Bruins

Haggerty's keys to Bruins-Flyers

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Haggerty's keys to Bruins-Flyers

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com

Five Things Bruins Need to Win

BOSTON Its not a coincidence that Bruins players and coaches were both pulling the verbatim Last year was last year and this year is this year quote when asked about facing down the Flyers this week. There was enough talk about ghosts, revenge and storylines while the Black and Gold took care of the Montreal Canadiens with three overtime wins and plenty of sideshow drama, so Claude Juliens boys are instead happy to simply focus on beating Philadelphia on the ice.

Itll be good, old-fashioned playoff hockey with a pair of hard-nosed, blue collar Eastern Conference heavyweights ready to simply throw haymakers at each other, and the first hockey team to bleed out loses.

It should be a much better match for the Big Bad Bruins against the Broad Street Bullies, but here are five things that will have to happen if the Bs hope to advance to the Eastern Conference finals for the first time since 1992. My prediction: Bruins in a seven game series that will once again entertain, amaze and produce agony all in the same bundle of 60-minute hockey games.

1) David Krejci needs to get it going after missing a boatload of golden scoring chances against the Montreal Canadiens. Krejci finished with only a single goal in seven games against the Habs, though that one score was a big one that opened up the Bs offense in their Game Three victory in Montreal. But Krejci needs to finish off chances like the wide open backhander from the left face-off circle in Game Seven that the slick Czech Republic centerman instead flipped over the crossbar. The Habs defense focused on shutting down Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton, and that allowed Krejci to squeeze off 13 shots and countless more scoring chances that never ended up on the net. Krejci was the leading scorer against the Flyers in the regular season with four points, and the entire tenor of last years playoff series changed when Krejci went down early in Game Three.

2) The Bruins will win if Zdeno Chara becomes himself again in the second round of the postseason. Chara finished with a single assist, a plus-1 and only two penalty minutes in six games against the Canadiens in the first round, and wasnt nearly his normal dominant self while still topping 28 minutes per game. Chara told CSNNE.com on Friday that he lost 10 pounds in the 24 hours surrounding the virus that led to his severe dehydration, and that he still sits about three pounds away from his playing weight of 255 pounds. The Bs defenseman looked a little weaker on his skates during the Canadiens, and didnt have anywhere near the normal oomph on his 105.9-mph slap shot despite squeezing off 21 shots in six games. Chara said hes just starting to feel normal after going through the dehydration issues that landed him in the hospital, and thats good news for a Bs team will need their 6-foot-9 defenseman to trump Chris Pronger in the upcoming series.

3) The power play has a failure rate of over 93 percent thats what we call it in Boston as long as its screwing the pooch on a regular basis since Tomas Kaberle has arrived. The PP squad nearly sucked the life out of Boston while going 0-for-21 against Montreal, and they made history by somehow winning through dominance in five-on-five play. The Bruins wont be so fortunate against a physical, snarling Flyers bunch that are just as domineering during five-on-five play as Boston is. Boston needs to find a workable solution with viable offensive pieces Krejci, Kaberle, Chara, Patrice Bergeron and Milan Lucic on the top power play unit, and will be dangerous if they can get anywhere near the 16 percent efficiency rate they enjoyed during the regular season.

4) Just like containing Mike Cammalleri in the first round was of maximum importance to a Boston defensive effort, the Bruins will need to keep wraps on Daniel Briere after the Flyers forward ran wild against the Buffalo Sabres in the first round. Briere potted six goals and brings the kind of speed and offensive creativity that can give Chara and the deliberate Boston defensive corps fits. Briere has 30 points (12 goals and 18 assists) in 23 playoff games last season, and is consistently Phillys biggest offensive weapon if he can find space within the defense.

5) Its as simple as this: if a trio of Flyers goaltenders that saw action in round one with Sergei Bobrovsky and Michael Leighton both flaming out cant stop 93.4 percent of the pucks shot their way, then Philly is going to have a hard time hanging with the Bruins. Carey Price was magnificent in the first round while putting up a .934 save percentage, and he matched Tim Thomas save-for-save once the Bs goaltender ramped up his game in the final five outings in the series. Brian Boucher is expected to start the series between the pipes, but his level of play during last years playoffs was pedestrian with a 6-6 record, a .909 save percentage and a 2.47 goals against average. Boucher played well in the first round against Buffalo, but the Bruins will be able to put up some goals with an offense thats deeper and more dangerous than the current edition of the Sabres could put together. Its the Achilles heel of the Flyers and its something the Bruins need to exploit early and often with the worlds best goaltender at their end of the ice.

Five Bad Signs for Bruins

The Bruins fell to the Flyers in seven games last season in historical fashion, and the Broad Street Bullies were the higher seed in the Eastern Conference last season so theres a very good chance the Bs could see their playoff road end against Philadelphia for the second straight season.
Theyre a bigger team and theyre more involved physically, admitted Zdeno Chara. For us itll be the same approach to play our best. We have a big team and a physical team and thats what is going to make this series very exciting.
Here are five things that could take the Bruins down if they happen.

1) Curt Schilling famously said that he thought Aura and Mystique were exotic dancers rather than any kind of hold that the Yankees had over opponents, but youll hear a lot of supernatural terms like that as the series unfolds between the Bruins and Flyers. If the chatter and collapse gets too deep into the heads of the Bruins players thirsty for revenge, then they could lose control of the series just as it happened against the Canadiens in the first two games of their series. The Bruins need to play with the same one game a time poise and coolness that signified their last playoff series, and showed that experience has been a great teacher. If that crumbles then the Bs wont be far behind.

2) Milan Lucic scored 30 goals in the regular season, but has gone an amazing 17 games without a goal through the end of the regular season and first round of the playoffs. The seven game playoff goal-scoring drought is the worst of Lucics sterling playoff career, and needs to change for the better if the Bruins are hoping to be successful. In the good news department Lucic should fit in much better with the style of play favored by both Boston and Philadelphia, and the Bruins need their big play forward to start producing.

3) Brian Boucher had a .934 save percentage in winning all four games of Phillys first round series against the Sabres. If the journeymen goaltender can stay that hot against the Bruins then they could be in for a hard-fought series. Boston needs to have a distinct goaltending advantage given the Philly edge in forward and defensemen depth when analyzing the rosters.

4) The Bruins need to find a way to discourage Mike Richards from running around and pulling some of the borderline actions from his bag of tricks a living on the hockey edge that almost got him suspended in round one. It was Richards who made threats to Savard about concussions during last years playoffs, and then took out David Krejci in Game Three with a body block hit near the blue line. The bone-rattling collision dislocated Krejcis wrist, and Bruins players noted afterward that Richards had been playing a little free safety in the neutral zone looking for someone to jump on before knocking out the Bs center. Somebody is going to have to step up and challenge Richards during the series as so much of Phillys spirit runs through the talented center.

5) If the Bruins are forced to bring the recent divorces of Phillys players into the on-ice conversation during the series as Patrick Kaleta attempted in an ill-advised move during the Buffalo series then thats a sign Boston is worried about all of the wrong things in the series. That means a guy like Brad Marchand has to toe the line without going over the edge just as he did during the first round against Montreal while piling up series offensive chances through the full series.

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

Morning Skate: Not all smooth sailing for top picks

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Morning Skate: Not all smooth sailing for top picks

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while enjoying the return of Adolfo to Toucher and Rich this morning.

*Jack Eichel and Connor McDavid have received plenty of acclaim over the past couple of years as talented, young stars in the league, but Pro Hockey Talk’s James O’Brien details how things haven’t gone ideally for either of those youngsters, or their teams, this season. Clearly, it’s not at this level yet, but just think about the hype behind Taylor Hall and Tyler Seguin when they were drafted 1-2 back in 2010, and what they have, and haven’t, been able to accomplish in the league since that time.

*Outstanding rookie Brock Boeser credits a conversation with Vancouver Canucks coach Travis Green for helping spark his game this season.

*Good video piece on the near miss of Wayne Gretzky almost playing for the Toronto Maple Leafs after dominating them in the playoffs.  

*Salivating for some hockey trades? The 10 potential NHL trade deadline targets around the league as we wait for players to become available for trade later in the season.  

*Hockeybuzz is asking what the NHL, and more specifically the Hockey Hall of Fame, has against goaltenders?

*For something completely different: A great piece from Drew Bledsoe on the tragic passing of former Patriots wide receiver Terry Glenn, and how his death came just as he seemed to be putting all the pieces of his life together.

 

Marchand, Krug and Backes all practice, won't play vs. Devils

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Marchand, Krug and Backes all practice, won't play vs. Devils

BRIGHTON, Mass – The Bruins are getting closer to a healthier lineup, but it won’t be in time for the Thanksgiving Eve road tilt against the upstart New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center.

Brad Marchand (upper body), Torey Krug (upper body) and David Backes (colon surgery) all skated in red no-contact jerseys at practice Tuesday at Warrior Ice Arena, so none of those three banged-up B’s will be making the trip to Jersey. Anders Bjork (upper body) didn’t practice and is obviously out vs. the Devils as well, but Ryan Spooner might be a possibility after making it through his first full practice since tearing his groin almost six weeks ago.

MORE BRUINS:

If he can make it through Wednesday's morning skate without any problems, Spooner will likely be a game-time decision against the Devils after missing the past 14 games.  

The Bruins have continued to indicate that Marchand is in the concussion protocol, though it appears the Bruins agitator is dealing with both upper body and lower body issues. Marchand was encouraged by the progress he’s making while returning to practice, so perhaps the B’s could get back one of their leading scorers sooner rather than later.

“I feel pretty good. It’s good to be back with the guys and feel like you’re a part of the team,” said Marchand, who has missed five of the past seven games after returning for the home-and-home against the Maple Leafs. “It’s frustrating whenever you miss games and you miss time away from the team, but they had a great road trip and they’re playing well. It would be nice to be back in the lineup consistently and be back with the team...it’ll come.”

Here are the projected Bruins line combos and D-pairings vs. the Devils based on practice Tuesday:

Heinen-Bergeron-Pastrnak

DeBrusk-Krejci-Cehlarik

Vatrano-Spooner-Nash/Szwarz

Schaller-Kuraly-Acciari

Beleskey-Marchand-Backes

 
Chara-McAvoy

O’Gara/Postma-Carlo

Grzelcyk-Miller

 
Rask

Khudobin