Haggerty: Bruins not yet satisfied

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Haggerty: Bruins not yet satisfied

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com

BOSTON Its difficult to recall now on the eve of Bostons first Eastern Conference Finals appearance in 19 years, but the goals of many within the organization were crystal clear before the playoffs began.

The Bruins mantra was all about getting past the second round and delving deeper into the playoffs than the previous two seasons. With the playoff series victories came the ultimate eraser to wipe away the stain of last years collapse to the Flyers.

With two playoff round wins, there was also a tacit guarantee Claude Julien, Peter Chiarelli and the rest of the Bs organizational structure would remain stable and intact for the foreseeable future.

With all that ridingin triumphsover the Habs and Flyers, it was mission accomplished with emotion, precision and a business-like efficiency that hasnt always been there for the Black and Gold.

But there is also danger in broaching new, uncharted ground within the Stanley Cup playoffs for the Bruins.

Nirvana and the Seattle grunge scene were brand new the last time Boston stood only four wins away from a legit shot at drinking deeply out of Stanleys Cup, and theres a lethalamount of comfort and security that can arrive with that kind of team achievement.

Certainly a rapidly growing Bruins fan base while always clamoring for bigger, better and badder would be satiated with a deep journey into the conference finals this season win, lose or draw. The promise of a young Bs nucleus ready to consistently compete in the East could certainly ease the pain of the masses if Bostonfalls short of the Stanley Cup Finals.

But greed is good when its come to the NHL playoffs, and the Bruins should be getting their Gordon Gecko on as one of the final four hockey clubs. Now is not the time for settling and counting past achievements.

Its important talented youngsters like 23-year-old Milan Lucic, 24-year-old David Krejci, 19-year-old Tyler Seguin, 23-year-old Brad Marchand and 25-year-old Patrice Bergeron listen to their older teammates that prowl aroundhungrily sniffingfor the Cup.

Mark Recchi and Shawn Thornton both know what it takes to be the last hockey team standing in the playoffs, but it goes beyond them.

Even more filled with that third round hunger is a guy like Andrew Ference. The 32-year-old defenseman has enjoyed a solid NHL career with notoriety both on and off the ice, but one of his most wince-inducinghockey memories iscoming up justshort ofwinning a Cup with the Calgary Flames in 2004.

Ference didnt give a flying crap what Bostons organizational goals were for this postseason. As far as Ference is concerned, he still has a date with the Cup thats been overdue since the very-same Lightning team took down his Flames seven years ago. The ache gnaws at him greatly, and he still regularly commiserates with his former Calgary teammates about what might have been against the Bolts.

Oh, its still raw, said Ference. A lot of us still see each other in the summer. Ive got guys from Calgary calling me up now saying take it to those guys, you know? You hate the people that beat you. I think there are only two guys that were on that team that beat us, but youre in that city. Youre in that same building.

Its not one of those things where you say oh well, we were close. The only way to erase any of that is to win the whole thing.

Ference says the Cup Finals loss is one of the first things that shoots into his brain whenever he spies the Lightning logo, and it will certainly be on his mind when he suits up against Tampa for Game One.

Getting past the second roundmight have been an organizational goal, but I know there are a lot of guys in this room myself included that have absolutely zero satisfaction unless we win the whole thing, said Ference. Ive been close before. Weve talked to guys over and over about that. Its the hardest thing in this game to get that close to the Cup and then to lose.

Theres only one group that gets to be truly happy, and thats the group that ends up winning. I can see satisfaction from the city or the organization that getting to the third round is a positive thing, but Ive been there. Raising a Western Conference championship banner in Calgary didnt give me any satisfaction. It doesnt feel good and I have no problem telling that to guys over and over. And I have done that.

Instead Ference and fellow aging core Bruins veterans like Zdeno Chara and Tim Thomas have forged a group of players over the age of 30 that realize this spring might be their best, lastchance to taste hockey immortality.

Thomas went so far as to say he dreamt about winning the Cup before the season began, and Chara has been so laser focused that the complacency issue is something that hadnt even entered his mind before it was mentioned.

I havent felt that at all, said Chara. I never got that sense even after we won four straight against Philly that anybody was saying oh year, we are all set now. We were glad that we got past the second round, but we all had eyes on the third round and our next opponent.

We knew who we were facing. We approached it like we won a game. We all know that its a long road and its not just about the conference finals.

As Thomas is known for saying, the proof will be in the pudding as to whether the Bruins started feeling satisfied heading into the conference finals. But its hard to believe a 37-year-old Thomas and a 34-year-old Chara would ever let that happen to their best chance at Cup glory.

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

Sources: Bruins engaged in trade talks involving Ryan Spooner

Sources: Bruins engaged in trade talks involving Ryan Spooner

This probably won’t come as a complete shock to those watching the way things have played out with him this season, but the Bruins have engaged in discussions with multiple teams about a Ryan Spooner trade, per multiple sources with knowledge of the situation. 

The 23-year-old Spooner was mentioned casually a few months ago as possible fodder in a Jacob Trouba deal with the Winnipeg Jets, but that deal never really materialized prior to the Jets signing their young, frontline D-man to a two-year deal. The Carolina Hurricanes, New York Islanders and San Jose Sharks have all expressed interest in Spooner, per one hockey source, as it appears that things simply aren’t going to work out for him in Boston. 

It’s been a challenging year for Spooner with pedestrian numbers of three goals and eight points in 24 games, but there are plenty of mitigating circumstances behind the slow start. Spooner has been pushed into playing left wing for the bulk of the season rather than his natural, preferred center position, and he’s been dropped to the fourth line by Claude Julien over the last few weeks. At times he’s also been pulled from the Bruins power play where he racked up six goals and 17 points working off the half-wall last season.  

Julien talked about the former second round pick in frank terms after this week’s win over the Carolina Hurricanes, which featured a Spooner snipe to the top corner during a successful shootout for the Black and Gold. 

“I think at times that [David Krejci] line goes quiet, other times it’s better. We’ve tried different guys on the left side right now and one [Spooner] might give them speed but doesn’t win as many battles,” said Julien of his search for stability at left wing alongside Krejci and David Backes. “The other way [with Tim Schaller] guys are a little harder right now, and they spend more time in the O-zone. So we’re really trying hard to find the right balance there.”

Trade talks have increased the past few weeks because A) the situation has worsened recently with Spooner’s prolonged stint as a miscast fourth line winger and B) the speedy, skilled forward will most likely be a man without a spot when 22-year-old left winger Frank Vatrano returns sometime around the mid-December range. 

According to one source, the Bruins are asking for a “top six forward” in exchange for a package including Spooner, and it’s a lead pipe certainty they’re looking for some goal-scoring given their 24th ranked offense this season. That represents a bit of an organizational sea change after the Bruins searched low and high for a top-4 defenseman in trade over the summer. The emergence of 20-year-old Brandon Carlo, and the Boston defense’s performance across the board, has lowered the Black and Gold’s priority list need to trade for a D-man. 

The Bruins have scored two goals or fewer in 18 of their 25 games this season and badly need somebody that can put the puck in the net from one of the wing positions. Unfortunately for the Bruins, there aren’t a lot of top-6 forwards readily available that could make an immediate impact. It’s highly doubtful any team is going to fork one over for an asset like Spooner that’s been downgraded due to the way he’s been utilized by the Bruins this season. He hasn't played with the same creativity or confidence this season after posting 13 goals and 49 points as their third line center last season. 

So it remains to be seen what the Bruins will get for Spooner after they offered him and a draft pick to Buffalo for rental forward Chris Stewart a couple of years ago. That was a deal Sabres GM Tim Murray turned down before trading Stewart for considerably less at the trade deadline.

The bottom line: the Bruins are working the phones discussing possible Spooner deals, and it feels like there is some motivation from B’s management to move a player that doesn’t seem like he'll ever be a proper fit in Julien’s system. 

Sunday Dec. 4: Zacha adjusting to life in the NHL

Sunday Dec. 4: Zacha adjusting to life in the NHL

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while marveling at the Bruins setting a franchise record this season for fewest practices in a regular season. Thanks compacted schedule due to the World Cup!

*Pavel Zacha is adjusting to life as a rookie in the NHL with the New Jersey Devils, and things are getting better as they go along.

*Manitoba Moose players relive their favorite Star Wars moments prior to the team holding their Star Wars Night.

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) Elliotte Friedman sits down with new Florida Panthers head coach Tom Rowe to discuss the massive changes in that organization with the firing of Gerard Gallant.

*Good for Anders Nilson putting a rainbow decal on the back of his goalie to mask to support some gay friends that have faced public resistance in their lives.

*Bruce Garrioch has his weekly NHL notes with several players, including Flyers defenseman Andrew MacDonald, potentially on the trade block if anybody wants them.

*PHT writer Cam Tucker has Colorado Avalanche defenseman Erik Johnson suffering a broken leg that will keep him out 6-8 weeks.

*There was no blood for the Vancouver Canucks fans, but there was still plenty of drama in a win over the Maple Leafs.

*For something completely different: The World Baseball Classic works for everybody except for Major League Baseball, and that would appear to be a problem.