Haggerty: Let the craziness begin

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Haggerty: Let the craziness begin

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com

NEWARK, N.J. Milan Lucic joked that the lusty Bell Centre crowd will boo Zdeno Chara like hes never been booed before while discussing the Bruins' upcoming first-round playoff matchup against the Montreal Canadiens. That might be an understatement for a frothy Montreal crowd that flooded emergency phone lines and demanded the Bruins captain be arrested after he rode Max Pacioretty into a stanchion between the benches during their last meeting on Habs home ice.Itll be interesting to see what will happen. You cant overthink it, said Lucic.
It was definitely a tough building for us this year, but we cant overanalyze things. Its a new year in the playoffs. Its a part of the rivalry and the hatred between both teams is what really makes it interesting.Pacioretty suffered a fractured vertebrae and what the Canadiens called a "severe" concussion -- though he was up and about in a matter of days, and there's even talk he may return before the end of the playoffs -- in the stanchion collision, which set off a chain reaction of lunacy north of the border that only heightened when the NHL deemed it to be a hockey play unworthy of a suspension. That meant no supplemental discipline for Chara and the Bruins, and a feeling of injustice within the Canadiens fan base an often imbalanced group, always 100 percent out of its mind for the Habs, which has done such things as burn police cruisers on their city streets when its heavily-favored hockey team beat a No. 8 seed in the playoffs, as was the case four years ago.
If nothing else, it'll be great theatre.
Its looked like we were going to play them for the last month or so. Its almost like a match made in heaven. Ive been here four years and four times in the playoffs and three of them have been against Montreal in the first round, said Lucic. The atmosphere is there, the fans are going to be into it and from a media standpoint theres going to be a lot to talk about it. So its going to be a lot of fun.Add to that the fact the Bs have managed to lose four straight games to the Habs at the Bell Centre, and havent won there in over a year. The hostile environment served as the setting of two of their worst losses this season and it would appear hockeys greatest rivalry should have at least one more compelling chapter when this first-round series has been settled.The third-seeded Bruins beat the Habs badly in a pair of games on the Garden ice to end their regular-season meetings one that was a fight-filled alley brawl and a second that was a complete annihilation with clean, old-fashioned hockey happening up and down the ice while Montreal seemed afraid to show any emotion or anger and gave Boston the confidence things are looking up with home ice advantage in their corner.It should be a classic in the 33rd playoff matchup between the two longtime Original Six rivals, who have met in more playoff games and more regular-season games than any other teams in NHL history. The Canadiens have won 24 of those postseason meetings.The 33 playoff meetings between the Habs and Bruins is actually the most playoff meetings by two specific teams in any of the four major professional sports leagues in North America.It wasnt really reignited until four years ago, and that hatred started to come back into play, said Lucic. That hatred is definitely there again. Thats what makes it fun and thats what makes it a great rivalry.One player who will make for an interesting addition to this years edition of the rivalry: rookie Brad Marchand.The Bs pest has been a vocal critic of the diving and flopping done by the Canadiens to draw penalties and gain power plays, and he expects more of the same as he lines up against similar instigators P.K. Subban and Tomas Plekanec in his first Stanley Cup playoffs series.
The Habs finished the season ranked seventh in the NHL with a power play thats clicked 19.7 percent of the time, and its pretty clear the skill and special teams game is where Montreal will attempt to do its damage. The Bruins on the other hand will counter with the size, strength and physical intimidation thats overwhelmed the Canadiens in Boston on several occasions this season. Lucic and Nathan Horton have been handful for teams lacking the strength to stand up to them, and the Habs really have no answer for Charas tower of power defensive game.Its gonna be exciting. Its going to be a long, hard-fought battle. I cant wait, said Marchand, anticipating the first playoff series hell be playing in after serving as a Black Ace during last years playoff run. It just seems like every guy on their team is a bit of an agitator, and can draw you into penalties. So you just have to play with a cool head and suck them into our game.Theyre very good on the power play, so if you give them a lot of penalties theyre going to do a lot of damage.Both teams can do damage, and both teams hate each other like poison. Sounds like theres some good hockey on tap for the next couple of weeks.
Joe Haggerty can be reached at jhaggerty@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs

B's determined to 'keep it going' during good offensive run

B's determined to 'keep it going' during good offensive run

BRIGHTON, Mass. -- The Bruins are going through a nice, little bountiful stretch of offense right now after a half-season of struggle.

The Bruins are averaging more than three goals per game in their last 12 contests, and have scored a whopping 22 goals in their last six games including dropping six scores on the Flyers Saturday afternoon at TD Garden. Combine that with the 7-for-25 performance on the power play during the month of January, and things are finally starting to catch up with a Bruins team that was all shoot/no score for months of frustrating hockey this season.

“If you want sustained success then you have to be good defensively, but you also have to score some goals. That’s definitely part of it and we have to keep it going,” said Patrice Bergeron, who has four goals and eight points in his last nine games after struggling out of the starting gate. “You’re not going to get rewarded every night like we did [against the Flyers], but you have to find that consistency where you’re close to having that every night.”

One thing nobody should expect out of the B’s, however, is to get outside of what they do well now that they’ve started slapping some numbers up on the board. Instead the Bruins are intent on their bedrock of disciplined defense and sensational goaltending with the added offense just making it much tougher to beat them these days.

“I don’t know if we can stand here and say we’re going to sustain that we’re scoring lots of goals. I think what we need to sustain here is winning more games than we lose,” said Claude Julien. “That’s what we’ve got to sustain. Whether it’s a 1-0 or 2-1 game, or it’s a 5-2 or 5-3 game it doesn’t really matter. It’s about winning hockey games much more than it’s about how much you scored, and how much you don’t score.

“Overall when I look at the scoring chances we’re giving up per game, that doesn’t seem to have changed. Goals allowed may have changed a little bit lately, but overall I think we’ve been very steady in that area [of defense].”

So now the Bruins will again be looking for that ideal balance of offense/defense when they take the ice against the Islanders on Monday afternoon for their second straight matinee at TD Garden. 

Morrow has 'confident feeling' as he readies to jump into B's lineup

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Morrow has 'confident feeling' as he readies to jump into B's lineup

BRIGHTON, Mass. -- It’s been a long month of bag skates and lonely practices for Bruins defenseman Joe Morrow.

That’s about to change thanks to injuries to both Kevan Miller and Colin Miller, who are both not expected to be able to play against the New York Islanders on Monday afternoon at TD Garden. That means Morrow will be in the B’s lineup for the first time since a Dec. 12 win over the Montreal Canadiens, a span of 16 consecutive B’s games that the 24-year-old has been watching from the press box.

Morrow skated in a pairing with John-Michael Liles in Sunday’s practice at Warrior Ice Arena prior to Monday’smatinee, and obviously he’s looking forward to getting back into games given this season’s sporadic practice schedule.

“[Playing well after sitting for long stretches] isn’t necessarily something you want to be good at, but if you are good at then it’s a good tool to have in your bag. It’s a confident feeling that I’ll be able to come in [and play well],” said Morrow, who has an assist and a minus-3 rating in 13 games for the Black and Gold this season. “I’ve stayed in good shape and worked hard in practice, and that’s all I can do up until this point.

“Put simply, [this year’s compacted schedule] is exhausting. Countless times I’ve skated by myself, and anybody would tell you there’s nothing harder than skating by yourself on a sheet of ice. Mentally and physically it’s just exhausting. There haven’t been many practices and there haven’t been many game-type situations in the practices we do have. Skating with the whole team is almost like a pregame skate scenario. But you’re still skating every day, so it’s putting it upon yourself to go out there and stay ready for things.”

The one issue for Morrow, a former first round pick, over the last couple of seasons has been maintaining a high level of play once he draws his way into the lineup. It feels like there’s a drop-off in his play once he’s played a few games in a row whether it’s physical mistakes or mental lapses in his play, and that’s something he wants to avoid when given an opportunity to suit up.

“I feel like when I have played this year that I’ve been quite consistent and that I’ve played well,” said Morrow, the last remaining part of the 2013 Tyler Seguin trade still in a Bruins uniform. “I’m just in a situation that the cards are playing out the way that they are, so it depends on how many games I get whether it’s one, two, 30 or however many games are left [in the season]. It’s realistically entirely up to me. If I can shake the rust out in the first couple of shifts and start from there, it’s going to be a big positive in my book. It’s the really the only option I have left now.”

Given that Colin Miller began skating on his own on Sunday morning, it might not be a very big window for Morrow to impress upon the coaches just how badly he wants to play. But one would expect he’s going to bring his best on Monday against the Isles with the hopes that it will be somebody else sitting up in the press box when it once again becomes a D-man numbers game for the 7-8 players for six lineup spots.