game, but it finally started to come out against Thrashers.

Ryder finished with only a single shot on net, but he also made the play that served as the difference between clinching the Northeast Division or simply shrugging shoulders and muttering well get them next time.

That play was another steal from Bogosian near the blue line that resulted in a solo breakaway before he was hauled down from behind and awarded a rate penalty shot at TD Garden.

Where Ryder completely missed the net on the exact same shootout attempt two nights earlier in the loss to the Maple Leafs, this time he snapped a wrist shot just under the right side of the crossbar and gave the Bs their needed game-winning goal midway through the third period.

Ryder has played two games with the Bs energy line since Thornton suffered the 40-stitch slice above his right eye, and said the trio is collectively looking to make a big impression on Julien and the coaching staff with the playoffs looming around the corner.

One thing Ryder isnt worried about is anybody on the outside bashing him with perceptions about his effort or his skimpy production this season.

I dont pay attention to stuff like that. People always talk and say things like that when you arent producing the way you should and stuff, said Ryder. You just block it out. I know what I have to do to succeed and help this team out. I just need to make sure I do that night in and night out.

You have to go out and show the coaches that you want to be there and you want to help the team. Its what Ive got to do playing with Campbell and Paille right now. I thought we had a pretty good game out there. Anything we can do to help the team is good. Paille scored shorthanded and I got the penalty shot. But we talked as a line and said weve just got to try and make strong plays out there and show that we can help.

Recent big and helpful performances from Paille and Ryder will make Juliens job that much tougher with an enforcer like Thornton sometimes seen as something of a luxury on a playoff roster.

Thorntons toughness and leadership, along with Seguins power-play capabilities and game-breaking potential, should make them players worthy of playoff roster spots at the end of the day.

With four games left there is still plenty of time for any of the Bs quartet to make or break their chances of remaining in the lineup when the postseason dance begins, so let the competitive games begin.

And let the best Bruins win.

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

Friday, Oct. 28: Can Kane ignite Toews?


Friday, Oct. 28: Can Kane ignite Toews?

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while probably remaining as the only person that hasn’t seen this David S. Pumpkins thing on Saturday Night Live yet. 

*Patrick Kane is hoping that he can help ignite Jonathan Toews, and the offense that’s been lagging in his game thus far. 

*PHT writer James O’Brien has the Detroit Red Wings rolling as the Bruins head into Joe Louis Arena for a potentially rough Saturday night showdown. 

*The new Las Vegas expansion franchise is apparently going to get a preview window for NHL free agency in June ahead of the other 30 teams. 

*Here are some early season adjustment possibilities for your fantasy hockey team if they’ve struggled out of the gate. 

*Big Rangers defenseman Dylan McIlrath was waived and clears through unclaimed by the other 29 teams this week. 

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) Gary Lawless has the tangled path ahead for Jacob Trouba as he’s the last of the unsigned RFA players waiting to get moved somewhere. 

*I could have lived a perfectly fine life without having to read about Ulf Samuelsson becoming an up-and-coming coach in the AHL. 

*For something completely different: the Prince Museum has officially opened at Paisley Park in Minnesota. 


Pastrnak suspended two games for hit on Rangers' Girardi


Pastrnak suspended two games for hit on Rangers' Girardi

Bruins forward David Pastrnak has been suspended for two games by the NHL for an illegal check to the head of New York Rangers' Dan Girardi in Boston’s 5-2 loss on Wednesday night in New York.

Those around the Bruins, as you might expect, aren’t happy about the ruling on a hit that was definitely borderline and authored by a player who has barely registered any kind of hits in the first few seasons of his young career. 

Click on the link in the tweet below for a video of the hit and the NHL Department of Player Safety's explanation of the suspension, but this is the gist: Pastrnak “made head contact on a play where head contact was clearly avoidable” and the Bruins forward “unnecessarily extended up and into the head” of Girardi on the collision. 

Claude Julien took issue with the Pastrnak hit being labeled dirty and clearly didn’t quite understand why his young star was even having a hearing over a mid-ice collision that simply looked like a strong hit through the body as the main point of contact when viewed in slow-motion.

“To me I see a guy [in David Pastrnak] whose feet are still on the ice. Sometimes players are in vulnerable positions, and sometimes it’s their own doing other times it’s just a part of the game, and you do what you have to do there. But I don’t think there was any attempt to injure the player there. I just think that was an attempt to finish his check, but certainly not to injure,” said Julien. “His foot is on the ice. You can see the snow coming off his blade, so it’s not like he never slowed down with the foot that was on the ice. 

“He didn’t go full tilt. He tried to control his check. If you look at it in slow-motion it’s pretty self-explanatory: he doesn’t jump up and he goes through [the body]. When you go through body eventually the skates do come up with the flow [of the hit], but he didn’t jump up in the air and land on the guy.”

The two-game suspension is Pastrnak’s first brush with the NHL’s Department of Player Safety. Clearly, the DoPS felt that the 20-year-old did make contact with Girardi’s head and that it was Pastrnak’s responsibility to make sure there wasn’t any contact to the head in such a violent collision. While some might have argued it should have been a one-game suspension, the DoPS usually doesn’t go any less than two games in suspensions involving checks to the head. 

Some of it might come down to Pastrnak just being unfamiliar with exactly how to deliver a clean, hard body check in that situation, given his inexperience playing that kind of game. Conventional thinking was that his first-time offender status would have got him with a stern warning from the league. 

But there’s also a bright side to this entire Pastrnak suspension situation, believe it or not. 

It’s been plainly obvious Pastrnak is playing more of a physical game at close to 190 pounds entering this season, and it’s a part of the driving force behind his strong start with a team-leading five goals in seven games this season. The Bruins will miss him for the next two games, Saturday in Detroit and Tuesday in Florida, but they’ll benefit from a player in Pastrnak that’s no longer shying away from the battle or hesitating to stick his nose in there while playing a key top-six role. 

The Bruins  were facing an uphill battle against both divisional opponents prior to the NHL suspending Pastrnak for the games. 

The hit came when Girardi reached up to catch a puck in the neutral zone 10:55 into the second period and Pastrnak came in hard and sent his left shoulder into Girardi’s chin. Pastrnak received a two-minute penalty for an illegal check to the head. Girardi left the game as part of the NHL concussion protocol, but later returned with no apparent injury.