Haggerty: Bruins showing new life after Habs losses


Haggerty: Bruins showing new life after Habs losses

BOSTON -- The month of October is beginning to feel like a long time ago for the Boston Bruins, who are hurdling confidently into what they once were and what they could be again.

The Bs evened off their won-loss ledger at 7-7 by collecting their seventh win of the season Thursday night at TD Garden, 6-3 over the young, exciting Edmonton Oilers.

In stringing together another solid home win, the Bs have issueda statement: They're back in it for the long haul again this season, and are more determined than ever after looking a little punch-drunk in October.

Maybe its a little different than it was last month. I think guys have found their way now and know how to get back to business, said Tyler Seguin, who has enjoyed grand moments as Bostons leading scorer through 14 games.

After struggling to finish off their offensive chances during the first 10 games of the season, the Bs have outscored their opponents 24-8 during four games in the month of November. They've thoroughly humbled the Maple Leafs, Senators, Islanders and Oilers over the last two weeks, averaging six goals per game.

Whileit's true thatnone of those four were playoffmaterial last season, three of them all but the Islanders were playing their best hockey of the season headed into their games with Boston.The Black and Gold have simply upped their performance and displayed a different kind of urgency during a time of year (November) when playoff berths can't be clinched, but can certainly be lost.The defense has tightened up around coach Claude Juliens system, the offense is flowing with productivity and points, and the special teams have finally loosened up at both ends of the rink.
In other words: The good times are rolling for the Black and Gold, who onceagain resemble the team that took the NHL by storm last spring on its way to the Stanley Cup.For players that weren't here last season, the confidence flowing through the lineup feels pretty damned good.

You just have that feeling going into the game . . . like we didnt have before, said defenseman Joe Corvo, acquired in the offseason from Carolina. It just feels like were going to win the game and it just depends on by how many. Thats just the feel thats just how I feel and I think the team feels going into the game. When youre playing well like that it makes it fun.

Corvo has a plus-7 in his last three games, has piled up four assists and helped engineer a pair of power-play goals Thursday nightin the role he was custom made for when he arrived in Boston.Brad Marchand is scoring goals again, mixing things up before and after whistles, and even finding thetime to dump Oilers goaltender Devan Dubnyk on his backside after Dubnyk attempted to play a loose puck within the trapezoid. That's vintage Marchand.Milan Lucic has six goals in his last five games, and destroyed both Jeff Petry and Theo Peckham with bone-rattling body checks in theunique mixtures of brawn and skill that only No. 17 can provide.

Seguin came alive in the second period with a pair of points (outscoring fellow second-year prodigyTaylor Hall, who had an assist for Edmonton_ and remains on pace for a gaudy50 goals and nearly 100 points this season.
Even rookie forwards like Jordan Caron and Zach Hamill are flourishing and connecting on scoring plays like the textbook Hamill-to-Caron connection in the first period that gave the B's a little secondary scoring.

So whats with the 4-0 record in November thats allowed the Bruins to pull even with the Montreal Canadiens in the Northeast Division standingswith 14 points? Well, funny you should ask.

Its actually all about the Canadiens, and the wince-inducinghome-and-home losses to the Habs that closed out the month of October for the Bruins. Nobody in the Bs dressing room is talking about what was said in the aftermath of the Saturday night loss on Oct. 29 at the Bell Centre -- or who it was said by --but they knew changes were on the horizon if fortunes didnt turn immediately after a 3-7 start.
The10-game Stanley Cup hangover opened up all kinds of speculation and trade possibilities. General manager Peter Chiarelli was in the delicate state between showing loyalty to a Cup-winning nucleus, and feeling like a cattle prod was needed to wake up his sleeping bunch.Marchand and the rest of the Bruins wanted another crack at the Cup with the returning cast of characters, and that really wouldnt have beenpossible if they begin wheeling players away to other teams in a panic-type move.

We felt a lot of heat, obviously, with the start we had," said Marchand. "We knew that something might happen if we didnt turn things around. We wanted to stay together and we know what were capable of coming off last season with pretty close to the same team.

We didnt want to miss out on another opportunity to make a run, so we did a great job turning the corner. We realized that we had to be better, and hopefully we can continue the streak now.Players like David Krejci, Tuukka Rask and Johnny Boychuk -- and even Lucic, in a fairly unbelievable scenario -- were mentioned as possible sacrificial lambs to shake things up. But the Bruins want their chance to show just how good they can be again this season.It looks like they'll get it just as long as they keep playing like a team befitting the term "Stanley Cup champs" -- and they were most definitely that once again against the Oilers.

Bruins looking to avoid anxious moments on home ice

Bruins looking to avoid anxious moments on home ice

BRIGHTON, Mass. – The Bruins will have plenty of proud history on display for tonight’s home opener when Bobby Orr and Milt Schmidt drop the ceremonial first puck at TD Garden prior to the game against the New Jersey Devils.

Orr is celebrating the 50th anniversary of his first NHL game, and the amazing Schmidt is there for the 80th anniversary of his rookie NHL season, and it will be up to the current crop of B’s players afterward to play up to the standards of those two Hall of Fame legends. That was a difficult challenge for the Black and Gold last season as they struggled to a 17-18-6 record on home ice and experienced some of their worst regular-season efforts in front of the paying home customers.

When placed side-by-side with a road record (25-13-3), where only the Sharks and Capitals had more victories on the road last season, it was clear the B’s had some strange motivational issues at the Garden. Whether it was leadership, maturity or the coach to blame for their home malaise, the Bruins are looking to reverse that trend this season after an encouraging 2-1 start on the first three-game road trip of the season.

In fact, Brad Marchand didn’t even want to entertain thoughts about last year’s home ice funk.

“Last year has nothing to do with this year. We’ve got a lot of new guys and a lot of new faces, and we’re looking to have a big start at home and have a big year. We want to try and start that tonight,” said Brad Marchand. “We don’t have to get anxious and too excited. We play a good road game and if we play the same way at home as we do on the road then hopefully we’ll be okay.”

The home ice anxiousness was clear on many occasions for the Bruins whether it was getting blown out at the Winter Classic, getting smoked in Milan Lucic’s return to the Garden with the LA Kings or epically blowing the final game of the season vs. Ottawa with the playoffs on the line. It will be interesting to see what a big personality and hardened, vocal leader David Backes can bring to combat some of the home ice skittishness of last season. 

One other thing the Bruins will be looking to change: allowing the other team to score the first goal, as they’ve done in all three games to start this season. It could perhaps be excused with the B’s playing the polite visitor at the emotional home openers for  the Blue Jackets and the Maple Leafs last week, but now it’s their turn to jack up the emotional level and make TD Garden a much more difficult place to play than it was for the majority of last season. 


Slow-starting Krejci looking for a spark in Bruins’ home opener

Slow-starting Krejci looking for a spark in Bruins’ home opener

BRIGHTON, Mass. – David Krejci hasn’t exactly been his usual self in the opening three games of the season for the Bruins and there are understandable, underlying reasons for that. 

One of them is that the 30-year-old playmaking center is coming off major offseason hip surgery and that’s made him look less than his silky-smooth best with the puck in the season’s first three games.

The good news is Krejci doesn’t believe any lingering hip problems have been a big factor at all, and instead his comfort level is increasing each time he takes the ice.

“I feel better and better every day. This is a tough injury, but I’m in good shape and in really good hands. The doctors have done a really good job with me every day, and it’s been really good,” said Krejci, who has one assist in the opening three games with just three shots on net while fighting to hang onto the puck. “It’s been fun to be out there with the guys, and I’m just trying to get better every day.”

A more reasonable explanation for Krejci’s sluggish start was the last-second injury to Patrice Bergeron prior to the start of the season and the major alteration to his forward line as a result of No. 37’s absence. David Backes was pulled from the right wing spot on the Krejci line to fill in for Bergeron over the season’s first three games and he came away with two goals and three points in three games centering Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak.

But the B’s second line was almost non-existent with smaller, skilled wingers on either side of Krejci that weren’t able to generate anything productive with No. 46. The B’s obviously have massive production from the top line in Bergeron’s absence and have found a respectable fourth line that can get the job done for Claude Julien. Even the third line has found some footing after the B’s bench boss replaced rookie Austin Czarnik with veteran Riley Nash and instead went with a bigger, tougher power line with Matt Beleskey and Jimmy Hayes on the wings.

Now, Backes goes back to his rightful spot on the wing with Krejci and 21-year-old rookie Danton Heinen looks to replace a scuffling Ryan Spooner at left wing for tonight’s home opener vs. the New Jersey Devils. Backes is ready to bring some needed balance to the forward lines after the B’s top line really carried them over the first three games of the season and produced a team-high four goals for David Pastrnak.

The 6-foot-3, 220-pound Backes also knows that he’s exactly the kind of strong, determined net-front presence with goal-scoring ability that Krejci has always produced with over the course of his 10-year NHL career.

“I won’t be involved in the immediate face-off, but [I will be involved] in helping him on the 50/50 draws to win the puck back. Just talk all over the ice like we have been with Heinen on the wing he’s got two veteran guys with him, and we need to make him feel comfortable to be a very productive member [of the line],” said Backes. “We’ll get back to cooking a little bit with how we were looking before I was forced to play center.

“I think it puts the other teams in a predicament with that they’re going to try to defend if we have a couple-pronged attack. It’s a kind of pick-your-poison kind of deal. A checking line can typically do a good job of neutralizing a line, but when you have multiple options and multiple guns pointed at them it’s a little bit more of a predicament for them. When we’re healthy, we’re going to have that.”

So, the hope is that having a power forward, play-finisher like Backes is going to allow him time and space to create plays that have a little more hope of being turned into scoring chances at the offensive end of the ice.

“When injuries happen you’ve got to balance the team and that’s what happened. But I’m happy [Backes] is back on our line,” said Krejci, who has always been at his best while utilizing big, strong wingers on his line whether it was Milan Lucic or Nathan Horton over the years. “Hopefully we can get the chemistry early on as a line, and help the team to win.

“[Backes] is a right-handed shot, so that’s nice to have.  I had two lefties there [in Spooner and Heinen] and sometimes it’s tough to get a good pass on the backhand. He’s been playing well the first two games, so hopefully I can keep up and we can get some chemistry to help the team win.”

So, it remains to be seen how long it will take Krejci to find his offensive mojo while centering a line combo of Heinen-Krejci-Backes that didn’t get much of a look in the preseason, but the sooner, the better for a Bruins team that needs to start firing on all offensive cylinders while still working through their defensive challenges.