Bruins

Haggerty: Bruins showing new life after Habs losses

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Haggerty: Bruins showing new life after Habs losses

BOSTON -- The month of October is beginning to feel like a long time ago for the Boston Bruins, who are hurdling confidently into what they once were and what they could be again.

The Bs evened off their won-loss ledger at 7-7 by collecting their seventh win of the season Thursday night at TD Garden, 6-3 over the young, exciting Edmonton Oilers.

In stringing together another solid home win, the Bs have issueda statement: They're back in it for the long haul again this season, and are more determined than ever after looking a little punch-drunk in October.

Maybe its a little different than it was last month. I think guys have found their way now and know how to get back to business, said Tyler Seguin, who has enjoyed grand moments as Bostons leading scorer through 14 games.

After struggling to finish off their offensive chances during the first 10 games of the season, the Bs have outscored their opponents 24-8 during four games in the month of November. They've thoroughly humbled the Maple Leafs, Senators, Islanders and Oilers over the last two weeks, averaging six goals per game.

Whileit's true thatnone of those four were playoffmaterial last season, three of them all but the Islanders were playing their best hockey of the season headed into their games with Boston.The Black and Gold have simply upped their performance and displayed a different kind of urgency during a time of year (November) when playoff berths can't be clinched, but can certainly be lost.The defense has tightened up around coach Claude Juliens system, the offense is flowing with productivity and points, and the special teams have finally loosened up at both ends of the rink.
In other words: The good times are rolling for the Black and Gold, who onceagain resemble the team that took the NHL by storm last spring on its way to the Stanley Cup.For players that weren't here last season, the confidence flowing through the lineup feels pretty damned good.

You just have that feeling going into the game . . . like we didnt have before, said defenseman Joe Corvo, acquired in the offseason from Carolina. It just feels like were going to win the game and it just depends on by how many. Thats just the feel thats just how I feel and I think the team feels going into the game. When youre playing well like that it makes it fun.

Corvo has a plus-7 in his last three games, has piled up four assists and helped engineer a pair of power-play goals Thursday nightin the role he was custom made for when he arrived in Boston.Brad Marchand is scoring goals again, mixing things up before and after whistles, and even finding thetime to dump Oilers goaltender Devan Dubnyk on his backside after Dubnyk attempted to play a loose puck within the trapezoid. That's vintage Marchand.Milan Lucic has six goals in his last five games, and destroyed both Jeff Petry and Theo Peckham with bone-rattling body checks in theunique mixtures of brawn and skill that only No. 17 can provide.

Seguin came alive in the second period with a pair of points (outscoring fellow second-year prodigyTaylor Hall, who had an assist for Edmonton_ and remains on pace for a gaudy50 goals and nearly 100 points this season.
Even rookie forwards like Jordan Caron and Zach Hamill are flourishing and connecting on scoring plays like the textbook Hamill-to-Caron connection in the first period that gave the B's a little secondary scoring.

So whats with the 4-0 record in November thats allowed the Bruins to pull even with the Montreal Canadiens in the Northeast Division standingswith 14 points? Well, funny you should ask.

Its actually all about the Canadiens, and the wince-inducinghome-and-home losses to the Habs that closed out the month of October for the Bruins. Nobody in the Bs dressing room is talking about what was said in the aftermath of the Saturday night loss on Oct. 29 at the Bell Centre -- or who it was said by --but they knew changes were on the horizon if fortunes didnt turn immediately after a 3-7 start.
The10-game Stanley Cup hangover opened up all kinds of speculation and trade possibilities. General manager Peter Chiarelli was in the delicate state between showing loyalty to a Cup-winning nucleus, and feeling like a cattle prod was needed to wake up his sleeping bunch.Marchand and the rest of the Bruins wanted another crack at the Cup with the returning cast of characters, and that really wouldnt have beenpossible if they begin wheeling players away to other teams in a panic-type move.

We felt a lot of heat, obviously, with the start we had," said Marchand. "We knew that something might happen if we didnt turn things around. We wanted to stay together and we know what were capable of coming off last season with pretty close to the same team.

We didnt want to miss out on another opportunity to make a run, so we did a great job turning the corner. We realized that we had to be better, and hopefully we can continue the streak now.Players like David Krejci, Tuukka Rask and Johnny Boychuk -- and even Lucic, in a fairly unbelievable scenario -- were mentioned as possible sacrificial lambs to shake things up. But the Bruins want their chance to show just how good they can be again this season.It looks like they'll get it just as long as they keep playing like a team befitting the term "Stanley Cup champs" -- and they were most definitely that once again against the Oilers.

Inconsistent Bruins hope to settle in at home

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Inconsistent Bruins hope to settle in at home

BRIGHTON -- The Bruins' actual 2-3-0 won-loss record isn’t particularly terrible, especially when you consider they were without Patrice Bergeron and David Backes.

But they've been wildly inconsistent within those first five games, playing a couple of very good games against the Predators and Coyotes while suffering three ugly, non-competitive losses to Colorado and Vegas. The Bruins are 20th in goals scored (2.8 goals per game) and 22nd in goals allowed (3.6), and their special teams have been average at best in a soft part of the schedule that should have allowed them to get off to a good start.

The Bruins have looked sloppy much of the time with chaotic breakouts, far too many breakdowns in defensive coverage, and goaltending has been average at best.

As a result they're scuffling in the Atlantic Division as the Lightning and Maple Leafs have sprinted out to strong starts. Clearly it’s still early -- nearly the entire season is in front of them -- but there’s also no illusion about the need for a quick turnaround in what’s going to be a competitive division.

That's why the next four games, all at TD Garden, are so important.

“We’ve been inconsistent in our game. We’ve been good and we’ve been not good, so hopefully being home will allow us to get back into form,” said coach Bruce Cassidy. “We knew going in with a youth movement that we’d had some ups and downs. We’ve had both. We’ve had some really strong games and we’ve had some other games where there’s a learning curve.

“As good as [our] prospects are, it falls on the core group to be solid and consistent every night. Then you lose a bit of your core group [to injuries] and you need your support players that aren’t your core group -- but aren’t kids, either -- to contribute. So we’re battling through all of that, and it’s up to us to put in a game plan that gets us through it. We haven’t achieved the level we’d like. We aren’t hiding behind that. We’d like to be better than we are right now, and we’re facing it head on every day.”

Clearly there are plenty of players in the “support player” category referenced by Cassidy who haven’t performed to date, and that also explains some of the Bruins consistency issues. Matt Beleskey, Ryan Spooner, Frank Vatrano and Riley Nash have a combined two assists and a combined minus-5 rating through those first five games, and are among the players that need to step up and perform if the Bruins are going to start achieving the consistency that Cassidy is actively seeking right now.

Rask helped off ice at Bruins practice after collision

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Rask helped off ice at Bruins practice after collision

BRIGHTON, Mass – Tuukka Rask had to be helped off the ice midway through practice Wednesday when it appeared rookie Anders Bjork crashed hard into the Bruins No. 1 goaltender in a drill. 

Coach Bruce Cassidy didn't have much in the way of an encouraging update on Rask following practice: "He left early. We had a line rush drill where there was obviously contact around the net. He's being evaluated. Hopefully, he's fine, but we don't know anything until he gets checked out."

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Rask never returned in what looked like another streak of bad luck for the B’s. Rask is off to a slow start at 1-3-0, with a 3.30 goals-against average and .882 save percentage, but Boston can ill afford to lose their top goalie right now.

The Bruins continue to look for the right mix of players at the start of the season and they’ve called up a couple of forwards off to hot starts in Providence for a look.

Big, skilled Slovakian winger Peter Cehlarik and AHL scoring champ Kenny Agostino have both been called up while it looks like some struggling NHL veterans, perhaps Matt Beleskey and Frank Vatrano, might be hitting the pine.

The two call-ups, along with Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson were off to a red-hot start in Providence: Agostino leads Providence with two goals and five assists for seven points (tied for third in AHL) with a plus-four rating in three games this season. Cehlarik is second on the team with two goals and three assists for five points with a plus-three rating in three games with Providence.

Patrice Bergeron was again wearing the maroon no-contact jersey at practice on Wednesday while participating in line drills, and it would appear it’s going to be a stretch for him to be available vs. the Canucks. Adam McQuaid returned to practice on Wednesday, so Ryan Spooner was the only injured Bruins regular that wasn’t able to suit up and practice with the team.

Tuukka Rask had to be helped off the ice midway through practice when it looked like Anders Bjork crashed hard into the Bruins No. 1 goaltender in a drill. Rask never returned in what looked like another streak of bad luck for the B’s. Rask is off to a slow start at 1-3-0, with a 3.30 goals-against average and .882 save percentage, but Boston can ill afford to lose their top goalie right now.

Here are the line combos and D-pairings from Wednesday afternoon’s practice with it looking like David Backes might be up for a possible return on Thursday:  
 
Marchand-Bergeron-Bjork
DeBrusk-Krejci-Pastrnak
Schaller-Kuraly-Backes
Cehlarik-Nash-Agostino
 
Beleskey-White-Vatrano
 
Chara-McAvoy
Krug-Carlo
Miller-Postma
McQuaid
 
Rask
Khudobin