Haggerty: Finals-bound Bruins have come of age

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Haggerty: Finals-bound Bruins have come of age

By JoeHaggerty
CSNNE.com

BOSTON The Bruins wouldnt have won Friday nights epically cathartic Game 7 against the Tampa Bay Lightning two or three years ago.

They certainly wouldnt have won it last season, when injuries and offensive ineptitude proved too formidable an obstacle.

Simon Gagne's third-period goal in Game 7 -- his version of a flying elbow off the top turnbuckle -- that completed the Bruins' historic collapse against the Flyers last season accentuated that point. But, truthfully, nobody thought the Bruins had a legitimate chance at the Stanley Cup last year.

This season, the Bruins have landed in the perfectly sweet spot with their team development, and they've been able to fulfill the promise of this year while healing the wounds of yesteryears postseason flops.

I felt like from the very beginning of the season that we had some unfinished business this year, and Ive been saying it all along, said team captain Zdeno Chara. You just got the feeling that it was in here. Guys were really hungry in the playoffs, and now were just going out and showing it.

The Bruins showed their desire and revealed exactly how they're able to perform when theyre firing at full efficiency: stout and punishing defense, airtight goaltending and opportunistic offense capable of stinging even the stingiest of opponents.

It all came to a perfect crescendo when Nathan Horton banged home the only goal of the night with 7:33 to go in the third period, and the Bruins carried out a flawless Game 7 at TD Garden with a 1-0 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning.

It was a Herculean effort from Tampa Bay goaltender Dwayne Roloson that stymied the Bruins attack into the third period, but Bostons unrelenting, unflappable approach eventually proved too strong.

Roloson made 37 saves on the night, but one shot off Nathan Horton's stick was the killer.

With the heartbreak from last year and the year before and with the Patriots doing it, the Red Sox doing it and the Celtics doing it, we wanted to be up in the same caliber as them, said Milan Lucic of Bostons other three sports teams capturing championships recently. I think the main thing was that we werent frustrated. Roloson made some big saves and he really robbed us. There was no coming to the bench and saying F this or F that, or guys getting frustrated with themselves.

You just felt like you had to keep going, and keep going. No matter how good he was we were just not going to stop. If you look at it, losing those Game 7s in the past probably made us stronger. Laying it on the line and playing with no regrets like we did Friday night is all about maturity.

The fact that Horton -- one of the team's new faces this season -- potted the game-winner and furthered his growing playoff reputation also perfectly illustrates that the Bruins are a different bunch this season.

But, then again, perhaps people should have already known this team was different. It was evident for those whod been examining them closely through the season.

They had shown a level of unity that only grew as the season wore on. The ultimate sign of togetherness came during the celebration after Game 7.

Chara brought the entire squad out to crowd around the Prince of Wales Trophy and accepted the Eastern Conference crown without ever once thinking about placing a Slovakian finger on the piece of hardware.

Then the players retired to a celebratory home dressing room with pumping music, and armed with hats and T-shirts that trumpeted the Black and Gold organization as Boston Bruins: 2011 Eastern Conference Champs.

None of it would have been possible without the headaches and heartache that saw the Bruins fall in Game 7 situations three straight seasons including the four-game collapse to the Philadelphia Flyers last year. That pain and dull ache for the entire summer steeled itself into resolve, courage and determination this season, and it showed as they overcame all sorts of adversity during the year.

It didnt matter if it was rumors of Claude Juliens job being in danger, Chara being chased by the Montreal police over the Max Pacioretty incident, or falling way behind in a playoff series.

The Bruins always responded to adversity during the long season, and have really made themselves impervious to just about any kind of pressure.

Pride is the biggest thing for me, said Andrew Ference, who assisted on Hortons score. Im so proud to be a part of this organization and what weve been able to build over the last few years. Even if we lost Friday night, that pride would still be there because weve come along way with building something and sticking with it.

Its a long time coming. Its a really hard league to win in, and to have heavy expectations and then to live up to them. Its a tough sports city. To have that setback in Game 6 and come out the way we did tonight, Im just really, really proud to be a part of this team.

That the Bruins have made it to their first Stanley Cup Finals since a 1990 squad smack dab in the middle of the Ray BourqueCam Neely era does a great many things for the Bruins. Not the least of which is that it validates the way Peter Chiarelli built his team as a hard-charging, hard-to-play-against bunch willing to sacrifice for the greater good.

Conventional wisdom said that great goaltenders could no longer raise their team up and take them to the Stanley Cup Finals in the new NHL because no Vezina Trophy winner had done it since Martin Brodeur.

Conventional hockey wisdom said that the Bruins couldnt dare to dance with Stanley Cup immortality when they had no game-changing offensive forwards on their roster like Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg or Eric Staal.

Conventional wisdom held that Claude Julien didnt have the creativity, the resourcefulness or the chutzpah to lead a Cup-level hockey club to the finals when hed failed to take the Canadiens or the Devils to the promised land.

But the Bruins bucked conventional wisdom and instead became the third straight team to begin the season in Europe for the Premiere Games and end it as one of the two squads vying for the Stanley Cup. The Penguins and Blackhawks actually went on to win the Cup in the last two years after participating in the European season-opening showcase, and the Bruins will attempt to make themselves No. 3.

Its possible for a defensively responsible team with a good goaltender and a deep set of reasonably talented forwards to march their way to the Stanley Cup Finals and all the while overcome a power play thats successful only 8.1 percent of the time.

Its no exaggeration to say the Bruins have the worst power play of any team that ever made it to the Cup Finals, but that also underscores just how special they are in every other category that really matters.

The Bruins were among the best teams in hockey when it came to goals against average and goals scored all season long. They have the best goaltender in the world and their character has been forged through years of playing together and building toward this moment. Bostons entry into the Stanley Cup Finals against the favored Canucks isnt luck, good will or due to the residue of a fickle bounce of the puck.

The Bruins have earned their spot in the finals by building a team upward the old fashioned way: relying on hard work, using a little bit of skill, and remembering the bitter taste of past experiences.

It was a bumpy ride for the Bs, but theyve come out on the other side looking pretty, pretty good.

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

Tuesday, July 26: Daley’s surprise visit with the Cup

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Tuesday, July 26: Daley’s surprise visit with the Cup

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while never getting tired of the Bernie Sanders/Curb Your Enthusiasm parallels.

*PHT writer Cam Tucker has Trevor Daley making a surprise visit with the Stanley Cup and talking more about his emotional moment hoisting the Cup right after the win by the Penguins.

*Don Cherry and Ron MacLean get their just reward with a star on the Canada Walk of Fame after years of great hockey entertainment.

*Adam Larsson has heard the fan reaction in Edmonton after being traded for Taylor Hall, and he’s downplaying it all.

*A lack of a deal for RFA defenseman Jacob Trouba with the Winnipeg Jets doesn’t mean Trouba trouble quite yet. But it sure doesn’t sound like things are all ducky in Winnipeg.

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) Dan Rosen sits down with Arizona Coyotes GM John Chayka to answer five questions about his new gig, and some big changes for the Desert Dogs.

*Scott Powers has Jimmy Vesey’s camp confirming that the Chicago Blackhawks will be one of the teams on Vesey’s “short list” when he speaks with teams on Aug. 15. Watch out for Stan Bowman and the Blackhawks, who have been out to see Vesey a couple of times in Foxboro over the last month.

*The Washington Capitals continue to build depth among their forward group, and have constructed a strong roster for next season.

*For something completely different: if you love baseball or have ever enjoyed some of the truly great Dan Shaughnessy columns over the years, you will enjoy this column from Shaughnessy about his Hall of Fame induction. Congrats to Dan, a true titan in our industry.

 

Hagg Bag: Some offseason B’s questions while waiting for Vesey’s decision

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Hagg Bag: Some offseason B’s questions while waiting for Vesey’s decision

With Bruins development camp in the rear-view mirror and the Bruins roster pretty close to full barring any bold moves from B’s general manager Don Sweeney, there isn’t much movement anticipated for the Black and Gold the next few weeks. 

Certainly there isn’t much expected until the Bruins learn about their chances in the Jimmy Vesey Sweepstakes Aug. 15. The addition of the Hobey Baker winner and Harvard captain could spur on a couple of moves from the Bruins front office and would certainly result in some alterations in terms of talent and salary cap makeup on the NHL roster.

But it’s all quiet on the Black and Gold front for right now, so there’s ample time for another edition of the Hagg Bag mailbag. As always, these are tweets to my Twitter account using the #HaggBag hash tag, emails to my jhaggerty@comcastsportsnet.com and messages to my CSN Facebook page. Now, on to the tag:

Joe

I still keep coming back to that interview, which for a Bruins fan had to make you giddy like Jimmy [Vesey] was when he responded to you about the possibility of putting a B's jersey on.  

After hearing your podcast with Jim Murphy, I agree with you there are a lot of options out there such as Toronto, Buffalo, Chicago, San Jose to play with [Joe] Thornton his idol, or New Jersey but if his father lets him make his own decision, as he's stated, then the B's have a great chance of signing him.

He wanted the B's to [draft] him but Don was not the GM then so being given a chance on August 15 to do just that has to be one of his biggest factors. Add that to having his family close by, knowing Jimmy Hayes, Matt Grzelcyk, & Ryan Donato (plus knowing and appreciating Torey) I can't wait until the 15th. Why wait until your later years to play in Boston when you can sign now?

Question is with Loui gone taking 30 goals off the board I think his signing on top of acquiring [David] Backes will be more than replace those goals. But who then can the B's trade away, not right away, but into the season to acquire some help in other areas?

The first name is [David] Krejci, [Adam] McQuaid, and possibly Jimmy Hayes if he has a second subpar season. Could the inclusion of Krejci, who can produce, be dealt along with some other pieces to acquire a player like [Jonas] Brodin or [Matthew] Dumba & also have a chance of getting a player like Charlie Coyle?

What lines do you see?  What about the following:

1st Line- Jimmy Vesey-David Krejci- David Backes

2nd Line- Brad Marchand-Patrice Bergeron-& David Pastrnak who, like Seguin, might be better suited with Patrice?

3rd Line- Matt Beleskey-Ryan Spooner-Jimmy Hayes

4th Line- Frank Vatrano- Noel Acciari- Riley Nash

Backend- Zdeno Chara-Colin Miller; Torey Krug-Kevan Miller; & John Michael Liles-Adam McQuaid or Brandon Carlo (long shot is to acquire Jacob Trouba from Winnipeg because he wants top four minutes and has Buff and Myers ahead of him on the depth chart…if possible slot him in the second unit with Torey and deal either McQuaid or Miller)

Another point I would like to touch on is also from your comments on the podcast or NHL XM/Sirius radio when you mentioned the Bruins have to caution themselves from dealing away valuable picks, or assets, for rental players at the trade deadline.  One point that Don Sweeney has made on a number of occasions was that the Bruins targeted defensemen and big center-men. My hope now is that since they have re-stocked the system they need to draft the top potential player available on the board rather than selecting based upon a particular need. Not to knock who they have drafted but they need to pick the best player available keeping in mind the importance placed on picks to having hockey sense and leadership or character traits. The selection of David Pastrnak is a case in point as he's a high skilled player who needed to learn the defensive game.  I hope that future drafts will see the Bruins focused on the best player available not based on the position they play. 

Greig Young

 
JH: Glad you enjoyed the Jimmy Vesey, interview. I came away with a much better feeling about the kid in general than I did going in without knowing much about him. I think a lot of the whispered stuff you hear about him is coming from those around him rather than him. It’s understandable that Vesey’s dad might have strong opinions about it all given that he played in the NHL. So, surely he’s advising his son, but I got the strong sense this is about the 23-year-old Vesey making the decision for himself, and what’s best for his career and his own chances of NHL success.

I went into the interview thinking that the Bruins had a very good chance based upon what I’d heard, and talking with Vesey did nothing to dissuade me from that feeling. Could the Blackhawks swoop in and snatch him at the last minute? Maybe. Or maybe he’s had designs on going to Toronto all the time.

But I’ve heard Boston was one of the frontrunners all along, and I’m going to continue to believe that until we know for sure.

Whether it’s Brodin, Dumba, Kevin Shattenkirk, Cam Fowler, Jacob Trouba, Tyson Barrie or somebody else, I do think the Bruins are poised to pull the trigger on another move if Vesey does indeed sign with Boston next month. It would certainly make a winger on the NHL roster expendable, and the Bruins already have a slew of NHL-caliber centers as well.

As for the draft, I’m a firm believer in always picking the best player available. When you pick by positional needs over best player, that’s when you end up with nonsensical choices like Malcolm Subban in the first round in 2012.

 
If they get Vesey do they run at Barrie with 54, 72 & 51?

--Russ Romandini (@goldenpipesss)

 
JH: Who knows? If the arbitration process goes badly enough for Tyson Barrie and the Avalanche then perhaps he’ll get dealt somewhere. If the Bruins sign Vesey, then I’d expect a couple of those players you mentioned (Adam McQuaid, Frank Vatrano, Ryan Spooner) might be in play to get a dynamic, young top-four defenseman the Bruins could immediately plug in as a top-pairing candidate with Zdeno Chara.

That would be my expectation of how things go down with the Bruins, but if we’ve learned one thing it should be this: it’s awfully, awfully difficult to close a deal in the NHL for a high-caliber defenseman, and it might not be in the cards for Don Sweeney and the Bruins prior to the start of the season.

The Bruins need to get one of those D-men if they really want to compete this season, so we’ll see what happens if/when Vesey signs with them. If Vesey signs elsewhere then I’d expect the Bruins will go into the season with what they currently have.

 

#StrangerThings have you ever played D&D like Mike, Dustin and Lucas? Did you ever sport a mullet in the 80s?

--borisan (@borisan28)

 
JH: Yes, and don’t forget about poor Will. He was there playing at the beginning and the end too. Right around that age I played my share of Dungeons and Dragons along with love of baseball cards, addiction to Strat-O-Matic baseball, football, basketball and hockey and a steady diet of outdoor sports playing with the many kids in my neighborhood.

I definitely owned a Players Handbook (though I was never hardcore enough into it to be a Dungeon Master, and wasn’t nearly geeky enough to suitably fit in with the real bone fide D&D nerds in the town I grew up in), and had a longstanding high-level fighter/magic user named Huon Pendragon that I role-played with. I’m willing to bet I still have some 20-sided dice around the house somewhere. And don’t forget about the golden age of Nintendo right around then as well: RBI Baseball, Tecmo Bowl, Mike Tyson’s Punchout, Spy Hunter, and Nintendo Hockey among others.

What a great time to be a kid. I definitely had some form of a mullet in middle school during the mid-1980’s, but it was probably not as definitive as many during that time period.

 
Which prospect will surprise us and make the roster?

--Michael Matthews (@MMATTHEWS4)

 
JH: Brandon Carlo and Danton Heinen are both expected to compete for spots, so I’m not sure I’d label either one of them a surprise. How about Jeremy Lauzon? He’s a 2015 second-round pick coming off a big junior season and the Bruins rave about his approach, his work ethic and certainly seem to think he’ll be a top-four defenseman someday soon. Perhaps it’s as soon as this season. Jake DeBrusk would be my best guess among the forwards after a strong development camp performance. Claude Julien is already on record as being a fan of his toughness and his willingness to do the work as a young player, and the NHL bloodlines from his dad Louie don’t hurt either.  

 
With plenty of cap space and losing a 30 goal scorer, was it foolish of Sweeney not getting Versteeg for a cheap 1 or 2 yrs?

--Jeremiah Kilburn (@vtmxjer66)

 
JH: Not a huge Kris Versteeg fan and, incidentally, neither is the rest of the NHL if he had to go to Europe for steady work for next season. Versteeg is a tough player: good enough to be paid decently in the NHL based on his numbers, but not a good fit in anything but a supporting role on a good hockey team. I’d rather see the Bruins bring along young kids in that spot or hope that something has inspired Jimmy Hayes this summer.

 
Will Rask bounce back from last year? What will Cassidy provide behind the bench to help the B’s this year?

--Bob Falfa (@FalfaBob)

 
JH: I think Rask will have a better season provided the Bruins can execute a deal for another puck-moving defenseman. If they go into the season with the current group of D-men, then I think Rask will be in line for another season similar to this past one. Why would anybody think there’s going to be a radically different result?

I obviously don’t think Rask was consistently at his best last season, but I also think 80-90 percent of his troubles last season are attributable to the shoddy defense in front of him. Plain and simple, cut and dried. Bruce Cassidy is a keen offensive mind and he’s good with young players, which means he either A) will be a nice compliment to Julien as sort of a counter-point on the coaching staff or B) will end up replacing Julien and pushing the Bruins more in the offense and youth direction if the B’s struggle mightily at the start of next season.

The Bruins should get more out of Ryan Spooner and Colin Miller with Cassidy on the staff, or should in theory at least.

I’ve long been of the opinion that things are a little stale with this Bruins group, and that a change of coaching voice might be the best thing for them given the current direction of the franchise. It doesn’t take away what Julien has done over the past 10 years, or reflect his standing as an excellent hockey coach. He just might not be the right coach for this Bruins team and the direction that they’re headed. It should be a really interesting season because I don’t think Cassidy takes the NHL assistant gig in Boston unless he thinks there’s another NHL head coaching shot in his future. That’s just my opinion, of course, but certainly an informed one.

 
Hey Joe - why do the Bruins not promote Tommy Cross? Too old now?

--John Thiell (via CSN Facebook page)

 
JH: Tommy Cross is what he is: a solid, tough pro and leader of men at the AHL level, who can perform in spots when called upon at the NHL level. I just don’t think he skates well enough anymore to be a regular NHL D-man after all of his knee surgeries, and it’s a shame given the kind of player he was before all of the knee issues. He would not be an upgrade if he was among the Bruins D-men group to break NHL camp this fall.

 
I think the B's will be better than predicted. But if things go south do you think they move Chara at the deadline? #HaggBag

--Ray Guarino (@rayguarino)

 
JH: I like your optimism. If things go south for the Bruins, I would hope they’d explore that kind of a move while clearly changing the blue line guard. They should have explored it last year as well, in my humble opinion.

 
Who the hell is Chief Hopper feeding in @Stranger_Things? Elle? Demogorgon? Ryan Fitzpatrick?

--CP (@cpierce1994)

JH: I’m going with “El”, but not ruling out Ryan Fitzpatrick. Something tells me that El and the Demogorgon are linked together, or perhaps two sides of the same being. It will be interesting to see how they explore it in Season Two, but suffice to say that I recommend “Stranger Things” on Netflix to anybody that hasn’t seen it: an awesome, addictive 1980’s homage eight episode series that combines E.T., Poltergeist, Firestarter, War Games, Goonies and Nightmare on Elm Street. It’s just that good.

 
Brad Marchand for Hampus Lindholm and Chris Wagner

--Joe Harris (via CSN Facebook page)

JH: Okay, but are you asking me or telling me? If you’re asking me, I don’t think the Ducks are going to do that unless Marchand is signed to a reasonable, long-term contract. And I don’t think he’s going to be signing one of those: he’s going to get something in the neighborhood of eight years and $50 million on a new contract if the Bruins are willing to go there.

 
Joe, will the Bruins look at either Kris Russell or James Wisniewski before camp or wait till to see what happens with the young guys

--Eugene Mannarino (@steelman58)

JH: Perhaps, but the price would have to be right. I also don’t think either of those would be candidates unless the Bruins go into training camp and don’t like what they see out of Joe Morrow, Miller and Carlo. Russell was a consideration, but I think he’s still looking for far too much money and term for the Bruins to be interested right now.

 
What is the most realistic situation for the Bruins adding to their D? And who do you see as the most promising B's prospect

--Colin Miller (@sportschatterHD)

 
JH: The most realistic situation is the Bruins signing Vesey, and then trading Vatrano or Spooner and a first round pick to St. Louis for Kevin Shattenkirk, or perhaps even trading David Krejci to the Blues for Shattenkirk once they get into the season and show that he’s fully recovered from his hip surgery. I think Charlie McAvoy is the most promising Bruins prospect and that he’s a legit top-pairing talent a couple of years down the line.

He’s got the skating, the passing, the size, the willingness to mix it up physically, and the offensive instincts to be effective while skating big, big minutes. He says he wants to play like Drew Doughty and there’s more than a little of that kind of player within McAvoy’s game. Even if he can be 80 percent of Doughty, that is a guy the Bruins can win with as one of their top defenders. He’s exactly what they need, but it will be a year or two before the 18-year-old is ready for Boston.

Combine McAvoy with Carlo, Jakub Zboril, Lauzon and a young NHL talent in Torey Krug, and you have the makings of a pretty talented back end a few years down the road. That doesn’t excuse the mess of a blue line the Bruins have right now, however, that’s alarmingly the same as last year’s weak unit that dragged down the hockey club.

 
Joe,

I am very disillusioned with the Boston Bruins.  I am angry they traded Seguin (Chiarelli), Reilly Smith and Dougie Hamilton, for essentially nothing.

They allowed Eriksson to walk, not even getting a draft pick.  They draft terribly and usually choose checkers…meanwhile, other teams in the East are improving. Bruins are not pro-active. I honestly think they do not know what they are doing.  Sweeney and Neely must be listening to dinosaur Harry Sinden.  Harry also hated scorers and offensive-minded prayers.

This team needs an upgraded defense, plus some young dynamic scoring (work so hard to score goals) talent up front, especially now that Eriksson is gone. I am so frustrated with idiots Don Sweeny, Cam Neely, Gretzky, Claude and scouts.  I want them to be fired immediately; I want Jacobs to sell the team. I want some young scoring forwards on this team... and a coach/organization that is more offensive-minded/friendly. They are so boring....

Thanks for your attention.
J.E. Shay

JH: Get it all, out. Get it all out, J.E. This mailbag is cheaper than any Bruins therapy session you’d ever attend in person. I suspect your opinion will change if the Bruins make the playoffs this season while introducing more of the young talent in their pipeline. If they don’t, then I’ll expect another one of these from you next summer. See you guys in a couple of weeks and thanks for the great questions. 

Monday, July 25: A new home for Isles in Queens?

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Monday, July 25: A new home for Isles in Queens?

Here are the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while enjoying Alec Baldwin hosting the new “Match Game.” What a throwback that is.

*Larry Brooks asks if there is even one person that would support the New York Islanders building a new hockey arena in Queens.

*Friends to hockey, Jay Onrait and Dan O’Toole, sat down Montreal Canadiens fan Jonah Keri for a podcast this week.

*A really good piece from 15 years ago by Jon Paul Morosi, back in the days when we both wrote pieces for USCHO, about Jim Prior’s dedication to BU, and to the world of hockey.

*Connor McDavid says that being named the captain of the Edmonton Oilers would be an “unbelievable honor” for the young player.

*PHT writer and FOH (Friend of Haggs) Jason Brough has the Philadelphia Flyers signing Brayden Schenn to a four year contract.

*Speaking of the Flyers, Sean Couturier has a street named after him in his hometown within the province of New Brunswick.

*For something completely different: if you’re into Andre the Giant drinking stories then this is the article for you.