Haggerty: Bruins staying grounded after historic November


Haggerty: Bruins staying grounded after historic November

TORONTO Its always difficult to appreciate history when its taking place all around the office -- or the frozen sheet in this case.

The Bruins closed the books on November with a 6-3 dispatching of the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Air Canada Centre, and it was a colorful and bountifulmonth to remember. The Bruins went 12-0-1 in the month of November and became the first team All-Star edition of the Bruins organization to go without a single regulation loss over an entire calendar monthsince the 1968-69 campaign.That edition of the Bruins went 10-0-4 in January and included a ridiculous 49 goals and 126 points from Phil Esposito, Bobby Orr in his prime and a team that would go on to win the Stanley Cup the following season. So do anything to match those squads means the current set of Black and Gold members are doing something pretty damn positive.

They also totaled 25 points during the month of November, and became the first Bruins team since March of 1978 to enjoy that kind of winning stretch over a month-long period. Its been a winning streak built on obedience to Claude Julien's systemand enthusiasm for the nightly match-up, and its also shown the different facets to Bostons dominant game that they can feature on a nightly basis.There isn't just one way the Bruins go about dismantling an opponent, and the stunningly awful October has them on a mission.

Every game is a different situation and now were looking at it that way, said Bs coach Claude Julien. We thought we were a better team than what we showed in October. We decided to pick up our game and play the way we can. Thats made a big difference.

The Bruins have punched their way to wins when it served them best against the NHLs cowardly lions in Buffalo. The Bruins have dazzled defensively-inept opponents in offensive shootouts like their goal-scoring show on Long Island, and theyve stolen hockey games when Tim Thomas is on point between the pipes as he was in Montreal last week.Befitting a Stanley Cup champion, there weaknesses have been far and few between for over a month of hockey -- and that's a large section of a hockey season to begin making assessments about a team. Perhaps the B's are closer to being this good against some very good opponents than anybody dares imagine.

The Bruins have been the last team standing in 12 out of 13 games over the last calendar month, and they managed only one true knockout punch in an alley fight with the Sabres. The rest have been aboutscoring and systems work.It would bea tediouschore to for Boston if they were simply scratching the surface for goals, and scrounging around for offense. Instead theyve been outscoring their opponents by a wide 57-24 margin during their wonderful November surge, and seem to just now be enjoyingtheir just desserts given the talent up and down the roster. But if the Bruins learned one thing during their Stanley Cup rin it's this:theres no time for patting each other on the back in Bostons world. Its on to the next challenge and a rematch with Toronto on Saturday night. Their display of firepower in November was both awesome and impressive, but it's not quite that breathtaking for a team that reached the NHLmountaintop last spring.

Its quite an accomplishment, but unfortunately with the way the world works -- and the way this league works its over and November is gone, said Tim Thomas. Its December now and Saturday night we have a game against a team that gave us a tough battle tonight.

For the Bruins, the record comes with many other things: Zdeno Chara has been a legitimate offensive force with 14 points in 13 games, and thats a career-high for the franchise defenseman over a calendar month. David Krejci, Nathan Horton and Milan Lucic all got on the scoresheet in one manner or another in Wednesday nights game, and made it the first game since a Nov. 7 win over theIslanders that two of the three forwards on the Bs top line were able to kick on a couple of scores.

So to put it simply, the Bruins would need something grand to get them off track on whats been an amazing run. A few years ago the Bruins might have been reading their clips and kicking back for a weeks relaxation at this point in their work cycle, and they definitely might have looked past a lesser opponent.

But theres one final thing they keep coming back to: a point Andrew Ference made clear following all kinds of back-slapping and kind words about their current situation in the visiting dressing room at the Air Canada Centre. Many of the Bruins have already won an award thats the coolest in all of professional sports, so there arent too many key B's players jumping up and down about a solid month of hockey. A midweek game against the cellar dweller in the East provides as much of a challenge as anything else for a B's team that's taking it all as it comes.It sounds like the voice of exprience has been a good teacher for the Bruins.

Its kind of a weird feeling. I think any other year wed be a lot more giddy about it, said Andrew Ference. Were being pretty level-headed. When we were losing at the start of the year till now theres not a huge difference in the locker room. Coming off last year we learned a lot about keeping a level head, and how much it benefited last years players on their way.

You dont see a lot of guys walking around their rooms with their chests puffed out because we know this is a difficult league to score against other teams. Things can change quickly. You want to respect your opponent, but not give them too much respect.

It sounds like the Bruins have found that delicate balance.The November ride isa nice historical footnote, but nothing more than that with so much already serving as water under the hockey bridge. Bring on the Stanley Cup again and another chance to win it, and thats when the Bruins truly come alive these days.As it should be for any champion.

Injuries have created a muddled picture with Bruins goaltenders

Injuries have created a muddled picture with Bruins goaltenders

It’s hard to believe that it’s already come to this, but it might just be Malcolm Subban between the pipes for the Bruins on Tuesday night against the Minnesota Wild, and perhaps again on Wednesday at Madison Square Garden.

The 22-year-old Subban has been pulled from two ineffective starts for the P-Bruins in four AHL starts this season (.846 save percentage and a 4.50 goals against average in four games) while coming back from last year’s fractured larynx injury. He's also a player the organization was uncertain enough about that they signed veteran backup Anton Khudobin to a two-year deal on the July 1 open of NHL free agency.

Subban attributed his start to a slow opening few weeks with a new P-Bruins roster of players, but that hasn’t stopped fellow P-Bruins goalie Zane McIntyre from putting up excellent numbers between the pipes in the early going.

But Khudobin went down with an injury mere minutes into Monday morning’s Bruins practice at Warrior Ice Arena, and Tuukka Rask been battling a nagging leg injury since the season opening win against the Blue Jackets.

So Subban was the last goalie standing on Monday as an emergency recall from Providence, and could be in line to play Tuesday night against the Wild if the Bruins medical staff can’t perform some Mr. Miyagi-style healing techniques on Rask or Khudobin.

“Khudobin got injured and couldn’t practice with us, but I haven’t heard anything yet [on an update],” said Julien following practice. “This is hockey. We deal with it on daily basis with the injuries. We wait for the news and then it’s about doing your job as it’s required. If we have to make some adjustments and have to have some different personnel, then we’ll deal with it when we have more of an update. Tuukka is still day-to-day, so nothing is changed there.

“We’re in a situation here where we’ll see what happens, and if [Subban] needs to go in goal then he’ll go in goal. It’s as simple as that. As a coach, there’s one thing that worries me and that’s ‘stop the puck.’ I’m not a goalie coach, so I’m just demanding on making the saves.”

Subban, of course, hasn’t been making the saves down in Providence early in the going there this season, and is entering the stage of his career where he needs to begin showing signs of being a potential No. 1 guy at the NHL level.

Fellow goalies from the 2012 NHL draft class like Andrei Vasilevskiy, Joonas Korpisalo, Matt Murray, Connor Hellebuyck and Frederik Andersen have all begun making their mark in the league, and Subban was selected higher than all of them except for Tampa’s Vasilevskiy. So in the final year of his entry level deal it’s high time for the 22-year-old to begin showing signs he can play in the league, whether it’s in Boston or elsewhere.

He admitted on Monday he might have been putting too much pressure on himself down in Providence while watching the injury issues play out with Tuukka Rask in Boston.

Subban was worried about the big picture of stringing together saves so he was the guy called up if the Bruins needed a goalie, and instead should have been focusing more on the present opponents at the AHL level.

“I put a lot of pressure on myself. I think anybody that knows me well knows that. I don’t like to let in goals no matter what happens, whether it’s breakdowns or not it’s my job [to stop the puck]. If there were no breakdowns then you wouldn’t need a goaltender,” said Subban. “I want to make every save and get a shutout every game. I think the biggest thing is just relaxing and playing, and knowing that it’s okay to let a goal in every once in a while.

“So I think in my position right now I’m supposed to be playing really well down there, and I think that go in my head a little bit. I was trying to get a shutout every game rather than going game-by-game and shot-by-shot. I was overthinking it too much. But collectively as a team we’re a new team and we were trying to get the chemistry together, and once we do that the D-zone will be better and the offensive zone game will come.”

If Subban does indeed get the emergency start on Tuesday night against the Wild, the Bruins just have to hope that it’s a better outing than getting pulled in his NHL debut against the Blues two seasons ago after allowing three goals on three straight shots to start the second period. They also have to hope that Rask or Khudobin get well quick given Boston’s shaky situation on defense in front of the goaltender, and the stretch they’re in of playing six straight opponents that qualified for last spring’s Stanley Cup playoffs.

If not then watch out below because every hockey person knows there’s no quicker way for a hockey club to really begin imploding than if the goaltending starts to become a major problem whether it’s because of injury, inconsistent performance or simply because of being a straight-up sieve.

McQuaid cleared to play, nearing return to Bruins lineup


McQuaid cleared to play, nearing return to Bruins lineup

BRIGHTON, Mass. -- It was a bitter pill for Adam McQuaid to sit out the first five games of this season, but it looks like the veteran Bruins stay-at-home defenseman is nearing a return to the lineup. McQuaid was cleared to potentially play in Saturday’s loss to the Montreal Canadiens after an upper body injury kept him shelved for the team’s first four games, and could be approaching a return in the next few days as Claude Julien mulls a number of possible lineup changes.

“It was obviously frustrating, but I’m where I’m at now and trying to move on from it. Looking forward to getting back into the lineup hopefully as soon as possible here,” said the 30-year-old McQuaid, who had a goal and nine points in 64 games for the Black and Gold last season. “The excitement level is high for me, and it is for everybody after a loss when you’re looking forward to getting back out there.

“It would have been nice to have started the season with the guys, but you can’t change that now. I’ve had some good practices, and I’m just trying to my game as simple as possible, and take it as it comes. Obviously guys have played some games and it’s been a couple of weeks for me, so I’ll just have to keep my game simple.”

The B’s bench boss indicated it was only a matter of time before McQuaid makes his 2016-17 regular season debut, but that he’s got plenty of things to decide prior to dropping the puck against the Wild.

“[McQuaid] was cleared last game. I haven’t made any decisions based for [Tuesday night vs. Minnesota]. There’s a lot of things that are up in the air, and I’ve just go to juggle those things,” said Julien. “Who knows? Hopefully tomorrow morning I’ve got a better picture [of injury situation], and if not then it will be game-time decisions. I wish I could have a better answer [on if McQuaid will play], but I’ve got no answers right now.”

With Colin Miller (minus-4), Joe Morrow, Torey Krug (a rough minus-3 against Montreal) and John-Michael Liles all minus players after the first five games of the season, there are ample options for Julien on which potential blueliner to bump up to the press box. McQuaid is just happy he’s getting closer to a return while skating with 23-year-old Rob O’Gara at practice, and he can get back to helping a B’s team that’s smack dab in the middle (ranked 15th allowing 3.0 goals per game) of the NHL for team defense this season.