Haggerty: 15 thoughts from Bruins-Wild


Haggerty: 15 thoughts from Bruins-Wild

ST. PAUL, MN Here are five thoughts from the first period with the Bruins and Minnesota Wild locked in a scoreless tie at the Xcel Energy Center.

1) Six of Bostons 14 first period shots were from the fourth line after Claude Julien put all of the pieces back together after one game apart against the Winnipeg Jets. Great energy for the Merlot Line, but the Bs need more consistency out of the other lines rather than relying on a handful of breakaways from Daniel Paille.

2) One shot on net and 1-for-6 on face-offs is an early sign that the bad David Krejci has entered the building this afternoon. Not enough involvement from him though he did fire off a nice seam pass to Andrew Ference for a power play one-timer at the end of the period.

3) Marco Scandella is showing the kind of desperation the Wild must have throughout their lineup. He blocked three shots in the first period including a couple of painful ones while he was on his knees. Ouch.

4) Tim Thomas and Niklas Backstrom both look locked in early on. Fourteen saves for the Wild goaltender, who's trying to snap a personal five-game losing streak.

5) Three shots on net for Daniel Paille in the early going including a breakaway chance after splitting the Wild defensemen. Too bad he fired it directly into Backstroms chest when he got some room to shoot. Paille will continue to get those breakaway chances given his speed and tenacity, but the hands just arent there on a regular basis. Makes him something of a perfect fit as a fourth-line penalty killer, doesnt it?

1) Zdeno Chara is a minus-7 in his last four games and continues to offer little defensive resistance or push when the scoring chances are coming. Chad Rau was able to fly into the offensive zone without anybody slowing him down before he looked off Tim Thomas to beat him short side. Bruins arent doing a good enough job slowing down players attacking in their zone and its leading to goals.

2) A pattern with these Bruins is starting to come through. Good first periods with scoring chances followed by a let-down second period where mistakes are made and goals are allowed. That was once again the case for the Bs after a competitive first 20 minutes. The Bruins look like a team that cant pull themselves out of their funk, and theyll be playoff road kill if they cant snap out of it before the regular season is over.

3) An invisible 12:43 of ice time for Brad Marchand this afternoon. Hes not bringing emotion, energy or offense and both Milan Lucic and Patrice Bergeron have zero shots on net as well. The offensive no-shows cant continue for those three or for David Krejci when theyre already down Nathan Horton and Rich Peverley.

4) Lousy call on Chris Kelly put the Bs on the penalty kill that turned into Minnesotas second goal, but the Bruins arent earning any of the breaks right now. Refs completely missed a high stick to the mouth of Milan Lucic by Nick Schultz, and No. 17 was running hot afterward.

5) The Bruins need some energy. They havent really showed a dire need for an outside energy transfusion until the last couple of days, and its readily apparent right now. The Bruins need to do something to bring some enthusiastic bodies into the fold while the current Bs seem to be running on fumes. THIRD PERIOD
1) Milan Lucic slammed his stick down on the ice after getting robbed by Niklas Backstrom on a golden chance from the bottom of the right face-off circle, and that summed up the Bs frustration right now. They cant generate enough offense and its leading to frustration in all areas of their game.

2) The Bruins have been shut out four times in 11 games since Nathan Horton went down with a concussion after only having been shut out twice in the first 46 games of the season. Thats a pretty eye-opening statistic when thinking about the effect Hortons injury has had on the Black and Gold.

3) Great bout by Shawn Thornton with big Matt Kassian in the opening minutes of the third period. Pretty clear the bloodied Thornton is trying to inspire his teammates, but there wasnt anything he could do to force the puck into the net in the rest of the period.

4) Liked the compete level from Josh Hennessy in very limited minutes. He created a couple of scoring chances and played with some sandpaper.

5) Matt Cullen has always been a Bruins killer throughout his career and he did it again with the Wild in Minnesota this afternoon.

Celtics-Hawks preview: C' defense looks to keep up historic pace


Celtics-Hawks preview: C' defense looks to keep up historic pace

As the wins continue to pile up for the Boston Celtics, so does the praise and adulation from others throughout the league. 

It’s a double-edged sword if you think about it. 

Acknowledging how good the Celtics are, is indeed a sign of respect. 

But it also means Boston plays every game with a large target on its back unlike any of Brad Stevens’ previous Celtics teams. 

And that means every game they play, even those like tonight’s matchup at Atlanta where they will be heavily favored, are dangerous matchups.

Because for some teams, the next best thing to competing against the champ (Golden State) is facing the team with the best record who just knocked off the champ. 

That will be one of the dynamics at work tonight when the Celtics (14-2) kick off a three-game road trip against a trio of sub-.500 teams beginning with the Hawks (3-12).

Boston has shown tremendous focus and attention to detail during their 14-game winning streak. But in that span, the Celtics have never had a trio of teams right behind each other that struggled as much as the Hawks, the Miami Heat and the Dallas Mavericks have this season. 

Not including games played on Friday, Boston’s next three opponents are a combined 11-33. 

All three of those teams would love to be the one to knock off the Celtics, the kind of victory that could significantly shift the direction of their respective franchises from their current downward spin. 

Meanwhile, the Celtics will look to continue to play with the kind of defensive temperament that has catapulted them to the top of the NBA’s defensive standings in several categories. 

“The way they’re beating teams it ain’t pretty,” a league executive texted NBC Sports Boston. “But they win. Last I checked, that’s what matters most.”

And that success has to a large degree, put a bigger bullseye on the Celtics than ever. 

“Now that we have a reputation, I think everyone is coming for us,” said Boston’s Jaylen Brown. “Now we have to come play even harder, and I think we can do that. I think we are more than capable.”

Especially if they continue to defend at a level we haven’t seen in years. 

Boston has a league-best defensive rating of 95.4. A key component in Boston’s strong play defensively has been their ability to win the battle of the boards. They come into tonight’s game with a .530 rebounding percentage which is second in the league to Portland (.539).

And that defense, while praised for how it functions collectively, it also consists of some pretty good individual defenders as well. 

Among guards averaging at least 20 minutes per game, Boston has four players ranked among the top 10 in defensive rating (Marcus Smart, 93.5 defensive rating, 2nd); Jaylen Brown (93.6, 3rd); Terry Rozier (95.0, 5th) and Kyrie Irving (96.4, 8th). 

When you look at forwards, Brown headlines a trio of forwards that includes himself, Al Horford (94.2, 3rd) and Jayson Tatum (96.1, 7th). 

Aron Baynes has the best defensive rating (90.6) among centers, followed by Horford (94.2).

“Our guys are locked in and really trying and again we can really play some pretty ugly basketball at times,” Stevens said. “But I do think that we are competing which is really good.”