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.

No hesitation from Chara in scoring after scary incident in Montreal

No hesitation from Chara in scoring after scary incident in Montreal

BOSTON – Less than 48 hours after one of his legendarily hard slap shots put a Montreal Canadiens forward in the hospital after striking him in the head, Zdeno Chara didn’t hesitate when given the chance to wind up and blast away on Monday afternoon.

It was the 40-year-old Chara that rocketed a slapper past Kari Lehtonen at the end of the second period, and in doing so energized the Bruins while getting them on the scoreboard. The Chara goal helped earn the Black and Gold a point in overtime before eventually falling to the Dallas Stars by a 3-2 score at TD Garden on Monday afternoon.

The Bruins captain had been texting with the felled Montreal winger on Monday, and was fully aware that Phillip Danault was out of the hospital and doing well aside from understandable concussion symptoms after a puck to the head. Perhaps that eased Chara’s mind just a little when it came time to lean into another wind-up slapper on Monday, but it was also certainly aided by the lack of brave bodies willing to front one of his heavy, hard point blasts.

“I obviously spoke to Phillip a number of times. I talked to him right after the game and wanted to make sure he was okay, and he texted me back that he’s doing fine. He’s been released [from the hospital] and that’s very positive, good news,” said Chara. “It’s obviously very unfortunate that it’s something that happens quite often, but it’s something you never want to see with somebody getting hit and hurt. I’m very happy he’s going to recover fully and hopefully he’s back on the ice and playing hockey [soon] like we all do.”

Was there any hesitation to Chara winding up and stepping into a 100-mph slap shot so quickly after the ugly incident in Montreal?

“It’s something that doesn’t happen very often where you have that clean [shooting] path to the net where you can settle the puck, take a look and take a full slapper,” said Chara. “Usually teams play so well structurally that there’s already somebody fronting it, and you’ve got to get it through him with bodies in front. It does happen, but it’s nice that you have that time to put everything on it.”

That’s exactly what the 6-foot-9 defenseman did in sparking the Bruins to come back from a 2-0 deficit and push for the overtime point while extending their point streak to a season-best 13 games and counting.

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Overtime heroics a reminder of what Bruins gave up in Seguin

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Overtime heroics a reminder of what Bruins gave up in Seguin

BOSTON – The Tyler Seguin trade from the Bruins is pretty much ancient history at this point.

It was almost five years ago, all of the good-but-not-great players Boston received in the deal from Dallas are long gone. The Bruins general manager that engineered the big trade is now dealing with totally different brush fires while running a star-crossed Edmonton Oilers group.

But the one Stars visit per season to Boston usually serves as a reminder of what the B’s dealt away in the Fourth of July trade, and for perhaps the first time ever Seguin looked like a legit, all-around No. 1 center in the Stars 3-2 overtime win over the B’s at TD Garden. Seguin made the highlight reel with an overtime game-winner after dangling through the entire Bruins group on the ice, and watching bemusement as Bruins kept diving at him trying to stop him.

The gassed trio of Ryan Spooner, David Pastrnak and Matt Grzelcyk were on the ice hemmed into the D-zone for a long time, and simply couldn’t get the puck away from the Stars once a delayed penalty was called on Grzelcyk.

“I felt like everyone was just sliding at me, and the whole time I wanted to pass, so I was just kind of looking for the right play and just kept holding it,” said Seguin, who is on pace for 39 goals and 75 points this season with the Stars. “I just kind of shot it and luckily it went in.”

It was more than luck as Anton Khudobin had already dropped into a crazed double-pad stacked save attempt while Seguin was still holding patiently onto the puck.

“That’s really tough, to be honest. He has the puck there, and all the way, all the way, going, going, going, going and I mean, guys were laying down and trying to block the shot,” said Khudobin. “He had a lot of patience and I think it went between my legs or something like that and it’s just tough. Good goal by him.'

“Nothing is impossible. You know, [Seguin] is a good player and he scored a pretty good goal. But at the same time I can stop that. But I didn’t this time and overtime is not really easy because it’s 3-on-3.”

But all the overtime heroics aside, Seguin was solid throughout the game. It was almost enough to make Bruins fans go through the entire gamut of emotions again at one of a number of trades where the organization cut bait on a talented player at a very young juncture of their career.

“I think he’s through testing. I think he has made himself to be a very good player, and he’s accountable in every situation. He’s really matured. I think he’s a guy that we don’t even worry about anymore,” said Dallas head coach Ken Hitchcock. “Everyone talked about, ‘Can you make him a one?’ Well, quite frankly, he’s a [No. 1 center], and he’s playing like a one. He’s played six games in a row like this, and this is what you want in a number one center. He’s doing the job.

“He’s killing penalties, he’s out there taking key face-offs, he’s quarterbacking the power play, and he’s playing against the other team’s best player. To me, that’s what a [No. 1 center] does, and that’s exactly what he’s doing.”

Mostly matched up against the Perfection Line that he used to be a part of, Seguin managed a 12-for-21 performance in the face-off circle while holding Bergeron, Marchand and Pastrnak off the board offensively. Even better for Seguin and Dallas, he was on the ice for the second Stars goal against the Bergeron trio for only the second even strength goal they’ve given up all season.

Seguin killed penalties, he finished with four shot attempts, had a couple of takeaways and played the kind of mature, 200-foot game that most wondered if he’d ever be capable of in his NHL career.

So credit where it’s due for Seguin showing all of that while clearly still in a headspace where coming to Boston is special for him.

“It’s special and it’s weird playing here still. You know, I enjoy the anthem, and looking up and seeing the banner for the team that I was a part of. It’s always going to be special, you know, playing here and having old teammates on the team,” said Seguin. “I’ve been thinking a lot more of defense, a lot more of face-offs, and a lot more of, you know, the little things. I’ve been judging my performances based on those things more than goals and assists. That’s been the biggest change for me, trying to put the work in, and [against the Bruins] it worked out for me.”

The Bruins have long since chalked up dealing a horse (Seguin) for ponies (Loui Eriksson, Reilly Smith, Matt Fraser and Joe Morrow) as a big fat loss considering it never got them any closer to another Stanley Cup, and it didn’t give them any players still of use to the organization less than five years later.

But Monday afternoon’s overtime loss to Seguin and the Stars was a different kind of frustrating while watching a more mature, seemingly changed Seguin that would have fit in very nicely with the direction that the Bruins are headed these days.

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