Bruins stand up during fight night at the Garden


Bruins stand up during fight night at the Garden

By Joe Haggerty

BOSTON Why cant the Bruins and Stars play every night?

The unlikely rivals have developed an intense hatred for each other, built on some epically brutal games over the last few seasons -- including the famous game two seasons ago when both teams racked up 36 penalties for 146 combined penalty minutes and seven misconducts. Dallas and Boston added another gloriousOld Time Hockey chapter on Thursday night in a brawling6-3 Bruins victory at the TD Garden.

The only things missing were "the foil" and a good, old-fashioned brouhaha pouring out into the zamboni entrance.This one started out about settling an old score, but turned into one of Bostons signature victories of the season. It came during a stretch when the Bruins have gone 9-3 in their last 12 games and made significant moves up the charts in the Eastern Conference.

One of Bostons leaders within the dressing room said there was little doubt that the throwdown with Steve Ott and Sean Avery in 2008 a game that those Bruins pointed to as an early turning point in the season was still fresh on their minds when the Stars took the ice this time around. The Bruins went an amazing 23-2-1 in the 26 games following that contest two seasons ago, and have to hope for the same kind of bump after this one.

The only difference: That fight night from two seasons ago was in the opening month of the season. This time it was about two hockey teams battling their way through the February doldrums.

Well, that was almost like we just continued the game from the last time the Stars were in Boston. I mean we talked about it before the game, said Andrew Ference. Its about going out and starting like that. The fact that they have a team thats similar to ours, they can go out and get their noses dirty, and being in the West, as tight as it is, you know theyre desperate for wins here. I think they dropped a few of their recent games. Its what we expected, but not exactly what we planned, but thats the way it shakes out.

Simply said, Steve Ott and the Stars have a habit of poking theangrybear in the cage. And the Bruins play their best brand of hockey when somebody pokes at them in a challening fashion.

The poke happened right off the bat when Gregory Campbell and Shawn Thornton switched positions on the opening face-off, and Campbell lined up beside Ott at the wing position for a heated conversation.

That led to both players dropping the gloves and throwing themselves into an immediate fight a round of fisticuffs that the hockey code dictated Ott indulge after he had committed a brutal charging hit at Campbell two years ago when the Bs center was playing for the Florida Panthers."When you're up playingagainst the Steve Otts and Sean Averys of the world, then you tend to play the same way," said Campbell.

Ott got the best of Campbell and bloodied his nose badly, but several Bruins players privately chafed at Ott after the game as the Dallas troublemaker acted as if he didnt want to fight Campbell and then immediately punched Campbell in the nose when there was a sliver of an opening.

That led to Shawn Thornton stepping in to change the momentum after the first fight, and the Bs enforcer did just that while hammering Krystofer Barch with a flurry of powerful rights and lefts that stunned the Dallas forward.

Two fights in two seconds. The aggressive, physical Stars tried to trump Thorntons triumph by engaging in a third and final fight four seconds into the game, and this is where the momentum finally and decisively flipped toward Bostons direction. Brian Sutherby was manhandled by 6-foot-5 Adam McQuaid, who continually gets underestimated by opponents because of the puffy curls of hair underneath his helmet and his easy-going Prince Edward Island smile.

But beneath McQuaid's exterior is one bad, tough dude who knows how to throw them. He hit Sutherby with overhand rights, uppercuts and dropped the Dallas skater to the ice in the most decisive fight of the three. "We knew they were a physical team and we wanted to show werent going to back down," said McQuaid. "We got things started there and it went from there."

Less than five minutes into the first, Andrew Ference pounded Adam Burish for shooting a puck at Tuukka Rask after he was off-sides and the Bruins had already seemingly won before the game was even close to halfway complete.

All that fighting might have been for naught, however, if the Bruins couldnt put together some offense, and they did just with their two best scorers stepping up when the Big Bad Bruins needed them most. Milan Lucic and Patrice Bergeron both banged home early goals, and never trailed in a game that showed how tight the Bruins are as a team and showed just how good the Bs can be against one of the best that the Western Conference has to offer.

That is a huge thing for our team, said Blake Wheeler. I think in the past certainly teams have tried to come in and push us around in this building and that is when we are at our best. Teams try to play that game with us and that is when we play our best hockey.

It is a credit to those guys who stood up for our team and kind of stood up for our home ice. And the rest of the guys kind of picked up the momentum and got us that big lead.

Bostons win over Dallas two years ago was a signal to the rest of the NHL that the Big Bad Bruins werent about to be pushed around, and every game against them was going to be a painful one to be approached with caution.

That message remained the exact same two years later against the Stars for a Bruins team looking to make a statement within the final 30 games of the regular season and doing as much talking with their fists and shoulders as their sticks.

Joe Haggerty can be reached at Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs

Bruins get a needed boost from young players in win over Sharks


Bruins get a needed boost from young players in win over Sharks

Here’s what we learned from the Bruins' 3-1 win over the San Jose Sharks at the SAP Center on Saturday night, which gave Boston four of a possible six points in its California road swing.
1) The kids stepped up at a great time for the Bruins. Boston needed some young players to step up and fill in for the injured veterans up front, and they got it on Saturday night. Jake DeBrusk was the main playmaker on both goals in the first period, and the Bruins got goals from rookies DeBrusk, Peter Cehlarik and Danton Heinen. It was Cehlarik’s first NHL goal and the 10th point of the season for Heinen, who continues to show signs that he is going to be a productive, reliable winger  even though he didn’t start the season at the NHL level. DeBrusk finished with a goal and an assist and twice used his speed and aggressiveness taking the puck to the net to create scoring chances: On the first goal it was Cehlarik who finished the loose puck after DeBrusk’s net drive created a rebound, and on the second it was DeBrusk simply beating reigning Norris Trophy winner Brent Burns to a race for the puck and then snapping it up and over San Jose backup goalie Aaron Dell. Cehlarik became the sixth Bruins rookie to score the first goal of his NHL career with Boston this season, and it all shows tangible results of the youth movement they were fully embracing this season. There will be peaks and valleys with so many young players in the lineup, but Saturday night turned out to be one of those high-water marks.

2)  At their healthiest, the Bruins can be a fast-skating, skilled team that will be equal parts offense and defense in a hard-working style that features pace and creativity in the offensive zone. The Bruins aren't healthy right now, obviously, and aren’t going to find success that way as attested by the fact that they hadn’t won two games in a row this season until Saturday night in San Jose. With a number of players already out of the lineup, Torey Krug now injured as well and Tuukka Rask taking an extended rest in favor of a red-hot Anton Khudobin, the Bruins are actually playing a very different brand of hockey right now. With Rask not playing -- and not allowing the types of bad or soft goals he's given up so far this year -- they can play a little more conservatively and try to make a two- or three-goal output in a game actually stick as the game-winning margin. Just check the box score,  as the Bruins blocked a whopping 30 shots and conversely the Sharks blocked just 12. Zdeno Chara, Kevan Miller and Robbie O’Gara all had blocked shots in the final few minutes, and Brandon Carlo stepped in front of a wide-open chance for Burns in the third period off a clean offensive zone faceoff win for the Sharks. Those are all gritty, tough plays in the D-zone that you don’t always see, and it perhaps comes a little more naturally when the Bruins are making the clear choice to feature their defense and goaltending right now. It may not be sustainable once Anton Khudobin inevitably cools off a little bit, but for now it’s pretty darn effective.

3)  After watching him stop 36 of 37 shots for the win on Saturday night, the Bruins need to see this thing through with Khudobin until he loses a game. Khudobin is 5-0-2 with this season, with a .949 save percentage in three appearances in November. He's playing the best he's played in the last couple of years. Right now Khudobin is actually leading the NHL with a .935 save percentage for the season, and that really contrasts to Rask's .897 save percentage. Certainly part of it is about the Bruins selling out defensively in front of him and blocking 30 shots in the win while knowing they didn’t have to play again until Wednesday night. But it’s also about the Bruins backup goaltender playing himself into a position where the B’s should ride him until he cools down a little bit, and give Rask some more time to figure out what is slowing him down between the pipes right now.
-- DeBrusk made a couple of big plays in the first period that led to goals for the Bruins, and he finished with a goal, two points, a plus-2 and a team-high four shots on net in 15:49 of ice time. He has a goal and three points in three games since being a healthy scratch last weekend against Toronto.
--Khudobin made 16 saves in the first period when the Bruins were outshot 17-5 and it certainly seemed like they were going to get run out of the building. Instead Khudobin stood tall.
-- Heinen finished with two goals and three points on the three-game trip and iced the game for the Bruins with a backdoor strike in the third period after Kevan Miller had dashed up the right side of the ice to create the chance. Heinen is pushing up near the Bruins team leaders in some offensive categories and looks like he belongs in the NHL this season.
-- Burns was burnt on each of the Bruins' two first-period goals, he actually missed the net with 12 of his 16 shot attempts, and he had seven giveaways in a pretty sloppy game managing the puck. Burns hasn’t had a great season to date, and Saturday night was a good example of things not going well for him this year.
-- Paul Postma finished with just eight minutes of ice time in the win, and was part of the poor defensive coverage on the Sharks goal by Joonas Donskoi in the first period that ended up getting overturned on video review. Postma didn’t show much else after that only playing a handful of minutes over the remainder of the game, and based on his early performance looks like he’s only going to be a seventh defensemen in Boston.
-- Here’s a hearty boo to the 10:30 pm West Coast starts on Saturday night that only the diehards, or those getting paid, are going to closely watch on the weekend leading up to Thanksgiving. Congrats to you if you were one of the lucky ones that decided to stay up and watch a game that didn’t end until after 1 a.m. in the East.  

Morning Skate: Payroll mess at the heart of Bruins' problems


Morning Skate: Payroll mess at the heart of Bruins' problems

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while battening down the hatches for Thanksgiving week.
-- When longtime Bruins follower Clark Booth opines about the Black and Gold, I tend to listen. And he's not happy with the Bruins' salary cap situation at this point in time. It should be noted that this was written before they won the last two games. But some of those truths still remain self-evident when it comes to the B’s.

-- Kevin Bieksa will never stop talking about former teammate Rick Rypien, or about the factors that ultimately led to his tragic passing.
-- Alex Ovechkin is truly living up to the “Russian Machine Never Breaks” mantra these days, which led to the creation of an entire blog about the Capitals.
-- This Saturday Night Live skit with Chance the Rapper playing a clueless hockey reporter was funny, even to people that have been covering the league for 20 years and still struggle to pronounce a name like Brady Skjei.
-- The good, the bad and the ugly courtesy of FOH (Friend of Haggs) Mitch Melnick from last night’s Montreal blowout loss to the Maple Leafs that probably could have just been called the ugly, the ugly and the ugly.
-- It’s 20 games into the season, and the Buffalo Sabres media are wondering what’s wrong with their team, and star Jack Eichel.
-- For something completely different: It sounds like some of the NFL rank-and-file players want to know why Roger Goodell deserves $50 million and a lifetime private plane.