Bruins

Haggerty: Bruins back in the driver's seat

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Haggerty: Bruins back in the driver's seat

MONTREAL It was hard to imagine when the Bruins had dropped to 3-7 on the season at the end of October after a frustrating defeat on the Bell Centre ice at the hands of the Canadiens, but there was still plenty of time to turn things around.

The Bruins were getting lulled into multiple penalties by the insufferable P.K. Subban, offensive shooters were hitting posts instead of burying goals, and the Black and Gold were dead last in the Eastern Conference.

Zdeno Chara sounded unbending, undoubting and full of resolve after getting swept in a home-and-home against the hated Habs.

Heres what the Bs Captain said back on Oct. 29:

I believe in this team. I know what we have," Chara said. "I know we are in a deep hole but if anybody can get out of it, it's this team."

It was the last time the Bruins have tasted the bitterness of defeat this season, and theyve now won nine games in a row after a 1-0 victory over the Canadiens in their own backyard.

The Bruins were far from good. They got outshot by a 32-18 margin through the three periods, but hot goaltending play and sound defense trumped tough nights from Bostons skill guys at the forward position.

We played a little on our heels tonight, said Claude Julien. We werent very good on the walls, and I thought they were the better team in an area were usually pretty good at. What I liked is that we found a way to win, defensively we werent that bad and Tim Thomas was huge for us.

The nine-game winning streak is the longest for the Bs since a 10-game win streak that ended in January 2009, and should finally signal that the Stanley Cup champs are back where they need to be.

Stanley Cup hangover talk is over. Stories and memories from last years Cup run have been stored away in a box for safe-keeping, and now its about the solid way the current season is shaping up for them. The Bruins entered last nights win over the Canadiens sitting second in the NHL while scoring 3.2 goals per game, and fourth in the league in allowing 2.2 goals per game. The optimal offensedefense combo along with the NHL-best plus-26 goal differential tell the story of a team playing some pretty good hockey.

There was a certain level of sweetness to the Black and Gold finally dispatching their hockey arch-rivals for the first time this season, but there was even more meaning in taking over the Northeast Division lead for the first time this season.

Its a good streak. Now looking back on it Im pretty impressed with the way our team handled a bad start, said Andrew Ference. There was a wide open door for frustrations to go overboard and for people to get away from the belief of how we do things around here. That didnt happen.

Looking back now we handled it professionally and with confidence. Guys didnt waver. Instead they took long, hard looks in the mirror and simply got better. Its nice to see that we can believe in a system, have chemistry and have good attitudes that pay off in situations like that. Thats what good dressing rooms are for. Its easy when youre winning to smile and have fun. Holding things together is much more impressive when youre losing.

The turnaround has been stunning for the Black and Gold, who now sit three points behind the Pittsburgh Penguins for the top spot in the Eastern Conference and have been the NHLs hottest team for the entire month of November. It was fitting the Bruins finally took their rightful place in their division in Montreal as most members of the Bs organization look at the home-and-home loss at the end of October their hangover tipping point.

The losses to the Habs were like an open-handed slap to the face, and proved hurtful enough to their pride to have a long-lasting effect. Combine that with a few better bounces, Tim Thomas heading on a hot streak thats seen him push his save percentage back up to .938 and an offense thats averaging nearly five goals per game over the last month and theres all the ingredients required for a season-changing win streak.

Were not focusing on things. Weve done a good job of settling it down one game at a time, and not thinking about how many games weve won in a row, said Tim Thomas. Thats the key: breaking it down into sections of a few games.

Now matter how you slice it, the Bruins have been damned good when things really started to get real in November and theres no reason to think that wont continue against Buffalo in what should be a nasty environment Wednesday night.

Khudobin can't save Bruins' goaltending situation

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Khudobin can't save Bruins' goaltending situation

The entire concept of Tuukka Rask getting pushed by one of his backups is based on the backup consistently performing at a high standard, and that wasn’t the case for Anton Khudobin over the weekend.

Just as it isn’t solely the fault of Rask when the Bruins lose, it wasn’t solely the fault of Khudobin that Boston squandered leads of 3-0 and 4-1 in an overtime loss to Buffalo on Saturday night. But Khudobin couldn’t step up and carry the B's when they clearly started losing their edge in the second half of the game, and that inconsistency will certainly make the Bruins pine for a sooner-rather-than-later return of a concussed Rask.

“Erratic,” said coach Bruce Cassidy when asked to describe Khudobin postgame. “He battles. We love that about him. He battled to the end. He certainly made his share of saves. We need to be better in front of him. But there were times that, there were fires that needed to be put out that shouldn’t have been necessary. But that happens sometimes.”

It was certainly too much to expect Khudobin to be perfect, but they just needed him to be good enough to pull them through while they were getting waylaid in the second half of the game. That proved to be a major challenge, given the players the Bruins are missing and the extremely rough night suffered by Torey Krug (minus-3 on Saturday night, and minus-8 for the season). Khudobin finished with 37 stops as a defense corps without Adam McQuaid and Kevan Miller wilted in the third period and the overtime, but he couldn’t make the clean saves for whistles when the team really needed them. Case in point was a Rasmus Ristolainen tester in overtime while the Bruins were in the midst of being outshot by a 6-0 margin in the extra session. Khudobin got a glove on it but couldn’t cleanly catch it for a badly needed stoppage in play at a time when Krug, David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand had been caught on the ice for over two minutes.

"The start was great, and the game was great until we scored the fourth goal, and I think after that, we thought it was an easy game,” said Khudobin. “[The high volume of shots] wasn’t that much difficult, I like shots, like probably every other goalie, but they were crashing the net. They were going hard. There were a lot of deflections, a lot of rebounds, a lot of scrums in front of the net, which were . . .that’s the dangerous part, not just the shots.”

Khudobin, 31, has taken five of a possible six points in the games he's played this season and is off to a solid start with a 2-0-1 record, a 2.98 goals-against average and a .910 save percentage. He looks like he’s going to be a perfectly fine backup, enabling the Bruins to hold Rask to the 55-60 games they’ve forecasted for his peak performance this season.

But Saturday night was a major blow to any hopes that Rask would be pushed competitively by his backup, and that a Khudobin hot streak could spark a slow-starting, and now injured, Rask when he does return.

Instead the Bruins are left to hope they can survive while missing Rask along with a number of other key players, and that the goalie returns sooner than later to a team that can’t survive too many morale-crushing defeats like the choke job against the lowly Sabres.

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Morning Skate: 'After Hours'? Injured Jagr is open

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Morning Skate: 'After Hours'? Injured Jagr is open

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while wondering if it shouldn’t be more of an issue that potential Red Sox manager Alex Cora was good buddies with Dustin Pedroia when the two played together in Boston.

*Jaromir Jagr suffers a lower-body injury and then goes on Hockey Night in Canada’s “After Hours” program to show once again how wonderful it is to be “The Jagr.”

*The Ottawa Senators get Erik Karlsson back this week, but now they’ve lost power forward Bobby Ryan for a month with a broken finger.

*The Montreal Canadiens are getting exposed for the very flawed team that they are during a brutal start to the 2017-18 season.

*Keep an eye out on the Los Angeles Kings now that they’ve suffered an injury with Jeff Carter and do appear to be in the running for the playoffs this season.

*New Jersey Devils fans help a singer belt out the national anthem after there might have been a case of forgetting the words.

*Doug Gilmour might not have always enjoyed the prying eyes while playing in Toronto, a case that gives you an idea what it’s like to be a pro hockey player in a market like Toronto where everybody knows your name.

*For something completely different: There’s no doubting that Aaron Judge has brought life and energy back to the Yankees and that’s something that’s very good for baseball.