Bruins

Bruins 'feeling good about their game' during dominant stretch

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Bruins 'feeling good about their game' during dominant stretch

BOSTON – The Bruins are running away with a playoff spot.

That’s the reality of the situation just a week into the month of January with the Bruins ripping off a raucous 17-3-2 run over their last 22 games, and holding an 11-point cushion for a spot in the Stanley Cup playoffs come April. 

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Both gaudy looking numbers were padded when the Bruins torched the Carolina Hurricanes by a 7-1 score on Saturday night at TD Garden. They essentially embarrassed a team in a playoff spot in the tough Metro Division, and continued to serve notice that the Bruins are very much for real this season.

In their current 8-0-2 points streak in their last 10 games, they’ve outscored opponents 42-12 and have flat out embarrassed the Senators, Islanders, Blue Jackets and Hurricanes in their path of impressive destruction.  

“We always play to our standard. It doesn’t matter what the time or score is, we always want to keep moving up and pushing other teams down,” said Torey Krug. “We had a chance, obviously, to come away with two points tonight and we obviously came out hot and just kept it rolling. We’re feeling good about our game and definitely not getting complacent.”

The Tampa Bay Lightning, the Bruins and the Toronto Maple Leafs have run away from the rest of a pretty bad Atlantic Division pack, and the second half of the season looks like it will be about the Leafs and the Bruins slugging it out for home ice in the first round of the playoffs. 

Either that or catching up to a Bolts crew that holds a commanding nine point lead over the Leafs and B’s, and looks like the odds-on favorite to win the President’s Trophy this season. 

The bottom line is that the Bruins are in a comfortable spot entering Sunday night’s tilt against the Pittsburgh Penguins, and they still have a five-day bye and an NHL All-Star break to rest up a team that’s currently healthy and extremely effective. 

It would be easy for the Bruins to ease off the gas or stop playing the right way given where they currently reside in the standings after a great two-month stretch. It would also be something that Bruce Cassidy is dead set against. 

“We want to play our game, and it is working out well for us. I am not going to lie to you; I am a coach; I look at the standings. But, it is early to get preoccupied with that,” said Cassidy. “We just want to play well and win and keep climbing up. We have done that. Some teams, they have their own issues. For us, that is our goal. It seems like there are no easy games in this league, but lately we have been able to extend some leads.

“One of those games back-to- back, we didn’t have to tax anybody. I don’t have the sheet in front of me, but I know the forwards probably – 14, 15 minutes the most for the highest forward [in the Carolina win]. It is always good, especially in situations like this when we have to play again [Sunday vs. the Penguins].”

That kind of thing is the exact way a good hockey club can make life even easier for themselves when things are going well. The Bruins are doing that and piling up points right now in the first half of the season, a phenomenon that needs to continue until things inevitably turn as the schedule gets a little crazy for the B’s in the second half of the season. 

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Morning Skate: Yes, Kessel values Cups more than scoring titles

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Morning Skate: Yes, Kessel values Cups more than scoring titles

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while shaking my head at the disparity in talent levels between Ilya Kovalchuk and anybody on Team USA...no offense to the guys we sent over there.

*Phil Kessel said he values winning Stanley Cups over scoring titles, but does he value them more than hot dogs from his favorite food stand in Toronto? That is the question.

*Here’s a fine tribute from FOH (Friend of Haggs) Steve Conroy about his late partner at the Boston Herald, columnist/hockey writer Steve Harris, who sadly passed away a couple of days ago while still manning the beat until the past week or so. It’s still such a shocking loss for everybody in the local hockey community, and this piece does a good job of capturing his spirit.

*So, controversial Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk is going to now also be the CEO of the team as well? Yikes.

*Damien Cox takes a look at the Canadian NHL teams that look like they’re going to fall short of the playoffs and what they need to do to right their respective ships.

*The Nashville Predators explain how they are “all in” at the NHL trade deadline with another clear shot at a Cup run.

*For something completely different: A ranking of the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies from worst to best that suffers from recent-itis where a number of movies just released are probably given way, way too much deference even though they are good superhero flicks.

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Bruins look for another turning point with rugged trip ahead

Bruins look for another turning point with rugged trip ahead

When the Bruins take the ice against the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday night deep in the outer reaches of Western Canada, there will be a couple of things at play. One will be the start of a long sprint to the end of the regular season with 27 games in a scant 52 days with no more long breaks to catch their collective breath.

The worst of the worst will be 16 games in March, which could be the thing that ultimately knocks the Black and Gold down a peg after they’ve managed to play through everything else this season.

Trailing the Tampa Bay Lightning by just a couple of points for the NHL’s top spot, the Bruins know the schedule itself will be one of their biggest challenges of the season.

“We’re certainly aware of our schedule the rest of the way, and we know that it’s going to be a challenge. There aren’t too many more days off and we’re pretty much playing every other day,” said Patrice Bergeron. “So some of it will be about getting the proper rest and making sure we’re doing everything to be ready to play. But this has also been a group that’s done a really good job of handling other things that have been thrown at us whether it’s injuries or something else. This is just another challenge to take on.”

But the other, smaller picture is of the five-game trip through Canada with a final stop in Buffalo next Sunday. The Bruins will play those five games in ten days in their longest trip of the regular season. They hope to conjure up some of the same mojo that kicked off their three-month winning binge way back in mid-November. It was then that the Bruins righted the ship on a trip through California and won games in Los Angeles and San Jose that kicked off a four-game winning streak that helped change the season.

The Bruins are much more comfortable now with a giant cushion for a playoff spot and a legitimate chance to overtake the Lightning, but Bruce Cassidy is hoping to see the same kind of hunger in this particular long stretch away from home.

“This is much more about what we are and what we look like, but having said that the [California trip] was the beginning of us [turning things around]. It had us gutting out some wins in typically tough places to play like L.A. and San Jose. [Anton] Khudobin was in net and we were relying on some call-up guys, but that was really when our D-corps really stiffened up,” said Cassidy. “It kind of got us back to our heads above water, and from there we kind of took off. But now this is a different group in a different position, and we’re pushing to be in a different position.

“I think you can say Tuukka [Rask] won us all these games or [Brad] Marchand or [Patrice] Bergeron. Our best players have been our best players, but our support players have been very good, especially on those nights when we’ve needed to lean on them a little more when they’ve able to shut down [the Bergeron Line]. I think our support players deserve a lot of credit for that.”

The Bruins clearly hope this mammoth trip can be another seasonal turning point that pushes them in a direction toward a strong, decisive finish to the marathon of a regular season.

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