Haggerty: B's adaptability carried them to Cup


Haggerty: B's adaptability carried them to Cup

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com Bruins Insider Follow @hackswithhaggs
BOSTON For the Bruins, doing it the hard way became a calling card during the playoffs.

So it probably shouldnt have been a surprise that the Black and Gold captured the Stanley Cup that way, too.

The Bs flashed resolve and tenacious will -- always championship-worthy traits in any sport -- all season, as treacherous hurdles and distracting challenges dropped before them weekly.

I think the adversity helped us tremendously, said general manager Peter Chiarelli. To go through those experiences first hand, to see the pain and experience the pain. To see the pain on the players and to know they had the character to rebound in the first place. I was really confident we were going to grow from all of that.

It started before the games even got underway.

Top-scoring center Marc Savard was unable to start the season after falling victim to post-concussion syndrome symptoms, and placed the Bruins in an undermanned position to start the year. The Bs managed to overcome Savards concussion issues, though, and started beautifully in Belfast and Prague with a European season-opening split.

The two games in Prague against the Phoenix Coyotes hinted at Tyler Seguins promise and the otherworldly year Tim Thomas would enjoy between the pipes. Tne first storyline would be a season-long, up-and-down development; the second was the support beam upon which the entire year was built.

The bonded Bruins bounced right out of the gate after returning home from Europe and got off to an 11-5-1 start through the middle of November before things dropped off a libit.

The early season nadir for the Bruins arrived when they lost four out of five during the middle of December. A struggling Savard was trying to assimilate back into the lineup, and it wasnt working with Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton.

It was Savard who coughed a puck up to Mike Richards and the Philadelphia Flyers during an entertaining 2-1 loss at TD Garden, and then the Bs followed with dispiriting road losses in Buffalo and Montreal before firing off a dud shutout home loss to the ageless Teemu Selanne and the Anaheim Ducks.

Team president Cam Neely had gone to the airwaves in the middle of that losing stretch and expressed frustration over a team that was trying to win games 0-0. There were murmurs Claude Juliens job might be in jeopardy, given the team's malaise combined with the prior seasons epic playoff collapse.

With Juliens job safety in question, the Bruins responded with their first gut-check win of the season: a 4-1 home smoking of the Atlanta Thrashers that featured a two-goal, one-fight performance from fourth liner Shawn Thornton and a healthy late-game scrap once Atlanta defenseman Freddy Meyer took a third period run at Milan Lucic.

I think what has come up through the whole season is the resiliency of our hockey club, said Claude Julien. That game was the start of it and there were a lot of other examples other than that. That was the way our team was. You heard our players say -- even when we were down 3-2 in the Finals -- the first thing that came out of everybodys mouth was Weve never done this the easy way all year, why should we start now?

There was never a doubt in the players mind that we could, all we had to do was go out and do it. As the players heard me say a million times, Guys, we need to earn this. Its not a given, nobody gives you anything, lets go out and earn it. Thats the way our players have felt here is that what we wanted to have we had to go out and get it.

Exactly 16 days after the Atlanta game, the Bruins had another regular-season crisis after frittering away a 2-0 lead to the hated Habs in their Bell Centre home with just three minutes left to go in the game.

The punctuation mark was Max Paciorettys overtime game-winner after which he shoved Zdeno Chara during the victory celebration. The impetuous rookie move infuriated the 6-foot-9 defenseman -- which would lead to a future flashpoint -- and temporarily knocked the wind out of the Black and Gold.

But once again the Bruins responded after a players only meeting in Pittsburgh before their next game against the Penguins. The game against the Pens marked one of the first moments in the season that the Patrice BergeronBrad MarchandRecchi line was put together, and Boston scored four goals in the third period to pull off an emotional come-from-behind victory.

That line would stay together for the rest of the season and be one of the principal reasons Boston enjoyed so much success over the next five months.

The Bs went 10-4 over the next month after the Habs heartbreaker and squeezed in a couple of fight-filled donnybrook games against the Stars and the Habs, the latter being ia revenge game with nearly 200 penalty minutes.

The good times ended abruptly, though, with back-to-back, reality-check losses to the Detroit Red Wings in a home-and-home series. The Bruins exited Joe Louis Arena knowing the Wings were a better hockey club if it came down to a series against them.

It was clear the Bruins needed a little extra something, and wouldnt be able to skate with the loaded, upper-echelon Western Conference teams if they made it to the Stanley Cup Finals a more realistic scenario once the Penguins' Sidney Crosby was sidelined with post-concussion symptoms after his Winter Classic hit.

So Chiarelli made a decision to get faster, get a little more creative offensively and get some players that would bestow Boston with the kind of depth that could wear down playoff-caliber opponents.

It was the most decisive trade deadline of Chiarellis career running the Bruins, as he bagged gritty center Chris Kelly, speedy and skilled Rich Peverley, and a trap-busting, power play quarterback in Tomas Kaberle by the middle of February.

While Kaberle didnt truly inspire the power play like most thought he would, the team looked like a potential Stanley Cup team for the first time in ripping off seven straight wins on the road including back-to-back victories against a red-hot Calgary team and a Vancouver Canucks squad that evolved into Bostons nemesis in the Finals.

The trade deadline players were pieces that we had to do; we were pressed. We were going to improve the team regardless of Savard's situation, said Chiarelli, who made the trades weeks after Savard had gone down permanently with a concussion. We needed to do it earlier to get ahead of the race and also to get the guys in there a little bit earlier. You know Dennis Seidenberg, acquired at the 2010 trade deadline, Nathan Horton, picked up after last season, Peverley, Kelly and Kaberle were guys that weve always been targeting. You know you can have a wish list and its just going out, executing and getting it. Thats what the hard part is.

Actually the hard part arrived on March 8 -- again at the Bell Centre -- when Chara smashed Pacioretty into an unpadded stanchion between the benches and Pacioretty suffered a concussion and vertebrae damage as a result of a sickening head-first crash into the turnbuckle.

Chara was vilified as nothing short of Frankensteins Monster by Habs fan and a Montreal media corps calling for the 6-foot-9 to be punished mercilessly by the league a misguided call for justice on an interference call exacerbated by the arenas own safety inadequacies.

There was no suspension, but the Bs captain still had to pay a price.

Chara would be part of a goofy criminal investigation that grandstanding Montreal politicians ordered the police to undertake, booed at subsequent games by opposing fans, and chased by national media outlets like CNN over the incident.

But, in the end, Chara felt the pressure and potential for outside distractions ended up making the Bruins a tougher team in the end.

It was a season where we as a team not just me personally had to overcome so many different things, said Chara. With the travel we had early in the season with the European trip and then have a pretty steady and consistent season despite having all of the distractions. We always found a way to focus on what was going on inside the locker room and not get distracted by any of those things. Even when it was getting out of hand outside of this room, we took it as even more challenging and motivating for us.

Anything that was coming out of the oppositions mouths to try to bother us, we would just grab it . . . and get motivated by it. We just played even better. You had to love that about this team. We fed off those comments or challenges.

A road-weary Bruins team battling without much left in the regular-season tank had a couple more noteworthy dope-slap losses a stunning 5-2 no-show loss to the Maple Leafs at Air Canada Centre on March 19 and a 5-3 loss to the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on April 4 that served as the final wake up call before the playoffs began. The Bs had a 3-0 lead halfway through that game, but coughed up five unanswered goals to a Rangers team that gave Boston bad flashbacks to a collapsing feeling they didnt want to repeat.

I remember guys talking a lot in the room after that game, said Johnny Boychuk. We all kind of agreed that we couldnt play that way in the playoffs, and if we did then wed just lose in the first round. We had to be better and that kind of woke us up a little bit.

The wakeup call obviously worked, as the Bruins became the first NHL team to ever capture three Game 7 victories en route to a Stanley Cup trophy.

Some might have been surprised that the Bruins were the team to hoist the Cup after seven games against the Canucks, but the regular season was instructive for a Black and Gold team that always had the heart, character and skill. That was their foundation for everything that went right once the pressure really spiked in the postseason.

Once they got a little luck and health, they were unstoppable, just as they were following each of their pitfalls in their road map of a regular season.

Joe Haggerty can be reached at jhaggerty@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs

Bruins looking for a lift from stagnant power play


Bruins looking for a lift from stagnant power play

BRIGHTON, Mass. – One area where the Bruins are looking for more after a mostly positive first four regular-season games: the power play.

The B’s are a downright gross 1-for-14 on the man-advantage to start the season and were 0-for-4 on Thursday night while squeaking out a last-minute win over the New Jersey Devils. The early-season 7.1 percent success rate doesn’t have them last in the NHL, but only the Vancouver Canucks and Calgary Flames have performed at a lower PP clip.

It’s a subject that Claude Julien knew was coming from the B’s media, and so he was ready to answer for it ahead of Saturday night’s rivalry renewal with the Montreal Canadiens.

“I knew it was just a matter of time before that question came. It is what it is. I think we had some opportunities, but we haven’t finished,” said Julien. “At the end of the day our power play is judged by whether you score or not, and I thought our second period [vs. the Devils] wasn’t great. But our third period had some really good power plays, but we didn’t manage to score.

“Where we need to get to right now [on the power play], is to find a way to finish. There’s no doubt the absence of Patrice Bergeron there brings somebody else in, and maybe there’s not as much chemistry as we’re used to. But I think with him back now we can even be better, and get a little more movement…not be so stagnant. When we struggle a bit it’s because we’re a little stagnant, and we need to get a little better there.”

Quite a bit of the struggles go back to Bergeron missing the first three games of the season and the top power-play unit missing No. 37 from his trademark bumper role at the center of the PP action. The power play remained scoreless as the unit adjusted to Bergeron's return on Thursday night, but it seemed that things started to click a little bit as that game went on.

“It’s not moving right now. We’ll just work through it. There were times last year where it let us down, and there were times last year where it helped us through some tough moments,” said Torey Krug of the PP. “Right now we’re able to play through it, but at some point this team is going to need this PP to step up and score some goals. We rely on that, and the guys on the power play take a lot of pride in it.

“[Bergeron] does a lot of things for us. Instead of me having to go all the way to the other end to break the puck out where I’m losing 20 seconds and frankly it’s tiring to break the puck out, now we have him winning face-offs and we’re starting with the puck in the zone. That’s a big thing, and he collects puck like nobody else in the league. With him back on the power play it brings another important player to the forefront, but it’s a five man unit and when everything’s working out there [on the PP] we have a good unit.”

Now with Ryan Spooner expected to rejoin the B’s lineup, after being healthy scratch vs. New Jersey, that adds another dangerous power-play weapon that practiced with that unit on Saturday morning ahead of the traditional morning skate. The hope is that installing Bergeron and Spooner will help kick-start a special teams unit that’s been less than explosive, and not quite cohesive, in the first four games of the season. 

Rask out tonight vs. Canadiens, Bruins call up McIntyre from Providence


Rask out tonight vs. Canadiens, Bruins call up McIntyre from Providence

BRIGHTON, Mass. – It would appear to be something a little more serious than “general soreness” with Tuukka Rask.

The Bruins No. 1 goaltender was missing from the ice at Warrior Ice Arena for Saturday’s morning skate and Claude Julien said he won't play tonight vs. the Montreal Canadiens.

Instead, the B’s have recalled Zane McIntyre from Providence on an emergency basis and to serve as Anton Khudobin’s backup. Rask has clearly been battling a lower body injury since the opening night win over the Columbus Blue Jackets last week and it cropped up again in the Thursday night win over the New Jersey Devils.

The same injury also forced the B’s to play Khudobin instead of Rask in their only loss of the season, a 4-1 defeat to the Maple Leafs in Toronto one week ago.

Rask admitted he was playing through a little “something-something” after the Jersey win and Julien would only say that his goalie has “general soreness” and is considered day-to-day after missing team practice on Friday.  Julien reiterated the day-to-day status Saturday.

“He’s doing better, but we’re going to shut him off for a bit,” said Julien, who said he wasn’t concerned about the long-term health of his franchise goaltender. “We’ll give him another day’s rest at least, but we’ll still go day-by-day.”

 It’s a severe case of bad timing for both Rask and the B’s as the Finnish netminder is off to a roaring start this season (3-0-0 with a .947 save percentage and a 1.67 goals-against average) after his worst season last year for the Black and Gold.

The 24-year-old McIntyre has appeared in three games for Providence, going 1-0-0 and leading the AHL in goals-against average (0.44) and save percentage (.977) in a solid start after a rough rookie pro season last year.

Boston’s sixth round pick in the 2010, McIntyre, played his first professional season with Providence in 2015-16, going14-8-7 with a 2.68 GAA and .898 save percentage in 31 games.

Malcolm Subban might have been the call-up under different circumstances, but has been pulled by the P-Bruins twice in the span of a week including a Friday night loss where he allowed three goals in the first period in an eventual 4-1 loss.