Haggerty: Deja vu for Bruins as they head to Washington

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Haggerty: Deja vu for Bruins as they head to Washington

WASHINGTON -- Pardon the Bruins if theyre feeling something akin to dj vu as they travel to the nations capital for a pair of road playoff games.

With their series against the Capitals tied 1-1, and facing two games in Washington D.C., the Bs find themselves in a remarkably similar situation to last years first round against the Montreal Canadiens. Granted, Boston was down 0-2 to the hated Habs a year ago and there will be no two-day retreat to Lake Placid like last spring. But many of the same phrases and ideas are being put forth by the Bruins now as a year ago.

Back then, the Bruins were lamenting the lack of quality scoring chances generated by their top forwards, were showing hints of frustration about their substandard offense, and were grudgingly paying homage to the opposing goaltender in that case it was Carey Price -- while knowing in their hearts they hadnt challenged him enough. Their third line was the heartbeat of the offense last year, and the more heralded front-end players were saying they had to start getting in gear.

Sound familiar?

I think it is similar. We let Carey Price see a lot of pucks last year and maybe thats our focus is to get in front of Caps goalie Braden Holtbys face a little bit more, said Rich Peverley, who has three points in 10 games since coming back from a sprained knee. But last year was last year, and maybe we can take from that experience. But nothing stays the same and we need to find a way this year.

I think we definitely need to create more Grade A scoring opportunities. Holtby's definitely played unbelievably, but I think we can challenge him a little bit more. I think we can hold onto the puck a little more and be a little more creative than weve been. Weve got the skill players.

Exchange Price and the Habs for Holtby and the Capitals, and it could be 2011. The Caps have blocked 42 shots and done a magnificent job of clogging up the slot area, which has helped hold the Bruins to two goals in the first two games.

Hal Gill and P.K. Subban are gone, and in their place have come John Carlson and Karl Azner blocking shots for Washington. (Perhaps its the influence of Roman Hamrlik, who was on both squads, but somehow we think not.)

Milan Lucic remembers struggling mightily during those first two games against the Habs last year, and once again hes scoreless after two playoff games this season.He said the reigning Cup champs need to gear it up and find a way to cut through Washingtons packed-in 1-4 neutral zone trap defense.

It feels a little bit like last season for myself, said Lucic. Looking back at that series, I wasnt really able to get anything going in the first two games and I feel like I havent really gotten anything going here in the first two games. Its not like I'm trying not to do anything, but in saying that youve got to put pressure on yourself to want to be better. I want to be better and Im going to do everything I can to help this team win.

While the Bruins are clearly perplexed by their inability to gain the offensive zone with speed or get bodies to the front of the net, theres one big difference between last year and this year.

The Bruins go to enemy territory with the best-of-seven series even, and only need one win to regain their home -ce advantage. Both games have been gone into overtime, so the Bruins know theyre not that far off the winning offensive formula.

They just need a little spark emotionally and offensively to get some of their big name forwards like Lucic, Peverley, Tyler Seguin and David Krejci back spinning in the right direction.

Take a look at the hate thats flowing in the PenguinsFlyers and SenatorsRangers series thus far, and its bringing the best out of three of those four teams (sorry Pittsburgh!). Its been a veritable game of croquet on grandmas front lawn for the Capitals and Bruins aside from Alex Ovechkin cross-checking Dennis Seidenberg in the face without any repercussions.

The Bruins need to be the aggressors and start making things nasty to loosen everything up, and the sooner they do it the better. Players like Lucic and Brad Marchand know thats when the Bruins are at their best, and they need to start finding the hate in their hearts.

There is no doubt I think our battle can be better," said coach Claude Julien. "When you look at this series, I think both teams are pretty even in determination thats why its tied at 1-1 and thats why both games have gone into overtime. Somewhere along the way youve got to find a way to get a little bit more of that edge than the other team.

Theyre probably hoping to do the same thing. But theres also some tactical things that I think we have to be better at and we can adjust to what were trying to do.

Clearly the Bruins could generate more speed coming into the offensive zone and execute more precise dump-and-chase entries against the Capitals' 1-4 trap defense.

But its about winning the one-on-one battles as much as anything else for the Bruins. Its about finding the air of intimidation that goes along with being the Stanley Cup champs, and finding a pathway through a Washington defense thats more playing-over-its-heads mirage than grinding reality.

As with any playoff series, those are the areas that will separate the winner from the loser no matter how eerily similar this series is to last seasons tilt with the Canadiens. The Bruins have been here before, and they know exactly what must be done if they want to prevail.

Celtics-Heat preview: Do C's need to bounce back from a win?

Celtics-Heat preview: Do C's need to bounce back from a win?

BOSTON – The final score on the Jumbotron Friday night said the Celtics beat the Phoenix Suns 130-120.
 
But there was a clear and undeniable sense of loss on the part of the Celtics, even if Friday’s victory was their third in a row and sixth in the past seven games.
 
The Celtics (47-26) hope to continue on their winning ways tonight against a Miami Heat team currently among a handful fighting for one of the last playoff slots, but are doing so without Dion Waiters (ankle) who has been instrumental in their surge after an 11-30 start to the season.
 
Beating the Heat (35-37) will require Boston to play better than they did against the Suns, a game Boston won, but in many ways had the feeling of defeat.
 
Yes, Devin Booker’s career-high 70 points was very much a blow – a huge blow – to the pride of a team that takes tremendous pride in its defense.
 
But the sense of a loss came in the form of purpose while playing as close to their potential as possible.
 
The Celtics fell short on both fronts Friday night.
 
Being just one game behind Cleveland (47-24) for the best record in the East, the Celtics understand getting as many wins as possible is the mindset right now.
 
But coach Brad Stevens knows that while winning is important, how the team plays is even more valuable.
 
“Like I’ve said before, I’m surprised at where we are record-wise because we’ve got to play at a higher level for 48 minutes,” Stevens said. “We just don’t do it.”
 
Is this Stevens’ way of trying to motivate his players after a not-so-great performance?
 
Or is he seriously concerned that his team isn’t as good as their record?
 
The Celtics, by their own standards, and to those of us on the outside looking in, know they are a better team than the one we saw on Friday night.
 
Not having Avery Bradley (sick) certainly hurt Boston’s efforts defensively.
 
Still, a Friday night’s game wore on, Booker’s confidence only grew and the Celtics’ desire to shut him down or at least slow him down, began to dissipate like an ice cube in hell.
 
And that’s a problem - a big problem - for a team that has to be connected at both ends of the floor for an extended period of time in order to play at the level their capable of and, most important, give them the best shot at emerging victorious in the postseason.
 
That’s why Stevens isn’t too caught up in the team’s chances of catching Cleveland, or whether they go into the playoffs riding a fat winning streak.
 
“I’m not going to get caught up in winning a couple of games in a row and all that stuff,” Stevens said. “I want to get caught up in playing well. We’ve shown ourselves capable of playing well, we have not sustained it throughout a game. And it’s been pretty consistent.”
 

Win vs. Islanders 'a nice building block' for Bruins

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Win vs. Islanders 'a nice building block' for Bruins

BROOKLYN, NY – It wasn’t particularly entertaining and it won’t be all that memorable down the ride aside from the timing and importance of the meeting between the Bruins and Islanders. But it was a solid 2-1 team win for the Bruins over the Islanders at the Barclays Center on Saturday night with the B’s grinding all the way down to the end while protecting a one-goal lead through much of the third period.

Nearly everybody across Boston’s roster contributed in the major victory over the team trying to bypass them in the wild card standings, and it was a beautiful thing. Anton Khudobin stepped up when Tuukka Rask couldn’t start Saturday night’s showdown with a lower body issue, and Riley Nash supplied both Boston goals from a fourth line that’s played some of their best hockey lately.

It was unlikely heroes all around for the Black and Gold in the tightly-wound contest, but that diversity of talent and production can be a very good thing for a team looking to make that playoff push.

“You have to stay with it. You have to stay in the moment and stay with the game no matter what’s happening during the game. That’s how you get results, and that’s how you find ways to persevere through adversity,” said Patrice Bergeron. “We just got back to playing stingy, especially in the neutral zone. We got away from it the last few games, and it was nice tonight to be back playing a low-scoring game like what we’re used to playing.”

When it was all said and done the Bruins only allowed 19 shots on net and also killed off six penalties in the kind of grinding defensive showdown that you haven’t seen all that much out of the Black and Gold lately. It was exactly what Cassidy was looking for to snap the four-game losing streak, and once again start pushing the Bruins upward into the playoff chase.

“That’s the type of win that goes a long way in the room when your goaltender is battling hard and fighting that hard to see pucks and find pucks and your D are blocking shots. And you kill that many penalties. It was a nice building block for us,” said Cassidy. “From the goalie on out, everybody was in there [in the win]. It was a tough game. It was a nice Bruins win. We had been doing it with offense earlier, and we’ve got to be able to do it both ways. You need to be able to win 2-1 hockey games, and it had been awhile.”

Now it’s simply up to the Bruins to be feeling good about their latest win while going back to basics, and looking for more next time around after ending their worst losing streak of the season.