Haggerty: Bruins showing new life after Habs losses

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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.

Acciari glad to be back with B's after missing a month

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Acciari glad to be back with B's after missing a month

BOSTON -- Noel Acciari missed a month of game action with a lower body injury, so it would have been perfectly acceptable to show plenty of rust in his game upon returning to the Boston lineup.

But the former Providence College standout didn’t look rusty, a step behind or out of place in any way as he played the fourth line energy forward role to a perfect fit after missing the last 13 games. Acciari did get in one game with the Providence Bruins prior to suiting back up for the Black and Gold on Saturday, and perhaps that helped him manufacture a couple of shots on net to go along with three thumping hits against the Maple Leafs.

The 25-year-old Acciari didn’t factor into the scoring at all for the Bruins, but that’s just as well given that his focus should be on killing penalties, being hard to play against and taking the body whenever the chance presents itself. Claude Julien reformed the B’s energy line that had so much success earlier in the season with Acciari, Dominic Moore and Tim Schaller, and didn’t hesitate tossing them back into the mix together while looking for energy and a spark for an offensively stunted team.

“It’s good to be back with my linemates, and you know, I think we kind of picked up where we left off, but there’s definitely things we need to work on. That’ll come with a couple more practices and games together,” said Acciari, who finished theSaturday loss with three registered hits packed into 11:35 of ice time. “Kind of getting back to our familiarity and kind of get back to where we were before I got injured.

“It was a good start tonight, but we definitely just weren’t clicking like we used to, but that’ll come. I think that will come. Like I said, a couple practices and just kind of getting some games in [are good things]. I thought we were pretty good tonight, but, you know, should get more pucks to score [goals].”

Clearly there is room for improvement for everybody including Acciari, but it was encouraging to see the fearless competitor again flying around on the TD Garden ice playing high intensity hockey for a fourth line that could use every little bit of that. 

Backes: "Offensive frustration is warranted at this point"

Backes: "Offensive frustration is warranted at this point"

BOSTON -- This may not come as a surprise, but the Boston Bruins are having some trouble putting the puck in the net.

Despite outshooting the Maple Leafs by an 11-2 margin in the first period and outshooting them by a 32-21 margin over the balance of the 60 minute game, the Bruins scratched for just a single goal in a frustrating, constipated 4-1 loss to Toronto at TD Garden. Clearly some of the offensive difficulty was caused by a solid Frederik Andersen, who improved to 6-0-0 in a career against Boston that’s beginning to take on Bruins Killer proportions.

But a great deal of the B’s struggles to finish scoring chances on Saturday night is a malady that’s dogged the Bruins all season, and marked the 20th time in 29 games this year that Boston has scored two goals or less. In most of these games the Bruins have dominated puck possession and outshot their opponents, but still have come away mostly empty handed in the goals scored department while dropping deep in the bottom third of NHL offenses this season.

“It seems like every game we’re out-chancing teams, but we don’t outscore teams. That’s where the biggest issue is right now. Our scoring is not there and if you don’t score goals you don’t win hockey games,” said Claude Julien. “Because of that we criticize everything else in our game, but our game isn’t that bad.

“If we were scoring goals people would love our game right now, but that’s the biggest part. There’s not much more I can say here except for the fact that if we don’t score goals it’s going to be hard to win hockey games.”

But the Bruins aren’t scoring goals consistently, their power play is below average while trending in the wrong direction and the team has been forced to watch steady offensive players like Patrice Bergeron suddenly slump in a concerning way. Clearly David Pastrnak is doing his part with 18 goals scored this season in 24 games, and others like Brad Marchand and Dominic Moore have also performed above, or beyond, their acceptable level of play.

But there are other players failing with the chance to make an offensive dent: Austin Czarnik has been on the roster for nearly two months, and has zero goals and two points in his last 15 games as the offense is again dried up on the third line. He missed wide on a shorthanded chance in the third period after a Moore centering pass set up him all alone in front, and was critiquing himself for fanning on a perfect dish to him in the slot.

Moments later the Leafs had an insurance score from James van Riemsdyk to make it a 3-1 game, and it was all over for the Black and Gold at that point.

Czarnik is an easy target because he’s young and inexperienced, but there is more than enough struggle and frustration to go around with a bunch of offensive players that can’t seem to get out of their own way. David Backes admitted it’s reached a point where the Bruins are frustrated when they can’t score enough to beat a team like Toronto, and that it falls squarely on the lead guys in the Black and Gold dressing room that are underperforming.

“I think offensive frustration is warranted at this point; we just haven’t done a good enough job scoring goals. We played a heck of a first period. We limited them to two shots and we had an opportunity to have a team that’s coming in here that’s a younger team, to really put them behind the eight ball,” said Backes. “Instead, they think they got a second lease on life and they were able to capitalize. All of the sudden, they were up 2-0 and we’re fighting an uphill battle again rather than -- we have that opportunity to play a heck of a first period and we don’t find a way – it’s easy to talk about, but it’s going out there and doing the job and putting it past or through the goalie, or however it needs to happen. “You’ve seen our goals; you want to do a study on it unless you’re Pasta [David Pastrnak] with the one-timer on the side, it’s been ugly, it’s been rebounds, it’s been greasy goals and that’s our equation and we need more of it, and we didn’t do it. They did a good job of being in front of their net and boxing out, eliminating those second chances. But, we’ve got good players in here that need to create more and find those second chances and win those battles, find those loose pucks, and throw them in the net.”

The Bruins have been talking seemingly all season about the need to get to the “dirty areas in the offensive zone”, and for players to jump all over the second and third chance opportunities currently going by the board unchallenged on goalie rebounds.

Now it’s about speaking with action for the B’s, and more specifically speaking volumes with goals and offensive finish instead of “chances” that aren’t doing much of anything if they’re not being snapped into the back of the net.