Tightening up the discipline a big key for Bruins

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Tightening up the discipline a big key for Bruins

WILMINGTON, Mass. While the Washington Capitals power play has largely struggled over the last two seasons, the Bruins know theres an element of Fools Gold to ranking 18thin the NHL with a 16.7 percent success rate.

Bring Alex Ovechkin, Alex Semin, Nicklas Backstrom, Dennis Wideman and Mike Green to the playoff party among others, and Washington can be dangerous and deadly on the man advantage.

So the Bruins know that gritty penalty kill work and hard-edged discipline are going to be in full order starting Thursday night for Game 1 at TD Garden. Of course the Bruins would love to make Jason Chimera pay for the charging hit on Adam McQuaid two weeks ago that has their rugged defenseman sitting out as the postseason gets started.

There will be moments when the Bruins would like nothing better than to smash blue collar players like Matt Hendricks or Troy Brouwer in the face, but thats not what happens to good teams during the playoffs.

Instead championship teams turn the other cheek, avoid giving opponents the power play, take a number and worry about it somewhere down the dusty hockey trail.

I dont necessarily always look at numbers for the power play. Look at Buffalothey didnt have a very good power play numbers-wise, but against us they were very potent, said Claude Julien. There has to be an element of respect there for the guys on the power play especially with Nicklas Backstrom being back as a very good playmaker. That will certainly help.

But they have the shooters: Wideman, Green, Semin and Ovechkin. They have a lot of guys that can shoot the puck on that unit. The experience we went through last year and other years goes to show you how important it is to be disciplined. Good penalty you will kill and bad penalties will end up costing you.

Brad Marchand will never been known as a dean of discipline, but he knows consequences come with reckless actions in the postseason.

Only the Flyers and Senators had more penalties than the Bruins (1,103 PIM with 13.45 PIM per game) this year during the regular season, and that will need to change for the better with the postseason upon them.

We know where the line is, and that we have to play within those lines once the playoffs get started. Playing undisciplined hockey and taking bad penalties can lead to giving up power play goals in the postseason, and you cant have that, said Marchand. If Im playing out of control or taking bad penalties Claude Julien should take me out of the game until I snap back between the lines. You cant afford to make those kinds of mistakes right now.

Dont mistake discipline for frailty or timidity, however. The Bruins are a heavy, bruising, bullying hockey team and that manifests itself into punishing body checks and intimidation before and after every whistle. With Marchand, Milan Lucic and Shawn Thornton on one side and Alex Ovechkin, Brouwer, Chimera and Brooks Laich on the other, there will be plenty of smash-mouth hockey to go around.

For us to have success we have to do everything we can to be successful and thats one of the things that will make this series exciting: both teams want to be physical, said Lucic. Part of our identity and our success is being physical no matter who we play. We have a game plan and we have a type of way were going to play. Being physical is one of those ways. Were going to establish a forecheck and being physical allows us to do that.

The big question now is whether the Capitals will go over the edge guided by one of the NHLs foremost cheap shot artists of his generation, Dale Hunter. Will the Caps coach order a code red or two by the time a potential seven games series has concluded with Boston?Even the Bruins are a little curious about that one.

Playing under Dale Hunter Im sure theyll be a little physical, and theyll have some forwards that will get in there and get dirty, said Milan Lucic. Ovechkin isnt scared of the physical play and he likes to use the body. Its a way that they have success.

But then again the Bs will gladly take the power plays and walk on the right side of the discipline line in the first round if Washington lets them.

Report: Cavs. Pacers, Nuggets discuss deal involving George, Love

Report: Cavs. Pacers, Nuggets discuss deal involving George, Love

Don’t count the Cleveland Cavaliers out of the Paul George sweepstakes just yet.

According to ESPN’s Marc Stein and Chris Haynes, the Cavaliers are still working on a way to get George with LeBron James and Kyrie Irving in Ohio.

The latest rumor involves a three way deal being discussed between the Cavaliers, Indiana Pacers, and Denver Nuggets. According to Hayes, the deal would send George and Kenenth Faried to Cleveland and Kevin Love to Denver.

Presumably, Indiana would end up with good picks and a few young assets.

Click here for the complete story.

Will the Harris signing mean more time on the edge for Hightower?

Will the Harris signing mean more time on the edge for Hightower?

David Harris is expected to be a savvy middle linebacker who will line up his teammates when they help. He's expected to provide some level of leadership, even in his first year in New England, as an accomplished-but-hungry 33-year-old who has not yet reached a Super Bowl. 

What Harris is not expected to do is improve the Patriots pass rush. He was in on one sack in 900 snaps last season.  

But in a roundabout way he might. 

MORE: How does Derek Carr's new deal impact Jimmy Garoppolo?

There are dominos to fall now that Harris has been added to Bill Belichick and Matt Patricia's defense. How much will Harris play, and whose playing time will he cut into? Those questions don't yet have answers, but one of the more intriguing elements of the Harris acquisition is how he will benefit Dont'a Hightower's game.

If Harris can pick up the Patriots defense quickly -- and all indications are that there should be few issues there -- he could take some of the all-important communication responsibilities off of Hightower's shoulders. 

Ever since taking the reins from Jerod Mayo as the team's signal-caller, Hightower has had to be on top of all requisite pre-snap checks and last-second alignment changes. It's a critical role, and one that Hightower performs well, but those duties place some added stress on the player wearing the green dot. Perhaps if part of that load can be heaped onto Harris' plate, that might allow Hightower to feel as though he's been freed up to focus on his individual assignments.

Harris' presence might also impact where on the field Hightower is used. Hightower may be the most versatile piece on a Patriots defense loaded with them, but with Harris in the middle, Hightower could end up playing more on the edge, where he's proven he can make a major impact (see: Super Bowl LI).

For Belichick and his staff, having the ability to use one of their best pass-rushers -- and one of the most efficient rushers league-wide, per Pro Football Focus -- on the edge more frequently has to be an enticing byproduct of the move to sign Harris. Especially since there are some question marks among the team's end-of-the-line defenders behind Trey Flowers and Rob Ninkovich. 

We'll have to wait for training camp before we have an idea of how exactly Harris fits in with the Patriots defense. But the effect he'll have on his new teammates, and Hightower in particular, will be fascinating to track.