Bruins

Haggerty: The Bruins are ready for the Boston spotlight

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Haggerty: The Bruins are ready for the Boston spotlight

The contrast was too plain and easy to ignore.

As the New England Patriots dig their way out from under unfulfilled expectations and the ghosts of Super Bowls past, the Boston Bruins are the citys best hope for another championship in the foreseeable future.

The Celtics still have remnants of their NBA title past in Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, but theyre too old, too small and too not-the-Miami-Heat to have any chance of winning this spring. The Red Sox are running their baseball operations like theyre the Minnesota Twins these days, and their summer will end with the same kind of small market disappointment as they do in the Twin Cities.

But the Bruins have the talent, the experience, the star power and the nucleus of a Stanley Cup worthy team thats still in their prime, and have shown just how motivated they are by jumping out with a pair of solid wins at home. That's why they are the best, last hope to live up to the mantle of high expectations that's part of the DNA for every sports team within the city of Boston.

Where the entire region was at the depths of disappointment on Sunday night with the sobering realization an era might be slowly crawling to an end for Tom Brady and Bill Belichick, the melancholy was wiped away on Monday afternoon with one filthy Tyler Seguin scoring move in the shootout.

It's a responsibility the Bruins organization is keenly aware of from Cam Neely on down, and it's one they're looking to uphold.

Were a gritty team, we like to think were a hardworking team, and you know our guys are pretty focused on making sure we give the fans what they want and give the city what they deserve. Thats helped us a lot, said Claude Julien. Were all big fans Sunday afternoon I sat in front of that television all afternoon watching football, and I was a big fan like everybody else and just as disappointed.

But you turn around and say, Okay now its our chance here to try and do something for this city. Were fortunate to have some good sports teams here in Boston. No doubt the fans get spoiled, but theyre such good fans. They fill every building up, so they deserve it.

The lament for a potentially lost NHL season during the lockout was strong in Boston because folks could see what else was on the pro sports horizon aside from the Black and Gold.

And it wasnt pretty.

A spring filled with Red Sox spring training camp and the mercurial point guard stylings of Rajon Rondo werent going to get the job done by themselves. No NHL would have left a gaping hole that couldn't be filled by the hollow activities of the four-month lockout: emptying out the contents of your DVR, or renting the entire run of "The Wire" on Netflix.

Now the Bruins are back, and theyve restored their swaggering hunger after getting far too drunk and much too satisfied on their own Stanley Cup success.

Milan Lucic went from lockout question mark to snarling beast who has amassed an NHL-best 14 registered hits in Bostons first two games, and is back to being the big-bodied wrecking ball striking fear into all opponents. Tuukka Rask is 2-0-0 with a 0.96 goals against average and a .958 save percentage in Bostons first two games, and is doing it with the economical movements and quiet technique in direct contrast to the hyper crease theatrics of Tim Thomas.

Tyler Seguin provided the electric offense in regulation that Boston needed, and then set the playmaking tone in the shootout as hes so often done over the last few years. Thats helped the Bruins to a 10-3 record in shootouts over the last two seasons, and will keep them piling up the points in this short regular season campaign.

Zdeno Chara completely shut down New York Rangers wonder boy Rick Nash in the season opener, and rag-dolled old friend Blake Wheeler all over the ice on Monday afternoon like it was the good old days at the Bruins practice rink. That he did it in defense of his young understudy, Dougie Hamilton, simply made it all the better.

The Bruins defense has allowed just 47 shots and two goals in the first two games, and has done that while breaking 19-year-old Dougie Hamilton into the regular rotation of blueliners.

For a team that had focused on a strong start as one of the big keys to success in a 48-game shortened schedule, the Bruins are right on time. Even better theyre getting it done at home and creating an air of expectation that people will see something special on the TD Garden now that the Boys are Back.

We want to create a good atmosphere here and a good feeling right on through the whole organization and to the fans, said Andrew Ference. We just want to get those positive vibes going early in the season because they count for a lot. People say it was the Stanley Cup thing last year, but I dont think that was it because we turned it on pretty good for a couple of months.

It was just mentally not being as prepared as we should have been. Now I think everybody has put a lot of onus on themselves to play their game. I know the guys that didnt play in Europe put a lot of pressure on themselves to make sure they were prepared and that they werent dead weight to the team. So its just a matter of guys taking pride in getting the first few under our belt.

The Bruins have accomplished their first mission of taking the initial two home games on TD Garden ice, and now comes an opportunity to really step on the Rangers throats Wednesday night. The Blueshirts are reeling after a pair of season-opening defeats including a tough loss to the Penguins that saw Henrik Lundqvist pulled from net for the first time in well over a year.

There is still four months worth of regular season followed by two months of playoffs for the Bruins before another Stanley Cup title could be a reality.

But the Black and Gold are now on the clock after last weekend.

The Bs represent the next-best chance for a Boston team to bring home a title to the City of Champions after the Patriots faltered, and they look like theyre ready for their hockey close-up.

There will be extra satisfaction if Bruins can help put a nail in Habs coffin

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There will be extra satisfaction if Bruins can help put a nail in Habs coffin

MONTREAL – It’s not often the Boston Bruins get a chance to literally deal the death blow to their arch-rival Montreal Canadiens.

But that’s really where the B’s stand on Saturday as they visit the Bell Centre for a third meeting in eight days against the hated Habs after winning each of the first two rivalry match-ups. The Canadiens are nine points out of a wild card playoff spot with four teams ahead of them, and sit 11 points out of an Atlantic Division playoff spot more than halfway through their season.

It would take an epic hot streak like the one engineered by Andrew “Hamburglar” Hammond and the Ottawa Senators three seasons ago for Montreal to simply get into the postseason. It would also require the Canadiens to actually start winning divisional games like the one facing them on Saturday night against Boston. So the Bruins know they could plunge the dagger into the Habs by sweeping the third game this weekend, and they’re taking just a little bit of pleasure at the position they’re in while on an 11-0-4 run in their last 15 games.

“We’re aware of the standings. We know that we want to keep climbing up and trying to catch up to Tampa. That being said, you look at Montreal and whichever teams that are behind you and you want to push them down,” said Patrice Bergeron. “When you face them it’s big games for them, and it’s the same for us. It will be a big battle. They had a big win last night and are feeling good about their game, so we need to make sure that we’re ready.”

They’ll take even more please out of it if they leave Montreal tonight with two points secured in their column while pushing the Habs deeper into their tailspin.

“I don’t think we’re going into the game talking about that, but if works out that way at 10:30 when we’re getting ready to get on a plane out of town…I think there would be a little extra satisfaction,” said Bruce Cassidy. “I think some of our young kids are still getting a taste of it. Last Saturday [Jake] DeBrusk and Charlie [McAvoy] got an idea of how loud it is in here, and how passionate [the fans are].

“But at the end of the day we play 82 times a year, and this one of them to get two points and keep climbing up in the standings.”

While the Bruins are rested and ready after getting a full day off on Friday, the Habs were battling until the final buzzer in Washington on Fridaynight to eke out a win against the Capitals. It was a nice win for the Habs after the embarrassment of dropping a stink bomb in Boston on Wednesday night, but it also should leave them as fatigued, easy pickings if the Black and Gold come armed with their killer instinct on Saturday.

“They know [the importance of the game] on the other side. I expect a desperate effort tonight from them, and giving it their all in front of their home fans,” said Bruins rookie winger Jake DeBrusk. “It’s a four point game and it’s against Montreal, and we got the first two [games]. It would be nice to get the third one here, but we just want to keep things going. It doesn’t really matter who we play except for games like this. We just need to keep our head on straight and play the way we can play.”

It’s true the Bruins/Habs rivalry loses a little juice when one of the teams is really down as Montreal is this season, and the real revenge factor for Boston was getting a decisive win in former coach Claude Julien’s return to Boston in mid-week. But there’s little doubting that having been the one kicked around so many times in the long, storied history of the Bruins/Canadiens rivalry, any chance for Boston to really put a hurting on Montreal still means a little something to those in Black and Gold. 

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Morning Skate: R.I.P. Red Fisher, Montreal legend

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Morning Skate: R.I.P. Red Fisher, Montreal legend

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while knowing that I’m in Canada because I’m watching women’s curling on a Saturday afternoon.

*Rest in Peace to Red Fisher, a legendary figure in the Montreal media who added to the atmosphere every time I saw him at the Bell Centre over the years. When you talk to people about him, you realize they just don’t make sportswriters like that anymore.

*Here’s a good piece on local hockey player John McCarthy, who will be on the USA Olympic hockey roster after a solid career at BU and in the San Jose Sharks organization.

*Cabbie Richards visits with Brayden Schenn as the St. Louis Blues player chats about important hockey stuff like dessert.

*I’ve got to be totally honest with you: The idea of an NHL expansion team called the Seattle Kraken is pretty awesome. Just think of all the Clash of the Titans tie-in possibilities.

*Looks like the Providence Bruins are finally getting into the "Star Wars" Night, and why not given how popular it’s been across hockey’s minor leagues?

*For something completely different: I spent part of my day yesterday tweeting back and forth with Star Wars director Rian Johnson and ended up in the Twitter “Moments” section yesterday. Just another day in social media Shangri-La, right?  

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE