Haggerty: Bruins putting it all together in win streak


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.

Haggerty: Bruins continue to stumble against Canadiens at home

Haggerty: Bruins continue to stumble against Canadiens at home

BOSTON -- One of the definitions of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.

Much like Charlie Brown was never going to actually kick the football before Lucy pulled it away, it feels like the Bruins are never again going to beat the Montreal Canadiens at TD Garden. They failed again Saturday night, never holding a lead at any point as they dropped their ninth straight home game to the Habs, 4-2.

Bruins-Canadiens games in Boston have become the hockey version of 'Groundhog Day', as the same patterns emerge over and over again: Montreal's speed forces the Bruins into mistakes with the puck; Habs players draw the B’s into taking bad penalties; Carey Price dominates in goal. It's been that way ever since the last Bruin victory over Montreal at the Garden, on Jan. 12, 2012. To put it perspective, Tim Thomas and Tyler Seguin were still Bruins back then.

Saturday night's loss, though, had a little added twist: The B's second-period woes, such a problem last year, reared its ugly head again.

“[The second period was] terrible, and that’s where it really hurt us," said Claude Julien. "I thought we played well (in the first period) . . . But the second period came back to haunt us. We were flat coming out. We didn’t make good outlet passes, and we spent way too much time in our own end, and because of that, it gave them some momentum. And by the end of it, we cheated ourselves a little bit, and pucks ended up in the back of our net . . .

"[When] you give up four goals to Montreal, and you have Price at the other end, it’s pretty hard to beat that team. So we needed to be better . . . [We] shot ourselves in the foot with some real poor mistakes, and we can’t afford to do that against the Montreal Canadiens."

The Bruins were essentially done for after a couple of very typical Boston-Montreal plays went against them in the middle 20 minutes.

The first was a defensive coverage breakdown in the D-zone that allowed both Max Pacioretty and Brendan Gallagher to operate with time and space. Five B’s players simply watched as Gallagher smoked a one-timer from the outside of the left circle that eluded Anton Khudobin.

Then, later in the period, John-Michael Liles misread a play where he pinched deep in the offensive zone and couldn’t control the puck. As a result, Alexander Radulov worked a 2-on-1 with Phillip Danault to skilled perfection on a typical Habs transition play.

"I think our second period has got to be better overall," said Patrice Bergeron. "We talked about them having a good forecheck . . . [but] we didn’t make the easy plays too many times. When you do that, it creates turnovers and you spend more time in your zone than you’d like to."

From there, it was just more of the same. Playing with the lead, Montreal was able to neutralize Bergeron and Brad Marchand; Bergeron never got a shot on goal. Price came up big when he had to, shutting down a couple of Ryan Spooner chances.

And Bruin weaknesses were exposed, things Julien and the coaching staff may have to address. It looks like it’s time to move on from the Joe Morrow/Torey Krug defense pairing; it's simply not working. (Krug, in particular, was a minus-3 and made mistakes all over the ice.) They also may need to switch things up with the forwards, as they're getting zippo offensively from their second and third lines.

To their credit, the Bruins never packed it in. They hung in and made plays in the third period to keep the game close, right up to the 6-on-3 advantage they had at the end. But there are no consolation prizes or moral victories in the Boston-Montreal rivalry, especially when the Habs have made it so one-sided.

To be a true rivalry, you need equal rivals. And the Bruins, especially at home, aren’t holding up their end of the bargain.

Bruins need to 'find a way to start playing with a lead'

Bruins need to 'find a way to start playing with a lead'

BOSTON -- There’s only so long that a team can hope to thrive, or even survive, in the NHL if they’re constantly chasing the game on the scoreboard, and chasing the puck after digging themselves a hole. The Bruins have been that team in the first couple of weeks during the regular season, and made it five times in five games that they’ve given up the game’s first goal in an eventual 4-2 loss to the Montreal Canadiens at TD Garden.

It’s a pattern that is long past getting old to Bruins head coach Claude Julien, who can’t seem to play the front-runner this season despite three comebacks that have allowed for a 3-2-0 record overall this season.

“I hope it’s not a habit. It’s certainly not what we’re looking for, but there’s no doubt. I think it’s pretty obvious that with the amount of games we’ve played, five games, we haven’t scored first,” said Julien. “We talked about that this morning, trying to get that first goal, and it hasn’t happened yet.”

The start to the game wasn’t really the problem on Saturday night as it’s been a couple of times this season. Instead the Bruins enjoyed a handful of quality scoring chances in the opening 20 minutes against the Habs, but couldn’t come through and finish off those plays when it might have meant an early lead.

Instead it lead to what Julien termed a “terrible” second period that was flat, full of mistakes and ended with the B’s trailing Montreal by a couple of goals. The Bruins scratched and clawed their way to making it a one-goal game in the third period, but that was as close as the Black and Gold would get in losing their ninth straight home game to the arch-rival Canadiens.

“It’s kind of been a story about how things are going for us this far, we’ve got to find a way to start playing with a lead. If you don’t capitalize on your chances, you see what happens when you come out [flat] in the second period,” said Torey Krug, who finished a game-worst minus-3 in the loss for the Bruins. “We had another poor second period and you know it’s kind of… you got to make sure that we put our hand on that and it doesn’t become a thing for the team this year. You see that when you don’t capitalize on chances early, that’s what’s going to happen.”

It’s been a positive development that the Bruins have shown the willingness and backbone to fight back into games after early deficits, and they showed that quality once again on Saturday night by scoring a couple of goals in the third period to keep things close. But the Bruins would be best served if they can start lighting the lamp a little earlier in these games, and see how the other half lives by playing with a comfortable lead every once in a while.