Haggerty: Bruins showing lineups, methods for playoff run

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Haggerty: Bruins showing lineups, methods for playoff run

The Bruins said they were aiming toward playoff mode with a dozen games left in the regular season, and they werent punking anybody.

The Bs have won two games in a row and started rounding the playoff version of their hockey team into shape with plenty of moving parts.

If the Saturday afternoon matinee win over the Flyers represented the first few baby steps for a sleeping Bs giant, the Black and Gold machine was firing its pistons with strength and ferocity during the 8-0 shellacking of the Toronto Maple Leafs at TD Garden.

Its something we know we have to stay focused on. Not to get carried away by the result tonight we want to have a strong finish of the season and establish our game going into the playoffs on the right note, said Bs captain Zdeno Chara. So tomorrow is a new day and new preparation is on the way.

The resounding victory finished off a perfect 6-0 season series against an overmatched Toronto club headed for their respective golf courses next month. The victory also supplied a window into what everybody will see out of the Bruins come April.

First and most obviously was the offensive involvement from every member of the Bs roster against a Leafs team destined for the glue factory: points for 13 different players and at least one goal from each of the forward lines for Boston.

We tried to focus. We had some good contributions from Chris Kellys line again tonight -- some great added help from that line, because it just gives us, again, that little bit of more breathing room when it comes to guys that are producing offensively, said Claude Julien. It doesnt put all the pressure on the same people all the time.

It involves defensive domination in their own end and responsibility in front of their own net, and that starts with Joe Corvo serving as a healthy scratch.

It continues with Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg paired together as a shutdown duo that made Phil Kessel break out into a cold sweat.

While this is taking it to an extreme with some help from a group of Toronto skaters completely unwilling to pay the price, there are all kinds of things going right for the Boston defenders if its taken the Leafs 50 minutes of hockey to squeeze off 10 shots at the net.

The Bruins are playing air-tight defense around their own slot area and avoiding the defensive breakdowns that caused headaches for stretches this season. Theyre also facing down the demons that thoroughly destroyed them on a three-game road trip through Pittsburgh and Florida.

I think we all played well at both ends of the ice and thats when you tend to have success. I think if youre cheating on the offensive side of the puck those things come back to bite you, said Chris Kelly. Like I said, itd be easy to not play the game properly, the proper way, when youre up by a bunch.

Even Greg Zanon, the newcomer, has mixed in with the collective group and is forcing the opposition to pay a price around Bostons net.

It was Zanon that stood up Colby Armstrong around the Bs cage and started a heated sequence that broke up into a solid Gregory CampbellLuke Schenn tilt that sparked some emotion.

Campbell lit the match on fire, but the powder keg finally exploded when longtime adversaries Milan Lucic and Mike Komisarek dropped the gloves for another chapter in their history of hatred.

Once again it was Lucic familiarly gaining the upper hand while landing upper-cut bombs to Komisareks chin that repeatedly snapped the Toronto defensemans head back.

We didnt want them to come in here and try to bully us or play harder than us, said Benoit Pouliot. We just outplayed them the whole game and came out with a big win.

New Toronto head coach Randy Carlyle seemed to be lamenting the kind of abuse awaiting Bostons playoff opponents once the final 10 games of the regular season have played themselves out.

They have a tough team. You point to their hockey club and they have four guys, big strong guys. You look at Milan Lucic, you look at Adam McQuaid, you look at Zdeno Chara and you look at Shawn Thornton, said Carlyle. The rest of them guys, they follow behind. Theyre solid hockey players, but theyre, you know.

Those are the four guys, the big guys that I would say, just off the top of my head. The intimidation factor is they worked harder on the one on one battles, the puck battles than we did.

The playoff role for Brian Rolston is gaining clarity with the Bruins as well as the versatile forward regains his game conditioning. The 39-year-old is playing a role on all of the special teams, and hes orchestrating a Bs third line that produced nine points and a plus-10 in the blowout victory over Toronto.

Those are the kinds of numbers Bostons third line put up during last springs postseason march, and its once again what the Bruins will need from some of the depth players theyll be touting in the postseason.

Then there is perhaps the single most important individual to Bostons playoff hopes: goaltender Tim Thomas. Thomas has stopped 40 out of 42 shots in his last two games both victories for the Bruins, of course and has finally begun to again resemble the goaltender that dominated his crease prior to January.

Thomas wasnt challenged in the 13-save shutout against Toronto, but has shown plenty in stopping 94 percent of the shots he faced over the course of two important games used to prime the playoff pump.

Injuries, suddenly available players and adversity are all problems facing the Bruins as they do their last minute cramming prior to the playoffs, and send an unmistakable message that nobody is pushing the Bruins around.

Report: Bulls tell teams they won't trade Jimmy Butler

Report: Bulls tell teams they won't trade Jimmy Butler

The Bulls reportedly weren’t making Jimmy Butler available for a trade last month.

As the trade deadline approaches, it seems that hasn’t changed.

K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune:

Brian Windhorst of ESPN:

The teams that talked to the Chicago Bulls today were told, “Just about everybody on our roster is available, but Jimmy Butler is not.”

The Bulls are not obliged to stand by that, and there’s no indication they’ve assured Butler anything. If they’re offered a package more valuable than Butler, they’ll trade him.

But that’s a lot of value.

Click here for the complete story.

MLB may make rule changes for '18 season

MLB may make rule changes for '18 season

PHOENIX - Major League Baseball intends to push forward with the process that could lead to possible rule changes involving the strike zone, installation of pitch clocks and limits on trips to the pitcher's mound. While baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred expressed hope the ongoing process would lead to an agreement, he said clubs would reserve the right to act unilaterally, consistent with the rule-change provision of the sport's labor contract.

Union head Tony Clark said last weekend he did not foresee players agreeing to proposed changes for 2017. Under baseball's collective bargaining agreement, management can alter playing rules only with agreement from the union - unless it gives one year notice. With the one year of notice, management can make changes on its own.

"Unfortunately it now appears that there really won't be any meaningful change for the 2017 season due to a lack of cooperation from the MLBPA," Manfred said Tuesday during a news conference. "I've tried to be clear that our game is fundamentally sound, that it does not need to be fixed as some people have suggested, and I think last season was the kind of demonstration of the potential of our league to captivate the nation and of the game's unique place in American culture."

Yet, he also added: "I believe it's a mistake to stick our head in the sand and ignore the fact that our game has changed and continues to change."

Manfred said while he prefers an agreement, "I'm also not willing to walk away." He said he will send a letter to the union in the coming days and plans to continue dialogue with Clark and others in hopes of reaching agreement.

Clark met with Cactus League teams last week, five at a time over Thursday, Friday and Saturday, before departing Monday for Florida to visit each Grapefruit League club - and proposed rules changes were a topic.

"I have great respect for the labor relations process, and I have a pretty good track record for getting things done with the MLBPA," Manfred said. "I have to admit, however, that I am disappointed that we could not even get the MLBPA to agree to modest rule changes like limits on trips to the mound that have little effect on the competitive character of the game."

Clark saw talks differently.

"Unless your definition of `cooperation' is blanket approval, I don't agree that we've failed to cooperate with the commissioner's office on these issues," he wrote in an email to The Associated Press. "Two years ago we negotiated pace of play protocols that had an immediate and positive impact. Last year we took a step backward in some ways, and this offseason we've been in regular contact with MLB and with our members to get a better handle on why that happened. I would be surprised if those discussions with MLB don't continue, notwithstanding today's comments about implementation. As I've said, fundamental changes to the game are going to be an uphill battle, but the lines of communication should remain open."

Clark added "my understanding is that MLB wants to continue with the replay changes (2-minute limit) and the no-pitch intentional walks and the pace of game warning/fine adjustments."

Manfred said he didn't want to share specifics of his priorities for alterations.

"There's a variety of changes that can be undertaken," Manfred said. "I'm committed to the idea that we have a set of proposals out there and we continue to discuss those proposals in private."

MLB has studied whether to restore the lower edge of the strike zone from just beneath the kneecap to its pre-1996 level - at the top of the kneecap. Management would like to install 20-second pitch clocks in an attempt to speed the pace of play - they have been used at Triple-A and Double-A for the past two seasons.

Players also have been against limiting mound meetings. The least controversial change appears to be allowing a team to call for an intentional walk without the pitcher having to throw pitches. In addition, MLB likely can alter some video review rules without the union's agreement- such as shortening the time a manager has to call for a review.

"Most of this stuff that they were talking about I don't think it would have been a major adjustment for us," Royals manager Ned Yost said.

Manfred said starting runners on second base in extra innings sounds unlikely to be implemented in the majors. The change will be experimented with during the World Baseball Classic and perhaps at some short-season Class A leagues. Manfred said it was a special-purpose rule "beneficial in developmental leagues."

Manfred also said Tuesday that a renovated Wrigley Field would be a great choice to host an All-Star Game and Las Vegas could be a "viable market for us."

"I don't think that the presence of legalized gambling in Las Vegas should necessarily disqualify that market as a potential major league city," Manfred said.