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

Spooner working on his draws to help become a more complete center

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Spooner working on his draws to help become a more complete center

BRIGHTON, Mass. – Ryan Spooner quickly ticked off face-offs as one big area that needed improvement headed into his second full NHL season with the Bruins and the speedy young center has most definitely put in the work thus far in camp.

Still, it didn’t translate in Spooner’s first preseason game in Wednesday night’s lopsided loss to the Red Wings as he finished 4-for-16 on the draw, and to add insult to injury: he also served a two-minute minor penalty for a face-off violation that led to a power-play goal. 

The skilled center made up for it at the other end by setting up a score for fellow speed-demon center Austin Czarnik as Boston’s only goal, but he was again back out on the Warrior Ice Arena sheet working on his draws again Thursday.

“I wasn’t great on my face-offs [against Detroit] trying to cheat a little bit too much. I think I just need to maybe just bear down a little bit more,” said Spooner, who finished at a very lackluster 42.8 percent success rate on face-offs last season. “[I need to] not try to win them clean, maybe just tie them up a little bit more. I was just trying to cheat on those [face-offs], and it didn’t work.”

Clearly, the draws were a contributing part of the problem in the rough loss to the Red Wings and it’s something Spooner will need to iron out before he’s fully trusted by the coaching in the nitty-gritty situations late in games. That was obvious at times last season. It’s something Spooner wants to change this season when there’s so much competition at the center spot, with Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, David Backes, Dominic Moore, Noel Acciari, Riley Nash and Czarnik all considered natural centers.

“When you start with the puck then the game is so much easier,” said B’s assistant coach Bruce Cassidy. “For Spooner [face offs] are important. I don’t want to speak for Claude [Julien], but he does have the luxury now of playing Spooner with guys that can take draws in his place if he wants to go down that road.

“At some point he’s going to have to improve [on the draw]. I think he wants to [improve on the draw] and he’s working at it, but the numbers aren’t where they need to be for him obviously. That’s the challenge Claude has going forward, but I think he can still get out on the ice and help you, even if he’s deficient in the face-off circle, and if he has some wingers that can help him.”

Spooner has employed veteran center Moore to give him some pointers while the two have worked out together in training camp and, in theory, it should be a big help for the young third-line center. Moore is one of those trusted veterans that is used in key face off situations with positive results, and is a left-shot player who can show the 24-year-old the exact techniques to help him.

Spooner said that getting face-off tips from Bergeron or Krejci had a limit to its helpfulness because those are right-handed centers doing the absolute reverse technique that a left-shot center would employ. Moore downplayed his role as a bit of a face off mentor, but the statistics, and his reputation on the draw would indicate he’s got plenty of knowledge to offer a second-year player.

“There are a lot of little things in the game, face-offs being one of them, that you learn through experience, and you want to try to pass it along to help make the team better,” said Moore. “[Spooner] is eager to try and improve a little bit every day. Part of face-offs is trying to get an edge any way that you can because they’re such a hotly contested thing.

“It’s definitely not easy, but if you have the right mentality then you try and build it up. You just have to approach it on a daily basis, commit to it and try to improve as best you can.”

Like so many things in life it would seem face-off ability is about putting in the work as much as it’s about natural-born skill and Spooner is putting in the hours to be a more complete center and trusted part of the team.

 

Bruins set roster for tonight’s preseason game in Detroit

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Bruins set roster for tonight’s preseason game in Detroit

The Bruins' lineup for Friday night’s preseason game in Detroit at Joe Louis Arena against the Red Wings will include players from both practice groups filling into a more veteran-laden B’s lineup in Motown.

The Matt Grzelcyk-Adam McQuaid pairing that wasn’t great on Wednesday night will get right back into it, and the John-Michael Liles-Brandon Carlo pairing that was so good on Monday night will get another look as well. Matt Beleskey, Jimmy Hayes, Anton Khudobin, Dominic Moore, Joe Morrow, Riley Nash and Ryan Spooner will be the established NHL veterans along with McQuaid and Liles suiting up for Boston’s first road exhibition of the preseason.

Here’s the entire lineup, with Boston now serving as one of the last NHL teams that is yet to make any cuts from their camp roster: Matt Beleskey, Anton Blidh, Brandon Carlo, Colby Cave, Peter Cehlarik, Brian Ferlin, Alex Grant, Seth Griffith, Matt Grzelcyk, Jimmy Hayes, Danton Heinen, Anton Khudobin, Jeremy Lauzon, John-Michael Liles, Zane McIntyre, Adam McQuaid, Dominic Moore, Joe Morrow, Riley Nash, Zach Senyshyn, Ryan Spooner.

The Bruins will be traveling to Philadelphia for another preseason game on Saturday and that may perhaps be the first time B’s fans get to see returning World Cup veteran players David Backes, David Pastrnak and Tuukka Rask after they began practicing with the camp group on Thursday morning at Warrior Ice Arena.