Offensive explosion propels Bruins

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Offensive explosion propels Bruins

BOSTON -- The Bruins' five-game winning streak isn't tough to figure out.

Goals, goals, goals.

"It's been great," Milan Lucic said Saturday after Boston's 6-2 win over Buffalo. "We're doing a good job in the neutral zone, in the defensive zone. We're getting opportunities. We're bearing down on them and you know . . . coming up as a five man unit and supporting one another. I think that's ultimately what's given us the success that we're getting."

The scoring surplus is a relief.

Boston began its NHL title defense with an underwhelming 3-7-0 record. The phrase "Stanley Cup hangover" was used and overused, but the team could do little to deny it. Through their first 10 games, the Bruins goals scored 22 goals, while their opponents scored 25.

Their goals foragainst ratio in the last four games? 24-to-3.

For perspective: Boston hasn't scored at least five times in five-straight games since 1986. Scoring six or more goals in four straight contests hasn't been done since 1978.

It's escaped no one that the Brad Marchand-Patrice Bergeron-Tyler Seguin line, pieced together at the end of October, leads the offensive outpouring. Both wingers scored in Thursday's over a normally stingy Buffalo defense (2.36 average goals allowed going into Saturday's game).

Marchand spoke of their chemistry modestly.

"We are starting to click a little better here now. You see some plays where we are starting to find each other now. We know where to be. Seguin is obviously a pretty easy guy to play with because of his great skill-set. We are gelling a little better now, we just have to keep it going."

A "little better"?

Marchand's assist and third period goal on Satruday stretches his career-best point streak to five games (3G, 5A). The"clicking" was showcased in the second period on a Marchand breakaway. After picking off a Sabres pass in the neutral zone, he flew in on goalie Ryan Miller's right. Seguin hopped off the bench to fill the opposite lane. Marchand held off, showing great patience in waiting for Miller to commit before passing off to Seguin for the one-timer.

It was Seguin's 11th goal of the season.

Not only does he lead all Bruins, his 11th tally also matches that of his entire rookie campaign. His proficiency has inspired Boston's surge; Seguin's lit the lamp eight times (and has three assists) in the last six contests.

He's on pace for 61 goals.

"Whenever you score, you're never going to be disappointed," Seguin smiled. "You can never score too much and right now I'm burying most of my opportunities. But I feel like my two goals tonight, I don't know what I really did, it was really just the linemates work and me just finishing."

Claude Julien is thrilled with the production, saying Seguin has exceeded the expectations of the coaching staff. But he also credited the man centering his young, speedy wingers: Patrice Bergeron.

"I think Bergy's the guy that's the reliable guy on that line," Julien said. "He's always in the right spot, even defensively. Once in a while, one of those two guys are going to end up blowing the zone in a little quick, and that's where Bergy comes in and repairs the damage. That's the thing: they get the opportunities and they make the best of it."

Faceoffs wins -- often via Bergeron -- have been huge in creating chances.

Boston leads the NHL with a 54.5 percentage in the circle. Bergeron is ranked 8th in the league behind first line center David Krejci. The Bruins' third and fourth pivots, Chris Kelly and Gregory Campbell, are 27th and 41st, respectively.

As their success on the dot shows, the Bruins are deep. It's why they're is getting production up and down the lineup: 13 different players have registered a point and 12 have scored goals during the win streak.

Are the gaudy numbers good to last? Six goals per game would be an impossible clip for any team to sustain, and the Bruins know it.

"You go through spurts like this during the year," Marchand said. "And then you go through spurts like we did during the first bit of our season. We can't get too high and we can't get too excited about it. We have to make sure we stay calm and focused for each game."

Considering the rut Boston started in, the team appreciates experiencing the other extreme. Now they know what they're capable of: winning, and winning big.

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.