Bruins

Haggerty: B's speeding up defense of their title

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Haggerty: B's speeding up defense of their title

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com Bruins Insider Follow @hackswithhaggs
BOSTON -- Claude Julien is fond of the phrase speed kills, and it appears his Bruins are going to be living that philosophy this season.

The Bruins captured the Stanley Cup last season with equal parts toughness, teamwork, elite goaltending and a defense that continuously held to its belief system, with good health in the postseason thrown in for good measure.

They were a very good team aspiring to be elite, and they tapped into it in the Stanley Cup Finals when they created a transition game that matched the speedy attack of the Vancouver Canucks. Part of it was a hockey team operating at its highest efficiency, but another part was the gradual shift in personnel that raised the bar for the Bs overall skating speed and skill level.

Patrice Bergeron is convinced that increased burst of team speed and wrinkle-free transition game is what allowed the Bs to eventually topple the Canucks, and its created a Bruins team this season that's attacking with a different kind of ferocity.

I dont know if guys are faster or its just that our transition game is way quicker, said Bergeron. It doesnt give guys a chance to set up, which is a good thing. We need to keep that going. If I want to put a finger on one thing its the improvement of the transition game. Weve moving. Were always on that puck and hunting. Were always moving in that transition.

Its something weve talked about since winning that Cup in Vancouver. The first couple of games we were giving them time to set up, but after that we started moving our feet, not giving them time and . . . we created chances for ourselves. We saw it in games three and four when we created a lot of chances off the rush, and thats what we need to keep doing.

Tampa Bays coaches and players talked about the chaos being caused by the Bruins waves of speedy attackers, and its clear watching the Bruins that theyre a faster team this season.

A scary thought for the rest of the NHL, which watched the Black and Gold run roughshod over them last year.

It makes all the sense in the world that the Bruins noticed the trend within the league to younger, faster players that can do damage with aggressive speed, and then strangle off another team with a swarming forecheck once they have a lead. The Bruins can now do that with a combination of personnel upgrades and simple betterment of key younger players in the lineup.

Julien said it was a combination of both that hes noticed in the early going this season. The Bruins showed off the blazing skating wheels while building up a 4-1-1 record during the preseason. They didnt have much of anything in the blah opening night loss to the Philadelphia Flyers, but the Bruins seemed to have a much easier time matching or bettering the frenetic pace of the speedy Lightning.

General manager Peter Chiarelli remarked that increases speed was simple biggest improvement he noted for the team during the preseason, and Julien said it was faster personnel and better transition working in tandem to really grease the wheels.

Replacing 43-year-old Mark Recchi with Rich Peverley immediately boosts the speed killing factor in a major way, and increased minutes for young, fast skaters like Brad Marchand and Tyler Seguin continues to play into the improvement. Watching Bergeron, Peverley and Marchand move from forecheck mode into attack-the-net mode is something the coaching staff has to be pointing toward as the standard for the rest of the forward lines.

When teams are faced with the strength and intimidation factor inherent in the Bruins' way of doing things, and then attacked with speed and skill, it almost doesnt even seem fair. That only happens when the Bruins are operating at high efficiency, but thats exactly what happened for 60 minutes against the Lightning.

If you look back, Tylers now getting more minutes than he did last year, so thats speed, said Julien. Benoit Pouliot was in the lineup, and thats another guy thats adding speed. Peverleys on the top line, and -- no disrespect to Recchi -- but Recchi brought something different to that line. So there is a little bit more speed, no doubt.

But between tonight and the last game, we worked a lot on our transition game. I thought we were a little out of sync. We seemed much better tonight. If our game is where it should be, I think youre going to see some good team speed. The team we played tonight actually has unbelievable speed up front, and thats why theyre dangerous.

But now the Lightning arent the only team thumping their chest about their blinding speed.

The Bruins are still big and bad, but theyre also moving with the same lethal speed as the faster teams in the league.

Joe Haggerty can be reached at jhaggerty@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs

Bruins demoralize Habs in three game set

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Bruins demoralize Habs in three game set

MONTREAL – The Boston Bruins weren’t about to dance on any Montreal Canadiens’ graves after it was over and done with, but they effectively closed the door on any flickering playoff hopes for the Habs this week. It all ended with Saturday night’s 4-1 win over the Canadiens at the Bell Centre that finished off the sweep of all three meetings between the two arch-rivals over an eight day span, and with the reeling Montreal a stunning 13 points out of a playoff spot in the Atlantic Division.

It was a close game nearly all the way through in Montreal until David Pastrnak and Riley Nash scored in the final few minutes of the third period, but the Bruins outscored the Habs by an 11-5 margin while clearly establishing they were the better team in all three contests. It all makes sense given the opposite directions that the two hockey clubs are headed at this point in the season, and because of that the Bruins were playing it pretty cool after burying the Habs.

“It was kind of a crazy week because we were playing them three times, so we obviously wanted to play good hockey,” said Tuukka Rask, who won all three games vs. the Habs while improving his lifetime record vs. the Habs to 10-15-3 in the process. “[We wanted to] get as many points as possible, and won all of those games along with the one on Long Island. So it was a great week for us.”

Certainly it seemed like there was more genuine emotion from the Bruins in Claude Julien’s return to Boston midweek, and perhaps a little more adrenaline in last weekend’s first game at the Bell Centre where rookies like Jake DeBrusk, Charlie McAvoy and Danton Heinen were dipping their toes into the storied rivalry for the first time.

But on this Saturday night it was more about a complete dismantling of the Bleu, Blanc and Rouge even as the Bruins initially fell down by a goal after a bad McAvoy turnover. Instead it was Boston’s Perfection Line that went to work with an efficient, dominant performance as David Pastrnak scored the game’s first goal and insurance third goal in the third period. They also accounted for the game-winner when Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak hemmed Montreal’s fourth line in the defensive zone, and Torey Krug eventually stepped up and rifled one short side on Carey Price.

Marchand, Bergeron and Pastrnak combined for two goals, six assists and a plus-8 in the resounding victory over the Habs, and had a dominant 12 of Boston’s 31 shots on net when the final horn had sounded. They simply overwhelmed Montreal with their depth, the high end quality of their lineup and the fact that Boston was rested while the Habs had to play in Washington DC on Friday night in a three games in four days stretch.

All of that allowed the Bruins to drive the final nail into Montreal’s coffin when the game was over, and it furthermore allowed Boston to keep worrying about the teams they’re trying to catch (ahem…Tampa Bay Lightning) rather than Eastern Conference bottom-feeders like the Canadiens.

“We talked about doing the job against them and finding a ways to push teams down while gaining ground on the teams above us,” said Patrice Bergeron. “I thought it was a great effort again. We knew that they would be ready for us, but we also knew that they had played last night. So maybe if we had a good start we could jump on them. I thought we had a good game.”

Clearly there have been ebbs and flows to the Bruins/Habs rivalry over their long history together, and both Boston and Montreal have been in the catbird at different times even in the recent editions of their history. But right now Boston is beating the Canadiens badly at their own skill and speed game and dominating thing with pure hockey rather than bullying, and that’s got to sting for a Habs group that simply couldn’t compete with the Bruins in three different chances to do so this week. 

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David Pastrnak dominates third straight win against Canadiens

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David Pastrnak dominates third straight win against Canadiens

GOLD STAR: David Pastrnak had been a little quiet offensively, but that all changed on Saturday night against Montreal. It was the 21-year-old that answered with a bad angle goal in the second period after Montreal had taken the first lead in the game, and it was Pastrnak again in the third period crashing the net and scoring his second goal to finally give Boston the breathing room that they needed. Pastrnak thoroughly dominated the game, scored two goals and three points along with a plus-3 rating, and led all players with a game-high eight shots on net while playing with energy and intensity in all three zones. It is nights like Saturday night in Montreal when you see just how good Pastrnak could still be a few years down the road.

BLACK EYE: Carey Price wasn’t terrible in the game, but he gave up the wrong goal at the wrong time to the Bruins in the second period. David Pastrnak surprised him with a bad angle shot by the goal line aimed at his skates, and Price couldn’t recover quickly enough to keep the puck from squirting into the net for the game-tying goal. Given how much better the Bruins are than the Canadiens this season, Price was going to be have to letter-perfect in order to beat the Black and Gold. Instead he gave up a bad goal just minutes after Montreal had finally scored, and completely sucked all of the momentum out of the Habs. A few minutes later Torey Krug beat Carey Price with a sniped shot for the go-ahead goal and that was it for the night. In all Price allowed three goals on 30 shots and had one of his weaker games against the Bruins in recent memory.

TURNING POINT: The Bruins appeared to score the insurance goal in the third period when Patrice Bergeron jumped on the rebound of a shot attempt where David Pastrnak’s stick had shattered on the initial shot. But a coach’s challenge ruled that the play was off-sides and the goal was overturned leaving it at a one-goal game in the third period. Montreal was given second life to scratch for one goal to at least push things in overtime, but instead that line was at it again and Pastrnak scored on a rebound in front directly from a Torey Krug point shot. That was the goal that officially broke Montreal’s spirit and allowed the Bruins to sweep all three games over the Habs in an eight day span.

HONORABLE MENTION: Torey Krug hasn’t exactly been a scoring machine lately, but he stepped up and had one of his best games against Montreal on Saturday. It was Krug that ended up with the game-winning goal on a sniper shot over Price’s shoulder in the second period when he jumped into the play with the Perfection Line dominating, and it was Krug that finished with a goal, three points and a plus-three rating in 17:24 of ice time. He finished with five shot attempts, a hit and a blocked shot as well, and was truly making things happen offensively as he did with a point shot in the third period that turned into a Pastrnak rebound goal for the insurance marker.

BY THE NUMBERS: 25 – the number of goals for the Perfection Line (Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak) over the 16-game point streak that the Bruins have been riding on for over a month.

QUOTE TO NOTE:  “I think at the end of the day if I knew that I would have to face them now, I probably would’ve kept them separate for all those years.” –A joking Claude Julien when asked postgame what it feels like to have Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand doing so much damage against his new team during the three games played in eight days. 

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