Haggerty: Thoughts from P-Bruins and Phantoms

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Haggerty: Thoughts from P-Bruins and Phantoms

PROVIDENCE -- Here are five thoughts from the first period of the Providence Bruins-Adirondack Phantoms game, where the P-Bruins lead by a 1-0 score at the Dunkin' Donuts Center.

1) Team-leading ninth goal of the season for Jamie Tardif, who has really made me stand up and take notice whenever I've watched Providence this year. He made a great play blocking a clear attempt against the boards, and then turning that into an odd man rush at the other end of the ice. Tardif looked off the trailer on the play and snapped a shot glove-side high for the score. He's the perfect example of the right kind of veteran player the Bruins have brought into the mix here in Providence.

2) Good period for Matt Bartkowski, who has really stabilized his play in Providence after some early shakiness. Was involved at the offensive end and able to play his shutdown defense in a period dominated by Providence.

3) Once again the P-Bruins dominate the first period as they've done quite a bit this season, and are outshooting the Phantoms by a 16-7 margin.

4) Sean Couturier and Brayden Schenn are both playing with Adirondack, but not much out of those two NHL players this afternoon. Good challenge for the P-Bruins defense and they're living up to it thus far.

5) Today marks the 20th game -- out of 22 overall -- that Jared Knight has missed this year with groinhamstring issues. He's got to be disappointed about the way things have gone in his first full pro season thus far.

SECOND PERIOD
Providence 2, Adirondack 1

1) Another goal for Jamie Tardif as a result of hard, determined work around the net. The play was created when Chris Bourque wheeled through the high slot and found Ryan Spooner for a one-timer. Phantoms goalie Scott Munroe made the initial stop, but Tardif slammed the loose puck in for the score.

2) Solid two periods for Niklas Svedberg in the pipes. His only blemish was a 2-on-1 with a top shelf shot that was created when Colby Cohen and Ryan Button collided and took the other out of the play. But otherwise the Swedish goalie continues to impress is his 16th appearance in 22 games.

3) Zack FitzGerald nearly scrapped with Providence tough guy Bobby Robins after a scrum, and then had a questionable hip check on David Warsofsky late in the second period. Would expect he might drop gloves in the third period. Yup. He fits right into the Flyers Way of doing things.

4) Ryan Spooner has got the good stuff today for Providence. Drew a hooking penalty on a breakaway in the second period that set up a P-Bruins power play and earned his 10th assist of season their power play score.

5) Six shots on net for Chris Bourque and an assist in first two periods for the P-Bruins winger. He's been all over the ice for a dominant line each time Providence has had the puck.

THIRD PERIOD
Providence 2, Adirondack 2

1) Max Sauve absolutely buried Phantoms forward Shane Harper with a hit early in the third period. Not something I'm used to seeing with Sauve, but I think that's the kind of tenacity the Bruins organization would love to see out of him.

2) 44 shots on net for Providence. That's impressive even if they were catching an Adirondack team that got into Rhode Island early this morning.

3) Two shots net between Sean Couturier and Brayden Schenn this afternoon. Didn't look like they much interest in being in Providence this afternoon. As if one Couturier took a horrendous slashing call after turning the puck over to Max Sauve in his own end late in the third period.

4) Justin Florek is hanging around in Providence and scored his first pro goal the last time I was in Providence, but didn't have much impact in limited ice time for the P-Bruins. He took an ill-advised holding penalty late in the third period that led to the Phantoms-tying goal as well, which certainly isn't helping his cause.

5) Second Sunday in a row the Providence Bruins are providing me with some free hockey after things ended up in a shootout last weekend. Always appreciate that when good hockey is so hard to find during these lockout days.

Knicks' Noah suspended 20 games by NBA for drug policy violation

Knicks' Noah suspended 20 games by NBA for drug policy violation

NEW YORK - Joakim Noah of the New York Knicks has been suspended 20 games without pay for violating the league’s anti-drug policy.

The NBA announced the suspension Saturday, saying Noah tested positive for Selective Androgen Receptor Modulator LGD-4033 – something that can be found in over-the-counter supplements.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports first reported the suspension.

Noah has not played since Feb. 4 and was likely to miss the Knicks’ final 10 games this season because of a knee injury. The NBA said Noah’s suspension will begin with the ”first NBA regular season or playoff game for which he is eligible and physically able to play.”

Noah is in the first year of a four-year, $72 million contract. He and the Knicks (27-45) have been a disappointment this season. He averaged 5.0 points and 8.7 rebounds in 46 games this season, and has been limited to 75 games over the past two seasons.

Haggerty: Legacies on the line at edge of another Bruins collapse

Haggerty: Legacies on the line at edge of another Bruins collapse

BRIGHTON, Mass – Let’s start with the straight fact that it’s asinine, apologist drivel to let the Bruins off the hook, and perpetuate an off-the-mark myth there isn’t enough talent on the B's roster to be a playoff hockey team.

They are middle-of-the-road in the talent department to be sure, and the roster depth clearly isn’t what it was in their elite years, as the Bruins balance an aging core group with an influx of youthful talent from the next generation. But this is also a proud, talented group with one of the best all-around centers in the NHL in Patrice Bergeron, a former Norris Trophy winner and future Hall of Fame defenseman in Zdeno Chara, a legitimate Hart Trophy candidate and in-his-prime All-Star left winger in Brad Marchand, an emerging 20-year-old offensive superstar in David Pastrnak and a former Vezina Trophy winning goaltender still in his prime in Tuukka Rask.

That doesn’t even mention high-end players David Krejci, David Backes and Torey Krug that are game-changing talents in their own right.

Combine that with the other players on the Bruins roster and this is a team interspersed with proud Stanley Cup winning players and enough talent to still take care of business in the final eight games and punch their playoff ticket. Winning a Cup in 2011 can never be taken away from Chara, Krejci, Bergeron, Marchand, Rask and Adam McQuaid, and neither can the seven straight seasons in the playoffs under Claude Julien.

But there’s a danger now of some late-in-the-game tarnish on Black and Gold legacies for some of those distinguished, proud players if they once again collapse down the stretch this season and miss the playoffs for the third year in a row with a late-season nosedive. Four consecutive regulation losses have cast doubt into everything for the Bruins and roused all the same old uncomfortable questions from the past three years.

Bergeron and Marchand need to find their best games and dominate the way elite players do in big-game situations like Saturday night vs. the Isles. Pastrnak, Brandon Carlo and Frank Vatrano need to show they're ready for the playoffs.Rask needs to finally show he's ready to shine as a No. 1 goalie and lead his team to victory in a big game rather than buckle under weighty pressure. 

“This is their legacy, those guys. They are Stanley Cup champions and they missed last year. Each year we talk about writing our own story, and I believe that because guys come and go,” said coach Bruce Cassidy. “But generally there is a core group of guys and it’s their legacy. I’m sure they want to reach the playoffs and get back to being a Stanley Cup contender every year.

“That’s what they want and to a man I’m sure they would tell you that. I do believe that they believe it’s different [this season]. Until you change the course of your results, those questions are going to come. We have to change the results to make then go away. One week of not getting results that we want doesn’t mean we’re panicking, but we do understand what’s at stake. We want to be playing in April and May.”

If the Bruins can’t pull out a win on Saturday night against the Islanders, who just pushed even with them at 82 points on the season, then their playoff lives will no longer be under their own control anymore. It will become another late-season choke job by a team that will have its character and courage questioned. The highs of six years ago will be matched by the bitter lows of the past three seasons.

People won’t talk about a scrappy, little underdog Bruins team that just couldn’t get over the hump once again. Instead, they’ll lament a formerly proud, tough-minded group of hockey players that somehow turned into NHL tomato cans all too willing to play the victim once the going got tough late in the regular season.

That’s no way to go out if you’ve ever had your name etched on Lord Stanley’s Cup, and the Bruins that know better should be taking that to heart right now.