Morning Skate 328: Playoff clincher is first step

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Morning Skate 328: Playoff clincher is first step

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.comPHILADELPHIA It might have been a little sweeter for the Bruins to slap backs and fist bump each other for securing a playoff spot after finishing off a Flyers bunch looking a bit out of sorts on Sunday night.The Bruins punched their postseason ticket with the 2-1 victory at the Wells Fargo Center powered by power play goals and shimmering brilliance of goaltender Tim Thomas once again at the full height of his puck-stopping powers.The Bs basically can finish no less than the third seed in the Eastern Conference after vanquishing the Canadiens last week, and can still realistically push the Capitals, Penguins and Flyers for the top spot in the East if they can get scalding hot in their final seven games.It really appears that the top eight teams in the East are locked in, and now its a just a matter of the Canadiens, Rangers or Lightning as playoff opponents for the Bs in the first round should things remain close to their current standings.Its obviously awesome, said Mark Recchi, who got a big assist on Brad Marchands power play goal game-winner in the third period against Philly. Its a lot of hard work this right from Vermont to the start of training came to Prague and then here we are with seven games left. And were still working on it and we want to make sure were full steam ahead.We have three big games this week as well, and it just never seems to end.Nathan Horton has nine goals in his last 17 games, the power play seems to finally be living up to its might name and skilled cast of characters, and Tim Thomas has again dipped his goalie pads into the fountain of hockey youth he discovered at the beginning of the season.Its been a long haul for a Bs team thats had several low moments throughout the regular season the Claude Julien is in trouble talk leading up to the Atlanta Thrashers game in January, the third period collapse against the Montreal the Bell Centre, the March losing streak marred by the Max Pacioretty head slam into the stanchion but the Bruins have proven themselves one of the best teams that the East has to offer.Were focusing on what we can do right now. Were not focused on where were going to end up, but we know were probably not going to end up any lower than third, said Recchi. We want to make sure were playing well going into the playoffs and thats our focus right now. Where we end up is where we end up, and thats not something were too worried about right now. Its now were playing and what were doing going into the playoffs so that we can make sure were full steam ahead.It also remains instructive that the Bruins are an impressive 13-6-3 this season in games against the top 6 teams in the East including the Flyers, Capitals, Penguins, Lightning and Canadiens, and have risen to the occasion against their best competition. The hard part of the playoffs qualifying for them through an 82-game grind is in the rear view mirror after a playoff-style victory in Philly. For guys like Tomas Kaberle, its a feeling that hasnt been there in a long time.Its been a while. Its been six years, said Kaberle. Im happy for it, but its a long way and I know it. Even though we only have seven games left we really just have to keep performing.Thats right.Its about keep performing and expelling some of the playoff ghosts that have haunted the Black and Gold over the last few seasons.On to the links:I dont agree with ESPN.com'sPierre LeBrun on his opinions concerning Mark Recchi and his actions toward Max Pacioretty, but I respect his stance and the way he went toe-to-toe with Mike Milbury on it during Hockey Night in Canada.Broad Street Hockey takes a look at why the Flyers have struggled so much lately, and havent beaten a team currently in the playoff mix since late February.Bruce Dowbiggin of the Globe and Mail stands up for Theo Fleury as the ever-present haters attempt to take a piece out of him via Twitter. Also, was E from Entourage actually taking up a spot behind the New York Islanders bench last Tuesday night? Wow. Where will Johnny Drama wind up?CBCs Elliotte Friedman has the low down on Merrimack College superstar Stephane Da Costa making the jump to the NHL. On a side note, congrats to Mark Dennehy and the Merrimack program for an amazing season that ended last weekend during the NCAA Regional in Manchester, N.H.Another guy to follow on the Da Costa radar is Mike McMahon with the Lawrence Eagle-Tribune, who has been all over the Merrimack beat this season.You had me at "When Mr. Carrie Underwood Came to Nash-Vegas" in your headline.

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

Sources: Bruins engaged in trade talks involving Ryan Spooner

Sources: Bruins engaged in trade talks involving Ryan Spooner

This probably won’t come as a complete shock to those watching the way things have played out with him this season, but the Bruins have engaged in discussions with multiple teams about a Ryan Spooner trade, per multiple sources with knowledge of the situation. 

The 23-year-old Spooner was mentioned casually a few months ago as possible fodder in a Jacob Trouba deal with the Winnipeg Jets, but that deal never really materialized prior to the Jets signing their young, frontline D-man to a two-year deal. The Carolina Hurricanes, New York Islanders and San Jose Sharks have all expressed interest in Spooner, per one hockey source, as it appears that things simply aren’t going to work out for him in Boston. 

It’s been a challenging year for Spooner with pedestrian numbers of three goals and eight points in 24 games, but there are plenty of mitigating circumstances behind the slow start. Spooner has been pushed into playing left wing for the bulk of the season rather than his natural, preferred center position, and he’s been dropped to the fourth line by Claude Julien over the last few weeks. At times he’s also been pulled from the Bruins power play where he racked up six goals and 17 points working off the half-wall last season.  

Julien talked about the former second round pick in frank terms after this week’s win over the Carolina Hurricanes, which featured a Spooner snipe to the top corner during a successful shootout for the Black and Gold. 

“I think at times that [David Krejci] line goes quiet, other times it’s better. We’ve tried different guys on the left side right now and one [Spooner] might give them speed but doesn’t win as many battles,” said Julien of his search for stability at left wing alongside Krejci and David Backes. “The other way [with Tim Schaller] guys are a little harder right now, and they spend more time in the O-zone. So we’re really trying hard to find the right balance there.”

Trade talks have increased the past few weeks because A) the situation has worsened recently with Spooner’s prolonged stint as a miscast fourth line winger and B) the speedy, skilled forward will most likely be a man without a spot when 22-year-old left winger Frank Vatrano returns sometime around the mid-December range. 

According to one source, the Bruins are asking for a “top six forward” in exchange for a package including Spooner, and it’s a lead pipe certainty they’re looking for some goal-scoring given their 24th ranked offense this season. That represents a bit of an organizational sea change after the Bruins searched low and high for a top-4 defenseman in trade over the summer. The emergence of 20-year-old Brandon Carlo, and the Boston defense’s performance across the board, has lowered the Black and Gold’s priority list need to trade for a D-man. 

The Bruins have scored two goals or fewer in 18 of their 25 games this season and badly need somebody that can put the puck in the net from one of the wing positions. Unfortunately for the Bruins, there aren’t a lot of top-6 forwards readily available that could make an immediate impact. It’s highly doubtful any team is going to fork one over for an asset like Spooner that’s been downgraded due to the way he’s been utilized by the Bruins this season. He hasn't played with the same creativity or confidence this season after posting 13 goals and 49 points as their third line center last season. 

So it remains to be seen what the Bruins will get for Spooner after they offered him and a draft pick to Buffalo for rental forward Chris Stewart a couple of years ago. That was a deal Sabres GM Tim Murray turned down before trading Stewart for considerably less at the trade deadline.

The bottom line: the Bruins are working the phones discussing possible Spooner deals, and it feels like there is some motivation from B’s management to move a player that doesn’t seem like he'll ever be a proper fit in Julien’s system. 

Sunday Dec. 4: Zacha adjusting to life in the NHL

Sunday Dec. 4: Zacha adjusting to life in the NHL

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while marveling at the Bruins setting a franchise record this season for fewest practices in a regular season. Thanks compacted schedule due to the World Cup!

*Pavel Zacha is adjusting to life as a rookie in the NHL with the New Jersey Devils, and things are getting better as they go along.

*Manitoba Moose players relive their favorite Star Wars moments prior to the team holding their Star Wars Night.

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) Elliotte Friedman sits down with new Florida Panthers head coach Tom Rowe to discuss the massive changes in that organization with the firing of Gerard Gallant.

*Good for Anders Nilson putting a rainbow decal on the back of his goalie to mask to support some gay friends that have faced public resistance in their lives.

*Bruce Garrioch has his weekly NHL notes with several players, including Flyers defenseman Andrew MacDonald, potentially on the trade block if anybody wants them.

*PHT writer Cam Tucker has Colorado Avalanche defenseman Erik Johnson suffering a broken leg that will keep him out 6-8 weeks.

*There was no blood for the Vancouver Canucks fans, but there was still plenty of drama in a win over the Maple Leafs.

*For something completely different: The World Baseball Classic works for everybody except for Major League Baseball, and that would appear to be a problem.