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

May 1, 2016: With NHL draft order set, time to deal?

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May 1, 2016: With NHL draft order set, time to deal?

Here are the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading after thinking Barack Obama gave Jeffrey Ross a run for his money as the Roast-master In Chief at last night’s White House Correspondent’s Dinner.

*The man behind the music at American Airlines Arena for the Dallas Stars’ games comes into the spotlight for a story.

 

*Don Cherry sings the praises of Joel Ward, wears a Toronto Marlies suit and said “it was time to go” for Bruce Boudreau in Anaheim.

 

*PHT writer Cam Tucker has Penguins coach Mike Sullivan taking major issue with the head shot Brooks Orpik laid on Olli Maatta.

 

*The Maple Leafs secure the No. 1 overall pick in last night’s NHL Draft lottery, which will no doubt lead them to Auston Matthews.

 

*Now that the Edmonton Oilers have the No. 4 pick, Peter Chiarelli is open to trade options for those teams wanting to move up.

 

*Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk is once again thriving in Ontario just a year after a major health scare.

 

*Good piece by FOH (Friend of Haggs) Kevin Kurz on the unique journey for Brent Burns that culminated in his Norris Trophy finalist honor this week.

 

*Spector has the roundup of rumors including plenty of speculation on Kevin Shattenkirk once the Blues are done in the playoffs.

 

*For something completely different: a couple of reporters actually got into an actual fight at the White House Correspondent’s after-party. It sounds like they both kind of deserved a punch in the face, to be honest.

Eriksson named Lady Byng finalist for second time

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Eriksson named Lady Byng finalist for second time

Patrice Bergeron will have some Bruins company at the NHL Awards in Las Vegas at the end of the month of June.

Loui Eriksson was named a finalist for the Lady Byng Trophy on Saturday afternoon along with Los Angeles Kings center Anze Kopitar and Florida Panthers pivot Aleksander Barkov. It’s the second time in his career that Eriksson will be named a finalist for the award given annually "to the player adjudged to have exhibited the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability."

The Swedish winger finished his best season in a Bruins uniform with 30 goals (third on team) and 33 assists for the second most points (63) on the team along with 12 total penalty minutes through 82 games played. Eriksson was excited to once again be a finalist for the award, and to be lumped in with a couple of the NHL’s best players in Kopitar and Barkov.

“It is a great honor to be considered for the Lady Byng Trophy, an award that has been won by some of the best players of all time,” said Eriksson, who will be an unrestricted free agent on July 1 after three seasons in Boston. “There are many deserving candidates so to be named one of the finalists with Anze Kopitar and Aleksander Barkov is very exciting for me. Thank you to my teammates and the coaching staff and I appreciate all those who voted.”

The last Bruin to win the Lady Byng Trophy was Rick Middleton back in 1981-82, and Eriksson is the first B’s finalist for Lady Byng in more than 10 years.

Bruins will select 14th overall in first round

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Bruins will select 14th overall in first round

The Boston Bruins basically had a three percent of moving up into the top three of the NHL Draft Lottery on Saturday night, but they didn’t strike it draft rich when it was all said and done up in Toronto.

With Bruins general manager Don Sweeney in attendance representing the Original Six franchise, the Black and Gold were the first team logo selected in the draft lottery meaning they will own the 14th overall pick in the first round for the second straight summer.

Instead the Toronto Maple Leafs will select first overall after putting together the worst record in the NHL last season, and the Winnipeg Jets and Columbus Blue Jackets won the lottery to move up into the second and third slots in the draft.

This marks the sixth time in franchise history that the club has owned the 14th overall selection in the NHL Draft. The Bruins drafted Jake DeBrusk 14th overall last summer in Florida at the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, Stephane Quintal 14th overall in the 1987 NHL Entry Draft, Normand Leveille 14th overall in the 1981 NHL Entry Draft, Douglas Halward 14th overall in the 1975 NHL Amateur Draft and Terry O’Reilly 14th overall in the 1971 NHL Amateur Draft.

Based on finishing with the highest point total of all non-playoff teams for the second straight season, the Bruins owned a 1.0% chance of winning the 2016 Draft Lottery overall and a 3.4% chance of securing a top-three pick.

The 2016 NHL Draft will take place on June 24-25 at the First Niagara Center home of the Sabres in Buffalo just a couple of months from now, and the Bruins also own the first round pick of the San Jose Sharks that will end up somewhere in the 20’s based on the fact they’re still currently alive in the playoffs.