Haggerty: Bruins prove they're Cup contenders

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Haggerty: Bruins prove they're Cup contenders

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com

VANCOUVER The Bruins talked about measuring sticks and tests before Saturday night's game against the Western Conferences elite, the Vancouver Canucks.

Well, theres good news and challenging news after the Bruins made it a flawless 4-0 road trip thus far with a playoff-style 3-1 victory over the Canucks at Rogers Arena that included three points and a game-winner from Vancouver native Milan Lucic.

The good news: the Bruins proved their ceiling is that of an NHL elite team when they have their minds, soul and body invested into it.

The challenging news: now that it's obvious how much potential they have after making their trade-deadline additions, the stakes have been raised for these Bruins.

Theres been a strange sentiment in Boston all season long that the Bruins were missing a certain something, and weren't as good as the other upper-echelon teams around the NHL. Perhaps it was the way things ended against the Philadelphia Flyers last season, or the black-cat syndrome thats hovered over the Black and Gold franchise around for the past 39 years since their last Stanley Cup.

Well, its time to put away the fears, trepidation and natural governors clamped down on the aspirations for this years Bruins team.

Lucic had both arms upraised in celebration of his 27th goal of the season, which handed the Bruins a lead they wouldnt surrender in the third period. Its clear he was basking in the rapturous glow of realizing his lifelong dream of scoring an NHL game-winner in his home city.

But the impromptu celebration also served as notice that the Black and Gold have officially arrived as favored guests in the Stanley Cup playoff conversation.

It means a lot for the team because we saw this game as a measuring-stick game for ourselves, said Lucic, who, along with David Krejci and Nathan Horton, has enjoyed tremendous first-line resurgence in the last several weeks. You definitely had to work hard for your space, and you had to do everything you could to create your scoring chances tonight. We had to feel them out in the first.

But once we settled down into a puck-possession game, we were able to take advantage of them a little bit in their zone. Theyre a hard team to play against. We knew that. But we came out to play, and it was great we were able to get the win.

It was, however, more than just one victory.

With Lucic blossoming into a modern-day Cam Neely and Tim Thomas having a historically good season between the pipes, the foundation was already there. But after seeing his team's weaknesses exposed in back-to-back losses to the Red Wings two weeks ago, general manager Peter Chiarelli went out and made the moves that have turned his team into a serious Cup contender.

The Tomas Kaberle deal, paired with the speedy acquisitions of Chris Kelly and Rich Peverley, cinched it on paper. The Bruins have made it reality with consecutive wins over high-end Western Conference teams (Calgary and Vancouver).

It was easy to shrug off the first two wins of their current road trip, coming as they did against two of the Eastern Conference's weak sisters (Islanders and Senators), but theres no underplaying what the Big Bad Bs did in their last two games.

Clearly the Bruins are feeling good and brimming with the kind of confidence that could serve them well in the postseason, but they also have the right kind of leadership in their room.

Zdeno Chara was clearly happy with the result after he combined with Patrice Bergerons line to lock down Vancouvers best players (Ryan Kesler, Henrik Sedin, Daniel Sedin). That trio had zero points, three shots on net and a minus-5 Saturday night.

But Bostons captain also wanted to make sure his team doesnt get too satisfied with one regular-season win over a very good Vancouver team, and instead holds onto to the hunger and drive thats pushing them up and away from the pack.

The Bs are a sterling 12-6-1 against the NHLs top teams this season (Penguins, Capitals, Lightning, Flyers,Sharks, Red Wings, Stars, Flames, Canucks), and have proven their worth where it matters most: on the ice.

We have a four-game road trip and we have two wins. We shouldnt be absolutely satisfied, said Chara. Weve got another game Sunday, vs. Edmonton. We have a four-game road trip, weve set a goal for ourselves and we have to go after it.

The last two teams we've played are really good teams, but every game is a challenge. When you have games like this where every little thing can make a difference, you have to be on top of your game and focused for 60 minutes. We won the game. We are happy about that. We know the team we played tonight is extremely good. But its not something that we should be totally satisfied about.

The Bruins should remember this Saturday night win over the Canucks.

Its the day that the Bs certified themselves as legitimate Stanley Cup contenders, and a hockey team to be feared once the tournament rolls around.

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

Bruins coaches: Czarnik a ‘Belichick-type hockey player’

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Bruins coaches: Czarnik a ‘Belichick-type hockey player’

BOSTON – Austin Czarnik is off to a good start at Bruins training camp.

He’s got points in each of the first two exhibition games and just the fact that he’s cracked the B’s lineup in both games tells you that the coaching staff wants to get a long, good look at the undersized forward.

But the 5-foot-9, 167-pound Czarnik brings more than simply a touch of the Napoleon complex after always being told that he was too small to make it to the elite levels of hockey. The 23-year-old clearly can score after posting 20 goals and 61 points in his first pro season in the AHL in Providence last season. He plays with heart, energy and a dogged determination when he’s hunting pucks on the fore-check.

But former P-Bruins head coach and current B’s assistant coach Bruce Cassidy says that Czarnik also brings something a little extra that New England Patriots fans will certainly appreciate.

“As far as being a player goes, he would be, to me, that [Bill] Belichick-type player that you could use in a lot of different situations,” said Cassidy, in clear reference to intelligent utility guys Troy Brown, Danny Woodhead, Julian Edelman and others that all filled different roles in their time with New England.

“He’s got a very, very high IQ, he’s a quick learner and very coachable,” Cassidy said. “So, he’s a guy you can move around, and he can play with different players. He can play on the penalty kill, he’s good on the power play and especially on the point.

“So there are a lot of different things. I think from night-to-night if you wanted to, you could move him around in your lineup and he could be effective for you. I know he’s a center, but it would be interesting to see if he could play the wing and be effective. That’s something we haven’t really seen. Is that something we maybe attempt down the road? I don’t know. I don’t want to speak out of turn, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he could handle it. He even played for us 6-on-5 as a defenseman with the goalie out. He’s just a smart player, and he understands the game very, very well.”

So, Czarnik is off to a good start in training camp with the Bruins, but we also saw the same thing from him last year as a rookie to pro hockey. 

Now, it’s about seeing whether a smaller player can finish strong as the competition heightens deeper into the preseason, and perhaps he can bring that versatility and feistiness to the NHL level in Boston. 

 

 

Thursday, Sept. 29: Oilers right where they belong

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Thursday, Sept. 29: Oilers right where they belong

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while looking forward to watching the Luke Cage Netflix series.

*The Cult of Hockey has no issues with yours truly ranking the Edmonton Oilers 29th out of 30 teams in my first preseason NHL power rankings.

*An interesting piece about Brian McGrattan and his battle with alcohol in his career as an NHL tough guy. I can honestly say having covered him a bit when he was in the Bruins organization that he was one of the scariest dudes I’ve ever talked to in an NHL dressing room. A nice guy, but very intense and always looked like he definitely enjoyed his work on the ice.

*Dennis Seidenberg hopped on with the Hockey Central crew today to talk about his new contract with the New York Islanders.

*PHT writer and Friend of Haggs (FOH) Mike Halford has Guy Boucher with some serious Dion Phaneuf love going on in Ottawa.

*Jack Eichel is oozing confidence and swagger in his second NHL season with Buffalo looking to make a big step up this season.

*Scott Burnside said that the World Cup of Hockey could be coming to an end tonight and I think most predict that it will with a little bit of an anticlimactic thud due to the sheer awesomeness of Team Canada.

*For something completely different: “Aleppo Moment” sounds like a great name for a rock band. Not so much for a Presidential candidate.