Bruins

Haggerty: NHL finally gets it

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Haggerty: NHL finally gets it

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com

BOSTON The Boston Bruins can finally feel like proper justice was served after one of the horrendous hits leading to a severe concussion has been properly handled by the league.

It didnt really happen with Patrice Bergeron three years ago, and it certainly didnt happen when Marc Savard left a good chunk of his pro hockey career on the ice in Pittsburgh after taking a blindside Matt Cooke elbow to the head.

This time Aaron Rome was suspended for four games the duration of the Stanley Cup Finals, plus any remaining games in next years regular season if there are fewer than four games played in the remainder of the Finals for his too-tardy hit targeted at Nathan Hortons head in the end of the first period. The blow has caused a severe concussion for Horton, and ended the right wingers season prematurely in the most important time of year.

Bruins coach Claude Julien informed the media Horton has been released from the hospital, and getting the 6-foot-2, 220-pounder healthy next season after a long road to recovery is now one of the biggest orders of business for the Bruins.

You want to win it for a guy like Horton," Milan Lucic said. "Hes done so much for us this year and getting us to this point. You can use it in motivation for yourself. Hes had a lot of impact on me as a friend and as a linemate.

In terms of proper punishment, Julien perhaps said it best when all parties agreed the hit was late after Game 3 and that one second, which seemed like an eternity, was enough time for Rome to pull up before he left his feet to bury Horton with a shoulder to the head.

The Bruins have been at the forefront of criticizing even their own teammates at times about head hits this year due to the sensitivity of past injuries to Savard and Bergeron Andrew Ference heard guff around the league for calling out Daniel Paille for a head shot against the Dallas Stars earlier this season and Julien once again stuck with his consistent message that it should always be about protecting the players in the league.

I don't think I've ever changed my approach on that," Julien said. "I said all along, whether it was the first incident in this series, I like to leave things the rulings to the NHL . . . and you move on. I don't want that job, to be honest with you. It's a tough job. I'm one of those guys or one of those coaches that respects whatever they do.

For people that thought I was disappointed with the Alexandre Burrows biting thing, I wasn't. I moved on. In regards to this one here, they made a decision. I think it's important for our whole league to protect our players from those kinds of hits. I support them. Whether you agree or not, you support them. I support them with the Burrows decision and I'm supporting them with this one, as well.

All Bruins players clearly agreed with the favorable ruling from the league, while also putting Horton in their thoughts as they attempt to regain focus on the task at hand.

Earlier in the year avoiding allowing the hit to be a distraction would have been a lot tougher, but this time of year the greater goal, fortunately, is that we want to win that trophy. Thats the big picture. Thats what were focused on, said Shawn Thornton.

While Thornton and the rest of his teammates are fixed on winning the Bruins' first Stanley Cup since 1972, there is also a strong feeling from the Bruins side of things that the NHL is slowly crawling in the right direction. In the last 10 years there had been three Finals suspensions for one game apiece to -- Detroits Jiri Fischer (cross-check) in 2002, Calgarys Ville Nieminen in 2004 and Anaheims Chris Pronger (hit to the head) in 2007 -- so a four-game suspension shows the league is lowering its tolerance for headshots in the NHLs showpiece event.

Teammate or no teammate, you never want to see a guy laying out on the ice looking like hes out of it, Shawn Thornton said. Its not good for anybody.

"Theyre making the right strides, but at the end of the day GMs arent out there to tell players to stop cutting across and leaving their feet to hit a guy, added Thornton. Thats us. Maybe those meetings should be going on at the players meetings rather than the GM meetings. But I think the league is doing a good job going in the right direction where players are being held accountable for their actions.

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

Bruins get a needed boost from young players in win over Sharks

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Bruins get a needed boost from young players in win over Sharks

Here’s what we learned from the Bruins' 3-1 win over the San Jose Sharks at the SAP Center on Saturday night, which gave Boston four of a possible six points in its California road swing.
 
1) The kids stepped up at a great time for the Bruins. Boston needed some young players to step up and fill in for the injured veterans up front, and they got it on Saturday night. Jake DeBrusk was the main playmaker on both goals in the first period, and the Bruins got goals from rookies DeBrusk, Peter Cehlarik and Danton Heinen. It was Cehlarik’s first NHL goal and the 10th point of the season for Heinen, who continues to show signs that he is going to be a productive, reliable winger  even though he didn’t start the season at the NHL level. DeBrusk finished with a goal and an assist and twice used his speed and aggressiveness taking the puck to the net to create scoring chances: On the first goal it was Cehlarik who finished the loose puck after DeBrusk’s net drive created a rebound, and on the second it was DeBrusk simply beating reigning Norris Trophy winner Brent Burns to a race for the puck and then snapping it up and over San Jose backup goalie Aaron Dell. Cehlarik became the sixth Bruins rookie to score the first goal of his NHL career with Boston this season, and it all shows tangible results of the youth movement they were fully embracing this season. There will be peaks and valleys with so many young players in the lineup, but Saturday night turned out to be one of those high-water marks.

2)  At their healthiest, the Bruins can be a fast-skating, skilled team that will be equal parts offense and defense in a hard-working style that features pace and creativity in the offensive zone. The Bruins aren't healthy right now, obviously, and aren’t going to find success that way as attested by the fact that they hadn’t won two games in a row this season until Saturday night in San Jose. With a number of players already out of the lineup, Torey Krug now injured as well and Tuukka Rask taking an extended rest in favor of a red-hot Anton Khudobin, the Bruins are actually playing a very different brand of hockey right now. With Rask not playing -- and not allowing the types of bad or soft goals he's given up so far this year -- they can play a little more conservatively and try to make a two- or three-goal output in a game actually stick as the game-winning margin. Just check the box score,  as the Bruins blocked a whopping 30 shots and conversely the Sharks blocked just 12. Zdeno Chara, Kevan Miller and Robbie O’Gara all had blocked shots in the final few minutes, and Brandon Carlo stepped in front of a wide-open chance for Burns in the third period off a clean offensive zone faceoff win for the Sharks. Those are all gritty, tough plays in the D-zone that you don’t always see, and it perhaps comes a little more naturally when the Bruins are making the clear choice to feature their defense and goaltending right now. It may not be sustainable once Anton Khudobin inevitably cools off a little bit, but for now it’s pretty darn effective.


 
3)  After watching him stop 36 of 37 shots for the win on Saturday night, the Bruins need to see this thing through with Khudobin until he loses a game. Khudobin is 5-0-2 with this season, with a .949 save percentage in three appearances in November. He's playing the best he's played in the last couple of years. Right now Khudobin is actually leading the NHL with a .935 save percentage for the season, and that really contrasts to Rask's .897 save percentage. Certainly part of it is about the Bruins selling out defensively in front of him and blocking 30 shots in the win while knowing they didn’t have to play again until Wednesday night. But it’s also about the Bruins backup goaltender playing himself into a position where the B’s should ride him until he cools down a little bit, and give Rask some more time to figure out what is slowing him down between the pipes right now.
 
PLUS
-- DeBrusk made a couple of big plays in the first period that led to goals for the Bruins, and he finished with a goal, two points, a plus-2 and a team-high four shots on net in 15:49 of ice time. He has a goal and three points in three games since being a healthy scratch last weekend against Toronto.
 
--Khudobin made 16 saves in the first period when the Bruins were outshot 17-5 and it certainly seemed like they were going to get run out of the building. Instead Khudobin stood tall.
 
-- Heinen finished with two goals and three points on the three-game trip and iced the game for the Bruins with a backdoor strike in the third period after Kevan Miller had dashed up the right side of the ice to create the chance. Heinen is pushing up near the Bruins team leaders in some offensive categories and looks like he belongs in the NHL this season.
 
MINUS
-- Burns was burnt on each of the Bruins' two first-period goals, he actually missed the net with 12 of his 16 shot attempts, and he had seven giveaways in a pretty sloppy game managing the puck. Burns hasn’t had a great season to date, and Saturday night was a good example of things not going well for him this year.
 
-- Paul Postma finished with just eight minutes of ice time in the win, and was part of the poor defensive coverage on the Sharks goal by Joonas Donskoi in the first period that ended up getting overturned on video review. Postma didn’t show much else after that only playing a handful of minutes over the remainder of the game, and based on his early performance looks like he’s only going to be a seventh defensemen in Boston.
 
-- Here’s a hearty boo to the 10:30 pm West Coast starts on Saturday night that only the diehards, or those getting paid, are going to closely watch on the weekend leading up to Thanksgiving. Congrats to you if you were one of the lucky ones that decided to stay up and watch a game that didn’t end until after 1 a.m. in the East.  

Morning Skate: Payroll mess at the heart of Bruins' problems

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Morning Skate: Payroll mess at the heart of Bruins' problems

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while battening down the hatches for Thanksgiving week.
 
-- When longtime Bruins follower Clark Booth opines about the Black and Gold, I tend to listen. And he's not happy with the Bruins' salary cap situation at this point in time. It should be noted that this was written before they won the last two games. But some of those truths still remain self-evident when it comes to the B’s.

-- Kevin Bieksa will never stop talking about former teammate Rick Rypien, or about the factors that ultimately led to his tragic passing.
 
-- Alex Ovechkin is truly living up to the “Russian Machine Never Breaks” mantra these days, which led to the creation of an entire blog about the Capitals.
 
-- This Saturday Night Live skit with Chance the Rapper playing a clueless hockey reporter was funny, even to people that have been covering the league for 20 years and still struggle to pronounce a name like Brady Skjei.
 
-- The good, the bad and the ugly courtesy of FOH (Friend of Haggs) Mitch Melnick from last night’s Montreal blowout loss to the Maple Leafs that probably could have just been called the ugly, the ugly and the ugly.
 
-- It’s 20 games into the season, and the Buffalo Sabres media are wondering what’s wrong with their team, and star Jack Eichel.
 
-- For something completely different: It sounds like some of the NFL rank-and-file players want to know why Roger Goodell deserves $50 million and a lifetime private plane.