Haggerty: Bruins putting it all together in win streak

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Haggerty: Bruins putting it all together in win streak

WILMINGTON A wise old sports man once said things are never as bad as they are during a losing streak, and never as good as they seem during a long winning streak.

So the Bruins arent likely to beat every opponent from pillar to post and average nearly six goals per game in doing it, but the Black and Gold finally showed some engagement, some emotion and plenty of physical execution in ripping off a six-game winning streak thats got the team back on track.

Tyler Seguin has sparkled with seven goals and 10 points in the six games during the month of November, but Brad Marchand, Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci and Milan Lucic have all been point-per-game plus contributors over that stretch as well. Chara has very quietly dominated during the Bs winning streak, and has put up nine assists and a plus-9 while offering up his usual stalwart defense in 26 plus minutes per game.

In fact, Adam McQuaid is the only Bruins regular without a point during the winning streak with contributions from top-to-bottom, and the stretch of victories has once again featured Bostons overwhelming depth at forward and defense.

The depth has been one thing, and Gregory Campbell gives credit to the big money skill players producing ample offense to take the pressure off everybody. Their latest win against New Jersey was a grinding effort, but so many of Bostons recent wins have been blowouts by the third period.

I think weve scored points, and weve done it by playing our north-south game and being stingy defensively. We always get goaltending, but were getting goal-scoring right now, said Gregory Campbell. Our top guys are really putting in the work and theyre getting rewarded.

Its a lot easier for the whole team to succeed when were winning. The first and second lines the goal-scorers so to speak have done a great job and theyve carried us. Its a tough job to have that contribution night in and night out, so when you get the third and fourth line chipping in it goes a long way.

Granted the six-game winning streak has been over teams that didnt qualify for the playoffs last season aside from the Buffalo Sabres, and could be considered teams that are still searching for their the NHL identity. But none of that mattered much to the Bruins when they were staring at a 3-7 record and last place in the Eastern Conference just a few weeks ago.

Now they lead the NHL with a plus-18 goal differential, and sit one more winning streak away from some breathing room in the middle of the playoff pack.

The Bruins sit tied for 11th place in the Eastern Conference just outside of a playoff spot with games in hand, and they finish out a ludicrous home stretch to start the season with a Thursday night game against the worst team in the NHL, the Columbus Blue Jackets.

But following the Western Conference tilt against Columbus finest hockey team, the Bruins lead into the all-important Thanksgiving holiday with road battles against the New York Islanders, Montreal Canadiens and the circle the calendar game against the Sabres in Buffalo on the night before Turkey Day.

With all of the losses we put up in the early going, we can ill afford to get comfortable and rest on our streak so far. Were just trying to maintain our intensity and our solid play structurally, said Campbell. We want to continue climbing. Those are two huge divisional games waiting for us next week if we want to make a huge divisional jump.

If successfully executed, the three-game road stretch against Eastern Conference teams should be the final set of dominoes that get the Bruins back into playoff pole position two months into the season. Its not exactly what the Bruins envisioned when they were sitting down to Stanley Cup championship ring dinners back in early October, but its not as bad as it looked for an entire month of uninspired hockey either.

Our whole game fell together when it was all about the execution and the skating, said Claude Julien. Then all of the other things fell into place. The first month of the season even in practice you could see it was sluggish. Thats why the mental part of the game wasnt really ready to play the way we have.

It was a big struggle and a long struggle to get things going in the right direction, and we finally found our legs and energy. All of the sudden our game just began picking up.

The Bruins have outscored their opponents by a 34-13 margin and theyve regained their swagger knocking around their last six opponents. But nobody is going to remember Bostons six-game winning streak if they slide back into mediocrity in the next week, and thats the main course of action for a Bs team just hitting their powerful opening stride.

Saturday, Aug. 27: Adding toughness Habs' priority

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Saturday, Aug. 27: Adding toughness Habs' priority

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, after a busy morning celebrating my 3-year-old’s birthday at the trampoline park. Yee-ha.

*PHT writer Joey Alfieri says that adding toughness was a big offseason priority for the Montreal Canadiens.

*There’s at least one big fan of the Edmonton Oilers trade that brought defenseman Adam Larsson from the New Jersey Devils, and that fan’s name is Mark Letestu.

*Here’s everything you need to know about the Ice Guardians movie premiering this fall that takes a long, balanced look at the NHL enforcers.

*Roberto Luongo has an alibi for the robbery in Winnipeg with one suspect getting away in goalie equipment, and it’s funny as you would expect it to be.

*CSN Washington takes a look at the New York Rangers in their season previews for the Metro Division.

*I’m not entirely sure whether this “RIP Harambe” thing is genuine or meant to be ironic by the largely millenial group that seem so enamored with it, but I think it’s just stupid. I think the same with the crying Jordan meme…also stupid.

*For something completely different: a look at how Triumph the Insult Comic Dog learned how to poop on Trump’s politics.

 

Countdown to camp: Danton Heinen

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Countdown to camp: Danton Heinen

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From now until the beginning of training camp, Bruins Insider Joe Haggerty is profiling players who will be on, or have a chance to be on, the 2016-17 Bruins. Today: Danton Heinen.

Danton Heinen exploded into a high-profile prospect for the Bruins after finishing among the NCAA’s top scoring players a couple of years ago as a freshman along with a couple of guys named Jack Eichel and Dylan Larkin. 

Since then, Heinen has continued to produce offense at the University of Denver and continued to create offense that leads to points. Now, the 21-year-old Heinen will be entering the professional arena for his first full season with the Bruins and he’ll be attempting to transition from the prospect phase to a regular gig in the NHL. That’s the challenge for a talented player who appears headed into a very good opportunity in NHL training camp.

 

What happened last year

Heinen was every bit as explosive in his second season for Denver as he was in his brilliant freshman campaign. He improved on his scoring with 20 goals and 48 points in 41 games. Then Heinen signed with the Bruins at the end of his sophomore season and played in a couple of pro games in the AHL with Providence as a tune-up for this first full pro campaign with the Bruins organization. Heinen finished with two assists and a plus-1 rating in four games with the P-Bruins and showed the coaches in Providence that he was ready to play and produce with more talented players. If Heinen surprised a little bit as a breakout freshman two years ago, his sophomore follow-up in Denver last season proved to everybody that he wasn’t a fluke.

 

Questions to be answered this season

The real question surrounding Heinen is about his ceiling as an NHL player and just how good he can become as a player with the skills and playmaking abilities to be a top-six forward. He’s proven he can dominate at the collegiate level while admittedly playing with some pretty good teammates at Denver. Heinen showed at the end of the season in Providence that the pro scene might not be much different for him. At this point, Heinen simply needs to go out and prove it against the best players in the world and show that his speed, playmaking and hockey sense are all elite in the AHL or NHL. Heinen’s biggest obstacle might be his size. He'll need to survive as a targeted skill player despite not being much more than the 6-feet, 180-pound range for a forward. It’s about average for a playmaking wing in the NHL, but the hits and attention will be at a much more intense level than anything he faced in the NCAA world.

 

What they're saying

“He’s the type of player that he can play with good players because he’s got high hockey IQ and he’s got really good skill. I think anywhere you put him, he’s smart enough to figure it out. I think you’ll notice him during training camp. It will definitely be up to him, but I think he’ll push some guys.” –Bruins assistant coach Jay Pandolfo on Heinen during last month’s development camp where Heinen soared as a performer.

 
Outlook

While Heinen still has some things he’ll need to prove before he’s a regular contributor for the Bruins, he comes into the Boston fold as an experienced player following two very good seasons at the college level. So, Heinen should be a little closer to plug-and-play for Claude Julien than some of the other young players that have come through the system in the past couple of years. Heinen will still need to flash in camp while being handed a big spot to perform with high-end veterans Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci and Brad Marchand potentially off playing in the World Cup of Hockey. Heinen also has a much greater chance of winning an NHL job sooner rather than later after the Bruins lost out on the Jimmy Vesey sweepstakes and still have a top-six forward opening that somebody is going to fill. Heinen and Frank Vatrano are the two biggest favorites to fill that position, which became vacant when Loui Eriksson departed for Vancouver. Whichever winger loses that battle should be also be a strong candidate for a role on the third line, as well, barring any late veteran signings by the B’s. That set of circumstances leaves a very good situation for Heinen to potentially walk into with the Black and Gold, but he'll still have to show he’s fully capable of seizing his good fortune and good timing.