Bruins

Haggerty: Impressive B's adjust to getting opponents' best shot

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Haggerty: Impressive B's adjust to getting opponents' best shot

BOSTON – With the Bruins ascending to true contender status the past couple of months, things have certainly changed for the Black and Gold. Most of it is for the better, with the B’s pushing up in the standings while sitting just five points behind the Tampa Bay Lightning for the top spot in the Eastern Conference.

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Still, that also means the other 30 NHL teams are going to ramp up their effort against a team that’s been trouncing opponents on a regular basis lately. Boston isn’t going to sneak up on anyone anymore and teams are going to throw their best at the Bruins as New Jersey did on Tuesday night in a tight 3-2 Boston win at TD Garden.

The Bruins gave up the first goal of the game for the sixth time in a row and Tuukka Rask needed to essentially steal the two points with his 37 saves. The B's recognized a couple of things in the aftermath: They certainly didn’t play their best against a pretty good Devils outfit even without the injured Taylor Hall, and they’d better start preparing for opponents to throw everything they’ve got at them.

That started with a 20-shot barrage at Rask from the Devils in the opening 20 minutes and concluded with some Grade-A chances to tie things up in the third period that was once again foiled by the B’s goaltender.

“I would assume that when you’re going well that teams want to bring their A-game. They’re gunning for you, and our guys are getting used to it. They want to make sure that they’re out there and proving that they can play against a very good hockey team,” said B’s coach Bruce Cassidy. “I think more [on Tuesday night] their start was they lost a home game [on Monday], so the natural thing to do was let’s not turn down shots a lot of the times.

“We would probably do the same thing with our group. If we’re not scoring, make sure we get an ugly one, usually the philosophy. I don’t know if that was the directive, but I have to believe it was. “

It only makes sense given that the B’s are 22-3-4 in their last 29 games dating to when Rask was benched. They've since gone well beyond a hot streak and into an ascension to one of the NHL’s deepest, most well-rounded teams. They are scoring 3.3 goals per game and again notched three goals against the Devils on an off night with the NHL’s best forward line (Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak) carrying the burden, and they are the NHL’s best defense allowing just 2.4 goals per game.

The 5-on-3 advantage midway through the second period is when the Bruins seized control and Patrice Bergeron scored his 20th goal of the season from his usual spot right in the slot area manning the bumper position.

“It is his bread and butter. He scored the majority of his goals from there. Great chemistry with Marsh. They were killing five-on-three two high and one low a little bit," Cassidy said. "Usually, you see two are low and one high lot of times. There were some opportunities low; we got one across to [David Krejci], just missed, and Bergy [Patrice Bergeron] made the appropriate read as they were covering low and kind of went against the grain…good timing play and a great shot. It doesn’t surprise me from there; he tends to be able to hit it and hit it well. I’ve said this before; he is out there with [assistant coach] Jay [Pandolfo] pretty much every day working from that spot, moving into the puck whether it is five-on-four, five-on-three situations, so good for him.”

The Bruins were the first team in the NHL this season to boast three 20-goal scorers with Bergeron’s power-play strike, and were joined later in the evening by Dallas with Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin and Alex Radulov also turning the trick.

The Bruins rank seventh in the NHL on the power play and have the third-best penalty kill in the league as well. They took full advantage of some excessive officiating when Miles Wood was slapped with a double-minor penalty for taking a few retaliatory shots at Riley Nash. But that’s what good teams do. They take advantage when an opponent opens the door for them, and the Bruins stepped through when that chance arose against Jersey.

That’s what they’ll have to continue to do, knowing they’re going to receive the other team’s best punch just as they did against an urgent Jersey team while extending their point streak to 17 games.

“I think so,” said Nash, when asked if “teams are starting to get up to play the Bruins” at this point. “At the same time we just have to match that intensity and we knew that they were going to come out with a little something extra…but you have to match that.

“I think a lot of times we have gotten off to good starts, so I don’t think it’s something to be all too concerned about. But at the same time, it’s got to be addressed right away. I guess you find out next game if it’s a routine, or a habit or not. We knew that they were going to be desperate, but you got to match that.”

The Bruins probably don’t have to wait until their next game - Thursday in Ottawa - to find out. They’re no longer just a nice little underdog story or a team on the rise.

They’re piling up points with no discernible weakness on their roster and other teams are going to girding up to play the Black and Gold juggernaut. It will be up to the Bruins to be ready to handle all comers in what’s sure to be an intense second half of the season. 

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For the Bruins, watching Olympic hockey "stings a bit"

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For the Bruins, watching Olympic hockey "stings a bit"

TORONTO – It’s no secret that NHL players weren’t happy about being barred from participating in the Winter Olympics wrapping up in South Korea this week. 

Instead the NHL continued their regular season with business as usual while skipping the Olympics for the first time since 1998, and college hockey players, minor league players and players already playing overseas in Europe were utilized to comprise the teams for the US, Canada and others participating in the Olympic Men’s Hockey tournament. 

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The lack of NHL participation has made for a wide open tournament at this month’s Olympics, and led to the major upset of Canada actually losing to Germany on Friday in a match to play for the gold medal game this weekend. That was bad news for former Bruins forward Chris Kelly as the captain of Team Canada at the tail end of his hockey career, but great news for fellow former B’s forward Marco Sturm as the head coach of Team Germany. 

Naturally one couldn’t help but wonder what was going through the minds of players like Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand, who certainly would have both been on Team Canada, watching Hockey Canada fall short of the gold medal game. 

“Obviously you cheer for your country and that’s what we were all doing. I got up early to catch a little of the game,” said Bergeron. “It’s too bad. I thought Germany played a really good game, and there’s a part of me that’s very happy for Marco [Sturm] since he’s a friend of mine. We played together for a long time.

“It was tough. You wanted to be out there and you wanted to be able to compete. It’s too bad that we didn’t have a say in it. That’s probably the biggest thing for me. That’s my biggest disappointment that we had no say in being a part of it. It was different. The last two Olympics I was in it, and now being able to watch it on TV it’s actually been a lot of fun to be able to watch different events at any time of the day.”

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While Bergeron has his two gold medals from each of the past two Olympic Games to go along with his memories, Marchand might have missed his one chance to be a part of Team Canada at the Olympics during the peak of his hockey career. Coming off last season’s stunning performance from Team Canada at the World Cup, Marchand would have been close to an automatic for the Olympic roster, but instead it’s an experience he may have simply missed the boat on given that he’ll be 33 years old the next time around. 

“Obviously you get over it, but it was more about it being an opportunity lost, I think,” said Marchand. “It was a potential opportunity lost, but it allows other guys to have opportunities. I couldn’t be any happier that a guy like Chris Kelly gets to be there. It’s a huge opportunity. A lost opportunity for us is a huge opportunity for other guys…but it would have been nice to be there and be a part of it. It’s the biggest stage in the world.  

“The biggest reason it stings is that I never thought I would even be potentially be looked at for a team like that. With how things have played out the last couple of years, I might have been able to crack that [Olympic] lineup. So I think it stings a little more for that reason…to have the rug pulled out from under you for no reason. It does sting a bit, but that’s how it goes.”

That stinging feeling from the league pulling out of the Olympics will no doubt be revisited the next time the NHL and NHLPA go to the bargaining table for a new Collective Bargaining Agreement. But that’s a different story for a different day as the first Winter Olympics without NHL players in 20 years finally goes into the books this weekend.

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DeBrusk on being subject of trade rumors: "I love being a Bruin"

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DeBrusk on being subject of trade rumors: "I love being a Bruin"

TORONTO – Jake DeBrusk has heard about the trade rumors. Heck, the 21-year-old has actually been traded before in his hockey career as he was dealt in junior hockey from Swift Current to the Red Deer Rebels in his final season. It’s a little different, however, when DeBrusk hears his name involved in trade rumors with New York Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh, and reports indicate that DeBrusk is a name that Rangers GM Jeff Gorton wants included in any deal. 

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It makes perfect sense with DeBrusk off to a strong start to his NHL career with 11 goals and 29 points in 54 games while playing a top-6 role next to David Krejci, and just scratching the surface of how good he can be with the Bruins. Brandon Carlo has likewise been mentioned prominently as well as a young NHL player being sought after in trade talks. 

But the bottom line for all the Bruins youngsters is that they don’t want to go anywhere, and are doing their best to block everything out while preparing to go out and do their best. 

“I got traded in junior, so I know a little bit about it…but it’s a little different when it’s the magnitude of the NHL,” said DeBrusk. “We’re just focusing on getting wins, and doing everything I can do to help the team win. At the same you’re keeping an eye out and looking [at the rumors] secretly. But it is what it is. You can’t control it. You can only control your play, and do anything I can to help the team win now. You can only take it day by day. 

“I love being with these guys and we’re a pretty tight group. So whatever happens is going to happen, but at the same time whoever is on the ice we’ll go to battle with them.”

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Clearly DeBrusk wants to stick with the team that selected him 14th overall in the 2015 NHL Draft, and the Bruins would do well to keep a talented, likable and bright youngster that could be a meaningful member of the organization for a long, long time. But he’s also drawing whatever positive that he can out of the situation, and the biggest one is that other NHL teams are clearly taking notice of what he’s done this season as a rookie. 

Being the primary name mentioned in a deal for a player like the captain of the New York Rangers means you must be doing a lot of things right. 

“When you’re a rookie with your name being thrown around and the other guy has some pretty high stature in the league, it’s a compliment. But I don’t look too much into it,” said DeBrusk. “I love being a Bruin. I just want to continue to get better, continue to improve and I’ve got lots of room to grow. I’m just taking it shift-by-shift.”

That’s a smart kid with a good answer as he focuses on his game on the ice, and learns on the job to navigate through his first NHL experience that’s now included being at the heart of a juicy trade rumor for the Black and Gold.

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